If a show happens and barely anyone’s there to see it, did it happen? Well, the 7th Style Battle was streamed, so I guess it did.
“You hated the last Style Battle, why are you going back to it so quickly?” I hear… well, there’s familiar names on here, with Nathan Cruz in the field for the penultimate round.
The show opened on a sombre note though, with ring announcer Timothy Barr leading a ten bell salute for Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, whose passing had been announced just before the show.
We’re in a different venue for this round, as the Gulf View Event Center in Port Richey, Florida was the base… ACW usually bases out of here, so it’s not a new venue for a lot of the crew on hand today.
First Round: Kai Katana vs. Darby Allin
With no Fred Yehi or Anthony Henry in the tournament, we’re getting a second chance for Darby Allin, who was the first man eliminated in the first tournament. Facing the hard camera there’s legitimately a dozen people, with a similar number on another side of the ring… sadly, the hard camera side is the stage, so this is all we’re getting in terms of crowd, possibly as a result of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma last week, if commentary’s to be believed. At least everyone who got to the show was front row…
Allin works over the wrist. To silence. This is going to be a LONG night. I may as well have this on mute given the atmosphere… with the crowd not even murmuring for a biel throw. Seriously, is this a training school show?!
Finally, someone shouts for Darby Allin as he takes a gutwrench gutbuster, then a hotshot into the ropes for a near-fall. A missed legdrop gives Darby a chance to rebound with a Coffin Drop-style back elbow, before a Code Red and his bridging leg grapevine deal got the win. What they did was fine, but man, this show is depressing to watch already. **¾
First Round: Leon Ruff vs. Matt Palmer
Hey, the crowd are making a noise for ACW regular Ruff! Why the hell didn’t they open the show with a familiar name… Palmer did the multi-man buffer matches in the first two Style Battles, but this is an all-local outing.
Ruff’s apparently only nine months into wrestling, following training by AR Fox… and that shows with all the high flying stuff – flips and Meteoras as Ruff looked to stay off the mat. It’s not a bad idea, but very high risk. After a Famouser, Palmer went for a Sharpshooter, only to get rolled up for a near-fall as Ruff kicked back, before almost getting the W with a strait-jacket German.
In the end, it’s not enough as Palmer gets the Sharpshooter in to force the submission… and so the guy who won the multi-man scramble on the lasts how goes out in the first round. Called it! **¼
First Round: Saieve al Sabah vs. Nathan Cruz
Al Sabah is an ACW regular, yet gets no reaction. He didn’t need to tell the crowd to shut their mouths… they already did! His opponent here, getting similar response, is Nathan Cruz, as the former PROGRESS champion looked to make the experience difference pay: 11 months vs. 11 years, with Cruz somehow having more experience despite being YOUNGER. Yup.
Saieve’s all mouth, and he’s put on the back foot early on by Cruz, who lands a leaping knee before punching away on al Sabah in the corner. A crossbody out of the corner almost gets Cruz the win as Saieve heads outside, where he’s joined for some crowd-exposing brawling around the ringside area! Cruz nails Thanks Tully – the springboard back suplex – for a near-fall, and it’s all one-way traffic for the Yorkshireman. Eventually al Sabah reverses a suplex and mounts a comeback with a load of clotheslines, then a neckbreaker as he turned up the pace something fierce… only to get pushed into a flapjack by Cruz.
A lungblower’s blocked as al Sabah hits an Olympic-ish Slam for a near-fall, before Cruz went into the dirty part of his playbook, poking him in the eye ahead of a rope-hung lungblower… but Cruz’s search for the win with the Job Done ended up with Saieve rolling him up for the shock win. I was NOT expecting that result… a solid outing for both men, but that was all Cruz. **¾
First Round: Snoop Strikes vs. AR Fox
Strikes was a fill-in for Ethan Case, who’d pulled out on the day with transport issues. It was so late, they couldn’t even make a graphic for Snoop!
Fox instantly goes to work on Snoop, throwing him out of the ring before the pair went through an archetypal “speedy exchange”. A missed bicycle kick sent Fox flying to the outside as Strikes came in with the Snoopy Suicida – a trio of dives that wreck a table. Back inside, we return to back-and-forth as the pair levelled each other with big boots at the same time, but you could tell that it was the veteran Fox who was edging ahead.
Snoop sneaks in a Sliced Bread and a double stomp for a near-fall, only to get caught in the ropes as Fox Rolled the Dice in the ropes for another two-count as they continued to trade those twos. In the end, Fox gets the Lo Mein Pain and a 450 for another two-count – drawing incredulity from commentary but not many others.
A package piledriver on the apron jars Strikes, leaving him vulnerable for the Fox Catcher brainbuster. That was pretty one-sided, but fun nevertheless. No surprise that Fox beat the late replacement… ***
Semi-Final: Darby Allin vs. Matt Palmer
Palmer started out as the aggressor against the better-known Allin, looking for that Sharpshooter several times early on.
Allin rebounds and throws himself all over the place, using a Coffin Drop as he dropped Palmer across the middle rope, but Palmer fought back as Allin looked to get on wobbly legs, falling into the corner after a run of the mill knee strike. The Dean Malenko-esque top rope gutbuster from Palmer left both men down, but he’s able to get the Sharpshooter in… which Allin breaks via the ropes once more.
Allin nearly snatches it with a Code Red, before going for the leg grapevine pin… but Palmer kicks out and switches it into another Sharpshooter, which gets reversed back as the grapevine pin gets Darby into the final! This was pretty solid, albeit short, but this crowd is killing the show. When you can hear the commentary over the camera mics, you know you’re dealing with silence! ***
Semi-Final: Saieve al-Sabah vs. AR Fox
al-Sabah was dripping with water/sweat, and was limping after his win over Nathan Cruz earlier. Someone ought to tell the mobile cameraman on the floor his feed’s useless, as the director’s long since given up switching to his intermittent video.
Saieve’s still mouthing off, and we start with some wacky “I’ll run, no you run” rope spots before Fox nailed a wacky wheelbarrow bulldog after bouncing up and down those ropes. Fox keeps flying around, but al-Sabah avoids it before shoving him into the post as the so-called “Child of the Eighth Day” looked to claim a scalp. A crucifix from al-Sabah looked more like a Samoan drop, and that seemed to be enough for Fox to pop up with an enziguiri, then a springboard cutter to collect a near-fall. Saieve gets caught in the ropes and is met with a slingshot Blockbuster for another two-count, and it looks to be a matter of “if, not when” for Fox… despite a headlock driver that nearly got al-Sabah the win.
In the end, a missed Phoenix Splash from al-Sabah ends up being his downfall, as Fox followed in with a big boot – and that’s enough for the win. Solid, yet unspectacular, as the two more established names in the field make the finals… and the crowd stayed mild! **¾
After a long interval, we’re back with the obligatory multi-man match…
WWA4 Heavyweight Championship Free 4 All: Bobby Flaco vs. Ryan Rembrandt vs. Adrian Alanis vs. Mighty Vic vs. Tony Midas vs. Jaxon Vile vs. Tommy Maserati vs. Damien Parker vs. Kavron Kanyon vs. Rudy Wristlock vs. Damien Smith vs. James Bandy (c)
My God, these names… to steal a joke from Alan Boon, of all the names you can take in wrestling, and you get… some of these. It’s a 12-man cluster, and its elimination rules too as Bandy leaves the ring at the bell, as does Tony Midas, just in time for Kavron Kanyon to use an axehandle to clear the field.
Rudy Wristlock fancies himself as a submissions guy… and with that surname, it’s an act, I suppose. Tommy Maserati bumps funny when Mighty Vic hit him with a DDT, before recovering to roll up Vic for the first elimination after he’d used Bobby Flaco in the role of the Terry Funk ladder helicopter. Whilst there’s some impressive stuff, there is a LOT of green going on here.
Unless it’s a battle royal, wrestling should NEVER have 12 men in the same match, especially when they’re all active. Nobody stands out and it just screams “waste of time”. It’s equally unhelpful that this is for a title. You have your usual training school tropes here – flips, dives, some roughness.
Adrian Alanis is pinned after some triple teaming… a double Northern Lights from Ryan Rembrandt almost causes a double elimination, only for James Bandy to eliminate him with a Shining Wizard. Tony Midas goes next after the Vile Driver (TKO) from Jaxon Vile, before some overly choreographed death valley drivers led to Vile and Parker trading blows.
A splash mountain from Parker gets a near-fall on Vile as that referee insists on hitting the mat for near-falls, with Vile getting the job done with a Brooklyn Destroyer – a double underhook destroyer – as Parker was next out. Smith nearly gets rid of Vile with a rope-walk Blockbuster, but it’s a knee and a pull-up uranage (called the Pesticide Bomb) that sees Kanyon eliminate Smith.
A Vader elbow bomb looked eliminates Wristlock as that awful ref can’t seem to make his 2s and 3s clear – and then Rudy returns as the ref seemed to change his mind after all. It’s not a clusterfuck without a messed up official! Eventually, Rudy gets the submission over Kanyon with a trapped-arm Stretch Muffler… Maserati gets rid of Rudy with a running knee… and it seems we’re down to Jaxon Vile, Tommy Maserati and the champion Bandy.
We’re back to the impressive green stuff as Maserati hits a diving cutter to Vile, before a frog splash collects a two-count. Vile looks to have finished off Bandy with the Vile Driver… but Maserati rolls up Jaxon for the penultimate elimination, and Bandy ends up prevailing with a Shining Wizard. Well, that was fun, but I’ll not remember much of it in the morning. 12 men in one match is beyond overkill. Cool late 90s WWF replica title belt though! **½
SHINE Nova Championship: Candy Cartwright vs. Priscilla Kelly (c)
Yay, we get another special attraction showcase. I guess? This tournament final rematch was apparently set up on the SHINE show a few days earlier, and I’m hoping this is short.
Kelly swings and misses on some kicks before grounding Cartwright with an armdrag, but the challenger hits back with a Northern lights suplex for a two-count as the challenger built up a head of steam. A sneaky leg sweep and a slingshot just dumped Kelly awkwardly on her head as I guess they went for a roll-through into a Boston crab… but they’re too close to the ropes.
We get a ref bump when Cartright pulls the ref in the path of a kick from Kelly… who’s then dragged into the ropes for a 619. With Aria Blake trying to awaken the ref, a second one slides in to count the pin… and the three count is made?! Candy Cartwright wins… and the crowd does NOT react. The first ref gets back to his feet, and instantly pulls the belt back off of Candy because he saw Candy barely get her feet onto the ropes.
So it’s a restart, and we quickly see Kelly nearly get the pin with a head kick after a back suplex, before hitting a half-nelson suplex for another two-count. Aria Blake tries to help Candy win with a take on the Warrior/Rick Rude WrestleMania finish… but she’s caught and thrown out… and this is massively overbooked for a throwaway match.
Kelly stomps right on Candy’s face, and after dragging her to the mat, the Made in Sin grounded Octopus is enough for the submission. So overbooked, this was not good. There’s a common theme in these Candy Cartwright matches, isn’t there? *
Final: Darby Allin vs. AR Fox
Timothy Barr’s microphone chose to give up during these introduction. It’s all the bass in his voice!
Allin shoots out of the corner at the bell, and it’s a suitably frantic opening between two wrestlers who like to be fast-paced in the ring. A Coffin Drop off the middle rope knocks Fox down, before a tope con hilo from Darby sent Fox – and Allin – crashing through a table in the only row of the crowd.
Back inside, Fox is evading everything Darby throws his way, and throws in a springboard cutter for the hell of it, before rolling together some rolling neckbreakers. Fox pulls up Allin into a piledriver, but Darby kicks out and works his way into an impressive springboard Code Red for a near-fall.
Fox resurges back into life with an attempted Lo Mein Pain, but Darby blocks it and nails a crucifix off the top to fold up Fox for another two-count. AR tries to catch Allin in a headstand on the top rope… and damn near kills him with a leaping tombstone off the middle rope… but somehow Darby gets his foot on the rope. Well, he still has breath in him… enough for the banana peel finish as Fox argues the count with the ref, allowing Darby to get a crucifix for the win. I’m not crazy at all about that finish, but like with all Style Battles so far, the three-matches-a-night format really hampers the final. Still, it’s about the best you’d have gotten with the names in the draw. ***
After the match, Allin used his victory speech to join the dots – he reckons this win gives him a shot against Zack Sabre Jr’s EVOLVE title. There’s many worlds of difference between ZSJ and the names in this entire tournament so far! Allin joins Dave Crist (we think… depends if Impact allows him to fulfil that date – although commentary did say “a standout from the tournament” will take a spot if a finalist cannot compete), Tracer X, Jon Davis, Jason Kincaid, Antony Henry and Fred Yehi in the final tournament. There’s one more spot left to be filled… and using that caveat, it’s not entirely unforeseen that a tournament regular like AR Fox will be an alternate.
So, the 7th Style Battle was… a thing. Matches happened. More people watched online than were in the venue. Sure, Hurricane Irma’s aftermath may be a reason, but it’s yet another damning indictment of a format that had so much promise but now seems to have been given up on. Like our coverage of it, it’s only continuing because they want to complete it…