We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom for the first Ballroom show of the year: Chapter 62 Fear No More.

PROGRESS Wrestling
Chapter 62: Fear No More
January 28, 2018
Electric Ballroom
London, England

Watch: Demand Progress

Jim Smallman is the host in the ring. His introduction is 15 minutes because he gets stuck talking to “Ivan” about books. Hosts on commentary are Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie.

Natural Progression Series V First Round
Chris Ridgeway def. Omari

This is a first round match, so I guess all the qualifying wrestlers have now been decided upon. No bracket as yet. They’ve selected two terrific wrestlers to showcase here although Riddy is a semi-regular already. The earlier NPS tournaments felt important because losers didn’t come right back. It’s still a good idea, as the winner gets a title shot whenever they want, but the qualifying criteria should become more specific. Otherwise why wouldn’t someone like Joseph Conners not want to jump on in there? He’d be inappropriate for the spot but why wouldn’t he be allowed in?

There are some microphone issues here with Callum going very quiet for a while. A rare technical snafu. Normally comms are really loud but they’re not here and the crowd are much louder. Really pleased for Omari here, he’s finally pulling in enough coin to get proper trunks. It doesn’t look like he’s wrestling in his pants anymore. Little things like that can make an upcoming wrestler stand out. It helps that he’s really good at wrestling. This is technically very solid but the crowd haven’t taken to Ridgeway and it’s easy to see why. He’s a quiet lad who does all his talking in the ring. Traditionally the most popular PROGRESS wrestlers have been those with an added pinch of charisma. There’s really nothing wrong with the action. Ridgeway’s kicks are especially good and his shoot-style is excellent. Omari has improved a lot since his FCP debut and he’s still building a set of moves so it’s hard to know what to expect from him. Despite his size advantage Omari does tamer in the striking duels, which is a complement for the ‘hard as fuck’ Ridgeway. Ridgeway gets a choke for the win and Omari was unfortunate to go out at the first stage but Ridgeway is the more polished of the two at this point. This tournament should help to build him. Ridgeway is ready for a big title match. His in ring is great. If he ever finds a character to go with it, he’ll be going places. ***1/4

Roy Johnson def. Pastor William Eaver

This is like going back in time! Neither guy has been a regular on PROGRESS cards of late but they both broke in around the same time and feel like they come from the same PROGRESS ‘era’. Sure, Eaver has wrestled for longer and made his Chapter debut earlier but Roy came through so quickly, because of his personality, that they feel of similar experience levels. Eaver stepped up and won the PROGRESS title but Big Wavy hasn’t quite hit that higher level yet, despite a spot in the WWE:UK deal. Both guys have well realised personalities. This is something PROGRESS have always been keen on and if you’re hard to define, you’re harder to get over. Roy got over huge with the Wasteman Challenges. Eaver because he looks like Jesus. Easy.

They tussle for a bit, with some good comedy but Eaver hits a dive and clips the ropes. He plummets head first into the wooden floor of the Ballroom and that looked bad. Eaver comes up looking slightly confused with an egg shaped welt on his forehead and a limp. Eaver struggles to get a shoulder up on a pin and it’s clear he’s not right. Apparently he tore his quad on the dive but I’d be more concerned about the head injury, which was apparently ok. Wavytonic finishes but honestly this should have finished when Eaver faceplanted into the floor. N/R

Eaver’s torn quad will see him out for 3-6 months. Best wishes to him and I hope for a full recovery.

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Chris Brookes & Trent Seven

Zack’s last PROGRESS match was at Alexandra Palace in September so it’s a bit odd having him parachute in the midst of an old BSS-CCK feud. Sure, Trent is a babyface now but Brookes remembers that shit. Trent throws both guys out and celebrates the victory. He’s going to Wrestlema….oh wait. Zack points out it’s not a battle royal. “I’ve been practising all week” bemoans Seven. Seeing as everyone is face they have a healthy competitive three-way striking contest, which Trent wins with a massive chop on Zack. It’s a fun little contest but it’s just a process of tests, rather than an actual match. Not that I have an issue with that because it’s all entertaining. They manage to tidily segue into an actual match thanks to Sabre’s technical expertise. It was nice to see him in something different beforehand though. The three-way submissions and break ups and counters are lovely. It is always a little bit silly, especially when they start kicking each other on the mat. It’s very childish but I’m watching it with a massive smile across my face. Like I said earlier it’s weird to see Sabre in this environment but he does a marvelous job of being outstanding at all the little comedy asides and turning up the heat when it feels appropriate. Zack gets the cheeky pin and I have to prevent myself from hurling snowflakes at this because I loved it so much. It was a nice mesh of comedy and technique. ***3/4

PROGRESS World Championship
Travis Banks def. TK Cooper

This is a story that goes way back. TK moved here with Dahlia Black and Travis wasn’t far behind. TK might have debuted as Dahlia’s boyfriend but he got his in-ring over by tagging with Travis Banks as the South Pacific Power Trip. The only reason they’re not currently tearing it up worldwide in the tag ranks is TK’s broken leg. TK got healthy again and after returning to action this month he’s right into the title shot. I do love an early spot here where TK goes up to dive to the floor and doesn’t because that’s how he broke his leg. It leads directly into a Travis control period. TK definitely heels it up here, throwing chairs and then ring crew at Travis. The great part is his muttered apology as he gets back in the ring. As if he forgot he was supposed to be a face and fell into his natural heel persona. They’ve probably been discussing this match for some time and they do a lot of familiarity stuff, based on their tag run. TK in particular cuts off a lot of Travis’ trademark stuff. He’s had plenty of time to scout it. TK continues to be nervous about hitting the ropes, but he also feels he needs to in order to beat Banks. TK grabs the belt off Jim and Brookes grabs it from him. It’s a mirror of TK preventing Brookes from winning the title in Birmingham. It’s Travis’ two mates battling to be the one to beat him! A distracted TK gets hauled into the Lion’s Clutch and Travis retains to a chorus of boos. There’s only one way to solve this; triple threat. This was a necessary stepping stone to get there. The problem we have going forward is they’re all faces. I have no idea who to root for in that triple threat. ***1/4

Trent Seven scurries past with his bags. He’s got to catch a flight to be in the Royal Rumble! Trent strolls back past moments later saying he’s missed his Uber and won’t be in the Rumble. He looks very sad. Jim literally breaks at this point. Bad news for the card too with Millie McKenzie injuring herself at FCP on Friday and ending up in hospital. So it’s a mystery match for the champ. This might be a controversial opinion but Toni Storm has the best entrance music in PROGRESS. Dana Fowler and the Bloodsuckers. Love it. Jinny comes out first but she has her arm in a sling. Man, there are a lot of injuries around at the minute. Jinny cuts an impassioned promo about how much she cares about wrestling. It’s a great promo and has me almost suckered in. Obviously she’s still a total bitch because that’s what Jinny is all about. Anyway, she’s hand picked an opponent….

PROGRESS Women’s Championship
Toni Storm def. Chakara

I like Chakara’s character work moving beyond attitude and into appearance. I think she’d be better off as a face because she’s so nice but if she’s determined to be a heel then the makeup and the gear is an improvement on her look. Chakara’s in-ring is a lot better too and it’s easy to forget how young she is. I like the idea of Jinny forming another relationship with a younger wrestler too. It worked so well with Laura Di Matteo. This is an entirely different dynamic but I look forward to seeing it develop. It’ll be interesting to see how Millie McKenzie slots into the whole thing. An issue with having a women’s division is establishing depth when you’ve only got one women’s match on every show. Chakara gets in a fair bit of offence but never looks like winning. Toni puts her away with Strong Zero. **1/2

Post Match Jinny, bad wrist and all, gives Toni a kicking. When Toni looks to retort she gives Jinny a pass on account of her bad wrist. And then Nina Samuels jumps her from behind. But she’s not out for herself, she’s also supporting Jinny. Jinny has got herself a stable. Having a trio gives this even more potential. Where will they go with this? Eventually one of those three will end up turning face. At some point. Who will it be? How will their interactions proceed. Right now the other two are subservient to Jinny. How long will that last? I am excited.

Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins def. Danny Jones & Mark Andrews

This is another in a string of Havoc & Haskins vs. lads matches. Danny Jones earned his way onto a main chapter after having a banger with Mike Bird at the Dome in December. He’s all fired up after a 2017 tour with AJPW raised awareness of what he could do. Oh, I stand corrected on the ‘best music in PROGRESS’ by the way; I forgot that Mark still came out to Junior. Before we get started Eddie Dennis strolls out here. He’s quickly becoming the most hated man in PROGRESS. His interaction with Danny Jones here should set up a match. “The sheep are starting to turn. They’re starting to realise you’re the bad guy here, not me” – Eddie yells at Mark Andrews.

He joins commentary and the focus returns to the actual wrestling. It’s always tough to try and have a match when the main focus of the storyline is a guy who’s not in the match. It makes it easier to establish the heel heat as Mark is distracted by Eddie being out here but it also makes it less interesting. I get drawn back in by Haskins vs. Andrews because it’s such a good contest but there’s an undertone that Mark is stealing all of FSU’s moves and just replacing Dennis with a new guy. This leads to a break down sequence which goes on forever. Who’s legal? Does anyone care? Eddie does a magnificent job of tearing Andrews apart and Danny Jones gets picked off and double teamed for the finish. This was more about Andrews trying to replace Eddie and how Eddie reacted to it than an actual wrestling contest. Once again I like the storyline though so I can overlook a relatively middling match up. **3/4

Flash Morgan Webster def. Doug Williams

Flash was due to take some time off from PROGRESS but Doug challenged him so he’s literally straight back into the mix, which is a bit odd. This is a test of Flash’s technical prowess and Doug’s capacity to cope with the speed of modern wrestling. It’s not bad but the crowd sound tired and this is a slow paced semi-main. Flash does make a point of pushing the pace when he feels it’s sluggish and it feels like a clash of eras. I felt like Doug’s one last run should have been more focused toward the Atlas division where he could work at his pace. Plus WALTER is great against anyone. Both of these guys have poor win/loss records and have suggested they’re considering leaving PROGRESS outright. That isn’t the emotional core of this match. They just tussle back and forth. Where’s the determination to succeed?

During the match Vickie Haskins shows up to break a count. How perplexing. It benefits Flash, who’s able to take over due to the distraction. Strangler finishes with Doug meekly tapping out. What is the association with Vickie? Does it extend to Havoc & Haskins? Is Flash bullshitting when he pretends he didn’t see or know about Vickie being out here? More questions. This is a running theme of the show. **1/2

PROGRESS Atlas Championship
WALTER def. Timothy Thatcher

Thatcher sets the tone here by refusing to shake hands with his tag team partner. We’re getting all fucking serious here. Given how often they roll around in Essen at wXw’s training school it’s perhaps predictable that they head to the mat and tell a story of a battle for technical dominance. WALTER is the first to move up to strikes and then shit gets real. Tim comes back at him and WALTER doubles down with massive chops. The match was intriguing as a technical masterpiece but when WALTER unleashes the pain the match is completely different. It’s tonally closer to WALTER-Ilja than expected. Thatcher takes a savage beating. It’s uncomfortable. That’s how devastating it is. The reaction of the fans is palpable. This match is visceral. Because WALTER kills Thatcher big Tim decides to break his hand. No more chops from a broken hand! WALTER tries it anyway and WALTER hurts himself! WALTER is such a wonderful wrestler that he understands the mechanics of everything and how he can use his size. When Tim goes for a belly to belly he shifts his weight and lands on top. There’s a moment in this where I have to stop the video and rewind. It’s when Thatcher has been getting a decent run and picking up near falls. He goes for a back suplex and WALTER just grabs him and ends him with a lariat. It’s amazing. I honestly would buy into it as a finish. Then they get fancy by having Thatcher go after an armbar, to focus on all his arm/hand work, WALTER to counter into the Gojira Clutch, leaning all his weight on Tim and Thatcher to counter back into another armbar. WALTER gets out of that by stamping on his head! It’s brutal. It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful. It gets better! WALTER gets sick of Tim blocking his chops and CHOPS HIM IN THE FUCKING FACE. Tim comes back again with slaps but gets powerbombed into oblivion and WALTER retains. Oh my god this was so great. Absolutely blow-away violence. I am staggered at how good this was and horrified that I missed it live. It’s a bit early in the year to be having your match of the year, lads! If anything ousts this from top spot for PROGRESS then it’ll be fucking special. ****3/4

Final Thoughts:

I was mentally starting a write-up of Fear No More, before the main event, and it was regarding the booking and how improved it was on this show. I was going to talk about old PROGRESS when the booking outstripped the in-ring and how that had all changed. How recently PROGRESS was about match quality, not necessarily great storylines. About how they’d created intrigue with the booking here, up and down the card and all in the divisions. I was ready to get excited about the direction, but at the same time suggest this wasn’t one of PROGRESS’ best in-ring outings. Then the main event changed everything. It’s so, so close to five stars. So close. I thought the finish was ever so slightly flat, and the start of the match a wee bit sluggish. Otherwise it was near perfect. One of PROGRESS’ best matches. One of the best matches I’ve seen in 2018 so far. Go to Demand Progress and watch it, now.