We’ve got the “next generation of PROGRESS” on show in the latest chapter, as we had some familiar faces in familiar places…

Eddie Dennis is filling in for the (soon to be departing) Jim Smallman here as we get the obligatory Pavlovian responses to start with.

Eddie tells us he never watched these intros before, so he doesn’t quite get the length down pat… The “as an ex-headteacher” bit gave me flashbacks to Brent Kremen as Eddie tweaks some of the PROGRESS catchphrases, before addressing the “elephant in the room” about how all the big names weren’t on the card. Heck, Eddie calls this the “next generation of the promotion”, if you were still looking for a sign that times were changing. Commentary here’s from Glen Joseph and Fraser Thomas as we had a rather odd situation as the Ballroom wasn’t sold out. Heck, you could apparently buy tickets as the show as going on…

Rickey Shane Page vs. Travis Banks
Banks was out with the rest of the South Pacific Power Trip here to stack the deck.

Banks tries his luck with a tie-up, but he struggled getting Rickey Shane Page into the ropes before RSP upped the tempo with a nice lucha armdrag out of the corner. We’ve early interference as TK Cooper grabs Page’s leg, allowing Banks to hit a Slice of Heaven then a stomp on the apron, before some more stomps in the ring had Page on the deck. Banks tries to rile up Page, and it backfires as he took a slap and a no-bump slam as Page tripped through the ropes on the way to the top for a senton bomb. The former champion recovers, tripping Page into the corner, sending him outside for an apron PK, before his low-pe was caught and turned into a chokeslam on the apron.

Rolling Travis back into the ring, Page joins him in with a frog splash for a near-fall, before he went back to the chops. NIWA and TK leap onto the apron to distract as Banks looked to be getting caught with a chokebreaker, and it works as Banks responded with a Slice of Heaven and a brainbuster, before a double stomp flattened Page for another near-fall. The search for a Kiwi Krusher ended with some no-bump suplexes as Banks got thrown into the buckles, before another Chokebreaker drew more distractions. Those backfire as Banks knocks NIWA off the apron by accident, before a Chokebreaker led to the upset over Banks. Shock finish aside, this was a pretty benign opener – perfectly fine, but with RSP only being over here on tour, it’s not going to build to much. Unless he relocated. **½

There’s a bit of a shoving fight between Banks and NIWA after the match. That’d have counted for more had NIWA been slightly more established in PROGRESS…

“I don’t know why I’m checking my phone. It’s the second match, we all know what it’s going to be.” Oof. Of course, it’s a swerve…

Do Not Resuscitate (Spike Trivet & William Eaver) vs. The NIC (Charlie Carter & Oisin Delaney)
It’s a chapter debut for the NIC, and someone’s going to do some damage to that portable speaker if Eaver keeps dicking around with it.

Eaver makes a beeline for Charlie Carter, spearing him off the apron at the bell as it was Delaney and Trivey who were meant to be starting this off. Carter gets instant payback, dragging Eaver to the outside as the NIC started hot, landing a Hart Attack shoulder block as Trivet wasn’t offering much defence early on. A Vader Bomb elbow gets a near-fall on Spike, but Eaver gets involved, cracking Delaney in the back of the head before a slingshot clothesline brings in Eaver to rough up the Irishman. DNR keep Delaney isolated as Eaver and Trivet controlled the tempo, at least until Oisin landed a spinebuster… but Spike ends up falling into the ring accidentally on purpose so the referee misses a tag out.

That keeps Delaney in there a while longer, as Eaver worked over the leg as Carter got progressively more irritated on the apron. Trivet’s back in to ground Delaney with a cravat, but he takes his eye off the ball to wind up Carter some more… giving Delaney enough time to get free and make the tag in! Delaney’s a house afire, charging into Trivet with shoulder tackles before sending Eaver flying with a belly-to-belly. A rolling elbow sets up the NIC for a backbreaker and a diving boot combo for a near-fall. Eaver’s back to rant and rave again as he tried to go after the NIC, but it just earned him a beating as Spike had to make the save from a suplex/powerbomb combo.

More fish-hooking from Spike opened up Carter for a lariat, before Delaney was used as a crash pad for a crucifix powerbomb from Trivet. One uranage/backbreaker later and DNR leave with the win – a match that was didn’t click with the crowd at times, but I guess they’re finally doing something to build up DNR after almost a year of wasted time. **½

After the match, Spike claimed that DNR have been on a roll since they lost at Alexandra Palace – blaming their fortunes then on Drew Parker. If anything, DNR’s expanding, as Spike Trivet is on the look-out for new blood. Well, if Spike’s a recruitment agent, does that make Chuck Mambo Human Resources then?

Jody Threat vs. Gisele Shaw vs. Yuu vs. Dani Luna
A quartet of debutants in one match, eh? We had varying degrees of familiarity with this crowd, although I’m not sure the ref should have looked as worried!

Things broke down quickly as the two Canadians locked horns, as Glen on commentary mentioned that Gisele Shaw was “perhaps the most well known” of the lot. Well, that’s subjective, but calling any of these four an institution in 2019 is a massive reach. A lucha armdrag and a pair of clotheslines takes Threat outside as Yuu swapped in to dump Shaw with a spinning side slam, and yes, we’re on the revolving door scale.

Threat’s back in to send Luna into the ropes for a German suplex, before Threat headed into the aisle for… a skateboard assisted ‘rana. That’s a cool way to use the prop… but Luna and Threat missed Yuu, who leapt off the apron into her, before Shaw’s insane tornillo wiped out the pile. Back in the ring, Shaw avoids a bicycle kick from Luna and hit a flip neckbreaker for a near-fall as the merry go round continued. A Michinoku Driver from Threat’s good for a near-fall, before Yuu broke up a suplex attempt… and took down Luna and Threat with a dropkick. There’s a receipt as Yuu’s taken outside with a double dropkick as Luna and Threat went back at it, as Jody hits a nice stalling suplex for a near-fall.

Threat charges at Luna in the corner, but it turns into a Tower of Doom that Yuu thought she’d won out with… only for another Tornillo from Shaw to break it up. Headscissors from Shaw drop Luna for a near-fall, only for Threat to run in with a spear and a torture rack, bending Shaw in half ahead of a rack bomb for a near-fall.

Yuu adds in a Judo throw, then a dropkick/back senton combo to push herself ahead, but we’re still breaking up pins as Dani Luna stops Yuu winning with a Last Ride, before a bicycle kick, a suplex and a 450 splash got the win. Well, the result makes sense since Dani Luna’s part of the four-woman tournament on the next chapter show, and if this is PROGRESS rebuilding their women’s division, then they’re making a good start of it with action-filled matches to grab the crowd’s attention. ***

Eddie guilts the crowd into getting a beer for him since they only had water backstage…

Lucky Kid vs. Paul Robinson
Robbo’s facing WALTER for the PROGRESS title in Toronto… and with Lucky Kid announced as the 16 Carat Gold winner, you’d be inclined to think this was PROGRESS raising his stock for this match.

Lucky works over the wrist early on, but a shot to the throat got Robinson free until he was caught with a pair of low dropkicks. That sends him onto the apron, ahead of an eventual pescado from Lucky, before he opted to headbutt away a punch as Lucky got taken onto the apron for a nasty stomp. Robbo keeps it up on the outside, luring Lucky into a chip that hit the ring post, before he kept on roughing up Lucky with some clubbering forearms. An attempted spear off the middle rope was aborted as Robbo ended up falling to a handspring back elbow, which started a comeback from Lucky, catching Robbo with knees in the corner ahead of a missile dropkick.

Robinson escapes a crossface and heads into the corner for the middle rope spear, connecting it for a near-fall, as some more stomps looked to have left Lucky in a heap. Not for long though as Lucky lands some chops, a hiptoss knee and an enziguiri to try and build momentum, taking Robbo outside for a high tope con giro. Lucky took too long to follow up back inside as a headscissor takedown off the top has Lucky in more trouble, before a curb stomp was neatly countered into a powerbomb by Lucky for a near-fall.

On the apron again, Lucky teases some sliced bread, but he’s shoved into the ring post. A 619 from the floor dumped Robbo on his arse as Lucky built up for a 450 splash… which whiffs badly as the eponymous Robinson Special connected for a near-fall. Elbows from Robbo keep Lucky on the deck, as things descended into a strike battle. Lucky skins the cat on the way to a Shiranui… then headed back up top as he hits the 450 – knees first into the back – before another crossface was attempted.

Again, Robinson gets up… but Lucky keeps the hold on, almost pinning himself in the process, before he let go, went for a handspring… and got dropkicked away as a curb stomp got the win for Robinson. This was really good stuff as PROGRESS continue to build up to Robinson vs. WALTER – even if the scalp of Lucky Kid wasn’t that big considering commentary mentioned his poor win-loss record. ***½

After the match, Robbo gets the mic and told the crowd to not go to the bar… because he has something to say. He’s fed up of being overlooked, especially given how much he keeps getting back up. Apparently David Starr’s overlooked him, because he reckons Starr’s looking at WALTER for the title when Robinson thinks it should be him. Apparently the WALTER in Majorca don’t taste how it oughta…

Robinson vowed to give WALTER the fight of his life, promising to knock him out before turning talk to Starr and his campaign for independence. It’s a hell of a promo from Robinson, drilling home his work ethic… and a promo that almost surely would have had the crowd fully behind him… if that WALTER match was in the Ballroom, and not in Canada.

Before the start of the second half, Eddie’s bullied into downing some beer while Jon Briley wore out the old DJ Z airhorn button. Oh yeah, Eddie also teased a “big announcement” at the end of the show…

CCK (Chris Brookes & Jonathan Gresham) vs. South Pacific Power Trip (NIWA & TK Cooper)
Travis Banks was out with NIWA and TK as the Kiwis tried to present a united front… and they try to jump CCK at the bell, but CCK quickly stifle them.

An early blind tag to Gresham sees him counter a leapfrog from TK into a German suplex, as poor TK was taking the brunt of the offence… at least until he sprayed something at Brookes, which went totally under the radar as commentary seemed to be too busy reading their expositioning script that describing the action this early on. NIWA gets involved as he gives Chris Brookes a Brookesing, as the Kiwis seemed to be finding their feet while Travis Banks watched on from the floor, flipping off CCK for the hell of it while NIWA and TK chokes on Brookes in the corner.

Brookes tries to retaliate with chops, but NIWA’s quickly in to swarm him with some swinging punches, before Brookes had to fight out of a chinlock. It doesn’t last long though, as NIWA stayed on him… until some work in the corner led to NIWA accidentally kicking TK. A back body drop on the floor has NIWA in more trouble, as Brookes was able to tag in Gresham… who instantly dives all over the place. NIWA stops Gresham’s momentum with a DDT, before a slingshot cutter from Brookes drew a near-fall as all four men were in the ring. Briefly. The Kiwis double-team Gresham for a spell as they kept Brookes on the outside… until a stuff package tombstone left Gresham down… and almost certainly out, had Brookes not stomped away the cover.

Gresham tries to make a comeback, getting propelled by Brookes into a wheelbarrow cutter before Travis Banks pulled out the referee. Banks got himself involved some more as the ref was out as this became a three-on-two affair… until Banks nearly leapt into TK. There’s some arguments again as Lucky Kid came out and dropkicked NIWA into Banks, then scarpered as everyone came back in for a kick-assisted Praying Mantis Bomb put NIWA down for the win. This was fine at the end, but again, this crowd didn’t seem to take this form of the Power Trip as too much of a threat. I guess Lucky Kid’s appearance answers who the third man in CCK is going to be… Schadenfreude? ***¼

After the match, the Kiwis got into another argument, with TK prodding Banks a LOT. NIWA tries to play peacekeeper, and it works. For now…

Shigehiro Irie vs. The OJMO
This match feels familiar, but in PROGRESS-land, it’s a natural follow-up to their involvement in a tag match on the last chapter show in Camden. OJMO’s built-up big time by Eddie Dennis for two specific matches, both of which came under the Rev Pro banner. Hey, why not go outside the bubble – it’s not like these things are secrets.

OJMO starts by getting frustrated by Irie… slapping him out of anger, which just earned him a lariat-like strike in the opening minute. An elbow follows, as Irie quickly built up to a bulldog and his see-saw splash… but OJMO moves away! The momentum continued as a ‘rana and dropkick takes Irie outside, but OJMO takes too long with his Fosbury flop, and ended up landing in a real danger zone as Irie pounced him into the crowd. Yep, that’s a worthwhile Glen Screams™ moment.

It almost led to the count-out, but OJMO gets back in the ring just in time, only to remain cornered as Irie was having his way with him. A desperation Slingblade/neckbreaker combo gets OJMO some time, but he just runs into a Black Hole Slam as Irie came close again. Spike Trivet comes out to watch from the stage as OJMO tried to fight a piledriver… but to no avail as he got spiked, while Irie proceeded to take him back up top as a superplex was fought off with forearms… until a headbutt sent Irie back to the mat.

OJMO followed in with a missile dropkick, then some more dropkicks in the ropes as Irie was sent outside… and now the Fosbury flop lands! Irie’s able to get back in as he clotheslined OJMO from the apron, before an impressive slingshot sit-down splash pancaked OJMO… who was still somehow able to kick out at two?! A cannonball upped the ante next, with OJMO still showing signs of life, and after he caught Irie on the top rope, he proceeded to tease a superplex. Irie fights free, but he’s taken down with an avalanche back body drop as OJMO blocked a powerbomb, following in with a frog splash off the top for a near-fall. The half crab looked to follow, as OJMO rolls Irie over… but the ropes are too close… so OJMO drags him away, only to get overpowered in the end.

OJMO flies in with a knee strike, then with a superkick, only to get wrecked with a Beast Bomber out of nowhere for yet another two-count. A Samoan Drop Driver’s next, for another two-count, as the OJMO’s resilience was being really tested. We nearly get an upset with a jack-knife cover as OJMO mounted one more fight back, but just as we thought Irie was going to kill him with a Fire Thunder driver, OJMO rolls through and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat! The “OJMO gets battered, eventually comes out with a win” formula may get worn out soon, but this is really working well to establish him among the bigger promotions. Does the win make him a favourite for the Natural PROGRESSion Series? Well, since we’ve heard naff all from most of the other entrants, probably… ****

After the match, Spike Trivet hit the ring and tried to convince OJMO into joining DNR. Too many acronyms. Of course, OJMO rejected his advances, so there’s seeds sewn for the tease of DNR costing him the Natural PROGRESSion Series tournament, I guess.

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Grizzled Young Veterans (James Drake & Zack Gibson) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (c)
This was originally meant to be an Aussie Open open challenge, but their opponents were announced days before the show, as the Grizzled Young Veterans made a return after being away since last October. You could tell it’d been a while since they did a wrestle here as they… came out through the wrong curtain.

We’ve a long promo before the match as Drake and Gibson called the fans “the biggest gang of bell-ends” they’ve ever performed in front of… then spitting truths about “Joel getting a bigger pop than half the roster.” Hey, we’re not meant to agree with bad guys. There’s talk about the conspiracy theorists kicking off if NXT UK and PROGRESS had the same mens champions… which would be the case if the challengers won here, as Zack then took a wild turn and began to take a few jabs around David Starrs Independent movement.

There’s a tentative start as the challengers looked to dictate the pace, although they had issues with Kyle Fletcher early as Zack Gibson had to pull Drake to the outside so they could reset. Things don’t change much as Drake came back in and found himself cornered, taking chops from Davis before he got slammed and flattened with a back senton. Drake’s kept cornered as the champions looked to isolate him… but they lost track as Gibson tagged in and got flapjacked. James Drake tries to pull Gibson outside, but it backfires as the champions just dragged him in as all four men stayed in the ring for a while. Charges keep the challengers on the defensive as Kyle’s tilt-a-whirl backbreaker spikes Gibson for a near-fall.

There’s a quick turnaround as Fletcher’s taken outside for the double-team backbreaker as commentary was trying to play up that Davis was pacing away trying to get feeling in his wrist. Shame none of that was shown on camera, as a cobra clutch has Kyle in trouble, as he had to fight out of the wrong corner… eventually suplexing Drake to give him an opening, only for Zack Gibson to pull Mark Davis off the apron to deny a tag.

With no Dunkzilla, Kyle’s forced to kick out from a Dominator/neckbreaker combo, as the challengers again swarmed him. A double-team suplex gets reversed as Davis finally appeared back on the apron to get the tag in. He’s having to fight this one-handed, as the left wrist had been targeted by Gibson earlier. An attempted Gold Coast Waterslide’s stopped as Gibson slips out, but he’s taken outside as Davis lands a tope into both of the challengers – shoulder injury be damned. Back in the ring, Davis pushes ahead on Gibson, before Kyle’s quick turnaround saw him land a superkick as he had to improvise his way into a GTS on the outside. Davis is labouring as the double-team powerbomb lands for a near-fall, but Gibson returns to be a nuisance, holding Davis’ leg as Drake’s implant DDT landed. Gibson gets the legal tag in as he tries to stretch Davis’ shoulders ahead of a flying legdrop for a near-fall.

The Shankly Gates follow as Davis was eventually saved by Fletcher, before they returned the favour, locking dual Shankly Gates on their challengers. When they let go, Davis helps drop Drake with an assisted Aussie Arrow as again the champs needed to work around the injury… but it meant that Fletcher was having to shoulder more of the work, and almost got rolled up by Gibson as the challengers were resurgent.

Fletcher’s lifted up for a Doomsday Device, which Drake completes for a near-fall as the momentum began to swing all over the place. Aussie Open hit back, but Davis gets clotheslined to the outside – landing in some pain as there were flashbacks to one of Kid Lykos’ injuries at the Ballroom. It distracts Kyle for long enough to get cracked with a dropkick as the challengers finish off with a Ticket to Mayhem… but Davis is back to pull out the referee to keep the titles alive!

Throwing Fletcher into the corner, the champions dared Davis to tag in… which he did. How does a one-armed man do in a punching fight? Quite well, at first, it seemed, but when the adrenaline wore off, the challengers made a point of working on the shoulder, as Gibson went back to the Shankly Gates… Fletcher dives in to grab his partner’s hand to stop him from tapping, but Drake pulled Kyle out, just as Davis could bear no more. The gasps of shock around the Ballroom at that were palpable, as the Grizzled Young Veterans leave as three-time tag champions. Just how the spoilerific tweet predicted! Once again, Aussie Open lose the belts in the Ballroom, as they came up on the wrong end of a tag team war. ***¾

After the match, Aussie Open soaked up the crowd’s applause in what some felt was a farewell of sorts… while the crowd hung around for whatever Eddie Dennis’ news was. Remember, he’s still got that PROGRESS title shot that he won at Wembley… was he announcing a return from injury and a date to cash that in? In fact… no. The opposite. He recapped his story of quitting his job as head teacher, getting injured… getting signed by WWE, then getting injured again. Eddie’s hesitation perhaps should have tipped us off, as he told us of his dream of going to WWE… a dream that’s meant that he’ll “never step in a PROGRESS ring again”, before throwing down the mic and bowing to the flag of DEFEND INDY WRESTLING, as the show faded to black…

So, watching this after the Jim Smallman news was announced, and the latest round of “WWE’s pulling all contracted talent from shows” rumours was a weird headspace to be in. The next few months are going to be very much up in the air when it comes to Britwres in general, but PROGRESS will naturally be under the microscope even more. Especially if the talk of a “PROGRESS vs. NXT UK” feud ends up being for real.

The very public departure of the face of the promotion could be taken as a huge body blow, and it’s something that’s visible already judging from fan’s reactions to Jim’s departure. Whomever’s brought in to replace Jim shouldn’t even try to be a clone of him – not that I’m accusing Eddie of doing so here, but it’s a very easy thing to do, given how the way Jim Smallman presented the shows has changed the role of MC for a lot of promotions. I’m not also advocating for a return to the working men’s club-style MC… although that’d be a hell of a 180 on the optics of this current product.

As far as “the road to Alexandra Palace” goes, this was the penultimate Camden show before what has to be the flattest “big September show” yet. Save for Paul Robinson’s promo, there was little mention of David Starr, who was over in the States preparing for his Iron Man match with Joey Janela for Beyond’s Americanrana on the same day. If anything, there was more jabs at his Independent movement than anything else here. You know, it’s curious… since winning SSS16, here’s how the winner of the tournament’s done on PROGRESS chapter shows:

  • Chapter 89 – the 80s show – not involved (was wrestling for OTT)
  • Chapter 90 – teamed with The OJMO to beat WALTER & Shigehiro Irie
  • Chapter 91 – defeated Brent Banks
  • Chapter 92 – not involved (was wrestling for Rev Pro)
  • Chapter 93 – not involved (was wrestling for Beyond)

Chapter 94 will be another non-appearance for Starr as he’s booked (or at least on the poster) for OTT’s debut in Cork… and that’s it! If you want to count non-chapter shows, well, nothing’s been announced for PROGRESS’ debut in Paris, while out of the two PROGRESS Toronto shows, he’s in a curious mixed-tag match with Jody Threat against Chris Brookes and Jordynne Grace, which wraps up a not-exactly conventional build up to his match for the PROGRESS title at Alexandra Palace. At least last year, injuries were the reason…

As for this show, well, the expectations were fairly low… and these are always the sort of shows PROGRESS excel in. It happened again here – although I fear that this isn’t the sort of line-up or show that’ll reel in the lapsed fans. Keep the run going, and we’ll see…