Arnold Furious: March 19, 2017. We’re at the O2 Ritz, Manchester for the most stacked Manchester card to date from Progress. They’ve really stepped up their efforts to make the Manchester shows feel comparable to the Ballroom ones. This show was just a week before the next Camden one so turnaround is super fast and the VOD comes out just four days after the event. It’s made even more impressive when you consider the 3h12m run-time, one of the longest Progress shows to date. Hosts are Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie.
Progress Tag Team Championship
British Strong Style (c) vs. South Pacific Power Trip
The SPPT have been number one contenders for months. It was getting ridiculous how long they were waiting to pull the trigger on their title shot. Progress have been changing music of late and BSS’ new music is a far cry from Love is Blindness. At least SPPT come out to their usual ‘Keep It 100’ theme. Travis’ streamer destroying third wheel act is absolutely sensational. The crowd’s banter with Trent Seven is magnificent too. We’re off to a flier. Travis and Tyler are both outstanding wrestlers, who are still improving. While TK and Trent aren’t quite on that level they’re both good too and it’s a solid line-up for the opener. Travis got babyface reactions in his last match and now Cooper does too, simply for opposing BSS. It helps that he does an absolutely ridiculous flip. It’s another good showing from TK. Everyone is aware he’s overshadowed by Travis but he is more than capable of holding his own in this match. The way the match unravels and they all get their shots in is reminiscent of a Fight Club Pro wacky tag contest. Three of them wrestle there so that makes sense. It’s a fun match that bombs along at 100mph. SPPT get to run all their usual heel stuff but get cheered for it. Including Dahlia getting familiar with BSS’ collective groins. Travis eats two finishers in a row for the pin, Trent hitting a piledriver off the middle rope ahead of the Tyler Driver ’97. Fantastic match all round. SPPT are so good. They could easily have won the titles here and it wouldn’t have been unbelievable.
Final Rating: ****
Post-match: Jimmy Havoc runs in to bash the tag champs with a chair while the crowd sing “Happy Birthday”. Aww. A lovely moment.
Zack Gibson vs. El Ligero
Gibson is unpopular as ever. Banter Edition Ligero is coming up with some new and interesting interpretations of what the Origin stand for. He comes out here dressed as an emoticon for St Patricks Day. A drunk emoticon at that. Gibbo gets the usual torrent of abuse while Ligero pisses about. At one point collapsing into a heap, disorientated by his surroundings. Ah, St Patrick’s Day. Gibson pulls the mask off and it’s El Generico underneath! Well, it’s El Generico’s mask anyway. Ligero’s tactics include stealing Joe Atherton’s wheelchair and doing a bit boot while riding it. The match is an absolute hoot. Gibson plays the straight man perfectly. The match is never meant to be taken seriously and occupies a useful cool down spot right after the hot opener. Everyone has a bloody good chuckle until Nathan Cruz distracts and the pissed up Ligero eats Helter Skelter for the pin. The banter was strong here. I wasn’t overly keen on the finish but they’re heading toward some sort of tag match.
Final Rating: ***
James Drake vs. Jack Sexsmith
Drake has generic music. It makes him look even less important. His technical work is fine but he’s really struggling to stand out, personality wise. Meanwhile Sexsmith, retaining the Divinyls, looks like a star by comparison. Perception is everything. This is probably a coincidence but this is Drake’s second straight match against a Projo graduate. Is he working his way up to Eaver? Sexsmith comes in with a taped up back, selling the injuries from his match with Gibson. Sexsmith again looks entirely comfortable against a more experienced opponent. In particular his last gasp kick-outs are far better than most people of his experience. Drake’s forearm (The Fivearm!) is now a devastating weapon because it broke Damon Moser’s jaw and I’m glad they use that to directly set up the finish here. If something happens to accidentally injure someone, see Jordan Devlin’s Enzuigiri, then use it to legitimise your match.
Final Rating: **1/4
Will Ospreay vs. Mark Andrews
Heel Will comes out to some horribly generic music too*, although it’s preferable to people booing AC/DC. I can’t handle that. These two have phenomenal chemistry but they’re normally working babyface matches. Having Will has the heel changes the dynamic. Will’s been missing for a few months and he returns with murderous intent, including a top con hilo that lands in the front row. He’s still as reckless as he ever was as a face but he now seems far less concerned about landing on fans. Given the experiences these two have had beforehand they’re able to structure a thrilling but sensible match. The Crucifix Driver is utterly sickening. Will Ospreay’s neck must be like a bunch of twigs at this point. It’s not just flips though, or even Flipz, but also the combination of intensity and character. Some of the striking is fantastic. Especially the design of it all. Like Ospreay stomping on the back of Mark’s head when he’s in the ropes. Speaking of the ropes, they break during the match (somewhat of an Ospreay trope now), and Andrews can’t resist doing flipz off the broken rope. These guys have got a fucking death wish. Andrews hits an array of dangerous looking moves, culminating in the Kudo Driver, which gets the pin. You don’t see that move too often because it’s really hard to do right. This was really fucking good.
Final Rating: ****1/2
*I’m told it’s his ROH music.
Post-match: Havoc reappears, because it’s his birthday and he can do what he wants, attacking Will with a chair. The aim is Havoc’s continuing desire to remove potential enemies before the main event.
Ringkampf vs. The Hunter Brothers
The Ringkampf boys, despite being heels in Germany, are over huge as faces in Progress. The surly attitude must be a turn-on. Maybe it’s just the sheer workrate, which is outstanding. Or perhaps it’s the Dvorak. This is only Jim’s second match back after being injured in October. Five months is a long time on the Indies. Example: just six months ago Axel was a babyface, teaming with Da Mack and stuck in wXw’s midcard. Now he’s a former wXw champion and one half of one of the best tag teams in the world. At the moment WALTER is capable of stealing shows by himself and he needs very little in the way of support. He’s like a brutal, focused version of what Brock Lesnar used to be. The Hunters put their work boots on and remind everyone how good they can be. The Hunters are genuinely great working from underneath, especially when Jim desperation superkicks WALTER. It’s WALTER who stands out, even with everyone else performing at a high level. The big boot is devastating, the Gojira Clutch is murderous and every throw looks like a finish. Ringkampf do get the victory via efficient German double teaming and both men are rapturously applauded, once again. This was so good. Ringkampf are a perfect solution for Progress’ tag team problem. They’re available most of the time and are one of the best teams in the world. Plus WALTER isn’t likely to leave because he’s so committed to European wrestling.
Final Rating: ****
Nathan Cruz vs. Flash Morgan Webster
You can tell there are big plans for this one because Glen calls it a “potential sleeper match of the night” before it even starts. When it comes to matches I get really fired up for Cruz vs. Flash wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the list, to be perfectly honest. They certainly work their socks off here, going a mile a minute in pursuit of popping the crowd. Flash hasn’t long come back from a horrific shoulder injury so Cruz targets the injury. It’s a smart tactic and creates a solid storyline. The great part of an arm match, over a leg match, is it makes the selling easier. Case in point; Flash strikes with his good arm, leaving the injured one behind his back so Cruz sweeps the leg. This means Morgan falls on his own injured arm. I like it when things make sense. Another great moment is Flash trying to do a backslide but not able to get it properly because he can’t use his one arm. Webster has been studying the psychology in his time off it seems! It’s not just about psychology though and Webster wants to throw everything out there to prove his fitness. Even if the focus of the match is the same injury he’s trying to overcome. It makes Nathan’s arm work doubly effective. Webster does a great job of selling his desperation too, with headbutts and showing fear at coming off the top before firing up. It’s awesome storytelling. Webster even gets the win with a defensive move, hooking the Strangler to get the submission. I loved the logic at play here. Nathan being a despicable scumbag and Flash overcoming him with superior wrestling and good old fashioned guts.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Natural Progression Series IV Semi Final
Jinny vs. Nixon Newell
The result of this was rather telegraphed by Nixon having a ‘farewell’ match in Fight Club Pro the night before. We’ve known for six months that she was off to Florida. Jinny suffers the indignity of losing her entrance music. Meanwhile Nixon retains “C’est La Vie”. I have no idea what’s going on here. Both ladies are aware this is a loaded show and aim to steal it from the off with a series of crazy suicide dives. If Nixon wasn’t leaving this could easily have been the NPS4 final. I appreciate Jinny starting to live the gimmick and switching gear more frequently. Tonight’s looks like a modified evening gown. Jinny’s in-ring improvements have been drastic and the BritWres Roundtable had her as ‘Most Improved’ for 2016. She’s not resting on those laurels. Nixon makes a point of dramatically kicking out of everything, including the Makeover, which ends up being more like a piledriver. However Jinny steals the Destroyer for the pin. This was a strong match but slightly rushed and will almost certainly get forgotten due to it taking place on a loaded card. The signs are there for Jinny though. She’s the figurehead of this women’s division and arguably the Projo’s greatest success.
Final Rating: ***1/2
No Disqualification Match, Falls Count Anywhere
Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Jimmy Havoc
Pete continues his recent trend of assaulting his challenger during their introduction. If there’s one thing that defines Jimmy Havoc it’s the ‘wild brawl’ that goes all over the building. He’s done it in various promotions but with the most success in Progress. Since returning from injury he’s been focusing mostly on his in-ring, with the exception of the blow-off match against Marty Scurll. This is a reminder that Havoc is legitimately nuts. He’s escaped the tag of ‘death match wrestler’ but having that second level to go to is helpful. Now he can incorporate all his newer spots into this environment, hence a diving rana to the floor in between chair spots. They don’t spend a lot of time in the ring. This allows Pete Dunne to indulge in his secondary occupation, after professional wrestler; professional agitator. They don’t fuck around here, bringing staple guns and barbwire. It becomes a brutal epic with two wrestlers determined to out-do the other. For Havoc this is business as usual. For Pete, it’s a step into the unknown. One that includes Havoc giving him paper cuts and pouring lime juice all over it. There’s nothing quite as sick as the sight of a wrestler pulling staples out of his crotch. Jesus Christ. Even the smaller spots are brutal, with Dunne taking a German suplex onto a set up chair. When they hit a Canadian Destroyer into thumbtacks I’m reminded it’s not the first Canadian Destroyer into thumbtacks I saw that weekend! The only issue the match has is the no DQ stipulation. That means interference is inevitable. It comes in the form of Will Ospreay, which Jimmy barely sweats because Will has been useless in Progress for a year. Storyline wise, that is. He can’t beat anyone. He can drag Chris Roberts out preventing the pin though. Pete takes advantage and hits the Drop Dead to retain. This match is really hard to rate. It certainly had that ‘big match’ atmosphere but what you get out of it will depend on how important the violence is to you. I personally felt it all made sense and helped move Havoc into focusing on Ospreay. The levels these two went to, in order to sell the importance of this match, was above and beyond the call of duty.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Summary: Progress Chapter 45: Galvanise was perhaps the best top to bottom card Progress have ever put on. That’s not hyperbole. The talent they’ve gotten together for these shows, combined with the effort that talent is putting in is creating something truly memorable. I came back from wXw in Germany blown away by their quality but Progress is developing a consistency to their cards that’s practically unrivalled in Europe, if not the World. Five genuinely great matches on this card and increasingly Progress is becoming a ‘can’t miss’ promotion. It’s not just the matches they’re booking but the way talent behave in Progress. It’s the talent and the crowd noise that makes it a special place to be.