PROGRESS returned to Camden on April 24 for Chapter 29 – “Practically Progress In Every Way” – with a show that featured a pair of matches for WWE’s Global Cruiserweight Series, and the finals of their latest Natural Progression Series. This would be an opportunity for the company to further put themselves on the map – and they grabbed the chance with both hands.

The show opened with a fantastic spoof of the old anti-piracy advert that used to be on DVDs back in the day (disclaimer: it’s been an age since I’ve actually bought a DVD, thanks to the advent of Amazon Video and Netflix) – with the reminder: “don’t be a dick, support independent wrestling”.

Jim Smallman’s usual pre-amble was a little rushed since they had a lot to fit in, including an announcement about the fourth Natural Progression Series tournament: it’ll be female-only, with the winner becoming the first ever PROGRESS Women’s champion. Add in the Atlas title tournament that PROGRESS is in the midst of, and we’re going to have a lot of belts. And shields. And whatever the Atlas champion is given. After a friendly reminder to not swear during the two Global Cruiserweight Series matches, we’re off to the races!

Well, we don’t start with a match – instead we get Mark Haskins out to the ring, to give a promo to the Camden crowd saying that PROGRESS made him love wrestling again… and he wants to get a crack at the PROGRESS World title, by entering May’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament. Smallman gives him a place, and now we start the wrestling.

Atlas Championship Tournament, Block B: Michael Dante [0] vs. Damo O’Connor [0]
We start with the polar opposite of the cruiserweights – “Big Man’s Wrestling”! It’s the first match out of Block B, featuring former PROGRESS tag champion Michael Dante, and Belfast’s “Big Damo” – Damian O’Connor.

Damo takes down Dante early with a big dropkick, but the Dutchman kips up as if it were nothing… unlike the forearms that rocked both men, inside and out of the ring. Dante gets tossed into the crowd, and I’m suddenly fearful for my front row self at the next ENDVR show in a weeks’ time.

Dante gets whipped hard into the turnbuckles – which stood up to the impact – but Damo gets a near-fall after a powerbomb capped off a fireman’s carry and a back senton splash. Damo sees an electric chair drop fail as Dante fought free, before Dante eventually took the Northern Irishman down with a half-nelson suplex. One spear later, and Dante scored the come-from-behind win. Good match, but that finish felt a little rushed **¾

As an aside, I really liked how they called out the intervals in the match – with Atlas tournament matches having a 15 minute time limit. Although Jim Smallman didn’t do it in Japanese, it does open things up for them to do a draw without it being so obvious.

WWE Global Cruiserweight Series Qualifier: “Flash” Morgan Webster vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
The crowd seem more hyped than usual for this one, likely because of the importance of this match to PROGRESS. Of course, going in, Zack Sabre Jr. had already been announced as an entrant for the Global Cruiserweight Series, whilst Webster had not – so this should be a no-brainer.

Webster more than holds his own against ZSJ in the early going as they went to the ground early on; however, Webster found himself grounded with a wristlock, which he struggled to get out of, as ZSJ stuck rigidly to a more World-of-Sport style of offence. However, Webster snuck back into things with a couple of armbars, and drilled ZSJ with his Special Brew Flip (standing inverted senton), only for ZSJ to kick his way back in, using legscissors to bend Webster in ways I’m sure a spine isn’t meant to go.

A Japanese strangle-hold kept Flash Morgan grounded, but Flash was able to flip over and reverse the hold, only to be flipped back and caught with a pump kick. That didn’t last too long, as ZSJ was caught with a pair of topes and a tope con hilo out to the floor, with a La Magistral roll-up giving Flash a two-count back in the ring.

ZSJ rolls out of a 450 Splash attempt, and then catches Flash Morgan in a wheelbarrow position, turning it into a stiff Tiger suplex that looked to have popped out a shoulder. That segued into a Dragon sleeper for a brief moment, as Webster escaped, only to whiff on a standing shooting star press attempt and land into a Triangle choke.

Webster crumpled to the mat as he tried to hoist up ZSJ in a fireman’s carry, who turned it into a Guillotine, with Webster needing the ropes to break the hold. ZSJ dives into a backslide as Webster scores a near-fall, before finally getting the fireman’s carry and connecting with his Brit Pop Drop (aka Hirooki Goto’s ushigoroshi – and yes, that is a pain to spell!). Another attempt at a 450 Splash sees Webster get nothing but knees, giving ZSJ the opening to nail a penalty kick to Webster for a two-count, and lean back with a double-arm lever on Webster for the quick submission win. What a great showing from Flash Morgan, even in defeat, and a fantastic advert for the British scene. ***¾

WWE Global Cruiserweight Series Qualifier: Pete Dunne vs. Jack Gallagher
This match at least had some intrigue to it, given that neither Dunne nor Gallagher had been announced as an entrant, but you could tell that the crowd were wanting Gallagher to get the spot.

Gallagher takes Dunne down early on and works a wristlock into a pinning predicament, scoring a two-count in the opening moments. Dunne kept seeing his headlocks easily escaped by Gallagher, before eschewing the grappling and going to a striking game, which didn’t do much when he was locked in an Octopus stretch by Gallagher.

Dunne retaliated by grapevining Gallagher’s legs and applying a reverse Figure Four, before switching into an Indian deathlock. Gallagher fired back with forearms and a dropkick, before scoring a near-fall with a crucifix pin, but Dunne pulled a Luis Suarez and bit into the hand of Gallagher. That attempted cannibalism was shrugged off quickly, with Gallagher succeeding with a rolling single-legged crab, with Dunne grabbing the ropes to escape.

Dunne folds through after a powerbomb, but only scored a two-count, before seeing an attempt at a pumphandle slam countered with Gallagher switching it into a guillotine. Dunne then almost scored a win with a roll-up, but the referee stopped the count after spotting Dunne’s feet on the ropes. Gallagher then capitalised as Dunne argued, rushing in with a dropkick for another near-fall, before scoring the win via submission with a heel hook.

Good match, not quite the same level as the first qualifier, but another good advert for the British scene. ***

And now, the crowd can swear again!

Natural Progression Series III Finals: Damon Moser vs. William Eaver
Well, it was clear from the off that “Pastor” William Eaver was the crowd favourite going into this, and that was before he unveiled his Austin-style “Billeave 4:24” shirt. The winner of this gets a trophy and a title shot to use when they want (albeit with notice).

Moser went for a knee trembler early on, but ended up being rolled up for a near-fall, before Eaver tried early for the Crucifix powerbomb, only for Moser to squirm out. Eaver kept on top with European uppercuts in the corner, before Moser powered back with a dropkick and a running knee into the corner, following up with a Coast to Coast dropkick for a near-fall.

After being sent to the outside via an uppercut, Moser was again floored with a tope con hilo from the Pastor, but a decision to go for the Clothesline from Heaven went awry, as Eaver ended up clotheslining the ring post. Moser dropped Eaver with a running knee off the apron, and followed up with a Knee Trembler as Eaver made it back into the ring, only scoring a two-count from that.

Moser continued with a Fisherman’s neckbreaker (a cross between a Fisherman’s buster and that move Hirooki Goto does that I curse every time I type it… you know the one, ushigoroshi), before setting up for another Knee Trembler, only to be caught by the Clothesline from Heaven for another near-fall.  From the knees, the pair start trading forearms as they get back to their feet, but Moser unwisely goes for a lariat of his own, with Eaver ducking and replying with a backbreaker and finally the Crucifix powerbomb… but only for a two count! Moser kicks out and immediately goes for another pin, getting a near-fall from a sunset flip-like cover.

Eaver’s attempt at another Clothesline from Heaven is missed, as Moser ducks and drills him with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a count of two, but seconds later, Eaver finally gets a clean hit on the Clothesline from Heaven and clinches the tournament win. Good match, with some good back and forth, but for me that Clothesline from Heaven needs to be a one-off move rather than something used repeatedly ***¼

In the celebrations, Eaver ordered that the trophy be passed around everyone inside the Electric Ballroom in Camden, before calling out the retired (former PROGRESS trainee) Ali Armstrong and Chuck Mambo to celebrate.

The second half of the show opened with a “Pick Their Poison”-style match, with Dahlia Black and Pollyanna picking the others’ tag team partners. Ahead of the shows, there had been rumours of this being an intergender match. Cue Pollyanna and her weird Gothic throne, then the South Pacific Power Couple (Dahlia Black & TK Cooper), only for Cooper to be sent to the back by security. I guess he’s not been picked as a joke tag team partner for Pollyanna…

Jim Smallman then asks for the choices, with Dahlia selecting Jinny for the opposing team, whilst Pollyanna goes for perhaps the obvious choice: Elizabeth!

Jinny & Pollyanna vs. Dahlia Black & Elizabeth
The days before this had seen the Jinny/Elizabeth feud continue on social media, with Jinny supposedly sending Elizabeth “home”. We start with Dahlia jumping Pollyanna from behind with a knee to the back, before leaping into Pollyanna’s chest with double knees, whilst Jinny repeatedly orders Elizabeth not to tag in.

As they explain the partners situation on commentary, Pollyanna misses a Sasha Banks-like double-stomp in the corner, before taking Black down with an armdrag. Jinny then tags herself in, walking straight into a slap before sweeping Black’s leg into a facebuster. Pollyanna and Jinny then end up working together, chopping Black in the corner, before tensions rise once more between the duo.

TK Cooper then returns to ringside as he looked to attack Pollyanna, only for Jack Sexsmith to make the save, with the pair fighting to the back. That caused a distraction for Dahlia, who ended up being pulled from the apron to the floor by Pollyanna, as Jinny was left by herself in the ring. Elizabeth ended up tagging herself in, for a rather muted response, and scored a two-count with a roll-up on Jinny before everyone realised what was going on.

Jinny ordered Elizabeth to do a Jeff Jarrett and lay down for her, and she actually did that, only to kick out at two as the crowd booed. Elizabeth took a slap as they continued arguing, before ducking a Rainmaker clothesline, and nailing a backcracker on Jinny to score the upset win.

The match itself was fine, if a little on the short side. There seemed to be a lot of confusion regarding the partners stipulations – and the rushed run-in from TK Cooper was more of a detraction than anything else, but given that they’re doing a rematch between Pollyanna and Dahlia Black at the ENDVR show next week, with Jack Sexsmith as the referee, I suppose it made sense. **¼

Atlas Championship Tournament, Block B: Joe Coffey [0] vs. Rampage Brown [0]
We’re back to the big guys here, with Coffey coming into this with quite a reputation, even if he’s not had a singles match in PROGRESS before today. Rampage starts by taking down Coffey with a hammerlock, before working their way back up into a knucklelock.

Brown lands on his feet from a monkey flip then goes back to work on Coffey, before they end up on the floor, where they end up butting shoulders like bulls in a fight. Coffey leaps over Brown when they try it a third time, before a flying shoulder tackle sends Rampage into the front row. Coffey then rolled into the ring and back out again to break up the ten-count – not sure why he wouldn’t just roll in to claim a win, since all wins count equally in this part of the tournament.

Back in the ring, the pair trade chops, before Coffey sends Rampage into the corner with a knee to the gut, only to miss a crossbody block and land on the top turnbuckle. A series of crossface punches staggers the Scotsman Coffey, who is sent into the corner again with chops before Rampage tries for a piledriver, only to be taken into the corner himself.

Rampage scores a two-count from a standing side kick, as the match continues its slow, deliberate pace, with Rampage following up with a chinlock, then a jumping sit-out splash for another near-fall. Coffey kicked out of a roll-up then went to the ground and pound game for a while, before turning his foe over for a Boston crab as the match entered the final five minutes.

We get another battle of chops, with Coffey being the first to slump to his knees, before firing up and battering Rampage with clotheslines. Coffey then goes all Chris Daniels on us, busting out an athletic jump to the top rope then a cross body block for a near-fall on Brown, before a swift Giant Swing and a slingshot into the corner. With the match entering its final minute, the pace cranked up a little bit, with Brown missing a shoulder tackle out of the corner, before kicking out of a deadlift German suplex.

Brown went on to duck a discus lariat, then drill Coffey with a spinebuster for a near-fall, and as both men laid on the mat, they began slapping each other whilst on their backs as the time limit expired. Nevermind that, the referee is needed to split them up, as the official call is made as a time limit draw, giving both men one point. Watching this, I had a sneaking feeling that they were going for a draw given how slowly the match started… and continued to be. Not a bad match, but the lack of any decisive winner hurt it. ***

The London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) & FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews) vs. The Origin (Dave Mastiff, El Ligero, Nathan Cruz & Zack Gibson)
Allegedly, Zack Gibson and Dave Mastiff weren’t able to make it, but as Nathan Cruz talked down to their opponents, he riled up Eddie Dennis so much that he rushed the stage… and of course, the missing pair of Mastiff and Gibson were waiting backstage, with Mastiff dropping Dennis with a rolling fireman’s carry on the stage, as Gibson came in and whacked James Davis with a cricket bat.

Mark Andrews then wiped out the Origin with a tope con hilo as the bell finally rang, as the stipulation going into this one was fairly simple: if the Origin win, all four members of them enter the Super Strong Style 16 tournament; if the Origin lost, whomever scored the fall would get a tag team title shot for their team (either the Riots or FSU). After the injuries to Davis and Dennis, this was effectively a four-on-two match, with the Origin picking apart the remaining member of FSU and the London Riots.

Andrews fired back with forearms on El Ligero, and eventually made the hot tag to Rob Lynch, who cleared the Origin and wiped out Ligero and Mastiff with forearms, before dropping Mastiff with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. However, the number game became too much again, with Lynch being drilled with a slingshot back suplex off the ropes, before Mastiff dropped him with a German suplex. That was the cue for James Davis to hobble out to ringside, as we went to 4-on-3, and Davis was quickly tagged in as he knocked all of the Origin off the apron.

Even with the bad leg, Davis was able to throw Ligero down with an exploder suplex, but a C4L attempt was caught and turned into an Emerald Fusion for a near-fall, before connecting with a tope to the Origin members on the floor. Eddie Dennis then emerges from the back to complete the teams, and he makes a beeline for Dave Mastiff, taking him down with a swinging side slam, but his choice to follow up with a tope con hilo ends up meeting nothing but the London Riots.

The Origin then lay out James Davis with finshers, but all of those only end up with a two-count for Nathan Cruz, before the Origin end up being taken out of the ring, as Cruz takes an Eddie Dennis buckle bomb, before FSU connect with dives to the floor. Cruz pulls himself to his feet and gets sling-shotted into a spear as the London Riots take the win and become the top contenders for the PROGRESS tag team titles! Another decent match involving these teams, with not so much of the car-wreck style that we’ve seen before – but whilst the early injury angle built a story, it came across as overkill for both FSU and the Riots to have been a man down. ***½

PROGRESS World Championship: Tommy End vs. Marty Scurll (c)
Tommy End earned his title shot by beating Scurll in a non-title affair last time around in PROGRESS, and End went for a high knee straight out of the gate, which Scurll ducked. A high kick connected though, as both men quickly spilled onto the floor. Scurll dropped End onto a few of the front row chairs, flattening a few empty cans of beer in the process.

In the ring, Scurll didn’t even get a one-count from a bodyslam, before resuming work on End’s arm, taking the Dutchman down with a wristlock, before End replied with a jumping knee that sent the champion to the mat. Back on his feet, End took Scurll down again with a quick combo of kicks, scoring a near fall in the process, but Scurll ducked another kick and went for a finger snap… only to be elbowed and knocked loopy with a Rainmaker-style elbow.

End scored a near-fall from a schoolboy roll-up, but the kickout saw him land in a chicken wing, but Scurll struggled to lock the hold in properly, which meant that End could roll out and trap the champ in a Dragon sleeper. Another sequence followed where a high knee put Scurll on top, as he signalled for a Chicken wing, but he fell to more kicks from End, who caught him in a reverse cross-armbreaker in the middle of the ring. Scurll rolled free though, but took another pump kick, before kicking End in the head as he tried a moonsault off the second rope.

Scurll scored another two-count with an Ace crusher as End was draping off the turnbuckles, then went for the Chicken Wing again, only to be met with more elbows, and another Dragon sleeper from the Dutchman. Scurll slipped out and locked in another chicken wing, managing to get End down to his knees, before transitioning it into a wristlock with Bryan Danielson-esque elbows to the head. End’s response to that was to spit at Scurll, who fired back with repeated superkicks to the head, followed by the finger snap.

They traded strikes and knees as the match entered the final straight, with a lariat turning End inside out, but End snatched a near-fall from a brainbuster, then a double stomp got another two-count, but as End drilled Scurll with a roundhouse kick – the same one he beat him with last time they faced off – the lights went out.

When the lights came back up, Mikey Whiplash was standing in the middle of the ring with a steel chair. As the commentary team clued us up on Whiplash’s affiliation with End (they’re stablemates, along with Michael Dante, as part of the ICW stable “Legion”), Whiplash drilled Scurll with a steel chair as the match was thrown out for a disqualification.

Well, that was an anticlimactic end to proceedings – Whiplash was hardly a reknowned name in PROGRESS, and save for his prior gimmick as Michael Gilbert in 2014, he’d barely figured on the company’s shows in recent months. The finish was deeply unsatisfying, but the in-ring action was really good ***¾

All in, this was yet another good PROGRESS card, with the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series matches stealing the show for me. As is the norm, there was nothing absolutely rotten on this card, with the “worst” match being the women’s tag that only suffered due to a lack of time and the way the stipulation was presented. Personally, the indecisive main event finish made it feel dangerously close to how WWE handles their B-shows. PROGRESS have treated all of their shows as big events, but ending shows on a screwy finish ought to remain the exception, lest the Camden (and Manchester, and soon, Brixton) audiences start to leave shows with a sour taste.

Not wanting to be too negative, all I can say is that this show alone was well worth this month’s Demand Progress subscription!