PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 21: You Know We Don’t Like To Use The Sit Down Gun
September 6, 2015
Electric Ballroom – Camden, Greater London, England

Will Ospreay is the brand new PROGRESS Champion after defeating long-time champion Jimmy Havoc in an emotional match at Chapter 20. His first defence comes on this show against the winner of the Thunderbastard match from that show, Mark Haskins. Tommy End and Michael Dante have set an Open Challenge for their Tag Team Championships, while Kris Travis returns to PROGRESS for the first time against Marty Scurll after suffering from cancer for almost a year.

The show opened with Jim Smallman entering the ring with two stormtroopers, playing off the Imperial March theme that opens every Chapter show. The stormtroopers turned out to be Tom Irvin and Sebastian, The GZRS, who answered Sumerian Death Squad’s Open Challenge with a “No”, but only because Sebastian was injured. Sebastian announced the GZRS intentions of winning the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships in the next year. This was a fun way of getting The GZRS on the show, and making their goal of becoming champions clear was a good move. Being a definite part of the tag division will help them avoid becoming meaningless comedy characters, and their journey to challenging for the titles should be interesting to see. They have a long way to go as wrestlers to be able to hang with a team like SDS, but PROGRESS clearly believes in them.

The Origin (Nathan Cruz & El Ligero) vs London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch)

The Origin have been booked very strangely in their first few shows, looking very strong at times before almost immediately being made to look like chumps. I was unsure of how well they would manage to garner crowd reactions after their strange start as a team, but Cruz and Ligero managed to get very good heat during their entrance and the very long pre-amble to the actual wrestling, mainly thanks to Cruz’s great incredulous facial expressions and arguing with the audience during quieter portions of the match.

The match itself was fairly formulaic, with a long heat period before the Riots came back. Everything was technically sound, but nothing before the finish was of particular note. El Ligero took a ridiculous District Line powerbomb into the third row; a crazy bump for a man who was wrestling just a couple of hours later at a different show. The Riots couldn’t capitalise on their 2-on-1 advantage though, because Zack Gibson aided Cruz by jamming a fork into both Riots’ eyes, letting Cruz get the pin. Gibson is now an Origin member, and as an absolute heat magnet his inclusion should make The Origin even more reviled. It seemed like Cruz and Ligero were riling up the crowd well enough on this show themselves. The match was average, but Ligero’s crazy bump has to be particularly acknowledged. **½

Jack Gallagher vs Pastor William Eaver

This was Gallagher’s second appearance in PROGRESS, but his first as “The Extraordinary” Jack Gallagher. To place the new gimmick, think leopard print-clad Simon Gotch. The knock-off Vaudevillian act didn’t do much for me, but Gallagher got a strong reaction as the match progressed, with the crowd really taking to his remixed ‘Toreador’ entrance music and his smashing resemblance to Nigel Thornberry, an observation which I did pop for. Gallagher’s style is perhaps better suited to a more easy-going gimmick, since he doesn’t come off as a ‘gruff shooter’, and really that’s for the best because he’s filling a niche by being very technically skilled but also having ‘oddball’ charisma.

Eaver once again looked great here, breaking out new moves including a particularly stylish backbreaker into fisherman’s suplex combo, while making Gallagher’s strikes and holds look very dangerous. He looks so comfortable in the ring now and I’d like to see him in a bigger match soon. Ultimately, Gallagher reversed a Clothesline from Heaven attempt into a Boston Crab, tapping Eaver out as Yohei Komatsu & Sho Tanaka nodded in approval. A fun match that could have stood to be longer, but showed potential for both men to go further in PROGRESS. ***

Zack Gibson vs Eddie Dennis

Gibson came to the ring with Nathan Cruz, cementing his Origin allegiance. He cut another fantastic promo against the PROGRESS fans, including a scathing attack on the modern day pop culture obsession with comic book characters. Of course, barely any of this could be heard due to the barrage of Scouse-related abuse being hurled at Gibson. His character and his promos are always a treat. This match was smartly worked around Gibson attacking Dennis’ arm, and Dennis sold the early damage well throughout the match. That said, there wasn’t much here that excited me. Dennis is fun and very charismatic, but he’s floating around with no story or direction in PROGRESS and that makes him and his matches less interesting. The finish again saw The Origin try to use a fork to pick up a tainted victory. Dennis stopped it at first but Gibson then hit him with a low blow to win. Cruz then hid the fork in his boot while taunting the fans sitting directly in front of me; a really fun heel move that the cameras didn’t pick up but added to my personal enjoyment of the match. **

Before intermission, Jimmy Havoc and Regression stormed to the ring demanding a re-match for the PROGRESS Championship. Jim Smallman gave Havoc a #1 Contender/No Disqualification match with stablemate Paul Robinson, and made sure that they couldn’t fix the match or else they would both be fired.

No Disqualification Match
Jimmy Havoc vs Paul Robinson

Both men tried to win the loyalty of Isaac Zercher, the Regression muscle, prior to the match, but Zercher chose to walk out rather than pick sides. Left alone with the two biggest heels in PROGRESS, the crowd decided to support Robinson or ‘Dobby’, his unaffectionate nickname. Robinson is a small guy and his year as ‘Jimmy’s Little Bitch’ made him a great underdog face for this one match, as the crowd empathised with the underling now getting to beat the crap out of the boss. This was by no means a face turn for Robinson, who still argued with and flipped off the crowd, but his hyper-energetic style and the unique circumstances of the match allowed people to root for him.

In about the third minute, Havoc put Robinson through a table with a package piledriver, and the match began its descent into very violent territory. Havoc taped light tubes to the ringpost, while Robinson took a bite out of Havoc’s forehead, as the match started to get a disturbing but dramatic feeling. The cathartic violence against him also brought sympathy to the usually hated Havoc, and that showed through when Havoc exchanged chops with Robinson’s staple gun shots, culminating in Havoc getting stapled in the gentleman’s region. Havoc then went head-first through the light tubes, making his face and much of his white attire completely red. The gore continued to ramp up from here, with both men stabbing each other with broken light tubes, making for uncomfortable but very compelling viewing. The more punishment Havoc took, the more he turned into the fan favourite; his sins of the past being forgiven through suffering. After taking an Acid Rainmaker and several chair shots, Havoc’s penance ended with an insane curb stomp through several light tubes. Robinson took a big win here, beating Havoc at his own game. This was a ridiculously violent match but nothing was gratuitous; everything they did made sense in the context of the Regression story, and I suspect that it was worked more safely than it appeared (for instance, Havoc put his hands up for the chairshot to the head). I would class this as a ‘deathmatch’, but it was far smarter than two hillbillies randomly smacking each other with light tubes.

After the match, Havoc received a standing ovation and Jim Smallman helped him to his feet; a really emotional end to Havoc’s run as the top heel in PROGRESS. This match marked the end of his story and the end of an era in PROGRESS. Where Havoc goes from here remains to be seen, but he likely won’t be around in PROGRESS for a while. On this night though, he went through hell in a fantastic and dramatic fight. ****

Marty Scurll vs Kris Travis

This was Travis’ first match in PROGRESS since suffering from cancer, and the crowd greeted him with a very warm reception. He is back in remarkable shape after such a short time, and was still wrestling at a high level here. A step behind Scurll perhaps, but nothing that can be criticised given the circumstances; it’s brilliant to have Travis back. Scurll worked ridiculously hard in this match to make Travis look great, giving the shine to him in several exchanges to allow the crowd to appreciate Travis plenty of times. Scurll made everything in this match look so smooth and effortless. He’s a real ring general who could step into any company in the world and have a good match with just about anyone. This got really good towards the end with fluid back and forth exchanges and finisher teases, before Travis hooked Scurll in a cradle pin for the win. As much as this match was about Travis’ big return, the main take away from it was Scurll attacking him post-match, locking him in a chicken wing for a long time before the PROGRESS babyfaces managed to pull him off. As predicted by Rob on the latest Brit Wres Roundtable, Scurll, frustrated by his repeated close losses is now embracing his ‘Villain’ character as a new major heel in PROGRESS. Attacking the sympathetic Travis is a big first step towards that. ***½

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship Match
Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante) (c) vs Roderick Strong & Adam Cole

End and Dante’s second defence of the Tag Team Championships was an Open Challenge match, and answering the challenge were surprise announcements Strong and Cole. This was a huge treat for an unsuspecting live crowd who gave a huge reaction to both guys, and remained hot for the duration of the match. Strong and Cole controlled the early going, with Roddy’s choice of footwear riling up the crowd just as it did at Super Strong Style 16. The match was worked in a similar way to SDS’ match with the Hunter Brothers at Chapter 20, with the smaller team controlling the match with smart tags, but SDS working their way back with big time strikes and power moves. The Americans gave SDS a lot of shine, allowing them to hit some really spectacular moves. Strong and Cole passed their star power over to End and Dante, which is the best thing imports can do when wrestling the ‘locals’. In the end, hit their Black Mass and Anti-Hero signature moves to pick up a big win; their Tag Team Championship reign has been fantastic after the first two defences.

There wasn’t much psychology in this match, but it was an amazing spectacle. PROGRESS don’t use many US imports, so when they do show up it’s a really big deal, and just the presence Strong and Cole had was enough to drive a good but not great match to being something that was really special. ****

PROGRESS Championship Match
Will Ospreay (c) vs Mark Haskins

The story of this match was of Haskins trying to ground the brilliant flyer Ospreay, and wrestle a more technical match where he would have the advantage. A couple of great early reversals showed Ospreay’s agility, but also Haskins’, showing that even if he couldn’t ground Ospreay, the two were still evenly matched. It’s a small detail, but Haskins’ style feels very real and believable, and here he really got across that he wanted to win the match and the title just through his movements and wrestling style. This match could have very easily lost something after all the big events preceding it, but Haskins and Ospreay’s subtle emotions really drew me into the match and made it stand out.  

The emotions were good but the action itself was fantastic. Haskins couldn’t keep Ospreay grounded and Ospreay broke out his spectacular arsenal of moves. There are very few wrestlers in the world more exciting or creative than Ospreay, but Haskins did a great job to keep pace with him, and worked in some awesome submission counters into Ospreay’s aerial flair. The match was very fast-paced but everything felt meaningful; it was by no means a spot-fest.

The intensity really picked up towards the end, with Haskins kicking out of an Essex Destroyer/Phoenix Press combo and Ospreay kicking out of Haskins’ Made in Japan finisher. Ospreay even countered a reverse rana with a reverse rana, the absolute show off. Really high level stuff from both guys all led to Ospreay hitting an imploding 450° splash and his 630° senton finisher to win a fantastic main event. It seems like every Ospreay match now is a must-see, not only for fans of British wrestling, but for any wrestling fan, while Haskins added a lot of his own unique talents to Ospreay’s style of match. Haskins really proved that he deserved the main event spot here. ****½

Final Thoughts: Going into Chapter 21, I expected this show to be good, but not on the same level as the previous two Chapters. What it turned out to be though may have been even better, as the impromptu Robinson/Havoc war and Strong and Cole as the surprise tag team really made the show feel special, while Ospreay and Haskins delivered another tremendous British main event match in 2015.