Take 2400 fans, a venue that’s never held a wrestling show before, and what have you got? The biggest independent show that England has seen in my lifetime, and without a doubt, the biggest show in PROGRESS’ history.
Our full review’ll be posted after the show’s available on Demand-PROGRESS.com, but some quick thoughts from last night:
The set-up in the Academy in Brixton was rather unique, in that they installed a flat floor that “extended” the stage to create a much larger-than-usual floor seating space. For those at the back of the floor seats, they also had a video screen above the entrance way, which showed live action from a fixed camera… and looked a lot better than some company’s proper releases!
Plenty of big talking points came out of this show, but we’ll start with an incident that didn’t end up as scary as it could have done. The third match on the card was Pastor William Eaver vs. Sebastian – and ended seconds after the bell rang. Eaver jumped Sebastian with the Clothesline from Heaven at the bell and made the cover, but referee Joel Allen stopped the count at two. For a split second, thoughts of “heel ref?” or “Seb forgot to kick out?” ran through people’s minds, before Allen crossed his forearms in the X symbol, and the match was waved off. Any cynics thinking that this was a repeat of what we saw with Will Ospreay at the last chapter were unfortunately proven wrong, as medics rushed out to see to Sebastian, as Jim Smallman asked the crowd to talk amongst themselves as the show was placed on hold.
Although he was carried out on a backboard and in a neckbrace, Sebastian was up and walking backstage shortly after, with the story going around that he’d been knocked out by the clothesline.
Elsewhere on the show, the night started with the tribute to Kris Travis, as his ring music “96 Quite Bitter Beings” was played just before the usual PROGRESS stuff. The sight of 2400 fans rising as one to applaud the song – and Travis by proxy – was quite moving to say the least.
Rampage Brown beat Joe Coffey in a lengthy opener to become the inaugural PROGRESS Atlas champion, with the title being a belt and not anything wacky like a massive rock. The title belt was, as you’d expect, a thing of beauty, and the match was pretty good once it got going. A fine way to cap off the Atlas tournament… Jinny, Alex Windsor and Dahlia Black beat Nixon Newell, Laura Di Matteo and Pollyanna in a match that felt reminiscent of some of the New Japan multi-man matches, in that this was a mixture of feuds thrown into one match, but it served to build more towards the women’s title tournament than anything else.
British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven) beat the London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) to win the PROGRESS tag team titles. This was a weird one as the crowd were clearly stunned by what’d happened to Sebastian, but by the end of the match the crowd were right back in it. Some good stuff as Rob Lynch’s legit eye injury was worked on during the match as Dunne and Seven repeatedly clawed at it.
The second half of the show featured a return, as Paul Robinson made his first PROGRESS appearance since ENDVR back in May. He demanded a fight, and got… Chuck Mambo. Well, they do need to get new faces on the show after these departures, and to be fair, this did not come across to the crowd as a “filler match”. This was a brutal, grisly affair, with Robinson emptying a fair amount of snot and saliva onto Mambo before a curb stomp got the win.
Zack Sabre Jr. and Tommaso Ciampa had quite the best-of-three-falls match. The lengthy first fall ended up being the first two falls, as they ended up with a double-pin when both men’s shoulders stayed down. That was an unpopular call, but I believe unfairly so given that the first fall wasn’t exactly brief, and that the ongoing storyline here was that both men were equal to each other! Sabre took the final fall with the Octopus hold, in probably the best technical match on the night. Interestingly, sections of the crowd were starting to turn on Sabre throughout this match, although nowhere near the level we saw last month for Rev Pro. Are the crowd just tiring of Sabre’s spamming of armbars, or is it because he’s getting Andrade Almas’d, in that he’s going against guys the crowd want to back more than him?
The Origin (Nathan Cruz, Zack Gibson, El Ligero & Dave Mastiff) beat Jack Gallagher, Eddie Dennis, Mark Andrews & Damon Moser. The real story here was the pre-match stuff, when Zack Gibson’s entrance was disrupted by toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper. So much loo roll, it made the old Jimmy Rave entrances seem tame. Thankfully, it was the quilted kind, as several rolls bounced off of Gibson’s head… This match went all over the venue, with a balcony dive (thankfully, not off the top of the circle seats, nobody’s that insane…), and a fun spot where Gallagher tied Cruz, Gibson and Ligero in balls. Gallagher took the fall though, and was in tears after the match… fortunately, he’d get a more memorable send-off at the end.
Our main event had two notables: Jimmy Havoc returned to PROGRESS for the first time in over a year. During the match, Marty Scurll wiped out all three referees – Chris Roberts, Joel Allen and Marc Parry – with umbrella shots. Jim Smallman entered the ring to try and calm things down, but Scurll went after him… cue AFI’s “I Hope You Suffer”, and 2400 people losing their mind at the first two chords. Havoc’s return was limited due to his injury, but an Acid Rainmaker to Scurll was more than enough to have this crowd eating out of his hand.
As for the match, well, Mark Haskins won the PROGRESS title in that three-way, making Scurll tap out to the Sharpshooter. It was a pretty good main event, but at times I couldn’t help but feel there was an element of the crowd waiting for a surprise. The three men fought all over the Academy, and we even had a table spot when End and Scurll suplexed Haskins off the apron and through the table on the floor.
Haskins ended the show victorious with the title, before the departing trio of End, Ciampa and Gallagher were brought out for a final farewell – with the rest of the babyface roster joining them. Whilst there may be questions coming out of this, there was nothing in the way of complaints or grumblings, which is a rarity for any show I’ve been to, so clearly… a home run!
All in, this was a really fun show to be a part of, and is definitely one you need to go out of your way to see once it’s online.