1. The Origin: Banter Edition (Dave Mastiff & El Ligero) vs The Origin (Nathan Cruz & Zack Gibson)
The show got underway with a much anticipated tag match that pitted the two ideologically opposed factions of The Origin against one another. On one side, the dour faced, ill-tempered duo of Nathan Cruz and Zack Gibson. Across the ring from them, the much beloved kings of banter El Ligero and Dave Mastiff. Gibson tried to cut his customary promo and, as per usual, was drowned out by the crowd. Cruz then tried to appeal to Ligero’s common sense and abandon his banter loving ways. Ligero appeared to side with Cruz & Ligero, only to low blow them! The match was hugely enjoyable and a great way to kick off the 5th anniversary of PROGRESS, unfortunately banter would fall short this day as miscommunication from Ligero & Mastiff allowed The Origin: Bastard Edition to pick up the win with a double lung blower on Mastiff.
2. Natural Progression Series IV – Semi-Final: Toni Storm vs Dahlia Black
A really strong back and forth match here for a spot in the Natural Progression Series IV finals, as Dahlia Black of the South Pacific Power Trio (with TK Cooper in tow, of course) took on SWA Undisputed World Women’s Champion Toni Storm. Storm picked up the win with a brutal snap piledriver, joining Jinny and the winner of a future Alex Windsor vs Laura DiMatteo match in the finals of the series. A great performance from both wrestlers, but especially Dahlia who, as it turned out, broke her leg during the course of the match. Wishing a speedy recovery to Dahlia in what’s probably her last match on British soil, for the time being.
3. Jack Sexsmith vs Travis Banks
The reaction for the increasingly popular Travis Banks was only diminished slightly by the presence of TK Cooper, but Banks sent him to the back, signifying that he was all business here and willing to give Sexsmith a fair fight. Jack’s been out to prove himself in 2017 and earn himself a place in the Super Strong Style 16 tournament, but while he might have fallen short of that goal, he more than earned the respect of everyone in attendance. His opponent included. After a really exciting bout Banks ended up the victor, hitting a huge spin bomb and sit-out fisherman buster for the win. TK Cooper returned to the ring and it appeared as if he’d attack Sexsmith, but Banks stopped him and instead both South Pacific Power Trip members chose to shake Jack’s hand, leaving him in the ring to a well earned standing ovation from the PROGRESS faithful.
4. Mark Haskins vs Axel Dieter Jr.
A hugely anticipated match here, and a first-time meeting between two of the best technicians in the European wrestling scene. Haskins had a fantastic entrance that saw him and his son Jack emerge on the stage to the theme of Jurassic Park, before shooting a giant t-rex! Just awesome. This was a really hard-hitting contest, both men fairly evenly matched (although Haskins is a bit more agile, while Dieter has the strength advantage) and the result was a very exciting bout. Dieter had Haskins’ sharpshooter scouted, but on the third attempt Mark managed to lock the hold in and force the Ringkampf team member to tap. Post-match, Dieter took a knee on the stage and showed his respect to Haskins. Great match.
5. Fans Bring the Weapons Match – Jimmy Havoc vs Will Ospreay
Closing out the first half of the show was the Fans Bring the Weapons match. Long story short, this was just completely insane. Some of the weapons ranged from usual deathmatch fare like thumbtacks, barbed wire boards and chairs, while some were more exotic such as a Kylie & Jason record, a mannequin head and a grandfather clock! Ospreay took some serious abuse in this one, Jimmy busting him open with a cheese grater, knocking him loopy with a guitar shot and even putting him through a table with an Essex Destroyer off the top rope. Madness. There were a bunch of call backs here as well, Ospreay hitting the 630 he had ended Jimmy’s title reign with, only for Jimmy to kick out. Later, Jimmy would repeat his curbstomping antics, placing a credit card in Will’s mouth before stomping him over the middle rope. Half way through an enraged Ospreay grabbed the microphone and expressed his hatred for Jimmy, for the fact that the fan now accepted him and that Havoc was going to Orlando with PROGRESS and not Will. He said that PROGRESS wasn’t big enough for the two of them, before declaring a Loser Leaves Town stipulation added to the match! Another running theme at play, as historically bold stipulation changes have NOT worked in Ospreay’s favour. That would prove to be the case here, as Jimmy wrapped barbed wire around his arm and put pay to Ospreay’s PROGRESS career with a trio of Acid Rainmakers. A brutal, crazy, jaw-dropping match that will certainly be remembered for a long while to come. An abrupt end to Ospreay’s run in PROGRESS, however, but he left in the most dramatic way possible.
6. PROGRESS Tag Team Titles – British Strong Style (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) (c) vs The Hunter Brothers (Jim & Lee Hunter)
The PROGRESS tag team champions came out noticeably without the tag shields, only for Trent to return to the back before emerging with brand new PROGRESS tag team titles in hand! The match itself started off at a quick pace, The Hunter Brothers showing off their tag team prowess as they took the fight to British Strong Style, hitting an over-the-knees neckbreaker for a big near-fall early on. British Strong Style took over control with some nefarious tactics and after an exciting finishing stretch retained the tag titles with a snap piledriver into a deadlift suplex combo for the three count. A fun match, always enjoy seeing the Hunter brothers in PROGRESS and this was a good showing from them.
7. PROGRESS Atlas Title – Matt Riddle (c) vs WALTER
Since winning the PROGRESS Atlas title from inaugural champion Rampage Brown, the ‘King of Bros’ Matt Riddle has taken the belt on the road and defended it in some great matches in PROGRESS and elsewhere, but this match blew them all away. It was an amazingly hard-hitting contest that I have no problem calling a definite Match of the Year contender, both guys gave absolutely their all and the result was one of the best matches I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in person. WALTER is such a force, and the story here was about how Riddle could overcome that. Towards the end it almost seemed like he was about to fall short of the mark, WALTER absolutely punishing the champion with some brutal strikes and suplexes. Riddle had shown off his own strength early on, hitting the Bro Buster for a huge near-fall, but as the match wore on he had to rely more on catching his larger opponent in a submission. The rolling armbar, triangle choke and floating guillotine weren’t enough, however, and it was only when Riddle desperately caught WALTER in the BroMission that the big man from Austria was forced to tap. What a fantastic match.
8. PROGRESS World Title – Pete Dunne (c) vs Mark Andrews
A huge main event here, a rematch from the WWE UK Championship Tournament and one of the longest standing rivalries in British wrestling today, as PROGRESS World Champion ‘The Bruiserweight’ Pete Dunne defended his belt against Mark Andrews. While there were pockets of support for Peter (in spite of his rule breaking tendencies), the crowd for the most part were firmly behind Mandrews as he sought to become a 2x PROGRESS World Champion. The first ten minutes of the match were as excellent as you’d expect, these two having faced off in numerous matches and having some great chemistry with one another. Pete caught Mark in the Bitter End after some shenanigans from British Strong Style, but somehow Mark kicked out! Later, Andrews would hit the SSP, but referee Roberts was down and couldn’t make the count. Paz ran down, but Pete kicked out and the match continued. Pete again went for the Bitter End, but Mark countered with the Stundog Millionaire and then hit a picture perfect SSP. Paz counted the three and the crowd exploded in celebration, but then referee Roberts (who had earlier redeemed himself by crotch chopping British Strong Style and ordering them to the back) noticed that Dunne’s feet were under the ropes and ordered the match restarted. Pete went on to win, of course, and the PROGRESS World Title remains in the hands of British Strong Style. Typical that referee Roberts did his job properly and made the right call this time, and it was the worst possible moment for him to do so. Ah, well.
Overall this was a fantastic way for PROGRESS to celebrate their 5th anniversary. Between the insane Fans Bring the Weapons match, the chaotic main event and the absolutely brutal Atlas title match, this could very well go down as one of the best Chapter shows in PROGRESS history. And that’s even before you add in the likes of Dieter vs Haskins and Sexsmith vs Banks. The main event will probably come across as a bit overbooked for some, the false finish was extremely deflating for me personally, but the match itself was great in spite of the interference from Tyler & Trent. It’s great to see how far PROGRESS has come in the past five years, from 300 fans in the Garage, to 700 in the Electric Ballroom, 2,400 in the Brixton Academy and over 1,000 set to watch PROGRESS debut in the US this Friday in Orlando. They’ve put on shows in the heart of London, when the going train of thought was that you can’t be successful running wrestling shows in the capital, and expanded to Manchester and Birmingham with great success. It’s going to be extremely interesting to see just how far PROGRESS can go over the next five years!