After the previous day’s Natural Progression Series event focussing, largely on new faces and up and comers, PROGRESS Wrestling returned to Alexandra Palace for their 95th Chapter and this year’s ‘big show’ Still Chasing (now a September tradition following past year’s show at Brixton Academy, Ally Pally and, last year, Wembley Arena), making it, loosely speaking, the promotion’s answer to WrestleMania or Wrestle Kingdom.
As the sun beat down on those of us queuing to get into the venue the show, arguably, began early as David Starr, Jack Sexsmith, Sugar Dunkerton and a few others headed out into the crowd to hold an impromptu union rally handing out banners for us to wave later in the show all as part of Starr’s ‘We The Independent’ movement that is brilliantly crossing the barriers between the world inside and outside the ring and with his huge support at present it started to set the mood before we headed inside.
The NIC (Charlie Carter & Oisin Delaney vs The Knucklelockers (Darrell Allen & Jordan Breaks)
In something of a rematch from the pre-show of this year’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament these two teams clashed once again and again showed off some good skills.
The NIC both look great combing big guy physiques with some solid technical work while, for The Knucklelockers, Jordan Breaks felt like he could grow into a grappler like Zack Sabre Jr and Darrel Allen provided the higher flying side with a nice variation on the tiger feint kick.
With the expectation of the packed show to come this one may have fallen a little flatter than most pre-show matches but really it was no fault of the men in the ring and all four have the look of being some of the next wave of new stars on the British independent wrestling scene capable of stepping up to the next level soon.
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
Grizzled Young Veterans (c) (Zack Gibson and James Drake) vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis)
With a card so stacked it was hard to work out what would kick off the show but this much anticipated rematch for the PROGRESS Tag Team Championship was certainly a good choice.
Of course before the match began Gibson gave us one of his excellent promos, typically drowned out by boos. Nonetheless it was a great speech building on the much espoused ideas about the ‘death of British wrestling’ and the links between PROGRESS and WWE to incite the ire of the fans before Aussie Open hit the ring and things looked set to get underway.
That is until the music of Scotty Davis, the winner of the previous day’s NPS tournament hit and he proclaimed he was ‘cashing in’ his championship opportunity here and now making this…
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
Triple Threat Match
Grizzled Young Veterans (c) (Zack Gibson and James Drake) vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis) vs Scotty Davis & Jordan Devlin
As one might expect all three teams went all out on this one from the off with the champs in their natural heel role, the Irish duo clear faces and Aussie Open taking a place somewhere in between and doing a great job of it despite it not being their usual role here.
The match was action packed through out with a range of high flying and double team offence that was spectacular to behold and the less experienced Davis didn’t miss a step as each team looked to outwit the others.
Highlights came with a spectacular top rope to the floor moonsault from Devlin, some great suplexes from Davis and the more established teams’ already well known repertoire, and seeing the Grizzled Young Veterans get up to their heel tag team antics up close is always a treat.
In the end though it was the new team (to PROGRESS at least) who came away with the win setting the tone for the night with new faces being highlighted.
Pete Dunne open challenge
Pete Dunne vs Cara Noir
The return of The Bruiserweight to PROGRESS is always worthy of note, especially as, following last December’s Unboxing show, it looked like we may have seen the last of him on the indie circuit.
To add to this his opponent was kept unknown leading to much speculation but it was a very pleasant surprise when the lights went out and the music from Swan Lake creeped from the speakers signifying the arrival of Cara Noir.
Having only made his PROGRESS debut the day before he had already made an impression and had the chance to do so again here on an even bigger stage and against one of the most hotly tipped rising stars in the international game.
The match began with both men feeling each other out with some very nicely done grappling and matt work with Noir showing slightly less of his theatrical side but still keeping his enigmatic presence alive.
Then Dunne hit one of his explosive high impact forearm shivers and things stepped up a level.
From there the action went back and forth with the Black Swan more than holding his own against the Bruiserweight and not just applying his flying tackle sleeper hold but also hitting a devastating package piledriver which against most other opponents would have ended the match.
Dunne isn’t most other opponents though and escaped the pin at the last minute and, even though Noir survived the Bitter End, Dunne was able to claim the win following a Better End (which Noir almost escaped) before applying his mounted triangle armbar causing the submission.
After the match Dunne took the time to not only address his future, saying that this wouldn’t be the last we see of him in PROGRESS or on the indies, but also praising Noir and declaring him a big part of the bright future of ‘Britwres’, something which has been hotly debated of late.
And credit to whoever in the crowd started the ‘British Swan Style’ chant!
Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs Limitless Bros (Keith Lee and Matt Riddle)
The one off return of British Strong Style continued next as former PROGRESS and NXT Tag Team Champions, Moustache Mountain, squared off with NXT Superstars Keith Lee and Matt Riddle, both PROGRESS favourites in their own right.
After the tense action of the last match it was no surprise that these four fan favourites were out to have some fun and that’s just what they did for the first portion of the match proving that both wrestlers and audience can have a good time together while also being genuinely funny and entertaining.
Seven of course led the way with this, but Riddle came a close second aping current Twitter foe Bill Goldberg and referencing he and Trent’s encounter in Super Strong Style 16 a few years back.
Once things got serious it was just as good with the sweat well and truly flying from Lee and Seven’s big chops as the heat in the hall continued to rise.
As Tyler Bate got more involved we were treated to some feats of strength from the ‘Big Strong Boi’ and it was a fast paced encounter throughout with all four going in and out of the ring and delivering some spectacular offence.
The climax came as Seven delivered his own feat of strength to deliver a Burning Hammer to Lee before Bate connected with an astonishing Spiral Tap twisting moonsault senton to claim the win.
After the match all four showed each other respect with a four way fist bump to round off a match that went down a storm but was something of a stand alone exhibition.
PROGRESS Women’s Championship
Jordynne Grace (c) vs Meiko Satomura
Since winning the championship at Unboxing Grace has appeared unbeatable and with that, as often seems to be the case in this promotion, the fan reaction to her has shifted from positive to largely negative (save for the previous day’s surprise appearance with CCK who continue to defy the heel/face dynamic).
Satomura meanwhile, though never having appeared in PROGRESS before, is an international legend, so it was clear going in where allegiances would lie and that this would be an important affair.
From the start Grace used her power advantage to negate the striking and experience of Meiko with every chance the Japanese legend found quickly shut down by the Texan powerhouse.
As the match went on though Satomura’s strikes began to take their toll though on several occasions it looked like Grace had the contest won as she delivered particularly nasty versions of a Michinoku Driver and her own pumphandle driver that usually puts paid to any opponent.
Fighting through this and more Meiko unleashed a flurry of striking offence finishing with her spectacular elevated axe kick to the back of Grace’s head claiming the win and the championship to a standing ovation after one of the best women’s wrestling matches I’ve seen anywhere and ending the first half of the show on a high.
PROGRESS Proteus Championship
30-Person Rumble Match
After the relative respite from the temperature in the hall provided by the half time break we all crowded back in as a promo video played introducing us to PROGRESS’ new championship, the Proteus title (continuing the Greek myth theme laid out by the past Atlas title) which was to be decided in a 30 person, over the top rope rumble match.
I’ve seen plenty of Rumble’s in my time on TV but this was my first in person so, while definitely exciting, I wondered how much I’d be able to follow given the potential for many people to be in the ring at any time.
With that in mind this is a far from exhaustive run down but as the match started with Paul Robinson (the crowd favourite) and Ilja Dragunov in the ring it started strong.
From there we got a good mix of action that kept the interest well up for better part of an hour, after a great opening stretch that laid some foundations for things to come we were treated to an extended comedy sequence featuring surprise entrants Session Moth Martina (making possibly her last appearance before heading off to Ring Of Honor) and NPS stand out Gene Munny along with announced visitor Sugar Dunkerton and, of all people, the usually hard headed and serious (at least in PROGRESS) Kiwi Buzzsaw Travis Banks.
This looked to be broken up as Los Federales Super Santos Jr of the Anti-Fun Police hit the ring but he too was suckered in so it took his partner Chief Deputy Dunne to bring the No Fun-ah back to proceedings… well almost.
We also got a brief appearance from the Mad King Eddie Kingston who proved true to his words about women’s wrestling the previous day treating everyone equally when it came to throwing out vicious lariats (something matched by a confrontation between Dan Moloney and Chakara earlier in the Rumble), while surprise entry, former head referee Chris Roberts cleaned house with a full round of Stone Cold Stunners and even eliminated Chris Brookes in the process!
On top of that drama was added to situation between the members of the South Pacific Powertrip as NIWA eliminated Travis Banks before both he and Cooper clearly reforged their alliance attacking Banks when returned to the ring to question the actions of the team’s newest member.
Aside from all of that the main story of the contest concerned Do Not Resuscitate following their confidence boosting night at the NPS.
Despite an injury to Spike Trivet (that appeared to be very well handled by referee Paz and members of the ring crew), they were consistently dominant throughout with all three remaining members making it to the very end and again gaining ire by eliminating The OJMO for the second night in a row.
The end saw two of their number remaining with Dragunov and Robinson and, while the Russian fighter and William Eaver took a nasty tumble over the ropes to the floor it was Robinson who went end to end, eliminating Duggan to become the first ever PROGRESS Wrestling Proteus Champion.
While there was a lot of action and a good amount of fun and story building, the whole thing was a solidly entertaining hour of action and, while I’m not totally convinced of his apparent face turn, there’s no denying that after seven years with the company including being part of some of their biggest stories, Robinson more than deserves his first singles championship here and with the rules around the Proteus title he looks set to make this a strong part of PROGRESS shows going forward.
PROGRESS Unified World Championship
WALTER (c) vs David Starr
The last time PROGRESS was at Alexandra Palace was the 2019 Super Strong Style 16 tournament where David Starr, who had recently begun his ‘We The Independent’ movement, won the tournament and the chance to challenge for the promotions Unified World Championship.
The holder of that title, WALTER, meanwhile retained the belt under dubious circumstances against Trent Seven unifying the World Championship with the Atlas belt.
Since then Starr has taken his movement to the next level, demonstrated by the Unionize rally before the show here, while WALTER has cemented his position in opposition to this by winning the WWE United Kingdom Championship from Pete Dunne.
This set the stage, in PROGRESS terms, for the next chapter in a far larger story that has seen the pair go one-on-one twelve times previously across various promotions, including Germany’s wXw and Ireland’s OTT, with WALTER having won every single time despite the dogged resistance of Starr.
With all that in mind as the two men made their way to the ring, even with the heat in the room now almost unbearable (how the wrestlers and crew managed I have no idea), the crowd was buzzing and, mostly, hopeful to see the underdog challenger finally topple the Austrian giant.
The match began before the bell with a swift and stiff kick to the head from WALTER which set the tone as the two, already familiar with each other, wasted no time in unloading with the heavy ammunition — though it was nearly over before it began as WALTER delivered a powerbomb after that kick for an early near fall.
As expected WALTER used his size to dominate Starr despite flurries, including some impressively solid lariats, from the American grappler that included a suicide dive attempt that saw him thrown through our seats.
Despite this Starr’s tenacity frustrated WALTER to the point that he attempted to use his championship belt as a weapon but, after referee Joel Allen was incapacitated it was Starr who used the belt before connecting with his Blackheart Buster putting the champion down for more than the three count but there was still no one there to count it.
As Starr tried to revive Joel and called for a new referee one stumbled, as if pushed through the entrance way before the music of ‘The Pride Of Wales’ Eddie Dennis sprang from the speakers and the Welshman emerged to claim the championship match he had won (crucially) almost a year ago at Wembley.
With Starr distracted a masked figure armed with a chair attacked him from behind as Dennis and the referee made their way to ring and an impromptu triple threat match was announced as Dennis stomped on the steel chair as it wrapped around Starr’s head before pinning him to claim the PROGRESS Unified World Championship as the masked man peeled off his hood to reveal Dennis’s sometime Tag Team partner in FSU, Mark Andrews.
With everyone capable on their feet, some cheering the PROGRESS mainstay, others booing him for his and his partners nefarious tactics (which stretch back to their past appearances where they claimed to be leaving the promotion for good to focus on NXT UK) Dennis explained his reasons as a competitor who’d been with the company since the beginning while Starr was a newcomer capitalising on others hard work.
Brilliantly this promo divided the room between the die hard Starr fans and the fans of FSU, pulling together themes that had emerged not just across this show but across the last few months of PROGRESS and debate in the wider British independent wrestling scene closing the show on an explosive and, for the most part, genuinely surprising event that has opened up the future of the PROGRESS World Championship in several different ways and I can’t wait to see how they play out.
With plenty of crowd pleasing moments, many surprises and a shock ending that’s up there with the best of them, Still Chasing has already been hailed by many as one of the best shows from PROGRESS in sometime.
I’m more than inclined to agree with that (even though I was firmly rooting for Starr in the main event and don’t quite get the switch to face for Paul Robinson) as every match on the card delivered arguably more than expected and, even if the room was like a sauna, the energy grew to a spectacular crescendo.
Given the heat in the room extra special mention has to go to everyone working on the day from the wrestlers themselves to the entire crew who more than had their work cut for them in those conditions.
Now a new road begins, after what feels like something of a reset with all new champions and a host of new wrestlers having made their debuts, and we’ll see how those who’ve lost come back and those who won stake their claims and PROGRESS moves forward into what genuinely feels like a new era.