Style Battle’s first show as a promotion came and went this weekend. Most of the discussion centered around the temperature since it was an outdoor show, the barely there crowd, and most all of the #WrestleJungle. There is better commentary on Twitter and other websites about the aesthetics and the presentation, so the focus of this review will be on the in ring aspect of the tournament based outfit.
Style Battle S1: E1
January 7, 2017
Ybor City, Florida
Dave Crist def. Darby Allin
I don’t think I could have asked for a better example of an opening round of a single night tournament than this match. It was not a blow away, but each man understood that there was more wrestling to come later in the evening and did not try “to get their shit in.” Each of them played to their strengths and stood out because of it. Allin is the best bump man in the WWN and also sells like he took a back alley beating. The Seattle transplant made Crist’s array of impact moves look flat out nasty. For all the guff Crist gets for his association with Sami Callihan and his look, it is easy to forget that he is a solid, veteran hand in the ring. He let Allin do the hard work and focused on executing his with precision, including the STO/DDT combination he used to pick up the win. ***
Dezmond Xavier def. Sammy Guevara
Something was up with Sammy Guevara during the match. I don’t know if it was nerves or wrestling in the cold got to him. His issues started when he and Xavier traded holds and flips early in the contest. Guevara landed awkwardly twice which threw him out of his rhythm; he also struggled to catch and deadlift Xavier on a few occasions as well. The result was a well-worked match that moved at half speed until Guevara got his confidence back. Xavier, on the other hand, was smooth as silk and put in a fantastic performance. The closing stretch was exhilarating. Xavier barely snagged the ropes to break a count after a Spanish Fly/630 senton sequence from Guevara, who was not as fortunate to escape the three count following a corkscrew senton from Xavier. **½
AR Fox def. Austin Theory
Fox had a hand in training Theory, so this first round matchup had a built in teacher vs. student narrative, and thankfully both men took full advantage of that. Theory, well school in Fox’s showy nature, kept the first EVOLVE Champion grounded after eating a few flying moves early. When he was in control, Theory displayed a proficient mix of technical acumen and brazen trash talk with the crowd–the tools to become a great heel at the next level. Fox willingly slowed down and worked Theory’s pace to show his former trainee that there is more than him than meets the eye; picking his spots down the stretch and getting the pin after a jumping high knee, Lo Mein Pain, brainbuster sequence. ***¼
Fred Yehi and Anthony Henry Ended in a 30 Minute Draw
For one night and one only, the Holy Spirit of Strong Style floated from Kurokan Hall and dwelled upon a ring in southwest Florida. Don’t think I’m crazy for what I’m about to write, but Henry and Yehi threw bombs in this match. Big Japan Strong Division bombs. Ishii vs. Shibata in the 2013 G1 level bombs. Yehi and Henry pummeled each other to the point I was worried one of them would legitimately drop unconscious. That is how good and realistic the striking was in this match, and it was henry who initiated it after a failed attempt to out maneuver Yehi on the mat in the early going. Neither Henry or Yehi went back to the submission game until the very end when Yehi broke out of Henry’s Cobra Clutch crossface, and Henry ended the bout locked in Yehi’s signature Koji Clutch.
I had to watch this match twice to get the right feel for how to grade it. The night I saw it live, the last ten minutes or so drug on and on. On a second viewing the fight flew and did not feature a dull moment. Henry taking Yehi to the limit gave him instant credibility in the WWN Universe. As for Yehi it was yet another example as to why he is one of the wrestler’s to watch in 2017. ****
Dave Crist def. Dezmond Xavier
The night’s only semifinal was brief and solid. Xavier used his speed in early going, and that gave Crist fits. The tide turned when Crist injured Xavier’s knee with a snap power slam into the rope, and the former AAW Tag Team Champion went to work brutalizing his opponent with hard slams and drivers. Even when Xavier fought back, he was never the same, and when his knee buckled for a corkscrew senton attempt, he gave Crist a chance to recover. Xavier whiffed, and Crist used an inverted brainbuster a short time later to get the pin; putting him in the finals against Fox. **½
Jason Kincaid def. Chris Henry, Trevor Aeon, Rob Barnes, Jake Omen, Mitch Mitchell, Wheeler Yuta, Drew Bronson, Dante Carabejero, DJ Talamente, Chris Silvio, Hunter Law & Matt Palmer
After a lengthy and poorly timed intermission, a high-energy bout was what the show needed to inject a little juice into it, which it did at the opening. The issue with the Fray happened to be an overabundance of human flesh booked to be in the match. It went too long and only a handful of talents stood out. Mitch Mitchell, who has a country roughneck gimmick, worked with a ton of energy and has a great look. Wheeler Yuta is a crisp flyer that I would like to see more of. The winner of the match, Jason Kincaid, is one of my favorite under the radar wrestlers and he put yet another good performance since he signed with WWN. Kincaid last eliminated Chris Silvio by submission with a modified dragon sleeper. **½
Dave Crist def. AR Fox
The finals was a fun match. The fresher Fox dominated the early going with his air game. I’ve never seen a wrestler control a match using top rope and slingshot moves. Fox seems to have grown as a wrestler in his time away from WWNLive, and I hope sticks around because he is an excellent addition to any card in the future. Crist fought back by leveling Fox with damn near any move that crossed his mind, including a Coast to Coast. Fox survived all of that and the STO/DDT that put Darby Allin down. Crist kicked out of the Lo Mein Pain, brainbuster combo and then a 450 splash. Finally, Fox went for arm drag out of the corner, and Crist reversed it into an ace crusher at an incredible height. Seriously, it is impressive.
So Dave Crist won the tournament in a complete shocker and, like I said, in a fun match to boot. The finals followed the main event formula of each man breaking out big moves as the contest wore on and each of them kicking out until one was left standing. Solid way to end the night, really. ***½
From a purely wrestling related viewpoint, Style Battle’s debut show was solid. Fred Yehi vs. Anthony Henry is a noteworthy match from the US early in the year. AR Fox wrestled two excellent matches in one night, with the finals against Crist being his best. The tourney concept is rough around the edges. So many familiar tropes, the draw putting one participant in the finals while the other had to claw his way to there, were exhausted on the first show. How each event is booked will be interesting to see going forward, but, kinks aside, there was more good than bad; enough to warrant me to give it the thumbs up.