We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom for Chapter 58 of PROGRESS’ ongoing book of professional wrestling.

CHAPTER 58: Live Your Best Life
NOVEMBER 26, 2017
Electric Ballroom

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Host in the ring is Jim Smallman. He shames first timers for their failure to attend a show before this. Rob from Newbury gets heckled for “living a long way away”. Newbury! Newbury! It’s less than 90 minutes away! On public transport! Rob, mate. There are many people disappointed in your weak excuses right now. Go back to Newbury and think about what you’ve done. It won’t take long because it’s really fucking close to London. Comms are Glen Joseph and Matt Richards.

PROGRESS World Championship
Travis Banks def. Matt Riddle

This is going on first because Riddle was booked to wrestle Alberto El Patron elsewhere later in the night. This was one of the pre-made title defences for Travis after he was beaten by Pete Dunne’s hand-picked opponents leading up to Alexandra Palace. The first time Riddle appeared in PROGRESS he decimated everyone on the mat…apart from Travis Banks. That isn’t forgotten and they start on the mat where Banks is a match for Riddle. It gets to the point where Riddle opts to switch it up to strikes because he can’t beat Travis on the deck. It’s quite the endorsement for the PROGRESS champ. Once it heads this way they beat the crap out of each other. It’s fair to say the show is peaking early today! Riddle has these little tricks up his sleeve, like catching Travis on his tope or grabbing Banks’ leg for a submission attempt on his coast to coast dropkick. Turning Trav’s offence against him. Slice of Heaven is also met with a submission and it looks as if Riddle has Trav’s number. It’s a good story because Riddle is better fighting from on top as a cocky babyface and Banks is better as a gutsy underdog battling the odds. Both will always refuse to back down. It’s a good dynamic. They’ve had some good matches this year but this is perhaps the most logical they’ve had. I like the call backs to the last match with Travis Banks absolutely refusing to be pinned and kicking out at one from the Jumping Tombstone variant. Riddle sliding out of the Kiwi Krusher at one is pretty awesome too. Even if he shouldn’t have. Lion’s Clutch gets hooked and Travis gets the tap out for the win. This was a blinder. There’s no way anything else on the show is living up to it. Riddle is a fairly unique challenger in that he’s a guaranteed threat but he never seems to lose any steam in jobbing. Once you’ve got that kind of personality you’re onto a winner. ****1/4

Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins def. M&M

These two kids are going to die. Connor is a terrific prospect. Not sure about his braided hair here though. It’s a bit Heidi. The kids have a lot of flippity offence and they’re very easy to like. It’s a bit reminiscent of London & Kendrick when they had that WWE run where they were smaller than everyone else but had superior flying and team moves. They’re a better tag team than Havoc & Haskins for sure. Havoc & Haskins are merely two great singles wrestlers. The more experienced duo dominate for the most part, alternating which M they kill. The flashes of tag team excellence from the younger duo are promising for their future. They have no chance of victory here. Mayhew eats the pin. This was very enjoyable. Havoc & Haskins are still working on what they are. M&M looked good. Both have bright futures in the biz. ***

Eddie Dennis def. Jack Sexsmith

Eddie is mean now. And somewhat careless based on his release powerbomb into the ring post. One of Sexsmith’s best attributes is the sympathy he gets from being beaten up. However he’s developed a secondary skill; I genuinely believe he won’t kick out of almost every single move he’s hit with. I wish he wouldn’t wrestle in uggs but apart from that he’s developing beautifully as an underdog worker. All his offence here are fluke counters like lifting Mark Andrews’ Slumdog Millionaire. Eddie as a heel allows him to explore his dominant side. As a babyface you have to take a lot of heat and I was never convinced by him in that role. He’s too big to have that sympathy, which is why his best babyface work was tagging with Andrews. Let Mark take the heat. Jack’s best moment of offence in the match is a stunning counter into a Canadian Destroyer. It looks amazing on the larger Eddie. Dennis turns into a total prick towards the finish, hitting the Next Stop Driver and pulling Sexsmith up on the pin. Dennis continues the assault and Chris Roberts calls it for Eddie. Travis Banks turns up to run Eddie off and Dennis looks thrilled that he’s gotten to the champ. ***

No DQ #1 Contendership
Jinny def. Dahlia Black

This is important enough to get a video package. The history between them is a good story. Jinny was pals with Dahlia until they had a match in America where Jinny went after Dahlia’s previously broken leg. Dahlia’s promo is excellent. “Trends come and go but Black never goes out of fashion”. Jinny has switched her appearance a little to make her look more like a female, yet stylish, Jimmy Havoc. Wearing her influences right on her face. Jinny is a great opponent for practically anyone because she’s such a dick. It’s been an easy story to tell. Much like the Laura Di Matteo story was easy to tell. Jinny makes things personal. Which is what wrestling should be all about. They brawl up to the stage and Jinny gets powerbombed right through the commentary table! Unfortunately they have another big spot involving a chair and they feel the need to stop in mid spot to readjust it. Jinny’s improvisation afterwards, where she throws it on the mat and gets Dahlia to suplex her on it is good but the adjustment while Dahlia has a waistlock on her is just awful. Never just stop. Not content with being suplexed on a barbwire covered chair Jinny takes a massive Brookesing through some ten rows of chairs. The match is highly ambitious but the execution is scrappy. Like Jinny trying to hit Dahlia with a kendo stick in the middle of a moonsault. Other spots come off better, like a brawl over a table leading to a staggered Black being booted off the apron through it. Jinny brings drawing pins into the ring and spreads them over half the canvas. This is not ideal as you cannot bump without hitting them but the impact is lessened. Jinny fires off all her big moves and finishes with a Style Clash on a chair. That was a very odd match. The campaign for revenge from Dahlia results in defeat. If all the spots had come off here it would have been a fantastic match but too many of them missed. Points for effort though. ***1/4

Atlas #1 Contendership
Timothy Thatcher def. Strangler Davis

Strangler is defending his Atlas title shot, which has been sitting with him for months. Davis decides to fight a fan in the front row. Which is good for his heat. He’s also done away with the noose, thank Christ. The first match they had was criminally boring apart from Thatcher’s aggression. If the whole match was Thatcher holding Davis’ face and slapping him it’d be *****. Thatcher gets knocked out of the ring and the Valhalla music plays.

It’s Rob fucking Lynch! Now that’s something for Davis to do. Thatcher rolls Strangler up and beats him for his title shot. I’m so happy to see Rob Lynch back, although that retirement lasted about three months. Paul Robinson in a suit appears in the ring for some reason. Thatcher cuts a post match promo saying he’s coming for his friend WALTER and calls out anyone who wants a fight.

Timothy Thatcher def. Chris Ridgeway

Big day for Riddy. He won a pre-show match to get into Tetsujin. Now he’s making his chapter debut. Ridgeway is a definite prospect and it’s nice to see him getting a shot. He’s been doing decent stuff in Lucha Forever but Tim Thatcher is a big step up. Tim does excellent logical stuff in his matches, like trying to break the grip when Ridgeway is going for suplexes. Not many wrestlers think about stuff like that. Thatcher operates at a different level. Obviously his style isn’t quite suited to PROGRESS but I really appreciate all the little things he does. The selling he does while waiting for Ridgeway to stop fucking around and just kick him already is good stuff. Thatcher gets an armbar for the win and goes 2-0 tonight! This was tidy but Ridgeway is the kind of guy who could use a spotty opponent to gel with. Like an Ospreay or a Haskins. **1/2

Joseph Conners def. Flash Morgan Webster

As Conners hits the ring someone yells “Adam Cole bay-bay” at him. Joe, mate, you look like a create-a-wrestler before the personality is added. What’s your gimmick? No, seriously, what is it? PROGRESS has always been big on characters. Characters have always gotten over. More so if they’re entertaining workers too. It’s almost like a WWE rehearsal in that respect. Or certainly an NXT one.

Conners decides the best tactic is to do Memphis heel stalling. It doesn’t get over. The Conners control segments in this is are torture. Some people are just not suited to certain environments and PROGRESS is not a good setting for Conners. The fact he debuted as an opponent for one of the top wrestlers in the company and still can’t get over is testament to this. This is not to say that Conners is a bad wrestler because he isn’t. I’ve seen him have some really good matches, in front of more traditional crowds. He eventually gets around to doing some cool stuff in this match but by that point it’s too late. PROGRESS fans demand flashier in-ring than most places. A little like PWG. The thing is Pete Dunne can get away with working almost the exact same way as Conners because of his personality and attitude but you’d never hear “boring” chants aimed at him, even as a heel. They run a shoot-ish angle where Flash is ‘hurt’ and Conners continues to beat him down. The new Righteous Kill finishes. I guess they had to have Conners win because he’s lined up to wrestle Pete Dunne but he was disappointingly inconsistent here. **1/4

PROGRESS Women’s Championship
Toni Storm def. Alex Windsor

This is another stop-gap match for Toni, as she continues to establish the PROGRESS Women’s Championship as a big deal. To call a Windsor title win a “shock” would be an understatement. Toni starts fast and hits an early tope that looks horrendous. The angle of the camera made it look as if she was heading noggin first into the wooden floor of the Ballroom. Toni tends to have very similar matches, which isn’t so much a criticism as an observation, but the bonus of this is they’re all solid. Her floor is a lot higher than just about every other UK based female wrestler. They do tell a story here though, with Toni picking up a back injury and Alex working it over. Windsor is a decent wrestler, providing her opponent is capable. Any time she runs into hesitant opponents her work falls apart. Naturally Toni is great so there’s no issues here. Alex does a good job of controlling the pace and keeping things logical. They also do a fine job of wearing Toni down so the crowd are worried that she might lose. Which wasn’t the case before the match began. Toni gets Strong Zero out of nowhere to retain and it almost looked like a fluke. She has been finishing opponents off out of nowhere as a rule though. This was very good. ***1/2

PROGRESS Tag Team Championships
Grizzled Young Veterans def. #CCK

Due to the Riddle Situation, we have the tag titles main eventing the show. It has happened before and indeed #CCK won the tag titles the first time in the main event of a Camden show. Zack Gibson decides to go walking all over the building to cut his promo. “If you had half as many matches as you have shit t-shirts”. “Watch CCK? Where am I supposed to watch them when they’re always fucking injured?” Bit on the nose that. Lykos is worrying to watch because you know he’s so fragile. He either needs to bulk up or modify his moves. It doesn’t help that someone with a history of horrific injuries is taking bumps into chairs. Lykos comes off the railing and fucks his shoulder up. It’s bad and he immediately holds it. There’s a great shot of Brookes taking this on board and realising he has to improvise in a hurry. It’s a terrible situation for any wrestler to be in. Feeling the pain of your tag partner while also having to fix something on the fly. It’s awkward as hell but it’s also tough to throw away your match and just improvise a new one. With Lykos completely ruled out Brookes kills Gibson by throwing him off the stage. It would probably be a good idea to have him sit out the rest of the match to even the odds. Shankly Gates on Brookes and he taps, giving the Grizzled Young Vets the belts. They both look utterly shocked because presumably that wasn’t the original outcome. Drake looks especially stunned. This match was obviously hampered by the injury and it didn’t help that about a third of the last half hour of the show was Gibson cutting a promo. The outcome was terrible luck. Hopefully Lykos can come back from this, better than ever. It is his third serious injury this year. Maybe he needs a longer recovery period? **1/4

Final Thoughts:

The injury to Lykos doomed the main event. The booking of Riddle elsewhere caused the card to be flipped onto its head and it’s a weird atmosphere on this show due to those two factors. If all the Jinny/Dahlia stuff had come off as planned you could look at this as a spectacular two match show. As it stands it’s one of PROGRESS’ weaker shows this year for in-ring quality. You could put that down to the high hit-rate for the promotion or an inevitability of trying new things. The Conners experiment isn’t working. The return of Rob Lynch was great. Chris Ridgeway was somewhere in between but I’m excited to see where he goes. Focus in on the negatives and all you’ll see here is Conners and the injury in the main event but there was far more to the show than that. An expanding roster, rising talents, feud building and a sense of direction.