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The Week In British Wrestling: PROGRESS welcomes back two

Main photo by Rob Brazier

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

1) Tropic Thunderbastard saw two welcome returns to PROGRESS

At the climax of PROGRESS Wrestling’s latest chapter -- Tropic Thunderbastard at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London -- the combined efforts of PROGRESS Heavyweight Champion Pete Dunne and his British Strong Style stablemate Trent Seven had beaten down Jimmy Havoc, forcing a DQ in a hotly-anticipated title match.

Normally such a cheap finish would get the response it deserves, but PROGRESS had an ace up their sleeve -- the return of “Flash” Morgan Webster and former champion Mark Haskins from injury to make the save for Havoc, and stand with him against BSS -- who will welcome WWE United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate back into the fold for their next outing.

Haskins and Webster take it to BSS -- photo by Rob Brazier

The unsatisfying finish will mean that Havoc will still be gunning for Dunne, and that added to Haskins’ status as a champion who had to vacate his belt means that Dunne is a wanted man right now. Further to that, Mark Andrews outlasted the other six entrants (Zack Gibson, Nathan Cruz, Dave Mastiff, Trent Seven, Jack Sexsmith, and Pastor William Eaver) in the eponymous Thunderbastard match -- last eliminating Gibson -- to earn a shot at Dunne's PROGRESS title down the line.

The London Riots, in their new position as gatekeepers of the tag team division in PROGRESS, opened the show, beating the debuting Kings of the North (regulars in Over The Top Wrestling in Ireland), while there was further tag team action when the still undefeated South Pacific Power Trip took on -- and conquered -- the Ringkampf team of WALTER & Axel Dieter Jr.

Also making his debut from wXw was Jurn Simmons, who bested WWE UK competitor Roy Johnson, while Laura di Matteo -- sporting a new look -- beat Chakara to advance to the semifinals of the Women’s Natural Progression Series.

All this will soon be available to watch on Demand PROGRESS, as will episodes of their new bi-weekly show Freedom’s Road, the first episode of which aired last week. It’s a docusoap of sorts -- think Made In Chelsea or The Real Housewives -- with action initially from the final ENDVR of last year and eventually from dedicated tapings.

PROGRESS return at the end of February, with Old Man Yells At Cloud, which may -- or may not -- be a reference to noted anachronist Jim Cornette.

2) A German promotion was a hit in London

Coming over as guests of PROGRESS, and running the same Tufnell Park Dome venue that PROGRESS will use for Freedom’s Road tapings next month, Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling made a splash on their standalone UK debut last Saturday. Although the promotion have co-promoted UK shows with the likes of Fight Club: PRO and Preston City Wrestling, this was the pure wXw experience, and those in attendance lapped it up.

The show was main-evented by a wXw Unified Championship bout which saw reigning champion Axel Dieter Jr. take on Marty Scurll, and Dieter Jr. retained the title by submission before new number one contender Jurn Simmons -- who earned that right by beating WALTER earlier in the night -- appeared to piledrive the champion and make his intentions very clear.

Simmons, whose entrance is a thing to behold, was the most popular of the Germans, and he again showed it the next night at PROGRESS -- big things await.

Jurn Simmons and Axel Dieter Jr. face off -- photo by Rob Brazier

While wXw Shotgun Champion David Starr was competing in the US, the promotion’s other belts were defended, as A4 -- Absolute Andy & Marius Al-Ani -- defended their wXw Tag Team titles against The London Riots, a replacement for British Strong Style (who had been pulled from the show by WWE earlier in the week).

Further tag action could be found in the “ladies” division, where Melanie Grey & Toni Storm united to beat Jinny & The Alpha Female.

The rest of the card was made up of wXw talent of varying vintages and nationalities, with Travis Banks beating Jody Fleisch, Da Mack going over Chris Brookes, and Robert Dreissker beating Bad Bones.

The show is already up on wXw NOW and will be available to watch on FloSlam from February 2nd -- the same places you will also be able to see the 16 Carat Gold tournament later in the year. wXw announced a return to London in October.

3) 5* Wrestling brought the worst of British wrestling to national TV

There was a little buzz of excitement last week in the lead up to 5* Wrestling’s debut Dominant Wrestling show, shown live on cable channel Spike UK, which is part of the Viacom network which also owns the UK’s fifth mainstream channel, Channel 5.

Although little was announced for the show, save that it would have a tournament format for 5* Champion John Hennigan’s belt, the poster included some big names -- Rey Mysterio chief amongst them -- as well as some of the British wrestling scene's biggest names.

The promotion had run a trio of shows in January 2016, using the likes of Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay, and  Jimmy Havoc in prominent positions alongside Mysterio and AJ Styles (who was making his last indie appearances before leaving for WWE), and while some talent was locked up in other deals this time around, there are still enough free agents that a new TV endeavour would have their pick of top UK guys.

When it came to the crunch, however, the only UK guys used were Drew Galloway and Nick Aldis (who both live in the UK), on a show which could have pretty much doubled as an episode of WWE Superstars from 2011.

Bafflingly, they did use Joe Coffey and Zack Gibson in dark matches, although both have World of Sport contracts which may have prevented them appearing on live TV, but also relegated Jack Jester, Kid Fite, Lou King Sharp -- as well as Jay Lethal -- to pre-TV action.

The able commentary team of Joe Hendry and Greg Lambert

In their place were Morrison (referred to as such, despite WWE owning that name), Mysterio, Galloway, Aldis (who wore tights with his TNA-trademarked Magnus moniker on them), PJ Black, Moose, Carlito, and Chris Masters (another trademark), with the tournament coming down to a Morrison/Mysterio final, and a retention for the Lucha Underground Champion.

One positive was the announcing, handled ably by Greg Lambert and Joe Hendry (who would have enlivened matters inside the ropes), which was first class, but the rest of the show was dated and amateur, and a waste of a golden opportunity to showcase British wrestling to the nation, thrown over instead to a re-run of one of the least-inspired eras of WWE’s recent history.

They announced -- or rather began to before the live broadcast cut the final segment short -- that they would be running a 128-man tournament through the summer, to be broadcast on Spike, outdoing What Culture’s 64-man tournament announced earlier this year. You can still catch replays on My 5 but I’d recommend watching almost anything else instead.

4) Shady Nattrass lifted the Target title in another border-straddling doubleshot

Working almost exclusively in the far north of England -- and far south of Scotland -- Shady Nattrass is not a name that has much of a buzz on the wider UK scene. However, he’s building his own reputation in the top left corner of the country -- with Alpha-Omega in Morecambe another of his regular haunts -- and last weekend captured Target Wrestling’s Heavyweight title from Jackie Polo when the promotion ran at the Solway Hall in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

The win came after The Guest List attacked both men during the main event of the show and, while Polo fought off both men, Nattrass took advantage of the referee’s distraction to hit a low blow and a cutter, and pinned the champion to take the title.

He defended the belt the next night, at Lockerbie Town Hall, defeating Spyda in a show headlined by a rumble -- a tradition on this weekend up and down the UK -- which was won by The Coyote Kid.

Other action from the Whitehaven show saw ICW Zero-G Champion Kenny Williams beat both Damon Havok and Theo Doros in a three-way, Lionheart beat The Coyote Kid, and Khifie West pin James Scott.

Also on the show was a mixed tag team match between Karnage & Sienna and Medallion & Ivy Mist. Lockerbie added wins for Karnage, Damon Havok, and the Medallion & Ivy Mist combination, and Target return on February 4th in Carlisle. You can sample the action with weekly match uploads on their YouTube channel.

5) Jason Prime won the main event at Main Event (and other stuff)

One of the half-dozen promotions peacefully co-existing (thus far, and long may it continue!) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Main Event Wrestling opened the doors of the Innisfree Sports & Social Club for Planet Of The Primate last Friday, with the eponymous throwback, Jason Prime, defending his MEW title against WWE UK competitor Saxon Huxley to top the show.

The Innisfree Sports & Social Club, packed!

The show also saw a Calling Spots (a small press magazine) Champion crowned, when HT Drake beat Martin Kirby, and also featured a 7th Heaven match for the MEW North East Championship, won by champion Liam Slater, as well as wins for Little Miss Roxxy, The New Age Kliq, and The Tyne & Wear Wolves.

MEW -- a favourite promotion of Botchamania’s Maffew -- return on March 10th with Why Aye Mania.

Resurrecting wrestling at Dawley Town Hall, Telford, after the demise of VII-Pro last autumn, the Shropshire Wrestling Alliance promoted their first show of 2017 last Friday, aptly-titled Rebirth. The show was headlined by Chuck Cyrus defeating Marc Morgan, and also featured former VII-Pro regulars Damian Dunne and Chris Ridgeway in action.

Dunne beat Kip Sabian -- both men will be a part of Lucha Forever, debuting on FloSlam in April -- while Ridgeway was downed by Ashley Dunn, and there were also wins for Ash Draven (over Joey Ozbourne) and Kat von Kaige (who beat Robbie Brookside’s daughter, Xia), as well as an Academy showcase match. The SWA have their 5th Anniversary show on March 18th.

Kat von Kaige locks up Xia Brookside at SWA

Lastly, 4 Front Wrestling had a lower key show than last weekend’s blowout with Kenny Omega when they returned to Thatcham’s Catholic Hall last Saturday, topped by a 4FW Heavyweight title match between Tiger Ali and JD Knight, which saw the champion retain his belt a week after his match with Omega.

Former 4FW Champion Saime Sahin won a handicap match, beating Max Alexander & Rob Holt, and The Saint, Mega Pegasus, and Axel Carter (making his 4FW debut) were also in action.

Next up for 4FW is Marlborough on February 18th and you can still see that Tiger Ali vs. Kenny Omega match for FREE on YouTube, along with lots of other free matches.