Hidden behind the League of Gentleman reference here was a show which saw some returns – and led to the beginning of the end of a fan favourite.

It’s back to the Electric Ballroom for the second PROGRESS show of the year, and you know the drill: Jim Smallman’s funny bits at the start, introducing a new ring canvas, starting straight with the “sliding into my DMs” bit. Unlike last time, we’re not starting with the main event… If anything, we’re starting with a change of plans, as they announced that Mark Andrews picked up an injury the prior night at the NXT UK tapings. Cue Mark Haskins’ music, and the duo of Glen Joseph and Matt Richards on commentary as Glen pulls the “format’s changed” card. Mark Haskins of course wants to wrestle a handicap match, and his wish is granted.

Mark Haskins vs. Do Not Resuscitate (Chuck Mambo & Spike Trivet)
In the pre-match promo, Haskins responded to the crowd’s chants for Jimmy Havoc by saying he was probably drunk. Well, there was a good shot of it being true, I guess…

Haskins starts the match by kicking Spike Trivet in the face. Twice, in fact, as Haskins was a bat out of hell to start the match, wiping out DNR (and a fan) before a bell even rang. When the bell did go, Do Not Resuscitate came out of the blocks well, with Mambo hanging up Haskins in the ropes a la Randy Savage as… yeah, the crowd weren’t buying their offence, choosing to chant in the first instance. Trivet manages to catch Haskins in a Trailer Hitch, grounding Haskins as Mambo lands a top rope elbow for a near-fall as the crowd shifted into trying to gee up Haskins, who then got caught in a Gory stretch… for Trivet to spray champagne at. The crowd wakes up as Haskins fought back, shoving Trivet into Mambo ahead of a Flatliner/side Russian legsweep combo.

A leg lariat from Haskins clocks Trivet ahead of a PK, but loses out on a roll-through death valley driver courtesy of a blind tag from Mambo… who just gets caught in a double-submission with Trivet. The numbers game catches up with Haskins, who eats a boot off the apron from Mambo before Chuck… leaps into his own man. Ah, will they ever do things right? Haskins keeps up the pressure with a tope into DNR, then crushes Mambo with a double stomp for a near-fall. Chops and kicks eventually end when Haskins is caught with a superkick and a Bad Burrito from Mambo, before a step-up back cracker from Spike almost ended it.

An accidental Air Raid Crash from Mambo leaves Trivet down before Mambo ate a death valley driver for a near-fall… from there, a bridging armbar’s broken up by Trivet, who then gets caught in a stacked-up armbar, only for Drew Parker to come in for the cheap DQ. Eh, this was okay, but while DNR aren’t exactly dead in the water, the PROGRESS crowds simply do not buy them as any kind of a threat. Then again, that may never have been the intention… **¾

Post-match, Vicki Haskins slapped Spike Trivet as she tried to get back her barbed wire bat. Spike shoves her down, only for the lights to go out. Live, the Ballroom heard some “real” music… on tape, it’s edited out as the lights come up to greet us with:

A returning Jimmy Havoc! Who came with a chair, wiping out Do Not Resuscitate with a myriad of chairshots to a huge reception. He also has time to finish off Drew, who takes a death valley driver onto the side of two chairs. Ow.

Bea Priestley vs. Millie McKenzie
If you repeat something often enough, it’s quickly dismissed as a formula. For example: the women are the second match.

So, with PROGRESS teasing a four-way women’s match at Super Strong Style 16, this seems to be a “hey, these two may be in that match” encounter, but otherwise there was little obvious at stake here. After suckering in Millie with a handshake, Bea’s dropped with a swinging neckbreaker, only for Priestley to take Millie outside with a dropkick. Bea keeps up with stomps, working on Millie’s arm, before a dropkick hung Millie in the ropes as commentary told us how infrequently Bea appeared on these shows. Millie fought back, but quickly runs into a bicycle knee as Bea rolled Millie into a Rings of Saturn… but Millie gets out and fires back with some of her trademark German suplexes.

Priestley comes back with a Saito suplex, but can’t quite get off the Ocean Cyclone Suplex as Millie wriggled free before a kick exchange ended with a cutter from McKenzie. That gets a delayed near-fall, only for Priestley to come in with a missile dropkick that was almost a double stomp to the face. Another one in the ropes gets a near-fall, only for Millie to catch Bea up top with an avalanche German suplex for a near-fall. The tit-for-tat continued with a backpack stunner from Bea, but that’s still not enough, before a double jump missile dropkick gets countered with a spear in mid-air as Millie picked up the win. Perhaps a little rushed, but the crowd were into this as Millie gets a momentum-building win. **¾

Jim prepares to introduce the next match, another women’s match, but he’s interrupted by Eddie Dennis’ promo time. Presumably he was annoyed at the trope of back-to-back women’s matches? Nah, it’s a veiled shot at Mark Andrews, before he teased challenging someone for a title tonight… then, after dealing with hecklers, just said that he’ll pick his shot. Just in case you forgot he had that title shot in hand.

Jinny vs. Nina Samuels
Cue the jump start, as Nina Samuels kicked the head of Laura di Matteo on the stage and began the fight with Jinny in the aisle.

They brawl towards the ring, with Jinny getting thrown into the ring post… and eventually into the crowd, when Nina reversed an Irish whip, which led to a nasty, face-first landing into the fifth row of chairs. Finally they hit the ring, but Laura di Matteo re-emerged and distracted Nina, which meant we’re still waiting for the bell. Despite Marc Parry calling for the bell, we don’t get one for a while… and FINALLY we’re underway. Jinny takes Nina into the corner for some stomps, before a suplex barely got her a two-count. Samuels tries to fight back, dragging Jinny head-first into the turnbuckles, only for Jinny to come back by sweeping Nina, leading to her head smashing into Jinny’s knee for a near-fall. A Dragon screw keeps Jinny ahead, as she rolled through into the seated surfboard, only for Nina to get an arm free and into the ropes.

A battle of forearms sees Nina edge ahead, before she had to cartwheel off the top rope as she scored a backbreaker on Jinny… then a missile dropkick into the corner. Samuels’ running knees trap Jinny in the corner ahead of a tiltawhirl backbreaker for a near-fall, before Jinny slipped out of a Go To Sleep and ran back in with a ‘rana. One tornado DDT gets a near-fall, before Samuels gets trapped in the corner ahead of a spiking X-Factor… but Nina kicked out! Samuels replies with a delayed double-underhook slam, before Laura returned to distract Nina… that meant a Go To Sleep’s turned into an Acid Rainmaker, but Samuels rolled her up out of nowhere for the win! Nina’s win gets her into the four-way for a shot at Jordynne Grace’s title there – something that was hardly played up on commentary. Hmm. Well, this was fine, but that’s gotta be considered an upset, which the crowd didn’t seem to bite on. **½

Well, with the time allotted, a pair of solid-ish women’s matches, but my word, that division’s on ice right now. Sure, Matt Riddle paraded the Atlas title in the States back in the day, but he was also frequently appearing in PROGRESS on top of that!

Travis Banks vs. Jordan Devlin
The second time this weekend these two matched up, and it’s got a role-reversal too (the first time’s on NXT UK this coming week…). Seems like the Camden crowd love an Irish Ace in their faces?

They have a measured start, swapping wristlocks, only for Devlin to cling onto his as he frustrated the former PROGRESS champion. Banks gets onto the ropes to force a break, as he then slapped Devlin, sparking a nice series that ended with an Air Jordan and a nice back body drop. Cheers, Jordan!

Another clothesline sends Banks sailing to the outside, where he pratfalls into the crowd as commentary played into his old “kick out at one, walk out at ten” act as he tried (and failed) to crowd surf onto the stage. He eventually dragged himself kicking and screaming up there, only to see Jordan met him there, as we’re back in with the pantomime stuff. Banks runs back to the ring after he avoided a package piledriver, as the comedy part of the match ended when Devlin’s latest attempt at a package piledriver ended with Banks back body dropping him to the floor. Around the crowd again, Banks chops Devlin before he stretched his arm around the ringpost… only for Jordan to pull him into the post for the sick Nigel McGuinness bump. Thankfully toned down a little!

Aggressive Banks returned as he tried to choke Devlin out of the ring, stopping to take a bow, then resuming with an armbar as Devlin was slowed down on the mat. Devlin tries to fight back, but his slingshot cutter is caught as Banks charged him onto the apron, only for the slingshot cutter to land regardless… with Banks rolling to the floor to save his skin. A middle rope moonsault to the floor finds its mark on Banks, who somehow found enough in him to fold Devlin inside out with a leaping lariat back inside. Chops and headbutts kept both men on their knees briefly as they remained at close quarters, trading German suplexes before a Kiwi Krusher’s turned into a sheer drop brainbuster by Devlin… who then ate a Kiwi Krusher for a near-fall. We’re back to the trading shots as a bicycle knee’s countered by a Devlin headbutt, who then yanks Banks into the Saito suplex for a near-fall, before TK Cooper and a sorta-debuting NIWA ran in for the DQ. Eh, that’d explain why they never threatened to get into top gear… but two DQs in the first half of the show? ***½

Ring crew members seem to care here as they try to get involved, but are tossed out as commentary tell us that NIWA debuted on the pre-show. He and TK continue to kill the ring crew, as Matt Richards tells us that TK and NIWA (formerly Johnny Idol) laid out Devlin ahead of a Slice of Heaven from Banks… and once they all donned “Kiwi Club” tees, yes, the South Pacific Power Trip are back. Now with less Dahlia, sadly.

Hopefully the next go around of those shirts will have NIWA’s name on it!

The second half of the show opened with a video package: announcing that the next Electric Ballroom show’ll play host to CCK vs. LAX part three. It’s so rare that PROGRESS announce matches like this without feeling the need to make it into a storyline, but I kinda dig the fact they’re completing the trilogy in their “home venue.

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) vs. Swords Of Essex (Paul Robinson & Will Ospreay) (c)
A rematch from Unboxing Live here, with Aussie Open’s win at Chapter 83 seemingly being enough to get them back in the hunt.

As seems to be the norm these days, we had duelling chants for Ospreay as the challengers started out hot, with Paul Robinson taking an assisted standing Iconoclasm – helped by Kyle Fletcher who went out into a tope on Ospreay – for anear-fall. Will Ospreay tries to hit back with a sunset bomb to Mark Davis, but instead gets hurled towards the bar as Paul Robinson was left in there to take a beating. Robinson fights back, but gets dumped with a slam and a back senton before he got a tag out to Ospreay, who quickly low bridged both halves of Aussie Open outside for a Sasuke special. Back inside, a missile dropkick goes through the back of Kyle’s head, which led to Kyle staying down and immobile, as the Swords began to find their way into the match. An elevated splash off the shoulders of Ospreay helps get a two-count as Kyle’s still not moved an inch – but don’t worry, commentary keeps going, so you know it’s not “real”. I guess for the cynics, Glen leaving commentary to tend to injuries is going to become the new “Owen voice” if that ever happens.

Away from the view of the camera, Will Ospreay threw Kyle Fletcher outside… but left himself open for Mark Davis’ chop/clothesline combos, only for Paul Robinson to turn it around as he roughed up Davis some more. A huge back body drop from Davis briefly turned Ospreay back into his old “Sky King” self, but Kyle Fletcher’s still nowhere near being able to tag in, so he’s got to muscle up again with a stacked-up slam to the champions.

Finally Kyle Fletcher gets up and tags himself in, making a beeline for Ospreay… who just chops him. A Destroyer from Fletcher sends Ospreay packing, where he’s quickly met with a step-up cannonball as Kyle flew once more, following in with a Ligerbomb back inside for a near-fall. Chops from Fletcher help him evade Ospreay’s hook kick, but he can’t avoid an enziguiri… regardless, Ospreay’s quickly double-teamed, taking a wheelbarrow suplex into the corner as the Aussies prepared for an assisted cutter. Paul Robinson breaks up the pin and quickly gets hurled outside, before Ospreay snuck out of a Fidget Spinner and clocked the Aussies with a handspring enziguiri. Robinson’s back with chops, only for Mark Davis to stand up through them as he just chopped back harder. I do like Robinson’s sell of that… he’s right back in with a spear off the middle rope for a two-count, before Ospreay makes a save with a Drive By dropkick to catch Davis as he caught Robinson in the corner with sliding forearm.

From there, Ospreay lifts up Davis for an Assault Driver – an Electric Chair driver – as Robinson flies in with a low missile dropkick for another near-fall. Head kicks from the champions follow, before they sidestep Kyle’s attempt to missile dropkick away some more double-teaming… which led to Kyle crashing and burning. A single punch from Davis stops some gloating, before he clotheslined Robinson off of Ospreay’s shoulders as he’s hurked up into a Gold Coast Waterslide… which Robbo counters into a crucifix for a near-fall. Fletcher’s back to catch a springboard out of the corner and brainbuster Robinson to boot, sparking a Parade of Moves that ended with a tornado DDT from Robinson to Davis. Ospreay and Fletcher trade shots as the newly-minted heavyweights looked to prove themselves to each other, only for Kyle to play to the crowd too long and take a hook hick. He manages to counter out of a Storm Breaker, then another as a DDT proved to be the counter, only for Ospreay to come right back with a standing Spanish Fly for another near-fall.

A lawn dart from Fletcher takes Ospreay back into the corner as the Aussies looked to finish off with a Fidget Spinner… but Ospreay kicks out. They tease an elevated Fidget Spinner, but Robinson breaks up the cover. He’s back in to swing and miss with a belt shot, but the loose title belt comes into play as Ospreay tried to use it to stop a pull-up piledriver… only to use a second one as the referee was getting rid of the first belt, and that’s enough for the win. An unpopular finish, but this was a match that was good… then just seemed to keep going. Someone else may phrase this as “lads, you don’t need to have 20 minute epics because “it’s a title match”” – and it reflected in the crowd losing steam towards the end. ****

Post-match, Mark Davis complained about the Swords using the title belts to win… and retain the titles. Despite Kyle’s initial protestations, he then cashed in his Natural PROGRESSion Series win, to set up a TLC match between the two teams on the next chapter show. Jim Smallman made the joke, but please… loan the ladders WWE uses. And for the love of God, get a different table supplier. Or at worst, use doors.

PROGRESS Atlas Championship: Trent Seven (c) vs. Timothy Thatcher
Another chapter, another Trent Seven open challenge – and if I’m making comparisons to Matt Riddle’s reign in this review, here’s another. This feels like they’re just treading water here, since the “big lads” seem to have disappeared.

Today’s open challenger was Timothy Thatcher – a let down for some who were expecting Kassius Ohno to answer it. For some reason Trent Seven had some gauze taped to his ribs, almost like he’d rolled onto some hair straighteners. Not quite personal experience, but usually injured ribs are taped, no? Anyway, we start with Timothy Thatcher grinding his knuckles into Trent’s neck as the early going as he then proceeded to take down Trent in an armbar attempt… only for the champion to roll away. Thatcher keeps up the focus on the arm, but Trent’s having to get to the ropes to save himself, as Thatcher was giving him little to do but defend himself.

A chop attempt’s just laughed off. Well, it would have been if Thatcher laughed. So Trent just throws some more, including one to the thigh as a DDT led to a quick two-count. Seven followed in with a legdrop for another near-fall, before they headed outside, where Trent matched Thatcher’s strikes… until he reached the part of the match where he chops the ringpost. NOW THATCHER SMILES. Masochist.

Back inside, some belly-to-belly suplexes leave Trent on his knees, before Thatcher removed the bandage that was covering Trent’s ribs. Cue kicks and stomps to the exposed area, as Thatcher resumed his dismantling of the champion. Trent manages to hit back as he countered out of a suplex, but Thatcher’s right back in with an uppercut… only for Trent to respond with a chop. Uppercuts and chops break through the atmosphere, until Trent ducked an enziguiri and tries to lock up Thatcher in an enziguiri. Thatcher tries to slap his way free, eventually punching Seven flat on the mat as he was able to undo the hold himself. Rather than go for a pin straight away, Thatcher tries to keep up the offence as we’re back to uppercuts and enziguiri, knocking Trent down for a near-fall.

A spinning backfist from Trent gave him another opening, with a Dragon suplex and an Emerald Fusion in quick succession leading to a near-fall, before a clothesline dumped Thatcher out to the floor. A low-pe’s next, before Trent crashed and burned with… a Whisper in the Wind?! That is not a typo, folks!

Thatcher capitalises with a palm strike to the face for a near-fall, before Thatcher clawed away at the exposed ribs… ribs that had a rather Dusty Rhodes-like splotch on them. The Trent Crossbody’s next, almost out of desperation, but Thatcher rolls through into a Fujiwara armbar, only for Trent to roll through too, catching Thatcher with a piledriver for a near-fall. A lariat’s next, folding Thatcher in half, before a Burning Hammer proved to be enough for the win. This was a nice bit of graps, but marred by a lack of crowd reaction throughout – the open challenge concept is good, but without any long-term story, it’s just a glorified exhibition match in this environment. ***½

PROGRESS World Championship: Chris Ridgeway vs. WALTER (c)
Video packages and social media stuff going into this one perhaps made some think that Chris Ridgeway had more than a puncher’s chance… then they just seemed to lean into it way too much.

WALTER tries to assert himself on Ridgeway early, throwing some forearms to the back before he looked to lift Ridgeway onto the apron… following in with a really patronising pat on the head. That lit a fire under the challenger, whose strikes looked to wear down WALTER, with a cartwheel kick taking the Austrian outside, as Ridgeway looked to be making the most of his chance. Except a rear naked choke’s thrown away, before Ridgeway’s attempt to do the RINGKAMPF pose just ended with his head getting kicked off. Yeah, don’t do that.

WALTER puts himself ahad with slams and side headlocks as he tried to squeeze the life out of Ridgeway, before we finally got those gunshot chops. Oof. Ridgeway tries in vain to resist a Boston crab, but WALTER just rolls him over with ease, before Ridgeway looked to fight back with kicks, trapping WALTER into the corner before he just got shoved away. WALTER snaps back, lifting him up top for a choke across the top turnbuckle, but he’s still got plenty left to kick away at WALTER, finally chopping out his legs with those toe kicks as WALTER fell to the mat. Ridgeway can’t quite capitalise though, as he has to trap WALTER in the ropes and corner with more kicks before a Shibata-ish dropkick found its mark. An attempted comeback from WALTER’s avoided when Ridgeway leaps over a shotgun dropkick and turns it into a double stomp on the way down, but it’s not enough to put the champion in any danger.

Ridgeway keeps up the pressure with an ankle lock, but WALTER rolls free and nails a German suplex to get some space. The champion’s back with a powerbomb, but Ridgeway countered into a guillotine choke… only for WALTER to counter the counter into a tombstone, except he landed badly on his knee, which just exacerbated the damage Ridgeway’s kicks had caused earlier. WALTER’s back with chops though, only for an axe kick from Ridgeway and a PK to get him back into the match. Just about. Ridgeway goes back to WALTER’s leg with a knee bar… except WALTER’s able to use his height advantage to counter out with a sleeperhold, forcing Ridgeway to let go of the leg. A powerbomb’s next from WALTER as he just rolls Ridgeway back into the Boston crab, then lets go so he can flip into a STF,

Ridgeway gets to the ropes, but he’s sent back into them with a chop before he slipped out of a sit-out tombstone attempt, this time to trap WALTER in a rear naked choke… which WALTER broke by climbing the ropes and falling backwards. Somehow Ridgeway’s back with a dropkick that sent WALTER into the ropes for a German suplex, but WALTER just hits back with a simple lariat for the win. Huh. Well, the clothesline was the deathblow, but Chris Ridgeway didn’t exactly leave WALTER standing tall as all those kicks left WALTER struggling to stand. Perhaps, vulnerable? ***¾

Speaking of “picking spots”, that was the cue for Trent Seven’s music to hit as a similarly beat-up Atlas champion shuffled to the ring with his belt in hand. Trent had a message for WALTER, which included mentioning some folks who aren’t around anymore… before “on his own” Trent told us: he wanted to dominate PROGRESS “on my own. That’s a challenge to WALTER then, as Trent wanted to unify the Atlas and PROGRESS World titles at Super Strong Style 16. Well, that’s certainly a call, particularly since the Atlas division has been just existing since WALTER gave up the belt a year ago.

Since this has long been a bug bear of ours – a huge thumbs up to whatever they’ve done to sort out the audio levels here. There were some parts where commentary peaked, but I assume having someone monitoring audio levels throughout the show worked. Everyone doing live commentary: take notice! Chapter 84 was a decent show, but one that lacked the banger of a match that’d make people sit up and take notice of the card. The first three matches on the show were fine, but won’t be anything you’ll remember once you turn off the VOD, and a lot of that is down to two things: credibility and direction. There’s been stronger critics of the PROGRESS Women’s division than us, but without the champion having any sort of a presence on these shows, it all feels rather rudderless – like there’s little obvious reason to care about the token second match on the card. Now we’re building towards a four-way at Super Strong Style 16, it ought to pick up, but crowds caring about wrestlers isn’t something you can turn on and off like a light switch. Builds have to be measured, intentional and – most crucially – organic.

That last bit is sadly becoming a theme: there’s a lot of these shows that come across as patterned when you watch it on VOD. This isn’t the PROGRESS of old, where the “cool vibe” was around, with a crowd hanging on every word. Not to say that this is a rotten product, far from it, but understandably the post-Wembley PROGRESS does seem to have turned a lot of people off. Still, at least they’ve been able to end the run of slow sell-outs in Camden, thanks in no small part to two massive tag team matches being announced for the show on March 31. Yeah, the days of quick sell-outs on the brand-name alone seem to be behind us, but it’s nice to see the return to same-afternoon sell-outs after a couple of slow shows. One last thing: you know the show name’s horrid when they don’t say it at all. On commentary, nor on the house mic.