Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16 Tournament
May 24, 2015
Camden, Great London, England – Electric Ballroom
The Super Strong Style 16 was PROGRESS’ first ever double header, with shows on Sunday and Bank holiday Monday. With sellouts on both days, this tournament is another strong achievement for the promotion. The participants include all of the big name PROGRESS regulars, as well as US imports Tommaso Ciampa and Roderick Strong, wXw mainstay Big Daddy Walter, and British Wrestling’s Japanese Ambassador (by way of Reseda, California) Zack Sabre Jr. PROGRESS very rarely feature imports, choosing instead to highlight national talent, but going out of their way to bring in big international names (Sabre Jr. flew in from the middle of a NOAH tour) makes this tournament that much more special.
The show started with Jim Smallman warming up the crowd, before introducing Kris Travis, an excellent British wrestler who is recovering from cancer. Travis said that he may well be able to wrestle again by the end of the year, which is great news. Afterwards, the obligatory “This is Progress” chant, and onto the first match. It’s important to note that PROGRESS can now show their entrances on DVD/VOD, and it’s improved the experience tremendously. The atmosphere of a PROGRESS show is palpable, and now that comes through on the recording.
El Ligero vs Will Ospreay: An action-packed opener wrestled at a very quick pace, almost like a 10-minute long finishing sequence. Ospreay is easily in the top 10 flyers in the world and got to show his impressive skills here. Ligero is no slouch but is a step slower and so resorted to a slower pace on offence. He still got to show off by hitting a spinning RKO and a reverse rana (the Indie wrestling special). Ospreay’s hesitance in hitting a move from the top rope continued an on-going story of Will being unable to hit his 630 senton after nearly breaking his neck performing the move last year; a hesitance that cost him in his title match with Jimmy Havoc. Ospreay now has a new finisher, the Essex Destroyer, and used it to pick up the win in this very good opener. ***½
Mark Haskins vs Jack Gallagher: This was Gallagher’s PROGRESS debut, and the first match I’ve seen of his. He has a ‘gentleman grappler’ gimmick and worked it into his moves very well, such as leaning back into an armbar using just his back, with his arms behind his head, early on. The early parts of this match may well have been the best, with the excellent first grappling exchange receiving a standing ovation. That isn’t to say the closing stretch of the match was bad, but it didn’t blow me away. Perhaps the sharp change in style from high-flying in the first match to the mat grappling here took me out of it a bit. Haskins won with by hitting a Made in Japan and moving straight into a Brock Lock. **½
Big Daddy Walter vs Rampage Brown: Another PROGRESS debut for the huge Austrian, Big Daddy Walter. This was a heavyweight war that took a lot of cues from the Daisuke Sekimoto playbook; big men screaming at each other while hitting big lariats, German suplexes and powerslams. Walter moves very well for a man of his immense size, and Rampage always delivers in a PROGRESS ring. Rampage picked up the win in a fun match that never dropped its pace. ***
Roderick Strong vs Tommy End: If wrestling were real, the tournament seedings would have to be extremely bad to put the PWG Champion against the 16-Carat Gold winner in the 1st Round. This was the most interesting match of Day 1, and certainly delivered as the Match of the Night. Roddy looked like he was having a blast performing in front of the lively and (playfully) hostile crowd, as he stalled and ran away from End while playing up to the “shitty little boots” chants. End is probably the most over wrestler in PROGRESS at the moment, and deservedly so. He has the best strikes in the world and exudes an energetic aura while wrestling. The heavy support for Tommy against Roddy’s footwear made a good match that much better, and the finishing stretch was very exciting. Several believable nearfalls later and Strong managed to hit the End of Heartache to win, but End loses nothing in being defeated by the PWG Champion. ****
After the match, End was attacked by two members of the Faceless. A third, suit-wearing Faceless with a Guy Fawkes/Anonymous mask appeared on the stage, and commanded the others to take their masks off, revealing them to be Danny Garnell and Damon Moser. The suit-wearing Faceless them brought out EVIL El Ligero, and then revealed himself to be Nathan Cruz, the first ever PROGRESS Champion who had been absent from the company for a year after no-showing due to a WWE tryout on the same day. Cruz cut a great ‘villainous explanation’ promo, which due to length/complicatedness I won’t go into detail on, but the end result of it was kicking the ‘foot soldier’ Garnell out and Cruz and Ligero taking the Tag Shields for themselves as “The Origin”. I have been critical of the Faceless angle due to having no personality to place heel heat on, so not only taking off the masks but also moving the story in a different direction is a good move, and heel El Ligero is going to be very interesting.
Back from intermission and Tommy End was pissed, so he and tag partner Michael Dante were booked by Smallman to face The Origin on Day 2 of the weekender. End declared “I WILL EAT THEIR SOULS”. So awesome.
Marty Scurll vs Eddie Dennis: Nothing was bad about this match, but it seemed very average compared to the great bouts surrounding it throughout the tournament. Part of that comes from Scurll and Dennis having little to sink their teeth into character-wise in PROGRESS, through no fault of their own. Dennis just had his long term tag partner move to TNA full-time, while ‘The Villain’ Scurll is playing a zany babyface role because Jimmy Havoc is in the top heel spot that Scurll occupies in RPW. A technically sound match with Marty picking up the win with his Chickenwing submission, but there was nothing here that will be remembered by the end of the tournament. **½
Dave Mastiff vs Noam Dar: This was the first and only poor match of the tournament, due to the match being cut short after Dar suffered a concussion, giving Mastiff the TKO win. This looked like a work, but even so the match should have been over within a minute after the injury/injury spot. Carrying on a match and running through spots after a competitor has been knocked loopy never looks good, and so whether real or worked, it was awkward to watch. This was furthering the feud, and both guys can deliver much better matches than this. *
Damo O’Connor vs Tommaso Ciampa: To call Damo ‘Big’ is an understatement; the man is gargantuan. He has a little way to go to be among the Elite of British wrestling, but he has the unique look and the crowd-pleasing offence to potentially get there. Ciampa looked right at home in PROGRESS, and you couldn’t tell that he was an import by just watching this match. He had very good chemistry with Damo and matched power moves with him; both men had bloody temples as evidence of their stiff forearm exchanges. The slightly botched finish saw Ciampa powerbomb Damo from the corner to end another fun back-and-forth match. This one got the show back on track. ***
Zack Gibson vs Zack Sabre Jr.: Zack Gibson’s ‘Liverpool Fan’ gimmick is glorious; pretty much the perfect heel gimmick for most of the UK. On the weekend of this show, Liverpool lost 6-1 to a smaller team, and the PROGRESS fans ripped into Gibson for this. To make matters worse for Gibson, he had a broken finger and pleaded with Sabre Jr. to avoid damaging it. His pre-match promo was an absolute riot; his character might not suit all tastes and certainly doesn’t translate to an international audience (JBL would love it though), but you can’t deny the heel heat he can garner.
Gibson’s wrestling was also impressive here, as he kept pace with the awesome Sabre Jr. and played the dominating heel role well. Sabre’s kicks and technical ability are always world class and make him one of the most watchable wrestlers in the world, but I’m highlighting Gibson here because it was great to see how well he rose to the occasion of facing one of the best. Sabre picked up the win after both competitors traded armbars, adding to the pain by kicking Gibson in the back of the head and bending his fingers back with the armbar locked on. No one in the world has a more painful looking submission finisher than Zack Sabre Jr. ****
The London Riots (James Davis and Rob Lynch) vs Jimmy Havoc and Paul Robinson: This was a traditional ‘car crash’ PROGRESS main event, with the malevolent Champion Havoc and his ‘little bitch’ Robinson taking on their old Regression stablemates, the returning and newly babyface London Riots. The Riots typically work as heel bullies, but their new role in PROGRESS is that of APA-style guns for hire used by the management to keep Havoc’s insane antics in check. The Riots got the loudest pop of the night for their entrance, showing that their time away from PROGRESS was good to keep their act fresh. PROGRESS have proven to be very good with cycling wrestlers in and out and ensuring that very few people are ever in ‘holding patterns’.
All of these guys are very good at working the all-action car crash style, so this was a very exciting end to a show that had mostly exhibited technical wrestling up until this point. Jimmy Havoc is willing to do some crazy spots and always makes them look good with his selling; the Riots’ release German Suplex taken by Havoc in the finishing sequence looked absolutely brutal. The Riots picked up the win by pinning Havoc, which is his first pinfall loss in PROGRESS for a long time. Robinson’s face upon seeing Havoc lose was priceless, and his role in the Regression act cannot be overlooked; he is excellent as the slimeball sidekick of a supervillain. This was a satisfying ‘small comeuppance’ for the usually dominant Havoc and a great re-introduction for the Riots. ***½
Final Thoughts: For £5/$7.50 per month, you can watch this show, Day two, and every other PROGRESS show on Demand Progress. I would absolutely recommend it, and this tournament is a great place to start. If you skip Mastiff/Dar, every match delivers at least some quality and the PROGRESS experience is among the best any wrestling promotion has to offer.