Saturday, November 4, 2017

PROGRESS Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre Review

PROGRESS Chapter 56: La Danse Macabre
October 29th, 2017 | Electric Ballroom in Camden, Greater London | Attendance: 700

Whenever a new PROGRESS show drops, I get crazy happy. I mean that about every single show and no other company makes me feel quite like that. It’s great.

PROGRESS changed their opening video about piracy. It has an 80s vibe now. Jim Smallman opened with an introduction and round of applause for the recently passed Owen Davies. He then left the microphone in the ring for the arrival of British Strong Style. For those who forgot, BSS lost their titles at Chapter 55. Pete Dunne noted a few of the messed up things he’s done in the past year, but also said he was proud of some of it, like getting 16,000 people in Chicago to chant “This is PROGRESS.” He said his time in the UK going forward was uncertain and he thanked the fans for the past year. The Grizzled Young Vets showed up and spat at BSS, before Tyler Bate and Trent Seven ran them off. Dunne was then attacked by Joseph Conners to a completely lackluster reaction. That went over like a wet fart.

Aussie Open and Omari vs. Connor Mills and Never Say Die
Aussie Open consists of Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis, while Never Say Die is Alex Cupid and Dillon D’Angelo. I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone in this match, except Omari, who I saw on a Lucha Forever show. After some fast paced exchanges to start, Mark Davis got tagged. He was the big man of the match and had a fun spot where he did a high five that hurt the hell out of D’Angelo. Fletcher took the heat for a while, until making the tag to Omari, who was the most over guy in the match. Davis impressed again with a one handed powerbomb while using his other arm to hold another opponent. Mills showed of an impressive suplex into a kick combo, before getting destroyed by the other team. Omari and Fletcher hit some nice dives, leaving Davis to end Mills with a sick piledriver in 10:48. I enjoyed what I saw from Aussie Open and Omari. The other team didn’t look as good, but still had some nice moments. A few spots didn’t come off to well early on. Still, this was a fun opener to showcase new talent. [***]

Strangler Davis vs. Timothy Thatcher
PIRATE THATCHER! Yes, he wore an eyepatch. I’ve soured on Tim since 2015 and I haven’t gotten into the Strangler Davis stuff, so I didn’t have high hopes here. Strangler wisely went after the eye. He had issues when Thatcher took him to the mat, so he went to a headbutt to that eye. That just fired up Thatcher to wail on him with body shots. Strangler took control for a while, until Thatcher busted out a cross body and belly to belly suplex. Not exactly the kind of offense I expect from him. Things picked up there, with a cool spot where Strangler snapped the top rope into Thatcher’s eye. Strangler eventually used a low blow and applied the Stranglehold. The referee called for the bell as Thatcher couldn’t defend himself at 14:04. The idea behind the match wasn’t bad and neither was a lot of the execution. It just never got very interesting. Davis was dull on offense and, though Thatcher had some solid moments, this never got going. The crowd not caring didn’t help. [**]

PROGRESS Tag Team Champion Chris Brookes and Jimmy Havoc w/ Kid Lykos vs. The Grizzled Young Vets
This was scheduled to be a title match, but Kid Lykos was out with a broken wrist. Brookes’ replacement partner was Jimmy Havoc, though the titles wouldn’t be on the line. Gibson tried cutting an angry promo about it, but Havoc shut him up with a shot and that got the match started. Brookes and Havoc performed a rather gross double wet willy spot on Drake. Havoc still had some wounds from Chapter 55 (I think that’s where they were from) and they became the target of the Young Vets. He was isolated until causing Drake to hit Gibson. Havoc put on a Lykos mask, leading to a “Jimmy Lykos” chant, which set up some #CCK “sick tag moves.” With Drake in danger of losing, Gibson pulled the referee out to save the match. Brookes got hit with a Doomsday Device, so Lykos pulled the ref out. They went after Lykos, but Havoc made the save, only to get sandwiched by forearms. Gibson caught Lykos and wrenched away at his broken wrist. Havoc tried to save him again, but accidentally hit him. Brookes checked on his buddy, leaving Havoc to fall to the Ticket to Mayhem in 11:00. I liked this. They didn’t go with traditional tag formula, yet still had a very fun match with some good spots. They utilized Lykos well and made it so Havoc taking the pin didn’t make him or #CCK look bad. [***¼]

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: WALTER [c] w/ Timothy Thatcher vs. Wolfgang
BIG LADS WRESTLING. Wolfgang made his debut at Chapter 55 and set his sights on WALTER, setting the stage for this match. As expected, these guys hit each other hard. Wolfgang made the mistake of chopping WALTER, as the champion responded with brutal ones of his own. Wolfgang did manage to throw WALTER around on more than one occasion. WALTER did his own big toss with a super butterfly suplex that caused commentary to bring up the time he was involved in the PROGRESS ring breaking. There was a great spot where Wolfgang did a swanton onto the back of a hunched over WALTER. He went to the aerial well one time too many, as WALTER blocked a moonsault. He then threw in a dropkick and powerbomb to retain in 10:49. A very good way for Wolfgang to debut. He looked good in defeat and got the crowd behind him a bit, despite being against a popular new champion. WALTER is always awesome and I hope he remains champ for a long time. This is basically the floor in terms of ratings for Atlas Title matches in 2017. [***½]

Wolfgang got a standing ovation as he left. I like him as an addition to the PROGRESS roster.

Mustache Mountain vs. Sexy Starr
Sexy Starr consisted of David Starr and Jack Sexsmith. Due to their team name, Starr tried putting Smallman in a shoot armbar. Gotta love it. Seven and Bate played faces during their entrance and seemed to be having fun. Speaking of fun, that’s just what this match was. Sexsmith and Starr played well off each other, while Bate and Seven were game for wacky antics. Things picked up when Sexsmith chopped Seven to no effect, then got wrecked with Seven’s chops. Starr got a tag and ran wild, which the crowd ate up. Mustache Mountain continued to show their great chemistry and fantastic tandem offense. It’s between them, Authors of Pain and Usos for Tag Team of the Year. The Sexy Starr tandem went for superplexes but Mustache Mountain fought free. Sexsmith was sent outside and Starr was beaten by a Burning Hammer and Tyler Driver ’97 in 13:50. This was some good old fashioned fun. I like the Sexsmith/Starr combo and a babyface run for Mustache Mountain will be a fresh chance of pace. [***]

Post-match, both teams posed and raised each other’s hands. After that show of respect (and a four-way kiss), Bate and Seven left. Sexsmith tried cutting a promo, but was interrupted by Mark Haskins’ music. His wife Vicki stepped onto the stage, carrying a spiked bat. Mark came in from behind the team and attacked them with a steel chair. Jimmy Havoc arrived with a chair of his own. Instead of attacking his rival, he took the spiked bat and hit Sexsmith! Starr laid on Sexsmith to protect him, so he got hit in the back with the bat. I loved that angle. Havoc and Haskins both failed in big matches this year, before having an awesome match against one another. That led two frustrated guys here, and with BSS done as top heels, they can slide into that role perfectly.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Toni Storm [c] vs. Charli Evans
Evans earned this title shot on the Revelations of Divine Love show earlier this month. She faced the same uphill battle that Wolfgang did, where they’re a new entity to PROGRESS facing a popular champion. Dahlia Black joined commentary for this. Evans showed some fire early, until a headbutt took her down. Toni held serve outside, though bit off more than she could chew when attempting a hip attack. Evans moved and Toni crashed into a sea of chairs. Evans utilized the Cattle Mutilation, but it didn’t look too crisp. Toni survived and went into a flurry of offense. She weathered one more short Evans run and hit a German, followed by the Strong Zero to retain in 10:34. Evans showed a lot of fire and got some of the crowd behind her. She looked good, which was the key to the match. She should be back. Though the outcome was obvious, they never did anything to make me believe, even for a second, that Evans could pull it off. [**¾]

PROGRESS World Championship: Travis Banks [c] vs. Keith Lee
Back in July, at “Fate Loves the Fearless” (Chapter 53), Lee beat Banks. Due to that, Lee came in as confident as ever, playing to the crowd and looking in complete control. Banks resorted to sticking and moving. He went for a dive, but Lee reminded him how he caught him at Chapter 53. Banks wisely got in a shot to stun him, before firing off three consecutive tope suicidas. Smart. Despite things like that, Lee could just use his power to turn the tide back around. Banks managed to get in a series of double chops that truly hurt Lee, but all it took was a few from Lee to make Banks’ chest bleed. Banks fired up, but Lee hit all sorts of chops and headbutts to cut him back down. A Spirit Bomb got two and the fans bit on it. A second Spirit Bomb a few minutes later still wasn’t enough. Banks escaped a third Spirit Bomb and hit the Slice of Heaven. Another dropped Lee to a knee, but he still wasn’t out of it. Banks ended up on Lee’s back and rained elbows down on him. A bunch of kicks to the head left Lee dazed, allowing Banks to retain via an impressive Kiwi Krusher in 19:38. This ruled. They built upon what was set up in their first match and it was an improvement. I dug the story of Banks being kind of tentative early, not wanting to make a mistake and lose in his first defense. Then, he had to bring everything he had to finally win. His “never say die” attitude was great against the dominant Lee. [****]

Overall: 7/10. A strong reset for PROGRESS. With a lot of angles being capped at Chapter 55, this put us in a new direction. They set up the awesome Haskins/Havoc pairing, turned Mustache Mountain face, debuted several new people and set their champions on new paths. All the matches are at least pretty good (though Thatcher/Strangler is nowhere near required viewing) and the main event was great. I’m intrigued by the new direction of PROGRESS.