wrestling / Video Reviews

Hamilton’s Best of NXT in PROGRESS: Volume 2 Report (11.28.20)

March 1, 2021 | Posted by Ian Hamilton
Matt Riddle and Keith Lee vs. Moustache Mountain
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Hamilton’s Best of NXT in PROGRESS: Volume 2 Report (11.28.20)  

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…

Samoa Joe vs. Rampage Brown – from PROGRESS Chapter 14: Thunderbastard (July 27, 2014)
TNA loaned PROGRESS a copy of Joe’s music and entrance video, and you can see that Joe’s thrilled to be back in the UK. Excluding TNA’s annual tours, this was Joe’s first indy match in the UK since the days of 1PW, and if you’re just looking at London, well, it’s 11 years since he appeared for the old FWA.

The then-TNA X-Division champion didn’t have his belt with him – because this isn’t TNA, damnit! A predictably hard fought affair between the two, with stiff strikes in the early going, as Joe pounds Rampage in the corner before going through his “best-of” spots, only for Rampage to escape a face wash in the corner.

Rampage just about shaded the early going, getting a near fall from a big boot after Joe elbowed his way out of a headlock, but Joe pulls the rope down as Rampage charged at him, and that led to a tope into the crowd by the Samoan. After getting back on top with a back suplex for a two-count, Rampage got locked in an STF after being caught on a leapfrog. A Muscle Buster from Joe only resulted in a two-count, but the Samoan followed up with a diving lariat out of the corner as Rampage Brown fell to defeat.

A good match, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the fans were expecting Joe to lose to the homegrown star here, and as such, the ending came out of nowhere ***¾

Roderick Strong vs. Tommy End – from PROGRESS Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16 Night One (May 24, 2015)
Onto the only first-round match featuring two non-Brits here, as Dutchman Tommy End faced the American Roderick Strong. Strong’s attire got him mocked throughout, albeit mostly his wrestling boots (and not the John Cena-inspired “The Champ is Here” t-shirt).

Strong shoves End during his own introductions, and we get a fair amount of stalling, with Strong choosing to respond to the crowd’s “shitty little boots” taunts. Once we get going, End kicks Strong in the thigh after being shoved, but it takes a dropkick from Strong to get him into the game, but his attempts to go for the Strong Hold early on ends up with him taking a stiff kick to the chest for a near-fall.

A flash rolling knee off the ropes got End a two-count over Strong, who then tries to drop End onto the apron, eventually succeeding after yanking the Dutchman on the apron, and then throwing him up into the air. Back in the ring, Strong caught End in a rear chinlock, and started working over End in the corner wick kicks, before scoring a near-fall with a back suplex. More stomping on the ground followed, but End dazed Strong with a big boot before hitting diving double knees off the top rope.

End decks Strong with a kick to the head after a barrage of strikes, with a bridging German suplex scoring a near-fall, before another roundhouse kick earned the Dutchman a two-count. Strong comes back with high knees before nailing a reverse lungblower, but that angers End, whose kicks and a high knee scores a two-count, as they go back and forth. In the end, Strong snatches the win with a kick to the head, followed by the End of Heartache (release suplex into a lungblower). Good match, although I’m never a fan of stalling to start things out with, when it got going, it was great ***¾

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – from PROGRESS Chapter 24: Hit The North (December 6, 2015)
This match has a lot to live up to. At the bell, Ciampa jumps out of the ring to let ZSJ have his chants, and they get going by trying (and failing) at keeping a waistlock, until both guys came close to hitting their finishers in the opening minute.

They continued going for holds, before Ciampa powdered again… and that led to him snapping on ZSJ, sending him outside and then drilling him with a suplex on the floor of the Ritz. Ciampa went back to the ring and dumped ZSJ over the top strand with a release suplex, before going back outside, chopping ZSJ in a chair, and then utilising two fans to hold ZSJ in place for a running knee to the head. That was then followed up with… an armbar in the ring. From one extreme to the other, eh?

ZSJ returned the favour by dragging Ciampa across the front row with a wristlock, but the “Psycho Killer” switched the momentum up with an elevated flatliner, draping ZSJ off the top rope before connecting. Ciampa kept up the pressure by trying to chop ZSJ off the apron, before catching him with an Emerald Fusion for a near-fall in the middle of the ring.

Out of nowhere, ZSJ flipped a Project Ciampa attempt into a triangle-like armbar, but Ciampa then smashed Sabre’s head off the middle turnbuckle to break the hold. ZSJ managed to sneak back in by kicking Ciampa’s leg out of his leg as he went up top, before focusing a barrage of dropkicks onto Ciampa’s left knee. A series of heel holds followed, before ZSJ scored a near-fall from a penalty kick to Ciampa’s chest.

Ciampa knocked ZSJ loopy with a knee to the head, but that only earned him a two-count, then another knee after ZSJ flipped the middle fingers at him. We then segued into a failed Project Ciampa, as ZSJ went for another armbar, which Ciampa got out of by stamping on the head, then going for an armbar of his own, only for ZSJ to make the ropes. Sabre got to his feet twice more, only to be chopped back to the mat both times, before they went into a stiff slap fight.

ZSJ snuck in an armbar on Ciampa, who was able to power out of it by turning it into a Project Ciampa (powerbomb onto the knees), leaving both men laying. After getting back to their feet, they resumed trading forearms and near-falls, with Ciampa popping out of a ZSJ “no arms” bridge and scoring the win with a German suplex-style bridge for the pin. An all out war, which ended a little abruptly, but this was a hell of a match to close out PROGRESS’ year. ****¼

Matt Riddle vs. Jeff Cobb – from PROGRESS Chapter 49: Super Strong Style 16 2017 Night Two (May 28, 2017)
Well, as a “best case scenario” from the first round’s results, this was special! After the deflating-yet-inspirational match we just saw, this was just insane. Two men who excelled at throwing people around, doing what they do best: using each other as the human equivalent of caber tossing!

The Ballroom was split 50-50 as Cobb ducked a running knee – Riddle was going longer than six seconds this time! Some crisp, fluid grappling led to a stand-off, before Riddle tried to end things with a submission as he climbed around Cobb like a spider monkey. When that didn’t work, they just started slapping lumps out of each other, with Riddle edging ahead there as he started to pick up some near-falls.

A rolling series of deadlift gutwrenches on Cobb left the crowd dumbstruck, but Cobb reversed it and threw Riddle around like he were nothing before HIS gutwrench. Strong man be very strong! More of the same came when Cobb caught a kick and turned it into a release capture suplex as he then went to some headbutts to keep things fresh… before he tried to give Riddle a German suplex.

Someday people will learn… you can’t German Riddle! Matt returned fire with a pop-up forearm, then a Bro to Sleep and a German of his own for a near-fall, before his attempt at a running knee is turned into an Athletic-plex as Cobb got straight back in it. Bloody Nora! Just like that though, Cobb tried for a diving uppercut, but was caught in a Bromission… only to stand up out of it and drop Riddle with his own tombstone!

They went back to leathering each other, before Riddle landed a tombstone slam… for a one count?! A Fisherman’s buster gets a two-count, as did a second, which made Riddle snap like a disbelieving child! Back inside, Riddle kept up at it with back sentons, before clubbing away at Cobb with right hands. The insanity returned with gusto as Cobb blocked a back senton and… threw in a Destroyer?! A pop-up German followed for a near-fall, before Riddle escaped a Tour of the Islands and landed that knee strike to bring a thrilling contest to an end. Yep, on a re-watch I can confidently say that’s the best match I’ve seen live – two big man throwing each other around and at themselves. Simply the best! *****

Kay Lee Ray vs. Toni Storm – from PROGRESS Chapter 50: I Give It Six Months (June 25, 2017)
Toni Storm’s first challenge as PROGRESS’ new Women’s champion came in the form of Kay Lee Ray, who earned this spot by beating Katey Harvey on SSS16 finals day.

We’ve got a three-man booth with Glen Joseph, RJ Singh and Callum Leslie providing the call, and we start out fairly evenly as the pair backed each other into a corner before running through their ground game before Ray started to work over Storm’s arm… only to get dumped with a big boot.

Storm edges ahead with some hip attacks, only to get dropped with a sliding Flatliner as Ray went straight into the Koji Clutch… but Storm was easily able to make the ropes. Some chops leave Toni reeling, but she headbutts one away as some back and forth leads to Storm hitting a DDT as Kay Lee was trying to roll together some Northern Lights suplexes. They remained as even as the crowd chants were, before Storm took Kay Lee into the corner for a running hip attack… but an enziguiri sent her to the floor, and we know what that means… Dive!

A flip senton to the floor sees Kay Lee take out Storm in the aisle, but the Aussie took over back in the ring as she went for a Muscle Buster, before instead making do with a German suplex as she caught a springboard off the ropes. Storm came close to victory with the Strong Zero short piledriver, but Ray came back with a Gory Bomb out of the corner. That’s only good for a near-fall, so Ray segued into the Koji Clutch, and after a struggle, Toni reached the ropes to break it… with her tongue. That’s inventive!

Storm won seconds later with a Strong Zero off the middle rope – having gotten to her feet as Ray climbed the ropes – for a rather abrupt end to what was a really solid opener. ***½

Pete Dunne vs. Donovan Dijak – from PROGRESS Chapter 50: I Give It Six Months (June 25, 2017)
The impromptu Pete Dunne Open started here as his refusal to defend the title earned him a match against a debuting Donovan Dijak. Dijak started by dumping Dunne with a backbreaker, before a corkscrew splash and a big splash off the middle rope as he quickly went airborne… hitting an Asai moonsault into the third row! The pair brawled around ringside, with Dunne pulling his foe onto the apron by his nose, only for Dijak to reply with a chokeslam onto the apron.

Back in the ring, Dunne dropped Dijak with an X-plex as he started chopping away at the Tall Don’s legs, fish-hooking him for extra torque. Dijak uses his power to get back into it though, along with plenty of forearms and elbows, before taking Dunne off the top rope and into a sit-out spinebuster for a near-fall.

Yep, Dijak’s impressive – especially as he’s able to work multiple styles in the same match… as seen by him stringing together a chokeslam backbreaker then a top rope moonsault for another near-fall as he’d shrugged off a Dunne German. However, that aerial stuff almost led to his downfall as he leapt into a forearm, then a Pedigree for a near-fall, which seemed to spark off a strike battle.

Despite taking a forearm, Dijak’s able to rebound with a massive clothesline and a discus big boot as both men were left flat on their backs. The hard hitting continued for a while longer, as Dunne ate the Feast Your Eyes… but rolled out of the ring and into further harm as Dijak flew with a Space Flying Tiger Drop! This man’s a freaking monster!

Another discus big boot rocks Dunne, but he bites the hand to get out of another Feast Your Eyes, which leads to a Bitter End… and a three-count! A surprising finish given that Dunne usually needs several of those to win in PROGRESS, but this was a hell of a surprise match – and one I’d love to see again someday. ***¾

Keith Lee & Matt Riddle vs. Trent Seven & Tyler Bate – from PROGRESS Chapter 95: Still Chasing (September 15, 2019)
Jokingly referred to as some by the “NXT offer match”, this threatened to be a sad reminder that NXT has become a warehouse where former favourites get forgotten about.

So this all-babyface affair started with a lot of “hotdogging” and posing that you’d usually expect from the referees. Riddle fakes out a Tiger Knee at the bell, before he speared and Jackhammer’d Trent Seven, as Riddle continued to poke fun at Bill Goldberg. Yep. Glen laughs.

Tyler Bate comes in as he and Riddle pretend to do a sumo, before Keith Lee came in to add his considerable girth to the equation. The crowd chants make this sound like the PROGRESS of old, back before the stars weren’t written out, as Tyler looked to charge down Keith Lee, only to get turned inside out himself with a shoulder tackle. Trent… Trents.

Trent’s kept cornered as Riddle comes in to land a floatover Fisherman suplex, before he took Trent’s back with a modified stranglehold. A ripcord knee has Trent falling like a tree, before a double-team suplex led to a near-fall as the Americans were dictating the pace… which seemed to take the air out of the room.

Tyler tries to wake up his grandpa on the outside, which worked as Trent rolled back in… and woke the crowd up with a big chop on Keith Lee. Keith’s double handed chops put us back to the status quo though, before a chop to the thigh allowed Trent to maneuver his opponents into an accidental DDT, all while Tyler did the Ultimate Warrior apron run ahead of the tag in.

Bate boxes back into it, then lands an European uppercut and an Exploder as he became a one-man wrecking crew. Riddle stops all that momentum as he took down Tyler into a Bromission, while Keith Lee POUNCES Trent away from making the save, before a tombstone slam from Riddle almost put Tyler away.

Trent ducks away from kicks as Riddle left Lee laying, before a clothesline-assisted Dragon suplex helps Tyler to a near-fall on Riddle… Lee powerbombs Trent away from the corner before powerbombing Riddle… so he could superplex Tyler at the same time. Collateral damage. A press slam/G2S variant gets Riddle a near-fall as the visitors found a way back in, until Trent spiked Riddle with a Dragon suplex and a piledriver, leaving Keith Lee in the corner for a Burning Hammer as Tyler’s Spiral Tap got the win. Perfectly fine stuff that was more fitting of a Largo loop house show. The good guys vs. good guys format didn’t click at times, as the “home team” wins, even if Trent’s the only one who sticks around… **¾

The final score: review Good
The 411
A curious selection of matches to fill the "guys who wrestled for PROGRESS that were or would become part of NXT" topic for this - and we've got ourselves a genuine ***** classic in this mix, but also a sign of just what that relationship was producing by the end, in the form of that Moustache Mountain vs. Lee/Riddle tag from PROGRESS' last big show (at time of writing).

article topics :

PROGRESS, Ian Hamilton