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BritWres: Progress Chapter 131 | The 10th Anniversary Results – 25th March 2022

We’re back where it all began. 10 years on from their debut show PROGRESS returns to the Garage in Islington for a celebration of their decade of growth and excitement. Only five matches were announced before the show began which left plenty of room for some surprises, but even without them, the five matches we knew about beforehand are a delightful slice of what has made the company great and a look towards the future. Welcome, to Progress Chapter 130!

The new company owners of Lee McAteer and Martyn Best are still in the process of putting their stamp on proceedings but this is the last show with the involvement of former co-owner, and founder, Jon Briley. The lowest profile member of the original owners. It’s worth adding that there were two other shows as part of this 10th anniversary, ‘Who run the World?’ and ‘Everything Patterned’, which served as great showcases for oft-overlooked groups of wrestlers and a sign that the new management of PROGRESS has an eye on showcasing a diverse array of talent.

Before the show began proper we had an emotional moment as the aforementioned Jon Briley made his first appearance in the ring in 10 years of running the company, thanking the fans for everything and looking forward to taking a break now the transition period has ended. As the last of the founders to leave the company Briley leaves behind a legacy of producing great shows and it was fitting that for this show he finally got a chance to get his flowers, so to speak.

PROGRESS Chapter 130: Women’s Championship Number 1 Contender
Four-Way Dance – Laura Di Matteo vs Rhio vs Skye Smitson vs Alexxis Falcon

It is a testament to how deep the talent pool is in British women’s wrestling today that even a four-way this packed with differing talents doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. These four women though have all earned their place in a high profile match and any one of them would provide a big threat to reigning women’s champion Gisele Shaw (or Alex Windsor depending on the outcome of that match). They also represent different strands of the wider scene, Di Matteo was one of the earliest women to make a splash in the company, Smitson is newer to the company despite her stellar work in nearby company Pro Wrestling: EVE and both Rhio and Falcon show how the company has cast their net wider to bring in new talent as they have become less London centric in their approach.

This was a perfect opener, action-packed with no lulls, the crowd was already in a good form given the occasion but this was a great way to kick the action off properly. Each possible combination got a chance to work together and every woman had a chance to shine individually. Smitson showed off some amazing power with a British Bulldog esque stalling vertical suplex that she held onto for what felt like an age. After some breathless action, it was Di Matteo who picked up the win over Rhio with Falcon and Smitson having knocked each other to the outside. Di Matteo had her singles match in the Garage and it was a nice moment to see her become the number one contender in that same building. After the match, it looked like Smitson and Falcon were about to forgive each other for their tumble to the outside but Smitson instead chose to attack Falcon, beating her until it took three referees to stop the assault. Their inevitable singles match will be great and for a company that has often struggled to book women outside of the title picture, it bodes well for the future.

PROGRESS Chapter 130: Charles Crowley vs Danny Black

Our one surprise match up of the evening as we were treated to a glimpse at two men who have the potential to be champions here and anywhere in the UK. Charles Crowley has boundless charisma and his entrance and general appearance are always enough to get a reaction from a crowd. And Danny Black has come into his own as a high flyer with a huge future in recent months, making a big splash during the no fans era and continuing that run this year. Crowley’s pre-match promo where he took potshots at both the fans in attendance and former WWE star Yoshi Tatsu was a sure sign this man has the ability of a star, a truly mesmerising presence it’s hard to take your eyes off.

The match itself was a battle between the speed and video game agility of Danny Black and the underhanded tactics, and underrated power, of Crowley. Some of the moves that Black pulled out of his arsenal were genuinely stunning, and how smooth everything looks is a testament to how hard he works. Crowley in the end picked up the win with a painful-looking combination of triangle choke and mandible claw. For the only unannounced match, this was a great addition to the card and a match that could easily be run back again, these two have good chemistry and complimentary styles.

PROGRESS Chapter 130: Ilja Dragunov vs Cara Noir

A return to one of the most important rivalries of the post-WWE era of the company, a rivalry that was a slap in the face to those who assured viewers the company had died since that deal. Their original trilogy of matches featured some of the best storytelling and emotional investment PROGRESS ever saw, especially impressive given that there was almost zero verbal interaction between the men, the entire story was played out in body language and gesture in a way that evoked ballet as much as did it conventional wrestling. Since their rivalry concluded in the match where Noir originally won the world title both men have gone on to major success. Noir held the World title for 791 days until losing it just this last week to Jonathan Gresham and Dragunov is over 200 days into a reign as NXT United Kingdom Champion in WWE. It was in Manchester back in Chapter 128 that Dragunov made his dramatic return to the company to challenge Noir one more time and as soon as he appeared in the ring it was clear that the chemistry between these two remains electric. Given how great their previous encounters were, and how much both men have grown since, this could be a candidate for match of the year.

To describe this match with any kind of blow by blow account would be a travesty, no amount of detail could describe the story these two men told. The bond they have forged over their previous three matches was on show in full force here. From the earliest moments when Dragunov quickly became covered in parts of Noir’s face paint, it was clear this was going to be another tour de force of physical storytelling. Noir looked spent at times, almost as if he couldn’t bring himself to fight back against Dragunov, who continued to try and pull a fight out of the former champion. Not only were the exchanges of strikes and holds as tense and vicious as one might expect from these two but the quiet moments were some of the more emotional subtle touches you will witness in a match. Whether it be the two sitting back to back, exhausted, to the moment they stood holding hands, to the hug they shared in the immediate aftermath, they had the crowd in the palms of their hands. In the end, it was Dragunov who got the victory but this was one of those matches where it didn’t feel like there was a victor and a loser, only two competitors who put on a hell of a match. Their singles record now reads 2-2 so we could potentially see a fifth chapter somewhere down the line.

The emotional gut punches continued as straight after the match Spike Trivet appeared. He was the primary reason why Noir lost the PROGRESS title to Jonathan Gresham and proceeded to rub this in Noir’s face with one of the most vicious beatings you are ever likely to witness. Not only did he tie Noir by his neck to the top rope with a chain but he proceeded to repeatedly hit the former Champion with a chair to the extent that Noir was bleeding from sizeable welts on his back. Trivet has been on a strong run this year and this heinous attack on one of the company’s top stars further seals his ascension. A match between Noir and Trivet looks set to be a blood rivalry for the ages.

PROGRESS Chapter 130:
Five Team Gauntlet for the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships

The Smokin’ Aces (Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley) vs Lykos Gym (Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II) vs The 0121 (Dan Moloney & Man Like DeReiss) vs Sunshine Machine (Chuck Mambo & TK Cooper) vs North West Strong (Chris Ridgeway & Luke Jacobs)

A jam-packed showcase for what has quietly become an almost overflowing tag team division. There are so many different strands to this matchup, the champions are also the most recent men to join the company and others in this match have claims to be the longest-tenured roster members (particularly Chuck Mambo, who made his company debut almost 9 years ago). Not only does each entrant, and each team, have their own story of how they reached this point, but they also each bring a different energy and a different style, from the smash mouth stylings of North West Strong to the high flying and pace of Lykos Gym.

It wasn’t clear initially how the format of this match would work but we ended up getting a true gauntlet match and essentially four two on two contests back to back. The Smokin’ Aces and Sunshine Machine were probably the standouts but every team showed exactly why they were here and presented a real threat to come out on top. Each of the four mini matchups was different and gave a taste of what a longer match might look like with those teams. Lykos Gym messing up their distraction to get disqualified was a nice subversion of a standard trope and the moment where the Smokin’ Aces showed respect to Sunshine Machine after their elimination further paints the now-former champions as a stand-up team who will surely stay in the title picture. The final match-up came down to Sunshine Machine and the 0121, who took full advantage of their draw to win the match after a close-fought battle with their fellow charismatic duo. Either of these teams could have picked up the win for a feel-good victory but it was the 0121 in the end who added yet another tag team title to their well-stocked trophy cabinet. The tag team scene in PROGRESS is deeper than it has been for a long time and any challengers to the 0121 will surely be a great match.

PROGRESS Chapter 130: Women’s Title | Gisele Shaw vs Alex Windsor

Newly minted Impact roster member Gisele Shaw faces another big challenge to her reign as Women’s champion in the shape of the very decorated Alex Windsor. Not only is Windsor the current Queen of the Carnival Champion in Wrestle Carnival, but she is also the current RevPro Women’s champion, beating Shaw herself for the title back in November last year. These two are both parts of the aforementioned deep talent pool in the UK and have bountiful chemistry from their prior meetings, as well as plenty of history to draw on.

Shaw is great at getting a reaction from a crowd and the contrast between her and Windsor made for a true old school face and heel divide. For portions of the match, it looked like Windsor had the advantage but in the end, it was Shaw who picked up the win, retaining her title with a third defence in under a week. Although Shaw now faces another big challenge in the shape of Laura Di Matteo there is still the background presence of Kanji, who still deserves a shot at the title she never lost in the ring. This match, along with the earlier four-way, shows that PROGRESS has genuinely committed to a strong women’s division, which after the weakness of the company’s women’s representation in its early years is a refreshing sign.

PROGRESS Chapter 130: World Title | Jonathan Gresham vs Warren Banks

Gresham is less than a week into his reign as World champion but just by winning the belt, he set several records, the first American champion in company history and only the second Black champion after Rampage Brown. For a company that hails from such a diverse city as London the failure of PROGRESS to truly represent different communities was always negative from other fans.

Despite his short reign, Gresham has already defended the title, doing so on Wednesday night at ‘Everything’s Patterned’ against Malik and he faces another hard-hitting challenger in Warren Banks, who has broken onto the next level in the last year and feels like a headline attraction already. Gresham has carved out a legacy as one of the best wrestlers in the world, especially since becoming ROH World Champion last year, but it will be intriguing to see how his undoubted technical excellence deals with the power and size advantage of Banks, who will have the crowd on his side after Gresham seemed to side with noted dickhead Spike Trivet when he won the title. This promises to be a match of huge importance for not only PROGRESS, as it defines itself under new ownership, but also the wider UK scene, which continues to rebuild in the wake of 2020’s many challenges.

Much like the earlier Noir/Dragunov match, this one would be harmed by trying to describe it in any great detail, it deserves to be watched in full. From the moment both men came out, it was clear who the fan’s favourite was, Warren Banks, who has been on a storied journey to this point in his career and after the match revealed he has committed to wrestling full time just this last week. Gresham fought from underneath with his technical prowess but Banks’ size and power advantage meant that for once Gresham felt like an underdog at times. The fight spilt into the crowd for a significant portion, with chairs being scattered and Banks being left far from the ring with Gresham happy to take a count-out win. In a moment that felt like one that should be replayed in the company hype package for years to come, Banks was carried back to the ring by fans, just beating the count to a rapturous ovation. It looked as if Banks had won the title with him getting a three count, the sight of Gresham’s foot under the ropes and the subsequent reversal of the decision being a huge one-two punch of emotion. The finish came when Lykos Gym came down to help their friend Banks but turned on him in a shocking moment to bring about the surprise retention for Gresham. It looks like CCK is back in a new form and Gresham’s title reign continues. Banks, though he didn’t win the title, came out of the match elevated beyond measure, and an eventual title win will be even sweeter for it.

Overall this was a brilliant show, a great showcase of what PROGRESS can be going forward. There were no unfortunate appearances by past disgraced names, no badly thought out ‘surprises’, which shows that the new owners are not just paying lip service to want the scene to be better, they are committing to it. As the company moves on towards the return of the Atlas title and Super Strong Style 16 coming back they look in a very strong place. It’s safe to say that PROGRESS is in good hands.

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