Hot on the heels of the Super Strong Style 16 tournament, PROGRESS made another trip up north for Father’s Day, with Manchester being the stop-off point for Chapter 31: All Hail The New Puritans – a show headlined by Chris Hero getting a PROGRESS title shot after his show-stealing performances during the SSS16 tournament.

Tag Team Match In The Atlas Championship Tournament, Block B: Joe Coffey & “Big” Damo O’Connor vs. Rampage Brown & Mikey Whiplash
Coffey and Rampage came into this match with a point each, after sharing a draw at Chapter 29, whilst Big Damo was on nil-point after losing to Michael Dante at the same show. Whiplash inserted himself into the match as a late replacement for Michael Dante, who withdrew for unannounced reasons. Weirdly, the pre-match graphic had Dante listed… Mikey Whiplash sounds so unintimidating on the mic, it’s like the voice and facepaint just don’t go together.

Rampage and Coffey started out exchanging slaps and chops, but it wasn’t long before Whiplash pulled away from a tag, as Coffey got the first near-fall of the night with a cross body off the middle rope. Whiplash blind-tagged himself in eventually, then forced Rampage back in before even attempting any offence. European uppercuts from Coffey sent Rampage reeling into the corner, but Rampage ended up being able to attempt his piledriver finisher, only to take a back body drop for a near-fall.

Rampage almost fell out of the ring as Big Damo got the tag in, and after a dropkick ended a period of offence from Big Damo, Joe Coffey ran in to drag Rampage away from a tag, and hold him down for a big splash from Damo for another near-fall. The two-on-one offence continued against Rampage, with Coffey wrenching back on Rampage’s left arm, before the Scotsman took a clothesline out of the corner from Rampage. A Samoan drop from Rampage dropped Damo, as Whiplash once again refused to tag in, as Rampage took a discus lariat from Coffey and a back senton from Damo, as the two-on-one offence paid off, with Coffey and Damo taking the win. Even though there was nothing technically wrong with it, that match felt really flat. The crowd didn’t seem to understand why Whiplash filled in for Michael Dante, although Glen Joseph on commentary did sow a few seeds as to Whiplash screwing Tommy End and now Michael Dante. **¼

After this match, Big Damo got off the board with two points, whilst Joe Coffey ended with three points. Rampage Brown stayed on one point, whilst Mikey Whiplash… remained disinterested in the whole thing.

Damon Moser vs. Zack Gibson
Moser came out with the sweet Moser vs. Everybody sheepskin jacket he used during the SSS16 tournament, and grabbed the mic to call out Nathan Cruz, who eventually came out… not exactly dressed to wrestle.

Instead, Cruz was acting as a second for his Origin stable-mate Zack Gibson, and we get underway with a match that would see Moser face Nathan Cruz if he won here.

Gibson took Moser to the corner immediately and slapped him, before utilising some back-and-forth wristlocks that ended with Moser being taken down. The Scouser then arrogantly held the ropes open for Moser to leave the ring, only to get caught with a dropkick that sent him to the floor, as Moser followed up with a knee off the apron and chops as he lit up his more experienced foe.

Whilst trying to return fire, Gibson ended up chopping the ringpost, and found himself quickly in the front row, as Moser did a lap around the ring before dropkicking Gibson in his seat. Back in the ring, Moser unloaded with some shots, before being taken down by Nigel McGuinness’ old Divorce Court from Gibson. A loud “f*** the Beatles” chant started in the Manchester crowd as Gibson used a knuckle lock to throw Moser over his head, before screaming at Moser to forfeit the match.

Moser and Gibson started trading strikes as Moser fought back, with a bicycle kick and a schoolboy getting Moser a two-count. A dropkick sent Gibson into the corner as Moser set-up for the Coast to Coast dropkick, which connected with Gibson for a two-count despite the best efforts of Cruz. A schoolboy-roll-up saw Gibson avoid the knee trembler, but Moser was able to avoid the Shankly Gates and try for the pump handle into an ushigoroshi, only to take a Code Breaker from Gibson in the corner.

Moser kicked out at two from that, but ended up walking into a cross-legged Fisherman brainbuster from Gibson. After a roll-up got Moser another two-count, Gibson floored the youngster with a lariat, then came after him with the Shankly Gates. Nathan Cruz reached into the ring to taunt Moser, but ended up being grabbed as Moser hauled himself towards the ropes for a break, much to Gibson’s displeasure, and after admonishing Cruz, Gibson turned into a small package and found himself taking the fall. Good little match, telling the story of the up and comer outsmarting his former stablemates ***

Post-match saw Gibson attack Moser from behind as Nathan Cruz grabbed a chair from under the ring, then waffled Moser over the head with a couple of shots. Cruz then scooped up Moser for a tombstone piledriver onto the chair, before wearing out the chair on Moser, whilst the crowd’s chants of “someone help him” went unheeded. The takeaway from this is that Damon Moser gets his shot at Nathan Cruz… (spoiler: it’s soon!)

Dahlia Black vs. Pollyanna
After months of back-and-forth, and their most recent being at May’s ENDVR show, the stipulation here is that if anyone interferes in this match, both women get fired from PROGRESS. Dahlia flips off the crowd on her way to the ring, without TK Cooper (as per the stipulations, since he’d made a habit of getting involved). Pollyanna similarly makes a beeline to the ring, and this time overcomes her ENDVR foe… the middle rope!

Pollyanna started by dropkicking Dahlia into the corner and punching her, before using a series of hair-assisted whips across the ring. A chop battle then ensued, but Pollyanna retained the advantage, taking down Dahlia with a super armdrag, sending the New Zealander out to the floor. Dahlia took her time getting in, which suckered Pollyanna into a tope, only to be caught with a kick as she was about to go flying, which in turn somehow stopped the referee’s count.

Dahlia ended up coming back into the ring the hard way, before sending Pollyanna face-first into the middle turnbuckle, where she took a kick to the face. The Kevin Nash/Stacy Keibler big boot choke came next in the corner as Pollyanna was on the receiving end of things, taking some double knees in the corner, then a jumping knee to the chest by Black.

Out of nowhere, Pollyanna trapped Dahlia’s wrist and rolled through for a variation of the Octopus hold, but then we got the interference, as Jinny’s music hit. Pollyanna released the hold, but as Jinny went to enter the ring (and potentially get both women fired), Jim Smallman then amended the rules mid-match to ensure that whomever interfered would also be fired – thus nullifying Jinny’s attempt to get two potential challengers for the upcoming PROGRESS women’s championship tournament fired.

As Jinny left, we got a funny moment as Dahlia visibly looked relieved at still having a job, before snapping back into action, with both of them going for a clothesline, leaving both women flat out on the mat. After getting back to their feet, forearm strikes were the order of the day, before a big boot and some diving double knees got Dahlia a two-count. Pollyanna got up to crotch Dahlia on the top rope, and caught her with the Pollinator (Angel’s Wings) from the top, with a back senton getting a near-fall for the much-favoured Pollyanna.

Pollyanna ducked a charge in the corner, but got caught coming into the ring as Dahlia hit an elevated DDT from the middle rope, only scoring a two-count from that. Dahlia looked to keep up the pressure by going airborne, but got caught by Pollyanna with a cross-body, and was quickly placed on the top rope as Pollyanna went for the double stomp off the top-rope. Dahlia raked the eyes and worked herself free though, before getting caught herself with a moonsault off the top, with Pollyanna dropping her over the top rope from a Fireman’s carry up top.

We then got the double stomp through Pollyanna’s backside, with double knees to the back and then struck the fatal blow with the Blackout Driver (MK Ultra/Belly-to-back piledriver) as Pollyanna took the win. A fantastic match from both women, with the no-interference rule adding an extra layer, especially when Jinny came out to threaten to ruin the whole thing. ***¾

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Dazzler Team (Darrell Allen & Earl Black Jr.) vs. London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis) (c)
This came from the Dazzler Team winning the streetfight over Super Strong Style 16 weekend… and their entrance just looked so awkward. Standing on the ramp with their arms aloft, I guess expecting a heel reaction? Shame it looked to be a while for one to be forthcoming…

James Davis started off by taking down Earl Black Jr then working on the arm, before sending him flying across the ring with a monkey flip. A second one saw Black land on his feet, only to take a dropkick, and then a crossbody for a two-count. Darrell Allen came in, but quickly went into a surfboard, and then a roll-up before Rob Lynch came in to take over the unexpected London Riots Wrestling Show. Lynch turned a wristlock into a torture rack, but Allen flipped out with the wristlock in place, before turning around into another dropkick.

Earl Black Jr came in to try and chop Lynch, but ended up being decked by a stiff chop himself, as the London Riots slowly segued into their typical stuff, with stiff clotheslines and a back senton getting them a near-fall. Black then had to make a save as Allen was being hoisted up for the District Line powerbomb, before trying to run for it… and that ended really badly as Black took a suplex on the wooden floor by Lynch, as Allen got driven into the ring apron by Davis. In the ring, Allen DDT’d Davis off the top rope as Black took a dropkick into the front row from Lynch, but was able to recover to start a two-on-one on James Davis.

The Dazzler team kept on offence for a while on Davis, with a back elbow sending Davis to the floor for a two-count, before Davis wriggled out of the Dazzler Death Drop and made the hot tag to Rob Lynch, who forearmed his way out of trouble. Lynch went for an overhead belly-to-belly, but ended up hitting a German suplex on Allen, then a powerslam on Black for a near-fall. Black then replied with a snap German suplex on Lynch for a two-count, as the two-on-one stuff continued with an assisted abdominal stretch, which led to Lynch swapping places and using Black against his own partner for another abdominal stretch.

Allen freed himself and hit Lynch’s padded knee with a dropkick, as that injured part of the body suddenly became a target, but not for long as a diving shoulderblock off the middle rope took down both challengers. James Davis got the tag in, and laid waste to the Dazzler Team with clotheslines, throwing Allen and Black across the ring with Exploder suplexes, before dropping Allen with a Finlay Roll onto Earl Black Jr.

Earl Black Jr then avoided a pop-up spear by wheelbarrowing Lynch, and locking in the Allen key submission (modified figure four), as Earl Black had caught Davis in a Sharpshooter, but the Riots made the ropes. After avoiding the Dazzler Death Drop, Lynch drilled Allen with a spear for a two-count, before going up top for a Spiral Tap, which missed completely. Allen then rushed for a finish with the Razzle Dazzle kick and a Cravat Cutter, as James Davis had to come in to kick the count apart.

A pop-up powerbomb from Davis nearly won it, as a headbutt from Earl Black Jr broke it up, but Earl took an Emerald Fusion as Davis eventually hoisted up Allen for the pop-up spear from Lynch, as the Riots retained the titles. This was a really fun match involving a team that very few people would have given a hope in hell in winning, but the Riots trying to beat the Dazzler Team at their own game made for an entertaining, if incongruous, exchange. It wasn’t quite as jarring as those times Big Show and Kane played amateur wrestler on Raw, but it was close! ***½

The Dunne Brothers (Damian Dunne & Pete Dunne) vs. FSU (Eddie Dennis & Mark Andrews)
After a couple of shows where he was used as a singles guy, the “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne is back with his brother, tagging against perennial crowd favourites FSU. We get a jump start from the Dunnes, but they quickly ended up outside and the recipients of two sets of tope con hilos from FSU; after putting on a lucha mask, Eddie was ready for a third dive, and we’re now seemingly getting Eddie Misterio!

The world’s tallest luchador took down Pete Dunne with some headscissors, but quickly got taken down with a lariat from Dunne, who dumped Mark Andrews on his head with a draping DDT off the middle rope. Andrews recovered against Damian Dunne, backflipping out of a sunset flip attempt, but Pete Dunne raced in to bite at Andrews’ hand, before taking an enziguiri as Andrews escaped a release suplex attempt. Eddie Dennis came in to wipe out the Dunnes with a Samoan drop/fallaway slam combo, before back body dropping Andrews out of the ring to take out Pete Dunne on the floor with a tornado DDT. After being tossed back into the ring, a Next Stop Driver had the match won, only for Damian Dunne to break up the pin. Damian then worked Andrews into a Next Stop driver himself, with a superkick from Pete Dunne resulting in Dennis taking out his own partner, before the Dunne landed a double lungblower/backcracker for a near-fall.

Andrews leapt off of Damian Dunne to take out Pete with a hurricanrana, and things broke down a little from there with a release suplex from Pete to Andrews, before Damian set up Dennis for a double stomp. Andrews tagged himself in as Dennis was in a tree of woe, but Damian was able to land the double stomp anyway.

Andrews found himself planted with two tombstone piledrivers – the second one with an added spike – as his moonsault attempt on Pete Dunne was caught, but Eddie Dennis made the save. FSU then gave a receipt as they worked the Dunnes into a spike piledriver position, with the Dunnes taking out each other, but they were able to get their feet on the ropes (not sure why the illegal man bothered…)

Damian drilled Dennis with a lungblower, before accidentally giving one off the ropes to Pete as he was aiming for Andrews, and it was all over from there, as Dennis sent Damian into Pete Dunne with a buckle bomb, then follow up with a tope to the outside. In the ring, we stayed with Pete and Andrews, with Andrews dropping Pete Dunne out of the ring with a reverse rana, before following up with the assist for a Next Stop Driver on Damian Dunne for the win.

A fine match to kick off the second half of the show, but it did feel at times a little too staged, particularly with the parades of big spots with little time to breathe inbetween. Not that I’m complaining, this was a good effort from all four men. ***½

Mikey Whiplash vs. “Pastor” William Eaver
Billed as “Heaven vs. Hell”, Whiplash is pulling “double-duty” after his non-effort in the opening Atlas match, and gets staggering indifference until his music stops. Eaver offers a handshake at the start, and gets met with a knee to the midsection by Whiplash, but Eaver fires back immediately, dropping his opponent with a shoulderblock and some Pope-ish Hammers.

A backbreaker scores Eaver an early two-count, and takes the action to the outside, where he finds himself rammed into the apron by Whiplash, but Whiplash quickly gets tossed into the crowd, and finds himself in a wreck of chairs. Whiplash returned the favour by sending Eaver into some chairs towards the bar, and the fight continues amongst those looking for drinks, with Eaver slammed onto the floor, and then met with an elbow drop off the bar. Eaver managed to get a breather by backdropping Whiplash into a pile of chairs, but Whiplash regains the advantage as they make it back into the ring.

Back inside, a snap suplex got Whiplash a near-fall, before popping up Eaver, only to be taken down with a clothesline on the way down as the Pastor mounted a comeback with a series of elbows in the corner. Unfortunately for Eaver, his cross body off the top was caught, but Eaver worked free and landed a uranage backbreaker and a crucifix powerbomb for a near-fall after wriggling free. A tope from Whiplash saw Eaver sent into the crowd once more, but the Pastor was quickly sent back in as Whiplash followed up with a massive top rope elbow for another two-count. Despite kicking out, Eaver quickly found himself pulled up and dropped with a spinning death valley driver, and that was it as Mikey Whiplash won the match for Hell. A fun brawl from a match which seemed to be completely random going in, but made an awful lot of sense one week later… ***¾

PROGRESS World Championship: Chris Hero vs. Marty Scurll (c)
After his standout performances during the Super Strong Style 16 tournament, Chris Hero followed up with another transatlantic trip here – from wrestling on Friday in Illinois, to Manchester on Sunday! A week earlier, he’d done the same, a Friday show in Florida, then Sunday in London – say what you will about Hero, but he’s continuing to rack up those air miles!

This match was billed as Hero vs. Villain, but we didn’t get rushed into any action as Scurll instead jaw-jacked with Hero, before they started off with some mat work, as Hero kipped up after escaping an early headlock takedown. Scurll kept on top of Hero with a wristlock, then a facelock, but Hero powered out and dumped the champion on the top turnbuckle as he escaped the hold. Scurll returned with a strait jacket into a surfboard, but Hero flipped out to reverse the hold, as both men struggled to gain any advantage, with Scurll trying for a chicken wing early on, only to have it escaped, and then take a big boot as he tried for a leapfrog. Hero found himself on the receiving end once more as Scurll worked over his left arm, but the attempts at chops in the corner had minimal effect, with Hero getting a two-count from a snap slam and a back senton.

A flip neckbreaker from Hero sent Scurll out of the ring, but his effort at a backflip over the rope to the floor ended in Scurll drilling him with a superkick off the apron. Back inside, a back elbow staggered Scurll, but he quickly went to the outside to keep up the pressure on Hero with a headbutt to the upper arm as Hero laid prone on the apron. Scurll tied up Hero inside the ring like a pretzel, eventually going for an Indian deathlock, as his ground game led him to continue wearing down Hero for near-falls.

More chops from Scurll seemed to work as he aimed for the left shoulder of Hero this time, but a high knee from Hero dazed the champion, who was taken down with a clothesline. A couple of pump kicks continued to stagger Scurll, who took an enziguiri then a cyclone kill boot for another two-count. After faking it out, Hero nailed a knee strike for a near-fall, then went for the Gotch-style piledriver, but Scurll blocked it, only to eat a big elbow instead.

Scurll immediately went for a chicken wing in retaliation, but that wasn’t effective, as Hero shrugged it off before laying out Scurll with a big boot. Scurll got back into it with an Ace Crusher off the middle rope, eventually getting a near-fall, then landing a flapjack for a near-fall from a reverse torture rack position.

Chris Hero responded to a finger snap with a roaring elbow for a near-fall, then went for a finger snap of his own… only to turn it into a ripcord elbow. More near-falls followed, as Scurll went for the chicken wing, but ate a piledriver for a two-count as Hero edged closer to the title. Another bicycle kick sent Scurll into the ropes, as some more chops rocked the champion, who tried to return fire with fire.

After seeing a superkick blocked, Scurll dumped Hero with a brainbuster, but was unable to make the cover, before slapping Hero as he’d dragged himself up on the ropes. Scurll drilled Hero with a series of superkicks off the apron after he’d flipped out of the ring, but the challenger refused to go down, firing back with more strikes and elbows, before going for a ripcord elbow, only for Scurll to wheelbarrow through for the near-fall. The ripcord elbow was successful at the second try, but Scurll kicked out just before the referee counted three.

Hero went up top uncharacteristically, and missed with a moonsault, as Scurll capitalised to lock in the chicken wing, adding in some boots to the midsection to force a submission, but Hero rolled through and grabbed the ropes to force the break. Scurll tried to ape Hero’s Gotch-style piledriver, and ended up dumping Hero with it… but the challenger popped up at one to a roar from the crowd. Scurll retaliated by snapping fingers on both hands, then going for another chicken wing, as the referee waved off the match almost immediately. ****¼

A. Maze. Ing. There are no words. Whilst not as flashy or show-off-y as other matches which will feature highly in fans’ “match of the year” ballots, this was an amazing match that had the crowd hooked from start to finish. Every kickout, every near-fall was full of emotional investment, and although I personally didn’t like the one-count kickout from the piledriver at the end (despite knowing what they were going for), this was a masterclass. Go out of your way to see this!

As a follow-up to the Super Strong Style 16 tournament, this wasn’t quite a home run, but to butcher a baseball analogy, it was a solid triple with a RBI as well. On paper, having Chris Hero get a title shot before the guy who won the SSS16 tournament looked weird, but as ever for Hero, it led to a blowaway contest.

The women’s match once again stole the show from the undercard, which only serves to make me wish for more women in PROGRESS so this division can become a permanent fixture, rather than one that appears on sporadic chapters. With any luck, the impending Natural PROGRESSion Series/Women’s Title Tournament will sort that one out!

Once again, a fine PROGRESS show that’s worth putting aside a couple of hours for!

Spoiler alert: Marty Scurll’s time as PROGRESS champion is coming to an end. One week after this show – at Chapter 32 – 5000-to-1 – Scurll dropped the belt to someone whose recent booking certainly wouldn’t have suggested him being primed for a title win, but certainly created a memorable PROGRESS moment. We’ll have more on that when we cover Chapter 32, hopefully within the week!