Back to PROGRESS now, and we go back six months for November 2015’s show: Chapter 23 – What A Time To Be Alive! There are no old men thawing out of a freezer here, but we do have a rare event which included a pre-show, and that match that broke the ring… in the main show opener, too!

We’ll start with the two dark matches:

Dave Mastiff vs. Eddie Dennis
Kinda weird seeing Mastiff coming out before the curtain is even jerked, but the crowd’s up for it. Dennis is in singles action as his tag team partner’s in the main event, and getting a title shot to boot. Mastiff used his size advantage to fend off the FSU member, but Dennis lowbridges Mastiff to send him out of the ring, before connecting with a flip dive to the outside.

Dennis hoists up Mastiff and just about gets off a swinging side slam, but an attempt at the Next Stop Driver sees Mastiff switch out and nail him with a German suplex into the turnbuckles, before a cannonball in the corner gets “the Bastard” the win. Solid match, if a little short – perhaps the closest thing PROGRESS has done to a WWE TV-style match. **¾

Darrell Allen & Earl Black Jr. vs.Chuck Mambo & William Eaver
Our final pre-show match features the “Dazzler Team” against “Sweet Jesus” – with Mambo and Eaver having formed an entertaining, beach-ball-laden partnership since meeting in the Natural Progression series.

Sweet Jesus almost scored an early pin when Mambo’s surfboard on Earl Black Jr segued into a fisherman’s suplex from Eaver for a two-count, but after a brief period of offence from the Dazzlers, Mambo comes in to connect with the Mambo Number 5, before connecting with a flip dive to the outside.

Sweet Jesus got the win with the crucifix neckbreaker combo, ending another short, but enjoyable bout. **¾

We start the main show off with Jim Smallman throwing moon pie to fans in the crowd, and successfully getting it in the hands of one particular fan, which meant that Dave Meltzer is supposedly having to give this entire card six-stars. I’ve not seen his ratings for this, but lets see if they can meet that goal. But not before paying tribute to Leon Webster – an ardent PROGRESS fan who had passed away shortly before the show.

Big Daddy Walter vs. Rampage Brown
The battle of the big men here, with Vienna’s Walter taking on Leeds’ Rampage Brown… and perhaps the match that led to the creation of PROGRESS’ Atlas championship.

They start with some ground wrestling – nothing like Kane and Big Show’s alternate-universe of grappling, thankfully – before trading stiff chops that barely faze the other. Rampage shows off the first flash of agility with a nice dropkick, and it’s worth calling out that the first two times Brown was whipped into the turnbuckles, the corners didn’t exactly sound healthy, compared to how they’d usually sound.

Walter grabs Rampage in the corner and whips him into the opposite turnbuckles… and boom goes the dynamite! The top two turnbuckles collapse, and the big men have broken the ring! Walter scores a near fall from a backbreaker as the Camden crowd chant “Save The Ring”, and we’re now in an unusual predicament, where we have a match with barely a ring. It’s almost like sumo…

Walter and Rampage end up on the floor to continue the match, with Walter getting back body dropped onto the floor (which thankfully held up!). After some more improvising in the ring, including an Arn Anderson-like spinebuster by Brown, Walter then missed a body splash off the bottom rope, before falling to a Rampage piledriver for the win. Rampage Brown wins the match with no ring! An awesome spectacle, and by rights, there’s only one rating I can give this ******

As the ring crew put the ropes back together, Brown and Walter go face to face, trading a forearm and a headbutt, before they finally shake hands and exit the construction site that was once a ring.

Natural Progression Series III Quarter Final Match: Shen Woo vs. Damon Moser vs. Jack Sexsmith
A first round/quarter-final match, featuring three guys who are making their PROGRESS main show debuts… and all three from the Pro-Jo training school. Shen Woo is out in a sleeveless bodysuit, and gets a moderate reaction. Jack Sexsmith, as we mentioned in our live ENDVR review from March, is out with his Gimp and comes across as a sex-obsessed pervert… whilst Damon Moser, unfortunately, comes across as colourless compared to the rest of the crew.

Shen Woo attacked Sexsmith from behind at the bell as he taunted Moser with a dildo (you don’t get to write THAT everyday!), with Woo pulling Moser outside early on an whacking him into the post. Woo looked decent in this, even if he were emotionless, but a running double-knee from Moser to both opponents was only enough for a pair of two counts.

Woo thought he had the match won when he had Moser in a Boston Crab, only for Sexsmith to tap the mat – Woo thought it was Moser, and Sexsmith almost capitalised with a schoolboy for a near fall. Woo got his own back by pulling down Sexsmith’s shorts, and his bare arse was used to deliver naked hip attacks to his opponents, before giving Woo a naked stinkface. Sexsmith tried the same with Moser, but Damon grabbed Sexsmith’s dildo and shoved it where it don’t shine. (again, something I didn’t think I’d ever write!)

The finish came with Mr Cocko (think Mr Socko, with a condom… sorry for that mental image), as Shen Woo got it in his mouth, before Moser broke it up with an ushigorishi on Sexsmith and a knee trembler to Woo for the win. Good match, with not too much comedy in this **¾

Paul Robinson vs. Mark Haskins
Haskins grounded Robinson from the off with amateur-style grappling and jiujitsu, before tying up Robinson in a sharpshooter, forcing him to reach for the ropes.

For someone who had a hard fought match with the PROGRESS champion last time out, Robinson took a lot of beating early on, before using the ropes to neck Haskins as a way back into the match. That opened the door for Robinson to use a lot of ugly, but effective offence on Haskins, including a face twister with his boot, before kicking Haskins in the spine.

Haskins popped a two-count after a release German suplex on Robinson as they started to dial up the pace, before rolling through Robinson into a Rings of Saturn that forced another rope break. A rolling knee to the face followed by a short-DDT got Robinson a near fall as he tries getting back into it, but his attempt at spitting at Haskins saw him take too long and get caught in a gogoplata… but Robinson easily made the ropes.

Robinson shoved the referee into the ropes as Haskins climbed to the top, before capitalising with a second-rope curb stomp and a forearm for a near-fall. A stretch muffler from Haskins was quickly kicked out of by Robinson, but Haskins responded with a rolling death valley driver, and a transition into an armbar as Robinson quickly tapped out for the win. Solid match, but started off too slowly for my liking ***

Tommaso Ciampa vs. Marty Scurll
Set up at their last show, Ciampa’s match came after he… asked Jim Smallman for it following Scurll’s win over Morgan Webster, and Scurll jumps Ciampa during the entrance, nearly scoring a flash win with a diving forearm. Ciampa was then forced to reach the ropes as Scurll locked in the chicken wing, before Ciampa even took off his ring jacket!

After a spill to the outside, Ciampa suplexed Scurll into the ringpost, before attempting an Emerald Fusion off the top rope, which Scurll squirmed out of. They traded chicken wings in the middle of the ring for a while, but Scurll regained the advantage with a running knee as Ciampa was draped on the apron.

Scurll kept up the pressure after poking the eye and hitting a reverse suplex on Ciampa, but the “Psycho Killer” quickly turned the tables with the Project Ciampa for a near-fall. A super-kick on the apron as Ciampa was on the floor resulted in… Scurll not even going for a pin, instead going up top and delivering a superplex for another near-fall.

After winning a battle of chops, Scurll went for a chicken-wing, but lost out and ended up taking a discus clothesline from Ciampa. Scurll then shoved Ciampa into the referee, before trying the old Eddie Guerrero act of throwing a weapon to Ciampa and pretending that he’d been hit with it. Sadly, the referee stayed down, and Ciampa ended up breaking the umbrella he’d been given over Scurll’s back.

Scurll ended up dumped into the lap of some fans, and took a running knee – whilst still on the fans’ lap – before Ciampa ended up undoing the canvas on the ring, exposing the wood a la the Nexus. However, in the midst of that, Scurll took a mouthful of a fan’s cider, and sprayed it into Ciampa’s eyes as he set up for a Tree of Woe. Scurll then grabbed one of the bungee cords that had tied the ring together, and wrapped it around the throat of Ciampa, disguising it as a chicken wing as Ciampa passed out for the stoppage.

The finish was weird and abrupt, but the match that preceded it was pretty good – I liked how it reinforced Scurll’s heel character, particularly after some recent high-profile losses. ***¼

PROGRESS Tag Team Title Match: The Origin (El Ligero & Nathan Cruz) vs. The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) vs. The Sumerian Death Squad (Michael Dante & Tommy End) (c)
Luckily, they repaired the ring (for a second time!) before this one… Zack Gibson didn’t accompany the Origin for this, as he was preparing for his own match (that followed this), but they still had the behemoth that is Dave Mastiff at ringside.

This one started out painfully slowly, with Nathan Cruz stalling whenever he got the chance, keeping the match rooted to the ground. They had a nice spot early on where Cruz, Ligero and Mastiff worked an overly long headlock, as James Davis then kept being sent outside… after a while, Dave Mastiff was thrown out of the match, and they kept on with the headlocks, to the point where Tommy End grabbed the microphone and called out the guys in the ring for being boring, and then it turned into the all out brawl that these guys specialise in.

El Ligero found himself turfed into the crowd yet again by the London Riots, before all four of the big guys went flying – Tommy End with a moonsault, the Riots with topes, and Michael Dante with a tope con hilo. I guess they didn’t want to try these out in the ring after what happened earlier?

Ligero nearly snatched a win with a roll-up, but ended up jumping into the arms of the London Riots, who gladly delivered a District Line (double team throw-up) powerbomb for a near fall. The finish came out of nowhere seemingly, when James Davis used the Riots’ cricket bat on Tommy End, allowing Nathan Cruz to score a roll-up as Ligero kept Davis at bay. That was a fairly convoluted finish which seemed a little off, as did the whole match in fairness, with the Sumerian Death Squad’s reign as champions ending with a whimper. **¾

Post-match the dethroned champions brawled with the London Riots – and I must say that this felt like it was going to be better than the match itself!

Natural Progression Series II Trophy Match: Morgan Webster vs. Zack Gibson
This is a rematch from earlier in the year, when Webster beat Gibson to win the series – but he hadn’t yet cashed in his title shot, so this match is effectively a do-over, I guess?

Webster went for the 450 splash very early on, and if you’ve seen Gibson in PROGRESS before, you’ll know the kind of chants he was in for – but with extra oomph from the crowd. They followed a good spot where Webster stood on the top rope, on Gibson’s shirt, only for the Liverpudlian to pull the shirt out like it were a tablecloth, sending Webster flying.

Webster hit his usual pair of topes, followed by a tope con hilo as he was able to stay on top of Gibson, with a flying high knee on the outside. Gibson briefly regained control and took the match back to the ring, where Webster gave him a wheelbarrow facebuster, before Gibson started working on the arm, with lungblower-like knees to the arm and face of Webster.

Gibson locked in the Shankly Gates (Nigel McGuinness’ old London Dungeon wrist-lock variation), but Webster made the ropes… only for Gibson to reapply the hold in the ropes. There was a really unnatural looking spot where Gibson held himself on the ropes so he could take a 450 Splash (think back to how Alberto Del Rio used to deliver the double stomp, when that move was in vogue), but Gibson rolled out before he could even be covered.

Nathan Cruz from the Origin came out to “support” Gibson, just as the Scouser landed a flying lungblower on Webster. Gibson followed up with a cross-legged brainbuster for a near-fall, before turning a sunset flip kick-out into the Shankly Gates once more. Webster crawled towards the ropes, and actually made them, only for Cruz to shove his foot off – leading to the inevitable tap-out win as Zack Gibson stole the win. Good match, and a nice screwjob ending without going over-the-top. ***½

PROGRESS Title Match: Mark Andrews vs. Will Ospreay (c)
Plenty of duelling chants to start us off, as they worked through basic grappling as they sized each other up. Andrews just about edged things in the beginning, as he seemed to be a move ahead of Ospreay, with a surfboard attempt in the middle of the ring ending with Andrews just stomping the champion’s knees into the mat.

Ospreay started to get back into it, landing on his feet from an Andrews ‘rana before using an armdrag to take the challenger out of the ring, where Ospreay followed up with a twisting Asai moonsault to the floor. Andrews remained grounded with an armbar with a whole lot of torque, before switching to a seated abdominal stretch.

Things turned up a notch when Andrews spun Ospreay in a satellite-tiltawhirl DDT that dumped the champion on his head for a near-fall, as a Northern lights suplex from Andrews ended up seeing Ospreay roll-him up and finally connect with the Essex Destroyer for a two-count as the momentum continued shifting. Andrews switched a crucifix powerbomb from Ospreay into a reverse ‘rana, following up with a springboard Dragonrana that Ospreay kicked out of at 2.9.

Andrews went for the satellite DDT again, but found it blocked, only to switch it into a Stunner… as Ospreay hit back with an Ace Crusher variation of his own moments later. A shooting star press got the champion a near-fall as Andrews kicked out, which led to a 630 splash attempt, but Andrews caught him and connected with a Spanish Fly that led to another near-fall.

The finishing sequence ended up with Andrews catching Ospreay with an Essex Destroyer of his own for another near-fall, before Ospreay got the knees up for a shooting star press and another two-count. Ospreay finally finished him off with a 630 Splash and made the three-count to retain the title!

An outstanding back-and-forth contest which befit this promotion and its title – both of these men left it all out there, and put on an incredible contest. Sure, there were one or two slight hiccups, but this was by far and away the best match on this show. ****

By the way: TNA has Mark Andrews, and they just gave him a stupid name and don’t use him. They had Ospreay, but childishly chose not to use him when they found out he was going to New Japan. Add both these guys to the “LOL TNA” folder!

Overall this was another good show, as PROGRESS rounded off their 2015 offerings in London. They’d have one more event in the year, Chapter 24: “Hit The North”, which was the company’s debut in Manchester, but they sure left Camden with a very early Christmas present indeed!