There were surprises galore on the last weekend of July, as PROGRESS returned to the Electric Ballroom in Camden for their 33rd chaptered show, “Malice in Wonderland”.

#TLDR: “Pastor” William Eaver’s reign as PROGRESS champion ended in deflating fashion, as his return to the Electric Ballroom was spoiled by the shocking return of a figure from the past on a show which featured hot matches from top to bottom.

The Full Review: We’ve already covered our live thoughts of the show, now it’s time for our “final cut”… the show opened with the anti-piracy video, and Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” signals the start of Jim Smallman’s opening spiel. One lone fan in the crowd asks Smallman how he’s doing, and that segues into an Enzo Amore call-out.

Smallman praised the fans for getting to the arena despite TFL rebuilding all of Camden on the day of the show. #labourwatch gets a mention as does Jim’s impending baby son (“Claudio”). They bring up Glen Joseph, who’s not at the show, having taken a leave of absence after being beaten up by Marty Scurll after his title loss at the last show.

We get our new-look commentary team of RJ Singh and Callum Leslie, and then Smallman has a wander to the stage… yes, they left in William Regal’s appearance… and that pop! Regal drops a funny about how he’s grateful for the fans reminding him of his name, and that he’s only here to watch the show. You can tell that Smallman was bouncing inside for all of this!

The Dunne Brothers (Pete Dunne & Damian Dunne) vs. Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate)
Pete gets some stick about his now-departed top knot hairstyle, but that gets cut-off by Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” for the Moustache Mountain team. Trent Seven makes a point of shaking everyone’s hand in the front row as he makes his way to the ring, as does Tyler Bate, hence the long entrance!

Pete Dunne got more stick about his old hairdo, and the match gets going with a headlock from Pete, taking Tyler to the mat. Bate easily frees himself a la Zack Sabre Jr, and switches into an armbar, and holds onto it despite some attempts to reverse it. Pete frees himself and grabs a leg lock on Bate, but Bate rolls around for a pinning attempt that manages to free himself.

Bate works out of a headlock as the torrent of abuse continues towards Pete Dunne, so he tags out to Damian, who launches into Bate with a kick. Bate works between Damian’s legs and takes him down with a crossbody, then an uppercut into the corner before a slow-mo tag out to Trent Seven.

Seven shines up his hands for a running chop to Damian in the corner, before Moustache Mountain worked an awe-inspiring holding suplex, as they passed Damian across themselves between no less than three tags. That looked mighty impressive, but Damian worked free and shoved Tyler into Trent, as Pete Dunne tagged in to work over Bate.

An uppercut from Pete gets a near-fall, before Damian comes back in for a leaping elbow and another near-fall. Pete worked a grounded hammerlock for a while, then worked on the fingers of Bate, rolling him over into a pinning predicament for another two-count.

Damian Dunne takes a back drop out to the floor, before a knee strike drops Pete, only for Damian to run back in to prevent a hot tag to Seven. Pete slaps Bate around a bit, before a massive headbutt from Tyler rocks Pete, as does a double underhook backbreaker. Damian tagged in again, but he leapt into an uppercut from Bate, as Pete raced in… only to be tossed to the floor.

Trent Seven drops to the floor to try and help his partner, but the Dunne double-team Tyler – leading the crowd to rib Mark Parry’s refereeing abilities. Bate gets double-teamed in the ring, and gets his hand kicked away by Pete. The Dunnes try to launch a double suplex on Bate, but he overpowers the pair of them and lands a suplex to both men.

Damian pops up and knocks Seven off the apron, before Pete tags in and walks into an Airplane spin. Damian’s attempt to interfere sees him added to it by way of a Giant Swing, as the 19 year old Tyler Bate made everyone in the Electric Ballroom feel really old by pulling off a Giant Swing AND an Airplane Spin at the same time.

Bate slumped onto the ropes as he got a standing ovation for that, before he crawled over to Trent Seven… who got yanked off the ropes by Damian, allowing Pete Dunne to land a double underhook suplex for a near-fall. Bate fights off another double-team, and ducks as Damian Dunne went to superkick him… instead taking out Pete. A back suplex dropped Damian, and Bate went for the tag… and in came Trent Seven, just as Pete Dunne tagged in.

The two of them square off, and then we got… a discus forearm to Tyler Bate. Some screams were heard and a “WHAT?!” from the crowd, as Pete kicked Damian low as well. Not quite a Horsemen beatdown. Cue loud chants of “what the ****” as Pete Dunne and Trent Seven shake hands, before walking to the back for a double count-out. Well, that was a crap finish to what had been a really good match. ***¼

The double-turn got what could be, at best, described as a mixed reaction. Tyler and Damian look at each other in the corner, with Damian shoving away Tyler’s sportsman-like offer of help. I’m never a fan of matches which you invest a lot of time in to have a cheap finish, but we’ll file this one under “let’s trust the booker to see where this goes”…

Tyler Bate got a good reaction on his way out, and the first of several “Regal, sign him up” chants.

Jim Smallman singled out a fan in the crowd called Jeremy – he’d done a 100 mile charity bike ride earlier in the day, and was given a round of applause as he did a lap of honour around the ring.

Zack Gibson vs. Jack Gallagher
Heat incoming! The crowd boos at even the merest hint of Zack Gibson getting the microphone, and the catcalls continue to such a point where Gibson just hands the microphone back to Jim Smallman. Cue cheers… then even louder boos when Gibson asks Smallman to parrot his catchphrases… and even louder when Gibson just grabs the mic and does his promo anyway.

Jack Gallagher storms to the stage as Gibson’s heat seeking missile, sorry, promo gets underway. Gibson demands to have his microphone turned up even louder, but he’s still drowned out. Then the crowd demands a hush… and they just boo him anyway. Even Gallagher boos him from the stage.

We finally get underway as Gallagher grabs a wristlock, before Gibson turns it into a hammerlock takedown. Cue the usual anti-Gibson chants, as the hold turns into some headscissors, and Gallagher pops out with a handstand to leave Gibson confused and on his arse. Gibson goes back to the headlock as the crowd indulges themselves in a chant of “if you all hate Gibson clap your hands”, with Gallagher escaping the headlock and clapping his hands in time to the song. Beautiful stuff!

A spot of rope running sees Gallagher score a near-fall with a crucifix pin, then another two count from a roll-up, before sending Gibson into the corner with another leg-assisted roll. Gibson thinks he’s backdropped Gallagher onto the apron, but instead Gallagher’s doing a headstand… and the look on Gibson’s face when the referee tells him that Gallagher is upside down… a picture!

Gallagher gets tied up by Gibson, but easily pops himself free – something that Gibson couldn’t do when the favour was returned, and was only freed when he took an almighty kick up the arse, a la Bishop Brennan in Father Ted. They go back to a collar-and-elbow tie-up, with Gibson taking a forearm smash in the ropes before dropping Gallagher arm-first onto the top rope.

The anti-Gibson chants continued as he caught Gallagher in a variant of the Shankly Gates armbar, holding onto the armbar as Gallagher tried to roll free from the ropes. Gallagher eventually uses referee Chris Roberts to roll free, but he’s caught in the Shankly Gates briefly before Gallagher gets the ropes.

A series of dropkicks sends Gibson into the ropes, then a cross body gets a near-fall, before a hammerlock DDT (Nigel McGuinness’ old Divorce Court) sent Gallagher into the ropes for some cover. They go onto the apron where Gibson levels Gallagher with forearms, before a headbutt sends both men to the mat. Gibson catches Gallagher with a lungblower for a near-fall after Gallagher’d missed a dropkick into the corner, then dropped him with a cross-legged brainbuster for another two-count.

Gibson goes back to the Shankly Gates, but Gallagher holds on and switches it into a heel hook, and Gibson is able to stretch out to grab the ropes. A kick to the left arm of Gallagher follows, but he replies with an uppercut in the corner, then the dropkick into the corner. Gibson rolls to the outside, and that stupid goddamn “count ahead of the ref and shout MOOSE!” gimmick appears.

Back in the ring, the pair grab a near-fall apiece with some inside cradles, before Gallagher ties up Gibson with a cravat. Gibson frees himself and decks Gallagher with a lariat, before setting up for the Ticket To Ride, only for Gallagher to catch him in an ankle lock on the way down, and Gibson taps! Fantastic outing from both men, a technical masterpiece. ****

From that masterclass, we go to Sports Entertainment at it’s British finest. The Roy Johnson Wasteman Challenge!

Another product of the ProJo, Roy Johnson’s got quite the talent on the mic. As does his opponent for this challenge: Jack Sexsmith. Sexsmith fully mounted Jim Smallman in the ropes for a moment that would be awkward if explained in any format. As were the “sign him up Regal” chants… I’m not even going to try and transcribe what Roy Johnson said, but they found a good way to shoe-horn in the “blank is on fire” t-shirt of the moment.

In response, after calling Johnson “chocolate bear”, and getting the crowd to chant “shirtlifters”, Jack Sexsmith used his bars to take aim at the South Pacific Power Trio.. and Jon “Jonny McIntrovert” Briley. Thankfully, only the former got the really violent stuff, including claiming that Dahlia Black was far from loyal. PG, this stuff was NOT!

Cue the South Pacific Power Trio’s music, led by a furious Dahlia Black. The ever-tasteful crowd reiterated Sexsmith’s claims by chanting “there’s no gap”. Roy Johnson leaves the ring as Sexsmith’s thrown to the wolves… but after a change of heart, the Bodyguy returns and this ends up as an impromptu tag match! Well, the referee wasn’t going to be happy just judging a battle rap…

Roy Johnson & Jack Sexsmith vs. TK Cooper & Travis Banks
Sexsmith starts with a double-leg takedown on Cooper, then lays into him with some strikes on the ground, then in the corner. Cooper’s leap in the corner gets turned into two atomic drops, then a neckbreaker, before Sexsmith low-bridges Cooper to the outside, then throws Banks to the outside for a tope-like dive.

Sexsmith goes flying himself, as Roy Johnson body presses him to the floor, but the New Zealanders get an advantage with a double suplex onto the floor after Sexsmith’d allowed himself to get distracted by Black. Cooper gets a two-count after rolling Sexsmith back into the ring, and in comes Travis Banks for a knee drop and another two-count.

Both Banks and Cooper got a barrage of abuse, with Banks in particular having a hard time understanding the English accents in the building (welcome to my world…). Banks stands on the back of Sexsmith’s head, before Cooper tags in to drop Sexsmith with a headbutt for a near-fall. Sexsmith remained cornered, and got his hair pulled by Dahlia Black as the referee was distracted, before a double-team arm wringer led to Sexsmith getting whipped back into the corner.

Sexsmith finally tried to mount a comeback, but got tossed into the middle turnbuckle, before he countered a suplex into a small package for a two-count, which resulted in Banks drilling Sexsmith with a clothesline. A missile dropkick from Sexsmith finally gets some separation, but TK Cooper runs in to knock Roy Johnson off the apron to delay the tag, and that led to more attacks on Sexsmith.

Cooper snapmares Sexsmith, then follows with a back senton for a near-fall, before Banks returns again for a leaping forearm into the corner. Another avalanche is cut-off as Sexsmith lands a bodyslam on Banks, before giving Cooper a drop toe-hold into Banks’ groin… and finally the hot tag is made to Roy Johnson.

Johnson clears house on the New Zealanders, and smashes into the pair of them with a forearm in the corner, before countering a leg lariat from Cooper into a powerbomb for a near-fall, as Banks made the save. Sexsmith makes a blind tag in, and reaches into his trunks for Mr Cocko, but instead drops Cooper with a full nelson bomb, before locking in a submission move, almost like a full nelson but using his legs instead of his arms for the hold.

Banks breaks up that move, and lands a Fisherman’s brainbuster before being dropped with a full nelson slam from Johnson. Looks like this was Full Nelson Week at the ProJo! Cooper takes out Johnson with a kick, before a spike DDT from Sexsmith drops Cooper as all four men end up on the mat.

The self-proclaimed “Shirtlifters” get up first, and Sexsmith puts on Mr Cocko, but Banks works out of a slam from Johnson and shoves him into Sexsmith. Johnson hits back with a Samoan drop, before Dahlia Black gets involved, leading to Banks shoving him to the floor. Sexsmith’s back in with Mr Cocko, but he ducks Cooper’s punch… only for Dahlia to run into the ring and kick Sexsmith low.

In comes Travis Banks with an Argentine backbreaker into an airplane slam, and as Roy Johnson remains helpless on the floor outside, Cooper and Banks combine for the knock-out punch to Sexsmith to pick up the win. Live, this was entertaining, but on tape it felt like it was dragging a little – with the overly-long heat on Sexsmith. Had we not had the same thing earlier with Tyler Bate, it may have been a little different. ***

Johnson and Sexsmith bump fists after the match, and this is a team that’s going to continue for at least a while…

El Ligero vs. Mark Andrews
Ligero was without any of his other Origin stablemates – much like Zack Gibson earlier – and after making his way to the ring, he made a beeline back to the stage, just so he could throw his cape in the face of wrestler-turned-commentator RJ Singh.

Ligero then forces Smallman to read a pre-written intro for him, including humble-bragging over wrestling for over 200 promotions world-wide, and having more matches last year than anyone else. Both of those are probably true, y’know…heck, lists Ligero as having 226 matches last year, vs. 213 for Roman Reigns. The usual anti-Ligero chants get an airing, and Ligero threatens to walk out, but we end up with our match anyway.

They lock-up, but Ligero works for a headlock, but Andrews grabs a wristlock, which Ligero reverses. Andrews rolls out of a sunset flip, as the pair trade near-falls then end with dualling dropkicks for a face-off. Ligero stalls on the outside for a bit, before returning into the ring to take a forearm, and then an armdrag from Andrews.

Ligero blocked a third amdrag, before Andrews landed a moonsault into a double knees, and then a moonsault press to the floor as Ligero’d gone outside again for a breather. Back inside, Ligero held onto the ropes as the crowd tried a “TNA contract, we hope it expires” chant to build into the latest “sign him up Regal” chant.

Ligero dropped Andrews with a tombstone piledriver set-up into a double-knee gutbuster, then took Andrews into the corner as the pace slowed down again. A lateral press gets Ligero a near-fall, before Andrews was again thrown into the middle turnbuckle. Andrews leaps over the top rope as Ligero took him into another turnbuckle, before flipping back in and scoring a wheelbarrow bulldog and then another Northern Lights suplex into a standing moonsault for a near-fall.

Andrews blocks a suplex attempt, before running into an uppercut, as an enziguiri from Andrews dazed Ligero on the top rope. A ‘rana off the top followed, as did a standing shooting star press with Ligero kicking out at two and again rolling to the floor. Ligero gets his head rammed into the turnbuckle on the apron, before Andrews takes a discus forearm, but he reverses a suplex into a stunner… and again Ligero goes to the floor.

Andrews baseball slides to the outside as Ligero avoided a dive, before a wheelbarrow bulldog on the floor was blocked, with Ligero shoving Andrews groin-first into the ringpost. A double stomp sent Andrews to the ground, before Andrews takes a pumphandle into a facebuster for a near-fall.

Andrews goes for a springboard into a sunset flip – and eventually gets it for a near-fall after Ligero’d held onto the ropes to block it. As Ligero got distracted with the referee, Andrews went off the top rope with a missile dropkick and we get the useless “Moose!” counting chants, before the pair try double clotheslines. Andrews misses an enziguiri, then pops up off the mat for another enziguiri, quickly followed by a reverse ‘rana as Ligero once more rolls to the floor.

Andrews again goes for a plancha, but lands on his feet and avoids Ligero who runs into the ringpost… and finally takes him down with a tiltawhirl into a DDT. Ligero’s thrown back into the ring, but he gets the knees up to avoid a shooting star press, and out of nowhere Andrews scores the win with a small package. As a match, this seemed to suffer from a crowd that was burning out from three hot segments; this match wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t click at parts. ***½

PROGRESS World Championship #1 Contendership Match: Mark Haskins vs. Will Ospreay
Haskins gets a good reaction for his entrance… but nothing like what Will Ospreay got. On his first appearance in PROGRESS since winning the Best of Super Juniors tournament, complete with half a forest’s worth of paper streamers. Unlike other groups, PROGRESS retained the AC/DC “Shoot to Thrill” song for Ospreay’s entrance, which is an infinite improvement on his New Japan theme.

Ospreay’s shoulder was heavily taped up after picking up an injury doing shows for WCPW earlier in the week. It seems that between halves of the show, the commentary mics had become amplified, so sadly Callum Leslie’s and RJ Singh’s words get distorted fairly regularly for the final three matches.

Ospreay offers a handshake, which gets accepted and we’re underway with a Haskins hammerlock, targeting that taped up shoulder of Will’s. Haskins turns it into an armbar, but neither man can keep an advantage as they stand-off. An early Rainmaker attempt from Ospreay gets countered nicely into a Sharpshooter from Haskins, but Ospreay rolled out and both men went for a dropkick before we get another stand-off.

Haskins takes down Ospreay with a knuckle lock and gets a couple of near-falls, before he stomps away at the left shoulder, and then going back to the armbar. Ospreay works free, then lands on his feet as Haskins tried for a hurricanrana, and then mockingly taps Haskins’ face… which earns him an instant triangle armbar, which Ospreay again gets free of.

Ospreay kicked at the downed Haskins for a near-fall, before an uppercut sent Haskins into the ropes, and then locking in the Octopus hold on Haskins in the middle of the ring. Ospreay rolled forward in the hold for another near-fall, then followed up with a slingshot back suplex (a la Nathan Cruz) and a slingshot hilo into the ring. A forearm strike sends Haskins to the mat, and Ospreay throws in some more shots, before Haskins fires back and starts to throw in some kicks.

An uppercut in the corner from Ospreay is met with a leg lariat from Haskins on the rebound. A hurricanrana from Ospreay gets caught and turned into a Stretch Muffler from Haskins, but again Ospreay’s too close to the ropes and easily makes the break. Ospreay elbows out of a waistlock, but takes a drop toe hold into the ropes, and then a dropkick on the apron from Haskins, who decides to go airborne with a double stomp attempt.

The double stomp misses, and Ospreay goes for the Essex Destroyer DDT, but Haskins catches it and turns it into a suplex, then a diving double knee press off the top for a near-fall. Haskins looks to go for the Made in Japan (pumphandle driver), but Ospreay evades it and lands a snap release German suplex, then connects with a Yakuza kick in the corner.

Ospreay goes up top, but leaps over Haskins and instead goes for the “Pip Pip, Cheerio” (Phenomenal) Forearm for another near-fall. Instead of making a move, Ospreay waits for Haskins to get up, before trying for another Raninmaker, but it’s blocked and Haskins ends up being kicked to the outside. Ospreay’s leap is aborted as Haskins rolls in, and then immediately flies with a tope that saw Ospreay’s head smash off of the video wall with a sickening thud.

In spite of that, Ospreay replied with a twisting corkscrew press over the top rope to Haskins on the outside, and then went for another dive, but instead aborts the dive in mid-air and sends Haskins into the corner. Haskins blocks the Cheeky Nando’s kick with an armbar in the corner, before a double stomp takes out the injured arm once more.

A bicycle kick from Ospreay is met with a leaping knee and a superkick from Haskins, but Ospreay’s one-man Spanish Fly takes Haskins down once again. From their knees, Haskins and Ospreay start another battle of forearm strikes, but Haskins wins that battle with some kicks before trying for the roll-through armbar.

Ospreay works free and lands a pair of standing shooting star presses, then a twisting body press out of the corner for another two-count. Cue “Vader hates this” chants which get no-sold, as Ospreay screams “f*** Vader”, and Ospreay’s back to his feet for an OsCutter attempt… but Haskins grabs onto Will’s foot, and gets a slap for it. More forearms from Ospreay, then a headbutt, and Ospreay goes for some kicks to the head of Haskins.

Haskins kicks away the injured arm of Ospreay as he went for a handspring off the ropes. Ospreay countered with a big boot, and then went for a 450 Splash, only getting Haskins’ feet. Haskins followed up with a tornado DDT and then a La Mistica armbreaker. Ospreay lands a no-hands handspring into a spinning kick, and Ospreay goes up top once more, but Haskins again catches him… but Will leaps over for the Cheeky Nando’s kick for a two-count.

The diving corkscrew kick gets Ospreay set up for an Oscutter, but Haskins counters it into the roll-through armbar, and that left Will with no choice but to tap. Mark Haskins gets the title shot after a fantastic match, with face vs. face nature of it somewhat hurting it at times, but it’s not like the crowd cared, so what more can you ask for? ****¼

Post-match, the crowd chants for Regal to sign up both guys, getting an embarrassed look from Ospreay. There’s these things called contracts…Ospreay loudly shouts “he may not be able to sign me, but if he signs anyone, it’d better be you”, before making his way to the back.

Haskins gets the applause of the crowd, then the microphone. “Before anyone gets signed to anything,” Haskins says, he wants his title shot… and he bemoans having been rushed into cashing in previous title shots. Haskins apparently craves being the champion in PROGRESS, so he’s naming his date: he’s taking his title shot for their Brixton show in September, and “he’ll do it in a far bigger f***ing room”. I know that’s a reference to the title of the Brixton show, but that seemed to have a heel-ish undertone to it. Is there a turn on the horizon after a title win?

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) vs. London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis) (c)
The former ROH tag team champions got what came across as a really muted reaction for their entrance. Thankfully, the crowd came alive for the London Riots’ entrance, and we get underway for some tag team big lads’ wrestling!

Davis and Rowe start us off, trying for waistlocks, as Rowe scores a takedown, but Davis pops up out of it. Davis works a half-nelson/hammerlock combo, but gets dropped by Rowe, and the feeling out process continued with a double-leg takedown from Rowe.

Rowe and Davis shove each other, then in comes Hanson and James Davis, and Davis manages to dropkick him into the corner. Hanson easily counters and lights up Davis with clubbing blows, before Davis hits a dropkick off the middle rope, and tags in Lynch. A double-team shoulder block takes down Rowe, before he no-sells a second one and finally gets taken down and squashed with a Davis back senton… but no cover!

Hanson’s taken into the wrong corner as the Riots try to double team him, but Hanson elbows free, and whips Davis into a uranage from Rowe, who then knocks Lynch off the apron. Rowe connects with some forerarms in the corner, before connecting with vicious knees to Davis, and then a Samoa Joe-like boot.

Hanson returns to knee Davis some more, before Rowe slams Hanson on top of Davis for a near-fall. War Machine keep cycling tags as Hanson comes in to pound on Davis some more, and then whip him hard into the corner. Rowe drops Davis with a forearm smash off the ropes, before Hanson uses his beard to rub into the face of the still-grounded Davis.

At this point, War Machine were comfortably in control, and Davis tried to comeback with a forearm and a headbutt, before tossing Rowe into the corner with an Exploder suplex. Rob Lynch finally gets tagged in, and sidesteps Rowe who accidentally launched into Hanson with diving double knees into the corner, before dropping Rowe with a German suplex. Lynch forearms and clotheslines both members of War Machine in the corner, then takes out Hanson with a German suplex too.

A lariat takes Rowe out of the ring, then Lynch tags in James Davis who immediately takes some knees to the face from Hanson. Lynch replies with a spear to Hanson, then a spear through the ropes, sending himself and Rowe into the front row. Hanson goes airborne too with a tope into the front row, before James Davis climbs up to the balcony and lands with a senton onto the pile below.

Back inside, Davis drops Rowe with the Air Raid Crash, before turning around into a slam from Hanson… who then cartwheels away and drops him with a lariat. Lynch counters with an overhead thrown belly-to-belly suplex, but walks into a reverse headlock takedown and a knee strike from Rowe to end an impressive exchange. Rowe tries for a piledriver, but Davis forearms free, before the Riots combine to drop Rowe for the District Line Powerbomb for a near-fall.

Hanson runs in to cut-off a pop-up spear attempt, as War Machine drop Davis with a double-team chokeslam, before Lynch eats a pop-up powerslam from Hanson. War Machine then follow-up with a wheelbarrow-assisted clothesline from the middle rope, forcing Davis to kick out at two. After both of those moves, War Machine look for their Fallout finisher, but Rob Lynch cuts it off, only to take a superman punch from Rowe, with James Davis catching Rowe from behind with a schoolboy for the win. For a big lad’s wrestling match, this was hard hitting, and despite both teams hitting their big moves, it was a nice touch to have a simple schoolboy roll-up win this thing. ***½

PROGRESS World Title Match: Marty Scurll vs. “Pastor” William Eaver (c)
This was the first time that Eaver was defending the belt on a PROGRESS show – but the second defence of the title, as he beat Paul Robinson on a show in Cork, Ireland last month. Eaver gets smashed in the midsection with an umbrella during his introduction, then tossed to the outside for a superkick from the apron.

Eaver’s suplexed on the floor as the jump start continued, and then the bell finally rang. Scurll drilled Eaver with a powerbomb for a two-count as the crowd seemingly expected a quick match. Scurll beat up Eaver in the ropes, but got taken to the mat with a series of Pope-ish Hammers, then a backbreaker that sent Scurll to the outside.

Eaver faked out a dive, then overshot a plancha and crashed to the floor, but was still able to beat up Scurll outside the ring. The Pastor kept up some offence by throwing him into the crowd with little prior warning, then dropkicked him into a supporting column inside the Electric Ballroom. Fortunately, Senor Lariato wasn’t harmed by a flying Villain…

Scurll mounted a comeback and rolled Eaver into the ring, then tosses him into the balcony by the video wall. A back suplex onto the apron followed, and then Eaver looked to go flying… this time reversing it so Scurll took another bump into the chairs. Fortunately this time, my wife wasn’t harmed by a sliding Villain!

Eaver lands a forearm, sending Scurll staggering around the ring. He took hold of Eaver, but missed a chop, getting nothing but the ringpost in the process, and finally went inside the ring. Scurll worked out of a crucifix powerbomb, then snapped the fingers of the Pastor, before stomping away in the corner as Eaver laid next to his title belt.

Scurll dropped Eaver with a backbreaker, then with an European uppercut, but Eaver fought back from his knees with slaps, before getting dumped on his head courtesy of a brainbuster. Eaver kicked out at two from that, but he got sent to the mat with an arm whip. That left arm of Eaver continued to be worked over, with a stomp to the forearm, then another arm whip for a two-count.

From the corner, Eaver mounted another comeback, with uppercuts and chops, but he was quickly taken into the turnbuckle for more of the same. A shoulder tackle took Scurll down, before a uranage backbreaker and a Fisherman’s suplex got the champion a two-count. Eaver raced in with a series of uppercuts in the corner, before going up top for a diving uppercut for another near-fall.

Eaver missed a Bret Hart-like elbow off the middle rope, before taking a pair of kicks to the head and a spin-out suplex for a count of two. Scurll went to the corner and grabbed the title belt again, before going for a chicken wing, only to see Eaver roll him up for another close call. Another suplex came from Eaver after he lost Scurll on a move seconds earlier, and the Pastor waited for Scurll to get back up…

But Scurll connected with an uppercut as he avoided the Clothesline from Heaven. A “Just Kidding” superkick followed, before Eaver backdropped out of a move and sat down for a near-fall from a pinning predicament. Scurll continued to slap away at Eaver, and took a double axehandle to the face for his efforts.

Eaver then climbed up to the top rope, but caught with a pair of high kicks before Scurll brought him down with a superplex, only for Eaver to roll him up on impact for a near-fall. Scurll rolled up Eaver off the ropes for what looked to be a crossface, but turned into a lucha-style roll-up for a near-fall, then kept hold of Eaver for the chickenwing.

Despite backing up into the corner, Eaver couldn’t shake off the chicken wing, and instead had to throw Scurll down with a judo-style toss. The Pastor then pulled a page out of the Villain’s book with a “Just Kidding” move of his own, instead switching the Clothesline from Heaven into the Last Supper (crucifix powerbomb), then the Clothesline from Heaven… only for Scurll to roll out of the ring.

And then… and then…

A voice played over the sound system, crying out “Pastor William Eaver… no, this isn’t God, but it’s pretty close”.

Out came Sebastian in what someone had to have told him was a stylish tartan waistcoat and trousers combination. He made his way down the aisle, and told Eaver that he had a secret that he was going to share with the entire world. This generated more of a shocked reaction than anything else, but we’ll get to that.

Scurll popped up in the ring and locked in the chicken wing as Sebastian walked away… and as Scurll added in some kicks to the midsection, Eaver passed out and the match was called. Marty Scurll becomes the first two-time PROGRESS champion, and the atmosphere in the Electric Ballroom became as flat as a pancake. For Eaver’s first real main event, he didn’t do too badly here; the match wasn’t special, but the finish took it down quite a bit. Eaver at least got sympathetic applause on his way to the back… ***

Oh the finish. As someone who doesn’t like distraction finishes, I thought this made Eaver look bad. Yes, he was probably given the push to the top ahead of his time, but likewise, losing the title on his first defence back in the promotion wasn’t ever going to be a positive move.

Leaving the show, I remember that feeling of total and utter deflation from not only the result of the main event, but how it came around. This came across like a bit of a copy and paste job from Chapter 29, where Mikey Whiplash’s interference led to the Tommy End/Marty Scurll title match ending in a no-contest. That storyline seems to have been pushed onto the back burner as Tommy End’s “farewell to indy wrestling” tour gathers pace, but I’d hope that it’s all tied up (perhaps even in Brixton) before the Dutchman heads off to Stamford.

However, whereas the End/Whiplash thing had some sense in that it was a heel turn by Whiplash, whose association with End elsewhere in wrestling was at least documented, Sebastian’s return in the main event did not. Unlike Moustache Mountain, this wasn’t a case of PROGRESS splitting up a team and turning someone heel to differentiate their act in the promotion.

Save for their background – the two of them were ProJo graduates – Eaver and Sebastian have had little in the way of documented connections. This is a man who’d not wrestled for PROGRESS since October 2015, with a storyline exit from the Natural PROGRESSion Series tournament leading us to where we are now. Had Sebastian been any kind of a threat before his departure, we could at least stretch and take him seriously, but his entire career to date has been as a comedy guy. One half of a tag team that was a wrestling meme. And hardly the definition of a clean-cut athlete to boot.

If’s records are right, the boy Seb has only had ten matches all year, as of time of writing. Two, if you just count singles matches, or just the one if you only want to look at straight-up one-on-one bouts. Given that this is the same country where the likes of El Ligero seemingly create promotions to ensure they’re booked daily, a guy who’s seemingly working on a monthly basis doesn’t seem to be a natural fit for the workrate-hungry fanbase that PROGRESS has.

Time will tell where this all goes. Seemingly, the comedy act has disappeared and Sebastian is now into upmarket waistcoats, but it’s going to take a long time to get the “stench” of the GZRS off of him and end up wherever Messrs Briley, Smallman and Joseph are planning on taking this act. Will it play in with the dissention we saw in the opening tag match? Perhaps, given that Tyler Bate and Damian Dunne somewhat profited from Sebastian’s departure from the Natural PROGRESSion Tournament at the start of the year… Time will tell.

Do I like how they’ve taken “their guy” from the training school, made him a champion, and lose it so quickly? No. Do I have faith in PROGRESS being able to make something of this? Yes. And that’s where the goodwill that this promotion has built up with its booking through the years comes in – it means that you can have initially questionable feuds (or in this case, a feud that looks to be way too high up the card) without it getting universally slated.

At the end of the show though, you got a heavy dose of storyline advancements, and some really good wrestling for your three-hours. As usual, a fun live experience, which mostly came across well on video, making “Malice in Wonderland” a show that is worth going out of your way to see.