In the lamest of lame duck slots on WrestleMania weekend, Style Battle wrapped up its season with a much-changed finals.
Originally starting in January 2017, Style Battle was a show created for FloSlam (weren’t the a rib? © Emil Jay) that was capitalising on the popularity of tournaments. In short, eight shows of eight man tournaments would eventually lead us to these finals, where the ultimate Style Battle winner would be crowned.
Except things went a little off kilter, with several guys getting multiple cracks at the tournament: Anthony Henry had four attempts before winning in his “last chance”, while Fred Yehi needed five (without any such warnings). The likes of AR Fox, Darby Allin and Joey Janela also repeated, as the qualifying portion finally wrapped in in January with these eight finalists: Dave Crist, Tracer X, Jon Davis, Jason Kincaid, Anthony Henry, Fred Yehi, Darby Allin and Matt Riddle.
An injury to Darby Allin (which actually hospitalised him) saw him removed from the show. Fred Yehi’s falling out with management saw the five-time Style Battle entrant not even appear on the finals, while Dave Crist and Jon Davis also missed out. So we effectively only had HALF of the original line-up! Anyway, as noted elsewhere, this is SILENT BATTLE, because the Fite.tv replay has no audio. This may become an issue. Joanna Rose, Timothy Barr and Trevin Adams are the voices we would have heard…
First Round: Tracer X vs. AR Fox
Our first change is in the opener, and DEAR GOD, the WWN DOME IS EMPTY. When folks were counting the pre-sales for these WWN shows, Style Battle was not included, and I guess we know why now. I swear there’s folks from the locker room in the crowd, as Candy Cartwright’s visible from the off. Without the locker room, I think they’d be struggling even more to fill the front row, as I count sixty bodies in the crowd, give or take. It’s grim, but still somehow more than they had for their last episode on FloSlam in September.
Tracer X won the second Style Battle, in February 2017, while the replacement Fox was a finalist in the first and seventh tournaments, for those counting.
Fox starts by taking Tracer into the corner, before he’s forced to cartwheel out of a wristlock and counter with a side headlock as X escaped. Some wacky rope running gets X ahead with ‘ranas and dropkicks, sending Fox careering to the floor for a breather. Back inside, Fox kicked away at Tracer before taking him down with a Slingblade ahead of a clothesline in the corner and a back senton for a near-fall.
Tracer tried to shove away some of Fox’s flippy stuff, but ends up taking a neckbreaker before some roll-ups got Fox closer to victory. They both go for enziguiris at the same time and somehow take each other out, before Tracer set up for a wacky trapped-arm suplex that almost got him the win. For some reason Tracer tries to hit it again,but Fox fights out and nails an enziguiri, before finishing off the PWX regular with the Foxcatcher… but it’s only enough for a two-count! Tracer fights back, shoving away a springboard as he took Fox outside for a tope before slingshotting himself back into the ring with a Downward Spiral as my feed freezes.
I guess it was a near-fall as the match continued, but not for long as Tracer misses a 450 splash, before being caught with Lo Mein Pain as he went up top again, followed by a successful 450 from Fox for the win. This was really good, even without the benefit of any audio whatsoever. ***¼
Rather than put up a screensaver, we just get a wacky view as the cameraman plopped his camera on the ring.
First Round: Anthony Henry vs. Jason Kincaid
After all the chances he needed to get this far, you’d hope Henry doesn’t flop at the first hurdle, right?
Kincaid tripped Henry right at the start, as the pair looked to chain wrestle in the early going… or in Kincaid’s case, cartwheel and flip around as he tried to take Henry down to the mat. It’s good basics, with Kincaid looking to turn it into a stomp, perhaps as a tribute to Fred Yehi. Kincaid gets in a leaping knee to send Henry onto the apron, but a sunset bomb is stuffed as Henry instead gets tripped onto the apron by the now-aggressive meditator, who followed up with a somersault into a stomp instead. Back inside, Henry tries to fight back, chopping through Kincaid’s chest before scoring with kicks and another stomp.
Kincaid lands that clothesline through the ropes again, but Henry slips as they springboard to the apron, where an eventual STO sent Kincaid down to the floor. More chops follow, before Henry appealed to the crowd… we can’t tell if they responded, as he charges into Kincaid, and takes an enziguiri for his troubles before getting low bridged to the apron. Kincaid’s springboard forearm knocked him back to the ring, where Kincaid keeps up with clotheslines and a slingshot neckbreaker for good measure.
A Meiko Satomura-like handspring knee drop, then a rebound reverse DDT off the ropes keeps the pressure up, before he’s taken into the corner with a hiptoss, before the pair tease Vertebreakers (seriously), ending with a pancake facebuster from the Vertebreaker position for Kincaid for a near-fall. Henry manages one last flurry, landing a head kick for a near-fall, before he kicked out from a wheelbarrow roll-up and almost wins with a bridging Regalplex.
We’re still going as a stomp off the top’s only good for a two-count on Kincaid, as the pair go back and forth with chops as the near-falls keep racking up… as do the submissions, with Kincaid trying for an Octopus, then a crossface. Henry escapes the crossface by standing up and dropping Kincaid on the top rope, but he dives into a stunner in the ropes before Kincaid misses a stomp…before a powerbomb and a single-leg crab from Henry led to the win, after some hammerfists from Henry forced the stoppage. That match felt long, but pretty good – and one that would likely have benefited from any kind of crowd reaction, rather than the vacuum it’s in on this replay. ***¼
First Round: Snoop Strikes vs. Matt Riddle
Strikes, currently the ACW cruiserweight champion, is filling in for the inaugural tournament winner, Dave Crist. Yeah, this is massively one-sided on paper, especially as Matt Riddle is on a high after winning the EVOLVE title.
He’s making the most out of the slack crowd too, making sure EVERYONE gets a fist bump, whether they want it or not.
Snoop, erm, strikes early at the bell, laying into Riddle and taking him outside for a tope as he tried to get a flash victory, following up with a tope con giro that looked awkward on the EVOLVE champ. An attempt at a crucifix driver almost went awry, but Strikes gets it anyway for a near-fall, before they moved to chops. Bad choice, Snoop, as that led to a wild German suplex that left him laying.
An Exploder looked just as vicious, dumping him on his head before the back senton collected a near-fall for Riddle, who kept up the pressure with rolling gutwrench suplexes. It’s too easy for Riddle, as you’d expect, but just as I say that, Strikes hits a nice Destino out of nowhere to claim a near-fall. From there though, Snoop BOUNCES from a Bro to Sleep, before a powerbomb and a knee through the face does the job. A nice, extended squash that made Strikes look good, but in truth he was never at the races. ***
First Round: Keith Lee vs. Nick Gage
So this is where the stars are hiding! This was booked as a result of a fight after the last Style Battle show, which makes a little sense as Keith Lee never competed in a tournament, while all Gage had to show for himself was a no-contest with WALTER back in January.
Gage clearly had his fans, including this guy who really wanted to tempt fate… but Gage takes it out on Lee, attacking him before the bell as he kicked away at the legs, before damn near chopping off Lee’s nipple. Things go sour when Gage tried to lift up Lee, who easily blocked it, before athletically leaping over him and delivering a nice POUNCE! Gage is back with more strikes, but Lee clubbers away some more, blasting Gage with more forearms and elbows, only to get bitten?! More monstrous throws follow from Lee, who easily turfs Gage from corner to corner, only for the “King” Gage to come back with some face-washing boots as Lee looked to be in trouble.
At least, before he caught a boot and murdered Gage with a swivelling lariat, but the fight continued, with elbows and finally a double-handed chop before a diving splash nearly put Gage away. Lee fires up once again, only to take some chops as Gage eats more strikes, another double handed chop, and then a spinning forearm for what looked to be the win. Without sound, that sure looked like a referee botch, and it was, as the ref’d changed his count from two to three before the match restarted.
Gage takes a wacky bump for a spinebuster, only to be hauled up again as Lee finally picked up the win. The finish derailed this a bit, but this was a fine slugfest. ***¼
Post-match, Gage grabs a chair and lays out Lee with it, before he Pillmanises Lee’s leg and makes a hasty exit.
They wheel out AR Fox for the next match, I assume. Sadly, Fox has a mic and I can hear less than I usually have done in this building. There’s run-ins from some of AR Fox’s trainees, one of whom helpfully has his name plastered all over his gear, and I fast-forward until we get to the match, because sound.
WWA4 Showcase: AC Mack vs. Adrian Alanis vs. Kavron Kanyon vs. James Bandy vs. Shawn Dean vs. Alan Angels
Even the WWN captioners give up, as these guys share a collective nameplate. It’s saying something when you’ve got to hunt down the WWA4 website and rack your mind of Style Battles past for this stuff!
Much like prior Style Battles, this is a scramble involving some of AR Fox’s trainees, and after an early clear-out of the ring we’re taken to Alanis and Bandy, two of the bigger guys in the group as they trade head kicks. Angels, the skinniest, tries to break it up, and even manages a double jawbreaker before going after them in the corners. Angels misses a springboard back into the ring, before decking Alanis with a forearm and a knee, only and now we get a new face as AC Mack is bouncing all over the place like a rubber ball. Dean is next, but he falls to a Slingblade and a leaping back elbow as they try desperately to keep this one-on-one with everyone else on the floor.
Kavron Kanyon tries a double-team, before his superplex to Alanis was foiled, as we build to duelling Towers of Doom in opposing corners. Things go a little wonky as AC Mack ate a move that I can only describe as the bastard offspring of an F5 and a Burning Hammer, and the other corner has something more complex as a Samoan drop and a Blockbuster were mashed up too.
A chain of nasty Ace crushers starts, because they were a meme once, before Alanis builds to a bigger, “accidental” cutter, before a Spanish fly from Alanis gets a near-fall on Dean, as a Alanis comes closer with a wacky release suplex/backbreaker attempt. Alanis gets knocked off the top as he went for something aerial, but in the end he’s caught by Mack, who then gets killed with a buckle bomb as a running boot from Kavron Kanyon wiped out Mack and Alanis, ahead of a nice pull-up into a head-and-arm Flatliner… for a near-fall.
More movez follow as this gets really hard to watch without sound, as Angels despaired from afar, before he was finished off with a butterfly backbreaker as Dean took the win. As a scramble it was good, but the inherent problem of these appearing unadvertised is that it’s exceedingly hard for anyone to break out and stick out for more than a few moments. **¼
Semi-Final: AR Fox vs. Anthony Henry
After watching that scramble in the crowd, AR Fox is back for his match. For realsies.
Fox tried to jump Henry, but he’s just sent into the corner for chops before we play a little cat and mouse around the ringside area. Back inside, Henry hits a release suplex and a running kick, before the feed freezes as I assume Henry gets a two-count out of things.
Fox decides to ground things, using a rear chinlock, before a back elbow keeps Henry down… but Henry begins a comeback, only to get his eyes raked. On the apron, Fox teases a piledriver, as Henry hooked his leg around the ropes, before recovering with a gamengiri and an Air Raid Crash right onto the goddamned apron. Back inside, Fox somehow gets ahead as he tries a Lo Mein Pain, before crushing Henry with an Ace crusher and a senton bomb for a near-fall. A 450 splash follows, but is aborted, as Henry came closer with a pair of brainbusters… okay, that second one’s a one-count kickout, before a slew of kicks to the head earned Henry a brainbuster of his own!
More back-and-forth forearms follow as the pair look to push the match over the line, but Fox Matrix’s away from one and plants Henry with a springboard cutter before a 450 splash gets a near-fall. In response, Henry gets a near-fall from a pop-up powerbomb, before running into an inside cradle, reversing it for the win in a weirdly-delayed finish. A nice, energetic match here, with plenty of moments that those of a certain mentality would not even consider in front of a crowd this size. ***¼
Semi-Final: Matt Riddle vs. Keith Lee
Young Matthew’s all jolly, but there’s not many fist-bumps on offer. Perhaps he knows it’s because Keith’s ankle got bollocksed earlier?
Lee’s hobbling to the ring, as referees try to stop him like he’s a designated driver who wants to tempt a drink. It’s not much of a match when we get going as they trade forearms, before Lee crumpled as he tried for a pounce. A wicked knee to the face is all it takes, and Riddle’s in the final! I liked the set-up very much – it sold Lee as someone with heart, while putting over the Gage attack (there’s nothing I hate more than a vicious attack shrugged off, leading to a long-ish match that happens shortly afterwards). Riddle took the win because of course he did, and that’ll give more juice to Gage/Lee down the road, I’d guess.
Matt Knicks & Stevie Fierce vs. Chance Champion & Omar Amir vs. Purple Haze & Blake Wilder vs. Crazy Boy & Aero Boy vs. Jimmy Lloyd & Tony Deppen vs. Curt Matthews & Jared Wayne
More non-tournament stuff as we get an insight into the extremely-lesser-viewed parts of WWN, including manager Skinny Vinny and the ACW pairing of Omar Amir and Chance Champion. Pretty sure I’ve already railed against Champion for having a horrible name. We’ve got some off-cuts from the Janela Clusterfuck too, just for good measure… which we needed because this was originally just a two-on-two tag match.
We’ve also got three matches left in just over half an hour, so this is going to be one of those “nothing registers” deals, especially when the Freelance team of Knicks and Fierce start with dancing.
They’re bumped by Lloyd and Deppen, before the Pump Patrol of Wayne and Matthews come in. Yeah, it’s very much “revolving doors” when it comes to tags. Amir and Champion reigned supreme after they cleared the ring, before their manager comes in… and willingly gets press slammed into the pile on the floor which he almost overshoots.
The match quickly breaks down as the DTU Boys tried to salvage it, double-teaming someone as we go back to the revolving door stuff, with Haze and Wilder landing a nice Hart Attack Leg Lariat. Except they can’t make a cover because more people have to do moves, including a full nelson slam which gets the win for Wayne and Matthews over the Freelance team. So forgettable, so unnecessary, skip. ¾*
There’s either a load of guys working for free, or this match alone cost more than the draw.
Logan Creed vs. Joey Ozbourne vs. Francisco Ciatso vs. Andrew Jackson vs. Blanco Loco
Just what we needed, another match with just guys. No offence to any of them, but when you’re not advertised and you’re thrown out there, it sure does give you an uphill battle.
Yeah, it’s another multi-man match, worked under revolving door rules, but at least we get some flips out of Blanco Loco and Andrew Jackson, before Logan Creed tried to kill Loco with a chokeslam, before he instead took a stunner. Loco flies with a corkscrew plancha that looked like it sucked for the guys he landed on, as Ciatso… gets booted off the apron. Nevermind! Creed completes the dives with a nice tope, but him landing face down in the aisle probably tells you how good the catch was!
Ozbourne, Jackson and Loco trade shots in the ring before a double-team powerbomb left Jackson laying… although we’re into “breaking up pins” territory here. Ozbourne hits a nice leaping knee to Jackson, then a full nelson facebuster for a near-fall as Ciatso gets to work with body blows in the corner. A snapping Flatliner gets rid of Ozbourne before Ciatso went after Creed, who ran into a slam for a near-fall as Creed’s manager hopped onto the apron for reasons.
Creed’s manager, Brooklyn, distracts Ciatso like she’s vaguely seen Stacy Keibler back in the day… and it works as Frankie goes to slap her ass, before he’s dumped with a something that looked like a full nelson pancake for the win. This was alright, but wholly unnecessary when you’ve got a crowd this poor, even if you wanted to give Creed screen time. **
Final: Anthony Henry vs. Matt Riddle
Henry came out holding his neck, selling the two wars he’s been through – as opposed to the flash win Matt Riddle had in the semis. There’s some pre-show promos we can’t hear, obviously, and Riddle’s back with fist bumps… except that one baby in the crowd doesn’t know why.
Riddle starts by going for Henry’s arm, but Henry actually tries to score with a rolling armbar, except they land too close to the ropes. A headlock follows, which Riddle scapes, before Henry tries a German suplex… and you know the drill. So did he, as a dropkick follows, taking Riddle onto the apron for a STO-like lariat. Rushing back in, Henry almost nicks the upset with a stomp, but some kicks just rile Riddle, who gets back to his feet and nails an overhead kick to Henry, making it look so easy. The corner forearms follow, then the Exploder out of the corner and a back senton, as Riddle’s going through “his match” with ease.
Riddle tries kicks, but the tables turn as Henry catches one and begins a slap-off, before connecting with a spinning back kick and a German suplex that actually worked. A death valley driver nearly gives us a win, before Henry goes for a Vertebreaker, which Riddle escapes and floats over into a powerbomb. One wicked knee later… and the match is still on!
We still keep going after a Bro to Sleep and a bridging German from Riddle, but you sensed the end was nigh for Henry, who ate some back sentons as if Riddle was a teenager diving onto his bed, before finally getting his knees up. Henry gets a knee and a lariat as he looked for his final chance, planting Riddle with the powerbomb and single leg crab, but Riddle survives the hammer blows and ground and pound flurries, before pulling Henry into a Bromission for the submission.
Easily match of the night, and I’d like to see a regular rematch between these two away from the confines of a one night tournament and the rigours of WrestleMania weekend. Matt Riddle winning the tournament is a nice cap for a weekend that saw him stand out head and shoulders from the WWN pack, but otherwise is something that’ll be quickly forgotten. ****
Style Battle launched as an intriguing concept, but quickly turned into a car wreck as the thought of using the show as “live tryouts” led to the product seemingly becoming an after-thought. Repetitive stories, like the Henry and Yehi “one more try” threads pervaded the format, and long before FloSlam died a death, it was an afterthought. Hell, the fact that despite paying off the finals at WrestleMania weekend, them slotting the show in the death slot of “More Than Mania” (and getting way less than 100 fans, even with $10 tickets)… nor did they have a trophy (or anything at all) for the winner says it all. Horrible promotion of something that could have been special, had things been different.
Don’t hold your breath for Season 2 of Style Battle, as this format is likely to be mothballed until appearing again on some random EVOLVE show.