The women of PROGRESS took centre stage for the final Chapter before Alexandra Palace.

With this being a week before NXT, we had a lighter line-up than usual – something that perhaps reflected in the crowds as well, with tickets again being available as the show was going on. A definite sign of the times after that long, long run of consecutive sell-outs… Jim Smallman’s back after his holiday to start the UK portion of his farewell tour. This was a day after the PROGRESS/APC show in France, so Jim’s out in shorts to show off more of his tattoos, opening with a dive into his DMs, middle class supermarket wars, and folks being excited about the cricket. Glen Joseph and Fraser Thomas are on commentary. He’ll chase this one down.

Revelations Of Divine Love Semi-Final: Chakara vs. Nina Samuels
Nina was replacing Candy Floss, who pulled out with illness, getting a fairly decent reaction since she was last a babyface here.

They open with a lock-up as both women headed into the ropes, before Nina and Chakara swapped strangleholds back and forth. Nina tried to edge ahead with a snapmare, but she got slapped into the corner as Chakara began to force her way ahead. Clubbing forearms to Nina in the ropes have Chakara ahead some more, as does a headbutt and an Exploder suplex. Chakara kicks away at Samuels some more, but Nina fights back, tripping her up for some ground and pound before some clotheslines keep Chakara on the back foot. An enziguiri’s next, before a tiltawhirl backbreaker almost got Nina her spot in the final. Chakara hit back with a German suplex and a diving forearm for a near-fall, but Nina responds by kicking down Chakara for a slingshot tornillo.

The back and forth continues as a chickenwing gutbuster from Chakara ends for a near-fall as Nina got to the ropes, before Samuels simply won with a roll-up. This was fine, but you can guess what I’m going to say: Chakara’s not had a PROGRESS appearance in nearly a year, so few bought her winning here, especially against a relative star like Nina. **½

Paz comes out to try and do a head stand, as the referees have to do tricks here.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship X Revelations Of Divine Love Semi-Final: Dani Luna vs. Jordynne Grace (c)
The women’s title was on the line throughout the tournament – so potentially we could have two title changes. Potentially.

This was Grace’s first appearance in the Ballroom since she won the title at Unboxing at the end of last year, which says a few things. I’ll let you decide which one you want to take away… Jordynne starts by taking Dani into the corner, looking to rough her up before a knuckle lock gave way to a Test of Strength that Grace won out on. Luna gets her hands trapped between Jordynne’s legs though as the champion tried to make a mockery of things, only to get caught with a hanging choke as Luna was sat on the top rope.

While the referee’s trying to split them up, Grace took a shortcut before she piggyback squashed her way free for a near-fall. A slingshot took Luna into the corner again, but Dani hits back with knees and a clothesline to take the champion down, before a deadlift German suplex almost scored the upset. A spinebuster from Grace turns it right back around, as she looked to finish off Dani with a muscle buster… but instead she’s knocked back down to the mat as a frog splash almost got Dani the title. Luna stays on her though, going up top, only to crash and burn with a 450 splash as Grace hit straight back with a Lariat and a pumphandle driver for the win. Decent effort, but this felt truncated. Heck, both semi finals (including music, entrances and shtick) were wrapped up in 25 minutes. Hmm. **¾

South Pacific Power Trip (NIWA & TK Cooper) vs. Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.)
Holy time off Batman, it’s been nearly a year since the Anti-Fun Police were in the Ballroom – and it’s their first PROGRESS outing since that March double-header. And yes, the Ballroom missed them, judging by the reaction…

TK and NIWA try to jump the police, but it doesn’t work as Santos was able to charge through NIWA before his lucha roll forced Paz to hit a roll of his own to get out of the way. NIWA took advantage of Santos trying to go after the ref for that spot of stage-stealing, as commentary talked about trouble within the South Pacific Power Trip. Well, when Travis Banks is around… Santos gets caught in the wrong corner as the Kiwis double-team him, complete with a cracking headbutt from TK that gets a near-fall. Eventually Santos got free with a double suplex, but he couldn’t make the tag out as the Kiwis again conspired against him. A crossbody from Santos finally works as the tag is made out, as Dunne comes in to clear house, crashing into TK with a spear.

A springboard ‘rana to the outside takes care of NIWA too, while a missile dropkick has Cooper on the deck. Dunne keeps up with a tornado DDT for a near-fall, but his springboard lungblower’s stopped by NIWA, who holds him in the ropes for TK’s springboard corkscrew senton as the Kiwis took hold once more. Santos swings it back around with a pair of Flatliners, before he tagged back in as Dunne dove onto NIWA on the outside. An assisted Big Ending looked to have gotten the AFP the win, but NIWA breaks it up before he dropkicks away a second springboard lungblower attempt from Dunne as the concept of the legal man went to hell.

In the end, Santos gets low bridged to the outside as the legal Dunne ends up eating a slingshot neckbreaker from TK, before a spike package tombstone gets the Kiwis the win. This was enjoyable and pacey – perhaps a little too much at times, going by what the camera crew missed – but this was good going from both teams. ***

Performing monkey time again, as Joel does a pose-off with a fan.

Winner Enters Last, Loser Enters First In Proteus Rumble: William Eaver vs. Paul Robinson
Eaver was subbing for Lucky Kid, who had travel issues that defied his gimmick name. Meanwhile, Eaver lives up to his, erm, “affected” character by wearing a Morrissey/Nigel Farage tee.

Paul Robinson was universally beloved in the Ballroom, which is odd given his history. I guess spoofing Patrick Swayze worked. The rest of Do Not Resuscitate were present to provide distractions to Paul Robinson… who just dove on them and neutralised them by himself. Fair enough. A dropkick through the ropes from Eaver caught Robinson off guard, but he’s able to recover and taake some shots at Eaver, landing a series of body blows before the distractions returned. Eaver dives onto Robinson in the corner, sending him spilling to the floor as Spike Trivet got his digs in. Back inside, Robinson snuck in a kick to the arse, but he’s again taken back into the corner, then into the ropes as Eaver’s erratic offence was proving to be problematic.

Commentary throws in some absolutely horrid potential stipulations if Eaver won the Proteus title (sorry Fraser), before Eaver’s dive went awry, taking out his own partners in the process as Robinson stepped aside. Robbo follows in with a moonsault off the top to the floor, before he headbutted away strikes from Eaver back inside, following in with some nibbling to boot. A spear off the middle rope looked to have won it for Robbo, as did a moonsault kneedrop… but Eaver gets some help in making the ropes. Undeterred, Robinson keeps up the beating, but he ends up getting caught with a chairshot from Chuck Mambo as the ref was distracted. Somehow, Eaver doesn’t get the win with a powerbomb, but does with the old Clothesline from Heaven as Paul Robinson was condemned to the first spot in the Proteus Rumble. Plenty of interference here as you’d expect, and I’d have to guess that it’s nailed on that Robbo’s doing an HBK-like run in the Rumble. ***

After the interval, it’s back to Jim’s DMs, before he interrogates a kid. Luckily, he’d asked him before so there was no repeat of Toronto…

Do Not Resuscitate (Chuck Mambo & Spike Trivet) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
The winner of this got a title shot at Alexandra Palace, with Aussie Open looking to regain the tag titles for a third time.

Originally it was Trivet and Eaver lined up for this match, but the earlier change means Mambo gets a run-out, as commentary seemed to take a nosedive, with Glen loud in one channel and Fraser whispering in another. Ah, the ol’ balance dial strikes again!

Spike’s sent to the outside early on, before he returned to run into Kyle Fletcher… who just slams him with ease. Then again. And again, as Spike mocked the “big man” Fletcher. Remind me how dastardly bad guys are taken seriously when they do comedy? Spike becomes used for a game of human pass-the-parcel, as he’s held in a stalling suplex like how Moustache Mountain used to, finishing off with Dunkzilla spinning Spike ahead of the impact for a near-fall. Mambo’s in, scoring with a delayed sunset flip for a near-fall before he unwisely looked for chops… eventually springboarding into a chop from Davis. A double-team flapjack awaits too, as does a back senton from Davis as Mambo was kept in trouble.

Mambo tries to save himself, but just gets chopped some more as Davis picked up a near-fall. More kicks from Fletcher keep Mambo in the corner, as the crowd doubted the veracity of Kyle’s apologies. Not to worry – Dunkzilla has kicks too, as this was looking horribly one-sided… to the point where Spike Trivet wandered in to make an illegal tag, which was quite the decent tactic as it gave Mambo an opening to force his way back in. An Irish whip from Mambo takes Fletcher into the corner – accidentally knocking Trivet off the apron before Spike did the accidental comedy “fall into the ring” to stop the ref seeing a tag out. It gives Mambo another opening, as Spike finally had a flurry… but he again can’t get it done as he ends up having to spray water at Davis to create another distraction.

There’s a line from Trivet that could have been cricket related, when he told Davis “you could have been a winner, but you’re just an Aussie” as he again poked the bear. One brainbuster later, Spike has to dive out to tag in Mambo, who took a Michinoku driver before Davis got the hot tag in to clean a house that was already pretty cleaned, it must be said. Trivet tries to spray again, but Davis redirects it before he slammed both halves of DNR at once, before a flapjack and a discus boot almost put away Mambo. A Gold Coast Waterslide’s next for a near-fall as Aussie Open almost got over the line… a double-team Go 2 Sleep keeps the momentum going, as did the double-team powerbomb, as Spike had to dive in late on to break up the cover… and then try to chop again.

Yeah. It went badly. Especially after he tired himself out.

From there, Mambo eats a sliding D before William Eaver comes out with his mobile speaker to cause another distraction. It works because the ref misses a low blow as Spike comes in with a flying DDT that almost stole the win… but Davis broke it up. A big splash from Mambo nearly gets the win as DNR looked to build up steam… which kinda derails when Spike took Eaver’s microphone to cut a mid-match promo, that commentary talked all over.

In the end, Mambo’s sent flying into Eaver on the outside as Spike’s left alone with Davis and Fletcher. He tries to buy off the Aussies with a tenner, and when that doesn’t work, Spike just whacks out the referee as DNR bum-rush Davis and Fletcher. Surely that’s a DQ, right? Nah, Paul Robinson comes out to make the save, as he gave Matt Riddle a run for his “toughest man in flip flops” mantra. A curb stomp puts paid to Eaver, as we’re back to the regularly scheduled tag, which quickly ends when Mambo took a sliding D and a Fidget Spinner before the referee counted the pin. I mean, the DQ was there as well, but the result’s the same. This was largely one-sided, but it’s not like DNR have ever been booked particularly strong is it? Then again, the intention was to have Aussie Open looking strong going into Alexandra Palace, so… it’s a wash. Hi Dave. ***¼

Spike Trivet yells at Eaver after the match as DNR stayed in the ring. They’re interrupted by the OJMO, who recalls the offer he got to join DNR… and teased joining. Of course, he turns it down, which is making me think that something’s going on. I mean, the OJMO is literally the only person in the Natural PROGRESSion Series who’s been featured in any way (thanks to Veit Müller being out injured). It’s not like Gene Munny, Danny Duggan, Malik, Cara Noir, Scotty Davis or Dan Moloney have had bookings out the wazoo since the field was named…

Eddie Kingston vs. Chris Brookes
The winner of this gets to pick the stipulation for the LAX & Friends vs. CCK & Friends match on the Natural PROGRESSion Series card in a few weeks’ time.

Brookes slapped around Kingston before the bell, and that led to a rushed start with Brookes getting, erm, Brookes’d. Repeatedly. Chops just antagonise Kingston, who headbutts back before a straightforward kick to the dick led to another Brookesing. The bell hadn’t rung, so it’s all legal, including rearranging the furniture in the Ballroom. Brookes chucks a chair at Kingston’s leg, which gets him some respite, before he grabbed a turnbuckle iron from under the ring and properly fish-hooked Kingston with it. Commandeering a chair from the crowd, Brookes proceeded to Pillmanize Kingston, leaping off the apron to do so… but somehow, Eddie stands up and decks Brookes with a headbutt.

Eddie heads towards the merch stands, bringing back memories of the Toronto brawl with Trent Seven, flipping over Brookes’ table before bringing it to ringside. That Glen laugh really undersold the impending doom here, making this sound like It’s a Knockout rather than a heated brawl. One that saw Brookes charge Kingston into the side of the merch table, only for Brookes to have more chairs bounced off of him as Eddie spied the balcony. A suplex from Brookes sees Eddie bounce off the table before they headed towards the ring, as Brookes stomped on Kingston’s arm, then scored with a back senton off the apron. The ringpost comes into play next as Brookes whacks a chair off of Kingston’s legs ahead of a ringpost Figure Four, as the bell still hasn’t rung!

Finally the bell rings, with Kingston on his back, but he gets to his feet to throw some Machine Gun chops in the corner. Brookes tries to come back with a charge into the corner, but he gets hung up in the ropes and chopped down again, as Kingston continued to hobble on. Caught on the top rope, Kingston eats a chop before Brookes takes him down with a butterfly superplex for a near-fall, before a defiant Kingston just let Brookes pelt him with kicks. A clothesline swats away a running Brookes, before a back fist almost gets the win… as Brookes had his turn at being defiant, swatting Kingston with his middle finger. Which got bit. More backfists deck Brookes, but Kingston breaks his own cover so he could take the fight into the crowd, clearing the floor seats again so he could powerbomb Brookes onto the ring steps that have become part of the aisleway.

Paz starts the count-out, as Kingston tempted fate by setting up for, and hitting a Saito suplex into some chairs… and that’s enough for Kingston to win via count-out. Hey, it kept the thread going from CCK’s many count-out wins, and this was a fun, wild brawl. Just mute the commentary if you don’t want to get visions of It’s A Knockout and Stuart Hall impressions. ***½

After the match, Kingston heads back to the scene of the crime to pull up Brookes, just so he could deck “Christine” with another backfist… then reveal that the trios match next month with Jonathan Gresham and “the weird kid from Germany” would be a street fight. Well that’s a way to neutralise the whole count-out thing, as Eddie Kingston came off as a massive threat here. THAT’S how you do it.

One last push for Alexandra Palace (since at this point a full card hadn’t been released), and we’re into the main event. The winner of which will defend the PROGRESS Women’s title against Meiko Satomura.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship X Revelations Of Divine Love Final: Nina Samuels vs. Jordynne Grace (c)
Fun fact – in all of August, Jordynne’s defended the Women’s title almost as much as the prior seven months of her reign combined (four in August vs. five between January and May). And for the muck stirrers, that’s not a shot at her, not in any way.

We get going with Samuels and Grace locking up, but Jordynne edges ahead, taking down Nina before she mocked the crowd while working the wrist. A shoulder tackle from Grace keeps Nina down, before Jordynne ended up getting taken down with a ‘rana from Samuels, who had to dip into her lucha bag of tricks. From the apron, Nina tries a shoulder charge but just eats a basement uppercut as Grace ended up catching her with an electric chair drop onto the edge of the ring. Jordynne keeps up the pressure in the ring, charging Nina into the corner, before she sidestepped as Nina went for a springboard crossbody.

Chops keep Nina at bay, as does a throw into the rng post as Jordynne was relentless here, following up with a diving back elbow as Nina was on the deck. A Vader Bomb’s next, but Samuels rolls away in time and comes back with a tornado DDT to buy her more time. Nina begins to fight back with a series of forearms and a slam, before a dropkick took Jordynne into the corner, bringing her out for a snapmare and the springboard crossbody for a near-fall. Nina tries for a Ninagoroshi, but Jordynne blocks it, only to run into an elbow before a Michinoku driver spiked Nina for a near-fall! A superplex attempt from Jordynne’s fought out of as Nina instead looks for a sunset bomb… but she gives up and kicks Grace into the corner, only to miss a neckbreaker, as a Vader bomb followed instead for a near-fall for the champion.

Samuels avoids some chops on the apron and instead kicks down Grace for a slingshot tornillo, almost taking the win there. Grace responds with an O’Connor roll, but finds her way in a rear naked choke as Nina tried to shoot her shot… almost forcing the submission as the ref did the arm drop deal, only for Jordynne to power back up and roll into the ropes. Jordynne makes one more fight back, dropping Nina with boots in the corner before a back senton off the top rope pancaked Samuels… who needed to grab the ropes to save herself. From there, Samuels escapes a pumphandle driver, and kicks back as she went for a monkey flip… but it’s caught as Nina has to go flying, cartwheeling off the top rope ahead of a Yakuza kick, before a crossbody finds its mark.

Samuels can’t hold the cover though, as she instead looks for the double underhook backbreaker, landing it for a near-fall, before she runs into a clothesline as Grace hurriedly put Nina away with the pumphandle driver for the win. A spirited main event, as Jordynne racked up another pair of title defences while booking a date with Meiko Satomura in Alexandra Palace. ***¼

PROGRESS’ latest chapter is pretty much a sign of the times – a solid show, but with precious little to make you tune in if you weren’t already. When we get chapters on “NXT UK weeks”, this is the sort of line-up we’re accustomed to getting – for better or for worse. Retreading the reasons why is like beating a dead horse, but it’s very much true to say that this isn’t the PROGRESS of old, nor is it looking like getting back to those dizzying heights anytime soon.

Considering this was the go-home show for Alexandra Palace, the amount of build-up on display varied. Jordynne Grace heated herself up for Meiko Satomura… Aussie Open did the same for their tag title shot… and we’ve got a story for Paul Robinson going into the Proteus Rumble… but what of the main event? We’ve previously spoken of how little it’s been hyped up – and for the final chapter show, it speaks volumes when the title challenger is in another country and the champion is barely acknowledged. It’ll be the main event (because it’s for the title), but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the lack of build for a straight Starr vs. WALTER match could be deliberate…