CONNOR MILLS vs. STRANGLER DAVIS - 6/10
Good opener. Both guys looked good.
FLASH MORGAN WEBSTER HOSTS A TALK-SHOW SEGMENT - Excellent! A lot went on here, but I'm feeling quite lazy so rather than write this out for myself, I'm going to steal the in-depth recap provided by Voices of Wrestling's Reverend Kain to get you up to speed on what happened:
Flash takes his time getting his set built, including a potted plant he calls Townshend. He introduces himself and his first guest, Mark Haskins, asking him how he's doing before bringing Jimmy Havoc to the ring. Havoc and Haskins have a staredown, shoving Webster aside when he starts to try and help them talk through it.
Jimmy and Mark hug and Havoc admits they had a chat and sorted it out already! Haskins gets on the mic and calls out to the bar, he wants to order a round of drinks. Morgan admits he was up all night thinking of questions but Havoc says putting hands on Haskins' wife Vicki was wrong, he's apologized, they had a tussle, they're mates, they're cool.
The only thing that bothers him right now is the feng shui of the set, the plant's in the wrong corner. Webster asks how Jimmy putting hands on Vicki made Mark feel, and he says it made him sad and angry, but he's genuinely sorry it came to blows. Since coming back to Progress he hasn't been able to win the title back and he wants it so bad that it tears him apart and his frustrations have run high.
He then asks Jimmy how he feels, and he says he's perpetually sad anyway, but when he says "his title", no, it's his title, and Progress fought tooth and nail to get it off of him where Haskins just gave it up, and he's never had a one-on-one shot for the title since coming back and he's frustrated as well.
That gets Mark hot and he gets to his feet, bringing Havoc to his feet for a staredown. Morgan jumps into action saying they need to work together against British Strong Style's numbers game, and they have to make sure they're a team.
Enter Travis Banks. Flash rolls with it and introduces him as his third guest, which leads Banks to get on the mic, saying he loves and respects both Havoc and Haskins equally. He loves Webster, too, but when it comes to Alexandra Palace and the title, he just wants to remind everyone that the Kiwi Buzzsaw will be the next Progress--
Enter Pete Dunne. He says he was standing in the back watching whatever this "pile of shit" is, and he wanted to come out and remind everyone who owns this company. He owns the ring, the plant, the whole company, and Travis needs to stop getting so far ahead of himself, because he'll be lucky if he makes it to Alexandra Palace.
Dunne announces that his chosen match for Banks tonight is a three-way against Jimmy and Mark! Travis says that's funny, because he picked Pete's opponents, and HE'LL be facing Haskins and Havoc. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and addresses the math of it all, and he's going to say something he's always wanted to say, and the main event will be a tag team match between Banks and Dunne on one side and Havoc and Haskins on the other, playa!
Okay. Everyone got that?
I really enjoyed this segment, and thought the booking was quite clever on multiple levels. I liked the idea that these former friends managed to talk something out behind the scenes like adults, and I thought their emotional self-awareness made them come off as very human. I also liked how they used those emotions to expose a heretofore unknown deeper source of tension between them- one that won't be so easily talked out- their mutual desire for the PROGRESS World Title. This was then used as a reason to bring out #1 contender Travis Banks, and through his warning them off and then the appearance of PROGRESS World Champion Pete Dunne, brought Havoc and Haskins both back into the title picture. This felt like the sort of segment Gabe would book on an EVOLVE show to set three things up at once. It's a wonderfully efficient and exciting use of time, and the sort of segment that I find to be the hallmark of a talented booker.
I also enjoyed the fact that they came up with a way to do a parejas increibles match in a way that actually made sense, as opposed to management randomly deciding to f*ck with a bunch of guys in the hopes of creating tension between guys who already don't like each other anyway.
WINNER GETS TO PICK ONE STIPULATION FOR THE TAG TITLE MATCH AT THE NEXT SHOW:
Tyler Bate vs. Kid Lykos- 7.5/10
This was a GREAT babyface vs. heel match, and when I say when I say "a GREAT babyface vs. heel match," I mean one of those matches where the heel cheats to win and you just get SOOOOOOOO ANGRY that that f*cking bastard cheated and got away with it even though you it's a work.
BRITISH STRONG STYLE NAME THEIR STIPULATION - Fun. After dicking with the crowd a bit by teasing a Punjabi Prison Match, Seven finally told the crowd that their stipulation will be a match where you can't lose by submission, and also in which "Falls Count Anywhere... in the ring."
PROGRESS WOMEN'S TITLE #1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH:
Jinny vs. Dahlia Black - 7/10
They brawl right from the get-go, but Dahlia's ankle was once again giving her problems and Jinny honed in on it all match long. As always, Dahlia was a great babyface and Jinny was a great heel, which made for a great match.
WINNER GETS TO PICK ONE STIPULATION FOR THE TAG TITLE MATCH AT THE NEXT SHOW:
Chris Brookes vs. Trent Seven - 4.5/10
Banks was running his mouth before the match so Brookes just charged him and booted him in the face to start things off. They were having a fine match until the finish. I liked the idea of the babyfaces being ready for the heels plan and making it backfire on them, but I really disliked the fact that they had the referee catch Tyler Bate not only in the ring but in the middle of hooking Brookes for his finish and that somehow not being a DQ.
CCK NAME THEIR STIPULATION - It's going to be a Ladder Match. I liked that they at least used some of British Strong Style's previous comments about their "stock rising" and so forth to weave something of a metaphorical base so that the choice of a Ladder Match feels like it has some artistic merit to it rather than just being picked because promotions like Ladder Matches because they draw because fans like gimmick matches and spots.
JAMES DRAKE & ZACK GIBSON vs. FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews) - 8/10
This James Drake is not the EVOLVE Tag Team Champion James Drake. This was an awesome babyface-in-peril tag team match, with Mark Andrews playing Ricky Morton beautifully. This was one sleeper match that you had better not sleep on.
TIMOTHY THATCHER vs. DOUG WILLIAMS - 7.5/10
A GREAT technical match, as you'd expect. Williams tried to use his advantage, including the fact that he his size allowed him to get more power behind his strikes. Thatcher worked over the arm to negate that, and got the win with the Fujiwara armbar. More promotions should book Doug Williams. I don't care if he's forty-five. He's still Doug Williams and he can still go.
JIMMY HAVOC & MARK HASKINS vs. PETE DUNNE & TRAVIS BANKS - 9/10
Just to be a dick, Pete Dunne tags himself in before anything happens. Then he tags himself right back out and walks out of the match, telling Banks to wrestle it himself (just like Banks was willing to wrestle British Strong Style by himself in New York after T.K. Cooper got injured. He then walked over to the commentary table, and told Leslie Callum to scram. Then to be even more of a jerk, he kicked Leslie right in the nuts.
And yeah. Travis Banks went at it on his own, because he's a f*cking babyface and he won't back down from anyone. Both Havoc and Haskins started to throw chairs at Banks, which, for some unexplained reason, is not a disqualification. Banks ducked one of Haskins' thrown chairs, which hit Jimmy Havoc who was standing behind him. Havoc got angry and threw one at Haskins but Haskins caught it... but then Banks kicked it right into his face. While that was certainly the right move at the time for Banks, it did, unfortunately for him, serve to remind Haskins and Havoc who their true foe was for right now, and they started to work together again and were able to overcome Banks for quite a while.
Banks made something of a comeback, at which point Dunne made his way back down to the ring and offered to tag (although, to be honest, I doubted his sincerity), to which Banks responded by flipping him off, so Dunne headed back to the announcers' table and Banks continued to wrestle a virtual Handicap Match.
Haskins and Havoc quickly took over, and while things did predictably break down between them, I give these guys major credit for doing it in a way that didn't feel like standard pro wrestling exaggeration. It wasn't one incident that brought them to blows; it was about five- and not just one guy accidentally hitting the other but also things like "why'd you tag yourself in? I had it under control!" and "why the hell did you tag me like that, asshole! You chopped me!" It felt very realistic, and you could very much feel how all of these different things would make tensions escalate to the point where Havoc responded to the "chop as a tag" by almost immediately (after one stomp) tagging Haskins back in via slap to the face and they started trading blows.
This, of course, let Banks take over... but he wasn't able to get the win, and Havoc and Haskins once again managed to get themselves on the same page. This had the dual effects of both making Haskins and Havoc feel like reasonable people- people I could truly believe were the friends they had said they were earlier- and also ensuring that the feeling that Banks was in a two-on-one situation (and both my admiration of Banks' bravery and anger at Dunne for placing him in a such a situation) was always present.
Eventually a miscue because the straw that broke the camel's back for Havoc and he left, although we didn't actually see that (props to the announcers for making sure to tell us about it) because that happened right during the finish of the match, and they kept the camera where it should be, which was on the ring. That finish was Banks laying Haskins out with the Kiwi Crusher... and then that piece of sh*t Pete Dunne swooped into the ring, tossed Banks out of it (I guess we're using Lucha rules, now?), and hit Haskins with The Bitter End to get the pin.
This was one of those matches that, to me, was really more of a segment or an angle than a match, in that the real purpose of this segment was to illustrate some important things for the storyline rather than the outcome or manner of said outcome really mattering quite as much (for example, they could have gotten to the same place if Banks had gotten the win and Dunne just attacked him right afterwards- although I do like them doing it this way, as it makes Dunne feel like more of a heel, gives Haskins a bit of protection in that he was beaten by a totally fresh man, and they could use this pinfall as an excuse for Dunne arguing that Haskins doesn't deserve a title shot, forcing Haskins to pick up some more wins to earn one). Something that is about the storytelling much more than it is about the action or the result (my prototypical example being Jimmy Jacobs vs. Colt Cabana vs. Christopher Daniels from ROH Glory By Honor V: Night 2), where, if I were only rating matches on storytelling it would be a clear 10/10, but, to me, a 10/10 match also need a prerequisite amount of action (or else all squashes would be 10/10), and while these matches don't reach that level, they have more than enough action for me to do what I would usually do and rate them as a segment rather than a match because doing so would feel like it diminishes the physical efforts of the wrestlers. What I do in these cases is basically rate the wrestlers on the action and then give a big bonus for storytelling, and I would like to specifically note here that this is the by far highest rating I have ever given one single match of this type (I gave the Daniel Bryan Gauntlet Match on the 7/22/2013 Raw a 9.5/10, but that was three matches) I you want to give this one a 10/10, though, I certainly wouldn't call you crazy.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - AWESOME HEAT SEGMENT! Dunne goes on his usual rant about how he "owns" everything (the title, PROGRESS, "sports entertainment," etc.) until Banks gets back in the ring and lays him out. The rest of British Strong Style show up in time to save Dunne from eating a Kiwi Crusher, and Banks gets beaten down until his stablemates in CCK come out to make the save.
They soak up the adulation from the crowd until Dunne, who had slipped away after being saved from eating a Kiwi Crusher, comes out on the ramp, holding a sledgehammer, and dragging Dahlia Black, once of Banks' trainees, as well as the wife (or maybe girlfriend. There is conflicting information on the internet) of his other tag team partner, T.K. Cooper (yes, Banks is half of not one but TWO of the hottest tag teams in wrestling not signed to a major promotion). Dahlia fought back as best she could on one good leg, but Dunne, being a terrible person, immediately went after her bad leg when she tried to fight.
Meanwhile, Bate and Seven had recovered and attacked CCK from behind. Dunne teased smashing Dahlia's leg with the sledgehammer, but instead left her where she was and went to the ring where Bate and Seven held Banks up so Dunne could hit him in the back with the sledgehammer. Then British Strong Style's music played and they celebrated, which including Seven nailing Kid Lykos with a vicious forearm and Dunne nailing Chris Brookes with the sledgehammer. I'll have to go check, as I remember some of the Catchpoint vs. Riddle and/or Lee segments as well as some of the stuff with Darby Allin in EVOLVE being up there, but this was one of- if not the top heat segments this year.
An AWESOME show from PROGRESS, with great wrestling up and down the card, an AWESOME main event, and some wonderful build for the next show. I sure picked the right month to get a subscription. DemandPROGRESS.PivotShare.com.