Added by Andrew Ogden

Hello and welcome everyone to another edition of Graps and Claps, this time taking me on a short journey to Manchester for PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 78 ’24 Hour Progress People’ from the Ritz in the first time since a banging show in February at the same venue and the first time since the big Victoria Warehouse show in May so for the people in attendance the anticipation of seeing something that they hadn’t seen live for a few months was high.

Having spent the last days at Southside Wrestling which if you want to check anything out from there weekend of 3 shows make sure you check out the all-womens show on the Friday night which nearly everyone stood out on the evening especially Kris Wolf, Millie McKenzie, Kanji and Shanna with the latter winning the Queen of the Ring title and duly defended it the next evening against former NXT wrestler Kimber Lee on the Saturday evening show.

There were also a couple of killer Mike Bailey matches on the Saturday shows vs Senza Volto in the afternoon and in the evening as part of a mixed tag team match where he teamed with his real life partner Veda Scott taking on another couple in the form of Xia Brookside & Sean Kustom that exceeded expectations by far, plus there was the continuation of my long running feud with Nottingham’s No.1 Soy Boy Gabriel Kidd who offered me out to the car park for a word or two which never materialised. Truthfully though the Southside Sheffield Double Header’s are usually great fun but tiring on the legs and your liver if you are drinking many £3 cans of Hooch!

With that said, let’s get into my trip to PROGRESS on Sunday which started at 11am from Rochdale Train Station arriving into the first meeting spot of the Brewdog next to the Albert Hall concert venue due to Oxford Road being very busy due to the Manchester Derby between Manchester City and Manchester United and also the Remembrance Sunday commemorations. Only the one drink in here for me which was a Mad Hatter Brewery Choco Choc Choc (£4.80 2/3rds) that had a burnt orange after taste to it but it was spot on as a palate cleanser to commence the drinking for the day.

After a phone call from Athers of his whereabouts, we moved on to The Courtyard which is located not too far away from the Ritz and is widely known as more of a student drinking den with prices as low as £2.85 for pints of Pravha of which I had 3 pints of, take into account as well the half price 10 inch pizzas on a Sunday (£4) and you have a relatively cheap afternoon out before the graps. The only downfall about this place are the urine stained piss gutters and as Athers found out – no locks of note on the disabled toilet doors, meaning me and our Geoff had to play guardsmen to make sure the door was shut whilst Athers was doing his business.

Arriving at the Ritz for 230pm, we were supposed to be sat in 4th row seating but due to the sheer amount of people I know standing up for the afternoon we took our position in front of the merch desk which provided an excellent view for the afternoon’s action, so without further ado let’s get into what went down!

After the usual pleasantries from compere Jim, we got into the first match with Eddie Dennis receiving quite the ovation from the Manchester audience but was soon turned to jeers once the match got going against his opponent, the aforementioned ‘Speedball’ Mike Bailey who was looking to continue his blinding form from the weekend into this match. Early stages and Eddie used his considerable height advantage on Bailey as he he hit a sweet Cravat Neckbreaker for a two count, Bailey fired back though with a boot to the face following up with a twirling Shooting Star Press for a two count. It has to be noted that Bailey is very accustomed to using his body as a dangerous weapon using many variations of double knee stomps and splashes to wound his opponents, but on one occasion during this match, Bailey tried to his the double knees to Eddie on the Apron but missed leaving him with very sore shins – OUCH!

Back in the ring, Eddie hit a big powerbomb for 2 count but Bailey came back once again to hit a tornado roundhouse kick to Dennis whilst he was in the ring corner to floor Eddie, leaving Bailey to hit the Moonsault double knees from the top rope for a close two fall. Bailey though once again tried for the Moonsault knees but he missed leading to Eddie hitting a Next Stop Driver which got an amazing 2 count that brought a huge reaction from the crowd in attendance. Sadly though Eddie didn’t rest on his laurels and duly put Bailey away with a Super Style Next Stop Driver for the win to end an amazing opener that set the tone for what would be one of the best PROGRESS show certainly in the last couple of years. Both lads deserved the round of applause from the Manchester faithful – fan-dabbie-dozzie!!!

Next up brought the usual Women being on 2nd spot, but this one brought the debut of local favourite Lana Austin who has been touted for ages for a spot on a PROGRESS chapter show as she has consistently been one of the most improved wrestler on the circuit and without one of the best women wrestlers out there in the UK and Europe. Knowing Lana very well through the North West over the years brought a sense of happiness seeing someone who has worked hard to get to this spot be very satisfying. Lana’s opponent for the afternoon was Isla Dawn who had a fine match against Millie McKenzie at the last Camden show till The Spice Girls & All Saints came in and interfered,

The early feeling out process in this match was very much a 50/50 split from an offence side of things, but from a crowd side of things it was 99% in Lana’s favour. Lana managed to stun Isla with the ‘Peach Punch’ arse smash to get a two count but it was when Lana missed a dive from the top rope that she was duly punished by Dawn who had Lana up in the electric chair position to be transitioned into a bridging  suplex pin to get the unpopular 3 count in a fairly decent contest – better luck next time Lana!

Third up, it was like looking at a mirror image as ‘Smashmouth’ Chris Ridgeway took on the ‘Killer Import’ Jordan Devlin in what looked on paper to be a hard hitting contest and one that turned out to be just that. Devlin who has been tearing up the Irish scene by store had the upper hand as he hit a Spanish Fly at one stage to get a two count on Ridgeway. Devlin followed up with hard boots and then a brainbuster which was then reversed by Ridgeway into a choke to send Devlin sprawling for the ropes. Devlin though shook this off when reversing another choke into a Piper/Hart pin for a 2 count, Devlin once again went up top trying to hit a Moonsault but was caught once again by Ridgeway who locked in a triangle choke.

With both wrestlers at a standing base though, Devlin headbutted Ridgeway in a duel of two rutting stags to get a two count to elicit a standing ovation from those in attendance. Ridgeway fought back from this and hit a Cradle Piledriver not seen since the days of Jerry Lynn in ECW but Devlin managed somehow to roll through from this and hit a huge Package Piledriver to get the 3 count to win an excellent battle – this show ruled! One thing I didn’t quite get was the appearance of Paul Robinson who challenged the defeated Chris Ridgeway saying ‘Your supposed to be Hard as Fuck, but I am Harder than you’ setting up a match possibly for the next Manchester show in December – surely the bloke who is Hard as Fuck shouldn’t have been the one who was just defeated? Probably this was one of two minor gripes on this afternoon.

Your half time main event next with David Starr who has had a beard trim taking on Ilja Draganov who thankfully didn’t come out to them Wembley jungle drums this time. To follow up what had already been an amazing first half, this delivered despite as we would find out a bit of a duff finish in one sense (I’m a clean finish man). This match had lariat battles galore between both me with sweat and souls escaping both wrestlers bodies eventually flooring both men on a couple of occasions, dives by both Starr and Ilja were hit to leave people running from there seats to move out of the way.

Back in the ring with the match ready to go off the scale, Ilja hit a huge Torpedo Moscow headbutt to Starr to leave him laying but as he was ready to win the match out came ‘The Kiwi Buzzsaw’ Travis Banks wearing some newly acquired threads to attack both Ilja and Starr to cause the No Contest much to the disgust of the crowd and firmly positioning Banks in the position of bad guy for the future as he possibly goes into two mouth watering clashes against both Ilja and Dave which makes sense as we close out 2018, but just the clean finish man in me though they could have left this as an after match angle but hey ho – it is what it is!

Back from half time now with the crowd firmly settled from a scorching first half we returned with Tag Team title action as Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher) made the second defence of their titles against #CTK (Timothy Thatcher & Chris Brookes). The CTK tag team dominated early one with both Thatcher and Brookes getting the better of the Aussies but Davis and Fletcher came back with for instance Fletcher hitting a dive to the outside on both Timo and Brookes.

Back in the ring Brookes tried many variations of trying to roll up the Aussies and got multiple 2 counts from Referee Joel, but it Brookes who got a taste of his own medicine as Kyle Fletcher used a roll up of his own to pin Brookes in around 15 minutes to end a really good back and forth match.

Inspired but failed chant credit goes to my mate Davey who tried to get me to chant ‘Brooksey & Tim’ to the tune of 90s Children’s TV show Rosie & Jim – sadly it fell flat on its arse but I enjoyed it.

Second to last match now with the Atlas Open Challenge with the Champion Trent Seven facing a mystery opponent with many names mentioned around the RItz on the afternoon but ending up with a great option in the form of Liverpool’s No.1 Zack Gibson accompanied with his tag partner James Drake for whom he had a few miscommunication’s with in the last few weeks. What followed was to be one of the most funniest mic battles with some reet cutting barbs against each other – the one about Trent Seven being the cheap option if Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate weren’t available left me in stitches and literally leaving Trent lying on the floor.

It was one comment though that would come back to bite Gibson on the arse as he said that all Trent was famous for was getting beat in 6 seconds by Matt Riddle at SSS16 two years ago. As the bell sounded though as per Gibson’s request he was caught unawares by Trent who rolled up the Scouse Mouth in 5 seconds to send the crowd in rapture and roars of laughter as Gibson’s expense – this was great booking and just what was needed after all the action before it (Thumbs up and a ten from Len)! After the match, disgusted at his defeat Gibson had a pushing match with Drake who he left alone in the ring as it looks like the Grizzled Young Veterans will be searching out divorce proceedings as a tag team.

Now is the time for the Main Event with No.1 Contender Mark Haskins trying to do the impossible as he looked to beat the unstoppable Austrian Monster WALTER. Now I admit and like a few others didn’t have high expectations that Haskins would pull off the victory on this evening in Manchester but as we would find out the impossible nearly came possible! In this match Haskins played the underdog in peril perfectly here getting the Manchester crowd who had once booed him against Zack Gibson in his first title run, fully behind the man from Malvern.

With Walter looking dominant early on, Haskins managed to at least get in some offence as he floored the Austrian to hit a double stomp for a two count, Haskins followed up with the bounce back dive to the outside, back in the ring Haskins managed of all things to wrap Walter in a Sharpshooter to get him close to tapping, but Walter reached around with his huge arms (it has to be said that Walter is looking more and more in solid shape to add to his menacing demeanor) to reverse the submission into a choke of his own which Haskins managed to get out of.

Haskins on a couple of occasions tried to roll through to lift Walter but on the second time of trying he was caught in a choke sleeper but rolled through over Walter to get a 2 count. Walter did hit a powerbomb which has put away opponents in the past for a 2 count, but when at a standing base Walter put away a valiant Haskins with the Steiner Screwdriver for the 3 count to end a breathless main event and what a fitting end to an almost perfect 3 and half hour show and for me made me believe in Mark Haskins as a threat once again for the future despite losing.

Show finished, it was time for the debrief and a bit of a tea in Wetherspoons to chat with the usual folks about what a great evening of action it was. By the time 8pm, I left to catch my train thinking of what a great day and weekend I have had at the wrestling with some top people and in no way feeling burn out from it, but glad of the rest now until Sunday 18th November and Tidal Wrestling in Leeds.

In closing though, I fully recommend you check out this show on PROGRESS On Demand when it arrives as it could easily be in my top 10 shows of the year and touching the top 5 from a live experience side of things. So I hope you have enjoyed reading this review, please leave any feeback give it a share, like or retweet and I will see you next time for Tidal Wrestling at the weekend.