PROGRESS ATLAS TITLE MATCH:
Trent Seven(c) vs. Los Federales Santos Jr. - DUD!
Yeah... they really shouldn't be doing comedy in a title match. If you like comedy matches, this was passable, but I'm giving it a dud on principle.
SPIKE TRIVET vs. SHIGEHIRO IRIE vs. CHRIS RIDGEWAY vs. TRAVIS BANKS vs. JODY FLEISCH vs. MARK HASKINS (w/Vicky Haskins) - 7/10
I really could have done without the comedy spot in this match, too, because it basically brought a fast-paced, action-packed six-way to a halt in order to spend over three minutes telling the exact same joke five times in a row. Other than that, though, this match was pretty darn great, with Irie in particular shining. He and Chris Ridgeway are my two picks for guys who will go on to have breakout years in 2019.
PROGRESS WOMEN'S TITLE MATCH:
Jinny(c) (w/Laura DiMatteo) vs. Jordynne Grace - 7.75/10
Jordynne got shined up in the beginning before getting cut off after Laura stuck her nose into things. Jinny got the heat until Jordynne got a brief burst of offense in, including a TREMENDOUS POUNCE for a nearfall. Laura tried to get involved again but Nina Samuels came out and prevented her from doing so. Unfortunately, Jinny was still able to get an advantage off of this and took control of the match again, and things continued in the usual heat, hope spot, more heat, comeback fashion until we got an extremely exciting series of false finishes that was only marred by one big spot in the corner going very wrong... but not in a business exposing way so much as in a way that turned a botched big spot into slapstick comedy. It wasn't good, but it did feel like something that could believably happen simply because 90% of it appeared to be things shoot going wrong in exactly the way we saw.
Other than that, though, the match was awesome. The crowd was very hot and solidly behind the babyface, everyone played their roles well, and we were left with no doubt that the better woman walked out the winner. Grace is definitely growing on me as wrestler. She moves with a urgency that I find refreshingly believable, rarely wasting time showboating or doing those stupid little kicks for no real reason other than to be disrespectful like you see in New Japan way too often.
Chris Brookes vs. Drew Parker - 8.75/10
This was a "one of those hardcore deathmatches" because it's an Unboxing show and both guys wanted it. Parker is apparently a former protege of Brookes' and Brookes doesn't like what Parker and his cohorts in Do Not Resuscitate have become. The other bit of story going in here was that Brookes is on a big losing streak in singles matches (and hasn't been doing well in tag matches, either) since Kid Lykos went down with an injury, so he was willing to do anything for a win here.
They did a lot of crazy, violent deathmatch stuff. They were very creative, and told their story of Brookes' desire to keep fighting very well. Eventually the rest of DNR decided to interfere and Brookes had to fight four men at once. He did a shockingly good job of it, but was eventually defeated. All in all, an excellent deathmatch, and a rare match that managed to turn the copious interference into a positive rather than a negative.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. DNR set up to give Brookes the four-limb Pillmanizer like they did to Jimmy Havoc (who the announcers reminded us we haven't seen in PROGRESS since) but Kid Lykos made his big return to make the save for Brookes. The crowd went nuts for this and it was a huge moment, but I have to ask: why Lykos didn't come out before when his buddy was getting assaulted four-on-one during the match?
PROGRESS TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Aussie Open(c) vs. The Swords of Essex (Paul Robinson & Will Ospreay) - 8.5/10
This was an extremely athletic and creative tag team match in which they also told a good story about Davis having a major size advantage over the Swords of Essex. The crowd was very hot, and we finally got a payoff to the spot Ospreay teasing hitting someone with a belt and then changing his mind and trying to win cleanly that we have seen in several big title match across several different promotions over the past few months (said payoff being that this time he didn't, and the Swords of Essex are cheating heel champions). That being said, it would have been better if that had led directly to the finish, and I do think they went on too long, as there were several minutes where it felt like they were kicking out of big moves just for the sake of having more false finishes. Still, the match was awesome, and quite the excellent way for Mr. Ospreay to close out what has been a banner year for him in 2018.
EDDIE DENNIS vs. MARCEL BARTHEL - 6.75/10
These "Unboxing" shows are PROGRESS' version of MWG's Mystery Vortex shows where the card isn't announced in advance so you have no idea who will be on the show. This always makes for some great excited reactions from crowds when someone's music hit, and that is exactly what we got here when the RingKampf theme played and the fans went bonkers because they were expecting WALTER or perhaps Timothy Thatcher. They were certainly not expecting it to be Marcel Barthel (aka Axel Dieter Jr.), so when he stepped out from behind the curtain, they went bonkers all over again.
The match had a lot of solid wrestling, as you would expect. Dennis managed to pick up the clean win.
PETE DUNNE vs. TYLER BATE - 8.75/10
This was one of those matches where you could tell that they sat down beforehand and decided to try to have an MOTYC so they came up with a lot of stuff to do that was very different and felt cool and decided to go over half an hour. Unfortunately, sometimes when you try to do stuff that it very different, it doesn't work, and there were certainly things they came up with to do here that didn't work for me at all (particularly Bate's headbutts. If the opponents is already working over your head, don't go to a bunch of headbutts when you're getting in your offense). That's not to say everything they tried that was different didn't work (obviously a lot of it did if I gave it an 8.75/10)- I loved a lot of the stuff striking they did while rolling around on the mat, as well as the very raw feel that most of the match had- but there was definitely stuff that dragged this match down (the aforementioned headbutts, some of the forced fighting spirit, and overkill on the false finishes) that, in my opinion, prevented this from being the all-time classic they were envisioning.
Overall, an AWESOME show from PROGRESS, despite the early dud. I can certainly see some objecting to the WWE-heavy top of the card (especially with a tag title change that also had something of a big surprise in it being a perfectly fine main event in its own right), but I can see keeping the things that were the biggest surprises for the end on a surprise-based show like this, and Dennis still feels a lot more like a PROGRESS guy to me right now and him going over Barthel is clearly leading to a title shot for him at some point (as opposed to the Dunne vs. Bate match, which was just the two of them having a match for the sake of having a match, to the point where it felt like an NXT UK offer match more than anything particularly relevant in the world of PROGRESS). No matter how you feel about the ordering of the card, though, this show was fantastic in the ring and had several major storyline developments, making it a must-see show. A top-notch way to close out the year for PROGRESS.