It was an emotional night in Camden as PROGRESS held their first London show of the year – with some surprise returns to boot.

After the usual pre-show piracy warning, we’re treated to something a little different: footage from the pre-show on Facebook, which was rudely interrupted by Sebastian (who, as ever, had Pastor William Eaver in tow). Seb was annoyed that he wasn’t booked on the show, so he took over the Facebook Live gimmick… with some censoring, it seemed.

Sebastian took the cameraman into the Ballroom, where he claimed to be suffering from back injuries “from carrying a tag team for the past two years”, and ended up corralling the ring crew. Long story short, Sebastian uses his power (??) to make the Pastor the captain of the ring crew. By the time the live crowd twigged what was going on, we got chants of “fuck you Sebastian”, just like always!

The Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) vs. Kings of the North (Bonesaw & Damien Corvin)
Both of the Riots came out with PROGRESS scarves on, which seems to be a thing now thanks to Matt Riddle! The Kings of the North came out to a muted reaction, save for the Riots waving at Bonesaw’s red glove.

Cue the “shit glove” chants at Bonesaw, and we start with Bonesaw and Rob Lynch. Bonesaw shoves his red glove at Lynch, who replies by going to his trunks for a black glove in reply, before using the second one to slap Bonesaw around the face with. We have a duel! Lynch ducks a clothesline from behind, then pulls a Simpsons by throwing a scarf around himself, declaring “that’s the end of that chapter!”

So after some glove-based offence, we get tags out, leading to Corvin grabbing the Riots cricket bat, swinging and missing with it, before James Davis lands a forearm as he threw the bat in the air. The match quickly descended into a four-way, leading to a pair of Finlay rolls and back sentons as Bonesaw and Davis tried to outdo each other. Everyone ends up outside as Corvin takes a slam on the floor, then a tope from Davis, who then flung himself at Bonesaw… who caught him and hit a back suplex onto the apron. No matter, Rob Lynch flung himself towards the red-gloved one with a tope con hilo, before Corvin finished the dives with a tope of his own.

Nope, I was wrong… James Davis cannonballs to the pile from the top turnbuckle, and now we’re done with the dives!

Bonesaw takes a double spinebuster back in the ring, before Corvin eats a back senton from Davis, getting a near-fall as Bonesaw accidentally elbowed his own man when Davis moved away. Lynch and Corvin trade forearms for a spell, before Lynch holds him up for an elevated back senton from Davis.

The Kings came back from there, with a back senton from Bonesaw and a knee-drop getting them a near-fall… and then the crowd noticed that Bonesaw’s glove looked a lot like a leathery version of Michael Jackson’s trademark glove. Oh dear. A tiltawhirl backbreaker then a swinging side slam Bonesaw a near-fall on Davis, before a neckbreaker from a tree of woe saw the Kings maintain their advantage.

James Davis comes back with a Stunner (of all things!), then a Rock Bottom, as he finally made the tag out to Rob Lynch, who threw Corvin in the air with a back body drop. Bonesaw and Corvin take corner clotheslines, before Lynch pops up from a German suplex and replies with belly-to-belly suplexes for all!

Davis returns as the Riots try for the District Line powerbomb, before he accidentally punched his own man. A weird spot followed as Bonesaw’s German suplex gets a near-fall, which was broken up as Corvin ran in to jack-knife Davis for the cover… so I’m guessing one of them was not the legal man, but kudos for caring about that! All four men remain in the ring, before Bonesaw was dispatched… only to return to shove Lynch away from a pop-up spear.

The Riots recover as Bonesaw’s thrown up for the District Line powerbomb, before Corvin’s leaping lungblower is caught and turned into the pop-up spear – and the Riots win it! Good opening-match stuff from the PROGRESS gatekeepers, with the Kings looking impressive in their debut here also. Once we got past the glove jokes! ***¼

They announce here that Paul Robinson was forced to pull out of the Thunderbastard match due to injury – given the line-up was announced a few days before, this was a bit of a head-scratcher live.

Natural PROGRESSion Series: Chakara vs. Laura Di Matteo
Since Laura’s last chapter appearance in PROGRESS (the Brixton show), she’s had a visit to the tattoo parlour, and now sports a flower under her right ear. Add in the Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life-esque hairstyle, and it’s fair to say that Laura is a million miles away from where she was a year ago as Elizabeth.

We had our first taste of Jim Smallman’s international introductions here too, as Laura was announced in Italian.

Chakara charges into Laura in the corner at the bell, as she unloaded on the Italian with some shots as she looked to end things early with a Gory Bomb… but Di Matteo rolled into a sunset flip for a near-fall before dropkicking Chakara to the outside. A wheelbarrow headscissor roll-up gets her a near-fall, sending Chakara back to the floor where she takes one of Laura’s trademark high-velocity topes!

Back in the ring, Chakara slapped, then pulled Di Matteo off the top rope, following up with a snap suplex before a second one was turned into a small package for a near-fall. Chakara wildly smashed into Laura after the kick-out, before throwing her into the corners, where Di Matteo recovered with a schoolboy roll-up for a near-fall.

Chakara went back into Laura with a Kevin Nash-esque big boot choke in the corner, before she caught Laura’s attempt to skip out of the ring, and nailed her with a rope-hung neckbreaker for another two-count. Di Matteo comes back after ducking an endless series of clotheslines, landing a double-clothesline as both women crashed to the mat, before she popped back up with a series of clotheslines and an enziguiri that rocked Chakara.

A tiltawhirl headscissors takes Chakara into the corner, as a missile dropkick knocks her down once more, only for Chkara to try and grab a guillotine. Laura punched her way free, then rolled Chakara back to her knees for a diving knee strike, but Chakara recovered and hit a hammerlock DDT out of nowhere for a near-fall. Chakara argued the count, and that just gave Laura enough time to sneak up on her and tie her in a grounded Octopus hold fo rthe flash submission. Wonderful stuff here – especially given the relative inexperience of both competitors. **¼

Before the next match, Jim Smallman and Jon Briley conferred and decided to award the empty spot in the Thunderbastard match to Pastor William Eaver – who was booted off of ring crew.

Roy Johnson vs. Jurn Simmons
You need to see this, if only for the glory that was a full Jurn Simmons entrance. Skip to 57:00 if you haven’t yet seen Jurn’s gyrating and air guitaring in all of it’s glory, complete with some fine cinematography from PROGRESS, as usual!

A good three and a half minutes of the entrance was on the stage before Jurn even teased touching the steps, and it was a full six and a half minutes before we even got to the ring announcements. Dat was epic.

A lot of the PROGRESS crowd seemed to have been at wXw the prior night, as Jurn got a hell of a reaction, as did Roy Johnson, who took Jurn to the corner from the off. Jurn grabs a headlock, but he gets shoved off as a resulting shoulder tackle doesn’t budge the Bodyguy… Nor do the following two, as Simmons gets knocked down with a flying shoulder tackle instead.

An Oklahoma stampede-esque slam gets Jurn a two-count, as he followed up by whipping Johnson hard into the turnbuckles, eventually getting another near-fall from that. Johnson hits back with a series of clotheslines out of the corner, before ducking a clothesline and landing a Samoan drop to the Dutchman. Jurn comes back with a dropkick and a kip-up as Glen Joseph tries his hardest to avoid referring to him as “massive”.

Jurn slaps Johnson around, before getting a receipt, as the Bodyguy goes back for clotheslines and another Samoan drop. Johnson hits a clothesline in the corner before going for a full nelson bomb that gets turned into a short uranage. A Doctor bomb gets Jurn a near-fall, but he missed with a Yakuza kick in the corner as Johnson returned to the clotheslines as he mounted another comeback.

Johnson scores another takedown with a ripcord flapjack, before Jurn slips out of the Last Set and hits a diving dropkick. All that was needed was a piledriver, and that was enough for Jurn to score the win. They seemed to hint at a future Atlas title shot for Jurn down the line… now I want to see Jurn vs. Bro! ***¼

RINGKAMPF (WALTER & Axel Dieter Jr.) vs. South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks)
This was glorious!

So, we started with Banks and Dieter chain-wrestling, at least until Dieter ended a wristlock by applying a nerve hold to Banks, before grounding the Kiwi with another wristlock that sent Banks into the ropes. They keep working the wristlock, until Dieter scores an arm whip and goes to a floated over hammerlock, complete with another floatover to add some extra torque.

Banks finally comes back with a roll-up after he’d tripped Dieter in the ropes, before he takes Dieter into the corner as Cooper tags in… and axehandles Banks after he took too long to get in. That just lets Dieter make the tag into WALTER, who quizzically looks at Cooper… but ends up getting caught in a headlock before resisting a shoulder tackle. Those shoulder blocks eventually end with Cooper getting decked with one from WALTER, before he’s killed with a chop from the Austrian.

Travis Banks comes in and tries his luck with a chop… and gets a stiff one back as he immediately tagged out Cooper. Who gives, then receives a forearm, then again with a big boot. WALTER’s trying to kill TK here! In comes Axel Dieter Jr to try and increase TK’s lifespan, scoring a near-fall with a European uppercut before taking care of Banks on the apron.

WALTER returns and chops Cooper in the corner, before attempting a sit-down splash. Instead, the Austrian grabs a sleeper hold, which Cooper rolls out of, before another chop flattens him for that sit-down splash. Travis Banks breaks up the resulting pin at two, as WALTER gets rid of him, before Cooper again tries with the clotheslines. No luck, and he’s just caught in the sleeperhold again. TK does make the ropes, but Dieter just swats his hands away as WALTER hands him a German suplex.

A butterfly suplex follows as Banks again breaks the cover, before Dieter comes in and crotches TK on the top rope… but now Dahlia Black gets involved and this is where the Kiwis take over. Cooper gets a near-fall with an axe kick on Dieter, before a Yakuza kick from TK and a neckbreaker gets another near-fall out of Axel, who’s cornered and double-teamed whilst WALTER voices his frustrations.

Dieter comes back and gets a tag out to WALTER via his foot… and the big Austrian’s first act is to waffle Banks with a big boot. Travis takes an enziguiri from Dieter, then a shotgun dropkick from WALTER for a near-fall, whilst TK yanks Axel Dieter Jr off the apron. Dahlia Black goes up to stop WALTER as he’s on the top rope, and that allows TK and Travis to hit a superplex. Dieter takes an assisted cutter from the Kiwis, who then get flattened with a pair of clotheslines from WALTER, leaving all four men laying.

Banks fights out of a Magic Killer, before Dieter takes him outside for an eventual tope, only for Travis to reply in kind after Axel spent too long posing for the crowd. TK climbs up top as WALTER remained down, but rather than dive on the Austrian, he pulled off a corkscrew moonsault dive… and then it was WALTER’s turn – as he went to run, only for Banks to cut him off. So Travis gets press slammed to the floor, before a fireman’s carry gutbuster gets a near-fall as TK makes the save.

RINGKAMPF blast Travis with a European uppercut/powerbomb, but there’s no cover as Dahlia’s on the apron distracting the referee. Until she gets booted off by WALTER. TK tries for a chokeslam, but it’s as useful as you’d expect, and he just gets binned over the top rope courtesy of a goozle from WALTER. Yep. He’s in the mood for killing Kiwis.

On the outside, TK waffles WALTER with a chair as Travis Banks sends himself into the ringpost, before Dieter dropkicks him free. Axel’s by himself, and he gets dragged to the outside where Banks takes an errant TK forearm. Back inside, Banks whips Dieter to the mat for a Shining Wizard, before his roundhouse kick’s caught and turned into an Air Raid Crash. Dieter comes back with a suplex, but TK trips him like he’s Bobby Heenan to the Ultimate Warrior, and the Kiwis steal it! What a bloody match! This was fan-bloody-tastic live, and every second of this holds up on-demand. Easily an early contender for match of the year, and will figure highly on a lot of people’s ballots come the end of 2017. ****½

WALTER and Axel Dieter Jr received a standing ovation, and a “Please come back” chant after the match. I wouldn’t mind seeing these again.

After the interval, we get a plug for the Super Strong Style 16 tournament – emphasising quality over quantity. Take that, all you 64, 128, 256 and however-many-men tournaments! They also reveal the name of the next show in February: Chapter 44 – Old Man Yells At Cloud! I can’t think of who that may have been inspired by…

Thunderbastard Match
In short, this is sort-of like the Royal Rumble, but with pinfall/submissions and DQs instead of over-the-top eliminations.

First out is Mark Andrews, with Marty Scurll in at number two. Scurll takes Andrews to the corner straight away, then scuttles away for the longest period of time he’s ever done… scuttling onto the apron, then onto the floor and back down the aisle, before returning to do his wing-waving taunt… then a dropkick from Andrews!

A series of armdrags sends Marty flying, before a standing moonsault takes down the Villain just as the countdown comes into play for the third entrant: Trent Seven. Trent takes his time as Scurll chokes away on Andrews, and by the time he makes it to the ring, Scurll knocks him off the apron, before Mark Andrews goes flying with a tope con hilo into the pair of them. Trent comes back with a tope, before Scurll’s apron superkicks knock down the other two as we go to another countdown.

Number four comes out as Jack Sexsmith! The crowd finish singing his ring music as he hits the ring, as he set up Scurll for an accidental powerbomb with Trent Seven, before Trent and Andrews take a neckbreaker/DDT combo for a pair of near-falls. Trent hits back with a Samoan driver to Sexsmith, who then gets thrown into the video wall by Scurll… and we’re counting down again!

Number five comes out as Pastor William Eaver, but of course, the Pastor’s replaced by Sebastian, to the groans of the live crowd. Whether this is effective heel heat or “go away” heat is your call, but the chants of “fuck off Sebastian” lead to Andrews, Scurll and Seven leaving the ring. In comes Jack Sexsmith, who scored a schoolboy roll-up, and that’s Sebastian quickly gone… but but before he drills Jack with a spinning Unprettier. A chair’s used on the back of Jack, but Eaver makes a save… and then drills Sebastian for good measure.

The Origin’s music hits as Sebastian’s left to lick his wound, and out comes a more universal heat magnet in Zack Gibson. He gets the microphone, but barely gets to cut his usual promo before Andrews flies in with a plancha, as the ring fills up once more with Trent and Marty setting up for a double superplex. The countdown comes up again as Andrews tries for the Tower of Doom spot, but out comes the seventh entrant, Nathan Cruz, to make the save with a back suplex onto the apron to Andrews. Cruz and Gibson look to double-team Trent with a slingshot back suplex/neckbreaker combo that gets Cruz a near-fall. Somewhere in here, Callum Leslie points out that Cruz never had his one-on-one rematch for the PROGRESS title after losing it to El Ligero some four years ago… that’s someone who’s really not serious about kayfabe rematch clauses! The Origin pair double-team Seven, just as the final man in the match emerges as Dave Mastiff!

Cruz and Gibson stare at the entrance-way waiting for Dave Mastiff – and his Banter hat – to come down the aisle. Mastiff knocks Trent back down, then takes out Andrews with a belly-to-belly suplex as the three Origin buddies stare-off. Cruz and Gibson do the thumbs-up spot, and Mastiff reciprocates, before turning them down, and we get our Bant-ista spot as Mastiff knocks the Origin pair down. A ripcord German suplex takes care of Seven, before Marty Scurll tries to play himself as El Ligero… but he just grabs Mastiff’s thumb and snaps it instead.

Scurll gees up the crowd for the chicken wing, but Seven comes in with a roll-up with some tights as Marty’s eliminated! Trent turns around into a forearm from Mastiff, as the two bearded folk from the Midlands trade shots, all whilst the crowd chanted “Where’s your Tyler gone?”. Mastiff decks Trent with a clothesline, before Gibson tries to come in… but he gets sent back outside as Dave does a dive! Nathan Cruz was unaffected though as he tried to attack Mastiff from behind. It didn’t work, and it just angered Mastiff, who would have powerbombed Cruz until Gibson hit a chopblock, before a pair of simultaneous Codebreakers ensure the original Origin eliminate the Banter Edition member. From there, Andrews dropkicks Zack and Nathan, before he traded strikes with Trent, and countered a brainbuster into a Stundog Millionaire.

Andrews’ brainbuster and a standing shooting star press is enough to get rid of Trent, but we’re down to Andrews against the Origin… until Jack Sexsmith returns from the dead and surprised Cruz and Gibson with a pair of Mr Cockos. To the back door! After the unexpected prostate check, he tried to give them a more regular Mr Cocko, before it’s broken up… and eventually Andrews helps counter a Cruz tombstone by dropkicking Sexsmith in the back.

Jack lands in, erm, a compromising position, with Nathan Cruz, who for some reason isn’t getting counted for a pin despite Jack going down on him. Enraged, Cruz fired a series of knees into Jack, before the Show Stolen was countered with the Crippler Cock-face, and Nathan Cruz is forced to tap!

Zack Gibson immediately punches Sexsmith as he went for Andrews instead, throwing him off the apron and into the ring post, before countering Mr Cocko with the Ticket to Ride for just a one-count! Sexsmith fires up, as someone tells Zack not to slap him “because he enjoys it”, and here comes the comeback… A DDT spikes the Scouser for a near-fall, before a La Mistica leads back to the Crippler Cock-face, but Gibson resists and rolls out, before countering another DDT into the Helter Skelter twisting brainbuster, and that’s Jack out!

We’re down to the final two: Zack Gibson and Mark Andrews (who started the match). Andrews, who’s down to one arm, fires back with chops, but Gibson hits a Divorce Court on the bad arm, then a Jim Breaks special, again targeting the injured left shoulder. Gibson’s then given the microphone so he can do his usual promo, with plenty of boos thrown in as he sporadically beat down Andrews throughout. Finally Andrews comes back with an enziguiri, then a back elbow in the corner, before he hits a wheelbarrow bulldog after leaping off the middle rope. The standing moonsault/senton gets Andrews a near-fall, but Gibson comes back with the Ticket to Ride (Codebreaker off the middle rope) as he came close to a win himself. Gibson rolls through an O’Connor roll in search of the Shankly Gates, but Andrews escapes before turning another suplex into a Stundog Millionaire… but Gibson blocks that and gets the Shankly Gates in again.

Andrews slumps into the ropes to force a break, before more shots leads to a leaping enziguiri on Gibson. Another wheelbarrow is blocked as Gibson gets the Shankly Gates back in, before he fights up and drops Zack with a Shiranui. A springboard is cut-off by Gibson, who sends Andrews flying with a clothesline, before Mark counters a brainbuster with another Stundog Millionaire… one shooting star press later, and Mark Andrews secures the number one contendership! Much like the Royal Rumble later in the evening, this was a fine elimination match that weaved several storylines together – and gives us plenty of loose ends to chase in the months ahead – particularly in regards to the Sebastian/Eaver story, and the natural next steps with the Origin. ***¾

PROGRESS Championship: Jimmy Havoc vs. Pete Dunne (c)
The match had a rather unorthodox start, as Trent Seven tried to attack Havoc before the bell with an Acid Rainmaker… but Havoc used Dunne’s title belt to get rid of the interference. This time. Havoc then mocked Dunne’s “biting the belt” pose and went for an Acid Rainmaker to Dunne… who ducked too, before a ‘rana takes the champion to the outside.

Havoc’s springboard forearm knocks Dunne to the outside, and you can guess how this goes. They trade shots before Havoc turfs Dunne into the fifth (?!) row of seats on one side of the ring. Then another.

Dunne recovered and was finally able to take his jacket off, whilst Trent Seven laid in wait. He tried to chop Havoc against the ring post, and you can probably guess that went poorly for him, as he hit the ring post, as did Pete Dunne with his effort, before he was thrown into the video wall. Dunne grabbed the nose of Havoc, then repaid the favour, throwing Havoc towards the bar (dangerously close to me!), as Trent came in to attack a downed Havoc (and hid nearby, hey Trent!)

Havoc then gets launched about ten rows back into the crowd once more, as the ring laid bare, to the point where it would have shed a tear in loneliness, were it not an inanimate object. Finally, Havoc springs out, and we get a cool, almost first-person view of Havoc smashing into Dunne… who fell into cameraman Alan Ronald, who took a nasty faceplant after slipping in someone’s drink. Thankfully he’s alright, even if the LED light took a bump…

We’re reliant on the hard camera for a spell as Havoc rushes out to Dunne with a tope into a tornado DDT as that ring’s again shedding tears. Dunne lands a forearm to counter Havoc’s springboard effort, before removing his gumshield as he looked to bite away on Havoc – eventually drawing blood, which the champion wiped on his chest. That’s not PG! With both men finally inside, Dunne wrenches away on Havoc’s hand, then stops on the challenger’s ribs. Dunne kicks away at Havoc’s left arm, but Jimmy retaliates with a forearm that knocked Dunne down big-time. He tries for an Acid Rainmaker, but he can’t quite hold on and gets shoved into the ropes for a snap German suplex, then the X-Plex (release suplex) as Dunne picks up a near-fall.

Havoc pops back from an Irish whip into the corner, landing a shotgun dropkick, then a death valley driver as he looked to set up for an Acid Rainmaker… but Dunne bites his way free, then gets a taste of his own medicine. A rolling forearm rocks Dunne, who then eats a Go To Sleep, before knocking down Havoc with a lariat. Havoc counters the Bitter End with a DDT for a near-fall, but Dunne comes back with a low blow as Trent had the referee distracted. “That move all guys have to do when they’re headed to WWE” – aka the Pedigree – gets Dunne a near-fall, which sparks up chants of “shit move no fans” and “you’re not at the Rumble”. Yep, plans changed, as Dave Meltzer would say.

Dunne goes for the Bitter End again, before it’s countered into an Acid Rainmaker – that Havoc uses to knock Trent off the apron again. A schoolboy gets Dunne a near-fall, and this time Havoc hits the Acid Rainmaker… but Trent pulls the referee out of the ring, then takes a tope from Havoc. Another Acid Rainmaker to Dunne knocks Dunne inside-out, but Trent dives in, and that forces a DQ – and a shower of boos from the crowd.

The crowd did NOT like that call, especially given how much leeway had been given during the match… but hey, the fact that Trent was present should have given it away eventually. As a main event, the match was fine, exactly what you’d expect with Jimmy Havoc in this situation – giving fear to anyone who’s bought a seat for any PROGRESS shows at the Ballroom! ***¼

As the announcement of the DQ is made, Dunne and Seven wear down on Havoc as the crowd continue to shower them with boos and chants of “bullshit”. Dunne heads outside to get some chairs as “Love is Blindness” plays… and after Havoc takes a couple of chairshots, some familiar music hits.

Does anyone remember how The Jam’s “In The City” sounds? The Electric Ballroom figured it out… as “Flash” Morgan Webster made his return after nine months on the shelf. But he wasn’t alone. Cue Crobot’s “Nowhere To Hide”, and Camden lost their shit. Mark Haskins is back! And he left Webster hanging for ages on a fist bump!

Haskins and Webster headed to the ring and took down Dunne and Seven, wailing on them with punches from above. Seven got the better of Webster, but he turned around into a Sharpshooter from Haskins, as Webster took down Dunne with a guillotine choke before the British Strong Style pair fled.

With Dunne and Seven on the stage, Haskins got the microphone and declared that – among other things – he and Webster were back to save PROGRESS… and even better, they were cleared to wrestle. Cue more shit-losing, and we’re now up for a six-way feud between the British Strong Style trio of Pete, Trent and Tyler… and the PROGRESS “home team” of Jimmy Havoc, Morgan Webster and Mark Haskins. Don’t forget the unresolved stuff with Will Ospreay and Paul Robinson too!

What Worked: Maybe not quite a home run, but a solid triple – the RINGKAMPF/South Pacific Power Trip match was an easy pick for match-of-the-night, with a lingering question beyond all that: just how many more hurdles will they need to overcome before they get their tag title shot?!

Aside from that, the Thunderbastard match and the post-main event happenings set up and developed plenty of storylines for the months ahead.

What Didn’t: Nothing major, but similar to the tag title scene, this year’s Natural PROGRESSion series has confused a few people, since everyone these days loves brackets with their tournaments. There’s one first-round match left, adding another name to the qualifiers in Jinny, Nixon Newell, Alex Windsor, Toni Storm and Laura Di Matteo… Presumably that final name will come at “Old Man Yells at Cloud”?

Thumbs: Up – yet again, amid a backdrop of uncertainty PROGRESS pulled it out of the hat. With rumours circulating about the whereabouts of the WWE UK contracted guys (particularly after their withdrawals from the Working a Resthold podcast and the wXw show the prior day), some quarters were expecting another depleted show.

I guess they were all just rumours, eh?

Remember, you have to experience the whole journey in order to enjoy the destination at its fullest!