It can be daunting to start following a new promotion, especially a group like PROGRESS. With almost thirty events under their belt (plus their ENDVR shows), the group thankfully advises on some entry points… and since we’ve already covered the first Thunderbastard match, we may as well dive in on a recommended point: starting with July 2015’s Chapter 20: Thunderbastard – Beyond Thunderbastard.

As part of the pre-show intros, Jim Smallman announces that Dave Mastiff has been pulled from the show and is replaced for his opening match by Pro-Jo graduate “Pastor” William Eaver… cue chants from the crowd of “He’s working on the Sabbath”. Smallman then mentions Hulk Hogan in passing, prompting the crowd to chant “we’re not racist” and you know what we’re in for here.

By the way, Jimmy Barnett has been written out, so PROGRESS have a new commentary team: Glen Joseph, and RJ Singh. Smallman’s/Barnett’s commentary wasn’t bad, but if the change means that they can have as-live commentary, it’ll be a definite improvement.

Noam Dar vs. William Eaver
Oh lord, the man whose name lends himself to virtually any chant…. Dar starts off brightly, sending Eaver to the outside with a dropkick, before Eaver grabs a near-fall with a “Pope-ish Hammer”. Dar goes for the Champagne Super Knee-Bar early on, but Eaver grabs the ropes, as the crowd chant “CM Punk” after some static played over the sound system.

Eaver almost has Dar with a Uranage Backbreaker, but Dar gets a roll-up for a two-count, before Eaver successfully connects with the Clothesline from Heaven for the upset win. This seemed a little too short and didn’t get going, but it did what it needed to for an opening match. **¾ Post-match, Dar draped a “Chapter 1” t-shirt on the ropes as he left, signifying what was (for now) his last match with the promotion…

Kyle Ashmore vs. Mike Hitchman vs. Bubblegum vs. Morgan Webster
To set the scene here: you can guess Kyle Ashmore’s gimmick by the opening lyrics to his theme: “No Beard, No Good”; “Wild Boar” Mike Hitchman was in the original Thunderbastard match, looks like a Welsh Sami Callihan; Bubblegum is something of a veteran of the British scene, having been around since 2004 – but at least his usage of Dizzy Rascal’s “Jus’ a Rascal” as his theme song gives the crowd something to chant to (even if they do sing “He’s just a rent boy…). Webster came into this match looking to build on his win in the second Natural Progression series tournament.

As the designated heel, Bubblegum had a target on his back for this one, with Hitchman sending him to the outside early on with a cannonball. Morgan impressed with a double-armdrag on Hitchman and Ashmore, but quickly got powerbombed onto a knee by Ashmore.

After returning to the match, Bubblegum looked impressive, taking out Webster and Hitchman, scoring a near-fall with a double stomp, before Webster backed out of an attempted Ice Cream Headache (Pedigree). The tempo went up as Ashmore lay out Bubblegum with the Overgrowth (one man’s Spanish fly), but nobody was able to get a pinfall, as Webster slipped out of the Ice Cream Headache and hit the Brit Pop Drop (Hirooki Goto’s Ushigoroshi), only to slip on the ropes before he succeeded in a reverse ‘rana. No pinfall attempt followed, but we ended up seeing Hitchman and Ashmore collude for a “Buddy Driver” (spike package piledriver) on Bubblegum.

Webster broke up Hitchman’s attempt to pin Bubblegun with a 450 Splash, before successfully stealing the pin. If Webster was meant to have been spotlighted here, unfortunately he found himself overshadowed by Bubblegum and Ashmore. ***¼

Natural Progression Series III Quarter-Final Match: Damian Dunne vs. Sebastian
Sebastian is one half of the GZRS – a group that managed to get some form of Internet fame as they were a living meme – and came out in gear looking like a fake Real Madrid shirt… and was jumped at the bell by Dunne.

Against a backdrop of fans chanting for the Geezers – and seemingly not following much of the match – the pair put on a decent match, with the biggest reaction coming for Dunne kicking Sebastian’s GZRS tag team partner low.

Sebastian mounted a comeback with an enziguiri, but ate a high knee… only to take Dunne down with a STO for a near fall. Dunne squirmed out of a GeezTS and scored a two-count with a spear; Dunne then went to rip off the turnbuckle pad with the help of a pair of scissors, but as the referee was distracted in fixing the ring, that acted as a set up for Tom Irvin to hit the “Copyright Infringement Driver” (the Dudley Boyz’ old “Whassup” headbutt).

Dunne caught Sebastian with a springboard Codebreaker off the middle ropes for a count of two, but Sebastian nailed the GeezTS (Dominator into the GTS) for the win. Not a bad match, it started way too slowly before picking up at the end **½

This ended up being moot, as Sebastian would drop out of the Natural Progression series in January 2016, before the tournament could kick off proper.

PROGRESS Tag Team Title Match: The Sumerian Death Squad (Michael Dante & Tommy End) (c) vs. The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter)
Before the match, Jim Smallman announced that the Sumerian Death Squad’s tag team title shield was held up at customs, so whilst this is for the titles, there’s nothing physical to behold. On paper, the smaller Hunter Brothers looked like cannon fodder for the SDS, who held a notable height and weight advantage over their Midland rivals.

It started off as you’d expect with Dante and End dominating their foes with strikes, but the Hunters used their their speed to get back into it, with the Hunters utilising a giant swing and a dropkick combo to take take out End. Dante finally gets a hot tag in and wipes out the Hunters, before dropping Lee Hunter with a full-nelson flapjack for a near fall. The Hunters then hit a sunset-flip backbreaker in a double-team move, before a kneeling chinlock/senton combo as the Brothers looked to capitalise with their two-on-ones.

The Hunters get a near-fall with a spike Tombstone piledriver, as Michael Dante breaks up the cover. End hiptosses Jim onto Lee’s knees as the Hunters tried their sunset flip backbreaker combo once more, but the SDS can’t capitalise as the Hunters broke up the pin. In the end an Anti-Hero (wheelbarrow suplex set-up with a Blockbuster off the top rope) secured the SDS the win in what was a fantastic tag match that built the SDS as champions, and made stars in defeat out of the Hunters. Shame they’ve not been back since! ****

After a sit-down interview sequence building up the ongoing Jinny vs. Pollyanna feud, we return to Glen Joseph announcing the retirement of Ali Armstrong due to injury. Armstrong was the first graduate of the Pro-Jo – and was brought into the ring to accept the cheers from the fans. This being wrestling, Armstrong’s moment had to be ruined, as Nathan Cruz came out to wind up everyone, which leads to Cruz being forced into being in the first man in the second Thunderbastard match.

Thunderbastard Match: Nathan Cruz vs. Damon Moser vs. El Ligero vs. Rampage Brown vs. Mark Haskins vs. Marty Scurll vs. Eddie Dennis vs. Tom Irvin
So, Nathan Cruz and Damon Moser starts this off, and there’s a lot of brawling between the former members of the “Faceless” group. Cruz sits out of a Fisherman’s driver before Moser starts attacking him in the corner, as the Camden crowd start singing Adam Rose’s theme for some reason. The third man out is El Ligero – which means this is going to be a two-on-one beatdown on Moser for a while… well, it would have been had Cruz not been down in the corner, but as soon as Cruz got up, the Origin went to work and made short order of Moser, with Ligero hitting an Air Raid Crash to eliminate Moser.

Entrant number four is revealed as Rampage Brown, but we still have the two-on-one issue, but Brown catches Ligero flying off the top rope and drills him with a powerbomb. Rampage overcomes the Origin with a double suplex, before the fifth entrant is revealed as Mark Haskins makes a beeline for Ligero, before Haskins and Brown go to work over Nathan Cruz with chops. Ligero’s attempt at a C4L on Haskins is turned into a springboard powerbomb, just in time for Marty Scurll to enter the fray, and he immediately gets thrown to the lions known as the Origin, but battles free, hitting low-pes onto both Cruz and Ligero. Entrant seven is revealed as Eddie Dennis, and he’s greeted with a low-pe by Scurll, but Dennis catches him and dumps Scurll on the apron with a swinging side slam.

The ring’s filling up, but Dennis tries to get rid of the Origin with the Michael Elgin spot – the fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo – that gets a near-fall for the Welshman. Tom Irvin comes out to wrap up the entrants, with the GZRS coming to the ring, as Irvin hits the Stunner on Haskins, Scurll, Cruz and… not Ligero, as he slaps him hard, but Irvin catches a small package to eliminate El Ligero. As Irvin celebrates, he’s kicked in the head by Nathan Cruz, and is quickly eliminated.

Cruz then gets dumped in a swinging side slam by Eddie Dennis, who then went toe to toe with Rampage Brown, and got the upper hand, eliminating Rampage with a Next Stop Driver. As Dennis celebrates, he turned around into Nathan Cruz’s Show Stolen (TKO), as we’ve gone from a full ring to a series of quick eliminations, leaving us with Cruz, Haskins and Scurll.

The countdown clock starts up again in error (who pressed the wrong button?), as Scurll sets up Haskins and Cruz in the corner, but that turned into a tower of doom spot as the tempo increases yet again. Cruz lays out Scurll with the Show Stolen, but Scurll kicks out at two, and as he protests, Scurll rolls him up for a crucifix pin to eliminate the Origin member.

We’re down to Scurll and Haskins, with Haskins rolling out of a chickenwing for a near fall, before locking in a Stretch Muffler that forces Scurll to the ropes. Another chickenwing attempt is escaped, as Haskins stamps on the arm, before a third attempt sees Haskins roll through into a schoolboy and snatch the victory! Mark Haskins is your Thunderbastard! Another fun outing for this match, with more storylines than the first outing last year ***¾

PROGRESS Title: Will Ospreay vs. Jimmy Havoc (c)
This is a no-disqualification affair, with Jimmy Havoc coming into this match on a 600+ day title reign. Ospreay gets black and white streamers – and the entire crowd’s backing – while Havoc, with a painted face a-la Finn Balor, is booed out of the building.

In the opening sequence, Ospreay hits a rana that sends Havoc to the outside, before landing a flip dive to the floor on Havoc. Ospreay sends Havoc into the crowd – twice – throwing him all the way from the front row all the way to the bar at the back of the room. Ospreay went under the ring for chairs and a table, but walks into a barrage of kendo stick shots from Havoc – including a shot direct to the face – as he went back around the ring.

After setting up a pile of chairs, Havoc sees a suplex attempt blocked, with Ospreay landing a release suplex in the chairs for a near fall. More plunder arrives in the form of drawing pins (thumb tacks, for the American audience), which Havoc first scatters onto the mat before grabbing a handful and shoving them down Ospreay’s throat, then punching his mouth. That’s… erm, unique? The violence continues when Havoc dumped Ospreay onto a chair with a Burning Hammer after catching him from a handspring, before Ospreay uses a Death Valley Driver to throw Havoc into the pins.

Interference arrived in the form of Regression – Isaac Zercher and Paul Robinson – with the latter curb stomping Ospreay to death, before they get caught into a brawl to the back with the London Riots.

Back in the ring, Havoc gets a near fall from the Acid Rainmaker, before a shoving match with the referee saw Havoc rolled up for a two count. Havoc then uses the Acid Rainmaker on the referee, and we’re now utterly lawless in the no-DQ match. Another ref comes to make the count after Havoc was pushed off the top rope whilst trying to superplex Havoc through the table, with Ospreay going up top for a shooting star press followed by a twisting star press to score a near fall.

Ospreay found himself taking a double stomp through a table on the outside, and after kicking out, you got the feeling that the crowd knew that something special was coming… but perhaps they weren’t expecting an Acid Rainmaker to the second referee, meaning that the only man left to count any decision was Jim Smallman, coming full circle after his fill-in referee duty gave Havoc the title in the first place.

Another Acid Rainmaker on Ospreay resulted in a kick-out and a thunderous cheer from the crowd… and audible gasps when Havoc grabs an axe from under the ring! Ospreay hits a low blow as Havoc swung the axe, sparking another revival… and another Acid Rainmaker which gets a kick-out and another loud cheer. Ospreay avoids a Styles Clash, then lands the Essex Destroyer on Havoc… but doesn’t go for the pin as the noise intensifies. 630 Splash! Will Ospreay wins the title, and blows out my headphones in the process!

Before – and during – the match, the commentary team rammed home that Ospreay had never tried the 630 Splash since spiking his head in missing the move in November 2014, so you had a feeling this was foreshadowing. An amazing match, with amazing scenes at the end of it, marking the end of one era of PROGRESS and the start of another ****¼

As a getting-on point for anyone new to PROGRESS, this was a good recommendation, particularly for lasting moment at the end of the show of Ospreay winning the big one. If you were there live, you were one of the lucky ones – particularly if you got to experience the atmosphere for the main event.