Chapter 63: Take Me Underground
February 11, 2018
Watch: Demand PROGRESS
We’re in Manchester at the O2 Ritz. Host in the ring is Jim Smallman. I don’t know what it is with Manchester but the audio sounds like it has a little echo on it somewhere and as a result, with Jim talking so quickly, it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. He does give a shout-out to Ben Corrigan who had a baby this week (well, not him, but his lovely wife). Congratulations to Ben. Hosts on commentary are Glen Joseph and Matt Richards.
Natural Progression Series V
Drew Parker def. Spike Trivet
Trivet, the upper class Tory, is a made heel in PROGRESS, which draws a strong anti-Conservative crowd. Also, I dig his music. It’s one of the first ‘original’ pieces that suits perfectly. Spike is a PROGRESS original whereas Drew has made his name elsewhere. Trivet not only has his character down but he has enormous heat, which is in a company that is a little short on heels. The reason Trivet is so hated is because he might actually be a legitimate Tory. Drew puts him away with the Small Package Driver “out of nowhere” to advance. Drew is starting to show some genuine versatility and Trivet has a big future as a massive dickhead. He proves this by breaking a bottle over Drew’s head after he’s lost. The trouble with this is the mass of broken glass that has to be cleaned up, which at least keeps the crowd amuses while they chant about sweeping the ring. “Sweep it up Smallman, sweep it up” is quality stuff. **3/4
Toni Storm & Charlie Morgan def. House of Couture
Jinny is still injured so her stable are in action here. It’s Nina Samuels and Chakara. I’m pleased there is development in PROGRESS’ women’s division. It feels like there’s more depth with the House of Couture being a thing. It also makes Jinny vs. Toni Storm feel like a bigger deal when they get around to doing it. There is a slight issue with this match as Toni feels far more important than anyone else. The opportunity is there to try and build someone at her expense (as they did with several of her challengers) but instead the focus is on Toni/Jinny. Chakara tries to get some theatrics over and she’s doing better with character than her wrestling. Not to say that she’s bad but she’s clearly inexperienced and is improving at a nice rate. She does a sensational smiling sell of the hip attack in this that pops me huge. When she does turn face she’s going to be amazing. This clips along nicely until Toni finishes the out-classed Chakara with Strong Zero. House of Couture got to look a bit dopey considering they had a person advantage and still lost. But they focused on Toni and beat her up to soften her up for Jinny’s eventual title shot. Toni makes a mess of her post match promo calling Jinny a “stuck up pirate school…pirate? Private school kid”. The idea is that Toni points out she’s got someone to watch her back and then Charlie Morgan turns on her to join House of Couture. Toni will have to find some mates elsewhere. **1/2
Mark Andrews def. Flash Morgan Webster
The battle of Wales! Eddie Dennis is unfortunately going to miss six months after tearing his pectoral muscle. Not ideal for a guy who just quit his day job to be a full-time wrestler. These guys are familiar with each other and have similar strengths. The technical stuff is very solid and the action is beautifully fluid. Flash has definitely improved since his shoulder injury and demonstrates that here in spades. Andrews is the better wrestler but Flash can hang with him. Matt Richards pops me big time here by taking a sly dig at Flip Gordon. Andrews has the match in hand by Vicky Haskins shows up, as she did when Flash wrestled Doug Williams. Webster doesn’t want any part of Vicky and while Vicky caused him to win last time, she causes him to lose here by nicking his helmet. This was very tidy but we’re no closer to understanding the relationship between Flash and the Haskins group. ***1/4
Post Match: Eddie Dennis once again shows up, pointing out that Mark just stabbed his friend in the back and used a distraction to get a cheap win. Eddie does some tremendous mocking of the fans who asked him if he’d be on 205 Live this week as he said he’d follow Mark anywhere. The ring crew save Andrews for a Pillmanising and I like that. Too often the ring crew just stand back looking scared when this sort of thing happens. Or are warm bodies to be somersaulted onto. Eddie makes a point of decking one of the cheeky little bastards.
Zack Sabre Jr def. Tyler Bate
I’m thrilled that Sabre is using “Mother” by Idles as his entrance music everywhere. Not only is it a banger but it’s a sing-a-long and PROGRESS needs more of those. This is another of those ‘we’re proving Tyler Bate is one of the best in the world’ matchups that he’s been getting lately. This promise to be ‘a bit good’. This is only their second match. The camera work is great in this, as they zoom in so close. You can see Tyler’s face as Zack works his arm. You can see the angle that Sabre gets on Tyler’s arm. It’s wonderful stuff. I don’t know if they were instructed to shoot it that tight or if it was the cameraman’s choice but it’s great. Sabre does his standard dismantling job, grabbing Bate and twisting various body parts. He is so good at working body parts. No one in the world comes close. Bate’s offence is more varied. He can grapple but he can also strike and he has a bit of aerial offence too. Sabre overcomes that with some explosive strikes on the joints and twists him in knots. Sabre’s kicks in this are brutal but Tyler gets all fired up in taking them. The crowd get very into it and I don’t blame them. It’s tremendous wrestling. The transitions are so good too. Like Sabre trying for the Artful Dodger business out of the corner, getting taken up into the Airplane Spin, but countering back into a choke and then Bate pulls him over the top for a Tombstone. That is sensational stuff. The counter from the Tyler Driver into the triangle is beautiful. Young Boy Killer (now renamed Hyper Normalisation by Zack) finishes. There was really no way out for Tyler from that. This technical skill on show here was magnificent. ****1/4
Promo Time: Jack Sexsmith. He talks passionately about how there’s “no more gimmicks, no more shenanigans”. Sexsmith calls his shot, Chapter 69, he’s coming for the PROGRESS Wrestling Championship. That’s May 20th in Manchester. May is going to be a huge month for PROGRESS. Super Strong Style 16, the big Manchester show and another Camden before the month is out.
Pete Dunne & Trent Seven def. Matt Riddle & David Starr
Seeing as Riddle and Starr begin by borrowing BSS coats and posing with them, the level of seriousness is fairly low. Starr & Riddle have a tag team introduction list, which is another spin on the Starr list. This one featuring the gem of a line; the “104 minute and 6 second men”. Banter for poor Trent. I love that he bails immediately on seeing Riddle when the bell rings and the crowd count up to six seconds and he’s happy that he survived that long this time. “Stay cerebral”. All these guys are very popular and Trent has been doing some next level comedy stuff since turning face. His delayed bump off the massive overhand Riddle chop here is pure magic. Pete Dunne is a nice contrast to that as he just bashes people in the face. Riddle and Dunne beat the hell of each other, which makes me particularly happy that I’ll be seeing that match in FCP tomorrow (as I write this). When Trent gets seriously and goes after Starr this becomes an intense contest. This is generally how I like my wrestling. Starting out with comedy, moving on to character work and then everyone beats the fuck out of each other. Dunne plays a natural heel, regardless of what his alignment is supposed to be, so he assumes that role. They get into the business end of things with Dunne trying to bully Starr into submission but David pulling out some tremendous last gasp counters and kick-outs. It takes Trent flattening him with the Burning Hammer to allow Pete the opening for the finish; the Bitter End. This was frantic action, meshed beautifully with comedy and such. I loved this. ****
WALTER def. Mark Davis
This isn’t for WALTER’s Atlas title despite Davis clearly being heavy enough to contend. Davis gets so carried away with his high-five antics that he kicks someone’s beer over. Why do people leave their beer on the floor? It’s interesting to note that Mark got announced for a wXw tour after having this match. So one suspects WALTER was impressed with him. These are two of the heaviest sets of hands in pro-wrestling and they’ve both got big chests are targets. What makes WALTER so special isn’t just his chops, it’s that his style seems so realistic. Whether he’s hooking a headlock and stumbling over instead of back bumping when it suits. Davis starts the chop duel in this….so he really only has himself to blame.
This is like two chops into the match.
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) February 22, 2018
Davis is busted open across his chest. Four chops. It’s horrific. Davis looks like he’s been shot. His nipples are bleeding! Each subsequent chop is like a war crime. The sound of the chops, combined with the sound of the crowd being utterly horrified by what they’re seeing makes this an audible must listen, as well as must-see. This is two big lads, beating the absolute shit out each other. It’s beautiful. WALTER pounds on Davis’ chest until he can’t defend himself and the Gojira Clutch finishes. This was brutal. ****1/4
— Mark Davis (@DUNKZILLADavis) February 11, 2018
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins def. Grizzled Young Veterans (c)
There is a pretty major issue here, right from the start, as the crowd don’t want to support either team. It’s tough to have a heel/heel title match because the crowd has to want someone to hold the belt high at the end. Then the match lives off whether it’s the triumphant babyface or the devious heel. The crowd will boo or cheer accordingly. But here it’s all heels. There isn’t even a sympathetic quasi-face knocking around. In particular everyone hates Gibson. There’s a lot of booing. They both try to cheat. Vicky by distracting the referee. The champs by double teaming and nut shots. The big spots get pops and Drake hits a goddamn450 Splash. Haskins using Flash’s helmet is some interesting symbolism and Webster turns up to steal the helmet back. Which coincidentally leads directly to the Kiss of Death on Drake and a belt change. Couldn’t have done it without you Gav! The shot of Flash looking upset at his involvement is tremendous. **1/2
PROGRESS Wrestling Championship
Travis Banks (c) def. Chris Brookes & TK Cooper
It’s a bit sad that Travis’ mates all came after his belt. You’d think they’d be happy for him and would wait for someone else to win the title before coming after it. I’m not the biggest fan of triple threats. They’re very hard to put together at the best of times. They try hard to make everything coherent, throwing in a bunch of dives and character traits. Like Terminator Travis and his hatred of chairs and TK being Samoan and hard-headed. They do a lot of interesting work with chairs. The match has a pretty major issue with Travis being in the middle of the actual feud. The feud is Brookes vs. TK. The title is almost inconsequential. It’s two lads out to prove who’s best mates with Travis Banks. It’s not doing Travis’ title run any good, I can tell you that much. The interest in his matches has definitely waned. Maybe the show was just too long or maybe the crowd would rather these lads would just get along? They do hit some decent story beats like Brookes going after TK’s leg, which Travis doesn’t go after. Plus Brookes accidentally bashing Travis with the title belt, which TK threatened to do on purpose. Chris has no compunctions about hitting someone with plunder. Lion’s Clutch submits Brookes and Banks retains. The crowd politely applauds. ***1/2
Post Match: There’s a lot of aimless booing. People generally not happy that these lads were fighting and left dissatisfied by the conclusion (Brookes was under the bottom rope). TK Cooper is the only one who refuses to shake hands after the match, instead punching Brookes in the jaw.
This middle of this card was absolutely sensational. Sabre/Bate, WALTER/Davis and the BSS tag were all tremendous pro-wrestling matches. All completely different too. The rest of the card around it wasn’t so strong but shout outs to the Eddie Dennis/Mark Andrews angle and Flash Morgan Webster’s work on this show.