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Hamilton’s Best of Grizzled Young Veterans in PROGRESS Report (12.12.20)

March 10, 2021 | Posted by Ian Hamilton
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Hamilton’s Best of Grizzled Young Veterans in PROGRESS Report (12.12.20)  

A reminder: these are old reviews, and while I’ve not updated any names from what they were announced as on the night, I’ve done my best to remove mentions of people here who are on that suspected persona non-grata list…

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis – from PROGRESS Chapter 54: Go To Your God Like a Soldier (August 27, 2017)
Both of the Vets have new jackets… and I swear Drake’s is way too big for him. There’s no promo from Gibson, which may have been a let down… but still, it’s a welcome return for Mark Andrews to the Ballroom after being out for a few months with a neck injury.

Drake and Andrews get us going – but there’s a few attempts at cheating from the Grizzled Vets… some of which works, others which don’t, as that “unconventional tag team wrestling” looks to become their motif. That usually comes into play when they were frustrated by FSU, believing that they were being wronged by double-teams against them.

An eye rake to Dennis puts the Vets in charge, as they looked to have made a mistake in trying to isolate the big man… and indeed they did, as Mark Andrews came in and ran rings around them. A Sliced Bread/DDT combo gets Andrews a near-fall, before he wipes out Drake with a plancha… but now the Vets isolate Andrews as they take advantage of a frustrated Dennis.

Drake and Gibson do a good job of keeping Andrews on the mat… or at the very least, taking him back down whenever he did get free. After getting free of Gibson, Drake slides back in to cut-off a potential tag… but finally Eddie gets the tag in to hit an atomic drop to Gibson, then a diving clothesline. That swinging side slam gets Eddie a near-fall, but Drake rushes in with a forearm to Eddie and gets one back in return, before booting Drake off the top rope.

A flip tope and a Next Stop Driver nearly wins it for Eddie, but the Vets double-team in with a dropkick in the ropes, then the Ticket to Ride before Gibson literally threw Drake onto Eddie outside. They try for the Ticket to Mayhem, but it’s countered into a tombstone after some help from Andrews as FSU get a near-fall, before Drake shoves out of a Last Stop Driver… shoving Eddie into a Ticket to Ride as Andrews eats a superkick/neckbreaker for his troubles.

The Vets pull Andrews into a Boston crab/Shankly Gates… but of course that can’t be the finish, and Andrews manages to counter a Helter Skelter into the Stundog Millionaire instead! Eddie returns for another stop at the Last Stop Driver, but Drake pushes off Andrews as Dennis finds himself isolated again, with Drake blind-tagging himself in again as the Vets hit the Ticket to Mayhem (double-team ticket to ride) for the win. It nearly fell at the end, but this was a solid match to get the new pairing across some more – and the story of Eddie Dennis’ losing streak seems to be creeping into PROGRESS too… ***½

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis – from PROGRESS Chapter 59: Whatever People Say We Are, That’s What We’re Not (December 10, 2017)
Pulled from the eight-way earlier, Aussie Open have lucked into a tag title shot thanks to the weather on this show that was turned upside down by a snow storm.

Of course, Zack Gibson hijacks the microphone, and gets pelted with a toilet roll. It’s not 2016 is it? Gibson takes shots at CCK before continuing his tirade at the teams that PROGRESS have lined up against them, and threatening to make Aussie Open “just another statistic”. Tazz has turned maths teacher, I see?

The Veterans tried to isolate Kyle Fletcher from the off, but the Aussie Arrow (and his disconcertingly slow-healing bruise) was wise to it, and ekes out an early advantage, with a low dropkick to Gibson before bringing in Mark Davis… who gave James Drake one of his favourite high-fives before doing the switcheroo with Drake and Gibson.

More high-fives put the champs on the back foot, and Kyle’s still wise to Gibson’s attempts at a sneak attack, but the champions draw in Fletcher and start off some double-teaming as the smaller half of Aussie Open’s kept in the corner and gradually worn down. Fletcher keeps trying for a tag, and eventually fights off Gibson as Mark Davis tears in with kicks and chops to the champions to start a lengthy sequence where Dunkzilla was tearing through bodies.

Drake takes the one-handed powerbomb after Gibson tried to make a save, before Fletcher flew in with a pop-up cutter as the Aussies enjoyed a run of offence. Davis is left on his own though, and the numbers game catches up to him as he’s caught in a Ticket to Ride and a 450 splash as the Veterans almost retained their belts…

Fletcher tries to superkick away the Shankly Gates, only for Drake to catch Kyle in one of his own as the Aussies riled each other up into a comeback… which saw Davis dump Gibson onto Drake with a death valley driver to break up two submissions for the price of one as the Aussies again fired back, with an inverted roll the dice from Davis looking to set the Aussies on their way… along with a lawn dart to Drake into the corner.

A Fidget Spinner would have given us new champions, but Gibson pulls out the ref at the count of two, before he’s pulled into the ring by Davis… and that almost led to a turnaround as a lungblower out of the corner from Gibson left Fletcher stunned, ahead of the Making Towns doomsday crossbody… but Fletcher rolled through on impact and almost snatched the win out of nowhere! Fletcher kept up with a moonsault to Gibson… something that Davis tried to emulate with an Arabian press that he almost went full Sabu on, crashing and burning. That left Fletcher all by himself, and it’s just a matter of time before the double-team lungblower – Ticket to Mayhem – was hit as the champs retained.

Relatively unproven in PROGRESS, Aussie Open have built up enough of a CV around the country to make themselves look a lot stronger than they otherwise would have been on paper. This wasn’t your “throw an undercard team in and hope they win folks over” deal – and it led to a hell of a contest. With any luck, this’ll not be a one-and-done for Aussie Open in this role, but with the overall tag team division in PROGRESS currently in flux, perhaps they’ve won themselves a bigger spot? ***¾

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Trent Seven & Tyler Bate – from PROGRESS Chapter 61: Don’t Touch Me… Don’t… Don’t Touch Me (January 14, 2018)
Of course, Zack wants to cut a promo… but Trent steals the mic, and it just so happens that Triple H is calling. There’s a gag about Trent being in “at number seven” and Zack Gibson being “that ITV bloke”.

Then Zack nicks the mic, just in time for some toilet roll to get thrown in a la Jimmy Rave, as Gibson gets drowned out again. Finally we get going with Tyler Bate’s wristlock escape routine, but after being made to look like a fool there, Drake just knocks Trent off the apron as the champions quickly double-team Bate before going for Trent once more.

The champions try to do the Dudley Boyz “wassup” headbutt, but Tyler keeps reversing things as Gibson eventually gets wheelbarrowed into his partner. Trent gets a turn to look like a fool when he runs in and whiffs on his crossbody in between airplane spins from the challengers… and a collapse from Trent as he struggles to finish a squat, and falls flat on his face.

The continued trolling of the champions continue as everyone does a spot of country line dancing before we work into the duel single-crab spot, which ends when Chris Roberts remembers that there’s rules. For once. Those rules quickly get forgotten when the GVY double-team Trent with a superkick/neckbreaker combo for a near-fall… and it’s Trent who’s isolated in the wrong corner for a spell. For some reason the crowd starts singing the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song, presumably in tribute to James “Choo Choo” Drake. Ah, memes.

Finally Trent gets the tag out as Tyler Bate’s head of steam sees him land some Koppo kicks and elbows in the corner, before catching a charging Gibson for an Exploder. Some double-teaming keeps Moustache Mountain on top as Gibson’s forced to kick out from a double-team powerbomb, but the champions are able to bust out some of their own double-teams, ending with Trent getting held up for a Doomsday Device.

Trent rolls away from that into a Victory roll for a near-fall though, before planting Gibson with a Burning Hammer… again for a near-fall thanks to the efforts of James Drake. We get the Parade of Moves, with Tyler no-selling a backdrop suplex from Gibson… who does the same as their back-and-forth ends with James Drake whacking Tyler with a belt as he went for the shoulder-rebound lariat. There’s more wackiness as Bate tried to counter a Helter Skelter with an inside cradle, but Drake reverses it, and the champions retain!

This was pretty fun, although this being Moustache Mountain, there was a tonne of shtick in there… almost to the point where this was on track to be like the Elite’s popcorn matches. The story coming out of this is that the Grizzled Young Veterans have knocked off all contenders, so they’re skipping the next shows until someone gets established. Fair enough! ***¼

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos – from PROGRESS Coast to Coast: Philadelphia (August 4, 2008)
Gibson gets his promo, in which he mentions Lykos getting injured last time he was in the ring with Gibson and Drake. That would be a little prophetic… Lykos started out against Drake, taking him down with a leg lariat before bringing in Brookes, who didn’t quite go so well as Zack Gibson came in and worked over his arm. Some quick tags between the challengers helped turn things around momentarily, only for Drake and Gibson to come in and work over Lykos’ healed shoulder.

There’s a shot taken at the crowd for not quite getting their chants right, as Lykos continued to get worn down with a chinlock in the ring… then a backbreaker/knee drop combo on the outside. Eventually Brookes gets that tag in as he chops through Drake, who gets booted in the corner before a back senton squashed him down to the mat for a near-fall. Lykos is brought back in rather quickly, but he’s able to catch Gibson with an enziguiri and a tornado DDT, bringing Brookes back in in the process ahead of a wheelbarrow with a boot on the way down as those trademark CCK tag moves came out.

The champions had their own double team stuff, but they stuttered as a Doomsday Device was thwarted, leading to Brookes taking them outside for a tope con giro. Gibson retaliates with a tope of his own, but Brookes almost snatches the win with a roll-up as Drake became isolated… leading to him taking a flip stunner and a slingshot cutter for a near-fall. Gibson’s back to save Drake from an elevated lungblower… which Drake passes back before sweeping the leg as CCK accidentally gave themselves a German suplex.

Brookes manages to avoid a Helter Skelter, but ends up taking the tombstone gutbuster… he’s able to roll away as Drake somehow hits a 450 splash into a Lykos superkick, and with Gibson being taken outside again CCK ease ahead with a rope-hanging neckbreaker and a Code Red from Lykos, before duelling superkicks would have won the match… except Gibson pulls out the referee. A dive from Lykos puts paid to that as Drake ends up getting caught in a leg grapevine by Brookes… and with Lykos keeping Gibson at bay with an Octopus hold, Drake has no choice but to tap out! We have new champions, as CCK begin their third run with the straps. ***½

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew – from PROGRESS Chapter 75: These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends (August 27, 2018)
Since the US shows hadn’t been put on-demand by the time this rolled around, this was the first time that the PROGRESS crowds in England had seen Drake and Gibson without their tag titles… so you can probably imagine the reception they got.

Throughout the Thunderbastard series, the Grizzled Young Veterans have gradually been playing up to the “oops, I nearly crashed into you, oh silly me, now I have” school of miscommunication – and that trend continued here as M&M enjoyed some spells of offence courtesy of the dreaded (and overplayed) snafus. In the end though, the former champions’ class shone through, as Mayhew ate a Jig ‘n’ Tonic from Drake, before a Dominator/neckbreaker combo put the youngsters away. ***¼

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher – from PROGRESS Chapter 93: Cheer Up Juice (July 28, 2019)
This was originally meant to be an Aussie Open open challenge, but their opponents were announced days before the show, as the Grizzled Young Veterans made a return after being away since last October. You could tell it’d been a while since they did a wrestle here as they… came out through the wrong curtain.

We’ve a long promo before the match as Drake and Gibson called the fans “the biggest gang of bell-ends” they’ve ever performed in front of… then spitting truths about “Joel getting a bigger pop than half the roster.” Hey, we’re not meant to agree with bad guys. There’s talk about the conspiracy theorists kicking off if NXT UK and PROGRESS had the same mens champions… which would be the case if the challengers won here, as Zack then took a wild turn and began to take a few jabs around David Starrs Independent movement.

There’s a tentative start as the challengers looked to dictate the pace, although they had issues with Kyle Fletcher early as Zack Gibson had to pull Drake to the outside so they could reset. Things don’t change much as Drake came back in and found himself cornered, taking chops from Davis before he got slammed and flattened with a back senton. Drake’s kept cornered as the champions looked to isolate him… but they lost track as Gibson tagged in and got flapjacked. James Drake tries to pull Gibson outside, but it backfires as the champions just dragged him in as all four men stayed in the ring for a while. Charges keep the challengers on the defensive as Kyle’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker spikes Gibson for a near-fall.

There’s a quick turnaround as Fletcher’s taken outside for the double-team backbreaker as commentary was trying to play up that Davis was pacing away trying to get feeling in his wrist. Shame none of that was shown on camera, as a cobra clutch has Kyle in trouble, as he had to fight out of the wrong corner… eventually suplexing Drake to give him an opening, only for Zack Gibson to pull Mark Davis off the apron to deny a tag.

With no Dunkzilla, Kyle’s forced to kick out from a Dominator/neckbreaker combo, as the challengers again swarmed him. A double-team suplex gets reversed as Davis finally appeared back on the apron to get the tag in. He’s having to fight this one-handed, as the left wrist had been targeted by Gibson earlier. An attempted Gold Coast Waterslide’s stopped as Gibson slips out, but he’s taken outside as Davis lands a tope into both of the challengers – shoulder injury be damned. Back in the ring, Davis pushes ahead on Gibson, before Kyle’s quick turnaround saw him land a superkick as he had to improvise his way into a GTS on the outside. Davis is labouring as the double-team powerbomb lands for a near-fall, but Gibson returns to be a nuisance, holding Davis’ leg as Drake’s implant DDT landed. Gibson gets the legal tag in as he tries to stretch Davis’ shoulders ahead of a flying legdrop for a near-fall.

The Shankly Gates follow as Davis was eventually saved by Fletcher, before they returned the favour, locking dual Shankly Gates on their challengers. When they let go, Davis helps drop Drake with an assisted Aussie Arrow as again the champs needed to work around the injury… but it meant that Fletcher was having to shoulder more of the work, and almost got rolled up by Gibson as the challengers were resurgent.

Fletcher’s lifted up for a Doomsday Device, which Drake completes for a near-fall as the momentum began to swing all over the place. Aussie Open hit back, but Davis gets clotheslined to the outside – landing in some pain as there were flashbacks to one of Kid Lykos’ injuries at the Ballroom. It distracts Kyle for long enough to get cracked with a dropkick as the challengers finish off with a Ticket to Mayhem… but Davis is back to pull out the referee to keep the titles alive!

Throwing Fletcher into the corner, the champions dared Davis to tag in… which he did. How does a one-armed man do in a punching fight? Quite well, at first, it seemed, but when the adrenaline wore off, the challengers made a point of working on the shoulder, as Gibson went back to the Shankly Gates… Fletcher dives in to grab his partner’s hand to stop him from tapping, but Drake pulled Kyle out, just as Davis could bear no more. The gasps of shock around the Ballroom at that were palpable, as the Grizzled Young Veterans leave as three-time tag champions. Just how the spoilerific tweet predicted! Once again, Aussie Open lose the belts in the Ballroom, as they came up on the wrong end of a tag team war. ***¾

The final score: review Good
The 411
Another solid sample of matches from PROGRESS' back catalog - but much like other best-ofs, one that indicates just how stop-start the usage of some of the bigger names in the promotion was in later years as that WWE deal came into play.