We’re back to Alexandra Palace – but don’t worry, you’re not having to go up that hill – as the first night of this year’s Super Strong Style 16 got underway.

Let’s get the elephant out of the room early: PROGRESS went back to using “real” music (or shall we say, more recognised songs) at this show… and God almighty, they were left in unedited! PROGRESS also debuted a new ring. After the usual show opening from Jim Smallman, shouting out fans who’d come from around the world, while we have Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie on commentary here.

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Doug Williams vs. Pete Dunne
Dunne busted out a new mask for this show, and in truth this ought to be a simple result for him given the career trajectories the pair are currently on.

They keep it measured early on, with Dunne going for holds in the opening stages, but it just gives Doug Williams chances to escape as he tried to target Dunne’s arms and legs, splashing Dunne’s left arm, before a diving elbow out of the corner barely gets Doug a one-count.

That seemed to wake up Dunne, as he rolled up Williams… but they’re too close to the ropes. Williams kicks the rope into Dunne’s groin as he mounted a comeback, before nailing an overhead belly-to-belly as he countered Dunne’s leap off the top. Dunne counters with a forearm when Doug tried to go airborne, before missing a stomp off the top as the back-and-forth nature of the contest continued… right until Dunne started to have a snack.

An Exploder from Doug gets him back in it, as he manages to nail the Bomb Scare knee drop for a solid two-count. The Chaos Theory is next, as Doug nailed it… but Dunne’s too close to the rope and he’s able to splay a leg onto the bottom strand to save the match. Williams tries it again as Dunne went for an X-Plex, but it’s turned into a roll-up, and Peter picks up the win! A fantastic opener, playing more to Williams’ strengths than Dunne’s, but that just shows his versatility. ***½

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Chuck Mambo vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Mambo’s appearance in this tournament was an odd one going in, but the sea of beach balls that greeted him just showed the love that PROGRESS fans have for him. Cue everyone searching for “Gnarly “by Showboy…

On paper, this was another match that threatened to be massively one-sided, especially with Sabre going straight for Mambo’s arm as Chuck’s only chance was to avoid the submissions. Chuck manages a little bit, rebounding off the ropes to give him a chance, before kicking Sabre down to the floor as Chuck followed up with a nice Parkour-like leap onto the apron for a stomp to Sabre’s back, as the Mambo Number Dive wiped out Zack on the floor.

It was a nice flurry of offence, but Sabre started to get riled up when Mambo went for a surfboard, as he counters it with a wristlock… nice! Then angry Sabre gets unleashed as he kicks away on Mambo, before pulling at Mambo with a modified STF, seemingly busting Chuck’s nose in the process. An eye rake stops Mambo’s intentions of a bulldog as we’re getting glimpses of sadistic Sabre here, as he climbs around Chuck into his usual litany of submissions until Mambo got to the ropes, dazed and probably sore. Out of desperation, Mambo gets a tiltawhirl backbreaker in, then a Blockbuster and the Reef Break springboard knees… and even the Chuck You neckbreaker slam… but it’s not enough.

That flurry was enough for Sabre though, as a trapped-arm Dragon screw and a PK rocked Mambo… but he wanted more! Another PK gets a near-fall on Mambo, who replied with a half-nelson suplex and a Gory bomb, as the unlikely win came closer… until his frog splash landed on Sabre’s knees, and it was pretty elementary from there, despite the kick-out, and Mambo’s renewed fire as he exchanged palm strikes… but the bridging roll-up was the last straw as Zack kicks out and brutally bent Mambo back on himself in a Dragon sleeper for the win. An expected result, but Mambo’s performance here has him a made man in PROGRESS if they captialise on it. ***½

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: TK Cooper vs. David Starr
Here’s where the return of the “recognised music” hit, as David Starr – for the first time, used Joan Jett in PROGRESS, while the cameraman decided to go all Kevin Dunn with wacky zooms on TK Cooper’s entrance.

TK jumped Starr during the List o’ Nicknames, landing a diving enziguiri before Jim could get anywhere close to the “really good at Twitter” part. Starr quickly responds with body blows, before taking TK down with a dropkick to the floor, as commentary mentioned that David Starr’s tournament records, CZW’s Best of the Best aside, has always seen him come up short.

Starr refuses to play the Circle Game and punches out TK instead, before he got sent into the ropes for a rebound neckbreaker as he enjoyed a spell of offence on Starr, dropping elbows and forearms as the Product tried to fire back. A back elbow and a clothesline helps Starr into a comeback, landing the Pretty Pumped for a near-fall, before a German suplex out of the corner somehow sparked TK into a response of his own, nailing an axe kick for a near-fall.

Cooper almost charged into a Cherry Mint DDT, but instead gets clotheslined to the outside as a Product Recall gets Starr a near-fall. TK comes back with a palm strike as he looked or a Spanish Fly… but Starr shoves it off and gets a crossbody for a near-fall. Another axe kick misses as Starr responds with the Han Stansen lariat, before taking TK into the corner for a Violence Party. TK tries to pull the hair as he followed in with a forearm off the apron, ahead of a 450 splash, which hit the mark for another near-fall.

Starr has to escape the Rihanna twice, and ends up countering it into a Blackheart Buster, dumping TK head-first across his knee for the win. Good God, that looked like a nasty landing. A solid match, but the crowd didn’t seem too invested in this, with neither man realistically being considered as even a semi-finalist. ***¼

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Mark Andrews vs. Angelico
Yes, Angelico got Bangarang! This was a weird one… a lot of the wrestling world perhaps first heard about Angelico when he jumped off of high stuff in Lucha Underground. Problem is, just about everywhere else he’s been… he’s not done as much flying as you’d expect. So take a match that people expected to be flippy, but wasn’t, and the looming shadow of Eddie Dennis, and you had a contest that a lot of folks seemed to struggle to get invested in.

Even though there’s been little physicality, the crowd figured that things wouldn’t really progress (sorry) until Eddie arrived, so we had a rather muted reaction as they worked an initially ground-based match. Eddie appeared early, doing the Batista wave, as he apparently was super late to his front row seat, pint in hand and happy to take selfies with anyone who wanted them. That distraction allowed Angelico to take over, sending Andrews chest-first into the turnbuckles, before a back suplex earned a near-fall. The match slowly descended into chops, with Andrews being left reeling… but he’s back with a satellite headscissors as Eddie’s presence continued to cause issues as the crowd slowly started to turn on Andrews as he again turned his attention to Eddie.

More strikes from Angelico ended with a Capoeira-like kick from the ground for a near-fall, before Andrews escaped the Fall of the Angels powerbomb to spark some pinning attempts. A double stomp from Angelico out of a sunset flip attempt left the Welshman rocked, but he’s still able to escape another Fall of the Angels, only to get knocked onto the apron as he went for a springboard.

Angelico’s able to block a top rope ‘rana, but Andrews hits it anyway after they landed on the mat, getting a near-fall with the West Coast Pop-like ‘rana, but yet again, Easily Distracted Mark is back in play, as he turns around into a knee before landing Stundog Millionaire. Eddie gets up to take a shot, causing Mark to get easily distracted yet again, as he misses a shooting star press before Fall of the Angels put him away for the win. This was fine, but there were issues… I like the Eddie Dennis storyline, but it’s gotten to the point where it’s overshadowing Andrews’ matches – not helped by Eddie not being able to compete. ***

Why would you go to a show and complain about spoilers. About things you’ve just seen?!

They play a trailer for the new season of Freedom’s Road, featuring David Francisco in his gear, Damon Moser and Spike Trivet seemingly trying to fight off the Rat People. “It’s not about wrestling anymore,” posited Spike… we’ll see whether this is all new stuff in the vein of the German Wrestling Federation’s Three Count series, or a soap opera with the matches they taped a year ago.

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Jordan Devlin vs. Tyler Bate
In the theme music stakes, Devlin – who got a huge cheer from the Irish contingent (one of whom had their flag backwards, so today the Import Killer wasn’t the Killer Import… he was the Tropmi Rellik!) – had his WWE UK theme, while Tyler…

…was a Sledgehammer.

Tyler started by doing the sumo wrestling stomps as we had a rather tense staredown as there was louder-than-expected duelling chants. They broke into some rather fast-paced stuff as Bate and Devlin burst into those indy’riffic pinning attempts, before a Tyler Driver was escaped as Devlin scurried into the corner.

A back elbow from Devlin cuts off Tyler’s offence though as the “Massive Head” chants reared themselves. But Devlin shrugged them off as he wore down on Bate’s arm, but Tyler’s back with a knee to the back of the head, then a standing shooting star press for a near-fall. We’re back to the indy’riffic pins as Devlin counters a rebound lariat into a Dragon suplex, following in with a slingshot cutter from the apron as the Irishman picked up a near-fall.

Devlin tries more kicks, but Bate leans into them before decking Devlin with a punch as Bate nearly eked out the win. Tyler heads up top next, but Devlin shoves referee Paz into the ropes, crotching Bate in the process before looking for a Spanish Fly… and getting it off the top! That’s enough for a near-fall, as Devlin countered a Tyler Driver with a knee, before falling to it eventually as Bate earned his win. A fantastic match, and one that finally shed Devlin of the “LOL he’s big head Balor” tag that some held. With any luck, that’ll grow into more returns in PROGRESS after this weekend… ***¾

Ahead of the next match, the gimmick was that the Grizzled Young Veterans were in the tournament… but they had to pick which one. Joey Janela, out to his usual theme, didn’t mind, and while some were perhaps predicting the appearance of the Invisible Man, we instead had a long Zack Gibson promo, with someone beaning him in the face with a streamer. Nice aim.

Yeah, he was crowing about Liverpool getting to the Champion’s League final, and it goes on for so long that Joey Janela decided to take them on, on his own. The bell’s not gone, so this is just a long spot of brawling around ringside, whipping Janela into the newly-made PROGRESS ring steps, but that just fired up Joey into a comeback, taking Drake up towards the stage as piledriver was teased… but instead Drake just gets thrown down to the floor as a cannonball off it takes him down… and Gibson gets one too as Janela leaps over the ring steps into Zack Gibson!

Drake finally gets thrown into the ring, as Gibson tries to stall by saying they hadn’t decided who’s been picked. That allowed Drake to hit a corner dropkick, only to get met with a German suplex into the bottom turnbuckle, before missing a moonsault. The Deftones enziguiri from Drake left us still waiting for clarification… even more so when Zack Gibson came into beat down Janela… but we weren’t waiting for much more as Drake declared that Zack was in the tournament afterall.

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Zack Gibson vs. Joey Janela
The bell rings after Drake begged referee Joel Allen to get the match going, and it almost ends quickly with an inside cradle… but after Janela superkicks Drake off the apron, Gibson steals it with a schoolboy. Like winning with a heavily deflected shot in injury time.

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Flash Morgan Webster vs. Keith Lee
Flash is back In The City, as the “is he, isn’t he?” deal with Haskins and co. continued to play out. Webster dove into Lee as he was in the aisle, and we get underway as Flash perhaps sensed his only chance was to hit hard and hit early.

A low-pe keeps Lee in the front row, as did a flip plancha after Lee’d thrown Flash back in between the ropes. When we got going, Webster tried to win with the Special Brew Flip, but Lee’s up early, only to fall for the hand’s up headbutt as Flash was poking the proverbial bear… a bear that easily charged out of the Strangler.

Flash keeps going for the Strangler, and he looked to wear down Lee eventually, only to get bulled into the corner again before his attempt at a sunset flip is stuffed and turned into a Spirit Bomb, which Flash recoiled from and rolled out of the ring. Vicki Haskins rolls Flash back into the ring as a count-out loomed on, but Flash takes his new opportunity to try and work on Lee’s leg…

…but he’s sent back to the mat with a clubbing forearm instead.

Lee telegraphs the double handed chop, so Flash escapes as the crowd boos. They quickly follow though, as Webster crumpled in the corner, before returning fire with some chops of his own, only for Lee to hit back with forearms and another chest-caving chop. A Beele throw hurled Webster across the ring as things became a tad one-sided… but Webster avoids a charge into the corner and went for the Rude Boy moonsault, before turning it into a DDT.

Flash’s comeback continued in earnest, but ended with a POUNCE! He’s right back in with a reverse ‘rana as Webster’s only hope of beating Lee seemed to fade away… before surprising Lee with a Code Red out of a Spirit Bomb. The Shadows Over Malice lands… but Lee catches him and lifts Flash into one more Spirit Bomb as the near-falls kept coming. A defiant Flash flicks the V’s at Lee, before trying another reverse ‘rana… that’s blocked as Flash is smashed into the corner, before recovering again with a Rude Boy… for a one-count!

Some more knees from Flash loosens his belt and put Lee down again for another Shadows Over Malice… followed by yet another, but still Lee kicked out at two! Vicki distracts the referee as Flash grabs Arabella, his helmet, but Webster struggles to use it… and instead gets caught with Ground Zero for the win. Ah, so close Flash, but he needs to find that edge to get away from being the “nearly man”. A fine match, and Keith Lee progresses! ***½

So at this point, I’d left to make it to York Hall for EVE, so let’s see how this main event was, eh?

Super Strong Style 16 – First Round: Chris Brookes vs. Kassius Ohno
Chris was still using his Hot Tag music… but not for long. It’s a very Chicago Bull-ish Ohno here as well, as the crowd sang along to his theme music. Beat that, Full Sail. Oh… Matt Richards gets added to the commentary team for this match for… I dunno. He’s a nice guy, so let him cross this off his bucket list, okay?

These two have met previously, on an IPW show two years ago of all places, in salubrious Swanley. From the White Oak Leisure Centre to Alexandra Palace, eh…

We start with Ohno taking down Brooks with some arm work, then with a waistlock takedown before returning the favour with a headlock. Ohno’s back up with a cravat, but Brookes escaped and took him back down in a wristlock as the duelling chants got going once again. Brookes escaped a full nelson as they keep things simple, before Ohno won out with a shoulder block before nonchalantly booting away a leapfrog from Brookes. Nice.

Another kick’s caught as Brookes pushes down Ohno, before going for the arm again… but Ohno gets free and takes Brookes into the corner as the back-and-forth ended with a Cyclone Boot as Brookes was taken back down! Knees to the face of Brookes led to a near-fall as we retained the methodical, “main event style” pace, but Brookes edged ahead with a back senton… before getting punched out as Ohno shows him how it’s done.

Clubbing forearms keep Ohno ahead, as he choked Brookes with his boot in the corner, before going airborne with a nice legdrop off the middle rope as the former hero started to edge ahead. Chops come next, despite a fightback attempt, but Brookes is able to use a backslide to get a near-fall as he looked for the rope-hung neckbreaker. Ohno gets the ropes, but it only delays the inevitable, as Ohno ends up outside for safety… and gets himself a flip plancha from Brookes for his troubles.

Back inside, Ohno slaps the taste out of Brookes’ mouth, before flipping onto the apron as he ran back into the path of a Michinoku Driver, with Brookes coming achingly close to victory. Ohno’s forced to escape a Praying Mantis Bomb, hitting an elbow in return as a piledriver tease was countered…before we gave way to some sunset flip near-falls. A release suplex from Ohno, almost a la Pete Dunne, is next as both men crashed to the mat.

In the corner, Brookes is met with a running boot, before returning fire with a gamengiri and a slingshot cutter, only for a rolling elbow to lay Brookes spark out. Rolling outside, Brookes looked to get a breather, but he’s back in with a springboard… that’s interrupted by a pump kick as the lights went out, only for Brookes to hit a brainbuster for a solid two-count.

Brookes mounted Ohno for a version of the Octopus that sorta looked like Zack Sabre Jr’s double armbar, but Ohno slips free and hits a big atomic drop. Death By Elbow almost gave way to Death By Roll-Up as Brookes gets a near-fall, but Ohno’s straight back up with Death By Elbow… only to get caught by Brookes in a crucifix as we almost got the upset! Ohno fires back with more elbows, as Brookes threw back in kind, avoiding rolling elbows with kicks, before a boot from Ohno left Brookes draped in the ropes, as a leaping elbow to the back of the head puts away Brookes for the win. A good main event, but to me it felt like the crowd perhaps expected only one result? Brookes had a really good showing here, but in the end his first outing of Super Strong Style 16 ended in the first round as Ohno’s music completely drowns out commentary to close the show! ****

Post-match, Ohno gets mad at how “he’s gone for a year and you have a new favourite Chris?” The crowd remind him he’s not Chris anymore, but Ohno puts over Brookes’ last kick as the hardest he’s been hit – and that’s coming from a guy who’s faced off with the likes of Misawa before. Ohno does the “embarrass the guy for stories when they were younger”, recalling how Brookes offered to design his merch in the past, before thanking him for the match as we really closed out here!

The first night of Super Strong Style 16 was a fine place-setter. In terms of matches, there wasn’t anything that stood head and shoulders above the pack, but an eight-pack of good wrestling is never a bad thing. Days two and three definitely picked up, and while some may skip the opening night of a three-day tournament, this is not a show to gloss over. From the opener of Williams/Dunne, to Devlin/Bate, and Chuck Mambo’s coming out party, this had its strong points… and is well worth the watch.

  • “Chapter 68 – Super Strong Style 16 – Night One” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service.