PROGRESS returned to the Ballroom for the first time since their trip to Ally Pally with La Danse Macabre. It had the feel of the beginning of a new era of PROGRESS; it felt fresh.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre
October 29, 2017
Electric Ballroom
London, England

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Host in the ring is Jim Smallman. On commentary are Glen Joseph and RJ Singh.

Pete Dunne had requested time to talk and does so at the start of Macabre so he can sneak off to ATTACK! afterwards. The idea is that British Strong Style are sorry for being dicks for the past year and Pete apologises. Apart from kicking Callum Leslie in the balls. He’s proud of that. The crowd have been dying to cheer for BSS for months and the sly comedy has eased them babyface without any further acts required. Trent Seven has been hilarious and struggling to stay heel for six months.

The Grizzled Young Vets show up to provoke Moustache Mountain and a puzzled Pete Dunne is blindsided by Joseph Connors. The audible “oh fuck off” from a crowd member about sums it up. With that from British Strong Style all is forgiven. It’s a bit cheeky to have them basically turn for no reason after a year of terror but their heel storyline had run its course.

Aussie Open & Omari def. Never Say Die & Connor Mills

This is the embodiment of freshness. Lots of new faces and hot prospects, and they all know what PROGRESS means and how important it is to be a hit here. It’s cool that all these guys are already over. It starts out a bit ropey until Mark Davis settles the nerves by high fiving Dillon and controlling the pace. The Knucklelocks lads isolate Kyle Fletcher for abuse and he’s very good at taking heat because he’s so tiny. Team Knucklelocks are more prone to errors and this happens fairly frequently during their team work. The Fight Club trio have better continuity.

Aussie Open are a great team and Omari is a fine addition. Dunkzilla rocks the party; his one handed powerbomb is fucking fantastic. There are tiny little issues where Davis is waiting for a move to happen. It’s a little his fault but it’s more about his opponents not getting to where they’re supposed to be quickly enough. Omari is faultless throughout. He’s improved a shocking amount of the last year. A few crazy dives set up Dunkzilla to murder Connor with the Pull-Up Piledriver. It’s a beauty.

I liked this better live, seeing it on tape allowed me to notice a few little timing issues. These guys came out here to show what they can do and overall had a very successful match. BritWres keeps unearthing new talent. It’s an amazing production line right now. ***1/2

Strangler Davis def. Timothy Thatcher

Stranglewank really annoys me. He had such a killer heel turn and instead of capitalising on it, he’s doing this shit Hangman Page cosplay. What kind of idiot comes out with a noose anyway? Poor Tim has to drag something worthwhile out of Strangler and it’s not happening. Tim has been unlucky in his last couple of PROGRESS outings, I’m glad he’s being paired up with WALTER next time out; that’s peak Tim. Here he has an eye patch on so people make pirate references while he puts Davis through his paces. Davis tries a few bits of grappling but is easily outclassed so he has to take shortcuts, using the obvious eye one. Tim’s eye patch is due to an angle in wXw where Bobby Gunns burned him with a cigarette. It’s tremendous commitment. He wore that after the shows too. The trouble with wrestling Strangler is he’s so completely fumbled the ball on this heel run that it’s an uphill struggle to do anything with him. Paz cocks up a pinfall where neither guys shoulders are down at all. The crowd lose interest in proceedings and the urge of Strangler to work a match that’s 50% mat grappling and 50% heel shtick is irritating. The best part of the match is when Thatcher unleashes a series of slaps while holding Strangler in place for them. It’s glorious. The rest of the match is weak. Davis goes low and finishes with his shitty choke. Paz stops it because Timmy refuses to submit to such a pile of shit hold. Strangler Davis? More like Piss Break Davis. *

Grizzled Young Veterans def. Chris Brookes & Jimmy Havoc

This was originally a title match but Kid Lykos wasn’t able to return yet from his broken paw. PROGRESS have a substitute and “because this isn’t mid 90s WCW” the titles are therefore not on the line. Grizzled Young Veterans have some decent tag team moves. They’ve got them together quickly and it feels like they’re different to other teams on the UK scene. Havoc is generally not a sympathetic enough guy to run heat on but that’s what Veterans go for, hoping Havoc’s bloodied shoulder will be enough to sell that sympathy. If it was Lykos this section would work but it being Havoc it doesn’t. There are issues with Brookes hot tagging in too, where he keeps doing double team moves (like the double dragon screw) that don’t make any sense. Why would Gibson continue to hold onto Drake’s leg? Brookes either needs to do that spot quicker, do something beforehand to weaken both opponents or not do it at all. The whole “it’s wrestling” defence doesn’t work for me. Comparatively Gibson and Drake’s moves are executed quickly enough for me to not even think about the logic behind them. Sometimes, if you’re quick, you eliminate all the whys. There’s another CCK logic hole where Lykos pulls the referee out and yet Paz doesn’t disqualify the makeshift team. He’s not in the match Paz! Havoc ‘accidentally’ hits Lykos with the tray in a spot that I would be critical of if it wasn’t for Havoc’s actions later in the night. Maybe this was deliberate. Although moments later he eats the Ticket to Mayhem and takes the pin. Grizzled Young Vets looked good here. The makeshift team? Less so. **3/4

PROGRESS Atlas Championship
WALTER def. Wolfgang

Is it weird that Wolfgang retains his music? Is he mates with Johnny Cash’s family or something? WALTER has it right; use classical music. No copyrights on Antonin Dvořák! He knows his way around a banger or two. Wolfgang is having the best year of his career and yet he’s horribly outmatched here, nowhere near the level that WALTER is on.

WALTER puts a beating on him and Wolfgang’s responses don’t look strong enough. WALTER works snug and Wolfgang wrestles like he’s in WWE. The gulf in effort is staggering. Normally people treat PROGRESS like a big deal and bring their A game. Wolfgang brings middling effort and match structure. WALTER has had several matches during 2017 where his opponent has stepped their game up to match his abilities. Wolfgang rarely does that. The dive, for example, gets the crowd fired up but these moments are few and far between. Especially compared to everything WALTER does. Like the swank powerbomb that finishes. WALTER was on another level here. He’s literally top 5 in the world right now. ***1/4

British Strong Style (Seven & Bate) def. Sexy Starr

Sexy Starr is the team of Jack Sexsmith and David Starr, which leads to Starr trying to break Jim Smallman’s arm during the introductions. If you don’t get the reference you’re probably not watching as much wrestling as all these guys. Moustache Mountain look pleased to be back in the realm of the babyfaces. Trent’s antics during Starr’s introductions sadly don’t make VOD. Tyler’s glee at receiving a streamer makes it in. The match itself is a nice mixture of mat technique and comedy. The kiss tags are lovely. The stealing of taunts is beautiful. Jack goes nuts and trying to armbar Trent cracks me up. Also Trent failing to make a noise with a chop and getting so annoyed that he chops a fallen Sexsmith to get his sound fix. Trent’s missed crossbody is another moment of genuine, pure comedy. Trent Seven may have made his name doing violent realistic wrestling but he’s found an easier way to make his money as one of Europe’s funniest grapplers. When the match breaks down it becomes more violent and intense, showcasing what all four guys can do with serious work. There’s still a hint of comedy but there’s a clear pick-up in the bumps and such. Starr gets spiked with a Burning Hammer and the Tyler Driver finishes. The established team getting the win over plucky upstarts. Good wrestling all round with prominent comedy work drawing the crowd in. ***1/2

Maintaining the spirit of change Mark Haskins runs in and beats down Sexsmith and Starr, confirming his long-suspected switch to the dark side. If that’s not enough Jimmy Havoc runs in for the save and also turns heel! I loved the assorted reactions to this. The Goth Section on the balcony got very upset with him.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship
Toni Storm def. Charli Evans

Big fan of ‘Hark! A Shark!’ who provide Charli’s entrance music. Toni’s entrance music is growing on me too. Especially as she has a specific beat where she throws the belt up. A great wrestler knows their entrance. The crowd is somewhat subdued for this but it’s tough to follow a double heel turn from two of the companies most recognised personalities. Dahlia Black joins commentary in an attempt to expand the PROGRESS women’s universe. The trouble with only having seven matches on a show is that means only one women’s match. I really appreciate them doing Revelations of Divine Love and hopefully the ongoing Dome shows will mean more chances for women’s wrestling with the scene improving hugely in Europe over the past year. This is Toni establishing herself as a killer champion. She’s still very much a babyface but some of her challengers have no chance and the matches are structured that way. This is Toni’s fifth title defence and it’s easily the most routine. Charli is also better off fighting from underneath so the structure is a bit weird. It does feel like an inevitability that Toni will retain and that takes a lot out of the match. Her previous defences; Kay Lee Ray, Laura, Candice and Dahlia all felt like possible changes. Well, maybe KLR and Candice felt more like title establishing defences, but there was a feeling that neither would be out of place as champion. That’s not the case here and Toni retaining with Strong Zero is the anti-climatic out of nowhere finish. This was fine but despite the tournament to get Charli here she felt out of her element. **3/4

PROGRESS World Championship
Travis Banks def. Keith Lee

While this show has felt fresh and different it does need a banging match to cap it off and hello! Basking in the glory of Keith Lee is the permanent state of most indie fans in 2017. He’s had a cracking year. So has Travis. They had a great match last time out so here’s round two. Keith establishes the story early; “me big, you small”. It’s technically heel work as Keith is a just a big jerk but everyone loves him for it. Keith utterly no selling Trav’s first chop is amazing. It’s like the Blockade Runner at the start of a New Hope being chased by the Star Destroyer and firing off it’s pathetic little defence lasers. “Pew, pew, pew”. I’m a big fan of Travis refusing to do his tope because Keith just stands there encouraging him to do it.

The story is that Travis finds it hard to live up to the sheer size and power of Keith. Everything he attempts is met with Keith’s ridiculous power. His chest gets obliterated by those big overhand double chops. His body hurled clear across the ring with biels. Travis looks like a small child at times, throwing himself at Keith with reckless abandon, knowing he can’t hurt his opponent. They tell a great big man vs. small man storyline and it’s almost all believable. Keith’s offence especially. My one issue comes from Travis doing a Lungblower. Why would you do that? Why would you dump all that weight on your own knees? Travis gets absolutely shredded with the chops, survives two Spiritbombs and manages to hold on to his title against all odds. Kiwi Krusher, after a lot of kicks to the head, gets it done and Travis Banks is still PROGRESS champion. Keith Lee brought a superb challenge for Travis to overcome here. The abuse Banks had to suffer to keep his title made this a truly memorable title defence. ****1/4

Final Thoughts:

If you’re looking at the snowflakes you’ll probably be thinking La Danse Macabre was one of PROGRESS’ weaker shows this year but the truth is this was a delightful show. PROGRESS needed to do something different and they did that in spades. New faces, fresh turns, new teams, exciting possibilities and a great main event to cap that off. It won’t win any show of the year awards but it was booking that was needed and booking that worked.