Jimmy Havoc’s bid to find his former self met another bump in the road as PROGRESS hit Birmingham.

Earlier in the week, PROGRESS caught some flak after it looked likely that this show was going to clash with England making it to a World Cup final for the first time in 52 years… but then England lost in the semi-finals to make it a moot point. Still, it was quite a bullet to have to dodge! We start, as always, with Jim Smallman’s pre-show stuff, before we get a surprise… Shay Purser is our referee?! Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are on commentary, which feels like the longest run we’ve had a regular commentary team together for a while here.

Mark Andrews vs. El Phantasmo
Having not won in PROGRESS since February, Mark Andrews perhaps needs to get back on track sooner rather than later ahead of an eventual showdown with Eddie Dennis. Cue the singles debut then, of El Phantasmo…

Andrews starts off by taking ELP down, but the favour’s returned as the duelling chants broke out… which led to both guys swinging and missing en route to a staredown. Phantasmo gets the better of things the second time around, as he grabs the hand and goes old school, rope-walking before Andrews just yanked the arm away… so Shay Purser completes the walk before Phantasmo flew in with a missile dropkick for a near-fall.

Andrews tries to escape a tiltawhirl, but ends up taking an elbow to the head before ELP hits the move anyway for a two-count. Another springboard’s blocked by Andrews who hits a hot shot on the ropes before flying out with a tope as the Welshman started to get into gear, eventually springing off the ropes for a bulldog for a two-count of his own. Phantasmo switches back into it with a Quebrada for a near-fall, before lifting Andrews up for the whirlibird neckbreaker… which gets escaped and countered with an enziguiri.

More flying from Andrews gets cut-off as Phantasmo lands an enziguiri of his own in the corner. A reverse ‘rana barely comes off, but it’s moot as Phantasmo flipped out of it as a cutter earned him a two-count, before his senton bomb/moonsault series ends with him whiffing. Andrews is right back in with a Stundog Millionaire as he countered a suplex, and from there it’s elementary as a shooting star press gets the win. A decent outing, but one that was a little slower-paced than you’d be perhaps used to. ***

TK Cooper vs. Rob Lynch
This one was turned into a match for a shot at Doug Williams’ Atlas title, since TK had apparently bulked up to over 205lbs. Lynch noted ahead of the match that a year ago, he’d torn up this venue against War Machine (we’ll forget the fourth man)… and that winning here would end a year that hadn’t exactly been great.

With his new trunks/weight belt, Lynch looks like a weird mash-up of Tomohiro Ishii and Ryback… which is a combo I don’t think anyone else had ever put together. TK starts by swinging and missing at Lynch with chops in the corner, before he was forced to avoid some retaliation. Duelling forearms in the ropes follow, but TK ends up running into a boot as Lynch charges out of the corner, before his back suplex was countered… and apparently being part of the Atlas division is going slow?

TK and Lynch trade forearms and elbows, before Rob just slams Cooper to the mat. They head outside as this really struggles to even get into first gear, as Lynch chops TK around the floor, but he telegraphs a charge and ends up shoulder tackling the ring post, which gave the Kiwi something to focus on. An arm whip took Lynch back down in the ring, as TK just kicks him in the arm, before they ended up going back to the forearms. Duelling clotheslines sent everyone to the mat as the crowd applauded in kind, before the pair got back up to exchange palm strikes and more forearms. Lynch massively telegraphs a cannonball and ends up crashing into the corner… in the meantime, TK springboards off the ropes for a corkscrew legdrop that hits Lynch for a near-fall. There’s an attempted comeback from Lynch, but TK’s back straight away with an axe kick, which seemed to spark the “straps come down” moment for TK.

Except Lynch is back in with a discus lariat to knock Cooper down… before he took TK up top, but that quickly backfired as a Kiwi Krusher from Cooper sends both men down to the mat, and that’s your lot. When the match was announced, it drew some derision from sections of the crowd, and I don’t think Birmingham were into it much beyond playing along with booing TK. As for Rob Lynch, as much as he’s had to work to get back from injury, PROGRESS seems to be a step beyond for him right now, much like Michael Dante on the prior chapter. With everyone else having evolved, Lynch just doesn’t seem to fit into the present-day roster. **

Eddie Dennis vs. Danny Jones
On the PROGRESS show before this, Eddie made a point of saying how he didn’t want to wrestle unless it was against Mark Andrews. So when PROGRESS put him in this match against a man who was cheated out of the Natural PROGRESSion Series thanks to Eddie’s involvement… you could probably guess this wasn’t going to be straightforward.

Especially when Eddie reminds us of it all before the match. Bell rings, Eddie hits Danny Jones in the head with the mic, and it’s an instant DQ. Thanks for coming! Eddie’s all sarcastic about it, and ends up getting slapped by Danny… who earns himself another mic shot and some beating afterward, including a Severn Bridge bomb into the ringpost. Mark Andrews appears to save Danny Jones, hitting a stage dive onto Eddie as security hit the area to break them up. Hey, the crowd woke up with “let them fight!” chants, which confirmed they weren’t trying to listen to the World Cup on the sly!

Tyler Bate vs. Travis Banks
Travis Banks was put “in the midcard” for refusing to defend his title… and after asking to have a match against a “young talent”, he’s got Tyler Bate, who’s back to his old WWE music. And seemingly wearing every item of clothing he could find that was shiny and gold. He’s like a wrestling magpie…

TK Cooper was out with Travis Banks, getting the easy heat for his earlier win, and after doing a little bit of rolling to start us off, Tyler Bate takes off his gold shorts to a loud pop. Hey, if you get monstrous pops for your gear, why do you need to bust your arse? Commentary paints up both men’s recent losses, with Tyler Bate having won (and lost) the NXT tag titles over the space of 48 real world hours, while Travis Banks lost the final of the WWE UK title last month, and it’s Bate who’sgot the upper hand early on, looking to go after Banks with a dive… only to get caught with a PK off the apron as the Kiwi Buzzsaw avoided him.

The tables quickly turn as Tyler fights with Banks around the ringside area, before he Brookes’d him into the crowd, as the first WWE UK champion returned to the ring for some Junkyard Dog-like headbutts. Travis hits back with chops as he pinned Bate against the rope, as the crowd booed the show of aggression from the champion, who was revelling in it all. A back body drop from Tyler helps get him some freedom, but Tyler’s back in with a knee lift and a flying uppercut, before a running shooting star press almost got him the win. From there, Tyler’s literally pelting Banks with punches in the corner before he’s tripped into the corner for a Shibata-like dropkick as Banks is hamming everything up en route to a near-fall. The pendulum again swings as Bate catches a running back elbow in the corner, and turns it into a back suplex ahead of an airplane spin as Tyler quickly had to fend off both halves of the South Power Trip.

Bate’s rebound lariat comes up short as Banks cut him off with a Slice of Heaven for a near-fall, as some more back-and-forth leads to a Tyler Driver tease… which prompts TK back onto the apron. Travis tries to capitalise with a roll-up, but instead he takes the rebound lariat as a plancha from Tyler wiped out TK and a chair outside. Returning to the ring, Bate walks into a small package, then a Kiwi Krusher as Banks still couldn’t steal it… so he grabs the belt and threatens to use it.

Referee Joel Allen disarms Banks, who ends up walking into a bop/bang punch instead… he rolls outside and sandbags himself as TK tried to intervene, and with what looked to be his dying scraps of energy, Travis claws himself to the back. Tyler Bate for some reason decides to stop fighting and run back to the ring, while Travis just sits on the stage to claim the count-out. You know, just like his t-shirt says. Well, this was a match that got good, but just seemed to stall as we waited for the “walk out at ten” punchline ahead of a rematch on the US tour. The best thing on the show so far, but nowhere near as good as these two have done in the past. ***¼

Kings of the North (Bonesaw & Damien Corvin) vs. British Strong Style (Trent Seven & Pete Dunne)
Having lost on their last tag team outing here, to the London Riots over a year ago, the Kings were back to take on another one of PROGRESS’ top teams.

Just a head’s up… the Red Hand pose is NOT a salute. Stick your arm out then move your wrist back so your palm is horizontal, just to make it a little less problematic for some! We start with the “home team” quickly taking the upper hand as Pete Dunne single-handedly put both Bonesaw and Corvin on the mat for duelling wrist-wrenches, as the original British Strong Style pairing had it all their own way. Remember when Pete and Trent turned on Damien Dunne and Tyler Bate back in the day?

It’s almost like the Kings were outclassed in the opening stages, with Pete Dunne holding back Trent Seven for chops to both of them… and we’re nearly three minutes in before the Kings got any offence, as Bonesaw charged Trent into a corner for a big boot. That sparked a nice turnaround, with Trent finding himself on the defensive as commentary was thinking-out-loud about his future. Bonesaw tries to work over his leg, but Trent shoves him away with his free leg before kicking away a heavily telegraphed back body drop. Corvin’s in, but he gets sent outside with Bonesaw… and of course Trent isn’t diving. He can’t get to the corner before Bonesaw’s back in, but another shove off would have led to the tag, except Corvin pulled Dunne off the apron… and got a forearm for his troubles. Dunne’s brought in to lay waste to the Kings with enziguiri, but some double-teaming gets rid of Dunne… only for Trent to come back in with backfists and chops. That’s quickly stopped as the Kings combined to put down Seven with a back senton for a near-fall, before Trent’s right back with chops and a double DDT as the former PROGRESS tag champions again got back into their groove.

Dunne accidentally clocks Trent with an enziguiri as they were going for a kick-assisted Dragon suplex, which again gave the Kings a two-on-one advantage, setting up Dunne for a lungblower/wheelbarrow German suplex combo that almost got the Kings the win… but again, Dunne’s able to take them both on on his own with a finger snap. A Trent piledriver would have won, but he avoids a flying elbow that would have broken the pin, as Corvin hits his own man, amid a Parade of Moves that saw ended with a Burning Hammer from Trent to Bonesaw for the pin. This was alright, but I was disappointed with how uncompetitive it was. It seemed that the trend was “it took both Kings to make a dent on British Strong Style, but they were always a blink of an eye away from being outdone 1-on-2”. With the PROGRESS tag title scene on lockdown with the Thunderbastard series, I’m not sure what this served apart as a means to get British Strong Style on the card. ***¼

Killer Kelly vs. Toni Storm
Having been ruled out of her originally scheduled debut in March due to injury, this was perhaps the stiffest test Killer Kelly could have had in PROGRESS… against the woman who took her wXw women’s title. Remarkably, this was their first singles match since that wXw match in January, having been in multi-way matches against each other since…

Toni starts out with a headlock as the match starts on the mat, but Kelly takes it back up as she goes for an arm instead as they looked for an advantage. That headlock’s back on, with Toni throwing in a headbutt for the heck of it, before some headscissors eventually sees Kelly free and into an appreciative stand-off. Second time around, Kelly goes for a cravat, which Toni tries to escape… but rolling out doesn’t get it done, as it just saw the move get turned into a chinlock before Kelly switches back to a cravat while throwing in some knees. A charge into the corner comes up short, but Kelly’s back in with forearms and a pump kick to get a near-fall on the Aussie, as some ground and pound keeps Storm on the mat.

Some forearms in the corner keep Storm on the back foot, but Kelly toying with her opened the door for Toni to fire back with a running boot, then a suplex for a near-fall. Headbutts complete the turnaround as Toni puts the boots to Kelly in the corner again, only to be met with an enziguiri as the pair were starting to whale on each other kick kicks. Another headbutt puts Kelly down… and when she misses a head kick, she’s quickly met with a German suplex into the corner as Toni rushed in with a hip attack.

A Fisherman’s suplex out of the corner’s good for a near-fall, but Toni tries to follow up off the top rope and gets caught as Kelly goes all out with a spider Dragon sleeper! With Toni upside down in the corner, she’s powerless to avoid the Shibata-ish dropkick, before a strait-jacket German suplex earned her a near-fall. Some overhand chops from Kelly end up getting telegraphed as Toni rolled her up for a near-fall, before a Strong Zero piledriver was countered… Storm’s able to reverse a suplex though, and from there a spiking Strong Zero followed for the win. A heck of a match here, with the crowd being into it from the word go. I’ve a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll see of Kelly in PROGRESS, not with showings like this. ***½

Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Haskins vs. Sexy Starr (David Starr & Jack Sexsmith)
This was Starr and Sexsmith’s first outing in the Thunderbastard series, and they had separate entrances in lieu of any mash-up theme.

We start on the mat as Starr and Haskins grappled to get us going, but it’s Starr who drew first blood with a dropkick as both men tagged out. Sexsmith has a little more luck against Flash, but his Pearl Neckbreaker’s escaped as Flash hits the corner for the Rude Boy moonsault press before telegraphing the Special Brew Flip. Jack gets the neckbreaker in regardless, before Haskins came in and flips out of a hiptoss… then gets dropped with David Starr’s Pretty Pumped inverted slam. Haskins and Flash end up on the outside, but they trip up their foes as they went for dives, and it’s Flash who looked to be back on the defensive after that, taking a series of kicks and a bicycle knee from Sexsmith, before Jack countered the hand’s up headbutt… only to fall to it on the second go around. Haskins returns to keep kicking away at Sexsmith, then drop a series of knees into his head for a near-fall.

Flash is back to chop away on Sexsmith, ahead of a Brit Pop Drop that finally prompted Starr to come in and break up the cover as Sexsmith found himself isolated. A Stretch Muffler from Haskins only increases the pain for Sexsmith, who was kept away from a tag before he was able to catch Flash with some Sliced Bread as the hot tag to Starr was finally made. A nice backbreaker from Starr puts Webster into the corner as he looked to take control, but Haskins slips back into the ring to cut-off a dive… only to get caught in a Boston crab from Starr. Sexsmith throws in a submission too, but Haskins manages to escape and break it up as the tables turn again… at least until Starr escaped Webster’s Strangler and suplexes him onto Haskins and Sexsmith on the other side of the ring.

Starr and Haskins trade forearms among each other before Haskins faked out a kick so he could punch Starr… who replied immediately with the Han Stansen lariat as Sexsmith returned with the BDSM for a near-fall. A dive from Starr misses its mark as Vicki Haskins pulls Mark out of the way… and that just left Sexsmith on his lonesome for a while as a pumphandle driver from Haskins nearly puts him away. The Sharpshooter’s next, and with Starr still out in the crowd, it’s an easy tap-out as Haskins and Webster take the win. A pretty solid match, although one the crowd never really got into by the look of it. ***¾

Post-match, Webster gets the microphone and started to put over Mark Haskins as a bit of a mentor figure, having been there for him when he got injured… when he started his podcast… and when he returned. Webster vows that he’ll be holding gold by the end of Wembley, doing it with his mentor and his best friend. There’s a cheeky snatch of Vicki’s baseball bat as he hugged the Haskins… but it’s a con as Wild Boar hits the ring!

As Flash held back Vicki, Boar kicks Mark low, and sized him up for a Trapper Keeper as Flash vowed that he’d be winning PROGRESS gold with him. The crowd chanted “198” for the pair, which is something given that they’ve not tagged much as a team… and there’s a lot of questions here. Firstly: great to see Boar back in PROGRESS after two years away (three if you don’t include the ENDVR feud he had with Paul Robinson)… but what the hell is going on here? The unit of Havoc, Haskins and Flash were put together earlier in the year, but splintered because Jimmy Havoc was put on a crash course against Will Ospreay… which is now in a bit of a holding pattern with no end in sight. Then we seemingly have Haskins and Flash split-up despite being top of the tag team series. It’s all rather odd…

We’ll probably not get around to reviewing the final Live at the Dome show that followed this, but we had two tag team series matches on there, seeing M&M beat Sexy Starr, while the Anti-Fun Police overcame Aussie Open. So the current standings for the series see Flash and Haskins top the table with six points, Sexy Starr bottom with zero points, and everyone else in the middle with two… Note: just before this was published, PROGRESS revealed that Haskins was being replaced in the Tag Team Series by Wild Boar, with The 198 assuming the points Flash had already won. So they’ve gone the NewCo route, for those wanting the football analogy!

No Disqualification: Drew Parker vs. Jimmy Havoc
Despite the Havoc/Ospreay match now having been postponed to a date to be confirmed, we’re still continuing on the “Jimmy Havoc tries to find himself” story… with his recent no-DQ/”death match” record in PROGRESS being rather bad.

Since beating Mark Haskins at Alexandra Palace almost a year ago, Havoc’s lost no-DQ outings to Michael Morleone, Alan Payne and Ricky South (on the PROGRESS tour of Australia), and more recently against Joey Janela and Spike Trivet. It’s been a rather unfortunate showing, even if similar matches elsewhere have garnered better results… and trips to emergency rooms. Before the match, Drew Parker threatened Havoc, saying that Havoc was a shell of his former self and that he “didn’t want James”. He even threw Jimmy a chair as he offered a first shot… but instead Havoc just headbutts it away as the match started with Drew overshooting Jimmy with a nice tope con giro!

On the outside, chairs come into play as they brawl around the crowd, and into it too as Parker gets a Brookesing. Things take a turn for the worse as Havoc find scissors underneath the ring, and of course they both have a go on them as Parker got into it with a heckler. The hardware continues to come out as Drew pulls out a staple gun and uses it on one of Havoc’s tattoos… so Jimmy gets a second one and gets revenge, before grabbing a cheese grater as I wonder who the hell’s putting this stuff under a ring?

A table’s next, as was Vicki Haskins’ barbed wire bat… but he throws it away as he instead rains down some punches on Drew, who then gets Brookes’d again, this time with the crowd barely able to move away. Drew’s gotten something from under the ring, but we don’t get a clear shot of it as Havoc goes low before he eats a suplex on the floor. Havoc’s back as he teases a death valley driver off the apron and through a table, but Parker uses scissors to break it up before going back to the staple gun… giving one to Jimmy as he dared him to start a staple duel. It almost brings back the old Jimmy as he uses the staple gun on the groin, before Havoc set up some chairs and put them on the side… and we know what that means in wrestling. Yep, Havoc takes a German suplex into a pile of chairs, then comes right back with a death valley driver through a table in the corner as he almost put away Parker. Out come some drawing pins, but Parker pulls away at a cut to get free… a low blow stops him as Havoc disarms him and punches some carpet grips into Parker’s arm. A Michinoku Driver into the drawing pins is next as we’re just not letting up on the gruesome stuff, before Jimmy rolled back the clock and grabbed an axe from under the ring.

It’s not used as instead Drew takes a nasty back body drop from the ring through the table that had been left outside earlier. He’s brought back in as Havoc could only get a two-count out of it, before he ate a death valley driver onto those chairs… and an Acid Rainmaker onto some pins for a near-fall for the Urchin Prince. A curb stomp into the pins are next as Parker keeps up the momentum, before a 450 splash gets what some would call the upset. Your mileage will definitely vary on this one… as someone who’s not that fussed on death matches, this was alright, but it didn’t seem to build to anything. That’s something that death/hardcore matches seem to be trapped into; coming across as matches that feature “a load of weapon shots that barely register like a video game until the opponent’s energy is emptied out.” ***

After the match Parker took the microphone and berated Havoc because “James” showed up, calling him an embarrassment. He offered Havoc one last chance at redemption, placing himself in the ropes for the axe shot… but of course that’s not happening, as Paul Robinson (and several of the ring crew) came out to stop him, as Havoc ends up leaving in frustration.

I don’t know what the deal was here, but “Fourth Shade of Green” felt lacklustre as a show. With there being no title matches to speak of (for the first time on a chapter show in almost a year), and a crowd that at times appeared to be distracted, this was perhaps the first skippable PROGRESS chapter in a long, long time. Breaking days after the show, was the news that Zack Sabre Jr. would have to pull out of his planned PROGRESS title shot at Wembley Arena. This perhaps explained some of the weirdness on this show – as PROGRESS’ next eight shows (from Camden on July 25, through the USA tour, to the next Camden chapter show on August 27) should in theory mean no “meaningless” singles matches, as anyone who wins three singles matches will qualify for a PROGRESS title shot at Wembley.

Based on current line-ups, WALTER, Eddie Dennis, Jimmy Havoc, Mark Andrews and TK Cooper are the only ones with sufficient announced singles matches to even be in contention… which means that it’s crucial that at least those matches from the tour are turned around and posted online a lot quicker than, say, PROGRESS’ Australia tour were.