1. No Disqualification – Damon Moser vs Nathan Cruz, w/ Zack Gibson
The show got started with a bang as Damon Moser, a man on a mission to make The Origin pay for what they had done to him, demanded that his match with Nathan Cruz be made a No Disqualification bout! Nathan Cruz, accompanied by Origin team-mate Zack Gibson, took it all in his stride and had no qualms about bringing the violence to Moser. This was a particularly hard hitting match, both men on the receiving end of some nasty chair shots as they brawled around ringside and Cruz was left bleeding from the mouth after Moser kicked a chair into his face. He also booted Cruz off a platform and sent him crashing through a few rows of chairs! Zack Gibson was surprisingly restrained at ringside, but eventually made his presence felt when Moser went for the knee trembler, Gibson tripping him up and allowing Cruz to score with a chairshot. Cruz set Moser up top and hit the Show Stolen fireman’s carry slam through a table, but somehow Moser kicked out! He’d only staved off the innevitable, however, and Gibson & Cruz finished him off after a Conchairto. This was a real enjoyable way to kick off the show. Moser’s growing in confidence and this was a strong showing from him here, while Cruz controlled the match well and showed why he’s one of the guys PROGRESS wrestling fans just love to hate.
2. Jack Sexsmith vs TK Cooper, w/ Dahliah Black
A bit of a grudge match next, as Jack Sexsmith (sexually frivolous, morally ambiguous) sought to teach TK Cooper a lesson about getting involved in other people’s matches. TK Cooper, however, wasn’t planning on playing fair and sucker punched Sexsmith before the bell. Perhaps unwisely he didn’t go for the cover and Sexsmith rallied, hitting a nice neckbreaker drop for a near-fall. He produced Mr. Cocko from his trunks, but TK managed to avoid disaster, only for Sexsmith to dig around in the backside of his trunks and bring out another Mr. Cocko. TK was again saved by the intervention of fellow Kiwi Travis Banks and Cooper hit another huge punch to the face to lay Sexsmith out for the win. This was a fun little match, the appearance of Travis Banks was certainly unexpected, but he’ll be a great addition to the PROGRESS line-up and I assume the Pacific Power Couple are now a Pacific Power Trio?
3. Laura Di Matteo vs Jinny
This one had been brewing for quite some time and, finally, Laura Di Matteo (formally Elizabeth) got a chance for revenge against her abusive former employer. Jinny, meanwhile, was incensed at what she saw as rank ingratitude from her one-time P.A. and went on the attack early on. This was a back and forth sort of match, neither wrestler gaining much of an advantage until Jinny hit a big X-Factor for a near-fall. She took control and tried to set-up Laura for the second rope X-Factor, which surely would have been the finish had Laura not slipped out and rolled Jinny up for a huge victory! Jinny attacked Laura post-match before being driven off by security, Laura making it very clear that their feud was far from over. This was good, albeit a bit sloppy in places and I thought Laura looked nervous (which was understandable given the circumstances) but was very impressed with her awesome tope suicida. She really went for it, just dived out of the ring like an arrow and slammed Jinny a few rows deep into the crowd. Great stuff.
4. SMASH Wrestling Championship – Johnny Gargano’s Open Challenge
Closing out the first half of the show was Johnny Gargano’s open challenge for the SMASH Wrestling Championship. A big reception for ‘Johnny Wrestling’, but an even bigger one for Mark Haskins, returning to competition after he collapsed after Night 1 of the Super Strong Style 16 and had to miss the second day of the tournament. This was just an exceptional match and one I’ll immediately rewatch once it’s up on Demand PROGRESS. There was some excellent counter-for-counter action here, both men applying their signature submissions and hitting some of the bigger guns in their arsenal. Gargano scored with the Lawn Dart and went to wrap Haskins up in the Gargano Escape, only for Mark to swiftly slide out of the way and lock in the Star Armbar to force Gargano to tap! Haskins got a huge ovation, celebrating in the crowd before being congratulated by the former champion in a classy show of respect. A huge moment for Haskins, PROGRESS and SMASH alike and a wonderful match between two of the best in the world today. Awesome.
The second half of the show began with The London Riots making their triumphant return to the Electric Ballroom after winning the tag shields at Chapter 30. The Riots reiterated that they want to face the best teams in the world and, to that end, Jim Smallman announced that at Chapter 33 The Riots would defend the tag titles against former ROH World Tag Champions, War Machine! What a huge match that’s going to be, the ring may need reinforcing!
5. Atlas Championship Tournament Tag Match – Big Daddy Walter & Iestyn Rees vs T-Bone & Zack Gibson
Dave Mastiff was unable to make it to the show due to the flu, but taking his place was his Origin team-mate Zack Gibson. I really can’t overstate how despised Gibson is by the PROGRESS crowd, it’s a sight to behold and the racket the audience made as Gibson tried to cut a promo on his opponents was absolutely deafening. He plays up to it so very well and the result is one of the top heels in British wrestling, even before you factor in his stellar ability in the ring. It was Gibson who would ultimately come out on top in this match, despite giving up a bit of size to his opponents in Big Daddy Walter and Iestyn Rees (who was making his London debut for PROGRESS). Walter and Gibson worked really well against each other and at one point Walter seemed to have the match won with his big running seated senton on T-Bone, but T-Bone came back and hit a massive capture suplex. Gibson would eventually force Iestyn to tap to the Shankly Gates, earning 2 points for Mastiff & T-Bone in their Atlas block. A real enjoyable big lads tag match, good work from all four wrestlers involved. Would definitely like to see a Gibson vs Walter match somewhere down the line.
6. Rampage Brown vs Trent Seven
The second replacement of the day saw Trent Seven taking Big Damo’s place against Rampage Brown. Damo suffered an injury the night before and had to have his head stapled shut, so forfeited his Atlas points to Rampage. But with or without Atlas points on the line this was a good opportunity for Trent Seven (also making his London debut for PROGRESS) to impress, and impress he did! A huge backhand from Seven started a war of strikes that had the crowd howling in sympathy, as both men beat the absolute stuffing out of each other. At one point Seven went for a tope suicida, only to fly straight into a vicious elbow from Rampage. He did score with the tope a few minutes later, but it wasn’t enough and Rampage finished the job at just over five minutes with a brutal piledriver. This was such a ferocious little match, I loved every moment of it and certainly hope to see more of Trent Seven in PROGRESS!
7. PROGRESS World Championship – Marty Scurll (c) vs Tommy End
Main event time rolled around and there was a sense of finality to this third meeting between ‘The Anti-Hero’ Tommy End and nefarious PROGRESS World Champion, ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll. Tommy had knocked Marty out cold to earn a title shot in their first meeting, only to be cruely cheated out of victory by Mikey Whiplash in the second encounter, so the stage was set for a big title change here and (most of) the crowd was willing it to happen. Scurll and End went back and forth for a good while and Marty used every trick in the book to gain an advantage, the lights dimming much as they had when Whiplash interfered in the previous match, but it was a ruse and Marty low blowed Tommy before trapping him in a dragon sleeper using the umbrella for the win. An enraged Jim Smallman got on the mic and said there was no way the match was ending like that, so the bout was restarted and through a series of ref bumps and general refereeing incompetence, Marty again emerged victorious after rolling End up and using his feet on the ropes for leverage. The crowd chanted “THIS IS BULLSHIT”, sick of seeing every shitty tactic ‘The Villain’ had up his sleeve so blatantly on display.
It was handled perfectly, however, as a dejected Tommy End knocked Marty out cold with a vicious roundhouse, only to look on as ‘The Pastor’ William Eaver’s music hit, the crowd errupted and Eaver cashed in his title shot he received by winning the Natural Progression Series III! The ref called for the bell, Marty stumbled to his feet and was slammed back down to the mat with a huge Clothesline from Heaven for the 1, 2, 3! New champion!! Jim led the crowd in a chorus of “HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN!” as The Pastor was crowd surfed around the building. A huge reaction and a huge opportunity for one of the brightest talents to emerge from the ProJo. Great stuff all-round. The frustration of the crowd at Marty’s antics only made their elation that much greater when Eaver cashed in. But, while ‘The Villain’s reign is finally coming to a close, Scurll deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done with the belt and, although he’s not always behaved as a champion should, the PROGRESS Championship became a World Title because of his efforts.
Overall this was a very exciting show. It often seems to me that when I’m less enthused about the card on paper is when PROGRESS most surprises me, and that was definitely the case here. All the matches delivered, but for my money Johnny Gargano vs Mark Haskins was the match of the night and a match you should all go out of your way to see. I also loved the brief but brutal encounter between Rampage and Trent Seven, as hard-hitting a match as you’re likely to see this side of Shibata vs Ishii. Laura finally getting revenge over Jinny was a great moment and the crowd reacted accordingly, while the main event provided another good match between Marty Scurll and Tommy End, as well as a hugely memorable title change with William Eaver’s cash-in ending the show on a real high note. Another great showing from PROGRESS, I can’t wait to see where they go from here!
PROGRESS Chapter 32: ‘5000 to 1’ will be available for VOD and download over at Demand PROGRESS later this week: http://demandprogress.pivotshare.com