Preview: PROGRESS #Chapter78–24 Hour Progress People

This is not an attempt to predict how the matches will go, or attempting to tell the good people in charge of how PROGRESS should be booked. This is me talking out loud about the match-ups, how*I* would potentially see things go, and just a place for me to air the thoughts in my head.

For context, this is my fifth PROGRESS show in person since I started watching Independent wrestling in the UK in February. I’m looking forward to being in the o2 Ritz for the first time seeing a show and have the pleasure of being front row.

Since signing up for their on demand service, I started at Unboxing last year and went on a journey to catch-up. After buying tickets for Victoria Warehouse (Chapter 69), expecting that to be my first live show, but after being taken by the atmosphere at the Electric Ballroom, I jumped on the National Express to make Chapter 65 my debut at their spiritual home — watch Jim take the piss out of me if you watch the show back.

The reason for the backstory is to explain my stance on the promotion. Living in Manchester, I don’t feel like they owe me anything when it comes to long-term story-telling. I like what they do, big fan of Jim and his humour and the type of matches they put on and what they are trying to do.

I don’t travel to London often — I bloody loved #HelloWembley — I am more invested in Futureshock, a local promotion, as I’ll go to more of what they do. What I want from the weekend is good matches, to be entertained and escape into the wonderful world of professional wrestling for a couple of hours.

Enough about me, let’s move on to Sunday’s card.

I’ll leave the titles till later as they all suffer from the same problem.

Jordan Devlin v Chris Ridgeway

Can’t wait for this. Devlin is superb, the match against Will Ospreay recently was superb and the ‘Hard as Fuck’ Ridgeway is one of my favourites. He fought Wolfgang when I made my #BritWres debut in Prestwich and he caught the eye then and I haven’t seen him have a bad match yet.

This one could go either way. The Killer Import has been growing his reputation slowly in PROGRESS and a win would continue that. However, Ridgeway made the final of the Natural Progression Series and is slowly becoming one of the best British prospects on the scene.

I’d prefer to see the man from Barrow come out on top, but either way both guys will come out of this stronger as they will put on an epic match — can’t see any other outcome.

Isla Dawn v Lana Austin

Second up, cause… if you know, you know.

Love do do do, Lana, Lana Austin. Interested to see what character we see on Sunday. The fan-favourite at Futureshock, then at my one visit to Defiant we saw a darker side to Lana and I quite liked it.

It all depends on the plans they have for her. Is this a one-off because the show is in Manchester, or will they use her more. I’ve not seen Isla Dawn live and have no feelings either way. There would be no harm in seeing the hometown girl pick up the win and get everyone cheering.

Eddie Dennis v Speedball Mike Bailey

The Welshman is brilliant. On the mic there is not many better in the UK right now — Gibson — and you feel this is going to move into in-ring victories.

Dennis has a title shot at some point, and my hope is, unlike others, there is time and build before he attempts to win the PROGRESS World Championship.

With his ability to talk up any situation, this could be the best thing they do over the next few months.

Bailey, as described by John McGee as ‘Canadian who loves a kick’ is new to me, he is making his debut in the promotion, but I can’t see him winning clean. There may be shenanigans.

Ilja Dragunov v David Starr

This is a weird one. Starr is a favourite around nearly all UK promotions. If you don’t like what he does on social, fair enough, if you don’t like what he does in the ring, you’re wrong.

Dragunov is in a weird position. It looks like he’ll be a part of the UK scene for a while, which is good. He has such a great reputation from his work in wXw in Germany, so it will be good to see how he gets on over here.

Wembley against Pete Dunne was a good match, but due to the build, which was OK, wasn’t great. We never really good a good reason to care about UNBESIEGBAR! The Bruiserweight was always going to win and we all cheered.

For the PROGRESS crowd to begin caring, Ilja has to win, we need to see him dominate one of the better wrestlers on the card, and Starr is definitely that. Yet, as it was pointed out to me, this is a wXw match. Both guys are a big part of the promotion in Germany and (without checking up) I’m sure it’s a match which has been done before. They definitely are not strangers.

Two ways to look at it.

1: This will be a good way for Ilja to look stronger. Fight against someone he knows, use the chemistry to build a great match. You could easily steal the show and everyone goes home excited to see more of the Russian.

2: It could have been a great chance to put him against one of the mid-card PROGRESS regulars and have him run through a couple of them over the next few chapters, before setting up a match like this. But then the problem becomes who… especially without making someone like Mark Haskins, Eddie Dennis etc look worse.

I’m fine with the match, it’s not something I’ve seen before. I love David Starr, so bring it on.

Trent Seven Atlas Division Open Challenge

Aussie Open v Calamari Thatch Kings

WALTER v Mark Haskins

Going to address all three of these at the same time, for the same reason.

Let’s get something straight. I am looking forward to all three. Think they will be great, yet, this is a difficult time for title challenges.

You look at all three and you instantly think, you can’t change title holders. Not yet.

Trent beat British wrestling royalty and it ‘forced’ Doug Williams to retire. He’s had one title defence, the man in charge of Moustache Mountain can’t lose the belt. Nope, not having it.

Mark Davis and Kyle Fletcher are fucking brilliant. Lovely guys too. Awesome merch — need to stop buying AO merch — they built up their reputations over the last 18 months or so and winning at Wembley was a huge moment for them.

If they drop the belts I will get in that damn ring and chop both Davis and Thatcher myself!!! (aye right — I’m not that daft). CTK aren’t even a ‘real’ tag team. Nope nope nope.

Then it comes to WALTER.

One of the best stories this year was his chase to take the belt off Travis Banks. From his emergence at Chapter 65, which was awesome, to the Trav heel turn and kicking out at 1, walking out to 10. It was great.

Due to Trav’s injury, we never got the pay off we all would have wanted, but it was a great moment when the big Austrian finally got his hands on the title.

Wembley was his first defence, a fucking incredible match with Tyler Bate. I kinda knew WALTER would win, but when the storytelling is so good that you really don’t know and doubt yourself during the contest, that’s all you want.

He then beats Zack Sabre Jr in one of the matches of the year. Can you really drop the title to Mark Haskins in Manchester. I doubt it.

If the man from Malvern can someone pull off the roll-up Death Valley Driver on the champ, then it would be an epic site and an amazing moment for Haskins, but personally it would cheapen his title reign.

The problem PROGRESS have is, they don’t have a weekly TV show were you can build a title contender and match-up over a four-six week period, without them fighting, while also putting on Chapters which have meaning and unique selling points.

It might be something they have to do going forward if they want to build better and stronger storylines, but nearly every Chapter is going to have a title match — maybe it doesn’t need one — so then you need quickfire contenders and you need the champ to take them out.

Back in 2009, I went to the World Gymnastics Championships at the o2 in London. An American called Bridget Sloan won the All-Around Gold medal and that was pretty much the peak of her career.

With a four-year Olympic cycle, this was deemed the starting point of a build which would pay off in 2012 back in London. Your 2009 champion was never going to make it all the way through.

Gabby Douglas, who did win the All-Around Gold in London was still a junior three years earlier.

My point is, these early title shots, just after Wembley, which feels like PROGRESS’ Olympics all given the challengers a ‘Bridget Sloan’ feel. They all deserve to be there and have worked hard, but you never really feel they are going to go all the way.

Personally, I’d like to see Aussie Open hold the belts for a few months. Would love a feud with The 198, or the Anti-Fun Police. Both worthy champs down the line.

Eventually AO will lose and we’ll get singles Mark Davis for a while and Fletcher will get more chance to shine too. But for now they will remain our champions.

They same goes for Trent and Walter. It would cheapen what they have done to take the belts off them so soon. You can’t have long builds in every category, but there needs to be some prestige added to the belts to make title changes matter.

Oh, ok, I’ll make some predictions.

#Chapter78

Chris Ridgeway beats Jordan Devlin
Lana Austin
beats Isla Dawn
Eddie Dennis
beats Speedball Mike Bailey
Ilja Dragunov
beats David Starr
Trent Seven
successfully defends his Atlas title
Aussie Open
beat Calamari Thatch Kings
WALTER
beats Mark Haskins

As always with wrestling, I kinda hope I’m wrong… maybe.