Strong Style’s the name as St Louis Anarchy held the first of their four annual tournaments.

We’re at the Spaulding Hall in Alton, llinois for this one. It’s on the other side of the river to St. Louis, about 15 miles away, hence the name. In Your Hall: Strong Style is not only a parody of “In Your House”, but it’s a mixture of a shoot-style tournament and a regular show…

Strong Style Series First Round: Erick Stevens vs. Gary Jay
The SSS can only end by pinfall or KO, and it’s Stevens who started out hot with strikes, only to get knocked outside as Jay wanted to do some topes. So much for shoot style.

Stevens slams Jay on the edge of the ring, then got back to work with a back elbow before an Anaconda vise had Jay in trouble. After taking a headbutt, Jay’s able to get back in as commentary tells that St Louis Anarchy will be doing a submission series in May. So basically this, but with submissions, not pins.

Out of nowhere, Stevens dumps Jay with the End of Heartache suplex/backcracker, but rather than go for pins, they end up back on their feet for some chops. Lots more chops. A forearm takes Jay outside as Erick does a dive, then resumed battering Jay with a fireman’s carry gutbuster and a Doctor Bomb for a near-fall. That ring’s looking awfully broken already, as those boards are MOVING. Stevens tries to get the win with a clothesline before he dumped Jay on his head with a pumphandle driver for a near-fall. Jay beats him to the punch with a rolling elbow… and that’s enough for the flash KO. This was okay, but I don’t ever recall Jay winning a match like that previously, especially since regular matches can end in KO anyway. Solid, but I just didn’t get this. ***

Promo time with Jeremy Wyatt. He didn’t get a graphic because he’s not wrestling. He brags about people he’s beaten, then babyfaces himself because his scheduled opponent got injured. It led to another guy coming out in a grey fleece and jeans. It’s a guy called Evan Gelistico, who I initially mistook for a fan… but he talks his way into a shot at Wyatt’s Gateway Heritage Championship.

Strong Style Series First Round: Brett Ison vs. Aaron Williams
Williams jumps Ison at the bell, but ends up running into a big boot as these two were all about the strikes.

An elbow from Ison is followed up with a dropkick through the ropes, but Williams recovered with a springboard dropkick before a slingshot ‘rana to the outside was caught and turned into a powerbomb into the wall by Ison. A tope from Ison takes Williams down for a near-fall, as did a backdrop suplex, before Williams caught Ison with a twisting neckbreaker for just a one-count.

Kawada kicks from Williams keep Ison on all fours, until he caught one… more kicks follow before Ison surprised his foe with a Falcon arrow, hitting the ceiling too! It’s only enough for a near-fall, before Williams struck back… then got met with a forearm that nearly ended things. Ison looks “non-plussed” according to commentary as he went for a Kamigoye, more more kicks led to Williams’ leg-trapped German suplex. Another head kick drops Ison before a buzzsaw kick waves it off. That was odd. The bouncy castle ring didn’t help, but both these guys looked to be a little slower than usual. I’d rather that than have a busted ankle. **

Strong Style Series First Round: Jake Dirden vs. Curt Stallion
Greg Jovi’s out to give us a history lesson. I tune out.

We get going with Stallion cracking Dirden with a headbutt before a back body drop’s countered into a sunset flip. Jovi grabs Stallion’s leg as Dirden rushes in with a boot, before he bounced Stallion off the mat with a slam. Chops follow in the corner, as did an eye rake, while Jovi choked Stallion on the ropes in front of the ref. Beele throws propel Curt across the ring, before a headbutt took Dirden outside… where he caught a dive and threw Stallion into the post. Biting follows as the lenient rules were being tested, but Stallion tries to fight back, catching Dirden with a brainbuster.

A running kick in the corner traps Dirden, as did a stalling dropkick before a deadlift German nearly got Stallion the win. Dirden’s quickly back with a chokeslam for a near-fall, then a spear, before Stallion landed another headbutt on the way to upsetting Dirden with an O’Connor roll. They told a good underdog story here, but it was lacking a little intensity and went a touch too long for my liking. **½

Strong Style Series First Round: Daniel Makabe vs. Thomas Shire
Now do you see why we picked this show? Makabe gets a tonne of streamers, as does Thomas Shire, who’s someone I’ve heard a lot about but haven’t seen closely.

Both these guys are perhaps better suited to May’s submission tournament, but whatever… AC Milan Makabe gets going, but he’s tripped to the mat by Shire, which led to some scrambling as Makabe wound up getting control of Shire’s wrists, which led to a test of strength. Shire ends up in Makabe’s guard as they rolled into a World of Sport-ish upside-down chicken fight, but Makabe knocks away the balance as they reached a stand-off.

An Octopus stretch follows before Shire pulled Makabe iointo a guard… rolling him for an attempted Japanese leg clutch, but we reverse, reverse and reverse into a stand-off. Which Shire breaks with a cheapshot as he began to club away on Makabe. It lead to a bow-and-arrow hold, before Makabe’s taken to the corner… where he returned with some uppercuts as a Big Unit punch was blocked. Shire knocks down Makabe as the straps come down, but Dan’s back with some more forearms and body shots, knocking Shire to the outside. Following, Makabe nearly punches the ring post, but traps Shire in an Octopus hold on the floor… only to get thrown into the apron as Shire powered out. Back inside, Shire keeps up the strikes, only to get taken into the corner as Makabe clipped Shire with a dropkick ahead of a release German suplex. An STF follows, which the ref seemed to check for a submission on… A backslide from Shire gets a near-fall, but Makabe rolled out into a Makabe Lock, but he couldn’t keep a grip, and Shire’s right back with a Final Cut elbow drop for a near-fall.

Makabe rolls out of a sleeper suplex and came back in with the Big Unit punch… before the pair resorted to back-and-forth punches. Shooting for the leg led to nought as Makabe instead took a sleeper suplex, which nearly led to the TKO stoppage. Shire gets a near-fall from there before he went for a UFO… but a side headlock saves Makabe before a Makabe Lock turned into a seatbelt cradle for the win. A very Timothy Thatcher-esque move – and proof that submissions can lead to a win in these situations. ***½

Hardcore: The Viking War Party (Herzog & The Littlest Viking) vs. The Hooligans (Devin Cutter & Mason Cutter)
This was the final match in the US for the Hooligans… and it’s a throwback for the Little Viking, who you may be more familiar with these days as a WARHORSE…

The Hooligans bring the plunder, flooding the ring with so much stuff commentary gave up. For reals. Commentary fell silent as the Littlest Viking had a plastic bin whacked off his head with a stick… then it turned out someone just turned their volume down way too low as the Littlest Viking got hiptossed into a lawn chair. The Hooligans go after Herzog on the outside as the plunderiffic brawl continued with… spikes?! They make their way towards the merch tables as fans scattered, mostly to get away from flying chairs, before a bar fight broke out in the crowd. Chairshots. Lots of chairshots, then we’re back to the bar fight and finally back into the ring.

Except not for long, as Herzog hits a plancha to the outside.

Back inside, a Flatliner and a clothesline puts down one of the Cutters, before a powerbomb and a missile dropkick almost put the other one away. Out of nowhere we get run ins, and without commentary or context I’m completely confused. From looking around at Cagematch, the guy helping the Viking War Party was Frank Wyatt, while the other Hooligan was Neil Diamond Cutter. Wyatt helps get rid of the other Cutter with a double team uranage backbreaker…

The Hooligans come back with cutters (aha), then a Headshrinkers splash off the top and an assisted standing corkscrew senton as we still keep going… until a wacky uranage/backstabber combo on the Hooligans put them away. This was wild, but on VOD, with no commentary or explaining of the background, this was a goddamn slog. *

Post-match, the retiring Hooligans thank the crowd. You know, the last time I saw them, they were both bald…

Strong Style Series Semi Final: Aaron Williams vs. Gary Jay
Jay’s the early aggressor, firing into Williams with chops, only to get tripped and sent outside.

Williams’ has to baseball slide out as Jay hits topes… only for the third one to get caught as Jay was pushed back and met with a head kick on the apron. More chops follow as Williams proceeds to throw some kicks in the corner, but commentary’s already talking about how spent they are. Another kick took Jay onto the apron before a roll-through DDT just about found its mark.

A moonsault off the apron knocks down Jay as commentary almost seemed… sleepy? Back inside Jay KO’s Williams with a forearm for a near-fall. More chops have Williams in the corner, but he’s back to knock Jay out of a Tree of Woe as a knee and a Falcon arrow almost got the win. Jay’s back with a superplex, but he can’t follow up with a cover as the pair end up exchanging strikes. Headbutts from Jay just seem to wake up Williams, who trips Jay ahead of a sitout powerbomb that almost gets the win. A Michinoku Driver from Jay provides an instant response for a near-fall, before Williams pulled up his kickpad and went for a head kick… it eventually lands for a near-fall, before one a desperation headbutt from Jay proved to be too much as Williams got KO’d. This was fine, but this interpretation “strong style” just doesn’t click with me. **¾

You know that wobbly ring? Well, in that last match one of the boards was visibly out of position… which led to a more sagging than in the first half. They tried to fix it after the next match, at least…

Strong Style Series Semi Final: Daniel Makabe vs. Curt Stallion
Makabe’ll be looking to get payback for a loss to Stallion at the start of the year in New South… and of course, there’s been a costume change.

I’m fixing to turn on Sean Orleans for revealing his favoured football team (SERIOUSLY?)

Anyway, we get going as Makabe tried to dead leg Stallion, but they break up with slaps as Stallion fired up… taking Makabe into the corner with chops only for Daniel to catch him with a sleeper in the corner. He holds on despite Stallion rolling through, and it’s back to the chops! An Octopus hold from Makabe comes with some fist grinding, but Stallion counters with a Buck Off – an Air Raid Crash – for a near-fall. How come so many people are using that move with a nearly-sweary name? Chuck You…

Stallion keeps throwing strikes, stalking Makabe with forearms and elbows, before he tried to catch Makabe with a trapped DDT out of the corner. Makabe put up a fight, but ends up eating a stalling dropkick before a sunset flip and a STF began to wear down Stallion. A rear naked choke keeps it going, but Stallion slips out for a snap German… and gets one in return.

Stallion looked for a diving headbutt a la a Torpedo Moscau, but Makabe catches him with a chokehold, letting go to lift Stallion up for a bridging German for a near-fall. Another clash of heads takes Makabe into the corner as a trapped DDT nearly gets the win, before Stallion looked for another Buck Off… but Makabe countered with a reverse Triangle Choke, before a Big Unit KO’d Stallion. I must say, I wasn’t expecting the final submission hold here to be one popularised by Carmella, but again, it’s a way to circle the square that putting submission guys in a no-submission tournament has made. ***

They fix the ring, but the way the boards wobble after the fix still has the ring resembling a bouncy castle…

The Family (Angelus Layne & Christian Rose) vs. Billie Starkz & Everett Connors
We’ve a brawl beforehand as Greg Jovi and Raul the Bear had a pull apart that was straight out of mid 00s diva matches in terms of how it looked. I mean, it’s a bear…

It’s intergender, as we start with Rose getting a hug from Starkz, before she pulled off his headband to show the hairline. She’s better luck with a lucha armdrag, then an elbow to the gut before Rose put on the brakes on a sunset flip… until Everett Connors punched him down. Angelus Layne tags in, as did Connors, who crashes in with a low dropkick before they posed… rather than went for a pin. Layne makes him pay, catching him in the corner with a running knee before an old school rope-to-the-eyes had him staggering. Rose is back to stomp through him out of the corner, but the pace then slows down again with a neck crank. A scoop slam off the ropes gets a near-fall for Connors, as Starkz broke up the cover… but she’s tossed outside before Connors came back in with a satellite DDT.

Tags bring in Starkz and Layne, but Billie’s running wild with kicks and clotheslines… only for Rose to return and throw her across the ring. Connors tries to make a save but he takes a suplex throw too, before the pair fought back to hit a double-team suplex throw of their own. More double-teaming led to a Meteora from Starkz for a near-fall, before a pop-up stunner-assisted German suplex should have won the match.

Except Christian Rose pulls out the ref, while Greg Jovi shoves the bear into the ring post. That felt a little extraneous, as it didn’t play into the finish, where Greg low blows Connors before dragging Layne onto him for the easy three-count. This was fine, and it’s nice to see Layne back after having had to retire with a broken neck. No word on what bear though. **¾

Pure Wrestling Rules for Gateway Heritage Championship: Evan Gelistico vs. Jeremy Wyatt (c)
The Pure Wrestling rules are the old ROH Pure Rules – in that there’s three rope breaks, and we get a counter on the screen to help us keep track.

Wyatt grounds Gelistico early, forcing him into a rope break with a simple chinlock… but the graphics team dock the wrong guy at first. Wash, rinse, repeat, as Wyatt traps Gelistico in an ankle lock by the ropes, and these are solid tactics. Trolling tactics, but solid nevertheless.

Gelistico gets in on it as Wyatt is pushed into the ropes on a waistlock, before Wyatt replied with a chop that knocked the stuffing out of Gelistico. Forearms follow, before a knee to the gut from Evan winds Wyatt, promoting Gelistico to pull away Wyatt’s shirt to reveal some taped ribs. I don’t think anyone in the crowd reacted to that big reveal, sadly. Gelistico targets the taped ribs, standing on them and throwing some body blows before he threw Wyatt from corner-to-corner. Another Irish whip takes Wyatt to the outside, where Evan followed up by throwing him ribs-first into the apron, but was able to come back with a clothesline back in the ring. That seemed to injure Gelistico’s shoulder, which Wyatt began to focus on, before an armbar forced Gelistico to burn his last rope break.

Wyatt boots Gelistico through the ropes to the outside, before he made it back inside and had to struggle to block a neckbreaker… instead, he’s able to come back and drop Wyatt with a back suplex. After outsmarting Wyatt, a superkick lands for a near-fall for the challenger, before a torture rack looked to force a submission, but Wyatt squirms onto the apron. From there, he slingshots back in and trapped Gelastico in a crossface. Billy Starkz comes out to distract the ref as Gelastico was tapping…

Everett Connors comes in from the other side and superkicks the crossface, but by the time the ref counts a pin, Wyatt’s up at two. An ironically named Baldo Bomb (because Gelistico… isn’t) gets another near-fall, before he’s caught with a reverse DDT. Starkz is back to distract the referee, and that hides a brass knuckles shot from Gelistico that needed Wyatt to use the ropes to break a pinning attempt. Hey, that’s cute!

Apparently that was Wyatt’s final rope break – something that went over the heads of commentary, the graphics guy and the ring announcer, since this was the first time it was mentioned. Gelistico tries to choke out Wyatt in the ropes, but the champion escaped by snapping the rope into Gelistico’s head, before the pair brawled on the outside, leading to a piledriver on the floor… and that’s enough to get Wyatt the win by count-out. This was enjoyable, despite the snafu with the rope break counter. Not a “pure” exhibition, but a great way for a heel to use the rules to his advantage. ***

Strong Style Series Final: Gary Jay vs. Daniel Makabe
By the end of the week (that this review goes up), I’m pretty sure Daniel will be sick to the back teeth of tournaments. Just like how ring announcer Stepstool Sarah got fed up of streamers…

Makabe offers a handshake at the bell, but Jay kicks it away and hits a forearm. It barely registers, so we go back and forth with forearms as both men looked to be going for a knock-out. Well, with that ring, I wouldn’t bloody take a bump either unless I had to.

Makabe ups the ante with dropkicks in the corner before Jay got out of the way… and came back in with a stomp to the back of Makabe. On the apron, the pair trade more shots, then headbutts, before Makabe went for a Big Unit punch and hit the ring post. Jay capitalises with a DDT onto the edge of the ring, only to get caught back inside with a pop-up knee and a STF in the middle of the ring.

Except Makabe couldn’t keep grip, so Jay gets to his feet, only to take a German suplex… then a strait-jacket German that almost put Jay away. Another Big Unit punch is ducked as Jay instead dumps him into the corner with a death valley driver for a near-fall, before the pair traded small roll-ups. A Michinoku driver nearly puts Makabe away, but he kicks out and locks in a cross armbar, which ended in the ropes as Jay was muttering something about a broken arm.

Makabe comes back with a Big Unit punch to KO Jay… but there’s no KO called as Makabe goes for a cover, but to no avail as Makabe wraps Jay’s arm in the ropes, only to get caught with a series of elbows… which led to the flash KO. That’s a hattrick for Jay who won the strong style tournament in a decent main event, and now apparently gets an automatic entry into the submission tournament later in the year. ***

Makabe got a “please come back” chant at the end as Jay told him he needed to be a regular… before calling out Gateway Heritage champion Jeremy Wyatt for their March show. Well, that’s your next title match, and we have a pullapart between the two to close out.

I had some major issues with this show. Having a “strong style” tournament heavily implies there’s going to be a prevailing style on display… which was sadly not the case here. Perhaps part of the issue comes from how vague the term “strong style” has become, aided by literally everyone having their version of it. If you’re able to overlook the labels, this was a decent enough tournament, in spite of the dangerous ring – but this may be one to pick your spots in.