Following the previous night’s WXW show at The Dome in Tufnell Park the main reason for this jaunt to London came on Sunday 25th March as Progress Wrestling celebrated their sixth birthday with their 65th ‘Chapter’ show, Have Some Faith In The Sound.
The day started with a lengthy and meteorologically chilly, but personally warm and friendly, time queueing up outside The Electric Ballroom on Camden High Street to ensure good seats could be found within our third tier area.
On entering the Ballroom and heading straight into the ‘arena’ we secured seats along the entrance way, giving a great view of the ring while getting close up as each wrestler made their way out.
To describe the venue as intimate would be true in all respects with as many seats as possible crammed in and standing room in every safe space, added to which is the fact that, with no security barriers, there is no division between crowd and competitors echoing Progress’ punk rock spirit.
Getting in all but first did mean there was a lengthy wait before the matches began but with wrestlers at the merch stands and a fine selection of music playing through the PA the whole friendly atmosphere continued (as it did all day).
After a brief introduction we were treated to a pre-show warm up match before the ‘televised’ portion of the show began.
While both competitors were lesser known, coming from New Zealand promotion SPW, they put on a good match and the audience got involved rooting for sort of local boy Marcus Kool against Rory Coyle warming things up nicely.
After a brief break MC and promotion co-owner Jim Smallman took to the ring and delivered some of his trademark chat, continuing to make us feel like part of the show – even someone’s Nan who they’d brought along for her first Progress show – before getting to the business at hand.
With seven matches on the main card the action came thick and fast and started strong as veteran, ‘The Ambassador’ Doug Williams, continued his run of matches with upcoming talent, against ‘Battle-tested’ Rob Lynch.
The match was a heavy and hard-hitting affair as one might expect from the two ‘Atlas’ division competitors but it was Lynch who came out victorious marking a strong start as he returns from injury.
With champion Toni Storm in Japan and number one contender Jinny injured (but very notably present at ringside) the women’s four-way dance match was as much about pride as it was championships.
Though Killer Kelly was injured following her match with Millie McKenzie the previous evening a more than able replacement was found in Charlie Morgan, but this did swing the odds in favour of Jinny’s ‘House of Couture’ team, making this at times almost feel like a tornado tag match.
However, the presence of Irish standout Session Moth Martina meant all bets were off and, with this being my first time seeing her in any capacity, I was hugely impressed by her exuberant personality and skills in the ring, both for comedic effect and as a wrestler.
While the action in the ring was great and both McKenzie and Chakara showed themselves to be prodigies to some degree, this match really was stolen by antics that I think, being in the venue, were even more enjoyable.
These began as Martina made her entrance and glow sticks were waved around the room. When Morgan took exception to this the ring was showered with the glow sticks and each competitor did a great job of reacting to this in suitable ways.
It was Morgan who got the win but, after the match, this was somewhat overshadowed for those sat in the same section as me as Jinny and a member of the crowd got into a heated confrontation that saw security and Progress co-owner Glen get involved – but all seemed ok in the end (I believe this was far from being a ‘work’ to use the wrestling vernacular and showed why its best not to get too personal with the performers).
Once things had settled down they only took a turn for the more extreme as it was time for the ‘no disqualification’ match between rivals TK Cooper and Chris Brookes.
The match started fast as Brookes dived over the top rope onto Cooper and it didn’t let up.
From what I’ve seen of them in the past neither man is particularly known for their hardcore wrestling but both pulled out all the stops with old favourites chairs and tables joined by thumbtacks (drawing pins), a staple gun and a hammer.
While the match was spectacular this was the first point where the difference between seeing a match live against seeing it in TV really hit home as a lot of the action took place outside the ring on the far side so we couldn’t see it clearly.
Despite that it remained hugely engaging, and possibly even heightened things as we saw both men plunge from the ring through a table, and felt the floor shake with the impact, but couldn’t see the results, and I’m really interested to find out just what Brookes did to TK with that claw hammer once this is on Demand Progress (see photo above!).
The final match before the break saw two firm fan favourites clash over the Atlas Championship, challenger Rampage Brown and champion Walter.
As expected neither man held back and the sounds of the strikes and sight of the two big men throwing each other around was genuinely astonishing in person.
After the no DQ match and Martina’s antics, this showed yet another side of pro-wrestling, what Progress terms ‘big lads fighting’, excellently.
With the break giving another chance to chat to fellow fans and some of the wrestlers at the merchandise stands dotted around the venue this continued to sum up the friendly community feel of the show that I found so impressive, before the action in the ring got going again with the next in this year’s Natural Progression series for newer grapplers.
Coming after the break and featuring two slightly lesser known fighters, Danny Jones and Danny Duggan (apparently no relation to Hacksaw, but that didn’t stop the ‘Hoooooo!’ chants) the crowd were initially a little quieter as the pair put on a more technical match.
The arrival at ringside of Jones’ fellow Welshman, Eddie Dennis, though certainly piqued our interest as he was berated for his recent actions, before getting involved in the match and costing his supposed ally the win.
After the match Dennis continued his series of promos aimed at Mark Andrews and hearing this, and the crowds reaction to it, in person was great as Dennis took an audience that was just getting back into things and whipped them up into a booing frenzy at his apparently deluded rantings.
Looking like it might close off a couple of rivalries in one go the Progress World Tag Team Championships were defended next in a three-way dance, but, before the match could begin Zack Gibson, of champions Grizzled Young Veterans, grabbed the mic (interrupting the introduction of David Starr).
While I’ve seen the heat Gibson attracts on TV that was nothing compared to being part of it – if the previous response to Jinny and Eddie Dennis was one thing, this was on a whole new level as for the best part of five minutes the audience booed the Liverpudlian grappler louder than you’d think possible for 700 people, while even the other wrestlers got involved at one point.
The match itself then got underway and was an excellently chaotic affair with each team having strong chances before Sexy Starr (Jack Sexsmith and the aforementioned Jewish Cannon) eliminated Jimmy Havoc & Mark Haskins getting the Pansexual Phenomenon some level of revenge for the opponents past indiscretions.
Following that it was more back and forth but it looked like the challengers were in with a chance only to be foiled by interference from Havoc eventually leading to the champions retaining, while making for one of the highlight matches of the show.
Following the match, and the inevitable boos for Drake and Gibson, it was great to see Sexsmith and Starr receive genuinely heartfelt congratulations from the crowd for their efforts which continue to see Sexsmith develop his more serious side as he heads for his world title match in Manchester in May.
Another match that looked like it might round off a few stories was the main event pitting Progress World Champion Travis Banks against ‘Thunderbastrd’ winner Flash Morgan Webster.
From the start though, as Webster sent Vicky Haskins back to the locker room, many ideas were confounded and what followed was one of the greatest pieces of physical storytelling I’ve ever seen.
With Banks shift of crowd reaction since last month he changed across this match from hard fighting hero to vicious antagonist with only a few tweaks to his behaviour, while Webster became the honourable hero; beaten down by still fighting to the end despite the revival of The South Pacific Power Trip (Banks team with fellow Kiwi TK Cooper) to close the show on a controversial high point.
With seeing a show like this live for the first time a couple of things were striking.
It being made for ‘TV’ there were a few moments where I think things would have made more sense with commentary but still the story telling in the matches was great and absorbing all night, particularly in the No DQ, Tag Championship and main event matches.
The other thing was how different areas in the arena get different things.
Sat where we were we got the entrances but on the other side there’d have been a better view of the action outside the ring while the balcony maybe would give a better view overall but would be at slightly more of a distance – basically meaning, as has often been said, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
In all though Chapter 65 was an incredible show to attend in person and a great way to get my first live experience of Progress which had a tremendously friendly community feel that I hope carries over into the bigger venues of Alexandra Palace and Wembley Arena where I’ll get the chance to see more of this later in the year.