WWN debuted a new promotion over the weekend, in the form of Style Battle. Here’s our take on their first show…

Watching this on-demand on FloSlam revealed a familiar problem: 35 minutes of looping video that was on the live stream before bell time. C’mon guys, it’s not like it’s a problem with just new content – an EVOLVE show we looked at recently had the same problem, and it was weeks-old by that point.

The concept of Style Battle is that every show is a tournament, and at the end of the “season” every tournament winner will go into another tournament to determine the season winner. On the debut show there’s a lot of unfamiliar faces, and we open with ring announcer Timothy Barr standing in front of a lot of greenery. Cue jokes about planted fans… It’s almost like they’re outdoors, given how much of his breath you could see in the air…

First Round: Darby Allin vs. Dave Crist
The first thing I noticed here was that those plants in the background waved around a lot – so this genuinely is a sort-of outdoors show. In the first week of January… That’s got to suck.

Allin utilised a lucha-inspired offense, and leapt off the ring post with a Nestea plunge to Crist on the floor, before getting a near-fall out of a springboard headbutt. Crist hits back with a neckbreaker as Allin sprung out of the corner, and the veteran came back as he wore down Allin with kicks.

Crist cut-off another springboard headbutt attempt, and dropped Allin with a Flatliner for a near-fall, then sent the Seattle youngster into the corners hard. Allin recovered to send Crist into the bottom turnbuckle head-first with a hiptoss, before a slingshot cradle gets another near-fall.

Allin flipped out of a tombstone, then grabbed a near-fall from a springboard cross body off the bottom rope, only for Crist to land a draping, pop-up cutter out of the corner for a near-fall. A buckle bomb followed, before an End of Days-style DDT gets Crist the win. A decent opener, firmly in the “one of these guys has to work at least once more tonight, so very low key” bracket. **½

First Round: Dezmond Xavier vs.Sammy Guevara
Guevara had some 8-bit/chip-tune ring music, which is one of the negatives of these streaming services I guess – you either pay more for royalties, or you get identikit ring music.

We get a fairly technical opening, with Guervara and Xavier flipping out of holds in the opening stages, before Guevara mounted Xavier with a sleeper hold… only for Xavier to snapmare his way out of it. Plenty of rolling headscissor takedowns, and the two fliers eventually settled into their aerial game. Xavier took Guevara into the corner for some chops and forearm, before a leapover was caught into a squatting Samoan drop. A backwards roll and a standing moonsault gets Sammy a two-count, before he decided to troll us by running the ropes and… sliding into a rear chinlock.

Guevara gets a near-fall out of a Tiger bomb, but Xavier hits back with a standing corkscrew moonsault for a two-count of his own. The back-and-forth comes back with a Regal-plex turned into a uranage as Guevara busts out a People’s Shooting Star Legdrop, but again Xavier kicks out.

A 630 splash from Guevara should have finished off Xavier, but Dezmond grabs the bottom rope to stop the count… so Sammy tried for a 450, then crashed and burned, as Xavier hit back with a back suplex off the ropes before a corkscrew senton got him the win. This was fun back-and-forth stuff from two relatively inexperienced guys. **¾

First Round: AR Fox vs. Austin Theory
Trevin Adams and MSL on commentary noted that this was a teacher vs. student battle, and we start with a roll-up into a dropkick from Theory, whom in another era would probably have been rushed on Raw by now.

A long springboard sequence ends with a bulldog from Fox, who followed up with a springboard imploding 450 splash to the floor onto Theory. Back inside, Theory took over on Fox, choking him in the ropes, before landing an Oklahoma Stampede-style slam… but Fox almost shocked him with a schoolboy as Theory was setting up for a standing moonsault.

Theory regained the advantage with a release German suplex for a near-fall, before finally getting that moonsault for another two-count. Fox mounts a comeback with a Slingblade, then gets a near-fall out of a senton bomb, before Theory almost stole the win with a Torture rack into a sit-out powerbomb.

Fox springs out of the corner with a crucifix bomb for a two-count, before both men ended up on the apron trading right hands. That didn’t end well as Fox took a sheer-drop cross-legged brainbuster on the apron, before Fox landed a springboard moonsault to the floor. Back inside, a running shooting star press gets Theory a two-count, as they again trade shots from their knees.

Fox ducks out of a clothesline with a Matrix-like move, before a leaping knee strike and a springboard Spanish fly sets up Theory for the Fox Catcher for the win. A decent match – the best thing on the show so far, I’d wager. ***¼

First Round: Anthony Henry vs. Fred Yehi
Fox aside, Yehi’s probably the biggest name in this first tournament… but in this case, Yehi was used as a sacrificial lamb against Anthony Henry, as the pair went to a thirty-minute time-limit draw.

This was the only result I knew going in, so I’m not going to do a move-for-move deal here. They started off fairly even, with Yehi throwing in some stomps outside of the more typical grappling fare. Eventually, some of those stomps missed, whilst Henry tried for – and missed – big boots as both guys switched things into a striking battle.

A neck crank kept Yehi on top, as he started to pepper Henry with headbutts, but finally the Georgia native fired back after powering out of a stomp to the fingers and took down the relative rookie with a leg sweep as Henry enjoyed a period of offence. Yehi comes back with a stomp to the ankle as Henry moved his hands away from another stomp, but it wasn’t long before Henry dumped Yehi to the floor courtesy of a TKO onto the ropes.

Henry peppered Yehi with kicks against the apron as he looked to earn a count-out victory, but Fred narrowly beat the 20-count… only to take some more kicks as if he were an Iowan Shibata. Yehi came back with some chops to take down Henry, only for a superkick to keep Henry in it, before a brainbuster almost took him the win.

The pair went through a suplex-trading spree as Henry no-sold Germans whilst Yehi popped up from Exploders, before Henry dropped Yehi with a Flatliner into the middle turnbuckle. A victory roll almost gets it for Yehi, as does a dropkick to the head, before a Dragon screw and a powerbomb gets him a closer near-fall.

Yehi keeps up the pressure with an Exploder into the turnbuckles, but yet again the match tilted the other way, as a Lumbar Check got Henry a two-count a she switched from the kick-out into a grounded Cobra clutch. All of a sudden, a two-minute warning was shouted out as Henry rolled into the middle of the ring to re-apply the hold…but he let go and started hitting PKs and diving spinning kicks in an attempt to get the win.

Henry goes for the Vertebreaker, but Yehi gets out and lands an Exploder before a Fisherman brainbuster leads to a Koji Clutch in the middle of the ring… but Henry holds on and time runs out. Both men are eliminated! A cool way to get the rules regarding draws, but a fairly unpopular ruling nonetheless. This was a really good back-and-forth match, but the small crowd did hurt with the lack of reactions, etc. ***¾

Semi-Final: Dave Crist vs. Dezmond Xavier
So that draw apparently puts AR Fox into the final… Xavier found his t-shirt for his second entrance, but you gotta question if his longer match with less downtime will come into play here.

Crist misses a Yakuza kick at the bell as Xavier landed a reverse ‘rana out of the corner… both men looking for an early win here. Topes and planchas from Xavier added to the urgency, before a missed PK almost got Crist the win via a roll-up. A bridging German gets Crist another near-fall, before Xavier was dropped with a powerslam into the ropes. Where’s Glen Joseph for his favourite line?!

Crist stays on top of Xavier, but the match descended into a striking battle until they booted each other simultaneously. A Meteora off the top ensures Crist retains the advantage, before Xavier’s brief comeback saw him miss a corkscrew senton, only for Crist to land an inverted brainbuster (known in some areas as a Next Stop Driver, and doubtless many more) for the win. Short and sweet, but it made sense given both men’s earlier matches. **¾

They take an intermission here… which of course is left on the on-demand version as we see Xavier wistfully staring as he heads to the back. Fast-forward time!

Style Battle Fray
Or “WWN’s alternative name for a Royal Rumble, only with pinfall/submission/KO eliminations”. Number one is Chris Henry, and number two is Trevor Aeon. This generic music… I know why, but dear Gods.

Henry barely gets a count of one from a jumping side-kick to Aeon, and instead of any dramatic countdown, we just get an announcement of number three being Rob Barnes… whose first move is an impressive overhead belly-to-belly to Henry. Aeon gets one too, before a swinging back suplex gets Barnes a two-count. Fourth out is Jake Omen, who lays into Henry and gets the first elimination courtesy of a diving bulldog that didn’t look to make much contact.

Omen keeps up with a double springboard dropkick to eliminate Aeon as he looks to make a name for himself. Number five is the creatively-named Mitch Mitchell, who unloads on Omen and Barnes with punches, before breaking a double clothesline and taking down Barnes with a neckbreaker for an elimination. I guess we found what’s replacing those long Survivor Series matches with hiptoss eliminations!

Mitchell stomps away on Omen in the corner as number six is unveiled as Hunter Law… and Law aims straight for Mitchell based on a local feud. They worked well together, ending with a Falcon arrow as Wheeler Yuta came out in seventh. Yuta takes down Law with headscissors, before Omen’s pinned with a neckbreaker by Yuta, as Mitchell went straight at the newbie. Yuta lands a low dropkick to Mitchell, as time was killed before number eight Matt Palmer emerged. A spinebuster from Palmer and a knee strike leads to a hanging suplex on Law… Yuta takes a buckle bomb from Palmer, and we see number nine is Dante Caballero – and Dante immediately drops everyone with clotheslines.

A crossbody out of the corner from Dante gets two-counts on Palmer and Yuta, and just as Yuta pins Law with a cross-legged tombstone, out comes Jason Kincaid as our tenth man. Hey, a name I finally recognise! Kincaid just sits on the turnbuckles before Caballero made a beeline for him. Instead, Dante takes double superkicks from Yuta and Palmer, before he backdrops Kincaid to the floor. Drew Bronson comes out at number 11, and he goes straight for Kincaid on the floor, before Mitchell wiped out the pair of them with a shoulder tackle off the apron. Yuta throws himself in with a somersault plancha to the pile, before Palmer Fosbury Flops his way to the floor.

DJ Talamantez is number 12, but Bronson cuts off his dive as he dropped DJ with a DDT crossed with the Sister Abigail. Palmer takes a lungblower, only for Bronson to take a reverse leg sweep into a facebuster as Kincaid eliminates him. The last man out was Chris Silvio – an Ohio Valley wrestling regular – but he’s instantly sent outside with a forearm from Kincaid.

Talamantez hits a Code Red on Kincaid for a two-count, before Mitchell drops him with a back suplex, then a Cloverleaf as DJ taps out. Kincaid breaks up the hold with a Blockbuster after the tap-out, eliminating Mitchell, before an Emerald Fusion from Yuta should have gotten a pin… but Palmer flew in and pinned Yuta instead. A Samoan driver from Kincaid eliminates Palmer… and the bell rings, but Chris Silvio is still in, and he tries to schoolboy “The Gift” Kincaid for the win, but to no joy.

A superman punch gets Silvio a two-count, but Kincaid cuts off a dive with a forearm in the apron, before a double stomp off the ringpost into the ring sets up for a Zack Sabre Jr-esque Dragon sleeper, and that forces the referee to wave it off. Kincaid wins the Fray… it was what it was. A match that was way too short for the guys involved – I wasn’t keen on the eliminations to moves that barely register in normal circumstances, but it got some guys experience, I guess. *

Final: Dave Crist vs. AR Fox
Crist starts off at a million miles an hour, backdropping Fox to the floor, then flies out with him with a Space Flying Tiger Drop! Fox lands a 619 on the apron, then a shooting star press off it as they’re determined to not use the ring it seems!

A legdrop off the top rope to the apron keeps Crist down, as does a senton bomb, before Fox does the old Bossman rope choke… but with a crossbody to the outside. With both men on the mat, Fox and Crist trade kicks, but a split-legged corkscrew moonsault gets Fox another near-fall… as a Coast to Coast dropkick takes Crist to the apron.

The fresher Fox is all over Crist in the opening stages, landing a neckbreaker for a two-count, but Crist comes back with a neckbreaker of his own after draping Fox off the top rope. Another one follows after Fox was back in, as Crist one-upped Fox’s Coast to Coast, landing his version with Fox in a Tree of Woe!

Crist takes over with some kicks in the corner, only to take a Codebreaker for a near-fall as Fox came back. The tables keep turning with a superplex from Crist, then again as he almost took the win with a pop-up Ace crusher after draping Fox off the top turnbuckles. The DDT-like End of Days only gets a near-fall as the Square and Compass couldn’t put away Fox.

Fox replies by catching Crist on the top rope with a big boot, then with a springboard Spanish fly and the Fox Catcher brainbuster… but that only gets him a near-fall. A 450 splash gets another two for Fox, but Crist comes back with a step-up Lucha armdrag off the top rope and turns it into a cutter on the way down for the win! Given Crist was on his third match, this wasn’t too bad – a short main event, I mean – and gets over how anyone can win, given that he wasn’t exactly a shoe-in at the start of the night. ***

The remaining six contenders come out to the ring to applaud Crist, but with no “parade” or anything beyond the handshakes at the end, this felt a little weird. Perhaps they’re saving the massive finish for the Style Battle Finals?

What Worked: The concept of the tournament worked to a point… having a lot of names that were unknown to all but the most ardent fan didn’t help, and I’d have preferred had the commentators played up each guy’s style – hence the name of the tournaments!

What Didn’t: The Fray. Either give it plenty of time, use fewer competitors, or don’t do it at all. Having guys pinned by run-of-the-mill neckbreakers

Thumbs: Middle, slightly down. The format is by no means a write-off, but perhaps the idea of an outdoor show in January – in the middle of a cold snap, no less – wasn’t the brightest!