August 12, 2017 in Queens, NY
Progress’ NYC debut last year was a great show somewhat marred by a horrible venue. I was extremely pleased to hear they’d be running La Boom this time around, which one of my favorite places to watch wrestling.
Jim Smallman came out to open to thank NYC for a Tuesday night sellout, reminisce about how special it was to get a “please come back” chant for the promotion the previous year BEFORE THE SHOW STARTED, and generally soak in the excitement of the crowd. He comes across as genuinely appreciative and set the stage for a great night.
TK Cooper received a warm welcome for his return to New York from a crowd happy to see him competing again after his unfortunate injury at last year’s NYC show that left him out for 9 months. His opponent Eddie Dennis jumped all over this in some of the best heel promo work I’ve ever seen simply saying the injury is the only reason the crowd cares about Cooper at all and then throwing in that the only reason Cooper was booked is because it was too late for Progress to cancel his plane ticket once his tag team partner was injured. Dennis cut straight to the bone but, perhaps more importantly, expertly delivered everything with the needed pitch perfect tone that ensured the audience would take offense on Cooper’s behalf (instead of perhaps chuckling at the level of burn delivered). The sold out NYC crowd packing La Boom arrived ready to be loud and involved, and the show started right out with a story they could latch onto, fostering and elevating the electric atmosphere.
Furthermore, the match itself was extremely well worked with Cooper trying weather Dennis’ calculated yet driven assault while the latter did everything he could to stay a step ahead. Cooper looked a little hesitant at points, which may have been an intentional attempt to sell trepidation after what happened during his last appearance here. If so I don’t think it came across quite the way it was intended. Otherwise though he looked good and it was great to see him back. Dennis was incredible, with his ringwork the equal of his character work, and made one of the strongest impressions of the night in my first time seeing him. His victory put him at 2 in the 3 and in challenge, meaning he’s one more consecutive victory away from being one of the challengers for the Progress title at their biggest event ever. I’d love to see it. Excellent way to start the show.
Speaking of matches with title implications, Natalia Markova and Ashley Vox faced to earn a spot in an upcoming Progress Women’s Championship match. They each appropriately fought like they desperately needed to win and never let up. Highlights included them dropping everyone’s jaws with high impact dives to the floor (side note: for the love of god Progress PLEASE get real mats on the outside next time). I’d seen Vox once before in a good tag match on a Marvelous USA show a couple of years ago. She’s continue to grow as a performer since then and was fantastic here. After the only women’s match on the card Vox received one of the very few “please come back” chants targeted at an individual of the night. Great effort and performances from both in an excellent match that saw Markova prevail to move on to the tile match.
Something that’s so important but sometimes overlooked is making sure the live crowd knows what the rules and stakes of matches are. With the last match clarifying it was for a future title shot gave important context, and likewise here Smallman explaining before the match began that it was submissions only but rope breaks were still in force was a much appreciated little touch that allows the audience to understand the parameters from the get go and become immediately engaged in the match.
I’ve heard Flash Morgan Webster’s name often, but this was my first look at him. He has a striking look / gimmick, and had an intense match with Mark Haskins that had a strong, wonderfully told underlying story and made great use of the submission only stipulation.
Haskins kept at Morgan full bore while the latter took every shortcut he could and targeted a foot Haskins injured when he went for a kick and Morgan blocked it with a chair. Late match Morgan got the advantage using Haskins’ own helmet as a weapon, but when he tried to continue and use it to attack Mark’s wife Vicky things backfired, Vicky beat on Morgan a bit in what felt like retribution without me knowing anything at all about the story building up to this match, and Mark put Morgan away. Afterwards the couple towered over a prone Morgan, and in a wonderful bit of chickenshit heel character work he kept looking back and forth between them as if unsure who he needed to be more afraid of. Also of note: Haskins was giving a MASTERCLASS on selling if one paid attention, grimacing any time he had to put weight on the foot, letting it affect his actions in the ring, and selling it all the way to the back. This was fantastic.
With Kid Lykos unfortunately injured on a previous show, John Gresham subbed in as part of CCK to team with Chris Brookes to defend the Progress Tag Team Titles against LAX ( Santana & Ortiz). Easily the match of the night against a strong field, this was tag team wrestling at its finest. I was unfamiliar with everyone in the match except Gresham, who I’d seen every little of and nothing in years, and all four tore it up. Gresham in particular is an absolute gem, being super smooth and perfectly paced and precise in everything he did. They blew the roof off the place so much other wrestlers were constantly peeking out through the curtain to watch. Smallman came out after to call it one of the best matches in Progress’ history and commend all involved, and it was well deserved. Really hope to see more of these four in the future.
After an intermission to let everyone catch their breath, we had an entry in an ongoing tag team series that saw Sexy Starr (David Starr & Jack Sexsmith) vs Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake). Gibson didn’t get quite the immediate nuclear heat he had last year, but he was still nearly booed out of the building when he tried to speak. The positive portrayal of and interactions between Starr and Sexsmith are something wrestling needs more of.
I will admit the immersion was broken for me by the presence of one of my personal pets peeves with the referee treating similar actions by the faces and heels completely differently. The ref’s supposed to be impartial, with the heels working around him and cheating behind his back for the advantage. Having a ref manhandle a face back to his corner then lamely shake his finger at a heel while watching him do the exact same thing the face just did really takes me out of matches. Fine match to restart the show with decent action otherwise leading to an eventual feel good win for Sexy Starr.
If this was in fact Matt Riddle’s final La Boom appearance, he went out on an extremely high note against Mark Andrews. The two put on a hard hitting, glorious match in the semi-main spot that went shorter than I expected but made the most of every second in a way made it feel the perfect length. One INSANE spot saw Andrews counter the Bro-to-Sleep into a Canadian Destroyer. Riddle received a huge “thank you Riddle” chant after his victory.
Given Pete Dunne was pulled from last year’s show due to getting busted open the night before and Mustache Mountain’s (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) match was cut short due to Cooper’s injury, it was a particular treat to see the three wrestle live in the main event as British Strong Style took on “The 3 Kings” in the debuting Eddie Kingston & Brody King with Progress star the King of the Goths Jimmy Havoc.
BSS were pretty much conquering heroes here, no matter what they did. And they reveled in it. The six brawled all over, and generally just fought and fought until someone didn’t get up. In this case it was Eddie Kingston falling victim to a Tyler Driver to end it.
Amusing crowd interactions were also plentiful. King tried to throw Dunne’s cloak into the crowd a couple times then got pissed at the fan who just kept handing it back to Dunne. When he went out to stare down the fan, a “kiss!” chant rose, to which Havoc responded by going out and kissing the fan. A “one more time” chant was then met with “if he pays me.” After a series of crazy dives left everyone on the floor, Dunne solicited shoes from the audience to use as weapons, and after the resulting brawl Tyler Bate wrestled the rest of the match with one bare foot.
Trent Seven’s performance particularly stood out to me in numerous little details and mannerisms. After an extended sequence where he played deadweight as various combinations of his partners and opponents tried to get him back to his feet, he fired off rapid strikes on all three of his opponents as Dunne and Bate mocked brawled with each other in the corner. BSS have this incredible ability to seem simultaneously ridiculous and dangerous in the best possible way, and it makes their matches something special. Everyone was spot on here. Just great fun all around.
Progress knocked it right out of the park with this truly amazing show featuring jaw dropping action, accessible stories even for non-regular viewers, and effort and passion up and down the card. I can’t wait until they come back this way someday.