PROGRESS’ 78th chapter emanates from Manchester and boasts one of the more impressive cards in recent times.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 78: 24 Hour PROGRESS
November 11, 2018
O2 Ritz
Manchester, England

Watch: Demand Progress

Eddie Dennis def. Mike Bailey

This is Bailey’s PROGRESS debut (although he has previously appeared on a joint PROGRESS/SMASH card in Canada) and it’s long overdue. He’s one of the best available to European promotions regularly due to him being banned from wrestling in the USA. Dennis, despite being one of PROGRESS’ leading heels, gets a lot of crowd support, basically because he explains his actions so well. Dennis plays the bully here, throwing the smaller Speedball around and Bailey having to take risks to get ahead. Bailey ends up wrecking himself with his backflip double knees on the apron. It seems that every big Dennis advantage comes from Bailey overextending himself, although Eddie hits a lot of big power moves too. The atmosphere is terrific in the building, reminiscent of the early days in Camden, with the roar when Bailey kicks out of the Next Stop Driver being wonderful. Another Next Stop Driver finishes and Dennis wins a rock solid opener. Bailey was great on his debut. The “please come back” chants are deserved. ***1/4

Isla Dawn def. Lana Austin

Lana has been on my radar for several years. The first match I saw her in was about three years ago and she hit the Hirooki Goto direction change lariat so I’ve been rooting for her ever since. I’m pleased she’s making her PROGRESS debut here. It helps that she’s been a regular in Futureshock, Manchester’s biggest promotion. Lana is naturally the face and even gets new referee James Greenwood dancing. Isla wins fairly quickly and the action was passable but nothing to get overly excited about. **1/4

Jordan Devlin def. Chris Ridgeway

These are two guys on the up. Riddy has had a break-out year establishing himself and Devlin has had a belting year, especially in Ireland. This match feels like a battle for midcard superiority like an Eddie Guerrero versus Chris Jericho match from WCW circa 1998. You know they’re both good but you’re not going to see their very best work here. The crowd are loud as fuck here, which helps to elevate matters. It also helps that Devlin has improved his game so much this year to the point where he’s effortlessly great. Then they kick the shit out of each other and I’m all in. It’s probably not news to anyone that these two are great but the way they went after each other here suggests a big, big future for both; they wanted to leave their mark on this show. They wanted people to remember this match. The counters going into the finish, where Riddy gets dumped on his head with the Package Piledriver, are fantastic. Well played both men. ****1/4

Post Match Paul Robinson comes out to object to Ridgeway being “hard as fuck”. The heat he receives is quite beautiful. The Ritz is such a good building. It has better acoustics than the Ballroom and better line of sight.

David Starr vs. Ilja Dragunov

Ilja has his old Russian music instead of those god-awful drums from Wembley. It’s a massive improvement. He’s also on his own now with CMJ taking a leave of absence and it’s a chance to reboot Dragunov. Ilja does a grand job of being irritated by David Starr’s introductions. He can be quite annoying. His smug grin into camera when announced as being “really good at Twitter” is frankly incredible. Manchester have a pop at the “Unbeseigbar” chant and it’s probably the best its been done by an English language crowd. These two have a common history in Germany, most notably facing WALTER, and they bring an intense style to this contest. Starr constantly surprises people with his level of fight. He’s throws himself into wrestling with attitude and aplomb. So Ilja kills him. The wXw boys have taken the ideals of “British Strong Style” and are still utilising it to get noticed, while the likes of Trent have gotten established and feel they don’t need to do it anymore. So this is a battle between two guys trying to get noticed, globally, and they beat the shit out of each other. Which is happening right after a very similar match but it’s still a huge success. They time things better and make it feel more important. Starr drinking Ilja’s blood is pretty intense. The whole thing is a war and makes me excited that’s it’s not really happened in a big match in wXw so one day we’ll see this when it really means something. Even here, in a throwaway midcard match, it’s so good. Travis Banks runs in to make it a no contest and if this had a finish it was heading somewhere amazing. ****1/4

Tag Team Championships
Aussie Open def. Calamari Thatch Kings

Brookes has his latest incarnation of CCK here, which is technically CTK. Lykos is close to being fit again so don’t expect a title change or anything. Brookes has great chemistry with the Aussie boys, having worked with them in training and in a multitude of matches over the past two years. Mostly in tags. It feels like this is Aussie Open’s time as they both have changed their body type and gotten really good. The story here is that Kyle Fletcher comes in with a bad leg and that’s the focus of CTK’s offence and, as per usual, Aussie Open indulge in a little bit of tag team formula. The issue with this match is that variations of Brookes vs. Aussies have been so frequent of late that I find it hard to get fired up for it. Luckily Aussie Open are very fired up as champions and that makes it easier to get into the match. You can see Brookes fingerprints all over the ‘match breaks down’ sequence and it’s a lot of fun. Fletcher ends up pinning Brookes despite a bad leg and Aussie Open retain. If I’d not seen a multitude of these matches before I’d probably go higher on the rating. ***1/2

Atlas Championship
Trent Seven def. Zack Gibson

Two of the best promos in wrestling today going back and forth for fifteen minutes before Trent crossbodies Gibson in five seconds to set a new PROGRESS record. The previous best being Trent losing to Matt Riddle at SSS16 last year.

PROGRESS World Championship
WALTER def. Mark Haskins

Haskins winning the PROGRESS title is one of my favourite moments in wrestling. Much like his dramatic return alongside Flash Morgan Webster when I thought he was finished with a serious neck injury. Since then he’s been adrift in the midcard but the promo on Chapter 77 helped to set this up nicely. This is Haskins’ redemption. This is his shot at getting back what he never lost.

Unfortunately for him the landscape of PROGRESS has dramatically altered since his title win (against Marty Scurll and Tommy End) and WALTER is an entirely different prospect. Haskins quickly discovers WALTER is near impossible to prepare for. His speed doesn’t get him anywhere. His dives are caught. He can’t cope with WALTER’s chops. WALTER makes such a point of brutalising Haskins that it actually draws heat and there’s a feeling among some fans that WALTER is just a big bully who shouldn’t be cheered. Haskins eventually finds a tactical approach that works by kicking WALTER’s legs out from under him. This helps him to set up the Sharpshooter as well as he targets the legs. He also finds joy in counters where he jumps over the John Woo and hits a double stomp. As with all the matches on this show the crowd are suitably rowdy and the duelling chants are a delight. It interests me that crowd’s naturally turn on successful people, especially when they’re champions. It happened to Travis Banks and the crowd naturally side with the underdog here too. Haskins employs hit and move tactics here to oppose WALTER’s sheer power, which makes it a believably long contest. WALTER merely biding his time while Haskins unloads everything he can think of. I love the roll through Haskins does being countered right into the Gojira Clutch. I also love Haskins leaning too far back on the Sharpshooter allowing WALTER to grab him in another choke. It’s smart work because Haskins feels he needs that extra leverage to get a submission but WALTER knows it’s coming. WALTER pretty much coasts to victory after that. Haskins has played his hand and WALTER had more in the tank. Finishing with a series of moves targeted at Mark’s bad neck. Fire Thunder Driver is the killshot but WALTER makes a point of hitting moves to set that up. Great showing from Haskins and my heart goes out to him but his defeat amplifies the power of WALTER as champion. ****

Final Thoughts:

24 Hour PROGRESS was a really excellent showing with three matches over the **** barrier. More importantly, thanks to the rowdy Manchester crowd, this felt like a great show. They got behind the wrestlers, right from the opening match, and it felt special. You’re never quite sure how a crowd is going to respond but the aim is for it to sound like this. Hot all night, massively supportive of everything and making good matches even better.