We’re in New Orleans, Louisiana for Chapter 66 Mardi Graps. Progress had some issues finding a strong enough internet signal to upload this show so it’s dropping weeks after it happened and WrestleMania week feels so long ago now.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 66: Mardi Graps
April 6, 2018
Pontchartrain Convention Centre
New Orleans, Louisiana

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Host in the ring is Jim Smallman.

PROGRESS Tag Team Championships
Grizzled Young Veterans def. Moustache Mountain

Big pop for WWE Superstars Trent Seven and Tyler Bate. Tyler has heavy strapping on his left knee and has forgotten his towel. His invisible towel throw at the ropes is executed to perfection though. I’m most impressed that the fans know the chants. I have to assume there are British people starting that abuse toward Messrs Gibson and Drake. Trent’s Liv Morgan namedrop actually cracks Jim Smallman. Fair play. Tremendous mic work all round here with a loud crowd.

This is a spirited opener. The comedy lands and it’s technically solid, as you’d expect from these lads. Moustache Mountain’s shtick is relatively fresh for this crowd so they’re into it. It helps that in Tyler Bate the match has one of the world’s biggest wrestling prospects. It’s easy to forget when you see him all the time that he’s pretty fucking outstanding at this. His time with Trent must surely be nearing an end. It’s been a fun team but Tyler has so much upside and Seven is effectively a mouthpiece at the WWE level and not much more. GYV retain here in a fun opener. ***1/2

Will Ospreay vs. Mark Haskins

These two always have good matches and with Haskins firmly heel, and Will carrying an obvious injury from Japan, they even have a story set in stone before they hit the ring. Ospreay hurt his neck badly the week before NOLA wrestling for New Japan and somehow still went to NOLA and had a bunch of freaking bangers because that’s what William Ospreay does. In Haskins he has an opponent game to tell a story with his injury, rather than do a bunch of flips and head drops with. Will focuses heavily on selling his neck, which results in some Iron Mike Sharpe level loud selling. “ARRRRRGH. AAARRGGGGHHH, MY NECK”.

Will does a fine job of selling here in that he’s not able to do moves because of his bad neck. Haskins adds in some arm work for good measure, as that whole area is taped up, aiming to slap on the Star Armbar. Ospreay digs deep and even pops off the Standing Spanish Fly, the same move that injured him in Japan. Based on the reaction I think people missed that. Maybe if he’d done off the apron, like a complete loon, it might have clicked. Haskins looks great here, alternating between doing cool stuff and torturing poor Will. Haskins is so fluid and when he’s in there with someone who’s as outstanding as Ospreay magic happens. Haskins keeps going after submissions but plucky old Ospreay keeps getting out and finishes with the OsCutter. I’d be happier if he’d fluked a pin with that neck being as bad as it was but he still nailed 95% of his selling in this. Great match! ****1/4

Ringkampf (Thatcher & WALTER) def. David Starr & Keith Lee

This was originally Ringkampf vs. Sexy Starr but Sexsmith had undefined issues and didn’t make it to Louisiana. Keith dropping in at the last minute makes me realise how much I want to see him versus WALTER. That, my friends, is Big Lads Wrestling. I’m a big fan of Starr vs. WALTER continuing to be a ‘thing’ here. I love everyone else respecting wXw’s booking. Obviously Starr and the Ringkampf boys have chemistry from previous meetings so that part of the match is easy. Is it weird that Tim Thatcher is super over in Europe but nobody cares about him in America? Is it just the EVOLVE title run that’s done that? I don’t get it.

So the part of the match where it gets exciting is the arrival of Keith Lee, via hot tag. One of his first spots is hitting a pop up powerbomb on WALTER. Yes, that’s not a typo. He has insane strength and as an attraction in wrestling is virtually unparalleled on the indie scene and it’s only a matter of time before he’s in WWE. It’s not a case of ‘if’ it’s a case of ‘when’ and when he does get there he’s going to be sensational. WALTER then kills David Starr and powerbombs him for the win. Brilliant. You know what, this was some fantastic pro-wrestling too. Putting Thatcher being totally unappreciated by the crowd aside, everything worked. Keith Lee vs. WALTER was kept brief and when they do have big time matches they will be amazing. Starr being carried out by Keith and glaring at WALTER, once again his better, is a sight to behold. ****1/4

Thunderbastard Match
Jeff Cobb def. Austin Theory, Chris Brookes, Darby Allin, Joey Janela, MJF, Parrow & Rickey Shane Page

Chris Brookes and Rickey Shane Page start. Brookes is obviously a PROGRESS regular, whereas Page is something a bit different. Brookes tries to be disgusting but soon discovers Rickey is also very gross so it’s not happening. Next man in is Darby Allin. Darby is a huge talent. If he doesn’t break his neck doing a ridiculous spot he’ll be a big breakout indie star over the next year for sure. After him it’s Austin Theory. Both in terms of entry into the match and breaking out in North American indies. Theory has beaten Allin to the golden punch in EVOLVE though. People are way less excited to see him here and that’s a tangible measuring stick. Darby takes a horrible bump through the buckles, landing on his head on the floor and that pretty much kills the match dead. The crowd wake up for Joey Janela, even if his PROGRESS music is smoking hot garbage. Darby returns after falling on his head and I’m surprised that he looks completely fine. Then he hits a tope con giro and lands on his head again. This time the ref checks on him and he is gone. Eyes vacant, no reaction. Next man in is Parrow and the match is just dead because everyone is worried about Darby Allin. Jeff Cobb follows Parrow and again the crowd are receptive to the entrance but the match is plodding away. The American competitors don’t have the same energy and enthusiasm for the PROGRESS name it seems. Apart from Darby who killed himself. Last man in is MJF.

With all the entrances out of the way they go into doing a bunch of high spots, which the earlier slower chunk of the match could have benefited from. Magically Darby Allin returns. How? They have MJF get two quick pins on Page and Allin, who was concussed apparently and really shouldn’t have just taken another big spot. Which he does in the form of a powerbomb off the top. Parrow then dumps Theory and it’s just quickfire eliminations. Parrow gets double teamed and he’s out. Janela beats MJF and we’re left with Brookes, Cobb and Janela. Brookes is a regular in the UK so can take his shot at any point and both the others have been or are about to be, booked by PROGRESS in the UK so it’s nice that it comes down to three guys who can all legitimately win. Brookes puts Janela out with the Octopus Stretch and that doesn’t find favour with the fans. Janela was such a huge babyface over Mania weekend for putting on Spring Break II. Anyhow Cobb takes it with the Tour of the Islands and becomes #1 contender for whatever title he wants.

Issues here: 1. Darby never should have been allowed back in after getting a concussion. Even if he wanted to. Especially if he wanted to. 2. The mass of entrances followed by a bunch of pointless quickfire eliminations turned this into a completely uneven match. 3. The crowd were out of it and rightly so. There was never a point where I felt ‘this is going to get good now’ and I’m glad it’s over. Don’t do this again PROGRESS. Good idea but too many guys and having it as a throwaway midcard cool down match was not a good move. *3/4

Jinny & Mercedes Martinez def. Shazza McKenzie & Toni Storm

This is part of the ongoing Jinny vs. Toni feud, which has been delayed due to Jinny being injured. This is her first match back since getting hurt at High Stakes in January. That feels like an eternity ago. Toni brings a lot of star power here but the crowd are just dead at this point. The atmosphere was sucked out of the building by that last match. It’s a shame because the show started so strongly. The problem this match suffers from most is the poor work in it. A lot of women’s matches get cut slack just because it’s a women’s match but I don’t think there should be a distinction. If any men’s match featured the Mercedes ‘block into a strike, I think’ move on Shazza on the apron it would get slaughtered and rightly so. It’s not that any of these women are bad wrestlers but they don’t click and Toni can’t save the match on her own. Her big feud with Jinny doesn’t get to take centre stage either because Jinny is rusty after three months off. The best moments in the match come from Shazza McKenzie, bizarrely enough, as she tries hard to get herself a Progress gig but she has to contend with Mercedes most of the match and their chemistry is non-existent. Martinez pins Shazza and we should just forget about this. **

Matt Riddle def. Jimmy Havoc

This is something of a dream match for some people. Havoc was PROGRESS’ main guy for so long and Riddle is ‘The Guy’ on the indies now. Havoc can’t keep up with Riddle but does a fine job of making it his kind of match by biting Matt’s exposed feet. One thing I do really like about Havoc is that he’s a sick fuck and he will do whatever he needs to get the win. The biting is one thing but he goes on to paper cut between Riddle’s toes. Riddle’s exposed feet have rarely received this level of abuse. The turning point of the match is Vickie Haskins being ejected for interfering and getting caught. Havoc is taken out with Bromission shortly afterwards. They played to their strengths here. They kept Havoc all about the evil shenanigans that he’s so famous for while Riddle dominated him in a clean fight. As it should be. ***

Pete Dunne def. Mark Andrews & Morgan Webster

It’s nice these three lads who grew up in the business together get to have a Mania weekend match. Flash has become a regular for PWG (imagine saying that a few years ago?), Andrews is a WWE talent and Dunne has been on NXT programming so much he might as well move to Orlando. There’s never been a better chance for British wrestlers to impress on the world scene at this level. Flash, having sold his soul to join Havoc, Haskins & Haskins Incorporated, is deprived Vickie’s managerial services because she fucked up and got caught in the last match.

Andrews and Dunne could have a good match in their sleep so it’s almost on Flash to improve on it, which is quite a big ask. They end up having a belting fast-paced, energetic, counter-heavy bout and it’s only really harmed by a relatively quiet crowd, burned out by watching too much wrestling. A downside to Mania weekend. Some of the crowds were great. This one started hot but tailed off. Pete has a nice time anyway.

Some of the difficulty of the counters here is awesome stuff like Flash trying a flip and getting kicked out of the air by both opponents. That’s grand planning fellas. It feels like a sprint but it just keeps going! The conclusion being Pete Dunne flattening Mark Andrews with a Tombstone Piledriver (infamously banned that weekend) because fuck it, he’s Pete Dunne. If he wants to pieldrive someone in Louisiana he fucking will. If this was a little tauter it could easily have cracked four stars as a great sprint. ***3/4

Post match, we get to the real business at hand as Eddie Dennis came all the way to New Orleans to piss off Mark Andrews. “Give me a WrestleMania moment” is a great line. He tries to get Mark to punch him but naturally Andrews refuses. I love the storyline and flying Dennis out to New Orleans shows how committed PROGRESS is to it.

PROGRESS World Championship
Travis Banks def. Shane Strickland

This has the benefit of being a match between two very good professional wrestlers. It is always going to be good, regardless of situation. However putting it on at the end of a 3 hour show means it possibly doesn’t get the lively crowd it probably deserves. I’m of the opinion that modern crowds can’t maintain their energy levels for a three hour show and promotions should do something to reflect that by tightening on run times and keeping everything controlled. If you completely removed the Thunderbastard from this show it would have been great.

Travis’ title reign has probably gone on too long, although his heel promo on the last Camden show, which feels like an age ago, freshened him up. But now the whole storyline has been forced to relocate to another country and Trav probably would have been cheered quite loudly here. The great thing about Banks is that just when you think you know everything about him, he turns another page and there’s yet another facet to his character. He’s always growing, always knowing when to change, when to switch it up. He’s pretty great here and he’s wrestling Shane Strickland so not a lot can go wrong. The match never quite catches fire and a lot of that is on the crowd. The lack of reception the match gets is certainly not the fault of a lack of workrate. The match does end up going off the rails when Travis gets his eyebrow split open on a Shane double stomp to the floor. It’s a nasty cut and PROGRESS are just flouting those Louisiana State Athletic Commission rules huh? They immediately go to the finish, which is no bad thing, and Terminator Travis adds another high profile American scalp to his title run. ***1/4

Final Thoughts:

Mardi Graps went off the rails with the Thunderbastard and made a minor comeback with the last two matches. Imagine how good and how tight this show would have been with that goddawful Thunderbastard match entirely removed? Look at the crowd reactions before and after it. Look at the match quality before and after it. This was an exercise in ‘less is more’ and ‘more is most certainly not more’. However check out the Ringkampf tag and the Ospreay-Haskins match. They’re both great and the Andrews/Dunne/Flash triple threat is a banging 11 minutes of action too.