Super Strong Style 17 came to a close with a show that summed up the weekend in one card: hot action, fun memories, and a happy ending for all!
As with day two, we have a recap video of the quarter-finals, before seguing into Jim Smallman whose entrance caption declares him “Legally Dead”. Unfortunately the VOD doesn’t show him parading Baby Claudio around the Ballroom, which is for the best, all considered… we do get the plea for the crowd to sign the “brackets on a bedsheet” that was eventually given to Adam, Lilly and Lauren (the PROGRESS fans who were caught in the Manchester attack earlier in the week).
After more spot-picking of fans who missed day two (including a handful who went to another football match, and some more from Comic-Con), it’s straight into the action as we open with… the Wasteman Challenge! We’ve a revolving cast of commentators today, with RJ Singh, Glen Joseph, Callum Leslie and Matt Richards working in various tandems throughout the show.
2017 Wasteman Challenge Hangover: Roy Johnson vs. David Starr vs. Pastor William Eaver vs. Flamita vs. Flash Morgan Webster vs. Mark Andrews vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Jack Sexsmith
The Wasteman Challenge started with the Bodyguy coming out, only to be greeted by chants of “Oh Jeremy Corbyn”. That would have been THE coup of the year. Instead, we were greeted with a conveyor belt of familiar faces: David Starr, Pastor William Eaver, Flash Morgan Webster, Mark Andrews and… Flamita?! Hey, we had six people out there, which the fans quickly spotted, and then cycled through their chants for everyone.
The highlights here were David Starr somehow fluffing the lines to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Mark Andrews giving Roy a first degree burn by declaring that “Triple H never called you back”, and Flamita stunning everyone by singing “La Macarena”. Yeah, I’m cheating by putting Jimmy in the line-up, since his sole involvement was to say “I’m better than this” and whacking everyone with chairs…
That was the cue for another seventh man to come out, as Jack Sexsmith – still in a sling – tried to steal some pins before doing a runner to the commentary table to save him from any further damage… but not before an accidental reunion of the so-called “Shirtlifters” team. Once the match actually got going, it was typical multi-man scramble fare, with guys hitting “their moves” – this was pretty much an elongated “parade of moves”, at least until “Jesus Christ, David Starr” faced off.
Starr’s attempt at a sucker punch was stopped by the Holy Ghost, as was the Bodyguy’s, before the Pastor fell for a hand’s up headbutt. Andrews and Flamita few, with Flamita’s top rope tornillo sending everyone to the floor, before everyone returned to the ring and got caught in a Human Caterpillar of Dragon Sleepers… which Starr shoved down into a chain of reverse DDTs. That left Starr with five people to “look at it”, with a surprise sixth running down from the announce table.
Yes, Jack Sexsmith wanted a closer look… and even took a nibble of the Jewish Cannon! Ah, what is life?!
After normal service resumed, Webster was helped to give Andrews the Jerusalem Destroyer, before Johnson hit the “Wavy-Tonic”. What the hell?! In the end, Flamita hit back on Johnson with a 619 and a dropkick, before taking a reverse ‘rana from Webster, who then followed up with a Pinball Wizard flip dive into crowd.
That left Flash and Flamita, the latter avoided an Eton Rifle before landing the Angel’s Wings backbreaker. Andrews comes back for a muscle buster lungblower, before David Starr ate a Flam Fly! A hell of an opening match – a great way to blow away any proverbial hangovers with an easy-to-watch blend of comedy and graps. ***
Super Strong Style 16 – Semi-Final: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Travis Banks
It’s fair to say that expectations were through the roof for this one, on the back of their two matches in Fight Club: Pro.
Of course, they lay into each other from the off, swinging with forearms and bicycle kicks as if they were looking to close this out early. When strikes didn’t work, Sabre just looked to contort Banks with submission attempts, before Banks hit back with a leaping lariat out of the corner. That didn’t deter Zack, who kept climbing around the Kiwi, who countered a guillotine into a brainbuster as they went back to blistering each other with chops.
Sabre avoids a lariat and turned it into an armbar only for Banks to get free and start delivering a litany of PKs. Zack catches one and pulls Banks down for another stiff PK, then a Liger bomb for a near-fall, before we went back to the paintbrushing slaps. The Slice of Heaven kick connects, but a second one’s caught and turned into a triangle armbar that Banks slipped out of before doing the Bryan Danielson stomps… with another Slice of Heaven getting the job done! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but this match felt like it was lacking something compared to the Fight Club: Pro outings. Perhaps it was the curse of tournament matches, particularly on a day like today where double duty was involved… this was as good a match as you’d expect here; feeling like a hard hitting fight (like it should), but I’d take either of the Fight Club: Pro outings over this. ****
Super Strong Style 16 – Semi-Final: Tyler Bate vs. Matt Riddle
Well, this was a weird one – Bate, who was still getting the “where’s your belt?” jibes opted to match Riddle in as many areas as he could. Since he couldn’t really turn back time to 2008 and be part of The Ultimate Fighter – when he’d have been 11 – Tyler just opted to wrestle barefoot instead.
Unlike his stablemate, Tyler didn’t get KO’d in six seconds, with Tyler circling Riddle to prevent any such repeat as we had a much more measured contest, with Bate trying to out-wrestle Riddle in the opening stages. He actually had some success, at least until Riddle grabbed an arm and forced Bate to stretch for that bottom rope. What came next wasn’t exactly respite as Bate got rocked with a forearm to the head, before Riddle chased him with palm strikes and yet more forearms.
It becomes childplay for Riddle who gutwrenches Bate with ease, rolling those suplexes together as if he’d learned a trick from Jeff Cobb, but Bate was able to withstand those and try and get a Fujiwara armbar on Riddle. Instead, Bate just stomps on the arm as he just shrugged off the endless barrage of taunts about his feet.
Riddle egged on Bate as he launched in with kicks, before Tyler just stomped on the foot as Riddle was preparing for a kick to the chest. He was quickly shown how it was done, before countering a diving uppercut into a rear naked choke in a bid to force Bate to quit. Somehow, Tyler countered out into a Tombstone which is reversed, and back into a Gotch-style tombstone from Bate… but somehow Riddle kicked out!
They go back to the strikes, with Riddle snapping in before Tyler learns… you can’t ever German Riddle! He lands two, but both times Matt just snaps straight back up, before flipping out of a third… Riddle then nails a Bro To Sleep and a bridging German for a near-fall of his own. Yet more strikes end with an overhead kick from Riddle, who then hits a Fisherman’s buster for a two-count, then rolls it into another tombstone slam for yet another two-count!
In the end though, Tyler bests the next strike exchange, only for Riddle to escape the Tyler Driver and smash Bate with a knee for another near-fall, before Tyler rebounded with a pair of Tyler Drivers to book his spot in the final alongside Travis Banks. Well… that was something! It’s genuinely scary to see how good Tyler Bate is at the age of 20, and Matt Riddle for his limited time in wrestling. These two put on a clinic, and on any other weekend, would have stolen the show. By the end though, this wasn’t even Tyler’s best match of the night! ****¼
Toni Storm came out to provide guest commentary for the next match – which’d sort out the first challenger for her newly-won title.
Katey Harvey vs. Kay Lee Ray
After her debut in November was somewhat overshadowed by the crowd’s insistence on pointing out that her gear looked like the Winter Soldier, Katey came out here in an outfit that looked like a mash-up of Wonder Woman and Xena: Warrior Princess. Oh dear. Well, you did cut a promo based around the crowd’s treatment of you…
Despite going out in the first round of the Natural PROGRESSion Series, she’s somehow found her way into this match… and thank God, Kay Lee’s able to keep her banger of a theme. Unfortunately, this match slotted right in with day two’s tag match as one where the crowd’s insistence on shoe-horning chants in to take shots at Harvey’s gear. It’s also bizarre that the defined heel in this match is introduced as “the Feminist Icon”. That’s something to boo?
They both start by trying to cheapshot each other at a handshake, before teasing each other’s finishers and settling to just leather each other instead. A clothesline from Harvey sent Ray over the top to the outside, but the Scotswoman hit back with a forearm then a Drive-By dropkick as Kay Lee went all Roman Reigns! Harvey enjoyed a spell of pressure with a fallaway slam for a near-fall, before stomping on Kay Lee’s arm, only for the Scotswoman to hit back with a rolling forearm.
A Koji clutch looks to force a submission out of Harvey, but she rolled forward into a pin to force Kay Lee to kick out. Somewhere in here, we got ironic “Let’s go Xena/Xena sucks” chants as the match entered a lull with the crowd, before Harvey unveiled her “one sleeve”, which gave Kay Lee enough time to get up and drill her with a superkick for a near-fall.
The Kay Lee comeback kicked in from there, with a top rope senton bomb getting a two count, only for it to segue into a Koji clutch from the kick-out as Harvey again edged for the ropes. A Billy Goat’s Curse followed as Harvey instead went for a curb stomp, but Ray again kicked out, before catching Katey with a trapped-leg Gory bomb for the win! A decent enough match, feeling like a “come down” rather than anything to send you buzzing into the interval – you could argue that, for better or worse, Harvey wasn’t taken seriously by the crowd as a threat, but she’s definitely someone I’d like to see built up… without the costume silliness! ***
After the match, of course we had the face-off between Storm and Ray… Storm held her belt aloft, only for Ray to heel herself by slapping the champion, and those two will be fighting at Chapter 50 at the end of the month.
I’ve seen those dates twice, but it’s bloody insane that PROGRESS are running six shows in as many weeks across three countries…
Submissions Match: Trent Seven vs. Mark Haskins
This was set-up by a challenge from Haskins that (thankfully) didn’t make it to the VOD – one that was really sweary and ended with him calling Trent a “pussy, bitch”. That particular part was latched onto by sections of the crowd, albeit not for too long as people with sense quickly shot it down. You could question why that was ever released to the public, but eh…
The crowd continued to rail on Trent with the six-based chants, including “don’t be a six” (your milage may vary…) which he addressed by claiming that the trauma from night one had left him “with borderline depression”. Deadpan comic Trent is quite entertaining, it has to be said.
Haskins levelled Trent with a roundhouse kick at the bell, then pulled Trent into a triangle choke as the crowd counted down… only for Seven to flip them off once they reached the number six. Smooth! Jimmy Havoc returns to the commentary table, but he doesn’t speak as he opts to watch on from the stage as Seven catches Haskins in a cloverleaf.
After exhausting perhaps his only submission hold, Seven gets levelled with kicks, before Haskins went straight for the Star Armbar on Trent’s taped wing. He escaped to the floor, only to take some chops… then give some of his own. Yeah, Trent hit the ring post again, with a satisfying clang and a heavy wince as he tried to sneak into the crowd for a breather. That didn’t work, but his pump kick to an on-rushing Haskins did.
Trent trolled us with a running chinlock, before Haskins went for the taped-up arm once more. They headed up to the stage, where Haskins asked for – and got – a chair from Jimmy Havoc, but he swung and missed as Trent waffled Jimmy instead. Haskins gets the chair as well, before he’s dragged back to the ring as the crowd warned Trent that “Jimmy’s gonna kill you”. And that he did, coming down to the ring with a chair in hand, but Havoc accidentally blasted Haskins before taking a Rainmaker.
With Haskins out cold, Trent applied a Sharpshooter, forcing the ref to wave off the match in lieu of a submission. Before Trent could celebrate too much, Havoc wiped him out with a chair, furthering the storyline that had made this match pretty much a background piece. It was still fun though, but perhaps klaxons should have been sounded when we saw Trent in a submissions match! ***
PROGRESS World Championship: Jeff Cobb vs. Pete Dunne (c)
Dunne leapt into Cobb during the introductions, but by the time the bell went he’d recovered enough to just throw Peter around like he was nothing!
Despite that, Dunne tried to out-Cobb Cobb, throwing him with a back suplex for a near-fall before going through his array of short-cuts… eye hooking, joint manipulation, the works. Cobb showed he could easily snap back into things though, catching a kick and turning it into an Exploder suplex, whilst also showing how handy he was with his hands, clocking Dunne ahead of a deadlift, delayed one-handed superplex.
Newsflash: Jeff Cobb is freaky strong.
Cobb’s standing flips see him sort-of land in a triangle choke, but he can easily powerbomb free and throw the shooting star headbutt for a near-fall. Somehow Dunne hits his X-plex for a near-fall, but his attempt at a German suplex sees Cobb go all Riddle, flipping out of it before they trade clotheslines until death!
Dunne tries to cheapshot Cobb after pulling Chris Roberts in the way, but that backfires massively as Cobb hit the Slamfest (moonsault fallaway slam), forcing Dunne to grab the ropes to save his title. An attempted Tour of the Islands is turned into a DDT as Dunne managed to land a Pedigree, before countering another Tour of the Islands into a small package.
In the end, Dunne German suplexes Cobb into the corner before landing a Bitter End – and that’s enough to end a frantic sprint of a match that was entertaining as hell to watch. I always love watching big men throw other men around like they were nothing – and Pete Dunne was able to match the Hawaiian and then some here! ****
Super Strong Style 16 – Final: Travis Banks vs. Tyler Bate
You know what the sign of a good final is? When the crowd are baying for both men before they even come close to locking up! It also helps that save for expected cheating, we’ve not had any massive shenanigans directly affecting the finalists – it’s not like Tyler had a British Strong Style-induced squash or a forfeiture on his path to the finals.
By the time the bell rang, we had half an hour left on the VOD… and Banks tried to end it quickly when he grabbed Bate’s bop/bang punch and looked for an armbar, forcing Tyler to scramble to the ropes. Banks looked to be a step ahead of Bate, taking him down by the leg before grounding the former WWE UK champ with a headlock as the two flowed between attack and defence almost seamlessly.
The ebb and flow continued as they traded kicks to the back, before Bate suckered Banks in for a running kick… just so he could pop up and hit him with the bop/bang punch. That just angers the Kiwi Buzzsaw, who kicked away Bate in the corner as he blasted him with a backcracker out of the corner, then a cannonball for a near-fall. Next up… an attempted dive as Bate gets cut-off, as does Banks, before catching a missed swandive headbutt and tying up Tyler in a Gargano Escape… albeit briefly.
Bate escapes and goes high-speed with an airplane spin to make Travis go red-faced, but the Kiwi’s able to play his part in an endless series of rebound kicks, at least until Tyler does the shoulder rebound off the top rope into a lariat to leave both men laying. Tyler looked to be edging ahead with a series of uppercuts, before sidestepping a diving clothesline from Travis as Joel Allen was wiped out…
In the meantime, Banks hit the Fisherman driver for a near-fall as Marc Parry raced to the ring, but he didn’t last too long as an errant Slice of Heaven bloodied Paz and sent him to the outside. A second Slice of Heaven takes down Tyler, but by the time Joel recovered Pete Dunne and Trent Seven came down to wipe out Joel and start beating down Banks… until… #CCK
Yup, the Electric Ballroom exploded as Chris Brookes and Kid Lykos hit the ring – Brookes with a slingshot cutter to Trent, and Lykos with a moonsaulting 720 DDT from outside to the inside of the ring on Dunne. Yes. I can’t believe that, and I’ve seen that live and on tape now.
Two more dives get rid of Peter and Trent as Travis completed the set with a senton off the top rope to the pile as ringside became a mass of humanity! And then Banks rushes back into a low blow from Bate as a Bitter End looked to be the end, only for Banks to kick out at two once Chris Roberts made it into the ring!
From there, the pair trade an indyriffic pinning series for a bunch of trolling one-counts for Roberts to count, as a Kiwi roll just served to dizzy up Bate for an eventual near-fall. A Slice of Heaven’s followed up as Bate rebounded out of habit with a Koppo kick, before Bate decided to go flying, almost overshooting Travis and landing in the front row. By now I was getting thankful I wasn’t in the middle of the front row as Banks just went back into the ring for a tope, sending Tyler deeper into the crowd.
Things take a serious turn as Bate caught a low-pe and turned it into a Gotch tombstone on the floor… but Travis arose and turned into a zombie, batting away chairs before booting one into Tyler! A double stomp to Bate follows after he’s crotched in the ring post, leaving him prone for a Coast to Coast dropkick, and now we’re back to the strikes!
Another Gotch tombstone spikes Banks, as Tyler heads up top for a Spiral Tap! Near-fall! That just riles Robo-Banks some more though, but another Slice of Heaven’s cut-off with a superkick before a Tyler Driver ‘97 gets only a two-count as Banks somehow kicked out! Tyler then tries for a Super Tyler Driver, but Banks escapes and lands a Fisherman’s Driver off the top rope… but Tyler too kicked out! And into the Gargano Escape as Travis Banks finally sealed the tournament win! Such joy! Such delirium! Travis Banks, the early tournament favourite, went all the way and booked himself a PROGRESS title shot at a time of his choosing! ****¾
A magnificent way to end Super Strong Style 16 – a tournament whose winner may have been predictable, but it just goes to prove that predictable doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Building Banks like they did paid off magnificently with the crowd buying into every match – and the eventual roar when Travis announced his intentions to cash in his title shot in September at PROGRESS’ Alexander Palace show.
Tournament wrestling is becoming quite the thing in 2017, but so far the three major weekender events – 16 Carat, Dream Tag Team Invitational and now Super Strong Style 16 – have all massively delivered. Hot crowds, great in-ring action, and plenty of happy memories as well with fans from around the world uniting in a small part of Camden… this is what wrestling is at its best. Same again next year then?