Picture Credit: Dave Green (@dagreeno)
To kick off the show Jim Smallman headed to the ring to the sounds of the Imperial March, flanked by a pair of Storm Troopers who turned out to be none other than The GZRS of Sebastian & Tom Irvin! Huge reaction for the lads who said they were there to answer the Sumerian Death Squad’s challenge: “absolutely not!”. Sebastian was nursing a shoulder injury, but said he and Tom would be ready to face Project Ego at ENDVR next week and that, this time next year, The GZRS would be PROGRESS tag champions. Sebastian & Tom left the ring and the first match got under way with The London Riots vs The Origin of Nathan Cruz & El Ligero. The crowd were loudly in support of The Riots right from the off and didn’t let up in their abuse of The Origin, who tried every trick in the book to gain the advantage over their larger opponents. When The Riots did get the upper-hand the match broke down in typically violent fashion, at one point El Ligero getting powerbombed five rows deep into the crowd. The finish came as Zack Gibson made his way to the ring, distracting The Riots and handing off a foreign object to Cruz, which he spiked The Riots with to pick up the win in a match that referee Chris Roberts lost complete control of.
Second out of the gates was Pastor William Eaver taking on the returning Jack Gallagher. Both men were impressive here and it’s great to see Jack back in PROGRESS, he’s a talented technical wrestler who’s style harkens back to the World of Sport days of British wrestling. Eaver, meanwhile, is a very assured competitor for someone with only a couple of years experience under his belt and put on a great performance, only to fall victim to a Boston crab that Gallagher beautifully transitioned into in just under eight minutes. The third match of the afternoon saw fan-favourite Eddie Dennis taking on “Liverpool’s finest” Zack Gibson, who was accompanied to the ring by Nathan Cruz, thus indicating that the Liverpudlian is the newest member of The Origin (Gibson, like Ligero & Cruz, appeared on the first ever PROGRESS show). The crowd loves to cheer for Dennis as much as they love to abuse Gibson, so this was a pretty fun match until a distraction from the nefarious Nathan Cruz allowed Gibson to low-blow Dennis and roll him up for the three count. Jim Smallman was set to take the show to intermission, only for Jimmy Havoc’s music to hit and Regression appearing on the stage!
Havoc made his way to the ring and got on the mic, demanding a number one contender’s match. Havoc said he didn’t care who he faced, he just wanted to get at Ospreay and win back his title. Jim agreed to the bout, but made it a no disqualification match before announcing Jimmy’s opponent as Paul Robinson, his team-mate in Regression! The trio argued as Jimmy and Paul tried to get Omega to turn on the other, but in the end Omega flipped them both off and made his exit, leaving Jimmy and Paul to fight it out. This was a brutal and bloody war, but looked to be over early on when Havoc savagely piledrivered Robinson off the ring apron and through a table. Jimmy took too long getting him back in the ring, however, and Robinson kicked out, the match continuing with all sorts of plunder introduced, including chairs, kendo sticks, light tubes and a frying pan. It was the light tubes that provided the most brutal moments, Robinson carving away at Jimmy’s forehead with a broken tube at one point. The former PROGRESS champion closed in on victory with an Acid Rainmaker attempt, but Robinson smashed the frying pan into Jimmy’s hand before cracking him round the skull with it! He set up two chairs and laid a bunch of light tubes across them, before curb-stomping Jimmy face-first through the tubes for the win! Post-match Smallman in a show of respect helped Havoc to his feet, the fans chanting for Jimmy F’n Havoc as the former champion left the ring.
The second half of the show kicked off in good fashion with ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll taking on the returning Kris Travis. Huge ovation for Trav as he made his entrance, the crowd very happy to have him back after his battle with stomach cancer. This was a great contest, both wrestlers knowing each other and their respective styles very well, having faced off in singles and tag action numerous times in other promotions. Travis was showing little in the way of ring rust and, although in great shape, he has lost a good bit of weight after his ordeal. Marty took full advantage and controlled for the majority, but he couldn’t quite hook in the crossface chickenwing and was taken by surprise when Travis rolled him up out of nowhere for a three count victory to a massive reaction from the crowd! Post-match Marty hugged Trav and congratulated him on the victory, only to kick him in the stomach and lock in the chickenwing to a chorus of boos. Eventually Marty relented and The Villain left the building. Fantastic to have Travis back and, while Marty hasn’t really lived up to his villainous moniker in PROGRESS competition, that looks set to change.
Up next was the open challenge for The Sumerian Death Squad’s PROGRESS tag titles and, answering the challenge: none other than Roderick Strong and Adam Cole BAYBAY!! What an amazing surprise, PROGRESS certainly don’t do things by half-measures! This was one of the wildest tag matches I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live, all four men put on a great (if somewhat chaotic) tag match. The champions, having more experience as a tag team, eventually strung together a big series of offence to retain the tag titles, pinning Adam Cole after the Black Mass. The crowd, who reached their peak with this one, were going wild throughout and the match got a big standing ovation, with chants of “please come back!” for Cole and the always-impressive Roderick Strong, who’s having one of the best years of his career. The SDS, meanwhile, looked extremely impressive in victory and with a big victory here have shown their pedigree as tag champions. Looking forward to seeing who can step-up and challenge the Death Squad next.
The final match of the evening saw PROGRESS Champion Will Ospreay make his first defence of the title against Mark Haskins and it proved to be a fantastic bout, although the crowd seemed a bit worn out at first after the insanity on display in the previous match. After the tense, unpredictable and violent affairs that were PROGRESS title matches under former champion Jimmy Havoc, it was somewhat refreshing to see the title on the line in a solid wrestling contest between two of Britain’s very best. Haskins showed why he’s one of the best and more under-appreciated performers in the country today, as he picked apart Ospreay’s left arm after viciously kicking it away as Will went for a handspring. Haskins seemed to have a counter in store for all of Ospreay’s explosive offence and was doing a great job of keeping the champion on the back-foot. However, once Ospreay got his chance he wasted little time in putting Haskins away, hitting the Essex Destroyer, a reverse 450 and the 630 senton to retain the PROGRESS Championship in one hell of a title defence. Amazing performances from both men and a great way to cap off another fantastic showing from PROGRESS.
It’s hard to rank PROGRESS shows, to conclusively say was this better than the last chapter or the chapter before and so on. I think it’s because I always leave PROGRESS shows happy, satisfied and absolutely buzzing about the talent on display and the lengths everyone goes to in making PROGRESS such a special atmosphere. That being said, from top to bottom this show delivered and I’d have no problem putting it up there with the best of the promotion to date. A fantastic show with seven great matches, which you can watch on demand later this week on Demand PROGRESS: demandprogress.pivotshare.com Tickets for Chapter 22 in October went on-sale last night (7/9) at 10PM sharp and once again, all 700 sold out in 18 minutes without one single match being announced, that I think, says it all.