- The Hunter Brothers (Jim & Lee Hunter) vs The New Nation (Primate & Alexander Henry)
After the success of September’s huge Brixton show PROGRESS returned to London for Chapter 38: When Men Throw Men At Men and kicked things off with a belter of an opening tag match, featuring The Hunter Brothers (a welcome return after their great tag match with the Sumerian Death Squad at Chapter 20 last year) taking on the debuting team of The New Nation, Primate and Alexander Henry. This was my first time seeing the two big men who comprise The New Nation and it was an impressive display. The Hunters, although having the distinct edge in experience, were overwhelmed for much of the match as Primate and Henry showed off not only their strength, but some surprising agility as well. In the end, it was The Hunters who emerged victorious, their tag prowess winning the day as Jim rolled up the Primate for the three count. A good way to kick off the show. It’s great to see The Hunters back in PROGRESS and they go on to get a shot at the no.1 contenders, while I certainly hope to see more of The New Nation, who made a great impression in their debut.
- Pollyanna vs Jinny – Natural Progression Series IV, First Round
The fourth iteration of the Natural Progression Series sees a change in format, as eight women compete to crown the first ever PROGRESS Women’s Champion. The first match of the first round fell to two old rivals in and outside of the PROGRESS ring, Pollyanna and the ever-acerbic Jinny, which was fitting as the two were the stars of the first ever women’s match on a PROGRESS chapter show. This was a solid enough match in the middle, but it seemed like both wrestlers took some time to find their feet in the outset, while the finish was a bit of an odd one. Polly had kicked out of Jinny’s Style Clash and avoided the corner X-Factor, but as she went to finish things off with a trio of reverse cradle piledrivers, Jinny rolled her up to secure her place in the next round of the tournament.
- ‘Pastor’ William Eaver vs Paul Robinson
It has been a year of ups and downs for the ‘Pastor’ William Eaver. In winning the Natural Progression Series III Eaver earned an all-important title shot, which was cashed in to great effect when he shockingly ended the reign of Marty Scurll. However, his reign was short lived, as the returning Sebastian would soon cost him his championship. The resulting match between the two at Chapter 36 in Brixton went seriously awry as Sebastian was injured in the opening moments. A month or so later and with Sebastian’s status up in the air, The Pastor returns to take on Paul Robinson (who had badly beaten Eaver’s Sweet Jesus tag partner Chuck Mambo in Brixton). This was a good little match, Robinson’s one of the more underrated wrestlers on the PROGRESS roster and knows how to rile a crowd up well. He avoided the Pastor’s crucifix powerbomb on a number of occasions and then picked up the quick win after a curb stomp. Post-match, Sebastian came down to the ring and berated PROGRESS for continuing to book the man who had injured him, then proceeded to blackmail Eaver into doing his bidding in order to stave off legal trouble.
- Roy Johnson & Jack Sexsmith vs The South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) – Tables Match
Closing out the first-half of the show was a grudge match that saw the team of Jack Sexsmith and Roy Johnson take on their nemeses’ The South Pacific Power Trip in a tables match! This was a wild and crazy tag bout that played well into all four competitors strengths, but the real star of the show was Jack Sexsmith who was determined to demonstrate that he’s got more to offer than just comic relief. Sexsmith put in a hugely gutsy performance as (after Jack was taken out by being thrown off the stage through several rows of chairs) Johnson was the first man to go through a table and, for a good few minutes, Jack had to fight off Cooper & Banks on his own. Sexsmith more than held his own and managed to eliminate Banks, then when some miscommunication caused TK Cooper to accidentally hit Dahlia in the face it seemed that the Power Trip were destined to lose, but a low blow from Cooper allowed him to put Jack through the remaining table to win the match. An excellent way to close out the show, all four guys impressed and Sexsmith & Johnson got a big ovation from the crowd.
- Rampage Brown (c) vs Bad Bones – ATLAS Championship Match
Since becoming the first ever ATLAS Champion at Chapter 36, Rampage Brown has held an open challenge for anyone meeting the 205lb weight requirement to come and try to take the title off of him. After Mikey Whiplash made an unsuccessful attempt at Chapter 37, the second man to answer the call was former two-time wXw World Heavyweight Champion Bad Bones! A huge surprise debut here for one of the more underrated veteran performers in the European scene today and the resulting match certainly did not disappoint. This match had a real intensity to it, which was sometimes lacking in some of the group stage matches from this summer’s ATLAS tournament to crown the first champion, and Bad Bones made a great case for a continued presence in PROGRESS. A very hard-hitting affair, Rampage was caught off guard by the speed of his fellow big man, but ultimately put things to rest with a huge leaping piledriver. A great defence for Rampage and a great debut for Bad Bones, who had the crowd loudly chanting “please come back!” when all was said and done.
- Mark Andrews vs Matt Cross – SMASH Championship No.1 Contender’s Match
After a hugely exciting (albeit brief) encounter between these two in a tag match on the second day of this year’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament, I was greatly anticipating this match between two of the world’s premier high flyers. Unsurprisingly, this one kept up quite the pace as both men battled it out to earn a shot at the SMASH Wrestling Championship, and it was a great back and forth match with each man demonstrating their sublime ability and crispness in the ring and in the air. After a hectic ten minutes or so of action, it was Matt Cross who emerged victorious after hitting a Shooting Star Press and following up with a beautiful reverse springboard cutter to earn the three count. There were a few “Vader hates this!” chants in the outset, but I thought Jim Smallman said it best after the match had finished: “who gives a fuck what Vader thinks?”.
- Mark Haskins (c) vs Jimmy Havoc vs Marty Scurll – PROGRESS World Championship Match
The shock return of former PROGRESS Champion Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 36 was one of the most memorable moments I’ve witnessed in a PROGRESS ring, the crowd brought to a frenzy as Havoc hit the champion Marty Scurll with an Acid Rainmaker and left him to the hands of Mark Haskins, who ended Scurll’s reign to great approval from the crowd. As such, Havoc’s return to full in-ring action after a lengthy lay off through injury was a highly anticipated moment that somewhat overshadowed the other two competitors in the match. Scurll, his focus divided between the man who had cost him his championship and the man who defeated him for it, lived up to his ‘Villain’ moniker as he attacked both Haskins and Havoc with abandon, drawing the crowd’s ire in a way he hasn’t since he won the title from Will Ospreay. Havoc showed very little signs of the injury that had kept him out for so long and was his usual, violent self, but suffered a low blow at the hands of Marty Scurll, who then locked in a chickenwing only for Haskins to leap in from nowhere and grab an armbar of Marty! Ultimately, the champion retained his title when he brilliantly manoeuvred Scurll into the sharpshooter to force him to tap.
What happened after the match was quite unexpected. After making a quick exit, Haskins returned to the ring and kissed his title, before laying it in the centre of the mat and leaving for the back, co-owners Jim Smallman and Glenn Joseph racing after him and the whole crowd left in confusion. PROGRESS uploaded a video the next day in which Haskins explained the situation and that, unfortunately, he has to vacate his title due to a potentially career-threatening neck injury. Another video uploaded a few hours later saw PROGRESS management disclose the full card for Chapter 39 early, with the seven winners of the two tag and three singles matches going on to a 7-man elimination main event to crown the new PROGRESS champion. You can see both videos below.
Overall this was another really solid show from PROGRESS. I’m not the biggest fan of triple threat matches, but the main event definitely delivered beyond the excitement of seeing Jimmy Havoc back in PROGRESS competition. Elsewhere on the card, the opening tag match was a lot of fun and the tables match deserves to be a seen for a career making performance from Jack Sexsmith. Meanwhile, the ATLAS title match was a huge favourite of mine and you’re bound to love it too if you love big men hitting each other really, really hard. Also, Mark Andrews and Matt Cross put on an excellent display of their abilities in a very exciting, high-flying match that you’ll definitely want to watch when Chapter 38: When Men Throw Men At Men goes up to view on Demand PROGRESS.