Retro Review

Retro Review – PROGRESS Wrestling Chapter 36: ‘We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Room Again’

With Hello Wembley just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes another trip in the TWM Time Machine, this time back to September 2016 for Progress Chapter 36: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Room Again.

 

Chapter 36 was the first Progress show I ever watched. As an introduction to one of the hottest Independent companies in the world it was a pretty damn impressive one. With their Wembley Arena show just around the corner, Progress have made the full show available on YouTube for FREE!

After the traditional Jim Smallman opening (where you can already tell that his is one HOT crowd) we kick things off with the Atlas Championship Tournament final between Rampage Brown and Joe Coffey. For the uninitiated, the Atlas Championship has a weight limit…of OVER 205 lbs. Other names in the tournament had been Walter, Damian O’Connor, Dave Mastiff, Iestyn Rees, Michael Dante and T-Bone. And if that list of names doesn’t give you an entire positioning of what the division was all about (at least in it’s earliest incarnation) you clearly don’t follow British Wrestling.

The match itself is pretty much what you might expect from the two men involved. It never quite gets going as a cohesive whole and feels a little slow paced at times. Not everything quite hits the mark either. But if you were a fan of the WWE in the mid 90’s and were “treated” to a parade of “big man” matches by Vince you will certainly appreciate that this match blows those pedestrian encounters out of the water.

Next up in the women, as Dahlia Black, Alex Windsor and Jinny take on Pollyanna, Nixon Newell and Laura DiMatteo. The heat, both for the heels and the babyfaces, instantly shows you that this is a promotion (and a set of fans) that takes Women’s wrestling seriously. As well they should with the talent involved. There’s almost an ECW vibe to this one in the sense that Paul Heyman’s troupe was well versed in bringing together singles feuds into tag team matches that made them more than the sum of their (already great) parts. Whilst Nixon/Alex is on a backburner compared to the others, issues between Dahlia/Pollyanna and Jinny/Laura are ramped up without ever taking over the match as a whole. There’s some pretty sick looking bumps taken in this one (especially by DiMatteo) and sometimes you do wonder if there’s any need to “sell” or if the moves just really bloody hurt! It’s a great tag match that manages to build on feuds, extend feuds AND be a pretty awesome match in it’s own right.

The Progress Tag Team titles are on the line next as the London Riots defend against the British Strong Style duo of Trent Seven and Pete Dunne. Those of you whose only exposure to BSS is through NXT might be surprised to see them heel it up here. The match itself is little more than a high-octane brawl, but if high-octane brawls are your thing then there is no issues with that at all. It’s also got the indy staple of big move after big move sequences though there are some psychological touches for those of you who are more old-school in your tastes.

An unadvertised match between Paul Robinson and Chuck Mambo follows, set up by a Robinson promo where he laments not being booked on the card. Once the intense promo and then the awesome visuals of the beach balls in Mambo’s entrance have gone this is little more than a squash match. It’s fun, but far from essential.

Things take a definite upswing in quality next. Even those who don’t know the previous history between Tomasso Ciampa and Zack Sabre Jr in Progress will be quickly brought up to speed by the fantastic pre-match hype video. If you’re not excited for what’s to come next after seeing that I’d suggest checking to see if you still have a pulse. Fought under 2 out of 3 falls rules and with a seriousness that befits both the feud and the occasion this is superb stuff. The psychology is top notch as well with both men willing to bend the rules ever so slightly in their increasing desperation to pick up the final win. As you’d expect we go to a third fall (though perhaps not by the route many would expect) and fittingly that’s the best part of the match. A sterling effort from both men and a match that certainly warrants the description of “must see”.

As talented as the eight men who follow that match are they….well…they can’t follow it. Of course The Origin quartet of Nathan Cruz, Dave Mastiff, El Ligero and Zack Gibson have insane amounts of heat, to the extent that Gibson’s traditional pre-match promo is almost drowned out by the noise, and the stipulation that if that team fails to beat Mark Andrews, Eddie Dennis, Jack Gallagher and Damon Moser they must disband certainly adds to the atmosphere. Of course this is not to in any way say that this is a bad match. It’s really rather good. Almost excellent, in fact. But it’s not quite up to what immediately preceded it. Still, at it’s a totally different style of match that’s not too much of an issue.

All that’s left now after three hours of action is the main event for the Progress World Championship. It’s a Triple Threat affair pitting champion Marty Scurll against Mark Haskins and Tommy End (NXT’s Aleister Black). Marty gets the “WrestleMania” treatment with his entrance here as four ladies with umbrella’s accompany him to the ring (it’s cooler than it sounds, trust me) and that sets the scene for a fantastic main event. If it’s slightly overbooked in the old ECW sense, it’s done so well that that’s not really a criticism (and a surprise return towards the end gets a building shaking pop).

If you’re looking for a show that encapsulates the spirit of Progress, you won’t go far wrong here. On their biggest show up to this point, everything delivers but just as importantly it leaves you with tantalising glimpses of what is to come. And as it’s currently FREE on YouTube, you’ve no excuse not to check it out.

Limited tickets for Hello Wembley are available at SSE Arena

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