The late May Bank Holiday saw PROGRESS return to Camden’s Electric Ballroom for two back-to-back days of action, with their second annual Super Strong Style 16 tournament. Last year’s winner, Will Ospreay went on to unseat then-champion Jimmy Havoc, and with a title shot going to this year’s winner, it’s time to see who’ll get a crack at Marty Scurll.
Day one featured all eight first round tournament matches, with one of those playing double-duty, acting as a block match for PROGRESS’ Atlas tournament as well, whilst the main event saw the Origin defend their PROGRESS tag team titles against the London Riots.
A quick cover of the PROGRESS anti-piracy advert (seriously guys, don’t pirate any wrestling shows – these guys deserve your money, and to be fair, $7.50 a month isn’t going to break the bank, is it?) and we’re underway. An issue with the ring van breaking down and arriving late led to the show starting late, so we’ve got little in the way of preamble from Jim Smallman (and his Leicester City scarf, deservedly celebrating his team winning the Premier League).
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Pete Dunne vs. Mark Haskins
Fresh off of a losing effort against Jack Gallagher in a Cruiserweight Classic qualifier, “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne’s back to try his hand in the Super Strong Style 16 against the eternally-pushed Mark Haskins.
Dunne slaps down Haskins early on, but that doesn’t bode well as Haskins fired back with slaps of his own, before hitting a snapmare and a dropkick to the “Bruiserweight”. Haskins went for the Sharpshooter, but Dunne was able to resist it and grab the ropes; Haskins twice went for a dive, but ended up being DDT’d back into the ring for a near-fall. Dunne kept Haskins grounded with a leglock, but Haskins fought back to his feet, and took down Dunne with a leg lariat. A Fisherman’s buster came next for Dunne, who had to kick out of a single leg crab, but quickly ate a jumping knee and then a tope as the tide continued to turn.
A roll-through death valley driver earned Haskins a two-count, before missing a double stomp off the top and taking a release suplex for a near-fall from Dunne. Haskins had to kick-out at two from a sit-out powerbomb, before taking a back suplex, only to reverse out of a pumphandle slam as Hasking tied up Dunne with a variation of an Indian deathlock, forcing him to the ropes.
Dunne went for the pumphandle slam again, but it was switched into a DDT from Haskins, who then flipped out of a release suplex, and landed in place for an armbar, forcing Dunne to tap out… and after an entertaining back-and-forth match, we have our first quarter-finalist! ***¼
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Mikey Whiplash vs. Damon Moser
Whiplash was making his first PROGRESS appearance in London for 18 months, having made an impact at Chapter 29, attacking Tommy End during his title match with Marty Scurll. The proverbial sacrificial lamb here is Damon Moser, who at this show a year ago, was booted out of the Faceless/Origin during that memorable storyline.
Whiplash looks a little like Sting back in his Joker days in TNA, and he immediately jumped Moser at the opening bell, scoring a one-count from an uppercut off the second rope, as the pair traded standing uppercuts, before Moser drilled Whiplash with a pumphandle into a neckbreaker over the knee for a two-count.
Moser followed that up with some Bryan Danielson-like elbows to Whiplash, before getting a roll-up for another near-fall. A punch decks Whiplash, but he gets out of the way of a knee strike from Moser, and connects with a rebound lariat for a two-count. Whiplash connected with some running forearms, but was cut off with dropkicks from Moser, who then missed with a Coast-to-Coast dropkick.
Whiplash looked to take advantage, with an elbow drop off the apron as Moser had rolled to the floor. Moser beat the count back in, but went straight into a pair of powerbombs, but kicked out at one from those, before Whiplash followed up with a Death Valley Driver to seal the win. That was short and not particularly engrossing, in all fairness, but we have our first quarter-final as Whiplash is set to take on Mark Haskins at day two (spoiler: Haskins was forced to withdraw, so Whiplash gets a new opponent – more in our review of day two’s event…). **
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Kenny Williams vs. Zack Gibson
I’ve never seen Kenny Williams in action before, but his “Power of Love” ring music made me think I was watching an old LOVEFiLM commercial; for the uninitiated, Williams plays up the Back to the Future gimmick more than KUSHIDA ever has.
Gibson got his usual reaction from the Camden audience, and went to work on Williams with an arm wringer, which was quickly reversed as Williams sent Gibson flying… before being booted into the turnbuckles. Williams quickly got back on top with a flying back elbow off the middle rope, but Gibson started to target the left arm of the Scotsman, who went into a game of cat and mouse with the Scouser.
Gibson caught a tope from Williams to the outside, and drilled him with the Divorce Court before throwing Williams back in to continue the assault on the left arm. A Cobra clutch kept Williams grounded for a spell, but a couple of forearms got “the Bollocks” back in it (there’s a reason I’ve not been using Williams’ nickname much here!), only to eat a lariat from Gibson.
Williams flipped out of a backbreaker, but ended up taking a lungblower, before quickly downing Gibson with a superkick for a near-fall. Another attempt at a back elbow off the middle rope from Williams was met by Gibson, who quickly locked on the Shankly Gates, but Williams rolled through and scored a near-fall from a La Magistral roll-up.
The pair traded enziguiris, with Williams pulling off a top rope Ace Crusher for a near-fall, before low bridging Gibson to the outside and meeting him with a tope into a DDT on the floor. That sounded nasty! Back in the ring, Gibson immediately caught Williams in a roll-up for a near-fall, before throwing him into the ringpost shoulder-first, and it was straight-forward from there, as the Shankly Gates led to a quick tap-out as the debutant Williams ended up tasting defeat. ***
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: TK Cooper vs. Jack Gallagher
Jack Gallagher was a late addition to the tournament, replacing the injured Zack Sabre Jr., whilst TK Cooper qualified for this by way of winning a battle royal at the last ENDVR event. Speaking of Cooper, his ring attire was ridiculous, white pyjamas with the 100 emoji – at least it fit in with his ring music!
Cooper jumped Gallagher as he entered the ring, but Jim Smallman continued with the ring announcements, and as the bell rang, Cooper got caught in an Achilles lock, forcing him to make the ropes – quite the turnaround from the initial jump start! Gallagher threw Cooper back in and went for an Indian Deathlock, before switching to a version of Charlotte’s Figure Eight.
Gallagher found himself berated outside the ring by Dahlia Black, but instead of retaliating like almost every other wrestler would, Gallagher instead kissed her on the hand… then took a dropkick through the ropes by Cooper. Black slapped Gallagher through the ropes, which got Cooper for a two-count, as the New Zealander wore down Gallagher with a chinlock, before coming off the top rope with a senton bomb… except Gallagher had gotten out of the way.
A two-count from a cross body block followed for Gallagher, who got another near-fall from a roll-up, before Cooper connected with a leg lariat. However, instead of staying on top of Gallagher, Cooper instead made eyes at his girlfriend, allowing Gallagher to connect with a dropkick in the corner and seal the win as Cooper and Black had to make do with a loss. A fun match, especially given that nobody seemed to rate Cooper’s chances going in. ***¼
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round / Atlas Tournament Block A: Dave Mastiff  vs. Big Daddy Walter 
This doubled up as an Atlas tournament match, with both men looking to get on the scoreboard for the “Big Guy’s Belt”. If this match went beyond the 15 minute Atlas time limit, both Walter and Mastiff gets a point, but the Super Strong Style 16 tournament match would continue regardless.
They started off slowly, with a lock-up sending Mastiff into the corner, before the pair traded shoulder blocks off the rope. Mastiff tried a cross-body off the ropes, but was caught as Walter turned it into a bodyslam, then an Earthquake-style sit-out splash for only a one-count. Walter shook the ring with a gutwrench suplex for a near-fall, before Mastiff low bridged Walter out of the ring.
As he tried to get back in the ring, Mastiff hung up Walter in the ropes, and then dropped him with a bodyslam, before whipping Walter into the turnbuckles… this time they held up! Mastiff returned the favour from earlier with the Earthquake sit-out splash for a near-fall, but Walter came back with a dropkick off the middle ropes, then nailing some clotheslines and a butterfly suplex that sent Mastiff flying for a near-fall.
Mastiff dropped Walter with a DDT, getting a two-count from a back senton, but got cut off when he went up to the top rope. Walter and Mastiff exchanged strikes, but Mastiff jumped up and dropped the Austrian with a superplex! Thankfully, the ring stayed intact!
Walter went for a lariat, but ended up taking a German suplex after missing, before popping up and taking down Mastiff with a judo-like sleeperhold takedown, and forcing the submission as the man who looks like Üter from the Simpsons got two points and his first win in PROGRESS. Another amazing “Big Lads Wrestling” match ***½
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Chris Hero vs. Mark Andrews
Chris Hero was making his debut for PROGRESS, one of the few promotions that the former Kassius Ohno seemingly hadn’t wrestled in. The crowd were certainly more than up for Hero’s appearance, and I’ll avoid making the “he should be in the Atlas tournament, surely?” jokes…
Hero hoisted up Andrews in a waistlock to start with, then dumped him back to the mat, before working on Andrews’ arm, then utilising a Will Ospreay-like set of kip-ups to get out of a wristlock after Andrews had reversed it. Hero used his size advantage to lift up Andrews whilst he was applying a headlock, then nailed Andrews with a chop as he teased running off the ropes.
The momentum kept moving as Andrews shifted out of a tilt-a-whirl and scored a two-count, but was quickly sent flying to the floor courtesy of a big boot from Hero. They spilled out onto the floor as Andrews was elbowed in the crowd, before Hero returned to the ring to take a count-out win, but Andrews beat the ten-count. A forearm gave Hero a two-count, as did a mighty back senton, but Andrews tried to mount a comeback with some chops, which had little effect on the American.
A victory roll and a double stomp got Andrews a glimmer of hope, as the Welshman chopped away at Hero with kicks to the leg, then a hurricanrana before sending Hero to the outside with an enziguiri. Andrews followed up with a tope con hilo that morphed into a hurricanrana on the floor, followed by a flying ‘rana off the top rope and a standing shooting star press for a two-count. Hero rolled away from a shooting star press off the top, and knocked down Andrews with a pump kick, but only scored a count of two from that.
Andrews fired back with more strikes, but was again cut-off, eating a bicycle kick against the ropes, before nailing a reverse ‘rana for a near-fall as Hero almost got shocked. A slingshot into the ring from Andrews got caught and ended up with Hero flattening him with a back senton, then a pair of flipping release suplexes as the well-travelled Hero looked to get closer to victory.
A stiff forearm shot dazed Andrews again, but his effort at blocking a piledriver saw Hero tease a Styles Clash, only to drill Andrews with a spike piledriver anyway… for another two-count. Hero tried to get a ripcord elbow (a la the Rainmaker), but that was turned into a backslide for a two-count, but Andrews unwisely tried to nail the Dragon Suplex on the bigger Hero… before eventually dropping Hero with a German suplex.
Another big boot rocked Andrews as the momentum shifted back and forth, with Andrews hitting a moonsault press into a DDT for a near-fall. However, Andrews looked to have nailed a shooting star press, only for Hero to move out of the way and grab Andrews’ neck, as he proceeded to lift him up with a cravat and drop him on his neck and shoulders a la a snapmare. One roaring elbow later, Hero thought he’d won it, but Andrews got a shoulder up, only to fall to a spike tombstone piledriver as Chris Hero made it to the quarter-finals.
I’m not one of Chris Hero’s biggest fans, but by God, that was a hell of a match. The ultimate “don’t judge a book by its cover” (or in his case, physique) wrestler, the rest of the PROGRESS roster will need to pull out all the stops to top this! ****½
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Sami Callihan vs. Matt Cross
All I’ll say here is “good luck”! We had two more debutants here, as the former Solomon Crowe – a much slimmed-down Sami Callihan – takes on Matt Cross, probably better known these days in Lucha Underground as Son of Havoc. Hopefully not Jimmy…
From the off, this looked weird, as PROGRESS rarely (if ever) do fly-in vs. fly-in matches, which left them at very real risk of falling into exhibition syndrome, where the fans only pop for spots, rather than any long-term story. Callihan immediately sent Cross to the outside with a bicycle kick, before hitting a tope… which went back and forth as Cross retaliated with a tope, before Callihan hit a low-pe, leading to another Cross tope. Well, the four topes got the crowd’s attention!
On the outside, Cross avoided being tossed into the ringpost, and instead shoved Callihan into the post, before hanging himself off the ringpost and dropped an elbow onto the former NXT star. Cross missed a double stomp off the apron, then ate a superkick, along with a couple of spit-laden chops. Callihan followed that up with a lap of the ring, before flattening Cross with a cannonball, taking several chairs out in the process.
A back elbow staggered Callihan, as Cross cartwheeled off the top to the mat, then landed a cross body block, before a double stomp off the top and a standing moonsault got him a two-count. Callihan drilled Cross with a running knee in the corner, before landing a death valley driver after Cross tried to leapfrog over the Lucha Underground grappler.
Glen Joseph went all Dusty Rhodes on us calling some bicycle kicks, before the two men went for a bicycle kick at the same time, flooring each other. Cross got back to his feet and nailed a Chyna-like handspring elbow into the corner, but saw a superplex attempt blocked as Callihan instead tried for a sunset flip powerbomb, before superkicking Cross’ leg out from under him. A sit-out powerbomb got Callihan a two-count, but he immediately went for the Stretch Muffler, which was broken by the ropes.
Cross then pulled a trick out of Will Ospreay’s playbook and one-upped him, with a headspring off the top rope into an Ace Crusher for a near-fall. Callihan caught Cross up top and went for another superplex, but was dropped to the mat with a front superplex, as Cross landed a shooting star press for a two-count as Callihan got his foot on the rope just in time. Another series of bicycle kicks from Cross dazed Callihan, but he returned like-for-like, before Callihan mule kicked Cross low after he’d grabbed hold of the referee. One package piledriver later, and Callihan had completed a weekend heel turn and qualified for the quarter finals. ***
Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Tommy End vs. Rampage Brown
Our final first round match here sees PROGRESS regulars Rampage Brown and Tommy End face-to-face – with the latter looking to get another shot at Marty Scurll by way of winning this tournament.
The pair start off unloading on each other with punches, before Rampage tried for an early piledriver, before turning End inside out with a lariat for a two-count in the opening minute. End scrambled to the floor, but he was quickly thrown back in as Rampage clearly wasn’t getting paid by the hour here.
End almost snatched the win with a sunset flip, before kicking Rampage so hard he went to the outside, where the Dutchman followed up with a moonsault press… only for Rampage to catch him and lawn dart End into the ringpost. A suplex in the ring ended up in a two-count for Rampage, but End managed to stun Brown with some double knees, then a series of kicks that sent Rampage into the bottom turnbuckle.
A lariat from Rampage cut off some more kicks from End, getting Brown a two-count, before a piledriver earned Rampage another two-count… and the Tommy End comeback started. End blocked a Rampage lariat with a jumping knee, before locking in the Octopus hold, rolling through for a two-count after that. End came off the top with a double stomp to Rampage, then got a two-count with a knee-strike, before securing the win with a roundhouse kick.
That wasn’t too bad a match, but the crowd were still on a comedown after the Hero/Andrews match. I must say, out of End’s finishing parade of moves, the roundhouse kick is the weakest of the trio, yet that seems to be his new finishing move… still, it sets up a fairly mouth-watering quarter-final against Sami Callihan on the second night of the tournament. **¾
PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: The Origin (El Ligero & Nathan Cruz) (c) vs. London Riots (James Davis & Rob Lynch)
At last year’s Super Strong Style 16 tournament, Ligero and Cruz were gifted the PROGRESS titles as the Faceless were unveiled and the Origin were formed. Since then, they’ve dropped the titles and regained them from the Sumerian Death Squad, but now face the London Riots. Ligero and Cruz are of course accompanied by their Origin stablemates Dave Mastiff and Zack Gibson, with Cruz doing his best to mock Jim Smallman during the introductions.
Davis and Ligero started off in the ring, with Davis decking Ligero with a clothesline, before Lynch and Cruz jumped in and started teeing off on each other. Lynch swatted away a jumping knee from Cruz, then ended up going into the turnbuckles, before connecting with a clothesline off the middle rope.
James Davis tossed Ligero out of the ring by the horns as he tried to break up a stalling suplex from Lynch on Cruz, but an attempted dive by the riots was broken up when Gibson and Mastiff interfered… and they were promptly ejected from ringside for their troubles. As Ligero was distracted by the departure, he was dragged back into the ring for a District Line powerbomb for a near-fall, before James Davis drilled Cruz with a Finlay roll… only to miss with the moonsault.
From there, it was all Origin for a while, with Cruz and Ligero cutting the ring in half, as James Davis was left to go two-on-one for a while as Rob Lynch recovered on the floor. Ligero pulled Lynch off the apron as Davis went for a tag, before Cruz got a two-count from a slingshot back suplex.
Out of nowhere, Davis hit an Exploder suplex on Ligero into the turnbuckles, as Glen Joseph got in his obligatory Rick Martel reference, and Rob Lynch finally got the tag in, smashing forearms into Cruz and Ligero in the corners. A release belly-to-belly suplex sent Cruz flying, whilst Ligero went airborne with a similar belly-to-back suplex, as the Riots started enjoying a two on one advantage, only for Ligero to fight out of another District Line powerbomb.
Cruz took a double-team spinebuster from the Riots, who followed up with stereo topes after Ligero had pulled Cruz to the floor. A slingshot spear was blocked by Ligero, who turned it into a tornado DDT on Lynch, as the Origin went back to work on Davis, with the Show Stolen and a top rope splash should have put Davis down… only for the referee to rule that he wasn’t legal. So Ligero punted referee Chris Roberts low.
A second referee, “Paz”, quickly ran in, and was accosted by Cruz and Ligero who were virtually pleading to be disqualified, before Cruz took a spear from Lynch. On the floor, Ligero raked Lynch’s eyes to avoid being tossed into chairs, but it was his partner who ended up in the hardware, as a crossbody off the top was caught, with Cruz eating a fallaway slam into the front row (and the second, and the third…)
At the second attempt, Lynch was successful with a slingshot spear, but Ligero kicked out at two, as Zack Gibson returned to ringside… only for Lynch to send him flying with a Big E-style spear through the ropes! Dave Mastiff made his return through the ring, and smashed the tag title shield into the head of James Davis, before dropping Nathan Cruz onto Davis… but Davis kicked out, leading to Paz getting thrown out of the ring.
Former member of the Faceless, Damon Moser came out with a chair to even things up, laying out Ligero before fighting with Mastiff to the back as a third referee in the form of Joel Allen came in to make the count on Cruz, only for the Riots to pick up Cruz and drop him with a chokeslam into the corner… flattening referee #3. Davis landed an Emerald Fusion on Cruz, but Ligero pulled the referee out of the ring… and for once, the referee took no crap, punching Ligero in the head, to the loudest pop of the evening!
Back in the ring, Cruz took a slingshot spear for a two-count (although the crowd popped as if it were a three, and indeed, the ring bell did go, it was only a two count. Make sure you see it all, eh?)
That screwy finish did deflate the crowd a little, as they quickly silenced the London Riots’ music. A second slingshot spear on Cruz saw the “Showstealer” roll to the floor, so the Riots instead dragged in Ligero by the horns (with a phantom tag somewhere), and launched off the top rope for a super pop-up spear off the top rope, before the Riots covered the masked one for the win.
Although not the standard car crash of a tag team match, this was a suitable main event as the year-long storyline paid off with the Origin finally getting their comeuppance – and the newly christened “first tag-team of PROGRESS” ending the nights with the tag team championships! ***¾
After day one, we largely ended up with the expected quarter finalists, but came away with a proverbial hat-full of fantastic wrestling and a contender for “Best PROGRESS Match Ever” to boot. If you had to pick and choose, the Hero/Andrews match and the main event match are the two that you should absolutely go out of your way to see – but this card from top-to-bottom is well worth your time.