Monday, 29 February 2016

Live Event Review: PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 26: Unknown Pleasures (Haskins vs. Scurll *PROGRESS Wrestling Championship*

On Valentine's Day 2016, PROGRESS Wrestling presented their first show in Manchester of the year, with Chapter 26: Unknown Pleasures taking place at O2 Ritz. The show featured Marty Scurll's first PROGRESS Wrestling Championship defense, as he put the belt up against Mark Haskins, a huge Four-Way Tag Team bout featuring The Origin's Dave Mastiff & Zack Gibson, Sweet Jesus, The Dazzler Team and the make-shift pairing of Big Damo & Joe Coffey and an Inter-Gender Tag Team match pitting "Flash" Morgan Webster and Pollyanna against The South Pacific Power Couple...but was it any good? Let's find out.

chapter 26: unknown pleasures match card

Match 1 - Four-Way Tag Team - The Origin (Gibson/Mastiff) vs. Sweet Jesus vs. The Dazzler Team vs. Big Damo & Joe Coffey

Match 2- Singles - Bubblegum vs. Jack Sexsmith

Match 3 - Inter-Gender Tag Team - The South Pacific Power Couple vs. "Flash" Morgan Webster & Pollyanna

Match 4 - Singles - Timothy Thatcher vs. Jack Gallagher

Match 5 - Singles - Mikey Whiplash vs. Rampage Brown

Match 6 - Singles - Tommy End vs. James Davis

Match 7 - PROGRESS Wrestling Championship - Mark Haskins vs. "The Villain" Marty Scurll (C)

jim smallman opens the show

Jim Smallman's introduction's to each Chapter at PROGRESS always end-up being some of my favourite part's of the show. Not just because it means that the long wait between doors opening to the start of the wrestling is almost over, but also because Smallman handles the crowd with ease, speaking in relatable language, telling jokes and making sure that the crowd is nice and loud for the action that is about to follow. This time around there was, of course, plenty of Valentine's Day based banter, as Smallman noted a number of couples in the audience, which the rest of us lonely singletons either saw as a ray of hope or just another reason to be miserable. But hey, wrestling.

the origin defeat sweet jesus, the dazzler team and big damo/joe coffey

Just as you'd expect the action was thick and fast in this one, with eight bodies in there this was always going to be a lot of fun. All the performers seemed very comfortable with their characters, and this lead to a strong character-driven narrative, as not only did the two heel teams take turn to cut off the ring and control the tempo with a babyface counterpart, but we also got to see Dave Mastiff and Zack Gibson rip the piss out of The Dazzler Team, before Earl Black Jr. tagged himself in. As a fan of character development and narrative I got as much of a kick out of this as I did for Joe Coffey's spinning butterfly suplex, the double suplex spot with Dave Mastiff and Big Damo or a Tope Conhilo from Chuck Mambo. 

After mostly slick action, I felt like the finish more than a little messy. After Black Jr. had been hit with a Discus Lariat from Coffey and a Running Senton by Damo, Coffey seemed to tease a dive to the outside then awkwardly climbed out to brawl with Allen. Damo, Mastiff, Eaver, Coffey, and Mambo then all had attempts at pinning Black Jr. with each breaking up the earlier man's pin to throw him to the outside, with the exception of Eaver as Black Jr. actually managed to kick out of that one. With Mambo taking a silly amount of time to go for his pin, he then got school-boyed by Zack Gibson to give The Origin the victory. The idea was okay, but poorly executed on the most part with a pace that didn't quite live up to what it needed to be to make it work. Throwing the need for a legal man out of the window also undid some of the story-telling that I had praised earlier on.

We do however have an interesting situation in the tag division now, as Mastiff and Gibson have managed to defeat a good percentage of the PROGRESS tag division in one match and their stablemates El Ligero and Nathan Cruz are the current PROGRESS Tag Team Championships. Big Damo & Joe Coffey turning heel after the match, destroying both The Dazzler Team and Sweet Jesus seemed to signal that we'd be seeing both men more regularly in PROGRESS which is definitely a good thing. With the stipulation that was added to the Sumerian Death Squad vs. London Riots match at Chapter 27 later in the night, it's pleasing to see a new dominant tag team already positioned to cause havoc in the Electric Ballroom and O2 Ritz very soon.

bubblegum defeats jack sexsmith

How does one even go about reviewing Jack Sexsmith vs. Bubblegum? Well, I think it'd be right to start by saying this contest probably wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. If you're uncomfortable with male sexuality and bare arses and valets in gimp suits then this might be one for you to steer clear of. I don't know what it says about me as a supposedly straight male, but I found this to be a lot of fun. There was a lot of comedy based around the clashes of the two characters, with a "highlight" including Bubblegum doing his signature "Say Cheese" attack, which for anyone unfamiliar with the sequence, see's the current GPW & JDW Champion put his hand down the front of his trunks before attempting to rub his hand in his opponents face, only for Sexsmith to hold him at arms length before allowing Bubblegum's fingers to enter his mouth. It was one of those cringey, yet laughable moments, with the "You Sick Fuck" chants that followed topping the moment off.

Whilst there was much silliness, Sexsmith seemed more than capable in the ring and whilst the experience of Bubblegum helped, the up and comer more than did his part in a handful of nice wrestling sequences. I'm looking forward to seeing how this particular character can keep evolving in PROGRESS, as it is an act that could get tired out quickly. There is, of course only, so many times you can rely on getting your arse out. Sexsmith using Joel Allen's hand to tap out whilst in a Boston Crab, to make Bubblegum think he had the win, was a sign that there might be more up the sleeve of both the character and the performer. Quite rightly however, it was Bubblegum who picked up the victory after dodging Mr. Cocko (Yes, that's a condom instead of a sock) and after an accidental distraction from referee Joel, it was a superkick and a pedigree that gave Bubblegum his first victory inside a PROGRESS ring. 

"flash" morgan webster and pollyanna defeat the south pacific power couple

Although announced as a Mixed Tag Team Match by Smallman, this contest was actually more of an intergender contest, as all the competitors exchanged blows here. This was used throughout the match as a way of driving the narrative, as Pollyanna quickly found herself in the face in peril role. I adored the earlier part of the bout, as I found The South Pacific Power Couple very easy to hate, as we all know that PDA is disgusting and TK Cooper seemed to revel in beating on Pollyanna, whilst it was perhaps even easier to empathise with Pollyanna as she fought from underneath looking for a hot tag. The moment when Dahlia pulled "Flash" Morgan Webster off the apron, after Pollyanna had managed to create enough space between herself and Cooper to be able to make the hot tag, was superbly crafted and timed to perfection.

After the hot tag to was made to Webster, the match became very different. Moving away from the storytelling of the first portion of the contest, things became much more spot-orientated. This lead to a lot of near falls, that had the crowd buying into pretty much each one, with each kick-out met with loud gasps. Those gasps were testament to the series of great moves that were on display as the likes of Pollyanna's Pollenator (Double Underhook Facebuster) & Finish-Her (Sunset Driver) and Double Stomp/Samoan Driver combination from SPPC had the crowd reaching fever pitch come the end. However, I once again have to mention how the need for tagging in and out and the concept of a legal man was dropped after the hot tag, which again diminishes the good work that was put in during the earlier portion of the contest.

A thrilling home straight saw all four competitors impressing, beginning with Dahlia pulling out a reverse rana on Webster and closing with Webster hitting a 630 splash on Cooper to pick up the victory for his team. In reflection, this was a great bout and one of the best intergender tag matches that I can remember seeing anyway, thanks to the variety of action that was on offer. I do, however, feel that the two distinct portions of the match could have been integrated into each other better. It could be argued that having to work tags would have taken away elements of the pace and crispness of the near falls of the second half of the bout, but in my opinion each near fall could have meant a lot more if the story that had been told earlier, with Pollyanna searching for a hot tag after a sustained beating, had been able to be maintained. A great match, that could have been just that little bit better.

jack gallagher defeats timothy thatcher

I'm going to cheat a little bit with the review of this one, as having watched this contest back on the Demand Progress VOD service, I have a completely different opinion of it to what I did while sitting inside the O2 Ritz. I'm not sure whether I was worn out by the Intergender Tag bout, but I couldn't get into Jack Gallagher and current EVOLVE Champion Timothy Thatcher. I love technical wrestling, you might have noticed I love storytelling as well, but I couldn't get my brain to adjust to the style, as the two exchanged intricate submission holds. By the time Gallagher had managed to dodge a charging Thatcher and roll through into the King Crab submission, I hadn't gotten into the action and therefore was surprised to see the match end this quickly. For whatever reason it may have been, I actually came away disappointed with what I had seen.

I now realise what an idiotic boob I was while watching live and don't feel like it would be fair of me to have written more of the review that you saw above. Quite frankly, this bout was an absolute master-class between two of the best scientific wrestler on the planet today. Watching back I was hooked by Gallagher's dominance as he focused his efforts on Thatcher's leg, with a series of painful looking submission holds that were beautifully transitioned from one to the next. Thatcher's selling of the injury throughout, his flashes of offence attacking Gallagher's arm and hard-hitting strikes sequence also added something to the drama of this old-school British grappling contest. Having not fully appreciated this live, I'm now desperate to see this match booked again and would love to see Thatcher booked to return as the Super Strong Style 16 Tournament in May.

fast-forward...As the second half began, Jim Smallman was back in the ring for a slim-line re-introduction, as we headed straight back into the action after a lengthy interval...

rampage brown defeats mikey whiplash

With Mikey Whiplash returning to a PROGRESS ring for the first time since his victory over then PROGRESS Champion Jimmy Havoc at Download 2015 - Day 4 in June 2015, this was a heavyweight collision that had the crowd split as the majority chose their favourite quickly and created a terrific atmosphere from the outset. Whiplash and Brown didn't mess around, being extremely physical from the outset, as Whiplash attempted to re-establish his position within the company, whilst Brown look to re-build some momentum having suffered defeat to Marty Scurll at Chapter 24: Hit the North in December. The contest was a sprawling brawl that went around the venue in the opening stages with both men using the outside environment to do damage, including Whiplash getting thrown into the ringside chairs and Brown taking a nasty looking back drop onto the hard wooden floor.

When inside the ring the match went back and forth with Whiplash and Brown throwing bombs at each other, in well-crafted slice of strong-style action. A personal highlight saw Whiplash miss a running dropkick in the corner and land almost straight into a tree of woe position, before Brown climbed to the top rope and delivered a huge back superplex. It flowed beautifully and ended with an impressive impact move, exactly what you'd want from two of Europe's most experience heavyweights. The finish was just as satisfying as Brown caught Whiplash coming through the middle rope, transitioning straight into a big piledriver to pick up the pinfall victory. I'm curious to see where both men are heading in 2016 for PROGRESS as Brown hasn't had much of a purpose since last year's Super Strong Style 16 tournament, and as for Whiplash, a competitive loss on his return against a former PROGRESS Champion, will surely mean he'll be cropping up again sooner or later.  

tommy end defeats james davis to decide a stipulation for london riots vs. sumerian death squad at chapter 27

Just like a match between two guys with considerable beef over the last few months should be, Tommy End and James Davis were straight out of the traps, battering each other with hard strikes. With both still popular among the fans, the match went back and forth and didn't seem to drop in pace for the duration. This felt very much like a preview of what to expect come Chapter 27 when the two will be on opposite sides of TLC match. Kept fairly short to allow for the pace of the bout, End picked up the victory with a beautifully timed Octopus Stretch that closed off a terrific sequence of reversals and strikes. A solid piece of storytelling as well, as it could easily be argued that under usual circumstances Davis would have held on, but with the TLC match just around the corner and with Davis' partner Rob Lynch having already chosen that TLC match stipulation after a victory over Michael Dante at Chapter 25, that he decided to fight another day in this one.

Following the bout it was Tommy End's chance to decide a stipulation for the Sumerian Death Squad's bout with the London Riots at Chapter 27: The Lost Art of Suffering. With the Riots already having chosen the Tables, Ladders and Chairs stipulation at Chapter 25, I think there was a feeling among the fans that the second stipulation would have to be something rather different and fitting for a feud between two of the promotions most popular tag teams. Of course, being PROGRESS that is exactly what we got, as End added a Losing Team Must Disband stipulation. I'd predicted the stipulation or something very similar based off the TLC stipulation being in place. It provides the opportunity for added drama to a bout, that mixed with the highspots that a TLC should provide, very well could steal the show come 27th March in the Electric Ballroom.

marty scurll defeats mark haskins to retain the progress wrestling championship

Mark Haskins and Marty Scurll are two of the United Kingdom's top professional wrestlers, and they proved it with this epic encounter that managed to close PROGRESS' 1st Manchester show of 2016 in style. Both men didn't seem to put a foot wrong in 25 minute epic, that had pretty much everything you'd want from a main event championship match. The wrestling was spot on, with the two exchanging holds beautifully, transitioning from perfectly from one to the next. The character work was brilliant, with Scurll in particularly hamming up his Villain character, whilst Haskins underrated no-nonense gimmick really came into it's as well. The narrative played out just as one would have hoped, with the pacing that can only come between two well-travelled veterans, who've wrestled each other all over England over the last eight years.  

As anyone who's read one of my reviews over the past few years will know, I'm a sucker for some storytelling, so I was having a bit of moment for most of this. Haskins' coming out with kinesiology tape on his arm was the target for Scurll, as if The Villain needed a target, with the current PROGRESS Champion went to work, and looked to lock on the Crossface Chicken Wing whenever the opportunity presented itself. On the other side of the coin, Haskins was locking on any submission hold in his repertoire in an attempt to wrestle his way to his first PROGRESS Championship. For a match, that didn't have a whole lot of backstory in the promotion heading in, the two created it all within the ring and managed to make the PROGRESS title look like even more of a prize than it did going into the contest.

Two fiery comeback sequences from Haskins, accompanied by some superb near falls, provided the bout with some real drama, that had the O2 Ritz getting louder and louder as the match built towards it's climax. A particular standout moment saw the Villian begging Haskins to hit him with an umbrella, with referee Chris Roberts confiscating the item, allowing Scurll to hit a low blow and hook Haskins in a small package, in a perfectly executed near fall to got a great reaction out of the crowd. Haskins got a handful of near falls off his own turning a Superplex into a small package and hitting a flurry of offense that finished with Made in Japan for some more big crowd reactions. By the time Scurll finally locked in his Crossface Chickenwing and Haskins' was forced to submit, it had been twenty five minutes of quality wrestling that could have graced pretty much any card around the world. Whilst it was lacking in the emotional investment that was produced by matches like Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay last year, the duo more than made up for that in the effort they put forward throughout the contest.

Following the match, the feud would become personal. The Villain threatened to stamp on Haskins' arm with a steel chair wrapped around it, in scenes reminiscent of what Scurll did to, then Champion, Will Ospreay at Chapter 24 in December. With that little bit of sports-entertainment style sheen, Haskins' wife appeared at ringside and begged Scurll not to proceed with his plans...but of course, Scurll being the Villian that he is, this only seemed to egg him on and his stamped away. With Scurll being built and built as an absolute bastard, I did find it a little frustrating to hear a few cheers from portions of the crowd. For me, if you think a guy is doing a good job at playing the bad guy, then you reward him by booing and throwing insults his way. But hey, if you want to cheer, that's your right as paying customer, I suppose. Heckling Haskins as he sold his arm injury, with his wife comforting him, does however almost certainly go against the one rule of Progress? 


atpw scale rating - 7.09/10

Whilst missing a number of PROGRESS regulars like Eddie Dennis, El Ligero, Will Ospreay and Paul Robinson, this was a strong outing from the company as they look to establish themselves within the North-West scene. With a main event that could stand up against anything, the show was bolstered by a strong under-card that was the wrestling equivalent of Kellog's multi-pack. Whilst sticking to promotions "Strong-Style", there was a little something for everyone here, from the thrilling mixed tag team bout, to the technical master-class between Timothy Thatcher and Jack Gallagher, Rampage Brown and Mikey Whiplash's heavyweight war and even Jack Sexsmith and Bubblegum's arse-based tomfoolery, if you didn't find something for you here, then wrestling probably isn't your bag. 

With Chapter 27 looking to celebrate the promotions 4th anniversary on 27th March, and a return to Manchester set for Chapter 28 on 10th April, PROGRESS Wrestling continues to move from strength to strength. Long may it continue.

Thanks to PROGRESS Wrestling for allowing for allowing the use of photos from their event to be used in this review. All credit for these brilliant images goes to Rob Brazier Photography.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Wrestle Ropes' Ready for the Weekend: February 2016 Week 4

This week's edition shall see us heading to Telford on Friday night before heading back up north to Liverpool. The weekend ends with trip across to Leeds. It's time once again to get Ready For The Weekend!

Kicking off on Friday night and VII Pro Wrestling are at the Dawley Town Hall in Telford. The show will mark VII Pro Wrestling's first event since changing their name from Shropshire Wrestling Alliance. The show features numerous debuts, two of which are 'The Fashionista' Jinny and New Zealand's Dahlia Black. Both women have been making waves in British Wrestling over the last few months and will hope to do that same in Telford. VII Pro want to reignite their female division and these two competitors will do a great job of fanning the flames. At the last event in Telford, Chris Brookes became the British Lions Champion in a six-way ladder match. However, it was in fact Mark Andrews who retrieved the championship from above the ring. With the referees distracted, Brookes took advantage by delivering a low-blow to Mark Andrews and taking the championship just in time for the referees to declare him the winner. Understandably, Andrews is far from happy and neither were the fans. So this Friday, Brookes and Andrews are going to meet one on one with the British Lions Championship on the line. Let's see if Brookes can keep the gold when the focus is solely on him and his opponent. The main event on February 26th sees the current VII Pro Champion, 'All Day Star' Ryan Smile in action. His opponent? One of the hottest independent prospects in the world right now. Beyond Wrestling's 'The Dirty Daddy' Chris Dickinson. In his last defense, Smile was able to defeat Dan Moloney and now wants the best competition he can have. VII Pro have certainly delivered on that front as Dickinson has been making a name for himself wherever he has gone. His sights are now set on VII Pro Wrestling and challenging the top man in the company.

full card

*VII Pro Championship*
‘All Day Star’ Ryan Smile (c) vs‘The Dirty Daddy’ Chris Dickinson

*British Lions Championship*
‘Calamari Catch King’ Chris Brookes (c) vs ‘White Lightning’ Mark Andrews

‘The Modfather’ Flash Morgan Webster & ‘Ginger Jesus’ Mike Bird vs The YOLO Squad 

Dahlia Black vs Jinny

Kelly Sixx & ‘Mr Massive’ Chuck Cyrus vs ‘Super Beast’ Dan Moloney & Wild Boar

Open Challenge
‘Number One’ Damian Dunne vs ???

Moving on to Saturday and we head up to Liverpool for TNT Extreme Wrestling's Merseyside Massacre at the Fusion Nightclub. At TNT's last event,  Bubblegum became the very first TNT "World" Heavyweight Champion by defeating Rampage Brown after some help from Ashton Smith, Sam Bailey and a steel chair. Brown is an aggressive competitor at the best of time but Bubblegum has now pissed him off and he has demanded a shot at the championship and revenge. TNT have granted Brown his request and also added the stipulation that steel chairs will be legal. Bubblegum might be lucky to leave with his life on Saturday never mind the TNT World Heavyweight Championship if Brown has a say in it. Speaking of Ashton Smith & Sam Bailey, a man who was enraged with their actions at the last TNT show was Ruffneck. 'Mr TNT' has been almost the conscious of TNT, dealing out justice to those who disrespect not only TNT but it's fans. Ruffneck has now joined with The Babyfaced Pitbull to challenge the new Manc Union to a match. While the Manc Union may be quick to dismiss Pitbull & Ruffneck, failing to see the danger may be their undoing. Every show has an element of unknown about it but we can guarantee that we will have a new champion this Saturday. A few weeks ago, TNT Extreme Wrestling announced the TNT Extreme Division Championship. They promised that the challengers would be known for their extreme, no limit style. They haven't let us down either with Robbie X, Chris Ridgeway, Flash Morgan Webster and Liam Lazarus all competing in a fatal four-way match. All four of these men are on the rise, constantly getting better with each passing week. Nobody has a clear winner and anyone could be leaving as the inaugural TNT Extreme Division Champion.

full card

*TNT World Championship: Chair Match*
Bubblegum (c) vs Rampage Brown

*TNT Extreme Division Championship (Vacant)*
Robbie X vs ‘The Priority’ Chris Ridgeway vs ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster vs Liam Lazarus

‘The Righteous’ Joe Conners vs ‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero

*The Danny O’Doherty Open Challenge*
Danny O’Doherty vs ???

Carmel Jacob vs Lana Austin

RuffBull (Ruffneck & Babyfaced Pitbull) vs The Manc Union (Sam Bailey & Ashton Smith)

Finally ending another packed weekend and Tidal Wrestling are back at the Leeds University Union. The show shall see the debut of former PWG World Tag Team Champion Andrew Everett who shall go one on one with the best in Tidal Wrestling right now, 'The Mexican Sensation' El Ligero. This is sure to be a very fast, high-flying affair with both men known for their speed and agility. Ligero has been on a good run during his second reign as champ and shall look to continue that this Sunday. From one champion to another as Dan James shall be in action on Sunday defending the TCW Open Championship against one of the best pure wrestlers in Europe, Jack Gallagher. These two men were previously scheduled to face each other a number of months ago but car issues stopped James from competing. So now he's going to do what he never got the chance to do before; face a world-class athlete but this time his championship is on the line. This Sunday, HT Drake was due to face Robbie E but due to some unforeseen circumstances that match won't happen. However, HT Drake shall still be competing. His new opponent will be 'The Juice' CJ Banks, who shall be making his Tidal Wrestling debut. HT Drake has been having some killer matches recently in TCW and could soon be in line for a championship opportunity. He will need to get round this new roadblock in the shape of Banks for that to happen though. To continue on his road to being the best in TCW, he's going to have to defeat one of the best in the UK and Banks will not go easy on him.

full card

‘The Mexican Sensation’ El Ligero vs ‘The Apex Of Agility’ Andrew Everett

Addy Starr vs Leva ‘Blue Pants’ Bates

Liam Lazarus vs ‘The Priority’ Chris Ridgeway

*TCW Open Championship*
‘The Armbar Superstar’ Dan James vs ‘The Gentleman’ Jack Gallagher

*If Any Competitor Leaves The Ring They Are Eliminated*
The Proven (Caz Crash & Sam Wilder) vs. The New Nation (Alexander Henry & Jason Prime)

‘The Juice’ CJ Banks vs ‘The Gimmick Killer’ HT Drake

‘The Dapper Grappler’ Josh Alden vs David Graves

JD Boom vs Nsereko

That wraps up this week's preview of the weekend's wrestling schedule. Of course, there are many more events taking place over the three days. To find out more about the shows we've highlighted here as well as all the others, check us out at for the latest show and match announcements, British Wrestling event list, interviews, exclusive columns, reviews, reports and results!

TV Review: WWE NXT #185 (American Alpha vs. Blake & Murphy)

Broadcast on the 24th February 2016 (Taped 22nd January) on the WWE Network, the 185th episode of WWE's NXT emanated from the CFE Arena in Orlando, Florida, USA. With 37 days until Takeover: Dallas, American Alpha faced off with former WWE NXT Tag Team Champions Blake & Murphy...but was it any good? Let's find out

match card

Match 1 - Tag Team - American Alpha vs. Blake & Murphy with Alexa Bliss

Match 2 - Singles - Apollo Crews vs. Christopher Girard

Match 3 - Singles - Tommaso Ciampa vs. Bull Dempsey

Match 4 - Tag Team - Nia Jax & Eva Marie vs. Carmella & WWE NXT Women's Champion Bayley

american alpha defeat blake and murphy via pinfall

This week's WWE NXT kicked off with the main event, as the tag team division got another chance in the Spotlight with American Alpha's Chad Gable & Jason Jordan going over Blake & Murphy. Whilst technically sound throughout, this contest struggled to fully connect as the CFE Arena didn't seem particularly into the action for large portions of the contest. There was still things to enjoy, like Gable's lengthy arm lock sequence on Blake, but even that felt like it would have been more fitting for a longer bout and not quite suitable for the two teams current roles in the brand. The booking of American Alpha however continues to be very satisfying however, as Jason Jordan made short work of his hot tag sequence powering through both Blake and Murphy, before the babyface duo picked up the W with their Grand Amplitude double team move. Despite, the dominant finish the fact that Blake & Murphy haven't won on TV since they drop the WWE NXT Tag Team Championships to the Vaudevillains at Takeover: Brooklyn in August and that AA had already defeated the duo on NXT #181 took a little bit of the shine away from things, despite this being Gable & Jordan's sixth victory in a row on TV.

apollo crews defeats christopher gerard via pinfall

Whilst Apollo Crews still seems to be struggling to connect with the NXT audience, he was part of an entertaining extended squash match against the debuting Christopher Girard. Girard is perhaps better known as former CZW World Heavyweight Champion Biff Busick. Despite an almost silent crowd, Girard impressed me on his WWE debut, booked to hit enough of offence to show of his style. Lots of hard strikes from "The Manliest Man" and great moment where he held onto a chin lock as Crews flipped over his back, alongside a lot of angry facial expressions introduced Girard a something different to the rest of the NXT roster. It was a shame there was a slight slip by Girard as he got sent over the top rope and seemed like he was supposed to land on his feet on the apron to get leveled with enziguiri, as it meant the finish wasn't quite as smooth as it could been with Crews having to wait to hit his move. A spin out Powerbomb got the win for the former Uhaa Nation, setting his momentum rolling again following his defeat to Finn Balor on NXT #182.

fast-forward...Recap of Bayley vs. Carmella over the WWE NXT Women's Championship from WWE NXT #183, as well as the aftermath with Nia Jaxx, Eva Marie and Asuka...A pretty straight forward interview with WWE NXT Women's Champion Bayley & Carmella by Alex Reyes about their upcoming Tag Team Match with Eva Marie & Nia Jaxx, with the added interest of a question about Asuka intentions for the WWE NXT Women's Championship...CCTV footage from outside the WWE Performance Center of WWE NXT Tag Team Champions Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson attacking Enzo Amore, before Colin Cassady appeared to make the save and security separated them in a pleasingly different way of keeping the feud ticking over...

tommaso ciampa defeats bull dempsey via submission

Weirdly, Bull Dempsey was the most over character on the show so far with the Orlando crowd. They seemed to absolutely love him, chanting "Bull-Fit" and cheering when he finally managed to get his T-Shirt off. However, they went quiet pretty quickly when Dempsey and Tommaso Ciampa dropped the comedy and began to work a psychological match-up. Of course, I rather liked this part of the match, as Ciampa focused on Dempsey's arm for his Bridging Fujiwara Armbar submission. Dempsey sold things well, as the former ROH World Television Champion picked up a pretty straight forward submission victory. Off the top of my head, this might be my favourite Bull Dempsey match! Ciampa now has two victories in a row on NXT, maybe this is a sign that he'll be getting a full-time contract with WWE soon or maybe he's just being built up to put over a regular later down the line. 

nia jax & eva marie defeat carmella and wwe nxt women's champion bayley via pinfall

A pleasantly surprising tag team, both in terms of content and the result. Nia Jax and Carmella both impressed me here, as both women seemed to have improved a hell of a lot with the two girls more than pulling their weight, alongside the hard working Bayley. The two were involved in the bulk of the contest, as Nia used her size and strength to dominate Carmella in the face in peril role. The Princess of Staten Island applying her version of the Guillotine Choke that allowed Bayley to retain the WWE NXT Women's Championship over Nia was a top quality addition. I hate to say it, because she does have a tremendous amount of heat, but Eva Marie still isn't ready for this kind of match and ended up letting the side down here. The bumps she took during Bayley's hot tag sequence off a handful of clotheslines looked awful and ended up taking me right out of what had been a well crafted moment. Nia was booked very strong in the closing stages, managing to save Eva from losing the match to a Bayley to Belly and Carmella's Modified Figure-Four Headscissors, take out Bayley, drag Eva to the corner for a tag and then hit three consecutive Running Leg Drops on Carmella. I have to admit, "The Flame Haired Femme Fatale" tagging herself in just before the third leg drop and getting the pin did raise a smile. The result blows the Women's division wide open, with previous Number One Contender Carmella, being pinned by Eva Marie, whilst Nia Jax has more than an argument for having won the match for her team, but neither managed to pin the Champion, Bayley (who was on the losing side of a match for the first time since NXT #148 aired in May 2015)

fast-forward...William Regal spoke to Finn Balor about edging closer to becoming the longest reigning NXT Champion, before revealing that he'd be facing the man who currently holds that record, Neville, in the main event for next week...

atpw scale rating - 4.5/10

Not a classic episode of NXT this week, as the highest profile bout, struggled to take advantage of the spotlight. American Alpha and Blake & Murphy put on a watchable tag team match, but it was still one that just didn't quite manage to find the right connection inside the ring for the majority of the contest. Apollo Crews and Tommaso Ciampa's extended squash bout opposite a debuting Christopher Girard and Bull Dempsey both provided some cracking action, but the CFE Arena only really cared for Dempsey's comedy Bull-Fit routine. The highlight of the whole show for me was the Women's Tag Team match as Nia Jax and Carmella showed signs of improvement and the result of the match opened up a number of different option for the Women's division heading into Takeover: Dallas. 

With WWE NXT Champion Finn Balor scheduled to take on the man who holds the record for the longest NXT Championship reign in history, Neville (returning to the show for the first time since NXT #162 in September) next week's show should be an improvement on the strength of the main event alone, as we edge closer to Takeover: Dallas on 1st April.

TV Review: TNA Impact Wrestling #606 - Lockdown 2016 (Hardy vs. EC3 *TNA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP STEEL CAGE*)

*DISCLAIMER - This review contains spoilers for the 606th episode of the Impact Wrestling that will air on 28th February 2016 on Challenge TV in the UK and other international territories. Parts of this review are taken from our Live Event Review of the TV Taping that this show was a part of, which can be found here and also contains spoilers for Impact Wrestling #607, Xplosion and One Night Only: Joker's Wild*

On 24th February 2016, the 606th episode of TNA's Impact Wrestling, subtitled Lockdown 2016, aired on POP TV from the SSE Arena in Wembley, London, England (Taped on 30th January 2016). Ethan Carter III challenged Matt Hardy for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship inside a Steel Cage and Gail Kim, Velvet Sky and Maria teamed up to face the Dollhouse in the first women's Lethal Lockdown in history...but was it any good? Let's find out!

match card

Match 1 - Steel Cage Tag Team - Beer Money Inc. vs. Bram & Eric Young

Match 2 - TNA X Division Champion Steel Cage - Trevor Lee (C) with Gregory Shane Helms vs. Tigre Uno

Match 3 - Lethal Lockdown - The Dollhouse vs. Gail Kim, Maria & Velvet Sky

Match 4 - Steel Cage - Eli Drake with Jessie Godderz vs. Odarg the Great

Match 5 - TNA World Heavyweight Championship Steel Cage - Matt Hardy (C) with Tyrus vs. Ethan Carter III

beer money defeated bram and eric young in a steel cage 

The show kicked off with the grudge match between Bram & Eric Young and Beer Money. A solid start to the episode, featuring some quality brawling and working within a simple narrative. The crowd was hot from the start, with James Storm ending up "locked" outside the cage, as Bram and Young worked over Bobby Roode on the inside. However, the crowd went nuts for Storm climbing over the top of the cage to attack the heels and stayed invested in the action for the rest of the clash. Whilst Beer Money were pretty dominant when both inside the cage, the heels got a decent near falls of an Elbow drop variation of the Death Sentence, before Roode & Storm claimed victory with the DWI. Perhaps two or three minutes could have been sliced off as it dragged just a little after the first DWI attempt was escaped by EY. 

ethan carter iii and rockstar spud bury the hatchet

Ethan Carter III is settling nicely into his new babyface roll, as he cut a promo about his upcoming steel cage match with Matt Hardy over the World Heavyweight Championship, whilst sitting on the steel steps outside the cage. With a quirky energy, EC3 made references to Elton John and more, before moving on to call out old pal and enemy, Rockstar Spud. Spud's promo was just as strong as EC3's as the former 2 time TNA X Division Champion agreed to let bygones be bygones, before they shook hands. After a quick reply from Matt Hardy (who bought out Tyrus & Reby Sky) the stage was set for their title bout later in the show, with the SSE Arena more than ready to see the two go at it. Personally, one these special shows, I'd much prefer things to remain all action, just to give things the PPV feel, I'd have enjoyed this much more if it had aired the week before the title match.

trevor lee defeats tigre uno in a steel cage to retain the x division championship

I can't go any further without mentioning Tigre Uno's incredible dive off the top of the steel cage, It looked just as spectacular on TV as it did inside the arena and received a HUGE pop. I just wish the commentary team had made a hell of a lot more of the kick out by Trevor Lee following the move. However for me, the rest of the match was way, way too short. As the third bout of the feud, to only give the match just over six minutes seemed like a big waste of an opportunity, especially considering the duos previous matches have been around the same length. Neither man is particularly over with the fans yet, and needed a long competitive match to show exactly what they can do. There's a lot of potential in Trevor Lee (who retained his title with a Small Package Driver) and TNA seems to be struggling to find the best way to present that at the moment. 

the dollhouse defeated gail kim, maria and velvet sky in lethal lockdown

A real moment for the Knockout's here as they were performed in their first ever Lethal Lockdown match! It was a shame that there were only three girls on each team, but it's likely that plans for the match had to be changed due to Awesome Kong being sent home from the UK tour. The bout was simply booked, with the heels always having the numbers advantage, following a lovely series of action between Gail Kim and Jade to start. The faces got some nice shine each time they entered. Maria accepted Gail's offer to join the team, after Madison Rayne had been attacked earlier on by the Dollhouse backstage, bringing interesting development, breaking the pattern of the match, allowing for an different dynamic where Gail and Velvet had to really fight from underneath. The finishing sequence got the crowd back into the match, after they had seemingly dropped off following some weak looking weapon shots from the heels. Gail hitting Eat Defeat on Marti Belle, only for Jade to break up the pinfall and hit a wicked Package Piledriver on a steel chair for the win, was timed perfectly and allowed the heel group to look strong. Gail and Velvet will hardly be hurt by losing what was essentially a handicap bout. Some of the best booking for TNA's women's division in quite some time.

lashley confronts kurt angle 

With Kurt Angle pulling out a similarly crowd-pleasing prom to the one he used two weeks ago, we got some storyline progression in the feud between he and Lashley. With the former WWE United States Champion interrupting the Olympic Gold Medalist, this was the continuation of Lashley's slow-burn heel turn as he ripped into Angle for losing to Drew Galloway in Manchester on Impact Wrestling #604. A quality bit of build to their match, which had been given a little bit of extra spice than some of the other matches on the Farewell Tour. Not sure whether this segment should have been on this Lockdown special, for the same reasons I bought up in talking bit between EC3, Spud and Hardy earlier in the night. There was enough time taken up in those two segments to accommodate  an extra cage match or even two shorter bouts.

odarg the great defeats eli drake in a steel cage

You don't often see a comedy cage match, but that's what we had here. Whether you liked this match or not has a lot to do with how much you want to see a blokes arse exposed for quite sometime. Yup, Eli Drake had his trunks pulled down, after Mahabali Shera had prevented Jessie Godderz getting involved on the outside. In between the japes, there was one truly impressive spot in here, as Great took an electric chair drop off the middle rope, after trying to climb over the top of the cage. Josh Matthews saying the feud reminded him of Kanye West and Taylor Swift was some of the most cringe-worthy pieces of commentary on TV anywhere, ever. Great once again won the bout thanks to losing his mask, as Drake managed to remove it, leaving Great to fall to floor and win the match by escape. The loss leaves Drake without a win on TV since he defeated Crimson in the World Title Series back in November 2015. Odarg the Great is 2-0.

fast-forward...After Jimmy Havoc stood up to The Decay and claimed that Rosemary was his muse, Abyss and Crazzy Steve took out the IPW:UK wrestler...Backstage, Grado attempted to convince Billy Corgan to believe that Grado shouldn't have been fired, only for Eli Drake to turn up and caused the current PBW Tag Team Champion to get ejected from the building by The Harris Brothers...A vignette on "The Miracle" Mike Bennett and Maria aired, with the duo using the catchphrase "Yes, we do"...

matt hardy defeats ethan carter iii in a steel cage to retain the tna world heavyweight championship

The feud between Matt Hardy (with Tyrus) and Ethan Carter III came to a peak as they faced each other in a dramatic steel cage match over Hardy's World Heavyweight Championship. The SSE Arena was hooked from start to finish, getting behind EC3 and pouring scorn on Hardy and his manager, Tyrus. Whilst the wrestling sections of the bout were a little off the pace, as Hardy seemed to struggle to keep up with EC3, as soon as the match got more violent and the stories of the match began to be pulled together it became a stellar contest. EC3 looked every inch of the top babyface that TNA needs him to be, as he kicked out of a number of Hardy's big moves, including a Twist of Fate with a steel chair wrapped around his neck, and continued to put on a great performance as he fought adversity managing to nuetralise the threat of Tyrus once the big man had entered the cage. 

With the drama escalating with Reby Sky charging down the ramp with the hammer (presumably the very same one she used to help Hardy win the title last month), only for Rockstar Spud to make the save to a big pop. But with EC3 making his way for the door, he got the cage door slammed right into his SPUD! SWERVE CITY! The crowd was in shock and dumped heat on Spud as Hardy walked out of the cage to retain his title! A great moment to close an entertaining World Heavyweight title bout, with everyone playing their parts well. A sound piece of booking that gave EC3 a new (or old) feud to move into straight away and keep him away from the World Heavyweight Championship picture for a while, whilst also allowing EC3 to remain unpinned or submitted. Plus, Hardy's title reign rolls on, after using a series of dirty tricks to try to gain the victory, he's becoming easier to hate by the minute and it's been a surprisingly entertaining five weeks with The Iconic One a top the TNA totem pole.

atpw scale rating - 5.53/10

This was not only the best episode of the UK tour to air so far, but also the strongest episode of Impact Wrestling to air in 2016. Both marquee matches on the show delivered quality television matches, as Matt Hardy and Ethan Carter III put on a fine storyline Steel Cage match over the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, with Rockstar Spud, Tyrus and Reby Sky all playing their parts well throughout what was the Match of the Night for me. The Women's Lethal Lockdown also used a lot of storytelling based elements to get the best out of it's six performers, providing avenues for new feuds and potential TNA Knockout's Championship opponents for Gail Kim.

Personally, I think this type of show would be better off without the talking segments and if fans knew they were going to get a PPV style show (aka back to back matches) then they might be more likely to tune in. I ended up marking down the decent segment with Ethan Carter III, Rockstar Spud and Matt Hardy because it simply was needed before the Steel Cage match later on in the show, had it aired last week I would have been much more lenient on it. 

With Kurt Angle's Farewell Tour continuing next week against Bobby Roode and Drew Galloway facing off with Mike Bennett in a grudge match, let's hope that TNA can build on the momentum created here at Lockdown.