Added by Andrew Ogden

Hello and welcome to another edition of Graps and Claps, this time taking me for the final time this year to Camden for Progress Wrestling’s ‘Unboxing 3’ bringing an end to another year where I have reached over 100 shows ending on the total of 102 (two less than last year, but still probably too many) – but hey that’s the advantage I guess of being single.

Setting off from Manchester at 10:20am, the almost 2-and-a-half-hour journey was taken up by writing a review, eating and sadly watching Sunday’s horses losing one by one which has been a permanent fixture over this festive period – proper bashing from the bookies. We eventually arrived in Camden for 1:15pm to meet up with BritWres legends Ben and Gadge in the local Brewdog to start off a tipple or two before the wrestling action.

First pint in Brewdog was a refreshing Hefeweizen costing £5.70 for a pint but still a good way to start off proceedings, next pub was another regular haunt in the form of The Black Heart for maybe the best pint of the day in the form of a Super Santa Christmas Coffee Stout which smelt like a dream and tasted like an alcoholic Nesquik (£6.05) – top marks all around for this drink.

Sadly, though the next drink in The Camden Eye didn’t hit the same spot with a pint of Brixton Brewery Porterhouse (£5.50) that just came off as too cold and lacking in flavour, very similar to a couple of drinks I had from that same brewery when in Brixton a couple of months ago for Rev Pro.

Drinks done, it was time to get the Ballroom for Unboxing which is Progress’s annual mystery show, but lets’ be honest now – with the utterly unidentifiable music it is a mystery half the time to who is coming out or not! This time taking up our standing positions in the middle between Athers perch and Ogden Corner we started off with a pre-show match at 3:30pm which was basically a Knucklelocks Gym 8-man tag match with the following combinations in the form of David Francisco, Slick Lombardo, Josef Kaftka and Bald Gentleman in Purple Trunks (Sorry I didn’t catch his name) vs Soloman Lamb, The N.I.C (Charlie Carter & Oisin Delaney) and the O.J.M.O.

For a pre-show match this was good way of getting the crowd warmed up and I have to say that a number of these wrestlers have improved vastly since the famed WXW pre-show match a couple of years ago that included Kaftka, Lamb and Lombardo which was an awful contest. Generally, with this match the O.J.M.O stuck out like a sore thumb with his offence including a great dive to everyone on the outside which got a great reaction for the Ballroom crowd. It was O.J.M.O who got the win as well for his team as he locked in a half crab to Kaftka to get the Submission win. It is also to be noted that Slick Lombardo didn’t much time to shine in this match for some reason I am not too sure of??

Main Card now as I went steady on the £5.50 pints of Franzikaner, starting off with an Atlas Title match that I know my mate Athers would have been going wild for if he was in attendance, with the Champion Trent Seven taking on Los Federales Santos Jr. Early on there was lots of comedy including Trent putting an imaginary gun to his head and pulling the trigger to leave him playing dead, but he was playing possum as he lured Santos in for a roll up and a two count.

Santos though came back and hit a Kempo kick to Trent to send him packing to the outside, back inside the ring Santos hits a German Suplex but Trent came back with a German of his own and a hard lariat for a two count. Santos then returned the favour but hitting a BIG ending and a splash for duel 2 counts, but it would be as good as it got for Santos as Trent put the big fella away with a Piledriver to retain the Atlas Championship in a fun and rewarding opener.

Next match up was a 6-way Scramble match with Chris Ridgeway taking on a departing Mark Haskins, Shingehiro Irie, Travis Banks, Spike Trivet and Brit Wres Legend, ‘The Phoenix’ Jody Fleisch who was welcomed with chants of FWA from our section which will have gone over the heads of some of those in attendance.

This was all action from the get go, including one spot where Irie was stood on the outside with Spike Trivet trying to pay off members of the ring crew to do dives for him which they all ultimately failed as Irie brushed all the lot aside. Before this we had Irie using his body as a weapon as he hit a Speed Cannonball to both Ridgeway and Trivet through the chairs on the outside – sending another chair bill to the desk of Jon Briley and friends.

Jody Fleisch as well got in on the action as he hit a SSP to everyone on the outside, but when he attempted to do the 720 DDT he got this in a glancing attempt at this. Going to the end of the match though it would be Chris Ridgeway fresh from his recent win over Paul Robinson in Sheffield, who would get the victory in this Scamble submitting Irie with a Crossface Combo to finish off another fun match. At the end of the match, Mark Haskins was given a big round of applause but nothing on the microphone as goes off to the land of Ring of Honor!

Third match up was for the Progress Women’s Championship with the Champion Jinny defending her title against Jordynne Grace who since coming into Progress has been dominant in defeats of both Isla Dawn and Toni Storm. Jinny had Laura Di Matteo in her corner for the early part of this match, but that was until she tried to interfere which led to for House of Couture member Nina Samuels coming out to chase off Laura to the back, so we had a fair contest. I would say here Grace looked very impressive once again using throws and suplexes to Jinny throughout the rest of the match, but Jinny managed to wriggle free from a bear hug and eventually got some offence in as she had Grace crotched on in the ring corner, where she tried for the X-Factor but didn’t get the right connection.

Once out of the corner though, Grace soon enough put away Jinny with the Made in Japan to get the three count to win the Progress Women’s title in an alright match, but it will be interesting to see where they go from here as Grace is very similar to Walter as she looks a dominant killer and unless shenanigans come along the way, I can’t see the likes of Laura Di Matteo or Jinny per se dethroning Grace as Champion for a bit – but who knows in this landscape of wrestling.

Half time Main Event now with I will admit would not be my graps in the form of Chris Brookes taking on Drew Parker in a Deathmatch for some reasons (maybe over who is the best looking?). Couple of early blood spots here including Brookes stapling the ring apron to Parker’s head and duly stamping his face while doing this, Brookes though got stapled himself by Parker cutting him open, but of a graze than anything. The old Wembley tables made a return on the outside as a Death Valley Driver spot and a spear through the table didn’t break said wood furnishings and both guys instead of Dennis/Andrews at Wembley, they moved on to the next spot. Inside the ring we had Brookes hitting a German Suplex on Parker into the chairs and then a falcon arrow follows up.

Parker hit a slam of his own to Brookes on the chairs and then a double stomp for a two count. Brookes though looked like he was on his way to victory when he hit a Razors Edge through a table and then a Jay Driller onto the chairs but we had interference from Do Not Resuscitate who beat down Brookes enough, leading to Drew Parker hitting Brookes with a Spike to get the victory in a match that I can’t say I will be watching back on demand – I just don’t get the love with Drew Parker (sorry folks).

After the match with the DNR boys beat down of Brookes, we had the welcome return of Kid Lykos to action to chase them off into the night, which has set up a possible feud going into 2019 but this does sway from DNR’s objective of going against the Progress old guard to which CCK let’s be honest have only been in the company for 2 years – so not exactly fitting this storyline. DNR as well I do feel are having a bit of a mixed bag as a group with their 3 or 4 beat downs ending in them running off which makes them look like shit houses straight away.

Back for the break we came back with Progress World Tag Team Title action with the Champions Aussie Open (Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher) taking on a surprising challenge in the form of the Swords of Essex (Paul Robinson and Will Ospreay) – the latter only days before his big tussle at the Tokyo Dome vs Kota Ibushi) teaming for the first time since Chapter 13. Now if the CCK vs LAX the other week was a banger, this came close but maybe just as good as that match up, early on Paul Robinson got taken out by a stray Mark Davis chop to the back of the head that split him wide open that led to paramedics/ring crew checking on him on the outside – but credit to Robbo he carried on like a trooper and him and Ospreay proved they still had the chemistry like they did back in the day when I first saw, especially one spot with stereo dives with great airtime landing on both Fletcher and Davis.

The Aussies though had great offence of their own including hitting a fidget spinner for a 2 count do a very hot home stretch, but in what some might call a surprise – the Swords of Essex’s hit Kyle with an elevated cutter to Kyle Fletcher to capture the Progress Tag Team Titles to cut short what has not been a long reign for the Aussies, but I guess both Davis and Fletcher have singles aspirations with Mark Davis still holding the Natural Progression Series trophy which he will certainly cash in at some stage, but this hasn’t been mentioned much since he won it. Anyways give this match a watch back on Progress on Demand as it was an absolute belting contest as a live spectacle – thumbs up fellas!

Before the Main Event we had one more match in the form of Eddie Dennis who is on quite the streak recently in Progress defeating the likes of Mark Andrews and Mike Bailey in recent months, his opposition this time was none other than NXT and former WXW starlet Axel Dieter Jr. (Now known as Marcel Barthel) but still coming out to the Ringkampf music. Technically and wrestling wise this was a tidy contest to watch with Dieter trying to use a range of uppercuts and technical holds to wear down the Welshman, but Dennis was more than aware of this as it came to the end of this match when he hit Dieter Jr. with a big Splash Mountain buckle bomb in the corner and then getting the win with a ‘Next Stop Driver’ to continue his impressive form in 2018, going into 2019.

Now with the time get up to 7:40 p.m., the age old problem of wondering whether we would be able to catch our last train was coming again, as we get into your Main Event and likely the big farewell for Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate as they took on each other in a rematch of their amazing NXT Chicago match that put these two on the map on a world level. In the duration of the 15 minutes I watched, I can’t say it ever reached the great heights of that Takeover match as it was more a feeling out process and going hold for hold with each other but in this writer’s opinion it lacked intensity. to possibly a much bigger thing at the end but I won’t know until the On Demand release. In the end Pete Dunne got the victory as per Gadge’s results with the Finger Submission that he has brought into his arsenal in recent months in a lengthy 33-minute contest which by all accounts got good reviews in the end by those in attendance.

In a way I am happy to see this be the end of the Pete & Tyler run in Progress, as it should have ended after Alexandra Palace when all the lot lost their respective belts at the time, but over the last year and a bit it has felt like a greatest hits tour with no real payoff in regards title belt involvement apart from Trent winning the Atlas Title, but I just wonder how much longer that will go on for?? One thing that can’t be argued though is how much their influence over the last couple of years has brought a new group of fans into watching British Wrestling – so for that they fully deserve their opportunity on the big stage, but as ever it will be interesting to see how Messrs’ Dunne and Bate will do in WWE full time now away from the British Scene.

So with that said and getting back in Rochdale for Midnight, I end this review by saying a big thank you for reading what is my last review of 2018 but not long to wait for my first review of 2019 which will be a review of RISE Wrestling’s Rumble show in Leeds on the 5thJanuary. Until next time folks – BYE!!