PROGRESS’ latest show may have bemoaned the end of a one-man cabaret, but ended up hosting an unexpected farewell.

We’ve got a sold-out Electric Ballroom for this, in spite of EVE’s WrestleQueendom happening elsewhere in town. As ever, Jim Smallman’s your host (but not for next month…), as he led an applause for Lionheart. Glen Joseph and Matt Richards are on live commentary.

NIWA vs. Rickey Shane Page
This was the main chapter debut of NIWA, who’s been the “third man” in the latest go around of the South Pacific Power Trip.

The early going saw NIWA try to out-wrestle Page, but the American had the clear size advantage, which came into play. Page was also adept at lucha-stylings, as we saw with an armdrag/roll-up combo before he took the long way around into a crucifix cover for a near-fall. Page upped the ante, throwing NIWA across the ring with ease, before a snap slam earned a quick two-count. TK Cooper interfered to help turn things around as NIWA dropkicked Page off the apron, then followed up with a tope as things started to get rather more violent. Like with a basement dropkick to a cornered Page…

TK Cooper and Travis Banks were helping NIWA whenever and wherever they could, but RSP was able to find a way back in, building up to a senton bomb for a near-fall. NIWA took Page into the corner himself, following up with a Quebrada then a superplex, before Travis and TK popped up once again just as Page was looking to be home free… and NIWA gets the win with a lariat. So that’s his finish, eh? A perfectly fine opener, and at least NIWA is on the board, even if this wasn’t convincing for the character. **¾

Paz finally nails a 619… he’ll be making his wrestling debut soon enough!

Brent Banks vs. Jordan Devlin
Banks got what could barely be described as a polite reaction for his chapter debut as the issues of PROGRESS’ changing crowd and/or bringing in folks with little profile in Europe came to the fore. I swear the few dozen who saw him in that barn in Milton Keynes a fortnight earlier made a little more noise…

Against Jordan Devlin, I doubt anybody gave Banks a hope in hell – especially since Devlin was still smarting from losing the Super Strong Style 16 final. This was originally an excuse for commentary to plug PROGRESS’ tour of Canada in August, but the work between the pair was as solid as you’d expect. Banks tried to force a pin out of Devlin with a knuckle lock, only for the Irishman to power up and monkey flip his way free… with Banks sticking the landing on his feet. The Canadian continued to impress, taking Devlin outside for a monstrous tope con giro, but Devlin eventually found his way back in with a wheelbarrow/stomp combination.

The Air Jordan followed for a two-count, so Devlin took it outside for another moonsault but Banks wasn’t done yet, as he fought back again with uppercuts and a Michinoku driver, before a reverse DDT was fought out of. A Blue Thunder Bomb catches Devlin unawares, as does a sliding Flatliner, but Devlin cuts him off with another Air Jordan. An attempted Devlinside’s countered with a Destroyer, then a lifting reverse DDT as Devlin got spiked for a near-fall. Devlin grabs the ropes to save himself from an Alabama Slam, swinging it around into a Destroyer before the Devlinside put Banks away. This was a fun outing for Devlin, who had to put up a surprising fight against Banks, who began to win some of the crowd over by the end. ***½

Lana Austin vs. Candy Floss
This was Lana’s second appearance in PROGRESS, having appeared on their show in Manchester last November, while shockingly, this’d also be Candy’s singles debut on a chapter show. Her “main show” debut was in 2017, which says a lot about the division…

If you’re talking about the last time she just wrestled a match for PROGRESS, barring the 80s show, you’re going back to last August. Yikes. Candy started out by taking Lana down in a hammerlock, before she frustrated Lana with…a hug. When Lana looked to go for a leg spreader, Candy just popped up into an armbar, before the pair headed outside. Back inside, Candy again focused on Lana’s arms, eventually rolling her back into a myriad of armbars, which Austin eventually broke up with a powerbomb.

Austin began to fight back, but with a bad arm her offence was limited. She couldn’t block a roll-through into a stomp as Candy cornered her with a low dropkick, before it was back to the arm, eventually prompting Lana to break free and level Candy with a rolling elbow for a near-fall. Heading to the apron, Candy manages to fight back in with a sunset flip before… yes, that armbar again, and this time Lana taps. This felt more like a placeholder since little to no mention was made of the women’s champion, or indeed how this’d fit in the title race. **½

After the match, Austin and Candy hug before the lights go out… they come back up with both women frozen in the ring because music’s playing… and out comes Holidead. She’d been announced for the Newcastle/Manchester shows the following weekend, but she’s here a week early, and nobody seems to know who she is. Clotheslines from Holidead deck Candy and Lana, before a swinging Air Raid Crash and Angels Wings followed up respectively. There’s a sprinkling of boos, but I wonder how many from Camden will be going up North for the follow-up matches?

Dan Moloney & Trent Seven vs. Latin American Exchange (Ortiz & Santana)
You have to think this was meant to be some form of CCK vs. LAX – part three… but Kid Lykos’ retirement and Chris Brookes’ tour of Japan meant that we got this instead, with Dan Moloney perhaps a little rusty on being a replacement Tyler Bate here. Give it time…

In fairness, Trent & Dan were the first of the teams on this card that paid tribute to the original season of NXT, as Moloney’s spot in September’s Natural Progression Series one-day tournament came after he’d been picked by Trent. Even though he’s hardly new in PROGRESS, being a former Atlas title contender and all. Santana and Moloney start us off as the early exchanges saw LAX take a lead, with a step-up back senton and a falling headbutt putting Dan in trouble early on. Back rakes didn’t help, before Moloney scored with a dropkick to Ortiz, then booted a springboarding Santana down to the floor.

Trent initially struggled to keep the momentum up, but took down Ortiz with the comedy crossbody for a two-count as not-quite Moustache Mountain began to work well together. At least until Trent tried to rip off Ortiz’s leaping headbutt, as he just fell flat on his face. Trent’s accuracy continued to fail him as he chopped the ring post on the outside, leading to Santana howling at him from the relative safety of the apron. The comedy continued as Trent “had trouble putting on a rear naked choke” as he tried to stop Ortiz from making a tag. Still, at least he had Moloney to pick up the slack, but a slam quickly put Seven back down before Santana made the tag back in to continue wearing down the former Atlas champion. A suplex got a delayed two-count as LAX were doing their damndest to keep Trent in there.

Ortiz repeatedly knocks Moloney off the apron, which’ll only backfire eventually. In the meantime, Trent found some luck as he sidestepped a charging Santana before dumping LAX with suplexes and an Emerald Flowsion… Eventually Moloney tagged back in as he tried to chop through LAX, while dishing out a nice back body drop to Santana. A blind tag meant that a pop-up powerbomb to Ortiz was for nought though, as LAX found a way back in, focusing this time on Moloney. There’s a sweet Alley Oop from Santana to Moloney, but Trent’s quickly in with a tornado DDT to stop the threat, as all four men slugged it out.

Dragon suplexes put LAX down, as Moloney’s Dominator/piledriver combo should have put Ortiz away… but Santana’s own powerbomb broke it up. Again, LAX looked to focus on Moloney, eventually landing a Tower of London for a near-fall, before LAX put him away with a double-team hiptoss facebuster. That felt a little out of nowhere, but this was a pretty good tag match that seemed to lead up to LAX getting into the tag title picture. Unlike how I’d expect some entrants in the NPS to be presented, Moloney was treated as virtually on the same level as everyone else here – with no sign of him being “naive” or lacking experience. That’s encouraging… ***½

After interval, Jim Smallman announced that he’d not be hosting July’s show in Camden. His replacement? Not Kid Lykos, because “he’s too good”… not NXT UK’s Andy Shepard… it’s Eddie Dennis.

Then we had the arrival of Flash Morgan Webster and Wild Boar, as the 198 addressed their kidnapping of the PROGRESS tag titles at Super Strong Style 16. Flash brought up the old song that PROGRESS used to play, as he talked about his rise in PROGRESS, from the Natural PROGRESSion Series at the Garage, through to the top. There’s not many of that club here…

Especially when you limit to “originals who’ve not won titles in PROGRESS.” In fact, it’s just two: Flash and Boar. Unfortunately, while they seemed to have been on a collision course for a “fair” title shot, fate intervened, as Flash announced that he dislocated his shoulder at an ATTACK show six weeks ago. It’s the same shoulder he did years ago, and it’s potentially a career-ending injury. So, Flash and Boar handed the title back over to Aussie Open, as Flash said what may well have been a final farewell to PROGRESS.

As soon as the 198 left, Aussie Open were jumped by the South Pacific Power Trip. Travis Banks cut a promo, saying that when he was champion, “this place sold out”. TK’s promo shed a little light on how PROGRESS seemingly booked him to stop him doing a “big reveal”, which may or may not ever get referred to again, as the Kiwis tried to leave with the titles, only to get goaded into a title match by the rightful champions.

David Starr & The OJMO vs. Shigehiro Irie & WALTER
This was meant to have been another NXT tribute match, but travel issues meant that WALTER’s selection for the Natural PROGRESSion Series (Veit Müller) couldn’t make it to London. Step forward his replacement… Shigehiro Irie, the man WALTER first brought to PROGRESS at the end of 2018 as a chosen opponent.

Going by OTT math, this is #27 in David Starr’s search for a win over WALTER. Extra kudos for Starr freaking out to the music again, as he then proceeded to trash talk WALTER during the intros. Interestingly, WALTER threw down the PROGRESS belts for his intro, and chose to hold the WWE strap aloft. Perhaps he’s been told off for something…

Unlike with Dan Moloney in the previous match, OJMO was shown as perhaps needing some help if Starr’s request to tag in against Irie was anything to go by. Still, at least Starr managed some offence, trapping Irie in a seated surfboard before he had to roll away from a slingshot splash as both men tried to stay a step ahead of each other. Tags took us to OJMO and WALTER… and yeah. OJMO has a death wish. WALTER just flings him to the mat with a headlock takedown, before he patronisingly lifted him onto the apron. The ROAR OJMO got when he slapped WALTER was immense, but the size difference quickly told again as OJMO got to the corner, and had to be convinced into tagging Starr.

Who just slapped his own man as those two were far from on the same wavelength, as OJMO stayed in and managed to find some headroom with some dropkicks. Until he went to the top rope, as WALTER just shoved OJMO into the aisle. That was a bad landing. As you’d expect from there, WALTER and Irie (admittedly, reluctantly) isolated OJMO in the ring, with WALTER throwing in cheeky shots whenever and wherever he could as he continued to establish himself as a bit of a dick here. There’s no shades of grey here. Starr tries to make the save, but it just went from bad to worse as OJMO took the Earthquake sit-out splash from WALTER and Irie in a matter of seconds.

OJMO gets to the ropes after a STF, but Irie distracts the referee so WALTER could keep the hold locked on, before Irie came in and spiked him with a brainbuster. The ragdolling continued, but eventually Starr got the hot tag in as he went after Irie with a Violence Party in the corner. A cartwheel kick catches Irie too, but a kick through the ropes just led to Irie dropping Starr with a Bossman slam for a near-fall. WALTER suddenly wants in, as he and Irie catch Starr in the corner ahead of… a massive Doomsday Device! That left Starr on the mat as WALTER was beginning to toy with him, in spite of some Han Stansen lariats, before Starr shrugged off a chop and landed a German suplex… only to get wiped out with a clothesline seconds later.

OJMO tags back in to catch Irie with dropkicks, before a Quebrada helped him take the former DDT star down. The half crab followed, but WALTER just boots it away as he ended up getting caught up in the ropes as the OJMO lifted him to the floor. An attempt at the Fosbury flop’s just POUNCE’d away as Irie quickly rushes in with a cannonball as a brief Parade of Moves opened up.

A frog splash from the OJMO almost puts Irie away, before Starr came in to help double-team Irie some more. OJMO’s dropkick and Fosbury flop keeps WALTER on the outside… only for Starr to run into a pair of Beast Bomber lariats. Those almost put Starr down for the count, but he gets a shoulder up and mounted one last comeback, finishing with a Blackheart Buster that put Irie away, as somehow the OJMO was able to hold WALTER back. I bloody loved this one, but it’s still 27-0, David… ****¼

After the match, Starr threw an INDEPENDENT t-shirt at OJMO. I hope it’s his size…

Paul Robinson vs. Connor Mills
Neither wrestler’s in any clear plans right now, but it’s exceptionally rare for PROGRESS to put on a “throwaway” match this high up the card.

Robinson’s aggression stifled Mills early on, but Connor finds a way back in, snapmaring Robinson before throwing an uppercut between the shoulder blades. A pop-up Thesz press got Robinson back in, as he chopped away Mills’ springboard attempt, hanging his legs in the ropes before a dropkick sent Connor to the outside. Robinson keeps up on Mills’ legs back in the ring, whipping it into the mat. It gave Robinson an easy opening for when Mills began to fight back, but the springboard goes a little iffy because of the leg injury as he had to adapt in mid-air. A ‘rana out of a suplex sees Robinson get back in, as he followed that up with a knee bar, wrenching away on the taped-up leg of Mills, who eventually got to the bottom rope.

Mills tries to recuperate on the outside, but he’s thrown back in by Robinson, who headbutts the bad leg repeatedly before his spear off the middle rope was countered with a roundhouse kick. Again, Mills scales the ropes, but he lands awkwardly as he aborted a 450 splash, before Robinson’s middle rope spear found its mark. One curb stomp later, Robinson got the win – scrappy, but at least the game plan was effective from the off… and I’ve a weird feeling Robinson may be being prepped for bigger things. **¾

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (c)
If I had to guess, this was a straight swap in the main event… as despite holding the physical belts, the South Pacific Power Trip had managed to go from cornering NIWA in the opener to having a shot at the gold.

Just a shame that TK’s hat was the most over thing with a vocal minority.

At the bell, Kyle superkicked TK for a very early two-count, before Travis Banks came in and tried to take command of this all-Oceanic affair. A simple punch from Davis knocked him down for a two-count as the match spilled to the outside, where the challengers looked to edge ahead. An assisted cutter on Fletcher back inside drew Banks a two-count, but Davis is back with a tope as the Aussies forced their way back in. TK takes a flapjack and some kicks, but he again took over, working over Fletcher as the Kiwis again tried to force through with their plan of “keeping Dunkzilla out of the match”.

Kyle manages to hurk up TK with a suplex before both men tagged out to relative silence, as Banks just charged into Davis for a quick two-count. Some double-teaming stomps keep Davis in the wrong corner, but he’s able to cartwheel past his challengers and slam them both at the same time. Fletcher tags back in and crashed into Banks with a crossbody, following up with a Quebrada as TK ended up taking a nasty landing into the corner for good measure. Another turnaround followed as the referee just stood there rather than enforce the tag rules, as some double-teaming led to Kyle taking a beating, before Davis came back to swing the match back around, helping with some double-teaming as what was good for the goose (and all that)…

TK blocks an assisted Go To Sleep, but ended up being thrown into Davis’ whoopee cushion splash as this whole “not bothering with enforcing tags” is annoying me. It does lead to some cool double-teams, though, with Fletcher leaping in with a cutter to Banks A kick from Banks helps clear the Aussies outside as he proceeded to set off with some low-pes, which end up backfiring as he took that double-team Go To Sleep on the floor anyway. Back inside, TK’s left to take the assisted Black Out for a near-fall, then another assisted GTS and an assisted Aussie Arrow… only for Banks to return and stomp away the cover.

Things calm down again now tags matter, with Banks coming in to just slap away on Davis. You can guess how that ends. Slap-off! A lariat from Davis gets replied to in kind though, as Banks’ suplex attempt was for nought… his springboard stomp was more effective though, as a Kiwi Krusher nearly ended things. Banks kicks away a Quebrada attempt as Fletcher ended up eating a springboard legdrop and an elevated DDT, but this crowd just seems to be completely dead to this match at times. It’s sucking the enjoyment out of it, but they did manage to buy the spike Jig ‘n’ Tonic that Davis ate, then managed to kick out as the old Strong Zero didn’t give us new champions.

TK heads outside to get the tag titles as they threatened to walk out with the belts. You know, because Travis used to do that? Fletcher stops them with a flip senton off the top rope though, before TK’s leap back inside got caught and turned into the Fidget Spinner for the win. A hell of an “out of nowhere” finish to a match that never really lit my fire – the long double-team stretches in the middle took me out of the match, while the crowd not buying into the short-notice challengers also hurt. These teams have got better matches in them, that’s for sure. ***¼

Main event aside, this was a lot better show than we’ve had out of PROGRESS in recent months. Although the early stages of the undercard felt a little inconsequential, there’s clear building blocks in place for the future with Starr/WALTER “whatever number it’ll be by then. Also, the fact that some of the Natural PROGRESSion Series lads are being given appearances – and a bit of a rub too – is going to help with that one-day show in September. While the proverbial glory days are over, it’s nice to see the product going back to the way it used to be, however gradual that change is.