David Starr’s path to another PROGRESS title shot took an unexpected turn, on a show with a title that you probably shouldn’t watch at work…

We’ve another truncated card here, as PROGRESS seem to be shifting to six-match affairs (after everything’s all said and done). The opening bit features Jim modelling with a pumpkin, before we got thrown to some fans in fancy dress. Not wanting to go on about the “good ol’ days”, but this wasn’t a patch on Dave as Zack Gibson…

I’ll save myself from going all JR doing a massive whinge about them saying (in canon) that Matt Richards is taking over from Jim as a ring announcer and in creative. Not all things ought to be said in front of a crowd at a show, is all I’ll say. Especially when the news had been over their social media after the Manchester show. Anyway, commentary comes from the usual pairing of Glen Joseph and Matt Richards. I’d love to know how you can keep messing up those lower thirds as “Glen Jospeh”…

Connor Mills vs. Mark Andrews
Mandrews has new, darker music, while the new FSU entrance video proudly proclaims they’re going to “fuck shit up”. Not a dig at PROGRESS, but that recent Ballroom remodelling has made the position of the video screen useless to the majority of the fans there.

Andrews got chants of “Springboks”, which didn’t age at all well after the post-Rugby World Cup final, when this dropped…

Andrews starts by working over Mills’ arm, before we got the ref-trolling see-saw sunset flips for a bunch of one-counts. The lucha stylings ended when Andrews just slaps Mills, but Connor just issues a similar reply before a back body drop and a diving European uppercut to the lower back connected. Connor’s springboard gets cut off with a dropkick as Andrews stopped all that momentum in a hurry.

A back suplex gets Andrews a two-count, but a Quebrada from Mills got him back in it, as did a variety of strikes in the corner before Andrews got taken outside for a big tope con giro. He adjusts in mid-air for a springboard uppercut on the way back in, before Andrews leapt into a Torture Rack. He’s quickly out though, but Mills counters a Stundog Millionaire with a Millshot, but a reverse ‘rana turns it back around as Andrews almost snatched the victory.

The pair exchange palm strikes and chops from there, before Andrews countered a Ricola bomb and turned it into a Stundog. Mills’ Cyclone Kick is an instant response though, before Eddie Dennis provided a distraction as Mills went up top. It worked as Andrews teased a belt shot, but Mills avoids it and lands a Burning Cutter… only for Eddie to jump on the apron to distract the ref. Mills got into it with Eddie on the apron, before turning around into a low blow and a roll-up as Andrews got the win. Well, this was a solid opener, and they’re ticking the shithead heel boxes here, but given Connor’s yet to win a singles match at a chapter show, this felt a little too “squeaky bum moment” here. ***

After the match, Mills rejected a handshake… and got beaten down for it. The OJMO runs out to make the save, wearing a Destination: Everywhere shirt – that’s the group the OJMO, Mills and the NIC have on the London indies… he’s beaten down too, as David Starr makes the big save.

Starr gets the mic and reveals that Eddie can’t wrestle because “your owners won’t let you”. I mean, they were painfully vague on Eddie “appearing” on all shows without announcing matches. Starr recounted Eddie’s victory speech at Alexandra Palace as things got heated between he and Eddie… particularly as Starr vowed to “emancipate PROGRESS” by demanding a title shot.

Except Eddie refuses… and instead demanded Starr earned his shot, “at some point, in the forseeable future”, against a named opponent. The OJMO. Not a fan of the verbiage you’d more expect to hear in WWE these days, but that’s the scene here, I guess.

Pretty Deadly (Lewis Howley & Sam Stoker) vs. Jordon Breaks & Sid Scala
Holy unadvertised match, Batman! This was the first time both Breaks and Scala had made a main chapter card (not including battle royals), and I’m now utterly confused whether it’s Jordan or Jordon. I’m going with the latter, because it’s in his Twitter…

Sid Scala was announced as the replacement for Darrell Allen. Usually I’d be surprised, but this match remember, wasn’t advertised. As such, we got muted reactions and uphill struggle.

Breaks and Stoker start off trading wristlocks, before Breaks scored an armdrag and held it in an armbar as commentary told us that Jordon’s technical chops came as a result of him initially only attending the technical wrestling classes as Knucklelocks. Jordan tries for a leapfrog, but landed in the boots of Stoker, before countering a Jim Breaks special into a roll-up.

A monkey flip’s next from Breaks, but Howley comes in and tries to work a wristlock on Scala. Sid reverses it, dropping Howley, but they’re too close to the ropes. I scratch my head as the term of “hot” was used pretty loosely on the momentum of Pretty Deadly, as Scala found new ways to scuttle out of a grounded headlock. It’s good, “olde English wrestling” stuff this, but to a lot of the crowd, Sid’s “that bloke who speaks for Johnny Saint on NXT UK”, which is underselling him woefully short.

Scala stayed a step ahead of Howley, who got pulled outside by his tag partner as they had to use distraction tactics to get back in it. Sid’s back to his grappling ways, with a flying sunset flip to Howley after he’d faked out a diving uppercut, before Pretty Deadly pulled a page out of the Grizzled Young Veterans’ playbook with a known-bad tag so they could cause confusion.

Confusion they’d capitalise on, as a double-team to breaks put Pretty Deadly on top. Eventually Scala tags back in, and worked his way into a neckbreaker on the corner on Howley, before heading up top for a slingshot crossbody around the corner. A Shadows Over Malice-like headbutt to the back of a bent-over Howley follows, but Lewis counters a tornado DDT, then blind-tagged out to avoid an O’Connor Roll as Stoker comes in with a DDT to Scala. Howley’s quickly back in as Scala’s lawn-darted into a superkick for a near-fall, before Breaks tagged in and caught Pretty Deadly in a pair of Corning holds.

Pretty Deadly come right back with double-teams though, including a High/Low before Breaks had to wriggle out of a Fireman’s carry. Scala’s not there to tag though, so he charges into Stoker with a mounted Kimura… only for the legal Howley to clothesline it apart as a double-team fireman’s carry gutbuster gets the win. I’m probably the odd man out here, but I really enjoyed that match. It’s just a damn shame it got the “bonus match” treatment. Am I wrong to hope for more Jordon Breaks and Sid Scala in PROGRESS? ***¼

Before the next match, Jim asked the crowd if they were in Manchester… or if they saw the Manchester show on VOD. I was alarmed at the relatively small cheers for both. Anyway, that’s irrelevant because they’re doing the rematch from that show’s match of the night, two weeks later…

Cara Noir vs. Ilja Dragunov
As good as Cara Noir’s entrance is, I still can’t get over how bleached out the lighting makes things. Still, we’ve already established the live crowd doesn’t watch the VOD, so it’s a relatively minor moan.

There’s loud duelling chants at the bell, as we start with a handshake, but we quickly saw Cara Noir take down Ilja, working an armbar and rolling Dragunov into a pinning attempt, but Ilja kicked out before a count. After another exchange, Dragunov and Noir swap headlock takedowns and escapes, turning up the pace until Noir caught Ilja with a dropkick.

Ilja floats out of a back suplex as we reached the obligatory stand-off… which Cara Noir shrugged off as he just went nose-to-nose with Ilja. of course, the crowd chanted “kiss”, which… yeah. Feinted strikes keep the tension up, before Ilja snapped in with a leaping forearm and a struggle of a crossbody to take Cara down.

Body blows follow, but a Blackheart Buster (tagged the Madame Guillotine) from Noir stops Dragunov in his tracks. A kick from Cara took Ilja outside… but Cara takes him back in so he could whip the former 16 Carat Gold winner between turnbuckles, then duck a wild swing from the Russian to boot. Eventually Ilja managed to get back in, dumping Cara with a suplex before he began to chop the Black Swan around the ring.

Ilja tees up and connects with a running knee in the corner, followed by a swivelling lariat for good measure, getting a near-fall out of it. Cara follows Ilja up top, landing a headbutt, only to get shoved down as Ilja went for a flying back senton… but Noir stood up and apparently went for a neckbreaker to counter in mid-air. That led to a moment where they head-to-head laying down, rising up to their feet and holding hands for what looked like a curtain call. I suspect Glen…

Ilja’s had enough and went for a back chop, but it’s caught as Dragunov just unloaded on Cara with strikes, blocking a headbutt before we got a wacky pin as Noir’s headbutt had Ilja lean back on himself mid knee-slide for a one-count. Dragunov looks like he’s going to kiss Cara, but they just trade headbutts for a near-fall for Noir, before another flurry led to the Swan Woo dropkick for a near-fall. A second Swan Woo, to the back, takes Dragunov into the corner as Cara looked to the Blackout sleeper… but Ilja repositions and snapmares his way free. Another punt drops Cara as Ilja heads up again, this time connecting with the back senton for a near-fall, before a Torpedo Moscau was almost countered with a Swan Woo… but Ilja countered the counter with a German suplex for another near-fall.

He tries again for a Torpedo Moscau, but Noir counters into a Blackout sleeper… and there’s your finish! Lovely stuff at the end, but I’m massively on the fence with the stand-off stuff in the middle. A slight hair above their Manchester show, and unless they rush the third match for November’s show, don’t be shocked if the trilogy ends at Unboxing. ****¼

Back from interval, we’ve got banter about escape rooms and bad chocolate bars…

Do Not Resuscitate’s Danny Duggan and Chuck Mambo were meant to take on the NIC (Oisin Delaney and Charlie Carter)… but this turned out to be nothing but an angle. Spike Trivet, initially looking like a posh Harry Potter popped up on the video screen, telling us he was in Newcastle “returning video tapes”. Wonder if Mr Coyle got them in the end?

Anyway, there was a video on social media before the show about Destination: Everywhere gunning for DNR… and so Spike announced he’d hired some extra bodies to help out. Cue Pretty Deadly hitting the ring to lay out the NIC, standing tall with those DNR flags afterwards. Danny Duggan locked in a half-crab afterwards to keep trolling the OJMO, so that’s presumably going to carry on being a thing.

So for those keeping score, Do Not Resuscitate is now Spike Trivet, William Eaver, Chuck Mambo, Danny Duggan, Sam Stoker and Lewis Howley. Destination: Everywhere is also a thing, but haven’t been referred to as such “on tape”, as they’re made up of the OJMO, Oisin Delaney and Charlie Carter. That’s a 6-on-3 advantage for the bad guys… 6-on-4 if you count Connor Mills, I guess. Eh, at least they’ve given DNR something to do other than drift around the cards, but as I keep saying, it’d be nice to establish guys on the main shows first, rather than assume everyone knows everyone.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Dani Luna vs. Meiko Satomura (c)
Dani earned this shot courtesy of a win over Toni Storm last time out in Manchester, and it’s a hell of an acid test for her. Jim wheels out his Japanese intro for Satomura, which is a nice reminder of his old foreign languages intros from back in the day.

Meiko started by taking Luna into the corner for a kick to the leg, before she restrained the Londoner with a side headlock as commentary told us Meiko’s been wrestling longer than Dani’s been living. God, I feel old. Restraining Luna by the arm, Meiko throws some kicks to help take Dani down for a knee drop, before a grounded version of the Cobra Twist kept Dani at bay.

Luna hit back with a back elbow, but it barely keeps Meiko on the mat, with Satomura’s spinning heel kick restoring the status quo. A cross armbar forces Dani into the ropes, but Meiko stayed on her with kicks before Dani got her feet up in the corner and hit a rebound splash out of the corner for a two-count. Satomura’s quickly back in control with a superplex though, before she had to kick out of a flash roll-up as a big punt had Dani back on the deck. A superkick sees Dani try her luck once more, as does a fallaway slam, before a frog splash landed for a near-fall… Dani tries to add to that momentum, but her suplex was delayed as Meiko locked in a guillotine choke.

Despite another flurry, Meiko’s back in though, hitting a DDT and the cartwheel knees, before a death valley bomb for the win. On paper, Dani was outclassed, and it led to this expected result. So, given PROGRESS had built up Dani, who’s next to challenge, given Meiko’ll be back in December… ***

PROGRESS Proteus Championship: Paul Robinson (c) vs. William Eaver
Remember, we’re working under rules here where the match can only end via submission or KO…

The erratic Eaver told the expanded DNR to disappear during his entrance, as I’m sad he’d replace his accordion with the speaker. Eaver promised to repeat his win over Robinson from a few months back, but got jumped at the bell, then got sent outside courtesy of his own speaker. Back inside, a Thesz press stops Eaver, as does a spear off the middle rope as we headed outside.

Robbo’s dive’s caught, with Eaver turning it into a fallaway slam into the crowd, before they returned to the ring. Commentary brings up how Eaver’s KO’d folks before, bringing up Sebastian at Brixton three years ago, as Eaver continued to put the boots to Robinson back in the ring. The old Clothesline from Heaven drops Robbo, as did a back suplex, as the crowd seemed rather nonplussed at this. A swandive headbutt from Eaver comes up short, and allows Robbo back into it with a springboard moonsault… which he turned into a satellite DDT for good measure. Robinson takes Eaver outside and into the crowd, throwing chairs at the former PROGRESS champion, who then bounced off of the ring post for good measure. After stacking up chairs on the floor, Robinson got dumped on the apron with back suplexes, before Eaver just began to fling chairs at him.

Robinson returned the favour, before he tried to Zombie through another barrage of chair throwing. Eaver tries to crucifix bomb Robbo into the crowd, but a ‘rana proved to be a timely counter, before Ever hit the powerbomb again back in the ring. Of course, there’s no pinfalls here, as Chuck Mambo appeared on the stage in the gaudy, sparkly vest. Mambo’s wiped out with a dive as Robinson neutralised him early, before Robbo had to duck a Clothesline from Heaven as he curb stomped his way into the ref stoppage. Eaver made good use of the almost-no-DQ rules, but it wasn’t to be. At least they didn’t try to dismantle the ring again though. **¾

The OJMO vs. David Starr
In hindsight, it should have been obvious when both The OJMO and David Starr were advertised as appearing – without having a match booked – what was going on here. They’re both dancing to the tune of Eddie Dennis, fighting for his entertainment to get a title shot at a point yet-to-be-determined.

We’ve a rather testy start as Starr took the OJMO into the corner, before he followed him to the mat in almost a grounded abdominal stretch. Starr followed that up by rolling OJMO to the mat in a wristlock, as we got a good look at the heavily-taped neck of his opponent while Starr worked his way into a trapped-arm armbar as the Super Strong Style 16 winner was all over things.

A standing surfboard stretch keeps OJMO in trouble, as did chops in the corner and a neck twister. It’s been massively one-way in those opening stretches, but the OJMO finally hits back with a leaping leg lariat, only to miss a springboard moonsault as Starr went back in with a backbreaker and a cartwheel kick. More chops from Starr have the OJMO reeling into the opposite corner, before a big slam just bounced the OJMO onto the mat for a two-count. Another Irish whip sends the OJMO into the corner, bouncing upside down off the buckles for another near-fall, as we wash, rinse and repeat. The OJMO sails outside there, as we got a count-out tease… with the OJMO ripping off his neck tape… and getting chopped again.

This time he fights back with forearms, pinning Starr into the corner before he turned a floatover into a satellite DDT. A running dropkick catches Starr in the ropes, as does a second, before he went for a third, rather than risk a tope getting caught for an apron DDT. The Fosbury flop is next as OJMO builds momentum, following up with a moonsault that almost ended things. A half-crab looked to follow, but Starr pushes away before he railed on the OJMO with chops and forearms in the corner. A ‘rana from the OJMO comes close, as does a backslide, but the Pretty Pumped stops OJMO in his tracks briefly, before a running knee cut off a Han Stansen attempt. Undeterred, the OJMO lands a frog splash for a near-fall, which turned into a half crab that sent Starr into the ropes for cover.

The OJMO tried to box his way ahead, pinning Starr by the ropes, only to get crushed by a Han Stansen out of nowhere. A Blackheart Buster’s next for a near-fall, as commentary was pushing that Starr was almost over the line… only for the OJMO to hit a sucker punch. It’s shrugged off as another Han Stansen… ends up countered into the half crab as finally this crowd makes some noise, even more so when the OJMO pulls Starr away from the ropes as Starr teased submitting. Instead, Starr kicks away, then caught the OJMO with a Cherry Mint DDT on the apron and one more big Han Stansen for the win. Well, given the OJMO was only in the Natural PROGRESSion Series a month or so ago, he was always going to have an uphill struggle here against Starr… I just wish the crowd gave more of a damn before the finishing series. I get that babyface matches can be a problem, but on the VOD it came across as the crowd just not being invested, which hurt watching from afar. ***½

Speaking of… where the heck was Eddie Dennis and/or Mark Andrews here? Surely they had a vested interest in the result? Either way, the OJMO was left behind to take the crowd’s applause in defeat as the show came to an end.

Slowly, slowly, things are improving. PROGRESS are refreshing their roster and slowly replenishing the undercard with new faces, even if the way they’re coming isn’t quite the best. I’m not crazy over how Destination: Everywhere is something that’s been snuck in via Twitter, whereas we all got to hear about creative changes. Saying that, I have a feeling one may be longer lasting than the other… So we’ve got David Starr vs. Eddie Dennis at a time to be decided, while Do Not Resuscitate and a short-handed Destination: Everywhere is likely to rumble on for a while… all we need is to get the Ballrom crowds somewhere back to their old vocal selves and things will be back on track.