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The Week In British Wrestling: PROGRESS has issues, fun on US trip

Main photo by Chris Marciano

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

1) PROGRESS returned to the US

When PROGRESS Wrestling made their US debut -- as part of WWN Live’s More Than Mania event over WrestleMania weekend in April -- there were issues with the iPPV broadcast, and a late start due to traffic, but that still couldn’t take the shine off a successful first event overseas.

Hopefully the same will be true about their latest US incursion last weekend, which was beset by logistical problems but nevertheless delivered for those in attendance live.

Last Saturday, at the Elmcor Center in Queens, New York, PROGRESS was the main event to a double-shot which included EVOLVE 91, but the promotion went into the event without their champion after Pete Dunne received a deep, hardway cut on a show the night before and was pulled from the weekend.

That put an end to an all-WWE main, where Dunne would have faced 205 Live’s Jack Gallagher, but Zack Gibson was switched into Dunne’s position to reignite his rivalry with his old friend, falling to the “Gentleman” in the opener.

The actual headline match was still a title match, as WALTER put the PROGRESS Atlas Division Championship he won from Matt Riddle last month on the line against… Matt Riddle! Riddle had earlier beaten WALTER as part of a four-way on the EVOLVE show, and repeated his feat here to become the first two-time Atlas Champion.

The PROGRESS Tag Team titles were also on the line when British Strong Style faced the South Pacific Power Trip, but that ended in a no contest when TK Cooper seriously injured his ankle, which will sadly keep him out of PWG’s BOLA 2017.

The impressive NY crowd -- photo by Edward The Referee

The show, which has received accusations of over-selling and did lead to a couple fans passing out, saw PROGRESS debuts for Joey Janela, Austin Theory, Deonna Purrazzo, and WWE's Dakota Kai, and there were wins for Timothy Thatcher, Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins, and Travis Banks to wow the fans.

The next day, after transport problems saw some of the crew stranded in New York overnight, the promotion moved on to Somerville, Massachusetts -- part of the Boston metropolitan area, as part of another double-shot, this time with Beyond Wrestling.

After the chaos of the previous 24 hours, this show was problem-free, and once again saw WWE loan Jack Gallagher (who beat Alexandra Palace headliner Travis Banks) and Dakota Kai, alongside an appearance from WWE UK participant Martin Stone.

Stone lost to Riddle and, with Dunne still ruled out, the main-event slot went to PROGRESS Tag Team Champions British Strong Style, who retained their titles against Ringkampf’s Timothy Thatcher & WALTER. Thatcher and WALTER, it was announced over the weekend, will face Riddle in a three-way match for the Atlas title at Alexandra Palace next month.

There were also wins for Jeff Cobb and Jimmy Havoc, and the shows will be up on Demand PROGRESS in good time (allowing for a little extra patience after the weekend)! PROGRESS is back in the UK on August Bank Holiday weekend, in more familiar surroundings at the Electric Ballroom.

2) Pro-Wrestling EVE dug deep

While instant sell-outs are commonplace for PROGRESS, Pro-Wrestling EVE is less used to the clamor that has accompanied them since their return last year (and the success of the Netflix series GLOW).

Thus the promotion was taken somewhat by surprise that their latest show, Fearless at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green last Saturday, was sold out without a single match or wrestler being announced beforehand.

This is even more laudable when it was very publicly known that half their regular roster would not be in appearance, with Dahlia Black, Jinny, (both in the US for PROGRESS), Toni Storm, Shanna, Viper, Emi Sakura (all in Japan), and Laura Di Matteo (in Leeds for Tidal) booked elsewhere, and Charlie Morgan, Rhia O’Reilly, Debbie Sharp, and EVE Champion Sammi Jayne all injured.

Kay Lee Ray and Alpha Female battle on the streets of Bethnal Green -- photo by Sophia

The promotion decided to host a mystery show, not announcing anything before it happened in the ring, and the capacity-crowd was pleasantly surprised when the first contest -- a qualifier for November’s SHE-1 Climax tournament -- featured two recent competitors from the WWE’s Mae Young Classic, Alpha Female and Kay Lee Ray.

KLR won to advance, but Alpha Female beat her down after the match to stake a claim as EVE’s monster heel, returning later in the show to put an exclamation mark on that point.

KLR’s win also qualified her for the main event of the show, a number one contender's match, where she met other first half winners Leah Owens, Nina Samuels, and the debuting Charli Evans.

Samuels had made a surprise return from injury to beat Lucha Britannia’s Muneca del Trapo earlier in the show, and is another who enhanced her reputation and standing in the promotion with her performances, but nevertheless it was Owens who got the pin to secure a shot at Sammi Jayne’s title next month.

Alongside Evans and Muneca del Trapo, there were three other EVE debuts -- top Italian talent Jokey lost to the very popular regular Livvii Grace, while Candyfloss beat Chakara in a superb bout, which was only tarnished by a destruction of both by the Alpha Female afterwards.

You can subscribe to EVE’s On Demand channel for just $9.99, and they return to the Resistance Gallery on September 8th for a rare Friday show.

3) PCW notched up six years at home in Preston

After last week’s big show in Blackpool, PCW returned to Preston last Saturday for two shows to mark their sixth anniversary.

They kicked things off with a free show in the city’s Flag Market, and delivered a showcase to regular fans and curious onlookers alike, topped by an eight-man tag team match which saw Sheikh el Sharm, Seymour Gains, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis beat The UK Hooligans, Ricky Knight Jr. & Big T Justice.

The evening saw them step back into the Evoque nightclub which has become their home venue over the last few years with a show entitled Your Six Is On Fire. Luckily, the action was better than that show name, and was capped with a four-way match for the PCW Heavyweight Championship between champion Iestyn Rees, Tyson T-Bone, Bubblegum, and Ashton Smith, with Rees retaining his title in a battle of the promotion’s big guns.

Rhio arrives at the Flag Market

After impressing on their debuts in the afternoon’s free show, hot Australian duo Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis got a shot at the PCW Tag Team titles, but couldn’t upset the UK Hooligans despite wowing the crowd with their considerable skills.

Dean Allmark also successfully defended his PCW Cruiserweight title against Jody Fleisch, and there were wins for Chris Ridgeway, CJ Banks, Lionheart, Lauren, and for the expanded Three Mates Pissing About (Joey Hayes, Danny Hope & Martin Kirby). PCW is back with an all-female showcase on August 26th at the PCW Academy in Preston.

4) ICW’s road to the Hydro started at Friday Night Fight Club

With the events of last month’s Shug’s Hoose Party in the books, Insane Championship Wrestling used their latest Friday Night Fight Club tapings at the Garage in Glasgow last Sunday to start the build to November’s huge Fear & Loathing X show.

Already announced for that event, which last year sold over six thousand tickets, are former WWE stars Rey Mysterio Jr., Rob Van Dam, and Kevin Nash (as guest commissioner), and Van Dam found an opponent by the end of Sunday’s show as Lionheart declared himself “the whole f---ing show” after destroying Thatcher Wright.

ICW Heavyweight Champion Joe Coffey’s F&L opponent is still to be revealed, but he defended his title at the tapings, beating a spirited Martin Kirby by submission, and there were also successful title defenses for Women’s Champion Kasey Owens, and for Zero-G top-boy BT Gunn, who beat Wolfgang and Stevie Boy in a three-way to close the show.

The bizarre Kinky Party of Jack Jester & Sha Samuels

Due to the dislocated shoulder suffered by Kid Lykos in Ireland last weekend, the heavily-anticipated Glasgow debut of #CCK did not materialize, but Chris Brookes still made the trip, intending to face ICW Tag Team Champions The Marauders on his own.

In a chaotic bout, he was first joined by Aaron Echo to even up the sides, before Kenny Williams and Iestyn Rees also got involved to make it a six-man affair. The Marauders won, and beat down Williams after the match, before being chased off by Polo Promotions, who had earlier beaten the Kings of Catch.

Alongside wins for The Purge and Kid Fite, there was also success for the unusual Kinky Party duo of Jack Jester & Sha Samuels (who announced this week that he was giving up his day job as a butcher to go full-time) over Legion’s Mikey Whiplash & Chris Renfrew. In the aftermath of a defeat for Legion, Whiplash punished Renfrew with a kendo stick, and introduced Italy’s Jokey as the newest member of the faction.

You can see the Friday Night Fight Club every week on ICW On Demand (and on Fite TV), and it is free for the first 24 hours each Friday. The promotion returns for another taping at the Garage on August 27th, before hitting Newcastle-upon-Tyne in September.

5) Tidal brought in a wave of southerners (and other stuff)

After a stress-filled show last month, when they had to compete with a last-minute PROGRESS show across the Penines and the power going out in the building as sunlight faded, Tidal Championship Wrestling must have been looking forward to a trouble-free return to The Church in Leeds last Saturday for Do Unto Others.

The stunning stained glass window frames the action at The Church -- photo by Joe Atherton

They took the opportunity to bring up some talent from down south for the show, which was headlined by a Tidal Open Championship match between Sean Only and former PROGRESS Champion “Pastor” William Eaver, giving Tidal debuts to Kip Sabian, Spike Trivet, and Laura Di Matteo, alongside return bookings for Kyle Ashmore and Jack Sexsmith.

There were also wins for Tidal Tag Team Champion Jason Prime (wrestling solo in the absence of the injured Alexander Henry), Stealth, DJ Z, and for The Lion Kings team of Sebb Strife & N’sereko, and with Tidal Heavyweight Champion Rampage Brown and several other roster mainstays to return on the next show -- October 22nd’s Against All Odds 4 -- Tidal’s future looks pretty swell.

Tengu and Cassius duke it out in the main event at LLL -- photo by Rob Brazier

Rounding up last weekend, again at Bethnal Green’s Resistance Gallery (which is becoming London’s answer to Shin-kiba 1st Ring), the students of the London School of Lucha put on another London Lucha League showcase, topped by a LLL title match between Tengu and Cassius, which ended in a disqualification win for the Neon Explosion.

There were also wins for Rocky Mac, RoadFam, Buffalo Soldier, and The Regime, as well as several debuts by some promising new talents, some of whom will no doubt graduate to the main Lucha Britannia shows, the next of which is this Friday, August 18th, at the Resistance.