Super Strong Style 16 wrapped up as PROGRESS said farewell to Jimmy Havoc, while we found out who would walk away with a shot at WALTER down the line.

First we open with a promo in the food hall area, with Daga and Aero Star agreeing to team up to challenge Aussie Open for the tag team titles… then it’s inside Alexandra Palace as Jim’s milking the ohhs again. We get Goldust, the security guard… and a marriage proposal… and then it’s time to head to action. Like days one and two, we’ve the four man rotating booth: Glen, Callum, Matt and Frasier.

Wasteman Challenge Hangover Scramble: Roy Johnson vs. DJ Z vs. Artemis Spencer vs. Chris Brookes vs. The OJMO vs. Darby Allin vs. Connor Mills vs. Lucky Kid vs. Chris Ridgeway vs. Trevor Lee
A segment of two halves: firstly, the first main show appearance of Roy Johnson in almost a year. That was something that even Jim poked fun at as we had nine entrants slowly appear for what turned out to be a revolving roast.

There’s something odd being done to the audio here, as OJMO’s hot entrance came across as slightly wobbly, like the crowd were trying to fight through the audio mix.

So, from the roast, Oku throws in a jibe at Johnson not having merch, and also having lost the “black quota” spot in wrestling to him… we get Kid Lykos out to speak for Chris Brookes (complete with what everyone wanted… “shut up Chris”), as he then unleashed what I believe the kids call “hot fire” towards Johnson, DJ Z, Chris Ridgeway, Darby Allin and finally… Lucky Kid. Despite warning, Johnson gets clocked with a baking tray, and in among the guffaws on commentary we miss Trevor Lee calling for DJ Z’s airhorn and getting… Duck Dynasty instead. DJ Z stomps on his foot to make him dance, as this became a massive parade of flying bodies.

Johnson gets crushed as he sat on the top rope with Arty Spencer’s back senton, before having Connor Mills powerbombed onto him for a near-fall. A human centipede of head scissors follow, only for OJMO to roll it all over with a single leg crab, which Ridgeway simply boots away. Darby Allin wows with the height he gets on a lucha armdrag on Brookes, who then goes flying with a tope as our Parade of Dives broke out, featuring a Fosbury flop from OJMO. Good lord!

Trevor Lee tries his luck, but ends up taking some headscissors off the apron into the pile from Spencer, before DJ Z scored with an insane Spanish Fly off the apron. CHRIST. Connor Mills one-ups it with a springboard 450 to the floor, and we’re back to the human centipede stuff as OJMO’s hanging DDT to Mills was turned into a chain of reverse DDTs, with Ridgeway again setting that off.

DJ Z’s back to crotch Mills as he went for a 450, before another crack at the high-elevation ZDT (helped by Brooks and Spencer) was cut off by a flying cutter by Mills. Even Trevor Lee was wow’d. From there, Mills tries for a Quebrada, only for Brookes to superkick him away and finish him with a Praying Mantis Bomb for the win. Good stuff with a load of flips and stuff that will drop your jaw – but if you aren’t a fan of “comedy” laughing on commentary, hit the mute. ***½

Super Strong Style 16 – Semi-Final – Elimination: Travis Banks vs. Ilja Dragunov vs. David Starr
Kindly Uncle Jim adds the elimination stipulation before the match, as well as saying that “disqualifications are valid”. Not quite sure how that works – I mean, if some randomer from the back attacked Travis Banks, who gets eliminated? I get it was meant to nullify TK Cooper, but c’mon. Logic.

Starr jumps Banks at the bell, before turning his aim on Ilja, reigniting their prior matches, trading chops before they locked arms as they went for forearms at the same time. Banks broke that up, but ends up getting sandwiched by clotheslines as we go back to Ilja and Starr. A roll-up from Starr just earns him a chop and a back senton as the feeling out process continued… before Ilja went outside to dive on Banks, only to get met with an apron PK. Starr capitalises with a tope suicida, before dropping Banks with a Pretty Pumped back inside.

A sliding splash into the corner keeps Banks down, but Starr turns his focus on Ilja, who comes back in with a clothesline ahead of a DDT to Banks, then the Constantin Spezial on the Kiwi. There’s more clotheslines for Starr, who’s hauled down with a leaping neckbreaker for a near-fall, allowing Banks to steal the momentum as he took both Starr and Dragunov into the corner for a cannonball.

Banks finds a mark with a Coast to Coast on Starr… but Dragunov has one of his own too, before the match broke down into a three-way chop battle. A cartwheel kick from Starr only led to him getting dumped in the corner with a death valley driver from Dragunov for a near-fall, before Banks flew into Ilja with a double stomp for another two-count. A Slice of Heaven and a Kiwi Krusher quickly follow, but it’s not enough to put away Ilja!

There’s a Cherry Mint DDT and a Han Stansen for Banks as Starr came back in, before he was cracked with a running knee from Dragunov. The pair trade more lariats that rang around Alexandra Palace, ahead of a knee lift from Dragunov… whose Torpedo Moscau took Starr into the ropes, only for a Slice of Heaven to catch Dragunov for the first elimination. Rather than jump on Starr to go for the win, Banks basked in that pin, before he finally came through with superkicks.

Starr catches one and turned Banks into a German suplex, following up with a clothesline as TK Cooper pops up on the apron. TK’s knocked down, as the Product Placement gets the win. So… not much of a “final fall”, but I guess it removes all doubt of “you got to the final without beating me”… even though that could have been a storyline for down the road. ***½

I think that’s the first time a “WWE contracted” guy was pinned in this whole tournament. Winds of change?

Super Strong Style 16 – Semi-Final: Jordan Devlin vs. Kyle O’Reilly
So, with David Starr waiting in the final, do we get Devlin vs. Starr to reprise their OTT feud, or do we get David Starr against one of the posterboys of “full fat NXT”?

Much like O’Reilly’s earlier matches, this one started with a lot of ground-based stuff, before Devlin landed a uranage then a diving Meteora as Devlin was starting to show some damage to his ribs. On the outside, the Irishman lands a PK off the apron, but O’Reilly rolled back in and started to light up Devlin with kicks and knees. An attempt to stem the tide with a standing Spanish fly is blocked as Devlin gets cracked with a knee instead.

Devlin and O’Reilly begin to trade forearms, but it’s O’Reilly who edges ahead before another flurry from the Irishman ended with him backing out of an axe kick before he boxed Kyle into the corner. A slingshot cutter from Devlin stops O’Reilly briefly, as does a sheer-drop brainbuster, but O’Reilly kicks out at two. O’Reilly returns with an axe kick, then a Nigel lariat, before Devlin kicks back and lands a Spanish fly for a near-fall. A moonsault from Devlin misses, as his ankle and knee buckled on landing… and there’s an opening for O’Reilly, who drags Devlin down into a knee bar… except this time it doesn’t lead to a flash submission as Devlin dragged his way to the rope. O’Reilly stays on the leg though, with Devlin almost fighting for his life as he misses an enziguiri. A second one connects, as does a third, and a fourth, which eventually sent Kyle sailing to the outside.

Devlin follows him with an Orihara moonsault to the floor, before taking O’Reilly back in for a 450 splash that led to a near-fall. Kyle puts on the brakes with a front facelock, which Devlin countered into Ireland’s Call for a near-fall… before a moonsault trapped Jordan in a triangle armbar. Elbows to the head look to weaken Devlin, who fights into a cross armbar, then a knee bar as O’Reilly transitioned between holds… but it backfires as Devlin managed to roll back, almost in Darby Allin’s Last Supper, to trap O’Reilly on the mat for a three-count! A really good match if you’re into the game of human chess, but one that had the crowd watching tentatively rather than in any kind of audible investment. ***¾

Death Match: Paul Robinson vs. Jimmy Havoc
Ah, that explains the wonkiness with the audio earlier. Both Robinson and Havoc came out to their classic themes live, but we heard neither Scroobius Pip nor AFI here. That’s quite a precedent to set… and also explains why so many entrances this weekend lacked much crowd reaction on the VOD.

Understandably, Jim Smallman was rather choked up from the off here… and with Jimmy Havoc out in white, I think we could all guess what was going to happen. Bloodbath.

We get the arty shots at the bell of Robinson mouthing off to his former Regression stablemate, as Havoc started off with a brainbuster to send Robinson outside… where he had a ladder bounced off of him, then some chairs, as they headed into the crowd, as more plunder came into play. Playing cards, staple guns and lemons were on show, which just earned Robinson a trip into the crowd as Havoc tossed him into the second row.

Robinson gets hold of a light tube as the camera crew were spotted donning facemasks – and for good reason. A shard from the light tube’s used to carve up Havoc, who replied by breaking a light tube over his own head, then smashing the remnants over Robinson before using some lemon juice to add extra pain. A table’s come into play, which Havoc teases piledriving Robinson through, instead having to make do with a suplex into the ring as it’s back to the paper cuts. We get the piledriver seconds later, getting a delayed two count as the blood spilling from Havoc was starting to get more noticeable. Jimmy pulls a bucket and some chairs from under the ring… that bucket has drawing pins in, which get spilled onto an open chair as Havoc’s made to sit on them.

There’s a Burning Hammer onto the chair before Havoc leapt out of the corner with an OsCutter for a near-fall. Things get a little crazy when Robinson launches off the middle rope with a spear into some light tubes… which seemed to affect Havoc more, as Robinson began to go after him with more broken light tubes. Yeah, I saw a bit of my lunch seeing Havoc’s skin tense up when the glass was pressed against him. More lemons are squeezed into the fresh cut, before Havoc’s dropped into drawing pins for a near-fall. Smartly, referee Tom Scarborough pulled a Paz, and had commandeered a baking tray, a la Kid Lykos, to make the counts. More tubes follow as Robinson just smashes it against Havoc’s forehead, which just drew a disgusted/exasperated sigh on commentary. That last light tube smash seemed to cut Havoc open badly… so of course, it’s time for more, in the form of a table with light tubes taped to it.

OH GOD. PROGRESS X tables X tubes? Can this end well?

Havoc seemed to be trying to stem some bleeding as Robinson set up the table, before he lifted Havoc to the top rope before a headscissor takedown sent Jimmy into the table. That, and a curb stomp, only gets a near-fall as we get the CALLBACK! Robinson follows up with chairshots to the head, before an Acid Rainmaker led to a near-fall. The end quickly follows with a curb stomp to light tubes, as Paul Robinson gets the win in a bloody match that, by all accounts, was curtailed thanks to the bleeding. Jimmy Havoc goes out on his back, and unless the plan for All Elite Wrestling goes horribly off course, it’ll be a long while before we see this sort of carnage in his matches. ***

Robinson leaves the ring, bloodied and worse for wear, as the crowd applauded Jimmy Havoc… who was then stopped by Jim Smallman, who said his farewells and pitched to a cool tribute video that charted his entire PROGRESS career… before Jimmy (legitimately) headed to hospital.

It feels weird watching a PROGRESS show that doesn’t have an advertising sting for a “big show” in the middle of it. They’re back at Alexandra Palace in September…

PROGRESS Tag Team Championship: Aero Star & Daga vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (c)
We start out with Kyle and Daga locking horns again, with better results than earlier in the weekend as Daga scored with some headscissors before a back suplex from Fletcher barely got him a one-count.

Davis and Aerostar come in, with Davis cartwheeling out of some headscissors before… hitting a spinaroonie. You know that’ll be a frequent request around these parts before long. Aerostar retaliates with some forward rolls of his own before he got punched out. Aerostar plays keepaway as he tries to keep Davis at bay, before headscissors took both men out… and I guess we’re under lucha rules as Kyle Fletcher comes in, only to take a low dropkick from Aerostar ahead of an elevated back senton. A la CCK. The Aussies take over with some double-teaming of their own for a near-fall, including a big pancake, before Aerostar was taken into the corner for some stomps.

A rolling cutter from Aerostar gets him free to make a tag as Daga cleared house with kicks before sidestepping a big boot that saw Davis take out his own man. Kyle shakes it off to take down the luchadors with a Quebrada, with Davis following up with a tope to the outside. Daga hits a double dropkick to keep the Aussies out so he could hit a twisting plancha to the floor, before Aerostar hit a springboard Coffin Drop to the pile. Christ, that could have gone so so bad…

Back inside, a crossbody from Aerostar drops Kyle for a near-fall, before Fletcher hit back with a Ligerbomb to keep trading those near-falls. A pop up German suplex, then a reverse ‘rana from Daga has Kyle in a heap on the mat. Daga tries to repeat the trick on Davis, but it’s caught and turned into a One Winged Angel onto a knee as a Parade of Moves broke out, ending with a satellite DDT from Aerostar.

Aussie Open teased the Doomsday Aussie Arrow on the luchadors, but Daga slipped out of the electric chair and took down Davis, before Kyle was taken care of on the top rope with a flying ‘rana. Aerostar tries to capitalise with a back senton off the top, but Davis breaks it up before he cartwheeled past the luchadors and nailed them with duelling Flatliners. From there, Aerostar’s isolated for a Fidget Spinner, and that’s your lot. A fun match to get the second half going – it’s just a shame that next to nobody really expected Aussie Open to lose this one. ***¼

Post-match, Aussie Open stay in the ring and celebrate, only to be attacked by Flash Morgan Webster and the Wild Boar. The 198 are back… as telegraphed by Webster’s Tweet about “booking a flight somewhere” and they steal the PROGRESS tag titles. Hey, you ever noticed how most people who do NXT UK and PROGRESS are mirrored between the two brands? Flash is a bad guy here…

They show the 198 walking backstage, complaining about being undefeated yet somehow not tag team champions. So they take the belts to force their way into a title shot, before hopping in a people carrier as they’re driven away. That was different from how PROGRESS normally do this stuff and I loved it. More breaking away from the norm, please!

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Nina Samuels vs. Millie McKenzie vs. Martina vs. Jordynne Grace (c)
Why that picture of Jordynne? For posterity, since the event t-shirts had it spelled “Jordynne Grance”. Grace, who had flown in from an Impact taping earlier in the weekend for this, took aim at that… and some fans seemingly comparing her to Brock Lesnar in terms of being an absentee champion. A turn, of sorts…

Grace jumps Martina at the bell, but she’s taken down with a low dropkick before a flip neckbreaker from Millie was quickly broken up by Nina Samuels. This isn’t an elimination match, and the pace is kept high as Nina tries to pin Millie with a backflip knee drop before Grace broke up some figure four headscissors.

Grace suplexes Nina and Millie for a pair of near falls, before Martina came back and took aim at Jordynne… who just took her to the corner before Martina landed a clothesline off the middle rope for a near-fall. Jordynne shoves the ref into the ropes as Martina was on the top… and she follows Martina outside with a spinning electric chair drop sending her onto the apron. Nina tries to capitalise, but her springboard just holds the rope open for a tope by McKenzie, before Samuels followed with a corkscrew plancha as Martina completed the set with a senton into the pile, rather more elegantly than how a bag of cans would fall out of the sky…

Back in the ring, Martina goes after Samuels, but Nina avoids the Dubliner, taking her into the corner before she got pulled into a forearm. Martina goes for an abdominal stretch driver for a near-fall, before Grace ran in to try and steal things with a roll-up. A Parade of Moves broke out with Millie coming close to the win with a cutter, before everyone beat up on Grace… who responds with bodyslams, finishing off Millie with a Michinoku Driver for a near-fall.

Martina tries to put away Millie with a Seshbreaker, but it’s only good for a near-fall as Martina followed up with a moonsault… which misses as Millie rushes in with a spear for a near-fall… because Grace broke up the pin, threw out Millie and stole the pin. That was a killer spear, and an unpopular finish to this sprint of a match, which really could have done with a little longer. **¾

Super Strong Style 16 – Final: Jordan Devlin vs. David Starr
Three days has come down to this: “us” versus “them”. “WWE wins lol” against “Independent”… yet Jordan Devlin in the final didn’t quite seem to make this as clear cut as it could have been.

We’ve a measured starthere as Starr and Devlin locked up, looking for a hold as the cacophony of noise from the crowd showed a fairly even split in support. Starr started by working on Devlin’s arms, forcing the Irishman into the ropes as the noise actually drowned out commentary for a spell. This is the kind of PROGRESS crowd I miss.

Starr keeps up with a shoulder tackle before an attempt to catch Devlin with a double leg nelson pin sparked some back and forth two-counts as they both looked to end this early. Devlin started his offence with a wristlock that sent Starr to his knees, before the American fought back with shoulder tackles, as he then took a swipe at the left leg of Devlin.

Who just responded with a shoulder tackle that sent Starr flying. Looks like that leg’s healed a little. A hiptoss from Devlin was responded to with a leg sweep from Starr, and now that knee’s given out. Starr takes a breather, playing to the crowd as Devlin tried to recover, but now Starr’s making it obvious that he’s going for that left leg… and Devlin’s doing everything he can to stop it. A cartwheel kick from Starr cracks Devlin in the head, before a DDT-like move to the leg has Devlin in trouble on the mat, with Starr following up with an Indian deathlock, bridging back as he torqued away on the left leg. Devlin manages to fight back with the Air Jordan for a near-fall, as that limp intensifies, which kinda restricted Devlin’s offence.

A back suplex manages to take Starr down, as the Product looked to kick away at that bad wheel, but Devlin grounds him with a chinlock. It’s escaped as Starr took him into the corner for some clubbering, before eventually landing a Pretty Pumped and a diving forearm for a near-fall. Starr looked to finish off with a Trapped Arm Bob Fossil, but Devlin escaped… only to get caught in a Product Recall – away from the ropes – for a near-fall. Devlin replies by cracking a running Starr with a forearm, which sparks a chop battle, before Starr again kicks out the leg… before an attempt at a Han Stansen ended up Devlin ducking and Starr crashing awkwardly into the bottom two ropes.

Starr rolled outside after having his head bounce between the ropes and the mat, but Devlin heads out to break the count… and almost Starr’s jaw with a forearm. Devlin nearly gets suckered with a small package, only for a superkick to put Starr back in the corner as Devlin makes a comeback with some body blows that trapped Starr by the ropes. A brainbuster wrecks Starr, but he’s able to get a foot on the rope to keep the match alive. The pair end up on the top rope, as Starr teases an avalanche piledriver… except Devlin stands up and manages to land a Spanish Fly for a near-fall as the crowd were starting to bite hard. Devlin goes for a rolling Destroyer, only for Starr to block him and drop with an Okada-like neckbreaker slam as both men were running low.

Back-and-forth forearms follow, as the shots continued… Devlin lands a Destroyer, sending Starr into the ropes as he rebounds with a Han Stansen, only for Devlin to reply with a headbutt that sent both men down, almost getting Starr the fortuitous win as he landed on top of the Irishman. Callbacks! They continue to butt heads as Devlin got hold of the wrist for a Devlinside, but Starr headbutts to block it… only to get pulled into the Saito suplex anyway as Devlin almost took the win.

From there, it’s thumbs up, thumbs down as Devlin went for a package piledriver… only for Starr to slip out and hit a Product Placement for a near-fall. A superkick from the kickout, then a Han Stansen, and the ugly Kaepernick powerbomb onto the knee leads to Starr’s two-count, before the Republican Remorse – the Edgucator – forces a submission as babies and streamers get thrown in the air! David Starr, forever the nearly-man when it comes to tournaments, finally wins a big one! This was a hell of a match, with Starr excellently targeting Devlin’s injury while also taking sufficient offense to the point where a Devlin win was just as likely at times. A masterpiece in how to cap off a tournament. ****½

In among the celebrations, in lieu of a trophy, Starr was swamped with streamers before cutting his “coronation” promo. Which started with a cheap pop “hiya” as he went into more detail on his definition of the whole independent movement – telling us it wasn’t necessarily about “whether you have a contract or not”, and that it was more about labour empowerment, the many versus the few and the like. To distill it to wrestling, Starr said he was building up independent wrestling, with names like the OJMO, Connor Mills, Kurtis Chapman, Chris Ridgeway, Chris Brookes… even Martina. That must have pained him… We finished with confetti raining from above as Starr addressed a “cowardly c***” who left the country – and vowed to go for WALTER for the title. Well then!

Across the three days of Super Strong Style 16 this year, you saw pretty much all sides of “modern day PROGRESS”. Day one, while solid between the bells, was as dry as a bone as the lack of any kind of obvious storylines meant that we were “just watching sixteen men do a wrestle”. Day two was an improvement as storylines came in and were paid off, but with seemingly little restraint as seen by how unfocused that DNR/Originals match was, and also with the way the “biggest title match in PROGRESS history” had such a murky ending.

Day three seemed to be the best mix of all of PROGRESS, with hot crowds and some really good wrestling. The PROGRESS of old, on the whole. Aside from Starr’s reference on day three, there was precious little mention of the world title on the final day. Coupled with the farewells across the weekend (Jimmy Havoc, Jinny, Drew Parker, to name just the obvious ones), and the fact that the SSS16 field was heavy on imports, and once again we’ve a PROGRESS roster that is in need of refresh and new direction.

Next up for PROGRESS is their non-canon, 80s throwback show at the end of May – it’ll be June when we see what’s being set-up. Will David Starr go straight for WALTER, will he wait it out so he can take WALTER to the site of his victory… or will Trent Seven be pushing for a rematch? Likewise with the 198’s return… and with Eddie Dennis on the injured list, will that reunion from day two build to much, or will this be a “one and done” for now?