PROGRESS Chapter 43 – Tropic Thunderbastard
Arnold Furious: January 29, 2017. We’re in Camden at the Electric Ballroom, one of the best venues for live wrestling in the world…unless the balcony floods due to heavy rain and everyone gets stuck on the ground floor! It was a little bit cosy at Chapter 43. The spot I usually stand in has around ten people in it, on a normal Chapter show. This time there were around twenty.
We start this show by checking in with commentators Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie on the preshow. They’re interrupted by Sebastian (“morning f*ck*rs”). “Why am I not booked tonight?” Seb drags the camera through the corridors blaming “shit online reviews” (hi) for his behaviour. It’s an interesting little tour of the backstage area. When they get out into the venue Seb puts William Eaver on the ring crew. This was a nice little extension of the Freedom’s Road approach Progress have been working on.
Jim Smallman is out to open the show and address the balcony. He points out you can’t boo an inanimate object like the Carbon Rod off the Simpsons, drawing a “Carbon Rod” chant. If they actually call someone from the ProJo “Carbon Rod” he’ll be so over.
Kings of the North vs. London Riots
The Riots have started 2017 on fire. Kings of the North are an OTT tag team who rarely venture outside of Ireland. This is a big chance for them to shine in a new environment. The match is banter heavy with Bonesaw having one glove on and Rob Lynch pulls out his own gloves and challenges Bonesaw to a duel! Rob throwing the Progress scarf over his shoulder and yelling “that’s the end of that chapter” is magical stuff. If you’ve not seen the relevant Simpsons episode that might be lost on you. I like that the Riots have this secondary banter occupation that allows variety in their matches. It means they’re not permanently killing themselves with strongstyle. The match does feature some heavy hitting antics although Kings of the North find it hard to keep up with the Riots offence. The crowd focus in on the glove and start bantering Bonesaw from the start before settling into Michael Jackson abuse. It’s all fun and games until the Irish lads get nasty with spitting and swear words. The match feels a touch long, based on the Kings being so new. You can tell they’re a little inexperienced at this level. It’s not a bad showing, by any means, but they’re not as confident as they would be in OTT. The timing isn’t quite right on some double teams and pre-planned spots. Slingshot Spear finishes for the Riots as they continue to impress.
Final Rating: ***
Post-match: Jim announces Paul Robinson is injured and won’t be in the Thunderbastard. This causes ripples of excitement as it means the possibility of a ‘mystery’ entrant. Who’s in the country? Who’s recovered from injury?
Natural Progression Series IV
Laura Di Matteo vs. Chakara
Chakara beat Pollyanna in her final Progress match on Freedom’s Road. Chakara is very inexperienced and isn’t ready to be on Chapter shows. This doesn’t deter her and she puts in a good shift in this contest. The emphasis is, perhaps unfairly, on Laura to draw a good match out of Chakara. She’s far too inexperienced herself to do this. Chakara has two things going in her favour; 1. she’s aggressive. 2. Her personality is a little quirky. This produces some oddball selling that’s actually hugely effective because it’s so unique. She’s too inexperienced to realise it looks weird. The match is structured with a lot of heat too so Chakara has to control the pace. This is not good news for the match up. Laura has switched looks by changing to an MMA hairstyle and gear. It’s her way of saying she’s ‘grown up’ since stepping out of Jinny’s shadow. Not using Laura since Brixton has cost her some heat unfortunately. Such is the nature of the women’s tournament. Chakara’s flaws are there for everyone to see. The way she prepares to take moves is by telegraphing them from a mile away. That said this is as good as she’s looked as a wrestler to date. At her stage of development this couldn’t have gone any better. Laura catches her in a submission to advance.
Final Rating: *1/2
Post-match: Jon Briley thinks he has a fix for the Thunderbastard. Seeing as William Eaver is standing right by the ring he might as well be in the Thunderbastard.
Roy Johnson vs. Jurn Simmons
If you’ve never seen Jurn Simmons entrance then you might want to check this match out because the usually edited version that wXw present is completely uncut here. It’s magical. He grinds and plays air guitar on the stage for about five minutes solid. Part of Jim Smallman’s shtick on this show was announcing people in the language of their home country. His Dutch causes Jurn to shake his head. Jurn did his mega-workrate match against WALTER the previous night for wXw. This one is borderline heel stuff from his excellent/irritating run as wXw champion. Jurn Simmons is someone who completely understands the need to stop and breathe in the world around him. His matches are a throwback, in a good way, and his presence is near perfect. If you’re just watching him on tape the effect is slightly lost. The match is here to get Jurn over with those unfamiliar with him. I expect he’ll be back in something beyond a showcase. Jurn finishes with the piledriver and Glen Joseph suggests he might get a shot at the Atlas title.
Final Rating: **1/4
South Pacific Power Trip vs. Ringkampf
Two heels teams here so the crowd decide to support Ringkampf, despite Axel’s dead-eyed stare, on account of how hated SPPT are. Despite the questionable booking of a promotion that prides itself on ‘bad guys’ and ‘good guys’ in a traditional sense the match is an absolute banger. Everything seems to come together beautifully with WALTER keen to kill everyone and the New Zealanders up for taking all the abuse. It would be rude to overlook Dieter vs. Banks, which is some fantastic technical wrestling. Also the comedy of SPPT can’t be overlooked. Like TK getting a kiss from Dahlia Black before delivering a top rope move and subsequently hitting Travis or TK discovering it’s tough to knock WALTER over. The meat of the match is the viciousness of WALTER. The way he destroys SPPT with chops, elbows and kicks is delightful. He is in murderous form. He’s not alone in that respect with Axel and Travis both hitting fantastic topes and TK outdoing both of them with a ridiculous flippydo. The match swings twice as it nears conclusion. Firstly when WALTER decides to ‘remove’ Dahlia from the contest. I’m not overly keen on male on female violence but as a heel Dahlia did bring on the abuse. The other moment is TK wiping out WALTER with a chair shot and promptly holding Dieter’s legs down on a Travis pin. Axel does sensational selling after the match, looking at his boots and wondering what prevented him from moving. This was a frankly sensational performance from all involved. The use of comedy, the violence of WALTER, the high-flying, the technical excellence and the overarching storyline. The entire crowd rises afterwards to applaud all these boys. What a match.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post-match: Jon pitches the name of Chapter 44. It’s “Old Man Yells At Cloud”, referencing the altercation with Jim Cornette on Twitter recently. The crowd chanting “Old Man Yells At Cloud” is wonderful.
#1 is Mark Andrews. The more I hear “A House That’s Not Quite Home” the more I like it. #2 is Marty Scurll. The Villain has been one of Progress’ most hated heels in recent years but the crowd have softened to him after he lost the title. He doesn’t perceive himself as a heel or a face. He’s a villain. So the crowd can react however they want to him. He doesn’t care. However, he asks for crowd participation when he’s leaning toward babyface in the Villain persona. That happens here. The way he ‘backs off’ from a clean break sees him retreating into the crowd. #3 is Trent Seven. The banter between him and Scurll, during moves, amazes me. That’s how strong the banter is in BritWres. #4 is Jack Sexsmith, who gets a massive pop and the crowd sing the Divinyls to serenade his work. Sexsmith is a massive underdog and the crowd love an underdog. #5 is William Eaver…only it’s not because Sebastian takes his spot. This gets unreal heat and it’s actually tremendous storytelling. Even better is that everyone hates Seb so much the other boys (including heel Trent) let Sexsmith have him! Cheeky roll up and Seb is out!
The storytelling continues as Eaver runs down to save Jack, gets slapped and Eaver lays out Seb! It’s a great little capper for that storyline, as we’ve waited for Eaver to stand up to Sebastian for months. #6 is Zack Gibson. He tries to run his shtick but Mark jumps him to stop it. Gibson has retained his heat, for everyone that was worried his absence would cause issues. #7 is Nathan Cruz. This gives the Origin a clear advantage. #8 is Dave Mastiff. This is a huge part of the storyline with the Origin as the Banter Edition (Mastiff and Ligero) have been having issues with the two serious members of the Origin. Seeing the entire crowd give Dave the thumbs up gesture is lovely. Mastiff is naturally part of the Origin still so they do a thumbs up motif. That is until Mastiff gives the Origin the ‘thumbs down’ in a Batista/Evolution/Bantista moment. This becomes the second long-standing Progress angle to pay off with a massive face turn in the same match! Marty tries to audition for Ligero’s spot as Dave’s banter loving mate, which gets Mastiff the finger snap to the thumb. “He needs those hands for banter” says Glen. Marty spends an eternity signalling for the Chickenwing so Trent rolls him up to boot Scurll from the match.
This leaves two mega-faces in the match; Mastiff and Sexsmith. What a bizarre situation! The Origin double team to boot Mastiff and push their feud going forward. Which side will Ligero take?
Mandrews catches Trent with the Stundog Millionaire and a standing SSP dumps Seven.
This leaves Andrews alone against the Origin, as Sexsmith is down on the floor, but he re-appears with condoms on both hands. He promptly goes ass to mouth on the Origin. Crippler Cockface for Cruz. He taps out!
Sexsmith’s underdog story peaks there, although the massive support for him is undeniable. People would genuinely buy Sexsmith as a title contender, which is enormous for him. There’s a suggestion that he might even submit Gibson. That ends when Gibson powers out and hits the Helter Skelter for the pin.
This leaves Andrews vs. Gibson for the title shot. Andrews has a bad arm and the story is that Gibson can win with the Shankly Gates, should he be able to hook it. Gibson is aware that the match lacks a little heat after Sexsmith’s elimination and launches into a diatribe on the microphone, greeted by a wall of boos. He does actually wear the crowd down to the point where you can hear him say “you can’t stop progress”, which is a perfect sign off. Andrews gets caught in the Shankly Gates, drawing a great “he’s locked the gates” call from Callum Leslie. Gibson runs his mouth too much though and gets caught with the Stundog Millionaire and the SSP gives Andrews a title shot. Entertaining match with some interesting storyline stuff going on.
Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Jimmy Havoc
There was a feeling among some that Havoc was taking the title here due to booking issues surrounding Dunne, and the other WWE contracted talent. However the story being told with Dunne is much bigger than a three month reign and a loss to a former champion. Much bigger. Pete is such a cocky prick in this match. He knows he’s got Trent Seven watching his back in case anything goes wrong and he’s not going to lose. Havoc responds by going deep into his repertoire as the King of the Goths. The flying rana he does is starting to look really good. The match has elements of the classic Havoc encounter, which involves dudes being thrown into chairs. The crowd amuse themselves by chanting “Hunter’s bitch” at poor little Peter. The match has more intensity than recent Bruiserweight title matches due to Havoc’s standing but also little things like Pete drawing blood when he bites Havoc’s fingers. Pete’s approach to this match is very impressive. He controls with heat but he does so at a very methodical pace, ensuring the crowd understand the importance of his work. The work on the hand/arm means that Havoc can’t hold on doing the ripcord part of the Rainmaker. The WWE stuff is well done. Pete works the basics of the match before resorting to hitting a Pedigree. He even stops in mid-move to crotch-chop the crowd chanting “you’re not at the Rumble. This is the work of a calm, capable professional wrestler. One who’s not worried about sticking to the pre-planned antics. The Acid Rainmaker should finish but Trent pulls Chris Roberts out of the ring. Jimmy hits a second one but Seven full on jumps into the ring for the DQ and that’s the match.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post-match: the crowd chant “bullshit” because this is a hugely disappointing conclusion to the show. But it’s not the end of the show at all. Out comes a returning from injury Flash Morgan Webster. And he’s not alone; MARK F*CK*NG HASKINS IS BACK! The crowd goes insane as the two returning wrestlers clean out the ring and accept Havoc’s friendship in his fight against British Strongstyle. That trios match is going to be fantastic. “You have something that belongs to me” – Haskins of Dunne. When he says “we’re cleared to wrestle” the reaction is insane. Haskins was only missing for a couple of months (forfeiting the Progress title in late October), despite teasing possible retirement, but I missed him so bad. When he rolls back into the ring and hugs Jim Smallman I get all choked up. When wrestling is done right, there’s nothing like it.
Summary: The show was a little slow to get into the meat of the action with the front half spending time on developing new characters, showcasing tournaments and being on the goofy side. It’s all easy enough to watch. However the show changes gears with the pre-intermission tag match, which is a fantastic bout, and the second half, despite disappointing finishes, is loaded with cracking storytelling. The Sebastian angle, the Origin in-fighting and the two sensational returns at the end of the show all landed. The emotional conclusion made me so happy. I was genuinely concerned that Haskins was gone for good and to see him back in action and moving smoothly was a relief to the point where I was welling up with tears. That’s what wrestling is when it’s done properly. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. You’ll get angry, you’ll be disappointed but ultimately your heart is in that ring.