PROGRESS Chapter 57 ‘Enter Smiling’ (The O2 Academy, Manchester, 12/11/17) Review

Added by Laura Brooke

So, the last time Progress was in Manchester, the nights were light; Pete Dunne was the champion, and a plucky youngster named Eddie Dennis had the fans behind him as a he chased a dream. 5 months later, the clocks have gone back, Trav is our Champion, and Dennis has rather improbably become the top heel in the company. It has to be said that today’s card is a vast improvement on Chapter 52: less Mike Bird and T-Bone; more Keith Lee and Doug Williams. It was a cold, but dry day in Manchester, as the usual suspects gather for Chapter 57. All match times lifted from Twitter.

Mark Haskins & Jimmy Havoc vs. Jack Sexsmith & Mystery Partner – Said partner turned out to be Matt Riddle, to general approval. The match ticked all the boxes it needed to as an opener; although the less said about Sexsmith’s attempts to emote anger, the better. Haskins and Havoc aren’t a bad tag team combo; Havoc tends to struggle in non-hardcore singles bouts, while Haskin’s no-psychology style is also well suited to tag wrestling. The heels gaffer tape Riddle to the ringpost, then hit Sexsmith with a barrage of moves – a superkick/acid rainmaker combo finishes off the ProJo youngster at 14.29.

Doug Williams vs. Joe Coffey – Always a pleasure to see Doug live. While given his age you can’t really argue with his placing on the card here, there’s still something slightly depressing about seeing him in the second match; and indeed, seeing people kick out of the Chaos Theory. Good ten minute match; some chain wrestling, some big man spots, before Coffey kicks out of the CT, and puts Doug away with a discus lariat at 10.34. After the match the fans give Doug a standing ovation, because, well, it’s Doug Williams. Doug gets on the mike and says “Jim, after 25 years, I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

Alex Windsor vs. Dahlia Black vs. Jinny vs. Candyfloss – A really well put-together effort. Naturally there’s no love lost between Dahlia and Jinny, so they kick the shit out of each other on the floor to start with, while Alex carries Candyfloss in the ring for a bit. Later on they did some multi-woman spots, before Windsor puts Candyfloss away with a slightly blown Libertine Driver at 7.57. Really fun match, and everyone did their bit to try and establish Candyfloss. The Progress women’s division has had it’s ups and downs this year, but this was definitely a positive.

Zack Gibson & James Drake vs. Trent Seven & Tyler Bate – Needless to say there was some gaga on the mike beforehand, with Gibson doing his usual routine before Seven needled him about the fact that he [Gibson] didn’t have a WWE contract. The bell never actually rang for the start of this; after a minute or so of brawling Joseph Connors ran in, to be quickly followed by Pete Dunne. And before you can say “Theodore R. Long”…

Zack Gibson, James Drake & Joe Conners vs. British Strong Style of Trent Seven, Tyler Bate & Pete Dunne – All six brawl on the outside for around five minutes before the bell rings. During said brawl it looked like Dunne injured his forearm during a tiltawhirl slam on chairs. Another extremely enjoyable scrap; fair play to Pete Dunne for working through that injury. Match ended in a DQ at 10.42 when Connors cracked Dunne in the back with a chair. Afterwards Dunne asked for, and was granted, a singles match with Connors.

PROGRESS Tag Team Champions #CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) vs. RingKampf  (Walter & Timothy Thatcher) – A decent post-intermission tag match, although Kid Lycos giving Thatcher a brainbuster is one of those moves that tends to remind you that wrestling is in fact a work. CCK retained the titles with a double knee facebreaker/ back senton combo on Thatcher at 13.28.

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Keith Lee – Not sure how this one will come out when it hits on-demand, due to it’s semi-squash nature; but live it was compelling, as you couldn’t help but cheer for Webster as he got whaled on by Lee. The pop when Webster kicked out of a BRUTAL looking Spirit Bomb was incredible. After that, Lee quickly puts him away with Ground Zero at 15.25. I’m not a huge Webster fan, but he earned his corn there.

PROGRESS Champion Travis Banks vs. Mark Andrews – oddly enough, this was the most underwhelming match of the night. Both guys worked really hard for 15 minutes…but at the end of the day it was just a succession of moves. You could hear the crowd chatting among themselves for the majority of it, which is never good. The finish came out of nowhere too, with Andrews hitting a shooting star press, only for Banks to quickly apply an over the shoulder crossface to make Andrews tap at 14.23. After the match the dastardly Edward Dennis came out and left both men laying with the Galleria, before heading out of the front door.

Overall, a highly enjoyable show; no MOTY candidates, but pretty much everything delivered what it needed to.