PROGRESS’ final trip to Manchester of the year saw Mark Andrews cash in his title shot… whilst Flash Morgan Webster survived Keith Lee in an absolute thriller.

Jim Smallman’s hosting as usual, and this time he’s not in a black t-shirt. PROGRESS have found the joys of colours in their merchandise… yes, I know they’ve had red and blue gym shirts, but it’s a nice change seeing something so bright. As in the shirt, that is…

Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins vs. Jack Sexsmith & Matt Riddle
After being decimated by Havoc and Haskins last time out in Camden, Jack Sexsmith vowed to return with a mystery partner against the two H’s and their screechy death-metal song. His mystery man wasn’t a friend… he was a brother. Or a bro, to be more precise… Matt Riddle!

We had a jump start as Riddle and Sexsmith tried out their name of “Sexy Bros”, leading to Havoc beating Jack Sexsmith with his own Uggs before biting on the bare feet of Riddle. It’s wild stuff outside the ring, and while I’m not sure why PROGRESS’ new demonic pairing were in the opener, but it is what it is… In the ring, the socked Sexsmith took down Havoc for some ground and pound, but he’s quickly overwhelmed as the two Hs took him into their corner. It’s a return to the sadistic, but not snarky Havoc days, which is bleeding over into Mark Haskins, who took great delight in the pounding he was sending Sexsmith’s way.

Eventually, Jack fired back with a barefoot superkick, then some Sliced Bread as he finally made his way to a tag to Riddle… which popped the crowd huge. Riddle dominates Haskins and Havoc with relative ease, landing Exploders and back sentons for fun, before taking the action outside once more.

Haskins attempt to trade kicks with Riddle just earned him a powerbomb as the match seemed to break down a little with a mini Parade of Moves. Riddle lands a Bro to Sleep to Haskins, then took him up for a Doomsday BDSM, only for Havoc to pull Sexsmith out of the ring. Jack’s wrecked again outside, being thrown into walls and ring posts by Havoc… but again Matt Riddle saves the day. A barbed wire bat in the hands of Vicki Haskins stops that, and she ties up the referee as Riddle gets taped to the ring post, which makes this pretty much academic, given how much of a one-sided pounding Sexsmith’s been taking. It goes the way you’d think, until Jack busts out a Destroyer and a LGBDT to the pair, before another Sliced Bread gets stuffed.

One double-team belly-to-back piledriver sets up Sexsmith for a death valley driver, a double stomp, and a superkick’d Rainmaker as overkill ensures that Sexsmith stayed down. A solid debut outing for Havoc and Haskins, with Sexsmith playing his role well as being the virtual crash test dummy here. ***

Doug Williams vs. Joe Coffey
Originally meant to feature Wolfgang, an injury meant that we got Joe Coffey’s first match here in a year – when he was in that eliminator match for the then-vacant PROGRESS title – with both men apparently in contention for WALTER’s Atlas title.

We get grappling to start us off, with Coffey trying to restrain the veteran with a hammerlock… but Doug backdrops free as the unusually-jerky video feed gives us almost a flick-book effect here. Commentary notes that Doug is virtually 25 years into wrestling (which means Glen did more than look at Cagematch!), before the pair try to outfox each other by criss-crossing the ropes.

Duelling offence led to simultaneous big boots as both men opted to retreat and come up with a plan B. See. You can do big lads’ stuff without being slow and lumbering! Coffey’s plan B ended up being a shoulder block to Williams, before knocking him off the apron with a forearm as the pair headed outside.

They tease a piledriver outside, but this time Coffey back body drops out of it, leaving Williams so out of it that he almost lost via count-out. Back inside though, a diving uppercut gets Doug back in it, as does an overhead belly-to-belly… but Coffey’s able to rebound with dropkicks and avalanches in the corner, before catching Doug and taking him down in a German suplex.

Williams shoves away a superplex and looks to put a cherry on top with the Chaos Theory… but Coffey blocks and hits a double-jump crossbody instead for a near-fall. At the second try, the Chaos Theory’s landed for another two-count, so Doug busts out the old Revolution DDT before going up for the Bomb Scare knee drop like it’s the early 2000s! He aborts it in mid-air, and that ends up being his downfall as Coffey quickly comes back in with the Black Coffey discus lariat for the win. Really good stuff as Doug Williams rolled back the clock – only to come up short in a keenly-fought contest. Coffey looked like he fit right in too, despite a year out. ***½

Despite not really being outclassed, Doug took the microphone after the match and told the crowd that in spite of their appreciation for him, he doesn’t think he can do this anymore. Perhaps I’m reading way too much into this, but is this setting the ball off for a much deserved, high-profile retirement match? Maybe at Wembley…

Alex Windsor vs. Candyfloss vs. Jinny vs. Dahlia Black
PROGRESS’ ongoing infusion of new talent led to the chapter debut of Candyfloss in this four way, which also saw a return from injury for Alex Windsor. Maybe I’m a little harsh, but the lack of reactions made it seem like they were overdubbing music here (they weren’t). Toni Storm conveniently was on commentary for this, joining Matt Richards and Glen Joseph (who’d legged it from being there for Doug Williams on his way to the back).

Jinny and Dahlia renewed the rivalry that sparked up on the US tour, and continued through Alexandra Palace and to the Tufnell Park Dome (in various forms), spilling quickly to the outside as Windsor and Candyfloss just had a regular match in the ring. Hey, it meant they avoided getting Brookes’d, like Dahlia did… Problem was, it meant that what was going on in the ring was massively overshadowed. Like Candyfloss nearly winning with a crucifix, as the poor editor had to pick between following the match and the brawl that effectively turned this into a regular contest, with Jinny and Dahlia eventually fighting to the back.

In the ring, Candyfloss traps Windsor in a La Mistica-style armbar, but gets rolled up for a near-fall, and then goes back to the armbar as they reversed back-and-forth. They hold on the armbar as Dahlia and Jinny return to the ringside area with their homage of the Family Guy chicken fight, and actually break up the submission attempt. We get some accidental double-teaming as Jinny and Dahlia worked together to DDT Candyfloss, but they can’t agree on who gets the pin so their Family Guy homage resumes, with Jinny throwing in a tope to everyone else as Toni remarked “nice dive, bad person”. Quite.

Candy uses a single-arm DDT to escape from a Rainmaker, but Dahlia and Jinny keep cutting off each other, allowing Windsor to set off a Tower of Doom out of the corner instead… making Dahlia and Jinny disappear before a bearhug into a spiking DDT on Candyfloss gets Windsor the win. This was a little disjointed I felt, and would have been better with Jinny and Dahlia brawling to the back and ending that, rather than do the chicken fight come-and-return stuff. Good for what it was, but I don’t think anyone’s giving Windsor a shot against Toni Storm… ***

Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) vs. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Of course, there’s pre-match banter as misery-guts Gibson didn’t like Trent and Tyler’s routine. The crowd weren’t big fans of Zack either, especially when he labelled Drake as a star of 205 Live… for whatever cache that gives you. In this life, it’s “getting mocked for backing Enzo Amore”.

Everyone’s all happy and jolly over their WWE UK contracts (apart from Zack, who was left out of Trent’s “Christmas party planning”)… and we get going with a jump start as Drake and Gibson tripped up Tyler Bate before Trent tricked Gibson into chopping Drake. Comedy graps! Commentary notes that Pete Dunne’s gone to pastures new, which may be premature… especially when Joseph Conners hit the ring and laid out Moustache Mountain for the DQ. It looks like Conners is now at least informally part of the Veterans, and gives the critics something else to take a shot at.

Anyway, Conners told the crowd that Pete Dunne was “probably sunning himself in Orlando”. Of course he wasn’t, he’s in Manchester, and we’ve now got a trios match!

Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) & Joseph Conners vs. British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Another quick start sees Tyler fly into the pile on the outside… as did Pete Dunne, who quickly took Joseph Conners deep into the crowd. We’re quickly into BSS comedy trios stuff as Trent uses a child, then a purse on Gibson… and yep, it’s a lot of the stuff you’ve seen in those Fight Club: Pro/OTT matches!

There’s so much going on, but very little of it threads together… like the dying seconds of what turned out to be a tombstone onto some chairs as Joseph Conners laid out Pete Dunne. Conners then joined Gibson and Drake as they circled Trent in the ring, but all of a sudden Joel Allen decided to enforce the rules… and the ensuing distraction allowed Trent to capitalise.

Of course, with Tyler and Pete laid out on the floor, Trent’s quickly on the back foot – and the situation looked grim as Dunne had medics attending to an apparent arm injury. Glen’s joined them too, so we’re down to Matt on commentary by himself for a brief moment. We quickly stabilise as Tyler returns to spin Joseph Conners like he’s Terry Funk’s ladder, but once again, the numbers game comes into play as Tyler’s again cornered.

We’re shown a LOT of Pete Dunne holding a towel to his arm, and I’m assuming he’s gonna make a comeback? Yep, after Tyler throws Conners into the corner, Dunne makes the tag with his bad arm, and instantly dumps Conners onto the apron with an X-Plex. Drake’s offered the jaw of Dunne, and we know how that goes after a couple of forearms…  British Strong Style keep up the pressure, but one-armed Dunne eats a Ticket to Ride as the Grizzled Young Veterans looked to come back, landing a Doomsday Device and a 450 splash as bodies just flew around. Tyler somehow escaped the Ticket to Mayhem, leaving Drake as the sacrificial lamb. Piledriver? Check. Tyler Driver? Check. Bitter End? Not quite – Joseph Conners runs in with a chair to Dunne, and there’s the DQ.

This match really did not click with me. I was already “done” with the British Strong Style trios matches after months of them in Fight Club: Pro and OTT, and this really did feel like “just a load of moves” at times. Hey, the crowd liked it, and it kinda played into the story they’ve got of Joseph Conners being jealous of Pete Dunne. On the whole though, I found it really hard to engage with this match. I get that the crowd really wanted to cheer the villainous British Strong Style before they turned good, but this just isn’t gelling in my mind. Not my graps, as some would say. ***

After the match, Pete Dunne took the mic and angrily stood up for PROGRESS… before demanding a singles match with Joseph Conners. Jim Smallman granted it, so I guess that’s rushing through? Whether it’s the blow-off or just another step remains to be seen.

Back from intermission, and Jim Smallman’s shocked that someone bought a replica PROGRESS title belt. You and me both… By the way, full points if you had Chris Roberts completing Super Mario Odyssey before lasting a full show without a bad call!

PROGRESS World Tag Team Championship: RINGKAMPF (WALTER & Timothy Thatcher) vs. CCK (Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos) (c)
Thatcher no longer needs his eye patch, so we’re spared the pirate jokes as CCK returned to the site of their unexpected debut from earlier this year, this time with the tag titles in hand. Lykos too is back from injury, and yes, CCK jump RINGKAMPF as the crowd booed CCK’s return to form.

Well, non-PROGRESS form.

Lykos thought he’d try and isolate Timothy Thatcher. It didn’t last long, as WALTER got the tag in… and the wolf’s life was in danger. Especially as he kept trying to give WALTER a brainbuster, only for the Austrian to try and throw his hand through the newly-healed wolf. Yeah… Pray for Lykos. He did at least manage to kick away Thatcher for long enough to tag in Chris Brookes, who had more of a chance here, at least until he gave Timmy a wet willy. Yeah, Thatcher exploded, at least until Lykos kicked him low… but that just got him more of a beatdown froM WALTER, who propelled Lykos out of the ring and into a European uppercut from Thatcher.

Yeah. How about, “don’t piss off RINGKAMPF”? Top marks for PROGRESS’ camera-work there, as always…

A sit-down splash from WALTER almost gets the pin, as the Austrian wrenches away on Brookes’ shoulder, before working up into the RINGKAMPF German suplex and a butterfly suplex to dump Brookes for a near-fall. Chris gets back in and makes the tag out… but so does Thatcher, and we’re back to Lykos vs. WALTER. Why does that always happen, eh? To be fair, Lykos did chop away at WALTER, before evading some kicks and taking WALTER into the ropes for a flip senton to the back. Yeah, that might be as close as we get to WALTER being  put down, especially when Lykos called for a brainbuster, ending with a reversal and a low bridge to the outside as RINGKAMPF were dived on.

Somehow, Lykos takes down WALTER with a wheelbarrow facebuster as the champions looked to edge ahead… but WALTER gets instant retribution by booting off Lykos’ face. We get a lot more back-and-forth as RINGKAMPF looked to edge towards victory, but Brookes again has his wolfen friend help out with a flying ‘rana, before dropping WALTER with a slingshot cutter.

Hey, Lykos hits his brainbuster! To Thatcher, nevertheless, as CCK’s sick tag finale – the lungblower/back senton combo – gets the job done. Pretty good stuff, with WALTER falling just short in his bid to kill the wolf… but now CCK have a title defence under their belt. As for RINGKAMPF, well, WALTER’s still the Atlas champion, but there’s no hint as to who’s next for Thatcher given he’s fallen short a few times in a row now. ****

Flash Morgan Webster vs. Keith Lee
Forever portrayed as the “nearly-man” of PROGRESS, this really is a “good luck, Flash” match. Heck, the crowd did chant “please don’t die” at him, so at least they’re being polite.

There’s a lot of frustration early as Keith Lee tries to do a test of strength, but instead he decides to show it… by throwing Flash across the ring with ease. It didn’t intimidate the Mod though, as he tries to fight back… but armdrags won’t cut it, nor will sunset flips. Just what are you thinking?!

What did work though, was a missile dropkick, as Keith Lee was sent outside for a tope. Which is caught and turned into a spot of Brookesing, as Lee looked to slow down the pace of the match so he could toy with Flash some more. It’s quickly becoming sadistic, with those Keith Lee chops becoming akin to someone playing with a dying animal. They’re also a very good way of cutting off any attempts of a comeback. As was the simple act of Mod tossing. It’s pretty similar to the trial by fire that Travis Banks survived before he became champion, with some added sympathy as Webster collapsed rather than take another Biel throw across the ring.

It turned out to be a ruse though as Flash fires back, dropkicking Lee into the corner, but he tries an Irish whip and that just angers the big guy again, as he catches the Rude Boy moonsault… only for Flash to counter it into a tornado DDT for just a one count! Topes keep Lee down outside, but Lee’s lariats are just too effective, as was Flash’s hands up headbutt… which inspired Lee to throw one of his own.

Somehow, Flash escapes Ground Zero with a reverse ‘rana that almost caused a huge upset, but Lee again goes back to the strikes before cutting Flash in half with a double handed chop as a prelude to the Spirit Bomb… but Flash bounces back up and defiantly kicked out at two! It’s just delaying the inevitable though, as Ground Zero puts Flash away… and that’s a star-making performance for Webster, who’s still looking for that defining win. ****¼

PROGRESS World Championship: Mark Andrews vs. Travis Banks (c)
Mark Andrews “cashed in” the title shot he won at Alexandra Palace for what feels like a rare (but really isn’t) singles match. Early chants of “both these guys” get shouted down as the Manchester crowd demand that they pick a side… and this is why I like wrestling. Self-policing fans, for the win!

They start off nice and evenly, with Andrews trying to target the leg of Banks, but the champion escapes as the search for any kind of a hold continued. There’s a plethora of near-falls here, but like with most good guy vs. good guy matches, the crowd’s struggling to really invest… especially with the spectre of Eddie Dennis threatening to get involved.

A series of low-pes from Banks sends Andrews into the crowd, and the champion largely keeps control from there… at least until Andrews hits a uranage to get himself a breather, and a chance to shake something back into his leg. It seemed to work as a wheelbarrow bulldog gets Banks off his feet, but he took too long going for the imploding senton and Banks just rolls him back up into a superkick.

Travis resurges from there, taking Andrews into the corner for a cannonball, but we quickly shift into some indy’riffic pinning attempts as Chris Roberts gets to count one a whole load of times. After all that, Banks works up into the springboard stomp to a prone Andrews for a near-fall, before a Slice of Heaven looked to lead to a Kiwi Krusher… but the Stundog Millionaire puts paid to that!

Andrews comes back with a middle rope 450 splash that nearly wins it, before heading up top once more, but Banks yanks him down and flies back in for the Kiwi Krusher for another near-fall. Another Slice of Heaven’s blocked as Andrews decides that a reverse ‘rana off the top is a better course of action, before a glorious shooting star press gets a near-fall… but from the kick-out, Travis Banks instantly applies the Lion’s Clutch, and Andrews taps. Kinda abrupt, but it worked – a solid match from bell-to-bell, but this was what most of us feared – a match that barely poked through “alright” because nobody gave Andrews a chance of winning. ***

Oh, you thought that was it? Eddie Dennis hits the ring afterwards and lays out Andrews. Travis gets shoved away as he tries to help, but Eddie takes him down too as the proverbial elephant in the room ended the show standing tall, having laid out Andrews and Banks with Next Stop Drivers. Is Eddie next for the title? Perhaps once Travis is done “laying ghosts to rest”…

Overall, “Enter Smiling” was a solid, if not spectacular showing from PROGRESS. Keith Lee and Flash Morgan Webster’s show-stealing match perhaps made a star out of Webster – but it’s how he’s handled next which will determine that. Elsewhere, a noted lack of villains in the singles ranks became telling with no good vs. bad matches on the card whatsoever. It’s clearly retooling season at PROGRESS, but at least the bell-to-bell action is solid as ever.

  • “Chapter 57 – Enter Smiling” is available now via – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.