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Hamilton’s Best of NXT in PROGRESS: Volume 1 Report (10.03.20)

January 23, 2021 | Posted by Ian Hamilton
Best of NXT in PROGRESS: Volume 1 Finn Balor
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Hamilton’s Best of NXT in PROGRESS: Volume 1 Report (10.03.20)  

There’s a lot to be said when – after months, if not years of hand wringing over the appearance of the British indies on the WWE Network… the eventual arrival was met with virtual silence. After several shows, PROGRESS’ appearances ended up switching to a myriad of “best of” compilations, with over a dozen of them up at time of writing. I guess that’s what happens when a lot of your recent back catalog suddenly has a whole lot of persona non-grata in them.

These are old reviews, and while I’ve not updated names (so you’re reading about Prince Devitt, not Finn Balor…) but I’ve done my best to remove mentions of people here who are on that suspected persona non-grata list…

Adam Cole vs. Mark Haskins – from PROGRESS Chapter 10: Glory Follows Virtue As If It Were Their Shadow (November 24, 2013)
Then-ROH and PWG champion Adam Cole was an unannounced surprise as Haskins was doing the Open Challenge gimmick. Haskins did some great heel work on the mic towards some fans and the PROGRESS trainees.

Haskins jumped Cole at the bell, and ran into him with a knee to the face in the corner, before Cole’s brief comeback ended with an eye rake. Cole lands a dropkick that sends Haskins out of the ring, under what looked to be massively loose bottom ropes. Cole follows him outside, and uses what looks like a nerve pinch before posing for the camera with Haskins, and they continue to fight around the ring. Well, “fight” implies there was a battle; Cole continued to beat him around the ringside area, before he’s rolled back into the ring. Haskins pops up to drop Cole with an arm whip in the ropes, and then sends him shoulder-first into the ringpost.

Cole rolled back into the ring, and had his arm tied up in the bottom rope, before another arm whip against the top rope ensured Haskins kept up the pressure. An armbar forces Cole to drag himself to the bottom rope, before being tossed to the floor once more. Haskins chops Cole after pushing in into the front row, and then locks in an armbar in the crowd, before letting go of the hold to beat the ten-count… and Cole just about makes it back in time.

Cole spits his gum at Haskins, which just sees him whipped shoulder-first into the ringpost, and that just fires up Cole some more, as a superkick drops Haskins to the mat. Some repeated elbows from Cole set him up for a leaping reverse neckbreaker to Haskins, who then rolled out of an armbar and dropped Haskins with a German suplex. A Shining Wizard gets Cole a two-count, but Haskins elbows out of a Fireman’s carry attempt, only to run into a Yakuza kick, then an ushigoroshi for another near-fall. Cole climbs to the top rope, but leaps down as Haskins tried to shove the referee into the ropes to crotch him.

Haskins comes back with a brainbuster for a near-fall, then placed Cole on the top rope, only for a superplex attempt to be blocked and turned into a sunset flip powerbomb. A Shining Wizard gets Cole another near-fall, but his attempt at a superkick is blocked into a backslide for a near-fall, then a lariat from Haskins that sends Cole down.

Haskins tries for the pumphandle driver, but Cole pushes out and lands a superkick to the back of the head, before a brainbuster onto the knee scores the ROH champion the win. A good match, with yet another loss for the “Screw Indy Wrestling” group – you’d think they were in the process of being phased out… ***½

Prince Devitt vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – from PROGRESS Chapter 13: Unbelievable, Jeff (May 18, 2014)
This was Devitt’s debut for PROGRESS, during the summer between his New Japan departure and his arrival in WWE/NXT as Finn Balor. For this show, Devitt stuck to his cosplaying act, and came painted up and dressed up as the Joker. Unfortunately, we got some of the audio problems here as the entrance music and ring announcements distorted somewhat.

Devitt started with a dropkick taking Sabre into the corner, then the top rope double stomp and… thankfully this was not a 10 second squash! Sabre kicked out, and once Devitt disrobed, he took Sabre down off the top rope with an enziguiri. Devitt maintained the upper hand, before Sabre started to target the left arm of the Irishman.

Someone in the crowd shouted out “Devitt, stop being such a joker”, which got that guy the boo that joke deserved… Sabre grabbed a wristlock as the pair fought wristlock/armbar attempts. After working free, Devitt slapped the holy hell out of Sabre with chops that increased in volume (sound-wise, at least), before he was finally sent to the outside where he took a running PK from the apron.

A battle of uppercuts in the crowd led to Sabre and Devitt nicking a drink from fans, before Devitt went under the ring for a steel chair. Sabre’s sat in it, and he’s sent flying into the crowd courtesy of a running dropkick. After dragging himself back into the ring, Sabre takes a double stomp and a Reverse Bloody Sunday for a near-fall. The pair trade shots, before a half-nelson suplex dumps Devitt on his neck, and a PK results in a near-fall for Sabre.

From the kick-out, Sabre goes for an armbar, but Devitt makes the ropes before the move could be applied fully. Sabre took a sheer drop brainbuster, but somehow grabbed another armbar, as Devitt again made the ropes. Out of nowhere, Sabre got dropped with a clothesline, before Devitt connected with another top rope double stomp for a near-fall. Devitt followed that up with a roundhouse kick, then the Bloody Sunday lifting DDT, and the future Finn Balor took the win. A fantastic match; a dream match that for once lived up to expectations, and one you should go out of you way to see… ***¾

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Big Damo – from PROGRESS Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16 Night One (May 24, 2015)
Ciampa was making his PROGRESS debut here, starting off with a comedy spot where he brought some hair clippers so that the referee could shave Damo’s back – but then starts by hitting a sweet dropkick over the referee and into the face of Damo.

Damo took five running knees into the corner from Ciampa right at the start of the match, before retaliating with an uppercut as Ciampa tried to dive. Ciampa gets dropkicked to the back of the building – via a few rows of seats – before the “Psycho Killer” recovers to hit a somersault off the apron.

Inside the ring again, Ciampa peppers away with forearms to Damo as he rises to his feet, only for one forearm to send Ciampa down with ease. They follow that up with a comedy spot where Damo squashes Ciampa by standing on him, before missing a back senton splash… Ciampa is successful with his version, but Damo’s popped up as if it were nothing.

Ciampa’s efforts at superplexing Damo failed, but he managed to score a near-fall from a victory roll, before hulking up Damo for an Emerald Fusion for another two-count. They resumed trading strikes, but it was the knees of Ciampa that seemed to be more effective for the North American indy star. Damo nailed Kenny Omega’s One Winged Angel (Electric Chair Driver) for a near-fall, before going to the crowd for a chair to use as a weapon.

Damo went for a chair-assisted Coast-to-Coast dropkick, but the 300lber ended up taking the chair to the face, before almost spilling off the top rope. They saved it by going for a superplex, but Ciampa slipped over and connected with a running powerbomb out of the corner to secure the win. Another good tournament match, with a nice saved finish to boot. ***½

Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante) vs. Adam Cole & Roderick Strong – from PROGRESS Chapter 21: You Know We Don’t Like To Use The Sit Down Gun (September 6, 2015)
They brawl on the floor early on, but once they made it back into the ring, the SDS used a double-team flapjack to take Cole out of the match. Strong was able to get back into things, but tagged out to Cole when the fans started giving him stick for his fashion choices. Again and again.

Strong and Cole worked well together as a team, with Strong locking End in a version of the Rings of Saturn before Michael Dante came in to break it up, and Dante was a house of fire when End finally made the tag in, laying out both Cole and Strong with clotheslines. Towards the end it started to suffer with a lack of psychology – hitting and missing moves then quickly going into the next spot – but it didn’t affect the crowd, who reacted with shock when Dante saved End.

End wiped out Cole with a leapfrog stomp, before getting a near-fall with another double stomp off the top when Strong broke the count. Dante and Cole traded forearms, before a hattrick of superkicks sent Dante down for a two-count, before Dante and End were trapped in a Figure Four and a Stronghold respectively, but the champions reversed the holds.

In the end, it needed Strong to miss a high knee on Cole before the SDS connected with the Anti Hero to retain their titles. That’s two good matches from two title defences from the Dutch duo! ***¾

SMASH Wrestling Championship: Mark Haskins vs. Johnny Gargano (c) – from PROGRESS Chapter 32: 5000 to 1 (June 26, 2016)
Haskins went to lock-up with Gargano, who kept backing off, then finally caught him in a hammerlock. Gargano reversed, but not for long as both men squared off once more, before Haskins went back to the headlock takedown. That too got reversed, with Gargano following up with a roll-through into a pinning predicament for a near-fall as the ground-based action picked up the pace.

As an aside – throughout the show we got several renditions of Gala’s “Freed From Desire”, with the words invariably changed to “(wrestler) is on fire, on fire”, since the song was thrust back into pop culture in the UK through Northern Irish footballer Will Grigg. One copycat (the London Riots) is good… the whole card being on fire… get me an extinguisher, please!

Back to the action now, and Haskins landed a corner dropkick and a bodyslam for just a one-count, before being tossed to the outside by Gargano, who quickly followed through with a superkick. Haskins faked out, then connected with a tope as Gargano got up close and personal with the PROGRESS crowd.

Haskins grabbed a chair from the crowd, but ended up being forced into it by Gargano, who then chopped him out of it after running the length of the ring. Gargano placed Haskins onto the lap of a fan, but Haskins popped up with a bicycle kick before any more chairs could be broken, only to go back into the ring and take a log-roll kick to the head by Gargano, then a slingshot spear through the ropes.

Gargano took Haskins to the corner and gave him a spanking. Literally, there’s no other way I can describe that spot. Haskins replied with some chops, before getting booted in the head. That led to Haskins offering his chin up for some more slaps from the champion, and this quickly turned into a fist-fight, before a calf-kick sent Gargano scurrying into the corner. Haskins followed that up with a roll-through into a Stretch Muffler, but it was too close to the ropes as Gargano reached for the break.

After crotching Haskins on the rope, Gargano followed through with an enziguiri kick and a slingshot DDT for a near-fall. Gargano looked to try for the iconoclasm, but eventually took a Blue Thunder Bomb in the middle of the ring for a near-fall. A couple of kicks to the chest kept Gargano rocked, but after catching a kick and then a leapover attempt in the corner, Gargano threw Haskins head-first into the middle turnbuckle.

Haskins kicked out at two after a superkick, before the pair worked up to their feet with several forearms, with Haskins landing a tiltawhirl backbreaker, spinning Uranage then locking Gargano in a triangle choke as he tried to edge closer to victory. A springboard into the ring almost cost Gargano as Haskins switched it into an armbar on landing, but Gargano rolled through into a crucifix-like pin, then a crossface (no Chris Benoit chants here in 2016, thank God).

The crowd willed Haskins to hold on, and he finally dragged himself into a rope break. The pair traded kicks, before Haskins rolled into a wheelbarrow takedown and then a Sharpshooter. Gargano flipped over and kicked through into a small package, but a crossface attempt was reversed into another armbar, as the Electric Ballroom erupted as Mark Haskins sealed the SMASH title via tap-out.

You wouldn’t expect less, would you? An absolutely fantastic affair between these two, as Haskins ended Gargano’s 427-day (14 months to the day) run with the belt. Hey, for a belt that meant nothing in PROGRESS before today, the crowd cared a lot, and after a thriller like this, how could they not? ****½

Jinny vs. Nixon Newell – from PROGRESS Chapter 45: Galvanize (March 19, 2017)
British fans have finally learned how to throw streamers! Unfortunately it means that Nixon gets jumped at the bell by Jinny, who then gives her a springboard armdrag to the outside, then a tope into the aisleway. They brawl around the ring, as Jinny throws Nixon into the apron, then into the ring post as this was all one-sided in the opening moments. Jinny throws Nixon back in, but she quickly returns with a pair of topes that rocked Jinny. Nixon baseball slides to the outside and headbutts her in the chest, leading to Jinny almost Flair flopping to the arena floor.

Finally both women return to the ring, as Nixon lands a crossbody off the top for a near-fall, before a Shining Wizard is blocked, with Jinny sweeping the leg back, sending Nixon’s head into a knee. That turned the match back in Jinny’s favour, as she choked away on Nixon in the corner, before they went back and forth, ending with a bridging fallaway slam from Nixon for a near-fall.

From there, Nixon looks to finish off Jinny with a Welsh Destroyer, but it’s blocked and met with a leaping knee in the corner, only for Newell to hit a uranage for a near-fall. Nixon goes up top for a moonsault, but Jinny rolled away, slapped her a couple of times, then landed another knee, before hitting a Rainmaker… for a one-count!

Newell’s nowhere near done, and she fires back with some kicks in the corner, but Jinny catches her in the corner with the Facelift (middle-rope X-Factor), spiking Nixon on her head, but somehow Nixon kicked out at two! No problem… Jinny became the latest wrestler to bust out a Destroyer, and that was enough to book her spot in the finals! Decent for the time they had, really intense, and a good way to showcase Jinny since Nixon’s headed off to sunnier climes soon… ***

Kyle O’Reilly vs. Paul Robinson – from PROGRESS Chapter 88: Super Strong Style 16 2019 Night Two (May 5, 2019)
O’Reilly starts out quickly with a snapmare and a kick to the back of Robinson, who was frustrated from the off. So he heads outside and looks for plunder, only to head back to the ring as Kyle held the ropes open for him. Robinson goes for a kick, but it’s easily caught as O’Reilly again frustrated the former tag team champion with headlock takedowns. Robinson tries to suplex his way out of it, but O’Reilly holds on as escaping the ring proved to be Robinson’s only escape. A back suplex takes Robinson outside as Kyle reapplies the headlock on the floor for the irony… only for Robinson to shove him into the ringpost to make him pay for his cockiness.

Back in the ring, Robinson worked over O’Reilly’s left leg using a shinbreaker, but Kyle manages to get free and end a series of strikes with a legsweep. Rolling butterfly suplexes keep Robinson at bay, ahead of a released suplex for a near-fall, before Robinson looked to head up top… only for his spear to get caught, as O’Reilly countered with a guillotine choke. That one ends quickly in the ropes, as Robinson manages to force another opening with a satellite DDT as Robinson seemed to be rolling back the clock to his earlier years.

Robinson goes back to work on O’Reilly’s legs, as Kyle tries whatever he could to get free from a Figure Four… but in the end he returned fire with fire as he bit Robinson’s finger to try and get himself free, before rolling the hold as Robinson ended up needing the ropes. Another exchange ended with O’Reilly landing the Nigel – the rebound lariat – before he found himself on the top rope as the tit-for-tat nature continued with a nice headscissor takedown off the top from Robbo.

The Robinson Special’s next for a near-fall, but O’Reilly’s forearm shot to the back of the head looked to have him back in it, only for a small package to derail him. Robinson looks to snatch a win with a step-up curb stomp, but O’Reilly avoids it and grabs a knee bar for the quick submission. A really good back-and-forth outing as Robinson tried everything he could to get past the NXT star… but even rolling back the clock didn’t get the job done. ***½

The final score: review Good
The 411
As we'll see across these best-of collections, this was a bit of a mixed bag, but with three matches hovering around four-stars or greater, this was worth your time - even if there is an intrinsic limit to the value of these best-ofs. Most of the other specials released are focused around individual talent, which makes for a much more cut-and-dried case in terms of appeal - but nevertheless, a very solid first shot from PROGRESS' "best of" series.

article topics :

PROGRESS, Ian Hamilton