PROGRESS returned to The Electric Ballroom, Camden, for the first time since August with Chapter 38: When Men Throw Men at Men this past weekend. While PROGRESS continued to introduce new talent to the roster, the devastating headline emerging from the show was that PROGRESS stalwart Mark Haskins has been forced to surrender his World Championship due to a long standing neck injury.
The Hunter Brothers def New Nation
Jinny def Pollyanna to advance to the semi finals of Natural Progression IV
Paul Robinson def Pastor William Eaver
South Pacific Power Trip (Travis Banks & TK Cooper w/Dahlia Black) def The Shirtlifters (Jack Sexsmith & Bodyguy Roy Johnson)
Rampage Brown def Bad Bones Jon Kilinger to retain the ATLAS Championship
Matt Cross def Mark Andrews to become #1 contender to the SMASH Wrestling Championship
Mark Haskins def Marty Scurll & Jimmy Havoc to retain the PROGRESS World Championship*
*Mark Haskins forfeited the PROGRESS World Championship
The Hunter Brothers (Jim & Lee Hunter) vs New Nation (Alexander Henry & Primate)
The Hunter Brothers, who had not appeared in PROGRESS since they were defeated by Sumerian Death Squad at Chapter 21, made their return to PROGRESS this past weekend. Considering the consistent quality of their matches, it is rather surprising that The Hunter Brothers had been absent for so long. New Nation, a relatively inexperienced team from the North of England, made their PROGRESS debut in a solid opening contest. Like Fabian Aichner in Manchester, it was patently clear that New Nation were wrestling for a regular spot on the PROGRESS roster.
The size disparity between the two teams ensured the match was founded upon speed & agility of The Hunters vs the size and power of New Nation, although Henry delivered an impressive moonsault to the outside at one juncture. The Hunter Brothers secured the victory following a roll up. Although this was a little clunky at times, this match effectively served to re-establish The Hunter Brothers and introduce New Nation.
Pollyanna vs Jinny
Natural Progress Series IV Quarter Final
Pollyanna and Jinny have a long history that stretches back eighteen months. At SSS16 2015, Pollyanna and Jinny’s No DQ match was not only the first women’s match on a Chapter show, but one of the best matches of the entire weekend also. Although this failed to reach last year’s heady heights, this was a good match outside of a shaky opening in which Pollyanna and Jinny didn’t appear to be on the same page. As the match progressed, Pollyanna and Jinny began to display signs of the chemistry that ensured the first ever women’s match at a Chapter show lived long in the memory of those in attendance. Consecutive cradle back to belly piledrivers failed to secure victory for Pollyanna: when attempting a third, the incorrigible Jinny rolled up her long term adversary to seal her place in the next round of the Natural Progression Series.
Paul Robinson vs Pastor William Eaver
Although Pastor William Eaver is a former PROGRESS World Champion, he has rapidly slid down the pecking order into meaningless matches-like this one- without contextualisation of a story. This was a solid if not memorable match that benefited Paul Robinson infinitely more than Eaver. Robinson is one of the most underrated guys on the PROGRESS roster: regardless of his opponent, he has the ability to ensure that whoever he is facing is cheered due to his despicable actions.
Robinson secured the victory following a curbstomp before a forlorn Pastor was confronted by Sebastian, who proclaimed that Eaver nearly ended his career. Sebastian continued, chastising PROGRESS management for booking Eaver before threatening The Pastor with litigation if The Pastor failed to comply with his orders.
South Pacific Power Trip (Travis Banks & TK Cooper w/Dahlia Black) vs The Shirtlifters (Bodyguy Roy Johnson & Jack Sexsmith)
In an industry dominated by a prescribed version of masculinity, Jack Sexsmith is one of the most important wrestlers in the modern era for dissolving traditional boundaries of sexuality. Historically, wrestling has been dominated by heteronormative personality types that have not been inclusive of any sexual preferences that stand outside of it. Since debuting, Sexsmith has become one of the most popular members of the PROGRESS roster and at Chapter 38 he left a made man due to a career defining performance.
Admittedly, this match wasn’t solely about Jack Sexsmith, but his performance is the enduring image of the match. In a lot of ways, this match was a vindication of the ProJo as a system: four out of the five members involved throughout the course of this match have honed their skills in PROGRESS’ developmental system. Everyone played their role well, whether it be Bodyguy’s explosive outbursts of offence, Sexsmith’s tenacity, Travis Banks’ duplicity or TK Cooper & Dahlia Black’s nauseating displays of affection. South Pacific Power Trip ensured they remained unbeaten as a tag team in PROGRESS as Travis Banks eliminated Jack Sexsmith last.
Rampage Brown’s ATLAS Championship Open Challenge
In Manchester at Chapter 37, Rampage Brown’s ATLAS Championship got off to an inauspicious start following an at times lethargic match with Mikey Whiplash. Persisting with the Open Challenge gimmick, Chapter 38 witnessed the debut of former wXw Champion and 16 Carat Gold winner, Bad Bones. The German is severely underrated and, in his first PROGRESS match, he left quite the impression as chants of “please come back “reverberated around The Ballroom as he departed after losing. Rampage Brown and Bad Bones delivered the typical hoss match, but it had considerably more intensity than a lot of the previous matches in the ATLAS Division. This match contained customary big lad tropes such as rebounding off one another, excessive grunting, trading off power moves and generally just hitting each other tremendously hard. Rampage secured the victory following a piledriver to retain the ATLAS Championship.
Matt Cross vs Mark Andrews
#1 SMASH Wrestling #1 Contenders Match
Few have had a better year in PROGRESS than Mark Andrews. Over the course of the year, Andrews has established himself as both one of the premier high fliers in the world and one of the most compelling underdogs in the business.
Matt Cross, who was eliminated by Sami Callihan in the first round of SSS16 this year, made his second appearance in PROGRESS. Cross is in the midst of a career year due to his prominence in Lucha Underground where he is known as Son of Havoc. If it wasn’t for the return of Jimmy Havoc, this match would have been the most anticipated on the card and it delivered as such. As demonstrated in a brief interaction in a SSS16 tag match, Cross and Andrews have fantastic chemistry: combined with an electric crowd, high speed reversals and regular dives to the outside, this was an excellent match. Cross secured the victory after following a Shooting Star Press with an Ace Crusher. Having an import defeat a regular roster member isn’t historically very PROGRESS-y but given the stakes the result can be deemed an aberration.
Mark Haskins (C) vs Marty Scurll vs Jimmy Havoc
PROGRESS World Championship Match
Heading into the match, the concern was that the newly crowned champion, Mark Haskins, was going to appear a peripheral figure due to being overshadowed by Jimmy Havoc’s first match in PROGRESS for over a year. At Chapter 37, Haskins was arguably overshadowed by the vitriolic response to Gibson’s mere existence and here the raucous chants that accompanied Havoc once more ensured Haskins felt secondary. That dramatically changed at the conclusion of the show, however.
In terms of the actual match, Scurll’s actions were greeted by boos for the first time in a long time. Due to the crowd’s proclivity to cheer Havoc, any time Scurll prevented Havoc from running through his signature spots he was greeted by vociferous boos. Admittedly, Havoc did look a little rusty-but that comes with the territory of spending such an extended period of time off injured. The finish came when Scurll delivered a low blow to Havoc before Haskins submitted Scurll with the Sharpshooter to retain the PROGRESS World Championship.
As a format, triple threat matches are constraining in the sense that they force a move heavy million miles an hour style of match which this absolutely was. Given what followed, it makes sense that Haskins played second fiddle to the story between Havoc and Scurll.
As chants of “This is Haskins” echoed around The Electric Ballroom, Haskins left the PROGRESS World Championship before heading to the back as an incredulous crowd asked “why, Haskins, why?”
The next day, PROGRESS released a video in which Haskins explained his actions. A long term neck injury forced him to forfeit the championship. Jim Smallman, PROGRESS owner, revealed at at Chapter 39: The Graps of Wrath, the winners of each of the five matches will compete in a seven man elimination match to determine the new PROGRESS World Champion.
The card is as follows:
London Riots vs British Strong Style
South Pacific Power Trip vs The Hunter Brothers
William Eaver vs Joe Coffey
Will Ospreay vs Matt Riddle
Marty Scurll vs Jimmy Havoc
Final Word: Injuries never come at a good time but Mark Haskins’ couldn’t have come at a worse time. Over the past couple of years, Mark Haskins has become one of the most consistent talents in Europe and was on the precipice of breaking out in the US. It is an incredible shame that Haskins’ career has-hopefully only temporarily- been put on hold.
On a slightly different note, questions must be asked if promotions were aware of the severity of Haskins’ injury(ies) and still allowed him to wrestle this weekend.
However, Haskins’ injury paints an intriguing picture heading into Chapter 39 as fourteen men receive the opportunity to claim the most important championship in PROGRESS.