PROGRESS made their return in front of fans at the Electric Ballroom – as we had a best-of-five falls outing with Chris Ridgeway looking to usurp Cara Noir for the PROGRESS title.

Quick Results
Gene Munny pinned Kid Lykos in 10:43 (**¾)
Dean Allmark pinned Tate Mayfairs in 10:47 (**½)
Session Moth Martina pinned Taonga 9:03
Anthony Ogogo pinned Hari Singh in 6:07 – match did not air on the WWE Network/Peacock version
Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley pinned Chuck Mambo & TK Cooper in 20:28 to retain the PROGRESS Tag Team Championship (****)
Charli Evans pinned Lana Austin in 10:39 (**¾)
Warren Banks pinned Man Like Dereiss, Malik, Dan Moloney, Jody Fleisch, and Roy Johnson in 14:06 (***¼)
Revelations Of Divine Love – Rhio pinned Mercedez Blaze in 12:28 (***)
First-to-Three Falls – Cara Noir beat Chris Ridgeway 3-2 in 29:19 to retain the PROGRESS World Championship (***¾)

We’re back at the Electric Ballroom, with Simon Miller heading out to ringside to host the show… Hustle Malone and Olie Spring are on commentary for the first time here as it’s been 700 days since PROGRESS last had fans. That’s one number that’s not hyperbole – although the cited crowd of 1100 is utter bollocks, with commentary claiming 700 – a more realistic figure.

Gene Munny vs. Kid Lykos
We had a space-themed entrance for our first match, with Gene Munny inside a space suit, waving his Gene 4 SSS16 flag. There was a good crowd reaction live, but something about the audio mix was weird, with the theme music swallowing it up…

Hey, we have a new hard cam – at least for the crowd shows – as we start with Lykos being backed into the ropes as he tried to kick Munny in the leg. We do the shoulder blocks next, but Gene spins down Lykos with ease after taking a few, before a Finlay roll and a wacky splash out of the corner drew a two-count. Kid Lykos II gets involved as Gene went up to the top rope, crotching Gene before Lykos I went to work on the leg. Kicks in the corner keep Munny at bay, but he’s able to come back with a back elbow off the top, before a spinebuster hit for a near-fall. A slingshot spear from Munny continued with a roll through into a powerbomb, but Lykos is able to kick out and return with a top rope ‘rana, following up with an elbow drop for a two-count ahead of a leg lace…

When that didn’t work, Lykos went for a brainbuster, but a pumphandle fallaway slam from Munny countered it for a near-fall. Lykos II distracts again as Lykos I punts Munny low, but the resulting roll-up doesn’t get the job done, nor did the brainbuster, so out comes the baking tray. The ref disarms Lykos, before Lykos II accidentally nailed his own man, allowing Gene to get the win with an implant double-arm DDT – seemingly dubbed the DDD (Damn Dirty Dog). A pretty solid opener, with a crowd-pleasing result. **¾

Post-match, Munny got the mic and talked about how in another universe he was meant to win Super Strong Style 16… but that’s not where we all are, and he’s glad, because it’d have been greedy to win it twice.

Tate Mayfairs vs. Dean Allmark
This was meant to be Axel Tischer vs. Allmark, but a medical issue led to the German being pulled, with Mayfairs being dubbed the “appropriate replacement.” Allmark’s been touted as having the best win-loss record of anyone on the card, while… holy shit, Tate’s disturbed Google’s SEO.

Allmark takes Mayfairs to the corner to start, but Tate leaps out with a headlock to take Allmark down. A hammerlock’s met with light chants of “Mayfair is a melt,” as Allmark got free and began to work the legs. After more taunting from the crowd, Mayfair’s left frustrated as Allmark did a headstand on the top rope, then cartwheeled over him ahead of some headscissors. Mayfairs goes for a floatover, but ate an uppercut as Allmark remained ahead, before Tate snuck in a knee strike by the ropes for a two-count. A clothesline adds another two-count, as the crowd tried to get something going… eventually Allmark came in with a dropkick, then some forearms, before a superkick sank Tate.

Allmark heads up top for an Alabama Jam legdrop, but Tate’s up at two and returned with his Twist of Lemon twister suplex. It doesn’t get the win, as Allmark comes back with another lariat, then a double stomp out of the corner before the Ruby Cutter and a Clash Driver got the win. This was alright, but this struggled to get much of a response, what with it being a replacement match as Allmark seems to be getting heated up for a title shot. **½

Taonga vs. Session Moth Martina
This was Martina’s return to PROGRESS after not having been around since their last Alexandra Palace show. Someone’ll read way too much into her bringing a can of Brewdog to a PROGRESS show, and that person isn’t going to be me…

Martina went for the hair of the dog after missing a tie-up, before she had to fight out of a wristlock, eventually getting help from the ref before she caught Taonga in the corner with forearms. A suplex gets Martina a two-count, sending Taonga outside as she cowered on a dive… and ended up eating a double sledge. Back inside, Martina’s taken into the corner for a running knee from Taonga, prompting her outside for another swig of Brewdog… only to get caught with some punches from the mount as she returned. An Exploder from Taonga’s next for a two-count, before a series of forearms led to Martina firing back… leading to a Twister for a near-fall.

A Rocker Dropper’s next from Martina for another two-count, while avoided a Sesh-breaker and hit a diving boot to get her back in it… a front suplex and another knee strike nearly puts Martina away, but she’s back with a headbutt and a double-jump Sesh-breaker for the win. A popular result as Martina gets her second win in PROGRESS (the first was nearly five years ago!), but once again the crowd took a while to warm to the new face in Taonga. **½

If you’re watching on PROGRESS’ own VOD platform, you’ll be seeing Anthony Ogogo answer Hari Singh’s open challenge here. For reasons you can probably guess, that match got edited off of the WWE Network/Peacock release (which I’m watching), so I guess that’s effectively non-canon?

We get a recap video of how we got to the Smokin’ Aces vs. Sunshine Machine in the empty arena shows…

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Sunshine Machine (Chuck Mambo & TK Cooper) vs. Smokin’ Aces (Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley) (c)
Beach balls are back for the Sunshine Machine’s entrance, while the Smokin’ Aces were making their debut in front of PROGRESS crowds.

Commentary noted how Mambo has had the “longest PROGRESS career of anyone on the roster” at nine years. Time flies. After a tense start, Riley takes down Mambo with an armbar, before Mambo managed to come back with a crowd-pleasing rope-walk armdrag. Tags bring us to TK and Sterling, but a quiet crowd as we yet again had “the Ballroom had issues knowing how to react.” Shoulder tackles from TK spin Sterling to the mat, ahead of the German Suplex Turbo Charged by the Power of Friendship – and yes, those move names do feel like a troll!

Mambo heads up for a double sledge to Riley’s back, before Sterling wiped him out with a chop in the corner. The Macho Man Stun Gun from Mambo leads to a moonsault from TK as Riley’s offence came to a shuddering halt, but it gets a two-count for the challengers before a blind tag from Sterling allowed him to chop block TK’s knee. The champions wear down TK from there, but Cooper suddenly fires back before he got taken down with a spinning enziguiri as Mambo got launched to the outside. Double-teaming sees TK eat a corner dropkick and a Fisherman suplex, but fought back with a gamengiri to Sterling on the top rope. We’ve crashing and burning ahead of a gift-wrapped ushigoroshi from Riley for a two-count, before TK replies with a froggy crossbody that helped him get the tag out to Mambo.

Mambo’s hot run sees him squash Riley in the corner ahead of a forearm, while Sterling took a springboard back elbow. Knees and a dropkick through the ropes wipe out the champions, with a Blockbuster nearly putting Riley away. Sterling’s back to throw chops, but runs into a swinging side slam from Mambo, while a reverse DDT/elbow drop combo nearly led to the title change. The Designated Driver looks to follow as we keep up the branded moves, but Riley breaks it up before he monkey flipped Sterling for a lariat as all hell breaks loose. Sterling hits a moonsault into the crowd, while a double-team Lumbar Check nearly put Mambo away ahead of an Alabama Jam/elbow drop combo as the bodies continued to fly. TK makes the save on that (illegal) double pin with a senton bomb, as we then descended into a tornado tag with all four men trading shots.

TK’s headbutt drops Sterling as we get dualling splashes off the top, then dualling Spiral Taps in a came of can-you-top-this. Things break down again as I’m relying on commentary to call the moves because of the cameras trying to keep up, as TK comes close to the win with a 450 splash, before a Mambo cannonball and a TK shooting star keeps things on the floor as the tempo again ratchets up. The challengers go for the Captain Midnight’s Revenge gutbuster. That’s escaped as we’re back to superkicks, but TK’s Samoan… so it has little effect on him, but a back elbow and a springboard cutter out of the corner sure did. The Smokin’ Ace Crusher’s next, and that’s all folks. The crowd weren’t happy, but this was a heck of a way for Sterling and Riley to announce themselves to the live crowd – even if you’re not a fan of the current trend of tag matches that break down into tornado tags. ****

Post-match, the champions get attacked by Lykos Gym, who threw powder in their eyes before going on to moan about foul play during their title loss last year. The wolves leave with the titles and challenge Riley and Sterling to get them back in Manchester next week…

Charli Evans vs. Lana Austin
Another long-awaited return as Charli obviously wasn’t around for the closed set shows – having last been in PROGRESS at Alexandra Palace in September 2019…

Lana tries to put some distance between her and Evans to start, but she’s quickly pulled to the mat for a Tequila Sunrise from Charli, which ends quickly in the ropes. A boot keeps her there ahead of a snapmare and a kick to the back, before a sliding crossbody to Austin in the ropes drew a two-count. Austin fires back with a Codebreaker out of the corner – almost like Jinny’s Makeover – for a one-count, before a low dropkick drilled Charli for a two-count. Evans fights back with forearms, only to get cut off with a knee… but she replies with a Flatliner into the corner, then some face-washing boots, before a Fisherman suplex nearly got the win.

Evans has to kick out of a backslide as Austin came back again, but a superkick dropped Austin as we go back to trading strikes. Chop/clothesline combos from Evans take Lana back to the corner ahead of a superplex attempt, but Austin powerbombed her way out of the corner for a near-fall. An inside cradle nearly wins it for Charli, only for her to get taken down with a discus forearm as things remained even… until a Saito suplex dumped Austin ahead of a lariat for the win. A good match, even if the crowd took their time figuring out Austin had become a baddie, and this looks to put Charli in the title picture, once things are figured out. **¾

Malik vs. Roy Johnson vs. Dan Moloney vs. Jody Fleisch vs. Warren Banks vs. Man Like Dereiss
This one was for a future shot at the PROGRESS World title, but first Kosta Konstantinou rails on the crowd as Malik’s had a slight tweak – now having new music and going by the nickname of “the Hittah.” Danny Black’s called out watching in the crowd for this, so they’re keeping that little story going…

We start this one off quick as we’ve an early dive to the outside from Fleisch, as Dan Moloney and Man Like Dereiss stayed in the ring – giving us a scrap between the 0121 lads. Shoulder blocks break down into uppercuts and forearms, before a dropkick from Moloney took Dereiss out. The revolving door effect brings Malik in as he avoided a similar dropkick then hit one of his own as Dereiss returned to elbow Malik in the mush. Warren Banks comes in for Malik as he blasted through Dereiss, sending him packing as Roy Johnson slid in as the 87 tag team squared off. A leg lariat from Johnson has Banks down, as did a stalling backbreaker, before Jody Fleisch came in and took care of Johnson, as he then quickly had to escape a Drilla attempt.

Dereiss’ backbreaker on Fleisch ends with him being taken outside, as Jody followed with a springboard moonsault into the aisle. Back inside, Fleisch calls for a 720 DDT, but Malik avoids it, only to catch an enziguiri and a reverse ‘rana. A clothesline from Malik spins Fleisch down, before he followed up with an avalanche German suplex as Jody tried to go up top. Johnson’s back in to go after Malik with a flapjack, before a POUNCE took care of Malik. Warren’s back with a Meter Burn ripcord knee, before a Falcon arrow did the deal for a near-fall. Dereiss returns for a superkick, then an 0121 and a senton atomico… before Banks nearly lost to a roll-up. A cutter from Dereiss keeps Banks down, before Fleisch snuck in with a 720 DDT to Dereiss for a near-fall as the pace started to turn up.

Fleisch’s enziguiri drops Moloney, as did some axe kicks, before things got focused into the corner, as Banks hit a step-up superplex to Malik. Dereiss breaks that cover up with a 4-Fiddy, while a Drilla breaks up the resulting cover. Danny Black’s mere presence appears to suddenly distract Malik here as a spear from Moloney nearly won it, before Banks’ Bullet Vehicle spears to Moloney, then Malik, then Dereiss led to an inverted Falcon Arrow for the win. Way too much of the revolving door format here, but the finishing stretch really clicked as we got a new title challenger, with Banks’ only singles loss in PROGRESS being in the Natural PROGRESSion Series final last year. ***¼

After the match, Banks called his shot – and said he’d take his title match on March 25 as PROGRESS hold their 10th Anniversary show at the Garage in Islington. Literally ten years to the day for that anniversary, too!

Revelations Of Divine Love Final: Rhio vs. Mercedez Blaze
The winner of this faces the newly-signed-to-Impact Gisele Shaw in Manchester in February, with Shaw’s PROGRESS Women’s title on the line.

When we get going, it’s Rhio who’s looking to snatch an early win with some roll-ups, forcing Blaze to powder outside… so Rhio just followed with a low-pe that Taonga opted not to take the bullet on. Taonga distracted long enough for Blaze to recover and attack Rhio from behind, before Blaze whipped Rhio into a stairway. Back inside, Blaze began to toy with Rhio, pulling her into a Dragon Sleeper, but it doesn’t force the stoppage as Rhio came back, only to get pulled into the corner with headscissors. A shotgun dropkick followed from Blaze, before an Axel Dieter Special provided another attempt at a submission… turn turned it into a pin attempt as she rolled Rhio to the mat.

Rhio returns with some bodyslams, before a trip to the corner saw Blaze hit a Diamond Dust off the top for a near-fall. An ushigoroshi from Rhio nearly wins it, before a superkick and an Air Raid Crash would have won… but Taonga’s distracting the ref. Problem was, she kept the ref tied up for so long that Blaze’s roll-up didn’t get noticed, nor did a DDT… so Blaze pushes on with a curb stomp, only for Rhio to snap back in with a Fisherman’s screw for the win. Like most of the rest of the card, this suffered with the crowd not knowing Rhio – but they also warmed to this by the end as Rhio booked her shot at the PROGRESS Women’s title – and you’d guess she’d be the heavy favourite to win in her home region. ***

First To Three Falls for PROGRESS World Championship: Chris Ridgeway vs. Cara Noir (c)
This one came around after their 30-minute iron man match ended 3-3…

We start with dualling chants as we’ve no time limit here… and we’re straight in with roll-ups and arm drags before an up kick grazed Ridgeway. The Swan Woo dropkick did more than that, ahead of a rebound German suplex before Ridgeway stopped a series of roll-ups with a crossface… only for Cara to roll out and snatch the first fall at 2:02. Time stood still for a bit after that as the fall was announced, but we resume with Ridgeway grabbing a side headlock, locking it in despite Cara Noir trying a shinbreaker to get free, before a flurry of headlock takedowns and escapes ended with Ridgeway trapping Cara at 5:33 for the equaliser. Ridgeway tries to stay on top of Cara Noir, keeping him on the mat as they scrambled into the ropes, before he offered his guard.

Instead, Ridgeway grabbed a waistlock, but it comes to nought as instead a series of kicks and a leg sweep dropped Cara, ahead of a head kick as Ridgeway took the lead at 8:09. We’re racing through the falls, but it’s now sudden death for Cara Noir who needs to win two on the bounce. There’s no break between falls, but Ridgeway doesn’t stay on Cara, opting for a grounded Dragon screw when we got going again before Ridgeway twisted and stomped on the ankle. Things spill outside with Cara having his leg wrapped around the post, before a half crab by the ropes looked to secure the title change. Ridgeway morphs the hold into a calf slicer, then a STF, before Cara got to the ropes.

Ridgeway goes for another Dragon screw, but it’s blocked… while a double knee drop from Cara misses, before a mounted sleeperhold out of nowhere levelled it up at 12:29. It’s next fall wins – with no time limits or even a champion’s advantage. Straight away, Ridgeway gets on top with elbow strikes as he looked to KO Cara, before a gift-wrapped bow and arrow hold was bitten out of by Cara. Things spill outside as a snap suplex from Ridgeway dropped the champion, before Cara Noir snuck in a Capeiora kick… then a Madame Guillotine over-the-knee brainbuster as both men were left laying. Ridgeway’s back up to come close off of a PK, before a headbutt from Cara Noir reset things, also getting a near-fall. On the apron, Ridgeway grabbed an ankle lock as a set-up to a trapped-leg German suplex, but Cara Noir gets free, pulling Ridgeway through the ropes for a German suplex, before he ran into a mid kick.

Cara followed that up with an over-the-knee powerbomb, a move that always looked vile when it was done in the before times… but it’s not enough for the win. Another exchange ends with a Ridgeway brainbuster as the pair headed towards the home straight, with a head kick getting another near-fall… with Ridgeway then slipping back to the ankle lock. Cara rolls free to the outside, then dove onto Ridgeway… who caught him and reapplied the ankle lock, looking for the title-changing count-out… but Cara manages to make it back inside. Ridgeway goes back to the ankle lock for a trapped-leg German suplex, then a PK before he morphed from the kick-out back to the ankle lock… but it’s when Cara manages to claw back to the ropes where you perhaps felt that there wasn’t going to be a title change here. Cara pushes on from there with low superkicks, a Rude Awakening neckbreaker and still only gets a near-fall ahead of a desperation inside cradle from Ridgeway.

Another Madame Guillotine nearly ends it for the champion, before we went back to the strike exchanges. A gut shot from Ridgeway just earned him a dropkick onto the apron, as the package piledriver onto the edge of the ring looked to be it… but of course, there’s still fumes in the tank… fumes that nearly evaporated after a second package piledriver… but a third one spelled the end as Cara Noir escaped with the title. After the shaky start, this one recovered beautifully – and with the crowd being split for most of it, it made for a hell of an atmosphere, but it’s Cara Noir who escapes by the skin of his teeth here. ***¾

Instantly after the match, medics hit the ring to check on Ridgeway, as Cara left with his title…

So… PROGRESS’ first show back with fans kept things visually virtually identical to the old era, as far as the same graphics and what have you. The addition of a new hard camera (that saw some use, thankfully, and looked pretty cool when the crowd was standing at the end) is a benefit, but this really is day one for the new regime – with plenty to prove to fans and cynics alike. This was a solid return for PROGRESS, but a show with issues, with most of those stemming from the fact that not a lot of people seemed to have watched the closed-set shows. A lot of the matches here had names that had exclusively or mostly-worked the empty arena events – and that led to the crowd taking their time to connect, especially those that didn’t seem to be attention-grabbing between the bells.Not pressing the reset button big-time at least didn’t make you feel like you wasted your time on the empty set shows, but similarly I’d have liked to have seen some sort of statement of intent in terms of storylines, rather than rely on “next month we’ll have X” to shift tickets.