Making PROGRESS: Chapter 10

Following the huge angle between Jimmy Havoc and Jim Smallman at Chapter 9, PROGRESS does indeed feel like it is starting to kick into a higher gear. The wrestling has always been good, but now we are beginning to see the start of some juicy angles as well. At Chapter 10, the first ever Natural Progressions Tournament winner is crowned, the Tag Team Title Tournaments start with two opening round matches, and we see the PROGRESS Title defended as Rampage Brown tries to be the first member of Screw Indy Wrestling to defeat Stixx and retain his title.

Mikey Whiplash vs Tommy End

Following an impressive debut at Chapter 9, Tommy End is again in the opening match against a wrestler make their own PROGRESS debut, Mikey Whiplash. Considering End’s victory of Dave Mastiff, you would expect End to be the big favourite, though Whiplash does control a lot of the early going with a variety of submission holds targeting the arm. It feels a little slow in the early going, though more out of a desire for both men to show that they are more than just big strikers/throwing bombs all the time. However, when End nails a big boot, only for Whiplash to hit back with a shoulderblock, the match takes a noticeable jump in pace.

Whiplash has a rebound clothesline blocked with a boot to the face, only to nail the lariat anyway and drop End to the mat. A top rope kneedrop (always a big fan of a top rope kneedrop myself) almost gives Whiplash the victory, but in fairly short order afterwards, End puts Whiplash away with his top rope double foot stomp. A solid, if unspectacular, debut for Whiplash, with End continuing his good fortune (and winning streak) into Chapter 10.

Grado and Mad Mike Manson vs Project Ego (Tag Team Title Tournament)

The tag team title tournament got underway in the second match of the night, and it was a five star classic. Ok, for anyone who knows their UK wrestling, this was never going to set out to be a match for the ages, but you knew you were going to end up laughing your arse off. Even more so than Grado’s match with the Bhangra Knights in tow against Project Ego and T-Bone at Chapter 9, this was Grade A entertainment from the bell.

Grado’s initial attempts to ape Brock Lesnar (following a less than PC low blow on Travis) saw Travis land on an F5 attempt and unceremoniously punch Grado in the face.¬† This altercation saw tags made to Kirby and Manson, and we got a classic ‘slow motion’ segment, made even funnier by Manson’s swearing at Travis before dropping Kirby with a hiptoss. A light kick to the back in Kirby gets a ‘holy shit’ chant, before even the ref gets involved, a light kick and a slap to the thigh apparently enough to do a fair bit of damage. At this point, Travis gets so annoyed that he steps into the ring and boots his partner, just to show how it is done!

Manson, following the decision to sniff some dubious powder, goes on a rampage, with the match eventually ending up outside the ring. A line of wristlock attempts turns into a conga, with PROGRESS fans joining on the end on a tour around the Garage! Celebrations in the ring following this dancing party line leave Grado and Manson open to low blows, Manson eating a roll-up for the Project Ego three count. A legitimately hilarious match, and well worth a watch.

Doug Williams vs Nathan Cruz

At Chapter 9, Nathan Cruz’s interference was the catalyst for Doug Williams’ loss in the main event, and Williams wastes little time in attacking Cruz as soon as the bell goes. With Williams an always solid hand, it is nice to see a more frustrated side to Williams come out in the ring, as he blasts Cruz around the ring, even re-taking control following interference from Cruz’s valet. Williams even uses a leg choke to drive Cruz’s face viciously into the mat, showing he can be violent as well as technical when the time is called for.

A charging Williams ended up meeting a boot to the face, and Cruz grabbed the offensive, dropping Williams throat first with a guillotine before planting him with a neckbreaker. With Williams the bigger man, Cruz does make use of sound offense by wearing his opponent down with a sleeper, only to miss the follow-up splash from the top rope. Williams decides to bring out all the big guns, slamming a knee into Cruz in the corner and landing a technically excellent T-bone suplex.

Cruz has one last flurry: an arm-trap ace crusher gets him a two count, as does a combination of a rolling samoan drop, spingboard splash and kick to the face. However, and in a surprising result for me, Williams is able to land a top rope elbow, before hitting Chaos Theory for the three count. With Cruz having lost to Stixx recently, I assumed that this would be a chance for Cruz to get his momentum back, but clearly not. Now that Cruz is away from the title, and in a mini-slump, I do begin to wonder where he will go from here. A good match though, made better by Williams really bringing the hate.

Mark Haskins’ Open Challenge

Before the interval, we get Mark Haskins’ open challenge. His smug demeanour is rocked when his opponent is announced as the current ROH and PWG Champion, Adam Cole, baby! I’m a big fan of Cole – whilst I wouldn’t say he is the best wrestler, I do feel he has a lot of charisma, and he is enjoyable to watch because of it. Haskins is a man I’ve grown to like more, so this match already looks good to me on paper.

However, it is Haskins and his desire to prove that Indy wrestling isn’t worth a crap that sees him take over in the early going. Like Whiplash earlier, Haskins targets the arm of Adam Cole, including a fujiwara armbar and an armlock with joint manipulation at ringside which sees a very close countout tease, Cole hitting the ring just after the nine count. When a superkick following a derisory slap by Haskins wrests control of the match in favour of Cole, Cole doesn’t mess about. A jumping neckbreaker, release German suplex, shining wizard and a fireman’s carry slam over the knee are all deployed in quick succession with a couple of nearfalls thrown in for good measure.

Haskins manages to stop the momentum with a divorce court and a brainbuster for a two count, but at this point, the match is very much back and forth. A sunset flip powerbomb from the top rope as a reversal puts Cole back in charge, a second shining wizard Haskins’ prize for failing to land his own top rope move. Haskins almost manages to win via nefarious means, using a backslide with his foot on the ropes to grab a two count, but this only seems to anger Cole further, as he drops Haskins with a superkick to the back of the head and a brainbuster onto his knee for the three count. This does leave Haskins 0-2 in singles competition (a loss to Stixx at Chapter 8 the start of Stixx’s run to the title match), but he is being put in positions to have good matches with wrestlers who are able to make him still look good, even in defeat.

The London Riots vs The Bhangra Knights (Tag Team Title Tournament)

Whilst I generally don’t like to spoil the result of a match until the end of my summary, I do feel that the double countout in this match was a very good way to book these two. You have the London Riots, two of the most hated men to step foot in a PROGRESS ring, versus two guys who in Allen and Singh who graced the card at Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 respectively, huge fan favourites who would want to protect the name of PROGRESS considering the Riots’ role in Havoc’s assault at the previous show. The best thing about the result (as much as the crowd didn’t like it) is that it felt organic. The speed and pace of the match, with very little in the way of structure from the get go, just made the countout make sense from a narrative standpoint.

The match is short because of this booking decision, though we do get to see both Allen and Singh (surprisingly, yet as effectively) take to the sky, really hammering home the lengths Singh especially would go to to get his hands on the Riots. Following two spinning suplexes by Allen, we even see a spinning senton followed by a plancha over the corner ringpost by Singh, a very impressive sequence of moves. With a Riots’ assisted spear nailed at ringside, the match eventually gets thrown out with neither team able to make the ten count due to their desire to just keep bashing seven shades out of each other. The crowd don’t like the result, but a Streetfight at Chapter 12 is booked in the ring, which has the potential on this showing to be a blast.

Rampage Brown (c) vs Stixx (PROGRESS Title Match)

I was worried about this match. I like both men, don’t get me wrong, but I wondered how both men would fare in a match against an opponent of similar size. Rampage and Stixx both do their best work when chucking smaller men around the ring; how could they engage me with another big man outside of just throwing bombs? I needn’t have worried though – the match sucked me in and even had moments where a title change appeared to be just around the corner. In the early going, it was especially fun to see Stixx manhandle Rampage, showing that no matter the size, he can use his power to his advantage.

The match was always going to be at its best with both men trading bombs, but their needed to be enough around that to make this effective, and Rampage brought this with his control of the middle portion. A dropkick showed agility for the big man in cutting off a Stixx jump off the second turnbuckle, and chinlocks and sitout suplexes kept him in control. Indeed, it took Stixx landing a big, bruising superplex off of the top rope to regain his footing in the match. At this point, the match did degenerate somewhat into power vs power, but by this point, it felt like this was where it needed to head, with each man eeking out that last big move to become champion.

Stixx has his moments where it looks like he’ll become champion, as his clothesline followed by a sliding clothesline nets him a two count, as does his spear following the blocking of a samoan drop/pancake attempt by Rampage. They even find an opportunity to head to ringside, which allows Stixx to show his own agility by landing a plancha! He then eats a backbody drop up on the ramp to tease a countout. The finishing stretch sees Stixx block a piledriver, landing his spinning bossman slam for a two count; the submission his had used so effectively against Cruz and Haskins being broken up by a rope break, only for Rampage to suddenly grab Stixx and drop him hard with a piledriver for the victory. The only real criticism is that the finish seemed to come out of nowhere a little bit, though each man had hit their biggest moves up to that point and it is difficult to comprehend where they might have gone from there. A very good big man match which feels like it is much more than just your average power vs power brawl.

Mark Andrews vs Paul Robinson (Natural Progression Tournament Final)

Prestige. A title shot. The opportunity to name a competitor in the next tournament. All three prizes are on the line as Mark Andrews, undefeated in PROGRESS up to this point, faces off against Paul Robinson. Andrews defeated Will Ospreay (Chapter 4) and Jonathan Windosr (Chapter 8) to get to the final, whilst Robinson beat MK McKinnan (Chapter 6) and Eddie Dennis in what I considered an upset (Chapter 9). Unsurprisingly, the match begins with holds being traded; each man eager to show that he is more than just a high-flying machine. It doesn’t take long for the feats of agility to get busted out, however, with a spinning headscissors from Robinson and a moonsault dropkick by Andrews showing each guys’ impressive array of offense.

A northern lights suplex followed by a standing sky twister press seems to have Andrews firmly in control, but just like in the semi-final, Robinson refuses to be put away, hitting a brainbuster following a missed springboard attack by Andrews. We then get the almost novelty spot of Robinson missing the biggest legdrop ever, only for him to surprisingly manage to reverse Andrews’ subsequent offense and plant him with a reverse rana for a two count! Whilst expecting Andrews to win, even I did bite a little bit on that pinfall.

A crossbody collision has both men down following an otherwise frenetic pace. As both men ready themselves for one last push, it is Robinson who seems to have the match in control with a top rope twisting headscissors, but once again, he misses a big aerial move (a shooting star press), which allows Andrews to hit the Lakeside Flip Ride (a one man Spanish Fly off of the top rope) for the pinfall victory!

The aftermath…

Looking at the run length of the video, I realised I had twenty minutes left – I’d thought that the main title match had gone on quite early, and wasn’t surprised when the main event didn’t go the thirty plus minutes it would need to go to hit the run time. Things were about to go down…

Following the award of the trophy to Andrews, he chooses Will Ospreay as a participant in the next NPT (over and above Eddie Dennis). This is a nice little way to push through the ‘PROGRESS career on the line’ stipulation of the second Ospreay vs Andrews match (Chapter 7) and bring Ospreay back into the PROGRESS fold. With the title match part of the winners’ purse, Andrews challenges Rampage right then, right now. Cruz, Haskins and Brown hit the stage, and the match is on. Andrews shows his intent by nailing a plancha right at the offing, only to get caught on a springboard attempt and dropped with a backbreaker.

Rampage is vicious. A falcon arrow, a snapmare with a boot to the back, a sitout powerbomb – all get only two counts as Andrews continue to fight back. Following the powerbomb, Rampage gets in Chris Roberts’ face; a push from Rampage is followed by a push from Roberts straight into an Andrews’ roll-up for the pinfall and the three count! We have a new PROGRESS champion!

…not so fast. The London Riots and Havoc hit the ring. Eddie Dennis, having entered the ring to celebrate, gets tied up at ringside, whilst Havoc wails away on Andrews with a chair. A contract hangs out of his back pocket; a contract for a title match at any time of his choosing. Jim Smallman refuses to honour it, but is forced into it when Havoc pours lighter fluid on Andrews’ back! Havoc also wants Smallman to count the pinfall, which he accepts under duress. The match begins, but Andrews somehow kicks out at two! A Havoc package reverse tombstone does eventually do for Andrews, and we have our second new PROGRESS Champion; Jimmy Havoc.

For some promotions, you could argue that there was almost too much going on, but I just felt that it was booked really well. You had the joy and elation of Andrews’ becoming champion, dashed away so quickly by Havoc’s brutal assault. If anything, it makes Havoc a bigger heel than ever, and will have fans baying for his blood the first time he steps foot in the ring to defend his title – at Chapter 11.

A good show finished with a great angle  Рthe reign of Havoc begins.

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