Pete Dunne (c) vs Jimmy Havoc
No Disqualification Match for the PROGRESS World Championship
The Ritz, Manchester, England, United Kingdom
(reviewed 09/27/2017) For about a thousand years, the Chinese (and Vietnamese, at least in part) had a form of execution known as lingchi, more commonly known in the west as “death by a thousand cuts”. A person charged with an especially heinous crime would have small chunks and slivers of their body cut off slowly over time as a form of public humiliation, punishment in this earthly life, and punishment for the afterlife.
To make an overly dramatic comparison, that’s sort of what this match is like. Not “punishment for the afterlife”, of course, but a good match that I like quite a bit that is slowly bled to death by a thousand little cuts. Havoc’s given plenty of room to work with in this main event hardcore match and, per usual, he uses that space well. Dunne’s certainly no expert in the field of hardcore wrestling but is the sort of kid that leans hard into whatever he’s given, so he goes along with Havoc here and holds his own with the veteran. Together they make a pretty enjoyable match full of lots of fun brawling and weapon spots and big characterization.
Thankfully it’s also a match that is mostly devoid of the usual sort of BSS faux-heel work that I hate, though in some ways it still rears its head. Instead of posing at the entranceway and abusing the PROGRESS title belt, Dunne jumps Havoc during the challenger’s entrance and gets right to work. Throughout the match Dunne argues with fans at ringside, people he’s mere inches away from, and mostly what this amounts to is a whole lot of childish middle fingers and empty threats with steel chairs. While I definitely buy that Pete is a shitty person as a character, I don’t buy him as someone who has ever or will ever throw a punch, much less at a paying customer, so these sorts of moments ring especially hollow for me. It’s lazy and, moreover, completely ineffective heel work. In a promotion that features Zack Gibson on nearly every show, that stands out in a big way. Maybe that’s more of an indictment against how fans react to heels these days and the changes in the greater wrestling culture over the last few decades, but at the very least you’d think that someone would look at these tapes and go “well that’s not right” and take BSS aside and give them some pointers. They’re all good wrestlers who I’ve seen be good heels before, and to be fair a huge part of why I find them completely uninteresting in this gimmick is due to the coy, tongue-in-cheek nature of BSS, right down to the name, but at some point you just have to have some self-awareness and pride in your work.
Alright, that’s my big rant, then. There are other issues I have with this match, like the fact that it gets quite long in the tooth by the end and that the Ospreay interjection feels more awkward than anything, but those can be explained away pretty easily. This was a built-up match for several months and the main event of a big return show in Manchester, so the situation calls for a lengthy, stuffed match. Likewise, the Ospreay/Havoc story is something that has gone on for years now and has taken a number of different turns, and with Havoc assaulting Ospreay earlier in the show it stands to reason that he’d want to take some revenge, and not in the spirited, fast-paced way he would have back in 2015. But still, it’s the little problems like this and like the Dunne heel work that weigh on me, and once you pile enough of those rocks up, it’s going to crush a ribcage. I don’t want to be no Giles Corey.