PROGRESS: Chapter 28
The Ritz – Manchester, ENG
April 10, 2016

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

PROGRESS: Chapter 28 was presented in loving memory of  Kris Travis, a 32 year old pro wrestler who tragically passed away recently from stomach cancer. Tragedies happen so often in wrestling that it’s easy to start taking them lightly, but 32 is no age to die. Kris faced his problems head on and put a brave face on his fight, raising money for charity and being a genuinely wonderful human being. He will be missed.

We’re in Manchester, England at the Ritz Hotel. Glen Joseph takes over MC duties as Jim Smallman is elsewhere. He’s not as entertaining as Jim and there are definite audio problems with the microphone as I find him quite hard to understand. This is not normally an issue with PROGRESS shows. Commentary comes from RJ Singh and Callum Leslie.

The Dunne Brothers (Pete & Damien) vs. Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)

The Midlands duo of Bate & Seven are immediately over courtesy of an ingenious tag team name and the bags of talent they possess. The Brothers Dunne are both from the Midlands too. It’s a Midlands exhibition! They know each other and Moustache Mountain are allowed to do fun spots. They’re already very popular with the crowd. The Dunne brothers are less fun but as heels they take their licks and have tandem offence. It’s a rollicking good time and once again PROGRESS opt to have someone beat Tyler because he’s already over. This time it’s Pete Dunne with a Flatliner. At least Trent eats the pinfall. Entertaining match up though and pleasing to see upcoming prospects looking this strong. I see big things for these guys. ***

Natural Progression Series III Semi Final
Damon Moser vs. Ashton Smith

Moser’s beard rivals Trent Seven’s beard. Screw the Atlas Division, where’s the Beards division? The championship belt could be really tiny and act as a snood. Ashton Smith is more experienced but is just now reaching the level where he can have this kind of exposure. Ashton is 27 and has been wrestling for almost a decade. Moser is a comparative noob. It’s almost unfair of PROGRESS to put this on after the opener, where four guys got over on cool moves and being new faces. That’s pretty much the expectation for this one too. The execution is a little shaky but without any serious botches. Seeing as the reward for the Natural Progression Series is a title match, I can’t see either of these guys doing that. Moser at one point attempts a Van Terminator and lands it in Ashton’s bollocks. Ashton hits a superkick in response, which doesn’t finish because Moser’s beard cushions the blow. Moser finishes with the Knee Trembler. This was a bit of a mess in truth. Both guys tried hard but the selling was all over the place and the execution wasn’t great. **

Post Match: Pastor William Eaver shows up for a showdown and the difference in character in incredible. Eaver is the finished article now. Moser is not. Should still be a decent match up but I fully expect Eaver to win. Anything else is just wrong.

Jinny vs. Toni Storm

On a list of potential riot starting heels in the UK scene, you’d probably be surprised that Jinny is heading to the top of that list. It helps that she’s wrestling a happy-go-lucky babyface in Toni, who everyone loves. Jinny seems obsessed with getting heat and arguing with the fans. Either she’s good at being a heel or she really hates wrestling fans. Either is possible. The work isn’t terribly clean with a few awkward looking spots. As a match it’s not up to much but the crowd destroy Jinny with the abuse. The “Primark Princess” chant is pure gold. Getting that level of heat is almost essential for the women’s division. It puts it on a par with the men. Jinny uses foreign objects like bin bags and lipstick. It’s creative. Toni’s Hulkamania comeback where she tears the plastic bag off is amazing. It’s so much fun. Elizabeth distracts to allow the Facelift to finish. Jinny’s angle with Elizabeth is guaranteed to go somewhere interesting. No downtrodden assistant has ever remained downtrodden in wrestling. The pop when Elizabeth fights back here is formidable. Jinny’s rampage around ringside reminds me of Tiger Jeet Singh in Japan. Chairs flying everywhere and people scurrying to get out of her way. If she’s smart she plants someone at one of these shows and belts them to get people genuinely scared of what she might do. **1/4

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Mark Haskins

This is a total babyface match up, which in itself is a rarity in modern wrestling as, more often than not, one of the faces will be despised by the crowd. Despite being a face, Haskins works as the heel, controlling the pace of the match. The structure allows Webster to fight from underneath. Meaty chops in this one. Echoing around the Ritz. It adds a bit of substance to an already solid contest. Haskins is technically brilliant. The way he rolls into the Sharpshooter is incredible. The way he plans the move is great and then when it’s on he cranks it, like nobody cranks submissions. There used to be a lot more cranking of submissions, making them go from effective to absolutely devastating. Haskins leans way, way back on his Sharpshooter and it looks fantastic. Flash is fast enough to keep up on exchanges but is a step down in technical terms. The dives and on the high spots they exist on an equal footing. Haskins is so smooth and fluid. His transitions into submissions are flawless. They do some awesome mat counters near the finish, from one attempted finish to another until Haskins reverses a pin for the win. Great stuff from these guys. Haskins is at a point where every match he has is good. Like Ospreay only technically sound instead of jaw-droppingly crazy. ***3/4

PROGRESS Atlas Tournament (Block A)
Big Daddy Walter vs. T-Bone

This is the first match in the #BigLadsDivision. T-Bone is representing my county of Worcestershire. Him and Haskins could start a Malvern Mafia! I do love the big lads, Stronkstyle etc. I love the crowd reacting to slams and stuff like we’re in the 80s. As if lifting one of the other big lads is a titanic struggle with shocking results. The ring survives this match but one ringside chair gets annihilated by Walter. He is a furniture wrecker. Good job he wasn’t in the TLC match at Chapter 27. The Big Lads can’t quite emulate the Big Japan style but they have a go. T-Bone has a crack at no selling where he pops up off a German suplex only to get floored by a lariat immediately afterwards. If you like big guys clubbing each other with every big bump greeted by rapturous applause, you should dig this and the Atlas division in general. T-Bone gets terrific reactions for throwing Walter with a fallaway slam, which is sick considering Walter’s size, and a frogsplash finishes for T-Bone. Two big boys smashing each other about. Can’t complain and Worcestershire wins out. ***

Marty Scurll’s Non-Title Open Challenge

Ideally Jimmy Havoc would answer this but seeing as he’s got a debilitating knee injury that won’t happen. Scurll runs a load of cheap heat, including calling the fans “virgins”. “It’s not raining” chant the fans at Marty’s umbrella wielding heeldom. Anyway, Scurll issues an open challenge and Tommy End strolls out nonchalant as you like. The crowd comes unglued.

Marty Scurll vs. Tommy End

We speculated, on the BritWres Roundtable podcast, that the Sumerian Death Squad was likely split up because they wanted to push Tommy in singles. Here’s the proof that we were right. End kicks the every loving shit out of Scurll and the chemistry is intensely pleasing. Scurll has some fun counters, going after the shoulder and looking to set up the Chickenwing. The whole superkick/just kidding thing is countered into multiple strikes of death and then Scurll grabs the arm again to stop it. It’s really great work and the idea of a title match is already enticing. It is brutally stiff too. A delight. The sheer number of counters that are brutal strikes, usually kicks or knees, is incredible. “Chicken Wing”…End catches Scurll with a KO roundhouse to the face and just ends him! End draping the belt across Scurll’s face and leaving the champion absolutely dead in the ring is a fantastic visual. I loved this and desperately want a title match. ****

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
No Disqualification Match
The Origin (El Ligero & Nathan Cruz) (c) vs. FSU (Mark Andrews & Eddie Dennis)

This has to deliver going on after that last match and headlining the show. Ligero’s shield bashing mockery of Mark Andrews is quite sensational. As it’s no DQ they brawl all over the bloody place and don’t do anything stupid like running heat. Origin, as heels, have become quite adept at these wild brawls. They go all over the building in this one, making sure all the fans get a close up look at the match. I’m not sure it would have worked for everyone in the building but everyone does get a moment to admire the grapplers. On video it comes across really well. I love that Origin producing a ladder draws heat due to the crowd hating ladders after the ladder failure at Chapter 27. Mark Andrews taking a swig of a fans beer, and toasting the crowd, is a lovely touch as it shows the connection between the audience and the wrestlers. It’s been a while since a promotion existed that felt like a great big family and that would have been ECW. It’s genuinely touching to see that here. These two teams revel in the thirty minutes they’re given, which is part of what makes PROGRESS special. They allow tag teams to shine and the main event spot has been earned by these four men. They certainly bust a gut to make sure it’s a tonne of fun. The violence handily escalates when they get into the ring and into the bigger spots. Like El Ligero taking a super rana into a pile of thumbtacks. Cruz does the smart thing and tries to clear the tacks away, which involves him kicking them recklessly into the crowd. Lawsuits? What lawsuits? It’ll never happen. The thumbtacks do make a lot of the spots near the end look extremely tentative. There’s just no safe place to land. The Origin manage to knock out both referees to prevent losing. The table makes an appearance at the end of the match, which pretty much makes this a TLC match. Which is, oddly enough, better than the actual TLC at Chapter 27. Eddie Dennis eats a brutally sloppy powerbomb off the apron through a table and two chairs and Andrews gets killed with the Conchairto. That doesn’t finish but a Tombstone on a chair does. This match was utter carnage. Most of it was clean as a whistle too. You couldn’t put something on after this. Cleaning up the ring would take too long. At least there were no light tubes. ****1/4

Summary: A fine show from PROGRESS, a step up from the somewhat disappointing Chapter 27 show. That show was hampered by the failings of the furniture in the TLC match. This show was less ambitious on paper and yet delivered strongly. The last two matches and Haskins-Webster are well worth going out of your way for. Even the matches on this show that I didn’t rate all that highly they all had heat and there was nothing bad. Not even the Natural Progression match. Despite there being no Ospreay or Sabre Jr. on this show the BritWres train keeps a rolling.