PROGRESS Wrestling – Chapter 22
Trust, Encouragement, Reward, Loyalty, Satisfaction
October 18, 2015
Electric Ballroom – Camden, Greater London, England, UK
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After defeating his mentor, Jimmy Havoc, in a violent match at Chapter 21, Paul Robinson earned himself a title match against his former tag team partner, PROGRESS Champion Will Ospreay. The Origin have teased that they are building an army, and the first test of that army comes against the combined forces of the London Riots and the Tag Team Champions, the Sumerian Death Squad. Also, Tommaso Ciampa returns to PROGRESS for a rare import appearance in a match against Mark Haskins.

The show opened with a video spoofing The Office (the real, UK version), with Tom Irvin as David Brent in full-emu attire. The more you enjoy The Office the more you’ll get out of this, but the GZRS performances are very funny just by themselves, so this is still a joyful hype video even if you’re not familiar of what it’s parodying. This was followed by Jim Smallman’s traditional opening speech, which led into the first match.

Dave Mastiff vs Jack Gallagher

This is only Gallagher’s third match in PROGRESS, but he has already won over the crowd, with a helping hand from his glorious theme music. His ‘Extraordinary’ gimmick is unlikely to move him to the top of the card, but as an opening act it is fantastic, getting the crowd involved in the show early with some eye-popping moves and a hum-a-long theme song. However, this was more an angle than a match, as after just a few minutes of half-hearted grappling exchanges, the match was interrupted by Zack Gibson, looking to recruit both men into The Origin. Mastiff took him up on his offer, headbutting Gallagher from behind and choking him out for the tainted victory. Mastiff immediately entered ‘heel mode’ and cut a promo on the PROGRESS crowd, calling them “wannabe hipster fuckwits” and officially joining The Origin. A nothing match, but a good fresh start for Mastiff who has been floating around for most of the year. He’s much better as a heel, fits into The Origin gimmick well, and he’s not exactly wrong about the sort of people who inhabit Camden on any given Sunday. *

Tyler Bate vs Pastor William Eaver

Tyler Bate’s debut for PROGRESS saw him up against Eaver in a Natural Progression Series match. At 18 years old, they don’t come much younger than Bate, but he’s got plenty of experience around the UK, and wrestled in Chikara’s King of Trios last month. Not many in the crowd knew who Bate was, but he really impressed here and won over new fans with his infectious energy and impressive power moves. With his skillset, he honestly wouldn’t seem out of place among the current New Japan Young Lions, and this match was similar in style to those Young Lion openers, with both men displaying exemplary proficiency in the basics while also showing hints of individual signature moves and charisma. The match wasn’t really long enough to go beyond that though, which is becoming a recurring theme of Eaver matches. Perhaps it’s better to look really good in short matches than get shown up when attempting to go more than 10 minutes, but the Pastor seems ready for a bigger contest. The finish saw Bate missing a moonsault attempt, and Eaver hitting him with the best looking Clothesline From Heaven he’s hit so far. **½

Post-match, Smallman put over Bate’s ability, and Bate appeared in awe at the applause he was receiving. I loved seeing his infectious and genuine reaction to overwhelming praise, and hearing people around me audibly gasp after hearing that he was 18 was a treat. I’m fully on board the Bate bandwagon as he builds his reputation on the British scene.

The GZRS (Sebastian & Tom Irvin) vs Lord Jonathan Windsor and Rampage Brown:

The GZRS debut as a tag team on the main Chapter shows saw Tom Irvin enter still in his David Brent/emu costume, signalling that this match might get a little bit silly. Their opponents were the equally ridiculous combination of Rampage Brown, hopelessly lost in the world of comedy wrestling, and Lord Jonathan Windsor, one of the ProJo trainers and last minute replacement for Martin Kirby, but still versed well in comedy. Lots of funny character interactions throughout this match. To start with, Emu-Irvin asks the royal robe-clad Windsor “What the fuck are you wearing?”, while Rampage spends the entire match laughing at his opponents and partner. Despite not appearing at a Chapter show for quite some time, Windsor acquitted himself very well here, wrestling almost the entire match for his team, getting very good heat from the crowd, balancing viciousness and comedy, and making sure to never over-shadow the GZRS. He played his role excellently, and really earned his money by getting his trunks pulled down early on and wrestling for several minutes with a bare bum. Let the record show I much preferred looking at Lord Gideon Grey’s advertisement-laden crotch than Lord Windsor’s naked behind.

If you’re into the GZRS act, then this match was a riot after the lengthy heat period, with their Dudley Boys tribute leading into the debut of the Slip-n-Slide in the Ballroom. Rampage got in on the action, looking to piledriver Irvin, but Windsor tagged himself in, irating Rampage, who attacked Windsor before throwing Irvin down the Slip-n-Slide, head-first into Windsor’s crotch. Irvin hit a Stone Cold Stunner to pick up the victory in a match packed full of GZRS ridiculousness. The match quality depends on your tolerance for their comedy, but for me it was a lot of fun, and everyone played their part very well. ***

Tommaso Ciampa vs Mark Haskins

Ciampa returns to PROGRESS after his appearance in the Super Strong Style 16; a relatively rare (and advertised) appearance for an import. He started this match working a lot of comedy spots, doing Kevin Steen’s ‘ROPES!’ bit and running around the crowd, even starting a wave. This seemed like deliberately annoying pandering, playing up his run in NXT making him an ‘entertainer’ versus Haskins straight-laced ‘fighter’ gimmick, but while that may have seemed like a great dynamic on paper, it didn’t translate to building a good match, and didn’t garner much heat for Ciampa, especially after the GZRS comedy match prior.

Once Ciampa went ‘serious’ the match became enjoyably brutal, but it didn’t feel like the match had been built to the point where the stiff chops and intense facial expressions meant as much as they could have, so while the closing stretch was very good action, it felt underwhelming because there wasn’t a solid base that the match had built from. It jumped straight from comedy to brutality, with neither feeling very satisfying. The commentators really sold Haskins getting beaten almost to the point of needing to stop the match, but live it never came across like that, and whether Haskins wasn’t getting the crowd behind him enough or Ciampa wasn’t coming off like a bully heel, the dynamic didn’t work. I could see a less grumpy fan loving this match, because the second half did have a lot of action and drama, with a very close nearfall after Project Ciampa landed, and some very exciting Fujiwara armbars from Haskins being reversed out of and into again. This led to the finish, where Haskins finally caught Ciampa in a Jim Breaks-style armbar firmly in the middle of the ring for the submission victory. A good match after the odd opening, but still somewhat disappointing since the story of the match didn’t really come off well, and let down the otherwise very strong action. ***

‘Flash’ Morgan Webster vs Marty Scurll

This was Scurll’s first match after his heel turn, attacking Kris Travis after their match at the last Chapter, and was designed to establish his new role and make one of the most popular wrestlers in Britain completely unlikeable. Throughout, Scurll acted without his usual exuberance and flair, instead sneering with distain at the fans during his entrance and wrestling with dominant authority rather than cheeky trickery. Webster felt almost like a spare part in this match, such was the prominence of Marty’s story and his outstanding character work. That said, this was perhaps Webster’s best showing since his very good Natural Progression Series Final match against Zack Gibson in January, as his lucha-style moves looked crisper than they have in the past.  He’s slowly but surely getting more comfortable in the ring, though he was still outmatched by Scurll here. However, Scurll brought Webster up to his level here, not the other way around, and they crafted a good match with their styles meshing very well; Webster’s pleasing fast-paced offence contrasted with Scurll constantly cheating and enforcing his new heel role. The finish was superbly unsatisfying, with Scurll low blowing Webster twice behind the referee’s back, then pinning him with feet on the ropes, making sure no-one could be pleased that Scurll had won. That was the desired effect though. The match was designed to suck out any residual babyface support Scurll still had with the fans, and in that it completely succeeded, as there was absolutely nothing likeable about Scurll by the time the it was over. ***½

Post-match, Scurll cut a promo explaining that “The Villain” wasn’t just a character, but rather who he really was. Scurll really pounded the point home well by gloating that he was responsible for Kris Travis retiring, an angle which I’m fine with and don’t feel is exploitative, since Scurll obviously passed it by Travis before-hand. Scurll was interrupted by Ciampa, who set up a match between them Chapter 23 in November, one that would have had a lot more interest had Ciampa beaten Haskins, but still a marquee match-up for the next Chapter.

Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante) & London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch) vs The Origin (Nathan Cruz, El Ligero, Zack Gibson & Dave Mastiff)

Mastiff officially joined the existing three Origin members here as their mystery partner. This match was always destined to be the ‘car crash’ portion of the show, and that’s exactly how it went, with all 8 men brawling out of the ring within a couple of minutes. Early on, it appeared Rob Lynch had re-aggravated a scary neck injury he suffered at the previous ENDVR show, where the show had to stop for several minutes while he was attended to. Luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt there, but they repeated those scenes in this match, with PROGRESS staff rushing to his aid looking seriously panicked. The scene looked real live, but was revealed to be a work a few minutes later, and this was a serious misjudgement by PROGRESS. Blurring the lines between kayfabe and reality can be a great thing to do, but when it plays with the fans’ view of a potentially seriously injured worker, it kills any interest in the match and all attention turns to the man’s health. The Scurll’s Travis promo earlier didn’t feel exploitative but this did; a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation that took me completely out of the match. Up until Lynch’s re-entry the match was just uninteresting crowd brawling that led up to The Origin attacking Lynch and the staff helping him to the back, only for Lynch to come back at El Ligero and throw him off the stage onto the other wrestlers; an great-looking bump that occurred right in front of me, adding to the excellent spectacle, and getting my attention back into the match after the worked shoot silliness. Ligero taking yet another crazy bump at a PROGRESS show makes me admire the hardest working man in British wrestling even more.

At times, this felt like a Dragon Gate match, with each team isolating one opponent and unleashing several moves in a row on them, only for the other team to take control and return the favour. Lots of impressive power moves hit at a very fast rate made for a great spectacle, but like Haskins vs Ciampa, the first half of the match let down the second and made the good work mean less. The Origin as a unit looked very good in-ring, with Mastiff looking to be a good addition. SDS thrive in this kind of car crash environment with lots of heavy-hitting moves in quick succession, so they were expectedly awesome here. The finish to the match fell flat though, an awkward sequence saw SDS and the Riots pretend not to see Mastiff (of all people) sneak up on them while they argued, rolling End up for the win. Like the Scurll win, it was designed to be unsatisfying, but it didn’t work as well within the context of the preceding ‘spotfest’ match. The Origin won because they were the better unit, while SDS and the Riots teased dissention, and a future title match. ***

PROGRESS Championship Match – Will Ospreay vs Paul Robinson

This match between former Swords of Essex tag team partners was built to with two fantastic promo videos, each starring one of the competitors. Robinson’s was filmed just after his brutal match with Jimmy Havoc at Chapter 21, and gets over his maniacal and dangerous character very well, while Ospreay’s features his best promo to date; he looked ultra-confident and proud to represent PROGRESS as its Champion. If you’re in doubt to how popular Ospreay has become now, just look to his entrance, where he got carpeted in streamers while every other wrestler on the show got half a dozen at most.

The pair began with a fantastic series of counters and dodged strikes, and the pace stayed fast throughout the opening minutes, making Robinson taking control of the match more jarring and effective. Robinson is very small, but still came across as a believable threat to Ospreay thanks to his strong character and painful-looking kicks; Robinson being a former kickboxing champion. He has a dangerous aura around him, and this made his control period a lot more fun as he tormented Ospreay physically, by focussing his attacks on the abdomen, and mentally, by letting loose a long drool that dropped onto Ospreay’s face. Violent and disgusting in about equal measure, then. Robinson’s effective heel work made Ospreay’s comeback feel more intense, and the moves that Ospreay unleashed on the comeback were, as usual, utterly spectacular. There was one major believable nearfall for Robinson after he hit a sick-looking corner curb stomp, but Ospreay kicked out. Ospreay never managed to take total control of the match though, and had to resort to a roll-up to take victory. It felt like Ospreay escaped Robinson rather than decisively beating him, so despite losing, Robinson made Ospreay seen vulnerable, a characteristic he will take with him into his next defence.

Ospreay’s style works so well because of the emotion and intensity he attaches to it, and Robinson made himself a very good outlet for that emotion in this match. That being said, this match never reached the heights of the spectacular Ospreay/Haskins last month. This was more of a cerebral affair, playing off the history and characters of Ospreay and Robinson, so while still entertaining, it didn’t match up as a standalone contest. ***½

Post-match, Mark Andrews made his return to PROGRESS to chase off sore loser Robinson and challenged Will Ospreay for the PROGRESS Championship. That’s your main event of Chapter 23.

Final Thoughts: This was one of the weaker shows of the year for PROGRESS, if not the weakest, ending a fantastic run of shows since the SSS16. It was still a lot of fun though, and the atmosphere and presentation remains unmatched by any other indie. The individual performances of Scurll and Ospreay were outstanding; the two are on another level right now. The third man on that level, Jimmy Havoc, was very noticeable in his absence, and the show may have suffered because of that.