Progress Wrestling’s Hello Wembley – A Personal Perspective

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Sunday September 30 will be a day that goes down not only in Progress Wrestling history but UK wrestling history.

For the first time in nearly 30 years wrestling was being held at the hallowed Wembley Arena in London, and for the first time ever Wembley Arena officials had asked a wrestling promotion to run an event there. Yes you read that right, Progress were ASKED by a venue, one of the most iconic venues in the world, to hold a show. High praise indeed.

Yes some big names like Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll and Zack Sabre Jr were unable to attend due to prior commitments with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but that didn’t stop the card from being stacked with some of the greatest talent this country has right now.

You want hard hitting? How about seeing Matt Riddle – appearing at his last independent wrestling show before joining NXT full time – versus former Progress Champion Mark Haskins?

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That not enough? Then try former CZW Tournament of Death Winner (and the longest reigning Progress champion in history) Jimmy Havoc taking on his former protege and criminally underrated Paul Robinson in a No DQ Grudge match?

You want a personal take with a year long build? Then how does the story of Eddie Dennis turning his back on his former best friend and tag team partner Mark Andrews grab you?

High stakes? Hello Wembley has you covered. Whether it’s the triple threat for the Progress Women’s Championship between the hottest young female talent in the UK Millie McKenzie versus former Women’s champion and current Mae Young Classic competitor Toni Storm versus current Women’s champion and possibly one of the purest heels around Jinny.

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Or there’s the complete madness of the Progress Tag Team Championship as EIGHT teams take part in the Thunderbastard match – Two teams begins and every two minutes another team enters. Pinfalls, submissions, count outs and DQ’s can eliminate teams, and the last team standing are crowned the champions.

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And then there’s the main event. Former WWE UK Champion Tyler Bate in his biggest ever match in Progress takes on a man twice his size and who holds the most devastating chop in wrestling today…..Progress Champion WALTER.

And I was there in Wembley Arena witnessing history take place in front of my very eyes, and this is my brief review of an historic event – I apologise folks but I was too busy engrossed in the atmosphere to take proper notes.

Progress Wrestling
Chapter 76 – Hello Wembley
Match One – Mark Haskins v Matt Riddle

The stories heading into this match was that this was indeed Riddle’s last indy show, but more importantly was the story that Haskins wasn’t playing second fiddle to anyone and was more than pissed that he was being over looked in the build up.

And that animosity translated into the match, as this was a very stiff opening contest. Whether it was striking, grappling or holds, both men did not hold back.

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For a brief moment it looked like Riddle was going out on top when he had Haskins up for his “Bro 2 Sleep” finisher but Haskins escaped and got the muchly deserved win.

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A great physical start to the show and a fantastic send off to the NXT bound Riddle from the Wembley crowd.

Winner – Mark Haskins

Match Two – Progress Women’s Championship
Millie McKenzie v Toni Storm v Jinny (c)

I was looking forward to seeing Millie live for the first time, she has a reputation already and she’s only 18! And boy she didn’t disappoint. Throwing suplexes like they were going out of fashion, she really does look like she has the world at her feet.

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Toni Storm was her usual hard hitting strong style self too, and Jinny? She was doing what she does best….being devious!

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The middle of the match looked muddled from my vantage point, like all three women forgot what to do and when to do it, but they pulled it back at the finish, where Laura Di Matteo (Jinny’s former assistant) shocked the crowd by turning against her friends CandyFloss, Millie and Toni and sided with Jinny by handing the win and the championship.

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A good match that like I said, dipped in the middle, but the shock turn worked and brought it back.

After the match finished Jordynne Grace came out from the back and laid waste to Jinny, Laura and the rest of the House Of Couture (Jinny’s Stable) to a huge ovation! With Toni and maybe a few others having less time to perform in Progress it makes sense to bring in Jordynne and possibly others to usher in a new era for the Women’s division.

Winner – And STILLLL Progress Women’s Champion, Jinny

Match Three – Progress Atlas Title
Trent Seven v Doug Williams (c)

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There’s a reason why I didn’t put this match in my intro, it’s because this match felt personal.

I’ve been a fan of Doug’s for over 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him and the guy is an absolute gentleman. But this match was not only for the Atlas championship, Doug’s career was on the line too.

Now I have a more in-depth article about this match later next week so I won’t go into detail here but I will say that this match divided the fans, but again I’ll talk more about this soon.

The match itself was great, my wife saw Doug’s Chaos Theory finisher, and Trent did some of his usual comedy style wrestling too.

But this match will be forever remembered for the emotional ending and the amazing tribute the entire Progress roster did for the most important British wrestler in the last 20 years.

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Winner – And NEWWWW Progress Atlas Champion, Trent Seven

Match Four – No DQ Grudge Match Jimmy Havoc v Paul Robinson

If the above video for this didn’t get your blood pumping then you are a robot! This match lived up to the hype and then some!

The Will Ospreay/Jimmy Havoc war that we saw in the previous chapter was meant to take place here at Hello Wembley but as we all know Will’s NJPW contract meant he had to miss this show. And to be fair, this match hooked me more than the Will match. I’m a sucker for good storytelling!

Also this match was brutal! Staple guns, frying pans, light tubes, even bloody doors were used in this all out war!

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Jimmy ditched his usual attire for the biggest show in Progress’s history and donned all white face and body paint, sans two black triangles under his eyes. And you know what they say, white really does bring out the colour of blood!

If death-match wrestling is your thing, or even if it isn’t but you love a good story, then please go out of your way to watch this match. I can’t rate this highly enough.

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As you can imagine, both men tore each other to shreds, and in the case of Paul Robinson’s back quite literally. Paul nearly had the match won when he hit his curb stomp finisher on Havoc’s head into a pile of drawing pins, but Jimmy survived and decided to hit a stomp of his own onto Robbo’s head onto four light tubes that were bound together to get the decisive victory.

Winner – Jimmy Havoc

My wife, whose not one to watch most of Havoc’s matches, stood up and applauded at the end of the match to show her appreciation to both competitors. High praise indeed there folks!

With that it was interval time, and off I went with the wife to grab some merch, a few extremely overpriced drinks and a chat with fellow Progress fans (or Ultras as we’re called) to discuss what we had just witnessed.

One thing that kept cropping up in the conversations was that each and every match on this card could have been a main event anywhere else in the world. Just shows how big this show is having eight main matches on one card.

The interval overran quite a bit due to the fact that the mess of the last match took longer than expected to clear! But never mind, the second half of the show is now!

Match Five – Thunderbastard Tag Team Title Match
Sexy Starr v Mills & Mayhew v Anti-Fun Police, Grizzled Young Veterans v Calamari Thatch Kings v Aussie Open v The 198 v Flamita & Bandido (c)

This had all the making of a huge clusterfuck of a match, but myself and the 4749 others in attendance were totally engrossed and loved every minute. Sure there were a few minor mistakes both in the ring and production side but damn if that wasn’t a great fun match!

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I’m not going to run through the ins and outs of this entire match, it would take waaaay too long. All I’m going to say is that seeing Flamita and Bandido live blew my mind. They are an amazing duo, they reminded me of Pentagon Jr and Fenix but from a few years ago, before they hit the big time. Trust me I’m expecting big things from these two.

As you can imagine this match was littered with spots galore but they weren’t in the match for spots sake, they all made sense. Congrats to all involved for making that happen in amongst the chaos. My faves were Los Federales Santos Jr’s no fun guns, Bandido hitting a fall away slam onto Chief Deputy Dunne from the top turnbuckle….to the outside….and hitting every other competitor! One of the biggest pops of the night !

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The finish saw the young upstart team of Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher aka Aussie Open pinning former champions Zack Gibson and James Drake aka Grizzled Young Veterans to become Progress Tag Team Champions. And I admit, I almost got teary eyed again seeing this pic live and in person…..my emotions were all over the place thanks to Doug retiring!

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Winner – And NEWWWW Progress Tag Team Champions, Aussie Open

Match Six – “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne v UNBESIGEBAR Ilja Dragunov w/ Christian Michael Jakobi

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Billed as the biggest match in European history this contest fell a bit flat for me. I don’t know if it was because of the all out action we witnessed in the match before or if Pete’s injury (he didn’t appear at Fight Club Pro the night before and was seen walking around Wembley before the show with a very noticeable limp) stopped both men from performing to the best of their ability, but I just couldn’t get involved in this match.

That’s not to say that this was a dud of a match, anything from it as the action was very much in the strong style vein that Progress and wXw (Dragunov’s promotion in Germany).

And props must be given to Christian Michael Jakobi, as he gave a fantastic in-ring promo at the start of this match, much like Paul Heyman’s run as Brock Lesnar’s mouthpiece. I hope Jakobi is taking some much needed rest now as the day after Hello Wembley it was announced that he was stepping down from his duties at wXw. All of us here at Pro Wrestling Post wish him all the best.

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Back to the match – towards the finish of this match the pace and quality picked up, including a fantastic spot where both men were sat cross legged in the centre of the ring just exchanging the most brutal slaps across each others faces. Strong Style indeed.

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The match ended with Dunne locking in a triangle choke with added joint manipulation of Ilya’s fingers – as is his style – forcing the Czar to submit. A good match that could have been great if it weren’t for the injury to Dunne. I’m hoping for a rematch down the road.

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Winner – Pete Dunne

Match Seven – ‘The Pride Of Wales’ Eddie Dennis v ‘White Lightning’ Mark Andrews
TLC
Number One Contenders Match

Please tell me you watched the video above chronicling this rivalry? You did? Awesome! Now let me get into this match….

This was the match that hooked me the most. A year long story where I could see both sides of the argument. Storytelling at it’s peak.

It’s just a shame that this match will probably be remembered for the unbreakable tables that were used, as both men fought their hearts out in this match/fight. Four times tables were used, and it weren’t until Dennis performed a Neck Stop Driver onto Andrews from the top of the ladder through a table, that a table broke.

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But enough of those damn tables, this match was outstanding. The biggest night in English wrestling needed a big match, and both men delivered. The blood sweat and tears were real and by god did us fans realise it.

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That’s not to say that Eddie was in charge for the entire match, oh no. Andrews gave as good as he got and with a year’s worth of pent up aggression, it showed.

The finish came about from the above mentioned Neck Stop Driver/Table combo which allowed Eddie Dennis to climb back up the ladder and grab the contract.

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Now…..when’s Eddie going to use it? I’m hoping day three of Super Strong Style 16 next year….

Match Eight – Progress World Championship
Tyler Bate v WALTER (c)

The ‘Big Strong Boi’ versus the ‘Ring General’, and what a war ensued!

With Tyler accompanied to the ring by his British Strong Style teammates Pete Dunne and Trent Seven while WALTER came to the ring with his Ringkampf brethren Timothy Thatcher, and while I was waiting for all three to get involved, it never happened. It was a straight one on one pure match up.

This picture here shows the size difference between the two competitors, and many have compared it the famous Hogan and Andre scene from WrestleMania III. I’ll let you all decide…..

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With WALTER using his huge size and frame in the beginning parts of this match, many thought it was a foregone conclusion, but bit by bit, Tyler worked his way back.

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WALTER’S chops were counteracted by Bate’s amazing feats of strength. His airplane spin and deadlift German suplexes brought Wembley to it’s feet, and he even hit his Tyler Driver 97 finisher, but couldn’t put the champ away.

This match went over 30 minutes and it genuinely didn’t feel like it went that long, with ebbs and flows from both men. But WALTER finally picked up the win after an exhausting match, with a nasty looking piledriver to put Tyler away.

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The crowd rose to their feet as one to applaud both competitors in one of the matches of the year, and in my eyes, THE greatest match I have ever had the privilege of seeing live. An incredible story with an incredible match to boot.

Winner – And STILLLL Progress World Champion, WALTER

Blake’s Take

I’m so incredibly lucky to bare witness to the biggest show in Progress’s history. Yes there were some issues with the production aspect and communication, but it was the first time they had held an event of this magnitude, so I think they deserve some slack.

I had the greatest time there, even if a pint of lager cost £6.90 but even that didn’t put me off.

I was buzzing for a few days after, letting it all sink in. Then the event was put on DemandProgress.com and I had the satisfaction of watching once again in the comfort of my home, with a pint of lager that cost considerably less than Wembley’s 😉

If Progress never run anything as big as that event again, I will die a happy chappy. But then if they decided to do a Hell Wembley II…….Hmmmmm

All the fantastic photos used in this review were taken by the brilliant Rob Brazier. Please head on over and check his amazing work over on Facebook at The Head Drop, on Twitter at @RobBrazierPhoto and at TheHeadDrop.com Thanks once again Rob!