PROGRESS Wrestling: Chapter 100 – Unboxing Live IV: A New Hope – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 30/12/19

Progress Wrestling - Chapter 100 - Unboxing Live IV A New Hope - 2019 - logoThere’s not doubt that December 2019’s PROGRESS Wrestling show from The Electric Ballroom is Camden was a landmark one; not only was it the promotions hundredth ‘chapter’ show but it also marked the last show for ring announcer, promoter and co-founder Jim Smallman.

On top of that it also looks as if it’s the last appearance for a wrestler who has been pivotal to the last year and bit of the company’s main event scene, but more about him later.

As always with the ‘Unboxing’ format no matches, or even wrestlers, were announced before the show began but it was clear things were not exactly going to plan when it was announced, in the venue, that the pre-show warm up match would be included as part of the main show (given the final timings they really could have stuck with still starting early, but no matter).

Jerry Bakewell & Mercedes Blaze vs Cassius & Nye-Oh

Cassius and Jerry Bakewell - The Head Drop
Cassius and Jerry Bakewell – The Head Drop

The opening contest then was an inter-gender tag team affair in association with The Head Drop featuring four performers new to PROGRESS as Jerry Bakewell and Mercedes Blaze took on Cassius ‘The Neon Explosion’ and Nye-Oh.

After a huge reaction for Cassius who has been busy making waves in the likes of The Head Drop and Riptide it was clear who the heels and who the faces were with Bakewell and Blaze being brilliant bigger, stronger aggressors to Cassius and Nye-Oh’s more underdog like characters.

Blaze came across as particularly vicious while Bakewell’s old school comic heel work mixed with a streak of more dastardly tactics very well.

Nye-Oh meanwhile took a beating excellently but showed her own strong offence when the chance arose while Cassius really stole the show with his uber-camp theatrics that went down a storm and excellently played off Bakewell’s old school vibe.

Nye-Oh and Mercedes Blaze - The Head Drop
Nye-Oh and Mercedes Blaze – The Head Drop

While in the past the ‘gay wrestler’ as played by Cassius would have been a heel now, in this form, he becomes a strong good guy with every pose and strut greeted with huge delight, showing just how far pro-wrestling has come and Cassius looks set, in a slightly different way, to continue us to build on the groundwork laid out by Jack Sexsmith in this part of the British scene.

Wasteman Challenge/Dance Off/Reverse Battle Royal
Roy Johnson vs El Ligero vs Chris Ridgeway vs Gene Munny vs Scotty Davis vs Chief Deputy Dunne vs Los Federales Super Santos Jr vs Kid Lykos vs Stupid Sexy Trav

Some kind of large scale, fun scramble type match has become a staple of Unboxing and, as ‘Big Wavy’ Roy Johnson made his way to the ring, it looked as if we’d get another here, accompanied of course by Roy’s trademark ‘Wasteman Challenge’.

El Ligero takes part in the Wasteman Challenge
El Ligero takes part in the Wasteman Challenge

After requesting ‘J-Breezy’ to send out his challengers Johnson was joined in the ring by seven other competitors, including the winner of the last challenge from Super Strong Style 16, Kid Lykos, and all began to ‘spit some bars’ trying to out do each other.

Of course this ran into problems with El Ligero who, being from Mexico (not Leeds as some might suggest) doesn’t have much grasp of English and Chris Ridgeway who may be an excellent fighter but preferred to let his fists and feet do the talking.

Nonetheless Lykos, Johnson, Santos, Davis and Munny all put in a good showing with Lykos again coming out victorious and upping the ridiculous levels by choosing the stipulation for the upcoming match — the long teased Reverse Battle Royal.

Before that began though things reached a new level of bizarre as the usually stern and stoic Travis Banks’ alter ego, previously unseen in PROGRESS, Stupid Sexy Trav made his way to the ring and challenged all to a dance off with even Ridgeway getting involved to chants of ‘are you watching Vince McMahon’ given a number of these wrestlers links to WWE’s NXT UK offshoot.

Trav and Santos - The Head Drop
Trav and Santos – The Head Drop

Finally the actual ‘match’ began after a conga line took all the men up to the stage and it was a fun chaotic affair as they all did their best to be the last man outside the ring (it makes about as much sense as it sounds) with the action getting up close and personal with the fans at ringside on several occasions.

Highlights from my vantage point came as Davis and Ridgeway literally grappled their way into the second row (over the audience members sat there), while Trav altering his usual offence in ‘stupid sexy’ ways was hilarious.

It all ended up with Santos making the save for his partner Chief Deputy Dunne securing him the win but really this one wasn’t about wins and loses but about having a ridiculously good time and they managed that perfectly in the room.

Ilja Dragunov vs Kyle Fletcher

There’s nothing like the war drums of Ilja Dragunov’s theme to change the mood to something more serious and that they did as the Russian warrior made his way to the ring to take on a retuning Kyle Fletcher.

Ilja Dragunov and Kyle Fletcher
Ilja Dragunov and Kyle Fletcher

Having been away for a few months this looked to be an all together moodier and more serious incarnation of the Aussie Arrow and he and Dragunov wasted no time in making their mark on each other leading to a hard hitting affair that saw blood spilled following a suicide dive forearm from Fletcher to the Russian.

As it went on both men hit their signature attacks to no avail and Fletcher certainly looked far more aggressive and combative than we have seen in the past making a good match for Dragunov but it was ultimately ‘The Czar’ that connected with his Torpedo Moscow charging headbutt to claim the victory, but I hope this isn’t the last of this new look Aussie Arrow we see in PROGRESS.

PROGRESS Unified World Championship
Eddie Dennis (c) vs The OJMO

With a more serious tone set the PROGRESS Unified World Champion, Eddie Dennis, made his way to the ring to a chorus of boos clearly not impressed by either his position on the card or the fact that he had to defend his title.

The OJMO and Eddie Dennis - @SamJane1984
The OJMO and Eddie Dennis – @SamJane1984

His opponent was greeted rapturously, having had a stand out year not just in PROGRESS but elsewhere too (including becoming a staple challenger for the British Cruiserweight Championship in RevPro), The OJMO (aka Michael Oku) looked to close off the year on the highest of highs.

Despite his protestations it was, of course, the larger grappler, Dennis who took the early advantage with some slow and steady armlocks on the smaller OJMO.

As it went on though the challenger wouldn’t stay down continually fighting back against the Welshman’s onslaught until he looked like he might get the win.

Even without FSU partner Mark Andrews by his side Dennis did his best to cheat his way to victory, not only pulling the referee into the path of a super kick but hitting The OJMO with a particularly nasty looking shot to the head with the championship belt.

The challenger survived all of this though locking in his half-crab submission several times but it was a low blow from Dennis that began to spell the end for the challenger as, though he survived a roll up from that, it was a combination of the ‘Seven Bridge’ crucifix buckle Bomb and the Next Stop Driver that were insurmountable, allowing Dennis to retain and enter the new decade as PROGRESS Unified World a Champion.

Jinny - @SamJane1984
Jinny – @SamJane1984

The second half of the show kicked off with the new PROGRESS women’s champion, Jinny, making her way to the ring, conspicuously not in her wrestling gear.

Unfortunately due to illness her much speculated and expected match with Toni Storm was called off so she took the time to cut a promo hyping both her new reign and the PROGRESS women’s division as a whole.

Unfortunately having beaten the legend that is Meiko Satomura for the title has left her in the unenviable position of, while being appreciated, not being Meiko and it was clear given Jinny’s villainous past that the audience still weren’t quite sure what to make of the new champ — hopefully by the time we get to Chapter 101 things will be more clear.

Paul Robinson vs Connor Mills vs Cara Noir vs Mark Haskins w/Vicky Haskins

Another polarising figure made his way to the ring next, PROGRESS Proteus Champion Paul Robinson, thankfully though his recent run of stand out matches have confirmed him as the man the crowd love to cheer despite his vicious manner of fighting and his ‘knockout or tap out’ matches have become so popular when it became clear the following match wasn’t for the championship with those stipulations there was a resounding chorus of boos.

Vicky Haskins, Paul Robinson and Mark Haskins - @SamJane1984
Vicky Haskins, Paul Robinson and Mark Haskins – @SamJane1984

Instead we were treated to a fatal four way exhibition match pitting long them PROGRESS stand out Robinson against relative up and comers Connor Mills and Cara Noir and a returning Mark Haskins.

As all four are, in their own way, fan favourites, so this was a non-stop upbeat rollercoaster of a match packed with high spots and great action from all four and Haskins wife/manager Vicky Haskins.

Some shots with a chair led to Robinson being busted open in spectacular fashion that I couldn’t quite pin point and all four got their share of the action but it was Cara Noir who ultimately prevailed continuing to stake his claim as the new star in the making that will see him getting a World Championship match in the near future and of course it was great to see the Haskins’ back in a PROGRESS ring once again.

Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate) vs Dan Moloney & Rampage Brown

While last year’s Unboxing marked the end of British Strong Style as a regular feature of PROGRESS shows they have made the odd special appearance since and have always been warmly welcomed and that was no different here as Trent Seven’s music hit to welcome two-thirds of the team, Moustache Mountain (Trent along with Tyler Bate) to the ring.

Moustache Mountain and Dan Moloney
Moustache Mountain hit their Burning Hammer combo on Dan Moloney

That was followed by a decent response for sometime protege of Seven, Dan Moloney, heading up the opposing team, and then I Will Be Heard by Hatebreed blasted from the speakers and The Electric Ballroom all but exploded to welcome former PROGRESS World Champion Rampage Brown back to the promotion.

As with the last match with all four so popular this was a great exhibition for the fans with everyone getting their big moments in from Tyler and Trent hitting their double teams and having a bit of fun, to Rampage and Moloney showing off their devastating piledrivers as the action went back and forth in hard hitting style.

The end came as Moustache Mountain isolated Moloney and hit their Burning Hammer/Flying Knee Drop combination to score the win on the less experienced competitor but with respect shown between all four wrestlers this wasn’t really about wins and loses but showcasing some great talent with a nice hit of nostalgia thrown in to boot, and it worked on all of those levels as Rampage left with Hatebreed blasting from the PA once more.

Death Match
Jimmy Havoc vs David Starr

Jimmy Havoc and David Starr
Jimmy Havoc and David Starr

With a dustbin, steel chairs, ‘kendo sticks’ and a board wrapped in barbed wire in the ring it was time for the night’s main event as David Starr faced off with a returning Jimmy Havoc in a deathmatch.

It seems there was far more going on behind the scenes than was presented in the ring too which served to give the whole affair a somewhat odd feel for those of us who follow ‘Davey Deathmatch’ on social media where he had suggested this would be his last appearance for PROGRESS for, arguably, controversial reasons.

But that’s enough ‘off screen’ scuttlebutt, in ring, the presentation was exactly what we’d expect as Havoc wasted no time in upping the stakes and finding a staple gun which he used to staple Starr’s Bernie Sanders shirt to the ‘Independent’ wrestler’s back.

Jimmy Havoc and David Starr
Starr attacks Havoc with a kebab stick

From there it was brutality all round with blood flowing from both men’s heads very soon and some particularly nasty chair shots being used.

In a spot I’d not seen before the pair used wooden kebab skewers to give each other some interesting and surprisingly spectacular hair style accessories while drawing pins and then salt came into play to just add to things.

The climax came as Starr plummeted from the top rope into the barbed wire board and then took a diving stomp from Havoc (though through all of this the table they were on refused to break) with the end coming as Havoc delivered his ‘Acid Rainmaker’ ripcord lariat to Starr into the barbed wire.

After the match Havoc and Starr seemed to share a moment of respect, though the noticeably awkward feeling returned again and, if this was Starr’s final appearance, it was a shame his time with the company wasn’t celebrated like he rightly would deserve. Arguably he’s helped carry the main event picture for the last year while other wrestlers spent more of their time working for NXT UK than focussing on the independent scene, though he rightly received a standing ovation from the crowd as he made his exit.

Jim Smallman
Jim Smallman says good bye surrounded by the detritus of the death match

After a fun exchange with Jimmy Havoc, Jim Smallman took to the ring to deliver a heartfelt farewell to the fans and there’s no denying the impact he, along with Jon Briley and Glenn Joseph have had on the British wrestling scene over the last seven or eight years.

While it didn’t have the big surprises of past Unboxing shows and the main event was a little too awkward for reasons away from the ring, as a whole Chapter 100 was a very fun night of wrestling ranging the sublime to the ridiculous and with the likes of The OJMO, the new look Kyle Fletcher, Cara Noir and Connor Mills (and those showcased in the opening tag match) it looks like there’s a lot of new talent on the rise to help build the next set of shows not just for PROGRESS but British wrestling in general.

You can find out more about The Head Drop photography by Rob Brazier by clicking here, other photos from @samjane1984 on Twitter or, if not noted, by me

2 thoughts on “PROGRESS Wrestling: Chapter 100 – Unboxing Live IV: A New Hope – Electric Ballroom, Camden – 30/12/19

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