PROGRESS Orlando (3.31.17)

PROGRESS Orlando (3.31.17)

Well, this certainly wasn’t watered down PROGRESS, as they brought their calling card to Orlando with perhaps the best show of the weekend so far!

PROGRESS’ first live show also happened to be their first show outside of England, as the group piggybacked onto WWN’s WrestleMania festivities. We had Lenny Leonard and Excalibur on commentary, which with Glen Joseph, RJ Singh and Callum Leslie all back in England, was a good choice.

The show started late thanks to server issues with WWN Live – starting with them giving no info at all on how to watch a show you’d paid for, which then led to their own site crashing as everyone flooded to them at once. Remember that PROGRESS show where the ticket website died because everyone hit them at the same time? Yeah… that happened again with this. A Denial of Service attack… aka “this was more popular than we expected”. Anyway, the show started as usual – “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, with Jim Smallman freaking out in the ring. I’d be the same… Joel Allen and WWN’s Brandon Tolle were the referees today – Chris Roberts otherwise being tied up with Rev Pro’s show later that day.

Jimmy Havoc vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
These two had a decent, albeit short, match at the WCPW English World Cup Qualifiers a little under a fortnight earlier, and there’s no way this cannot be at least as good as that. No theme swaps here, as Havoc used AFI, whilst Zack had his usual PROGRESS theme… and all three of his belts. Ruddy show-off.

Sabre caught Havoc in a strait-jacket hold early, but he let go as Havoc tried to escape it. Yeah, Jimmy’s not doing his hardcore stuff here, and five days after that brutal Fans Bring The Weapons match against Will Ospreay, it’s probably a nice change of pace to have his arm worked over, rather than have a baking tray whacked in his head.

A forearm to the head leads to a roll-up for Havoc, then a tope as Havoc turned things up a notch. Sabre takes a boot in the corner, the sidesteps a dropkick as Sabre snaps into a guillotine… but Havoc was on the ropes, which referee Joel missed. Zack goes back to the ground as he worked over Havoc’s legs, bridging back in a cloverleaf before throwing in some wrist manipulation.

I’m not so sure what’d hurt less – that wrist lock or having a Tippex-covered baking tray whacked on your head. Sorry for that Jimmy!

Havoc replies with a rolling death valley driver, but he’s quickly drilled with a Tiger suplex as a modified Dragon sleeper leads to a crucifix pin. Somewhere in this, Sabre’s right eyebrow was busted open, and somehow Havoc managed to turn an Octopus hold into a belly-to-back piledriver for a near-fall. Jim Smallman skulks around in the aisle as Sabre invites more shots… and he takes a few until a rolling elbow takes him into the corner.

A double stomp gets Havoc a near-fall, but Sabre comes back with a roll through into an armbar that he morphs into the Ode to Breaks double armbar… but Jimmy rolls him through for another near-fall. Havoc throws in a Tiger suplex, before the Acid Rainmaker’s countered into a jack-knife pin for the win. A perfect opener for PROGRESS’ Florida debut – and somehow even when he keeps away from the weapons, Jimmy can’t help but be involved in a blood match! ***½

James Drake vs. Rockstar Spud
Bon Jovi gets the crowd going, it seems, as Rockstar Spud dug out his PROGRESS-emblazoned gear yet again. Drake and Spud have history going back to the earlier days of the Britwres boom, in the days of the old XWA in Morecambe.

Spud gets jumped from behind as Drake throws him outside… and yes, the Orlando crowd have noticed, Drake’s “got his own face on his ass”. Drake throws his uppercut at Spud, as they tease a repeat of the Damon Moser incident, before Drake decides to snapmare and kick Spud hard in the back several times.

Drake nudges Spud with a series of kicks, but beyond the “face on his ass” chants, this crowd largely don’t seem to care that much. It’s a shame because Drake’s doing a good job of toying around with Spud without going down the cliched “vicious beatdown” path, nonchalantly swiping away at Spud.

Spud fires back after Drake spat at him, hitting a snapmare and a huge PK to the spine as Drake went packing to receive a tope suicide from Spud that almost turned into a tombstone as his trajectory turned on the way down. A neckbreaker keeps Spud on top, as does an elbow drop, but Drake snaps back with a belly-to-belly, and a powerbomb for a near-fall. Spud ducks a forearm from Drake and hits a satellite DDT off the ropes, but Drake manages to roll through Spud and take him down with the Mr Mayhem sit-out DDT for the win out of nowhere. The crowd may not have cared, but this was a perfectly fine match, with the right guy going over. ***

Jinny vs. Toni Storm
Well, we all wondered how Jinny would take to the Orlando crowds. The answer… she sneered down on them just like every other. This was originally meant to have been a three-way, but Dahlia Black’s broken leg meant that we ended up with the two confirmed Natural PROGRESSion Series finalists facing off here, and Jinny immediately made a belt sign around her waist to try and get under Toni’s skin.

They start with Toni taking Jinny into the corner, and they move from there straight to just laying into each other. A roundhouse kick knocks Jinny down, as Storm follows up with double-handed chops, before the hip attacks take Jinny back to the corner. A Japanese armdrag takes Toni into that same corner, before Jinny hits a sweet baseball slide into a seated surfboard stretch on Storm. More forearms keep Toni on the back foot, but things switch around with more chops, only for Jinny to rush back in with a leaping knee into the corner.

Jinny mouths off to Storm some more, before she rolls outside and comes back in… with a black bin bag! She’s done this before – it’s a makeover for Toni Storm, who now looks like she’s avoiding heavy showers at a music festival! With the bin bag on, Storm fires back with some forearms, then she Hulk Hogan’s the bag off of her… a German suplex takes Jinny into the corner again, and now it’s time for another hip attack!

A Fisherman’s suplex almost wins it for Toni, who tries again with a delayed Northern Lights off the top rope – almost a Muscle Buster – for another two-count, only for Jinny to paintbrush Toni again. The Aussie comes back with an Okada-like neckbreaker slam after dishing out a headbutt, but she’s quickly caught on the top rope with a kick, then gets pulled to the mat as Jinny scores the pin with her feet on the ropes. A dirty finish, but a fine showcase for both women here – it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s watched her in the past months, but Jinny’s gotten really good at this pro-wrestling lark. ***¼

South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) vs. JML (Sami Callihan & Shane Strickland)
Keep It 100 made it to Orlando… as did Dahlia Black, walking boot and all! Shane Strickland got an entrance a la Dahlia, except it was Sami who carried him on his shoulders, and not some random crew members.

JML jump the Kiwis at the bell, but its Banks and Callihan who start in the ring, switching waistlocks until Travis trips Sami and rolls him up for a nearfall. Perhaps a little too early! Strickland succeeds with a dropkick, but he quickly has to fend off TK Cooper, who tries a moonsault out of the corner before just booting Strickland in the chest. TK’s knocked into the corner where he takes some running kicks from Callihan, then a dropkick before shoving Banks into the gyuard rail with a low-pe. Banks throws in a tope of his own, then Strickland flies in with a Space Flying Tiger Drop… and we know what’s next… TK Cooper flies! Corkscrew moonsault to the floor!

Banks gets hiptossed over the guard rails and into the seats by Callihan, whilst TK goes the same way as the Kiwis get wiped out with the fans! Sami hits a tope over the guard rails to knock Travis to the floor, and now TK takes the lap of honour kick, but not before he looks to grab a phone and text? I don’t know… anyway, he’s sent through the crowd barriers, but recovers to fend off the JML pair back inside, stacking Callihan on top of a Tree of Woe’d Strickland… but Shane pops up with a spider suplex to send TK and Callihan to the mat, before Banks’ Coast to Coast dropkick gets him a near-fall. This is nuts!

Travis Banks fends off JML next, kicking Strickland into a cannonball senton on Callihan, then throws in one of his own for a two-count as Callihan kicks away the cover. Sami and Travis lay into each other with heavy forearms, but that’s just playing into Travis’ game… Callihan almost wins it with an Air Raid Crash, but this breaks down as TK counters a crossbody into a flatliner on Strickland, then kills Sami with an axe kick for another near-fall.

Strickland boots away at TK, but the Kiwi comes back with a forearm, only to take a rolling Ace crusher from Shane as everyone boots everyone else to leave all four men on the mat! Banks gets killed with a double stomp-assisted powerbomb, before he kicks out into a Stretch Muffler… TK finally breaks that up though, and we quickly move into a springboard enziguiri out of the corner from Banks, before the SPPT snatch the win with an elevated double-team DDT. Bloody hell, this was good – and well worth the wait. Just like I expected, the Orlando crowd became sold on these two, which is a sign of just how great they are. Yeah, I’m a fan of these Kiwis, but it helps massively that they can do a good wrestle. ****¼

When this was live, this was where I joined the feed, as Jim Smallman led a round of applause for Kris Travis on the one-year anniversary of his passing.

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Trent Seven vs. Matt Riddle (c)
Wow, this crowd came unglued for the mere mention of this Atlas title match! Trent gleefully flips off the fans on his entrance, and rips off Riddle’s scarf too. Just because he can.

Riddle strikes first with a waistlock takedown, shrugs off some strikes from Seven then takes him back down with an Exploder… but Trent gets the knees up to block a back senton as he follows up with those overhand cricket chops. Eventually Riddle backdrops Trent to the outside then follows with a springboard knee, as the pair brawl outside… and yes, Trent chopped the ring post.

A low-pe from Seven knocks Riddle into the crowd barriers, but he came back with a brainbuster off the middle rope to knock Trent loopy! After getting back to his feet, Riddle slaps Seven, but gets knocked back into the corner for a running double knee strike, before he starts a chain of no-selling German suplexes. Riddle blocks some lariats, and kicks away a Seven Star lariat before landing a Dragon suplex… Riddle no-sells and replies with a bridging German for a near-fall.

Seven hits another German suplex, then a piledriver after taking a kick to the chest, but Riddle kicks out. Trent tries for a piledriver off the middle rope, but Riddle slips out and turns it into a powerbomb for a near-fall, then a Tombstone slam for another. More strikes from both men see Seven hit the backfist, then a Seven Star lariat to ALMOST win it… but Riddle kicks out just in the nick of time. Another piledriver’s countered and met with one from Riddle… for a one-count! From there, Riddle slaps on the Bro-mission, and there’s the submission as Bro retains. Ah, this was great – Trent is amazing in his role as a surly/snarky bad guy with the safety net of a WWE deal to save him from any kind of repercussions that PROGRESS may throw his way – and he can go at times too. Matt Riddle’s good too, but that’s been evident on a wider scale for a while! ****

WWE United Kingdom Championship: Mark Andrews vs. Tyler Bate (c)
This was set-up by Bate’s interference in the PROGRESS World title match at Chapter 46 a week ago… and the title defence was added as a punishment from NXT’s William Regal.

We’ve got a rather deliberate start as Bate works over Andrews’ legs, before Andrews takes Tyler into the ropes with a La Magistral cradle. Bate headstands out of a headlock from Andrews, then offers a derisory handshake as the pace quickens with cartwheels over some drop downs, then some backflips as the pair play “can you top this?” A kick to the chest takes Andrews outside, but he sneaks back inside for a tope con hilo after Tyler had tried to fly. Bate tries to block some armdrags, but fails, as Andrews takes him down into an armbar. Bate switches things around as he grabs Andrews’ wrist, then pulls him up into almost a Lasso from El Paso for a spell.

Andrews remains grounded as Bate whipped his leg into the canvas, but he was able to counter a Pedigree into a bridging suplex, then switch a Tyler Driver into a ‘rana as he followed up with the Northern Lights… only to get rolled up as he took too long for the moonsault/senton combo. Bate eats a Sliced Bread on the apron, then takes the moonsault/senton in the ring for a near-fall.

Bate flattens Andrews with a clothesline before deadlifting him up into a suplex for a near-fall. More back-and-forth shots end with Andrews taking a right hand, then a scoop Tombstone after Bate caught a tiltawhirl DDT attempt. Another Tyler Driver attempt is blocked, but Andrews backflips into a fireman’s carry as Bate gives him a couple of airplane spins, then a standing shooting star press. Andrews delivers one of his own, then another Kudo Driver/Vertebreaker/Cop Killa (whatever you wanna call it).

From the kick-out, Andrews goes up for a shooting star press that misses, but follows up with a Stundog Millionaire. Bate rebounds off the ropes with a Koppo Kick, then hits the Tyler Driver at the third attempt to retain. This was exactly as good as I’d have expected – perhaps with the result never being in that much doubt, but a great outing from both. Tyler Bate’s improving in leaps and bounds as a singles wrestler, even though we rarely get to see much of that. ****

PROGRESS World Championship: Mark Haskins vs. Pete Dunne (c)
Dunne came out with the rest of British Strong Style and they do their Triple H tribute, which looks ace amongst the WWN lasers. Hey, PROGRESS, fancy adding some of those to the entranceway for Super Strong Style 16? Or Brixton?

Haskins gets taken to the ropes immediately as he looked to rabidly go after Dunne. An early distraction from Tyler Bate allows Dunne to take Haskins down from behind, as he goes to a side headlock, only to get knocked to the outside… but Mark doesn’t take out Peter with a dive, instead it’s Trent and Tyler who get wiped out… and that self-inflicted distraction allows Dunne to kick Haskins off the apron, then follow-up with a moonsault off the middle rope.

Dunne hit the barriers as Haskins moved away, returning to the ring for a tope as British Strong Style were left laying on the floor. Haskins runs up the aisle for a forearm to Dunne… but a second one provides an immediate receipt. Haskins rolls Dunne into a Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring, but Trent Seven gets on the apron, which sees Haskins break the hold to fend off any attempted interference.

Joel Allen then ejects Trent and Tyler before they can do anything, giving the crowd a chant to tell them to “fuck off back to Axxess”. Cute!

With him left to his own devices, Dunne wrenches away on Haskins’ fingers as he clubs Haskins down to the mat, then wrenches away on the challenger’s neck and nose. Haskins eventually fires back up and lays into Peter with forearms, then a leg lariat takes Dunne into the corner. More forearms lead to Haskins hitting almost a Naito-style outside-in dropkick, but Dunne blocks a half-and-half suplex, before taking a uranage backbreaker.

Haskins blasts Peter with a Falcon arrow for a near-fall, then lays into Dunne as he stood like a member of RINGKAMPF with his hands behind his back. Those Haskins kicks get a receipt though, as a single forearm to the head sends Mark down hard, but he replies immediately. A DDT from Haskins, then a half-and-half suplex set up for another suplex… which Haskins floats into a Star armbar that Peter was able to crawl to the ropes to escape from.

They exchange more forearms from the ground, but Haskins takes an enziguiri and replies with a La Mistica almost, only to try it again and take a tombstone. Haskins immediately grabbed his head, so of course, Dunne drops him again for a near-fall, then goes for a Bitter End… but Haskins turns it into a small package to nearly nick it.

Dunne goes for a Pedigree, because LOL WWE, and that’s another two-count. So he tries for a top rope Pedigree – or a Pepsi Plunge, if you will – but Haskins fights free and goes for a sunset bomb, which turns into a Destroyer! A rolled-up death valley driver gets another near-fall for Haskins, who floated into the Star armbar from the kick-out, but Dunne works free and eventually hits the Bitter End for another near-fall! From there, Dunne wrenches back on Haskins with a Regal Stretch, and with his neck as it is, Mark was left with no condition but to give up as Peter retains. Oh my, another fantastic outing, with Peter working better on his own than when he had backup. A marvelous way to close out this card. ****¼

It cannot be left unsaid how horrible the iPPV experience was. This is the very reason why PROGRESS previously refused to even entertain the idea… A slew of confused fans looking on where to order the live iPPV (which helpfully lived in WWN’s Shop rather than either part of the site marked “live PPV” or “on demand”), plus the self-inflicted denial-of-service attack as hundreds of fans hammered the F5 key to try and find the link to watch after logging into their WWN account [as an educated guess, it seemed that as a first-time event, PROGRESS hadn’t had their own category set up for VOD, so wouldn’t have appeared anywhere on customer’s accounts. Great testing, eh?]

Unfortunately, it seemed that EVOLVE (and all of the other WWN groups) moving to FloSlam rather than improving things just made the WWN crew extremely rusty at this. By the time the feed and website was available, confusion moved from “why can’t I watch it?” as people viewing on the link Gabe Sapolsky tweeted out were told they weren’t authorised to see what they’d bought. It shouldn’t have been this hard to get what you paid for…

Ignoring the shambles that was the experience in terms of ordering and watching this show, this was a pretty good way to make your debut in a foreign land. Over 1,200 fans packed the Orlando Live Events Center, and those who weren’t already big on PROGRESS were quickly sold on this by the end. Whilst PROGRESS couldn’t control the crowd, the in-ring product would have felt at home in the Electric Ballroom, or the Ritz in Manchester, or indeed anywhere they usually run in the UK – which is a massive plus. Whereas other promotions went to Orlando and put on what could be described as a watered down card, PROGRESS did not. They took PROGRESS and implanted as much of it as they could in Florida. Great success! Great matches up and down the card… it’s becoming a bit of a trait for them, eh?

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