Gene Munny’s hoping to wrap up the empty-arena era of PROGRESS in style, as he takes on Cara Noir for the PROGRESS title…

Quick Results
Chris Ridgeway pinned Kid Lykos in 19:51 (***½)
Malik defeated Danny Black via referee stoppage in 8:30 (**½)
Lana Austin pinned Laura di Matteo in 7:43 (**¾)
Big Guns Joe submitted Tate Mayfairs in 8:14 (**½)
Luke Jacobs & Ethan Allen pinned Damien Corvin & Bonesaw in 13:13 (***½)
Charles Crowley pinned Elijah in 13:49 (***)
Revelations of Divine Love Semi-Final – Rhio defeated Skye Smitson via referee stoppage in 11:55 (***¼)
Warren Banks pinned Roy Johnson in 12:59 (***)
Gisele Shaw pinned Debbie Keitel in 10:26 (***)
Nick Riley & Charlie Sterling pinned Danny Jones & Brendan White in 18:26 to retain the PROGRESS Tag Team Championship (***½)
Cara Noir defeats Gene Munny via referee stoppage in 16:02 to retain the PROGRESS World Championship (***½)

We’re back at the Theatre Peckham as the last few weeks have been chock-full of speculation that this is the last empty-arena show out of PROGRESS. In fact, they’ve out-and-out said it, and with this show being three months old, that feel of “not being quite new” is going to hit you a few times here. Wrap up warm, we’ve got ELEVEN matches for this finale… which is why this show is three hours and forty-four minutes long. Bloody hell…

TK Cooper and Chuck Mambo are hosting this one, as TK babyfaces Jon Briley who turned down their request for 13 matches. Commentary, as usual, comes from Hustle Malone and Olie Spring.

Chris Ridgeway vs. Kid Lykos
Ridgeway and Lykos has been building this up in the week before airing almost like this was a present to themselves as they’d been “office” for PROGRESS in the return…

As well as a ring bell, we’ve got a ring airhorn. Lykos backs through the ropes to start, before he needed the ropes to break an early submission attempt, as Ridgeway looked to keep the wolf grounded with headscissors. Lykos gets himself free for a toe hold, but Ridgeway countered with almost a calf slicer as Lykos was upside down by the ropes. Lykos countered back with a Deathlock, but Ridgeway homed in on Lykos’ legs with a Dragon screw before he tied up the legs into a wacky bow and arrow variant. Boot choking keeps Lykos in the corners, but Ridgeway got carried away as Lykos returned the favour, then dumped Ridgeway knees-first on the apron as the ring post gets used to stretch Ridgeway some more.

Lykos bridges over on Ridgway’s knee, but can’t get the stoppage as we go back to strikes as Lykos snuck in a DDT for good measure. Ridgeway’s German suplex turns it around as he followed up with a crossface, but he can’t pincer Lykos’ arm between his legs, and the wolf escapes again… then again from a triangle, before some Casanova knees rock Ridgeway. A package facebuster and yet-another Casanova can’t put Ridgeway away, before his stomp off the top’s turned into an ankle lock that’s quickly kicked aside. Ridgeway reapplies it, then hit a leg-trapped German suplex, before a PK and another ankle lock looked to lead to the stoppage, with Ethan Allen knocking down Lykos II to prevent some interference.

Eventually the wolf gets to the ropes, but an exchange of boots led to an exchange of brainbusters, before Ridgeway lifts Lykos down for a cross armbar… then switched it to an ankle lock, before Ridgeway countered a mounted Octopus into a short tombstone. A couple of PKs take away Lykos’ remaining resolve, and get the win. A decent match, if not a little on the long side given how cold it was coming in, but I appreciated how clean they kept it. ***½

“Before the show,” the Greedy Souls make their case for their upcoming tag title shot…

Danny Black vs. Malik
This one was set up last time out after Kosta K got fed up of Malik being given small fry…

Black tries to pepper Malik with shots early on, but Malik just takes him to the corner with low kicks and body blows. A running uppercut from Black caught out Malik, who’s dropped for a hesitation dropkick, but Malik’s up at two, only to get taken down with an enziguiri. Black heads to the apron, but Malik catches him with a dropkick between the ropes as the “Hitter” did what he did best. Malik stings Black with kicks and uppercuts, but the rolling Koppo kicks nearly upsets Malik, as did a spinning hook kick, before a Meteora planted Malik for a near-fall. Black goes for a springboard, but hesitated at Kosta K… then low bridged Malik to the outside as the pair separated to avoid an Asai moonsault.

Back inside, Black rolls through a 450 splash, before his springboard something or other was swatted out of the air, with Malik raining down punches on Black to force a stoppage. The TKO gets the win, but Malik didn’t look all that convincing here. **½

Post-match, Malik takes a selfie with the KO’d Danny Black – and they patch that video footage onto the screen afterwards, which also seemed to magically add Malik’s entrance video too… Kosta K gets the mic afterwards and said that they’ve “taken care of the golden boy,” before they reissued the open challenge.

These adverts for the PROGRESS best-ofs sure have aged badly now there’s a bunch of released guys in the “versus NXT stars” specials.

Laura di Matteo vs. Lana Austin
Lana’s now a baddie, having attacked Alexxis Falcon last time out…

Everyone’s getting disgusted by the ring air horn, as we start with di Matteo hitting armdrags and dropkicks, but a suplex from Austin lands for a two-count, as did a low dropkick. Di Matteo takes things into the ropes for a dropkick of her own for a two-count, before Lana returned with a bodyslam for a quick two-count. A chinlock’s fought out of by di Matteo, who returns with some headscissors and clotheslines, leading to a short DDT for a near-fall. She tries to follow with the Veni, Vidi, Vici on Austin, but Austin rolls out into a triangle and punches her way free.

A rolling elbow decks Laura next, but doesn’t get the win… so she goes for a draping DDT in the ropes, only for Laura to push out and hit a springboard swinging DDT for a near-fall. A handful of tights nearly gets Lana the win, before she cracked di Matteo with a headbutt to set up that draping DDT for the win. It’s the result you’d expect given current storylines, but they packed a lot into their time here. **¾

Post-match, Alexxis Falcon came out and walloped Lana with a head kick.

Chuck and TK have gotten suit coats and a book of Dad jokes… and a couple of cans of non-specific drink.

Tate Mayfairs vs. Big Guns Joe
We get a shot of Tate leaving his locker room – not quite the Bill Goldberg stuff – as he’s out for his PROGRESS main show debut. His trousers aren’t quite the old “Wetherspoons carpet special”, but I guess his character here is that he’s suddenly come into money. He gets a pre-match promo to spit out his catchphrase (wait, they didn’t do this for Lizzy Evo…), and that’s the cue for Joe to come out.

Joe and Mayfairs go to the mat early, before Tate slapped Joe in the corner. Joe responds by chucking Mayfairs into the corner, then by ragdolling him with some gutwrench suplexes, while a capture suplex slung Tate skyward. A deadlift into a Fireman’s carry is escaped as Tate goes for the lower back, then hit a slam on Joe. A cartwheel into an elbow drop gets just a one-count, before Joe tried to fight back… he misses a dropkick into the corner as Tate capitalises, going up top for a Coast to Coast elbow which finds its mark. A Japanese stranglehold keeps Joe down, before another Tree of Woe’s powered out of with Mayfairs looking for a German superplex…

Joe clings onto the turnbuckle steels to block it, then elbowed Tate away ahead of a Vader bomb elbow. Kicks and a capture suplex lead to a second Vader bomb attempt, but Mayfairs knees it away. A roll-up nearly nicks it for Joe, as did a pop-up powerbomb, before he rolled Mayfairs into a Boston crab for the submission. A good debut for Tate, but in the end it’s one that ends in defeat. **½

After the match, Tate snatches Hustle’s headset and claimed that submissions don’t count… at least they gave him more mic time than their usual debutants.

TK and Mambo are betting on the wrestling…

Young Guns (Ethan Allen & Luke Jacobs) vs. Kings of the North (Bonesaw & Damien Corvin)
Unfortunately, this match aged badly given Ethan’s recent injury…

We’ve a jump start from the Kings, but the Young Guns clear them out as a series of quick double-teams flatten Bonesaw as Ethan Allen began to target his knee in the opening stages. A slam drops Luke Jacobs, but Corvin’s in and is quickly elbowed away as the Young Guns cleared house, with some knees to the ribs keeping Corvin down. Bonesaw’s distraction on the floor gives Corvin an opening, while Bonesaw wore down Allen as the Kings trade quick tags in the corner. Bonesaw paintbrushes Allen, before he dragged Ethan outside so he could throw him into the side of the ring. Back inside, an overhead armbar stretches Allen some more, before Corvin cleared Jacobs off the apron as he proceeded to bounce Allen down for a two-count.

Allen elbows out of a chinlock, but gets thrown down as the Kings continued to dominate, but a back body drop frees Allen as both men tag out. Jacobs runs wild with German suplexes and boots, before Bonesaw booted away a clothesline. A switcheroo has the Young Guns back on top, with Jacobs stopping Corvin from interfering via an ankle lock… but Allen’s crossface ends up being broken up anyway. A release Exploder from Bonesaw hurls Allen into the corner for a cannonball, before a Fireman’s carry/boot combo nearly got the win. Allen escapes a sit-out front suplex to bring Jacobs back in… but a kick-assisted piledriver’s stopped as Corvin’s cutter gets a near-fall, while that sit-out front suplex forces Allen to dive in for the save.

Jacobs pushes away from a Velvet Revolver and hits a German suplex, then a superkick to Corvin. Allen’s back in, having PK’d Bonesaw off the apron, before Corvin eats the kick-assisted piledriver for the win. A good little sprint of a match, with both teams swinging for the fences – and you’d think this would have had the Young Guns up for title contention when shows come back, except… eh. ***½

Charles Crowley vs. Elijah
Elijah set this one up on the last chapter show to “blow off some steam”…

Crowley begs off early on, but got taken into the corner as Elijah controlled the early pace. A trip gives Crowley the set up for an ankle lock, but he’s caught in a side headlock instead before Crowley was pushed off… he rolls away from Elijah as the game of keepaway ended with a shoulder tackle. A back body drop from Crowley sends Elijah into the ropes, but Elijah’s back to take him into the corner, with an Irish whip bouncing Crowley out for a two-count. Elijah follows with a suplex to keep the two-counts coming, then a clothesline, before a cravat neckbreaker led to another two-count.

Crowley tries to strike back, eventually hitting an enziguiri and a twisting suplex before an overhead kick in the ropes caught out Elijah. A springboard stunner has Elijah dazed, then a leaping neckbreaker, before some mounted punches in the corner were countered into an Electric Chair facebuster for a near-fall. Elijah’s quickly caught with an Implant DDT, before Crowley whiffed on a back senton off the top rope. A running knee in the ropes has Crowley dazed, while a springboard splash to the back nearly puts him away… before a crucifix bomb nearly gets Crowley the upset. Crowley throws a guillotine armbar from there, but Elijah just herc’s him up and powerbombed it away.

A buzzsaw kick quickly leaves Crowley down, as did a German suplex, before a clothesline to the back of the head nearly ended it. The ref doesn’t wave it off, so Elijah pulls up Crowley… but Crowley cradles him and snatches the win. Elijah’s lack of a killer instinct cost him here as Crowley somehow escapes with a victory. ***

Post-match, Elijah got the mic and demanded no more secrets after being surprised by Crowley… and I guess those two are going to be a tag team based on the “we’ve got work to do” line?

Backstage, Roy Johnson’s interviewed with a mic that’s peaking way too easily. Roy’s bringing out the “other Roy Johnson” for his match with Warren Banks today…

Revelations of Divine Love Semi-Final: Rhio vs. Skye Smitson
Winner faces Mercedez Blaze in the finals – presumably on the first shows back with fans…

Rhio starts by working over Smitson’s arm and wrist, but Skye counters out with a cravat, only for the pair to trade strikes as a back elbow and a dropkick had Smitson ahead. A gutwrench suplex chucks Rhio into the corner for a one-count, but a shotgun dropkick and a butterfly suplex had Rhio back on top for a two-count. Forearms to the back of Smitson’s head have her covering up, before Skye came back with some kicks, only to run into a sidewalk slam as all the strikes suddenly stopped. Oh, then they returned as Rhio continued to give Skye a kicking, following with a suplex for a two-count.

A slap from Skye fires up Rhio again, who kicked her into the corner, only for Smitson to waffle Rhio with a leaping knee. Skye misses a splash as Rhio hits back with a hesitation dropkick for a near-fall, then with an enziguiri… before Smitson shrugged it off to land a spinebuster. The pair trade strikes as we remain surprisingly even, with a pump kick from Smitson, then a kneeling Falcon arrow almost winning it. Smitson tries to push on, landing an Air Raid Crash for a near-fall, but a spinning heel kick from Rhio gets her back in it, while a pumphandle Blue Thunder bomb led to a two-count, as an ushigoroshi gets a similar result. A superkick from Smitson offers hope, but a springboard’s caught and turned into a sleeperhold for the quick ref’s stoppage. Nice and even, even with the definitive finish, but I’d have liked to have seen Rhio take more of this given that Skye’d already had “her go” with Gisele Shaw. ***¼

Roy Johnson vs. Warren Banks
This was Roy’s first singles match in PROGRESS since October 2019 – a loss to TK Cooper…

Apparently the “beef” here was Warren Banks being unhappy that Roy was friendly with the Sunshine Machine, and wasn’t taking things seriously. Johnson tries to intimidate Banks into the corner, but gets jumped with a side headlock for it, before returning with a leg lariat. A backbreaker catches Banks off guard, as he rolls outside for respite… Banks suckered Johnson outside for some charges into the side of the ring, before a slingshot clothesline back in had Roy down. An Irish whip bounces Johnson into the corner from there, but a leaping back elbow gets Roy back in it for a two-count, before a misdirection bulldog’s avoided by Banks. He followed that up with a back senton for a two-count, then a series of kicks before a suplex led to Warren barking out “where’s Roy Johnson?”

Another back senton has Johnson laying, but Roy’s back with body blows and Biel throws, before a flapjack left Banks laying. A running clothesline followed, as Banks then got a pop-up forearm and a diving uppercut to the back, as a set-up for a Jackhammer that nearly won it out. Banks returns by slipping out of a Last Set, booting Johnson in return ahead of a knee into the corner, then another ripcord knee, before a slam dropped Johnson for a near-fall. Johnson’s met with an enziguiri on the top rope, but a front superplex has Banks down ahead of a Code Red for a near-fall.

A POUNCE knocks Banks into the ropes, but another Last Set is escaped… before an Overdrive attempt just earned Johnson a spear. A second spear followed, then a third, as Johnson’s hopes of making a comeback were well and truly put to bed. ***

Backstage, Skye Smitson announces she’s still going to go after the PROGRESS Women’s title…

Debbie Keitel vs. Gisele Shaw
There’s no fans around for Debbie to scream at here, as she’s got her focus on proving to Gisele Shaw that she’s worthy of a title shot. Shaw’s usually the baddie around here, so are we meant to be cheering Debbie?

There’s no air horn this time, as we start with Shaw throwing Keitel to the mat, before a side headlock was clung onto. A headlock takedown has Shaw on the deck, but Gisele returns the favour, keeping the hold on until Keitel pushed her – and tripped her – off the ropes. Keitel pushes on with an elbow out of the corner, then a crossbody for a two-count, before Shaw took things outside as she posted Keitel. Back inside, the pair trade slaps as Shaw chokes Keitel in the ropes, while running uppercuts knocked Debbie down for a two-count. More choking has Keitel through the ropes as Shaw was beginning to play with her foe, setting her in the ropes for a V-Trigger. Keitel punches her way back into it, knocking Shaw into the corner as a Northern Lights nearly nicked it for the Irishwoman.

Shaw retaliates with a half-and-half suplex, then a running knee, but it’s not enough to keep Keitel down, nor was a DDT, so Shaw rips off the turnbuckle cover… so she can distract the ref. A belt shot misses, but Keitel ends up getting DDT’d onto it as Gisele took home the win. Another contender down, I guess… ***

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Greedy Souls (Brendan White & Danny Jones) vs. Smokin’ Aces (Charlie Sterling & Nick Riley) (c)
The Greedy Souls are 0-2 against these lads, but have a cracker of a match under their belts back from Chapter 109 at the start of the year. Meanwhile, Chuck and TK’s revolving wardrobe has seen them… change into their gear?

After a long series where we were made to think that Brendan White was starting, Danny Jones slides in to start as he chop blocks Charlie Sterling’s knee out, but Sterling’s able to fight back against White, scoring with a leapfrog and a clothesline as the champions looked to settle in. Except White charges things into the corner, only for Danny to come in and take a Kitchen sink knee to the gut. Sterling’s taken into the corner with Brendan White, who held him in place as the challengers took their shots, only for Sterling to crawl towards Nick Riley, who lands an early dropkick. A back body drop has Brendan in the sky, before Danny Jones came in to take a moonsault for a two-count.

Sterling tags back in with uppercuts, but White again intervenes as Jones lifts Sterling to the outside… but he just ends up with a plancha to White before returning as Nick Riley’s crossbody dropped Jones for a two-count. There must have been a hell of a blind tag in there. Jones fires back, throwing Riley throat-first into the ropes, while Sterling’s argument with the ref totally masked some interference from White. A slingshot into the ropes has Riley rolling outside, where he’s stomped on by the Welsh lads as I just had to laugh at commentary calling the ropes “like razor wire.” Must be very blunt, given that lads don’t bleed when they hit the ropes…

Back inside, Jones tags in and stops Riley from making the tag out as the isolation continues as Riley’s booted back into the wrong corner. Finally Sterling gets the hot tag in and runs wild with slams and backbreakers, leading to a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall. Riley’s quickly back with a top rope elbow drop for a two-count, but Jones breaks up the cover and dragged Brendan White into the corner for a tag. Sterling tries for a gutwrench, but Jones blocks it… and threw an overhead belly-to-belly suplex to help towards a near-fall. Jones rips off the turnbuckle pad – so we’ve got that in back-to-back matches – but the ref doesn’t immediately go to fix it, as instead a double team hiptoss into an over-the-knees powerbomb nearly put Sterling away.

RIley tags in as Sterling’s Asai moonsault wiped out the challengers… while Riley’s Tiger Driver nearly put away Jones. A Smokin’ Ace Crusher’s stopped, but Brendan White runs in and accidentally splashes the referee into the exposed corner… with no ref, all hell breaks loose, with Danny Jones using a chair on Sterling and Riley… Brendan White uses it too before a slingshot Bossman slam left Sterling down for a visual five-count… but of course, there’s no ref. White heads backstage to grab another ref, but of course Sterling kicks out at two. Jones rolls Sterling into a Cloverleaf, but Sterling makes it into the ropes. Jones pulls him away, only for Sterling to try his luck with an inside cradle. Jones kicks out at two, then missed a Stinger splash into the exposed corner as Riley returned for the Smokin’ Ace Crusher, and that’s your lot after a wild match – and one that perhaps shuts the door on the Souls for a while. ***½

After the match, TK and Mambo interrupt the Smokin’ Aces celebration as TK rattled off some of their recent wins… and challenged the champions for a match, noting teams who’d gotten title shots ahead of them. Sterling accepts, and I guess that’ll be on one of the first shows back with fans?

We get a fantastic, heated sit-down promo from Gene Munny before the match – one that would have been infinitely more effective had this been in front of a crowd (or at least had a chance to sell tickets), especially when combined with the post-match promo after the last show. I’m as fired up as I can be in this setting…

PROGRESS World Championship: Gene Munny vs. Cara Noir (c)
Gene won the scramble match on the last show to get this spot, and treated this like a huge deal, knowing it was perhaps a rare shot at the title for him.

We get a handshake to start, and both men come shooting out of the blocks to start. A shotgun dropkick has Gene outside as he stumbles away from a dive, only to miss a slingshot spear back into the ring. Except its a fake-out as Gene, erm, chopped at Cara’s soles, only to get stretched like a bow on the mat ahead of a curb stomp.

An axe kick lands, before Gene charges Cara into the corners with clotheslines, before a diving kick spun the champion down. Cara’s caught in the corner, but forearms Gene away before landing a clothesline for barely a one-count. A sleeperhold from Cara ends when Gene charged them both through the ropes to the outside… Cara’s thrown back in, but quickly emerges with a tope con giro, then threw Gene back in as a pescado sees Munny return the favour. The exchange of dives continues as a misdirection tope sent Munny into the wall, before he fought his way back onto the apron, where he misses on a wild swinging forearm, before Cara Noir decided to give him a kicking on the apron. That leads to a snap piledriver on the edge of the ring, but Cara Noir opts not to take the count-out win as he instead went to help Gene up.

Then waffled him with a forearm. Back inside, a series of shotgun dropkicks has Gene on jelly legs, only to pull himself out of the corner to lariat Cara down. Gene then pulled Cara off the apron into a Finlay roll, before a pumphandle’d cutter and a spinebuster saw him build up a head of steam… only to get pulled into a triangle armbar. Munny powerbombs out, but Cara tries to stay close to his challenger, grabbing Gene by the leg before Munny broke free and hit the slingshot spear…

Except Cara rolls through into the Madame Guillotine for a near-fall. A package piledriver’s teased, but Munny escaped only to eat a Rude Awakening neckbreaker… but Cara doesn’t go for the pin. Instead, he pulls up Gene for a PK, then another, then another, before Gene fired up with forearms, before he pulled up Cara for a pop-up knee to the back. An Ainsley Lariat’s stopped with a rear naked choke, then a rebound German suplex before Cara… busted out a Torpedo Moscau?! Commentary don’t call it that, as Cara goes for a sleeper again, then again, before a sleeper suplex was quickly followed with another sleeperhold, which finally choked out Gene for the stoppage. Look, I’m a harsh marker with these things. I’m also a big fan of Gene Munny from what was colloquially known as the “undergraps” scene – his run in GOOD Wrestling before things went to hell was probably the most entertained I’ve been by a character at a live show. Sure, he’s made his name as a comedy wrestler, but this match showed he’s got more than that in the tank – and I hope that when the restart comes, he’s able to build on that. ***½

The show ends with Cara picking up Gene as we get a hug and a handshake… before commentary’s sign-off was proven to be premature as Chris Ridgeway slid into the ring and squared off with Cara Noir… and the show fades to black with “PROGRESS WILL RETURN.” No chapter name announced. Hell, they don’t even do the easy route and number it. There’s no month, or a date… and the teased announcement for the return ends up just not being made. We’ll have to wait and see when and where it’ll be…

This was a show that’s somehow less than the sum of its parts. There’s absolutely no need for any empty arena wrestling show to be flirting with the four-hour mark. None whatsoever. Much like I’m sure there’s been virtually no clamour for these shows to go that long. Yet the fact we’ve had five shows go north of three hours in this “era” speaks volumes. There’s been some good, but it’s drowned out with a lot of excessive stuff that in the scheme of things, just didn’t mean much or build up to anything. Add in that we’re going at least a month before they return in front of fans, and I really don’t know what PROGRESS in 2022 is going to look like – save for the couple of matches they’ve set up, but lord knows, that just puts them at the mercy of injuries…