Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16 Tournament (Day 2)
May 25, 2015
Camden, Greater London, England – Electric Ballroom
The second day of PROGRESS Wrestling’s 16-man tournament was the company’s largest show ever; 10 matches over 5 hours in a marathon of wrestling that was fairly exhausting to watch, and must have been even more so for the tournament finalists, who would have to wrestle three matches in one night. Despite the run time and the multiple matches, many of the matches on this show delivered top-quality action, and the grand final holds a place in my current top 10 matches of the year.
The show opened with a recap of Day 1 and Jim Smallman playing a comedy routine referencing the many hung-over audience members from after last night’s post-show activities, before introducing the first match.
SSS16 Quarter Finals – Will Ospreay vs Mark Haskins
The running order is based on the tournament bracket, which conveniently placed Ospreay at the top so that he could deliver a fast-paced opening match on both shows. Midway through the match, Ospreay teased hitting a top rope move only to take too long and allow Haskins to roll out of the way, once again unable to hit any of his aerial offense. Haskins then targeted Ospreay’s leg, aiming to wear him down and get him into the Brock Lock that Haskins defeated Gallagher with on Day 1. He almost locked it in, but Ospreay reversed it into a cradle for the pin. This match was PROGRESS’ bacon sandwich; reviving the tired or hungover audience members and getting them involved in the tournament again, but wasn’t anything special when viewed in isolation. **½
SSS16 Quarter Finals – Rampage Brown vs Roderick Strong
Roddy was once again having a great time hamming it up as a heel, as he stalled and ran away from Rampage as he did on Day 1. The responsive PROGRESS crowd once again ripped into Strong mercilessly for his choice of footwear, with near constant chanting for the first five minutes. Some wrestling did eventually occur, with Roddy controlling the match at a slow pace before Rampage sped it up with some big power moves; a different dynamic with the smaller heel grounding the match, but one that definitely worked and was aided by the relentless chanting against Roddy’s life choices. The finish saw Roddy roll up Rampage after reversing a piledriver attempt. Rampage tried to hit the Tiger Mask/Dynamite Kid piledriver as Roddy rolled over him, but couldn’t quite time it right; a very cool spot that made the finish much more interesting. ***
SSS16 Quarter Finals – Dave Mastiff vs Marty Scurll
Mastiff pressed his size advantage early on, holding up Marty for a delayed suplex for over 30 seconds, and only Scurll’s quickness saved him from losing the match in the first few minutes. That quickness worked well with Mastiff’s strength in a couple of cool spots, including Marty superkicking Mastiff on the outside three times, only for Mastiff to catch him on a dive and powerbomb him into the ring post. Scurll exchanged Chickenwing attempts with Mastiff’s German suplexes, until Noam Dar came out, distracting Mastiff and allowing Scurll to lock on the Chickenwing for the win. It’s unfortunate that Mastiff had both his matches in the tournament hampered by the Dar angle, and now there’s a lot of pressure on their blowoff match to deliver to justify the build here. **½
SSS16 Quarter Finals – Tommaso Ciampa vs Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre Jr.’s chain wrestling is some of the best in the world, and he can captivate the audience without resorting to crazy spots or no-selling move exchanges. Those things aren’t necessarily bad but do seem to be a crutch that a lot of UK indie wrestlers resort to using to heighten a match’s intensity. Sabre Jr. can do it with one good hold or one strong kick, and that’s what makes him world class. He displays these skills in the early going here, and Ciampa is very able to keep up and added to the match with his own abilities. Ciampa is stronger and more charismatic, and those qualities helped the match stay away from just being a grapple-fest. Near the end of the match, Ciampa went for Project Ciampa, but Zack avoided it and countered with two vicious penalty kicks, straight into an armbar; a perfect example of the two men’s styles working excellently together. After several great sequences, Zack locked in an armbar and repeatedly kicked Ciampa in the back of the head, forcing the tapout; as I wrote in the Day 1 review, no-one can make a submission look more painful than Zack Sabre Jr. Great finish to the best match of the weekend so far. ****
No DQ Match – Jinny vs Pollyanna
This was PROGRESS’ first ever women’s match at a Chapter show, and was the only announced match on the Day 2 card prior to the show, so a big deal was being made of it. Jinny and Pollyanna had been feuding on PROGRESS’ ENDVR shows for several months, and this match was the blow-off to the feud.
PROGRESS has always wanted to ensure that their female wrestling never comes across as pandering or ‘Diva-ish’, and by and large they do present it well. I don’t like that Smallman feels the need to constantly reinforce that they are presenting ‘proper women’s wrestling’; if you’re going to do it, just do it and don’t pat yourself on the back, but that’s a minor complaint.
Pollyanna is the better wrestler of the two, and enters to a dubstep Game of Thrones theme while looking like Rain from Mortal Kombat; very cool. Jinny has a better character; as obsessed about fashion as she is about herself. The PROGRESS fans taunt Jinny almost as much as they have done to Havoc and Roddy, with funny chants suggesting she buys her clothes at Tesco.
The match started slowly, but really picked up when Jinny destroyed a kendo stick by smacking Polly with it repeatedly. It was a great visual that really heightened the intensity of the match, and my attention was held until the finish. Jinny kept riling up the crowd and Polly paid that heel work off by hitting some very satisfying offense on Jinny, finishing her off with a powerbomb through a table. Great work by two wrestlers making their debuts on the big stage. ***½
SSS16 Semi-Finals – Will Ospreay vs Roderick Strong
Strong attacked Ospreay before the bell and threw him into the ring post on the outside, immediately putting underdog Ospreay on the back foot, where he stayed the most of the match while Strong gathered up huge heel heat with various ‘Shitty Boots’ song chants. Strong wrestled with much more intensity than in the Rampage match; he was clearly saving himself to go all out here. Both men hit some fantastic, eye-popping kicks, and every time Ospreay battled back, he got a huge reaction from the crowd. The last five minutes were almost like a Dragon Gate spotfest, but maintaining the established psychology, with the main highlight being Ospreay hitting a spectacular spinning springboard dive to the outside. The finish saw Ospreay reverse the StrongHold into a roll-up for the surprise win after Roddy controlled most of the match. Lots of awesome stuff in this match, but I had to rewatch it to remember it all. I won’t say they did ‘too much’, but it was difficult to keep up at times. Strong really delivered all weekend, and fit into the PROGRESS environment tremendously well. ****
SSS16 Semi-Finals – Marty Scurll vs Zack Sabre Jr.
This was a battle of the old Leaders of the New School team that went heavy on the comedy. Scurll made a pass at the referee before the match even began, setting the tone. The pair traded some odd offense, such as slapping each other while doing headstands, before moving into innuendo-laden grappling. They were in the missionary position for at least a minute (Zack on top if you’re wondering) and I couldn’t tell if this was hilarious or a waste of a potentially awesome match. The entire match was firmly tongue-in-cheek, and the crowd even referenced this by chanting “Semi-Final”. The match eventually gained the intensity of a Semi-Final, and a very good reversal exchange where both men tried to lock in their submission finishers ended with Zack just getting the upper hand and forcing Marty to tap. An enjoyable match, but perhaps not well suited placed alongside the other serious tournament matches. ***
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship Match – The Origin (Nathan Cruz & El Ligero) vs Sumerian Death Squad (Tommy End & Michael Dante)
The long crowd brawling spot that began this match really took me out of it; crowd brawling does nothing for me live or on video. Random observation: Nathan Cruz looks odd in long tights; he’s too bulky and looks like a low-card guy from 80s WWF. Once the match finally got into the ring about 8-10 minutes after the bell, it did pick up. The Death Squad were in peril but managed to come back after The Origin’s muscle Damon Moser hesitated in helping them. End and Dante isolated Ligero and hit the very cool Black Mass move on him to win the PROGRESS Tag Team Championships. Tommy End is very popular with the PROGRESS fans, so winning the tag belts is a good way to spotlight him (as well as try to get Dante over) while making sure he doesn’t have to tread on Havoc’s turf just yet.
I do question the logic behind paying off a long-term angle by creating two new heels, and then beating those heels and taking titles away from them the very next day. I get that the Death Squad win was very crowd-pleasing, but it came at the expense of the fresh Origin act and was a moment lost on a big show with lots of other things going on. **½
Big Daddy Walter vs Damo O’Connor vs Eddie Dennis vs Jack Gallagher vs Zack Gibson
All the losers from Day 1 who weren’t busy eating souls, being concussed or becoming evil were thrown into this match. Gibson was once again a riot with his pre-match promo, asking his opponents again to not attack his broken fingers, as well as his new shoulder injury courtesy of Zack Sabre Jr. Everyone got to have a couple of spots, with Walter and Damo being the most impressive. This match was designed to get the crowd hot for the main event, but nothing here translated very well to video, where I just wanted to move onto the final match. Eddie Dennis got the win by pinning Damo, meaning Damo is still winless after three matches in PROGRESS. Hopefully they give him more of a spotlight soon, because he proved against Tomohiro Ishii that he can deliver in big matches. **
Super Strong Style 16 Final – Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr.
The intensity of this match was through the roof right from the start. Ospreay tried to finish Zack immediately with some big strikes, before Zack gained control and returned the favour. Ospreay screaming while in Zack’s submission holds made them seem even more devastating. Both men sold the fatigue of their fourth match in a gruelling weekend excellently; Ospreay is on the same level of babyface selling as Akira Tozawa or Sami Zayn, and some of Zack’s kicks and armbars looked like they were going to kill him. Zack was in control of the match but unable to put Ospreay away, while Ospreay always had an answer to Zack’s moves and kept fighting back. Ospreay teased a top rope move midway through the match but once again could not hit it, but after hitting Zack with a reverse rana from the top rope, was able to hit a Shooting Star Press to his back and a Red Arrow to his chest to pick up the win after an epic contest.
This was the match that Zack Sabre Jr. flew from Japan to London for. If Ospreay had been in the final with anyone else I don’t think it would have worked quite as well. Zack is the man in British Wrestling, and much like Brock Lesnar, his limited appearances only make him feel more important. As a great man once said, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man”, and Ospreay needed to beat Zack to make his tournament win feel as special and as satisfying as it was. ****½
Ospreay hadn’t even stood up post-match before Jimmy Havoc and Regression crashed the celebrations. He set Paul Robinson and Isaac Zercher to beat down Sabre Jr. and Ospreay, before brandishing an axe and threatening to chop Ospreay’s head off unless PROGRESS management agreed to give him a pay rise, a spot on PROGRESS’ Download Festival shows, and most importantly, to make his title match against Ospreay at Chapter 20 a No DQ match. This was a terrific promo with Havoc in full psychopath mode, where he comes across as genuinely frightening. You know he’s not going to chop Ospreay’s head off, but Havoc has such a strong character that you believe he just might if he doesn’t get his way. Regression eventually leave with their demands met, and Ospreay finally gets to celebrate his win, but with a clear focus on his showdown match with Havoc on the next show. Very good on-going booking, and the hype for Chapter 20 is huge; the show sold out in 20 minutes.
Final Thoughts: This was a long show with very little filler or ‘breather’ matches. I had to watch it in two sessions, and even then the show felt bloated. PROGRESS would be wise to run three shows if they do the tournament again next year. Despite that though, all the tournament matches were strong, with Sabre Jr., Ospreay and Strong being the standout performers of the weekend, and the women’s match was very memorable. A satisfying conclusion to a very good pair of shows.