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The Week In British Wrestling: PROGRESS gets a new champion

Main image by Jack White

Here’s five things you need to know about British wrestling this week:

1) British Strong Style hold all the cards at PROGRESS

PROGRESS Wrestling have long made a habit of selling out their shows at the Electric Ballroom, but announcing a full card -- and guaranteeing a new champion -- for The Graps Of Wrath last Sunday resulted in a very quick sell-out indeed.

The fans lucky enough to grab a ticket were rewarded with a superb night of entertainment, and at the end of it all Pete Dunne -- who began 2016 not even on the roster as a regular -- captured the PROGRESS Championship in a huge seven-man finale.

The title was vacated as a result of Mark Haskins’ injury last month, and the promotion decided to award a chance to win the belt to the winners of all the men’s matches on the show. Those matches included a PROGRESS Tag Team Championship rematch and a number one contenders’ bout for those same belts.

The winners of those two matches -- British Strong Style retained their titles against The London Riots, and the South Pacific Power Trip continued their unbeaten streak with a tainted win over FSU -- joined Jimmy Havoc (who faked an umbrella shot from Marty Scurll to earn a DQ win), Matt Riddle (who received a rapturous welcome on his UK debut against Will Ospreay), and Sebastian (because reasons).

Pete Dunne is the new PROGRESS Champion

Havoc was the last to enter the finale, and never made it to the ring because Scurll attacked him before he got there, but did return to the action later in the match, which saw a flurry of quick eliminations get rid of TK Cooper, Travis Banks, and Sebastian, before the tag champions combined to get rid of Riddle (much to the crowd’s chagrin). That left Havoc with both members of the British Strong Style (Trent Seven and Pete Dunne), and he eliminated Seven before setting Dunne up for the finish.

However, Tyler Bate -- who Seven turned on to create British Strong Style -- ran to the ring and interfered on Dunne’s behalf, giving the Bruiserweight the win and making a formidable tag team into a terrifying (if dapper) trio. The show also featured a qualifier in the Natural Progression Series to create the first Women’s Champion, and Nixon Newell advanced, beating debutante Katie Harvey.

PROGRESS return next Sunday, in Sheffield for the first time, and all the action can be caught on Demand PROGRESS.

2) Manami Toyota debuted in -- and bade farewell to -- the UK in a busy weekend of action

Genuine legends of the sport are few and far between these days, but there aren’t many who would doubt Manami Toyota’s place in those ranks. Last weekend, she made her first -- and apparently her last -- visit to the UK to compete for Pro-Wrestling EVE and the XWA.

The EVE show -- their third since their comeback earlier this year, and titled Never Mind The Bollocks... -- was held at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green, home of Lucha Britannia, and the intimate surroundings lent themselves to a tight but informal affair, headlined by Toyota going over Blue Nikita.

That topped an afternoon of all-woman action, during which Rhia O’Reilly defended her Pro-Wrestling EVE title against Emi Sakura, Laura di Matteo beat Shanna, Jinny fell to the veteran Jetta, and Kay Lee Ray and Nixon Newell both managed to win a three-way with Alex Windsor.

The sell-out crowd packed into the Resistance Gallery

EVE are returning to the Resistance Gallery for a double header on February 18th but Toyota laced her boots the next day, at XWA’s Winter Supershow at the Charter Hall in Colchester, where she teamed with Sakura to take on O’Reilly & Jetta.

That show opened with a number one contenders’ match, won by Jody Fleisch over Jonny Storm and Paul Tyrell (three veterans from the early days of the 2000s BritWres revival), and was headlined by a successful Frontier Sports title defense for Doug Williams against former-WWE star MVP, which was rated very highly by those in attendance.

Tom Dawkins lifts the XWA title

In between, there was plenty of action, as Tom Dawkins demanded a title match instead of facing Paul London, and was rewarded with both as Lion Kid made it a three-way. That may have been a mistake, as Dawkins left with the title, and finds himself on top of the XWA pile to cap a solid year of progression for the youngster.

The show also featured wins for Tommy Dreamer (over James Castle, in an Anarchy Rules match) and Danny Blaze (against Kyle Ashmore), and also saw the unlikely team of Hornswoggle & The Pitbulls (two very large men) beat Sid Scala, Adam Maxted & Lord Gideon Grey. XWA return in 2017.

3) Travis Banks claimed the Infinity trophy at Fight Club: PRO

After debuting for the Fight Club: PRO earlier this year, Travis Banks has been collecting a lot of compliments but no match wins for the Wolverhampton-based promotion. That run included a genuine MOTY contender against Zack Sabre Jr., as well as solid showings against Shane Strickland, Tyler Bate, and former FCP Champion Sami Callihan, but the losing streak continued.

Well, it did, until last Friday’s Infinity 2016 tournament, at the Fixxion Warehouse in Wolverhampton, when he not only won his four-man qualifying match, but also defeated Trent Seven to lift the Infinity trophy after a passion-filled classic which had the sell-out crowd on their feet.

Banks and Seven stare down before the final -- photo by Sophie Owen

Banks defeated Chris Brookes, Tyler Bate, and surprise entrant Jimmy Havoc in his qualifier, which saw the embers of a blood feud between Brookes and Havoc fire into life, while Seven outlasted the rookie Omari, Joe Coffey, and Mikey Whiplash, who gave another strong FCP showing at the Fixxion.

Then came the final, and Banks survived an avalanche piledriver and two agonizing half crabs to pin Seven in his own ring. Seven gave Banks all the accolades after the match, and you’ll struggle to find a more popular winner anywhere this year.

Away from the tournament, Dan Moloney continued his strong 2016 with a win over Sean Kustom, and Johnny T won an impressive pre-show trainee match against Adam Cage. Nixon Newell & Kay Lee Ray teamed up to take on the Hunter Brothers but Jim Hunter tore his MCL and couldn’t compete.

He did come to the ring, however, and announced he’d found a partner for his brother -- the 20-year old Lee Hunter (from the mid-2000s, played by Drew Parker) -- and the two almost pulled off a weird victory before the girls hit double pins for the win. The show will soon be available through Fight Club: PRO’s Vimeo service, and the promotion return in 2017.

4) Fox and Simmons were the big winners at the World Wrestling Championships

Searching for a replacement for their annual shows with Ring of Honor (after the latter disregarded their working relationship), Preston City Wrestling created the first World Wrestling Championships, and invited competitors from Combat Zone Wrestling, Beyond Wrestling, and Germany's Westside Xtreme Wrestling to take part in both openweight and cruiserweight divisions.

The championships -- three shows held over two days at Preston's Evoque nightclub -- kicked off last Friday with wins in the cruiserweight division for Da Mack (over Zachary Wentz), Tracy Williams (against Martin Kirby), Bubblegum (beating Axel Dieter Jr.), and AR Fox (outlasting Desmond Xavier) while the openweight bouts saw Dave Mastiff beat Keith Lee, Chris Dickinson pin Joey Janela, Jurn Simmons defeat Dave Crist, and T-Bone go over David Starr.

The following morning, in the traditional "hangover show" spot, Jurn Simmons and Dave Mastiff advanced in the openweight semifinals, while Bubblegum and AR Fox triumphed in the cruiserweight semis, before everyone returned for the evening show to see Fox and Simmons win their respective divisions.

Outside the tournament matches, there was a flurry of other action, with a six-man tag on show one -- with Sha Samuels, Iestyn Rees & Lionheart taking on Danny Hope & The Hooligans -- outdone by eight-man action on show two, which saw the CZW team of Joey Janela, Desmond Xavier, Dave Crist & Zachary Wentz beat PCW's Joey Hayes, Martin Kirby, Lionheart & Sha Samuels, as well as a blockbuster win for the impressive Keith Lee over PCW Heavyweight Champion Iestyn Rees.

wXw's Jurn Simmons won the openweight division

The two finals were joined on show three by successful defenses for PCW Heavyweight Champion Iestyn Rees (against T-Bone) and PCW Tag Team Champions Joey Hayes & Martin Kirby over Desmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz, as well as wins for Da Mack, Dave Crist, Chris Dickinson, and Keith Lee.

Although crowds were down on the usual ROH-level, all three shows were rated very highly by those who attended, and you'd hope that an innovative idea like this gets another outing. PCW return on December 9th and 10th with The Ryback on the Feed Me More Tour.

5) Tidal turned three (and other stuff)

Tidal Championship Wrestling celebrated their third birthday with Now We Are 3!, an anniversary show at the Dolphin Centre in Darlington last Friday. The show was main evented by a Tidal Open Championship match between Liam Slater and Alex Gracie, alongside Joseph Conners beating Gabriel Kidd, Little Miss Roxxy defeating Evee Black, HT Drake going over Micky the Dragon, and Dan James pinning Sean Only.

There was also tag team action as The New Nation beat The Sons of Ulaid, and Tidal return on December 18 at the O2 Academy in Leeds for Silent Nightmare 3.

Down in the West Country, Pro-Wrestling Chaos opened the doors of Hanham Community Centre for Let Them Eat Chaos last Saturday, and went with Wild Boar defending his King of Chaos title against Jimmy Havoc on top, which ended in a double disqualification. Underneath, an injury to Alex Steele forced Knights of Chaos Champion Eddie Dennis to choose a new tag team partner, and he came up with Sword of Essex's Scott Wainwright to beat The Magnums, who split in a shocking post-match angle.

A huge pile-on at Pro-Wrestling Chaos -- photo by Turning Face's Jim Maitland

Pariah Khan followed up his humiliating defeat at the last show with another, losing to Mr. Bananas and then seeing his proxy Jeckel -- dressed as a seahorse -- also lose to Bananas, which means Khan is gone from Chaos. The show also saw a debut for Sierra Loxton, losing to the veteran Jetta, and a three-way win for Mike Bird over Eddie Ryan and Big Grizzly. You can see Chaos action on the UKWrestlingOnDemand service (alongside Triple X & UPW), and they’re back on January 14th in Westbury-on-Trym.

Over the border in Glasgow, Insane Championship Wrestling wasted no time getting over their no doubt considerable Fear & Loathing IX hangovers when they returned to the Garage for a Friday Night Fight Club taping last Sunday.

With ICW Heavyweight Champion Wolfgang given the night off, the show was topped by something of a revenge tussle as Bram took on Jack Jester, both men having been a part of Team Red Lightning at the big show until Jester turned, and the undercard also featured Team Dallas' Sha Samuels against his former tag team partner Kid Fite.

Kenny Williams gave former Zero-G Champion Lionheart an immediate rematch for the belt, and they also held two semifinals towards finding a number one contender for Williams' belt, which were won by Andy Wild and Lewis Girvan.

Former-WWE star The Godfather was also in, beating Joey Ryan, DCT, and Davey Blaze in a fun four-way, and there were title defenses for Kay Lee Ray and Polo Promotions. You can see every ICW show on their On Demand service (and through the Fight Network in the US and Canada), and they have one night FNFC taping for 2016 on December 11th.

Nixon Newell takes flight -- photo by Brett Hadley

Lastly in a very packed week, Southside promoted Ill Manors 2016 at the Priory Centre in St. Neots last Saturday, headlined by a Nixon Newell vs. Kay Lee Ray match for which the two -- and special referee Alex Windsor -- raced up the A1 from Pro-Wrestling EVE.

El Ligero defended his Southside title, but not against scheduled opponent Pete Dunne (who was busy in Ireland with OTT) -- instead Paul London and Travis Banks answered an open challenge to make a three-way, which Ligero won.

In other news from the show, MVP beat Joseph Conners, Damian Dunne won a four-way (which also included David Starr, Chris Tyler, and Sean Kustom), HC Dyer defeated Robbie X, and Alex Gracie continued his losing streak against former-WWE stars when he teamed with Marshall X to fall to Gabriel Kidd & Hornswoggle.

Southside have an On Demand service and they'll return in February 2017 with Melina and Ethan Page scheduled.