We’re in Sheffield, for the second time ever and for the first time on purpose. Sheffield gained a double booked Manchester show beforehand but this is PROGRESS’ first deliberate journey to the city. It was marred by heavy snowfall across the UK and Ireland, which prevented several featured wrestlers from getting to the show. Pete Dunne and Trent Seven were stranded in Ireland. Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster were unable to negotiate the snowfall in mainland Britain. Therefore the show threw up some interesting challenges for the PROGRESS management.  “This is Snowgress”.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 59: Whatever People Say
December 10, 2017
O2 Academy
Sheffield, England

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Jim Smallman is host in the ring. He’s so fucking tired on account of not sleeping through worry around the snowfall. “Card subject to change” is brought up. Jim books some crowd pleasing action; Aussie Open have a shot at the tag titles tonight and some of the ring crew are wrestling tonight, which is why you ALWAYS bring your gear when you’re at a show. ALWAYS. Commentary comes from Glen Joseph and Matt Richards.

Rampage Brown def. Doug Williams

Doug had an open challenge, after saying he felt he was getting too old for this shit two shows ago. I made a mistake, of sorts, by saying that I would have put Doug over. Now, I wasn’t privy to where the angle was going so I was probably wrong in saying that. However it’s a bit weird they’ve got a Doug Williams story and he’s doing nothing but losing. Meanwhile Joe Coffey, who beat him, is nowhere to be seen. Rampage’s entrance music was played live but dubbed on Demand. Which is absolutely the right thing to do because the music gets a huge pop. Watch the footage on PROGRESS’ Twitter. I’ve been saying this for ages. Dub the on Demand. It’s proven true here. A shame you can’t hear the crowd reaction but you can see how excited they were and the music did that.

The match is rock solid. Rampage is good and Douglas does a lot of little things so professionally. His selling is beautiful and the way he turns into moves and emotes is so important. I bet he’d be an excellent trainer. I’m aware he’s talking to Rampage during the match but you never see his lips move because he’s so good at covering that up. His work doesn’t have the same crisp nature as it used to because he’s older but the logic of it is there in spades. Piledriver finishes for Rampage. I loved watching Doug do all the little things in this match. Everything was logical. Watch and learn lads. Doug is a master of basic storytelling. ***1/4

Chris Ridgeway def. Adam Chase

Chase was ring crew today, he’s Spanish and is training in the UK to try and improve. His reward is a PROGRESS debut. This is a decent match for Ridgeway to get as he got beaten quickly by Tim Thatcher in his debut in Camden. This is a chance for him to be the boss. His work involves a lot of strikes and grapples. He’s one of the guys we’ve been raving about on the Brit Wres Roundtable for a few years; he has huge potential. Adam Chase isn’t on his level and the timing issues here are blatantly on Chase, but then he’s come from a relatively weak Spanish scene. He’s got a lot to learn to become smoother in the ring. The crowd manage to count to eight in Spanish, which is impressive. This showing from Ridgeway wants me to see him compete against bigger and better opponents, like Haskins or Travis or Dunne. Chase does some okay flippy stuff but gets murdered on the mat. I do dig his underdog roll ups. Chase taps out, Ridgeway looks fucking great. This was a wonderful display of pro wrestling with the hard bloke smashing up a flier. Ridgeway is one to watch for 2018. Chase seized the day here. Always bring your gear. ***1/2

#1 Contendership
Jack Sexsmith def. Amir Jordan, Chief Deputy Dunne, Gabriel Kidd, Primate, Saxon Huxley, Spike Trivet & Pastor William Eaver

Winner gets a shot at the PROGRESS title. Trivet finds it very hard to not smile when he’s booed loudly. He also winds up Ben Corrigan by spitting champagne on him. Very happy for Gabriel Kidd. He’s been getting better for the last couple of years and is capable enough to be here. Amir’s Indian dancing gets him over with the crowd very quickly. Dancing always gets over! Sexsmith kisses half the front row. Imagine if he gave an entire PROGRESS crowd glandular fever? Opportunity is a lovely thing. Surprise debuts of hard working wrestlers are nice to see. Trivet upsets Primate by spitting at him. Then we get Eaver vs. Musclecat in a Jesus Off. Primate’s spear destruction of everybody gets him nicely over. The match is a little messy but good fun. The neckbreaker from Jordan on Eaver is terrible. Luckily this is a forgiving crowd. Trivet looks really good considering his lack of experience. Primate as the Little Big Lad does a lot for me. He’s the stand-out in this. The sheer number of people means the selling is all over the place and it’s basically a bunch of spots with people taking turns in the ring. There’s not much in the way of multi-man work and Sexsmith gets the pin on Dunne to win. Primate should be back based on that performance. Jordan got himself over and Trivet is genuinely hated. Really fun match. Damian looks horrified about that. **1/2

Joseph Conners def. Chuck Mambo

Conners was due to wrestle Pete Dunne but he’s not here so no UK title shot for Joseph. PROGRESS isn’t the right place for Conners, who’s more of a traditional worker. Mambo throws himself into proving a good match can be had with Conners in this environment. The great thing about Mambo is he loves everything. He was tending bar at Fight Club Pro and having the time of his life. I would love to work with him. On anything. His personality is infectious. Unfortunately they have major timing and communication issues. Several moves are badly botched or awkward. Including one on the way to the finish, which sees Conners triumphant with Don’t Look Down. “Fuck you all” he says as he does it. Match wasn’t good but between the pre-match promo and the hateful attitude Conners did a lot better with his character here. His promos need a bit of work but he’s getting more confident. *1/2

Chris Brookes def. Matt Cross

CCK were supposed to still be tag team champions until Lykos got hurt again. So plans have changed and Brookes finds himself in singles action against Matt Cross. The Cleveland native actually won his last match in PROGRESS way back in October 2016 against Mark Andrews. He also competed in 2016’s Super Strong Style tournament. So he has a pedigree in PROGRESS. This has to be a rib on him though, as he looks like a literal midget across the ring from Brookes.

Cross has influenced a lot of wrestlers with his hybrid style. Tyler Bate has directly lifted one of his spots for example. The match is a touch sluggish with Brookes at one point dropping a knee and almost getting himself lost before resorting to a chinlock. I’m constantly amazed this doesn’t happen more often in wrestling because there’s so much stuff to remember if you’re planning out a lengthy match. It’s a much better contest when they’re not thinking about stuff and just trading bombs in the middle of the ring. Brookes has so much shtick that it’s easy to forget he’s really good at so many other things. Like striking, where he’s arguably the most underrated dude in the UK. There are definitely some timing issues and it doesn’t have the fluidity I’m sure they’re both hoping for. When Cross gets all fired up with the Space Flying Tiger Drop it elevates the match to another level. Sometimes you need to hit that big spot to get the crowd fully invested in what you’re doing. Death by roll up finishes moments later and the match finishes on a relative high. This was quite disappointing at times but when it did gel it was really good. ***

PROGRESS Tag Team Championships
Grizzled Young Veterans def. Aussie Open

After their initial impact in the UK, it’s not a shock that Aussie Open are so over everywhere. Gibson is once again getting the toilet paper treatment he so richly deserves. “Half of the roster didn’t bother coming” rants Gibson in another charged promo. They’ve been getting better show by show. GYV’s work for me because they run that old school heat and get over doing it. Formula doesn’t always work but when it does, it’s great. Kyle Fletcher is ripe for taking heat. So young, so fragile. Davis is a cracking hot tag too and I love his strikes. If he’d been around when PROGRESS started the Atlas division he’d have been in that tournament. His punches are awesome and I hate punches in wrestling.

I love how supportive Aussie Open are of each other. There a terrific bit where they’re both in submission holds and they fire each other up. When tag partners care about each other it makes it so much easier to care about them. I love how Aussie Open have busted their asses since coming in to the UK. This is not a freak one-off good match. All of their matches are superb. I would have accepted them winning the titles here without doubt. The way that Gibson has to save Drake is very underhanded, with him pulling the ref out. Grizzled Young Vets may not have been the intended team to carry this division but they’re running with it and doing excellent work. The match is somewhat concerning as Mark thinks he can do a dive and falls dangerously on his head. It’s not his brightest idea. Ticket to Mayhem finishes the isolated Fletcher for GYV to retain. Great work all round here. ****1/4

PROGRESS World Championship
Travis Banks def. Eddie Dennis

PROGRESS have done a good job of building Dennis as a legitimate main event heel, which the company were suddenly short of after British Strong Style all turned face.

Eddie cannot match Travis’ intensity, which is an immediate issue. As good as Eddie is at character work his in-ring is patchy. It’s like he’s worried about hurting his opponents and doesn’t leather them. Unless he’s working a larger opponent. It takes me out of the moment a bit. Apparently PROGRESS had to tweak the booking of the main event, which makes me wonder what the issue was. Presumably something to do with Mark Andrews. Without the Andrews interaction the match feels a wee bit hollow. It’s technically fine but the storyline isn’t Eddie vs. Travis, it’s very much Eddie vs. Mark.

The match really picks up when Eddie gets cut in the mouth and spits blood at Banks. It’s such a tremendous visual. That’s the intensity that Eddie was lacking beforehand. They try and turn this into an epic by having Eddie kick out of the Slice of Heaven/Kiwi Krusher combo. Travis has been using both heavily as finishers so the aim is to make Eddie seem like a bigger challenge than the likes of Keith Lee or Matt Riddle. Even though this isn’t true. It’s weird but even when Eddie lands his big finish I don’t buy into him winning. Is it that he’s not been built up enough as an in-ring talent or that I don’t buy him as a main eventer after years of midcard work? I do like Eddie as a person and wish him the best of luck. He’s certainly improved his body this year and being a full-time wrestler has helped his cause. Travis spams him with the Kiwi Krusher before finishing with the Lion’s Clutch. Ultimately here Eddie, the character, only has himself to blame. He tapped out rather than fight for his title opportunity to be extended. I liked this match and I reckon another year of full-time work for Eddie will put him in a better place. ***1/2

Post Match a frustrated Eddie Dennis murders a few members of the ring crew.

Final Thoughts:

Obviously this was a difficult card to put together with the last minute changes. Some of that came off, some of it did not. The Ridgeway-Chase match was a stunning success for a last minute replacement. Adam Chase is a story of commitment to wrestling. He came to the UK from Spain to try and get ahead in the business and he deserves the breaks he gets. Ridgeway continues to impress me. He will be big next year. Match of the night was the tag titles. That was outstanding work. Grizzled Young Vets have taken a ball they did not expect to receive and are running with it. Aussie Open are another example of foreign talent coming to the UK to improve and busting their guts along the way. The scene is so great right now that having foreign talent folded in, on a regular basis, is giving the UK excellent depth and variety. Some really good wrestling on this show. Probably not one of Progress’ best shows this year but the surprise last minute changes were handled extremely well and they got out of a jam here and made the most of a bad situation.