PROGRESS headed up North to Manchester for Chapter 80: Gods & Monsters. We are headlined by a rematch from the Coast to Coast tour between CCK and LAX.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 80: Gods & Monsters
December 8, 2018
O2 Ritz
Manchester, England

Watch: Demand PROGRESS

Paul Robinson def. Chris Ridgeway

Robinson’s comeback is genuinely strange. I didn’t understand what caused him to retire (“blood clots?”) and now he’s fine again. It’s not like he was gone a long, missing less than six months and most of that happening after he ‘retired’ in PROGRESS. In the meantime Riddy basically took his roster spot so this is a relatively fresh contest between two men who are pretty tough. UFC creating stars in lower weight classes has done wrestling the power of good. Never before in wrestling have so many small hard men been considered big stars in pro wrestling.

They try and structure this like an MMA fight, to a degree, and the crowd don’t really bite on it and this is Manchester, which has been PROGRESS’ hottest crowd of late. They switch it up to trading on kicks and that gets the crowd into it. The match gets better from there with Robinson switching tactics and using his flying skill. The spear off the top is especially good. Just when the match is getting good they run an awful ‘ref bump’ with no bump and ruin everything. Robbo smacks Riddy with a chain for the win while Paz stands in the corner looking sheepish. Badly done ref bumps are the dirt worst. **1/4

Drew Parker def. Ligero

Ligero has lost his El and has returned to PROGRESS after a lengthy absence. His last match was July 2017. His move from World of Sport to NXT:UK is the cause. Anyway, he’s here as a PROGRESS old-timer to be fed to the new stable headed up by Spike Trivet, who is ringside for this. Does he have a manager’s licence? I want to see it. He doesn’t but he does have an open letter for British wrestling, making fun of Justin Sysum’s challenge to WWE dominance online earlier in the week. Sysum was bang on correct by the way. Basically Trivet runs down the established PROGRESS talent and have banded together as “Do Not Resuscitate” to protect their own careers.

Drew Parker has built himself a nice niche in BritWres as a death match kid with lovely hair. Trivet is a factor in this, interfering and generally being a nuisance. It’s telling that the crowd don’t care about this either. Drew tries to position himself as the heel, avoiding interesting moves, which allows Ligero to hit the flashier stuff and get the pops. Drew is still relatively inexperienced and that shows here. Several times he’s waiting, visibly, for Ligero rather than getting into position later and making moves fluid. Trivet’s constant interfering leads directly to the finish and makes you wonder why Joel Allen put up with his shit throughout. The post match is more interesting with Trivet cutting one of Ligero’s horns off. **

Pete Dunne def. Mark Andrews

Mark Andrews recent matches have felt like he’s just waiting for the call to move to Florida. When Pete’s music kicks in the atmosphere in the building changes. Dunne is a legitimate star in any building in the world and I think the BritWres crowds are starting to come to terms with him being here on borrowed time. Dunne and Andrews are long time friends and could have a good match in their sleep. The counters are so fluid. It’s on a different planet to the last two matches. They do terrific familiarity work and turn it into big spots. The match is perhaps a little too brisk to mean anything and they definitely ‘play the hits’ compared to previous matches but the standard of the wrestling is very, very high. Dunne hits a pair of Tombstones to win and Mandrews loses yet again. ***3/4

Atlas Championship
Trent Seven def. Dan Moloney

The open challenge Atlas gimmick is something that’s been very hit and miss for PROGRESS. Sometimes it pays off (Riddle taking the title off Rampage for example) and sometimes it’s just a filler contest. Luckily for PROGRESS Trent is very over and I’m glad he’s not just wrestling in a bunch of pointless tags and repetitive trios matches. Moloney is coming back after the most challenging run of his career: failing to make an impact in NXT UK and missing a lot of UK dates. He’s back now though and being in PROGRESS shows he means business in 2019. This is his PROGRESS debut.

Matt Richards gives us good background on how Moloney was there with Tyler Bate coming up and faded away. I felt like 2018 was going to be Moloney’s year but it really wasn’t. This is a good match for him because Seven is a long-standing friend so he allows Dan to get over at his expense. They do mild comedy, power stand-offs and strike duels. The main concern is that Dan isn’t very creative on offence and the match seems to be led by Seven. Dan hasn’t wrestled a lot over the last 12 months and he needs ring time. Some of his bumps are a little clunky here and he’s nowhere near the level of challenge that Kyle Fletcher brought to the dance.

In an attempt to make the match feel more special they do an insane apron spot that wouldn’t look out of place in 2005 NOAH. This gets Dan all fired up! When his body has recovered from the shock of the spot he takes over in a big way. He throws Trent around and that’s lot of weight to lift. As the match progresses Dan gets more over with the crowd, so it’s job done for him. Surviving that apron spot ending up being a major bonus for him. Burning Hammer, of sorts, finishes and Trent retains. Solid match, made slightly better by the apron spot. ***1/2

Eddie Dennis & Mark Haskins def. Do Not Resuscitate (Mambo & Eaver)

This would have been such a weird combination of guys two months ago. Haskins and Dennis have been brought together by a common enemy in Do No Resuscitate. Haskins and Dennis combine better than expected but the established team of Mambo & Eaver don’t work as heels. Mambo especially. I just don’t buy him as a heel at all. Eaver’s new character works better as a heel but he’s been out of the PROGRESS scene for so long and he’s not caught on anywhere else. Meanwhile Eddie, who’s been an effective heel for a year, is magically babyface because his promos are so good. The trouble with having Mambo in there is that Haskins exposes him with his fluidity and positioning. Mambo has improved tonnes over the past two years but Haskins is different class and this is a complicated match with a lot of spots to remember and Mambo takes the bulk of it. They certainly try hard. I can’t fault the effort of everyone involved and at times, when everything clicks, it’s really good but it’s not consistently so. The faces have it won but Drew Parker runs in for the DQ. That was a long way to go for such a poor finish. The post match is the most intriguing as Andrews runs in for the save despite his issues with Eddie. The ‘common enemy’ thread brought front and centre. **1/2

Ilja Dragunov def. Tyler Bate

Ilja is back to having shit drums as his entrance music. Look, whoever thinks that’s a good idea…it’s not. It doesn’t fit his character at all. Big props to the crowd for “Unbesiegbar, let them know it’s Ilja Time” to the tune of Band Aid. Both guys are really popular but there’s no real reason for them to be fighting other than personal pride. Ilja has only wrestled twice in PROGRESS and has yet to win. Bate is coming off the main event at Wembley where he lost. The difference here is Ilja, who brings a degree of intensity that sets him apart. Whether it’s throwing chops or launching himself into a senton. His moves feel more important and more visceral than Tyler’s work. Even when Tyler does the airplane spin it’s Dragunov’s selling that stands out. Jumping up and throwing wild punches before falling out of the ring. It feels like Tyler’s development has stalled, albeit barely noticeably as he’s improved so much year on year every year before 2018. He does match Ilja in some displays of athleticism but it’s clear which one is ready to be a big international star here. The finish, Torpedo Moscow, comes out of nowhere and gives Ilja his first PROGRESS win. The great thing about Torpedo Moscow is it feels like a flash knock out and it could happen to anyone at any time. The bad thing about it is due to the surprise nature it never feels all that exciting. Very strong match. Ilja has certainly put himself on the map in 2018. Overdue! ***3/4

#1 Contendership
Latin American Exchange def. Calamari Catch Kings

Gresham’s staple gun “Earl Perkins” has gotten over. It’s ridiculous. This is the main event and they’ve been given a lot of time. LAX are not that well known in Europe, outside of a tag league appearance for wXw. They have a huge opportunity to break out because they’re so very talented. I like that they start out doing bits of comedy and dancing before going nuts. The trouble with the match is it ‘breaks down’ and they stop tagging and this happens ten minutes into a long match. The innovation, from LAX in particular, is enjoyable but I prefer teams to wait until later in the match to stop ignoring the rules outright. They do make a point of returning to tags, which makes me irritated by the refereeing. Get some consistency! I’m doing the wrestlers a disservice with criticism of the structure as the effort and invention on show is impressive.

Another complaint here is that the match is too long and it takes them 15 minutes to get into the real meat of the match where things speed up. There’s a very defined moment where Gresham and Santana suddenly change gears and everything before that feels tired because of it. This is immediately followed by Brookes launching Gresham into a cutter, a modification of a lucha spot I sent to Brookes months ago. The pacing of the last ten minutes is absolutely electric. The planning and timing of the near falls has the crowd on their feet and rightly so. When Brookes plans out tags good things happen. The break-ups of pins and desperation kick-outs all feel like finishes for minutes on end. LAX pin a battered Gresham to get a title shot. Having already done this match in the USA CCK ask for match #3 in the series. I would hope they kept it tighter third time around. ****

Final Thoughts:

Gods & Monsters was certainly a step down from the last Manchester show both in terms of in-ring and crowd reaction. The latter could be due to PROGRESS being so coy about naming dates for 2019 due to “venue issues”. I won’t go into it here but this feels like another issue stemming from the NXT UK link. The standard in the ring here came and went. The main, Dragunov/Bate, Dunne/Andrews and Seven/Moloney are all worth a look. That’s if you can get the show to play without the audio sync issues afforded to us this month by our lovely friends over at Pivotshare.