After interrupting and helping cost Mark Andrews his PROGRESS Championship match versus Pete Dunne at PROGRESS Wrestling: Chapter 46, Tyler Bate is forced by WWE NXT General Manager to defend his WWE United Kingdom Championship against the man he wronged, making it the first time in over two decades that a WWE championship has been defended at a non-WWE event. Mark Haskins is the next man to step up to challenge Pete Dunne for his championship, whilst Trent Seven and Matt Riddle go head to head for the Atlas Championship…
Zack Sabre Jr.
(Winner via pinfall: Zack Sabre Jr.)
(Winner via pinfall: James Drake)
(Winner via pinfall: Jinny)
Travis Banks & TK Cooper (“South Pacific Power Trip”) (with Dahlia Black)
Sami Callihan & Shane Strickland (“JML”)
(Winners via pinfall: South Pacific Power Trip)
Matt Riddle (C)
PROGRESS Atlas Championship
(Winner via submission: Matt Riddle)
Tyler Bate (C)
WWE United Kingdom Championship
(Winner via pinfall: Tyler Bate)
Pete Dunne (C)
(Winner via submission: Pete Dunne)
PROGRESS Wrestling made their North America debut with this show, presenting it as part of the WWN Experience that is essentially the go-to for the best indie wrestling each Wrestlemania weekend. As I understand it, tickets for this show went fast, probably shocking the owners of the company as to how popular their little project has become worldwide.
The card was consistently strong from top to bottom, as I’ve come to expect from what I’ve seen of PROGRESS. Zack Sabre Jr. and Jimmy Havoc opened the show with a match that was dominated by the former, until Havoc was able to come back into it toward the end. I guess, given Sabre Jr. was at this series of shows as EVOLVE Champion, he needed to win here, so the booking decision made sense. As far as the match goes, it was your standard Zack Sabre Jr., which is no bad thing at all, but worked at a quicker pace to the majority of his matches.
The Drake/Spud match was surprisingly one-sided, with Drake looking like an absolute beast from the first moment he attacked Spud during the ring introductions. The commentary team put over Drake right throughout the contest, and the crowd were really giving him heat for how he was beating down the popular Rockstar Spud.
Spud did make a comeback, following an arrogant and disgusting spit in the face from Drake, but it was to be short-lived. Until that point, it had been a little slow, but once Spud got his back up about the spit, we got a few minutes of really good action. Drake winning was the right call, even if the audience might not have been too happy about it!
As we get closer and closer to the crowning of the first ever PROGRESS Women’s Champion in May 2017, Toni Storm and Jinny put on a good teaser of what’s to come. I really enjoyed this match, and almost put it at 3.5/5, but managed to contain my love for Storm a little – she’s a legit performer, and has a great look. Wasn’t so keen on Jinny taking the victory so suddenly, but it was done via cheating (using the ropes) so that wasn’t so bad, plus I’m hopeful that this is all just leading to Storm taking the championship.
The tag team match was crazy from the moment the bell went, with the action very quickly moving to ringside as Callihan and Strickland took control. Fans were loving it, and ended up on their feet giving a standing ovation before the match was even over. It became a very competitive affair, and it genuinely was not clear who was going to take the win. All four men put each other over at the end, following Banks and Cooper’s win, which is something I think happens too much on the indies, but the crowd loved it and that’s more important than my personal preference watching at home.
As we moved onto the championship matches, we were given a lovely heel display from Trent Seven as he took on seemingly everyones fan favourite, Matt Riddle. It was a good battle between two good guys, and Seven probably surprised some of the American audience members who may only be familiar with his face run on WWE programming. I personally haven’t brought into the Riddle hype machine yet, but figure I’ll have plenty of time to, given he appears to be wrestling for almost every company these days!
The real attraction match, for me at least, was between Bate and Andrews. That WWE allowed this to be for their own United Kingdom Championship was huge, and suggests that the relationship between them and PROGRESS Wrestling must be incredibly strong. I went into this knowing WWE wouldn’t allow a title change at a show which wasn’t theirs, but a part of me did wonder if they would make the switch just to be unpredictable. It was the former, and in truth Andrews probably isn’t getting that United Kingdom Championship for a long time, if at all (Dunne will presumably be next…?).
The match itself started out a slow, technical affair. My partner happened to return home from a night out during this section, and given she’s only familiar with WWE‘s style, was somewhat critical of what she was seeing, describing it as “dance rehearsals.” Ultimately, I guess she just doesn’t understand technical wrestling or transitions between holds!
When things did get a bit more lively in the ring, the match got very good, maybe even superb. The final few minutes were the best of the entire show, and both men put themselves over well. I’ll be curious to see if the WWE United Kingdom Championship gets defended at any future PROGRESS shows, as we are really in uncharted waters so far as how WWE are working with indie promotions right now, especially in the UK.
I really enjoyed what Pete Dunne and Mark Haskins did in the main event, as well as what British Strong Style brought to it prior to their ejection from ringside. Watching all three BSS members riff on DX and Triple H is great viewing, and whoever decided they should use all those quirks to wind up the indie fans is a genius. From crotch chops to spitting water during their entrances, they are nailing the whole “sell outs” angle.
Dunne and Haskins stepped it up a gear following Bate and Seven’s ejection, and the crowd were really into it. Both men worked hard, but I will admit that I had some issues watching Haskins kick out of a double tombstone, and then later a pedigree. Maybe it’s the WWE enthusiast in me, but I see those as protected moves that legitimately put opponents away. The indies have a habit of softening such moves, unfortunately, but that didn’t take away from a match that was damn entertaining.
All in all, it was a great show, with some quality matches that any indie fan should be watching. Can’t wait to have the regular PROGRESS crew filming their shows again though, as I missed those lovely camera angles this time out.
Match of the Night
Travis Banks & TK Cooper
vs. Sami Callihan & Shane Strickland
PROGRESS: Orlando 2017 Rating: