PROGRESS returned to Camden last night for their first London show since Brixton… and they tore the house down.

If you’re reading this, be warned, after the next paragraph: there be spoilers!

Going into the show, there were several of the bigger names missing – sure, you had the main event of Mark Haskins, Jimmy Havoc and Marty Scurll – but lower down the card you’d notice that none of the Origin were present, nor were the tag team champions. But with a card supposedly lacking the big names, the fact that we ended up with such a thrilling show live just shows you how deep the talent pool is in PROGRESS… and British wrestling in general.

The show started with the debut of The New Nation – Alexander Henry and Primate – as they took on the returning Hunter Brothers. Henry and Primate started with little reaction, which I guess was to be expected given that they usually work up North. The Hunters took the win, but I’ll be damned if the Nation didn’t come out strong from all of this – should they get further bookings, performances like that will put them near the top of the list for a tag title shot down the line, I’d imagine.

Next up was the start of the fourth Natural PROGRESSion Series, with the tournament this time crowning a first PROGRESS Women’s champion. Since Jinny and Pollyanna had the first “main chapter” women’s match in PROGRESS, they kicked off the tournament with an absolute war. At times, it did feel a little on the slow side, but by the end, it was very apropos for All Hallow’s Eve… Eve, since they damn near had to kill each other to win. Jinny used a top rope X-Factor, whilst Pollyanna drilled Jinny with two Jig ‘n’ Tonics, before a roll-up from Jinny took the win.

Paul Robinson – one of wrestling’s true heels in that even though he’s about half the size of a lot of the crowd, he probably could still kill us all if he wanted to – overcame Pastor William Eaver in a surprising result, especially given that Eaver, until three months ago, was the champion here. Robinson won with a curb stomp in a match that looked to tone down the gruesome stuff from his Brixton outing…

Anyways, after the match we had the return of Sebastian. After screaming at everyone in power asking why Eaver’s booked, we got our storyline progression. After Seb ripped off his neck brace, it turned out that they’re doing a storyline where Seb’s blackmailing Eaver for *that* clothesline (which I’d not be surprised if the footage got released in a video package down the line, if this is going to be the direction they’re using). End result is Eaver’s now one of Sebastian’s minions.

I don’t know whether it’s the pairing, or just the storyline, but this wasn’t really clicking before the Brixton incident, and whilst I’m willing to give this a chance, it feels like we’re swimming against the tide here.

The first half of the show ended with the tables match – to clarify, this wasn’t an elimination match, just both men in a team had to be thrown through a table to lose. If he wasn’t already, this match made Jack Sexsmith, and pushed him well over that line of “comedy wrestler” and into territory that should guarantee him some sort of longevity with this act. Well… longevity as long as he doesn’t take too many more bumps like “being thrown off the stage into rows of seating”. Yeah, that bump looked scary as hell.

TK Cooper and Travis Banks worked really well as a team, and although it looks like they’re not teasing a break-up after TK accidentally sent Dahlia Black through a table, but we ended up with Roy Johnson going through a table first, before a 3D from Jack and Roy equalised things. Johnson looked good in this as well, playing the deadpan act with Sexsmith, all the way down to “get them yourself” when they tried to do the Dudleys “get the tables” shtick… A powerbomb from Banks on Sexsmith won the match, and left some really nasty looking bruises by the end of the show. Jack got a massive ovation from the crowd going into intermission, and it was thoroughly deserved.

We started part two with the Atlas open challenge – basically, Rampage Brown’s going to defend the Atlas title against anyone and everyone. Over the weekend, some interesting names were thrown up – Bull James, Cody Rhodes, Matt Hardy to name but three – which might have made wXw’s Bad Bones John Klinger look an underwhelming choice. By the end though, it left us with a heck of a match that I doubt any of those three would have been able to replicate, least of all in the effect of “Good God, there’s two big lads beating the tar out of each other”.

Rampage won, and that kept the streak of enjoyable matches alive. Spoiler: it didn’t end.

The semi-final between Mark Andrews and Matt Cross ended up being for a shot at Mark Haskins’ SMASH Championship down the line… Well, all we can say is this. WOW. If you liked your flippy stuff, you got that. If you liked your wrestling more like, well, wrestling, you got that. In a word, this was fun. This match was a joy to behold, from the expected spots, all the way down to the incredulous stuff like a counter to a top rope reverse ‘rana. Take our word for it: you’ll want to watch this when it appears on-demand next month.

Finally, the main event, which some thought was a bit of a rushed match as Jimmy Havoc made his return from injury in a triple-threat for the PROGRESS title against Marty Scurll and the defending Mark Haskins. Havoc showed no signs of ring rust, and this did not feel like a typical three way – everyone had issues with each other, even if it was all centred around “I want my title back”. By the end of things, Havoc’s Rainmaker was approaching Pete Dunne’s Drop Dead in the levels of “that move’s gonna get countered” (perhaps if he didn’t yell “Rainmaker!” at every attempt…), but we again ended with Marty Scurll tapping out to another of Haskins’ Sharpshooters.

After the match, Haskins went to the back… then returned to the ring where he soaked in the applause of the crowd, before kissing the PROGRESS title and leaving it on the mat. Haskins exited, leaving Jim Smallman to take the title and run after him, where 700 confused fans ended up waiting for Jon Briley to inform us that the show was over and that we should leave.

Earlier in the day, 4FW – another promotion that Haskins held gold in – had tweeted that he’d vacated their Junior Heavyweight title due to injury. It certainly seemed odd to have the same “storyline” going…

  • Update: Unfortunately, it is not a storyline. On Monday afternoon, PROGRESS tweeted out this video, featuring the aftermath of Sunday’s show, and a message from Mark Haskins, where he announced that he was suffering from a neck injury that had left him experiencing numbness in his fingers. My best wishes go to Mark, and I sincerely hope that whatever happens next means that at the very least he’s able to overcome these issues and have as close to a normal life outside of wrestling as possible.

With the PROGRESS title apparently now vacant, it sure does raise some questions as to who’d fill it, given that Scurll’s lost his title match and his rematch, whilst the interim contender in Zack Gibson also lost decisively. In spite of the perplexing scenes afterwards, this was a really great main event, which tied up a show in which none of the matches under-delivered, and left everyone leaving feeling like they’d gotten more than their monies’ worth.

Chapter 38: When Men Throw Men At Men will be available on later in November – we’ll have our full review once it’s appeared there.