The UK’s premier independent wrestling promotion returned to its home of the Electric Ballroom in Camden last Sunday.

    Following their biggest show of the year at the Alexandra Palace and a successful follow-up two weeks ago at the Ritz in Manchester, PROGRESS homecoming had a lot to live up to as the company continues to focus its spotlight on up-and-coming independent talent from the British scene. In fact, the two matches from this card that made me brave two rail replacement buses from North Wales featured Cara Noir and Dani Luna, who have both been at the forefront of PROGRESS’ focus on independent talent in 2019.

    Sunday’s show kicked off with Connor Mills taking on FSU’s Mark Andrews. Andrews, who came out to new, darker music; displayed a level of arrogance that was strange to see from someone who has been so happy-go-lucky for so many years. He relied heavily on interference from FSU partner Eddie Dennis who distracted the referee on multiple occasions. By contrast, Connor Mills fought with integrity despite his disadvantage. After winning with a low-blow, Andrews and Dennis beat down Mills before The OJMO and David Starr ran out to even the odds. This match, and indeed the video leading into it, felt like a real coming-out party for Mills as he finally has a story to sink his teeth into in PROGRESS. 

    Following the post-match brawl, Eddie Dennis promised David Starr a Unified World Title opportunity “at some point in the foreseeable future”, as long as Starr could beat an opponent of Dennis’ choosing. That opponent being The OJMO. This announcement caused a very interesting stare-off between Starr and The OJMO as they both stood across from each other in the ring. 

    Next, we saw Pretty Deadly’s Sam Stoker and Lewis Howley take on Jordon Breaks and Sid Scala, the latter of which replaced Darrell Allen of The Knucklelockers in his last-minute absence. This was a very impressive showcase from all four men involved. Pretty Deadly’s tag team offence continued to be second to none as they got the win with a Double-Team Gutbuster and climb further up the PROGRESS tag team division.

    Jordon Breaks was also very good, specifically when it came to the mat work. His movement was somewhat reminiscent of Timothy Thatcher’s as he controlled his opponents on the mat. His partner Sid Scala is criminally underrated in my opinion. Those of us who watch NXT UK have been made aware with just how good he can be in his matches against Kassius Ohno this year, and now it seems he is getting a chance to shine in PROGRESS.

    The NIC’s Charlie Carter and Oisin Delaney were originally set to face Do Not Resuscitate in a match, but were instead presented with a video message from Spike Trivet where he introduced Pretty Deadly as backup, before a 5-on-2 beatdown ensued meaning the match never got underway.

    The third match on the card saw a rematch from Chapter 96, as Ilja Dragunov once again took on Cara Noir. This match featured multiple stand-offs and calling back to their first encounter. For this reason, I don’t think the match was quite as good as at Chapter 96, but it was very good nonetheless, and garnered the loudest reaction the Ballroom saw all day. The highlight of the match for me was the finishing sequence which saw Cara Noir catch Ilja Dragunov’s Torpedo Moscow running uppercut into his Flying Rear Naked Choke. There’s nothing that tickles my wrestling taste buds quite like a catch-submission finish, and this was an excellent example. After two consecutive show-stealing performances, I would not at all be opposed to a trilogy between Noir and Dragunov.

    As I continue to boycott the complete abomination that is the Camden High Street branch of KFC, I instead spent Sunday’s interval marvelling over TWM boss Matthew Deller being forced to reconsider his thoughts on Ilja Dragunov. 

    The second half got off to a hot start as Meiko Satomura made her first PROGRESS Women’s World Championship defence against Dani Luna. Despite the introduction to Meiko’s theme sounding like a remixed Windows XP boot-up jingle, she radiated an unmatched star presence as she made her way to the ring. Dani Luna didn’t look out of place either, and proved to be quite a formidable opponent. To me, however, this was all about Meiko Satomura. Every movement of hers is crisp, clean and purposeful. Seeing her perform live is absolute bucket-list stuff for any wrestling fan. Though unsuccessful in challenging for the title, Dani Luna came out of the match looking great after surviving nearly ten minutes with Satomura. This is definitely a match that I would like to see revisited down the line.

    Our penultimate match saw Paul Robinson defend his Proteus Championship against ‘Present’ William Eaver. I said in my Chapter 97 preview that this is a match that should not be slept on, and I was right. Since becoming ever more careless and unpredictable, William Eaver has become one of PROGRESS’ MVPs. His showing in a tag match against The NIC at Chapter 93 showed how carelessly he wrestles as he used both his tag partner and indeed his own body as a weapon. At Chapter 97, he really turned up his unpredictability. Walking around the ring forcing fans to pull his accordion, Eaver presented himself as an absolute madman which made a perfect opponent for Robinson.

    At first, Eaver shooed away the rest of DnR so that he could fight Robbo on his own, but Chuck Mambo attempted to assist him towards the end of the match. Despite being outnumbered, Robinson retained his Proteus Championship via technical knockout after repeated stomps to the head, much like how he put away Travis Banks at Chapter 96. I believe the match established William Eaver as a more than capable singles competitor due to the uniqueness of his character and his careless in-ring style, and Paul Robinson was the perfect opponent to bring that out of him.

    Chapter 97’s main event saw David Starr take on The OJMO in a mentor vs. protégé match for a PROGRESS Unified World Championship opportunity against Eddie Dennis. What followed was an absolute barnburner of a match that went nearly twenty minutes in front of a 50/50-split crowd. My main takeaway from this match was the way that David Starr reacted to fighting his protégé to get back to his #1 contender position. The OJMO has been presented as being under Starr’s wing in PROGRESS throughout 2019, and this made for a very interesting dynamic between both men as they knocked lumps out of each other. 

    This was exactly the kind of main event that this show needed, and it cemented The OJMO as a main event player in PROGRESS. Something tells me that we will see Starr and Oku face off once again down the line, and perhaps that might have the PROGRESS Unified World Title on the line. The thought of that certainly makes me excited for the future.

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    You can find the author of this article on @DeiOwen. Thanks for reading!