PROGRESS made their return to new shows, starting with a fresh Natural Progression Series as they began life on the WWE Network.

Quick Results
Chris Ridgeway pinned Gene Munny, Omari & Spike Trivet in 9:15 (**¾)
Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Luke Jacobs pinned Man Like Dereiss in 9:39 (**¾)
Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Ethan Allen submitted Kid Lykos II in 12:11 (***)
Millie McKenzie pinned Mercedes Blaze in 7:15 (**¼)
Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Danny Black pinned Elijah in 10:59 (**)
Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Warren Banks pinned Big Guns Joe in 7:23 (**½)
Kid Lykos submitted Chuck Mambo in 13:34 (**¾)
Cara Noir submitted Dan Moloney in 18:28 (***¾)

February 23, 2020. Camden’s Electric Ballroom was the scene for what turned out to be their final show before covid hit. A show that laid seeds for a feud between Ilja Dragunov and Eddie Kingston… but we all know what happened next. Nervousness over the spread of an emerging virus, eventually turned to a lockdown in the UK that forced postponements that became full-blown cancellations. Months later, the onslaught of allegations that came during Speaking Out forced even more changes in the British wrestling scene, with PROGRESS far from exempt from those allegations, or indeed, changes.

A reformed management structure was brought in during the summer to draw in guidelines and work on behind the scenes changes… but even that was tweaked as any hopeful plans of shows restarting with fans faded away as the UK went in and out of lockdowns… and unlike other WWE-adjacent promotions like wXw and ICW, PROGRESS looked to hold on and wait to see if they could resume with fans.

New Year’s Day, PROGRESS release a trailer proclaiming that “a new story begins,” focused on their current champion, Cara Noir. Then… nothing. Save for a tidbit on the Wrestling Observer daily updates, mentioning that PROGRESS were taping content in London at the end of January – something that got little traction… and then, one week ago, WWE announce that PROGRESS was finally swapping out their sea of “best ofs” for new content. Starting here with chapter 104: not Jeff Goldblum’s Fly Machine, but the return of the Natural Progression series.

We open with a video package introducing everyone in the Natural Progression Series – the same one that dropped when this show was announced. From there, we have a quick tour of London, heading to Peckham as we see a ring being built, and a set-up that’s not a million miles removed from what ICW’s empty-arena shows are. So, it’s time to press reset as PROGRESS return. What’s staying the same? What’s changed? Well, for one, we’re not at the Electric Ballroom – it’s the Theatre Peckham in London, and the entire on-screen crew has changed too: Roy Johnson’s now your MC, with Hustle Malone and Charles Crowley on commentary as we’ve got a trio of wrestlers voicing things.

Crowley says this is the next step in British wrestling, as we then get Roy Johnson’s music and video for his intro. He’s out in his ring gear to do the intros, as they flash up the NPS bracket… and then it’s time for the opening match.

Gene Munny vs. Spike Trivet vs. Omari vs. Chris Ridgeway
I could have sworn Gene retired the “sexual gammon” nickname last year amid… you know, gammons in the news? Spike Trivet has new music – and it seems that Do Not Resuscitate has been retconned. Anyway, this is a number one contender’s match for the PROGRESS World title.

We start with Munny and Trivet getting tossed outside as Ridgeway and Omari grappled. Ridgeway clings onto a front facelock until Omari got to the ropes, but Omari escapes and tries to go for a leglock on Ridgeway. It’s broken up in the ropes, before Ridgeway boots Munny off the ropes… out goes Omari, in comes Trivet, who chops Ridgeway’s leg, then threw him down for a two-count. An arm whip and a kick to the arm follows from Trivet, ahead of a front suplex as Munny came in with a pump kick. Clotheslines follow as Munny lifts Trivet onto the apron… then dragged him back in for a Finlay roll. A big splash followed for a two-count, with Gene going out for a dive after that before the camera zoomed in as Gene misses a top rope elbow, as Omari capitalises with a Colt Cabana-ish Superman body press for a two-count.

Omari’s crossbody gets a two-count as Trivet returned to drag Omari into the ring apron for some body blows. Back inside, Ridgeway’s Dragon screw drops Trivet, before he threw in an ankle lock with Omari’s double stomp breaking it up. A spinebuster from Gene keeps a Parade of Moves going as one of the ringside cameras seems to be on an angle and always zoomed in too much.

There’s a cute spot where Munny punches Ridgeway out, but Ridgeway falls onto Munny for a near-fall as Omari broke it up as Charles Crowley’s commentary cuts out. Trivet tries to nick it with a Hidden Blade-ish forearm to the back of Omari, before a pumphandle driver’s escaped… Omari comes back with a leg lariat, then a head kick, before he hoisted up Trivet into an inverted Alabama slam for a near-fall. Ridgeway breaks up the cover as Munny slips in an Ainsley Lariat… but he rolls Omari outside so he could finish off Ridgeway, only to get punched in the gut. From there, a German suplex and a punt gets Ridgeway a near-fall, before a second punt to the head of Munny gets the win. As a four-way this was fine, but little to write home about for the crucial first match back. **¾

Video time: they’re doing the first female Thunderbastard next week. Millie McKenzie’s in it.

Promo time with Dan Moloney – he’s been stewing since the last Natural Progression Series as we get a rematch from that tournament, which Moloney lost to Cara in in the semis.

Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Man Like Dereiss vs. Luke Jacobs
We start with a big ol’ lock-up as Dereiss takes Jacobs into the ropes, before a second lock-up has Dereiss shoved into the ropes. He comes back with a shoulder tackle, but a headlock takedown has Dereiss in bother early.

Jacobs’ wristlock is escaped as Dereiss applies one of his own, before some misdirection led to Dereiss hitting a leaping knee. A dropkick follows for a two-count, as does a ‘rana, with Dereiss really pushing on as commentary noted that Jacobs was more used to being a tag team wrestler. Jacobs’ shoulder tackle gives him an opening, as does another knee, before a no-bump suplex dumps Dereiss for a two-count. A regular suplex gets another two as Jacobs takes Dereiss into the corner… but Dereiss knocks Jacobs to the outside with a superkick. Dereiss rolls Jacobs back in, but ends up taking a spinebuster as the tide turned, but Dereiss hits back with a head kick from the apron, before a back elbow back inside led to a leaping forearm.

Dereiss keeps going with uppercuts in the corner, before a back body drop from Dereiss led to a Samoan driver for a near-fall. Jacobs fights back with chops, but Dereiss isn’t letting him take anything easily, throwing back in kind before an Exploder landed… with Dereiss then kipping back up for a cutter. From there, a pop-up powerbomb gets Dereiss a near-fall, before a shotgun dropkick takes Jacobs down, with Dereiss heading up top for his “four-fiddy”… but Jacobs rolls away!

A lariat from Jacobs nearly wins it, before he pulls Dereiss up by the scruff of his neck. Dereiss ducks a clothesline, but gets punched out before an X-Plex dumps Jacobs… only for Jacobs to hit back with a lariat and fall on top of Dereiss for the win. This was solid stuff between two guys who you’d say are relatively inexperienced – Dereiss looked good on offence, but Jacobs is seemingly being built as a bruiser. Jacobs faces either Kid Lykos 2 or his tag partner Ethan Allen in the semis. **¾

Vignette time – Mercedez Blaze is going into the female Thunderbastard next week.

Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Kid Lykos II vs. Ethan Allen
“This is a new Lykos.” Quite. It’s not the original.

Allen starts with a waistlock takedown as he was looking to out-wrestle Lykos 2, going back in for a wrlstlock as that left arm and head was the early target. Lykos 2 heads to the ropes and gets hiptossed, then slammed, but pops up as Allen has to restrain him with a chinlock. Eventually Lykos counters out, but gets shoved away before trying his luck with a crucifix pin… getting a near-fall before a dropkick gets a one-count.

Chops from Lykos lead to an Irish whip, with Allen taking the Bret Hart bump into the corner for a near-fall. A grounded Octopus followed, but Allen gets free before running into a back elbow. That’ll loosen a tooth. Allen looks to counter what he thought was a tiltawhirl DDT, but Lykos 2 went for a guillotine instead, only for Allen to escape and counter with a butterfly suplex. Things descend into striking as Allen dove in with a clothesline, then a superkick, before a gutwrench suplex took Lykos 2 down.

Lykos 2 ducks a head kick, but can’t avoid a back suplex that was meant to be an Angle Slam – called the Allen Slam – but Lykos kicks out and found a way back in with a slingshot Code Red that almost won it. Another kick drops Allen, but Lykos doesn’t follow up and has to back into the corner to break a rear naked choke. An attempt at the Howling’s blocked, as Allen punches Lykos 2 down to the floor… they tried again on the turnbuckles, but Lykos fought back, only to get his arm dropped across the top turnbuckle… he recovers with a springboard Spanish fly for a near-fall, before the Lykos brainbuster’s countered into a small package. Back-and-forth kicks follow, but Lykos just leaps into a rear naked choke… with Allen mounting his back before turning it into Zack Sabre Jr’s old Young Boy Killer as Lykos bits the ropes to get free. Allen rolls Lykos back and reapplies the double armbar… and that’s the submission! A good outing from Allen, who had some trouble against Lykos… and books an all Young Guns semi. ***

Another entrant for the women’s Thunderbastard: Lana Austin.

Millie McKenzie vs. Mercedez Blaze
Pre-match, Blaze takes the mic to call McKenzie “stupid” to get in the ring with her. Blaze has a plan for the Thunderbastard – it’s to take out McKenzie… who grabs the mic and then kicks Blaze.

McKenzie puts the boots to Blaze, taking her into the ropes for more kicks and a right hand, forcing Blaze to bail to the outside. Mercedez composes herself, then suckered McKenzie into the ropes, dragging her outside via the apron before posting her. Back inside, Blaze gets a two-count, before running knees and a neckbreaker gets another two-count. Millie fights back with some right hands, but a dropkick takes her back into the corner before a double underhook suplex threw her back there for a near-fall. A grounded full nelson has McKenzie in trouble, but she’s able to get back to her feet and slip free, rolling Blaze down for a near-fall.

Another dropkick has Blaze down as Millie looks to uncork a German suplex, eventually dumping Blaze on her back for a near-fall. Blaze comes back, pulling Millie down by the hair, before a trip up top ended with a spear to McKenzie for a near-fall. From there, Blaze looks to pull Millie up for a death valley driver, but Millie countered with a roll-up, before a cutter gets another two-count… as a back elbow into a side-Russian legsweep gets the win. A little short, but a clean win for McKenzie to put herself in pole position for the Thunderbastard match on the next show. **¼

Jordon Breaks is coming to PROGRESS.

Alexxis Falcon announces herself for the Thunderbastard. This new roster’s a bit of a blend of Riptide and Futureshock, eh?

Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Elijah vs. Danny Black
“Isn’t it nice to see Danny Black in a PROGRESS ring?” I mean, sure, but at least tell us about him while you’re throwing out the platitudes!

Elijah starts by rolling Black to the mat for a kick to the back… a cravat from Black’s rolled out of, but Danny crucifixes Elijah for a two-count, before a drop down trips Black. A dropkick from Danny gets him a two-count, before springboard armdrags take Elijah across the ring as they reach a stand-off. Stomps from Elijah have Danny in the corner, as did a series of Irish whips, bouncing Black out for a two-count. A chinlock keeps Black down, as does a cravat as Elijah looked to be dismantling his opponent. Black fights back with forearms, then a running Koppo kick, before getting taken up top for a flying ‘rana.

Black keeps going with a half-and-half suplex for a two-count, but a Made in Japan’s blocked as Elijah elbows out. A head kick decks Black, who tries to fight back, only for Elijah to take him into an Electric Chair facebuster for a near-fall… before Black gets near-falls out of a cutter and a roll-up. Things descend into tit-for-tat strikes, before Elijah lands a Graveyard Smash – the Fisherman’s suplex into a powerbomb – for another two-count. A running dropkick catches Black in the corner, with Elijah then heading up top for a big splash to the back… but that still doesn’t put Black away. Black escapes a brainbuster, but can’t win with a roll-up as a head kick from Elijah looked to KO him… but Black shrugs it off and hits Out of the Black – a pumphandle suplex – for the win. They painted this as an underdog win for Black, with Elijah having dawdled too much to capitalise on things. Black faces Big Guns Joe or Warren Banks in the semi. **

After the match, Elijah attacks Black with a brainbuster…

Taonga is in the Thunderbastard.

Natural Progression Series – Quarter-Final: Warren Banks vs. Big Guns Joe
Banks was starting to make a name for himself before the world shut down… while Big Guns Joe gets the Dave Mastiff camera shaking treatment despite being more akin to Crash Holly in the gimmick.

We open with a tie-up as Joe’s taken into the corner for a clean break, before a second lock-up was pushed away. Joe goes for a wristlock, but gets taken down as Joe ends up squatting to escape the hold. A waistlock’s countered in kind, as Joe then slips out and mounted Banks’ back. That’s quickly thrown off before Joe’s diving uppercut has Banks in the ropes… but he can’t pull him away, and instead hits a lucha roll-up for a near-fall. Banks blasts back with a clothesline, then with forearms as he clubs Joe down to the mat, before shoulder charges trap him in the corner. An Irish whip keeps Joe in trouble, as did an elbow drop, but Joe lands a boot out of the corner before managing to chuck Banks with a gutwrench suplex.

A Stinger splash is next for Joe, then another, before Banks misses an enziguiri… Joe tries to capitalise with a trapped-arm belly-to-belly suplex, before he tries to muscle up Banks… but a second trapped-arm suplex is broken up with a headbutt. From there, Banks lands an enziguiri, before a ripcord knee decked Joe ahead of a spear, which gets the win. For the time they had, this was pretty good, but the Big Guns Joe act works so much better with a crowd. Banks faces Danny Black in the semis. Keep an eye on Banks, he could be something pretty special… **½

Kanji’s in the Thunderbastard.

Chuck Mambo vs. Kid Lykos
This was Lykos’ first “proper” match since he had to retire in 2019… he’s now “Full Metal Lykos”, looking a lot like WCW-era Fit Finlay with that ring jacket.

Mambo goes for the arm early with a wristlock, but Lykos rolls down and takes the legs out, before a submission attempt quickly ended in the ropes. Lykos’ wristlock’s countered with a snapmare… but Lykos holds on, only for Mambo to counter with an armbar that’s rolled out of. Lykos goes for a brainbuster early, but Mambo countered… only to get taken down as Lykos doggedly stayed on him. An arm wringer from Lykos sees him focus on Mambo’s left arm, but Mambo comes back with a springboard backflip into an armdrag before a surfboard attempt ended in the ropes.

Lykos heads up top, but Mambo boots him down and hits a double-jump back elbow for a near-fall, before a strait-jacket hold looked to eke out a submission. Mambo pulls Lykos down for a two-count, but Lykos recovers with a swift elbow drop as Mambo was suddenly on the ropes. Another elbow drop misses, allowing Mambo back in with knee drops as commentary played up Lykos’ past shoulder injuries. A Gory stretch from Mambo’s countered as Lykos sat up into a Victory roll, but it’s a slingshot that takes Mambo into the corner before a roll-up nearly puts Mambo away. There’s a leaping knee too, then a DDT, before a jawbreaker and a Shining Wizard gets us another near-fall. Lykos telegraphs a brainbuster, literally, as Mambo counters with a Gunn Slinger for a near-fall, before a Gory Special was spun into a reverse DDT as Mambo keeps pushing on.

A strike exchange leads to Mambo going for Chuck You, but it begins back-and-forth pinning attempts, before a Reef Break (Meteora) from Mambo keeps the rapid-fire pins going. Mambo heads up for a springboard splash… but Lykos gets the knees up, and finishes him off with a brainbuster for a near-fall… before he rolls Mambo into a grounded Octopus… but Mambo rolls back and nearly pinned Lykos.

From there, a superkick and a short Reef Break gets Mambo a near-fall, with a springboard frog splash keeping up the MOVEZ. Let this breathe guys. I get there’s no crowd, but this is too fire-cracker-y. All of a sudden, out comes Lykos 2 to slide in a baking tray… the ref’s distracted, and Lykos 1 cracks Mambo with it before the Blood Moon – the grounded Octopus – forces the submission. This was good, but that home stretch veered into being “too spotty” before they had Lykos 2 come out for the difference-making distraction. **¾

Gisele Shaw’s the last woman to announce her entry in the Thunderbastard next week.

They then play the “new story” promo that PROGRESS dropped at the start of the year – putting the focus on Cara Noir as their centrepiece for 2021.

PROGRESS World Championship: Dan Moloney vs. Cara Noir (c)
Dan Moloney has spent his lockdown time WELL… while for some reason, they’ve ditched the special treatment they gave Cara Noir’s entrance.

Eventually opening with a lock-up, there’s a lot of circling in the opening moments as Cara takes Moloney into the ropes for a forearm. A hiptoss attempt gets countered by a monkey flip from Moloney, before a side headlock takes Dan down… he gets up and pushes Cara away, with leapfrogs and dropdowns leading to a missed dropkick from Cara… who then runs the ropes, just because. Cara poses, but gets slapped by Moloney… who eats a headbutt before a Blackout sleeper was shrugged off, with Cara getting spiked on the top of his head in the escape. OW. Moloney stays right on the head and neck, bending Cara across the bottom rope before the fight spilled outside for a moment. Back inside, Dan gets a two-count after he rolled in Noir, before a chop stung Noir down to the mat for another two-count.

Cara tries to fight back, but Moloney remains on top with a back elbow as he stuck to the “hit a move, go for a pin” game plan. It begins to frustrate Moloney, who cuts off Cara with a snap suplex… yeah, it’s another near-fall. Dan continues to grind down the champion, and backs off from an attempted up-kick before coming close with a Black Hole slam. Finally, Cara mounts something of a comeback, but he gets swatted down before a series of standing switches ended with Moloney stomping on Cara’s bare feet. A German suplex is floated out of, with Cara hitting a rebound German of his own, only to get swiped away with a lariat for a near-fall. From the kick-out, Cara floats onto Moloney for a two-count of his own, as both men needed to pull themselves back to their feet.

Cara staggers into Moloney with another headbutt, then popped up for a shotgun dropkick… then another… before a third one misses, as he instead opts for a Rude Awakening neckbreaker. Moloney kicks out at two from that, before Cara pulled him into another Blackout sleeper… which is broken up in the corner. Another headbutt from Cara has Dan dazed, but Moloney shrugs it off to hit a belly-to-belly superplex. Dan leaps up top for a stomp, but Cara escapes and comes back with an up-kick and the Madame Guillotine over-the-knee brainbuster for a near-fall… before we went back to the forearm exchanges. Lariats from Cara take Moloney to a knee, before Moloney responded with a big boot.

Cara licks Moloney, who looks to go for the Drilla piledriver… but Cara slips out into the Blackout. Which is again broken by backing up into the corner. Chops from Moloney looked to keep Cara down, but pulling the champion out of the corner is countered, as Cara countered the Drilla into a package piledriver before forcing the stoppage with the Blackout sleeper. A definitive win with the 1-2 package piledriver/sleeper combo – and the Cara Noir story continues with a solid defence, albeit one that perhaps could have gone horribly awry after that early head drop. ***¾

The recent build to this show was overshadowed by another social media storm – one that on paper seemed especially easy to avoid. If you can look past that, there’s a fair among of new talent who’s getting their breaks here. Strip away the hyperbole: whereas PROGRESS was once the pinnacle, this is what we’re dealing with with Britwres in 2021- a lot of the cream has been removed, and we’re witnessing what’s left settling into their new roles while some observers look on nervously to see just who NXT UK plucks from their “reserve team” next. Adjust your expectations: this isn’t the same PROGRESS as even 12 months ago, let ago the heyday of the mid 10s. They’ve tried to keep the same sort of look, but without fans it’s very jarring – and that’s before you look at the white walls of the Theatre Peckham. As you’d expect, there’s quite some rustiness from folks who’ve had the bare minimum of wrestling in the last year, while the new on-screen trio will take time to find their feet – from Roy Johnson’s nightclub vibe to the commentary team that aren’t anywhere near as boisterous as you’d come to expect from the PROGRESS of old.