It was a wet and windy Easter Sunday as PROGRESS returned once more to The Electric Ballroom in the heart of Camden Town for their fourth anniversary show – Chapter 27: The Lost Art of Suffering, with a packed card and two matches in particular that promised carnage and big ramifications for the landcsape of PROGRESS going forwards. PROGRESS co-owner Jim Smallman got the show under way with a huge pair of announcements, first confirming that two of the British Qualifiers for WWE’s much anticipated Global Cruiserweight Series would be held at Chapter 29 in April! The second announcement was similarly well received, Jim announcing a second singles title for the promotion: the PROGRESS Atlas Championship, for competitors 205lbs and above. Eight men will compete in a round robin tournament to determine the winner, who will be crowned at the PROGRESS show at Brixton Academy in September!
- Natural Progression Series: Pastor William Eaver vs Damian Dunne
First up, a big singles match to determine a finalist for the third Natural Progression Series between ‘The Pastor’ William Eaver (who, once again, was working on the Sabbath) and Damian Dunne, who was given a second chance in the tournament and defeated Tyler Bate for a place in this semi-final match. This was a good opening bout, Dunne’s a lot more confident than when he made his PROGRESS debut last September and did a good job of playing up to the crowd, who were vocal in their support of The Pastor. Dunne did a good job of controlling for much of the bout but was unable to avoid Eaver’s crucifix powerbomb, which The Pastor followed up with the Clothesline from Heaven to secure his place in the finals.
2. Johnny Kidd vs Jack Gallagher
I was hugely anticipating this match-up and it did not disappoint! A great reception for the maestro Johnny Kidd from the PROGRESS faithful, equalled only by the appreciation for ‘The Gentleman’ Jack Gallagher, who appears to be rising fast in the fan’s esteem (and with good reason). This was a classic British wrestling contest, with two superlative grappling technicians testing their skills against each other and loving every minute of it. You could almost hear the spirit of legendary British wrestling commentator Kent Walton praising a particularly smooth three-in-one special from Kidd, or chuckling to himself as Gallagher found a clever and unorthodox escape from a full nelson. In the end it was the younger man that came out on top, Jack’s agility and speed proving more than the 38-year veteran could handle, but Kidd acquitted himself very well before an appreciative crowd who perhaps weren’t entirely familiar with the man’s work before this show. More of this please, PROGRESS!
3. The Bodyguy’s Wasteman Challenge
Roy Johnson, yeah? Bodyguy, yeah? BADMAN! I’m not entirely sure what a ‘wasteman’ is, but the charismatic former European weightlifting champion and graduate of the ProJo seemed eager for anyone to answer his Wasteman Challenge and less eager once his challenger’s music hit, for out walked ‘The Bastard’ Dave Mastiff with an amused look on his face. Johnson (although initially perturbed by the appearance of such a seasoned and dangerous competitor) forged on, challenging Mastiff to a rap battle, during which Mastiff’s demeanour became increasingly more agitated. As expected, when it was ‘The Bastards’ turn on the mic, he instead clobbered Johnson with it and went on the attack. Roy fought valiently and got to show off his strength, but predictably Mastiff made short work of his inexperienced opponent, but surprisingly had some words of encouragement for Johnson, saying that he shows promise as long as he forgets trying to please the fans.
4. TLC Match: The Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante) vs The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch)
Closing out the first half of the show was what proved to be an insane Tables, Ladders & Chairs match with huge implications for the PROGRESS tag division, as the losing team would be forced to disband in PROGRESS! This one started out at a hell of a pace from the moment the Sumerian Death Squad (adorned in robes and corpse paint) hit the ring and it just did not let up, all four guys going above and beyond, putting their bodies on the line to deliver the sort of war PROGRESS hasn’t seen since the exit of nefarious ex-champion Jimmy Havoc. One particularly memorable spot involved a tombstone piledriver and a ladder, which led to much gasps and cringing in the Electric Ballroom. Unfortunately, the props in play let the side down and, as the match wore on to its conclusion, two tables and then the all too necessary ladder gave way. With some inventiveness, The Riots eventually managed to retrieve the contract hung above the ring and won the match, but proceedings had been somewhat marred by the uncooperative props. Not enough to spoil what was an incredibly intense and violent match-up in which all four guys had their moments to shine. Post-match, the warring teams set aside their differences and hugged it out, respect earned in victory and defeat.
5. PROGRESS Tag Title Match: The Origin (El Ligero & Nathan Cruz) (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr. & Tomasso Ciampa
Since The Origin reclaimed the PROGRESS tag titles from the Sumerian Death Squad (a team, incidentally, that never got a rematch for the titles and now never will) Nathan Cruz and El Ligero have made a habit of coming out on top, by any means necessary. Last time in London it was via a piledriver onto one half of the tag titles, but this time referee Chris Roberts was wise to the tactic. He wasn’t, however, immune to distraction and jumped to rebuke Nathan Cruz for trying to interfere, which only allowed El Ligero to hit a low blow and roll up Sabre for another undeserved victory. But perhaps undeserved isn’t a fair assessment of The Origin’s skill as tag competitors – underhanded their tactics may be, but Cruz and Ligero are both former PROGRESS champions and shouldn’t be taken lightly. In a match such as this against two very strong singles competitors, The Origin drew on their own strengths, their unity, their fluidity as a unit, and it was that which ultimately earned them the victory. Post-match, tensions were running high between the failed challengers and Ciampa laid out Zack, before berating him on the mic and running down the fans as well, before challenging him to a third singles bout at Brixton in September!
6. PROGRESS Title – Thunderbastard Match: Marty Scurll (c) vs Will Ospreay vs Zack Gibson vs Mark Andrews vs Eddie Dennis vs Paul Robinson vs Mark Haskins vs Morgan Webster vs Rampage Brown
The Thunderbastard (an invention of PROGRESS and possibly the best named match in all of wrestling) is marked as an annual event on the PROGRESS calendar, usually in July, but took place here in response to the despicable actions of PROGRESS Champion ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll in recent months. For the first time, the PROGRESS title would be defended in the Thunderbastard, with eight other men competing to relieve Scurll of his ill-gotten gold. Also, the was the most star-studded Thunderbastard match to date and probably the best of the three that have occured so far in PROGRESS. The rules are simple, two men start in the ring and another is introduced every two minutes. Eliminations can occur via pinfall, submission or knock-out until only one man remains. Early on, Will Ospreay’s inclusion prompted a stare down with former team-mate Paul Robinson, the two then working together for a time, which the crowd was very pleased to see as “Swords of Essex” chants rang around the Ballroom. That didn’t last long, however, and it will likely take far more to repair Robinson & Ospreay’s differences. Mark Andrews & ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster brought even more pace and agility to the proceedings, with dives a-plenty sending the front rows scurrying for cover. Will Ospreay impressed with a daring springboard SSP.
Rampage Brown joining the fray gave the match a much more physical edge, the big man absolutely wreaking havoc on his smaller opponents and absolutely spiking Paul Robinson with a piledriver, only for Zack Gibson to roll Rampage out of the ring and steal the pinfall. Gibson’s Origin team mate Dave Mastiff came out to lend a hand, as well as getting into it with Rampage, but only after Gibson had submitted three opponents with the Shankly Gates (and distractions from The Bastard) did referee Chris Roberts expel Mastiff to the back. Mark Haskins showed some amazing strength as he hit a vertical suplex into a falcon arrow on Rampage Brown to elimiate the big man, only for Marty Scurll (who had contented himself to sit at the commentary table) to sneak in and trap him in the chickenwing to bring the match down to three final competitors: Scurll, Ospreay & Gibson. This final portion of the match was hugely entertaining and had the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout, all three worked so well together and it’s a testament to the villainly of Marty Scurll that even Gibson was cheered onto victory for a while. It wasn’t to be, however, and after Ospreay pinned Gibson following the Rainham Maker, Scurll pounced and rolled up Will for a cheap three count, much to the crowd’s displeasure.
‘The Villain’ declared that he wouldn’t be defending his title at Chapter 28 in Manchester next month, as he’d just defeated every worthy competitor. Jim Smallman got on the mic and quickly replied that he’d be defending it in Dallas instead, against the man he stole the title from in the first place: Will Ospreay! What a huge match-up that should prove to be. Overall this was another great show from PROGRESS, highlighted by an awesome Thunderbastard match that was exciting from start to finish. The TLC match will be remembered as one of the most violent, dangerous matches in PROGRESS to date and was only marginally spoiled by the problems with the weaponry. Another great match was the tag title bout, Nathan Cruz & El Ligero seem to effortlessly inspire such hatred in the fanbase, which is a testament to how well both men do their job inside and outside of the ring. A personal favourite of mine was the Johnny Kidd vs Jack Gallagher match, one that I cannot wait to watch back when the show is released.
PROGRESS Chapter 27 will be available via VOD & download over at http://demandprogress.pivotshare.com shortly, while the limited edition 2-disc DVD can be pre-ordered via http://www.progresswrestling.com