PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 32: 5000 to 1
June 26, 2016
Electric Ballroom
London, England

Watch: Demand Progress

No DQ
Nathan Cruz def. Damon Moser

Moser fluked a win over Cruz’s Origin teammate Zack Gibson at Chapter 31, but was beaten down by the pair post-match, so he asked for this match to become No DQ. This burgeoning feud with The Origin is finally giving Moser the slightest semblance of an intriguing character, although his first impression leaves him a lot of ground to make up in terms of popularity. His look and persona still feel eminently unlikeable; he looks like both a Rat-boy era Conor O’Brien and a budget Tommy End, and because of that I think he would be better off disappearing back into the ProJo for a few shows to be re-packaged, but PROGRESS are going to stick it out with him and see how it goes.

To be fair to Moser, this was by far his best showing on a Chapter show so far, mainly thanks to the No DQ environment, which he seemed to be more comfortable in. Cruz was also very much up for taking some punishment, as his early bump from the balcony onto chairs on the floor showed. Cruz’s mouth got busted open halfway through the match, which really helped him sell the brutality of some of Moser’s moves; he looked like he’d been in a car crash after Moser (successfully!) hit his coast-to-coast dropkick. After that though, Cruz took control of the match, and whipped out old Faceless toolbox, which only the most die-hard of PROGRESS fans will even remember the existence of. Cruz tied Moser up with a fishing line from the toolbox, and after Moser battled out, The Origin planted him through a table. Moser got to look good by kicking out of this, only to be put down for good with a conchairto. A brutal, if somewhat clunky, match to start the show and continue the Moser vs Origin story, which seems to be heading towards some sort of conclusion at Brixton. **1/2

TK Cooper def. Jack Sexsmith

I’ve already sung the praises of TK Cooper and Dahlia Back and how wonderfully disgusting they are multiple times, but it’s time for the act to grow beyond being undercard fodder or ‘just an entrance’ and move up the PROGRESS hierarchy. Thankfully, that’s exactly what this match was designed to do, with Cooper going over a fellow ProJo-level guy in Sexsmith, and adding a new element to his act in doing so.

Cooper looked ready for bigger and better things in this match, taking control of the action and displaying a presence far beyond what you’d usually expect from a man with only 4 years’ experience. That’s not to dismiss Sexsmith, who had his best in-ring performance yet here, and proved that he has plenty of potential between the ropes, beyond just having an entertaining personality. In kayfabe and in real life though, he’s not quite on Cooper’s level, and though Sexsmith had him rocked late in the match, Travis Banks ran in behind the referee’s back to take out Sexsmith and allow Cooper to deck him with a punch to the back of the head for the win. I like that Cooper’s finisher is simply a punch (albeit one that requires the opponent to be ‘groggy’ to land) since it’s such a deeply unimpressive move, making it impossible to be happy that Cooper has won a match. The South Pacific Power Trio heeled it up all the way through the match, and look to join the growing ranks of PROGRESS’s tag division now. **

Laura Di Matteo def. Jinny

This rivalry has been built over much of the last year, with Laura finally rebelling against her former ‘employer’ Jinny a couple of Chapters ago. This first singles match was much anticipated and early on, looked like it would live up to the hype, after Laura hit a perfect suicide dive to end a hot opening sequence. After that though, the match started to fall apart, with a lot of punching, kicking and standing around, and no real action or story development to build intrigue.

The match didn’t necessarily have to have intricate and perfectly planned-out back-and-worth sequences, but it needed to have stronger character work from both women. Both have done such a good job building the match with their promos that it’s a bit of a let-down that their charisma didn’t carry over to the match itself.

There were also some very sloppy moments in the match, with Laura slipping on the top rope twice in a row, as well as Jinny completely missing Laura’s head when attempting an Eat Defeat. In perhaps the most meta moment of the show, Laura kicked out of a Styles Clash, cementing its ‘not-a-finisher’ status on the indies as well as in WWE, although the move still got a great reaction. The finish saw Jinny miss her corner X-Factor finisher, with Laura rolling her up while Jinny recovered, although Laura was far too slow to move and Jinny ended up gormlessly sitting on the mat, waiting to be pinned.

Unfortunately the early momentum of the match failed to be kept up, as sloppy execution and some boring sections of inaction brought the match down. However, a potential No DQ rematch could be a lot better, as the smoke and mirrors of the hardcore environment combined with the feud reaching boiling point could lead to much better performances from the pair. **

Smash Wrestling Championship Open Challenge
Mark Haskins def. Johnny Gargano

Gargano got a great reception, but Haskins responding to the Open Challenge got an even better one, and such strong crowd reactions helped make this match feel very important before the bell even rang.

They started off at a measured pace, but the crisp execution of every move and counter combined with the veteran presence of both men kept things very interesting, and it felt like a really battle of wits and ability was going down. Gargano began to work in some heel mannerisms as the match became more intense, allowing the crowd to get completely behind Haskins.

The pair really matched up well here, and while they both have similar styles, Gargano is flashier in his execution which lends itself to playing the heel, while Haskins has a ‘chip-on-shoulder’ gritty aura that makes him very easy to support, so the subtle dynamic they built through their great technical exchanges added an extra layer to the match. Gargano got the better of the grappling, but Haskins turned the match around by turning it into a brawl, beating Gargano in a strike exchange that brought the crowd into a frenzy.

One of the biggest moves early in the match was Gargano’s shoulder block from the outside. He tried it again towards the end, but Haskins this time reversed it into his signature armbar, only for Gargano to just escape before it was locked in in one of the most exciting single moments of the night. The pair went counter-for-counter in a really high-level closing stretch, ending with Haskins managing to lock in the armbar for the submission victory.

It’s great to see Haskins finally get a big victory in PROGRESS; he’s been the ‘nearly man’ for a while, and while this isn’t a PROGRESS Championship or SSS16 victory, the match was so good that it felt just as important as either. Haskins is jetting off to PWG and now Smash too this summer. Surely he is going to take over North America while he’s there. ****

Atlas Tournament
Zack Gibson & T-Bone def. Iestyn Rees & Big Daddy Walter

Zack Gibson’s heat is nuclear. He’s consistently getting the loudest responses on every PROGRESS show and is only getting better in his role. The gimmick has been working ever since his first match in PROGRESS, but it’s his great mic work that goes beyond the basic gimmick and, especially after SSS16, his in-ring work, that are putting that heat over the top. He spent most of this match on the sidelines though, egging the crowd on while the others showed off their skills.

For T-Bone and Rees, this was their first shot on a London Chapter show, and both looked eager to make a big impression. Rees uses his size very well and looks very impressive, so it would be a shame if he is one-and-done in London, while T-Bone looks set to be the ‘big scalp’ for Rampage Brown in the Atlas semi-finals after earning maximum points in the group stage with a win here. Everyone got their stuff in with some impressive power moves on display by Rees and Walter, before Gibson riled up the crowd even further by scoring the cheap roll-up win. **1/2

PROGRESS World Championship
Marty Scurll def. Tommy End

This was the third encounter between Scurll and End this year, with End coming off the better in both previous matches, but failing to capture the title due to Mikey Whiplash interference. Both matches have been fun but neither have reached that extra level that both guys are capable of delivering, so there was hope that this would finally be the ‘special’ match between the two that people have been waiting for. This match was End’s reward for winning the SSS16, and may well be his final shot at the PROGRESS Championship.

From the off, the match was very well-wrestled as expected, with lots of counters playing up the fact that both men can recognise each other’s moves by now. Scurll landed a piledriver early, but End kicked out fairly un-dramatically, suggesting that End being relatively unaffected by piledrivers (he kicked out of near half a dozen at SSS16) is actually a story point now, or maybe I’m just reading too much into a random nearfall.

The match flew by with lots of solid, but yet again unspectacular, action. Scurll just doesn’t seem as comfortable in the heel role as he does in the tweener role he plays in RevPro and PWG matches, where he’s less tied to an over-arching story, and that could be why his PROGRESS matches aren’t landing with me as much as his work elsewhere. In his PROGRESS matches he’s also hamstrung by bullshit finishes that take the steam out of his matches, and another one of them reared its head at the end of this match.

Scurll tapped out to a Dragon Sleeper while the ref was down, and then after several more shenanigans with Scurll used an umbrella after yet another ref bump to choke out End. Jim Smallman ordered the match to be restarted due to the blatant cheating, but Scurll quickly rolled End up with his feet on the ropes to earn two bullshit wins for the price of one. By the end of this match, the dynamic was more pantomime than blood feud, and the good work of the first 10 minutes of the match was undone by yet another story and shenanigan-heavy finish. Three Scurll/End matches, and none of them were given the fullest chance to succeed. Seems like a bit of a waste. ***

Post-match, End landed a roundhouse kick on Scurll to let go of some frustration, and then…

PROGRESS World Championship
Pastor William Eaver def. Marty Scurll

Pastor William Eaver used the opportunity of a prone Marty Scurll to cash in his NPS title shot. One Clothesline From Heaven later, and Eaver was the new PROGRESS Champion. An absolutely fantastic moment live, complete with Eaver crowdsurfing his way around the Ballroom, but there are plenty of questions to ask and answer after the fact.

First of all, was the NPS title shot ever an MITB-style ‘anytime’ cash in previously? On the last Brit Wres Roundtable, we discussed the scenarios that previous winners had taken the title shot under, and neither was a match that the Champion had not agreed to before the fact. I hate to bring down such a great moment with annoying logic, but PROGRESS did play fast and loose with their own established rules here.

Second, and probably more importantly, will Eaver’s reign be any good? His first defence will be a re-match with Scurll, and it’s unlikely that Scurll will lose clean immediately, meaning either shenanigans will occur (again), or Eaver’s reign will be a short one, and we’ve learned from Roman Reigns that there are diminishing returns when you have a very short first title reign and immediately re-enter chase mode. PROGRESS doesn’t need to be AJPW and have clean main events every time, but the frequency of these bullshit finishes and their unwillingness to put people over clean may have a negative effect on their big rising star in Eaver. Let’s wait and see what happens next Chapter.

Final Thoughts:

Haskins/Gargano was one of the best exhibitions of Haskins’ skill yet. It was the highlight of PROGRESS Chapter 32 and a perfect prelude to his upcoming trips to North America. Sadly the main event picture of PROGRESS has been mired in cheap finishes for the past couple of months, but with Will Ospreay returning at the next Chapter and the run-in to Brixton beginning, hopefully the main events will start to feel special once again.