PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 166: Freedom Walks Again
April 5, 2024
Penns Landing Caterers
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Watch: TrillerTV+

When I was a child, my dad and uncles mocked me mercilessly for loving wrestling.  It was all light-hearted of course, but I was in no doubt that they thought wrestling was stupid.  They didn’t see what I saw at all – they saw something ridiculous and only ever enjoyed the silliest bits.

If someone ever gave Big Ste and Uncle Bri the pencil, they would book a show like this.  A hateful show, born in the fires of minds who have contempt for professional wrestling.  This show was an embarrassment.

In fact, Progress Wrestling have become an embarrassment in totality..  They were once a shining light on a burgeoning scene; a genuine hub of excitement and (dare I say it) progress.  Unfortunately, the new owners don’t seem to like wrestling very much.  They have descended into the worst kind of gimmick laden irony wrestling, desperate to entertain the ever dwindling weirdos who still watch this promotion.  It’s anti-wrestling, sucking away everything that we love about it.  This show was a chance for a fresh start, but instead it was the same old Progress nonsense.

It was so bad, it made me nostalgic for the Three Mates.

Kid Lykos 2 def. Leon Slater, Cody Chhun, Simon Miller, Marcus Mathers, Gringo Loco and Tate Mayfairs

I think Tate Mayfairs sums up modern Progress better than any other wrestler. He’s a very competent wrestler; I’ve seen him wrestle many very good matches.  Unfortunately, Progress are a caricature of pro wrestling, and Mayfairs starts the show off with a weak paint-by-numbers heel promo.  A polite crowd allowed him a chant or two, but we have a ring full of exciting wrestlers ready to go.  A boring promo with a broken mic was not the way to start this show.

Of course, Leon Slater was the stand out.  He’s been on the cusp of something special for a while, and I urge anyone impressed with his work to seek out his match against Ospreay.  He was a firecracker here, always wrestling on the edge of his ability. 

I enjoyed the dives as much as the next man, but this was a multi-man with all the multi-man tropes.  They showed a suggestion of several matches that would be good, but gave us none.

Yoichi def Ricky Knight Jr ©

For a while, it seemed like RKJ was going to take over the world.  He was a total package: speed, power and brutality.  Unfortunately, injuries occuring at the wrong time seem to have robbed him of his momentum and he’s quickly been lapped by several younger wrestlers on the British scene.  He has maintained his real charisma, however.  Of all the wrestlers we’ve seen so far on the show, he was the first to make an entrance.  Not many wrestlers can change the feel of a room when they walk out, and RKJ can.

Yoichi drew the short straw for his excursion and ended up in the Electric Ballroom, but he seems to have channelled any disappointment into a great stoic anger.  Yoichi slapped and kicked, RKJ dived and slapped and we moved dangerously close to some proper wrestling. 

As the match went on, the brutality increased.  Every chop or lariat seemed to come with an awful thud, suggesting the strike went right into someone’s bones.  Yoichi’s chest was a spasm of red and that match changed direction in plenty of exciting ways.  There was a lovely delay on a Rikishi Driver that allowed us to drink in the anticipation of brutal violence.

Unfortunately, both wrestlers over-stretched themselves.  When they found a flow, it was wonderful cursive wrestling.  But, there were too many times where miscommunication led to a stutter that the style of match couldn’t overcome.

An old criticism of RKJ remains – he feels like a wrestling tribute act.  He does cutters, Muscle Busters, Rikishi Drivers… He does all of these moves very well, but lacks a style of his own.

The third act was superb from Yoichi.  He scraped and clawed his way to a victory, putting over his opponent and consequently his victory.  ***3/4

Bussy (Allie Katch and Effy) def. Gene Munny and Session Moth Martina

As I watched Effy and Allie Katch gyrate poorly, I realised that they aren’t even good at being shit.  If they’re going to wrestle a derivative, lame style, they should at least have the decency to do it properly.  The movements are awkward, the comedy is forced and I’m bored.

Munny and Session Moth are even worse.  At least the American irony wrestlers did it first.  Wrestlers like Munny and Moth decided to copy it, like a Plato’s Cave of embarrassing behaviour.

There was some comedy at the start with people coming in and out of a ring and making faces.  Then people danced and twerked. 

 I caught my reflection in the patio doors and saw a look on my face I didn’t recognise.  It was a deep anger, spawned by Session Moth and Allie Katch becoming “best friends” halfway through a wrestling match.  It was compounded by the work in this match being sub-trainee standard.  My rage was multiplied when Session Moth decided to watch the match from the audience for no reason whatsoever.  I reached my fiery peak when this match refused to end, damning us all to a miserable evening of wondering why any of these wrestlers got booked at all.  

If you liked this match, you’re an idiot. -**

Luke Jacobs def. Spike Trivet

These two wrestlers could not be further apart.  Luke Jacobs is an exciting wrestler who has been building his career to a wonderful crescendo, his latest peak being an incredible match against Ishii.  Spike Trivet is essentially a Pound Shop Fiend, embarrassing himself and others in drawn out, boring “story” matches with no substance or merit.

However, something interesting happened in the match.  Trivet wrestled and he was good.  He wasn’t shouting nonsense phrases or telling stories that were nowhere near as clever as he thinks they are.  He was chopping and being chopped.  

Unfortunately, his worst instincts took over, and we had to sit through gurning and crowd work that nobody cared about.  

I understand that nobody deserves anything, but Luke Jacobs deserved more than this.  He is capable of having matches as good as anyone, but Progress lack the wrestling capital to book him in anything good.  If they cared about wrestling the way we do, Trivet would have been replaced by Leon Slater, RKJ or anyone who could elicit a reaction from this crowd.  They don’t know what they have with Luke Jacobs.

PROGRESS Women’s World Championship
 Rhio © def. Lana Austin

Whenever I’ve been critical of Lana Austin’s gimmick, usually describing her as the most annoying wrestler working today, I’m told the gimmick is supposed to be annoying.  I could grate a dog turd on my pasta and in my chosen action intend to have it taste like shit.  Do you want to eat it?  Lana Austin has go away heat on a level only Bussy have found before now.  The shame is, she was a solid mainstay on the northern English scene, but her Progress push has unleashed a demon.

Compare her to Rhio – a terrifying fighter who can play the cock swagger in a way that doesn’t feel like she’s practising for a Drama GCSE.  Lana was caught in the ropes at one point with Rhio right up in her face, threatening and scalding her opponent.  In response, Lana Austin pretended to “find” a middle finger in her tights.  Nobody laughed.

This is a championship match at a show with more eyes on it than modern Progress are accustomed to.  If one of the wrestlers treats it like a joke, why should I take it seriously?

Lana Austin’s gimmick was epitomised by clearing the crowd from their seats, threatening to send Rhio into the chairs, but actually sending her the other way.  The insular Electric Ballroom might love that, but the unfamiliar crowd reacted to her shenanigans with a polite awkward smile, exposing the ridiculousness of her work. 

When they wrestled, it was boring and Rhio deserved better. **

Progress Tag Team Championship
Sanity def. Sunshine Machine and Cheeky Little Buggers

Chuck Mambo pretended his hand was a phone and Alexis Falcon answered it.  I think this show has been booked to wind me up specifically at this point.  It’s everything I hate about modern Progress distilled and in a different arena, which only serves to exemplify how bad it is.

Alexis Falcon and Charles Crowley fall into the 69 position and nobody laughed or reacted.  Literally nobody cared.  I wondered if they wanted the world to swallow them up, but then I remembered they have no sense of self-awareness or shame.

As Charles Crowley did his magic tricks (which I won’t describe because I respect myself too much), I wondered why they didn’t just do Sunshine Machine vs Sanity.  Sunshine Machine have been a constant high point on the British scene and Axel Tischer is a world class talent.  The reason is obvious: Progress are constantly trying to pop two hundred idiots in the Electric Ballroom and it didn’t matter one bit that none of them were in Philly.  The cringe train rode on and I was wasting my Friday evening watching it.

We were treated to some of Tischer and TK Cooper’s dynamism, but it just served to show us what we were missing.  In fact, the back half of the match was generally entertaining, competent wrestling but that’s hardly a compliment is it?

Sanity win, weirdly.  Maybe Progress is learning that gimmicks like Cheeky Little Buggers don’t work outside the Electric Ballroom. **¾

Progress Men’s World Championship
Kid Lykos © def Man Like Dereiss

Kid Lykos has had a brilliant late career resurgence.  His career has been mired by injury and stunted by terrible comedy, but his recent unmasking has refocused us on his talent.  He is an incredibly interesting, innovative worker and his run as the babyface champ is a perfect vehicle for this.

Dereiss also needs a career resurgence.  Once a top prospect, he’s melted into the background while his peers have shone.  Maybe a great match here is what he needs to find his fire again.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen.  They realised that Lykos works best from underneath, scrapping and fighting back, but we were just presented with a weak beatdown and corny faces from Lykos.  

Neither man could make the audience care about this match.  Both men lay on the mat for a double countout, enveloped in a still silence.  People were checking their phones.

The action picked up, but it was never enough. Lykos held the belt aloft to a crowd of people milling around.  A half decent match, but it was too little too late.  ***1/4

Final Thoughts

This was a modern Progress show.  It contained a lot of good wrestlers that nobody seemed to have any idea what to do with, and a whole load of comedy that makes you feel like you want to die inside.  Don’t watch this show.  Instead, imagine that time when you were 14 and you were trying to impress people you fancied.  Does it give you that awful knot in your stomach?  This Is Progress.

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