Toni Storm (c) vs Laura Di Matteo
PROGRESS Women’s Championship
O2 Ritz Manchester, Manchester, England, United Kingdom
(reviewed 10/03/2017) Liked this quite a lot, which isn’t all that shocking considering that these are two of my favorite female wrestlers in the world right now. Both of them have a similar vibe, being young, clean-cut people with lots of heart and intensity. Usually these two work best against a strong heel but here things even out to be an enjoyable test of wills and a nice exhibition of power levels, for lack of a better term. While Storm’s only 21 years old, she’s already had about seven years of wrestling experience while Di Matteo’s sitting at less than 50 matches total, so the champ’s able to shut her challenger down whenever she needs to. Things stay pretty even through an opening grappling sequence but once Storm takes control, she does so in a dominant way. Di Matteo has plenty of raw power herself but doesn’t have the same polish as her opponent, so she struggles to fight back in a big way until things bleed out onto the floor, where she connects with a series of dives and tosses Storm through a row of chairs. Storm’s able to recover when they get back in the ring, being able to exploit Di Matteo’s lack of experience and inability to stay on top of things, but it’s clear that she’s hurting and needs to end this quickly. She tries to do so but Di Matteo refuses to die, fighting free of big moves and connecting with a few of her own, most notably a hurricanrana off the top and a killer superkick. Di Matteo takes too long to capitalize after Storm kicks out of the superkick, gesturing towards the championship that she feels is already in her grasp, and it allows Storm time to recover and hit a brainbuster onto the knee, following it up with her Strong Zero piledriver for the win. Though she walks out the champion, Storm is harrowed after the match, clutching her title to her chest as her face is twisted in a look of desperate relief. Great stuff here. Lots of effort and emotion from two of the best in the field today. No beating around the bush, no coy self-awareness, no melodrama, just two strong-willed women going out there and fighting for what they believe they deserve with a clear, interesting story and simple, effective wrestling.