We’re in Manchester at the O2 Ritz for another Northern installment of PROGRESS: Chapter 52 Vote Pies. Host in the ring is Jim Smallman and the crowd is rowdy! They sold this building out in record time.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 52: Vote Pies
July 23, 2017
The Ritz
Manchester, England

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Commentary on this show comes from Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie. Not a surname among them.

#CCK def. Extra Talent-ed & The Origin Banter Edition

It’s Dave Mastiff’s birthday and as Mastiff has no entrance music so the crowd sing Happy Birthday to him so he can come out to something musical. Jesus, this crowd is loud. Starks & Solow are operating as the heels here. They’re in the country for a brief tour before heading back to the USA. Famously Solow is Bayley’s boyfriend. Starks has a birthday card for Mastiff. It reads “happy birthday from Jeff Jarrett and the team at ITV World of Sport wrestling”. Ohhhh. The match, having virtually no rules, is fun and games. Everyone does a bunch of shit, Lykos in particular is keen to show off his range of big spots following an extended run as a heat drawing wolf. Starks & Solow aren’t quite as showy as the others, presumably due to a lack of familiarity with the BritWres teams. The best part of the match is how many times Brookes accidentally hits a move on Lykos. The lack of familiarity hurts CCK as Starks is out of position for their most well known double team move. Ligero gets counted down for three and everyone looks confused. Ok, who fucked up the finish? Chris Roberts walks around looking confused and Jim Smallman isn’t sure what’s going on. It’s his company! Anyway, CCK win. I guess. Brookes takes it out on Extra Talented with a chair for being late on breaking the pinfall. The weird botched finish was mostly covered for but it took the edge of what had been a good contest. ***1/4

T-Bone def. Mike Bird

Bird has been great when doing undercard spots so he keeps getting asked back. I really hope Wild Boar gets a shot in Progress too. I know he’s tiny but he’s fierce. He’s the smallest monster in professional wrestling. I love him. T-Bone brings the WWE UK gimmick with him, as a gypsy travelling fighter. He’s not been seen since the Atlas tournament. In the spirit of botching that began at the end of the last match Mike Bird takes a horrible bump over the top rope right at the start. Making a hash of the start and end of the bump. T-Bone recovers the match quickly by beating Bird up with his no-nonsense approach. The match takes on the attributes of the Atlas division with some sturdy striking taking place. Some of the strikes don’t land where they’re supposed to but both guys are pros and soldier on regardless. Technically it’s not the best of contests but they make up for it with heart and violence. T-Bone spikes Bird on his head with a powerslam for the win, which was a terrifying experience for me let alone Mike. Both these guys put in a good shift despite some technical issues. Progress are in a tricky spot as a lot of their talent are getting slightly stale through overexposure and it’s tough to know who’ll fit into those required needs. I think both of these fellas can do a job for PROGRESS though. ***

PROGRESS Women’s Championship
Toni Storm def. Laura Di Matteo

This is Toni’s second title defence after winning the belt at SSS weekend. Laura was in that match. She risked life and limb but came up short. Now she has another chance. Toni tries to play to Laura’s strengths, which involves rolling around on the mat exchanging holds. Laura is hugely improved in that regard and I’d rather watch her mat wrestle than hit the ropes and struggle. When they hit the standing switches and whatnot Laura telegraphs a bit too much. There is a definite issue in women’s wrestling with telegraphing because I see it far more than in men’s wrestling. Other areas, which are perhaps trickier, like bumping and selling are fine though. It’s a reminder that wrestling is actually quite hard. Toni has come on since working for Stardom and in particular her strikes are cool. Laura’s strikes in this match are also very solid, perhaps due to Toni’s influence. Laying strikes in and protecting the business is best practice if you’re not sure. Laura shows heightened aggression and it’s important for her to look like a threat to Toni. Laura gets in a few dives, which aren’t as good as they used to be as she’s switched from going between first and second ropes and second and third. Maybe that’s for safety reasons but it’s taken the edge off them. Laura’s general work has definitely improved and despite making me nervous a few times her more dangerous spots look safer and this is her best singles match. All that potential is finally coming to pass. If Toni can drag the entire UK scene up to her level before signing for WWE that would be nice. Toni eventually lays Laura out with the piledriver but by then the result was irrelevant. What really matters is that Laura Di Matteo grew up in front of our very eyes during this match, graduating from promising youngster to genuine top tier women’s talent. I was beginning to think it’d never happen for her after so many nervous performances filled with major errors but this was superb from her. ****

Matt Riddle def. Travis Banks

Most matches would find it tough to follow that last cracker but Riddle vs. Travis is guaranteed to be awesome. I saw it take place in Lucha Forever and it was easily the best match on the show. Travis Banks can actually match Riddle on the mat and it’s great. Travis is so intense that when Riddle suplexes him on his head he just pops back up like the fucking Terminator. He also no sells that big overhand chop Riddle does, which makes incredible noise. Riddle’s face is a picture. It merely drives his resolve though and the shit he follows up with is even more intense. They leather the hell out of each other. It’s at least as good as the Lucha Forever match only in front of a far hotter crowd. Riddle comes out here with cornrows in but they all gets knocked loose during the match. It’s that intense. Travis goes after the Slice of Heaven and Riddle pulls him out of the air into an anklelock. It’s one of the smoothest counters you’ll ever see. The whole match is two guys giving everything. It’s wonderful. Riddle is sneakily putting together a run for Wrestler of the Year with how good his high-end stuff is. Travis meanwhile has been so consistent.

Travis kicks out of the jumping Tombstone at one, drawing an incredible reaction from Riddle and a “fuck off” from Callum Leslie. All of which popped me. The match couldn’t be going any better until Pete Dunne comes out to distract, a necessary evil to allow Riddle to beat Travis with the Cradle Tombstone. Like, an actual Tombstone not the jumping variant he does into a flapjack. Great fucking match but the finish takes the edge off it a touch. Riddle and Banks is always good. I think the best part of the booking is that Travis loses nothing in taking a job and walks out as popular as when he walked in, if not more so because of such a stellar performance. Logic dictates that someone going into a title shot needs to be kept strong but it does two things. 1. Gives him a subtle vulnerability that he was lacking. 2. Creates Riddle as a readymade challenger if Banks wins the strap. ****1/2

Jack Sexsmith def. Chuck Mambo, Chief Deputy Dunne & Zack Gibson

Pleased to see Damian back in Progress with a regular gig, making sure his Anti-Fun Police gimmick is established as a staple of BritWres. Gibson is another victim of the generic entrance music. He should just record himself doing his intro! Perfect entrance music. Sexsmith comes out last as the biggest star in this and it’s not even close. He has risen up the Progress talent tree and is getting his fair share of sunshine. Dunne is relegated to hating beach balls. It’s amusing to me that someone with an anti-fun gimmick is so much fun to watch. He gets to talk before the match; accusing Manchester of having too much fun before the inevitable wall of heat for Gibson is constructed. The crowd was loud already but the booing for Gibson is deafening. Mambo makes me laugh by going for the People’s Elbow but forgetting he’s got half a dozen elbow pads on and takes too long removing them. That’s so Mambo. The match is fun and well structured with a good balance of good guys and heels with the crowd finding plenty to bite on. They keep the pace strong too with Dunne in particular driving the action by helping the other lads transition from one sequence to another. Gibson vs. Sexsmith is the core of the match though with Zack still determined to prove Jack doesn’t belong in the same ring as him. Then he gets beaten with a cheeky roll up! Tremendous. Everyone looked good here. Which is good news for the future of Progress because they’ve brought Sexsmith and Mambo up and now they’re reaping the benefits. ***1/2

Pete Dunne def. Eddie Dennis

Peter is still refusing to defend the Progress title, until Alexandra Palace…unless someone can beat him. Eddie has a chance at doing so here, as selected by Travis Banks, who thinks Eddie is good value for a big match. Eddie has a powerful introduction, waving a flag marked “Defend Indy Wrestling” in front of Pete Dunne…WWE UK Champion. It firmly draws the battle lines in this one. Dunne is the corporate sell-out. Eddie is the independent hero. It’s the perfect way to set this up as a clash of ideologies. It also helps to ensure that the larger Dennis remains babyface against the smaller Pete Dunne. Dennis, now a full-time wrestler, has new gear and wants to establish himself as a serious star. Rev Pro have positioned him as a loveable loser but you don’t want that gimmick everywhere. He’s a former Attack champion and has had many of Attack’s best singles matches. I’ve always worried about his cardio and capacity to hang with the better UK talents. He does fine here. Hopefully now he has more time he should be able to get that cardio up and get in the gym hours that his commitment requires. When you get a side-on shot you can see his poor condition. There’s work to be done. If he’s to compete with someone like Pete. They hide Eddie’s shortcomings nicely with some strike duels, outside the ring brawling and big spots. Eddie kicking out of the Bitter End is a nice touch as hardly anyone does. Pete’s heel work towards the end is excellent; grabbing a sledgehammer, ‘accidentally’ causing Joel Allen to get bumped and hitting a Pedigree. Eddie hits the Next Stop Driver for the visual pin but Pete can claim that no actual pin took place. Pete recovers, hits the sledgehammer spot, the Pedigree again and the Bitter End for the pin. What an absolute prick. The match was a shade overbooked but the crowd were into it and they ended up having the best match possible. I’d love to fast-forward to a year from now to see how Eddie improves as a full-time wrestler. ***1/2

PROGRESS Tag Team Championships Tornado Tag
British Strong Style (Seven & Bate) def. War Machine

The IWGP tag champs getting a shot at the Progress tag titles? Imagine Okada coming after Pete Dunne! Trent loves being a heel in Progress. He eats that shit up. It’s not like they miss out on merch sales. They have the longest lines in Camden every time. One thing that can be gleaned from this show is that Manchester hasn’t gotten the hang of streamers. Jim announces right before the match starts that it’s tornado rules, which is ideal War Machine territory. Moustache Mountain start off being goofy and not respecting War Machine at all. At one point Trent Seven has to pull one of his own pubic hairs out of his mouth. Tyler has spent all year showing he’s capable of hanging with bigger more dangerous opponents but here he looks like a child. Those War Machine boys are big lads. Asa they brawl all over the place it’s reminiscent of early days Progress and their crazy outta control brawls. They go all over the building. There are multiple Brookseings. War Machine try to use Chris Roberts as a weapon. About half the match takes place around the venue outside of the ring. When they get into the ring the blows become even more devastating and Tyler returns to looking like a man, especially when he clonks the huge Hanson with a lariat and jacks him up for the Airplane spin. Holy shit. When he squats with Hanson on his back Tyler draws a big pop for a heel. It’s impressive. The crowd happily chant his name for a while because fuck it, he deserves it. I can only assume that Progress are planning on turning Tyler back face and building around him for years because he’s the best. This match has all manner of madness but it might culminate in War Machine hitting stereo Pedigrees. The finish is a little screwy with belt shots and Trent hitting on a Pedigree ‘on’ the title strap to retain. I say ‘on’ because the only thing that hit the belt was Hanson’s arm. This was a great match though. Constant unrelenting entertainment from some big, big lads and Tyler Bate outshone them all with his freakish power. ****1/4

Final Thoughts:

Three blowaway matches on this card, including Laura Di Matteo’s coming out party as a top professional wrestler. Another great War Machine match ended the show but it peaked, in terms of quality, with Travis Banks vs. Matt Riddle. What a phenomenal match that was. After seeing it at Lucha Forever I was wondering what it would be like in front of a rowdy crowd. The matches I’ve not mentioned in the wrap up were at least good and the standard across the board was good here. PROGRESS are known for their consistently good cards and if anything they’re getting better. Combine that with fantastic top end stuff and it’s hard to argue with PROGRESS being the flag-bearer for BritWres right now.