Progress Chapter 51: Screaming for Progress
July 9 2017
We’re in Birmingham, my local stomping ground*, for the latest Progress chapter show. I was hugely disappointed to miss this but I had a perfectly cromulent excuse; I was in Asia. So this is all new to me. I go in fairly unspoiled, although a match announcement regarding the Atlas title rather buggered up my totally clean perspective. Host in the ring is Jim Smallman at the O2. This is Progress’ second Birmingham show after their January debut. Commentary comes from Glen Joseph and Matt Taylor-Richards.
*If Paul Heyman is from New York then I’m from Birmingham.
Mark Haskins vs. Mike Bird
Pleased to see Michael Bird back after a solid debut against Flash Morgan Webster.
I’m always happy to see Haskins, even if his star has faded in the company somewhat since his hugely dramatic comeback. This is a nice change of pace as Haskins is clearly the favourite here and it’s Bird who has to prove himself. The result is two guys battering each other. It’s ideal for Haskins as he faces a fresh opponent and a fresh challenge, which he feeds off. The competitive back and forth nature of the match makes it a perfect hot opener. Haskins getting fired up by no selling Bird’s chops is a thing of beauty. I love a war. Haskins breaks off from the striking and no selling to transition into the Sharpshooter and he leans into that for the tap out. This was a cracking sprint. Gathering in intensity as it progressed and both guys came out looking like a million bucks. Haskins always looks good but Bird’s consistency will help him get return bookings.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Haskins grabs the microphone to claim he’s the embodiment of what Progress stands for. The fast pace, the hard hitting style and the intensity. The short of his promo is that he wants his title back.
Kyle Ashmore vs. Eddie Dennis
The last time Ashmore was on a Progress Chapter show I labelled him “dangerous” and “unready”. I’m glad to say he’s been making massive strides on the Freedom’s Road shows and elsewhere. He’s definitely chapter ready now and I’m really pleased for him. The spot he was thrown into before, he was not ready for at all. Across the ring from him is Eddie Dennis, who just became a full-time wrestler, giving up his day job of head teacher. Eddie has the chance to step up the cards now he’s taking it this seriously. It’s especially telling he’s been given a match even though Mark Andrews is injured. Ashmore works very safe, landing spots I was worried about in the past super clean. It’s not a particularly good match but at no point does Ashmore irritate or upset me. The best part of his improvement is his ability to deal with banter with sheer disbelief in his facial reactions. The match has a lot of big spots after a somewhat sluggish beginning and Eddie puts Ashmore away with the Next Stop Driver. The release crucifix bomb across the ring was particularly sickening. Glad Ashmore looked solid here and Eddie will improve as a full-timer. I’m looking forward to what both of them achieve over the coming months.
Final Rating: **3/4
Tangent: so one of the fans has made a pigeon version of Pete Dunne. He has the belt and everything. I am almost fine with this but he also has a Twitter account, which I muted immediately.
Jigsaw vs. Jimmy Havoc
This is Jigsaw’s Progress debut but he regularly works in the UK, most notably for HOPE. Havoc respects him enough to offer a pre-match handshake. It’s their first singles match and it has a very old school vibe to it. Almost as if they’re calling it in the ring.
This immediately goes south because Jigsaw works Havoc’s bad leg, which leads to outside the ring violence. The match is a wee bit sloppy around the edges as Jimmy brings his trademark intensity. You lose something from Havoc’s style when he wrestles clean as a whistle. He needs to be a bit messy to go along with his carefree aggression. Canadian Destroyer and the Acid Rainmaker gives Jimmy the win. I could live without seeing yet another casual throwaway Destroyer but the work that led into it was solid enough. Jigsaw is a good professional wrestler. Havoc is a wonderful character. Post match Havoc addresses Haskins’ claim to the title earlier by saying nobody gave more to this company than Jimmy Havoc.
Final Rating: ***1/4
The London Riots vs. War Machine
This is the third match between the Riots and War Machine. The first one was good. The second one was incredible (pushing MOTY territory). This was originally supposed to be a triple threat match with FSU but Mark Andrews got injured. I’ve been critical of various promotions struggling with the concept that is War Machine (including New Japan). You need to keep them strong and have them boss other teams. Otherwise their losses will mean nothing.
Progress gets this. They’ve booked them unrelentingly strong and the result is a hugely over tag team who will get over every opponent they face. The second match these had was tornado rules so Progress smartly make this tornado rules too. The result is big lads carnage. Four large gentlemen throwing themselves and each other around. It is fan-fucking-tastic. It’s such a manly contest. Like when Rowe blocks forearms with headbutts. Hanson’s ridiculous springboard back elbow gets the entire crowd up into an impromptu standing ovation. The whole match is an absolute delight. It’s so awesome. The Stackerbomb is great. The near falls are great. The reactions are great. The crowd is fiery good. And it is unrelenting. You think it has to calm down eventually and it just doesn’t. It’s non-stop awesome. The dives, the power moves, the last gasp kick-outs. It’s all so fucking good. Fallout puts Rob away eventually but what a fucking match this was.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Progress Atlas Championship
Matt Riddle (c) vs. WALTER
Riddle won this belt in the main event of the first Birmingham show.
Like Riots-War Machine, Riddle and WALTER have been having a series of matches this year. Mostly in wXw. They’ve all been barnburners, frankly. The basement for them is around ****. The last Progress match they had was at Chapter 46 and I had that at ****1/2. That’s arguably their best match to date, just edging out the Carat match. WALTER may be my favourite wrestler in the world right now and his classical entrance music reminds us all that they’re ‘classics’ for a reason. Riddle’s opening gambit is wanting to trade chops with WALTER. This goes about as well as you’d expect. Beet red chests on both sides of the ring. Devastating impact. It’s a brutal match between two modern warriors. Riddle’s strength is incredible. The way he deadweight lifts WALTER off the mat for a gutwrench suplex is frightening. Then you’ve got WALTER just brutalising Riddle with the strikes. It’s sensational stuff. It might even rival Riddle’s incredible match with Jeff Cobb at SSS16. It’s a war but it’s not without psychology and WALTER resorts to his usual tactic against Riddle; working his exposed ankle. The atmosphere is electric as Riddle finds ways out of submissions and goes back to the battling duels of strikes and suplexes. Good lord, it’s an incredible match. This might be the best back to back matches in BritWres history. Shame there are so few Brits involved. WALTER is great here. He’s learned from previous losses to Riddle and has an escape for the Bromission.
WALTER can’t get Riddle’s shoulders down for three but after beating Riddle up for an extended period, including back to back powerbombs, he slaps on the Gojira Clutch and Matt has nowhere to go. He taps out, ending his first major title reign exactly where it began. It was a good six month run but WALTER is a sensational next-level performer and he deserves this spot. It’s a little sad because Riddle loved this belt. He wore it everywhere. I love that the Atlas title has become *this* important. That was always the hope.
Final Rating: ****3/4
And there’s still an hour left on this show! I kinda wish there wasn’t because those two matches were incredible and nobody will be able to better them. Also, I love WALTER right now. He’s pushing best in the world status.
Flash Morgan Webster vs. Chief Deputy Dunne
This is the cool down match before the main event. It’s tough to follow the last two matches so this is a total change of pace. Damian recently returned to Progress with his character from the Indies; Chief Deputy Dunne. The Anti-Fun Police has gotten over nicely in multiple promotions but especially in Attack where they’re the focus. Dunne gets the Zack Gibson treatment for ranting about the fans here having too much FUN-AAAAAAH. Dunne is better served as the leader of a group where he can manipulate and scheme but he is fun (ahem) by himself. I’m intrigued to see where the Anti-Fun Police angle goes in Progress. It’s the kind of stable that is primed for trial heel runs. You can join Damian and do a lot of comedy heel work without being a full-blown bastard. The match is fine but it is clearly filler. Flash does the best he can in a tricky spot and looks in good condition. He’s been showing steady improvement since his return from injury and is starting to capture my imagination. I don’t care for the gimmick but the work is getting really good. Dunne positions Joel Allen, goes low and ends the fun with a DDT. Both guys went out there and worked hard in a difficult spot. The Dunne storyline is a long game but this was a good start. Dunne’s trophy collecting continues here as he takes Flash’s scarf, as he did Jack Sexsmith’s prophylactic.
Final Rating: ***
Progress Tag Team Championships
#CCK (c) vs. British Strong Style
This is all part of Travis Banks’ path to Alexandra Palace. Here he’s teaming with Brookes and Lykos versus the BSS trio. If BSS get the pin, they win the tag belts. However if BSS come up short they’ll never come after the belts again. Pete Dunne is in a good mood and goes after that pigeon, punting him across the building. There is definite support for Dunne here, which I can understand as this is Birmingham. Pete Dunne’s home town.
Trent Seven’s pre-match promo that sets up all the stipulations is sensational. He’s so good at getting over an angle. He is a funny fucker. When we get underway CCK bring the sick fucking tag moves. Everyone in this match is great at professional wrestling so we’re in for our third great match of the evening. BSS bring a lot of posturing and Triple H stuff in the name of heeldom but combine it with heat and cutting the ring off on Lykos. They keep the action fresh utilising all six participants and it’s a fast-paced main event. The intent is probably to see Travis Banks outshine Pete Dunne but the star of the match, for me, is Tyler Bate. He’s the one who’s constantly evolving and switching things up. His moveset is fluid, inventive and unpredictable right now. The match is loaded with action with everyone looking tremendous throughout. The more these lads work together the more fluid action I see from them. British Strong Style are the more familiar unit. So they’re able to work together to eliminate the tag champs and bull Travis. This is where Banks gets to look like a machine. No selling and fucking everyone up. The match is extremely well put together, with appropriate cheating occurring where necessary and things like ref bumps allowing good false finishes. Pete Dunne has the final say by hitting Lykos with a sledgehammer to allow BSS to win their tag titles back. This was good fun. I heard a lot of arguments that CCK losing after one show was a bad call but it’s heading towards the big September show. You can’t have the faces winning big every time and at least the cheating was suitably vicious to justify a title switch. This doesn’t stop a “bullshit” chant breaking out. How can you be upset that quality level throughout the show though?
Final Rating: ****1/4
One of the best shows Progress have ever put on. A wonderful wrestling experience.