@ The O2 Ritz, Manchester, 16/10/2016

Coming off the back of drawing circa two and a half thousand fans to the Brixton O2 Academy for Chapter 36, PROGRESS hit the ground running with a sell-out crowd of over seven hundred in attendance for a card of seven matches.

Bubblegum vs Chuck Mambo

While Bubblegum, the Manchester native enters in his usual provocative manner, Chuck Mambo lightens the mood with his now signature beach balls bouncing around amongst the crowd. Perhaps aggrieved by the jocular tone his opponent sets, Bubblegum treats him to a demonstration of the hard-hitting aerial style that makes him one of the UK’s finest cruiserweights. Mambo glimpses the occasional ray of hope, but the awkward shuffle on the top rope as they duel over a superplex signals the beginning of the end, and Bubblegum soon scores the pinfall.

Kay Lee Ray vs Kimber Lee

Both competitors are making their PROGRESS debut as the company builds up to the crowning of its first Women’s Champion in the near future. The match begins with the kind of feeling out process and exchange of fast-paced technical duelling that, while familiar in a PROGRESS ring, is sadly still a novelty in women’s matches in many other companies. While Kimber Lee has the edge in terms of power and athleticism, Kay Lee Ray is the more agile of the two and perhaps in possession of more fire. This shows as the American takes a nasty-looking injury to the back, and the Glasgow native pounces without hesitation to take the pin.

Fabian Aichner vs James Drake

This makes it four debuts in two matches, as Aichner shows off the kind of moves that got him to the WWE CWC, defying gravity and launching himself to the outside in a series of moves that his opponent seems to lack an answer to. Drake is technically sound, but his constant resorting to shortcuts and cheating makes him look unable to match his Italian foe, an impression only compounded when he uses the same means to grab a nefarious three-count for the tainted victory.

PROGRESS Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender Fatal Four-Way: “The Villain” Marty Scurll vs “Iron Man” Joe Coffey vs “The Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne vs Trent Seven

Travel issues mean that Shane Strickland was unable to appear on the show, but his place is taken by Trent Seven, meaning that this match instead features both of British Strong Style, the PROGRESS Tag Team Champions. The partners instantly lay their cards on the table as moments after the bell, Seven prostrates himself in the ring and allows Dunne to try for a three-count. Coffey and Scurll scupper the attempt to cut the affair short, and the match develops into a battle between BSS as they continue their double-team tactics while the other two try to thwart the tag champs on the one hand and fight each other on the other. At one point, all four men are locked in a chain of submission manoeuvres, but it is Scurll’s chicken wing that wins out. After a post-match diatribe at the fans, the former champion is levelled by the Acid Rainmaker as Jimmy Havoc runs in to continue his series of assaults on Scurll.

Triple Threat Tag Team Match: South Pacific Power Trip (T K Cooper and Travis Banks) (w/ Dahlia Black) vs FSU (“White Lightning” Mark Andrews and “The Pride of Wales” Eddie Dennis) vs The Origin (“The Mexican Sensation” El Ligero and “The Bastard” Dave Mastiff)

Mastiff makes his way to ringside wearing a baseball cap equipped to carry two pints of beer and fitted with straws, which he makes a point of offering to Cooper before the match begins. Perhaps offended by the fact that the cans contain a certain brand of Australian – rather than New Zealander – lager, Cooper slaps the can aside. This prompts Dennis to interject, explaining that spilling a beer is simply unacceptable, seize the can and douse himself with the contents in the style of Steve Austin. The Origin are in comedic mode today, Ligero playing the cocksure fool to Mastiff’s burly protector, whilst FSU inject frenetic and impressive moves and SPPT rely on their usual spiteful double-teaming offence. It seems that FSU will win the day as Banks attempts to jump Dennis as he is distracted by Black at ringside results in her taking the brunt of his offence. But in the ensuing chaos, SPPT manage to salvage their ability to work as a team, and cut down FSU for the pinfall.

PROGRESS Atlas Championship Open Challenge Match: Rampage Brown (C) vs Mikey Whiplash

In this first ever defence of the Atlas Championship, the open challenge is answered by Mikey Whiplash, one of the appropriately-sized competitors that was not a part of the tournament held to crown the current champion. As is to be expected, this starts out as a battle of the behemoths and at no point throughout does it even threaten to turn into a technical masterpiece or high-flying affair. As the inaugural champion, Brown arguably has the most to prove here, but Whiplash throws himself into the match with his trademark chaotic abandon and threatens the titleholder on more than one occasion. But in the end the consistency and sheer power of Brown win through and he takes the victory via pinfall.

PROGRESS Championship Match: Mark Haskins (C) vs “Liverpool’s No.1” Zach Gibson

Haskins long and tortuous road to the title sees him carried into this match on a wave of momentum and good feeling from the crowd. Gibson, by contrast, is greeted with the usual wail of cat-calls and chanting, then unceremoniously pelted with toilet rolls (in place of the more traditional Japanese streamers). If there were any doubt as to Haskin’s worthiness to wear the belt on the one hand and Gibson’s validity as his first challenger on the other, they are dispelled within mere moments of the bell ringing. The combination of Haskin’s lighting quick offence and Gibson’s more studied and vicious attacks contrast well, emphasizing their opposite roles as hero and villain of the piece. A sterling solid main event that seems to have lasted for far longer than the time allotted ends when Gibson submits to Haskin’s stretch muffler, underlying a glowingly positive start to his reign as champion.

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