Start things as you mean to go on, right? That's what the people say. And that's what PROGRESS did with Chapter 21. Anyone who's been to a PROGRESS show knows the score, the show begins once the Imperial Death March starts, with Jim Smallman spending time walking around the ring as Started from the Bottom and then For Whom the Bell Tolls plays. However, this time Smallman was join by two Stormtroopers, who got a lovely pop when they came out the curtain. This pop would be bested moments later when they removed their helmets and revealed themselves to be...THE GZRS, Sebastian and Tom Irvin. The pair officially opened the show with a quick promo, teasing answering the Sumerian Death Squad's Open Challenge later in show (although quickly withdrawing themselves from that), as well as pushing their ENDVR: 12 with Project Ego next week, with the crowd lapping up every entertaining syllable.
Match 1 - Tag Team - The Origin vs. The London Riots
This match was made following El Ligero's attack of James Davis (with the Riots' Cricket bat no less) at Download Festival back in June, and the storyline continued here. Ligero not wanting to be in the ring with Davis, not only got on the crowd on Ligero's back ("El Torito" *clap clap clap clap clap*) but also allowed the contest to take on a different element. It was clear that the bout was less about the win for Davis and more about gaining an element of revenge on Ligero for his dastardly actions. Therefore, when Davis was finally able to get his hands on the former PROGRESS Champion and powerbomb him onto a number of chairs at ringside, not only did it look fucking incredible, but the Riots had technically achieved what they set out to do...the fact that they'd go on to lose that match, thanks to Zack Gibson seemingly joining the Origin and handing Nathan Cruz a fork, really didn't matter. The Origin however needed the victory after floundering a little, a savvy piece of booking.
The storytelling throughout was flawless, and for the most part so was the wrestling content, with the teams going back and forth and building towards the conclusion nicely, with a series of strikes and various suplexes. There was however a handful of awkward looking bumps, including Cruz landing almost directly onto his face after attempting to flip over, which got an audible reaction from portions of the crowd. Despite these slips, this was still a strong opening bout that had a lively crowd hooked, both with the action and story, and continued to develop the Origin storyline, which seems to becoming more prominent in the promotion going forward.
Winners - The Origin via pinfall in 15 minutes, 46 seconds.
Match 2 - Singles - Jack Gallagher vs. Pastor William Eaver
Pastor-mania was certainly running wild in the Electric Ballroom, but Nigel Thornberry was there to put a stop to it all in another one of his classic japes. Obviously, it wasn't ol' Nige, but it was Jack Gallagher (somebody noticed the uncanny resemblance and started the chant) and it was another technically sound display from the Futureshock Wrestling regular. Gallagher working the arm was nice, and as usual everything he did was so crisp. Eaver's selling is perhaps something he needs to develop, but his struggle to hit his Crucifix Powerbomb was a sweet touch. Gallagher kicking out of the move and immediately rolling through into Boston Crab to get the submission victory was a curious finish, considering Gallagher's previous work on the arm, however, the victory, especially after Eaver defeated Noam Dar at the previous Chapter, put Gallagher in a strong position in the promotion. Hopefully we'll get to see him more regularly in Camden going forward.
Winner - Jack Gallagher via submission in 7 minutes, 48 seconds.
Match 3 - Singles - Eddie Dennis vs. Zack Gibson with Nathan Cruz
As Nathan Cruz accompanied Zack Gibson to the ring it was pretty much confirmed that the Scouser had joined the Origin, and the heat that he had previously became even more intensified. Throw the perennially popular Eddie Dennis into the mix as his opponent and you had the recipe for a rowdy singles encounter. Whilst the crowd were animated throughout, the action inside the ring matched it as Gibson creatively worked over Dennis' arm, including a lovely overhead throw using the arm, in preparation for his Arm bar submission. However, it wasn't his technical prowess that earned Gibson the victory, but the distraction caused when he attempted to introduce a fork into the match, as well as Cruz's involvement, as he was able to hit a low blow with the referee's back turned and pick up the victory. It's been said many times that the best heels don't need to cheat to win, but do it anyway, Gibson seems to fit that mould in PROGRESS.
Winner - Zack Gibson via pinfall in 11 minutes, 35 seconds
Match 4 - No Disqualifcation for the #1 Contendership to the PROGRESS Championship Jimmy Havoc vs. Paul Robinson
A bonus addition to the card, after Jim Smallman placed the pair in a bout following Jimmy Havoc demanding to have a Number One contenders bout with anyone (with the added stipulation that if either laid down for the other they would be fired). This was one of, if not the, most brutal matches that I have ever seen. When one of the first spots of the match is a piledriver off the apron through a table, you know that things are going to get a little messy by the end. And they certainly did, as Havoc and Robinson introduced more tables, chairs, singapore canes, thumbtacks and a fuck load of motherfucking light tubes. If you long for blood in pro wrestling then this was for you, with the juice flowing freely for a good portion of the match. Each gasp-inducing spot seemed to top the last, as we ended up with Robinson setting up three light tubes across two set-up chairs, before eventually being able to deliver a devasting curb stomp to pick up the victory.
It would be easy to mistake the description for mindless violence, but you couldn't be further from the truth. This was a rollercoaster ride of emotion, that manipulated the crowd for it's duration to side with one or the other. The majority seemed to go with it, as Havoc and Robinson straddled the heel/face divide at various points, playing off their previous actions in the company. Robinson seemed to be the fan favourite in the early going, seemingly embracing the fan support at one point with the "Dobby is free elf" chants echoing around the ballroom. But the more punishment that Havoc took, the more the empathy built for the man who once held an axe to Will Ospreay's head. There were moments where I just didn't know how I felt about anything in the world anymore and began to question everything that I had ever done. But when all was said and done I was convinced that Jimmy Havoc was our man, and I'm not sure I've ever had a more cathartic experience in my entire life.
Winner - Paul Robinson via pinfall in 15 minutes, 42 seconds
Match 5 - Singles - Kris Travis vs. Marty Scurll
An emotional return to PROGRESS for Kris Travis here, with the crowd clearly appreciate of the man who kicked cancer in the arse, with the support almost bringing the Sheffield grappler to tears. The match was focused around opponent Marty Scurll's attempts to lock in the Cross Face Chicken Wing and Travis being able to wriggle free each time. There was plenty of back and forth action between the two with two crowd behind Travis all the way, but still rather appreciative of the Villain, who seemed to be playing everything by the book in this one. The pair strong together a series of lovely reversal sequences, building the pace of the bout towards the conclusion where Travis was able to pick up the victory by turning Scurll's suplex attempt into a small package.
Winner - Kris Travis via pinfall in 14 minutes, 30 seconds.
I was just about to write something about the decision of having Travis win on his return bout in my notebook, when out of the corner of my eye I saw Scurll lock on the Cross Face Chicken Wing and a big reaction of disapproval from the PROGRESS faithfull. There's one rule of PROGRESS and Scurll was certainly breaking it here and the crowd let him know. There couldn't have been a better moment to fully realise Scurll's Villain character and with The GZRS, Eddie Dennis and even RJ Singh out to get Scurll out of the ring, PROGRESS have given themselves plenty of options going forward.
Match 6 - PROGRESS Tag Team Championship - The Sumerian Death Squad (C) vs. Roderick Strong & Adam Cole
As surprise appearances go they don't get much bigger than both Roderick Strong and Adam Cole, who were the ones to answer The Sumerian Death Squad's Open Challenge. The pop for the two Ring of Honor regulars was terrific, but that jubilation quickly turned to jeer, as the fans remembering something about Strong's previous visit to Camden. His boots. They are little and they are shitty. With Strong and Cole quickly becoming heels, they fell into their role perfectly against the popular Tommy End and Michael Dante, with ROH duo working quick tags and distracting the ref to stay in control of face in peril, End. Both men worked the crowd well and showed their years of experience in being able to react to pretty much anything that was thrown their way with an entertaining, yet frustrating response, a type of heel that suit the promotion.
The match built and built and built into a tremendous tag team duel with both teams trading strikes, that looked so crisp and sounded even better. Cole and Strong and End and Dante went hammer and tongues in the final third of the bout and produced a number of near falls that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. A particular highlight saw all four men connect with signature strikes in succession, whilst End and Dante being to escape the Figure Four Leglock and Strong Hold simulataneously was also a standout moment for me. After a frenetic closing sequence, SDS retained their tag shields with their Wheelbarrow into float over cutter combination and look all the better having to go toe to toe with two of the premier talents from across the pond. Who could possibly take the shields away from the Dutchmen?
Winner - The Sumerian Death Squad via pinfall in 16 minutes, 7 seconds. *STILL CHAMPIONS*
Match 7 - PROGRESS Championship - Will Ospreay (C) vs. Mark Haskins
After the show that had gone before them, I almost felt sorry for Will Ospreay and Mark Haskins, but I feel like a fool for even allowing the thought that these two wouldn't deliver a match that at least matched what had gone before them. With a lively crowd that was seemingly split down the middle for the Aerial Assassin and The Star Attraction the Electric Ballroom was arguably the loudest it had been all night. The action reflected the crowd, as the pair would go back and forth for most of the bout, with Haskins perhaps seeing slightly more offence in the first two thirds of the bout. Haskins number of submission holds on the Champion, including a lovely looking Lebell Lock, told a fine story of the technician trying to ground the highflyer. Ospreay's is an underrated seller and showed so here with some lovely touches coming out of each of Haskins' submission sequences.
The action was fast paced, physical and crisp throughout, with both men looking like they belonged in the main event of one of the biggest promotion in the United Kingdom. Ospreay provided plenty of "Wow" moments, being his usual flippy self, hitting a superb standing corkscrew senton after previous missing a moonsault, featuring a ridiculous sequence that saw him land on his feet after a top rope reverse rana attempt by Haskins, only to hit a reverse rana of his own and finishing off the bout with his beautiful 630 senton. This was a perfect way to finish the show that saw the landscape of PROGRESS continue to change, cementing Ospreay as the champion and validating his title win at the previous chapter.
Winner - Will Ospreay via pinfall in 17 minutes, 21 seconds.
ATPW Scale Rating: 7.79/10
There was no chance that PROGRESS was going to be able to top Chapter 20, no chance at all....but I think they did it here. The ATPW Scale has been smashed. There were three outstanding matches on this card for me, with Havoc vs. Robinson, SDS vs. Strong & Cole and Ospreay vs. Haskins all being of the absolute highest quality indeed. Personally, Havoc vs. Robinson was my match of the night for it's emotional storytelling and utter brutality, but I certainly wouldn't have a problem with someone who sided with one of the two.
There is just no stopping this promotion at the moment as they continue to go from strength to strength. ATPW will be back at Ballroom in October for the sold out, Chapter 22, and we're very much looking forward to seeing what PROGRESS have in store for us next.