On the 10th of April myself and my good buddy Ash took a 2 hour road trip to Manchester in the north of England to watch PROGRESS Wrestling’s chapter 28. Here I plan to share some of the highlights of that show as well as try to explain why the world is taking notice of PROGRESS and why you should too…
First point of order. PROGRESS has an on demand service at demandprogress.pivotshare.com where this show and all of their others are available and I strongly recommend that you check it out.
Also a shout out to Ash, Martin and Deak who’s great company added to an already excellent show.
Beware…there may be some minor spoilers for chapter 28 ahead…
5. The Venue
The show was at The Ritz in Manchester city centre. Surrounded by bars and pubs that are perfect for a little pre-gaming. There is even a bar directly across the street called Gorilla! The venue is near perfect for an independent wrestling show. The owners, Jim Smallman, Jon Briley and Glen Joseph, obviously care about the fans enjoyment of the show. They don’t pack the place to the rafters and they have a venue where there is literally not a bad spot in the house from which to view the show. From the floor to the balcony we had a great view. Also the beer was excellent.
4. The Fans and “The Rule”
As anyone who has ever been to or has seen a PROGRESS show will tell you, there is only one rule and that rule is “don’t be a dick”. As long as you stick to this golden rule you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want to. In fact you’re encouraged to get drunk, get lairy and make as much noise as you can. Its a big part of what makes PROGRESS’ live event atmosphere so unique. Boo, cheer, swear, chant, sing, whatever you want. As long as you’re having fun and not “being a dick” you can do whatever you want.
Something else that makes the live events so great are the fans. There are no cliques. No smarks. No high and mighty, we’re better than you types. That’s a rare thing in wrestling nowadays. Everyone is there for the same reasons, to have a great time and watch wrestling. From the guy wearing a Cena t-shirt who only usually watches WWE to the guy rocking a Pentagon Jr shirt who devours hours of NJPW, AAA and Lucha Underground per week. As long as you’re there for a good time then you are welcome. I met people from every walk of life and they all had one thing in common, a love for the art of pro-wrestling.
3. The Chants
Another great thing about PROGRESS and the fans is the chanting. Its super easy to get a chant going at a PROGRESS show. Its one of my favorite things about going to a show. If you notice it, you can probably get a chant going for it. A wrestler has his hair in a bun? Expect a “topknot w**nker” chant. If there is some particularly good action in the ring, definitely not a rarity at a PROGRESS show, the “this is progress” chant rings out. That dastardly villain Marty Scurll enters with his heat seeking umbrella gimmick? “Its not even raining” is the call. But by far the loudest chant of the night was for the man who answered Scurll’s open challenge, Tommy End. However, in PROGRESS his name isn’t just Tommy End. You see some of the PROGRESS chants can be a little…unsavory. Swearing is actually encouraged and adds to the punk rock vibe the promotion has. As a result the raucous crowd greet him as such, “Tommy, Tommy, Tommy F**king End”! Even the ring announcer drops the F-bomb in there! There really is no other crowd like a PROGRESS crowd.
2. The Wrestlers
PROGRESS takes a lot of pride in the names who have come through the curtain in their short history. Prince Devitt (now NXT’s Finn Balor), Samoa Joe, Tomaso Ciampa, Colt Cabana, Ricochet, Adam Cole and many other great names have all entered the squared circle in the name of PROGRESS. But where PROGRESS’ roster really shines is its nurturing of British talent. Zack Sabre Jr, Tommy End, Will Osprey, Marty Scurll, Jimmy Havok the list goes on and on. In their short history PROGRESS has become a byword for quality home grown talent on the UK and world pro-wrestling scene. A reputation they have worked very hard to earn and is well deserved.
1. The Wrestling
PROGRESS is a strong style promotion. As a result the matches are mostly short, hard hitting and very well worked. There is a great focus on story telling during a match. There are usually at least a couple of high spots and comedy bits but the main focus is always on high quality, high drama wrestling. Every match on the card was great and as I said at the start I really recommend catching the show on demand PROGRESS as soon as you can. I’ve picked my personal favorites out here just to give you an idea of how great PROGRESS is. The first match we saw was the debut of Moustache Mountain, a newly formed tag team taking on the Dunn Brothers. The match had everything you could want from a great tag match. Hope spots, funny moments, hot tags and sneaky heel tactics from the bad guys. For a debut tag team the work was impeccable and a great start to the show.
Another highlight for me was Marty Scurll’s open challenge. After cutting a perfectly villainous promo about how brilliant a champion he considers himself to be and how he has beaten everyone currently active on the PROGRESS roster, Marty issued an open challenge. If anyone in the back could beat him in a non-title match they would earn themselves a shot at his title at the next show in London. To the mine and everyone else’s shock the man that answered that challenge was…Tommy F**king End! After a raucous welcome for End, what followed was one of the best worked, hard hitting matches I can ever remember seeing with an excellent ending that I really don’t want to spoil here. Go to demand PROGRESS, watch the match, thank me later.
The main event was a no DQ tag match between champions The Origin and FSU and it was a slobberknocker to say the least. Tables, ladders, chairs, suicide dives, pile drivers and thumb tacks! It was a spotfest in the very best sense of the world. A solid half hour of brutal hits and stunning spots. Among the highlights were a running suicide dive from the stage to the solid wood floor and an insane top rope huricanrana onto the thumb tacks strewn across the ring. The match went all over the venue. Wrestlers using everything, including some members of the audience, to their advantage. It was an instant classic and although they couldn’t quite get the victory FSU more than earned their rematch at chapter 29.
We left the venue knowing we had seen something special. A feeling anyone who has been to a PROGRESS show will recognize. There really is something truly unique and precious about PROGRESS. Its not just the fans or the chants or the wrestlers or the wrestling its the whole package. Its evident the owners really care about putting on a great show and should be commended for doing it so well.
The bottom line is I really love PROGRESS and it’s not just me. The world is taking notice of this punk rock promotion out of little old England and I think you should too.