PROGRESS wrapped up 2014 with a fine show at the Electric Ballroom – whilst Jimmy Havoc’s title reign kept rolling on.

#TLDR: “The Botchamania themed show without any botches”, featured the debut of a new faction, and the retirement of a long-time PROGRESS star…

The Full Review: Long-time fans of Botchamania will get the title name here… and if you don’t know what the title referred to… well, the clip of a Japanese table will tell you all! The Botchamania motif continues throughout the show, by the way… Before the opening match, Mark Haskins is in the ring, and invites Rampage Brown to the ring. Haskins is injured, and he wants Rampage to take his spot in Screw Indy Wrestling – but Rampage turns it down, saying he’s through with the group. Martin Stone comes out and drops Rampage with an Ace crusher, and I guess he’s the replacement as Rampage suffers a 3-on-1 beatdown.

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Screw Indy Wrestling (Sha Samuels & Martin Stone) vs. FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews (c)
Samuels and Stone attacked FSU as soon as they hit the ring, but the champions quickly bailed to the outside where they were met with a pair of somersault sentons.

The flippy goodness continued with Andrews corkscrew standing moonsault to Samuels for a near-fall, but the injured Haskins took his chance to interject himself whenever he could, beating on Andrews behind the referee’s back. Samuels used a scarf and some braces to choke Andrews, which just led to the crowd to heckle Samuels some more.

Dennis came in to clear house on Samuels and Stone, getting a near-fall on Sha after a swinging side slam, only for Martin Stone to clatter into him with a series of clotheslines, before a missile dropkick from Andrews took down Stone. Andrews ended up low-bridging Stone and following up with a plancha to the outside, leaving Samuels alone to take a crucifix bucklebomb and a Next Stop Driver for the win. A pretty good opening match, but with yet another loss under their belt, the future of Screw Indy Wrestling is looking shaky at the very least. ***¼

Natural PROGRESSion Series – Semi-Final – Zack Gibson vs. Ali Armstrong
I’ve said it before, but my word, Zack Gibson looks weird with hair… the winner of this takes on “Flash” Morgan Webster in the finals. Gibson wore down Armstrong with headlocks, before Ali cartwheeled away from the Scouser, who was getting plenty of abuse even for the early days of his career. A series of hiptoss blocks sent Armstrong into the ropes, and Gibson kept up the offence before Ali finally landed that hiptoss.

A wheelbarrow roll-up got Armstrong a near-fall on Gibson, before a slow-motion senton just enraged Gibson so much he threw him into the ringpost. From there, Gibson methodically worked over Armstrong’s arm, before landing a dropkick and surprising Gibson with an airplane spin. From there, a belly-to-belly suplex got Armstrong a near-fall, before Gibson slipped while trying to climb the turnbuckles. That Steven Gerrard imitation almost cost him as Armstrong nailed a German suplex for a near-fall, before Gibson went back to Armstrong’s arm, using the move that’d become the Shankly Gates.

Armstrong replied to an eye poke with a spinning shop, and finally an Ace crusher for a near-fall in another back-and-forth sequence. An Angle Slam takes Gibson down in preparation for the Gains Bomb – think a Vader bomb, ending with an imploding senton – but Armstrong misses and then takes the Ticket To Ride (top rope Codebreaker) for a near-fall.

After the kick-out, Gibson lays into Armstrong with a penalty kick, before the Shankly Gates forces the submission. A fine match, and I’ll repeat what I’ve said pretty much every time I’ve seen Armstrong in action: it’s a damn shame injury curtailed his career. ***½

Street Fight: El Ligero vs. Michael Gilbert
Ligero waited for Gilbert on the stage with a chair… and I think you can guess how this one starts. Gilbert took a chair to the head as Ligero followed up with a somersault dive off the stage, before laying into him with forearms around the ring.

Ligero went on the hunt under the ring for a sign… and dragged a “road closed” sign out, before setting it up and hurling Gilbert through it. Gilbert then gets up in time as Ligero went to cannonball into the front row, instead hiptossing Ligero into the fourth row as the rest of the Electric Ballroom chanted “something happened over there”. Ah, the dangers of crowd brawling…

They finally entered the ring, with Gilbert grabbing a chair… but instead he just used it for comfort as he sat down for a chinlock on Ligero. Who just stood up and dumped Gilbert onto the chair, which didn’t break. Gilbert grabbed a second chair from the crowd, and threw it at Ligero – with a fan’s hoodie flying into the ropes for good measure! More chairs went into the ring, along with that road sign, but instead of throwing Ligero into them, he just placed Ligero in an abdominal stretch.

Ligero backdropped out and took a bump off the top and into the chairs, before a crossbody almost scored him a win. Things then went up a notch when Ligero brought out a bag full of drawing pins, which led to a few teases, including an attempted Tiger Driver by Gilbert, who eventually pushed off an Ace crusher, sending Ligero into the pins. A Blue Thunder Driver into the pins got another near-fall for Gilbert, before he went for a powerbomb into a Texas cloverleaf, forcing Ligero to crawl out of the ring to break the hold. Ligero returns to give Gilbert a low blow, then set him in a tree of woe, before getting a load of chairs from the crowd and covering Gilbert’s face with them… one corner dropkick later, and Ligero picked up another near-fall.

Ligero then decided to go to the back… and returned with a barbed wire board, along with a roll of barbed wire. Unlike the pins, Ligero didn’t take the board, as he took down Gilbert with an Ace crusher onto the board, before a barbed-wire assisted Crossface forced Gilbert to give up. Well, that got violent very quickly! ***

Career vs. Career: RJ Singh vs. Stixx
At chapter 15, after RJ Singh had worked a couple of comedy matches, we had a post-match segment with Stixx – which quickly got personal, and led to this career-ending match.

Singh tried to end it with a schoolboy immediately, before going for an Ethnic Submission… which of course don’t go well. Stixx instead slaps Singh, who gives a receipt, before a top rope shoulder tackle from Stixx earned him a near-fall. They try an Alabama Slam, but Singh grabs the ropes and eventually dragged both men to the outside, where he followed up with a picture-perfect moonsault to the floor.

Back inside, Singh went up top, but this time got caught as the pair exchanged headbutts, before Stixx punched away from a sunset flip powerbomb. Stixx’s leap off the top gets turned into a powerslam for a near-fall, as they swap a load of near-falls back and forth. We saw a springboard dive from Stixx which just about connected as he slid into the front row, with Singh escaping in time… but Singh demanded that Chris Roberts stop the count, and then took the microphone to demand that “Paul… get your arse in here and finish this clean”. I sense a screwy finish.

After Stixx climbed in, he was caught in an Ethnic Submission, but Stixx stood up and swung free, before catching a Bossman slam. A second Bossman slam left Singh down, before a third slam finally resulted in a cover, with Singh kicking out just in time. Singh replied with a superkick and a Michinoku driver, before a Singh-ton Bomb got him a two-count. Both men stood up and hugged after the kick out… and the rat-smelling continued. Singh surprised Stixx with a superkick, who hit back with a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall – leaving Singh unable to get up. That proved to be a ruse as a roll-up nearly got Singh the win, as did an Angel’s Wings.

In the end, Stixx caught Singh off the top rope and blasted him with a Last Ride-esque powerbomb for the win. A really good match, which told the story of two friends fighting for their careers – with very little of the issue that got them here in the first place. ***½

After the match, the crowd chanted “thank you RJ”, before Singh gave a farewell promo thanking management and putting over the promotion. Singh then thanked Stixx (which was odd, considering the kayfabe stipulation!), before signing off for the last time (for now!). Once Singh had gone to the back, we were treated to a pair of photos: Singh vs. Stixx before today’s match, and from way earlier in their career (at a guess, I’d suggest 2002 FWA?)

Before the interval, Jim Smallman held a raffle. These things never go well in PROGRESS… FSU come out to do a photo opportunity with the winners. A number generator on the screen drew chant of “Y2J”, but instead of a raffle number, a load of zeroes appeared on the video wall, before being replaced by Guido masks. The ring was surrounded by men dressed in black, with those masks too, leaving FSU alone to defend themselves against a group that’d become known as the Faceless. It went badly, as FSU were wiped out by the three men who hit the ring, who used tyre wrenches and other hardware to beat down the tag champions. The segment ended with Andrews and Dennis having Guido masks placed on them, before the three men pulled off their masks to reveal… more masks. Hey, at least they were practical lucha-style hoods rather than have them wrestling in plastic masks. New Japan’s Bone Soldier found out the hard way in 2016 that that was a bad idea…

Will Ospreay vs. Paul Robinson
Finally, the Swords of Essex clash for the first time since Paul Robinson turned on his former partner. Will’s Thunderbastard title shot is on the line here, and I think this was the first appearance of the blasted “one fall” shout. Robinson hit Ospreay low before the bell… but Will had a cup on, so the cheapshot had no effect. What might have hurt more was the tope suicida, as Ospreay landed almost head-first on his former partner. Will kept his shirt on as they brawled around ringside, largely keeping Robinson down after a Yakuza kick and a chicken wing.

In the ring, Robinson was taken down by a dropkick as Ospreay rained down shots and stomps. Eventually Robinson overcame Will and turned up the aggression, ripping off Ospreay’s shirt to reveal what looked like an entire roll of KT tape. That tape was used to try and choke Will with, before some mounted punches in the corner ended with Robinson just biting his former partner’s nose.

Robinson utilised a double chickenwing on Ospreay, forcing Will to reach for the ropes and drag himself outside, where the punishment continued. A front headlock led to some more pain as Robinson flipped forward into a Cattle Mutilation several times, but Ospreay fought out, and tried for a German suplex before an overhead kick knocked Robinson down.

Ospreay fought back with a handspring kick, before a 619-esque kick to the back of Robinson and a springboard forearm led to a Fisherman’s brainbuster. A standing shooting star press got Ospreay a near-fall as he went to a front facelock that turned into a spike brainbuster that sent Robinson bouncing into the air! After both men ducked a series of kicks, Ospreay finally connected then went for a release suplex, only for Robinson to counter it with a ‘rana for a near-fall. Robinson tried for a Destroyer, but Ospreay fought out and eventually hit a leaping reverse neckbreaker, before setting up for another aerial attack… Ospreay looked hesitant, still haunted by his recent neck injury, and ended up jumping down after thinking better of it.

Robinson almost capitalised with a schoolboy for a near-fall, and then hit a corkscrew diving kick for another two-count. A series of headbutts and windmill punches followed to Ospreay’s back as more of that KT tape was ripped off, before Will powered out of a hammerlock DDT and landed an OsCutter off the ropes. A somersault DDT – that’d later be rechristened the Rainham maker – would end up being enough as Ospreay took the win. A fine match to continue this blood-feud, and continue Will’s eventual path to the top in PROGRESS. ***¾

Marty Scurll vs. Noam Dar
Scurll was still “Party” here, as his slow descent into becoming a villain continued.

The opening exchange proved fruitless for Scurll, at least until he utilised a rather bizarre way of reversing a wristlock, as both men stuck with some more grounded moves. A test of strength led to a knuckle-lock takedown from Scurll and a series of near-falls, before Dar bridged out and was mounted by Scurll, only for a the knuckle-lock to continue with a series of near-falls. Scurll turned it into a Japanese strangle hold, but Dar flipped back on it to reverse the hold once more, before they again squared off.

Scurll leapt over an attempted log-roll from Dar, but ended up being knocked to the outside with a dropkick. The tables quickly turned back in Marty’s favour when Scurll landed a leaping Ace crusher, before drilling Dar with a superkick on the apron, then indulging in some joint manipulation as he caught Dar in an Octopus stretch. After Dar landed a low dropkick to Scurll, he scored a near-fall from a La Magistral as they then went back and forth for one-counts, purely to annoy the referee! Scurll blocked a corner uppercut, but couldn’t avoid a back elbow before Dar went all John Cena on us with a spin-out powerbomb. An overhead chop missed as Scurll countered with a Just Kidding superkick, which led to a low-tope. Dar returned with a tope of his own, before landing a Fisherman brainbuster for a near-fall back in the ring.

Scurll hit back with a release suplex for a two-count, before landing a pumphandle over-the-knee neckbreaker for another two-count. Dar slipped out of a chicken wing, only for Scurll to counter a knee-bar by slipping the chicken wing back on, and then lay into Dar with a series of repeated elbows to the head – a la Daniel Bryan. From there, Dar rolled through another chicken wing and scored a near-fall, before trapping Marty in the Champagne Super-Knee-Bar… with Scurll eventually breaking the hold by hooking Dar’s nose.

With both men back to their feet, they exchanged forearms, before Scurll tried to soften up Dar for another chicken wing. Dar replied with a series of kicks to Scurll’s leg, before they went back to the forearms, with Scurll landing a pair of rolling elbows, before an enziguiri took Dar into the ropes. The see-saw battle continued into the final stretch as Dar his an enziguiri of his own, before shrugging off a tornado DDT from Scurll to hit the Dar-li Chop (brain chop, just like the Great Khali used to do… but better) for the win. A really good semi-final – right at the level you’d expect from these guys too! ***¾

PROGRESS Championship: Jimmy Havoc (c) vs. Dave Mastiff vs. Rampage Brown
Rampage had recovered from his attack at the start of the show to take his place in the main event. At the last chapter show, Mastiff won a three-way over El Ligero and Martin Stone, whilst Rampage beat Marty Scurll and Zack Sabre Jr to take his place here.

Havoc was conceivably at risk here, given that Rampage and Mastiff both had size advantages over him, and spitting on both of his challengers was probably a bad idea, as that led to them stomping him into the corner. Rampage threw Havoc into the corner with a bodyslam, before Mastiff did the same. Havoc rolled to the outside for cover, but his challengers just followed him out and continued the battering as Havoc was thrown into the video wall.

The babyfaces opened up and placed four chairs as a landing pad – and hiptossed Havoc into them, before Rampage grabbed a table from under the ring. Havoc fought out of a powerbomb, but was trapped by Mastiff, who nonchalantly powerbombed the champion off the apron and through the table. Which thankfully wasn’t Japanese! Yep, this is the expected babyface massacre. But with Havoc now out of the picture, we now had the two big lads face off against each other. Mastiff resisted a couple of shoulder blocks, and took down Rampage with one of his own. An impressive leapfrog led to a dropkick from Rampage, whose knee was bothering him from the earlier assault, before Mastiff hit a dropkick of his own.

Rampage scored a two-count after a shoulder tackle off the middle rope, but Mastiff hit back with a deadlift, bridging German for another near-fall. A superplex followed from Mastiff, who rolled outside after the impact, allowing Jimmy Havoc to return from the dead and steal a near-fall. Havoc immediately went outside and grabbed a second table, and after propping it in the corner, he took a spear through it.

This time, the table didn’t break, and as fans of Botchamania would have had Metallica going through their head, Rampage replied with a powerbomb through the table – this time breaking. Mastiff broke up the cover though, only to be met with a Samoan drop as Rampage picked up another two-count. A series of short-arm clotheslines kept Mastiff at bay, before a ducked clothesline ended with Rampage getting sent with a release German into the corner.

A Mastiff cannonball followed, but Havoc came in and hit Rampage with the title belt… before putting a knee-bar on the laid-out Rampage for the submission. A good heel finish, but the lack of audible boos from the crowd kinda highlighted how this seemingly had been an accepted result, rather than one they were disappointed with. ***

Change is coming… in the form of Will Ospreay, who came out at the end of the show to announce that he was going to cash in his Thunderbastard title shot on the next chapter show: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

Overall, “Very Very Very Breaky Breaky Breaky Bishi Bishiii” was a solid chapter for PROGRESS as they wrapped up 2014 in style. Havoc as champion, the debuting Faceless, and a Natural PROGRESSion Series about to come to an end… 2015 looked to be even better.