Train problems failed to hinder a 700 strong PROGRESS crowd from making their way down to Camden for the stacked ‘Chapter 33: Malice In Wonderland’, which featured two PROGRESS title matches and a few international debuts. But, before the show got under way proper, Jim Smallman introduced a very special guest – William Regal! A huge ovation for one of Britain’s greatest wrestling exports, who kept things brief, saying that this wasn’t about him, he was just here to see his friends and enjoy the “incredible competitors” on display in PROGRESS.
1. Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven) vs Pete & Damian Dunne
After these two teams faced off in an excellent match back at Chapter 28 in Manchester, the London crowd got treated to a rematch that was great while it lasted. Moustache Mountain showed off their strength, as they hoisted poor Damian Dunne up for a vertical suplex and then traded him between themselves in a bizarre strong man version of pass the parcel before dropping him to the mat. At length, the Dunne Brothers gained control and isolated Tyler from his corner with some effective tag work, but he eventually broke free and hit an impressive tandem airplane giant spin on both Dunnes. He tagged in Seven, but out of nowhere Trent floored his team mate with an elbow! Pete Dunne then turned on his brother Damian, kicking him low before Pete and Trent made their exit, shaking hands to a chorus as boos as the match ended in a double countout.
2. Jack Gallagher vs Zack Gibson
Another rematch here, this time from the 2016 Strong Style 16 Tournament where Gibson tapped out Gallagher with the Shankly Gates. Since then, Gallagher’s stock has risen some with his part in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic and he was looking to avenge his loss from two months prior. Before the match could get started, however, Gibson felt compelled to grab the mic and try to cut a promo. Try being the operative word, as 700 fans drowned him out completely. He furiously signalled for his mic to be turned up, but even as loud as it would go he couldn’t make himself heard. Eventually the match got underway and it proved to be one of the most satisfying matches of the afternoon, as these two superlative technical wrestlers tested their skills against each other in a very back and forth match. Gibson managed to lock in the Shankly Gates, but Gallagher managed to smartly raise himself off the mat and roll through into an ankle hold to force Gibson to tap.
3. ShirtLifters (Roy Johnson & Jack Sexsmith) vs The South Pacific Power Trio (TK Cooper & Travis Banks, w/ Dahlia Black)
This started out as a Wasteman Challenge from resident PROGRESS Body Guy Roy Johnson, which was answered by the Sexually Frivolous, Morally Ambiguous Jack Sexsmith. After Sexsmith’s attempted rap on Johnson sent much of the crowd into fits of laughter, he turned his attention to The South Pacific Power Trio and said some particularly unrepeatable things about the nefarious Dahlia Black’s nether regions. Of course this brought out the Kiwi contingent and Dahlia had to be held back from rushing the ring herself. TK Cooper and Travis Banks circled Sexsmith and attacked, while the Body Guy thought about leaving him to his fate, but ultimately made the save and the team of the ShirtLifters was born! Unfortunately it wasn’t their night, as Dahlia distracted the ref and hit a low blow on Sexsmith, allowing TK to knock him out cold with a big right hand. This was a fun little match, great to see Banks make his in-ring debut for PROGRESS and interested to see where The South Pacific Power Trio goes from here.
4. Mark Andrews vs El Ligero
PROGRESS closed out the first half of the show with two former champions going one-on-one, as ‘White Lightning’ Mark Andrews took on The Origin’s El Ligero. Surprisingly, this was only the third ever singles match between the two, and the first in PROGRESS. As such, I was really looking forward to this one and, although it felt like the sort of match that deserved a higher billing and more time on the card, I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the action on offer. Ligero looked to have the win in the bag after he got his knees up on a SSP from Mandrews, but was caught by a cradle to give Mandrews the win. Good stuff from both men, Ligero (as with most of The Origin guys) has shown a real knack for riling the crowd up and that wasn’t any different here.
5. No. 1 Contenders Match: Will Ospreay vs Mark Haskins
A hero’s welcome for Will Ospreay here, as he made his return to PROGRESS after becoming the youngest ever winner of the Best of the Super Jr. tournament. Ospreay got a huge ovation from the crowd and was showered with streamers, but there was an equally rapturous ovation for his opponent Mark Haskins, who has done nothing but impress in PROGRESS this year. The two last faced off one-on-one at Chapter 21 last year, where Ospreay successfully managed to defended his PROGRESS title. This time around, however, it was Haskins’ night and he picked up the win here and a shot at the PROGRESS World Title by forcing Ospreay to tap to the Star Armbar after an excellent, fast-paced, counter-for-counter sort of match that was my personal highlight of the evening. The crowd chanted for Regal to sign both men up, Will then getting on the mic to thank the fans and say that while he’s under contract to NJPW, if Regal should sign anyone it’s Haskins.
6. PROGRESS Tag Titles: The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) © vs War Machine (Ray Rowe & Hanson)
Unsurprisingly, this was a belter of a match between four of the hardest hitters in PROGRESS and ROH, respectively. War Machine impressed not only with their physicality, but their agility as well, however Camden was firmly Riots country and the crowd was in full voice getting behind the hometown heroes. Rob Lynch hit his always-impressive suicide dive, while in the ring the Riots looked to have things won after the District Line powerbomb, only for Hanson to kick out at the last second! War Machine set up for the Death Blow, but the Riots managed to fight back and in the end it was James Davis who rolled up Hanson with what looked to be a handful of tights! Post-match, War Machine insisted that the Riots shake their hands, but given the circumstances of the finish I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Rowe & Hanson back for another shot at the PROGRESS Tag Titles.
7. PROGRESS World Title: William Eaver © vs Marty Scurll
There was a sense of trepidation surrounding this match as Pastor William Eaver, ProJo graduate, Natural Progression Series III winner and newly crowned PROGRESS World Champion, defended his title against the nefarious ‘Villain’ Marty Scurll, in what would be Eaver’s biggest test to date. As it was, the Pastor handled himself admirably, in spite of Marty Scurll’s cheating ways. Scurll attacked before the bell and took the fight to the floor, Pastor and Villain brawling around ringside and into the crowd. Back in the ring, ‘The Villain’ took control and did his damnedest to target Eaver’s shoulder, softening him up for the Chickenwing. The Pastor fought back valiantly and looked to have things won when he hit a Crucifix Powerbomb. He measured Marty and then floored him with the Clothesline from Heaven, but Scurll showed his veteran ring presence by rolling to the floor and denying the champion his win. It was at this point that things went awry, ‘Kensington’s Finest’ Sebastian appearing on the stage and taunting to Eaver that he knows a secret about The Pastor. This distraction allowed ‘The Villain’ to recover and catch Eaver from behind with the Chickenwing. The crowd urged Eaver to break free, but Scurll had the hold applied too tightly and the ref was forced to stop the match. New champion, ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll, first two-time PROGRESS World Champion.
Overall this was a fun show, but when isn’t PROGRESS a good time? Their shows are ridiculously consistent and, although this one didn’t quite live up to its promise on paper, it was still of the usual PROGRESS standard and did some good work in forwarding storylines a month and a bit ahead of their huge Brixton show this September. Perhaps there was one cheap finish too many, but with three great matches in Gallagher vs Gibson, Ospreay vs Haskins and The Riots vs War Machine this one’s definitely worth a watch. I was very pleased to see Travis Banks make his in-ring debut and The South Pacific Power Trio should be ones to watch going forward and, while I’m disappointed about the way the main event (and Eaver’s title run) finished, I’m intrigued to find out what the returning Sebastian’s motivation is. It’s perhaps worth noting that Sebastian pulled out of the Natural Progression Series tournament that Eaver ultimately won, while the two men who benefited from his absence (Damian Dunne & Tyler Bate) were turned upon by their tag partners.
PROGRESS ‘Chapter 33: Malice in Wonderland’ will be available on demand from http://demandprogress.pivotshare.com later this week!