PROGRESS’ second-annual Super Strong Style 16 tournament concluded in style on a warm Bank Holiday Monday in Camden, with another nine-match strong card.

After a highlight package covering day one’s events, the show opened with the announcement that quarter-finalist Mark Haskins had been forced to withdraw from the tournament because of ill health (Haskins had collapsed after the first night’s show, suffering from dehydration).

They also announced a two-day event in Canada, involving PROGRESS against the Toronto-based group SMASH Wrestling, on September 17 and 18. As a warm-up for that, PROGRESS’ next London show – on June 26 – will feature the current SMASH champion Johnny Gargano. It’ll be extremely interesting to see how the invading PROGRESS will play to a Canadian crowd…

Super Strong Style 16 – “Redemption Scramble Match”: TK Cooper vs. Dave Mastiff vs. Pete Dunne vs. Matt Cross vs. Damon Moser vs. Mark Andrews vs. Kenny Williams vs. Rampage Brown vs. Nathan Cruz vs. El Ligero
This was thrown together to find a replacement for Mark Haskins, and the entrances here was a cavalcade of cut-off intros as everyone’s ring music ended almost as soon as they touched the ring.

Once everyone had had their individual ring announcements, the referee signalled for the bell, but instead Joel Allen got Metallica’s “Turn The Page” as the former tag team champions – El Ligero and Nathan Cruz – emerged, demanding to be added to the match as well… and were immediately met by topes from Mark Andrews and Kenny Williams. Rampage and Mastiff teed off on each other in the ring, before TK Cooper bounced off of Rampage and ate a few chops in the corner.

Cooper sent Rampage out with a neckbreaker, but the action picked up with Kenny Williams getting rid of Cooper, before turning into the path of Pete Dunne, who in turn ate dualling dropkicks from Cross and Andrews. Cross and Andrews neutralised each other, as the Camden crowd responded with chants of “Vader Hates This” whilst Matt Cross pulled a trick from the Will Ospreay playbook.

Pete Dunne ran in to avenge Vader and dumped Andrews on his head, but quickly got taken down with forearms from Moser, who actually connected with his Coast to Coast dropkick this time around. Nathan Cruz made a beeline for Moser from there, drilling him with a knee after being draped over the top rope, as the Origin flattened Moser in the middle of the ring. Mastiff continued the beatdown with a cannonball on Moser in the corner, before a spike tombstone piledriver from Cruz sent Moser out of the ring before any of the Origin could make a cover.

Williams, Andrews and Cross came in to clear house, as “The Bollocks” and “M-Dogg” worked over the former tag team champions, before things broke down for a while. Another headspring from Cross lead to a back elbow as Dunne left the ring, and Cross connected with a Space Flying Tiger Drop to the pile on the floor. El Ligero tried to follow-up, but was prevented by the referee, who then back body dropped Liger into the pile… before Rampage came in and was encouraged to “do a flip”, instead dropping a Dean Ambrose-like elbow off the top.

Rampage threw in Nathan Cruz to get a pin, with Cruz avoiding the piledriver, before landing the Show Stolen… only for Kenny Williams to run in with a schoolboy for a two-count. TK Cooper landed a scissors kick, before taking deadlift rolling German suplexes from Mastiff, and eventually being released into the ropes on the third suplex. Mark Andrews then ran in to hit a tornado DDT on Mastiff for a two-count, as Matt Cross and Pete Dunne ran in to break it up, but Andrews flipped out of a pump handle slam, then hit reverse ‘ranas on Ligero and Dunne, before snatching the win with a shooting star press to regain entry into the tournament! ***¼

A fun match to start off night day, and perhaps PROGRESS should find a way to shoehorn this into all SSS16 tournaments? Even if they don’t do a UEFA and tweak the format to have a “lucky loser” make it in?

Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter Final: Mark Andrews vs. Mikey Whiplash
Whiplash jumped Andrews on the stage within moments of his win, as Whiplash threw the newly-qualified Welshman into the ring and demanded that his quarter final start now.

Whiplash went for a cover immediately, but Andrews kicked out at two, as Whiplash sent Andrews into the turnbuckle and scored another near-fall from an uppercut. A back elbow decked Andrews, but Whiplash took his time following up, with Andrews wriggling out of a Death Valley Driver and rolling-up Whiplash for the shock pin. Way too short to be anything good, unfortunately, but it told a good story of Andrews getting two wins in short succession *½

Whiplash attacked Andrews almost immediately afterwards, and grabbed a couple of chairs from the crowd before security ran in to prevent any further damage.

Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter Final: Zack Gibson vs. Jack Gallagher
On paper, Zack vs. Jack should be pretty technical, and we weren’t proven wrong. Gibson repeated his promo from the first day, claiming that the Camden fans weren’t into him, but only because he was from Liverpool.

They started off with headlocks and legscissors, before Gibson worked a wristlock on Gallagher, who rolled back and forth to get out of the move and reverse it. Gibson quickly applied a headlock, but Gallagher did a headstand to get out of it, and rile the Scouser in the process. Gallagher went for a variation of the old Tequila Sunrise, instead wrenching back on both of Gibson’s arms before a rope break was called for.

Gibson thought he’d gotten the upperhand when he pulled off a slingshot, but Gallagher landed in a headstand on the top rope, and ended up tying up his Scouse opponent in a Jim Breaks-like ball in the middle of the ring, before kicking him up the arse. That enraged Gibson some more, as he went to slap Gallagher, before they exchanged some near-falls as they rolled around and around in a sunset flip, ending in a two-count for a particularly dizzy Gallagher.

Gibson fought back with an enziguiri to the elbow of Gallagher, which was then followed up when Gallagher was shoved shoulder-first into the ring post twice in quick succession. From here, Gibson started to toy with the “Extraordinary Gentleman”, lifting him up by the bad shoulder and dropping Gallagher with a knucklelock throw.

Another armbreaker followed for Gallagher, as Gibson continued the assault on the worn-down shoulder, but Gallagher escaped and connected with a series of dropkicks, then a cross-body block for a near-fall. An inside cradle got another two-count, before Gibson dropped him with a Divorce Court, only for Gallagher to connect with a deadlift suplex after Gibson had set-up for a front facelock.

After missing a dropkick in the corner, Gallagher was turned inside out with a lariat, before Gibson came off the top with the diving lungblower (aka BUSHI’s MX) for a two-count, then turning it into the Shankly Gates. Gallagher rolled through into a single leg crab though, which was swiftly broken via the ropes, before Gibson stumbled into the corner and ate a dropkick for a near-fall.

Gallagher looked to capitalise on Gibson’s Steven Gerrard-like slip with an ankle lock, but after a near-ref bump, Gallagher found himself thrown into the turnbuckle before falling to the Shankly Gates for the submission. A nice quarter-final match, which was exactly as I had figured going in ***½

Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter Final: Big Daddy Walter vs. Chris Hero
The biggest men left in the tournament face off here, and after having an 80lb-or-so weight advantage over Mark Andrews in day one, Chris Hero finds himself at a similar disadvantage against the behemoth Big Daddy Walter in his quarter-final.

We started with a handshake and a little grappling, with headlocks and shoulder tackle spots a-plenty. A big boot from Hero was our first “oof” spot, as Walter was sent to the outside, before Hero almost stopped himself as Walter evaded a tope con hilo. They spent a little time outside the ring chopping each other in the middle of perhaps the world’s slowest ten-count, but back in the ring, Hero ended up being booted to the mat as Walter followed up with an Earthquake-style sit-down splash.

Walter slowed the pace down somewhat with a rear chinlock, but Hero fought himself free and ended up dazing the Austrian with a couple of big boots, before knocking Walter down with a roaring elbow for a two-count. Another Hero big boot rocked Walter, who replied with a diving dropkick for a near-fall on the well-travelled Hero, before sticking him with a powerbomb that almost ended it.

Walter went back to the rear chinlock, but Hero climbed the ropes to escape it a la Bret Hart, with the pair then trading strikes… only for a massive Walter lariat to get a one-count. Second time around, Walter sandwiched a lariat with a deadlift German suplex that got a near-fall, but Hero came back with a ripcord elbow, followed by more elbows to the back of the head, before a roaring elbow to the back of the neck scored Hero another two-count as the crowd looked on in disbelief.

Hero went for a piledriver in a bid to finish the match, but instead went for a page out of former team-mate Cesaro’s book, going for a Gotch-style piledriver, before planting Walter with a cradle piledriver for the win, as Hero went two-for-two in bloody-good matches for PROGRESS this weekend. And he’s got at least one more… ***¾

Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter Final: Tommy End vs. Sami Callihan
Our final quarter-final closed out the first part of the show, and these two had a long staredown… at least until Callihan charged at End and had his head knocked off. They quickly ended up on the floor where Callihan kicked End into the front row, following up with a lap of honour and a cannonball dive into the seats.

A second lap of honour ended badly as End popped up out of the seat and smashed Callihan with a knee strike, before missing a double stomp back in the ring, and taking a big boot from Callihan. That comeback ended swiftly as Callihan was kicked on the top rope, before End backflipped out of a sunset flip powerbomb attempt, then landed a deadlift German suplex for a near-fall.

Callihan did make a comeback, with a couple of running knees to a downed End in the corner, but the third time wasn’t the charm as End delivered a big boot, before slipping on a Shiranui attempt, and getting planted with a spike tombstone piledriver by Callihan. We almost saw a repeat of day one, when Callihan bundled himself into the referee before going for a mule kick – and although End did block it, Callihan just turned around and punted the Dutchman low anyway.

The “Sami Driller” piledriver grabbed Callihan another two-count as the crowd chanted for a comeback from End, which came by way of trading forearms, a jumping knee, but Callihan hit a bunch of palm strikes… and ran into a roundhouse kick as End took the win out of nowhere. Only seven minutes long, but this was entertaining as heck and full of action. ***½

Super Strong Style 16 – Semi Final: Mark Andrews vs. Zack Gibson
The “middle third” saw the introduction of Marty Scurll to the commentary team, as Mark Andrews started his third match of the day, coming up against a Zack Gibson who virtually repeated the same promo from earlier in the day.

Straight from the bell, Andrews rolled-up Gibson for a near-fall, but the Scouser retaliated with a Tiger bomb for another two-count. Following a bit of downtime, Andrews tried to take down Gibson with a wheelbarrow bulldog, but ended up being dumped on his back instead, before more clotheslines took him down.

Gibson continued to toy with Andrews, headbutting him into the corner, but that fired up the Welshman, as he almost saw a tornado DDT blocked, before turning a Gibson suplex into a stunner. After a tope con hilo, Andrews rolled Gibson back in and nailed a standing moonsault then a standing shooting star press for a two-count. Gibson rolled away from a shooting star press, before suckering Andrews into a lungblower, then a cross-legged brainbuster for another near-fall.

An early attempt at the Shankly Gates saw Andrews scramble to the ropes, but Gibson’s attempt at a diving lungblower off the top led to Andrews turning it into a powerbomb. Gibson got the knees up from a shooting star press as the tide kept turning, ending with Andrews getting caught in the Shankly Gates once more. With Andrews nearing the ropes, Gibson released the hold before reapplying it in the middle of the ring, but ended up getting rolled up for a three-count as Mark Andrews made it to the final. ***¼

Gibson, as you’d expect, was stunned by the defeat, with the Camden faithful more than eager to pile on to his misery, including a new use for the “you deserve it” chant…

Super Strong Style 16 – Semi Final: Tommy End vs. Chris Hero
Student vs. Teacher here in the other semi-final, and I’m expecting a suitably hard-hitting affair between these two.

They started by offering themselves up for strikes, with End getting two free kicks in whilst Hero delivered two chops as the match quickly broke down from the “give-and-take” start. Spilling onto the floor, End and Hero swapped bicycle kicks and elbow shots, with a leaping knee strike sending Hero staggering up towards the stage, where the shots continued, culminating in a Cyclone Kill (discus big boot) from Hero to End.

Back in the crowd, Hero sent End into the front row, before landing a back senton splash into the crowd. They finally got back into the ring, where End nailed a double stomp as Hero came off the ropes, before getting a two-count following some more kicks and a knee strike to Hero’s head. Hero retaliated with a jumping knee, then a clothesline in the corner, but a kick to the back of End’s head proved ineffective, as the Dutchman landed a brainbuster for a two-count.

Hero avoided a double stomp off the top, and shocked End with a piledriver for a near-fall, and the American kept on top of End with knee strikes that repeatedly sent the latter into the ropes. A bicycle kick put End down briefly, but he picked himself up to return the favour and add in some more knee strikes, as the two went back and forth with increasingly-stiff strikes. Having won his prior two matches with those move, a jumping knee, double stomp and a roundhouse kick scored a shocked End a near-fall, before getting caught on the top rope, as Hero looked to end Tommy with a piledriver..

End blocked it initially, but after cradling him, Hero succeeded in a piledriver off the middle rope, but End kicked out just before the three count, as the Electric Ballrom erupted! Hero looked to polish him off with a ripcord elbow, but End ducked the move, and quickly rolled up Hero for the win. Just as expected, a fantastic, hard-hitting match, although I wasn’t too thrilled on the finish of a piledriver off the middle rope leading to a kick-out, before the guy taking it scored a win less than a minute later. ****

Post-match, Chris Hero confronted Marty Scurll on commentary as “the Villain” was screaming at the defeated semi-finalist.

Street Fight: Dazzler Team (Darrell Allen & Earl Black Jr.) vs. Sweet Jesus (Chuck Mambo & “Pastor” William Eaver)
Their last encounter at ENDVR ended with the Dazzler Team sneaking out a win – albeit by way of a count-out – as they won the Iron Man tag team match by 2-1 (thanks to a literal banana peel finish, then a pineapple-aided disqualification). So they made this a streetfight, with the winners getting a tag title shot.

The Dazzlers came out suitably attired in black jeans, carrying some chairs that’ll presumably not be in one piece by the end of the match. Sweet Jesus, on the other hand, came out in a shopping trolley, but rushed the ring and sent the Dazzler Team to the outside, where they were struck with duelling topes con hilo from the babyfaces.

William Eaver hit Black Jr. in the head with a chair early on, before Chuck Mambo joined in with the Pastor to lay out Allen with chairshots. Earl Black took a hiptoss through some folded out chairs, before Allen rescued Black from a crucifix powerbomb, as the action made their way to the entrance, where frying pans, kettles and a watermelon (yay!) was used to take down Allen.

Eaver then dumped Earl Black Jr. into the trolley, which was then sent hurtling towards Mambo who met him with a clothesline. Heading back to ringside, Allen met Sweet Jesus with a crutch that ended up being bent in half, as Earl Black Jr. used a frying pan on Mambo’s back. Plenty more weapon shots followed, before a superkick sent Black into the crowd… where he was quickly followed by a flying chair!

Mambo went under the ring for a table, but got distracted as he went to put Allen through it, instead opting to go flying with a somersault flip into Earl Black Jr. – and into the crowd as well! Back inside, Allen set up Mambo for a superplex, but after Mambo tried to block it, he was press slammed off the top through the table for the first near-fall of the match.

Eaver returned to the ring with a crutch that went straight into Allen’s leg, and once more ot the head of the PROGRESS trainer, before handing a backbreaker and a Snake Eyes into the top turnbuckle. A cross body block got Eaver a two-count, as did a lariat, which was broken up by a headbutt from Earl Black Jr, who then took a crucifix powerbomb from the Pastor.

Mambo resurfaced, and grabbed a beach ball that turned out to be a bag full of thumbtacks, but the Dazzler Team went to drop Sweet Jesus into the tacks with Styles Clashes, only for the Dazzlers to take dualling back body drops into the pins for a near-fall. Eaver went for another Crucifix powerbomb, but took a low blow instead, as the Dazzlers landed the Dazzler Death Drop into the drawing pins, and that was enough for the Dazzler Team to secure the number one contendership!

Whilst not on the same level as the usual hardcore car crash matches in PROGRESS, it was entertaining enough – particularly when Sweet Jesus kicked things up a notch with the drawing pins. ***

After the second intermission, we were greeted with the latest “Wasteman Challenge”, as PROGRESS’ own “Bodyguy” Roy Johnson called out anyone from the back. I can see why Johnson is over, but I’m personally not a fan of this guy’s shtick. Johnson’s challenge was answered by Eddie Dennis, whose surprise appearance popped the crowd. Dennis accepted, but called it off as he admitted that he couldn’t rap, and instead offered a karaoke performance.

The whole time throughout, Roy Johnson was shaking his head in disgust, and it got worse as Dennis did his version of the Goldie Lookin’ Chain song “Your Mother’s Got a Penis”. Johnson seemed to be caught totally off guard here as he struggled to keep it together. Johnson’s response won out, but the Bodyguy irked Dennis as he accepted a beer… and ended up taking a Next Stop Driver for his troubles. Moral of the story: don’t spill a Welshman’s drink!

Super Strong Style 16 – Final: Tommy End vs. Mark Andrews
Something tells me that Mark Andrews isn’t the favourite here, entering his fourth match of the day, against a man in Tommy End who’s getting quite the push.

End tried to jump Andrews at the bell, but the Welshman got out of the way, before delivering a tope con hilo after sending End to the outside with a kick. End flattened Andrews with a jumping knee to the back of the head for a two-count after some hesitation, before we got the Rick Martel reference opportunity as End slammed Andrews into the turnbuckles.

The crowd were slightly more in favour of Andrews as he took kick after kick from Tommy End, with a snap suplex getting the Dutchman a two-count. Andrews flipped out of a suplex and landed a stunner for a near-fall, before a hurricanrana got another two-count for Andrews. After getting a two-count from a head kick, End leapt to the ropes, only for the lights to go out… and when they returned, we had Mikey Whiplash in the middle of the ring. With Tommy End behind him, and as the attempted interference went wrong, the not-face-painted Whiplash ate a roundhouse kick and was promptly dispatched.

Andrews tried to capitalise with a roll-up and a reverse ‘rana, following with a shooting star press which actually landed, but End kicked out at two. Another shooting star press followed, but End rolled out of the way, before pulling off a deadlift German suplex and a double stomp off the top for another near-fall.

After getting to his feet, Andrews begged End for another shot, and sure enough he got it, as a roundhouse kick sent Andrews to the mat, and gave Tommy End the three-count to win the tournament. ***¼

I get that Mark Andrews couldn’t do a long match in the final for (kayfabe/real) reasons, a seven minute tournament final felt somewhat anti-climactic. Some of the initial feedback I read after these shows drew a somewhat unfair comparison between Tommy End and Roman Reigns in terms of a guy who was being pushed as a top star. End’s post-tournament celebration didn’t seem to have the same air to it as Will Ospreay’s win last year.

Unlike last year’s tournament, this final looked uneven from the start, with a somewhat fresh End absolutely steamrolling his way to victory in well under ten minutes. Obviously Mark Andrews’ return to the tournament wasn’t the original plan, and I’d wager that the original plans were for a Haskins/End final, although the Andrews story added a nice extra wrinkle to the tournament.

On the whole, the second Super Strong Style 16 tournament has to be considered a massive success, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Chris Hero, whose three matches stole the entire weekend. Yes, at just under seven hours for the two shows, it’s a massive time sink, but like last year’s show… it’s a time sink you’ll not regret!