Progress Chapter 101
January 19, 2020
We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom. Host in the ring is Matt Richards, making his debut replacing Jim Smallman. He’s joined immediately by Eddie Dennis, who’s injured. Again. He’s been stripped of the title! This is the very definition of a new era. The WWE signed talent gone from the title picture and a new champion on the first night. Dennis hands the title to Mark Andrews but that’s not going to stick. Instead he’s in the first of three qualifying matches for tonight’s main event against Cara Noir, who was already #1 contender.
Mark Andrews vs. Ilja Dragunov
I’m aware we have two NXT UK signed guys here and it’s not quite the drastic change you could have had but by the end of the night we’ll have a new champion and we’ll see if the company is able to distance itself from WWE. Torpedo Moscow and Mandrews is pinned in a matter of seconds.
Final Rating: Bye FSU
Commentary now comes from Glen Joseph and Fraser Thomas, the FCP ring announcer. He’s decent but has a lack of experience at this level. Glen is pretty good at nurturing a co-commentator though so it’s early days. It’s a shame that the ring announcing duties has meant losing Matt Richards on commentary.
More Than Hype (Nathan Martin & Darren Kearney) vs. Pretty Deadly (Lewis Howley & Sam Stoker)
The Irish lads are overdue a run in Progress, which has been stuffed to the gills with WWE signed guys for a while now and therefore inflexible from a booking standpoint. Pretty Deadly are a solid heel tag team but MTH are the ones to watch in European wrestling. It was abundantly clear the Irish trio were something special when they broke in. Martin is often heralded as ‘the one’ but I love Kearney. They have him absorb heat here with Pretty Deadly being pretty assholes. Kearney ably selling the leg, which is the target of Pretty Deadly. They do somewhat abandon this approach to do a bunch of fun near falls and double teams but hey, 2020, I see this every time. Some of the double teams are very cool, especially from Pretty Deadly. The storytelling behind this needed work but the action was great. I like that Pretty Deadly won here without help from DNR.
Final Rating: ***1/4
LJ Cleary vs. Kyle Fletcher
This is the second of three qualifiers for tonight’s main event.
Kyle is wearing Schadenfreude black rather than Aussie Open babyface green. This becoming a qualifier for a title match it becomes a result somewhat telegraphed. Fletcher has far more Progress history than Cleary as a top tier competitor. His improvements, across the board, are palpable and it looks as if he’s attempting a more straight-laced tough guy here rather than the more nuanced FCP character, who has lots of dickhead mates. Kyle has had to develop a singles persona due to Brookes going to Japan and Dunkzilla getting hurt. The crowd doesn’t get into this and that’s probably due to a lack of familiarity with Cleary who’s not worked in front of this crowd much. They work hard and Fletcher stuns me with some spots. The tope is immense.
The dismissive lariat that ends Cleary’s comeback is also fantastic. LJ takes a mean bump and they use that, repeatedly. Those rag doll bumps are the best. They have a few little communication issues but recover extremely well. Cradle Tombstone finishes for Kyle and I really enjoyed this.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Progress Proteus Championship
Paul Robinson (c) vs. A-Kid
When I heard what the Proteus championship was going to be I thought the opportunities were limitless. You’re only limited by your own imagination so naturally I’ve been hugely disappointed by it so far. Having Robbo do every defence the same as KO or submission is just boring.
That said Robbo’s urge to do shoot style is far better suited to A-Kid, who is great at it. So they can do pseudo MMA grappling and striking. Which is an improvement over Robinson’s previous title defences. A-Kid is so smooth and technically gifted. I was upset when he signed for WWE (because I wanted to see him continue to progress on the Indies) but it has given him the capacity to wrestle full time and get even better. Like Devlin he seems to have benefitted from training full time and he looks sharp.
They break down into a scrap but Robbo pulls a deep half crab for the submission. This was dead good. The match style is an issue for me but as long as Robbo can keep it fresh then it should be fine. There will be a time and a place where they need to do something different with Proteus because it, as a title, has enormous potential.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Do Not Resuscitate (Spike Trivet, William Eaver & Danny Duggan) vs. The OJMO, Charlie Carter & Oisin Delaney
DNR is this bizarre stable that rumbles on without seeming to have any sense of direction. Mambo is now gone from the faction and, thanks to this match, Eaver is about to be suspended for three months. I feel like they’ve been largely irrelevant since the Progress Originals team treated them like geeks at SSS16. That was ages ago! Eaver gets himself into hot water by acting like a complete lunatic. Firstly by hurling himself into a wall and putting a dent in it and then hurling OJMO into the second row. “He’s the man who’s hard to control” says Fraser on commentary. He’ll be a lot easier to control when he’s suspended. Eaver’s attempts to be all edgy have not been a good idea. In all honesty his gimmick change has been a disaster. This match is a boring failure. They have bad ideas and they’re not well executed. It brings the whole show screaming to a halt. DNR are a black hole of failure of which there is no escape. Spike Trivet is lucky he can cut a promo. OJMO’s intrinsic star power almost saves the match by itself but he’s above everyone else here and doesn’t belong with them anymore. I’d get rid of DNR immediately. Trivet is better positioned as a manager short term where he can draw heat. Eaver and Duggan are useless. Duggan rightfully takes the pin here and OJMO gets the decisive win. Bad match though. Sub standard for Progress.
Final Rating: *1/2
Progress Women’s Championship
Jinny (c) vs. Mercedez Blayze
Jinny strangely won the belt off Meiko Satomura in December. I’m really not sure I understand that call.
With this being a new era of Progress, I’d be sorely tempted to switch the title here. One small problem; Blayze has hardly appeared on Progress shows so no one really knows who she is. Jinny is a weird case study. She left Progress back in May last year due to her WWE deal and just magically reappeared. The heel/face alignment is all wonky because the crowd are supportive of Jinny given her babyface return but Blayze is the face in the match? I’m not 100% sure but this was a match that needed a heel/face structure to get the crowd going. That said some of the work is excellent but it is somewhat patchy. Blayze is one to watch. She’s insanely talented for her experience levels and she’s creative and eager to improve. She has star written all over her. This is over pretty quickly with a murderous Acid Rainmaker. As I said before this was good in fits and starts.
Final Rating: **3/4
Post Match: Jinny demands a spot in the Gisele Shaw vs. Dani Luna match in Cardiff and turn that match into a triple threat. Then Medusa Complex turn up and kick her ass. Babyface Jinny vs. Heel Millie? Has the world gone mad?
Progress Unified World Championship
Cara Noir vs. Kyle Fletcher vs. Ilja Dragunov vs. Paul Robinson
Cara Noir’s entrance is so special. Quite how it took BritWres as long as they did to realise it, and that Tom Dawkins is a fucking great wrestler, is a mystery. Especially in the midst of a downturn in business. The four men in this match as a smorgasbord of European Indie Wrestling. A glimpse at the talent that is available to anyone looking for top guys. Any of these four would be a solid champion. My personal preference is for Cara, to distinguish Progress from WWE and give a reward to a hard-working wrestler. All these guys have supporters though, which means they booked the right men for the match. Well, ideally you should probably have one jerkwad in there who everyone wants to lose but this is fine.
It helps that Ilja and Cara had an incredible rivalry over recent shows. Robbo dislocated his thumb punching A-Kid earlier. The combination of four guys allows them to stay fresh and keep the match consistently interesting. There are a few dumb spots (sunset flip tower of doom, hello!) but it does feel exciting and important. Robbo is generally terrific here. Mad at the world. Fletcher kills him with the Grimstone and that does set up Robbo vs. Kyle for the Proteus belt. “You ain’t knocked me out though you Aussie cunt”.
All three of these guys throw themselves into the remainder of the match. If anything it’s Fletcher and Cara who are the most deserving. Ilja’s irritating little ticks remain, as does his WWE contract. Kyle goes for Grimstone on Cara but Torpedo Moscow knocks Fletcher out and Cara falls on top for the pin. Ilja looks distraught but he knows how tough Cara Noir is from their previous meetings. Then they hug it out and it turns into a fucking duel. It’s so intense. Like a greatest hits of their existing feud with the volume turned up and the homoeroticism is off the charts. Cara countering Torpedo Moscow with one of his own is great stuff and the Package Piledriver finishes. Huge pop for Cara Noir winning, which gets this a bonus mark. Great match though. It completely delivered on every level. Ultimately the biggest success is getting from the start of the show where Eddie Dennis was champion to now where a tearful Cara Noir has the belt and that beautiful music from Swan Lake, instead of some generic crap, blares out in the Electric Ballroom. Holy shit, I fucking love wrestling.
Final Rating: ****1/2
It’s a new era of Progress and they couldn’t have done a better job of drawing a line under the Jim Smallman/NXT UK driven part of their history and moving forwards. Having Cara Noir win was huge and one of the best booking decisions they’ve made surrounding their main event scene in a long, long time. Probably since the early part of WALTER’s run. I’m sure he won’t let them down.