Day two of Super Strong Style weekend was perhaps the UK show of the year (so far) saw the semi-finalists for Super Strong Style 16 decided… and the crowning of the inaugural PROGRESS women’s champion!
We open with a recap video of day one’s tournament matches, set to “There Are Monsters” by Dana Fowler and The… a band that I’m sure has had many people’s autocomplete working overtime. They manage to slickly avoid airing any bars of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” this time as Jim Smallman’s status reads “Day 2: Tired”. We’re closer to “Day 3: Zombie!”
Day two’s opening spiel largely revolved around Arsenal winning the FA Cup, along with some low-level bullying of those fans who went to the cup final instead of the wrestling.
We’ve still got Callum and Matt on commentary for the first half of the show at least…
Mark Andrews & Flash Morgan Webster vs. London Riots (Rob Lynch & James Davis)
ATTACK! vs. the Riots… added after Andrews and Webster were eliminated on night one, and this makeshift team’s going up against a tandem that’s struggled for wins in recent months.
Webster and Davis get into a brief shoving match before shaking hands and becoming Wrestling Friends once more… something that was suited more for the live crowd than VOD given the mic’ing! Andrews tags in and easily takes down Lynch with a ‘rana, before flipping back in for a sunset flip that Lynch cuts off but can’t capitalise on… at least until Andrews slipped off the top rope as Lynch somehow tripped Webster as he held Andrews up in a suplex.
Andrews gets back on form, chopping the Riots before taking a double shoulder tackle. Eventually Andrews brings in Webster, who tried with a clothesline on Lynch that barely registered, before making do with some forearms in the corner as a double missile dropkick took down the Riots at the same time. A pair of flips sees Andrews moonsault onto Lynch’s knees – deliberately – for a near-fall, as the Riots tease a District Line powerbomb throwing Webster onto Andrews.
That, and a back senton onto the pile from Davis, gets a near-fall as the crowd remained hungover/muted, with a reverse ‘rana from Webster just about getting a reaction… as did an assisted sliced bread/DDT combo from Andrews. Webster’s “hands up” headbutt rocked Lynch, but he replied with a spear to Andrews as all four men collapsed to the mat. Another dropkick from Webster’s caught and turned into a slingshot spear… but Webster switches it up into a Strangler as Davis is taken outside… where he boots Andrews with some vigour.
That left Webster on his lonesome against the Riots, but a shoulder charge into the corner saw Lynch effectively spear the ringpost and land squarely on his arm… turning things around as James Davis was left one-on-two to take a Stundog Millionaire, then the Eton Rifles (Destino) from Webster. From there, a Shooting Star Press from Andrews seals the win as the Riots picked up another loss – and perhaps sparked some seeds for a split or a turn as James Davis walked to the back before returning to check on Lynch as the crowd fell silent.
The Riots just can’t buy a win, not even against makeshift teams! A decent opener, not exactly “throwaway”, but one that the crowd could perhaps afford to take their time to get into. ***
Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter-Final: Mark Haskins vs. Tyler Bate
Night two, and Tyler’s actively playing along with the “where’s your title gone?” chants, whilst throwing his coat and towel at referee Joel.
Jimmy Havoc’s on commentary for… reasons. That’s not me not wanting to summarise what Jimmy said, either! It leads to some rather strained moments as Havoc’s sarcasm threatened to derail Matt Richards on commentary as Haskins grounded Tyler with some headscissors. To be fair, the commentary was more entertaining as Havoc was cheerleading for Haskins’ beating up Bate, openly laughing when Tyler took a kick to the chest for a near-fall.
Bate mounted into a comeback with a flip senton for a near-fall, much to Havoc’s disapproval, as he moaned “come on Mark” as Bate wrenched back on Haskins’ knees utilising a modified bow and arrow hold, then a pendulum swing. Things switched as Bate kicked away at Haskins, who fired back up into some kicks of his own before rolling up into a STF in the middle of the ring.
After Bate made the ropes, Haskins kicked him some more as Havoc tried to direct those kicks to the nose, just like those Saturday morning kids TV shows! Bate finally caught one and tried for the bop/bang punch, only to get levelled with a kick and a variation of the Emerald Fusion for a near-fall! Haskins keeps up the offence until he’s met with a running uppercut from Bate, then a delayed Exploder and a rolling kick for a near-fall as Havoc audibly grimaced.
A Backdrop Hold sees Bate go all Yuji Nagata on us for another near-fall, before he tried some Kawada-esque kicks. They rebound back and forth as Haskins ended with a death valley driver, then a superkick for a pair of near-falls. Haskins misses a double stomp, but manages to catch the Star Armbar for a spell, only for Bate to escape and give Mark an airplane spin.
Haskins rolls through the spin though and into a Sharpshooter… only for Pete Dunne to come down and pull out the referee. Havoc ditches commentary to chase away Dunne, but everyone’s left distracted as Trent Seven slips in through the crowd to dump Haskins with a Dragon suplex and a spinning piledriver, allowing Tyler to take the easy pin. This match told a good story, but was perhaps tempered a bit on the VOD due to the commentary being distracting in the early going. Still, at least the Havoc stuff panned out into something that made sense by the end of the match, with the run-ins leading to a cheeky look of disgust/confusion by Tyler Bate at the end, perhaps sewing something for down the line. Tyler doesn’t want no help! ***¾
Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter-Final: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Jack Sexsmith
Something was up here from the off, when Jack came out looking less than perky, before rolling into the ring and unzipping his jacket to reveal his left arm in a sling. During the intros, Jack gave a speech as if he were to forfeit, after he tore his bicep against Zack Gibson… but he refused to withdraw, and so we had a one-armed man in an arse-kicking contest.
That left Zack in a tough spot, and he almost got caught as Jack poked him in the eyes for a near-fall, before slipping as he climbed the ropes. This was tough to watch, even more so when Zack started leathering Jack with kicks to anywhere but the arm.
Rather unwisely, Jack removed the sling, but it did little good, aside from allowing him to slap Sabre a few times, but with two working arms, Zack was able to return fire with ease, before rolling Jack over into a single leg crab for the submission. They did what they could… but hey, it meant that we saw more of what we already knew: that Jack’s got a lot of heart and he’ll never stay down! It’s a shame really, given the role that Sabre played in Jack’s career (it was his match with Sebastian, of all people, that prompted Jack to get back into wrestling).
Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter-Final: Jeff Cobb vs. Matt Riddle
Well, as a “best case scenario” from the first round’s results, this was special! After the deflating-yet-inspirational match we just saw, this was just insane. Two men who excelled at throwing people around, doing what they do best: using each other as the human equivalent of caber tossing!
The Ballroom was split 50-50 as Cobb ducked a running knee – Riddle was going longer than six seconds this time! Some crisp, fluid grappling led to a stand-off, before Riddle tried to end things with a submission as he climbed around Cobb like a spider monkey. When that didn’t work, they just started slapping lumps out of each other, with Riddle edging ahead there as he started to pick up some near-falls.
A rolling series of deadlift gutwrenches on Cobb left the crowd dumbstruck, but Cobb reversed it and threw Riddle around like he were nothing before HIS gutwrench. Strong man be very strong! More of the same came when Cobb caught a kick and turned it into a release capture suplex as he then went to some headbutts to keep things fresh… before he tried to give Riddle a German suplex.
Someday people will learn… you can’t German Riddle! Matt returned fire with a pop-up forearm, then a Bro to Sleep and a German of his own for a near-fall, before his attempt at a running knee is turned into an Athletic-plex as Cobb got straight back in it. Bloody Nora! Just like that though, Cobb tried for a diving uppercut, but was caught in a Bromission… only to stand up out of it and drop Riddle with his own tombstone!
They went back to leathering each other, before Riddle landed a tombstone slam… for a one count?! A Fisherman’s buster gets a two-count, as did a second, which made Riddle snap like a disbelieving child! Back inside, Riddle kept up at it with back sentons, before clubbing away at Cobb with right hands. The insanity returned with gusto as Cobb blocked a back senton and… threw in a Destroyer?! A pop-up German followed for a near-fall, before Riddle escaped a Tour of the Islands and landed that knee strike to bring a thrilling contest to an end. Yep, on a re-watch I can confidently say that’s the best match I’ve seen live – two big man throwing each other around and at themselves. Simply the best! *****
During the interval, the live crowd were given oranges – since it was “half time” on this insane weekend. VOD viewers – buy an orange, a knife, and cut it yourself. Adult supervision may be required, regardless of your age!
For the remainder of the show, RJ Singh and Glen Joseph took over on commentary…
Super Strong Style 16 – Quarter-Final: Flamita vs. Travis Banks
On paper, this was an interesting clash of styles, and another match that could have been a nightmare given the language barriers. Thankfully, these guys are both so good that it didn’t become an issue.
Travis Banks visibly corpsed at the start when the crowd chanted “Whoah here he comes, he’s a Flamita”. Like he did against Andrews, Flamita started out slowly with some grappling, before deciding to up the pace when Banks threw him into the ropes, and it’s one of those outings that’s back-and-forth with neither man able to maintain offence for long periods.
Case in point: Banks landing a back cracker out of the corner after kicking Flamita’s springboard attempt away, with a resulting cannonball getting a near-fall for the Kiwi… only for Flamita to demand that Banks kicked him as hard as he could, which led to Flamita returning the favour with some interest. Flamita then gets a 619 at the second go, before throwing in a shotgun missile dropkick as he went airborne again with a top rope moonsault to the floor.
That sparked Travis’ high-velocity topes as the match continued to swing like their legs as they threw kicks back and forth. Flamita came close with the Muscle Buster Lungblower, but his missed 450 leads to Banks landing a Fisherman’s drive for a near-fall… and they got closer and closer with a standing shooting star nearly getting it for the Mexican, who then countered another Banks clothesline into the Flam Fly, but Banks cradled that after the impact to get another two-count!
Flamita hits back with the Angel’s Wings/Backcracker before going up for a frog splash, then a 450, but he misses and lands into a Gargano Escape as Banks forced the submission! A cracking quarter-final that ebbed and flowed fantastically – forever leaving the result in question until one missed dive finally cost the luchador. ***¾
So, that leaves us with Banks/Sabre and Riddle/Bate in the semi-finals on day three – there’s no way either of those semis can disappoint!
Pastor William Eaver & David Starr vs. Pete Dunne & Trent Seven
Let’s get the stuff from the entrances out of the way… the Pastor debuted a new superpower in his entrance – the Holy Ghost! Let’s see if the power to knock people flying translates in the ring… Eaver also had a new nickname to go along with David Starr’s laundry list, although “The Product” vehemently disagreed with “The King of the Jews”. Oh boy!
Meanwhile, Trent Seven was greeted with unanimous chants of “six” – and a sea of signs with “6” on them like it were a cricket match. Heck, even Jim Smallman “accidentally” announced him as Trent Six. I think there’s a new meme that’s already been worn into the ground… Pete Dunne managed to find a way to hold the PROGRESS and WWE UK title belts in his mouth, before going maybe 10% Naito with the PROGRESS strap.
Speaking of memes, the crowd rattled through a load of six-related chants, such as “Trent Six” (to Kurt Angle’s theme), “He’s just a six-y boy” (to Shawn Michael’s old theme), before everyone seemed to play fetch with Trent’s towel.
We nearly had a repeat of night one when David Starr waffled Trent with a rolling elbow at the bell, but this time Pete Dunne made the save as Trent became dead weight. At least until he was doused with water on the outside! This was another one where the crowd’s chants over-rode the match, but to be fair it was pretty basic in the opening stretches as Jesus Christ/David Starr just hit a series of axehandles onto Trent’s arm.
For some reason the commentary wasn’t there for this match, whilst Pete Dunne just watched from the floor in disgust. Even more so when Trent’s attempt to channel “the power of Triple H” was almost turned into him praying, before Dunne just came in and threw a forearm to get things righted. From there, the Pastor gets worn down with strike after strike after strike, before finally getting the hot tag in to David Starr.
Starr levels Seven with a Product Recall before throwing himself at both opponents with a series of topes. Yes, he tried to do six, but only did five before the Pastor’s plancha completed the set! More strikes lead to Starr and Eaver setting up for the “Jerusalem Destroyer” – a convoluted way of having Trent accidentally take a Destroyer from Dunne. There’s more seeds sown for the future as Trent tagged himself in for the finish, blasting Starr with a spinning backfist, then a spinning piledriver as the British Strong Style tandem took home the win. Decent enough, but this was just a backdrop for a lot of comedy – and a way to get the bulk of the crowd’s “six” chants out of their system. ***
On the way to the back, we saw Jimmy Havoc on the (silenced) commentary table – as the camera cut away from him going after Trent with a chair. That was… odd? One for the “plans change” folder, perhaps?
Glen Joseph came out before the main event, with the crowd singing “Buddy Holly” at him as usual, to bring out the new PROGRESS women’s title belt. It looked amazing, and was for all intents and purposes, a shrunken version of the main World title. Marc Parry was also the referee here, keeping a trend going as he’d refereed the first women’s match on a chapter show… and almost cost himself the gig as he nearly fumbled the belt!
Natural PROGRESSion Series Final – PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Jinny vs. Toni Storm vs. Laura Di Matteo
This tournament started 11 chapters ago, back when Jinny beat Pollyanna at “When Men Throw Men At Men” in October, and ended up here, with first time the women of PROGRESS main-evented a chapter show.
With so much on the line, all three of these women left nothing in their proverbial lockers – and I now feel bad about seguing that into any kind of remark about Jinny’s fancy facemask, or Toni Storm’s PROGRESS-logo’d kneepad. Presumably from the same gear-maker as Spud? In contrast, Laura came out in her golden ring gear, with another new song as Hot Tag Media gets another line item for their invoice!
On paper, we had a lot going on: Jinny vs. Laura is a feud that’s still smouldering, despite being somewhat on hold for the tournament, whilst Jinny and Toni have had several matches against each other in the past two months, with Jinny picking up singles wins at PROGRESS Orlando and at Rev Pro, whilst Toni got some victories on the WrestleMania Axxess shows and at Lucha Forever just three days prior.
Watching live, this was engrossing and also tough to watch, as all three threw themselves at each other, opening with a bunch of near-falls before Jinny and Laura squared off with a series of punches as the action started out fast and furious. When things slowed down, Jinny went under the ring and tried to suffocate Laura with a M&S bag, before Toni grabbed a Tesco bag to do the same to Jinny as we resumed action with a bunch of hip attacks from Storm.
Laura rolled to the outside for cover, which left Jinny in position to take a tope that Storm barely connected with… Laura capitalises with a flip dive of her own off the top rope, but it barely affects Jinny, who’s able to march Laura into the front row, but the Italian sidesteps a dive as Jinny sent herself into the fifth row.
Toni recovers to try the same with Laura on the other side, but again Di Matteo moves as Toni dropkicked herself back several rows. Cue chants of “that sounds awesome” and “yes it was” as only pockets of the crowd could see this, before Laura took it back to the ring against Jinny. Storm somehow recovers to drop Laura with a death valley driver onto Jinny, as she then went airborne with a top rope legdrop for a near-fall.
Jinny nearly kills Storm with a Makeover (X-Factor out of the corner), with only Laura making the save as the three-way action continued once again. A double Rainmaker from Jinny leaves everyone down, allowing her to go outside for the belt, which she smashes on Laura… only for Storm to hit back with a piledriver for a near-fall as the Aussie tried to capitalise.
All three women ended up fighting towards the entry way, trading wicked forearms before Jinny used a clipboard for… reasons. Laura returned the favour before another Storm piledriver left Jinny laying, meaning that when Storm and Laura headed back to the ring, it looked to be elementary as Laura locked in a grounded Octopus hold, only for Toni to power up into an Air Raid Crash!
Returning to the ring, Jinny grabbed one of her bracelets and clocked Toni with it as the Aussie leapt at her… another shot went Laura’s way, before another Storm piledriver led us to some near-falls before Storm headbutted away a Rainmaker, then landed one last piledriver for the win! Toni Storm becomes the first ever PROGRESS women’s champion, as a thrilling main event came to a suitable conclusion! ***¾
After two days of Super Strong Style 16 weekend, we had perhaps the strongest (sorry!) card of the year so far from PROGRESS, with a match that some would describe as a “Slobberknocker” in Riddle/Cobb, and a set of quarter-finals that would have been match of the night on almost any other card. Coupled in with a ridiculously hot crowd throughout, and to borrow a baseball analogy, this was a strike that was well on its way to sailing out of the park for a home run.
The only sour point came with the injury that forced Jack Sexsmith out of the tournament – and whilst injuries are part and parcel of wrestling, it has to be said that the guys involved did the best they could with the hand they were dealt. So… who’s up for day three?