On a soggy Sunday afternoon 700 wrestling fans descended on The Electric Ballroom in Camden for one of the biggest events in the three year history of PROGRESS Wrestling. Jimmy Havoc, nefarious leader of Regression, had held the PROGRESS Championship for over six hundred days and defeated every opponent placed before him. But, if there was one man who’d come closer than any of the others it was Will Ospreay and, after a huge career-defining win at the first annual PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 tournament, Ospreay was set to face Havoc once again in the main event of Chapter 20.
To kick things off, however, we got a tidy little match between the much-beloved Noam Dar and Pastor William Eaver who was filling in for Dave Mastiff, the big man missing the show due to “unforeseen circumstances”. The crowd were lively, as is often the case with Noam’s matches, the young Scotsman is one of the most charismatic wrestlers today. Meanwhile, Bill Eaver is one of the most promising graduates of the ProJo and had a big opportunity here that he took full advantage of. Noam controlled in the early going, showing off some sublime technical skill as he caught the Pastor in a kneebar, but it was Eaver who picked up a somewhat surprising victory as Noam slipped out of a crucifix powerbomb attempt, only to get rattled by a huge lariat! This was a short but sweet opener, both guys did really well and I’m excited to see more of Eaver. Post-match Noam thanked the crowd and draped a Chapter 1 t-shirt over the ropes and you got the impression that we may not be seeing Dar in a PROGRESS ring for a while.
Next match was a fun 4-way singles bout pitting winner of the Natural Progression Series II, ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster, against the returning Bubblegum and Wild Boar, as well as ProJo graduate Kyle Ashmore. Bubblegum was great in this, he’s a right dirty bastard and is good at working the crowd. Would love to see more of him in PROGRESS. He was unfortunate enough to be on receiving end of much of the matches big offence, including a nasty reverse hurricanrana from Webster. The finish came when Boar & Ashmore hit the Buddy Driver (a package Meltzer Driver!) on Bubblegum, only for Webster to leap off the top-rope with a 450 onto Boar as he makes the cover, before pinning Bubblegum for the win. Moving on, the third match of the afternoon was the opening bout of the Natural Progression Series III, featuring the debuting Damian Dunne taking on Sebastian of the GZRS. Accompanied to ringside by his partner-in-crime, Tom Irvin, The GZRS were the clear fan favourites in this one, but it was the more-experienced Dunne who took control early on. Sebastian fought back well, however, hitting a beautiful STO for a big near-fall, before putting Dunne away with a variation of the Go To Sleep. The GEEZE train rolls on to the next round, CHOO CHOO!
For the last match in the first half of the show new PROGRESS tag-team champions (The Sumerian Death Squad of Tommy End & Michael Dante) made their first defence of the tag shield against the returning Hunter Brothers. It’d been a while since we’d seen Jim & Lee in a PROGRESS ring and the first time since the move to the Electric Ballroom, but it didn’t take long for them to re-introduce themselves to the crowd with some smart tag wrestling and clever tandem offence. This was a very back-and-forth match that kept up a steady pace, building into an absolutely crazy finishing stretch, Tommy eventually scoring the win after a huge top-rope double stomp. The crowd, who perhaps weren’t entirely familiar with The Hunter Brothers before the match, were into this match in a big way. Post-match, the show went to intermission where PROGRESS co-owner Jim Smallman shaved his wife’s hair in the ring for charity. Congrats to Shay, who raised over £2,500 for MacMillan Cancer Support!
The second half of the show started on a somewhat sombre note, as co-owner Glen Joseph had to make the sad announcement that the first graduate of the ProJo, Ali Armstrong, could no longer compete due to injury and, as such, was retiring. Ali came out to a great ovation from the assembled PROGRESS faithful, but things were interrupted by the arrival of Nathan Cruz, leader of The Origin. Cruz got on the mic and mocked Armstrong, which led to an incensed Joseph deciding that Cruz should be the first participant in the Thunderbastard match, which started there and then. Out to face Cruz was none other than Damon Moser, another ProJo graduate who had followed Cruz’s lead in The Faceless (who then became The Origin and kicked Moser out of the group). Damon got a good reaction as he laid into Cruz, it was short lived however as the next entrant was El Ligero, Cruz’s partner in The Origin. Ligero & Cruz worked together to quickly eliminate their former team-mate, but didn’t have long to celebrate as next out was Rampage Brown.
The match broke down somewhat as more entrants arrived, first Mark Haskins who took the fight to El Ligero, followed by Marty Scurll, Eddie Dennis & Tom Irvin on The GZRS. It was Irvin who would score the next elimination, rolling up El Ligero for a surprise pinfall, only for Cruz to kicks him below the belt for an elimination of his own. Eddie Dennis brilliantly reversed a Rampage Brown piledriver into the Next Stop Driver for another elimination, only for Cruz to put him away with the One Night Stand. Cruz then got rolled up by Scurll to be eliminated, leaving Marty alone with Mark Haskins. This final section of the match was an amazing way to bring together what had, by design, been a rather chaotic bout. Scurll & Haskins are two of Britain’s very best and worked so well together here, but neither could score with their finishers and, in the end, it was Haskins who got the win after rolling out of a chickenwing attempt and pinning Scurll for the 3-count. Afterwards, Haskins declared that he didn’t care who won the main event, he’d use his Thunderbastard victory to face the winner at Chapter 21 in September!
At last, the main event rolled around and what a huge main event it proved to be! Both Ospreay & Havoc had special extended entrances for this one, it really helped set the tone and right from the get-go the crowd was riled up and ready for action. Havoc, his 609 day PROGRESS title reign hanging in the balance, had vowed to do whatever it took to beat Ospreay, even if it meant killing him. Ospreay, meanwhile, had come closer to wrestling the title from Jimmy’s hands than anyone before. After being in the shadow of Havoc for so long, it seemed fated that this would be Ospreay’s night, but it was going to take something very special to defeat the champion and that’s exactly what we got. Being a no-disqualification match Havoc’s Regression goons were free to interfere, but Opreay had his own insurance policy in the form of The London Riots who managed to keep Robinson & Omega at bay for most of the match. The first half of this was just wild, with all manner of plunder being procured from under the ring, including tables, chairs and a kendo stick. About halfway through things were looking bad for Ospreay, however, after Havoc planted him head-first through a set-up chair and then tried to cut Will’s goddamn head off with an axe. Ospreay’s planned murder was, thankfully, thwarted, but an engraged Havoc took out his frustrations of referee Chris Roberts with an Acid Rainmaker.
Eventually referee Joel Allen made it to the ring but he too was taken out by Havoc, which forced Jim Smallman to take over refereeing duties. This was a nice touch, as it had been Jim who was forced to, firstly, count the pinfall that made Havoc champion and, secondly, to count the pin that saw Havoc defeat Ospreay the first time around. Neither man could get the job done here, however, as with the stakes so high no one was giving in easily. Ospreay hit a standing SSP to the back and followed up with a huge corkscrew SSP off the top-rope, but somehow Havoc kicked out! Ospreay looked lost, with one of his biggest moves negated he would have to resort to more dangerous means. But Havoc wasn’t yet done and hit Ospreay with the Acid Rainmaker, Will kicking out at the last possible second! In the dying moments the match went back-and-forth, but the turning point came as Ospreay hit the Essex Destroyer, before heading up top and hitting the 630 splash to become the new PROGRESS Champion! What a moment, what a match, the crowd absolutely erupted in pure elation. The culmination of a year-long journey for young Will Ospreay and the end to one of the best title reigns in recent memory. Fantastic work by both men, two of Britain’s very best, and another great show overall from PROGRESS who return to The Electric Ballroom on September 9th for Chapter 21 (already sold out, in just eighteen minutes!).