Inspired by his beloved Leicester City’s Premier League win, it was no doubt Jim Smallman’s turn to name a show as PROGRESS returned to Camden at the end of June for what turned out to be a rather memorable night.
Smallman’s pre-show amble covered the ongoing European football championships, and a quick hat-tip to Britain’s European referendum that had taken place just 72 hours previously. They announced a couple of changes to the card, with the flu-struck Dave Mastiff being replaced in his Atlas tournament tag match by… Zack Gibson. Damo O’Connor pulled out of the show after getting staples in his head (to help heal an injury, not because he’d upset New Jack or anything like that), so he ended up forfeiting his match against Rampage Brown.
Atlas Championship Tournament, Block B: Rampage Brown  vs. Damo O’Connor 
Just for the record – Rampage gets the two points via forfeit… but he’ll be in action later tonight anyway, taking on Trent Seven. Which seemed to be a popular call.
No-Disqualification: Damon Moser vs. Nathan Cruz
That stipulation got added by Damon Moser after he entered the ring, wanting to get retribution for the beat-down he suffered after beating Zack Gibson last time out in Manchester. Cruz came out in gear representing the old Faceless faction – the group Moser was part of before it became the Origin and he got turfed out.
Interrupting his own ring announcements, Cruz gave the mic to Zack Gibson, who started to run through the promo we heard several times at the Super Strong Style 16 tournament. It worked as far as getting him heat, but he wasn’t wrestling in this match, so it seemed like he was more of a cheerleader than anything else.
Cruz and Moser get into a fist-fight to get us going, before Moser literally wipes his arse with Moser’s t-shirt. Moser fought off Gibson on the outside before coming back in, and Moser pulled a BUSHI by choking Cruz with the t-shirt that’d been up Cruz’s backside. Going back out, Gibson got sent into the ring post as this no-DQ affair quickly became a two-on-one outing, but Moser was doing a fine job against both Origin members.
As Moser fought Cruz around ringside, he pulled some chairs and a table out from under the ring, only to get tossed into a wall inside the Electric Ballroom, with the pair fighting up a stairway and onto the balcony. Cruz tried to superplex Moser off the balcony, but instead took a big boot down to the front row of chairs. Moser sat up Cruz in a chair, then did a lap around the ring to launch a cannonball dive into Cruz, but Gibson pulled him to safety as Moser landed in amongst a sea of chairs.
A loud cheer was the result when Cruz threw Moser back into the ring, where a fist-fight resumed before a German suplex sent Cruz to the mat. Moser bounced off a chair after Cruz used a slingshot back suplex, and that chair was then used to full effect on Moser’s back and midsection.
Cruz landed a vertical suplex, but opted to keep up the punishment on Moser by bringing that table into the ring, except he took a dropkick before he could get the table in. Moser kept it up on the outside, dropkicking Cruz into a wall, bloodying his mouth, but Cruz was able to fire back with a hotshot into the rope then a neckbreaker. The chairs came back into Cruz’s arsenal, who was then forced to baseball slide out of the ring to avoid being thrown into a table, but that just left him open to take a knee off the apron.
Moser finally grabbed a chair and worked over Cruz with it, including a swinging chairshot that Cruz just about got a hand to. They then went back to the past and pulled out the Faceless’ old toolbox, using it to hit Cruz in the midsection before DDTing him onto it. That was a prelude for Moser to go Coast to Coast, kicking a chair into Cruz’s face in the process, but Cruz was able to kick out at two.
Moser looked to set-up for the knee trembler, only for interference from Zack Gibson to prevent it, as Cruz caught Moser in a Texas cloverleaf in the middle of the ring. Despite making the ropes, there was no rope break as Cruz pulled Moser back into the middle, before Moser yanked the referee to break up the hold. A schoolboy nearly stole it for Moser, who got an immediate receipt with a chairshot to the head. In 2016? Alrighty then.
Cruz went back into the Faceless toolbox, which actually had tools in it, pulling out some rope as he tried to tie Moser to the top rope. Cruz followed up by stripping off the referee – well, he just took the belt off him – as Moser blocked a whipping by way of an enziguiri and a knee trembler. Jim Smallman went to untie Moser, who was then able to make a cover, but only got a two before going back to the weaponry.
This time around, the PROGRESS table was able to take more than a cup of coffee, as Cruz was laid onto it, but Zack Gibson nailed Moser with some chairshots as he went to put Cruz through the table. That left Moser prone to take the Show Stolen off the top rope, splitting the table clean in two, but Damon kicked out!
Cruz went back to the toolbox and grabbed a couple of cable ties, which Gibson used to tie Moser’s arms behind his back. The camera caught a non-plussed Smallman as Cruz went to the back for a (broken) chair, before Cruz and Gibson delivered a con-chair-to, which finally ended the match. A pretty good showing from Moser, but storyline-wise, you have to question the wisdom of the guy’s character for demanding a no-DQ match knowing full-well he’d pretty much signed his own death warrant doing so. ***½
Referee Chris Roberts managed to find a pair of scissors from the toolbox to free Moser, who got a good reaction after staggering back to his feet.
Jump Cut Alert: a reported incident involving a couple of fans being ejected was edited out here, and we went straight to the next match.
TK Cooper vs. Jack Sexsmith
So, after months of these two getting involved in each other’s business – usually Sexsmith making the save for Cooper’s aptitude for punching the fairer sex – they’re now facing off one-on-one. Jack Sexsmith came out in a rainbow-coloured jacket, since this was on PRIDE weekend, and also brought with him a blow-up doll that may or may not have been a former wrestling champion.
Cooper jumped Sexsmith at the bell, with a right hand knocking Sexsmith down to the mat before he tossed a bottle of water in an effort to revive his opponent. Sexsmith missed a wild punch and took a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall as Cooper looked for an early finish, but he was sent to the outside where Jack went up top and came crashing down with a plancha!
After sending Cooper back in, a diving knee drop got Sexsmith a two-count, but he was distracted by Dahlia Black as he went for Mr Cocko… and was then cut off by Cooper’s hangman’s neckbreaker for another near-fall. Dahlia inserted herself into the match by choking Sexsmith across the middle rope, before Cooper landed some rolling suplexes, with a third one being turned into a small package for a near-fall.
Cooper dumped Sexsmith with a Samoan drop for a two-count, before some more interference saw Sexsmith lose focus, chasing Black on the outside, and take a baseball slide dropkick for his troubles. After a couple of chops, Cooper missed one and took some in retaliation from Sexsmith, who scored another near-fall with a roll-up, before trying (several times) to block Cooper from climbing to the top, then succeeded with a sunset flip powerbomb.
Sexsmith then pulled out Mr Cocko, but was blocked by a punch by Cooper, who then landed a scissors kick for a near-fall. Cooper ripped off Cocko and threw him into the crowd, before taking an inverted, then a regular atomic drop, and finally a neckbreaker. A flying hip attack in the corner was caught by Cooper, but he ended up being spiked onto his head with a DDT. Another Mr Cocko appeared, but before Sexsmith could use it, he was decked by a clothesline and a brainbuster from the debuting Travis Banks – a compatriot and team-mate of TK Cooper from elsewhere in the UK. One punch to the back of the head later, and that was it as TK took the win. A good outing involving some of the more underrated talents in this group. ***¼
Jinny vs. Laura Di Matteo
This is going to be a good one – perhaps the biggest slow-burn storyline in the UK looked set to be blown off here, or did it? They led into this with a video package of the Jinny vs. Elizabeth/Laura Di Matteo story, including the time Jinny was beaten by the former Elizabeth at Chapter 29.
Since splitting from Jinny, Laura’s ring gear is now black and gold, and you can guess the football-style chants she got. They started with a double-leg takedown from Laura, sending Jinny into the corner, but Jinny replied by yanking her face-first into the turnbuckles, before a hurricanrana sent Jinny to the outside.
Laura sent Jinny into the third row of the Electric Ballroom with a picture perfect tope. As in really picture perfect – the sort of tope that’ll be used in highlight reels for years to come. Laura fought off an attempted comeback from Jinny, who apparently voted Brexit if you believe the chants, before Laura whipped Jinny head-first into the wall that’s used as a video screen in the building. That only got Laura a one-count after throwing Jinny back in, and that seemed to signal a comeback as Jinny sent Laura into the middle turnbuckle with a drop toe-hold. A leg-whip sent Laura face first into Jinny’s knee for a two-count, with a back body drop then getting her just a one-count.
Jinny rolled out of a sunset flip to kick Laura in the head, but she quickly got spun to the mat with some headscissors, before a Japanese armdrag hurled Laura into the turnbuckles for a two-count. What, no Rick Martel reference this time? We did get a loud “forza Italia” chant at Di Matteo, who then fell into a Jushin “Thunder” Liger like seated surfboard, which was quickly reversed by Di Matteo.
After making the ropes, Jinny quickly stomped away at Laura, then curb stomped her in the middle of the ring for a two-count. Laura avoided a Rainmaker and went flying into her former boss with some clotheslines, before taking a boot to the face. An enziguiri rocked Jinny on the top rope, before a superplex was avoided by the two nearly falling off the top, but Laura tried again and slipped on a hurricanrana effort, but recovered and sent Jinny to the mat.
Another corner dropkick sent Jinny down, as Laura followed up with a backdrop driver, then a tornado DDT out of the corner. Jinny blocked a lungblower and landed a forearm, before turning a hurricanrana effort into the Styles Clash for a near-fall. Laura landed a lungblower, then a backcracker, but only got a two from that as Jinny kicked out. The Eat Defeat rocked Laura though, and the X Factor facebuster gave Jinny another near-fall.
The finish came when Jinny looked to set up Laura for an X Factor off the middle rope; but Laura hung on (as some in the crowd started to mock what at first looked a blown spot), before rolling out of the corner and scored the win with a jack-knife roll-up. A surprise result, and if she weren’t already, this performance made Laura a star, and probably rocketed her towards the top of the fledgling PROGRESS women’s division. Yes, there were a few slips, but they recovered well, and didn’t let it get to them ***¾
Jinny immediately continued the beat-down after getting pinned, with the security team running in to separate the pair. Laura got the mic after Jinny left, and proclaimed that this wasn’t over – so rather than a blow-off, this is just the start, and I’m more than okay with that!
The next match wrapped up the first-half of the show, with some synergy between PROGRESS and the Toronto-based SMASH promotion. These two groups are promoting a couple of shows together in September, in Canada, and there’s some people from the UK actually flying across to attend those shows (good effort!). As a result, we’ve got an open challenge for the SMASH championship, with defending champion Johnny Gargano (yes, he of WWE/NXT fame these days) putting it on the line.
A huge roar went up when Johnny Gargano emerged with the SMASH title (which on first glance, looks to be the result of what happened when the TNA and SHIMMER titles had a baby). Gargano looked legitimately overjoyed to be in Camden, and the crowd got even happier when his opponent was revealed as: Mark Haskins!
SMASH Wrestling Championship: Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Mark Haskins
This was Haskins’ first appearance in almost a month, after having to pull out of the Super Strong Style 16 tournament through illness. Haskins even got sung the happy birthday song, much to the bemusement of Gargano.
Haskins went to lock-up with Gargano, who kept backing off, then finally caught him in a hammerlock. Gargano reversed, but not for long as both men squared off once more, before Haskins went back to the headlock takedown. That too got reversed, with Gargano following up with a roll-through into a pinning predicament for a near-fall as the ground-based action picked up the pace.
As an aside – throughout the show we got several renditions of Gala’s “Freed From Desire”, with the words invariably changed to “(wrestler) is on fire, on fire”, since the song was thrust back into pop culture in the UK through Northern Irish footballer Will Grigg. One copycat (the London Riots) is good… the whole card being on fire… get me an extinguisher, please!
Back to the action now, and Haskins landed a corner dropkick and a bodyslam for just a one-count, before being tossed to the outside by Gargano, who quickly followed through with a superkick. Haskins faked out, then connected with a tope as Gargano got up close and personal with the PROGRESS crowd.
Haskins grabbed a chair from the crowd, but ended up being forced into it by Gargano, who then chopped him out of it after running the length of the ring. Gargano placed Haskins onto the lap of a fan, but Haskins popped up with a bicycle kick before any more chairs could be broken, only to go back into the ring and take a log-roll kick to the head by Gargano, then a slingshot spear through the ropes.
Gargano took Haskins to the corner and gave him a spanking. Literally, there’s no other way I can describe that spot. Haskins replied with some chops, before getting booted in the head. That led to Haskins offering his chin up for some more slaps from the champion, and this quickly turned into a fist-fight, before a calf-kick sent Gargano scurrying into the corner. Haskins followed that up with a roll-through into a Stretch Muffler, but it was too close to the ropes as Gargano reached for the break.
After crotching Haskins on the rope, Gargano followed through with an enziguiri kick and a slingshot DDT for a near-fall. Gargano looked to try for the iconoclasm, but eventually took a Blue Thunder Bomb in the middle of the ring for a near-fall. A couple of kicks to the chest kept Gargano rocked, but after catching a kick and then a leapover attempt in the corner, Gargano threw Haskins head-first into the middle turnbuckle.
Haskins kicked out at two after a superkick, before the pair worked up to their feet with several forearms, with Haskins landing a tiltawhirl backbreaker, spinning Uranage then locking Gargano in a triangle choke as he tried to edge closer to victory. A springboard into the ring almost cost Gargano as Haskins switched it into an armbar on landing, but Gargano rolled through into a crucifix-like pin, then a crossface (no Chris Benoit chants here in 2016, thank God).
The crowd willed Haskins to hold on, and he finally dragged himself into a rope break. The pair traded kicks, before Haskins rolled into a wheelbarrow takedown and then a Sharpshooter. Gargano flipped over and kicked through into a small package, but a crossface attempt was reversed into another armbar, as the Electric Ballroom erupted as Mark Haskins sealed the SMASH title via tap-out.
You wouldn’t expect less, would you? An absolutely fantastic affair between these two, as Haskins ended Gargano’s 427-day (14 months to the day) run with the belt. Hey, for a belt that meant nothing in PROGRESS before today, the crowd cared a lot, and after a thriller like this, how could they not? ****½
Johnny Gargano did the Hulk Hogan/WrestleMania 6 deal afterwards with the belt, with Haskins playing Ultimate Warrior better than he did then. The “Haskins on fire” chants continued, and you could tell who in the crowd followed football and who didn’t (or at least the chants)
The second half started with Jon Briley messing around with the Metallica song “For Whom The Bell Tolls” to screw around with Jim Smallman, before the London Riots came out to address the crowd. They wanted to be able to defend the PROGRESS tag title shields against anyone, anywhere, and their next opponents will be at July’s next event, against former ROH tag team champions: War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe). That is going to be a war!
Tag Team Match In The Atlas Championship Tournament, Block A: Iestyn Rees  & Big Daddy Walter  vs. T-Bone  & Zack Gibson (subbing for Dave Mastiff )
If Zack Gibson gets any points, they’ll count towards Dave Mastiff’s total, and with zero points so far, he needs them! Although a win for Mastiff/Gibson could well end the group as T-Bone comes into this on four points.
Gibson takes the mic during the intros – and yes, it’s another recital of that promo. Hey, if this were in Liverpool, they’d all be singing along to it, but instead it’s drawing intense, furnace-like heat here. So much so, I’m having to guess the promo from memory as he’s drowned out.
We started off with Big Daddy Walter and Zack Gibson against each other, and no, a shoulder tackle from Gibson had little effect on the massive Austrian. As did a chop. Big Daddy Walter’s chop, on the other hand, immediately decked the Scouser. Walter went airborne with a dropkick to get him a two-count, before Gibson forcibly tagged in T-Bone to get some respite against Iestyn Rees.
A German suplex from T-Bone decked Rees, who then caught an attempted big boot in the corner from T-Bone, and proceeded to hurl him across the ring with an Exploder suplex. Walter came in and squashed T-Bone with an Earthquake splash for a near-fall, as the Austrian lit up T-Bone with more chops.
Walter caught a cross-body from T-Bone, but he wriggled out and nailed Walter with a backdrop driver, before Walter booted Gibson off the apron to prevent a tag out. All of this action drew a “Vader Likes This” chant from the inventive crowd, before T-Bone avoided a corner splash from Rees, and countered with a fallaway slam.
Gibson tagged himself back in to drop Rees with a twisting suplex for a two-count, before Rees forced out of the Shankly Gates and brought Walter back into the fray. Walter caught a lungblower but was taken down with a clothesline. T-Bone came in to toss Walter off the top rope, before trying a full nelson on Rees.
Rees tried for a suplex on T-Bone, but Zack Gibson was still the legal man, as he kicked out Rees’ leg and made the cover as everyone else was caught out by Gibson’s quick thinking. Another enjoyable Atlas match, helped by the constant baiting of Zack Gibson from the Camden crowd. ***½
The result leaves T-Bone on six points, whilst Dave Mastiff (via his proxy) now has two points, alongside Big Daddy Walter’s two points. Iestyn Rees is out with nil points from his bouts.
Trent Seven vs. Rampage Brown
Filling in for Big Damo here is Trent Seven – and this is just a regular match, since Rampage got his Atlas points via forfeit.
They opened with a lock-up that came to nought, before Seven slapped Rampage around into a German suplex. That sent Rampage to the outside, but Seven got decked with a punch as he went for a low tope to the outside. Seven was dragged to the outside where Rampage lit into him with punches, before ducking out of the way as Seven ended up chopping the ringpost.
Seven was thrown back into the ring, but quickly replied with a low-pe to Rampage, sending them into the second row of the crowd (with Seven getting a nice coating of a fan’s drink to boot). A chopping battle broke out, which quickly escalated into a war of clotheslines, ending with a backdrop drive and a German suplex from Seven. Rampage quickly replied in kind, before taking another backdrop driver, resulting in the two men collapsing onto the mat in exhaustion.
From their knees, both men started slapping, but Seven popped up into a full nelson suplex, before a piledriver attempt came to nought, as Rampage landed a clothesline for a near-fall. A powerbomb for Rampage a near-fall, before he drilled Seven with the piledriver for the win. Brief, but extremely hard-hitting – and I’d love to see a repeat showing. For a fill-in, Seven was very impressive in his PROGRESS singles debut. ***¼
We then got a video package to build up Marty Scurll vs. Tommy End, showing End beating Scurll earlier in the year in a non-title match, before being screwed by Mikey Whiplash as he was seconds away from victory. Tommy End’s victory at May’s Super Strong Style 16 got him his repeat title shot, again against Scurll after he’d beaten Chris Hero last time out in Manchester. Fun little video package – a departure from the usual hard rock that pervades wrestling videos. And the Creed videos that were the rage back in the early 00s.
PROGRESS World Championship: Tommy End vs. Marty Scurll (c)
Can you guess who was the crowd favourite here? Scurll got a few “Take Me Out” chants from those fans who remember his appearance on that dating show, but he started off on top by taking down End, who quickly replied with a leg-lock that Scurll desperately tried to work out of.
An early roll-up got Scurll a two-count after some rolling counters, before End blasted Scurll with a bicycle kick. Scurll replied by back dropping End to the outside, but as the champion tried to throw in a superkick off the apron, End kicked out his legs, sending Scurll face-first to the floor instead. End was caught on the top rope but avoided an elevated DDT, before running into a knee lift from Scurll.
Scurll dumped End on the apron with a back drop, before going to work on the left arm of End in a bid to soften him up for the chicken wing. Scurll took too much time gloating, and after a forearm smash into the corner, he got turned inside out with a knee to the midsection. More knees and kicks followed to down Scurll as End got on the ascendancy, before he blocked an attempted finger snap with a back elbow and a moonsault for a near-fall.
End blasted Scurll with a Chris Hero-like ripcord elbow, but Scurll returned the favour with a series of kicks, then a brainbuster that dumped End on his head for a near-fall. Scurll countered some more rapid-fire strikes from End with a superkick, before dropping End with a Gotch piledriver, as he too showed he could borrow from Chris Hero’s moveset.
End fought out of the chicken wing, then tried for a couple of roundhouse kicks, with Scurll ducking every time. A double stomp laid out Scurll, with a deadlift German suplex scoring End a two-count. Another roundhouse was countered with a clothesline, but End turned a chicken wing attempt into a roll-up, before catching a “Just Kidding” superkick.
Scurll replied by snapping End’s fingers, then finally landing his superkick off the apron, only for a tope to be cut off by a knee lift from the Dutchman, who slumped into the front row. End missed with a double stomp, but the pair exchanged uppercuts before Scurll landed the “Just Kidding” superkick. More back and forth ended with a brainbuster from End for just a one-count as Scurll hulked up… into a jumping knee for yet another near-fall.
Things went south for End when he got shoved into referee Chris Roberts by Scurll, leading to a finger poke and a Gotch-style tombstone piledriver for a near-fall after the shortest-ever ref bump sell. Scurll tried to land it again, but End switched out and locked in a Dragon sleeper, but the referee was down selling again, so didn’t see Scurll tapping out.
Scurll popped up with a low blow as End was checking on the referee, but thankfully End kicked out just in time after a second referee, Mark Parry, appeared. Parry then took a stiff umbrella shot to the head, which legitimately looked like it hurt, as did the follow-up brolly shot upside End’s head. End no-sold those though, but Scurll went for the Dragon sleeper whilst using the umbrella for extra leverage, and that was it as Chris Roberts arose in time to stop the match. Or did he?
An irate Jim Smallman flagged up the umbrella use, and restarted the match, which was the signal for End to land a brainbuster on Scurll, then the double stomp and a roundhouse kick. Just as everyone thought End had won the title though, Scurll kicked out, and the Electric Ballroom were left stunned. End then grabbed some chairs from the crowd, and set them up as a bridge… and we had another blackout. Fearing a repeat of the previous incident where End was screwed by Mikey Whiplash, the crowd groaned, but the lights quickly came back on, to allow Scurll to hit a schoolboy roll-up for the pin, and that was it. An epic main event, with a slightly screwy finish, but it played into something much more fulfilling. ***¾
Almost as soon as Scurll’s music hit, an angered Tommy End got to his feet and dropped the champion with another roundhouse kick. Cue “bullshit” chants from the crowd, as Scurll was declared the winner. End made his way to the back, leaving Scurll flat on his back in the ring. And then the magic happened.
“Reach Out and Touch Me”
PROGRESS World Championship: “Pastor” William Eaver vs. Marty Scurll (c)
“Pastor” William Eaver emerged from the back, dressed to compete, and he’s down to claim his title shot. Tommy End gives him the thumbs up, and we have our cash in! Marty Scurll climbed to his feet, and walked straight into a Clothesline from Heaven… and we have absolute scenes! A new PROGRESS Champion… “Pastor” William Eaver!
Can you say bedlam? The Electric Ballroom erupted as the PROGRESS wrestling school marked their first ever champion… with William Eaver bodysurfing throughout the arena to close the show. Given the turbulent week that Britain as a whole had just emerged from, this was the perfect distraction to the political hell that the 700 fans were looking to escape from.
From top to bottom, yet another fantastic show from PROGRESS… but after the delirium died down, there was one nitpick that came out of the show from the fans who were there live. The Natural PROGRESSion Series guaranteed the winner a title shot, but it had been explicitly mentioned in the past that this was not a “Money in the Bank” style “cash-in” shot. Still, since it hadn’t been drummed into us recently before the late switch, it’s not that big of a deal, and it certainly didn’t ruin the moment for anyone live, or on tape after the fact.
Chapter 32 gave us an awesome match between Mark Haskins and Johnny Gargano, a performance that cemented Laura Di Matteo’s spot in the upper echelon of the PROGRESS fans’ hearts. Simply put, no ifs or buts, this is a show you have to go out of your way to see.