CCK and LAX picked up where they left off from the States earlier this year, as PROGRESS’ final Manchester show of the year delivered a mixed bag.

We’re from the O2 Ritz in Manchester here – a rescheduled show following PROGRESS’ summer-long trip of the States. We’re in with Jim Smallman’s opening bit that goes straight to the “sliding into my DMs” line for those playing Smallman Banter Bingo. Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are on commentary for this rare Saturday show.

Paul Robinson vs. Chris Ridgeway
This was the pay-off from the staredown these two had at the last Manchester show, but we start with Robinson perhaps backing off a little as Ridgeway came at him.

Ridgeway forced Robinson to scramble to the ropes from a modified Cloverleaf early on, before a simple kick to the chest knocked Robinson down. A floatover suplex barely gets Ridgeway a one-count, so he goes back to kicks to keep Robinson at bay, before taking the long way around into a bridging armbar before a STF took Robinson into the ropes. The pair end up on the apron, trading kicks, but Robinson sweeps the leg and pulls Ridgeway to the apron, then the floor. They don’t stick around outside for long, as they return to the ring where an upkick from Ridgeway found its mark, only for Robinson to shove away another kick, which looked to jar Ridgeway’s hamstring.

Referee Marc Parry tries to separate the two, but Ridgeway refused to let the match get called off, as he got back to his feet and threw those feet again, with plenty of fighting spirit on display as both men absorbed strikes and retaliated in kind. A cheapshot from Robinson takes Ridgeway to his knees, but not for long as we’re back to… yeah, more kicks. Ridgeway pins Robinson to the ropes with those latest strikes, before Robinson kicks away the knee again, before a curb stomp’s countered into a bridging German suplex for a near-fall.

Another kick to the chest from Ridgeway leaves Robinson flat on his face, but he can’t follow up with a suplex as Robinson escaped and surprised him with a spear off the middle rope. An enziguiri from Robinson’s caught, but Ridgeway can’t do much with it as the Robinson special kick followed for a near-fall… only for more Ridgeway kicks and a suplex to leave Robinson prone for a rear naked choke… which he easily slipped out of.

Ridgeway goes for a Dragon sleeper, but Robinson flipped backwards into a pinning attempt for a near-fall, before a missed Robinson special allowed Ridgeway the opening to hit an axe kick. From there, Robinson threatened to hit Ridgeway with the chain from around his neck… we lead to a ref bump as Robinson dropkicked Ridgeway into the official, before a bigger, heavier chain’s pulled from under the ring. One quick shot of that led to Robinson getting the easy win in a match that I couldn’t get into at all. Oh so very kicky, with the chain at the end being a decent twist… had they played up to it in the recent past. **½

Ligero vs. Drew Parker
You know it must be Christmas time when Ligero’s back. He’s even got no El. He must have lost it in the near-18 months since his last outing, at Chapter 52 (also in Manchester) in the Botchamania special three-way tag. With the WWE music, it’s like NXT UK. With a hotter crowd.

As for Drew Parker, this was his first match since the formation of Do Not Resuscitate. I may well deliberately confuse them with other similar Britwres stables like Nothing to Schadenfreude… although here, Drew came out with Spike Trivet and a carry on suitcase? Spike takes the mic beforehand, issuing “an open letter to British wrestling”. Because Justin Sysum. Trivet says that Do Not Resuscitate aren’t a faction or a stable, but just a group of wrestlers with a common goal – ridding PROGRESS of the same “tired, old faces” and blaming the fans for allowing the company to get complacent. Yeah, the fans owned the chant…

Drew attacked Ligero from behind as Spike drew his ire… but Ligero fought back by throwing Parker into Trivet on the outside, following up with a cannonball senton off the apron. A running boot kicks Parker out of a chair on the outside, before Ligero followed up with a clothesline back inside as commentary tried to call Ligero an independent wrestler. Sorry Matt, you know the rules… contracts trump independence!

Parker takes over as he clawed at Ligero’s mask, before taking him down with an elbow for not even a one-count. Duelling strikes follow, before Parker lands almost a Polish Hammer for another pinfall attempt. Spike, despite “having to be somewhere” hung around ringside, watching Parker choke out Ligero with his boot before he made a comeback with some clotheslines. Parker headed outside, where he was handed a ‘rana by Ligero, who had to deal with Trivet again, with Spike climbing onto the apron to try and interfere. It didn’t work, but it did distract as Parker lands a discus forearm before Ligero fought back again. An enziguri takes Parker down, before a missed dropkick hung Parker in the ropes ahead of a springboard kick as Ligero gets a near-fall.

Parker shoves away some Sliced Bread and takes Ligero up top, looking for a superplex, but he has to shove Ligero away. An attempted C4L is stopped as Ligero had to block a Detonation kick and score with a cutter instead, before Trivet pulls Parker out of the ring to avoid a Mexican wave. On the outside, Ligero looked to slingshot back in, but Trivet grabbed his leg, before Parker pulls him in and lands the small package driver for the win. This was a weird one – while the opener had no flow because of the kicks, this just never really clicked. You’re going to get some degree of apathy while they establish the new group, but bell-to-bell this was disappointing. **½

Post-match, Parker and Trivet stomped on Ligero before Spike reached for a pair of scissors… and cut off Ligero’s horn. I now look forward to the endangered Ligero wildlife adverts.

Mark Andrews vs. Pete Dunne
Andrews’ losing run in PROGRESS has become his storyline, and having asked for a challenge, we get the 24th meeting between these two.

Dunne shoved away Andrews… and gets met with some headscissors at the bell, then a tope con giro as these two sprinted out of the gates. There’s another ‘rana off of the apron, then a springboard ‘rana back inside as Andrews got an early near-fall. A standing corkscrew press caught as Dunne looked for an armbar, before a snap German suplex folks Andrews in half ahead of a sit-out X-Plex powerbomb for a near-fall.

Andrews tries to make a comeback, but his leap onto Dunne’s shoulders is caught as the NXT UK champion’s eventually met with another ‘rana, then a tornado DDT. We continue with a Dunne forearm, an Andrews Stundog Millionaire… and then a Destroyer out of a Bitter End attempt! On the outside, a moonsault from Andrews is caught and turned into a tombstone on the floor, before a Bitter End back inside draws a near-fall. Some stomps to the head follow from Dunne, but they fire up Andrews who chops his way back into the match, only for Dunne to snap the fingers before another Bitter End’s turned into a ‘rana for a near-fall. Andrews tries to pull Dunne to the top rope, but some biting stops that, only for Andrews to hit a top rope ‘rana.

From there, Andrews misses a shooting star press, before a forearm weakened him further for a pair of Better End tombstones for the win. A hell of a sprint, even if Mark Andrews was getting very spammy with the ‘ranas. It’s odd that this was, for all intents and purposes, a throwaway midcard match, but it’s well worth your time. ***¾

Post-match, Andrews and Dunne hug it out before Do Not Resuscitate hit the ring and attacked Andrews from behind. They’re chased off by Pete Dunne, whose reported tier 1 contract proved to be almost like kryptonite to them.

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Trent Seven (c) vs. Dan Moloney
Another chapter, another open challenge… and this time it was answered by… Dan Moloney?! It’s great that finally someone other than Southside is using him – that NXT UK rub’s paying off!

Moloney takes Trent into the corner early on as the pair sized each other up, while the crowd tried to shoehorn “Dan” into everything they could. Dan grabs a headlock on Trent, who easily threw his way free before Trent’s bid for a hammerlock ended in the ropes. They move onto shoulder charges, with the crowd going mental for… absolutely nothing?

They do the shoulder tackles again, but they have to chip away at each other, with Moloney edging ahead as he was able to take Trent into the corner before an attempt to work over the arm was shoved off, with Trent instead eating a shoulder tackle for a near-fall. A snap suplex from Moloney gets a near-fall as he began to work over the arm, before a chop battle was started, with Trent blocking chops, hitting his and eventually landing a DDT for good measure.

Trent keeps up with a sit-out side slam for a near-fall, before a Figure Four trapped Moloney in the middle of the ring. After making it to the ropes, Trent joins him on the apron where a slap from Dan was replied to… with a slap, a chop and a brainbuster onto the apron. Good Lord, that was NOT how I expected that to end. Rolling Moloney back in, Trent tried to go up top but was intercepted with a belly to belly superplex ahead of a ripcord Bossman slam for a near-fall. A Ligerbomb’s next out of Moloney, then a gutwrench powerbomb for a pair of near-falls, before Trent’s rolled into a single leg crab. After escaping it, Trent looked for a figure four but is rolled up for a near-fall, before he decided to just go for it, landing a ripcord lariat and a piledriver for a near-fall… before a Burning Hammer finally put Dan away.

A spirited effort, and a match that did more for Dan Moloney’s “indy cred” than any other so far, even if the bout was hampered by nobody really believing Trent was going to lose. ***½

Mark Haskins & Eddie Dennis vs. Do Not Resuscitate (Chuck Mambo & William Eaver)
I’ll say it… William Eaver doing his market square evangelist routine didn’t work against the DNR music. One or the other lads. Not both, especially when you could barely hear the former Pastor over the music.

Haskins and Dennis jumped DNR before the bell as we began with some brawling around ringside, with Eaver and Dennis brawling throughout the crowd. Hey, the former Sweet Jesus at least managed to retain their wacky student-like mismatched gear which we eventually saw as they disrobed during the melee.

Dennis takes Eaver into a chair for some chops, while Mambo found himself in a similar place before Eddie and Mark knocked them out of those chairs with some running strikes. Haskins keeps up the pressure with some kicks to Eaver by the ring post, then with a slam on the floor as Eddie teased a Severn Bridge off the stage… but Mambo slips out and ended up landing a Chuck You on the stage instead. Finally the bell rings as Haskins and Eaver hit the ring, with the latter getting stomped to pieces in the corner ahead of a low dropkick. Haskins works the arm before he’s whipped into the path of a knee from Mambo, who’s knocked off the apron… allowing Eaver a chance to capitalise on the distraction. Haskins gets dragged into the opposite corner as Mambo comes in with a drop toe hold as he fought for a surfboard stretch.

Eaver’s back to wear down on Haskins with a side headlock, before a back elbow snuffed out an attempted fightback from Haskins as Eddie Dennis was still down and out. A back rake from Mambo keeps Haskins in the corner, before another fightback ended with a Mambo suplex for a near-fall. The pair work together with a crucifix bomb/neckbreaker combo as Haskins was down for another two-count – but Haskins finds another second wind, laying into Eaver with kicks and a leg lariat… just as Eddie Dennis rose from the dead and made his way back towards the ring.

Eddie’s back on the apron and ready for the tag as Mambo came in… and got charged into the corner. Chops and forearms follow for Mambo, despite Marc Parry’s attempt to separate them. Eaver looked to break it up, but he gets similar treatment as Eddie charged from corner-to-corner before catching the pair of them for a Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo. Mambo’s caught up top by Eddie, who lands a stalling superplex before a Severn Bridge took Mambo into the corner. A lariat’s next for a near-fall, before Mambo flipped out of a Next Stop Driver. Haskins comes in to even the numbers as the ring filled up, with Eddie landing almost a flailing forearm to Mambo as the Do Not Resuscitate pair headed outside, and right into the path of some topes from Haskins.

Back in the ring, Mambo gets caught with a uranage by Eddie, before a Severn Bridge is countered into a Bad Burrito… but Eddie blocks it and holds him there for Haskins’ roll through death valley driver for a near-fall. A bridging armbar’s quickly broken up by Eaver, but Mambo ends up eating another Severn Bridge before a Haskins kick led to another crack at the Next Stop Driver. Mambo flips free again and scored with an O’Connor Roll, before Eddie took a urange backbreaker from Eaver, then a superkick-assisted crucifix for another two-count.

Mambo looked to follow up with a Reefbreaker for a near-fall, before he threw Eddie into a lariat from Eaver. Vicki Haskins gets involved, grabbing Eaver’s legs as Haskins made the most of it with a Sharpshooter, while Eddie’s surfboard/Dragon sleeper on Mambo was broken up on when Drew Parker hit the ring for the cheap DQ. Eh, it’s all about the heat I guess? This started out strong but waned when the DNR guys were in control… they’ll need to get a pretty high profile and decisive win if they’re to avoid the churn that Nothing To Prove had in ATTACK – something that made me lose interest in that particular group. ***

Mark Andrews made a save, dispatching Mambo, Eaver and Parker before exchanging an uneasy staredown with Eddie Dennis. Eh, commentary said that their issue “had been put to bed” during the match, but I’m not a fan of them having a year-long feud and then having any kind of interaction this soon.

Since they knew he was next, by process of elimination, we got chants of “Ilja” just before their match. Good to see that Ilja’s been able to overcome whatever that Wembley build was.

Ilja Dragunov vs. Tyler Bate
Last time out, Ilja entered to the knock-off Soviet theme and left to the drum theme he had at Wembley. This time, they’ve ditched the different themes and have instead given Ilja the drums as he returned to the city where he first appeared in a PROGRESS ring. I legitimately had to pause the VOD for a spell here, laughing at the “Un-be-seig-bar, let them know it’s Ilja’s time” chant. Timely AND it fits. Hat’s off to whoever was responsible for that…

After we zoomed in way too close for whatever it was meant to be, Bate took down Ilja with a wristlock as the “jesus, look at what you’re zooming at!” motif continued while Ilja responds with a toe hold. The mat work continued, as Ilja had to reach for the ropes, before coming back with a test of strength as both men had to fight from the bottom. They keep things grounded, with Bate looking for a bow-and-arrow hold, pulling Dragunov across his knees before letting the Russian go.

Dragunov responds with a side headlock that Tyler has to fight out of, which gave way to a brief battle of shoulder charges before Ilja bust out a chop. Bate flips out of a Chernobyl Bomb, before monkey flipping Ilja across the ring, as Tyler started to follow up with some Junkyard Dog-like headbutts. Ilja’s had enough and grabs Tyler by the throat en route to a backhanded chop and a back senton for a near-fall. A backflip into a clothesline sees Ilja stay ahead, but Bate tries to kick his way back into it from the mat, prompting Dragunov to just leather him with a forearm to the back. A back body drop’s good for a near-fall for Ilja, who continued to rain down with some strikes from above, before another back chop’s blocked as Tyler boxed his way back into the match.

A knee lift from Bate and a flying back elbow sees Tyler crash into Dragunov before another back body drop is countered into a Fisherman’s suplex for a near-fall. An O’Connor roll from Dragunov’s rolled through into a Chernobyl Bomb for a near-fall as the momentum kept on swinging. Bate blocks Ilja as he went up top, throwing some right hands as Tyler instead gets headbutted down as Ilja flew in with a back senton off the top rope… which Bate rolled away from! An airplane spin’s next as we got some classic Tyler, but after letting go, Tyler followed Ilja outside… only to get met with a tope and a back senton as those rented chairs were tested. Bate blocks another leap off the top with an enziguiri, before a superplex sent Ilja crashing to the mat for a near-fall.

With both men on their knees, Ilja and Tyler trade strikes, with Dragunov’s chops seemingly having more effect, at least until he was caught in an Exploder. There’s an instant response as Dragunov nailed a Saito suplex, before duelling clotheslines left both men down on the mat! Bate’s back up first and lands a running shooting star press… only for Ilja to roll up and haul Tyler into a death valley driver into the corner, before a Coast to Coast dropkick found its mark.

From there, Ilja called for the Torpedo Moscau, but a Koppo kick stopped him, before he back body dropped out of a Tyler Driver, coming back in with Torpedo Moscau for the win! That’s Ilja’s first win in PROGRESS, and what a contest – anyone who’s followed Ilja for any length of time won’t have been surprised by the quality of his wrestling, although I do wonder what the long game is here. Is Ilja gunning for a title, or is he just place-holding? ****¼

CCK (Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham) vs. Latin American Exchange (Ortiz & Santana)
Back in New York, as part of the Coast to Coast tour, these two teams tore the house down with Jonathan Gresham in for an injured Kid Lykos as CCK defended their then-newly-won tag titles. We’ve another go around here, but it’s for a shot at Aussie Open’s titles instead…

There’s shenanigans before the bell as Earl Perkins – Jonathan Gresham’s beloved stapler – is attacked. Once the bell goes, it’s all serious, as Gresham and Ortiz tie-up with knuckle locks as we embarked on some mat work, with Ortiz’s grounded headscissors countered out of as Gresham showed his technical chops. Ortiz isn’t a slouch either, as Ortiz matches Gresham early on, as everyone comes in to… do the Rick Rude hip swivel.

Wrestling resumes as Ortiz snapmared Gresham ahead of a low dropkick to the back for just a one-count, before Santana gets involved as LAX edged ahead with some quick double-team combinations. Santana leaps over Gresham but gets his shin kicked as Chris Brookes gets a tag in, allowing him to start working over Santana’s arm, rolling him down before dropping a knee on the arm… only for Santana to reply with an enziguiri.

Ortiz is back to cause a nuisance as a flying DDT from Santana and a falling headbutt from Ortiz gets a near-fall, before he followed in with some rakes to various parts of Brookes. I think he caught a nipple, too. Gresham blind tags in and turned an Ortiz leapfrog into a deadlift German suplex for a near-fall, before he slowed down the pace, taking a more deliberate tone to things. Brookes is quickly back in for a double-team hiptoss and a pair of stomps, before duelling arm snaps left Ortiz down for a near-fall. Endless arm-wringers keep Ortiz at bay, before Santana broke it up, but Ortiz’s left arm was now compromised… which was a Very Bad Thing to have around someone as calculating as Gresham.

Chops from Ortiz make a brief dent against Brookes, but he’s back in with shoulder charges before Gresham worked a key lock on Ortiz, again targeting the arm. A massive spinebuster rocks Gresham, as both men tagged out with Santana having to fend off both halves of CCK at the same time. A satellite facebuster drops Brookes, who then became an accidental stand for Gresham as part of a vicious snap suplex from Santana, as LAX started to ease ahead.

Brookes becomes isolated with some chops, before a double-team flapjack and an assisted senton, and a Quebrada/legdrop combo draws a near-fall. Gresham’s back in to take LAX into the corners for a barrage of avalanches, but he’s eventually shoved into the ring post before Chris Brookes gets caught with a neat roll-through cutter from Santana. Ortiz assists with a flying lungblower before a double-team hiptoss facebuster gets LAX a near-fall. Christ, these sequences are too quick to call!

Gresham’s back, but he’s quickly cornered for a chop before he recovers with back elbows. A drop toe hold takes Ortiz into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick, following up with a Quebrada before he rolled into an ankle lock on Ortiz, which then turned into a deadlift German suplex for a near-fall. Brookes returns to help out, but Ortiz outwits CCK before he ran into a slingshot cutter, before Gresham followed up with a 450 headbutt for a near-fall thanks to Santana’s interference.

Gresham heads back up top as a Praying Mantis Bomb from Brookes set up for a shooting star press… but again Santana makes the save! A kick to Ortiz’s arm keeps Gresham on top before an Octopus stretch followed… but Ortiz is able to drag himself towards the ropes, only for Gresham to pull him away as Brookes trapped Santana in the ropes with another Octopus. Yet again, Santana makes a save with a fireman’s carry slam as he threw Brookes into Gresham, as Brookes and Santana follow up with a barrage of chops between themselves.

Ortiz and Gresham exchange strikes too, with an uppercut from Ortiz ending that spell, before all four men trade off chops among themselves. A double chop from Ortiz fells Brookes, before Santana took Gresham to his knees after some mouthing off… Gresham then ends the series with a chop to the balls of Ortiz, as Santana superkicked Brookes in the head. LAX builds up more steam with a backbreaker/legdrop combo, before Brookes was met with a superkick-assisted Tower of London out of the corner for a near-fall. Gresham’s back in to trade rights with Santana, but an enziguiri and a snap German suplex has Santana in trouble… with Ortiz quickly breaking up the pin as the pace quickens. Another diving forearm from Gresham again draws in Ortiz to break up the pin again.

Gresham and Santana trade vicious kicks before another snap German suplex and a forearm smash… draw Ortiz in for yet another save! Ortiz was doing well as a watchman breaking up covers, as CCK perhaps seemed to get frustrated by it all. Brookes and Gresham try to gee each other up as Santana pulls himself up… and is quickly met with a wheelbarrow cutter from Gresham, then a kick-assisted Praying Mantis Bomb as Ortiz made his way in to stop the three-count from being made. This is getting ridiculous…

Ortiz stays in the ring as he took down Brookes with a short DDT, before Gresham’s Quebrada/tope con giro wiped out LAX single-handedly. Another slingshot cutter from Brookes led to a Gresham shooting star press… but Santana gets his knees up as LAX began a comeback, with an Alley Oop from Santana, an Ortiz powerbomb and a Santana frog splash… but Brookes flies in with a double stomp off the top just in time!

A cannonball into Gresham left Brookes open for a Burning Hammer by Ortiz as LAX again focus on Gresham, before a powerbomb/Blockbuster combo finally left Gresham down for the pin. As the Manchester crowd chanted, Bloody Nora. This was an excellent match, but it did stray a little too deeply for my tastes into Ortiz being the proverbial watchman. I’d just about have this a hair below the New York match for the most part. ****½

LAX go on to face Aussie Open at Chapter 81 – which was the very next day in Sheffield – and they took their bow to close out the show…

“Gods and Monsters” was a show that started out shaky, but quickly settled into a groove. Do Not Resuscitate will take some time to bed in, but it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll be able to stake a claim. While the storyline thus far has been them against “the elders of PROGRESS”, there’s also been a loose thread of them targeting those who “sold their souls” – and it’s against that very group that will be interesting to see how they make a mark. This wasn’t a patch on PROGRESS’ prior trip to Manchester – but thanks to a stronger second half, this also wasn’t a show that you could get away with skipping either.