PROGRESS Chapter 31: All Hail The New Puritans
The Ritz – Manchester, England
June 19, 2016
Atlas Tournament Group Stage Match
Big Damo & Joe Coffey def. Rampage Brown & Michael Dante
Dante wasn’t at the show, so his ‘stablemate’ Mikey Whiplash stepped in to replace him. Commentary played up whether Whiplash was actually still friends with Dante after Whiplash turned Dante’s ‘better’ friend Tommy End. Legion were never pals in PROGRESS anyway, so it still seems odd that they’re so willing to play up the team for storyline purposes, especially when they’re still actively teaming in wXw and other promotions. Whiplash was clearly being facetious in replacing Dante here, as he refused to tag in and forced Rampage to wrestle the already established team of Damo and Coffey alone. Damo and Coffey work well as a team and here hit a few traditional tag team moves with a ‘big man’ twist, and made Rampage look for any openings to try and battle back, a fairly unique position for him. He managed to score some space with a cool shoulder block and Samoan drop combo, but Whiplash jumped off the apron, leaving Rampage to be hit by a spinning lariat and senton combo for the pin, giving Damo and Coffey the points. **
The Atlas tournament format has been confusing, as these tag matches have actually replaced the singles matches between each member of the tag teams i.e. Coffey and Damo won’t have a match, neither will Brown and Dante. Dante not being in this match further confuses things, and just hurts the legitimacy of these group stages of the tournament. The semi-finals can’t start soon enough, because the group stages have none of the intrigue of the G1 Climax or any similar tournament.
Damon Moser def. Zack Gibson (w/ Nathan Cruz)
Moser took 37 seconds to come through the curtain, and that really irks me. He’s presented as a pseudo-Young Boy, but milks his entrance like he’s The Undertaker at WrestleMania. He needs to take entrance lessons from Jay White. It doesn’t help that he hasn’t proven anything in the ring yet, botches his signature moves, and is now being booked on every show instead of far more complete performers like Paul Robinson. He’s certainly a ‘Scrappy-Doo’ character right now, but PROGRESS have faith that he’ll turn a corner. Gibson cut the same ‘Drop you on the deck…’ promo from his Super Strong Style 16 matches, which was glorious. Gibson is getting nuclear heat now, and not even he could get the crowd properly behind Moser.
The match itself was pretty clunky, with a fair bit of standing around, waiting for one guy to initiate the next spot, as well as some uninteresting crowd brawling. Moser isn’t very good in the ring right now, but at least brings effort and energy to the table, screaming and injecting pace into his sequences. It sometimes feels like he’s running before he’s learned to walk though, and his actual execution of moves is lacking sometimes. Nathan Cruz on the outside did a good job of taunting and tormenting Moser while he was locked in the Shankly Gates, but over-egged it and allowed Moser to grab him and pull himself to the ropes. Gibson got overly-irritated and allowed himself to be rolled-up by Moser for the win. The roll-up took an age to execute though and looked terrible, with both guys looking at each other throughout and almost moving into the pin in slow-motion. A bad come-down for Gibson from his world-beating performance at SSS16, and Moser earning banana-peel wins does absolutely nothing to make him feel like a legitimate member of the roster instead of an author self-insert character in a bad fanfiction somehow come to life. *
Pollyanna def. Dahlia Black
This has been an on-off feud since the start of the year, with Pollyanna presented as the superior wrestler throughout, but unable to defeat Dahlia one-on-one, mainly due to TK Cooper routinely interjecting. Now no-one can interfere on either woman’s behalf, or they both get fired from PROGRESS. The early portion of the match was fairly slow and the crowd seemed to be waiting for an inevitable interference tease before getting properly invested, and indeed Jinny ended up being the person to try and get her rivals fired by interfering, only for Jim Smallman to stop her by applying the stipulation to her too.
The women worked with plenty of venom in their moves, making it feel like a properly climactic match in the feud. Some of the moves were a little sloppily executed but the emotion that was put into the performance carried the match past any minor technical flaws. Dahlia’s gymnastic ability was put to good use with some vicious looking offence, such as choking Pollyanna with her foot in the corner, along with all of her kicks and knee strikes. She’s not KENTA by any means, but Pollyanna made them look deadly. Dahlia enhanced her control segments with good shit-talking too, and Pollyanna is a very sympathetic seller, so the dynamic they created here was compelling. Dahlia got a little too over-confident though and went to the top rope too early, allowing Polly to hit some good high-impact moves, concluding with a blackout driver for the pin, which Dahlia sold like death. This was probably the best-worked women’s match in PROGRESS so far, and the story was very satisfying too. ***
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship Match
London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) (c) def. The Dazzler Team (Darrell Allen and Earl Black Jr.)
The Dazzlers are come across as utter jobbers, and in this match, they truly embraced it. I complained about Moser taking ages to come through the curtain, but here Black and Allen spent 87 seconds in their ‘default video game taunt’ pose, aggravating the crowd fairly successfully in doing so. They’re dorks and therefore them doing stupid crap like that actually works effectively at getting heat, so it’s good that they’ve found their niche as a lower card act. The Riots totally ran them over in the early going, as they should do, but the Dazzlers figured out that they were actually better technical wrestlers than the Riots and ground them down. Their offence was pretty dry and uninteresting but I appreciate the story point that the Riots are weak against more technically skilled opponents. They never felt like they were in real danger though, and the match was at its best when Black and Allen were bumping around for the Riots’ impressive spurts of offence. The Dazzlers did their part and made the Riots look like stars, so everything in this match worked as it should have. Good to see Darrell Allen get a high-profile match as a reward for his work as the head trainer of the ProJo, and the Riots got to run through a team before they get to some bigger defences in the future. **½
FSU (Eddie Dennis and Mark Andrews) def. Dunne Brothers (Pete and Damien Dunne)
The tag team scene in British wrestling has gotten sneakily good recently. FSU have been mainstays in PROGRESS for a while now, but this is only the Dunnes’ second tag team match, having beaten Moustache Mountain at the last Manchester chapter. FSU were their usual flashy and hyper-active selves, hitting dives on the Dunnes moments into the match and feeding off the energy of the crowd really well. Dennis even transformed into his alter-ego Eddie Mysterio Jr., showing off some lucha moves and making FSU easy to get behind here. The Dunnes did a good job of creating vitriol as a counter to their happy-go-lucky opponents, both grimacing and growling their way through the match. Both teams kept the match fast-paced and back-and-forth while still having a clear idea which team was face and which was heel; a refreshing change of pace to a lot of generic tag matches. Damien may not be heading to Reseda this summer like his brother Pete, but he’s absolutely no Tanga Loa i.e. coasting on the skills of his brother. He’s a less exciting wrestler than his brother but is just as effective in his heel work, and knows exactly what to do to get a strong reaction out of the crowd. He is a member of the ‘No Fun Police’ in ATTACK after all. Everyone got to shine in this match, with plenty of fun and very creative spots. All four guys have wrestled each other so many times that their rapport is spot on, and it was a pleasure to see them display that rapport in PROGRESS. Andrews took Pete Dunne out with a reverse rana from the top rope, and Dennis followed up with a Next Stop Driver on Damien for the win. PROGRESS are using Pete Dunne a lot now, but aren’t giving him many wins. We’ll see if his upcoming PWG debut will facilitate a much-deserved push soon. ***½
Mikey Whiplash def. Pastor William Eaver
Billed as a battle between Heaven and Hell, this was also a match between two guys who were in need of wins. Eaver was pinned by the lowly Dazzler Team on Super Strong Style 16 Day 2, while Whiplash was absolutely punked on the same show, first by Mark Andrews and then Tommy End in the main event. There was plenty of urgency to start the match, with some good-looking strike exchanges and plenty of genuinely strong crowd brawling. Whiplash always goes all out when he receives an Irish whip into the chairs, and Eaver responded by putting his own body through the rigour when he too got violently thrown into the back rows. Weak-looking crowd brawling can kill a match’s momentum, but the stuff on display here really heated the crowd up. The match remained at a high pace back in the ring, with Eaver hitting some of his big moves on Whiplash but unable to score the pin. Whiplash got momentum back in his favour with a wild dive into chairs that still hadn’t been reclaimed since Eaver threw Whiplash onto them minutes beforehand, and maintained control to beat Eaver relatively quickly, re-establishing Whiplash as somewhat of a threat after being humiliated at SSS16. Eaver still has his Natural Progression title shot in his back pocket, but has been giving up plenty of pinfalls since, which seems like some good old WWE Money In the Bank winner booking. Still, a fun brawl and a good showing from both men, suggesting that either man could step up in the PROGRESS heirarchy soon. **½
PROGRESS Championship Match
Marty Scurll (c) def. Chris Hero
Two years ago, I saw this matchup main event a Kamikaze Pro show in Birmingham, and in front of about 200 people, at least a quarter of whom were children, the Hero and the Villain tore the house down. Back then, Scurll was just getting his ‘Villain’ persona off the ground, now he has mastered it and turned himself into an international indie star, while Hero has further cemented his role as ‘King of the indies’, with great matches in every single promotion he’s wrestled for this year, including PROGRESS. This match had all the makings of a classic. For some reason though, it didn’t quite land with this particular reviewer.
The match started out really slowly. Obviously, the ‘main event’ style of wrestling usually has to have some sort of ‘feeling out’ stage of the match. It doesn’t make any sense if both guys are hitting their big moves immediately, since on both an artistic and kayfabe level, there needs to be some build-up of moves to build tension/weaken the opponent. But here it felt plodding instead of engaging. For as great as Hero is at using his size to bully opponents, he’s slightly lacking at working as a face against a smaller guy like Scurll. Both men seemed to suffer from this size/alignment discrepancy, working awkwardly around it with fairly generic heat segments rather than tackling the issue by creating a more unique dynamic. This isn’t to say the early section of the match was bad by any means. It was crisply executed and fun to watch, but never felt truly engaging or meaningful.
When Scurll was working on Hero’s arm, I just wasn’t invested in the action. The ‘super-indie’ section of the match hadn’t begun yet, and knowing the style and ability of both men, I knew it was going to happen at some point, and that Hero would probably be throwing some elbows that negated any holds Scurll had put his arm in previously. It just felt like they were padding out the time to say ‘we went 20-25 minutes’ without actually doing anything meaningful with that time. And when the pace picked up and the sequences started to flow together, the action felt a bit hollow, like I’d seen it all before. This could have been any mid-card match on any random PWG show, so while the action was fun in the moment, it never started to feel as special as it could have. Hero’s matches in SSS16 all had very strong themes; the hoss war with Big Daddy Walter, the personal one-upmanship against Tommy End, and his bullying of the underdog Mark Andrews. This match against Scurll was ‘just a match’ in comparison to those ones, and as such didn’t stick in my mind anywhere near as much as his SSS16 matches. It was a good match between two of the world’s best, but a let-down because I was expecting something truly special. Others have said they loved the match, so maybe this is just me displaying that I’ve gotten jaded with the ‘super-indie’ style. Maybe if I’d been there live, I would have been more ‘in the moment’ and received the match much better. Maybe if I’d merely watched it on a different day or in a different mood, I would have enjoyed it more. But I’ll stick with the view that if I can’t remember anything about the match after watching it twice, by definition it wasn’t a memorable match, and therefore I can’t view it as a very good one.
Scurll got to look strong by kicking out of a Ripcord Elbow, and then locked in the Chickenwing twice, with the second one finally putting down Hero for good. Hero will always be welcome back in PROGRESS, and he has proven over the four matches he’s had for the company that he is likely the best wrestler to ever step into a PROGRESS ring, even if this match missed the mark for me. ***
This show was enjoyable beyond the first two matches, but nothing really stood out as really special. The FSU/Dunnes match was the most fun contest and featured some genuinely inventive tag work, and I know a lot of people will love the Scurll/Hero match, I just wasn’t one of those people. The ‘American super-indie’ style has worn on me a bit, but it was still an enjoyable match and a good moment post-match for Hero to end his current PROGRESS run on. He’ll be (suitably) given a hero’s welcome when he comes back in the future.