WALTER. Travis Banks. PROGRESS’ first mid-week chapter show. Was there a new champion?

So, let’s get the elephants out of the room first. This show, and a few others in the PROGRESS calendar, were moved to accommodate NXT UK tapings (which have largely nestled in the “last weekend of the month” slots that PROGRESS have used for Camden for a while). Also on this show, we once again bade farewell to licensed music, or anything resembling it, as everyone found themselves with new tracks. Not Hot Tag Media themes. Not vague knock-offs of real songs. Production library or “stock music” was the order of the day, with everyone who already had a “WWE theme” assigned to them using that (including CFO$, as we’ll see).

I don’t want to don a tin foil hat, but with an entire library of “stock music” at your disposal, the odds of picking the exact same song(s) WWE had already chosen, for the same guys, sure is a coincidence…

With that out of the way… hello two and a half hour run times!

Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: The 198 (Flash Morgan Webster & Wild Boar) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
In the days ahead of this show, PROGRESS revealed that because of a technicality in the contract, only Flash Morgan Webster had signed… so he could change his partner (and team name) at will. I can only hope that Mark and Vicki check their credit cards with more detail – Christ knows what little Jack could get away with using it on!

Anyway, Mark Davis found a way around the new music… he just put in some headphones and listened to Spotify.

The 198 jumped the Aussies at the bell, and instantly isolated Kyle Fletcher as Chris Roberts did his usual thing of forgetting what tag team rules were. It seemed like the crowd weren’t sure whether Boar and Webster were to be cheered or booed… but Webster was to be laughed at when he tried to chop away at Mark Davis. Double-teaming served the 198 well though, as Davis had the referee inadvertently distracted for spells, while Kyle spent large parts of the match in the wrong part of the ring.

Fletcher manages to get free of Boar with a superkick, before bringing in Mark Davis for the usual chop/clothesline onslaught. There’s a punch to Boar, and the Alphamare Waterslide to Webster… but it’s not enough as Flash kicked out. He’s forced to escape a Fidget Spinner as a headbutt decks Fletcher for a near-fall, before Boar returned to keep up the pace… except he’s caught with a high-angle Liger Bomb from Fletcher as Boar almost ate a loss.

The cannonball in the corner squashes Fletcher, but it’s still not enough as Dunkzilla counters a Strangler to suplex Flash onto the pile… and the Aussies recover as Flash takes an assisted Go To Sleep, before Boar kicks out from an assisted cutter as somehow the 198 clung on. Things break down into a mini Parade of Moves, as Dunkzilla’s T-boned into the corner, before Fletcher takes a knee-assisted Fire Thunder Driver for a near-fall.

In the end though, Flash dives onto Mark Davis on the outside for a Strangler, while Boar lays out Fletcher with a Trapper Keeper… and that earns the debuting pair the win to stay on top of the table. This was a really hot match to start us off with, as the 198 look set to have the advantage going into the Thunderbastard at Wembley. I just wish the storyline behind this didn’t have to be so… flimsy? ***½

Post-match, Vicki Haskins appears at ringside… but it’s a distraction as Mark Haskins came through the back. The 198 run off… without Flash’s helmet, which Mark ends up striking with Vicki’s barbed wire bat, breaking it in the process. You know, your mate Jimmy usually has an axe, that’d have been more effective against something designed to withstand the impact of a crash. Still, at least it tells us who we ought to be cheering here.

It’s worth noting that without the “proper music”, Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are like “normal commentators” now, not laying out for entrances or anything like that.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Millie McKenzie vs. Jinny (c)
Claiming her delayed title shot from January, Millie brought some assistance in the form of Candyfloss. Shame that Jinny had her entire House of Couture with her… or as the crowd dubbed them, the “Tesco Spice Girls”.

Millie dove into Jinny with a shotgun dropkick at the bell, as she brought the fire to Jinny… who fought back with some ground and pound of her own. Jinny tries to beg off as she looked to be a victim of a German suplex… but she grabs the ropes and rushes into Millie with a knee for a near-fall. Commentary wanders into silence (again… it’s a frequent issue with PROGRESS, commentary levels getting lost with the crowd), as Chakara, Charlie and Nina try to restrain Millie on the top rope… and it works too, as Jinny pulls her down into a backbreaker.

With Millie in agony, Jinny puts the boots to her, but whenever Millie got free… Jinny’s gonna were out to interfere. As for Candyfloss… I don’t know what she was doing. Thinking about Pocky?

Millie decides to help herself and throw herself into Chakara and Nina on the outside… before giving everyone a German suplex if they were in the ring. Nina couldn’t even get her heels off… but in the end Jinny nails an Acid Rainmaker to cut it off for a near-fall. One more Acid Rainmaker’s ducked as Millie returns with a spear for a two-count, before a sit-out facebuster and a pumphandle German keeps things her way… but just like that, from the kick-out Jinny counters a powerbomb into a leg grapevine… and Millie taps. That was a sudden end to a rather rushed match, I felt. Sure, the logic was there: Jinny works on the back, but for a top contender, this was a very short outing. **¾

Chris Ridgeway vs. Eddie Dennis vs. Mark Haskins vs. Pete Dunne
“New gear for Chris Ridgeway”… except it’s the trunks he wore during the Natural PROGRESSion Series final a month ago… so no. Anyway, this was the first match that the “Three and In” rule applied to: basically, anyone who can chain together three singles wins between now and the end of August gets into the main event of Wembley, after Zack Sabre Jr was forced to pull out form the show.

The match started with everyone circling the ring before Ridgeway started kicking out at Eddie Dennis… who replied with a forearm. Not to worry, Ridgeway’s able to clear the ring until he got punched out by Mark Haskin… and we’re firmly into the revolving door motif. Two in, one sent to the outside, replaced by someone else, and we wash, rinse and repeat.

Haskins breaks that up so he could trap Dunne in a leg spreader with a butterfly hold, but that just sparks a Parade of Submissions That Everyone Breaks Up… ending with Eddie Dennis kicking Mark Haskins in the head. Eddie stays in to dump Haskins onto Ridgeway with a crucifix bomb, before Pete Dunne nearly faced the same fate, only to get thrown outside instead.

Haskins looked to capitalise, but Eddie gets shot of him also, as Chris Ridgeway snuck up and unleashed a barrage of body blows, then a German suplex to Eddie as there was nary a moment to pause for breath here in among the constant moves. Haskins manages to hit a crusher to Dunne, but is instantly caught with a double stomp from Ridgeway as he landed… and Dunne manages to find a second wind as he forearms Ridgeway into the corner before stepping up into a hanging armbar on Eddie.

An axe kick from Ridgeway stops that, as does a PK as some more kicks from Ridgeway set him up for a Fisherman’s suplex on Haskins for a near-fall… but Mark’s back with a bridging armbar as we again break up everyone’s submissions as Eddie looked for a Next Stop Driver, only to get caught in a Sharpshooter. More barely-locked-in submissions follow as we rush rush rush… until Eddie pushes Mark and Pete into the referee. Low blows are the name of the game, which is odd because this is no DQ, before Eddie rolled up Ridgeway with a handful of tights for a near-fall.

Another accelerated Parade of Moves leads Eddie Dennis into being isolated as everyone stared him down… and laid him out. An ankle lock from Ridgeway… a kick on the apron by Haskins, then an X-plex by Dunne… before everyone focuses on everyone else again. Haskins tries to get the win with double armbars on Dunne and Ridgeway, but here comes Flash to hold Vicki Haskins hostage again, while Wild Boar cannonballs Haskins into the fourth row.

With Haskins out of the equation, Dunne and Ridgeway headbutt each other, before a small package nearly led to the upset, but in the end Dunne has to hold tight through an ankle lock before punching away a roundhouse kick to catch Ridgeway with the “Better End” – the Bitter End into a tombstone for the win. This was good, but good God, slow down lads. So much happening, there was barely time to register or react to anything. Oh, and having your first “three and in” match won by the only guy who couldn’t qualify was certainly a thing… but at least it gives him some momentum going into Wembley. ***½

PROGRESS World Tag Team Championship / Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake) (c)
When it came to the “new music” stakes, the Anti-Fun Police got the crappy end of the stick. A SIREN. Of course, they were the heavy favourites against the tag team champions, and that was before Santos snatched the mic and did the Zack Gibson promo, albeit in a heavy Mexican accent.

The crowd were on hot for this one from the off, perhaps sensing a title change as the Anti-Fun Police took control of matters early on, evading some double team attempts before laying out the champions with duelling enziguiri. On the outside, Santos smashes Gibson and Drake into each other, but they combine to knock Santos off the apron before they seemingly went through a sticky patch. It’s been a bit of a motif in this Thunderbastard – tag teams not quite getting along, but yet not fully exploding.

Dunne hits a rather serendipitous spear before Santos gets the tag in and got a little winded… curse the hot summer’s night! There’s splashes for the champions in the corners, including an accidental one from Gibson, who takes a Samoan drop for a solid two-count. Things go a little hectic for a spell, as Santos lands the End of Days… before Dunne’s attempt to finish off with a springboard lungblower ended with him getting thrown to the outside.

There’s more miscommunication between Drake and Gibson as Dunne’s back for an assisted Big Ending with Santos… but after an enziguiri to Drake on the apron, Dunne almost loses to a roll-up… before he rolls up Gibson out of a Doomsday Device for a near-fall. From there though, the champions are right back in it with the Ticket to Ride before we’ve yet more miscommunication as Gibson’s knocked off the apron by Drake once more.

Santos comes in and clears house, almost winning before Zack broke up the cover… but the momentum looked to be against them until Dunne laid out Santos with the springboard lungblower, before the champs hit straight back with a Ticket to Mayhem for the win. Another fun, breathless match – I wasn’t crazy over the endless “oops, I hit you” stuff, especially since this has been sprinkled in throughout the series, but it was what it was. ***½

So, going into PROGRESS’ US tour (where there is news… but we’ll wait until we cover the next chapter show because it’s a little messy), here’s the standings of the Thunderbastard Series:

The 198 (Webster/Boar) (4-0; 8pts)
Grizzled Young Veterans (Gibson/Drake) (2-0; 4pts)
Anti-Fun Police (Dunne/Santos) (1-2; 2pts)
Aussie Open (Fletcher/Davis) (1-3; 2pts)
CCK (Brookes/Lykos) (1-0; 2pts)
M&M (Mills/Mayhew) (1-3; 2pts)
Sexy Starr (Starr/Sexsmith) (0-2; 0pts)

Hey, surprise Earl Black Junior! It’s a trailer for the second season of Freedom’s Road, which was taped last year but finally drops on August 17. We’ll get around to it…

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: TK Cooper vs. Doug Williams (c)
The pay-off to TK’s latest weight gain – he’s gotten himself a title shot against Doug Williams, whose “I lose, I retire” story continued. Sadly, we no longer get to keep it 100, or any other number. Apparently 100 was the number that stopped us from crash zooming to death.

Williams looked to end it quickly, going for the Chaos Theory right out of the gate, before he ended up on the mat as TK mocked his “wrestling” style. Commentary again disappears under the crowd as Williams replied with a headlock of his own, only for TK to break free and land a leg lariat as the match eventually headed to the outside.

Doug catches TK with some uppercuts around ringside, but TK quickly cuts him off with a backdrop suplex onto the apron. Some more stomps from TK take Doug outside… and this is a very plodding outing. Pace? Not here! Williams gets a second wind as he catches a kick from TK and throws an elbow, before a kick to the inside of the leg and an atomic drop set up for… TK to hit a Kotaro Krusher?

It’s enough for a near-fall, but Williams is able to mount another comeback with an overhead belly-to-belly, then a series of roll-ups, and finally an Exploder for another two-count. TK manages to get back into it as commentary again disappears under the crowd while mentioning how Doug’s body is breaking down… but somehow Doug’s able to fly with a back elbow off the top! A Fisherman’s suplex quickly follows for a two-count, but a single headbutt from Cooper almost puts an end to it all.

For some reason Doug heads up top… and gets caught as Cooper brings him down with… a Spanish Fly?! Somehow Doug’s able to kick out, but you sensed he was running on empty as he countered Rihanna into a Chaos Theory… which Cooper escaped and turned into an axe kick… before another crack at Rihanna ends with the Chaos Theory for the win. This was fine, all things considered, but Doug is approaching the end of the twilight of his career, and it shows. A brave effort, but this was a far cry from the style the Atlas division built its name on. **½

Post-match, Trent Seven came out holding a microphone. You know what that means… apart from he got to keep his (copyright free?) WWE music. Dulcet tones. Oh, and commentary right out of WCW as format sheets came into play. Trent tells a story about how when he was starting training, he dug through the old A-to-Z (before the days of Google Maps) and tried to head to Sittingbourne to train alongside Doug Williams. Long story short, his car broke down and his career took a slightly different path… and now it converges as he challenged Doug for the Atlas title at Wembley. Complete with the reminder of “if you lose, you leave.” Not quite HBK/Flair, but along the same lines…

Laura di Matteo vs. Toni Storm
After Jinny easily overcame Millie McKenzie earlier in the night, this one’s to find out the next number one contender… or at least, get a slot in a four-way in Detroit!

They start with Laura taking Toni into the ropes, then going after her arm as the crowd seemed to be massively pro-Toni. Or at least, one guy in particular! Storm bursts into life with some strikes, but a body scissor roll-up’s good for a surprise near-fall for Di Matteo, who ends up running into a boot as the Aussie again took over.

Toni traps Laura in a modified STF, with a massive chinlock wrenching down on the Italian until Laura made it into the ropes… but Storm didn’t let up, decking di Matteo with forearms and boots, before falling to a series of clotheslines as Laura refused to stay down. Headscissors take Storm into the corner, but Toni turns the tables with headbutts as she brings Laura down with a Muscle Buster for barely a two-count.

Laura returns the favour, catching Toni up top for a ‘rana… sending Storm to the outside for a huge dive into the front row. She’s right back on top of her with a missile dropkick for a near-fall, but in the end you never really escaped the feeling that Laura’s comeback was going to be for nought… and when she was spun into a headbutt, it was the beginning of the end. A German suplex put Storm right back in it, but Laura quickly comes back with a grounded Octopus… but Toni clings on and manages to get a foot to the ropes.

Some nasty thrust kicks from Laura keep Toni on her knees, but even a DDT doesn’t get the job done as Laura tried to force an ending… but a missed shoulder charge into the corner looked to be the end of her, as she turned around into a Strong Zero for a near-fall, before a second piledriver secured the win. This started off slow, but Laura brought a lot of fire… it’s just a shame that something hasn’t really clicked with her since her return. ***

Post-match, Jinny sprints out and puts the boots to Toni Storm, alongside the rest of the House of Couture… Millie McKenzie and Candyfloss make the save while Laura watched on… although Laura eventually shook hands with Toni after the ring cleared. A seed for an eight-woman tag down the road?

A nice video package plays for the main event, featuring Travis Banks’ “walk out at ten” at Super Strong Style 16, and WALTER’s road back to the title shot, all set to a slowed-down version of Allegro Con Fuoco.

PROGRESS World Championship: WALTER vs. Travis Banks (c)
We’re under no count-out rules after Banks’ count-out loss to Tyler Bate last time out.

This was the match everyone came to see, even if some may have felt if not burned, then definitely a little singed after the finish to their first match barely two months earlier.

Banks looked a little apprehensive before the match, before he just ran into a big Austrian boot before he was thrown outside… for more of them. The front row became a bit of a crash pad for Banks, who looked to stem the tide by kicking out at WALTER’s leg… but instead he just gets trapped between the ropes for some clubbing forearms.

One of those is caught as Banks managed to go back to the leg, then to the outside for some chops. But why? You know what’s next… CHOP! Banks ends up in the crowd before WALTER clears the deck as Banks ended up simply launched five rows deep… but somehow he’s able to fight back and get dumped on the ring apron.

TK tries to help, but a Gojira clutch just has him flailing helplessly… leaving Chris Roberts distracted as he tends to Cooper, allowing Travis to use a chair on WALTER. D’oh. Back in the ring, Banks hits a superkick to WALTER’s knee as he managed to keep his challenger down, with the knee remaining the primary focus as a series of kicks left WALTER helpless on the mat. He works his way into chops, but it just baits WALTER into more strikes… to which he replies with a shotgun dropkick!

WALTER’s able to take over with another Gojira clutch, before he just slapped the taste out of the Kiwi’s mouth en route to a German suplex for a near-fall. Banks tries for a Slice of Heaven, but it’s caught and turned into a Boston crab as WALTER bore down with all his weight, only for Banks to punch his way free as he again went back to the legs. And then… CHOP!

Down goes Banks, but he’s able to kick out at two, as he somehow built up into a corner dropkick, a stomp and… Coast to Coast? Perhaps unwisely, Banks tries to go for a suplex, but instead he takes down WALTER with a Dragon screw as he fired up into a Kiwi Krusher… but it’s not enough as the champion’s trusty offence didn’t work. So he tries to stomp WALTER to death, before he just gets turned inside out with a simple lariat.

WALTER looked to go for another lariat, but he accidentally wipes out Chris Roberts… and here comes the interference. TK’s got a chair, hands it to Banks… who then throws it to WALTER and plays dead. TK eats the chair as Banks tried to play Eddie Guerrero, but Chris Roberts ends up not DQing him as he eventually disarmed the Austrian. Plan C saw Banks kick WALTER low and get a roll-up for a near-fall, before he grabbed his title belt and implored the referee to disqualify him.

Instead, Tyler Bate runs out to grab the belt off of Travis… who’s oblivious to WALTER getting back to his feet, as a big boot, a German suplex and a folding powerbomb drew a one-count. Because of course it did. He didn’t do that to a Fire Thunder Driver though, and the roof’s lifted off of the Electric Ballroom as WALTER took home the title! A really strong main event, although Tyler Bate’s arrival at the end may not be as innocent as may originally seem. Finally, WALTER’s gold trunks signal a title change in Europe, as he’s on top of the (PROGRESS) World. ***¾

The decision to hold a midweek show was perhaps a contentious one, as a fair amount of travelling fans were unable to get to what proved to be a pivotal show. That being said, with PROGRESS spending a lot of time on tour in the next few weeks, with the US and Germany playing host to NINE shows either side of a chapter show in London, there’s a LOT of water to go under the bridge before we get to Wembley.. which is just as well as right now we only have three matches confirmed for that show at time of writing.

Whether those tour shows will all be available to watch, or even consumed, by the majority of the audience before Wembley remains to be seen.