The second half of PROGRESS’ trip to New Orleans saw Jeff Cobb quickly cash in his Thunderbastard – while Zack Sabre Jr. and WALTER put on another clinic.

For the final time, we’re at the Pontchartrain Center near New Orleans, a venue whose aesthetic is probably burnt onto my memory. The venue is a little less packed for this show, and we’re still sans commentary, while the ring is still bizarrely devoid of any PROGRESS branding.

Chris Brookes vs. Rey Horus
I think we can add Rey Horus to the list of guys whom you’d never usually expect to see on a PROGRESS show in England, but given how pushed Chris Brookes has been of late, this should be pretty straightforward.

Horus starts by grabbing Brookes’ wrist as the pair went back-and-forth over the same body part, before Horus switched to a headlock and the eventual shoulder tackles, which gave way to a lucha-inspired armdrag series and an eventual stalemate. Brookes went for a handshake, but cheapshotted Horus from it as he took the luchador into the corner for a chop, before getting shoved down as Horus rebounds with a tornillo into a moonsault to take Brookes to the floor.

A plancha misses, as Horus instead got thrown into the ringpost, then onto the apron as Brookes looked to claim a win via count-out. Horus got up, but broke the count as Brookes followed him outside… dropping Horus chest-first on the guard rails, almost leading to the count-out. When Horus returned to the ring, Brookes tried to rip off the mask, before instead going back to the arm and wrist of Horus, who was flipping Brookes off at will.

Horus did begin to mount a comeback, taking Brookes outside with a missile dropkick, before following through with a plancha/rana to the floor, and then an over-the-turnbuckles tope con giro! Back inside, Brookes slowly regained the upper hand, slingshotting into the ring with an Ace crusher for a near-fall, before exchanging low dropkicks to leave each other on the mat.

Brookes gets caught up top with a wheelbarrow driver as Horus came close to snatching the win, before the pair traded some more chops, leading to a wild satellite DDT that almost got the win for Horus. Straight away, Brookes is back in with a Michinoku driver, before trapping Horus in an Octopus hold, dragging him to the mat for the win. A fun opener, even if it were more even than I’d have liked, but I’ve got to think there’s something up with the Pontchartrain Center’s acoustics, as save for one person screaming, precious little noise made it through to the VOD. ***

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Mercedes Martinez vs. Toni Storm (c)
This was one of many matches “booked after chapter 66”, with Mercedes’ win over Shazza McKenzie putting her in contention.

We started with both women on the mat, as Martinez tried to work over Storm’s leg… only for the champion to counter out into a stalemate. Storm’s next up with a headlock takedown, which gave way to a traditional headscissor counter and an escape as Storm stood up out of the hold.

Martinez kept up the offence, dropping forearms onto Storm from above before trapping her in a Regal Stretch in the middle of the ring. She relinquishes the hold so she can work away on Storm in the corner with some forearms, before sending Toni into the opposite corner chest first a la Bret Hart. The champion recovers with a German suplex and a wild hip attack, before uncharacteristically going up top… where she was quickly stopped as Mercedes brought her down with a Tower of London-like cutter for a near-fall.

Again, Toni’s right back with a German suplex, dumping Martinez on her head for a near-fall, before floating across with an armbar, which Martinez slipped out of and turned into a crucifix for a two-count. The Three Amigas follow, with some boos as Martinez finished off with a rope-hung neckbreaker, again for a near-fall, but Toni responds yet again with a back cracker for a two-count, before taking too long on her Strong Zero, as Martinez reverses into a release Fisherman’s buster.

Storm just about got her foot on the rope from that, and we’re straight to the finish as she tripped Martinez into another floating armbar… because piledrivers and Louisiana and all that. Decent enough as a match, but this crowd… I don’t think too many bought Martinez as a title threat, but even for a by the numbers match this drew relative silence compared to what PROGRESS crowds are like. **½

Ahead of the next match, Will Ospreay was brought to explain a change in the card. To no surprise, wrestling any number of matches, let alone his schedule with the injury he suffered barely a week earlier would take its toll. Ospreay addressed the crowd about how close he came to paralysis, before asking to have “a little bit of fun”… to which someone suggested “reverse battle royal”.

Yeah, Glen might have been a little tipsy after Joey Janela’s Spring Break…

Instead, Ospreay offered the idea of a mixed tag team match, “because he’s not seen one all weekend.” He, too, didn’t see the Beyond show 36 hours earlier that had several of those matches…

Will Ospreay & Kay Lee Ray vs. Austin Theory & Jinny
Kay Lee Ray’s announcement drew some screams, although those screams pervaded throughout the show… Ray was out with a voodoo doll, because Louisiana.

Their opponents? Austin “Two Belts” Theory and Jinny, who was only cleared for tags this weekend. Theory’s got a mic, annoyed that he’s lost his singles match with Ospreay, claiming that Ospreay’s faking it because he’s scared of being embarrassed.

After the face-to-face stuff, Jinny puts on Jimmy Havoc’s face mask… because he trained her, and Havoc beat Ospreay in a loser leaves town match last year. Remember that? Jinny dropped Ospreay with a forearm at the bell as this is proper intergender stuff, and not any of your mixed match challenge baloney… and Jinny’s right in at Will again with some huge satellite headscissors to take him into the corner. Austin Theory’s in, but he’s shoved to the outside as Jinny took a head kick, returning to take a bunch of superkicks for barely a two-count.

Theory turned the tables pretty quickly by throwing Kay Lee Ray down in a standing gutwrench powerbomb, but Jinny almost lost the advantage when she tagged back in, as Kay Lee Ray quickly took her down with a neckbreaker. KLR then went for her voodoo doll, but Jinny snatches it… and uses it on her, freezing the Scotswoman in place before Jinny made KLR slap Ospreay. Straight out of the Lucha Forever playbook! Austin Theory comes in to take advantage of the situation, but Ospreay quickly settles it down, grabbing the doll and throwing it to the outside. Yeah, Kay Lee dove after it…

Ospreay’s sent outside too as the comedy’s over, but it’s Jinny who takes over again, charging into Ray with a knee in the corner… before Theory almost took too long with a suplex, allowing himself to get distracted by Ospreay. It works against Will as Ray’s thrown against the apron by Jinny behind the ref’s back, but when Jinny’s back in Kay Lee’s able to take advantage of the ring rust, scoring with a dropkick before we see a pair of tags.

Ospreay quickly takes Theory down into the corner, but he has to abort the Shibata-ish dropkick… although he scores an over-the-ropes 619 and a springboard forearm, only for Theory to rebound with a running Blockbuster for a near-fall. A hook kick puts the advantage back in Ospreay’s court, as he looked to go up top for a 630… which he aborts as Theory ends up taking a Stundog Millionaire instead.

A big lariat from Theory dumps Ospreay awkwardly, as he and Jinny tried to take him up top… but instead Ospreay catches Jinny with a double Cheeky Nandos, as KLR came close with a senton bomb, thanks to Theory breaking the cover. Ospreay blocks a Rainmaker from Jinny and dishes out one of his own as the ref lost all control of the concept of the legal man, right as Ray hits a reverse ‘rana and I think Kurtis Chapman’s Sega Mega Driver to boot… but it wasn’t enough as Jinny properly spiked Kay Lee with the middle rope X-Factor for the win. No doubt about it, this was fun, but this had some issues, largely around the concept of “legal man”… enjoyable for what it was though, and the win theoretically gave Jinny a little steam going into the big Manchester show in May. **¾

Keith Lee, Matt Riddle & David Starr vs. Jimmy Havoc, Mark Haskins & Flash Morgan Webster
This was the first time Webster came out with Haskins and Havoc, and now his luggage was here, he had new gear… a sorta Christopher Daniels-ish looking jacket, except without the vaguely problematic stuff.

We opened with Haskins against Starr and his tie-dyed trunks, but they’re quickly stopped by the crowd – and Starr’s partners – getting into the “Ooh, Ahh, David Starr!” chants, much to the annoyance of an otherwise morose Havoc.

Starr quickly gets back into it with a Thesz press, before falling to a headlock takedown as the pair reached graps stalemate, prompting tags out to Riddle and Webster, the latter of which narrowly avoided a Tiger knee before trying his luck with the Strangler. The crowd just laughed at that one. Riddle keeps trying for the knee, but Webster just gets slapped by Havoc, which counts as a legal tag apparently, as Jimmy went to nibble on Riddle’s toes once more.

Keith Lee gets the tag and offers Jimmy his booted foot… but instead Havoc goes for the knee. There’s no hard feelings though, as Lee shared a dance with Havoc, before laughing off a chop, only to get poked in the eye. That’s not nice… and that’s the cue for Flash to come back in, but he too struggles with Lee, as his ‘rana attempt is stuffed and met with a nasty double handed chop. Thanks for coming, Flash. The look on Mark Haskins’ face said it all…

David Starr takes the shot next, forcing Flash to Look At It, and everyone’s having a jolly fun time, even Starr, as he punches Flash before his headbutt, before hitting the Pretty Pumped… as it took some interference from Havoc on the apron to start to turn things around. If Bryan Alvarez were watching this live, I’d sure we’d have heard the word “geek” thrown around here.

Haskins gets the tag in and viciously whips Starr into the corner, and after some cheeky biting from Havoc, the mauling continues by way of knee drops and kicks, mocking the Product in the process. Riddle falls for the age old trick of trying to chase after the guy how attacked him, but that just lets Havoc get some time double-teaming Starr as this quickly became Havoc, Haskins and their mate who’s got a lot to learn.

Webster’s back in with a Special Brew Flip to Starr, who was in there for an awfully long time, before whipping Havoc into the wrong corner, where some punches were waiting for him. Don’t worry, Starr can’t tag out – not only did Vicki have the ref distracted, but Jimmy somehow pulled both partners down just at the right time. Second time was the charm though as Riddle gets the tag in, slapping his way through Haskins’ chest before scoring with that overhead kick and an Exploder.

The Bro to Sleep rocks Haskins, but he flips out of a German suplex and quickly plants Riddle with a roll-through death valley driver, before Keith Lee comes in and throws fools around for fun. SO. MANY. BEELES. Starr takes advantage with Cherry Mint DDTs to Havoc and Haskins, setting them up for double Germans from Riddle, before Riddle fell for Webster’s hand’s up headbutt. Keith Lee took one too, but Webster bounced off of his chest before he was tossed into the pile on the floor. Good LORD that was nasty.

Webster and Haskins return to break up a cover when a powerbomb/flying knee combo put Havoc down, before Webster uses a reverse ‘rana to finally take Keith Lee down. With Webster and Haskins diving to the outside, Starr takes some more death valley drivers, before a stomp from Havoc and a Shadows over Malice senton from Webster set up for the Kiss of Death – a Rainmaker, kick and a knee, as the former “Rehabilitation X” crew finally took the win. It’s clear Webster’s the “annoyance” that’ll have to win over Mark Haskins here, but this trio showed some flashes of what they could grow into. ***½

Jim Smallman acknowledged Darby Allin’s concussion that he picked up at the prior day’s show…

WALTER vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
The winner of this one gets a shot at Travis Banks’ PROGRESS title, and for once it’s a match that isn’t entirely a foregone conclusion, despite WALTER’s tease at the end of the last Camden show.

WALTER and Sabre started by going onto the mat… with Sabre not exactly going down by choice as WALTER used his size to just throw him aside. Or to power him down with a knuckle lock as Sabre was forced to bridge up before he just slapped the Austrian… and you know what’s next. CHOP!

There’s more chops on the outside as Sabre gamely fought back, but it was killing season for der Ringgeneral, as he dumps Sabre onto the ring apron, before being forced to scramble for the ropes when Sabre started to tease going to his submission game. Not to worry, chops quickly snuff that out as WALTER was on the verge of making this look like a competitive squash more than anything else.

Finally Zack blocks a chop and takes WALTER to the mat for a stomp to the arm, but there’s still enough in that chopping arm for WALTER to land one more. Even if it hurts him in the process… so Sabre just snaps the arm between his legs repeatedly, and that just about has an effect as WALTER’s forced to adopt a plan B. One that doesn’t involve chops or anything involving his left arm. Oh yeah. WALTER has a right hand. One that is just as effective. Oops.

Poking the proverbial bear, Sabre tries to tire WALTER by backing away, but the plan nearly works, only for WALTER to counter a guillotine with a butterfly suplex. Sabre tries to leap into WALTER, but he’s caught in a Gojira clutch, then a German suplex as the Austrian continued to overwhelm, before Sabre starts to kick away some chops en route to an Octopus hold. No, I’m not calling out the long name for it.

Especially as WALTER escaped as I finished that sentence, only to have his leg swept as Sabre dumps him on the mat for a PK. Another slap battle’s won out by WALTER, whose short-range lariat barely gets a one-count, but Sabre’s flipping him off out of defiance… and that gets him another chop. JESUS. Resilient, Sabre keeps popping up as he steeled himself for more blows, which came, before he was forced to fight his way free of a Gojira clutch… which led to a Euro clutch for a near-fall…

…only for Sabre’s follow-up to quickly lead to the end as his bridging clutch was instantly countered with the Gojira as WALTER got the tap. Yep, very much my graps. I loved the story of Sabre repeatedly working over WALTER’s left arm, before getting floored by the fact that he did indeed have two chopping arms. ****½

There’s a tease here for PROGRESS returning to the States later in the year… cue the screams.

PROGRESS World Tag Team Championship: Rickey Shane Page & Ethan Page vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) (c)
On Twitter before the show, this was announced as Rickey Shane Page and a mystery partner… who would be revealed as “family”. Well, they did fight for the CZW title over the weekend, I guess…

Cue a load of puns over famous Pages in wrestling. Like Uncle Dally. Or Paige Page.

Zack Gibson’s out to interrupt, as he’s want to do, and soon we’ll have a match, once he’s done railing on fans who know “absolutely f-all about wrestling” with his version of Jim Cornette’s “funny doesn’t equal money” rant.

We get going with Ethan Page pratfalling James Drake in the opening stages, before the champions looked to take over with duelling low dropkicks to Page and a step-up dropkick to knock RSP off the apron. While the champions play to the crowd, the Pages try a bit of twin magic, and somehow the ref can’t tell them apart as he counts a small package from RSP as the Pages play dumb. RSP’s snap slam puts Gibson down, before the Pages slammed each other onto the Scouser for a near-fall, but it’s the usual double team neckbreaker/superkick that puts the champs ahead as RSP tried to interfere… all while holding the tag rope he’d detached from his corner. Comedy!

Gibson wears down Ethan with a chinlock, but the champions stutter a little as some double teams get stuffed by “All Ego”, as RSP finally got the tag back in. A back body drop with a kick on the way down greets Drake, before running boots into the corner are dished out to both champions, who get a little closer than they perhaps wanted to when Drake’s literally thrown into Gibson once more.

Zack tried to fight back with elbows and stomps to RSP, but he ends up getting thrown out a Drake’s leap off the top is turned into a spin-out suplex while Ethan’s Tanned Sheamus knocked Gibson off the apron. Ethan’s taken outside and into the ringpost, leaving RSP alone in the ring where he’s quickly cornered for a dropkick and a lungblower out of the corner, ahead of a 450 splash from Drake that almost earned the win.

Tags took us back to Gibson and Ethan, with the latter being held for an enziguiri before ducking out of the way of the neckbreaker/superkick combo, taking Drake outside instead for a tope. RSP’s quickly back in with a cutter, while Ethan delivered a slingshot variant for a near-fall.

For some reason, Eddie Dennis makes an appearance in the crowd, distracting the Pages as they went for a superplex… but it’s RSP who takes the brunt of it, as he’s shoved down to the floor after Eddie said something about “his buddy Mark.” With no RSP, it’s academic as the Ticket to Mayhem puts away All Ego, as the champions run out with the titles as expected. Decent enough, but this was perhaps the first time that commentary was sorely needed here as the whole Eddie Dennis interference didn’t have any obvious fit. ***

Or we just wait a little for the explanation, as Eddie “shoots”, as he claimed that Mark Andrews was meant to be RSP’s tag partner after Darby Allin’s injury… not Ethan Page. But Andrews “would rather stand in a crowd and get five seconds of fame… than wrestle on an independent show.” That makes sense, as Eddie takes up the mantle of being the last indy wrestler left in Defend Indy Wrestling.

PROGRESS World Championship: Jeff Cobb vs. Travis Banks (c)
This was an insta-cash-in of the Thunderbastard, with Jeff Cobb getting his second crack at the belt. If you’re wondering, New Orleans still didn’t get the memo re: Travis Banks… either that, or they’re all really understanding people.

Fortunately, Banks more than steers the crowd that direction as he asks the crowd to apologise en masse for their reaction to him. Some actually did it… some just screamed. Travis calls himself the “Big Kiwi” in a bid to intimidate Cobb… although I’m sure there’s other animals that would scare him more. Banks starts with the Roman Reigns Superman punch, but he’s caught and thrown with an overhead belly to belly as Cobb just ragdolls him with gutwrenches ahead of the eventual suplex. A Beel throw’s next, as Banks is already on the back foot, something which isn’t helped when he tries to chop his way back, only for Cobb to hit back harder.

Heading up top wasn’t such a good idea for the Kiwi, as Cobb dropkicked Banks from the mat, then took him down with a stalling superplex… but Banks is back to throwing some shots, before being pulled into a spinebuster as Cobb set up for a… People’s Moonsault? Banks rolled away from it and comes back with a diving dropkick before he put the boots to the Olympian, cornering Cobb in the process.

European uppercuts into the corner follow, before Cobb’s tripped up for a cannonball… but Banks undershoots and he’s caught on impact, only to roll free and take Cobb to the outside with a superkick. Lowpes follow to Cobb, who got knocked down… got back up again, and was knocked back to the floor, before catching a third one and turning it into a back suplex on the apron instead.

Back inside, a bridging fallaway slam gets Cobb a near-fall, before he misses a Stinger splash, allowing Banks to set up for a springboard stomp in the corner and a Coast-to-Coast for a near-fall. Cobb tries to fight back with a Roman Reigns of his own, which also gets boos, but Banks ducks that Superman punch, only to run into a spear. Nevermind, he’s straight back up with a clothesline to put down Cobb before he could even think of making a cover…

Banks returns to try and Reigns it up again, but he instead has to make do with a crucifix as Cobb tried to counter, before a flurry of thrust kicks led to a Slice of Heaven for a close two-count. From there, a nice spinning Kiwi Krusher follows, and that’s your lot. A decent main event, but one that followed the pattern of the entire indy WrestleMania weekend – too short to break into that top gear. ***¼

Travis Banks’ celebrations were quickly cut short when Symphony No. 9 hit… here comes WALTER! He grabs Banks belt amid a staredown, before the Kiwi yanked it back and powdered… If you’re wondering if this is going to lead to a slow burn… nope! WALTER’s cashing in the title shot on the “middle Sunday” of Super Strong Style 16 in Alexandra Palace!

So, what can be said for PROGRESS’ two chapters in New Orleans? It’d be mighty harsh to call them “underwhelming”, but they did struggle to live up to expectations. The lack of commentary to fill in the blanks didn’t help, but it also exposed something that was prevalent throughout just about every show at the Ponchartrain Center – the sheer lack of crowd noise. Yeah, there were the odd loud fans (yes, I’m talking about whomever it was whose piercing screams almost made my ears bleed throughout the shows), but when the bulk of the audible excitement is coming from one person, it becomes a little distracting.

Did PROGRESS “need” to have two chapter shows? I’d argue no – but then again if they were booked for two shows, you can’t very well call one “PROGRESS Live In New Orleans” and the other a chapter show. The outcome then was a little like what New Japan has had a tendency to do these days – spread one card over multiple shows, and fill in the blanks with stuff that loosely ties together. The “padding” in this case wasn’t bad, but not was it anything that’d grab the attention of casual fans, or anyone who has a tendency to think beyond “hey, is there a chance that (wrestler X, who’s never appeared for PROGRESS before, much less in the UK) has a chance of winning their title match?”

A few reviews back, we talked about how we feared that PROGRESS may have overcooked things in terms of having too many “marquee” shows in quick succession. New Orleans, SSS16, the Victoria Warehouse show in Manchester, Wembley… in prior years there’s at least been hints towards SSS16, but coming out of these shows, there’s no obvious contenders for the tournament. That’s good in one way, but also something that perhaps flags up the lack of a clear direction going forward?

All in all, PROGRESS’ duo of shows in New Orleans had some good stuff, but if you’re pushed for time, you’ll probably be able to get away with some cherry picking without feeling too much out of the loop by the time we get to Super Strong Style in a little under two weeks’ time.

  • “Chapter 67 – Bourbon Is Also A Biscuit” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.