GRAPS AND CLAPS: PROGRESS CHAPTER 69 ‘BE HERE NOW’ (21/5/18) REVIEW

Added by Andrew Ogden

Welcome once again to Graps and Claps bringing you another fun packed edition of my travel’s around the UK watching British Wrestling. This review will cover the 39th show of my #notthe100showyear to Victoria Warehouse, Manchester for PROGRESS Wrestling’s ‘Be Here Now’ named after the overly hyped Oasis albumn of the mid 90’s.

This was the venue for the big Jack Sexsmith title shot that people had been debating about for over 3 months since the announcement in February at the Ritz, Manchester that was met with a mixture of people wanting to see Jack win the big one or complete apathy of the highest order to the thought of Sexsmith possibly holding the biggest title in British Wrestling at the moment – that we would see later on in this review.

For myself, since that time I was on the side of not wanting to see Sexsmith with the title, despite the improvement of him as a wrestler, it still all came across as a competent mid-card wrestler but not of someone as a Main Event player (the UGG boots tempers it for me). As time had reached the day of the show, I was actually very hopeful that Jack would prove a lot of people and myself wrong and show that he could live among the top guys!

Sunday 20th May, brought a baking hot day and also the sight of my milk bottle legs to scare off the Manchester population. The City was bustling with an enormous amount of people competing in the Great Manchester Run, something that if I did it would only give me flashbacks of ‘Fat Andrew’ getting a stitch up Cardiac Hill at Hollingworth High School.

Arriving in the Paramount ‘Spoons at 1130 am we met up with a number of the Graps Gang upstairs who were congregating here before moving on to the tram. A good couple of hours spent in here discussing the Preacher from the Royal Wedding and also Chris Duffy (@TheChrisDuffy) trying to get himself on TV outside whilst we was watching the live feed on BBC One. Nothing special drinks wise in here, with myself going for the £3.29 pint of Coors and a £2.79 Gordon’s Pink Gin and Tonic with a couple of strawberries in it, the latter has become one of my go to drinks in the past month.

Leaving ‘Spoons at 1:40 pm, we took the tram to Exchange Quay which was maybe the best option as it was only a hop,skip and a jump to The Victoria Warehouse. Still at 2:20 pm there was still a decent enough sized queue getting into the venue, but it was moving quite briskly thanks to a well organised operation that places like the York Hall, Bethnal Green could take note of. Props also goes out to the lady telling us to ‘Keep hydrated and make sure you drink plenty of water’ – very good personality and was that little added touch on the way in and out that added to the experience.

First thing you see when walking into the Victoria Warehouse apart from big hugs from Tom Slade and Taff off Twitter, was a big concert area holding around 900/1000 I would guess and looking much more intimate than say other warehouse/exhibition halls that Fight Club and PROGRESS have used in the past. The intimacy of the venue also helped acoustics which added a lot to the atmosphere, which the Manchester crowd has continually provided a good one every time that PROGRESS has graced this fair city.

The Merchandise area was in one of the corners of the building close to the immaculate toilets and general consensus was that it was decent but did come a bit cramped at times especially at the half time break. Beer in this venue was a reasonably priced selection including a 3 pints for £10 offer on J.W Lees Original Lager (£3.80 pint if bought singular), which proved so popular that they had ran out of this particular drink by the first match of the second half, leading some people to go for more exotic and pricier drinks.

Anyways let’s get on to the wrestling, with a 7-match card which proved a tale of two halves from a match quality perspective of things – so let’s see what went down!

We started off with a in ring promo from the PROGRESS Tag Team Champions – The Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) bemoaning the fact of them being forced into a Tag Team ThunderBastard match at Wembley Arena in September in among a league table of matches leading up to the event in September, where the GYV’s could end up losing their titles along the way,

With the Grizzled Young Veterans taking their position at the commentary booth, we were introduced to the first bout of the evening between Mills & Boon (Sorry – Mills & Mayhew) facing off against Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis). An exciting and fun way to open proceedings between two well matched team, with the much smaller combination of Mills & Mayhew trying to combat that the hard hitting offence of the lad’s from Down Under, especially Mark Davis who is an absolute unit who has only looked the weaker man on one occasion against WALTER in February.

The finish came here with the Aussies first getting a nearfall with an elevated cutter on Mills and then not long after that finishing the gallant Mills who picked up an injury here, with the Fidget Spinner in just under 9 minutes. Aussie Open I would expect to get far in the Tag Team shindig and if they do end up winning, it will be well deserved for one of the best teams around in the U.K in the past year.

Second match of the evening brought us the SSS16 Winner Zack Sabre Jr. against Mark Andrews who was breathing a little sigh of relief tonight as his arch nemesis and former friend Eddie Dennis was nowhere to be seen in attendance. Surprisingly I heard yesterday that these two wrestlers had only fought each other on only a handful of occasions which is mad to think considering they have both been around for a long time on the BritWres circuit.

On paper, two very different wrestling styles on paper in practice pulled off the Match of the Evening with a more technical side on show from Andrews who matched the Technical Wizard ZSJ hold for hold, but it was when Andrews reverted back to his high flying routine, it was where it all went wrong. With Andrews trying to attempt a Shooting Star Press, he was caught mid-air by ZSJ who locked in a triangle choke only for Andrews to reach the ropes. It wasn’t long though till Andrews finally submitted to ZSJ who locked in the evil looking ‘Young Boy Killer’ in just over 15 minutes – this was brilliant!

Now if you thought the action would slow down here, you were proved wrong as we were treated to the next chapter in the David Starr/WALTER saga. In the past, poor Dave has ended up on his back every time to WALTER but in recent memory he has been getting closer every time. The littlest things like Starr never straying his eyes away from WALTER during the entrance just adds to what it means for Starr to finally get that big victory in his back pocket.

This was another stellar match in their series, but once again everyone’s favourite Dave came up short once again with WALTER picking up the victory in 14 minutes with an Inside Cradle of all things for the victory. For WALTER this is a big win on his road to redemption against Travis Banks, for Starr it is back to the Tag Leagues with Jack Sexsmith.

Half Time Main Event next was heralded by the return of the Jack White classic ‘Love is Blindness’ for the trio called British Strong Style who were facing off against ‘The Hairbrush Gang’ team of Jimmy Havoc, Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Haskins. Unfortunately though due to an injury to Trent Seven it was reduced to a 2 on 3 Tag Team Match.

The short build up to this match, was from Havoc/Webster/Haskins costing Pete Dunne his match on Day 2 of SSS16 but they have previous from last year when the heel/babyface dynamic was reversed. In that time though the Black Clothed Trio has proved a bit disappointing in their run despite the story at the moment of Webster playing the reluctant member who doesn’t want to act all moody like his cohorts which could provide something in the future but we shall see.

Havoc at the moment is the only one of the trio who could have something going for him, with the reigniting of him and his feud with Will Ospreay taking shape at Progress SSS16 Day 3 and hopefully one for this writer gets Havoc out of the over 6 month rut he has had since he has been teamed with Haskins. British Strong Style are another in a bit of limbo from a storyline perspective with Moustache Mountain not currently having anything booked for Wembley and Pete Dunne on a collision course with WXW Kingpin Ilja Dragunov,

This ended up being the weakest of the first 4 matches of the first half, with Flash, Havoc & Haskins getting the victory when Havoc hit Bate with a Barbed Wire Baseball Bat (Formerly Giant Hairbrush) to help Flash who was reluctant for Vicky Haskins to come into the ring interfering before this happening. Flash did though get the pinfall for his team in 13 minutes.

With the dust settled of the last match, Pete Dunne was left in the ring alone listening to the sound of Sabotage by The Beastie Boys welcoming WXW honcho Christian Michael Jakobi out to the ringside area to lay down another warning to Pete Dunne and it was one that would make the Victoria Warehouse unglued as we was met with a Russian Dancehall Classic hailing the arrival of WXW Champion Ilja Dragunov – there were babies being chucked in the air!! It was one of them moments.

Both wrestlers didn’t have to say a word as they went face to face, CMJ confirmed that Pete Dunne vs Ilja Dragunov would take place at Wembley Arena on the 30th September – Buy Your Tickets Now!!!!!

With the crowd at a fervent pitch, we returned with a surprise 3rd to last match with the PROGRESS Championship match taking place with the challenger Jack Sexsmith taking on the Champion, Travis Banks. Surprisingly, Sexsmith came out to a much better reaction than I expected he would do given the apathy the title shot has received from a number of the PROGRESS faithful.

The match got off to a quick start, with Sexsmith trying to end the match quickly with an early Sliced Bread No.2 only for The Big Kiwi to kick out. Travis soon made a comeback to put Jack on the back foot, but Jack pulled out a double stomp on to the ring apron which looked a bit rough due to Sexsmith catching his body on the top rope on the way down for an awkward landing.

Sadly for Jack, his valiant run ended when he was unresponsive to the Kiwi Clutch from Travis Banks for the loss coming in at just over 16 minutes. This was as good as it possibly could have been with Sexsmith looking good in defeat, but this was maybe not the level of their last match against each other over a year or so ago. For Travis, this is maybe the strongest he has looked this year in his title defences finally getting a decisive win against a challenger and not trying to weasel his way out of things which he has done in recent months.

Semi Main Event was the 4-way Atlas Championship Match to decide the new Champion, since WALTER gave up the belt at SSS16 Day 3. The contenders for this belt was Joseph Conners fresh from an evening of eating Holland’s puddings to gain the extra 15 pounds of weight facing off against Doug Williams against ‘Battery Tester’ (Battle Tested) Rob Lynch and Daddy Rampage Brown!!

With the old popular music back, it was very noticeable to see the reaction to ‘I Will Be Heard’ compared to the bland rock music of the other three competitors. If Titles were won off theme songs, Rampage would be having pictures like the Ultimo Dragon back in the day.

A good enough 10 minute match ended with Conners looking on this way to victory, only to get too complacent and be caught with the rolling Chaos Theory from Doug who picked up the surprise victory to win the Atlas Title, given that he has been on a bit of a losing run that only the likes of David Starr has ever seen (Sorry Dave!).

Main Event time with the PROGRESS Women’s Title taking precedent over everything with the Challenger Jinny taking on the Champion of nearly over a year Toni Storm. Being honest this was just alright, but nothing blow away as a Main Event maybe just as I feel as I have seen these two face each other loads of times in PROGRESS already in the last year. Also the early ‘Strong Zero’ on the stage, immediately told me that Jinny was winning this, something I would end up being correct on.

Finish came when Nina Samuels and Chakara who should have been thrown out earlier in the match by Referee PAZ got involved just enough to cost Toni Storm who was CHEEKY ROLLED UP! by Jinny for the 1-2-3 bringing down the curtain on a really good show from PROGRESS.

This show despite the prior feeling of a lukewarm card, turned into an excellent show especially the first 3 matches of the first half and Sexsmith vs Banks which you should watch back on PROGRESS On Demand. Maybe avoid the 3 vs 2 tag until the Ilja reveal that has got plenty of people hyped for Wembley Arena.

Show done, it was back to the Paramount ‘Spoons for the show debrief and then the early train back to Rochdale for 9 pm.

Hope you have enjoyed this review, give it a like and a retweet if you want to. Next review will be from IPW:UK Tuesday Night Graps live from The Frog & Bucket, Manchester.

Folly me on Twitter @OggyPart3