Zack Gibson got his title shot as PROGRESS kicked off “volume four” as they looked to avoid a post-WrestleMania-style slump.

#TLDR: Picking up where they left off, PROGRESS returned to Manchester with a belter of a show, and a cracking main event between Mark Haskins and Zack Gibson.

The Full Review: We got going with the usual pre-show amble, featuring an announcement that Shane Strickland was missing the show due to travel issues. He had been booked in the four-way match with the number one contendership to the PROGRESS title on the line.

Bubblegum vs. Chuck Mambo
The rebuilding of Chuck Mambo continues here, after his PROGRESS tenure stuttered when Pastor William Eaver had his brief rise to the championship…

Bubblegum starts by missing a dive into the corner, before taking down Mambo with a shoulder block. A trip takes down Bubblegum, who then gets used as a literal surfboard, before being locked in the wrestling hold of the same name. Referee Chris Roberts gets used as a human shield for a distraction by Bubblegum, who then dropkicks Mambo into the front row.

Chuck recovers to take down Bubblegum with his Mambo dive (springboard somersault senton), and then misses a Blockbuster which gives Bubblegum a chance to hit back with a backpack Jawbreaker. A bridging German suplex gets Bubblegum a near-fall, before he misses a double stomp and falls into a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Mambo.

Second time was lucky for the Blockbuster as Mambo gets a two-count, before a flying double knee press gets him a two-count. Bubblegum escapes an Air Raid Crash before trying for the Ice Cream Headache (Pedigree), but it’s reversed into a roll-up for a near-fall. We get an attempt at the “Super Chuck You” (avalanche death valley driver), but Bubblegum works out and they almost slip to the floor. Instead, Bubblegum rakes Mambo’s eyes and shoves some wrist tape down his trunks, then into Mambo’s mouth. Tasty.

A double stomp catches Mambo as he was hung in the ropes, which is followed up with the Ice Cream Headache through the ropes for the win. Pretty even until the finish, but a pretty solid, if short, opener. **¾

Kay Lee Ray vs. Kimber Lee
This was both women’s debuts for PROGRESS, and we start with a tie-up that takes both women to the ground, before they escape “catfight” territory and move into back-and-forth pinning predicaments.

A backslide from Kimber Lee gets a near-fall, before she turns a backslide from Ray into a Code Red for another two-count. Ray lands a savate kick, but gets a bicycle kick in return before both women go diving as they seemingly hate one guy in the front row. Lee lands a jawbreaker, before a vertical suplex is countered into a small package by Ray, who almost takes the win.

Undeterred, Ray rolled through into a sit-down guillotine, as the Scotswoman enjoyed a period of offence, before Kimber Lee reverses fortunes and lays into Ray with chops in the corners. Ray goes back to the butterfly suplex, and rolls back into the Guillotine choke, but Lee picks her up and drops her with a suplex. Lee hits back with a series of German suplexes, throwing Ray across the ring with six of the darned things, with the last one getting her a near-fall after she’d bridged. Kay Lee Ray returns with an enziguiri, then a Gory bomb for a two-count, only for Lee to reply with a sit-out powerbomb to get a two count for herself.

Ray pulls Lee off the top rope and almost gets the win after Lee’d taken a nasty spill. They looked to call off the match due to injury, but Ray went back for that guillotine once more, with Kimber Lee immediately tapping. A good match, and the best of the three I’ve seen from Lee in the UK in October. ***

James Drake vs. Fabian Aichner
This was Drake’s main show debut (he’d featured on an ENDVR show in August), and the same again for Fabian Aichner, who’s on a bit of a resurgence after his impressive showing (in defeat) to Jack Gallagher in the first round of WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic.

Aichner seemed to be in lederhosen, perhaps confusing Manchester with Munich… oh wait, he just ripped them off after getting to the ring. Fair enough!

Aichner takes Drake into the corner from the bell, before being forced to cartwheel his way out of a wristlock, something which he eventually does after adding in some kip ups and flips! A dropkick takes down Drake for a two-count, and after Drake’d gone to the outside, he was met with a springboard frog splash from Aichner, who was doing his damndest to stand out from the crowd.

After that dive, Aichner lights up Drake with some monstrous chops, but Drake ends up posting Aichner as he made a comeback of sorts, unloading on Aichner with punches, before a kick gets a near-fall. A tiltawhirl backbreaker gets Aichner back in it, before a Finlay roll and a springboard moonsault almost got the Italian the win. An enziguiri from Drake cuts off Aichner, as does a dropkick, before “Arse Face” (because Drake’s trunks have his face on them) unwound on Aichner with more punches. We get a release German suplex then a pump kick from Aichner for another two-count, before Drake was forced to grab the rope to break a count from a double springboard moonsault.

Aichner takes a stiff slap to the face, but he unloads once more with a stiff powerbomb to Drake, only to miss with the Severe Impact frog splash, as Drake’s lifting DDT gets him the win. An unpopular result, but my God, Aichner came off like a million bucks here. I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a regular in these parts… ***¼

Number One Contendership for PROGRESS World Title: Pete Dunne vs. Joe Coffey vs. Marty Scurll vs. Trent Seven
The replacement for Shane Strickland in this match was Trent Seven, which opened up some intriguing possibilities, given his tag team championship partner was also in this match. Seven was brilliantly dismissive of Strickland, and his “strong style fans who love backflips”.

Scurll punted Coffey in the balls as the ring announcements concluded, then levelled the Scotsman with an apron superkick as the tag team champions looked to screw everyone, with Seven laying down for Pete Dunne… but thankfully that pin was broken up. Everyone but Trent ended up outside, but Seven accidentally tope’s his own partner, before they recover to cut off a dive from Scurll.

An elbow suicida from Coffey connects, before Trent and Joe trade chops back and forth. Scurll comes in to deliver chops and forearms to Seven, before we end up with Dunne and Coffey in the ring, where a shoulder block knocks down the tag team champion. The other one enters the ring as they try to double-suplex Coffey, but instead the Scotsman suplexes both of the champs in one go.

A German suplex/uppercut combo gets Dunne a two-count as Marty Scurll breaks things up, before he’s sent down with a pair of headbutts. Dunne tries to bite away at Scurll’s fingers, but the Villain backs out. Somewhere in this, “Peter” chants start up at Dunne, which has to be an improvement on the Jack Swagger tripe he was getting earlier in the month.

Somehow, Marty Scurll goes for a double chickenwing on both of the champions, before Coffey comes in to break it all up. Another errant move sees Seven splash Dunne in the corner, before he accidentally DDTs his own man, as Joe Coffey gives Marty Scurll the Giant Swing, then a Boston crab. Seven’s attempt to chop Coffey out of the hold just gets him a Boston crab instead, before Dunne crabs a sleeperhold on Coffey, and finally Dunne ends up taking a chicken wing… only to bite his way free.

We get a bitey-finger crack spot as the champions indulge in some fingers, before a Giant Swing/superkick combo doesn’t quite come off. So Scurll just pokes Coffey in the eye. A pair of “Just Kidding” superkicks knock down the champions again, but Coffey’s top rope move earns him a hattrick of superkicks, then a superkick piledriver as Seven almost took the win.

Dunne plays up to the “Peter!” chants again, and gets superkicked in the head from Scurll, before the former champ gets felled as we get a parade of strikes. A bridging German superplex almost gets Coffey the win, but Scurll picks apart the pieces and grabs a chicken wing to snatch the victory. An intense four-way, which didn’t feel clunky at all despite the late change and it being decidedly heel-heavy. ***¾

After the match, Scurll takes the microphone and declares that he was screwed out of the PROGRESS title by Mark Haskins. Scurll calls himself the greatest PROGRESS champion of all time… but there’s a man who disagrees: AFI’s “I Hope You Suffer” hits, and Jimmy Havoc comes through the crowd, before dropping Scurll with an Acid Rainmaker and exiting stage left. I like how they didn’t hit us over the head with “Ohmygod, Havoc’s back” here, but just dropped a nice subtle reminder…

We return from break to see Jim Smallman troll Glen Joseph with Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”, since he’s playing Buddy Holly in a musical across the UK right now.

Number One Contendership For The PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: The Origin (El Ligero & Dave Mastiff) vs. South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) vs. FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews)
Add “Oh My God, Dave Mastiff is wearing a beer hat and a cape” to the list of items that helped the Origin become cult heroes.

Dave Mastiff started by throwing out Eddie Dennis, which for some reason annoyed the New Zealanders. Mastiff tried to offer them some Fosters, which went down as well as a fart in church, before Dennis got even more annoyed at them throwing down the two cans of beer. Both Cooper and Banks gets slams, as do Ligero, Andrews, and finally Mastiff, with TK Cooper being the unlucky sod who took that landing.

Ligero gets waffled by a forearm from Dennis, but he counters a standing moonsault from Andrews by getting the knees up, as the New Zealanders took over on Ligero. An axe kick from Cooper, then a diving dropkick by Banks drops Ligero, before things broke down a little. Mastiff and Ligero took over, and the ridiculousness increased as Ligero took a foam finger and chopped Andrews in the corner. Most. Violent. Chops. Ever!

A foam-finger assisted clothesline takes down Andrews, before a double-foam-fingered Ligero misses with Mexican Wave splash off the top. You could hear Glen Joseph getting more and more exasperated on commentary throughout this part of the match…

After reversing a suplex into a stunner, Andrews tags in Eddie Dennis, before Travis Banks made his way in, and gets a back body drop! Dennis makes short work of the Power Trip, including his Fallaway Slam/Samoan Drop combo, before Ligero gets cornered by Dennis – only after Mastiff had been pulled from the apron to prevent a banter-tag out.

More moves follow, with a release German suplex from Mastiff flattening Andrews, before a leaping lariat from Banks to Mastiff… but a lariat from Dennis takes down Banks seconds later. Banks misses a crossbody on Dennis and ends up taking the crucifix bucklebomb/superkick combo from FSU, before Ligero ends up blocking a Next Stop Driver attempt.

Ligero tries for Dennis’ power moves, and ends up falling back into a pin, where he was saved by Mastiff’s German suplex on Dennis once more. Cooper drops the Banter Twins with superkicks, then a low-pe, before an elevated brainbuster from the Power Trip almost got them a win.

Having broken up the pin, Dennis kicks off Cooper’s head, then goes for a Next Stop Driver, only for Dahlia Black to leap up on the apron. She slaps Dennis, but ends up taking a pump kick into the arms of Travis Banks… and in the meantime we get the assisted Next Step Driver for a near-fall as Ligero breaks up the cover.

Both Dennis and Mastiff collide with each other’s attempts at a cross body, and we quickly go to our finishing sequence as Travis Banks catches Mark Andrews in an torture rack airplane spin, before ending it with a neckbreaker for the win. A surprise result to a heck of a triple-threat match – with the Power Trip finally getting a tag title shot after losing out to War Machine in August. ***¾

Our semi-final was an open challenge for Rampage Brown’s newly-won Atlas title… which was answered by Mikey Whiplash. And so it seemed that the room deflated a little…

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Rampage Brown (c) vs. Mikey Whiplash
Whiplash takes Brown into the ropes to start off with, then scurries into them for cover as the crowd taunted him as to the whereabouts of his old fishnet gear.

We get the Newton’s cradle shoulder tackles, with Whiplash finally going down to one of them. They quickly go back to trading forearms, then uppercuts, before Whiplash threw Rampage to the outside, where he ended up taking a tope that was just about caught, but only after Whiplash crashed into the front row.

Rampage gets a two count back in the ring from a suplex, then again after a snapmare. Whiplash ducks a corner charge and mounts a comeback, choking Rampage in the bottom rope before a diving back elbow earns Whiplash a two-count. A diving uppercut off the middle rope gets another two for Whiplash, but his yelling at Rampage just fires up the champion as they go back to chops…and then a massive spinebuster gets Rampage a two-count.

Whiplash gets caught up top for a backdrop superplex by the champion, but after being thrown back into the ring, Whiplash goes flying once more – this time by choice – with a tope con hilo to Rampage. We see a top rope elbow drop connect to Rampage for a near-fall, but Rampage fights out of a Fireman’s carry and counters a rebound lariat… spiking Whiplash with a piledriver, and that’s your lot. Fairly short, but not as bad as you’d have expected given the lack of reaction for the challenger. **½

They announced that PROGRESS’ next show in Manchester had to be moved to Sheffield due to a double booking. It didn’t get too negative a response, especially when you consider that it’ll be six months before they’re back in Manchester…

So, Zack Gibson got his PROGRESS title shot in the main event. Can you guess how he was greeted? Toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper. Including some rolls that actually made contact. Unfortunately, they were thrown before his ring introductions could happen, so we got his long promo a little too early, which made this feel a bit disjointed. British wrestling fans: struggling to learn when to throw streamers/toilet paper since 1999!

PROGRESS World Championship: Zack Gibson vs. Mark Haskins (c)
They trade headlocks early on as Callum Leslie on commentary runs down Haskins’ extensive CV, before we see both men try for their signature submission moves, ending with a series of roll-ups and eventually a square-off.

Haskins kicks away Gibson’s legs, but quickly gets caught in a leapfrog, and we eventually get more Sharpshooter/Shankly Gates teases, this time with Gibson reaching the ropes for a break. We see a faked dive from Haskins, before he connects at the second attempt with a tope. Back inside, another dropkick to the knee takes down Gibson, and gets a light smattering of boos, even more so as Haskins continues to work over Gibson’s left leg.

Haskins snapmares and dropkicks Gibson to get a near-fall, before Gibson hotshots Haskins’ arm and posts him – getting him some heat, and also an opening on the champion. Gibson drops Haskins with an old school shoulder breaker, forcing the champ to roll onto the apron for cover. That eventually leads to another attempt at the Shanky Gates, which doesn’t come off, so Gibson just keeps up the offence and chokes away on Haskins with some wrist tape.

Gibson keeps Haskins grounded with a cobra clutch, but after letting go of the hold, he’s decked with a dropkick, before both men go back and forth with forearms. A leg lariat from Haskins doesn’t quite get the cheer you’d expect, as the crowd slowly seemed to turn in favour of Gibson, to the point where we actually hear 50-50 chants for both men. The boos intensify as Haskins spits at Gibson for some reason, and ends up catching the Scouser in a bridging armbar after La Mistica.

The pair trade forearms again, before Gibson ducks a kick and lands a lariat for a near-fall. After taking a corner lariat, Haskins tries for a stretch muffler, only for Gibson to roll out and into another attempt at the Shankly Gates, but Haskins rolls him up for a near-fall. Haskins rolls into another armbar, then turns a Gibson powerbomb into a triangle armbar out of nowhere… a move that Gibson gets free of after powerbombing Haskins into the turnbuckle.

Gibson mounts the top turnbuckle and leaps off for the Ticket To Ride, but Haskins catches him on the way down and turns it into an ankle lock. That’s escaped, and Gibson dropkicks the champion to the outside, before following it up with a rare tope. Haskins replies with a tope of his own, then leaps back into the ring for a small package for a near-fall. More of the same follows after superkicks to the head of Gibson, who recovered to set up Haskins for a superplex, only to be knocked to the mat.

Gibson rakes the eyes of Haskins and lands a lungblower, then the Ticket to Ride – the impact of which looked nasty as hell – getting another near-fall in the process. We see Nigel McGuinness’ old Divorce Court DDT as Gibson targets the left shoulder some more, before a spinning tombstone almost got us another new champion.

The crowd turned pro-Gibson once more, chanting “soon!” to his ground and pound, before going for a bear hug. Haskins fights free and eventually goes for the roll through, but it’s blocked and turned into the Shankly Gates. Again, Haskins works free and drops his foe with a T-bone suplex as they kept going back and forth, eventually with Gibson falling into a Sharpshooter that eventually forced the submission to end this enthralling match. ****

Personally, even though Haskins has a boatload of title belts, I feel that both of these guys are underrated on the world scene, and matches like this will make sure that they’ll not be underrated for too much longer. I wasn’t too keen on how the crowd slowly turned towards supporting the heel, but hey, each to their own!

Overall, another fine show from PROGRESS, who well and truly avoided a WWE-style “post big show slump” with a grand show here. And hey, it was well under three hours too, so they get points for that as well!