We’re going back to PROGRESS’ unofficial second anniversary show for our latest #BACKFILL review, and their debut at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.
#TLDR: PROGRESS marked their second anniversary with a real “something for everyone” card, featuring grappling, comedy, tag team mayhem, and an insanely chaotic main event that made full use of their “bigger room”.
The Full Review: Titled “We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Room”, Chapter 12 sees the continuation of the PROGRESS vs. Jimmy Havoc feud, but first, the show started with the camera panning down the queue outside the Electric Ballroom – and trust me, that queue can be really disconcerting if you arrive late! It turns into a tour of the company’s new spiritual home, past the merch tables, and eventually showing the trio of JIm Smallman, Glen Joseph, and an owl-masked Jon Briley in the middle of the ring in an empty room. They emerge… and it’s like the Wyatt Family all over again. With 700 insane fans screaming around the ring!
We still have those pre-match graphics in lieu of entrances, which is helping to keep this show at seconds over the two-hour mark.
Tommy End vs. Paul Robinson
Someone in the crowd screams “so excited!” as the bell rings, and Tommy End is slowly morphing into the man we know today. Apparently this was meant to be El Ligero vs. Tommy End, but with Noam Dar pulling out with an injury, Ligero’s been shoved into the main event and Paul Robinson again comes in as a last-minute replacement.
Robinson moonsaults over End at the start, then gets a small package for a near-fall, before a series of sunset flips get him a couple of two-counts… until Tommy End kills him with a knee to the chest. End grounds Robinson with a rear chinlock, then releases the hold after Robinson grabs the rope… and admonishes the fans for chanting “hairy nipples” at him.
Robinson makes a comeback with some double knees in the corner, getting a near-fall from a trio of those, then a roundhouse kick knocked End down for a standing shooting star press. End counters a tiltawhirl headscissors into a roundhouse kick, before dropping Robinson with a Snake Eyes on the turnbuckle and then a bridging German suplex for another two-count. A PK gets another two-count, before Robinson misses a shooting star press off the top rope, only to come back with a hurricanrana.
Regardless, End drills Robinson with a roundhouse kick, then a brainbuster, before a double stomp off the top seals the win. Short and sweet, you’d think that they were trying to do a Jimmy Havoc here with Paul Robinson, given the competitive squash… **¾
Grado vs. Mad Man Manson
This is going to be a marmite match for me, I fear… it’s billed as a “title unification match”: Grado’s Bum Bag Championship vs. Mad Man Manson’s Balls.
They start by doing the Hogan/Rock face-the-crowd motion, before Grado raises his bumbag. Manson raises a jar with his “balls” in it, and they do the “handshake into a staredown” spot. Three times.
Early “wrestling” from Grado blows him up, before a waistlock takedown from Manson leads him to… have referee Chris Roberts “windmill” him. They work a comedy version of a technical match, with some extra gags in there too. Manson and Grado re-enact the Titanic spot on the turnbuckles, as Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” played over the sound system. Hell, the crowd even sang along with it in parts, as the referee waved off the song… and then inadvertantly helped a Tower of Doom with a German suplex. What am I watching?!
Manson grabs Grado’s bum bag, and whacks him with the “title belt” as the crowd boos. In the meantime, Grado grabs some packets of tomato ketchup, and spreads them on his head – because he’s been “busted wide open”. The referee wakes up from delivering the German suplex, and counts a near-fall, as Grado “hulks up”.
Grado drills Manson with a Rock Bottom, then a Stunner, before the Pedigree does the job. Grado has Manson’s balls… and his Bum Bag title. That was certainly something. **½
Natural PROGRESSion Series – First Round: Zack Gibson vs. Will Ospreay
Ospreay, of course, was inserted into the tournament by last year’s winner Mark Andrews. This was Zack Gibson’s first show for PROGRESS since their debut, believe it or not, and he firmly adds himself into that folder “looks better with no hair” alongside myself, Jim Smallman and Paul Robinson. Who was cornering Ospreay here.
Gibson got his first anti-Liverpool chant here, in the form of the stereotypical “you’ll never get a job” chants, which tickled Ospreay.
Gibson takes down Ospreay with an overhead suplex, before Will reverses a knuckle-hold into a sunset flip and then gets taken into the corner. Ospreay’s speed gets the better of Gibson, before he lands on his feet from an Exploder suplex. After Zack goes to the outside, Ospreay lands a springboard senton to the floor.
Back inside, Gibson targets the left arm of Ospreay, and goes for the move that’d become the Shankly Gates. Will makes a comeback with a handspring overhead kick for a near-fall, then a swinging neckbreaker and a Quebrada gets another two-count.
A slingshot DDT through the ropes sees Ospreay keep an advantage, before a rebound Falcon arrow gets him a near-fall. Gibson cuts off Ospreay’s dive and lands an European uppercut in the corner, then the Ticket To Ride and a cross-legged brainbuster for another two-count.
Ospreay slipped out of an underhook suplex and took down Gibson with an enziguiri, before the Scouser fired back with a top rope Exploder suplex. A big boot got Will back into things for an OsCutter, then a standing shooting star press for another near-fall. Gibson tried to score the win with a roll-up with his feet on the ropes, but Paul Robinson in trying to stop him ended up creating a match-ending distraction, as Gibson finished off Ospreay with a powerbomb, then a knee to the head, then the Shankly Gates armbar for the submission. For me, the crowd spending the first half of the match doing nothing but bait Gibson ruined this – later on, as an established act, this’d be okay, but this was one of those annoying matches where the crowd seemingly tried to become the story. Nevertheless, Gibson looked good, and that’s two years running that Ospreay’s fallen at the first hurdle. **¾
Ospreay and Robinson had a bit of a falling out afterwards, but they made up. Ah, how sweet.
Street Fight: Bhangra Knights (RJ Singh & Darrell Allen) vs. London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch)
A plancha from Darrell Allen took out both of the Riots as they made their way to the ring, before a springboard body press from Singh added to the carnage.
The Knights filled the ring with plunder as this lived up to the street fight name, although I’ve not seen enough brawls where a double superkick comes into things. Or a single-leg Boston crab/Camel Clutch combination…
James Davis dropped Allen head-first onto a traffic cone, before Allen and Singh double-teamed to sodomise him on the same thing. Rob Lynch smashed Darrell over the head with a hub cap, then tosses Singh with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, as this became quickly violent. On the outside, Davis choked Allen with a cricket bat, before he thudded off the floor courtesy of a body slam. A keyboard went flying off the head of Lynch, before a top rope ‘rana took him down. Darrell Allen took a shot to the midsection with a crutch as he landed in a ring filled with errant computer keys.
Lynch took an old laptop and smashed it off the back of Allen – so hard that the screen flew off – before Lynch held up Allen in a Gory Stretch so he could take a Singapore cane to the ribs. That had to suck.
A fan threw some beer in Rob Lynch’s face after he’d grabbed it and used it on RJ Singh on the floor, before Lynch accidentally speared his own partner in the ring. Allen dived to the outside and hit a brainbuster to Davis on the floor, which sparked a spell of offence for the Bhangra Knights.
The Knights call for the Bhangra Buster into Lynch, and actually get it for a near-fall as Davis breaks up the cover, before he takes – and no-sells – a German suplex. Singh gets a Rainmaker, before Allen’s dumped with a deadlift German suplex, before he pops back up with a belly-to-back superplex.
The Bhangra Knights use some crutches to beat up the Riots, but a massive pop-up spear onto Allen, takes down one half of the Knights. Singh replied with a moonsault to Davis off the top rope, before he takes a buckle-bomb. Singh slipped out of a double-team powerbomb, before falling to the District Line Powerbomb anyway for the win. This’d be the style of match that the Riots would become renowned for in PROGRESS – fun, violent, but the modern day equivalent of Chinese food in that it was pretty good there-and-then, but it’ll fade from the memory pretty quickly. The only real takeaway from this, for me at least, is “who’ll stop the Riots?” ***
A Buddy Holly’d up Glen Joseph jumped into the ring to check on Allen and Singh afterwards, with Rob Lynch thoughtfully dumping a crutch onto each of them so they could help themselves to the back… They didn’t need them in the end.
PROGRESS Tag Team Championships: Project Ego (Martin Kirby & Kris Travis) vs. Screw Indy Wrestling (Nathan Cruz & Mark Haskins) vs. FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews)
This is to crown the inaugural champions – with the titles being a giant shield cut in a Ying/Yang style – and they’re doing this with triple-threat rules, with one man from each team is in the ring at all times. The introductions took a long long time, thanks in part to the incredibly misogynistic crowd chanting “get yours tits out” at Kathryn Rose’s ring announcement. C’mon PROGRESS fans, I thought we were all better than that?
FSU used referee Marc Parry as a maypole, wrapping some streamers around him, and we start with the trio of Travis, Cruz and Dennis. Well, we did after a bit of stalling, and Travis was the first one to “turn”, dropping Dennis with a leg lariat after ripping off a “DEFEND INDY WRESTLING” wristband to show a “SCREW INDY WRESTLING” band. Which didn’t sway Cruz one bit.
Haskins caught Andrews in a grounded leg-lock whilst holding Kirby in an abdominal stretch… before Nathan Cruz dropkick’d Kirby free so Andrews could take a spike DDT. I get what they tried to do, but that looked weird, especially as the video made it look like Cruz dropkicked his own man?? This had a lot of the issues you’d expect with triple threats, in that a lot of the match was “two men in the ring, and a third one out of the picture” – to the point where they may have been better off doing this as an elimination match.
Andrews gets used as a weapon for a slingshot reverse suplex by Haskins and Cruz onto Kirby, before Haskin impressively caught Andrews in a Boston crab and Kirby in a camel clutch at the same time. Kris Travis got a hot tag and cleared house for a bit, before Eddie Dennis got a hotter tag, dropping Travis with an atomic drop and a clothesline.
Dennis does the impressive fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo for a near-fall on Haskins, before he drops Travis with a chokeslam. An attempted chokeslam on Haskins is avoided as Cruz tags in and lands the Show Stolen, before a plancha from Eddie Dennis and a shooting star press from Mark Andrews wiped out the other two teams.
A parade of moves then followed in the ring, ending with a Kris Travis superkick to Cruz. Dennis and Travis trade uppercuts, before Martin Kirby tagged in and levelled Dennis with a tornado DDT into an enziguiri. After Andrews dropkicked Travis out of the ring, Kirby took a bucklebomb/enziguiri combo in the corner, before a stuff Next Stop Driver earned FSU the titles. As a match, this really didn’t click with me. The persistent triple-threat stuff left the match struggling to build up to anything, with continuous interruptions and a staccato tempo that meant that the finish just seemed to come out of nowhere. Fantastic effort, but the format just wasn’t my cup of tea. ***
Doug Williams vs. Dave Mastiff
Despite losing in the last match, Nathan Cruz (and his valet, Kathryn Rose) were shown prominently in the crowd. We started with some chain wrestling between Mastiff and Williams, going from a wristlock into a headlock and back again as Mastiff was forced to wrestle Williams’ match.
Mastiff gets a sleeperhold onto the grounded Williams, who easily slips out, like an older Zack Sabre Jr! Doug had no answer for a shoulder block, and walked into another headlock after Mastiff stopped short of a leapfrog.
The tempo raised a little as both men rolled out of Irish whips, before Mastiff missed a diving crossbody. Williams gets dropkicked into the corner as he went for a European uppercut, and for whatever reason, Kathryn Rose slid into the ring to try and protect Doug from a cannonball dive. Rose turned around into the path of Williams, who then stopped Mastiff from a powerbomb… only to try for an Exploder suplex on her.
Mastiff prevented the suplex, and went back and forth on what to do with Rose. The crowd chanted “double team”… instead, they played “rock, paper, scissors”, which Williams won as he hit a knee lift, sending Rose into Mastiff who… pulled up her skirt, ahead of a sit-out powerbomb. Nathan Cruz was apoplectic with rage in the aisle, before he carried Kathryn Rose to the back.
With the distraction done with, Mastiff and Williams traded forearms to the face, before Doug hits a flying back elbow. Williams take the advantage, and looked to hit the Chaos Theory German suplex, but fell into a low crossbody from Mastiff for a near-fall. After kicking out of a sunset flip, Mastiff took an Exploder suplex, but rolled out of the way of the Bomb Scare kneedrop. “The Bastard” followed up by dropkicking Williams into the corner, and then flattening him with a cannonball for the win. Take out the garbage in the middle, and this was a perfectly acceptable match, but unfortunately we had that intergender stuff that was questionable at the time… and that hurt this bout badly. **
As a side note, thank God Mastiff ditched the singlet. He looked like a Black County Bull Dempsey here – and that’s not a good thing!
PROGRESS Championship: Rampage Brown vs. Marty Scurll vs. El Ligero vs. Jimmy Havoc (c)
Jim Smallman introduced the challengers first, not wanting to be in the ring with Havoc, who finally came out with both members of the London Riots and Isaac Zercher. Smallman threatened to strip Havoc of the title unless the rest of Havoc’s crew disappeared… Havoc agreed to that, since a four-way match was inherently no-disqualification anyway.
So the first thing that happened? Marty Scurll bashed in Havoc with a steel chair, and we’re underway! This is all brawling on the outside, with Scurll being tossed into a pillar… interestingly, despite being “Party” Marty, Scurll’s trunks had “VILLAIN” on the back of them here. Ligero and Rampage go to the bar – not like that – and through the crowd. Scurll chops the ringpost by mistake as he aimed for Havoc, before Scurll and Havoc teamed up to throw Rampage into the video wall.
Scurll takes a mouthful of beer before he has a sit-down slug-out with Havoc, which ends with a nasty headbutt and a mouthful of beer being spat at the former “Take Me Out” contestant. Sorry, I take that back, an Air Raid Crash on the apron was how Scurll ended that! Ligero knocks Rampage off the apron with a springboard dropkick as he tried to piledrive Scurll… and in return, Scurll just suplexes Ligero from the ring to Rampage on the floor. There’s gratitude for you! The fight remained outside the ring for a bit as Scurll threw a chair into a seated Rampage, before the pair fell to a somersault senton off the balcony from Ligero.
Back in the ring, Ligero got a near-fall from a big splash on Havoc, before Scurll came in with a few punches and eventually caught the masked man in a variation of the Anaconda Vice. Rampage broke it up, and ended up receiving the “Just Kidding” superkick (back before that was famous!) Havoc pops back up to low-blow Ligero, but he too gets a superkick as the champion briefly ran wild.
Havoc catches Ligero with a sleeperhold, and keeps hold of it despite two back suplexes. Rampage tried for a double piledriver onto Ligero and Havoc – who still kept the slerperhold on despite all that – before finally letting go after taking a chairshot from Scurll. The future Villain fired back with a death valley driver on Havoc into Ligero, who was trapped in a Tree of Woe, which was an interesting spot for sure.
On the outside, Scurll looked to drop Havoc through some chairs with a death valley driver, but ended up being drilled through them with a double stomp off the apron in a move that looked to really test Jimmy Havoc’s ankle ligaments. Havoc broke up a pin from Rampage and ended up taking a press slam to the floor – with nobody intentionally there to catch him – before Ligero tossed him through many rows of seats. Wash, rinse and repeat from Marty Scurll, and again from Rampage Brown and his mighty, mighty beard.
Rampage ragdolls Jimmy Havoc like they were doing Brock Lesnar vs. Spike Dudley back in the day with FOUR powerbombs in a row, but Scurll and Ligero broke up the pin as this turned into a virtual three-on-one beatdown of Havoc. With an endless row of (thankfully protected) chairshots delivered to the champion. By the end of it, the ring was starting to resemble that ECW moment where Public Enemy were drowned in a sea of chairs.
After dispatching Havoc, Ligero went up top but got caught by Rampage and was superplexed into the pile of chairs, before Scurll almost stole the win from there. Rampage got some revenge with a piledriver on Scurll, but out of nowhere Havoc returned with a chair, smashed Rampage to break up the pin and stole the win. A suitably cheap ending for PROGRESS’ big heel. That was a truly fitting match to cap-off their debut in Camden, with a chaotic – but not in an overly scripted or passe manner either, like some “hardcore” bouts can be. ***¾
Rampage Brown decked Havoc with a chairshot after the match, then dropped the champion with a leaping piledriver. Jim Smallman and the crowd called for it “one more time”, and they got what they wanted. As Smallman told Havoc about “plan B”, out came Mark Andrews, who made a beeline for the top rope and nailed Havoc with a shooting star press to set-up a ladder match at Chapter 13.