Travis Banks looks to avenge his July 2017 defeat to Matt Riddle, whilst Jinny and Dahlia Black go to war in rivalry that has been building for months. With Kid Lykos back from injury, Grizzled Young Veterans finally get the shot at tag team gold they should have had in October…
Travis Banks (C)
PROGRESS World Championship
(Winner via submission: Travis Banks)
Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew (“M And M”)
Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins (with Vicky Haskins)
(Winners via pinfall: Havoc & Haskins)
(Winner via referee stoppage: Eddie Dennis)
No Disqualification, #1 Contender Match
(Winner via pinfall: Jinny)
Davis’ Atlas Championship match on the line
(Winner via pinfall: Timothy Thatcher)
Timothy Thatcher Open Challenge
(Winner via submission: Timothy Thatcher)
Flash Morgan Webster
(Winner via pinfall: Joseph Conners)
Toni Storm (C)
PROGRESS Women’s Championship
(Winner via pinfall: Toni Storm)
Chris Brookes & Kid Lykos (C) (“CCK”)
Zack Gibson & James Drake (“Grizzled Young Veterans”)
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship
(Winners via pinfall, and new champions: Grizzled Young Veterans)
Without question, Enter Smiling was one of the best wrestling shows of 2017. This show, Live Your Best Life, certainly had a great card lined up, but never quite hit the heights of that previous one. Let me follow that up by stating that this show was still ten times better than most I have seen in 2017.
Things started hot with the opening match, the decision made to kick things off with the PROGRESS World Championship match. I had the honour of watching Travis Banks battle Matt Riddle live at Vote Pies, which was a bloody superb match. I’m not so sure this one hit those same heights, but I’ve seen such incredible chatter about this match from those that attended, that I am wondering if it’s one of those matches that came off even stronger in person? It was still very entertaining, and Banks has now had three top drawer title defences since he won the strap, but it didn’t blow me away. Both men must have had incredibly sore chests by the end of this one, that’s for sure.
Maverick Mayhew got to spend almost his entire match being beaten up by Haskins and Havoc. That Connor Mills wasn’t able to do much to influence the outcome of the match was nice, and I liked that Mayhew couldn’t get to him to make the tag. Hell, he rarely even tried, and was merely focused on trying to survive his beatdown at the hands of PROGRESS‘ newest and most dangerous faction.
I was quite excited to see Vicky Haskins grab a microphone afterwards, believing we’d finally get some explanation as to what brought Havoc and Haskins together, but I absolutely loved that she threw the mic down. Two months since their team-up, we’ve no idea what’s going on with between both men, nor what their intentions in PROGRESS are, which is deliciously mysterious and damn compelling.
Eddie Dennis’ rise to the top of the pile continued, as he beatdown Sexsmith for almost the entirety of their match for a dominant win. That the referee had to stop things made Dennis look even stronger, although at this point I’m mildly concerned that Sexsmith is falling into that role of being a good hand at taking beatings from others. It’s largely all we’ve seen Sexsmith do for three shows in a row now, when you consider how both his previous two appearances ended, but this is wrestling, and you do need someone in those spots. I imagine Sexsmith isn’t complaining either, given it’s more exposure for him, and a steady pay cheque!
The end of the match saw Banks make the save, and Dennis cutting a fine promo to tell the champion that he was now officially in his sights. I’m glad that the beatdown of Banks from Enter Smiling got some followup here, and we will see them battle for Banks’ championship very shortly indeed, but how long is Mark Andrews going to let Dennis get away with his actions against him? He’s made one appearance since his friend turned on him, and made one soft promo discussing it, whilst Dennis has been on absolute fire developing the feud and his new persona. I love the Andrews/Dennis storyline right now, but it could be so much stronger if Andrews was more involved in it himself. I hope we are quite close to that happening, given the card for their next show.
Speaking of great rivalries, who couldn’t love that of Dahlia Black’s and Jinny’s? What a beautifully built story, from start to finish, and one of my favourite angles in PROGRESS in 2017. The match gimmick made sense for how hot this rivalry had become, but I would’ve liked perhaps a series of matches before we got to that point. Jinny would now appear to be moving on to Toni Storm, where I’m starting to suspect she will take the inaugural PROGRESS Women’s Champion’s title, but I do hope this Jinny and Black feud can continue in some way. It doesn’t feel like it’s finished yet, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Damn good match, by the way, and both performers have zero thought to their own wellbeing, choosing to do whatever it took to entertain the live audience (and those watching at home). There were some brutal spots in this one, and I found myself pulling all sorts of squeamish faces throughout.
Chris Ridgeway, a man I believe who is destined to reach the top of PROGRESS one day, made a surprise appearance when he answered Timothy Thatcher’s open challenge. A nice technical match here, and Ridgeway’s immediate tap to the submission hold felt real and legitimate. Sadly, professional wrestling rarely uses those fine touches, instead having people stay in painful submission holds for long periods to amp up the drama, which works quite often but does stretch the believability factor, especially when they’re holds you see professional fighters submit to immediately in MMA matches.
I was happy to see Thatcher came Strangler Davis’ title match opportunity. Davis currently looks like a fun gimmick, but nothing more, so the return of his former friend Rob Lynch will hopefully help him address some of those issues in his presentation. Thatcher feels like a better opponent for the current Atlas Champion, WALTER, and now Davis can spin off into a storyline with Lynch (assuming he’s wrestling again, that is?), so both men win. I bloody love Timothy Thatcher, by the way… I don’t think I’ve said that enough on TalkProWrestling.com.
The final hour or so of Live Your Best Life felt a bit… weird. It seemingly started with the match between Joseph Conners and Flash Morgan Webster, where crowd interaction seemed to be less than earlier on the show, and that led to a someone stop-start attitude from the audience for the rest of the evening. Had PROGRESS overloaded the first two thirds of their show, resulting in burn out for the crowd? That’s a fair and reasonable assessment, but I’m not sure we should ever criticise a company for putting on a bloody good show right from the start?
Some of the negative atmosphere in the Conners/Morgan Webster match, I think, came from some people’s feelings toward Conners. For whatever reason, there are people who seemingly don’t like this style/character, and they were quick to go on Twitter to blame Conners for hurting the atmosphere of the show once it was over. I disagree, and whilst we saw a match that moved slower than any of those on the card before it, we were treated to a damn good wrestling contest. The problem here, was it’s placement on the card, and had this been the second or third match, it would have been better thought of. I just don’t think you can put the kind of matches on before this one that PROGRESS did, and not expect the audience to be somewhat affected by the change in style, tone and pace. Let’s not get caught up in all that though, and acknowledge that this was a good match that made Conners look a legitimate threat, and built him up well for his upcoming grudge match with Pete Dunne.
Earlier in this review, I wrote that I suspect we are reaching the end of Storm’s run with the Women’s Championship. It will be a sad day when that happens, and I’m not convinced that it’s even the best idea to take it off her when she’s so hot around the world right now, but Jinny has been built in such a way that it’s almost impossible to imagine her not beating Storm for her championship. Plus, PROGRESS likes its heel champions, and Jinny at the top of the women’s division would open it up to a variety of new matches, particularly if management bring in some top names for attraction title matches with her. Quite where that would leave Storm, I’m not sure, but rumour is she will be going to WWE NXT shortly, so maybe that’s in her immediate future?
I absolutely loved her match with Alex Windsor on this show. Top to bottom, adored everything about it, and I was pleasantly surprised by that fact. On paper, this looked set to be one of her weaker title matches, but both women were on top form and they almost stole the whole show. Almost. I’m happy that Windsor got a match in with Storm for the gold before Storm loses it, if that does happen to be where they’re headed with things.
The main event saw the PROGRESS Tag Team Championship change hands for the fourth time in nine shows. Whether that statistic is a good thing or not, is not for me to decide here today, but I’m delighted to see the belts go to Grizzled Young Veterans. Zack Gibson is the best heel promo in professional wrestling right now (that includes you, WWE), and James Drake has developed his character so nicely since pairing up with his friend. Quite frankly, they deserve the championship simply by how much they’ve worked for it, whereas there’s a fair argument to be made that CCK had both title wins somewhat handed to them upon their debut in PROGRESS.
The match itself was good, but clearly would have been better had Kid Lykos not gone down to injury yet again. Quite how much of it was called off the cuff following the injury is a mystery. All I know is, the remaining three men worked their arses off to still deliver for the crowd, and I’m still wincing from the spot where Gibson was thrown from the stage onto the bed of steel chairs. Even writing that last bit hurts…
Sadly, the atmosphere following Lykos’ injury was just a little uncomfortable. Many could likely see and hear what was going on with the little wolf, so there was a lot of chatter amongst fans, and I think there was just enough distractions going on to take some attention away from the performers in the ring. It was a shame, as I felt that the title match was developing nicely irregardless of the accidental injury halfway into it. I do think that CCK dropping the titles so quickly again sucked the air out of the room once and for all, but any real fan would have left that building knowing that Gibson and Drake as champions makes perfect sense. Let’s just hope they don’t drop them until the big May 2018 show in Manchester, which will get a mighty pop from a Manchester crowd who despise Gibson.
Live Your Best Life started incredibly strong, and ended a little flat. Part of it was the order of matches seemingly causing a little audience fatigue, but the majority of it was down to some misfortune. That said, this was still a great show! No bad matches, and in fact some very good matches indeed, so you won’t get any complaints from me. PROGRESS is rich in storylines right now, and I’m loving each one of them, so this is a great time to be watching their product if you are a wrestling fan. Best in the world, right now.
Match of the Night
Travis Banks vs. Matt Riddle