PROGRESS’ first Camden show of 2018 was one to remember… especially if you’re a fan of the hard-hitting stuff, as WALTER and Timothy Thatcher tore into each other for the chance to leave as the Atlas champion.
Also on the card, TK Cooper got his first singles title shot, going up against Travis Banks in a match that the build-up labelled as “a match for TK, not for (the fans)”. Ahead of the show, we’re told that Millie McKenzie’s off the show due to injury. She had been an injury replacement for Jinny in the PROGRESS Women’s championship match against Toni Storm, so a replacement for the replacement would be forthcoming… Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie are on commentary, for those who note those things.
Natural Progression Series V First Round: Chris Ridgeway vs. Omari
With the Live at the Dome shows having had a qualifier already (yes, we’ll review those eventually!), and with a second qualifier scheduled for after this, it’s a bit weird that we’re in the first round proper already… but it is what it is.
Omari debuted in PROGRESS back at chapter 56 in a trios match, while Ridgeway debuted at chapter 58 – and has been in most chapter shows since then… so just by that, you may be able to pick off who’s the favourite here. The match starts on the mat, with Omari and Ridgeway getting working over the other’s leg early on, before Omari switched up into suplexes. Ridgeway’s pretty reliant on his kicks, along with his German suplexes, as Omari’s offence kept getting thwarted, before an axe kick gets Ridgeway a near-fall.
Omari’s able to come close with a sit-out powerbomb, but Ridgeway was easily more able to find that extra gear, levelling Omari with kicks before pulling him into a Fujiwara armbar until there’s a rope break. A pop-up facebuster from Omari and a superkick gets him back in, as do some more kicks… but Ridgeway shrugs them off, only to get dropped with a German suplex off the middle ropes, as he then countered a suplex into a Kirifuda driver for the submission. A decent opener, but Omari felt really flat coming into this – like whatever buzz he had in his debut in October has evaporated. ***
Roy Johnson vs. Pastor William Eaver
This was “Big Wavy”’s first appearance at the Ballroom since he was burned fierce at Super Strong Style 16 weekend, and it was an appearance that really didn’t go to plan.
The Pastor, making his first Ballroom appearance since that same show, won the impromptu game of rock/paper/scissors at the start, before the match proper got going… where the Pastor tried to unleash the Holy Ghost on Johnson, only for the former “Bodyguy” to come back in with a backbreaker instead.
The two headed outside for a bit of brawling, ending when Johnson took a uranage onto the apron… and then things went South. Feel free to elongate, like Jim did earlier… Eaver set up for a tope, but came crashing down hard, clipping the side of the ring on the way down. From the lump on his head, it looked like the Pastor had concussed himself, but the limp he picked up revealed the true damage – a partially torn quad, along with a dislocated finger. Remarkably, Eaver tried to continue in spite of the injury, but a Last Supper crucifix bomb was wriggled out of as Johnson gets off the Waste Management spin-out suplex.
A section of the crowd turns Chris Roberts into Count von Count for a while as (off camera) Jim Smallman and Glen Joseph tried to assess the scene… an apron dropkick from Johnson knocks Eaver back inside, but somehow the Pastor’s able to go for the crucifix bomb again, only for Johnson to escape and hit the Wavy-tonic (Code Red) for the win. Understandably curtailed due to injury, this was a little awkward to watch, especially when the injury became obvious.
Trent Seven vs. Chris Brookes vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
The gag here was that Trent was the only one of the (former?) British Strong Style trio who hadn’t been flown in for the Royal Rumble/NXT weekender… but Trent was still going to win the Royal Rumble, even if it meant he had to get out of Camden quickly to catch his flight.
On the plus side, it did mean a rare outing for Trent’s solo theme…
Dahlia Black’s been drafted onto commentary – presumably since Glen is backstage checking on the Pastor – and she’s doing an admiral job on short notice here. The first gag comes once Trent gets his two eliminations, but he can’t find something to point at… there was last month! Anyway, after he’s let down gently by Chris and Zack, our match gets going for real with well wishes and a circle of chops, uppercuts and punches, complete with timely shout-outs from the crowd that made this more of a comedy match than was perhaps intended.
Sabre tries to bring the match into his wheelhouse, working over Brookes with submissions, but Trent’s back in to break it up, leathering Chris with a lariat in the corner. Brookes replies with an Octopus hold, but Sabre broke that up with an ankle lock as he got a little annoyed at the finisher theft, en route to tying up Brookes in an Indian deathlock. That leg grapevine helped Zack keep down Brookes, but it left him vulnerable for some chops from Trent, who accidentally increased the pressure on Brookes every time he fell down from those chops.
Eventually Zack counters a chop into an abdominal stretch while that deathlock was still on Brookes, but the duelling submissions end with an eye rake as Trent takes down Zack with a German suplex. In reply, Sabre tries for an Octopus on Trent, who fell down before it was applied, as Brookes then took his shot at dis-assembling the hold, so he could put his on instead. It sounds complicated, but it worked!
Trent’s back in with spinning backfists as he surveyed the scene, but his attempt at a piledriver on Brookes ends when Sabre leaps in with a triangle armbar instead… ending when Brookes hits a back senton to break that up. The three-way striking continues as everyone slaps and kicks each other sitting down, before Trent busted out some Machine Gun chops in the corner to Sabre.
A Parade of Moves continues, leading to a piledriver from Trent and an instant PK from Sabre as the crowd roared once more, before Brookes’ attempt at Death by Roll-up ended with a kick-out, as the Parade continues again. Trent gets in some more lariats for a near-fall, then another piledriver to Brookes, before one more lariat’s countered into the Euro Clutch by Zack for the win. Utterly bonkers, frenetic stuff… some will perhaps not like this for being “too cute” (particularly the ongoing comedy stuff that seems to have become Trent’s forte), but for what it was, this was enjoyable. ***¼
PROGRESS World Championship: TK Cooper vs. Travis Banks (c)
When TK Cooper returned and issued his challenge for the title at Unboxing Live, the reaction was fairly tame. This being in the midcard didn’t exactly help things, you could argue… which is sad given that these two were on fire as a tag team barely 12 months earlier.
So, in his first match at the Ballroom since April, TK started out by getting kicked in the leg that he broke back in August. That didn’t draw a reaction, nor did TK’s punch in retaliation… but an early tease at a corkscrew moonsault to the floor did get something, as the crowd didn’t want TK to tempt fate just get.
Banks had no such issue diving, throwing himself to the outside with a pair of low-pes, before a third was countered into a Samoan drop as Banks went into the third row. Travis’ attempt to come back by throwing chairs at TK ended up with the ring crew becoming inadvertent human shields used to block some chairs that Banks was trying to throw at his former tag partner. Back inside, Banks kicks away TK’s leg again for a cannonball and a Coast to Coast for a near-fall as Banks seemed to be dominating. All of a sudden, TK’s back in with a neckbreaker and a Tiger suplex for a near-fall, before he leaps over another attempt at a trip-up… but we’re quickly into back-and-forth uppercuts in the ropes, leading to back-and-forth strikes and a spin-out suplex from TK.
Eventually though, Banks’ barrage comes unstuck as he found out one thing… TK’s Samoan! We barely heard that as the sound levels were all over the place, but the crowd got it… as did Travis when his Slice of Heaven was met with a forearm as TK got a second wind. Just like that though, Banks hits back with a shotgun dropkick and a stomp as he built up to another Coast to Coast… but TK catches him with a uranage instead for another near-fall.
TK eyes up the top rope again as he looked to go airborne, but despite Banks cutting him off, TK’s able to get off a Spanish Fly for a near-fall… and that’s the cue for TK to grab Banks’ title belt. Cooper eyes it up as he teases using it, but Chris Brookes heads out and disarms him… to pretty much no reaction as we got payback from Birmingham. Back inside though, TK hits a version of the small package driver for a near-fall, then apes Brookes with an Octopus hold… complete with some flipping off.
That annoyed Brookes, predictably, as he pulled the referee out… and was met with a tope from TK. Banks capitalises with a diving lariat and a Kiwi Krusher back in the ring for a near-fall as the crowd booed, but Banks goes straight to the Lion’s clutch and gets the submission. This was a weird one… the crowd did not seem to care much, perhaps backing up the belief that it was too soon to propel TK to such heights… both in storyline and for the crowd. Still, in spite of that, the match was pretty good, and with a main event storyline we’re getting a three-way feud for the title it seems, with the feud between CCK and the South Pacific Power Trip draws on. ***½
There’s a shoving match between all three, which leads to the trio exploding as the ring crew tried – in vain – to separate Banks from his sometimes/former tag partners. TK escaped with Brookes’ CCK armband between his teeth – something that perhaps wasn’t picked up on in commentary.
After interval… Trent decided to shoot off for his flight. Except his Uber hadn’t turned up…
Next: Jinny was out to name her replacement for her PROGRESS Women’s title match. A broken wrist for Jinny the previous weekend for Rev Pro meant that Toni Storm needed a new opponent… however, the scheduled replacement, Millie McKenzie, had to pull out hurt as well, so we’re onto plan C, by way of a promo from a rather forlorn-looking Jinny that almost had the crowd cheering for her out of sympathy. Okay, most of the crowd, apart from that heckler that came through loud and clear.
Anyway, with a new opponent needed, Jinny decreed that she’d hand pick a new replacement – in the form of Chakara.
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Toni Storm (c) vs. Chakara
So, the arrival of Chakara perhaps wasn’t the big name people wanted to see… or the same level of challenger… but the fact that Jinny was out ahead of this seemed to suggest that this wouldn’t be straightforward.
Chakara did start out hot, knocking Storm down and taking her into the corner for some mounted punches… but Chakara took too long to mouth off to the crowd and earned herself a buckle bomb for her troubles. On the outside, Chakara got a few more shots in, but Toni was able to outclass her with strikes and a big boot as the back-and-forth continued in earnest.
A double kneedrop gets Chakara a near-fall, as the challenger was getting a lot more in on Toni than many had bargained for, but eventually Toni’s able to fight back with a German suplex and a hip attack, leading into a neckbreaker slam as she gets a two-count. Chakara hits back with a Widow’s Peak and a hammerlock DDT, but those big shots weren’t enough, so she followed in with a camel clutch as she went for a submission instead.
Chakara loses grip as Toni crawls to the ropes… and just like that she’s back in with a headbutt, a German suplex and a Strong Zero piledriver to retain the title. This was pretty solid, but nobody gave Chakara a chance, even when she took most of the match. ***
After the match, Jinny dropped Toni with a boot to the face, before some stomps on the champion kept the Aussie down. Toni shoves Jinny back into the ropes, but all of a sudden she’s attacked from behind by Nina Samuels, and now we’ve got a clique as Jinny, Nina and Chakara left Toni laying. So, with Jinny out hurt, she’s got two capable lackeys to do her bidding – which is a clever move to keep this alive during Jinny’s time out.
Mark Haskins & Jimmy Havoc vs. Mark Andrews & Danny Jones
Before the match could get going, Eddie Dennis headed out to get in Andrews’ face – tearing into him for trying to reform FSU as “Mark Andrews and (insert Welsh buddy here)”. I wish they could continue this for a while using a variety of names… my personal favourite would be Flash Morgan Webster (“but Malice isn’t even in Wales!”)
So yeah, it’s a chapter debut for Danny Jones, who had that seed of doubt planted in his head by Eddie that perhaps Mark wasn’t entirely such a good friend.
Eddie joined commentary to offer some “insightful insight” on proceedings, and the distraction there led to Andrews and Jones getting attacked from behind. They recover, with Jones taking Havoc and Haskins outside for a corkscrew plancha… but a tope from Haskins turned things around a Andrews was placed in a chair by the front row for some duelling superkicks.
Back inside, Haskins wore down on Jones despite the best efforts of a droning heckler, before Havoc came in to try and rub off Jones’ facepaint as some double-teaming left the Welsh pairing firmly on the back foot. Eddie Dennis on commentary took delight in every occasion that Andrews “let Danny down”, as he found himself taken off the apron as Jones was looking for a tag.
An aptly-named Dragon suplex from Jones finally gets himself free and tags out to Andrews, who burst into life, taking down Haskins with the Stundog Millionaire before tagging straight back out. I share Eddie’s disbelief! Jones nails a spiked backpack stunner on Haskins, something that left Eddie speechless as the momentum swung again.
Andrews is able to hit a 619 to Haskins’ back, but it’s caught again as Andrews is met with an assisted Teabag Driver… the ring stays full as Andrews replies with another Stundog. The Welsh pair come back again, with Haskins getting an overhead belly-to-belly suplex as he was thrown into a hung-up Havoc, before a Dragon sleeper from Jones nearly forced a submission. Another hiptoss puts Havoc back in the corner as the Tree of Woe became a joke, but in the end Haskins rolled up Jones into a Sharpshooter – all while Mark Andrews just stood on the apron, plaintively waiting for a tag.
When Andrews did come in, he ends up getting kicked low by Haskins as the ref was distracted… but then Danny Jones gets distracted by Vicki Haskins’ barbed wire bat. That led to a kiss of death from her, before a superkick/Rainmaker combo put him away. A decent enough match, with the clear story again being how the blue-eyed Mark Andrews’ reluctance to even think of bending the rules cost him… and his new partner. ***¼
Flash Morgan Webster vs. Doug Williams
The story going in here was that Doug Williams had invited Flash back for a match, despite Webster walking away after Unboxing Live. A brief promo released days before the match saw Webster get some moral support from mystery figures, with one sounding not unlike Vicki Haskins calling him “bumblebee”.
Understandably, given his long losing record here, Flash looked really subdued, and he was instantly grounded by Williams, who used a hammerlock to keep the Modfather down in the early going, getting some near-falls and polite applause from the Ballroom. A seated surfboard stretch tied up Flash in the middle of the ring, but Flash gets free and manages to mount a comeback with armdrags before nearly pinning the veteran with a La Magistral cradle.
Webster’s offence is quickly curtailed though as Williams went for another surfboard, before he opted to just whip Flash into the turnbuckles with some force. A bow and arrow lock’s blocked by Webster, who flips over into a pinning attempt, before elbowing away an Exploder… only to walk into an overhead belly-to-belly as the former Anarchist picked up a two-count.
A Rude Boy moonsault press out of the corner got Flash a way back in, landing a Special Brew flip for another two-count, only for Williams to come back with a Gory special, charging Flash into the corner. Williams kept up with an Exploder, but he misses a knee drop off the top and turns around into the Brit Pop Drop as Flash almost snatches the win. On the outside, Flash lands a tope to keep Doug down, but a running crossbody attempt ends up with Flash getting thrown into the crowd with an Exploder!
Williams looked to be more than happy to take a count-out win, but for some reason Vicki Haskins appears on the apron to stop Paz from continuing his count. That gave Webster a way back in, almost getting the win with a roll-up before the sorta-distracted Williams took a senton bomb and a Strangler guillotine for the eventual submission. They didn’t go overboard with the “hey, these two are connected” deal, so yay subtlety, but this match felt a little on the slow side – and the crowd didn’t seem to connect with it as much as you’d have liked. **¾
PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Timothy Thatcher vs. WALTER (c)
Well, if you were of the train of thought that “this has to save the show”, then you’ve probably been massively sour on this show. Fortunately, this match wasn’t as much a main event, but something akin to a religious experience. Timothy Thatcher earned his title shot back in October when he squashed the then-top-contender Strangler Davis… and he wasn’t exactly shy about cashing in his shot against fellow RINGKAMPF member WALTER. Even if it meant that there was a very real chance that he’d get his chest caved in.
Going at over 20 minutes, this was one of those matches that words cannot do justice. If you’re fan of the current style of hard hitting wrestling, with plenty of chops (and believe me, there were a LOT of those in this one), then you’re going to love this. If you’re not, then you’ll probably be one of the few who’ll fall out with this particular match. Within five minutes WALTER had chopped Thatcher’s chest so hard he had drawn blood, leading to continual brawls around the ring, where Thatcher wisely neutralised the Austrian’s hand by throwing it into the ring post and into some chairs.
Problem was, in the ring WALTER always seemed to be a step ahead as those heavy chops took Thatcher down with ease every time he had a spell on defence. Thatcher’s variety of suplexes and submissions did get him a chance… but one lariat from WALTER produced what Fire Pro Wrestling would call a CRITICAL. Despite that though, Timmy had enough left in him to grab another armbar, but WALTER got free and just pounded Thatcher’s chest some more before a sit-out tombstone almost put Thatcher away… In the end though, WALTER’s wheelhouse of clotheslines and powerbombs were enough as Thatcher was finally put down for the three-count.
Yeah, I’ve not done blow-by-blow, move-for-move on this. Watching it back, my chest hurt too much sympathetically to do that. Carve 20-odd minutes out of your time and watch this. Such beauty. Such violence. Such pain. All in the name of giving us der beste Sportlicheleitung. Indeed, die Matte ist Heilig! *****
Chapter 62 was a weird one – the crowd throughout felt lacklustre live, and it came across as such on the VOD for most of the show. A lack of reactions during the TK/Banks title match was just bizarre, especially given how hot those guys were 12 months ago… While absence does make the heart grow fonder, it doesn’t seem to work for making the crowd want to see a title match that came out of nowhere. Following months of complaints from some that the storylines in PROGRESS weren’t quite obvious, this was a show that eschewed subtlety in favour of some more blatant. But hey, that main event is going to be one we’ll be rewatching time and time again, so for that alone, this is getting a solid thumbs up.
- “Chapter 62 – Fear No More, Come To Dust” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.