With Rebellion on the horizon, Harry brings us Impact’s WrestleMania week show! Is it time to start buying in to the company again?
Hello everyone and welcome back to ‘What I Watched’, now under the ‘Chairshot Classics’ banner. This will be the eighth review here for me. PROGRESS Chapters 1-4 as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are already posted on the site and are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for ‘What I Watched’, Chapter 5 of PROGRESS is currently in the queue. I’ll be getting to Chapter 6 soon to help keep those rolling. In addition, there are definite plans to get to both CHIKARA and AAW in the future here on the reviews as well. We’ve also tossed around the idea of getting Club WWN, which could lead to reviews of companies such as EVOLVE and SHINE down the road. I have yet to review the ‘Homecoming’ pay-per-view for Impact from January of 2019, but the plan for that remains that it’ll be done once we get closer to ‘Rebellion’ later in the month of April.
That brings us to why we’re here today. Impact Wrestling finally decided that as a wrestling company, they should probably be involved in the biggest weekend of the wrestling calendar year. That of course being WrestleMania weekend. This will be there contribution to the festivities that took place. The main event is Rob Van Dam and Sabu returning to Impact to face the current Impact tag team champions of the Lucha Brothers, Pentagon Jr. and Fenix. In addition we have ‘Ultimate X’ announced, Tessa Blanchard takes on Joey Ryan and much more I’m sure. With that said, it’s into the slightly back machine, as we head to April 4th, 2019 as ‘What I Watched’ presents Impact Wrestling’s ‘United We Stand’.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show.
MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating.
Impact Wrestling: ‘United We Stand’
From: Rahway Rec Center in Rahway, New Jersey
Date: April 4th, 2019
Run Time: 2:31:00 (Fite TV)
Total Run Time: 3:08:15
*GENERAL NOTES: The setup actually looks pretty cool. Rahway Rec is a pretty good building for wrestling. ROH has run here before and if memory serves, it was the home of a company called JAPW (Jersey All Pro Wrestling), which long time independent wrestling fans should know. Building is pretty full as well. I wouldn’t call it a sellout or anything, but it’s definitely not as empty as some of the old Impact shows could be.
*There was a pre-show on Twitch. Honestly, if you don’t watch it, you don’t miss much. One of the referees commandeers what looks to be a GoPro and goes around showing various people. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to be much of significance, at least until we actually get a pre-show match…
*Match #1: (Pre-Show) WrestlePro Tag Titles: New Heavenly Bodies (Desirable Dustin/Gigolo Justin) vs. KM/Fallah Bahh vs. Team Espana (Jos A/Jos B) ©
The Who: This is sadly going to come off uncultured here, but I can’t say I’m super familiar with any of the six. Desirable Dustin and Gigolo Justin are doing the old Jimmy Del Rey and Tom Prichard deal from Smoky Mountain which later moved into the WWF in 1994. They were apparently known as Dustin and Justin Corino before they became the new Heavenly Bodies. I can not confirm any ties to Steve Corino however. Team Espana (pronounced ‘Hose A’ and ‘Hose B’ respectively) are the WrestlePro Tag champs and it comes off to me as a Hispanic soccer stereotype gimmick. KM and Fallah Bahh are the team I am most familiar with here. I’ve seen them in bits and pieces when I did watch the Impact TV show on Pop, but in the two PPVs I’ve covered here on the Chairshot, neither has appeared thus far.
The Why: It’s a pre-show match to get the fans hyped up before the show went live on Fite TV.
The Match: Let’s see if these six can impress me in my first time seeing this. Plus, this is a match that had the chance to secure a couple last minute buys for the show on Fite, so we’ll see if they put their best foot forward…opening bell here…KM calls the GoPro holder ‘Kid Ref’ (Kris Levin) and has to at the last second censor calling him ‘baby dick’. Oops…Fallah does move well for a heavyweight…wouldn’t that double splash that KM and Fallah do hurt Fallah more then the opponent?…watching this move through a GoPro makes you really appreciate the hard work that the camera crews do…KM chops the bejesus out of Jos B. One way to tag someone into a match, I suppose…hey! No New Age Outlaw finishes!…Black Hole Slam by Fallah. Abyss just left, man…the teamwork for the NHB is impressive. They don’t stand out on personality, but the ring work is not bad…Rocket Launcher by the NHB. I always appreciate the classics…moonsault attempt off the second rope by Jos B almost nails referee Brandon Toll. Yeah, that could have been very bad…KM gets a tag late and goes to town on all four opponents. Some of it more realistic then others. A comedy steamroller spot sets up the big man Bahh going Lucha with a tope to take down the other four on the floor. Jos A gets rolled back in and KM greets him with the ‘Ego Driver’ (powerbomb into a backcracker a la ‘Project Ciampa’) and that gets the three count at 9:58…Much better then I personally expected it to be. KM and Fallah have become quite the team, even if they don’t always get the opportunity to show it. For as generic as the gimmick is, Team Espana held their own here. I was honestly the most impressed by the teamwork of the New Heavenly Bodies. I seem to recall them being on Impact before and I do think they would make for a strong addition to the tag division on a permanent basis for the company. All told, given my expectations and the performances, I’m going with a GOOD rating here. Well played, boys. (GOOD)
*Cold Open is here and it’s not bad, but it’s nothing blow away either. As I said above, I do like the setup for the show and it looks like we’ll open with ‘Ultimate X’ for a future title match against the X Division champion.
*Match #2: ‘Ultimate X’ for future X Division Title match- Jake Crist vs. Dante (AR) Fox vs. Pat Buck vs. Ace Austin (replacing Jack Evans) vs. Johnny Impact
The Who: Jake Crist is one half of the Crist brothers alongside Dave. They are currently members of oVe (Ohio Versus Everything) which is led by Sami Callihan. They also previously made up the tag team known as Irish Airborne. Dante (AR) Fox has made waves across the US independent scene in companies such as CZW and DG-USA. He’s coming off his first major national exposure in Lucha Underground and would make an excellent (IMO) addition to Impact. Pat Buck: yeah, I can’t help you guys here. Apparently a star for WrestlePro (who runs at the building they are running in. Upon a bit of research, he also owns WrestlePro. Which makes this make a lot more sense. Ace Austin has been on Impact a bit recently. I’ve not seen much of him, but what I have seen has been impressive. That being said, he hardly seems like a fair replacement for one of the best high flyers in wrestling in Jack Evans. Johnny Impact is the current Impact Wrestling Heavyweight champion, having beaten Austin Aries for that title at Bound for Glory in 2018 (review available in archive). Johnny recently turned heel on an episode of Impact and decided that he didn’t wish to be a part of Team Impact later in the show, thus he put himself into this match instead.
The Why: In addition to putting one of the biggest spectacle matches Impact has on a major scale, Impact is also using this match as a way to crown a ‘Money in the Bank’ style eventual challenger for the X Division title down the road.
The Match: Kotto Brazil of MLW was also advertised for this match but ended up not being here for it. Tried to look into this, but couldn’t find anything of relevance to share here…opening bell goes here…near miss sequence to open leads to everyone down but Impact. Cute but a little gimmicky…Impact and Fox renewing acquaintances reminds me how much I miss Lucha Underground…camera crew misses a pair of dives during the dive sequence that almost always happens in X Division matches. Not sure if that’s on the boys or on production, but it shouldn’t happen…good thing I don’t do play by play anymore. A lot of stuff going on early here…hiptoss on the apron to Ace Austin. Why?…and the audio issues hit again in full force as the chase to the X begins. You are literally a television company, Anthem. The fuck, guys?…Austin reaches out and gets the ‘X’. Buck grabs him and tries to pull Ace down. Austin loses his grip and ends up landing square on the side of his face. Yee-ouch…nice looking superplex there by Jake…and now it’s every indie match ever with the Tower of Doom spot…splash mountain bomb (Razor’s Edge) lift into a urinage by Johnny Impact. Alright, that was new…match of the powerbomb. That was like the fourth or fifth one already…imploding shooting star plancha by Dante Fox. I see you, Dante. Get that contract…and that was just fucking stupid, Ace. I hope he’s okay…thankfully, it looks like he is….Jake and Pat recreate the Edge-Jeff TLC spear spot. Not bad but not quite as impressive with the height difference…the Crist and Austin cutter off the cables looks a lot cooler. Ace is clearing showing the most of the men in this match…and mere seconds after I write that, Impact grabs the ‘X’ to win the match @ 13:03…Lots of effort from all five guys here, all of whom bumped their asses off to sell the danger of the match. Not much of a story but in a car crash such as this, there doesn’t really have to be. A special shout out to Ace Austin, who as I mentioned above impressed me the most. (GOOD)
*Backstage: Eddie Edwards, Moose and Brian Cage discuss the upcoming Impact vs. LU match. I’d tell you what I think, but the sound went out during it so I couldn’t hear anything anyone was saying…
*Match #3: Team Lucha Underground (Aerostar/Daga/Drago/Marty ‘the Moth’ Martinez) vs. Team Impact Wrestling (Brian Cage/Eddie Edwards/Moose/Tommy Dreamer)
The Who: Team Lucha Underground has several people most will be familiar with. Daga has appeared in Impact before but I don’t believe he’s been used regularly in a while. Aerostar and Drago were two third of the Lucha Underground Trios champions at one point with I want to say Fenix. Marty Martinez, known as Martin Causas on the Tough Enough re-launch a few years back, really came into his own as a singles competitor on Lucha Underground. He’s someone I genuinely hope Impact gives a shot, much more then any of the rest of the team (okay, Drago’s pretty cool too). Team Impact has people you’ll know from my previous reviews. Cage is the current number one contender, scheduled to face Johnny Impact for the title at Rebellion. Eddie Edwards on TV is currently teaming with Eli Drake (who recently got himself fired for comments made during an interview). Moose is kind of in limbo but he’s grown on me quite a bit over the years. Tommy Dreamer…well if you don’t know who Tommy is by now, I can’t help you.
The Why: Much the same way they did last year before WrestleMania, Impact and Lucha Underground are facing each other here. I wouldn’t mind if this became an ongoing theme on the Impact TV show as well since Lucha Underground is probably not getting a season five.
The Match: It was originally played up as a four on three advantage to Team L.U. since Johnny Impact decided he was out. He is replaced with Tommy Dreamer, as you saw above…opening bell goes here…I like Tommy more then most, but he should not be a regular wrestler in 2019. For the sake of this show and it’s location, it at least makes some sense here…fun exchange by Edwards and Aerostar to get us going. Matthews (for as much crap as I’ve given him in the past) is really good at putting over Edwards’ credentials…Martinez is definitely more sizzle then steak, but sizzle is something I think Impact could use more off…Cage battles Daga and I’m guessing these two are really familiar. It sure flows like they are…Cage busts out the Cesaro apron superplex on Drago to the floor onto everyone…that was fucking gross, Eddie. I’m with Don here…we’ve already seem some of the old Lucha Underground elements sneaking into Impact. I would not mind a full on roster vs. roster invasion battle playing out on Impact TV…don’t care for Daga and Drago’s double-team work. Comes off really clunky. Aerostar and Drago work much better together…add the diamond cutter to the superkick and enzugiri on my list of most spammed indie moves…and Moose lays out Cage with a spear, one assumes to set himself up as a title contender should Cage beat Impact at Rebellion…match breaks down with in-fighting from the Impact team. Tommy cracks Moose with Kenny the Kendo Stick after the spear and Edwards dives onto Moose once Moose goes to the floor. In the ring, it leaves Dreamer open to a butterfly implant DDT from Martinez and that’s a three count at 10:22…solid but not great. Effective for the finishing angle but leaves the rest of the match feeling inconsequential as a result. I like Marty, but not sure this is enough to get him a spot with Impact. Call the match itself ABOVE AVERAGE, which has to be a disappointment given the talent involved. (ABOVE AVERAGE)
*Taya Valkyrie promo…yeah, I’m still not sold on her. I know she’s a big deal in Mexico, but I feel there are better performers in Impact to carry the crown.
*Match #4: Impact Knockouts Title: Taya Valkyrie © vs. Rosemary vs. Katie Forbes vs. Jordynne Grace
The Who: Taya Valkyrie is Mrs. Johnny Impact and the current champion, having won the title from Tessa Blanchard back at Homecoming (sumbitch). While I’m may not be sold, I will say that she does carry herself like a star. I’m sure there are other factors at play in terms of her elevated status, she portrays herself as the biggest deal in this match. Rosemary has recently returned from an injury and lost her best friend in Impact when Allie got killed off by Su Yung and the Undead Brides. Katie Forbes is making her Impact debut, one assumes because of the relationship with Rob Van Dam (who returns to the company himself later). Her ring entrance does proceed to set the women’s revolution back about a decade and a half. Jordynne Grace has really been a breakout star in Impact over the last six months or so. I think she has a new hair style here and it looks good on her. A much more dignified entrance too.
The Why: It’s for the Knockouts title. Pretty self explanatory for this one.
The Match: Production issues in full force for Rosemary’s entrance. You can’t hear a word Josh or Don are saying because of how cranked up the music is. I like Rosemary’s music but some may not be as forgiving…opening bell goes here…Rosemary gets sent to the floor and it sets up a triple knuckle-lock eventually leading to a series of roll-ups. I do like that they incorporate more then two into the opening sequence…running hip attack square to the jaw followed by a double knees in the corner. Forbes literally taking it on the chin in this match…Rosemary is by far the best character in this match. Certainly the best developed of the four. I’d say that Jordynne and Taya are both better workers, though…Forbes looks clunky in the ring. But I don’t think she’s been active that long. A quick Google search tells me three years, which really doesn’t surprise me. Her timing and fluidity is not even close to the level of the other three…car crash spot puts all four down. It looked good though…the ‘Upside Down’ by Rosemary. Touch on the nose with the name there but it looks visually impressive. Reminds me of Candice Michelle’s old rope choke…Forbes goes for a double Samoan Drop but loses Rosemary. So Grace missile dropkicks Forbes into a Samoan on Taya. Good save…looks like Rosemary has put on a little weight during her downtime. I’m sure it’s a factor of not being back in the ring regularly…Su Yung shows up and it draws Rosemary’s attention, leading to them brawling (somewhat poorly) to the back. Forbes lifts Grace up onto her shoulders and proceeds to squat with her. That seems a bit gimmick infringing there, Katie…not sure what Katie is going for but Grace escapes and plants her with a Grace Driver (Matt Sydal’s old Here It Is Driver). That would be a three count for Jordynne but Valkyrie tags with a single foot dropkick to the mush and takes the pin herself at 9:00…had it’s moments but the result was never in doubt with the TV already taped and the Knockouts title match for Rebellion of Taya vs. Grace already being set. Unsurprisingly, Forbes eats the pinfall which protects everyone else. The story to tell coming out of this though is that Grace had the match won with the Grace Driver until Taya stole the pin. AVERAGE match but a good finishing sequence helps. (AVERAGE)
*Tessa Blanchard promo: Tessa comes off like the biggest star in the division hands down and I think you could make the argument for the biggest star in the company. Seamlessly transitions from talking about want her title back to how she’ll make sure Gail Kim gets what’s coming to her at Rebellion to making Joey Ryan famous for being Tessa Blanchard’s bitch tonight. Very well done.
*Hype video here for the LAX vs. Ricky Martinez and LowKi match. LowKi’s voice sounds so dignified. It’s really too bad that the guy behind the voice is such a massive asshole.
*Match #5: LAX (Santana and Ortiz) vs. Promociones Dorado (Golden Promotions) (LowKi and Ricky Martinez)
The Who: LAX has been arguably the best thing going on Impact since I started reviewing these show. The ‘5150 Street Fight’ at Slammiversary and the ‘Concrete Jungle’ match at Bound for Glory were both amazing performances for Santana and Ortiz. Promociones Dorado, I don’t as much about since I don’t really watch MLW. Ricky Martinez is a new name for me. Can’t say I know much about him other then he was on an episode of 205 Live a while back in a losing effort to Lio Rush. LowKi is someone who has been everywhere. WWE, ROH, TNA, New Japan, Zero-1. You name it, he’s probably worked for them before.
The Why: There’s a bit of history between LowKi and LAX, which is addressed in the hype video that airs before this match. Ricky Martinez and LowKi came together in MLW to form the Promociones Dorado team and in this instance, that gives a challenge to the former multiple time Impact Tag Team champions.
The Match: Instrumental version of ‘The Truth’ by Beanie Sigel brings out LowKi and Martinez. Quasi shout out to another one of LowKi’s former tag team partners in Homicide, with whom LowKi formed the Strong Style Thugs…if the tag title match for Rebellion wasn’t already set, I’d be more expecting of a LAX loss here. Now, I don’t see it…I question why LowKi thought the Irwin R Schyster school of ring gear was a good decision. Yes, I get the whole ‘Hitman 47’ character but still seems like it would be a pain in the ass to wrestle in…opening bell goes here…Josh kissing corporate ass by talking about the Impact and MLW relationship. Don Callis takes the chance to put over “Joey Ryan’s Penis Party” (things I’d never thought I’d type)…took almost two full minutes for the first physical interaction. Crowd’s invested though…LowKi is still so sudden almost two decades in. I’ve never doubted his in ring ability. His attitude sucks most of the time though…cross armed northern lights suplex by Ortiz. That’s a new one for me…double team wheelbarrow X-Factor by LAX. I’d say they are top three in the world in terms of their tag work. Them, the Young Bucks and the Revival for me…and now a little double teamwork from Martinez and Ki. Kitchen sink knee lift into a basement dropkick…Martinez busts out the skullfucker. Throwback to an old X Division rival of LowKi’s in Alex Shelley…corner kangaroo kick by LowKi. Almost a tip-up version of the Warrior’s Way/Ghetto Stomp (take your pick)…one way to get into a hot tag, I suppose…Ortiz just clocks LowKi with a missile dropkick. That looked super snug…action is way too fast here to call it all. Another LAX double team (superkick assisted Tower of London) gets broken up by a Swanton from LowKi…Doomsday gamengiri by Promociones. Good looking move. A clean kickout by Ortiz tells me it’s not their finisher though…Santana sends LowKi face first into the post. In the ring, Ortiz counters Martinez and lifts him up into a Death Valley Driver, which is enough for the three count at 12:39…GOOD but the anti-climatic nature of the finish hurts it from going any higher. When you get double team after double team during the course of the match, you come to have a certain expectation for finishing sequence. Especially when LAX has one of the best double team finishes in pro wrestling with the ‘Street Sweeper’. Match was strong up to that point though despite the slow start, so I can’t knock it too bad overall. I wouldn’t be against more of LowKi and Ricky as a team in Impact but we’ll have to see there. (GOOD)
*Sami Callihan promo: the cult leader type persona that Callihan has with oVe fits him so well. He’s one of the better promo guys on the indies. I’m actually really looking forward to the Monster’s Ball match a little later on the show…
*Match #6: Tessa Blanchard vs. Joey Ryan
The Who: Tessa Blanchard is in my opinion one of the five best women’s wrestlers in the United States currently. She is the complete package as she can talk, she has a presence about her, she’s a strong worker and she has the ability to get a crowd to react to her. Joey Ryan is a bit of a mixed bag. While I think Joey is a competent wrestler, his current persona does absolutely nothing for me.
The Why: I can truthfully say I have no clue.
The Match: So, I’m coming into this match with a bad bias and I’ll be the first to admit such. Having seen as much PWG as I have, I’m very well aware of what a focused Joey Ryan is capable of. His current shtick (and it’s a lot of shtick) does nothing for me. I don’t really have an interest in this match because with Tessa having the match with Gail Kim coming up, any efforts that Impact may have put into making Tessa a viable threat to Gail will be damaged by the shenanigans that will occur here…then again, Joey’s selling a shit ton of merch, so what do I know?…Callis pops Josh (and myself) by approving of Joey’s Speedo…that blow pop spot with the fan. Pretty sure that’s how you get herpes…the ‘you sick fuck’ chant towards the fan is well deserved. Couldn’t pay me enough to do that…opening bell goes here…and Joey tries to go with the ‘touch it’ penis spot early. Tessa naturally responds the national bird of the USA, the middle one…Callis keeping popping Josh on commentary. He used to do that all the time to Joey Styles in ECW and Kevin Kelly in New Japan. I don’t think Don gets nearly enough credit for how good he is at the comic relief aspect of his color commentary duties…corner trap chestblower by Tessa looks really good…see, that’s the Joey Ryan I know. The ‘Technical Lizard’ Joey Ryan. For all the sizzle he currently uses, there’s a lot of steak there. He just doesn’t show it enough…top rope senton and a beauty by Tessa…pumphandle suplex by Ryan just launches Tessa in retaliation…Blanchard is so smooth in the ring. It’s too bad her attitude is what it is because could easily be the biggest star in women’s wrestling if it wasn’t…Callis is at least making the Ryan shenanigans more entertaining then usual…match is making Tessa look resilient at least…Ryan goes for a superplex. Tessa fights it off and tries a tornado DDT which Ryan counters by putting Tessa back on the top rope. A palm strike to the boob (I think, bad camera angle) sets up another try at the superplex. Tessa knocks Ryan back into the ring and then comes flying in with ‘Magnum’ (she’ll be sponsored by Trojan soon) which gets the three count at 10:46…better then I expected but not what it could have been due to the antics involved. Tessa came out of this looking much better then I feared she would and Joey kept it to a greatest hits of the sleaze department while still working a reasonable match. I’ll call it AVERAGE+, which is as good as possible given the circumstances. (AVERAGE+)
*Quick plug for the Rebellion PPV and the impending title match between Johnny Impact and Brian Cage. I believe (if memory serves) they went one on one at Homecoming as well. That’ll be my next review here on the site to get everyone ready for the Rebellion show on April 28th.
*Match #7: X Division Title Match: Rich Swann © vs. Flamita (representing AAA)
The Who: Rich Swann is the defending champion here and has re-established himself as one of the better Jr. Heavyweight workers in the world since he arrived in Impact in June of last year. Flamita is someone I know almost nothing about. I don’t watch a ton of legitimate Lucha Libre so Triple A isn’t on my view list. Upon some research, I find out he’s 24 with about a decade of experience, having debuted at the age of just fifteen in his native Mexico. He’s also worked with Dragon Gate in Japan and is a former Tag Team and Jr. Heavyweight champion there.
The Why: For Swann’s X division title. This is actually a replacement match as Rich Swann was originally supposed to defend the title against Dragon Gate’s YAMATO.
The Match: Little disappointed that we aren’t getting YAMATO here, but I’ve heard good things about Flamita…opening bell sends us on our way…amazing athleticism in this match early. These are the kind of matches the X Division was based around back when TNA started in 2002…once we go back to the ring after Swann’s dive, pace is a lot slower though…Flamita comes out with a tope of his own. I think Swann was fancier but Flamita’s was smoother…tiger bomb into a lungblower by Flamita. The innovation on this show in general has been quite impressive…Swann with a Buzzsaw kick, ala Tajiri. Wonder what he’s up to these days. Last we saw him was briefly in NXT…Flamita reminds me of 2 Cold Scorpio in the way he strings high impact offense. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not…breaks down in a strike exchange. Not what you’d expect from these two…the Tyler Bate style fake out by Flamita was nice. It was immediately undone by a Rich Swann handspring ace crusher, but still appreciated…leap of faith (Jigsaw from CHIKARA style) frankensteiner by Swann pulls Flamita from the buckle. Once Flamita is down, Swann goes up to the second rope, where a Phoenix Splash (impressive from the second as far as timing goes) equals a three count at 7:46…I get that it was super late by this time and I’m guessing the building had a curfew. That being said, that is just tragically short given what these guys are probably capable of doing with another four or five minutes. What we did get was entertaining, but ultimately the brevity holds it back from being anything super memorable. Call it GOOD but a little disappointing given what it could have been capable of. (GOOD)
*Van Dam and Sabu promo: Van Dam does most of the talking, which really isn’t a surprise. Hearing Sabu actually talk is still something I’m not sure I can wrap my head around…it’s not that I dislike Van Dam and Sabu because I don’t. A match like this shows that Impact still hasn’t quite gotten that they need to focus on their own talent rather then relying on stars of the past. That has always been TNA’s mistake in the past and it seems like those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it…
*Match #8: ‘Monster’s Ball’: Jimmy Havoc vs. Sami Callihan
The Who: Jimmy Havoc has been a focal point of my PROGRESS reviews, so I’m quite familiar with him. There’s actually a lot of similar between he and Sami . Both are kind of death match hybrid wrestlers in that they can work basically anything style without being too far out of their element. Sami Callihan is the bigger deal in Impact since Jimmy rarely comes over to the US. Callihan was involved in my pick for the 2018 Impact match of the year as well with his brutal war with Pentagon Jr. back at Slammiversary in the ‘Mask vs. Hair’ match.
The Why: Well, frankly, because why not? I don’t think there was anything specific that set this match up but it should be good all the same.
The Match: No music for Jimmy that I can hear. Either it’s muted on the feed or someone at the venue screwed up. Either are likely, truthfully…and Callihan assaults Don with his hat. What is with wrestlers picking on announcers these days…opening bell goes here…Callis laments being the poor official in this contest and I couldn’t agree more…thumbs up by Sami is countered with Jimmy figuring out the national bird of the US as well followed by a short right that gets us going…staple gun to the vest. Sounds good but probably not very painful. The follow up one to the balls is most likely a little more effective…crowd chants ‘you sick fuck’. Josh wonders if they are talking to Callihan or Havoc. In unison, Callis and I say both…Sami lawn darts a chair at Jimmy and Jimmy comes up bleeding…chain in the mouth choke. That checks…fake out by Jimmy leads to a chop to the back. What a jerk!…that trash can almost went into the crowd like it was a ladder at an ROH show…not sure what the hell happened there, the camera missed it…running eye poke by Jimmy. Effective, I suppose…Cactus Driver on the apron and he stuck him with it. Dangerous as all hell spot but very visually appealing…sunset flip attempt is countered with a stapler. Well, of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be?…and Sami kicks Jimmy clean in the dingus…ECW staple of the frying pan gets introduced. Using it to the back doesn’t sound as good as the head shots did, but probably safer…lemon juice in the cut. I’m gonna be sick…baseball swing with the trash can by Havoc…paper cuts are now a weapon. Those damn things hurt…Sami needs a shower…as if lemon juice wasn’t enough, now its time for salt…he’s biting the bare foot. Now I really am going to be sick. I don’t do feet stuff…death valley driver into the trash can…colorful building blocks…piledriver onto said building blocks gets a one count. DISREPECTFUL!…Sami grabs the baseball bat and smacks Jimmy in the side of the face with it. A pair of chairs get set up facing each other and Callihan delivers a piledriver onto the standing chairs. That’s your three count at 13:50…not as bloody as the old Abyss ‘Monster’s Ball’ matches used to be but I’d say that’s a good thing. Some innovative spots here and there but ultimately not nearly what these two are capable of. As a death match, I’ve seen both of these guys involved in far more gruesome matches. For the needs of this show though, it worked. The fans were invested, the guys busted their butts to give the fans their money’s worth and all in all, its not a bad way to spend about fourteen minutes. Call it a GOOD rating, but know they are capable of much worse if you are into that kind of thing. (GOOD)
*We recap everything that has happened thus far. Josh then plugs the Rebellion PPV and we see the same hype video we saw earlier promoting the Cage and Impact title match. After that, it’s a hype package for the main event, which is next.
*Match #9: Lucha Brothers (Fenix/Pentagon Jr.) vs. Rob Van Dam/Sabu
The Who: Fenix and Pentagon Jr. are one of the hottest acts in the US independent scene right now. Both were incredibly successful during the Lucha Underground series and as such, have been catching promoter eyes all around the country. Rob Van Dam is a former multiple division champion in TNA who is just now making his return to the company. He’s also signed a deal that will keep him around for a while going forward. Sabu at one point was considered to be the best high flyer in the world. Father time has not been kind to him recently but he’s hoping to at least capture the magic one more time while teaming with former ECW Tag Team championship partner Van Dam.
The Why: Some would say it’s a dream match. Personally, I’m not one of those people but I am a fan of three of the four men in this match. Specifically Van Dam, who I’ve always said is either in my top five for favorite wrestlers or just outside of it (Jericho, Punk, Hero, Daniels and Quackenbush are the other usual suspects).
The Match: I appreciate everything Sabu has done for the sport of professional wrestling, but at some point you have to know when to let go. That time for come for him but he insists on sticking around. Hopefully, the rest of the guys in this match can help him make his way through…not sure why the Lucha Brothers entrance video went full screen as long as it did but it does look cool…Pentagon Jr. is someone who could easily be a main event player in Impact. I don’t know if I could say the same about Fenix though…Hulka Blues knock off is about a pretty good rip. It’s not quite to the level of Harry Slash and the Slashtones but it’s close…Sabu comes out with a woman who I’m not sure I’ve seen before. To the Google, I go…and Google is of no help. Maybe Josh will tell us her name…Van Dam has his old TNA theme song. Still doesn’t make a damn lick of sense. Van Dam is still in pretty good shape for his age. We’ll see if it translate in ring…production has to get better to justify the cost of these shows. Josh spends a good minute putting over Van Dam’s accolades and you can barely hear them over the music…Don almost calls Josh ‘Joey’. As in Styles. That’s just blasphemous, sir…opening bell here…Sabu does look to be in good shape here. Given that he was bedridden in a hospital recently, that’s a good thing I guess…once again, almost two minutes before the first physicality…breaks down into a brawl at ringside real quick…Van Dam almost brains Fenix with a leg lariat and clips Sabu with the kick as well…Van Dam doesn’t get anywhere close to any of Rolling Thunder. Sabu’s flipping legdrop did look good though…Van Dam makes up for it with a huge monkey flip on Fenix…rope springboard 360 kick by Fenix. That looked nice…Sabu just eats a double superkick…excellent double team work by the Lucha Brothers with the wheelbarrow splash…Josh plugs the Van Dam documentary called ‘Head Strong’. Gee, I wonder why…that is not a good looking table…alright, the old school double legdrop through the table does bring bit a nice bit of nostalgia…Van Dam looks for the Five-Star and eats chair from Pentagon Jr., which sends Van Dam spilling to the floor. A double kick puts Sabu down and once Sabu is grabbed up by Pentagon Jr., the double team Fear Factor (double stomp assisted package piledriver) spells the three count for a Lucha Brothers victory at 8:03…kept short for obvious reasons, but fun enough while it lasted. Van Dam and Sabu aren’t going to be able to put on the fifteen to twenty minute wars that they used to, so it made sense to use them for the name value to pop the crowd and to give your tag champions a big win. This match was too short to tell if Van Dam will add anything to the Impact roster, but I will give credit to Sabu who looked a lot better then I thought he would here. Call the match AVERAGE but that’s actually higher then what I anticipated. (AVERAGE)
*Show of sportsmanship mid-ring post match, as Josh hyperbolically states that it’s a night we’ll never forget. That is how we go off the air for United We Stand.
Match #1: WrestlePro Tag Titles- Fallah Bahh/KM defeated Team Espana © and the New Heavenly Bodies, KM pins Jos A with the ‘Ego Driver’ @ 9:58 (GOOD) (Pre-Show)
Match #2: Ultimate X for #1 Contendership to X Division title- Johnny Impact grabs ‘X’ to win match @ 13:03 (Match also involved: Ace Austin, Dante (AR) Fox, Jake Crist and Pat Buck) (GOOD)
Match #3: Team Lucha Underground (Aerostar/Daga/Drago/Marty Martinez) defeat Team Impact (Brian Cage/Eddie Edwards/Moose/Tommy Dreamer), Martinez pins Dreamer after a butterfly implant DDT @ 10:22 (ABOVE AVERAGE)
Match #4: Impact Wrestling Knockouts Title- Taya Valkyrie © wins 4 way, pinning Katie Forbes after stealing the pin from Jordynne Grace following the Grace Driver @ 9:00 (Match also involved: Rosemary) (AVERAGE)
Match #5: LAX (Santana/Ortiz) defeat Promociones Dorado (LowKi/Ricky Martinez), Ortiz pins Martinez after a Death Valley Driver @ 12:39 (GOOD)
Match #6: Tessa Blanchard pins Joey Ryan, ‘Magnum’ @ 10:46 (AVERAGE+)
Match #7: Impact X Division Title- Rich Swann © pins Flamita with a 2nd rope Phoenix Splash to retain @ 7:46 (GOOD)
Match #8: Monster’s Ball- Sami Callihan pins Jimmy Havoc with a piledriver through a pair of open chairs @ 13:50 (GOOD)
Match #9: Lucha Brothers (Fenix/Pentagon Jr.) defeat Rob Van Dam/Sabu, Pentagon Jr. pins Sabu after a springboard double assisted Fear Factor @ 8:03 (AVERAGE)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
It’s a mixed bag to me. There are things that are definitely worth your time to check out. ‘Ultimate X’ and ‘Monster’s Ball’ are both fun matches. But there’s some stuff that will leave you scratching your head as well. I get why they put Katie Forbes into the Knockouts title match but she definitely brought it down. Wasting Tessa Blanchard on Joey Ryan pisses me off. The eight man tag match basically turning into just a storyline development tool does no favors to any of the men in that match. It’s not all good, it’s not all bad. But there is quite a bit of both.
So where does this leave us? It leaves me getting ready to type the preview and introductions for Homecoming since that show is just five days away at the time I finish this (see, I can math Andrew). It leaves you guys hopefully continuing to check these reviews out here on the Chairshot. Finally, it leaves me on my way to the fridge to get something to drink. Not hungry yet but I will be by the time I get Homecoming started, I’m sure.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: I’m going to go with ‘Ultimate X’ here and specifically Ace Austin’s performance therein.
Worst match/moment: The whole Joey Ryan and Tessa Blanchard debacle. I don’t put that on the performers though. I blame the match making committee for this one.
MVP: Don Callis for being super entertaining throughout the show. No one individual effort stood out to me so I’ll give it to Don.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10
My next review that isn’t with PROGRESS will be Impact Wrestling’s Homecoming 2019 to get everyone ready for Rebellion. In addition, check out PROGRESS Chapter 4, which is available now in the archives. Chapter 5 should be out soon and once I finish Homecoming, I’ll begin work on Chapter 6. I would also hope that you guys will check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.
Chairshot Classics: PROGRESS Chapter 5 – ‘For Those About to Fight’
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Chapter 5 of the Progress time machine checks in! Harry breaks down the action, the stories and much more!
Greetings and salutations, everyone. Welcome back to the return of ’What I Watched’ now under the Chairshot Classics banner. The first four chapters of PROGRESS as well as Slammiversary and Bound for Glory 2018 from Impact Wrestling are available in my archive, which you can reach by clicking my name at the top of this article. To update everyone on future plans for What I Watched, obviously we’ll be continuing to cover PROGRESS. Eventually, I’ll get to a somewhat modern show. For other companies, once I hit 2005 on my watching of CHIKARA, I hope to start cover those here as well (the pre 2005 shows don’t have commentary and are (for me anyway) much harder to get through).
That brings us to why we’re here today. PROGRESS has just crowned a new champion at Chapter 4 in El Ligero, who tapped Nathan Cruz in the main event. Rather then do the immediate rematch, PROGRESS’ brass decided that instead they would do a bit of a ‘pick your poison’ situation as Ligero picks Cruz’s opponent and Cruz picks Ligero’s. There was another match revealed before the show as well, but I’ll save the mention of that for a bit later. In addition, the ‘Natural PROGRESS’ tournament continues, but we don’t know the participants for this Chapter. Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what to expect for this show, so it’s looks like we’ll find out together. With that said, it’s into the way back machine once again, as we head to January 27th, 2013 as “What I Watched” presents ‘For Those About to Fight’ or PROGRESS Chapter 5.
WRITER’S NOTE #1: My reviews will not be a play by play recap. I’ve done that style in the past and honestly, I don’t especially care for it. Instead, it’ll be more of a stream of consciousness review as I talk about the wrestlers, the matches, the storylines and whatever else happens to pop into my head while I watch.
WRITER’S NOTE #2: As much as I’d like to let everyone make their own decisions on the matches, giving away match results in the review will be a necessary evil. The reason being is that I will discuss what I think everything means going forward and maybe even doing a little fantasy booking of where I would go from where they presently are. I will still post the results as one big listing at the end of the articles as well as my ratings for the contests. The final show review will be after that as well as the ‘Final Reaction’ for the show. Going forward, I’ll have an archive to all of my previous reviews here on the Chairshot if you click on my user name.
MY RATING SCALE: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad, Very Bad, Terrible and SKIP. Some matches will occasionally get a ‘N/A’ rating as well. That will be reserved for matches that I feel don’t warrant a rating.
PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 5
‘For Those About to Fight…We Salute You’
From: ‘The Garage’ in Islington, London, England
Date: January 27th, 2013
Run Time: 1:55:53 (Demand PROGRESS)
WITH SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Hamilton for some of the research that I did while working on this review. (http://www.backbodydrop.com)
*OPENING VIDEO: The first match that the opening video reveals is the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) taking on the Leaders of the New School (Zach Sabre Jr. and Marty Scurll). That should be a lot of fun…RJ Singh has an open challenge as well…finally, we get highlights of the title match from Chapter 4 to show how El Ligero won the title and then it’s revealed that Nathan Cruz has picked Dave Mastiff to face El Ligero, while El Ligero has selected the debuting Rampage Brown as the opponent for Nathan Cruz.
*GENERAL NOTES: We return to the scene of the first three shows but with what appears to be a different setup. You can’t see any monitors in the frame, but the lighting is absolutely awful. Will not make a fun review if I can’t see stuff that happens…EDIT AT MATCH 3: the lighting gets a bit better as the show goes on, but still not what I’d call great.
*Once again, either Smallman doesn’t have an opening welcome promo or we skip it on the show. Shame, really. As I said time and time again, I really enjoy those in the future Chapters.
*Match #1: Stixx (1-2 as a singles competitor) vs. Danny Garnell (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: Stixx is coming off a loss in the triple threat at Chapter 4, where he was pinned by Dave Mastiff. He had split a pair of matches against Lion Kid before that. Danny Garnell was not at Chapter 4. His most recent match was a loss in a tag match at Chapter 3 where he and Darrell Allen were defeated by the London Riots. In his only previous singles match, Garnell defeated Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 2.
The Why: I haven’t a damn clue here. Makes zero sense to me. If Jimmy *cough cough* Barnett mentions something on commentary, I’ll be sure to pass it along.
The Match: Before the match gets underway, Stixx lets everyone know that he, like Garnell, is originally from London but he moved away because London ‘is full of a bunch of pillocks’. Somewhere, William Regal smiles…opening bell goes here and gets a rousing ovation…Stixx impressed me in his last match against Lion Kid, but the first one was less then appealing. Garnell had a surprisingly good match with Havoc at Chapter 2…first topical reference from 2013 gets explained by Barnett and given the PROGRESS fan base, it’s no surprise that it makes light of a death. Highs and lows of these crowds…the ‘crowd counts the next number’ has run it’s course now but was still pretty fresh when this show happened…not the opening match you’d come to expect but technically proficient thus far…heavier shots finally start getting fired around the five minute mark. This is more what you’d expect from these two…first crowd expletive based chant at six and half minutes into match one. I would have had the under there…cravat with knee strikes and that’s more what I expect from this match then the opening five minutes where they basically stayed on the mat. Not saying they can’t do it, but not what you expect or want to see with two guys this size. You expect more ‘Hoss Fight’ here…Garnell busts out a nice looking Northern Lights for two…slingshot neck snap by Stixx. That was new and very nice looking. Also not what you’d expected from a guy who’s probably closer to two fifty then two hundred…I’ve never seen a crowd response so favorably towards exploder suplexes. It doesn’t happen but the crowd was ready to, pardon the pun, explode for it…Stixx gets two with a Black Hole Slam. Which I think was the move that did pin Lion Kid at Chapter 3…I don’t mean this is a terribly negative way, but this match has been pretty long for an opener…Garnell goes for a tornado DDT off the second buckle, but Stixx is able to counter. A series of reversals leads to Garnell attempting that same tornado DDT a second time and this time hitting it, which gives him the pinfall at 14:52…technically proficient, sure. But not especially enthralling. The match had it’s moments where I went ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’, but to me, it seems like it may have been a mistake having these two go this long in the opener. Closer to the first Lion Kid match then the second for Stixx and Garnell looks like just another guy here. Call it AVERAGE and mildly disappointing at that. (AVERAGE)
*Match #2: ‘Natural Progression’ Quarterfinal: Lord Jonathan Windsor (debut) vs. ‘Wild Boar’ Mike Hitchman (0-1 as a singles)
The Who: Lord Jonathan Windsor debuts here, looking like a very British Chuck Taylor. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not. Anyway, he appears to have a Blue Bloods gimmick a la 1995 WCW Bobby Eaton or William Regal. Mike Hitchman we saw before when he challenged Mark Andrews for the BWC Starlo Scholarship. He was unsuccessful in that match but he and Andrews had a barnburner. Happy to see Hitchman back for another opportunity.
The Why: Speaking of Mark Andrews, he advanced to the semifinals at Chapter 4. This is the second of the four quarterfinal matches. The winner of which will join Andrews in the semifinals and maybe face him. No release on the brackets to my knowledge.
The Match: Hitchman is now on WWE TV as part of NXT UK, but if you didn’t know it was the same guy, you’d never be able to tell. He looks so different here…opening bell goes and Windsor takes time to fold his robe…Barnett points out there’s nothing wrong with a Blue Blood gimmick as in twenty years time, you could be married to Jim Smallman’s daughter and own part of PROGRESS. Okay, that drew a legit chuckle from me…not sure if Windsor is big or Hitchman is just really small even by Indy standards…Hitchman gets tired of Windsor’s stalling and it leads to a DDT on the apron. Not sure that’s a spot I’d use in match two, but okay then…we go to the crowd brawling in the second match as well. It’s like an ECW show broke out…Windsor seems more concerned about posing then wrestling. I get that you are new, but this is a company that prides itself on ring work…fans seems to remember the Package Piledriver that Hitchman used against Andrews because they respond every time he goes for. So far, Windsor has had the counter, but one feels that won’t be the case forever…Hitchman once again goes the for the Package PD, but Windsor counters with a backdrop over. Hitchman hooks the legs on the landing and goes for the sunset flip, but Windsor sits out with a deep cradle and that’ll be a three count at 11:24…can definitely say I don’t agree with the who won here. Hitchman had a cracker against Andrews in his first appearance and if the winner of this match was to get Andrews in the semis, I’ve had loved to see them run it back. Windsor did absolutely nothing for me as the gimmick is just basically cheap heat and there’s not a lot of steak to go with the sizzle. Call this BELOW AVERAGE and it’s two matches, two misses thus far for PROGRESS Chapter 5. (BELOW AVERAGE)
*Match #3: Nathan Cruz (3-1 as a singles) vs. Rampage Brown (debut)
The Who: Nathan Cruz is the former champion, looking for a bit of redemption against the handpicked opponent of the new champion. One could argue that Cruz has been the guy who has meant the most to the company thus far, so seeing him in match three on the night is kind of odd. Rampage Brown makes his debut here. I don’t know much about him other then he had a brief run with NXT in the US before going back over to the UK and a run with WCPW in the UK as well.
The Why: Discussed it earlier but to reiterate, it’s part of the ‘pick your poison’ series with Cruz and Ligero picking each other’s opponents for the evening.
The Match: Before the match, Cruz announces that he has hired a bodyguard to deal with his Marty Scurll problem named Fug. We don’t see him yet, but Cruz claims he’s seven feet tall and two hundred and eighty pounds. That would be a very skinny bodyguard…the chyron for Cruz has him listed at 3-2. I’m guessing there are including the tag loss from Chapter 3, which I do not in singles competition. If you guys would like, I can keep a running archive of records at the bottom of the reviews going forward. Let me know what you think and I’ll add it in the future if so requested…second expletive based chant of the night encourages Rampage to ‘fuck him up’…opening bell goes here…Rampage is well put together. It’s easy to see why he got a developmental deal with the WWE…for a bigger guy, Rampage is pretty adept on the mat. Cruz tries a sunset flip off the second turnbuckle, but Rampage is able to roll through and escape into a Crossface. Thankfully, no Chris Benoit chants follow this time…think the sound may be a little off on this Chapter from a technical aspect. Spinal Tap kick sound happens shortly after the kick occurs…Rampage dumps Cruz to the floor with a back suplex and the around ringside brawling commences where Cruz surprisingly gets the advantage…for as much crap as the PROGRESS fans give him, Cruz is one of the smoother guys on the roster. He wrestles like a wrestler, not just a guy trying to string things together in the attempt to tell a story…Cruz has gotten a good portion of this match. A bit of a surprise given that it is Rampage’s debut but with Cruz being the former champion, it’s also understandable…sliding dropkick gets a series of two counts. Standard basement dropkick, not the sliding kick he pinned both Ligero and Colossus Kennedy with back at Chapter 1…ugh, headbutts. So not a fan of those…huge back body drop by Rampage. Looked really good despite the slight delay going to it…Rampage looked for a powerbomb but Cruz got out into a chestblower. Cruz looks to follow up and gets countered into a good looking series of powerbombs, first standard and then sit out for a very close two…Cruz hits Show-Stolen and much like Ligero did at Chapter 4, Rampage kicks out. It also gives our first ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant of the night…Rampage catches a Falcon Arrow and looks to have the cover but doesn’t want it. That drives me nuts! 2 Cold Scorpio used to do that shit all the time and it’s stupid to me. The point is to win the match…Rampage then catches the Crossface a third time but Cruz finds his way to the ropes and then to the apron. Rampage tries to suplex Cruz back in, but Cruz lands on his feet and a O’Connor Roll with a hook of both the ropes and the tights gives Cruz the win at 15:27…that was more like it, PROGRESS. Very well contested match from the standard bearer of the company and a new guy who got a definite opportunity to shine. Cruz may pick up the win here, but the way he picks up the win is the story as it keeps Rampage looking good going forward for when he comes back. Rampage definitely impressed in what was I believe my first time seeing him and I look forward to seeing more, assuming he can curb the 2 Cold Scorpio aspect of not wanting the pinfall. Cruz bounces back nicely from the Staff loss and one assumes sets himself back up into title contention. GOOD match between these two here and finally something worth the time on the show. (GOOD)
*Post-match: We see Fug help Cruz to the back. He’s not nearly what Cruz claimed him to be. 6’8-6’9 maybe. The two hundred eighty pounds may be accurate though.
*Match #4: ‘PROGRESS Championship Staff’ – El Ligero © (3-1 as a singles competitor) vs. Dave Mastiff (1-0 as a singles competitor)
The Who: El Ligero has just won the Staff at Chapter 4 as we established above. In doing so, he also got revenge on the only man to have pinned him thus far, as it was Cruz who eliminated Ligero from the four way at Chapter 1. Dave Mastiff has had two matches and two victories thus far in PROGRESS. A tag match at Chapter 3, where teaming with the now departed Greg Burridge, he pinned the then champion Nathan Cruz. Mastiff won a three way at Chapter 4, pinning Stixx after Cruz got involved in taking Marty Scurll out of the match
The Why: Two parts here. One, obviously, is that it’s for the PROGRESS Championship (Nazi) Staff. Second, it’s the second bout in the ‘pick your poison’ series for Cruz and Ligero, as Mastiff is Cruz’s handpicked challenge for the title.
The Match: It occurs to me that this is the fourth match and we’ve yet to see an inset promo on this show. They just vanished into a void of non-existence…hot start as once Ligero is introduced, he shotgun dropkicks Mastiff to the floor and follows out with a tope con hilo…Ligero goes for the guillotine early but Mastiff quickly escapes…once again, the PROGRESS fans encourage a good “Fing” up, this time in support of Mastiff…Mastiff counters a frankensteiner attempt into a powerbomb try but Ligero escapes into a second attempt at the guillotine. It’s about as successful as the first attempt…Barnett says that he described Ligero to an American friend as a mix of the ‘best of El Generico and the best of LowKi’. Not sure I agree that he’s at Generico’s level, but the point is understandable…wrecking ball dropkick by Ligero and he buries Mastiff under a pile a chairs, going for the count-out. Mastiff up at six and Ligero tries another dropkick, only to get flung wheelbarrow style into the ring post…stalling delayed vertical suplex by Mastiff goes for a full minute goes Mastiff brings down Ligero. Impressive in length but to be fair, El Ligero weighs like a third of what Mastiff does…Mastiff goes for a second but Ligero escapes into a rollup for two. Looked good…sound is definitely slightly off on this stream…sleeper (I think?) variation…out to the floor again, but only long enough for Mastiff to pitch Ligero back in. Smart. Can’t win the Staff by count-out. Wish more people would do that instead of letting opponents take the count…Mastiff goes for a Buckle Bomb but once again gets caught in the guillotine. Mastiff counters by putting Ligero on the top rope. The guillotine isn’t working, but bless his heart, he keeps trying…absolutely hate that corner hanging double stomp. Almost always looks so contrived no matter who is doing it…shotgun dropkick by Ligero is no sold and Mastiff hits one of his own, followed by a dead lift German to put Ligero on the floor again…Ligero finally gets the guillotine in with both guys on the floor and rolls back into the ring to try to take a count-out win. Mastiff breaks the count just before the ten…Ligero goes for the C4L but Mastiff stops him and gets a running Liger Bomb for a close two count and the second ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…Into The Void (corner cannonball) misses and Ligero goes up, leaping into a sixth attempt at the guillotine. This time, Mastiff flings Ligero overhead with a belly2belly variation. Mastiff tries to follow up with another Liger Bomb, but Ligero counters back into the guillotine. Mastiff tries to power out once but collapses and it’s a KO victory for the champion at 18:18…solid big match vs. little man contest but to be frank, nothing special here. A couple cool moves and a very impressive bit of dogged determination from El Ligero but if I’m being honest, I never bought that Mastiff was going to take the title from Ligero. Ligero’s deal with Cruz isn’t over and Mastiff hasn’t been around long enough to really establish much of a name for himself in PROGRESS. The fans kinda responded the same way I did as they got involved in the match here and there, but never for any significant portion of time. The match itself was GOOD due to the efforts of both men, but not must see by any stretch of the imagination. (GOOD)
*Match #5: RJ Singh (2-0-1) vs. ‘Dazzling’ Darrell Allen (0-1-1)
The Who: RJ Singh comes in off consecutive victories, beating Paul Robinson and Rob Cage at Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The draw is a no decision in a three way where El Ligero pinned Greg Burridge to become number one contender at Chapter 2. Darrell Allen is looking for his first victory here in PROGRESS as not only does he have the 0-1-1 singles record (tapped by Noam Dar (Chp2), no decision in three way where Xander Cooper pinned Zack Gibson (Chp1)), he was on the losing side of a tag match at Chapter 3 as well and completely left off Chapter 4.
The Why: This one I have an answer for as well. It is an RJ Singh ‘Bollywood’ Open Challenge here. Adding to the intrigue of this open challenge is info that Jim Smallman gives us before the match during introductions that these guys are usually a tag team known as the Bhangra Knights.
The Match: Pre-match, Singh reads Allen the riot act, stating that they promised to stay out of each other’s way in PROGRESS and that while Singh has thrived, Allen has been something of a loser. Allen says in his (Allen’s) hometown of London, why don’t we find out if Singh really is King (which has been RJ’s catchphrase during this PROGRESS run)…bell goes and we’re underway…Singh has the edge early but it is pretty evenly matched…this is going to come down to a classic story of aerial vs. technical. Allen is more of a flyer whereas RJ likes to stay on the match…Director and Boudica again get on the apron, but Singh tells them to get down once again. I thought that pairing dissolved at Chapter 4…Boudica and Director do find themselves ejected and in a moment that’ll make Vince smile, the ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ song accompanies them doing so…springboard kick to the midsection. Called an enzugiri. It wasn’t, but I don’t know what the technical name is…Singh catches Allen with a version of the Tyebreaker that gets two (fireman’s carry into spinning facebuster over the knee). It looked good…this may not be the most PC thing to say but every time Allen takes a big bump, it looks like he’s trying to fellate himself…crowd very wittily chants ‘This is Bhangra’ instead of ‘This is PROGRESS’. Dug that…Singh loads up for a superkick, preceding it with a ‘I’m sorry. I love you’. The crowd and Barnett pop. The move is countered but the thought that counts…Allen up top and distracted by Boudica and Director on stage. Singh pulls Allen up the top and hits Widow’s Peak. Singh looks to apply the ‘Ethnic Submission’ (Camel Clutch, obviously) but Allen is able to pull Singh forward and trap him in a cradle for the three count at 9:56…alright, so I had some doubts. Singh has been pretty basic up to this point. Allen had a good performance in the triple threat at Chapter 1 but both he and Garnell were kind of just there for the match with the London Riots. With all that being said, it actually turned into a pretty nice little match here. There was a good amount of action thrown in with the story that they told and most importantly to me, I like that the story actually played into the finish with Allen knowing the ‘Ethnic Submission’ and having a counter planned. Call this one a GOOD showing for both guys and the best match on the card thus far, in my opinion. (GOOD)
*Post-match: Singh offers the handshake and instead, he and Allen hug it out. Shah Boudica takes not kindly to this and attacks Allen from behind. Singh pulls Boudica off of Allen twice, before Boudica slaps Singh in the face. Allen then superkicks Boudica in the back of the head. Allen and Singh then team up as a Samoan Drop-Blockbuster combination (called the Bhangra Buster, but for point of reference look for Cryme Tyme’s G-9) and looks like the Bhangra Knights will be a thing going forward in the tag division….as the Bhangra Knights are making their way to the back, the London Riots make their entrance, so me thinks that may play a factor in a future Chapter.
*Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) (3-0 as a team) vs. Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.) (Debut as a team)
The Who: London Riots are clearly the class of the PROGRESS tag division thus far. Wins over the Bastard Squad (probably done now that Allen is back with Singh), the Hunter Brothers and the Velocity Vipers (shame about Esmail’s leg) have led them to here, a main event level match. Leaders of the New School make their debut as a team here for PROGRESS, but it will not be my first time seeing them as a team. I remember getting into the European wrestling scene by watching wXw out of Germany and Scurll and Sabre Jr. were the wXw Tag Team champions for a while there. Scurll has been one of the biggest stars of PROGRESS thus far and in my opinion, Scurll vs. Sabre Jr. from Chapter 1 remains the best match in PROGRESS history to this point.
The Why: London Riots wanted competition, Jim Smallman decided to give them competition in the form of what many at the time considered to be the best tag team in Europe. Pretty straight forward here.
The Match: As per the usual, if I screw up Davis and Lynch, I apologize. They have stuck with the singlet and bikers gear, so once again, I should be okay…aw, Chris Roberts just got his first kiss. It was from Marty Scurll, but it still counts!…Davis is the one in the singlet. Now I know. Thanks Smallman, er, Barnett…Barnett lets us know that the Chapter 1 match between the Leaders was voted best match in Britain in 2012. That’s fair…Scurll spits his gum at Lynch. Well, with no Noam Dar on this show, someone had to be unhygienic…has that sit out butt drop worked for another then Rikishi in the last decade?…a little Poetry in Motion by the Leaders and then Scurll uses Sabre Jr. as a weapon to take out both Riots…off to an insane pace. Shit ton of action and we’re not even four minutes in yet…Scurll with a running bitch slap to Davis. Davis responds with a STIFF running body block. Don’t think he appreciated the slap…everything Sabre Jr. does is so fluid. With as many huge Indy names that ended up in NXT, I am stunned that Zach never got a shot there. I know he had a set of Japanese commitments, between NOAH and NJPW, but what could have been…believe the word to describe Sabre would be lanky. But he makes the most of it…apparently, I owe Rob Lynch and James Davis an apology. My Chapter 3 review got posted as I’m typing this and I apparently called them the Riot Squad during the course of that. They were facing the Bastard Squad and I just joined the names for a common WWE name. My bad…Lynch just knocks Sabre weak kneed with a forearm. Good lord…we’ve settled into a bit of tag formula here but as I’ve said before, it’s a formula because it works. Riots are hated and Leaders are loved. What better way to do this then to keep a member of the Leaders isolated and get the crowd to rally behind him…despite a pretty good experience gap, Riots are looking good in this match. Part of it is a master class from Sabre and Scurll as babyfaces, but Riots are more then holding their weight…I really hope Sabre Jr. is around more in PROGRESS in 2013. That war he had with Scurll at Chapter 1 was his only match for 2012. It would definitely make these reviews more fun to get to see more of the wizardry that Sabre possesses…tag finally made and Scurll comes in a house of fire…Scurll gets the Cesaro apron superplex that gets broken up by a bloody nosed Rob Lynch. A kick from Sabre caught him flush before the hot tag…gamengiri by Sabre Jr. into a DVD by Scurll gets two with another save by Lynch. It looked good…pop-up spear by the Riots and it looked really good. Last second save by Scurll…Riots look for the ‘District Line’ powerbomb but Sabre is able to get out and he chuffing loves putting people in cross-armbreakers. It’s broken up by getting Scurll powerbomb’d onto him…everyone down after a series of strikes and the crowd hits our fourth ‘This is PROGRESS’ chant…saves are coming hot and heavy here. I like it to a point, but let’s not get to the line of overkill…Sabre nails Scurll with a kick by mistake and the Riots take advantage with a really good looking Doomsday Device which Sabre kicks out of at two. That would have made for a good finish…shortly thereafter, the ‘District Line’ powerbomb does land (looking a bit rough but the point was there) and James Davis pins Zach Sabre Jr. at 20:07…VERY GOOD but not to the level are the previous Scurll main event matches in PROGRESS. The biggest issue I have here in that while the Riots had a good heat segment on Sabre, it didn’t break down nearly as much as I expected it to in the finish. Speaking of the finish, it looked slightly blown as I think Lynch may have tried a neckbreaker for the ‘District Line’ or he just didn’t get far enough out of the way. The big thing here is that it definitely establishes the Riots as the team to beat in PROGRESS as they take down the Leaders relatively cleanly. (VERY GOOD)
Post-match: London Riots don’t attack after the match as has been their tradition, instead heading to the back. Probably to fix Rob Lynch’s nose. Jim Smallman gets on the mic and lets us know that the first match they’ll announce for Chapter 6 will be a rematch of Chapter 4 as the Riots will once again face the Hunter Brothers, this time in a weapons match. Seems like an odd time to announce this with Sabre Jr. still down in the ring, but the show must go on, I suppose. Scurll goes to get a bit of mic time as well, but the show fades before he speaks and that’s a wrap for Chapter 5.
Match #1: Danny Garnell pins Stixx, tornado DDT off second buckle @ 14:52 (AVERAGE)
Match #2: Lord Jonathan Windsor pins Mike Hitchman, sit-down on sunset flip @ 11:24 (BELOW AVERAGE)
Match #3: Nathan Cruz pins Rampage Brown, O’Connor Roll with hook of tights and ropes @ 15:27 (GOOD)
Match #4: PROGRESS Wrestling Staff- El Ligero © defeats Dave Mastiff by KO, guillotine choke @ 18:18 (GOOD)
Match #5: Darrell Allen pins RJ Singh, leverage pin out of ‘Ethnic Submission’ attempt @ 9:57 (GOOD)
Match #6: London Riots (James Davis/Rob Lynch) defeat Leaders of the New School (Marty Scurll/Zach Sabre Jr.), Davis pins Sabre Jr. after the ‘District Line’ powerbomb @ 20:07 (VERY GOOD)
FINAL SHOW THOUGHTS
It picks up quite a bit at the end, so I can’t call it the worst of the five shows thus far. That being said, it’s definitely not mandatory viewing either. The issue that I find myself with is that I know what PROGRESS is capable of as it goes forward. When you go back and watch these formative shows, you can see moments of potential. But that’s all they are usually at this time frame. Just moments. Top to bottom, none of these shows have delivered a knock out show. Try to find the semi main and main event if you have a chance, but the rest is watch at your convenience. Except for the Windsor and Hitchman match. Do yourself a favor and skip that.
Where does this leave us? It leaves me a little disappointed, but that’s what happens when expectations are set so high. It leaves you hopefully wanting to come back as we take the next step in this journey with Chapter 6. In addition, it leaves me still hungry. I wonder if I could work out a ‘burgers per review’ deal around here.
THE FINAL REACTION
Best Match/Moment: Despite the fact that I gave the main event a higher rating, I going to give this honor to the RJ Singh and Darrell Allen match. The match itself is a good mix of comedy and ring work. The post match is where the money is as the fans go crazy for the Bhangra Knights reunion.
Worst match/moment: Feels like I’m beating a dead horse, but Mike Hitchman and Lord Jonathan Windsor can be classified as nothing less then a disappointment. The blueblood gimmick has potential, but in a company like this, you need to be able to back it up in the ring. Windsor simply did not.
MVP: Going to give this as co-MVPs again and I’m going to give it to James Davis and Rob Lynch for a star making performance in the main event as the London Riots prove they are the class of the PROGRESS tag team division.
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10.0
Until next time: “This Is PROGRESS” and that’s “What I Watched”. Up next is Chapter 6: “We <3 Violence” And make sure you guys check out the Raw Reaction every Monday night at 11:30 PM (EST) to hear Tony Acero, Andrew Balaz and myself break down the important news and cover Monday Night Raw over on the Chairshot Radio Network.
Doctor’s Orders: Ranking The Greatest Matches and Rivalries in NXT Takeover History
Objectively subjectifying all-time greatness on NXT’s premiere stage, Takeover. See what matches are on the list!
The Doctor is in as Chad Matthews updates his list of greatest WWE NXT Takeover matches and rivalries with a look at two of the very best, from different NXT eras.
Attempting to contextualize greatness in pro wrestling is a fascinating exercise, a much more multi-faceted conversation than it is often given credit for. To some in the business, for instance, Rock vs. Cena is the greatest match of all-time because it set the pay-per-view buy mark, while others would say the greatest match is Austin vs. Bret because of the exemplary storytelling. Why should greatness be limited to a plethora “one or the other” positions (best vs. most popular or anything of the sort)? Such has been my stance during this entire decade (see The Greatest Matches and Rivalries of the WrestleMania Era), tackling the process of adding measures of objectivity to a topic deemed completely and utterly subjective and attempting to broaden the way that we have these discussions. I can also apply that to NXT.
Greatness has become regularly associated with NXT. I am personally enamored with what the yellow brand has accomplished over the past few years, with the Takeover franchise especially. The reputation that Takeover has built should astound any diehard WWE fan who, at times during the WrestleMania Era, may have felt like Vince and Co. unnecessarily (and oddly) put a critical ceiling on its in-ring product. Bold statement: Takeover has, based purely on what happens from bell-to-bell, produced nearly as many bonafide classic wrestling matches as WrestleMania in just five years of existence. Think about that for a moment, because it was with that idea in mind that I started asking, “What’s the greatest in NXT history?”
My second book (referenced above) was published last summer and in it I crafted a detailed formula to thoroughly assess the various aspects that shape how fans and pundits use the term “greatest.” Turning my attention to NXT, I took that formula and tweaked it to fit Takeover. On a 1-5 star scale, appropriately, I graded the best match in each of the top rivalries in NXT history, picked from a pool of consensus classics, on the psychology, storytelling, selling, execution, and climax of their in-ring performances, their historic ramifications on NXT lore, the setting (as defined by a pre-made scale for crowd size), the strength of their pre-match build-up, and the rating given by Dave Meltzer to account for popular opinion, as well as a few additional points (not on a scale of 1-5, mind you) for any intangible qualities (i.e. a special entrance, an innovative move or sequence never before seen, a rivalry-befitting gimmick, etc.). The sum total of the scoring yields the rivalry’s standing, which will be continuously updated as this long-term process advances.
Today’s entries grow the list from fourteen to sixteen matches, which have been selected at random throughout this project’s history dating back to last fall. Here are the rankings ahead of today’s additions (the links will take you to the objectively subjective breakdown of each match):
#1- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#2- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#3- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#4- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#5- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#6- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#7- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#8- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#9- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#10- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#11- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#12- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#13- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#14- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Johnny Gargano for the NXT Championship at Takeover: Philadelphia
Psychology: 5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 5 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 5 / Popular Opinion: 5 / Build: 4.5 / Intangibles: +4
Total Score: 48.0
There have been very few matches in WWE history that have found me clapping while watching them in replay, and Cien vs. Johnny Wrestling from Philly is one of them. Hand to heart, I am unsure that there has ever been a better performance in WWE, which is partly what makes the added dynamic of including NXT lore when historically ranking matches throughout the WrestleMania Era so challenging and simultaneously so fascinating. The depth of storytelling and the instances when believably this match could have been over but somehow was not is virtually unmatched in mainstream North American wrestling over the past thirty plus years. Gargano and Almas judged everything picture-perfectly, selling their butts off, adding layers of psychology as they reached an utterly captivating climax, and drawing every ounce of intrigue out of the in-ring chemistry that they first prominently put on display against each other at Takever: Brooklyn III.
Gargano vs. Andrade is truly one of the greats as “epic” matches go, and the Philadelphia match certainly fits the profile of the genre (an “epic match”) that I have been quietly working on popularizing in the IWC, offered up to properly label a lengthy main-event style performance that builds to crescendo after crescendo and features finisher kick-outs as one of its primary hope spot wells to tap. I have been critical of the over-use of it, as many of its staples have trickled down to ten minute mid-card matches, and I do believe that epics, like Cena vs. Styles for example, are suffering from a distinct lack of rewatchability because of how ardently they cling to bout-ending signature offense, but Cien vs. Johnny is not to be lumped in with such over-done peers because it is smarter, more intricate, better executed, and expertly paced, its gaps in action replaced with the outstanding managerial act of Zelina Vega (and the eventual cameo by Candice Wrestling).
I believe it was a truly remarkable achievement. Maybe Banks vs. Bayley, Gargano vs. Ciampa, or Gargano vs. Adam Cole beats it in the scoring system, but even if one of them or another Takeover match in the pipeline down the road unseats it, I think it is going to be a long time before something removes it from the pedestal of what yours truly would call the finest match in Takeover history. Aesthetically, athletically, psychologically, I just struggle to see how anyone could really argue that another match was better. I was fortunate enough to see them wrestle one of their prequels in Brooklyn, and that was one of the four or five best mid-card type bouts in Takeover lore too, so when you combine that match with what happened in Philly – of the nine scoring categories here, their NXT Title match scored a 5 in seven of them – you have an all-time great.
You know, it is funny that Dave Meltzer awarded the Takeover: Philadelphia match the first “5-star” rating for a WWE match since Punk vs. Cena in Chicago, and if you watch any of New Japan Pro Wrestling and know of Meltzer’s fascination with it, you can appreciate why. Almas vs. Gargano was an NJPW match in an NXT ring with WWE production value. If in the coming years, a main-event of that style and caliber is featured on Summerslam or eventually works it way to the WrestleMania headlining position, I think we may have Gargano vs. Almas to thank for it.
Neville vs. Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship at Takeover: R-Evolution
Psychology: 4.5 / Historic: 4.5 / Setting: 3 / Storytelling: 5 / Selling: 5 / Climax: 5 / Execution: 4.5 / Popular Opinion: 4.75 / Build: 5 / Intangibles: +3
Total Score: 44.25
While in the beginning of this process, it seemed probable that Cien Almas vs. Johnny Wrestling had a shot at topping this match to advance ever closer to the #1 spot, what seemed assured from the out-set was that Zayn vs. Neville would rate among the premiere title matches in NXT lore because, in terms of storytelling, there may still have never been a championship bout that possesses the same sense of urgency or the same sense of occasion.
Here you had Neville, a bit shy of a year-long reigning as NXT Champion (who held the title during the promotion’s rise to WWE Network prominence) and possessing one of the most amazing offensive arsenals in pro wrestling’s entire history, coming up against Zayn, arguably the quintessential example of how legends are capable of being made in NXT. No matter what happens elsewhere within the Titan ranks, Zayn will be someone revered by any who watched what he did in NXT from 2014 to 2016.
One of the greatest things that NXT brings to the table is how wrestlers, as personalities, are characters first, their labels (or face-heel dichotomies) rather arbitrary by comparison. Neville strayed a bit more toward a black and white personic construct during the match, but he was clearly pushed toward the line that Zayn managed to straddle a bit better and showed glimpses of the viciousness and single-mindedness (toward winning) that made his run on 205 Live so engaging to purple brand followers in 2017; it was Zayn who was truly marvelous, though, displaying a depth of character so rarely seen from protagonists in WWE proper, and far more relatable for it, as evidenced by the incredibly raucous crowd support that he garnered in what was still ostensibly a babyface match. Zayn’s ability to connect on that deeper emotional level lifted this effort to pantheon status.
The end result – the total package from the storyline build-up to the hype video package to the atmosphere it generated to the bell-to-bell fight (and it felt like the fight that pro wrestling should be in the modern era main-event scene with the athletic potential of the combatants) – closed the first chapter in the history of NXT in the Network Era with a timeless classic destined for massive hindsight accolades in the near and distant future.
#1- Andrade vs. Gargano (48.0)
#2- Revival vs. #DIY (46.5)
#3- Neville vs. Zayn (44.25)
#4- Bate vs. Dunne (43.5)
#5- Ricochet vs. Cole (43.0)
#6- Undisputed Era vs. Mustache Mountain (42.25)
#7- Dream vs. Ricochet (42.0)
#8- War Games 2018 (41.5)
#9- Nakamura vs. Zayn (41.0)
#10- Asuka vs. Moon (40.75)
#11- #DIY vs. AOP (39.75)
#12- Dream vs. Black (39.5)
#13- Balor vs. Joe (39.0)
#14- Owens vs. Balor (38.75)
#15- Almas vs. McIntyre (36.0)
#16- Four Horsewomen-Way (33.75)
If you want to discuss NXT or other wrestling matters with Doc, follow and tweet @TheDocLOP !
Check out the latest episode of The Doc Says podcast, featuring a review of NXT Takeover 25!