Sunday, April 22, 2018

PROGRESS Chapter 66: Mardi Graps Review

PROGRESS Chapter 67: Mardi Graps
April 6th, 2018 | Ponchartrain Center in New Orleans, Louisiana

For the second straight year, PROGRESS took part in WrestleMania week. Last year, they presented PROGRESS: Orlando, which was fun, but like their other US shows (NYC and Boston) they were specials. This year, the New Orleans event was the first official Chapter show outside of the United Kingdom. Unlike the other shows at this arena that weekend, PROGRESS did very well at filling it up.

Jim Smallman’s opening spiel included a shoutout to a fan, Matt Cleary, who passed away before he could attend the show and one for a couple on their honeymoon.

Of note, there were technical issues with the show, so commentary isn’t available.

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Grizzled Young Vets [c] vs. Mustache Mountain
The champs have beaten basically every team in the company, including Mustache Mountain back a Chapter 61. Seven toyed with Gibson about not being a WWE contracted wrestler like he, Bate, and Drake. He even referenced Liv Morgan (Bate’s real life girlfriend) because he thought it was “public knowledge.” Of course, Gibson’s response got tons of heat. Once the match finally got going, it featured some fun offense by the challengers, before the champs took over and controlled Seven. When Trent and Tyler got their offense clicking, it was the best part of the match. In the end, a slight distraction interrupted the Tyler Driver ’97, allowing the champs to win with Ticket to Mayhem in 10:08. This was the best choice for an opener. It had guys who would get the crowd going, while being a good match that wasn’t too great that the other matches can’t live up to it. Good tag team action and a smartly laid out match. [***¼]

I believe there was a stipulation that Mustache Mountain can no longer get another shot at the titles. I don’t know what’s next for them.

Mark Haskins w/ Vicky Haskins vs. IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay
Ospreay remains an enigma to me. By all means, he should be one of the best in the world, but he continually gets in his own way. Anyway, Ospreay started hot, but a Vicky distraction helped Mark get in the driver’s seat. He worked on the arm a bit, but once his armbar didn’t make Will tap, he kind of abandoned it. Mark did a good job countering Will and having answers for his signature stuff. From there, it became more of a battle of two guys throwing their best at each other, rather than having specific limb targeting and things like that. Will’s offense especially felt like he was just trying to get all his shit in. Another Vicky distraction nearly set up the Sharpshooter and DVD, but Will countered with a stunner and hit the Oscutter to win in 15:24. There was a fair amount to like here, but the second half didn’t live up to what the first half built. [***]

David Starr and Keith Lee vs. Ringkampf
It was scheduled to be Sexy Starr, but Jack Sexsmith couldn’t make it to New Orleans. Starr got Keith Lee as a replacement. The sheer viciousness of Ringkampf proved to be a problem for Starr. While Lee did bested Thatcher in their interaction, tagging Starr back in proved to be problematic. Lee’s tag set up a short, but great run, where he tossed WALTER up for a popup Spirit Bomb. Yes, I said popup. Unfortunately, we didn’t get nearly enough between Lee and WALTER, which I was hoping for. Starr had a decent run against WALTER late, but fell to a powerbomb at 10:07. That was a rather underwhelming finish. The match itself was a blast, but as stated, needed more WALTER/Lee or even just more Lee. [***½]

Apparently, Keith Lee was in a car accident this weekend, so now I feel bad for thinking he should’ve been involved more.

Thunderbastard Match: Austin Theory vs. Chris Brookes vs. Darby Allin vs. Jeff Cobb vs. Joey Janela vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Parrow vs. Rickey Shane Page
What a wacky combination of wrestlers. For those who don’t know, Thunderbastard matches are basically small Royal Rumbles, but with pinfall and submission eliminations. Brookes began against Page, who was making his PROGRESS debut. Right off the bat, Brookes went for his wet willie, only for Page to open his mouth and eat it. Gross. Another PROGRESS debut entered next, in Darby Allin. He came in red hot and nailed Page with his famous Coffin Drop. He eventually took a double wet willie. Next in was Austin Theory, who was the FIP Champion. I can’t remember if Evolve 103 came after this show, but on this day, he also won the WWN Title. Janela, another debut, entered next. He and Darby had some good interactions, including Darby taking a ROUGH bump on a tope suicida. Parrow came in next to play the role of dominant big man. At least, that was the case until Jeff Cobb showed up. They didn’t get to go at it just yet, and then MJF arrived as the final entrant. He ran his mouth on the mic, making him everyone’s enemy. He got “EC2” chants, which was hilarious. Following a barrage of offense from everyone, MJF used a crucifix to eliminate Page, who kicked his ass afterwards. Allin was also eliminated without getting pinned, so maybe it was injury related. Parrow powerbombed Theory to get rid of him. MJF and Janela worked together to eliminate Parrow. Joey got rid of him, which the fans thanked him for. The eliminations slowed a bit before Brookes made Janela tap, leaving himself and Cobb as the final two. Cobb won that exchange with Tour of the Islands to earn a shot at any title he wants after 25:03. Not one of the better Thunderbastard matches. It felt a little too random and had far too many rapid eliminations in the middle. [**¾]

Jinny and Mercedes Martinez vs. Heart of SHIMMER Champion Shazza McKenzie and PROGRESS Women’s Champion Toni Storm
Jinny’s first match in almost three months. More PROGRESS debuts in Shazza and Martinez. Toni just feels like a major star everywhere she goes. She and Martinez opened, which is a singles match I’d be very interested in seeing. Their exchange was good and very even, until Martinez started throwing slaps. Jinny cut off a tandem ass attack from the Australian duo, putting Shazza in trouble. Martinez’s stalling vertical was especially impressive. Of course, Toni got the hot tag and ran wild. She blocked an Acid Rainmaker by twisting on Jinny’s injured hand. Jinny beat on her outside, which left Martinez to beat Shazza with a Fisherman Buster in 10:12. This was solid. It built towards Jinny/Toni, despite Jinny’s injury. Some of moves came off looking too hokey at times, but the match did what it had to. [**¾]

Jimmy Havoc w/ Vicky Haskins vs. Evolve Champion Matt Riddle
Riddle had just won the Evolve Title. This was a first time ever match. They went right at each other. Vicky got on the apron, but it was at a random time early in the match. It often feels like she just does it to do it, rather than with meaning. Riddle wrestling barefoot (which is a pet peeve of mine) came back to bite him, literally. Havoc caught a kick and bit his foot, before he also missed a kick outside and hit the post. The second Vicky distraction worked much better, allowing Havoc to give Riddle paper cuts in between his toes! Riddle got kicked low, before countering an Acid Rainmaker and making Jimmy tap to the Bromission in 7:58. That was short, sweet, and creative enough to be a ton of fun. I probably enjoyed this more than most, but I really appreciated the stuff done to Matt’s foot. Why more people don’t target it is beyond me. [***½]

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Mark Andrews vs. WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne
Vicky Haskins came out with Webster, but got ejected before the bell rang. Dunne was clearly treated like the biggest star by the crowd, and rightfully so. Anyway, this was basically what you’d expect from a Triple Threat match involving these guys. They know each other well enough that everything was smooth. However, the fans didn’t seem as into it as they probably hoped. For example, Webster hit back to back topes outside and they only got a mild applause from the crowd. Each guy was given ample time to strut their stuff and get their shit in. The finishing stretch saw plenty of moves hit, with Webster seemingly on the verge of a win. Dunne hit him with the Bitter End, but stopped the pin as Andrews hit an SSP. Dunne then dropped him with a Tombstone that ended it at 11:08. As I said, this was crisp and very good, but never sniffed greatness. [***¼]

Post-match, Eddie Dennis came out. He said the fans had no idea who he was, which he blames Andrews for. He was dwarfed in Andrews’ shadow, which was ironic. Andrews again refused to hit his former partner and left. They’re building this so well.

PROGRESS World Championship: Travis Banks [c] vs. Shane Strickland
I really enjoyed their match for the Lucha Forever Title last year. To start, they showed how evenly matched they were in terms of quickness. Every shot Banks attempted was evaded by the challenger. Strickland took control and overwhelmed the champion. Banks began a comeback by showing his new aggressive side. Towards the end, they began trading big offense. That included Banks’ Coast to Coast and Strickland hitting an apron DVD, followed by a double stomp onto the guardrail. Strickland picked up some near falls inside, before having his second superplex countered into an avalanche Kiwi Krusher that got the three count at 14:20. Not as good as their Lucha Forever match, but another strong Banks title defense. Most of them just haven’t felt important enough and that’s killing them. The finish felt a bit abrupt, but that might be because I’m used to Banks matches venturing into overkill territory at times. [***½]

Overall: 6.5/10. As usual with PROGRESS, the show is consistent. Nothing on the card was bad in any way and it’s mostly an easy watch. However, this chapter doesn’t have anything that stands out. Banks/Strickland, the Ringkampf match, and Havoc/Riddle were all very good, but not great. Thunderbastard disappointed and everything else was fine. Nothing more.