1. PROGRESS Tag Team Titles: The Origin (Nathan Cruz & El Ligero) © vs F.S.U. (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews)
A day shy of a year since the PROGRESS tag titles were taken from them by The Origin, F.S.U. of Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews earned another shot at the titles after Eddie defeated The Origin’s Dave Mastiff at ENDVR:14. Unfortunately, it wasn’t F.S.U’s night as the well-oiled machine of The Origin used referee Chris Roberts’ leniency to their advantage, Ligero breaking up a pin after a huge death valley driver from Eddie Dennis by pulling Roberts out of the ring. With the ref distracted Cruz low-blowed Mandrews, before hitting a tombstone over one-half of the tag shield for the win. This was a good opening match, F.S.U. always get great reactions and the crowd were in good voice whether cheering them, or booing The Origin who are so adept at being easy to despise. Cruz, in particular, plays his role to perfection.
2. Natural Progression Series III – 1/4 Final: Tyler Bate vs Damian Dunne
The second match of the afternoon was for the last semi-final spot in the Natural Progression Series III, which had become available after Sebastian withdrew from the tournament. To that end, PROGRESS gave the opportunity to two men who had previously lost quarter final bouts but had impressed nonetheless: Tyler Bate and Damian Dunne. I really enjoyed this match, a very well paced bout in under ten minutes that saw Damian Dunne advance with a beautiful springboard codebreaker. Bate is so good beyond his years and controlled for much of the match, putting his technical wrestling ability to good use as he frustrated Dunne on a number of occasions. After hitting a giant airplane spin and following up with a diving headbutt that saw him leap 2/3rds of the way across the ring, it looked like Bate had things wrapped up, but Dunne took his chances very well and came away with a convincing victory. Looking forward to seeing more of both men in PROGRESS!
3. Rob Lynch vs Michael Dante
After The Sumerian Death Squad and The London Riots collided in spectacularly violent fashion at the last chapter, the two teams are set to face again at Chapter 27. But, before then, a pair of singles matches are being used to decide the stipulations for that match, the first of which pitted The Riot’s Rob Lynch against the bruiser of The Death Squad, Michael Dante. This was Dante’s first singles match in PROGRESS and he performed admirably here, in spite of coming out on the losing end of things after a huge spear from Lynch. Suffice to say, it was a very hard-hitting match, as Dante taking out Lynch’s legs on the ring apron or Lynch hitting a crazy suicide dive will testify. Just two big lads clobbering each other. Post-match, Lynch ran down Dante and his “MMA wannabe” partner Tommy End, before announcing his chosen stipulation for Chapter 27: Tables, Ladders & Chairs!
4. No.1 Contender’s Match: Mark Haskins vs Zack Gibson
Closing out the first half of the show was a big no.1 contender’s match between two men in particularly good form as of late. Mark Haskins had built up a run of three victories before this bout, while Gibson had gone unpinned in four matches, but it would be the Liverpudlian’s streak that ended here as Haskins forced him to submit with a vicious stretch muffler in what proved to be an excellent contest between two very talented technical wrestlers. Haskins looked somewhat banged up at the start, the tape on his shoulder providing an easy target for Gibson, who looked to soften Haskins up for the Shankley Gates submission. Haskins was on the back foot for a lot of the match, but focussed a lot of his offence on Gibson’s legs, which paid off in a big way when he finally locked in the stretch muffler and got the win. This was excellent, both guys are so enjoyable to watch trade holds. Haskins is very versatile and surprises with his agility from time to time, while Gibson is another example of a guy the crowd loves to hate. He’s great at what he does inside and outside of the ring and the fans delight in trying to wind him up.
5. ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster vs Paul Robinson
This match kind of summed up Paul Robinson’s lack of direction since leaving Jimmy Havoc’s side. Under Havoc’s tutelage he became one of the more violent members of the PROGRESS roster, but without Havoc to guide him it’s now violence without any focus, as Robinson claws, spits and bites his way through his opponents. The fans were strongly behind Flash here and he looked impressive, using his speed and agility to frustrate Robinson in the early going. Robinson eventually gained a measure of control over proceedings, but would continually get into it with the fans, spitting at anyone daring to draw his ire, which gave Webster a chance to fight back. What ultimately cost Robinson, however, was his mistreatment of the referee, who was forced to award Webster the DQ victory after Robinson became violent at (what he perceived to be) a slow count. It will be interesting to see where both men go from here and whether Webster will be out for a measure of revenge.
6. Pollyanna vs Toni Storm vs Jinny vs Dahlia Black
After the excellent No-DQ match between Jinny & Pollyanna at last year’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament, women’s wrestling made a return to the PROGRESS Chapter shows with this huge 4-way match. First to make their way to the ring was ‘The South Pacific Power Couple’ of Dahlia Black and TK Cooper with a decidedly non-PG entrance, quickly followed by Jinny and her personal assistant Elizabeth. A big reaction for Toni Storm, making her debut on a PROGRESS Chapter show, as well as the returning Pollyanna. This was a super fun, chaotic match that referee Chris Roberts lost complete control of! Pollyanna & Toni were very much fan favourites here and, in spite of a few ambitious spots that didn’t go quite as planned, this was a very enjoyable contest that more than deserved its placing on the card. There was one moment that has to be seen to be believed, as Polly trapped all three of her opponents in a Gory Special, Camel Clutch, Boston Crab combination! She looked to have the victory assured, only for TK Cooper to make the save for Dahlia by clocking Polly with a huge punch to the face. However, victory was denied to the South Pacific Power Couple as Jinny stole the pin.
7. PROGRESS Title – No Disqualification: Will Ospreay (c) vs Marty Scurll
In recent months ‘The Villain’ has taken big strides to fill the power gap left in the wake of Jimmy Havoc’s defeat at the hands of Will Ospreay. First, with his heinous actions towards Kris Travis after their match at Chapter 21, followed by attacks on fan favourites Morgan Webster and Tomasso Ciampa at Chapters 22 & 23 and, finally, a vicious assault on the PROGRESS Champion Will Ospreay’s arm at Chapter 24. There’s a method to Marty Scurll’s madness, however, and in so provoking the champion he found himself with a title shot on his hands and, what’s more, an incensed Ospreay made the match No-DQ, in spite of the obvious advantage that gave ‘The Villain’. Going into the match, there was a sense of nervousness from Ospreay’s supporters and the feeling that, maybe, he’d bitten off more that he could chew. Scurll’s fans, meanwhile, were very eager to see a title change and were in surprisingly strong numbers, even after all the horrid things Marty’s done in the past months and after the contempt and hatred he’s shown to the very fans who continue to support him.
The match itself was another fantastic entry into Scurll & Ospreay’s continuing rivalry, but one that ended in shocking fashion as ‘The Villain’ made full use of the champion’s No-DQ stipulation to brutalise Ospreay, take away all possibility of defence and then force the referee to stop the match and name Scurll new PROGRESS Champion. These two have such great chemistry together and this match seemed to pick up right where their recent match in Revolution Pro left off, with Ospreay & Scurll both trading some big shots moments after the bell. The match spilled to the floor and Ospreay hit an astounding leap onto a railing and into a moonsault. I also got treated to a perfect view of his springboard corkscrew moonsault and it’s just amazing to see the ease at which Ospreay hits such death-defying manoeuvres. It wasn’t long before both guys produced some plunder from under the ring, Ospreay setting up a table that he’d then put Marty through with a powerbomb for a big near-fall. The near-falls kept racking up as the match increased in intensity and it became too much for some, a guy in front of me got up and walked out because Will kicked out of a tombstone!
Things spilled out onto the entranceway and this time it was Ospreay’s turn to go through a table, but back in the ring Marty couldn’t put Will away and took out his frustrations on the ref. Will fought back and caught ‘The Villain’ in a crossface and, although Scurll tapped out, there was no referee to see it. Ospreay went for the Essex Destroyer, but Marty produced a pair of handcuffs and clocked him in the face, before using the cuffs to trap Will’s arms behind his back. He went to work with a multitude of umbrellas he’d brought out from under the ring and Will continued to try and fight back, however in vain those attempts may have been, but once Scurll applied the chickenwing it was all over, Ospreay eventually passing out and forcing the replacement referee to end the match and crown Marty Scurll as new PROGRESS Champion. This was a hugely exciting match, some will undoubtedly criticise it, but it had a real big fight feel suitable for such a high stakes match-up. Overall I felt this was one of the most consistent shows I’ve seen from PROGRESS yet. All the matches delivered something different and, if the main event wasn’t such an epic encounter, I’d have a difficult time on deciding my match of the night.
Chapter 25: Chat Shit, Get Banged will be available on-demand in 10-11 days over at http://demandprogress.pivotshare.com while Chapter 26: Unknown Pleasures takes place in Manchester on February 14th