The new era of PROGRESS is showing no signs of slowing down.
PROGRESS Wrestling returned to its home of the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London, last Sunday with its third show of the new era. After kickstarting the year with Chapter 101 and a strong showing in Cardiff, Wales, at Chapter 102, PROGRESS had a lot to live up to on Sunday.
This was my first live show of the new era, and boy did it feel different. Ring announcer Matt Richards brings a very different feel to the shows. Not better, not worse – just different. He is very good at hyping up the crowd before matches, which is very important.
This was the third year in a row that I have attended the February Ballroom show, and there does seem to be less of an atmosphere in the crowd these days. That’s not saying the atmosphere is bad – it’s still consistently the best live experience in British Wrestling, but it definitely ain’t what it used to be.
Richards announced early on that both Charli Evans and Jordan Devlin had both suffered last-minute injuries that caused some changes to the card. Instead of the advertised tag team match pitching Jinny and Toni Storm against the Medusa Complex, Storm would instead face Millie McKenzie in singles competition; while Scotty Davis will find a replacement partner in a non-title match.
Scotty Davis & Eddie Kingston vs. The Workhorsemen (JD Drake & Anthony Henry)
Davis’ partner turned out to be the returning Eddie Kingston, who got an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the crowd. Kingston was the star of this match. The chop-off he had with The Workhorsemen’s JD Drake saw some blisteringly loud chops as they attempted to cave each other’s chests in.
I also loved the grappling exchanges between Scotty Davis and Anthony Henry. I feel like Davis’ mat work is in a class of its own, but Henry had an answer for everything that was thrown at him. Sometimes a one-on-one exchange in a tag match is enough to make you want to see a singles match, and I would love to see Scotty Davis have a one-on-one match with Anthony Henry.
Despite being the crowd favourite throughout this match, Kingston walked away from a handshake between all four men after the match, planting a seed for something that would make sense later on in the show.
Gisele Shaw vs. Chakara
The second match came from the women’s division as Gisele Shaw faced Chakara. This match had an interesting dynamic as the crowd were firmly in support of Shaw following her impressive performance at Chapter 102 whilst they booed Chakara, probably after her run in the House of Couture.
What I enjoyed here was the gradual shift in crowd support as Shaw tapped more and more into her dark side and showed more aggression over time, often combined with a degree of arrogance. By the time Chakara had tapped out to Shaw’s high-angle hammerlock, the crowd response had been completely reversed, ending in a nice moment on the stage where Candy Floss came out to console Chakara after her loss.
This level of development is exactly what the PROGRESS women’s division needs. I could now see Gisele Shaw be Jinny’s next title challenger as a result, and Chakara has formed a new bond with the Camden faithful and will hopefully become a more regular part of the roster.
More Than Hype (LJ Cleary, Nathan Martin & Darren Kearney) vs. The Anti-Fun Police (Chief Deputy Dunne & Los Federales Santos Jr.) & WALTER
More Than Hype were back at the Ballroom once again as they faced the unlikely partnership of The Anti-Fun Police and NXT UK Champion WALTER in a six-man tag match. This was hilarious. WALTER’s refusal to partake in AFP’s comedy was brilliant, but my main takeaway here is just how good More Than Hype have become.
As a casual OTT viewer, I’m familiar with their work and definitely consider myself a fan, but seeing them perform from the front row was still an eye-opener for me. Their movements are so clean and deliberate, both on singles offence and tag team manoeuvres. I saw a GIF of a mind-blowing assisted catapult lungblower from a TNT show the week prior and was in awe, but seeing that in person was even more special.
Sure, the Irish trio came up on the losing end in this instance, but I truly think that they will have OTT and PROGRESS gold around their waists very soon as they continue to grow and become Europe’s standout tag team.
Proteus Championship: Paul Robinson (c) vs. Kyle Fletcher)
Paul Robinson’s reign as Proteus Champion has been great thus far, and his match against Kyle Fletcher was another example of why. These knockout or submission matches bring a totally different atmosphere to the card, it just feels like a fight – and this was just that.
The first few minutes consisted of a strike exchange where both men were quick on their feet and kept dodging each other. These kickboxing spots really bring out the best in Robinson, and Fletcher didn’t look out of place in the slightest. It didn’t take long for the action to spill to the outside and both men found themselves fighting it out in the crowd, throwing chairs at each other. Being sat on the opposite side, I saw none of this but it sounded very painful.
The main talking point coming out of this match is the finish. Robsinson had Fletcher cornered and hit him with a flurry of strikes, to which the Aussie Arrow had no response for. Referee Paz saw that Fletcher was not defending himself and awarded the match to Robinson via TKO. The crowd didn’t take too kindly to this, and the champion made sure to defend the referee’s decision after the match as he cut an impromptu promo explaining the basic rules of a fight to the crowd.
I can see why some fans might be disappointed, but the positive thing to come out of this is that we could see these guys go at it once again, which I would love to see.
Millie McKenzie vs. Toni Storm
One horribly dry KFC Vegan Burger later and back from the interval, we had our second women’s match of the night. First and foremost, let’s hope that this becomes a regular thing. Having multiple women’s segments on a show is the only way to create a deep roster resulting in compelling storylines, so that’s a good step forwards.
I must admit, however, that this match between Millie McKenzie and Toni Storm was a tad disappointing. I’m a big fan of both women and thoroughly enjoyed their match at the OTT Defiant show back in October, so they definitely have chemistry. I just feel like this match didn’t quite get into gear and the crowd were largely talking amongst themselves. A great shame, I thought, as we very rarely get to see Storm wrestle nowadays, let alone on an independent level.
On a more positive note, I did like the closing sequence and the post-match angle where a distraction by Charli Evans cost Storm the win and the subsequent two-on-one beatdown that saw Jinny align with her career rival. There’s definitely some legs in a Storm/Jinny alliance, and a prolonged feud with the Medusa Complex could make a very compelling story.
Ilja Dragunov vs. Malik
Our penultimate match saw NPS standout Malik go toe-to-toe with PROGRESS’ MPV, Ilja Dragunov. I call Dragunov the MVP because every time he steps into a PROGRESS ring, he gives it his all and more often than not, he steals the show. See my previous article for examples. This is exactly the kind of match that Malik needed to showcase what he can do, and boy did they deliver.
Straight off, the crowd were torn down the middle, creating a great atmosphere. Malik showed exactly why he is called the ‘heavy hitter’ and had an answer for everything Dragunov threw at him, except for the Torpedo Moscow that he ate at the end. In short, Dragunov continues to own PROGRESS I would like to see Malik tear it up on a regular basis.
After this match, Eddie Kingston ran out to attack Dragunov. He hit him with three DDTs in-between verbally tearing him to shreds. Kingston claimed to be tired of being there to help out the new generation who go on to sign with big companies whilst he remains “broke”. He said that he is a “fighter, not an actor”, and threw shade at NXT, and hilariously, NXT UK.
This was exceptional. It felt like Kingston really had a chip on his shoulder and spoke from the heart. He claimed that after he is done with Dragunov, he is coming for “his boyfriend”, referring to PROGRESS Champion Cara Noir. I am all in for this feud.
PROGRESS Unified World Championship: Cara Noir (c) vs. Mark Andrews
The PROGRESS Unified World Championship was on the line in our main event as FSU’s Mark Andrews challenged Cara Noir. This was absolutely exceptional from start to finish. From Eddie Dennis lightly nudging Noir during entrance causing him to flip, to Andrews using an exposed turnbuckle, there were plenty of moments where I could’ve seen the title change hands and everyone was on the edge of their seat.
The finish came as Noir kicked out of a Fall To Pieces and locked in a rear naked choke to retain via submission. I love Noir’s ability to lock in a submission out of nowhere, it’s just really gripping knowing that the finish could come at any moment. It is fair to say that Cara Noir has gone from strength to strength, and if matches like this are to be expected on a monthly basis, then we’re in for something truly special.
All-in-all, Chapter 103 was a very good show. Sure, one or two matches left a little to be desired and the smaller crowd has naturally hurt the atmosphere, but the quality of the main event coupled with the amount of seeds planted for future matches and storylines far outweigh the negatives. Personally, I had a great time at the show and will be returning to Camden for Chapter 104 on March 29th with some high expectations.