PROGRESS returned to the Electric Ballroom in Camden on March 31st for the first time since Chapter 84 with Chapter 87: Breadknife. Their non-London weekender of shows earlier in the month set up a few stories going into this show, and the opening segment was dedicated to the stable that perhaps came out of that weekender looking the strongest.
Do Not Resuscitate Segment
After picking up two wins out of three in Bournemouth and Birmingham, Spike Trivet, Drew Parker, Chuck Mambo and Present William Eaver of Do Not Resuscitate were here to make some demands of their rivals on the PROGRESS roster. They were also there to complain about yet again being treated badly by PROGRESS management in the fact that not a single one of them has been entered into the Super Strong Style 16 tournament at Alexandra Palace in May. Trivet and Parker both beat PROGRESS legend Jimmy Havoc in his wheelhouse, deathmatches. Eaver is a former World Champion, and Mambo won the World Cup and stole the show at last year’s SSS16. And yet they are merely being given scraps to feed off by the company.
Their current rivals are Havoc, Mark Haskins, Eddie Dennis and Mark Andrews, and as such, the purpose of this segment was to set up a big eight-man No Disqualification tag team match for night 2 of the tournament. Dennis is now injured, however, and he came out to jack jaws with Mambo in particular and introduce his replacement for the match, Ligero, who jumped DNR from behind. Dennis’ message to Mambo was a worked shoot in which he called him out for showing concern when he became injured elsewhere, and yet here in PROGRESS he hates his guts. I’m not sure if I’m a huge fan of this kind of kayfabe-breaking promo. The audience knows that in real life, and in other British promotions’ storylines, Eddie and Chuck are good friends. They don’t need the wrestlers to come out and explicitly tell them that while they’re supposed to be playing characters. I know it can get a little weird as a British wrestling fan seeing guys be friends in one company and hate each other in another, but it’s all part of the illusion of wrestling and I like the way every company’s canon is kept separate despite the fact that they feature many of the same characters. Nonetheless, the greater disappointment is the injury to Dennis and the fact that he will miss SSS16 weekend. This match seems to be the payoff to the DNR vs assorted PROGRESS babyfaces feud, and there was also the potential for him to cash in his title shot after the WALTER vs Trent Seven Title Unification Match.
Ligero’s attack on DNR here was a nice babyface moment, and revenge for the Leodensian Luchador after Parker beat him at Chapter 80 in Manchester and cut off one of his mask’s horns. What was a bigger moment for him was his first-ever promo in PROGRESS! Seeing as he is no longer billed from Mexico, it is not illogical for him to speak with a broad Yorkshire accent! Whenever Ligero has had a No DQ match in PROGRESS in the past (see his Chapter 16 clash with Michael Gilbert in particular), he has worn jeans to get over a street-brawl feel to the bout (a trope which would be expanded on in tonight’s main event), and his announcement that he was once again bringing denim to this one was greeted with aplomb by the Ballroom crowd. Personally, I have found Do Not Resuscitate’s storyline so far to be richly rewarding, so I’m interested to see where they go after SSS16.
Super Strong Style 16 Qualifying Match
David Starr vs. Connor Mills
David Starr was making his return to PROGRESS for the first time since Chapter 79 where he lost to Travis Banks, while Connor Mills hadn’t been seen since Chapter 76 at Wembley Arena in the multi-team Tag Team Championship match. The story here was Starr having more to prove as the veteran, and more to lose if he failed to qualify for the tournament. This caused him to grow frustrated and somewhat disrespectful when he couldn’t put the younger Mills away, slapping him across the face on numerous occasions. This is the first time David Starr has come anywhere close to working heel during his run in PROGRESS, and for my money he did a terrific job. He got the win in the end with a package piledriver, and I’d be very interested to see if he is given a similar role in any matches at Alexandra Palace.
Nina Samuels vs. Kasey Owens
Nina Samuels’ spot in the PROGRESS Women’s Championship Four Way Dance at SSS16 was at stake here, as she had been goaded into putting it on the line by Kasey Owens after Owens pinned her in her debut match for PROGRESS at Chapter 86 in Birmingham. This was a fine contest which Samuels won with her Primadonna neckbreaker, continuing her dominance as the top babyface in the PROGRESS women’s division behind the champion Jordynne Grace. It will be interesting to see how Owens bounces back from defeat here. Although she scored the pinfall on her debut, if it was simply done to heat up Nina Samuels going into the SSS16 four way, there isn’t much hope for her.
CCK (Chris Brookes and Jonathan Gresham) w/ Kid Lykos vs. LAX
This was the first of the culmination of two trilogies of tag team matches on this show. At least, CCK vs. LAX looked like it would be the culmination of a trilogy heading into the show. It was, in fact, a rather indecisive bout which was won by count-out when both members of CCK had their opponents in separate submissions on the outside, only for Jonathan Gresham to release his hold in time to be the only man to beat the count back into the ring.
A word on this contest: it got nowhere near the heights of these teams’ two previous matches, the first from PROGRESS’ Coast To Coast Tour of the United States last year which was won by CCK, and the second from Chapter 80 in Manchester which was won by LAX. There was too many comedy shenanigans in the too-long early part of this match, and the finish was extremely lacklustre. However, taking the count-out victory was part of a new heelish side to CCK on display here, which was also illustrated by frequent Kid Lykos interference, so much so that he was eventually ejected by the official. He would return to celebrate the victory, though, and Santana of LAX grabbed a mic to announce that the next time they come to PROGRESS, they are bringing a third man themselves to even the numbers! With that man likely to be the semi-retired leader of LAX and Mexican wrestling legend Konnan, it remains to be seen whether the fourth match in this epic rivalry will be a six-man tag team match or a regular two-on-two contest with an enforcer backing up each team on the outside of the ring. Whatever form it takes, hopefully the match will be of the same mould as the first two encounters, rather than this one.
TK Cooper w/ NIWA vs. Angelico
This match was set up thanks to the finish of the main event of Chapter 86. There, the South Pacific Power Trip faced Angelico, El Phantasmo and Jordan Devlin, and TK Cooper and NIWA would use the ropes for leverage when TK pinned Phantasmo. Angelico took umbrage with the Kiwis’ tactics, and this match was a nice singles version of that crazy six-man. Commentary put SPPT over as three separate entities with a common goal rather than a trio with a leader. Travis Banks has up till now been seen as the head of this current incarnation of the group, but Cooper was wearing a captain’s armband here to signify that the South Pacific Power Trip is more than just the Travis Banks Show. Given Banks’ absence here though, it’s unclear what he will have made of that. Perhaps it will be made light of in any future breakup storyline for the Kiwis, as it does not seem completely indicative of a united front. The match, meanwhile, was another one on tonight’s show which utilised heavy interference from the outside, this time with NIWA being that X factor. With the referee distracted, NIWA hit his Project NIWA powerbomb on Angelico, and TK hit a Phoenix Splash from the top rope for the victory. Cooper and NIWA now move on to SSS16, where they will attempt to help Travis Banks cheat his way to victory. Meanwhile, it’s back to the drawing board for Angelico.
Super Strong Style 16 Qualifying Match
Lucky Kid vs. Tristan Archer
This SSS16 qualifier featured two men making their Chapter debuts, with Tristan Archer making his full PROGRESS debut, and Lucky Kid making his first PROGRESS appearance since two dates on the German Tour of last summer. Both men have been making quite the names for themselves recently, with Kid having just won the other big tournament in European independent wrestling, triumphing against all odds at the 16 Carat Gold in wXw. Archer is no stranger to big tournaments himself, having competed in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic in 2016 under the ring name Clement Petiot.
This match was an excellent contest and potentially my match of the night, with Archer playing the bigger, more muscled heel to Kid’s, shall we say, unorthodox underdog babyface. Lucky Kid has one of the sillier gimmicks in wrestling. Commentary put him over here as “bizarre” and an “oddity”. He wrestles with a crazed look in his eye and massive grin across his face 90% of the time, and will often shout “BLAH!” at his opponent or the crowd. Somehow, when he puts it all together he has a quaint charm about him and you can’t help but root for him, especially against bigger opponents. Indeed, the man he upset in the finals of 16 Carat Gold is none other than the Ring General, the PROGRESS World and WWE United Kingdom Champion, WALTER. In the closing moments of this match, Kid withstood a barrage of offense from Archer and locked in a crossface for the submission victory and to advance to Alexandra Palace. Can he be the first man to win 16 Carat Gold and Super Strong Style 16 in the same year?
Trent Seven Segment
To hype the upcoming unification of the PROGRESS World and Atlas Championships at SSS16, we had a sit-down interview in the ring between commentator Fraser Thomas and Atlas Division Champion Trent Seven. Jim Smallman noted upon announcing this segment that it was the first time PROGRESS had ever done an interview like this. This is only true if you don’t count the talk-show segment hosted by Flash Morgan Webster with guests Jimmy Havoc and Mark Haskins at Chapter 54 in August 2017! I thought this segment struggled a little on two levels. Firstly, Seven is excellent with a microphone in his hand but the material he had to work with here seemed overly scripted and he didn’t seem able to handle it as naturally as he normally handles promo work. Secondly, he called WALTER disrespectful toward the Atlas belt because he vacated it in preparation for pursuing the World Championship. It doesn’t quite make sense then that Seven wants to give away the Atlas Championship, in fact, retire it, in order to make the World Championship seem even more prestigious than it already is. Aside from these quibbles, the crowd were hot for Trent, and I have no doubt that his eventual dethroning of WALTER will go down a storm.
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match
Swords of Essex (C) vs. Aussie Open
At the third annual Unboxing mystery card, Chapter 82 in December, the Swords of Essex, Will Ospreay and Paul Robinson, made a shock return to PROGRESS as a tag team and incredibly won the Tag Team Championships from Aussie Open after they used one of the belts as a weapon. At Chapter 83, Aussie Open would win a #1 Contenders match against Do Not Resuscitate, and the Swords would retain over CCK. At Chapter 84, the Swords again used a belt to retain over the Aussies, and post-match Mark Davis announced he would use his Natural Progression Series-won title shot here at Chapter 87. In order to take the belts away from the Swords and stop them from using them as weapons, they would be suspended above the ring and the match would be this Tables, Ladders and Chairs affair. So here we were, in this main event, with all four men wearing jeans to show their hatred for the opposing team and a willingness to make the match an all-out brawl.
Evidently, the heat for this match was sky-high. But in my mind at times the execution struggled to reflect that. There were some great weapon spots, such as Mark Davis giving Paul Robinson a piledriver off a ladder through another bridging ladder. But the match was too long and they spent too much time setting up spots, and countering spots which went nowhere, and missing spots. At one point, the Swords attempted stereo 450 splashes off the stage onto the Aussies through tables. But Robinson didn’t get enough distance and hit his head, not coming close to breaking the table Davis was on. They’d also spent ten minutes brawling in the crowd in order to set up those tables, before going back to the ring for another ten minutes, before going back over to the tables. The match thus felt disjointed and clunky. Nonetheless, Aussie Open ended up regaining the titles after they nailed a Fidget Spinner on Ospreay off a ladder, and the rivalry has on the whole been absolutely excellent. Fletcher and Robinson will both enter Super Strong Style 16 now with a strong base to get over on. Robinson is my dark horse to win the whole thing – potentially aided by a surprise appearance from Ospreay, who posted on social media after the show that his PROGRESS run is over (for about the fourth time!). But for Aussie Open, their second PROGRESS Tag Team Title reign now begins.
Overall, this was an entertaining PROGRESS show, but whose two big payoff tag team matches didn’t quite live up to the hype in my view. Elsewhere though, two more qualifiers for the SSS16 tournament were contested, and the next challenger to the World Championship made his case.