PROGRESS returns as Gisele Shaw defends her newly-won title against a familiar foe in Laura di Matteo.

Quick Results
Kid Lykos II, Kid Lykos I & Warren Banks pinned Big Guns Joe, Gene Munny & Sandy Beach in 19:59 (**½)
Man Like DeReiss pinned LK Mezinger in 10:34 (**¾)
Malik pinned Screwface Ahmed in 11:23 (**¾)
Alexxis Falcon pinned Taonga in 11:50 (***)
Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley defeat Brendan White & Danny Jones by disqualification in 15:45 (***½)
Dean Allmark defeats Spike Trivet by disqualification in 11:07 (***)
Dan Moloney pinned Jody Fleisch in 15:11 (***¼)
Chris Ridgeway pinned Doug Williams in 14:03 (***¼)
Cara Noir pinned Danny Black to retain the PROGRESS World Championship in 18:08 (***½)
Gisele Shaw submitted Laura Di Matteo to retain the PROGRESS Women’s Championship in 14:26 (***½)

PROGRESS are going weekly now – and I can only assume this is to get shows that are fresher in front of people’s eyes, or perhaps (whisper it) bring crowds back? I mean, ICW announced last week that they’re bringing fans back for Fight Club tapings as soon as this weekend (August 29), so you have to think…

We’re at three and a half hours long, back at the Theatre Peckham, with Hustle Malone and Olie Spring on the call.

We open with Gisele Shaw, who’s fishing for compliments from the commentary crew on her way to the ring. That clapperboard’s still there, with the chapter number on in case anyone’s thinking these are Frankenstein shows. Shaw reckons she won the title over a year ago, then dismissed the “joke of a contest” that was the best-of-three series. She calls herself a “dragon” because “their venom is slow acting and deadly,” then said that everything’s playing out exactly as she anticipated. A decent statement of intent promo, although I’d have preferred at least an appearance from Laura di Matteo given these two are wrestling for the title in the main event…

Lykos Gym (Kid Lykos & Kid Lykos II) & Warren Banks vs. Big Money Gun Dogs (Big Guns Joe & Gene Munny) & Sandy Beach
It’s a show debut for Sandy Beach – also known elsewhere in Manchester as Callum Corrie… Roy Johnson didn’t call that out in his rundown, I guess because Corrie worked a dark match in October 2019.

The early exchanges see Lykos lifted into the corner as Big Guns Joe looked for an advantage, eventually getting one as he countered headscissors into a Boston crab. That ends as Munny tagged in with Banks, looking for a hug from the guy he trained, only to trade shoulder blocks instead. A Finlay roll has Munny ahead, before Sandy Beach came in with an over-the-top dropkick to Lykos II as things threatened to fray a little.

Things continue down the same path as Lykos II got triple-teamed, unable to find an answer to the makeshift trio’s offence, before Lykos I came in to turn things around. Banks comes in (with his new Lykos-ish tights, which kinda suit), lighting up Sandy with chops before Sandy countered a Lykos II brainbuster into a Falcon arrow.

Tags bring in Joe and Lykos I, with the latter taking a back body drop, then a Vader Bomb elbow, before we got back to Banks and Munny. The pace picks up as Gene eventually got his hug – turning it into a belly-to-belly – only for things to go sour as an assisted Code Red from Lykos II and some knees almost got the win over Sandy. Things escalate as a top rope ‘rana on Sandy off of Banks’ shoulders gets a near-fall.

A superplex from Joe, and a top rope elbow from Munny keeps the near-falls coming, before Banks interrupted a Hart Attack, allowing Lykos to dump Joe with a brainbuster. Lykos II hits another, while Banks spears Munny out damn near out of his trunks, and that’s your lot. This had its moments, but “beautiful chaos” is perhaps a little too close to the truth. **½

Backstage, Alexxis Falcon’s confident of getting her first PROGRESS win over Taonga – in a match to determine the next contender for the Women’s title.

Man Like DeReiss vs. LK Mezinger
DeReiss is back for the second show in a row – with the act that could well get over with a live crowd, rather than “remind us no bugger’s here.”

Mezinger tries to bully DeReiss early, but DeReiss got free to hit a dropkick in the corner. A headstand into a senton out of the corner got DeReiss a two-count, but Mezinger’s clothesline and front suplex turned it around.

Mezinger keeps the pressure on, but got caught out with a wheelbarrow stomp as DeReiss went back with dropkicks. An enziguiri from the apron has LK down, as does a running Kitchen Sink knee, before a 619 in the ropes keeps DeReiss ahead… Danielson-ish elbows follow as an overhead armbar forces a rope break from Mezinger, who came back with a slingshot slam for a two-count. Mezinger misses a moonsault, allowing DeReiss to run in with double knees in the corner, before a Four-Fiddy splash gets the win. LK’s still without a win, and I don’t think that’ll be changing anytime soon. **¾

Post-match, they sandwich trailers for “best ofs” between a segment as DeReiss is talking about slapping people up when he’s interrupted by Malik and Kosta Konstantino, and those two look to be locking horns soon.

Screwface Ahmed vs. Malik
It’s a “main show” debut for Screwface, who’s previously worked a dark match and one of PROGRESS’ old Dome shows. Not sure Screwface ever worked ENDVRs, mind you…

Malik tries to box Screwface into the corner, but it’s Screwface who knocked him to the outside first… only for Malik to get right back in it, charging Screwface into the side of the ring. Punches and a neckbreaker keep Screwface in it, as did a suplex, before a back elbow from Malik led to a two-count.

A knee to the midsection keeps Screwface down, while the ropes rakes the eyes as Malik continued to dominate. There’s apop-up knee and a low dropkick from Malik for a two-count, who then got caught with a crossface… then a clothesline as Screwface nearly snatched the win… but a missed charge for Screwface in the corner leads to a Busaiku knee from Malik, and that’s your lot, in spite of Screwface’s vain attempt to reach for the rope. This was fine, and a decent showing for Screwface, but bringing someone in without much fanfare seems to telegraph results… **¾

Danny Black’s backstage and excited – because not only has he gotten his wish of a match against Cara Noir, but it’s for the title too.

Cue another “best of” trailer, as the Lykii interrupt the Greedy Souls backstage – they want a favour because the Smoking Aces are due a title shot, and they want the Welsh lads to (at worst) rough them up… and at best, usurp them for a title shot.

Taonga vs. Alexxis Falcon
Falcon’s never won a match – save for an elimination in last week’s title match – and I guess it’s that wrinkle that’s put her in this contender’s match.

Falcon’s the early aggressor here, recounting the screwy losses she’s had against Taonga (and Mercedez Blaze) in the recent past. A tornado suplex almost ends this early, as Taonga cowered in the corner, looking for separation. She returns with some choking in the ropes, before a double armbar stretch had Falcon fighting to swivel free.

An uppercut from Falcon offered some hope, as did a roundhouse kick, before a shotgun dropkick caught Taonga off-guard. Taonga pushes out of the Falcon’s Fury, but ate a thrust kick for a two-count, before a hanging neckbreaker out of the corner put Alexxis a little further ahead. A diving boot from Taonga turned it back around, but a rolling neckbreaker has Falcon keeps things even, as Taonga’s knee strike almost got her the win.

Slaps increase the intensity, with a splits kick from Falcon nearly getting the win after that, before she had to counter an I’m Prettier into the Falcon’s Fury (swinging reverse STO/DDT) for the win. A pretty good match as Falcon finally gets her first win – and shoots her back to a title shot, just with a little more preparation this time. ***

Backstage, Spike Trivet’s asked about Dean Allmark… he goes all patronising/sing-songy as he tells us Allmark was full-time for 20 years as a wrestler. “Some people do this for bigger and better things,” muses Spike, “for a single moment that’s waiting… where your name is plastered and remembered forever.” Spike’s a little sour that his run to the title was derailed by, err, himself last time out.

Greedy Souls (Brendan White & Danny Jones) vs. Smokin’ Aces (Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley)
These two teams had an unexpected cracker of a match back in April at Chapter 109 – can they repeat that magic?

We’ve a jump start as all hell broke loose before the bell, spilling outside as Riley’s sent into the wall while White and Jones threatened to gang-up on Sterling. They head to the ring to get things started, with Sterling demanding the match formally begin, with the Souls dominating early as Jones got slammed onto Sterling for a two-count.

Sterling breaks free with a crossbody as Riley tagged in to build some steam. A backbreaker stopped White in his tracks, before some double-teaming from the Aces led to a spinning enziguiri from Sterling that drew a delayed two-count. Jones’ attempt to save White in the corner backfires as Riley clotheslined Jones off the apron, but Danny comes back with a low bridge as he took Sterling outside… but Sterling throws Jones into the wall as the Aces keep control.

The referee gets snippy over tags – as Jones tagged White on the boot, rather than hand-to-hand. So they go overboard in hand-to-hand tags in response, keeping Sterling in the corner before Jones began to rough up Sterling ahead of an abdominal stretch from White. Sterling manages to get free, with a shoulder tackle off the middle rope giving him some hope… but Jones got the tag in and swarmed him.

Sterling’s back suplex lands, but he still has to fight off the Welsh lads before finally bringing in Riley, who cleared house. A Blue Thunder Bomb from Riley nearly nicks a win, but tags get us back to Sterling and White, with Brendan getting knocked into the buckles ahead of a moonsault/neckbreaker combo. The Aces head up top for an elbow drop/leg drop at the same time for a near-fall, before the Souls’ powerbomb/neckbreaker keeps the double-team moves going.

A PK out of a Doomsday Device knocks Riley to the floor as commentary sold that as a match-ender… Sterling fights back on his own, like how he started things… eating a missile dropkick before a slingshot into a Bossman slam nearly put away Sterling. The ref stops White from taking off a turnbuckle pad as Nick Riley was coming to, which prompts a one-man comeback from Sterling before he tagged Riley back in.

A double-team TKO looks to get them towards a win, but in comes the Lykii to attack Sterling and Riley with the title belts for the obvious DQ. This was on the road to matching their prior outing, but the build up centred on that match – and the DQ after fifteen minutes – kinda soured it for me. I guess we’re still getting the Lykii vs. the Aces then? ***½

Backstage, the Lykii gloat about taking matters into their own hands because the Greedy Souls “couldn’t get the job done.” Except they were in ear shot, and react like you’d think, and demand a title match.

“Gisele’s never seen Spiderman 3” might well be a rejected show title…

Spike Trivet vs. Dean Allmark
That whole “Spike Trivet going for the title” train could be staying off the rails if he doesn’t leave with a win here…

Trivet looks to work over Allmark’s legs early, but Allmark’s able to slip into his game, cartwheeling past Trivet into headscissors ahead of a standing moonsault for a two-count. Allmark’s riled up after a nose rake, but Trivet manages to stifle him with a stomp to the elbow. A Dragon sleeper looks to get a stoppage, but Allmark kicks his way free, only for Spike to get right back on top.

Allmark looks to escape a Birthright, coming back with a clothesline instead before the pair traded strikes. Forearms form Allmark have Trivet on the back foot, ahead of a bulldog before Spike was held up in the corner for a flying stomp to the back of the head. A moonsault’s next for a two-count for Allmark, but Trivet’s back with a cradle suplex for a near-fall.

A superkick from Allmark stops things, as did a Ruby cutter, but Trivet barely gets his shoulder up in time. Spike rakes the eyes and dumps Allmark with a Birthright, before the Ascot submission – like a modified stranglehold – ended in the ropes. Except Spike doesn’t let go of the hold, so his self-inflicted losing run stretches to two in a row here. This was good while it lasted, but if wins and losses matter here (and commentary don’t seem to be able to pick a side), this ought to have Spike well away from the title scene, right? ***

Dan Moloney vs. Jody Fleisch
This was Dan’s first match in PROGRESS since beating Gene Munny in June – he’s been extremely stop-start on these empty-arena shows…

Moloney grounds Fleisch early, looking to work over the arm and wrist before a side headlock kept Fleisch down. Jody’s back with a double leapfrog/dropkick, but Moloney has a leapfrog and dropkick of his own as the pair turned up the tempo en route to the double dropkick stand-off. Things head outside as Moloney looks to bully Fleisch, dumping him on the side of the ring with a back suplex.

Commentary fell silent as Fleisch gets thrown into the buckles,before some chain choking forced the referee into a break. A suplex from the outside in gets a two-count, while a back elbow off the ropes ensured Jody couldn’t take to the skies. Yet. A headbutt keeps Fleisch down, before Fleisch slipped out of a suplex and found a way in with a high kick, then a reverse ‘rana.

Fleisch teases flying, but he’s cut-off in the corner as Moloney teases a superplex to the floor. Of course that doesn’t happen as Dan’s sent down… only to kip up for an avalanche Angle slam for a near-fall. Jody’s back with a ’rana off the top on Moloney for a two-count, before a 720 DDT’s sidestepped as Moloney hits a superkick instead. Fleisch goes for a Code Red, but Moloney rolls through and snatches the win with a jack-knife cover for the win out of nowhere. This took a while to get going, as Moloney’s game plan seemed to work – but the expected “Fleisch really causes a scare in the air” never materialised. ***¼

Chris Ridgeway vs. Doug Williams
It’s a PROGRESS return for Williams, whose retirement at Wembley Arena nearly three years ago feels like an eternity for so many reasons.

Ridgeway takes things to the ropes early on, as the pair went back-and-forth on wristlocks. The pair go for leg locks at the same time, but it’s Ridgeway who gets the hold on, forcing Williams to club his way free… only for Ridgeway to roll in with a seated surfboard. Another leglock forces Williams to the ropes, but Doug’s back with a bow-and-arrow hold that Ridgeway eventually flips out of… then went around to hit a grounded Dragon screw on Williams.

Kicks target the leg of Williams, but Doug’s back with a suplex and a knee drop to the back as he went back in with a modified half crab and some body scissors. Ridgeway retaliates with a crossface and a toe hold, trying to tempt Doug into in the ropes, before an ankle lock was finally broken free of. Williams tries to get feeling back into his legs, as he returns with a back suplex and a crossface of his own, stretching Ridgeway, who got free and began to light up Williams with kicks and forearms. A gutwrench suplex from Williams shuts that down, then a belly-to-belly and an Exploder as Ridgeway looked to avoid a Chaos Theory.

Williams heads up top for a Bomb Scare knee, but he’s caught in the ropes with a Dragon screw as a PK from Ridgeway adds another near-fall. Ridgeway blocks a Chaos Theory, turning it into an ankle lock, before he won out a battle of inside cradles as Ridgeway spoiled Williams’ PROGRESS return. A solid match, if not a little dry at times without any atmosphere (or assistance from commentary, who were silent at times), as I guess we’re still shaking down potential contenders for Cara Noir? Speaking of… ***¼

PROGRESS Unified World Championship: Danny Black vs. Cara Noir (c)
With Spike Trivet having derailed his own push for a title shot, the list of immediate title challengers for Cara Noir is looking extremely lean right now.

Black tries to ground Cara Noir early, but got frustrated as the early going didn’t offer any advantages. An armdrag manages to roll Cara down, but the champion’s right back, only to run into a low dropkick as a standing moonsault… is kicked away. Danny’s finding out that Cara Noir’s no “gimme” here, as he got thrown into the buckles.

A double springboard whatsit out of the corner misses from Black, who pulled Cara’s handshake into an armdrag, sending things outside for a low-pe… which is caught. Cara teases an over-the-knee brainbuster on the floor, then motioned for Black to come back into the ring. Chops from Black seem to amuse the champion, whose response knocks him down hard as things spill outside again.

Cara’s cravat keeps Black in bother, as did a kick to the back. Another handshake from Cara Noir’s kicked away, so Cara just kicks the legs, before Danny managed to build some offence… only to get punted with a PK. Black returns with more kicks, and a standing moonsault for a two-count, before a rolling Koppo kick had Cara on the ropes. A low bridge has Cara flying to the outside, with a low-pe connecting ahead of a Meteora back inside for a two-count. Cara turns it around with a deadlift German suplex through, then a superkick before a reverse ‘rana and a Ranhei from Danny Black nearly caused the mother of all upsets.

Black misses a 450 – landing in sort of a legdrop – before a Swan Woo dropkick from Cara Noir took Black to the corner. A missed corner dropkick gives the youngster an opening, before a springboard cutter’s caught with a neckbreaker as Cara Noir was virtually treating Black like a tackling dummy at times. He got knocked down, but he gets up again, swatting away a Cara Noir headbutt before the Madame Guillotine over-the-knee brainbuster drilled the kid.

From there, a package piledriver’s floated into a ‘rana into the corner as Black had more left in him, landing a springboard cutter for a near-fall, before another 450 splash ends with him getting kicked as a brutal package piledriver gets the win for Cara. PROGRESS don’t do squashes, and once we got past the whole “Danny Black does his usual stuff, finds it falls flat on its face” phase of the match, things began picking up… but in the same vein, nearly going 20 minutes against a Danny Black, even if it is in a proving ground-style match, doesn’t do too much for Cara as a dominant champion. ***½

Danny Black’s post-match interview’s cut short by Dean Allmark… who’s a little peeved at how Cara Noir’s “beating up young lads” and called out the champion.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Laura di Matteo vs. Gisele Shaw (c)
There’s something to be said about a lack of depth, but there’s only so much you can do with the same handful of names as we run back a match from two shows ago.

Di Matteo launches out of the corner at the bell, taking Shaw into the ropes as a Codebreaker drew barely a one-count. What looked to be an attempt to pull Shaw into the ring post ends with di Matteo having her arm dropped across the buckles, before her arm’s wrapped around the ring post as they head back inside for a two-count. An armbar from Shaw keeps di Matteo down, while a wheelbarrow saw di Matteo swing shoulder-first into the buckles as the focus on that left arm and shoulder continues. Another armbar ees di Matteo fight back to her feet, but an uppercut to the arm, then an arm breaker and a Divorce Court almost ends it.

Shaw was just overwhelming the Italian here, taking her into the corner for a chop, before di Matteo finally found an opening, dragging herself below Shaw and pulling her into the corner for a dropkick to the back. But that’s short-lived as Shaw took di Matteo back to the corner for sorta a 619 for a two-count. A front facelock turns into a draping DDT… but di Matteo gets free and countered with a wheelbarrow bulldog instead.

Both women get back to their feet, but it’s Laura who pulls ahead with clotheslines and kicks, leading to a DDT that stood Gisele on her head for a two-count. From there, Laura scoots across to trap Shaw in a Veni Vidi Vici, but that ends in the ropes, as Shaw’s right back with a half-and-half suplex and a springboard cutter for a near-fall.

Shaw rolls outside and grabs her title belt – and the lead pipe she’d brought to ringside. She does a pretty good job of hiding the belt. The ref spots and removes the obvious pipe, but misses the belt shot that got Shaw a near-fall, before a knee strike drew another two-count. From the kick-out, Shaw rolls into the levering armbar, but di Matteo can’t make it to the ropes and ends up tapping out. ***½

Shaw celebrates with the title after the match, after di Matteo had been dispatched to the back of the queue for the title… and PROGRESS returns on Saturday for Chapter 119: Freedom is a Road Seldom Traveled by the Multitude.

It’s long been noted that the special feeling around this promotion is a distant memory. This could be PROGRESS or anywhere, Futureshock or Fight. This could be PROGRESS or anywhere, anywhere alone… Yes, pretty much every Britwres promotion has had to give its roster a facelift, and stuff happens to force changes, but I just don’t understand how, after so many shows, PROGRESS still feels so unfocused in places, without so much as a proverbial carrot on a stick for the folks to look forward to in the future.