On the night before Hallowe’en, PROGRESS made their Camden return with a spookily great show that made stars and also led to the unexpected farewell of another.

#TLDR: A show that ended up being more memorable for what happened after it, Chapter 38 was a fun show live that translated well to tape, with two fantastic matches and nothing “worse” than good…

The Full Review: For those who followed our grumblings over how long these shows were becoming… chapter 38 weighs in at 2 hours and 47 minute long. Considering entrances aren’t snipped, that’s a perfectly acceptable length. Oo-er…

The pre-show amble featured a cheeky plug for the PROGRESS merchandise store, a shot at Southern Rail – Britain’s number one heels – and several Hallowe’en costumes too, including Mario & Luigi, Zack Gibson… and Vacant!

The New Nation (Alexander Henry & The Primate) vs. The Hunter Brothers (Jim Hunter & Lee Hunter)
Oh Christ, I can never tell the Hunters apart… going by what one commentator’s used before, Jim Hunter is the one whose kneepads somehow reach his boots, whilst Lee has the more natural gap between the two. Don’t you guys ever dare change that! Still, at least Glen’s got the same dilemma! The Hunters work over Henry in the early going, with Lee hitting a slingshot senton from the apron, before lighting up Henry with chops in the corner. Jim tries for a crossbody block, but Henry catches it and turns it into a powerslam, before bringing in Primate, whose first move is to dump Jim with a deadlift, swinging German suplex.

Jim Hunter tries to kick back, but he gets hoisted out of the corner before a swinging back suplex takes the Tipton lad back down. Yeah, Primate’s freaky strong… but he only gets a two-count with a very arrogant cover. There’s finally a tag out to Lee Hunter, who knocks down both of the Nation with a moonsault from the corner, before dropping Primate with an enziguiri… in the meantime, Jim goes into the fourth row with a tope to Alexander Hendry.

Lee tries for a springboard back elbow, but Primate catches him and drills him with a pair of German suplexes, before an uppercut-assisted German suplex got a near-fall… with Jim’s dropkick/senton variant breaking the pinfall up. Jim slingshots into the ring with a DDT on Henry, before “The Class Apart” takes a neckbreaker onto the knees of Jim Hunter as he tried to block a sunset flip

A neckbreaker/double-stomp onto Primate gets a near-fall for the Hunters, but their attempt at a double suplex went badly wrong as Primate hit back with a double suplex of his own. The New Nation continued to hit back with a massive moonsault off the top onto the pile below from Henry,which left the Nation in there with Lee by himself. Lee rolls up Primate in a Victory roll as the New Nation went for a Doomsday Device, before a superkick and a roll-up out of the corner earned Lee Hunter the win. A really impressive debut from the New Nation, as the Hunters picked up their first chapter show victory in PROGRESS ***½

Natural PROGRESSion Series – First Round – Jinny vs. Pollyanna
This is the fourth NPS tournament, with this particular tournament aiming at crowning the promotion’s first women’s champion. Of course, this was a rematch from the first ever women’s match on a PROGRESS chapter show, with Pollyanna getting the win in a no-DQ match over Super Strong Style 16 weekend in 2015.

Jinny levelled Pollyanna with a forearm at the bell, before Pollyanna fired back with a spear – and that really set the tone for this entire match. Pollyanna threw Jinny into the bottom turnbuckle, and then got a receipt courtesy of a Japanese armdrag for a near-fall. A Pollinator attempt was blocked as the two women went back and forth with early near-falls, before Pollyanna blocked an O’Connor roll and decked Jinny with a discus lariat.

Pollyanna set up Jinny for the double knee-stomp through the corner, but Jinny fought free and shoved Pollyanna to the floor. Jinny followed her outside and promptly shooed me out of my seat… so Pollyanna could get thrown into them. Hey, when some people talk… you listen! Except one guy, who almost had Pollyanna’s head hit his knee.

Jinny demands a count-out win, but has to settle for a near-fall as Pollyanna returned. Pollyanna tries to boot Jinny in the corner, but she’s caught as Jinny tried for a Style Clash, before switching it up to slingshot Pollyanna’s throat into the ropes for a near-fall. An enziguiri finally decks Jinny, before Pollyanna smashes a pair of knees into the back of Jinny in the corner for another two-count.

Another Pollinator attempt’s countered as an Alabama Slam sent Pollyanna into the turnbuckles. It’s all Jinny for a while, as she peppers Pollyanna with kicks to the head… which earns her a receipt in the form of a Paul Robinson-like spit, then a capture powerbomb. They go outside again, but Jinny’s forearm blocks a dive from Pollyanna, who then tries to deliver the Finisher Her (belly-to-back piledriver) on the apron. Eventually, Pollyanna’s got to settle for a spike DDT onto the apron, which looked nasty as all hell.

Jinny gets back up to crotch Pollyanna on the top rope, but a series of headbutts sent Jinny into a Tree of Woe, as she’s then drilled with a double stomp. Pollyanna keeps up with some running knees as Jinny was stuck upside down, before trying again for the Pollinator. Eventually it’s hit in the middle of the ring, but Pollyanna doesn’t go for the cover… Instead, she gets flipped off by Jinny, who then takes a Samoan Driver for a near-fall. After admonishing a horrid chant in the crowd, Jinny caught Pollyanna on the top rope with an X-Factor for another near-fall, as I started to wonder: do they have to kill each other to get a win? Jinny lands a Style Clash, but still can’t put Pollyanna away… and gets caught as she tries for another X-Factor out of the corner.

Pollyanna counters it by hitting a pair of Finish Hers – but she took too long in completing the hattrick, and Jinny was able to worm out and roll-up Pollyanna for the win. That was absolutely incredible live, and it came across exceedingly well on tape too – the story was Pollyanna cost herself the match by wanting to end Jinny, rather than win the match… and she’s now out of the NPS tournament. Stick this into the “you need to watch this” list! ***¾

Paul Robinson vs. Pastor William Eaver
In the live report, I made a remark about how “Robinson’s about half my size, but I still wouldn’t even look at him the wrong way”. I stand by that!

Robinson ducked an early attempt at the Clothesline from Heaven, before launching into Eaver with a Thesz press and a load of punches. Eaver throws Robinson to the outside, who took the landing awkwardly, before Eaver connected with a tope. Back in the ring, Eaver goes for a backbreaker, before shoving down Robinson en-route to an elbow off the middle rope. Eaver ducks away from a curb stomp attempt, but falls into almost a Skull Crushing Finale as Robinson went up top and added to the pain with a Dean Ambrose-like elbow off the top. Robinson bites Eaver’s hand, before cornering the Pastor with punches in the corner.

Eaver came back with a uranage backbreaker, then a Fisherman’s suplex for a two-count, before Robinson wriggled out of a Last Supper crucifix powerbomb. Eaver got it at the second attempt for a near-fall, but then fell to a sunset flip as Robinson nearly took the win. More near-falls followed back and forth, before Robinson connected with a curb stomp for an out-of-nowhere win. A decent enough match, with Robinson continuing his run through PROGRESS trainees – and the crowd as well, after the match – as the Pastor’s post-championship career continues to hit the skids. ***

Speaking of… it went from bad to worse for the Pastor, as Sebastian made his return, coming out in a neck brace. The collective groan when Seb’s music hit was somewhat audible… Eaver started winding up his lariat arm the second Sebastian entered the ring. Sebastian went on a tirade asking everyone “why is he booked?”, before changing tack and accusing management of not caring. This turned into an angle where Sebastian threatened to press charges for the Brixton “assault” unless Eaver did his bidding, and that’s that. It didn’t exactly sit well with the live crowd, but then again that’s probably the off-shoot from the presumably-dropped “secret” angle.

Tables Match: Roy Johnson & Jack Sexsmith vs. South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks)
Both members of a team have to be put through tables for the match to end – and it’s not an elimination gimmick either. Dahlia Black came out by herself, as she served as a distraction for the South Pacific Power Trip to emerge through the crowd and attack Johnson and Sexsmith from behind.

The beatdown started from there as the Kiwis kicked their opponents down, before Johnson bodydropped Cooper and Banks into each other. The Bodyguy went flying straight after with a dive off the top rope, before Sexsmith threw himself into the mix with a flip senton. Jack grabs a fan’s chair and stalks TK Cooper with it, but instead the chair’s used to swat away a tope from Travis Banks in mid-air. Cooper went into the ring for safety, but he walked into a full nelson powerbomb between Sexsmith and Johnson, which led to the predictable, but funny, exchange along the lines of:

Sexsmith: “Bodyguy! Get the tables”
Johnson: “Get them yourself”

So, Jack went out for the tables, sending two into the ring, before two more were set up at ringside. Dahlia interjected herself, causing a distraction as TK Cooper punched Sexsmith, as the pair ended up brawling up the aisle. Banks and Johnson worked on each other at ringside, whilst Sexsmith and Cooper ended up on the stage… leading to a slam on the stage by Sexsmith. Jack parted the waves, and motioned for a section of fans in the floor seating to move, but instead it was Sexsmith who was launched into the seats, landing really awkwardly on the backs of some of those chairs. That effectively left Roy Johnson in a handicap match as Sexsmith was tended to, but the Bodyguy held firm for a while, before he was thrown against a table in the corner.

Johnson went to powerbomb Cooper, but he blocked it for long enough for Dahlia Black to leap onto the apron for another distraction. The end result was a shrieking Glen Joseph, as Johnson side-stepped a punch from Cooper, who inadvertently punched his girlfriend off the apron, and sent her crashing through a table. He’s getting dumped in the morning…

Banks tried to spear Johnson through a table – which didn’t break – so the Kiwis combined to biel throw Johnson through it, and that’s our first elimination! Jack Sexsmith returned at the most opportune time, hulking up, but it was still a two-on-one match whilst Johnson was down. Holding his midsection after that chair bump, Sexsmith took down the Power Trip with a DDT and a pearl neckbreaker at the same time.

Jack goes up top and gets crotched by Banks, who looked to superplex Sexsmith through a table, but instead Johnson got up and moved said table before picking the Kiwis up for a double Last Set (Big Ending). That was impressive no matter how you spun it.

What came next called back to an earlier spot, as we got a 3D on Banks, who crashed through a table, which seemed to spike into the canvas, ripping a hole in it. TK Cooper got called out for being a dunce by punching a chair into Johnson, leaving the crowd to taunt him at a possible inability to pleasure himself later on… Sexsmith and Cooper went face to face, and lit into each other with forearms, only for Jack to get punched in the Sexsmiths. A spike DDT gets Jack back in it, before he grabbed that last table from outside and brought it into the ring. Cooper pulls himself up by the ropes, just as Jack pulled a “reverse Mr Cocko” from his back passage, and shoves it straight down TK’s mouth.

Despite tapping, the match continued, which left Travis Banks free to pick up Sexsmith and dump him through the table… and that ended the match. TK Cooper took a soiled condom, but he didn’t go through wood… so he’s the sole survivor, of sorts! This was an absolutely brutal match, and a performance that in my mind pushed Jack Sexsmith out of the “comedy act” bracket and firmly into the territory where he belongs. ***¾

Sexsmith (and Johnson, let’s not forget him!) got a standing ovation after the match, and my God, those bruises on the side of Jack looked horrendous.

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Rampage Brown (c) vs. Bad Bones John Klinger
Rampage’s open challenge was answered by wXw’s Bad Bones – and the match started with Bones taking the champion into the ropes, forcing a break.

Bones connects with a dropkick to Rampage, before chopping away and finally delivering a back body drop to the champion. Rampage rolls to the outside, and gets met with a low-pe from Bones, who quickly brought him back inside, with a missile dropkick coming on top of that. The pair trade corner chops and clotheslines, before a big boot from Rampage stunned the German, who finally got some separation after landing a T-bone suplex. An avalanche in the corner followed, as did a stalling suplex, but Rampage burst out of the corner with a short clothesline that earned him a near-fall.

Rampage whips Bad Bones hard into the corners, before they spilled outside where they went back and forth with chops. A slingshot spear gets Bad Bones back into it briefly for a near-fall, but Rampage hit back with a uranage. Bad Bones blocks a piledriver and went for his Rebel Lock crossface, only to switch it up into a superkick for another two-count. The back and forth continued, until Rampage hit a back superplex, then a piledriver out of nowhere for the win. By the end, Bad Bones had gotten the crowd into the match, especially with a lot of them not having been familiar with his work… an absolutely immense Atlas match, in a division that seemingly can do no wrong. ***½

PSA: at PROGRESS (and any other shows), don’t sit when you’ve not paid to. You’ll just be made to look a fool in front of the whole crowd…

Matt Cross vs. Mark Andrews
This was billed as a number-one contender’s match for the SMASH Wrestling title… except the events with Mark Haskins meant this was pretty much moot less than a week later.

The match started with some technical stuff, before the tempo slowly turned up as each man cartwheeled out of ‘rana attempts. Cross chopped Andrews as he mocked the old Vader hand signal, before a leaping sunset flip saw Andrews roll through and connect with a dropkick for a two-count. From there, Andrews grounded Cross with an Indian deathlock, as the pair sought to keep the crowd waiting before they truly burst into “flippy shit”.

That started off with a springboard crossbody from Cross, before popping up Andrews into an inverted atomic drop, with a neckbreaker earning Cross a near-fall. A couple of back elbows took down the Welshman, who returned fire with a roll through Northern Lights suplex, then a standing moonsault. Cross came back with a handspring back elbow in the corner, then climbed the ropes for a double stomp to Andrews’ back, with another standing moonsault getting him a two-count.

Andrews turned the tables, but got thrown outside as Cross launched into him with a tope suicida, before getting a somersault senton as Andrews quickly replied. Cross was thrown back into the ring, and decided to make an exit again with a Space Flying Tiger Drop, as this game of oneupmanship continued.

Andrews countered a springboard dropkick into a powerbomb, but he took too long in climbing the turnbuckles as Cross landed a headbutt, before the pair traded shots on the top rope, ending with Andrews getting caught in a Fireman’s carry which ended up in an avalanche death valley driver for a near-fall. The favour was sort-of returned as Cross was caught climbing the ropes and ended up eating a reverse rana… but Cross landed on his feet and flew in with a bicycle kick! Cross went for a shooting star press, but got the knees of Andrews who rolled him up for a near-fall, with the end quickly coming as Cross blocked a throw into the ropes – by using his shoulders – then landed an Ace crusher on the rebound for the win. That was amazing – they knew what the crowd wanted, and they kept it slow whilst the crowd were openly baying for flips, and then turned it up at the end. If this were a hashtag, this match would be simply: #LoveTheGraps. ****¼

PROGRESS World Championship: Jimmy Havoc vs. Marty Scurll vs. Mark Haskins (c)
Scurll made a beeline for Havoc after making his entrance, as they started by unloading on each other, before Mark Haskins eventually came out and just dived on the two of them with a tope.

The bell ring as Haskins went in and avoided a dropkick from Scurll, before Havoc dove in to wipe out Scurll’s attempt at the “Just Kidding” superkick. Havoc’s return to Camden saw him go toe-to-toe with Haskins, before Scurll blindsided him and resumed focus on Haskins… who then was knocked off the apron courtesy of a forearm. Havoc went to the outside and swept the leg of Scurll, whose apron superkick went awry as he crashed to the floor. A pair of chairs came into the ring as Havoc targeted Scurll, with the Villain working on him with chops in the corner, before being sent head-first into a chair that’d been wedged in the ropes. The second chair was dropkicked by Havoc into Scurll for a near-fall, as they headed outside once more, with Scurll sweeping the leg this time.

Scurll connected with his apron superkick at the second attempt, and then skinned the cat… before Haskins rolled him up into an STF that was easily broken up via the ropes. An armbreaker and an arm whip sent the champion to the outside, where another apron superkick knocked him down. Havoc took a chair to the head, before Haskins took a backdrop suplex onto the apron. Haskins’ chest was rammed into the apron, eventually getting Scurll a one-count as Haskins fought back up… and fell into a series of chops and forearms from the Villain. Once again my seat became a landing zone, with Jimmy Havoc getting thrown into them as Haskins was caught in a fish-hooked surfboard by Scurll.

The champion fired back on Scurll, before being clotheslined to the outside, but Havoc returned with a shotgun dropkick into the corner, before a death valley driver earned Havoc a near-fall. Havoc called for the Acid Rainmaker, but it just got caught by Scurll, who snapped his fingers – producing a sickening crack around the Electric Ballroom.

Haskins returned again, dropping his two challengers with T-bone suplexes, before suplexing Havoc into Scurll – who was stuck in the Tree of Woe. We saw almost a sit-out burning hammer from Haskins, who quickly caught Scurll in the bridging armbar, but Havoc easily undid the hold and… had another Acid Rainmaker caught. Haskins ate a Go To Sleep from Havoc for a two-count, and in the aftermath, Scurll scored a near-fall with his feet on the ropes after whacking Havoc with an umbrella. A bicycle knee to the head stunned Havoc, who then took the “Just Kidding” superkick, and another one to the knee, before all three men decked each other with circular superkicks in a cool looking moment.

All three men teed off on each other, before Haskins and Scurll ate a double Acid Rainmaker, before immediately rolling to the outside. Havoc set up a quintet of chairs as another landing zone on the floor, before dragging Marty onto the top rope for a planned superplex through the structure. Haskins came in and broke it up, before being shoved down as Scurll ended knocking Havoc off the top, sending him bouncing through the bridge of chairs.

That left us with Scurll and Haskins in the ring… Scurll slapped Haskins, but he flipped out of a suplex attempt and trapped the Villain in the “Star Armbar”, but Marty rolled through into a Chicken Wing. Haskins also reversed that into a roll-up for a near-fall, before rolling up Scurll into a Sharpshooter… but Havoc returned and tried a Rainmaker. Another rolling Sharpshooter on Havoc is blocked as he lands the Rainmaker for a near-fall, with a Chicken Wing from Scurll breaking it up.

The breathless finale continued as Havoc rolled back from the Chicken Wing for a near-fall, before Scurll blocked another Rainmaker… and kicked Havoc low. Scurll charged into the corner, but fell into another roll-through Sharpshooter, and Haskins cinched back so far in the middle of the ring, that Scurll had no choice but to tap. A thrilling three-way, even if most of the focus was on the Havoc/Scurll story… but there was to be a reason for that. ****¼

So, everyone heads to the back as Jim Smallman does the post-show ceremonies… which usually don’t air on these shows. What we got after, was the return of Haskins, as he rolled into the ring and crouched on the PROGRESS logo in the middle of the ring… before kissing the belt goodbye and exiting to the back.

The crowd were stunned by that… and of course, we know why. This was to be Mark’s last match as he was forced to take a sabbatical to heal a neck injury – and selfishly, it was a bloody good one to go out on. Even more selfishly, as a fan I hope that Mark can make a recovery and return to wrestling, but his health has to come first.

So… as a show, my opinion hasn’t changed from when we did the live thoughts. This is easily the best show of the year that I’ve seen live, with nothing even close to an “average” match, and a hot atmosphere throughout. Going in, there was some trepidation over the lack of some of the bigger names on the undercard, but by the end, that was just a distant memory as the PROGRESS crew hit a home run on their Camden return.