PREVIEW - Progress Wrestling at Wembley

With Progress abut to host one of the biggest independent wrestling shows in England for the past several decades (yes even eclipsing the Coventry Sky dome super shows put on by The Wrestling Channel) it seemed only right that we should take a look at this massive event from the iconic surroundings of Wembley Arena. This is indeed Progress, so let’s dive right into this huge show.

progress wembley preview 1The main event (although I’m not 100% sure if it’s necessarily what will actually headline the show) sees former WWE United Kingdom champion, as well as former NXT Tag champion Tyler Bate taking on the massive, hugely impressive ring general Walter. Although Zack Sabre Jr was prevented from taking up the title shot he won at Super Strong Style 16 in May due to his NJPW commitments, Tyler Bate is definitely a worthy challenger for the dominant Austrian champion. In many respects, with Bate getting injured during the SSS16, it seems like a great opportunity for a second chance, especially as Bate looked poised to go all the way in that tournament based on the reactions he was getting from the crowd at Alexandra Palace. It should be a superb encounter, but I have an odd feeling that Walter is going to retain, despite the (perhaps too) obvious potential story of Bate fighting from underneath to defeat his larger opponent. That said, I would love to see Bate get the win on that stage, he has more than earned a run on top of the Progress mountain.

progress wembley preview 2While the title match may be promoted as the actual main event, for me the real, true main event is the number one contender's match, fought under TLC rules between former tag team partners turned bitter enemies, "The Pride of Wales" Eddie Dennis and Mark "Mandrews" Andrews. Since turning on Andrews in shocking fashion (although depending on your point of view, you could argue he has a very, very valid point in terms of character motivation for attacking his former partner), Dennis has been on fire, cutting the best promos of his career on a regular basis. What I’ve enjoyed immensely is that his character doesn’t feel forced, it’s believable and that makes his size and aggression more believable. This feud may have always been designed to culminate at Wembley, but whether it would have been their first one-on-one meeting is not known, but perhaps the injury that put Dennis out for much of the year is a blessing in disguise for this particular story. This is even more so the case when you consider that Andrews had refused to fight his former friend, hoping to win him round. This match is going to be so heated, and so personal, and given the competitors involved likely very intense. Dennis vs Andrews is the match I suspect might steal the show, and even on a card that also features a deathmatch the TLC stipulation feels anything but overkill. Conventional logic would suggest that as Mandrews is ostensibly the babyface here, he would get the blow-off win especially with the title opportunity at stake. However, I am going to pick Dennis to get the deserved win and go on to face the champion.

progress wembley preview 3One of the most chaotic matches on this show is likely to be the tag team "Thunderbastard", which for the uninitiated is a kind of royal rumble-style bout, only this time with teams rather than individuals. CCK had a few issues with injuries, first to the very unlucky Kid Lykos who seems to have had terrible luck with injury issues in the past year, and then to Chris Brooke’s other CCK partner Jonathan Gresham, who was also injured, and with Travis Banks also on the shelf that has led to Brookes recruiting Timothy Thatcher, who is superb and is a great addition to this match. Former champions The Grizzled Young Veterans, Flamita and El Bandido, as well as The Anti Fun Police, Aussie Open, Mills and Mayhew and The 198 round out the field for what should be a fantastic, frantic affair. It’s a real toss-up in terms of who could leave with the belts but I’m going to go with Mills and Mayhew as the surprise underdog package, which feeds in nicely to the long-term story of the two young rookies attempting to make their mark.

progress wembley preview 4Doug Williams is undoubtedly one of the most legendary figures in British Wrestling over the past three decades. I recall first seeing him on Live TV for the long-defunct UWA, before he was a prominent figure in the FWA. In fact, he performed on the first wrestling show I attended some seventeen years ago this month. He wrestled on the Revival show in 2002 and later had a notable run in TNA. Williams had also wrestled many times for Progress dating right back to the early shows at The Garage in Highbury, and as such it is fitting that his career could come to an end here on the biggest stage possible. As Atlas champion, should he lose to Trent Seven, he will be forced to retire and I can think of nowhere more appropriate. Seven himself would be a nice choice to take the belt given his style and this should be a superb, hard-hitting affair between two of the best. Seven is likely the victor in this match and the new Atlas champion.

progress wembley preview 5Pete Dunne vs Ilja Dragunov is one of the more intriguing bouts on the Wembley show. To those who don’t know Dragunov I urge you to check out his work in WXW out of Germany where he has been tearing the house down in recent times. He is something of an unknown quantity to most, but those who have seen him work know he is a stellar performer destined for very big things. As for Dunne, well you’d have to be living under a rock as a wrestling fan not to know who "The Bruiserweight" is. The WWE United Kingdom champion for nearly 18 months, and one of the top stars in NXT (and surely the very top star in the fledgeling NXT UK promotion) he has had classic after classic over the past two years and is only getting better. This match, mostly built on bragging rights should be a real high point in the show, although if Dragunov is hanging around I would expect him to get the win, possibly through some shenanigans.

progress wembley preview 6Matt Riddle has been a consistent highlight on the independent scene in recent years, and with his signing for WWE as part of the NXT brand I expect huge things in the next few years from the former UFC fighter. That said, he is up against perhaps one of the most underrated wrestlers (and characters) on the independent scene anywhere in the world. Mark Haskins is a force to be reckoned with, and a great choice of opponent for Riddle before he heads off to WWE. I fully expect Haskins to have a point to prove, and these two are sure to put on an absolute barnburner. Haskins has always had the potential to go far, I recall seeing him work for Dragon Gate UK a good few years back, and he seemed like a potential star then but his work in the intervening years has been on a whole other level. I suspect Riddle takes the win, although I think Haskins would benefit massively from getting the rub of beating the former Atlas champion on his way out.

progress wembley preview 7Jinny defending her women’s title against former Progress champion, as well as her opponent from the Mae Young Classic this year, Toni Storm was already a match I was looking forward to. However, the addition of Millie McKenzie to this match means it could be the sleeper match of the night. Storm had some incredible title defences during her reign on top of the women’s division, and Jinny is a fantastic heel champion. However, the real X-factor here is McKenzie, who is not only one of the most physical performers on the UK scene but also the best pure babyface of any gender working in the UK currently. I could absolutely see McKenzie getting the feel-good win, but I suspect that with lots of fan-friendly wins on the night Jinny might be returning home with the gold intact.

progress wembley preview 8Finally, one of the most iconic figures in Progress’s history, Jimmy Havoc will have a rematch from one of the bloodiest brawls in company history, against Paul Robinson. The history between the two dates back many years and intertwines perfectly with both men’s history with Will Ospreay. Originally, this was scheduled to be Ospreay vs Havoc, but with NJPW once again pulling one of their top stars from an independent appearance, we got that match at the Electric Ballroom last month, with Robinson as the referee leading to him turning on Havoc and setting up this personal affair here. This will undoubtedly be an all-out war, expect blood, violence and classic Jimmy Havoc. It won’t be an easy watch, but it will certainly be a hot-blooded, battle fought under barbaric, savage rules.

So there you have it, the full line up for the main card of the biggest show in sometime in terms of British wrestling. It should be a superb night and a great event. Make sure you check out the other Progress related content on the site over the next few days, and we will also be recording some live coverage from the event at the beautiful Wembley arena. In the meantime, why not have a look at some of best coverage around of games, DVDs, Blu rays, cinema releases and much more, right here at Screenjabber.

Photos: Progress

Tom Mimnagh is Screenjabber's Wrestling Editor and a Contributing Writer to the site. He's a lover not a fighter (unless you’re having a pop at John Carpenter), a geek extraordinaire, raconteur and purveyor of fine silks. He also enjoyed Terminator Genisys more than the average person (as in, a bit), but don’t hold that against him.

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