With their biggest show ever on the horizon, it seems only right to look back at PROGRESS Wrestling’s past.
For over six years, PROGRESS has run one of the UK’s biggest independent wrestling companies, with a who’s who of independent talent. This would naturally lead to some incredible matches. But what ones would I recommend to a new fan who perhaps are coming into this show with not a lot of knowledge of what the company is all about? Here are five must-see matches from PROGRESS’ history.
5. Jimmy Havoc vs Peter Dunne, No Disqualification Match for the PROGRESS World Title (Chapter 45 – ‘Galvanize’)
Chapter 45 was the first time I got myself to a Progress show in person, so it’s always going to hold some serious sway I’d imagine. Jinny v Nixon Newell meant I finally got to see the The Girl with the Shiniest Wizard in person, even if BOO HISS Jinny beat her, Mark Andrews and Will Ospreay did a hell of a thing, and the Bruiserweight and the King of the Goths gave it everything they had in a deathmatch for Pete’s the Progress Championship. Now you may very well disagree, depending on your feelings on deathmatches/paper cuts/chair shots to the head, but two of Progress’ biggest stars absolutely killed it in Manchester. And nearly each other. Peak Pete (attacking during the entrances, basically kicking a fan) and Jimmy being Jimmy (staple gun to the lower extremities, barbed wire wrapped around the rope) gave the frankly horrifically bloodthirsty Manchester crowd everything they wanted. And then poured cheap booze on it.
And obviously Ospreay came out, chucked a load of shit around, and carried on that endless James/William behaviour we all love so much.
4. Jinny Vs. Laura Di Matteo Vs Toni Storm, Natural Progression Series Final for the PROGRESS Womens Title (Chapter 49, Super Strong Style 16 2017)
When PROGRESS get womens wrestling right BOY do they get it right. Bits of storylines wove their way through this match, Di Matteo’s history as Jinny’s ‘assistant’ being a big chunk of it. We got piledrivers and DDTs on the stage, Toni popping up with some seriously powerful offence, and Jinny being the absolute worst as she will always be. Including, but not limited to, posing with the belt before she’d even won the damn thing.
Of course that fact that it would take her another year to knock Toni Storm, the eventual winner, off her perch just serves to ramp up the importance of the match even more in hindsight.
3. Jimmy Havoc vs. Matt Riddle vs. Pete Dunne vs. Sebastian vs. TK Cooper vs. Travis Banks vs. Trent Seven for the vacant PROGRESS World Title (Chapter 39 – ‘The Graps of Wrath’)
First of all we need to talk about the ending, because what comes out of Chapter 39, and specifically this match, are massively important to the history of Progress. Tyler Bate runs down and Trent and Pete have that look on their faces that says “Well, shit.” But the b i g s t r o n g b o i turns around, smashed Jimmy in the face, and Pete Dunne takes the Progress Championship off him. Followed by the now rock solid BSS/Moustache Mountain collective shaking hands and standing tall.
To this day you’d be hard pushed to argue that Trent, Tyler, and especially Pete, are anything other than the most important men to the last few years of Progress. It took the best part of ten months for Travis Banks, who’d been eliminated by Trent Seven, to get the title from Pete. And it’s not like Pete or Tyler did anything massive whilst British Strong Style held Progress gold &coughwweukchampioncough*.
Whilst we’re here this match also had The Bro Matt Riddle getting himself even more over with the Progress Ultras, Sebastian getting Mr Cocko’d, and Scurll attacking Havoc during the entrances. It was, generally, carnage. And what more could you ask for?
2. Travis Banks Vs. Will Ospreay for the PROGRESS World Title (Chapter 60 – ‘Unboxing Live 2: Unbox Harder)
Unboxing is chaos. You don’t know what you’re going to see, you don’t know who you might see, and mainly you DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. The second festive special from Progress featured a fair few moments of wonder, Chris Brookes screaming “I LOVE YOU” to definitely not an inflatable Lykos before throwing him off the balcony, and Will Ospreay wandering out into Ballroom to take on Travis ‘Trav-is-our-champion’ Banks for the Progress Championship. For the record Trav was still just about our champion in the winter of 2017, he hadn’t quite gone full Reigns just yet.
The high flying, insanely fast, God is a wrestler from Essex shtick that is Will Ospreay has never been as on display as coming up against someone who’ll just punch you in the face and then kick out at 1. Trav countering the OsCutter with a Slice of Heaven is an internal gif that plays daily in my head, just as Trav managing to springboard himself into said OsCutter is never far from my thoughts. They absolutely brought it for what wasn’t even the main event of the night, but the speed v power game of this fight makes it one of my absolute faves.
1. Prince Devitt v Zack Sabre Jr (Chapter 13 – Unbelievable Jeff!)
Progress was still getting very much on its feet when these two soon-to-be living legends clashed. Prince, on his way from NJPW to WWE, started by coming out as The Joker and that’s almost as much as you need to know. The second the bell rings he dropkicks and Coup De Grace’s ZSJ into next week. BUT WAIT! There’s more! We get an uppercut buffet, Devitt slapping the nipples off Sabre, plenty of the technically genius which we expect from ZSJ, and a true clash of styles that make this match such a satisfying watch. It’s an old cliché, isn’t it, that styles make matches. But there are few examples I can think of where untethered rage and measured skill fight against each other quite so successfully.
Given where both these men would get within a few short years of Chapter 13, it’s a testament to both of them (and Progress for that matter) that we got this match in a little room in north London.
Honourable mentions obviously go to anything involving a Wasteman Challenge, Trent Seven losing to Matt Riddle in 6 seconds at SSS16 2017, and the reverse battle royal. Whenever it eventually happens. See you at Wembley, losers.