PROGRESS Chapter 36: We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Room…Again
1. PROGRESS Atlas Championship Tournament FINAL: Rampage Brown vs Joe Coffey
Kicking off the show in good fashion was the Atlas Championship Tournament Final, the winner becoming the first ever PROGRESS Atlas Champion (replete with a shiny new belt made by the same guy who created the WWE’s Cruiserweight title). Coffey’s earned himself a growing following amongst the PROGRESS faithful after some great performances in the Atlas Tournament, but for the most part Brixton was behind Rampage Brown here in what proved to be a great opening contest. Early on referee Chris Roberts struggled to keep the action in the ring, both guys taking to trading chops and elbows on the floor, reminiscent of their excellent 15 minute draw earlier on in the tournament. But while this match didn’t quite meet the intensity of their previous bout, it was a decidedly hard-hitting affair and in the end it was Rampage Brown who came out on top, after kicking out of a huge discus lariat from Coffey and hitting two big piledrivers for the win.
2. Pollyanna, Nixon Newell & Laura DiMatteo vs Jinny, Dahlia Black & Alex Windsor
Ahead of the fourth Natural Progression Series, which will be held to crown the first ever PROGRESS Women’s Champion and begins in October at Chapter 38, this match served as a preview of sorts, pitting three fan favourites against their PROGRESS rivals in a big six-woman tag match. Slightly surreal scenes as 2,400+ wrestling fans sang along to B*Witched for Nixon Newell’s entrance. The match itself took a few minutes to get properly going, but once it did it proved to be good fun with all six women getting a chance to shine. Jinny was the stand-out for her team, she has such great presence and got a big reaction for hitting a Style Clash at one point and, ultimately, picked up the win after a devastating X-Factor out of the corner on Laura. Good showing from everyone involved, all six wrestlers should definitely be involved in the Natural Progression Series and it’ll be interesting to see how they’re matched up.
3. ‘The Pastor’ William Eaver vs Sebastian
Having ruined Pastor William Eaver’s short-lived PROGRESS title reign, Sebastian had further taunted him with knowledge of a “secret” that he would soon reveal and the stage was set for a grudge match at the biggest PROGRESS show to date. Unfortunately, in a somewhat scary scene, Sebastian was knocked out cold by a huge Clothesline From Heaven from Eaver and the match had to be called off before it could begin. Paramedics rushed to the ring and Jim Smallman had to assure the crowd that this wasn’t part of the show, as there were a few murmurings of theatrics (understandable, coming off the back of an injury angle between Ospreay & Strickland at the last chapter). Sebastian had to be stretchered out of the ring, flipping the crowd off as he went, but after getting checked out at the hospital he thankfully seems to be OK and we wish him a speedy recovery.
4. PROGRESS Tag Team Championships: The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) © vs British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven)
After the alarming events of the last match the crowd was a bit subdued for this one, but it didn’t take long for The London Riots and British Strong Style to bring the action back up to the boil with this chaotic, action packed tag title match. Rob Lynch had an injured eye after he took an errant kick to the face at PCW the night before and Pete Dunne & Trent Seven wasted little time in going after the injury. Dunne is a fantastic wrestler with an unfortunate penchant for biting people and, sad to say, his attitude seems to have rubbed off on Trent Seven who was equally cannibalistic toward The Riots. The action spilled out to the floor and the referee had a terrible time of it trying to keep control, let alone remember who the legal man was. All four guys set up chairs in front of the ring and sat down to trade some stiff elbows and forearms, before both Dunne & Seven were made to inadvertently chop the ringpost. Back inside the ring the action continued at a furious pace, The Riots hitting a District Line powerbomb only to be frustrated to find the referee being distracted by Dunne. Eventually, British Strong Style turned things in their favour and finished the match off with a dropkick tombstone combo to become the new PROGRESS Tag Team Champions.
5. Chuck Mambo vs Paul Robinson
An impromptu match got the second half of the show started, with the surprise return of nefarious gobshite and all-round troublemaker Paul Robinson! Incensed at his lack of a match on the card, Robinson hijacked proceedings and demanded anyone an opponent. Answering his challenge was the lovable Chuck Mambo, always great to see Chuck and his entrance looked extra impressive here with beach balls being bounced about the cavernous Brixton Academy. The match itself was a fairly standard affair, Robinson used his anger and general nastiness to take control of the match and did not let go until the bell sounded, putting Mambo down for the count with a curbstomp. Great to see Robinson back in PROGRESS, he’s such an easy figure to hate as he spits and swears his way to the ring.
6. Two out of Three Falls: Zack Sabre Jr. vs Tomasso Ciampa
I’m a big fan of 2/3 falls matches, but there are a number of pitfalls they can fall into, mostly relating to structure. One of the biggest is when the first two falls come so quickly, it kind of defeats the point of having a 2/3 falls match in the first place. This wasn’t the case here, however, as the first two falls occurred at the same time! After some excellent, methodical mat work from both men to get things started, Ciampa got caught in Zack’s leg-clutch roll and only managed to reverse the move to a point where both he and Zack were pinned! I absolutely loved that, a real unique way of shaking up the 2/3 formula, but there seemed to be some confusion further back in the arena and some fans seemed to think the referee had made a mistake somehow. Regardless, the final fall was a resounding success and built in intensity as both men traded some vicious strikes and hard-hitting moves. Throughout Zack had repeatedly attacked Ciampa’s arm and, in the closing moments, it was that sustained damage that would cost Ciampa in his last ever independent date before signing with WWE full-time. Zack locked on his remarkably named octopus stretch (Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness), tied up Ciampa’s free arm, brought the hold down to the mat and forced Ciampa to finally submit. An excellent encounter between two of the best in wrestling today. What a match.
7. Jack Gallagher, Damon Moser & F.S.U. (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews) vs The Origin (Nathan Cruz, Dave Mastiff, Zack Gibson & El Ligero)
Since The Faceless unveiled themselves as The Origin, they’ve been nothing but a nuisance to PROGRESS and have done their damndest to annoy and provoke fans, wrestlers and PROGRESS management alike. So for this huge 8-man tag match, a stipulation was set and should The Origin lose they would be forced to disband. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be and The Origin remain intact for the foreseeable future after Mastiff hit Gallagher with a car stereo and Gibson put him away with a neckbreaker. This was a super fun tag match, a great send off for the WWE-bound Jack Gallagher and a great example of why The Origin are one of the best acts going in wrestling today. The sheer vitriol Gibson and his now-regular pre-match promo inspires is just remarkable and this time the fans were prepared, pelting him and his mates with dozens upon dozens of toilet paper rolls! For the good guys, the highlights of the match were a moonsault off the downstairs balcony from Mandrews and ‘Gentleman’ Jack immobilising three of The Origin by tying them up into balls, but it was The Origin’s teamwork and duplicity that won the day.
8. PROGRESS World Championship: ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll © vs Tommy End vs Mark Haskins
A historic close to the biggest British wrestling show in England for decades here, as ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll set out to defend his PROGRESS World Championship against the two men who have come closest to putting pay to his title run for good. While Scurll has been a fighting champion, he’s picked his fights well and done his best to avoid both Haskins and End. And with good reason. Haskins has seemed the heir apparent for the PROGRESS title for some time now, but has always fallen short when it most counts, while Tommy End is a remarkably vicious wrestler who’s striking ability is largely unparalleled in wrestling today. Early on they both focused their attentions on Marty but, inevitably, turned on each other as the match wore on. Marty pulled out every trick in the book to retain his title and more than lived up to his ‘Villain’ moniker as he put Haskins through a table on the outside and then brought forth umbrellas from under the ring and attacked End. Referee Chris Roberts tried to intervene, but got taken out with an umbrella shot for his trouble. Referee Paz ran down and met the same fate after only counting for two. Referee Joel tried to restore order, but Marty laid him out as well and PROGRESS were out of spare referees. With both challengers down and no referee’s to make the pinfall, the champion celebrated in the ring to a chorus of boos, which were soon replaced by insane cheers as a familiar theme music played on the speakers and 2,400+ fans in The Brixton Academy collectively lost their shit for the return of former PROGRESS Champion Jimmy Havoc! He delivered an Acid Rainmaker to Marty, threw the belt to Jim Smallman at ringside in a great symbolic gesture and then departed as quickly as he’d arrived. The crowd were rabidly urging Haskins to get back to his feet and were elated when he dragged himself back in the ring and caught Scurll into a sharpshooter to force him to tap away the title! An epic end to the biggest PROGRESS show to date and a well deserved title win for the (no longer) ‘Underrated’ Mark Haskins.
Overall, this was an amazing show on a number of levels, not least for the astronomical growth PROGRESS have shown in the four years since their inception. It was kind of awe inspiring to see so many fans of British independent wrestling pack out one of London’s most legendary venues and PROGRESS did their very best to deliver a show that’ll be remembered for some time. The first half of the show fell a bit flat in places, the atmosphere of the venue took some getting used to as it wasn’t as easy to get chants going as it is in The Electric Ballroom or The Garage. But the second half of the show absolutely knocked it out of the park, capped off by three excellent matches and some incredibly memorable moments. Post-show, Jim Smallman invited Tomasso Ciampa, Jack Gallagher & Tommy End to the ring as the crowd gave them an uproarious and highly appreciative send-off before they head to WWE, as well as reiterating that PROGRESS will be back in Brixton next year, same time, same place. If Chapter 36 was any indication, you’ll be wanting to mark your calendars for that one. This is PROGRESS.