On 30th October, PROGRESS Wrestling returned to the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, England for the first time since August. The card was headlined by former champions Marty Scurll and Jimmy Havoc (in his first match in PROGRESS match since September 2015) challenging for Mark Haskins' World Championship, whilst elsewhere Jinny and Pollyanna continued their feud and looked to move one step closer to being the first Women's Champion in the first round of Natural Progression Series IV and The Shirtlifters (Jack Sexsmith and Roy Johnson) went up against The South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks) in a Tables Match as they attempted to end their feud. With the likes of Bad Bones, Atlas Champion Rampage Brown, Mark Andrews, Pastor William Eaver and Matt Cross on the undercard, would PROGRESS return to Camden with a bang?
In the main event, Mark Haskins retained the World Championship, making Marty Scurll submit to the Sharpshooter, in a match that also included Jimmy Havoc. The battle was Havoc's first bout with the company since September 2015! This was a well paced 18 minute three way, that told a good story and featured slick and crisp action. Having Scurll control the early portion of the match, by hitting big moves to both Haskins and Havoc on the apron, allowed things to settle, with The Villain commanding the crowd as well as he was dominating the action. Scurll played the former champion desperate to recapture his prize role very well and after he immediately won the title back from Pastor William Eaver in July it had even more believablilty. There was strong wrestling to be seen as Haskins and Havoc both found their way back into the match, with a fire-up from The Star Attraction seeing him trap Scurll in a tree of woe before sending Havoc crashing on top of him with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Havoc and Haskins combined to create some more satisfying activity as both went for their finishes in a swift sequence, before a spot where all three hit roundhouse kicks gave the trio and the fans a breather, essentially concluding the contests first act with all three in the same place.
The second act took things up a notch, with all three attempting to hit their big moves or lock in their signature submission to grab the title, whilst the issues between Havoc and Scurll played a major part in the story also. Havoc took the biggest bump of the show, after taking a headbutt from Scurll from the middle rope to the outside, through a pair of seated chairs in a "Holy Shit" moment that was especially surprising because of it being Havoc's first match since February. The final stretch of the bout saw the momentum switching between all three men, with a number of convincing near falls, including Scurll locking the Crossface Chicken-Wing in on Havoc, with the latter able to shift his weight to get a two count, keeping the crowd completely hooked until the bitter end. The finish would see the Havoc and Scurll feud furthered as The Villain delivered a low blow, before Haskins was able to grip Scurll in the Sharpshooter to earn the submission victory. Whilst the bout lacked some of high drama of Chapter 36's triple threat (with Tommy End replacing Jimmy Havoc) this was still corker of a climax to the afternoon's graps feast.
Match in a Sentence - Great three way with a well worked out structure, that built to a momentum swinging, near-fall laden crescendo
In the first Quarter Final of the 4th Natural Progression Series, Jinny advanced over Pollyanna in a firey encounter, with The Fashionista moving one step closer to being crowned the first ever Women's Champion. This wasn't always the crispest match, especailly in the early going, but it was carried by the passion and believable animosity that the two ladies showed towards each other. The opening brawl between the two got this across well with things being amplified as the contest went on, with each strike and move seeming to have a little bit more behind it. Both women told the rest of the story in their body language and all across their faces. The majority of the fans hate Jinny and love Pollyana, because of two years hard work from the performers and management, and that definitely afforded the pair the chance to slip up in places without losing the audience. One weird chant caused a slightly uncomfortable moment and lead to a spot that saw Jinny hit a sitout facebuster off the top rope not looking as good as it could have, but beyond that the audience was completely invested and created a wonderful atmospheric wrap for the action.
The match flowed nicely towards a number of impressive and gripping false finishes, with both women coming close to getting the pin. As these went on, the Camden crowd got more and more pulled in and it seemed like every kick out was garnering a bigger reaction, peaking when Jinny hit a Style Clash after having cleverly teased the move earlier on. The finish was perhaps a bone of contention, as Pollyanna hit a cradle belly-to-back piledriver, but instead of going for the pin she raised to her feet and hit another and then instead of going for the pin again, she raised to her feet for another, only this time Jinny caught Pollyanna with a roll up into a jacknife cover, resulting in a three count. For me, to go for three was gratuitous and I actually ended up being slightly removed from the action because as soon as Pollyanna went for the third, I'd already worked out where it was going. Jinny sold well after the finish, but I still struggled to buy into her taking two piledrivers and then immediately getting the pin. I might be a stickler for details like that, but the whole sequence had the crowd going nuts non the less. There were questions raised when the popular rivarly was chosen to open the 4th NPS, however thanks to the quality of this contest and especially the strength of the near falls in final quarter, the NPS and by association the Women's Championship has come out the blocks hot and the rest of the tournament now has to up it's game. This will hopefully lead to even better matches as the series goes on.
Match in a Sentence - Very good women's match, that whilst untidy at points, was full of passion and some stupid false finishes.
The South Pacific Power Trip (TK Cooper & Travis Banks, accompanied by Dahlia Black) remained undeffeated with a victory over The Shirtlifters (Jack Sexsmith & "Body Guy" Roy Johnson) in a Tables Match, that concluded the first half. This match outdid my expections as the mix of amusing character portrayals, top drawer high-spots and some astute booking created a match that was a real joy to watch and got a wide range of emotional reactions from the eager congregation. The tussle featured a number of creative moments, that created the bigger story as The SPPT would attack from behind before the bell, thanks to Black distraction, the high energy opening assault from The Shirtlifters would end thanks to Black distraction, Sexsmith would get pushed off the stage onto the rows of chairs below, thanks to Black distraction...you get the picture! It would all culminate in Black distracting Johnson, whilst Cooper readied himself for a big punch...only this time Johnson ducked, meaning Cooper punched Black in the face, sending her off the apron and through a table. All involved played that moment perfectly and it lead to Banks blindsiding Body Guy and eliminating him in a great swerve. It was a shame that the table didn't break on the first attempt, as the timing of the spot was fantastic on all accounts.
This was the best match that I've seen Sexsmith and Johnson compete in and they more then held their own, matching Cooper and Banks' aggression when neccesarry, but also credibly presenting themselves as sympathetic babyfaces, building upon the existing connection they have with the Electric Ballroom. Sexsmith supposedly being left alone following Johnson's elimination, after already having been thrown from the stage, produced a compelling comeback as he scrapped his way back into the match with a neckbreaker and DDT combination acting as the highlight. This lead to best example of the bouts mix of styles, with a Dudley Boyz parody seeing Johnson refuse to "Get the tables", before a 3D to Banks would level the scores at one a piece. With the energy behind the Shirtlifters, the conclusion was spot on for me, as the crowd gave one of the biggest pops of the evening for Sexsmith unveiling Mr. Cocko (Think Mr. Socko but sponsored by Durex) with Cooper the target, only for Banks to attack from behind and send Sexsmith crashing through a table with a big powerbomb. The victory set up The SPPT for a potential title challenge and garnered them even more heat as a group, but also elevated the Shirtlifters who showed a new side to their game, improving and growing their already popular act.
Match in a Sentence - A cracking tornado tables match, full of character comedy with some big spots, where both teams will benefit from having taken part in it.
A victory over Mark Andrews earned Matt Cross a shot at Mark Haskins' Smash Championship, in a clash that was blink and you miss it quick, at points. If you've seen Andrews in TNA or Cross as Son of Havoc (Not Jimmy) on Lucha Underground then you'll know what they are capable of. Up your expectations and then play them back at 1.5x speed and you'll be almost there. There was flips and dives and reversals and just general madness, Andrews and Cross managed to fit more into their thirteen minutes than most could fit into thirty and executed everything crisply. A section where Andrews worked the leg with a number of submissions felt a little out of place with the crowd having chanted for "Flippy shit" from almost the opening bell. If they wanted flippy shit, they definitely got it later on, as the pair had a number of back and forth sequences that were full of the stuff, from various dives to the outside to Cross landing on his feet from a poisoned frankensteiner attempt. By the time Cross had got the pin, I was left wanting more, which is always a good thing.
Match in a Sentence - Unbelievably flippy.
The opener saw The Hunter Brothers (Lee Hunter & Jim Hunter) pick up their first 2v2 success in PROGRESS with a flash pin over a debuting The New Nation (Alexander Henry & Jason Prime). With both teams being relatively unfamiliar to the audience and having never met in the ring before, the match took a while to find it's groove as the Fight Club: Pro and Target Wrestling regulars looked to both connect with the crowd and each other. Prime looked impressive when using his strength to take control, but I felt that having his offence look so much cooler than the initial Hunter Brothers face shine end up hurting the momentum, but understand he was looking to make an impression on the new crowd. The bout really picked up in the second portion though with Lee pulling out an exciting hot tag sequence, before things broke down into a series of nifty spots and near falls. I particularly enjoyed the number of creative ways to four had thought up toi break up pins. I would have liked to have seen New Nation heel things up a little more, with moments like Henry's moonsault to the outside standing out as slightly out of place and whilst I understand why it would have been included, I'd prefer to not have the supposed villains pulling out the most flashy move of the contest see. On the quality of this match, I'd suggest that both teams deserve to return for PROGRESS as they both proved they have a lot to offer and will help to add depth and diversty to the division
Match in a Sentence - Good tag opener, that despite a few personal niggles, set the pace for the rest of the show.
To start the 2nd half, Rampage Brown retained the Atlas Championship in his second Open Challenge, by defeating 2 time wXw Shotgun Champion Bad Bones. The two put on a real tough scrap of a match, in a style that has really began to shine in the Atlas division. Brawling around the ring, throwing meaty chops, hitting big hard suplexes and impressively fighting on the top rope, it was two tough men beating each other up. Despite it being Bones first appearance, the Electric Ballroom popped for his announcement and remained surprisingly split throughout, with Bones rewarding the faith by putting on a great show opposite the reliable Brown. The Westside Xtreme Wrestling star pulled out some impressive offence for a 230lber and quickly won over those who hadn't seen him before. The men used the short ten minutes allotted time to keep a brisk pace, with the beatings coming thick and fast and barely missing a step as they went through a run of near falls. Bones seemed to have the upperhand, getting a couple of two counts with a mid-rope spear and a lariat that caught Brown as he came off the top rope. This all built up to make Brown look like a real tough S.o.B. when he continued to kick out, before bringing Bones down to earth with thudding back superplex and then a piledriver for the three count.
Match in a Sentence - Strong and rapid heavyweight conflict, as Rampage Brown and the Atlas Championship continues to be built up.
Paul Robinson continued his strong run of form with a convincing victory of "Pastor" William Eaver, a former World Champion. This was a succinct bout, with the pair bringing plenty of energy and intensity to proceedings. The early references to Eaver legitmately injuring Sebastian in-ring at Chapter 36 were a little uncomfortable for me, but luckily the pair didn't make it the focus of the match, quickly moving on after addressing the elephant in the room. Eaver continues to grow and opposite the more experienced Robinson continued to impress with a good mix of power and agility. The bout was driven by Robinson though, with his persona able to get under the skin of the fans with ease, as he did anything he could to take control and goaded the crowd whilst doing it! The constant attempts from Robbo to hit his version for the Curb Stomp gave the bout an extra dimension, meaning that when he was finally able to hit the move it got a sweet reaction as fans realised that the dicksalad had managed to get the win. Whilst it was the most low-key match on the card, Eaver and Robinson still created a good outing in their spot and stated their case for higher positions on future shows.
Match in a Sentence - Nice intense scrap with a good through thread.
Any Other Business...
- In a surprising twist, Mark Haskins left the World Championship belt in the ring following the main event, with co-owner and ring announcer Jim Smallman chasing after him, resulting in one of the weirdest conclusions to a show I've ever seen!
- Sebastian made his return following the Paul Robinson and Pastor William Eaver contest, informing Eaver that if the Pastor didn't want him to press charges for the life-threatning injury from Chapter 36, Eaver would have to do anything he asked in a storyline twist that has more than a shade of John "Bradshaw" Layfield and Shawn Michaels' WWE storyline in 2008/09.
ATPW Scale Rating - 7.55/10
Show in a Sentence - A very good afternoon of wrestling, full of variety
Match of the Night - Havoc v Scurll v Haskins
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Words - James Marston (Twitter - @IAmNotAlanDale)
Images Courtesy of PROGRESS Wrestling