It’s incredible that PROGRESS – almost exclusively based out of London – have lasted for four years, but it’s a testament to what a well-run promotion can do if they don’t seek to annoy fans and other promotions. Chapter 27 – The Lost Art of Suffering – was their fourth-anniversary show, headlined by the third-ever Thunderbastard match, a nine-man affair for Marty Scurll’s title.

The pre-show amble from Jim Smallman included an announcement for the two British qualifiers for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic (nee Global Cruiserweight Series) at Chapter 28. That earned a massive “holy shit” chant from the Camden crowd; as did the announcement of the upcoming Atlas Championship – for wrestlers over 205lb.

Natural Progression Series III Semi Final: “Pastor” William Eaver vs. Damian Dunne
Eaver was jumped during the introductions by Dunne, but Eaver fired back on the “Judas” (as the crowd put it), dropping him with a backbreaker and a running powerslam.

After a period of offence from Dunne, a springboard shoulderblock from the outside in got Eaver a glimmer of hope, but a stiff headbutt sent the Pastor into the corner. Eaver gets to his knees and starts to Pastor-up (given that this show was on Easter Sunday, is “rise from the dead” a better analogy?), knocking Dunne down with a pair of Pope-ish Hammers.

Eaver just about connected with a cross-body off the top rope on Dunne, before signalling for the Clothesline from Heaven. Dunne blocks it and hits a German suplex for a near-fall, but Eaver fires back with a uranage backbreaker and a Fisherman’s suplex for another near-fall. Dunne wriggled out of the Last Supper (crucifix bomb) and traded strikes, ending with a superkick that almost gets the Birmingham-born Dunne the win. However, Eaver kicked out and catches a springboard clothesline attempt, before dropping Dunne with the Last Supper and the Clothesline from Heaven for the win.

Good opening match – Eaver’s progressing really well (pardon the pun), and has real potential to continue being a cult hero (rather than a flash-in-the-pan act) ***

Jack Gallagher vs. Johnny Kidd
Following on from Gallagher’s win over Timothy Thatcher last time out, he’s facing World of Sport veteran Johnny Kidd – who was making his PROGRESS debut here at the sprightly young age of 60. Kidd doesn’t look his age, and gets a roaring ovation from the Camden faithful.

Much like Gallagher’s match with Thatcher, this was held in front of a quiet, but observant crowd, but the crowd seemed to engage more this time out as the pair grappled back and forth. Kidd stretches Gallagher’s arms on the mat but Gallagher kicks himself free before returning the favour, and scoring a quick one-count when he bridged the move into a pinfall attempt.

Gallagher switches to a knee-stretch on Kidd that he eventually rolls out of, before transitioning to an arm lock and a series of one-counts for increasing comedic effect. Kidd sees a full nelson broken by Gallagher, before forcing the youngster into a seated split-leg position. The tempo starts to pick up a little, with Kidd moving Gallagher into a modified surfboard, before switching to some leg scissors and a roll-up for a near-fall.

The reversals continue back and forth, with Kidd tying Gallagher up in a reverse cloverleaf (kind-of like Paige’s PTO submission), but Gallagher escapes and turns it into an Indian Deathlock with a bridge for extra torque. Kidd then gets caught in an Octopus stretch after another skirmish, with a few near falls ending with Gallagher scoring a win with a sunset-flip followed by a jack-knife roll-up. That was a refreshing change of pace, and a call-back to the glory days of World of Sport – another unexpected highlight from a PROGRESS card! ***½

We then follow this up with “Roy Johnson’s Wasteman Challenge”, with two cheerleaders not really well-choreographed doing a routine on stage as the self-proclaimed “Bodyguy” comes out. A former European champion powerlifter, this guy’s act is quickly grating to me. Almost at Grado levels… hey, it’s all subjective, right? His open challenge is met by all four members of The Origin – Dave Mastiff, in particular – and I sense this isn’t going to end well.

Johnson wanted this to be a rap battle, and Mastiff looked utterly unimpressed throughout.

Roy Johnson vs. Dave Mastiff
Mastiff jumps Johnson at the end of his schtick, and goes to work on the “Bodyguy” with shots to the back and a few near-falls, but Johnson manages to fire back with a clothesline into the corner, but failed at a fireman’s carry, and got taken down with a release German suplex.

Mastiff fish-hooked away at Johnson’s mouth, before a slap fired up the “Bodyguy”, sending Mastiff into the corner with some punches. That only dazed “the Bastard”, who floored Johnson with a headbutt, but he fired back and was able to drop Mastiff with a Samoan drop, but took too long to make a cover and only got a two-count.

Unfortunately, Johnson opted to play to the crowd rather than keep on top of Mastiff, and he was quickly punished with a German suplex into the turnbuckles, before a cannonball as “the Bastard” picked up the squash win. Good for what it was, but this was the nearest thing to a squash I’ve seen in PROGRESS *½

Tables, Ladders & Chairs Tag Team Match – Losing Team Must Disband: The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) vs. The Sumerian Death Squad (Michael Dante & Tommy End)
These stipulations are the results of singles matches between these two teams at the last two Chapters, and is the first time that PROGRESS has held a TLC match – and sure enough, this had “car crash” written all over it.

There’s a contract hanging above the ring, so I’m wondering if we’re going to get any TNA-esque moments where it’s really the clipboard needed to get the win, and the two teams get going straight away, going to the outside as Rob Lynch tried to suplex Tommy End with little success. End then blocks an attempt at an F5 and responds with kicks to both members of the Riots, before being clotheslined.

The action then spilled to the outside, with Lynch and End fighting by the bar, before End took an Irish whip into the first few rows of seats. James Davis got dumped on his neck with a back suplex by Dante, before Lynch smashed a chair to the Dutchman’s back. Dante slid a ladder into the ring, but instead of it being used for climbing, it ended up being propped in the corner, as Rob Lynch hit an overhead belly to belly suplex on End into the ladder. Dante grabs another ladder from under the ring, and throws it into the path of Davis and Lynch as they went up for a double tope. End then pulls a pile of chairs from under the ring, and sets them up six of them facing each other (in a 2×3 format), before laying Rob Lynch onto the seats, where Dante hit a back senton through the chairs.

I should say at this point, that the big problem in this match was the plastic chairs used by the promotion – as the fans were used to the metal chairs from the American scene, seeing battered plastic chairs just didn’t look as satisfying. As did the long ladder that was used at the end – which apparently was the only one that could reach the contract.

Tommy End took a chairshot to the knee, and then was used by Davis to flatten a chair by way of an Emerald Fusion. Lynch then tries to suplex Dante onto a ladder, but he ends up taking a back body drop onto it instead, as Dante followed up with draping Lynch onto some chairs (like earlier), only to end up dropping Lynch with a sunset flip powerbomb through them.

Davis opens up the XXL ladder, but gets cut off by Tommy End, who shoves the ladder down and into the ropes. The Riots then set up a ladder bridging between a chair and the bottom turnbuckle, and the ladder ends up being bent in half as End gets tombstoned off the middle rope by Davis, through a chair.

Lynch and Dante start trading forearms in the middle of the ring, with Dante ending up dumping him on his neck with a half nelson suplex. Lynch retaliated with a death valley driver through a chair on Dante, and then they bring out the tables. Isn’t this enough carnage?! Well, the table clearly felt the same, as it broke under the weight of Dante as he was placed on it. They tried with a second table, which got a massive cheer and it held up, at least until the returning Tommy End popped up and drilled Lynch with double knees as they crashed through the table.

A third table holds up to the weight of James Davis… just about, as he rolls off and grabs the big ladder whilst Rob Lynch holds back both members of the Sumerian Death Squad. The referee helps set up the ladder, as Tommy End ended up taking a death valley driver into the crowd. In the ring, Davis and Dante climb the ladder which slowly breaks in two, sending both men falling to the mat.

The broken XXL ladder needed to be held up by the referees, but the London Riots just about made it as they stretched up to grab the contract and end this feud. As a stunt show, it was what you’d have expected from these teams, but the plastic chairs and unstable ladders really hurt the flow of the match, as the props failed when they were needed the most. **¾

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Tommaso Ciampa & Zack Sabre Jr. vs. The Origin (Nathan Cruz & El Ligero) (c)
From a brutal tag team war, to a tag team title match featuring the “dream team” of Tommaso Ciampa and Zack Sabre Jr, and the champions storm off to the back before the bell can even ring. Eventually, they return in their full entrance gear (and without music), and the match starts with ZSJ schooling Cruz on the mat, testing the Hull-born Cruz out with a variant of a Dragon sleeper.

After ducking a chop in the corner from Ciampa, Cruz powdered out of the ring and tagged Ligero in, and of course, the horned one took the chops in the corner. Both of the champions then took running knees whilst draped off the apron, but the Origin started to take the upper hand with a sequence of quick tags as they focussed on Ciampa.

ZSJ was tagged in and worked over Ligero with a wristlock, before catching a Ligero springboard and turning it into the Rings of Saturn that needed Nathan Cruz to break up. A distracted Sabre then took a neckbreaker from Cruz, before being dropped with a slingshot back suplex for a near-fall.

Ciampa finally gets tagged in and takes Ligero off the apron with an enziguiri before focussing on Cruz, flooring him with a leaping clothesline and a draping flatliner from the top rope. After some double teams on both members of the Origin, Cruz takes a discus forearm from Ciampa, followed by stereo kicks from the challengers, but still kicks out at two.

A missed kick from ZSJ opened him up for a double-team DDT and German suplex from the champions that got Cruz a two-count, before the referee broke up an attempt at a tombstone onto the tag team shield. Both of the Origin found themselves in armbars, but Cruz rolled up Sabre for a near-fall. Ciampa accidentally caught ZSJ with a discus clothesline, but Cruz could only get a two-count, as did Ligero after a top rope body splash.

Ciampa made the save after Cruz hit the Show Stolen (sit-out TKO) on ZSJ, before catching Ligero with the Project Ciampa. ZSJ followed that up with a penalty kick on Ligero, but only got a two-count from it. As Ciampa went to finish things, Cruz grabbed Ligero’s cape and covered Ciampa’s head with it, which gave Ligero the chance to score a low blow on ZSJ and score the roll-up for another tainted win.

This wasn’t bad, but the Origin excel in storyline-driven matches – and as this effectively came across as an exhibition match, the match just felt flat in parts. ***

Post-match, Ciampa went to the back, only to run back out and attack Sabre Jr as he made his way backstage. Ciampa snapped and drilled ZSJ in the head with a running knee, then cut a promo turning heel on the crowd and ZSJ. Ciampa then challenged ZSJ to a match – and he got it: at PROGRESS’ biggest show yet, in Brixton this September.

Thunderbastard Match for the PROGRESS Championship: Mark Haskins vs. Paul Robinson vs. Zack Gibson vs. Will Ospreay vs. Mark Andrews vs. Eddie Dennis vs. “Flash” Morgan Webster vs. Rampage Brown vs. Marty Scurll (c)
This’ll be a nine-man Royal Rumble-esque match but with pinfall/submission/DQ eliminations. (italic) Mark Haskins is the first man out, and is joined to open the match by Paul Robinson. Robinson shoves a fan into the video screen on the way down, and we get underway with Mark Haskins yet again selling the shoulder.

Haskins and Robinson started on the mat, initially starting with holds before graduating up to strikes. Very little happened, until Zack Gibson came out to represent the Origin, and that distracted Haskins for long enough for Robinson to attack him from behind, and we had a two-on-one from the heels. Haskins managed to lock in a Sharpshooter on Gibson, but Robinson broke up the hold (not sure why, it’s elimination rules!), before the countdown to the fourth entrant started, introducing former champion Will Ospreay into the match, taking down Robinson with a twisting press on his way in.

Haskins and Ospreay worked some good high-flying spots, before the former Swords of Essex partners – Robinson and Ospreay – combined to hiptoss Haskins, and then hit an electric chair splash onto Haskins. That pairing barely lasted, and Robinson unloaded on Ospreay as Mark Andrews entered the fray, teaming with Ospreay to land a wheelbarrow splash onto Robinson.

Andrews drops Ospreay out to the floor with a DDT, but gets caught in a neckbreaker by Gibson as he caught a bulldog, and the sixth man out is Eddie Dennis as the the FSU member went to work on Gibson, catching him with a 6-1-knee in the ropes. Gibson rolled out to the floor as Dennis threatened to springboard back in, and we got number seven out as “Flash” Morgan Webster just as Dennis hit his Samoan drop/fallaway slam off the middle rope on Ospreay and Robinson.

Webster scores a near-fall with a wheelbarrow facebuster on Dennis, before taking out both members of FSU at once with a double reverse hurricanrana. That’s followed up with a series of dives from Webster, Haskins and FSU as everyone’s left laying outside, with Ospreay joining in with a Shooting Star Press to the floor. Rampage Brown joins in at number eight, and is met by Paul Robinson in the aisle, but that’s no matter as Brown flattens both members of FSU, then Ospreay with a deadlift powerbomb, before turning Webster inside out with a clothesline.

Rampage repeated the powerbombs on Ospreay, throwing him out of the ring onto FSU and Webster, with the path of destruction ending just in time for Marty Scurll to come out and complete the set. The ringside area was more than full, so Scurll opted to opted to replace Glen Joseph on commentary instead of wrestling.

Paul Robinson slapped Rampage, which was a bad move as he quickly got a piledriver, with Zack Gibson stealing the pinfall. Dave Mastiff ran down to attack Rampage, and the action picked up in the ring, with Ospreay missing a springboard cutter before getting caught in a Haskins armbar, but Eddie Dennis made the save and dropped Haskins with a Next Stop Driver (with assistance from Mark Andrews… again, why break up a hold in an elimination match?!)

Mastiff returned to the ring to distract Eddie Dennis, giving Gibson an opening to throw him into the turnbuckle and lock in the Shankly Gates on Dennis’ injured arm, forcing the submission. Mark Andrews took aim at Gibson straight after that, stopping to take out Mastiff with a tope. Another high-risk move saw Andrews land in Gibson’s knees after missing a shooting star press, and Gibson covered him to complete the elimination of both members of FSU.

Dave Mastiff found himself ordered to the back after his copious interference, and the follow-up almost saw Will Ospreay eliminated by Webster, as he turned a release suplex into a hurricanrana for a two-count. Webster missed a 450 Splash when Ospreay was pilled out of the ring, and Gibson walked back into the ring to lock on the Shankly Gates again, forcing Webster to tap out.

After those eliminations, Gibson found himself having to battle off Haskins and Brown, but it ended up being just Rampage and Haskins taking on each other, with Haskins being flatted with a Samoan drop. Haskins managed to roll through Rampage into a Fireman’s carry, and hit a TKO to eliminate Rampage, which was the cue for Scurll to hit the ring and lock in the chicken wing on Haskins, forcing a quick submission in much the same way that chapter 26 ended.

We’re left with Marty Scurll, Zack Gibson and Will Ospreay in the match, and Scurll found himself between a rock and a hard place, especially when Ospreay took him down with a through-the-corners tornado DDT. Gibson almost steals a pin on Scurll after Ospreay hit a shooting star press; Gibson was then used as a stepping stone for a ‘rana on Scurll, as the match continued at a fast pace.

Scurll piggybacked onto Ospreay for a chicken wing, but Gibson hit a lungblower off the top rope onto the pair of them, scoring a two-count on Ospreay. Will replies with a springboard Ace Crusher on Gibson, and then started to unload on Scurll with chops. Gibson almost won it all in innovative fashion, when he kicked out the legs of Scurll and Ospreay as they fought for a backslide, and rolled them up for a simultaneous two-count.

Gibson avoided the chicken wing by rolling through into the Shankly Gates, which was countered into another chicken wing that Ospreay broke up with a 450 flip into an elbow drop. A shooting star press sees Ospreay get Scurll’s feet in his face, but he blocks a tornado DDT then scores another two-count with a schoolboy, before Scurll lifts Ospreay into an electric chair position, dropping him into a chicken wing.

More back and forth reversals between the two, with Scurll nailing an Essex Destroyer, before Gibson returned to the ring, only to take a one-man Spanish Fly for a quick elimination, quickly followed by a schoolboy by Scurll as Ospreay fell to a flash pin, with Scurll retaining the title.

Once all nine men had entered, this match entered a new gear, and was perhaps the best Thunderbastard yet. At the back end, the sequences between Scurll and Ospreay were thoroughly entertaining – and hopefully hinting at a future rematch between the two. The booking created a new “almost-did-it” main event star in Zack Gibson, whilst simultaneously denting Mark Haskins’ title credentials. ****

Post-match, Scurll bragged about beating the top 8 contenders in the company – with the crowd chanting for Jimmy Havoc to return. Shame his knees are shot! Scurll then said that he wasn’t going to defend his title at the next chapter… so in retaliation, Jim Smallman made Scurll’s match at WrestleCon against Will Ospreay for Scurll’s PROGRESS title.

Coming out of this show, it was clear that the tag team TLC match had taken down a lot of fans’ perception of the card – and I dare say that this suffered a little bit from WrestleMania syndrome, in that a lot of stuff here was built up so much by a certain section of fans, it would have been tough to deliver. Even without the TLC prop botches. Of course, Scurll defeating the top contenders, some of them in short order, as well as his win over Ospreay at WrestleCon, has left PROGRESS with a dearth of challengers – something which will need to be sorted in upcoming shows.

That being said, this show was not a failure in any sense, and still worth going out of your way to see, if only for the main event and the Kidd/Gallagher match.