Sunday 27th July 2014. Camden Electric Ballroom. A queue of rowdy and raucous fans lining up alongside Camden market passing donuts and Revels down the line as the sun beats down. A hot day where 700 people will be in a hot room. Mostly wearing black T-shirts. It must be time for PROGRESS wrestling.
Having missed Chapter 13 and the ENDVR / World Cup shows, to say I was highly anticipating seeing this show was an understatement. Once again, the Ballroom looked immaculate, although immediately I notice there’s something slightly different. In the toilets, the hashtag of #expectus takes hold of our view, as The Faceless have infiltrated PROGRESS once again to make their presence known by putting up posters. Upon sitting down to watch past matches on the video wall, flashes of logos and messages appear. The group apparently are imminently arriving….or are they?
After the traditional airing of “The Imperial March”, “Started from the Bottom” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, Jim Smallman whips everyone into a frenzied state of excitement, but not before making it clear that some people were upset at the last show due to standing up, aggression and various other things. He makes it all very clear with an impassioned order of “don’t be dicks.” With that, we’re off and running.
First match was the brand new Thunderbastard match. An eight-man elimination match where two wrestlers start, with the others entering at two minutes interval. Yes, just like a Rumble match. However eliminations occur via pinfall, submission or disqualification. The winner will get a title shot at any show they want. Smallman clarified that the shot was not a Money in the Bank style deal. Thank goodness, as there are far too many of those storylines taking place in wrestling these days. First out was Paul Robinson, returning to the Ballroom after turning on his partner Will Ospreay and costing Mark Andrews his title shot at the last show. He was faced by ENDVR standout Joey Lakeside. The two Essex natives battled it out, with Robinson taking control rather handily. He hit a great hammerlock DDT into a front guillotine choke. Before Lakeside could tap out, the clock ran down for number 3 entrant to enter. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s Will Ospreay. Sprinting to the ring to take on his rival, Robinson proceeded to punt Ospreay in the family jewels, getting himself DQ’ed rather than face the man he turned on. Seeing Robinson in this guise was quite bizarre. He’s not the biggest fellow in the land, but he presented himself as a snivelling little dickhead, a bit like those kids at school that got in your face despite the size difference, but would hide behind their larger bully friends. With that, he succeeded. Lakeside checked on Will while he recovered, but with a look of guilt, realising he had a match to win, rolled up Ospreay for a two count.
The number four entrant was Darrell Allen, who enter the ring quickly and engaged in an exchange with Ospreay. After it ended with an armdrag, Allen stopped to confer with referee Chris Roberts. Apparently feeling the effects of a concussion, Allen wasn’t able to continue. A very sad moment. This was Darrell’s first match back after suffering the original injury at the Sonisphere shows and he reinjures himself in the first sequence of moves. The crowd were very supportive of the decision to remove him from the match and gave Darrell a huge round of applause as he was taken backstage. It made the next few moments of the match a little uncomfortable as all we were concerned about was Darrell’s health.
Entrant number five was the returning Danny Garnell, accompanied by Damon Moser. Garnell turned heel at the last ENDVR show and came into tonight’s show with an unblemished PROGRESS win/loss record. He entered the ring and German suplexed both Ospreay and Lakeside on their heads – very uncomfortable looking bumps. He pinned Lakeside in short order with a Northern Lights suplex. Moser made his presence felt by cheap shotting Ospreay a few times before being caught by outside ref Marc “Paz” Parry. Entrant six, with no rhyming irony, was Stixx. Surprisingly to me, he eliminated Garnell quite swiftly with a Black Hole Slam.
To the soft soothing sounds of The Offspring, out came “Party” Marty Scurll at entrant 7. As I alluded to in my Chapter 1 column, Scurll came out in his heel attire (including a shocking new haircut with blonde bits) but acted like a face. Anyone who wasn’t aware that Scurll has never turned in PROGRESS must have been confused, as he came out to a mixed reaction. Two minutes later and the final entrant came out which was the Wild Boar Mike Hitchman. A good sequence between the four remaining wrestlers ended with Boar actually hitting the huge Stixx with a package piledriver. The three count was inevitable. The Boar fared for not much longer, submitting to Scurll’s Chicken Wing.
The final two – Scurll and Ospreay. These guys had a fantastic final five minutes of action. After Ospreay leaves himself open, Scurll yells “CHICKEN WING!” Ospreay manages to counter. I always find that odd in wrestling. Why scream out the name of the move you’re going for? Your opponent will know what you want to do and will then try and counter. The element of surprise is completely lost. Anyway, Scurll goes for a La Magistral cradle, but Ospreay sits down on it and cradles Scurll for the win! First PROGRESS win for Ospreay to a massive reaction. Obviously I can’t criticise this match due to the injury to Darrell (who apparently was ok), but everyone coped with the change very well. I could have done without Garnell nearly killing Ospreay and Lakeside with those Germans, though.
The second match of the evening was the open challenge of Mad Man Manson, who issued the challenge to anyone…..well almost anyone.
Coming out to the strains of “The Littlest Hobo”, Manson was a big hit with the crowd. A man with incredibly comic timing and delivery, he is arguably the funniest wrestler in the business. His challenge was answered by his absolute polar opposite – Michael Gilbert. Upon seeing his opponent make his way to the ring, Manson took the mic to overtly mock the seriousness of Gilbert, before realising he might be making him mad. As the bell rang, Mr “No Gimmicks Required” proceeded to wrestle circles around Manson, who still wasn’t taking things entirely seriously. Manson sold the pain he was in but very over the top, shouting out things like “This really hurts……or at least I’m pretending it does so I get paid!” Another bellow of “I don’t know the counter!” was met with a crowd response of “Press R2! Press R2!” Well done crowd, well done. Eventually Manson got a side headlock, was thrown into the ropes, but decided to indulge in some slow motion action. Gilbert was having none of it, battering Manson in very much regular motion. After Manson fired back with a pair of clotheslines, Gilbert ducked an Enzeguri attempt and synched in an STF for the quick submission. A very entertaining five minutes. The match was simply there to continue the push of Gilbert’s new character and his pledge to eliminate all non-serious competitors. Manson was gold as ever.
Match three featured two men usually seen in tag competition in PROGRESS, Mark Haskins taking on Marin Kirby. Haskins as ever went to make his own ring announcement, but was met with a “STOOOOP!” enzeguri from Kirby to kick things off. The pair proceeded to have a very good match. It didn’t go out of its way to steal the show, but it was never going to be bad due to the quality of the combatants. Haskins played up to the chants of “Evil Jesus” and got some nice spots in, including hanging Kirby in a tree of woe position on the ring apron and hitting a running dropkick. The finish saw Haskins scoop Kirby up by his legs and use the old “feet on the ropes” leverage trick to escape with the pinfall. The Screw Indy vs. Project Ego series will continue, it seems.
Next up was one of the big matches of the night. The first titles defence from the tag champions FSU (Mark Andrews and Eddie Dennis) against the undefeated challengers the London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch). The latest instalment of the Regression storyline was unpredictable – could FSU do what no other team in PROGRESS has and defeat the London Riots? Or would David and Lynch add to the managements’ woes and add more titles to the Regression stable. Well it looked like the latter would happen for sure right away. As FSU made their entrance, they were immediately attacked from behind by Jimmy Havoc and Paul Robinson, the Riots’ stablemates. Bringing Andrews into the ring and nullifying Dennis on the outside, the Riots had the advantage. Davis shouted in the mic that they were going to steal the match right away. One District Line later and the entire Ballroom collectively held its breath. One….two…..KICKOUT! Phew! Eddie got back in the mix, Havoc & Robinson were forced backstage and an epic tag match took place. Hard hitting, high flying, drama – it was all here. Eddie showed his impressive power when giving each Riot a spinning side slam – not easy to do to two very big men! Scariest moment of the match was after Lynch, Dennis and Davis all ended up on the floors (after two rather spectacular dives Dennis and Davis!), which of course set Andrews up for one of his traditional crazy dives. This time, it was a shooting star press and this happened –
I was in the third row and this happened right in front of me. Andrews smacked his head off a chair and cut himself open above his eye. Thankfully it wasn’t anything worse. Chatting to him after the match, his diagnosis was “It stings a bit!”
The match carried on with some very close near falls for the Riots. After they took Dennis to the outside, Andrews was left alone. With Lynch waiting in the opposite corner, Andrews sparred with Davis. The regular could see what was going to happen. It happened to Darrell Allen at Chapter 12. It happened to Will Ospreay at Chapter 13. The launching spear is about to happen to Mark Andrews. Several fellows in the crowd, including me, yelled to Mark “Don’t run!” But run he did. Andrews ran towards David, who launched Andrews into the air…..Lynch ran to the prone Andrews…..AND GOT CAUGHT IN A HURRICARANA! One….two….THREE!!!!! FSU RETAIN!!!!! A jubilant Jim Smallman announces the successful defence, but you can barely hear him. The crowd has gone ballistic. Finally, someone as beaten the Riots. Even though the story isn’t quite over, for now this chapter has ended as many hoped, but were not sure it would. Excellent performance by all, but extra credit to Andrews for his recovery from the SSP.
After the interval, it was time for the lastof the first round matches of the 2014 Natural Progression Series. Already through to the semi-finals were Flash Morgan Webster, Zack Gibson and Pete Dunne. Joining them would be of three men, all making their PROGRESS debuts and all part of the Pro-Jo training school. These trainees had advanced through qualifying matches at the past two ENDVR shows. Unfortunately the talent that is Shen Woo was injured during the week and could not compete. The competitors were Pastor William Eavor, Chuck Mambo and Ali Armstrong, who was beyond excited to see a logo of his on the video wall. Whether it was b design or not, Armstrong had two members of security prepared to give him some “pyro” for his entrance. Remember those confetti guns that Johnny B Badd used to use in early WCW? Yeah, those. One didn’t go off. Armstrong played up to it well, as it suited his character of the loveable idiot. Mambo was on very good form and I’ll be honest, I was pulling for him throughout, mainly due to striking up a conversation with him at Chapter 12 and finding him to be a very pleasant young man. If you asked the crowd, however, the fan favourite was apparently Eavor! The only actual heel in the contest got a huge reaction as the match unfolded, with various chants of “Let’s Go Jesus (Jesus sucks!)” and a rousing rendition of Away in a Manger. At points, the chants were getting a little too raucous for me, as it was distracting from what was a very good for a bunch of guys so young in their career. Armstrong comically overshot on an attempted senton and crashed himself to the mat after missing his running corner bomb. At one point, Regression’s own trainee, the Omega Isaac Zercher, ran in to try and take Armstrong out of the match with a chair but was stopped by Mambo and soon ran off. Eavor took advantage with some axehandles to his opponents. It seems a strange thing in this day and age to compliment a wrestler on such a basic manoeuvre, but Eavor’s axehandles looked properly vicious. Really looked like he was trying to bury an imaginary axe into his opponents. Eavor hoisted Mambo up for a crucifix bomb, but proceeded to launch Mambo over the top rope onto Armstrong and various security on the floor in one hell of a spot! After knocking Mambo to the outside one more time, Eavor got caught by Armstrong in a bridging German suplex which got the win! Armstrong qualifies, but all three men were winners here, all showing a marked improvement from previous matches I’d seen them in and being accepted by the Ballroom audience. I look forward to seeing more from each of them in the future.
It seems as though some people are not heeding the advice of Mr Smallman from earlier and are indeed being dicks. Someone in the front row is having a barney with someone on the balcony, getting the attention of more than a few others. Smallman verbally castrates the pair, making them apologise to each other and cools things off very swiftly. Jim is clearly the father of the PROGRESS family after that display and he even gets a chant of “Jim is gonna kill you!” It was later suggested online that the fan downstairs was shouting homophobic taunts towards one of the wrestlers. Hopefully that will have been dealt with before the next show.
First of the double main event is the PROGRESS title match. Noam makes an entrance that made me think the Faceless had arrived. Thankfully, it just turned out to be cool as fuck.
Simple story going into this one. Dar won the World Cup show in June to earn this shot and challenged Jimmy to simply wrestle in this match. No gimmicks, no one at ringside, just one on one. Havoc insisted that it would be a fight, trying to goad Noam into losing his cool by spitting at him. Noam kept his cool and proceeded to have an extremely good At least I think they did, as all I can remember from most of the match is the CONSTANT chants for Dar through the medium of song. 7 Nation Army, Iron Man, No Limit, The Imperial March and a few others get airings through simply shouting “Dar” to the tune. This was my first time being live for this event and it has to be said, it was getting bloody annoying after the third chant to the tune of No Limit. Dar and Havoc had a superb wrestling match with some great outside brawling and all I could concentrate on was not getting fed up with the drunks at the bar behind me thinking of more songs. Eventually Dar’s performance got everyone settled into actually reacting to what was going on. He caught Havoc in a powerbomb position and proceeded to throw him in the direction of referee Chris Roberts, knocking him down and out. Almost inevitably, Dar caught Havoc in the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar (best finisher name ever) and Havoc tapped out, but the ref did not see it so no bell called for. At the behest of the crowd, Smallman got in the ring to act as the official while Roberts recovered. We can only assume Paz had gone to the World’s End early. Havoc nailed Dar with a Rainmaker style lariat. A cover only garnered a two count. Havoc stared down Smallman, but thankfully Roberts recovered before any damage could be done. Havoc hit two more Rainmakers, but still could not defeat Dar. Dar managed to catch the champion with a choke/sleeper, reminiscent of Havoc himself. Havoc tried to ram Dar into the corner, but the challenger would not let go. Finally Havoc pulled out the old Bret Hart/Roddy Piper sleeper counter and landed on top of Dar. While Roberts laid out the count, Havoc began to tap out. However Roberts’ view was obscured and he countered Noam’s shoulders to the mat. Havoc escaped by the skin of his teeth. The crowd were not happy with the ref’s decision. Havoc once again spat on Dar after the match and Dar finally gave Havoc the fight he was after. Attacking Havoc was all that was needed to bring out the Riots and Robinson, who in turn were run off by FSU. Smallman announced that Regression would face FSU, Dar and Will Ospreay at the next show in a match with a lot on the line.
Well the match and angle were all great. A simple story and match, with great performances from both guys. I’m looking forward to watching the match against when the download is out as I really can’t remember enough of it. The chants just got too distracting for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the PROGRESS crowd. Some of the wittiest things I’ve ever heard have come from some clever dick in the audience and I would love to have the confidence to bellow out something I thought was funny and for it to be reacted positively to. But it got to the point where it felt like people were just trying to think of new tunes to get in before the match ended rather than just watch these magnificent performers do their thing.
It must be said, though, that no one was thinking off silly chants during the final match. If they did, there was a good chance they might have been killed. Rampage Brown entered to a huge reaction, running the ropes with extreme velocity before grabbing Jim Smallman by the arm in a moment that screamed “I’m so excited!” And then, Joe arrives.
What a moment. Joe and Rampage each get the “Gonna kill you” chants, with each other’s name inserted. The atmosphere is amazing. “Let’s go Rampage” “Let’s go Joe” reverberates through the Ballroom. The two proceed to have an immense hard hitting encounter. Joe hit some classic moves, while Rampage doesn’t hold back. I can’t call the moves as it was such an intense experience that I can’t remember everything that happened! I do remember Joe flying towards Rampage and destroying several front row seats just in front of me. Joe eventually hit the Musclebuster…..for a two count! Rampage Brown kicked out of the Musclebuster! Unbelievable!!! Joe is shocked but gathers himself to put Rampage down with a massive lariat for three. A short description of the match yes, but if you want more, look at PROGRESS’ YouTube page for the DVD preview, which has match highlights. It was an incredible match. The feeling of having Joe, one of my all-time favourites, in that building may put the match at a higher pedestal than others might view it, but at least the match will be seen on DVD so you’ll be able to see for yourself. Which I highly recommend you do.
So PROGRESS do it again. Despite some setbacks through injuries and self-indulgent chanting, it was another consistently entertaining show. My friend pointed out that there was a lot less outside brawling than there was at the last two shows. This was very true, with surprisingly only Dar v Havoc being outside the ring for a noticeably long time. If this was an attempt to establish a more in-ring based show, then it certainly did not lose any entertainment value. Maybe it was done to avoid having people getting upset at others for standing too long. Either way, the show was consistently entertaining, with at least three match of the year candidates, all different from each other (tag match, title match and Joe/Rampage). The next show in September with the massive 8-man tag looks to be an even better show already, so if you haven’t experienced PROGRESS, do so before they sell out once again. And get this show on DVD too. Go on, you deserve it.