After several months off because of the whole FloSlam debacle, Style Battle returned in mid-January to round off it’s regular season with a loaded field.

With the likes of Darby Allin, Anthony Henry, Fred Yehi (eventually) and, erm, Tracer X making the finals, we’ve got one spot remaining. Could it go to Matt Riddle? Nick Gage? WALTER? Or someone slightly less-fancied like a KTB? There’s only one way to find out… We’re in the Saint Finbar Catholic Church Gym in Brooklyn, NY for this show… Trevin Adams and Timothy Barr are on hand for commentary and ring announcing.

First Round: Rayo vs. Matt Riddle
This has “squash” written all over it. Rayo’s prior appearances for WWN have been brief, but at least he gets time to wish Riddle a happy birthday and get a roll-up for a two-count. Rayo tries a crossbody and flips into a sunset flip as he keeps going for pinning predicaments, but eventually Riddle rolls through into a powerbomb before hitting a knee to the face. Yep. Splat.

Random thoughts that enter my mind: what if Matt Riddle isn’t the King of Bros, but he’s just a really big fan of the 80s band?

First Round: Brody King vs. KTB
KTB – or Kyle The Beast, to give his full name – is one of those guys who’ve been around the fringes of the “new” EVOLVE, and a beneficiary of their decision to throw in prelims into their cards. Except today he wasn’t a beneficiary of production work, as the guys in the truck gave him Brody King’s name plate as well as his own.

The two start going into the ropes, before they show off their agility with lucha rolls and duelling dropkicks. King edges ahead with a spot of rope walking before turning it into an armdrag, followed by a ‘rana as we get the impressive-for-a-big-guy stuff. A tope follows as KTB’s taken into the aisle, but KTB returns the favour, before returning to the ring to get chopped. A slam from King and a crushing senton left KTB reeling, but he’s able to rebound with a diving European uppercut out of the corner for a near-fall. KTB’s sliding forearm keeps King down for a two-count, before the pair trade off with boots, lariats, and all that good stuff, until KTB puts King down for a Quebrada… for just a one count?!

Brody’s fight back continues with an overhead belly-to-belly into the corner, before he trades forearms and chops, only to get sent into the corner as King nails the Whisper in the Wind out of the corner for a very near-fall! KTB returned fire with a brainbuster for another two-count as the pair continued to trade the big hits, with a powerbomb and a diving lariat from Brody picking up his next near-fall.

King tried to climb the ropes, but KTB caught him and brought him down with an Alley Oop, before rolling into a single crab after the impact to force the submission. A wacky finish, but a bloody enjoyable big lads’ match! ***

First Round: Brandon Watts vs. Joey Janela
Janela – complete with sound-alike music – is getting a second crack at Style Battle, after going out in the semis back on episode 5, while Watts is another of those names who’s had a bit of exposure in those EVOLVE prelims.

Watts and Janela start in the ropes, but there’s a lot of playing to the crowd and dead air here, with the pair getting a near-fall before taunting the other. From there, we move up to shoulder tackles, leapfrogs and missed dropkicks, before a series of pinning attempts didn’t even get one counts. Janela offers a disingenuous handshake, and it led to the cheap shot as Joey took him into the corner for some chops, before working through Watts with elbows to the head. It’s slow, deliberate stuff, but it’s Watts who takes the initiative as he took Janela outside for some chops around the ringside area.

Back inside, Janela nips in with a pump kick though, sending Watts flying for a near-fall as the silent crowd finally burst into life, just as Joey busted out some back rakes before he pulled Watts out of the corner. A surfboard stretch gave Joey a chance to “rest”, as he switches through some submissions, trapping Watts in a figure four and resisting attempts to reverse the hold.

Eventually Watts gets free, but his attempt to go flying ends with Janela rolling to the outside… so he just flies with a plancha onto him instead. Another attempt to go up top sees Watts take too long as Janela lands a gamengiri instead, before nailing a top rope Falcon arrow – to do a mega deal? – but Watts kicks out at two! From the kick-out, Joey goes up and nails a wild double stomp, and that’s the match mercifully over. It wasn’t bad, but just really slowly-paced, leading to the feeling of it dragging at times. **¼

After the match, Janela got the standard post-match promo… this time, he grabbed the microphone and called out WWN’s management team for “not believing in him”. He insisted he could hang with the best of the indys, and he’s going to use this tournament to prove it.

First Round: Nick Gage vs. WALTER
A highly anticipated match, which had a wild build-up on social media, with some thinking that this was going to be more than a hard-hitting match. The sheer aura around Gage is a rarity in 2018, with Gage’s criminal past perhaps bleeding a little too much into his character for some people’s tastes. For some reason, Nick Gage was able to use Metallica for his entrance… so, is that where the last of the Flo money went?

Gage slapped WALTER… and earned himself a big boot as the violence and brutality was only getting started. A gutwrench from WALTER follows, as a big boot and a shotgun dropkick knocked Gage back down ahead of a Lion Tamer-esque Boston crab as the Austrian tried to force the submission. Eventually Gage tried to fight back with a slap, but WALTER’s more than happy to give a receipt before he seamlessly flowed from a RINGKAMPF German into a butterfly suplex, only for Gage to hit a backdrop suplex to give him a shout. The pair ended up outside as Gage again went to throw chops at WALTER, but an Irish whip into the guard rails is easily blocked as WALTER hits back, dumping Gage on the guard railings before blistering him with more chops.

Back inside, Gage tries to fight back again, teasing a piledriver, but WALTER back body drops his way free before throwing more chops… and then Gage just slides to the outside as he suckered WALTER back to the floor for more brawling. A wild back body drop takes Gage into the crowd, obliterating some chairs as WALTER follows him… Gage uses one of the chairs he took out, and the fight continues as the bell rings. For some reason the chairshot from Gage didn’t lead to the DQ, as the referee just called a no-contest. This was fun while it lasted, but hey, it’s great to see something different being done – especially in the name of believability. ***¼

The brawl continues despite the assistance of some in the locker room, as WALTER obliterates some referees and trainees so he could go back to Gage. Things continue until Keith Lee appears in the ring alongside WALTER, as those two squared off and shook hands… before WALTER burst back into the crowd to go after Gage again!

The upshot of all this, by the way, is that Joey Janela’s got a bye to the finals, where he’ll face the winner of the remaining semi-final…

Semi-Final: Matt Riddle vs. KTB
For some reason Riddle came out with headphones around his neck… was he expecting this to be quick, or did he just want to smash them and have a reason to buy a new pair?

KTB’s suckered into a striking battle from the off as the two big lads exchange forearms and chops, with KTB eventually sent reeling before resuming the fray. A lariat from KTB gets him a surprisingly early two-count, before getting a similar result from a scoop slam off the ropes as Riddle was perhaps struggling to get going. A German suplex from KTB’s no sold as Riddle bursts into life, hitting a Fisherman buster for a near-fall, before landing a Bro to Sleep and a German suplex for another two-count. Riddle keeps the pinning attempts going, throwing elbows for a near-fall, then a knee and a back senton as Riddle looked to keep the bigger guy down.

More back sentons follow, but eventually KTB gets the knees up to block it, only to run into a pop-up powerbomb and a bicycle knee as Riddle picks up the easy win. Pretty much by the numbers, but given the performance of the two finalists, you’d have Riddle as a lock to win this, right? **¾

Jack Gallow vs. Jimmy Lloyd
The first of two “buffer” matches now, as we see a return for Jack Gallow – someone who was last seen on a “main” WWN show in March 2016, losing to Ethan Page in EVOLVE. Jimmy Lloyd’s more well known for his death match stuff in CZW, but he’s a prior Style Battle entrant, going down to Joey Janela in episode 5.

Gallow and Lloyd went for each other at the bell, but it’s Gallow who edges ahead with a big lariat off the apron before heading up top for an early frog splash that nearly puts Lloyd away. Lloyd returns with a forearm that he almost fell down delivering, before rebounding off the ropes into a snap German suplex from Gallow as things looked a little… not crisp, shall we say, at times. Lloyd rebounds with a belly-to-back piledriver, and that’s it. Yup, really. Way too short, but not really offensive. *¾

WWA4 Championship: Liam Gray vs. Adrian Alanis vs. Jaxon Vile vs. James Bandy (c)
You may recognise a few of these faces from the more recent EVOLVE shows… yep, AR Fox’s crew just happen to be in town and are having a match between themselves! For a belt that looks a lot like the late 90s WWF title belt, which isn’t one of the worst belts to just put a sticker on.

When we’ve had matches like this before, we’ve had a tendency for things to break down into spot-fests, with the cameras focusing on Vile and Bandy in the corner… and yeah, it’s already getting spotty as Gray and Alanis fought over a pin, before turning their sights on each other.

Alanis lands a backbreaker before crushing Vile with a back senton, as Bandy almost retains his title with a running blockbuster to Alanis for a near-fall. The Cactus Jack clothesline took Bandy and Alanis outside, as we get dives, courtesy of Vile’s tope and a wild plancha from Gray that almost turned into a missile-like landing. Back inside, Gray went after Alanis… but Vile stops a move off the top as we set up to a Tower of Doom, with Alanis triggering off a brainbustering Tower of Doom. Ouch.

Alanis gets a two-count out of that, before Bandy returned to break up a cover… The Bandy Buster – a spinning Fisherman’s suplex – gets a near-fall as Vile breaks up the pin. A wicked spear from Vile nearly gets him the win as we break down into a Parade of Moves, with a uranage from Gray seeing him get too confident, as his attempt at a People’s something-or-other was stopped by Alanis, who turned him into a Shock Treatment-like backbreaker while dropping a leg on Bandy for good measure.

There’s a wonky moment when Bandy’s diving knee looked to get a three count, but Liam Gray dives onto the pile just in time, before nailing Bandy with a Praying Mantis Bomb… only for Vile to break up the pin and counter an attempted crucifix with the Vile Driver (sit-out tombstone) to Gray to win the title. This was fun, if not spotty, but they didn’t have the array of sloppy spots that these kind of matches tend to have. **¾

Final: Joey Janela vs. Matt Riddle
The winner gets the final spot in the Style Battle finals over WrestleMania weekend, and with commentary already having identified Riddle as a “defending Style Battle champion” (winning the 2016 equivalent when it was a round robin tournament back at EVOLVE 53-55), it’s fair to say that the King of Bros is the overwhelming favourite.

Riddle easily took down Janela with a uranage, forcing the “Bad Boy” to powder… and when he’s back inside, he finds that his efforts at escaping a wristlock were rather futile as Riddle was more than even to him. Janela frequently powders to the outside as he tried to regroup, and the second time it actually worked a little as he was able to surprise Riddle with some elbows… only for a chop battle to start, which ended pretty badly for Joey.

Janela decides to try and show us his submission chops, grabbing an armbar, but Riddle swiftly countered into headscissors… which Janela breaks by pulling away on the toes of the bare-footed Riddle. One day he’ll learn…

There’s more toe-tweaking from Janela, who instantly crumbles after Riddle smashed him with a chop from the bottom up… but Joey’s able to come back with a dive after he sent Riddle to the outside. Chops from Joey follow as he tries to soften up Riddle by throwing him between the ring post and the guard railings, but Riddle’s able to get the upper hand as he takes Janela back into the ring for a crushing back senton.

A kick to the throat follows as Riddle picks up a two-count, before Riddle went to his usual playbook with a series of rolling gutwrenches, before he was forced to escape an armbar attempt from Janela… countering it into a thunderous powerbomb! Riddle misses a back senton as Janela thought he’d be able to get back into it, with the exchange of forearms putting him slightly ahead until a superman punch from Riddle put an end to that.

Riddle connects with another back senton though as he looked to get back into it, but Janela’s Fisherman’s buster gets him a two-count, before he wound up for a shot that was blocked and met by an up-kick from Riddle, who started to go back to his usual repertoire, nailing a tombstone slam for a near-fall. Janela hits back after he shoves away a superplex, and nails Riddle with a double stomp for another near-fall, as he tried to measure up Riddle for a series of kicks to the chest – mixed in with the birthday song for extra trolling. That last kick left Riddle loopy, but he’s able to fire back with a powerbomb and a bicycle knee… but that’s not enough to put Janela away!

A superkick from Janela sees him come within a hair of the win, but after showing shock at the kick-out, Janela’s instantly caught in the Bromission, giving him no choice but to submit. Easily the best thing on this show, and it’s Matt Riddle who’s heading to the death spot on WrestleMania weekend to find out who’s going to win the tournament that’s only just gotten back into the limelight. ****

After the match, Matt Riddle went on a ranting promo declaring himself “the man that runs WWN”, before Ron Niemi filled in the blanks for him as the show came to a close.

Style Battle has – perhaps fairly – been much maligned up until now, with a lot of repeated names on these shows, and dwindling crowds, especially for the last few shows before the break. We’ve commented about how the storylines on Style Battle were a bit wonky, with Anthony Henry having to do the “one last chance” story to win a tournament, while Fred Yehi received chance after chance after chance without such repercussion. Truth be told, the eight finalists should provide a good field for the finals in April, with Riddle joining EVOLVE regulars Fred Yehi, Anthony Henry (duh), Darby Allin and Jason Kincaid, alongside Tracer X, Jon Davis and inaugural winner Dave Crist… although the latter’s switch to Impact since winning his round back in January 2017 may force a reshuffle.