Jimmy Havoc and Will Ospreay finally settled things as PROGRESS’ last chapter before Wembley came to a rather bloody conclusion.
With all apologies to those expecting my usual several thousand word-long review – but after watching this live and having seen all of the PROGRESS US and German tour shows, I’m not exactly in the mood to go in-depth on every match – plus, the main event was an hour from the start of the segment until the end! Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie are live on commentary from inside the Electric Ballroom for another show that was rescheduled – pushed back to the Monday after something something NXT UK tapings.
Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) vs. M&M (Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew)
Since the US shows hadn’t been put on-demand by the time this rolled around, this was the first time that the PROGRESS crowds in England had seen Drake and Gibson without their tag titles… so you can probably imagine the reception they got.
Throughout the Thunderbastard series, the Grizzled Young Veterans have gradually been playing up to the “oops, I nearly crashed into you, oh silly me, now I have” school of miscommunication – and that trend continued here as M&M enjoyed some spells of offence courtesy of the dreaded (and overplayed) snafus. In the end though, the former champions’ class shone through, as Mayhew ate a Jig ‘n’ Tonic from Drake, before a Dominator/neckbreaker combo put the youngsters away. ***¼
Ahead of the next match, which was scheduled to be an eight-woman tag, with Jinny and her House of Couture against Toni Storm “and friends”, we were told that Nina Samuels and Toni Storm were out injured. So, we just remove Jinny, and make this a match to crown a new number one contender, just in case Toni isn’t fit for Wembley…
Candyfloss vs. Chakara vs. Charlie Morgan vs. Laura Di Matteo vs. Millie McKenzie
To put it a little bluntly, this was a train wreck. Looking at the experience of all of the women involved here, when Charlie Morgan’s seven years (per Cagematch) was just about eclipsed by everyone else’s… combined, you were asking for trouble.
I was a little bemused by the result, especially since the last chapter show had Millie McKenzie so comprehensively beaten by Jinny – and in quick order – but this was PROGRESS making the best of a potentially bad situation. A situation that could have been a whole lot worse, when a Tower of Doom spot ended with Laura Di Matteo taking a very high angle suplex that looked nasty. The crowd fell silent until it was clear that Laura was okay… The finish came amid a Parade of Moves, when Laura Di Matteo’s grounded Octopus was broken up by a low dropkick from Morgan, before Millie returned in with a spear and a bunch of German suplexes to pick up the win. As a match, you could tell it was a late change and very unplanned – but this is the very reason why multi-way matches are far from idea, regardless of gender! *¾
A slight change of pace followed as Mark Andrews came out – in street clothes – to call out Eddie Dennis. Both men were out of the “Three and In” series that PROGRESS had been running to fill the main event at Wembley, so all signs were pointing towards some sort of confrontation between these two here. Eddie initially mocked Mark’s claims that it was “destined” that this match would happen at Wembley, pointing out how “destined” it was that Will Ospreay vs. Jimmy Havoc was to be there too… but in the end the baiting got a result, as Eddie agreed to the match, but under one condition: it was a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match. The back-and-forth in this – which of course featured a pull-apart brawl – was terrific, with Eddie’s line of Mark “using wrestling for his band” being what triggered it all off.
Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. Chris Brookes & Timothy Thatcher
Chris Brookes is somewhat cursed when it comes to tag team partners. As you’ll have seen from our reports of the US tour, first he won the tag titles with Kid Lykos… who got injured the next night, which meant that Brookes needed a proxy… which turned out to be Jonathan Gresham. Except he got injured after a match, and so Brookes moved onto his third partner of the tour: with AR Fox taking the fall as CCK? lost the titles to Flamita and Bandido.
Back home, that means that Brookes is onto his third Thunderbastard partner, and it came in the form of Timothy Thatcher. Cue the jokes about the sternness of Thatcher coupled with Brookes’ sometimes carefree attitude… this was a real odd couple, but it worked from the moment they set foot through the curtain with Thatcher wearing his RINGKAMPF scarf like how Brookes wears shirts as a bandanna. Thatcher kept it somewhat clean, stopping Brookes from doing the wet willie, confirming that the “fake Lykos” vibe didn’t stretch too far though.
It did appear briefly as Brookes; once when Brookes told Thatcher to “shut up, Tim” when he tried to keep the match clean (Chris would then run away in fear, like we all would) before he had Thatcher go up the ropes for the CCK elevated lungblower… but instead Thatcher just leapt off of Brookes’ shoulders and slapped the taste out of Fletcher. No matter how hard-hitting and bell-ringing this was (those exchanges between Thatcher and Davis were extremely tasty), Aussie Open went on to record another loss in the Thunderbastard series as a Parade of Moves ended with Fletcher getting caught in a Kondo clutch as Brookes forced him to tap. The win did more than get some points for CCK? as Brookes would win the ability to hold up the sacred RINGKAMPF scarf in celebration. ***½
British Strong Style (Pete Dunne & Trent Seven) vs. Doug Williams & WALTER
On paper, this felt like a “WWE style” warm-up match before a pay-per-view, where you just smoosh two matches into one – albeit with WALTER in there as a proxy for Ilja Dragunov.
Given that we’d had nothing to build for the Doug/Trent match here, this felt like a perfect breeding ground to give us something beyond the PROGRESS re-do of the Shawn Michaels/Ric Flair farewell from 2008… but unfortunately it was not to be. Just as the match was hitting its stride, after we’d seen WALTER go through Trent’s Mike Sharpe comedy bit, Williams hit the Chaos Theory on Pete Dunne, but he instantly reached for his neck and tagged out. With a stinger forcing Doug onto the sidelines, turning this into a handicap match, things continued for a little while longer before Trent was forced to submit to a Gojira clutch. **¾
After the match, Doug Williams was helped into the ring as Dunne and Seven gave him what looked to be his final hurrah in the Ballroom – even if the neck injury meant that Doug could barely hold his own title. Dunne stayed behind, and was interrupted by the arrival of Christian Michael Jakobi… but Peter wasted no time in dragging Jakobi down to the ring to give him some, only for some Soviet-sounding music to hit as Ilja Dragunov appeared.
The two stared down, then unloaded on each other, before a distraction from Jakobi allowed Dragunov to hit the Chernobyl Bomb and eventually… a Torpedo Moscau! Dragunov stood tall over Dunne as Jakobi declared victory for his man going into Wembley.
Mark Haskins vs. Tyler Bate
Both these men left the US with two wins in a row under their belt – and as luck would have it, they both chose each other as the person to face here. Now, if this had ended in a draw… we’d have been stuck!
A rematch from last year’s Super Strong Style, these two played the long game from the off, looking to chip away at each other rather than swing for the fences. More haste, less speed, was the name of the game, at least in the opening phases. Tyler Bate tweaked his knee early, which looked to hamper him in the match as a kip up and a dive was less than optimal, but he was still able to avoid most of Haskins’ signature offence. He couldn’t avoid a roll-through into a death valley driver, as Haskins nearly took the win there before the pair resorted to back-and-forth strikes, until simultaneous head kicks left both of them on the mat.
More strikes follow, but Haskins goes back to Tyler’s dodgy wheel, only to get caught with a Koppo kick and a rebound lariat for a near-fall. The crowd were awoken by a Destroyer and a tope from Haskins, who burst into life before crushing Bate with a double stomp off the top… but it’s not enough, so the bridging armbar follows, then the pumphandle driver… but still Tyler’s kicking out.
Bate retaliates with an airplane spin, despite having the limp, before Haskins rolled out into a Sharpshooter, pulling Tyler away from the ropes… but Bate manages to roll out and catch Haskins with a Tyler Driver for the win. A really solid, no-frills match, but for large chunks of it, the crowd seemed to be silently invested in it rather than their usual boisterous self. It means we’ve got Tyler Bate vs. WALTER main eventing Wembley (unless Jimmy Havoc wins in the main event) – a match that should be good, but lacks any kind of storyline or spark. ****
Best Two Out Of Three Falls No Disqualification Match (Special Referee: Paul Robinson): Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay
Originally scheduled for Wembley, this was the first of the high profile matches that PROGRESS lost for that show after it was revealed that Will was required for an as-then unannounced New Japan show on the same day.
Out of the blue, this was announced for the “go home” show for Wembley, but with stipulations: Paul Robinson was the referee, this’d be no-disqualification, and it’d be two-out-of-three falls. Expect shenanigans, as a storyline that ran throughout the life of PROGRESS came to a head… and especially since we had the added string of the fact that Jimmy needed a win here to add himself to the main event at Wembley. From the off, things were threatening to be a little hairy when Ospreay came out with a clan of clones, all wearing different versions of Will’s prior ring gear. They all pulled out tables too, one for each side of the ring, which gave the threat of lots of table bumps. While all four of those tables may not have gone crack, it was certainly a sign of things to come. While it may be harsh to call these “tropes”, all of Jimmy Havoc’s usual games were played here as the no disqualification stipulation was more than played up to. Oh, and Jimmy wore white, so guess what we saw plenty of…
Havoc went to put Ospreay through a table in the opening minute, but a piledriver off the apron’s blocked, but instead they end up in the crowd courtesy of some Brookesings – Ospreay perhaps sending Jimmy deeper as they headed towards the stage. For some reason, Ospreay brings out another table, which Havoc gleefully sets up… and leaves. For now.
Ospreay tries to do the Sami Zayn through-the-turnbuckles dive from the floor, but he has a chair thrown into him, before Havoc ties Will’s hands together using some gaffa tape… which leaves Ospreay open for some biting as Jimmy looked to draw blood. A Tree of Woe puts Ospreay in a vulnerable position on the outside, as he’s met with some chair shots, before he has some 8x10s stapled to his nipples. There’s better ways to get those pierced, I hear…
They start with the throwbacks as Havoc went to cut off Ospreay’s ear, but Paul Robinson stops him before using the scissors to free Ospreay’s hands. Will took that as a show of allegiance, but Robinson refuses to curb stomp Ospreay, as Havoc instead lands a Rainmaker to score the first fall of the match.
The second fall starts with more paper cuts, before Ospreay gets lifted onto the apron and placed for a double stomp… but instead he escapes and takes Havoc out with a sunset bomb through a table that had been placed at ringside. Perhaps getting a little too arrogant, Ospreay fires off staples into the crowd, before putting one into the bridge of Havoc’s nose, which bought Will enough time to grab some more plunder – including a chair that he had a little trouble throwing into the ring.
There’s a bag from under the ring, but we all know what’s inside it… drawing pins! Ospreay sits him down and pushes a single pin into Havoc’s forehead, before we’re back to the Brookesings. Another table’s literally thrown into Havoc, as the crowd by the stage were forced to scatter, if only so there was room for two tables to be set up… and abandoned as Will trolled the crowd, before things went ultra serious, as Ospreay dishes out el kabong with a guitar… somehow for a near-fall.
Those drawing pins remain live as Havoc tries to punch Ospreay into them… a double stomp out of the corner does the trick as the human pin-cushion just about kicks out. A roll through death valley driver, a la Haskins, and a PK get another two-count for the bloodied Havoc, who’s quickly thrown back into something from the past as Ospreay fed him drawing pins and slapped them out of his mouth… before a handspring’s caught and turned into a Burning Hammer through a chair for a near-fall. The crowd was starting to a little quiet here as the escalating violence was taking its toll, oohing every time something big happened, like a release suplex through chairs, which Havoc somehow came back from so he could superplex Ospreay into a stack of chairs. Ow. Havoc thought he was about ready to punch his Wembley ticket, but Ospreay ducks an Acid Rainmaker and snatches a backslide to tie-up the match!
Commentary tries to accuse Paul Robinson of some fast-counting on both sides (a officiating whinge that’ll follow into the Germany tour, don’t worry), as the third fall started with an attempt on a Cactus clothesline. It doesn’t quite pull off, but they end up on the apron as Ospreay teases a Storm Breaker, before he clotheslines Havoc back into the ring, only so he could haul him up for a German suplex. That’s avoided, as Havoc boots him off the apron, forcing Ospreay to leap over the table, as both men head up towards the stage. Havoc’s placed across the tables, but Ospreay decides to leap up to the stage… then onto the speaker stack as a Macho Man elbow puts Jimmy through the wood! Ospreay rushes back to the ring, then pulls out a dick move, demanding that the referee starts to count out Havoc – which is within the rules of a no-DQ match, I guess? Havoc trips on the edging of a table but manages to make it back in… only for Ospreay to leap onto him with a pair of shooting star presses for a near-fall!
Next up was something even more dangerous – Ospreay trying to leap off a viewing platform, only for Havoc to catch him on the stairway and bring him down with an Essex Destroyer, which saw both men bounce off the tables. Insert Metallica riff here.
Paul Robinson starts another count-out, but they make it back to the ring as they exchange more strikes, before an OsCutter draws another speedy two-count. Ospreay snaps at that, and shoves down Robinson… who suddenly snaps as Ospreay’s forced to play cat and mouse from a very angry man. All of that backfires as Havoc tried to throw a chair at Ospreay as he got back in the ring, but it hits Robinson… who falls through a table, and therefore can’t count a pin from an Acid Rainmaker. Chris Roberts just about gets there in time to make a two-count, before he’s driven through a table with a death valley driver. Gunshot. The crowd chanted “thank you Jimmy” as Ospreay took Havoc up top… Havoc leaps back over a table but can’t avoid an OsCutter as Paz rushes out to make a count… but Havoc kicks out, and you know what’s next. A shoving fight with Ospreay leads to a powerbomb through another table, and now we’re all out of referees. It’s getting ridiculous, especially as Jim Smallman appears at ringside, and the crowd want him to referee again.
Jim reluctantly gets into the ring as Ospreay dishes out a Rainmaker, but Smallman can only count to two before a kick-out… and he’s instantly backing away! Havoc escapes a Storm Breaker and hits an OsCutter of his own for a near-fall. We’re in with the big guns as an Essex Destroyer has Havoc down for a two-count before Will goes back to his Jump, Tuck, Pray days with a 630 Splash… but Paul Robinson pulls out Jim Smallman as the three count was almost sure to be made. It seemed Robinson wanted to use the axe he’d taken off of Havoc at the start of the match… but instead he turns his sights on Havoc, and then puts the axe down for a scramble. Will gets it, but he’s disarmed as he’s sent into the drawing pins with a death valley driver.
With both men running on fumes, Ospreay lands another Rainmaker, which led to the pair trading the move… until Havoc crotches Will with the axe. One more Rainmaker looked to have Ospreay done… but Paul Robinson curb stomps Havoc into the drawing pins, and there’s your new story. Ospreay, with one eye on Robinson, picks up Havoc for one last Storm Breaker… and gets the win. In terms of story, this ticked all of the boxes. You had your callbacks, your violence, and the definite sense of finality (even if there’s a bit of me that was a little bitter we went down this road again after the Loser Leaves Town match in 2017). That being said, this felt long in places, with the crowd being noticeably silent… and the end of this being “just a bridge” to a relatively smaller feud in PROGRESS history just soured it a little. ***
Post-match, Robinson showed his incredulity at the claims that Havoc and Ospreay “made PROGRESS”, before declaring that the “beast” was right there all along… just they were so concerned with each other, they didn’t notice him. A challenge was issued for Havoc and Robinson for Wembley… and that’s what we sign-off on after Ospreay spares Havoc with the axe,
As a show, PROGRESS’ “go home” for Wembley was one that might not have grabbed everyone’s attention going in, but the spectacular – if not drawn out – main event certainly left a mark. My only issue with it though, was that that main event was used to bridge to a match that, in the grand scheme of things, is a step down storyline wise. Sure, Havoc and Robinson have had that mental no-DQ match, but the overall storyline pales in comparison to the Ospreay feud. It’s almost like they’d already ordered the plunder for Wembley…