This is it; the end of the rivalry that has defined PROGRESS for years. Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay; the Final Chapter. Chapter 75 if we’re counting.
August 27, 2018
Watch: Demand PROGRESS
This is the final chapter before Wembley. Hosts are Glen Joseph & Callum Leslie.
Grizzled Young Veterans def. M&M
The former champs lost their titles over in America and are currently around the waists of Bandido & Flamita… who are in the Thunderbastard now. As they’ve not wrestled any qualifiers they’re entering first, getting punished for winning the titles in the midst of a convoluted tournament. I watch almost everything PROGRESS produce and I couldn’t tell you how many points either of these teams have. Gibson gives this opener a little added weight, both physically and dramatically. He can quite happily sit in a hold while the crowd chant abuse at him. GYV almost take a back seat here. Content to coast and therefore make M&M look more exciting by comparison. Mayhew kicks out of the Doomsday Device, which has me rolling my eyes. If you’re a lot smaller you shouldn’t be doing miracle kick-outs. M&M try really hard but the match is littered with tiny timing issues and ideas I’m not keen on. The inexperience of M&M is one thing but the GYV should have vetoed some of the decisions in this. GYV end up winning and this did very little for me. The focus should have been on the size difference and M&M needing to be quicker and flashier and that didn’t happen consistently. **1/4
We were scheduled at this point to have House of Couture against an assortment of babyfaces but Nina Samuels is injured and so is Toni Storm. However… Jim Smallman announces this is now a 5-way #1 contenders match for Wembley. Mainly because Toni’s injury might keep her out of Wembley and they don’t want a situation where there’s no title match.
Millie McKenzie def. Candyfloss, Chakara, Charlie Morgan & Laura Di Matteo
Millie is the clear crowd favourite as she’s been building a reputation and delivering at a high level. It speaks volumes that Millie is the final boss on the big dives sequence. Charlie tries to run some complicated double teams and Chakara gets lost. Chakara has a tonne of potential, especially character-wise, but these multi-person matches are no place for inexperienced wrestlers. Next to look lost at sea is Candy, who’s been another great character addition to UK wrestling but her work in this is poor. Then it’s Laura and Charlie getting out of place with a dropkick and Morgan has to stumble back into the corner from the middle of the ring. The match is an absolute nightmare. The harder the spots they attempt the worst it gets. The only person who comes out of it with any credit is Millie, brought up on those FCP scrambles. She’s never out of place. She looks head and shoulders above everyone else in this environment. Thankfully she hits a bunch of Germans and pins Charlie Morgan to advance to Wembley. Huge roar of appreciation for Millie, who’s terrific, but what a terrible match this was. I hate having to rate stuff like this because it’s not fair on the wrestlers. They were put in an awkward spot and struggled. Two positives: the right person won and hopefully PROGRESS can learn from this and stick to established match types for inexperienced grapplers. 1/2*
Mark Andrews is out here to call out Eddie Dennis and add a bit of hype for Wembley. Eddie jokes about wanting to wrestle Mark in ATTACK! or NXT UK or Plymouth in October. He’s clearly irritated he’s been made to wait for a year for this match. They get into a pull apart before both men lay in some superb insults. “You used pro wrestling to get that shitty band over” is where is peaks. This has been a terrific feud because of Eddie’s promos and his substantial injury in the middle of the angle. It’s turned this into a blood feud without them even touching. This is the best feud PROGRESS have done in a long time. I hope the Wembley crowd gives it the heat it deserves. Although I can totally believe Eddie bringing the fire on a promo if they don’t.
Calamari Thatch Kings def. Aussie Open
Brookes and any combination of partner versus Aussie Open is always good. Tim Thatcher has returned to Europe with a broad smile across his lovely face and even though he wasn’t gone for long I really missed him. So you’ve got four great guys in here. It shows how much weight Kyle has put on that he looks the same sort of size as Thatcher. While I understand the reluctance of some fans to get behind Thatcher this is one of those matches where everyone should see the appeal. It makes sense and its funny. Brookes choking Kyle on the ropes leads to Tim getting annoyed with him. “Shut up Tim” and Thatcher chases his own tag partner out of the ring. This is a beautifully unorthodox team without either guy losing sight of their characters. It’s not just for comedic purposes. The comedy occurs because of their odd couple mentality. Aussie Open have a formula, which involves Kyle taking heat. They do that here but it stems from Thatcher targeting the leg. Application of logic is a big win for me. Aussie Open doing the sly tags is great as they’re used to it whereas Tim doing the Lykos part of the sick tag moves and just slapping Kyle because he doesn’t do any flips is wonderful. The show started poorly but this match is everything I dig about wrestling. Mark Davis has always been good but his improvement is here to see against Thatcher. He feels like he’s operating on Tim’s level. Honestly though, this match is so good. I could watch Brookes vs. Aussie Open while he just cycles through tag team partners forever. I love that Kyle’s leg injury comes around full circle on the finish too with Brookes catching him in a submission. Sensational match. ****1/4
Doug Williams & WALTER def. British Strong Style (Dunne & Seven)
The previous bout was pre-interval so it’s not quite so weird having tag matches back to back live than it is on tape. This is basically a preview match for Trent versus Doug but the crowd erupt for WALTER’s very presence. He’s definitely the right man to be champion right now. You can see Pete and Trent selling for his very existence here. They don’t think they can beat him and that speaks volumes for the champion. WALTER is in a mood. Bantering with Pete before destroying Trent with one singular chop. Pete throwing the towel in has me in bits. When Trent takes this seriously it has a competitive match with WALTER and it’s really good. He is capable of doing that. Dunne and WALTER was a great little match in wXw and they show flashes of that here with Pete being unpredictable to keep WALTER off his game. It’s notable that the pace slackens off when Doug is in there but he can hide away in tags and do flashes of modern wrestling. Doug goes down here with a bad neck after the Chaos Theory. The story they’ve told with Doug has been significantly better in YouTube videos rather than the matches. Meanwhile WALTER chokes out Trent and the ending feels flat and awkward. Match was going great before the last few minutes. ***3/4
Post Match, Pete is helping Doug out when CMJ arrives to further hype Wembley. Pete has heard enough and grabs Jakobi. But Ilja is here! Torpedo Moscow knocks Pete out and Dragunov has the final say ahead of Wembley.
Tyler Bate def. Mark Haskins
This plays into PROGRESS doing three and in for the main at Wembley. Whoever wins will challenge WALTER for the title. Haskins gets a measure of heat but he’s drifter tweener and it’s only Vicky Haskins that keeps him on the heel side here. Glen reflects what I believe about SSS16 booking by saying that if Tyler was healthy it was “his year”. In order to create the illusion that Haskins can win here, with Bate the clear favourite, he dominates a lot of the early interactions. Which in turn leads to a relatively tepid crowd reaction. They’ve had a lot to process on this show and there really is no build here. Haskins is an incredibly smooth wrestler so this is technically very strong and Tyler does a solid job of selling the leg that Haskins works over. Doing a kip up on one leg is very impressive and he tries very hard to stay off the injury. It’s an excellent demonstration of Tyler’s understanding of wrestling psychology. Selling often goes out of the window in modern wrestling but this is a stunning display. Haskins stays on that leg injury too, allowing a logical bout with a core storyline. The crowd is a little bit muted, compared to their normal raucous selves, but the match itself is excellent. Doing a leg match is something that I wish wrestlers would avoid because they can’t follow through on it. This match has a tonne of follow through and by the stretch they have me believing that Haskins is going to win because of that leg injury. I appreciate Tyler not giving up on the selling either. The one legged airplane spin looks odd but it’s logical. Haskins makes a mistake though, trying to get fancy with a technical set up and puts himself in position for the Tyler Driver. It hits and Tyler is going to the main event of Wembley. This was a cracking match and I loved the selling. ****1/4
Two Out Of Three Falls No DQ Match
Will Ospreay def. Jimmy Havoc
The SSS16 promos between these two were superb and had me in chills. I figured it would be the Wembley main event but here we are. Ospreay has to wrestle for New Japan Wembley weekend. This has several layers of added intrigue. If Havoc wins he goes to Wembley to challenge for the Progress title. Paul Robinson has been involved in this, stopping both men from going too far. So he’s involved again here as special referee. Robinson being the referee screams shenanigans. He’s been ‘retired’ since April 2017 when he lost in the first round of SSS16. The more eagle eyed among you will have noticed he’s wrestled here and there ever since.
The crowd are very pro-Havoc as PROGRESS has always been the house that Havoc built and Will kinda goaded him into this. I love how this starts with reckless abandon; Havoc not gently moving fans but rather hoping they move and not giving a shit if they don’t. It also gets bloody quick with Ospreay blading after taking a chair shot on an attempted dive through the ropes. The match is violent but Paul Robinson steps in when he feels the ‘no DQ’ stip has been exceeded. Like when Havoc goes to cut Ospreay’s ear off with a pair of scissors. Acid Rainmaker puts Havoc 1-0 up.
Havoc joins Ospreay in the gig club after a rampage with a staple gun. One that does not endear Will with the Camden crowd. There’s a little too much setting up of furniture in this match and generally any match where setting stuff is up is required is not good when there are only two guys involved. Havoc has to spend ages lying around overselling in this. It’s weird because Ospreay sets up a bunch of tables and then smacks Havoc with a guitar as a throwback to the spot where Will got a concussion in their “Fans Bring the Weapons” match. Just do that first? I almost forget the thumbtacks that Ospreay poured in the ring and then didn’t use at all by the time he gets bumped into them. The choice of move for pinfall is weird too with Ospreay taking a Burning Hammer on a chair for two after failing to kick out of the normal Rainmaker. Ospreay then wins with a backslide and the count is blatantly fast.
The match feels like it unravels at times. They don’t bask in the “This is Progress” chants, instead rushing into a strike duel, culminating in a sloppy clothesline to the floor. I’m not going to rush into blaming Havoc for all these flaws but Ospreay has bangers with absolutely every one else. When the match relies solely on Ospreay it brushes with spectacular. The elbow drop off the amps is something else. Much like the Essex Destroyer onto the table where Ospreay basically flips backwards off the balcony and lands on his own head. They then switch gears entirely to focus on Paul Robinson, who Havoc accidentally chair shots through a table. Thus leaving us with Chris Roberts as a replacement ref. Havoc takes exception to that and hits a Death Valley Driver on Roberts through a table. Holy shit! Haha. Paz replaces him and Ospreay powerbombs Paz through a table. Then it’s Smallman who is called upon to referee. I get the callbacks to previous matches and Callum is doing a good job with the history aspects but it’s all a bit much. They struggle towards the end as there is so much crap in the ring. It makes it hard to hit spots in a limited space. The distraction of Paul Robinson doesn’t help. He drags Smallman out of the ring to stop another possible finish with Ospreay having hit the 630 Splash. For me it’s all a bit overblown but I can see why they wanted to shoot for the moon. They do a whole load more stuff before Robinson eventually decides to turn on Havoc. Why spend the whole match being impartial only to turn for no reason? Stormbreaker puts Havoc away. This was good but it was so long winded and excessive for something designed to get to Havoc vs. Robbo at Wembley. ***1/2
I know there are those who will rate the main event a lot higher than me because the crowd was chanting “Fight Forever” but honestly it felt like they did. What else could they have done here? I didn’t like the Fans Bring the Weapons match and I wasn’t keen on this one until the carnage extended to the destruction of all the referees and then it went back around to overdone again. It did feel suitably epic but it just wasn’t for me. Sorry.
However what was for me were the #1 contender’s match pitting Tyler Bate against Mark Haskins. What a terrific display of pro-wrestling that was. Also the two tags that preceded it on the run sheet. Despite a poor start to Chapter 75, with a frankly disastrous women’s match, this ended up being a great show. Losing Ospreay vs. Havoc from Wembley is a big blow for that show but it ended up being a positive boon for this one. For me the Ospreay-Havoc rivalry peaked when Ospreay won the title. Everything since then hasn’t clicked for me. Although the SSS16 promo that set this match up was absolutely stellar. There was some good hype work on this show too, without it overwhelming the main events. The Dennis/Andrews stuff was really well done, as was Doug’s injury angle and Dunne/Dragunov.