It’s back to the Ballroom for what – on paper, at least – looked to be a weaker show as PROGRESS opted to, ahem, progress some stories at Chapter 79.

You know the drill here, we’ve got Jim Smallman’s opening shtick… and he’s dressed up like this show’s in the outdoors. Apparently the Ballroom forgot to turn off the air conditioning… Once we get past the usual stuff, including fans who travelled from the other side of the world, it’s time to the in-ring stuff! Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are on commentary, as usual…

Mark Andrews vs. Jordan Devlin
Well, Mark Andrews has been more accustomed to looking at the lights as of late – a quick check shows it’s been over 18 months since Mark won a singles match at the Electric Ballroom.

Despite being portrayed on NXT UK TV as a bad guy, the “Irish Ace” Devlin got a loud pop upon his entrance, and this match hardly had the “fast and furious” start that commentary built up, as we had a rather more measured opening, with Andrews and Devlin working around a wristlock as the crowd were losing their minds.

Things settled down in the crowd as Devlin and Andrews worked into some indy’riffic pins, before Andrews got suckered in with a handshake as he’s pulled into a uranage, then a standing moonsault for a near-fall. Andrews tries to fight back with forearms, but he’s quickly grounded and pulled into a Romero special that he leans back out of as we almost got a double pin. A surfboard stretch is next as commentary pondered if Andrews had fallen behind the times… that’d be a curious angle to go down if he hadn’t been losing more often than not for the last two years! Andrews manages to get free of the stretch as he begins to mount a comeback, sliding under a mid kick before clocking Devlin with an enziguiri.

A springboard’s caught and turned into a wheelbarrow German suplex from Devlin, before a second wheelbarrow actually followed through as Andrews lands the bulldog for a near-fall. Andrews looks to flip, but a standing corkscrew press is blocked by Devlin’s knees, before Andrews nailed a Code Red for another two-count… only for Devlin to match him with a slingshot cutter for a near-fall.

Mark Andrews manages to hit back with a Stundog Millionaire, but Devlin stops a shooting star press by kicking him on the top rope. A reverse ‘rana off the top rope looked to have gotten Andrews back into it after they fought on the top rope, but again Devlin rolls away as Andrews looked for the shooting star press. There’s a jack-knife cover as Andrews got suckered in for the pin, but after the kick-out he’s met with a superkick, a backdrop suplex and finally the Fireman’s carry slam – dubbed Ireland’s Call – for the win. This was a heck of an opening match, starting slowly and building up to a nice crescendo; but it’s a bit odd they’re doing the “Mark Andrews is losing a lot” when that’s unofficially been his gimmick for a while now. ***½

Before the next match, they announce that Millie McKenzie’s injured – so the advertised three-way is going to be Isla Dawn vs. Jordynne Grace.

Nina Samuels & Charlie Morgan vs. Laura di Matteo & Jinny
Guess what? It’s another women’s match that’s on second! Built on the events of Wembley, we had a pretty big cheer for the newly-turned Charlie Morgan. Poor Nina was almost overshadowed… unlike in another promotion! Meanwhile, Jinny and Laura came out together to catcalls.

There’s a jump start as Nina and Charlie attach Jinny and Laura before the bell, and it’s all rather Suzuki-gun as all four women brawled outside the ring. Nina broke the count, but returned outside as only referee Paz stood in the ring… all while Jinny frustratedly tried to clear the crowd… and eventually got thrown five rows deep from a reversed Irish whip.

Back nearer the ring, a baseball slide dropkick from Nina sent Jinny back into the front row, before Laura di Matteo offered a distraction as Jinny got up and press slammed Samuels off the top rope. That was the turning point as Jinny took Nina into the corner for some stomps, before Laura came in for a low dropkick that kept Samuels winded en route to a two-count. Jinny looked to keep Nina isolated, kicking Morgan off the apron before she missed a charge into the corner.

Jinny quickly recovers with a ‘rana as we wash, rinse and repeat, en route to a Shibata-ish dropkick in the corner as Samuels almost took the fall. A suplex from Samuels gets countered into a guillotine from Jinny, but Nina manages to reverse back into the suplex to get free, as she manages to bring Charlie Morgan in finally. There’s an enziguiri and a springboard crossbody to di Matteo for barely a one-count, before Charlie headed up top for a senton bomb that just about finds its mark for a near-fall. Jinny pulls out Charlie as she looked for a double-team, and Laura quickly hits back with a springboard DDT as we burst into a Parade of Moves, ending with an Acid Rainmaker to Charlie, and a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Nina to Jinny.

All four women fought back to their feet, where another DDT from Morgan looked to put away Laura… but Jinny breaks it up and gets tossed to the outside. Nina looked to go for a Go To Sleep, but she loses her footing and staggered into a newly-tagged Jinny, who catches her quickly with a ripcord Koppo kick for the win. She didn’t look to get all of it there, but that ticks the box of “beat your former partners” in a match that was largely even until then. I’d like to think there’s more juice left in this, but the commentary (that was overpowered once again by music) suggested otherwise. **¾

Drew Parker vs. Jimmy Havoc
So, Drew Parker’s appearance at the last Camden show was followed by some cryptic comments, suggesting that he was part of a group of wrestlers unhappy with the old guard in PROGRESS. Some may say he has something to prove. Or the opposite… Havoc came out with an axe and jumped Parker before the bell. Jim Smallman stayed in the ring because he needed Havoc to tell him to leave under a threat of murder. The crowd chanted that as an Acid Rainmaker wiped out Parker, and just as we had the always-realistic threat of axe violence, Spike Trivet came from the crowd and laid out Havoc with a chair!

More chairshots from Trivet follow as the Deathmatch Kids were stopped by Chuck Mambo and the ridiculously-suited William Eaver. Glen Joseph called on commentary that Havoc’s trainees saved him… but then they turned on him, as a Clothesline from Heaven laid out Havoc as Mambo got in on it too, giving an Acid Rainmaker too. Totally oversold on commentary, of course. Eaver bends a chair over Havoc as we’re told these “new, young, hungry wrestlers” were decimating Havoc. At least one of those words may be overblown, although I did like the barrage of chairshots, and the powerbomb onto chairs by Eaver as the quartet did a four-limb Pillmanising onto Havoc. Who then left under his own steam once Parker stole the axe. LUMBERJACK DREW PARKER… eh, it’s got more legs than EC-Drew, I guess.

So… no match, but the character refreshes of Eaver and Mambo, whose characters in PROGRESS were getting stale truth be told, was worthwhile.

…and now, the show goes on as normal, well, once Paz has picked up the sunglasses that Jimmy snapped in two. Someone watched Raw.

Isla Dawn vs. Jordynne Grace
This was Grace’s UK chapter debut, having previously worked the Coast to Coast tour of the States… and given the news that broke earlier in the day regarding NXT UK, this was a very intriguing match between wrestlers contracted to WWE and Impact.

Grace came across like a star on her UK debut, and she was right in with her power game, charging Dawn into the corner before blasting through the Scotswoman with a shoulder charge. There’s more of those for Isla as we get an early near-fall, but she’s back in with a double stomp as she turned the match around, grounding Grace with a Japanese strangle hold. The hold’s reversed as Grace backed into the corner, but she’s rolled out as Dawn’s series of kicks had Jordynne back on the defensive. Grace snuffs that out with a spinebuster, but there’s no cover, and we’re back with strikes until Grace easily slammed Dawn. Isla’s back with more strikes but she’s spiked with a Michinoku driver.

A barrage of clotheslines batters Dawn, who replied with a Saito suplex and a bicycle knee for a near-fall, as the even mature broke down into some indy’riffic pins. Dawn bridges with a half-and-half suplex for an impressive near-fall, only for Jordynne to respond by throwing her into the corner as she opened with another barrage – first some double knees, then a sliding forearm before a Vader bomb to the back left Dawn down. From there, Jordynne lifts her up into a bearhug, and there’s the submission! This was as close to a squash as you’re going to get in a division that’s got no dominant force right now – although on this evidence, it’s clear that PROGRESS are looking to make Jordynne Grace “the man”. **½

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Trent Seven (c) vs. Kyle Fletcher
The Open Challenge continued, with Trent’s opponent this time not being the much-mooted PCO, but instead… Kyle Fletcher?!

I’ll not harp on the point, but you know the thing with the music? Had the old Aussie Open theme been used, I’m pretty sure you’d have had people losing their mind thinking Mark Davis was cashing in, rather than the bemused “huh, whose music is that?” looks we got on everyone’s faces. It was only when the Aussie Open video appeared that people popped… then dampened a little when it twigged that Mark Davis was not in his gear, instead opting for a commentary gig.

We start with a tie-up as the newly-heavyweight Fletcher tried to impose himself on Trent. On commentary, Mark Davis went for the Josh Bodom route, saying that Kyle had bulked up without losing speed or agility, but we’re in with shoulder tackles as both men refused to budge. Eventually Kyle edged ahead, before he was crushed with the retiring cross body for a near-fall. Sound mixing becomes an issue as commentary became a strain to hear as Fletcher grounds Trent, only for it to almost backfire as a roll-up gets the champion a near-fall while the pace remained deliberately slow. There’s a big chop from Trent, but Kyle just seems to absorb it before he issues a receipt, which has Trent doubling over in agony before he went a smidgen high on his return.

Kyle’s sent into the corner as Trent’s chops are already marking him up, but a Quebrada catches Trent off guard for a near-fall. Fletcher tries to kick away from a figure four, and succeeds as he maintained control, knocking Trent down with a back elbow for a delayed two-count. Chops seemed to be Trent’s way back into the match, with one of them suckering Kyle in for a DDT, before eventually working his way into a Figure Four. Kyle tries to fight out of it, but he’s chopped – while still in the hold – before he rolls Trent over… only to get flipped back as the champion ends up rolling into the ropes. On the apron, Kyle blocks a chop as he tries to clothesline Trent back over the ropes, before he instead was caught with a Dragon suplex onto the apron. Ow.

Kyle somehow gets back in with a low-pe and a dropkick to keep Trent outside, before a step-up flip senton collided with Trent on the floor. Back in the ring, Kyle keeps the pressure up with a running boot in the corner before he looked for Snake Eyes… only for Trent to slip out into another Dragon suplex. Fletcher’s back up with a superkick before lawn darting Trent into the corner for a near-fall. Another attempt at the retiring crossbody’s caught and turned into a Michinoku driver as the crowd believed they may just see a shock… but Trent got up in the nick of time. Keeping up the pressure, Fletcher lands a forearm, before he’s met with a backfist and a Rainmaker for a near-fall, as Trent looked to finish him off with a Burning Hammer.

Kyle’s added heft causes Trent problems, as he slipped out and went after the knee brace of Trent before he teases a Ganso bomb?! No! He turns it into a powerbomb for a near-fall as Trent had to fight back… and fight back he did as he took Fletcher up top and threatened a super Dragon suplex… and got it! Fletcher flips on the landing, but still kicks out before Trent goes back to the Figure Four for the submission. A valiant effort from Fletcher here, who somehow established himself as a heavyweight in a company that really only delineated the big men (as opposed to having separate junior/heavy divisions). Still, this match’ll make you open your eyes if you were ever thinking of pegging Kyle as the “Marty Jannetty” if Aussie Open were to split… ***¾

After the interval adverts, we’re back as someone’s made a “HIYA” shirt in the vein of the Barack Obama “HOPE” poster. There are no words.

Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.) vs. Team Tremendous (Bill Carr & Dan Barry)
If you’re Jim Cornette, or more a fan of strait-laced stuff, perhaps skip this match, eh?

Disappointingly, the camera crew barely show us the homage to Police Squad that was Team Tremendous’ entrance video… while the crowd’s reaction wasn’t exactly in the same league as anything on the Emerald Isle. I guess that’s what people mean by the criticism of “the Camden crowd feels like they have to react”? So we start with Dunne mocking Dan Barry for not having a badge, with claims of “the airline lost it” weren’t exactly believed. Fortunately, they let this all breathe early, rather than bludgeon us with the subtlety hammer before the bell, as we start with Dan Barry easing into a side headlock… and there’s the hammer.

Dunne reaches into the ropes to break a side headlock, but it leads to a pratfall as both side’s big men tagged in to trade shoulder tackles as we broke into “big lad’s lucha”. Carr lands a ‘rana… and a kip up… and this is an easy crowd, as seen by Dan Barry doing laps of the ring. From there, we break out into chops, except Santos found his flak jacket wasn’t exactly useful, as he needed a hug.

Dunne’s back in and he tastes a chop too, prompting Santos to pull out the No Fun Gun. Dan Barry tries to talk him down, but the comedy continues as he’s disarmed, only for Dunne to kick it away as we’re all about the improv. It leads to a member of ring crew getting shot, complete with the ketchup blood as the crowd turned a blind eye. With the weaponry put away, a match broke out, including Dan Barry’s kip-up suplex and a tope (this time not seeing him catch himself in the ropes!), but he’s one-upped by a flying Santos… and I tune out for a spell because of Muttley on commentary. Bill Carr busts out a Black Hole Slam to Santos, and the clearing crowd tips off what’s next… Dan Barry sizing up for a tope con giro, before Carr hits an even bigger version!

Back in the ring, a double-team lungblower gets a near-fall when Santos trips Carr to break up the cover. There’s a handspring kick into the ropes from Santos to knock Carr to the floor, before Santos tagged back in as the Anti-Fun Police took over, with Carr just hurling Dunne onto a cover to break it up. There’s a Parade of Moves from there, ending with a clothesline from Carr to Santos, before Dunne’s attempt to rough up the big man ended with him leaping into a one-handed Black Hole Slam, as a Doomsday Sliced Break should have ended things… but Santos saves his Capitan!

From there, Santos drops Carr with a Big Ending, then Barry with a Deep Six, before a double-team wheelbarrow/lungblower gets the AFP the win. This was really enjoyable if you can tune out the commentary… they didn’t go overboard with the comedy, at least in execution. **½

Eddie Dennis vs. Mark Haskins
So off the back of his speech here last time out, Eddie’s now being treated like a good guy. Either that, or Camden really likes the dragon onesie!

We’ve duelling chants to start this match between two of PROGRESS’ stalwarts, and it’s a tempered start as Eddie’s search for a headlock ended in nought. Some ground work just ends with Eddie taking Haskins to the corner as he put the boots to him. There’s a turnaround as Haskins heads out with a tope… then his misdirection tope as he ended up tossing Eddie into the crowd.

Back in the ring, Haskins heads up top but misses a stomp before he ran into a uranage from Eddie, who found the mark with his knee for a two-count. Whips into the corner keep Eddie ahead, before a cravat keeps Haskins at bay. Dennis tries to wrench the head off of Haskins’ neck with that hold, but the former PROGRESS champion fights back… and ends up taking a cravat suplex for his woes. Another cravat has Haskins grasping for the ropes as Eddie stood tall. Well, at least until one of his kicks was caught and turned into a Dragon screw by Haskins. He followed up with a leg lariat as Haskins keeps up the momentum… until he’s caught with a forearm from Eddie! A knee to the gut keeps the momentum poised as neither man could hold the lead… until Eddie lands a Severn Bridge buckle bomb and a clothesline to leave both men down.

They fight back their feet, where Haskins edged ahead as he trapped Eddie in a crossface as the submission game was getting him back into it… as were some well placed kicks to the legs. Eddie blocks a roll-through Sharpshooter and counters with a swinging side slam for a near-fall before another crack at the Severn Bridge was countered into a ‘rana… which is rolled through as Haskins instead nails a rolling death valley driver for a two-count!

Heading up top, Haskins gets caught… but he tries to fight out and gets superplex for his troubles, before another Severn Bridge rudely dumps Haskins in the buckles, as the Next Stop Driver earned Eddie another near-fall! The duelling chants intensify as Eddie pulls up Haskins, but ends up getting caught in a Sharpshooter as Eddie needed the ropes. A double stomp follows for another near-fall, as Eddie kicks out and counters into a crucifix for the flash pin. A hell of a match here, as two guys whom could well have been in the firing line as part of a refresh of the roster pulled out all the stops. Make time to watch this one again! ***¾

Post-match Haskins offers a handshake, but the quartet of Mambo, Eaver, Parker and Trivet storm the ring as the PROGRESS version of Nothing to Prove laid out the pair. Vicki Haskins tries to get involved, threatening them with her baseball bat from the apron, but Spike Trivet grabs the bat by the barbs and wrestles it away from Vicki. Well, if his hand isn’t bleeding, that’s that exposed. Where’s the Stunt Granny?!

David Starr vs. Travis Banks
Coming off the back of Manchester, where Travis Banks ran in and ruined the Starr/Dragunov match, we’ve got this one where Camden get to hear David Starr’s new theme. It’s not Joan Jett, but it’s not awful either.

It was a first match back at the Ballroom for Banks since losing the title back in July, and he’s jumped in the aisle by Starr, who met him with punches and chops as the crowd got an up-close-and-personal view of Trav’s new gear. Starr’s thrown into the ring, but a springboard lariat keeps Banks outside for a wicked tope suicida as Starr ran wild!

Another tope from Starr goes amiss as Banks connected with his as that poor bugger in a David Starr shirt suddenly had a new friend. The pair continue to trade chops around ringside as the referee didn’t think about a count, nor anything else really as Banks sets up some chairs, before clocking Starr with an apron PK. Those chairs quickly came into play as Starr’s thrown onto them with a belly-to-belly suplex, as the former PROGRESS champion looked somewhat comfortable.

Starr tried to fight back with chops, but Banks had more in his tank, before the endless series of back and forth chops saw the pair mark each other up. Well, Starr did under his chest hair… and before long we started trading off snapmares and PKs before Banks lands a diving knee to end the series. Banks trips Starr into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick to the back of the head, then a German suplex out of the corner for a near-fall. Starr replied with a Han Stansen lariat that took Banks down to his knees, before another chop battle saw the pair whale away on each other. Duelling German suplexes are next, before another Han Stansen from Starr led to the pair firing up… and collapsing to the mat in unison!

The blurry cam shows us a springboard stomp as Starr was caught in the corner, before Banks rolled over into a rear naked choke as he tried to force a submission. Starr stands up and flips Banks free before going into a crossface… but an attempt to block a hand from the ropes allowed Banks to counter into a Lion’s Clutch. There’s another escape as Starr sizes up for a Product Placement, only to have to go for a discus forearm before the Product Placement is rolled through as we got some pinning attempts then a double stomp from Banks.

Starr catches Banks up top with a dropkick and looked to bring him down with a superplex… but he’s shoved down as Banks gets a springboard double stomp in for a two-count. A rude Blackheart Buster dumps Banks on his head for a near-fall as Starr surged ahead, throwing all he had at the Kiwi, including a back elbow and a Han Stansen, before a second Han Stansen’s stopped with a Slice of Heaven for the win. If you can take out the initial brawl, this was a hell of a match. Thing is, with all of the rumours circulating on show day, I’m not sure what a win for banks does if he’s supposedly not going to be available. We shall see… ****

Post-match, Banks beats Starr down again before he went after the ring crew like a Kiwi Minoru Suzuki. Starr fought back with that Han Stansen, sending Banks packing.

Held amid a torrent of rumour and speculation, this was definitely a show where PROGRESS were laying the foundations for whatever lays ahead. The formation of “PROGRESS’ Nothing to Prove” certainly gives the roster a jolt, even if it does give the crowd a strong whiff of similar groups from ATTACK! and Fight Club Pro. With the Atlas belt the only title on show, we weren’t having a litany of title defences, nor were we greeted with matches that set up for anything stunningly obvious, perhaps aside from the (since-booked) Banks/Dragunov match for this coming weekend. With the lay of the land on the Britwres scene looking set to change, we may well be in for some of these “placeholder” shows until things calm down – but at least for now, the quality of the show isn’t changing, even if there appears to be little general direction when it comes to the titles.