Progress promised fans a new era, heading into their first show without Jim Smallman at the helm.
Chapter 101: Dalmatians saw Progress back at the Electric Ballroom in Camden with a stacked card, and three championships on the line promising a great show ahead.
Sunday’s show began with Matt Richards reiterating this message of the next era of Progress to the fans, until he was interrupted by the World Champion, Eddie Dennis. Dennis announced that, unfortunately, he had sustained an injury at the NXT:UK tapings, separating his shoulder, and would not be able to compete. Ultimately he would have to relinquish his championship, but decided instead to give the title to his FSU teammate, Mark Andrews.
Matt Richards put a stop to this by announcing that the new champion would be decided in a four-way dance, and the three singles matches on the card would now be qualifiers for the new main event. Not only that, but the first match would be Mark Andrews vs Ilja Dragunov, and it would begin immediately!
PROGRESS World Championship Qualifier: Mark Andrews vs Ilja Dragunov
This match ended as abruptly as it began, as Dragunov defeated Andrews in mere seconds after hitting a Torpedo Moscow. This got a good reaction from the crowd as they laughed at Dennis and Andrews’ plans for the championship now in tatters. Post-match, Dennis pushed Andrews and stormed away to the back. Could we see trouble brewing between the two at the next chapter?
Pretty Deadly (Sam Stoker & Lewis Howley) vs More Than Hype (Nathan Martin & Darren Kearney)
On paper, this match looked promising, as Pretty Deadly looked to continue their upward journey, and More Than Hype looked to live up to their name, and show why they are rising through the ranks within the British indy scene.
And this match certainly lived up to the expectations placed on it, as both teams showcased how well they work together, with brilliant offence and double team moves from either side. Ultimately, it was Pretty Deadly who picked up the win, but More Than Hype still came out of the match looking strong. So far, More Than Hype have only appeared in Progress a handful of times, but I’d like to see more of them here, as they got a good reception and didn’t look out of place at all in a Progress ring.
With that win, Pretty Deadly are now 5-0 in Progress. Could we see a challenge for the tag team titles on the horizon?
PROGRESS World Championship Qualifier: LJ Cleary vs Kyle Fletcher
With the added news that this was now a qualifying match for the main event, it was certainly all to play for, and you could argue that both men in this match had something to prove. As Kyle Fletcher continues to solidify himself as a credible singles wrestler, and LJ Cleary continues to build his name as a hot prospect in the independent scene, this was certainly a golden opportunity.
And it was an opportunity both Fletcher and Cleary made good use of. With a steady pace throughout the match, this gave both men time to showcase just what they can do in singles action. Neither competitor looked, or felt, as though they would be out of place in that main event as they knocked lumps out of each other. Eventually, it was Fletcher who got the pinfall after a jumping tombstone piledriver, advancing to the title match.
PROGRESS Proteus Championship/World Championship Qualifier: Paul Robinson (C) vs A-Kid
As per Paul Robinson’s stipulation, this match was to be won by knock-out or submission only. It was good to see a different side of A-Kid, from his usual high flying style, as he went with more of a strike-based offence to match Robinson. As the match went on, the two ramped up the viciousness of their attacks, with A-Kid even spitting at the champion at one point.
In the end, it was a decisive win for Robbo, following up a curb stomp with a half crab, which A-Kid tapped out to fairly quickly. The champion celebrated his win to crowd chants of “Robbo two belts” as he now had an opportunity for the World Championship.
Do Not Resuscitate (Spike Trivet, Danny Duggan & Bill Eaver) vs Destination Everywhere (The OJMO & The NIC)
Before the match got underway, Spike Trivet grabbed a mic and reminded the NIC that Do Not Resuscitate had defeated them previously, and that their teammate, The OJMO, had abandoned them for the main event scene. He told the NIC that they couldn’t trust The OJMO for this reason, and received a dropkick for his troubles, as the match began.
This match at times felt less like a match and more of a brawl with the bad blood between both teams, as all six men battled it out outside of the ring. We saw Eaver’s unpredictability throughout, as he used his own body as a weapon at one point, launching himself at one of the NIC but hitting the wall instead.
It was great to see Destination Everywhere redeem themselves and put Trivet’s attempt to create a rift behind them, as they got the win. The NIC hit Duggan with the Power Play, which The OJMO followed up with the frog splash for the pinfall. Interestingly, seeing as he was the one talking about trust, Trivet made it back to the ring in time to break up the pinfall, but didn’t fancy going through one of the NIC to save Duggan.
PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Jinny (C) vs Mercedez Blaze
Following Jinny’s change in attitude at Chapter 100, promising to make the women’s division a must-see in Progress, she came to the ring with the crowd fully behind her. Both the champion and the challenger looked cool and confident going into the match, with Mercedez Blaze looking unfazed by the smattering of boos she received.
We did see a decent amount of offence from both Blaze and Jinny, but it was an Acid Rainmaker from the champion that brought an end to the match, which felt like it was just getting going. Another 10, or even just five minutes may have added a bit more to the match, because it didn’t feel like there was any real danger or doubt that Jinny would lose her championship.
After the match, Jinny addressed the crowd, vowing to be a fighting and defending champion, as she made the women’s division what it is. She asked to be added to Dani Luna and Gisele Shaw’s match at Chapter 102, making it a triple threat for the championship. As she finished speaking, she was attacked by Charli Evans and Millie McKenzie. The women’s division looks set to heat up, as Jinny wants, with this news, and the appearance of the Medusa Complex.
PROGRESS World Championship: Ilja Dragunov vs Kyle Fletcher vs Paul Robinson vs Cara Noir
Well, this wasn’t the main event we expected before the show began, but the tension and excitement of wanting to know who would walk away with the gold made this the perfect way to kick off this new age of Progress. Before the match began, there were crowd chants for all four competitors, which just added to the high stakes, and the idea that anything could happen in this match; that any of these four could become champion. Each man put in a decent showing, with the action often spilling outside of the ring, but it was Paul Robinson who was eliminated first, after a jumping tombstone piledriver from Kyle Fletcher.
Something that added to the already-high stakes of this match was the history between Cara Noir and Ilja Dragunov, as they both protected each other throughout, which ultimately led to Fletcher’s elimination. As Fletcher attempted another tombstone, Dragunov made the save by hitting Fletcher with a Torpedo Moscow, with Cara landing on top for the pinfall.
Just when you thought the match couldn’t feel any more tense, we end up with Cara and Dragunov facing off once more, this time for the gold. It felt perfect, as you could feel the mutual respect between the two following their trilogy in Progress. You could see just how well they had come to know each other as they preempted each other’s offence at times. In a somewhat poetic end to the match, it was Cara Noir who emerged victorious, finishing Dragunov with a Torpedo Moscow and Package Piledriver for the pinfall, to a standing ovation.
From the looks of things, Progress are looking to live up to all of their talk of a new era by putting the championship on Cara Noir, who was one of 2019’s biggest breakout stars. After Chapter 101, I feel hopeful that Progress can keep this feeling of newness and shine, having delivered a solid show with some of the hottest talent on the scene, and having crowned a new champion the crowd are fully behind, in what was a beautiful moment. With two championships on the line confirmed so far, Chapter 102 is looking as though it will be just as good.
You can find me on Twitter @KirstyPi.