This is it. Havoc. Ospreay. The Progress Championship. No disqualification. Let’s go.
For our last time, we are in the Ballroom. The Card:
Noam Dar vs. Pastor William Eaver
“Wild Boar” Mike Hitchman vs. Bubblegum vs. Kyle Ashmore vs. “Flash” Morgan Webster
Sebastian vs. Damien Dunne (Natural Progression Series)
Sumerian Death Squad vs. Hunter Brothers (Tag Team Championships)
8-Man Thunderbastard Match (Tom Irvin, Nathan Cruz, Damon Moser, El Ligero, Mask Haskins, Marty Scurll, Eddie Dennis, Rampage Brown)
Jimmy Havoc vs. Will Ospreay (No Disqualification Match for the Progress Championship)
1. Goodbye (For Now) Noam
With this being our final review for this year’s Summer TV Binge, it is kind of appropriate that Chapter Twenty would see the (temporary) leave of one wrestler that had been at the company since Chapter One: Noam Dar. He was originally supposed to have a Super Strong Style 16 rematch with Dave Mastiff, but the Bastard could not show do to conflict. In his stead, Dar faced off against Pastor William Eaver in a decent, but brief, match to get the crowd heated up. It was helped along by the crowd’s liberal application of Dar’s name into chants and playing with the Pastor’s gimmick. In the end, Eaver would take the win with his Clothesline-from-Heaven, but it’s the aftermath that was perhaps the most special, as Dar pulled out a Chapter One Progress T-Shirt and draped it over the top rope, making his leave to rapturous applause.
2. First Defense
Last time, I got a bit critical of Progress’ booking of having the Origin immediately lose their tag shields (which, according to Jim Smallman’s announcement before the match, were stuck in customs. Maybe don’t have your championship be oversized trashcan lids) after unmasking kind of undermined them. However, that wasn’t to be a knock against Sumerian Death Squad, as the team of Tommy End and Michael Dante had their first defense against the Jim and Lee Hunter.
The match began with End and Lee, the crowd firmly on the side of SDS, the two being much bigger than the Hunter Brothers. However, that disadvantage doesn’t last long as the Brothers use their speed to keep the match a more back and forward affair. They utilize a multitude of double team moves, such as a giant swing-dropkick combo and a sunset flip backbreaker that starts turning the crowd to them as well. They come within a hairline of winning after a spike tombstone piledriver on End, only for Dante to break the pin. In the end, SDS retains with the Anti-Hero, a wheelbarrow suplex followed by a Blockbuster from the top rope), but in a match that sees both teams win in the eyes of the fans.
The main event of this Chapter may have overshadowed it, but this was also the second time Progress would do their Thunderbastard match. While Havoc and Ospreay would put the period in this era of Progress, this match with participants such as Marty Scurll, Mark Haskins, Rampage Brown, and members of the Origin would be the setting stones for the next era. While the first Thunderbastard was a good match, this one definitely improved the concept.
The first Thunderbastard, in retrospect, felt like it had one story: getting Will Ospreay up to the level to take on Havoc. This Thunderbastard had more versatility, able to tell multiple stories and setting up a lot more. It continued the continuing move of Scurll into Villainy. It continued the story of the Origin with Cruz, Ligero and the kicked-out Damon Moser. It re-established Rampage’s power, which would eventually see him become the inaugural Atlas Champion. Finally, it continues to slow rise of Mark Haskins, the almost man who wins by the skin of his teeth with a schoolboy rollup on Scurll. Haskins earns his title shot, but now just comes the question… who will he be fighting for it?
4. The End
It has come to this. Jimmy Havoc. Will Ospreay. Both men debuted in Progress at Chapter Two and everything, intentionally or unintentionally, been leading to their match here.
And Havoc/Ospreay II is the best match Progress have ever put on.
There are a multitude of elements the compose a great match. Athleticism. Skill. A hot crowd. Amazing spot construction. But at the end of the day, the key element that mixes it all together: storytelling. Because at the end of the day, Professional Wrestling is storytelling. And as we watch the promo package for this match, that highlights the rise of both Havoc and Ospreay (including an oft overlooked element that the man Havoc stole the belt from, Mark Andrews, is the one who brought Ospreay back to Progress), the tragedies and triumphs, this match serves as the end to a great story.Continued below
While this match is physically grueling, including Ospreay throwing Havoc all the way back of the Ballroom, Havoc shoving thumbtacks into Ospreay’s mouth before punching his jaw and Havoc’s double stomp onto Ospreay through a table onto the floor, it’s really all about the little elements that made up this match. We had two grand entrances for the combatants, Ospreay showing off his love of Assassin’s Creed and Havoc coming out to a “Prelude 12/21”/”I Hope You Suffer” hybrid in black and crimson facepaint that made him look positively ghoulish. There was Havoc’s “Fuck You All” parody of the “Die Havoc Die” t-shirt and him making Jim Smallman inform the crowd that he will now and forever reside in Camden, the part of London the Ballroom is in, to massive boos.
The match was filled with elements of storytelling as well, with the commentary really putting over Ospreay’s hesitance to use the 630. More and more Ospreay would go to higher and vicious moves. He performed a shooting-star press and then followed it up with a twisting-star press but still got a two count. At that point, it was very clear there was only one move Ospreay could pull to end this.
On the other side, Havoc continues to get more and more unhinged. After Regression and the London Riots brawling to the back distracts Ospreay long enough to hit the Acid Rainmaker but only for a two fall, Havoc has had it. After a brief shoving match with the referee, Havoc uses a Rainmaker on the ref! After that previously mentioned double stomp through a table only got Havoc the two count, the second ref gets hit with the Rainmaker.
Then, in the best callback, Havoc motions for Jim Smallman to get in the ring. Like he did at Chapter 10, Smallman’s gonna count this pin.
The final sequence is breathtaking. After Ospreay kicks out of another Acid Rainmaker, Havoc slams Ospreay’s head onto a chair and then goes to grab his axe. But before Jimmy can… you know… actually commit murder, Ospreay manages a lowblow, buying him some time to recover, but not before having to kick out of another Acid Rainmaker. As Jimmy hoists Ospreay up for a Styles Clash -a move made famous by one of Ospreay’s inspirations- young William manages to struggle out of it and counter with the Essex Destroyer, to thunderous pop from the crowd. As the commentary implores Will to cover him, he signals that it’s not enough… as he goes up to the top rope one last time.
Jump. Tuck. Pray. He lands the 630 and Jim Smallman counts the one… two… three… on July 26, 2015, Will Ospreay beats Jimmy Havoc for the Progress Wrestling Championship.
That is how long Jimmy Havoc held the Progress Wrestling Championship. It is a feat to this day that no champion has come close to overcoming (the closest being Travis Banks at 318 days). This reign of terror was, for me, one of the best wrestling stories of the last decade. And it’s the story that put so many eyes on Progress that allowed them to grow from a small promotion operating out of a nightclub, to hosting nearly 5,000 people in Wembley Arena.
As for Havoc and Ospreay, while this match put a period to this era of Progress, it was only a pause in their rivalry. Chapter 21 would serve as a sort of epilogue for the story, with Havoc wanting a number one contender’s match and he gets one… a brutal No DQ match against Paul Robinson which puts the final nail in Regression and has Havoc disappear from Progress for over a year, before making his massive return at Chapter 36. Ospreay’s star would continue to rise to superstardom, becoming a fixture in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Junior Division. The two would have -as of current writing- three more matches at Chapter 41, 46 and 75 which has seen the dynamic massively change: with Ospreay a more arrogant and at times unhinged superstar and Havoc the enduring, while also vicious, underdog. It’s a dichotomy that works real well in how they have both changed over the years.Continued below
Summer TV Binge has us look at a variety of shows outside the comics landscape. When I chose to do wrestling, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a random list of PPVs that were tangentially connected. The last twenty-one weeks of reviews allowed me to share with you a story that I dug so much and I hope some of that love that washed off on me washed off on you. This is nowhere near the end for this promotion, with the Villain’s ascendancy, the Atlas Division, the rise of British Strong Style and so many more tales that will be told. But for now, I can end this retrospective with these three words:
This. Is. Progress.