Arnold Furious: May 29, 2017. Video Control kicks us off with clips from the second round of Super Strong Style 16 matches. Jim Smallman re-enacting the Lion King did not make tape. However the lad whose girlfriend is having a heart transplant did. So many emotions in the Ballroom.
A host of tournament competitors who didn’t make it this deep show up to challenge. Although the crowd would prefer Jeremy Corbyn “mans a bit busy at the moment”. When the crowd suggest Theresa May, there’s a response for that too; “that skets got no bars”. Wasteman Challengers this evening; David Starr, William Eaver, FLAMITA, Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews. Starr sings the Fresh Prince of Bell-Air theme song, albeit botching it the first time out. “I have to do Will Smith right”. Roy gets all emotional after Flash tells him he’s not coming on the podcast but then Mark destroys him. Flamita caps it off by doing the Macarena. Jimmy Havoc is supposed to be involved but considers it beneath him. “I’m better than this. I’m better than all of you” is the exact quote. Jack Sexsmith runs down and it turns into an actual match.
Flamita vs. David Starr vs. Jack Sexsmith vs. Mark Andrews vs. Flash Morgan Webster vs. Roy Johnson vs. Pastor William Eaver
Sexsmith rapidly opts to jog up to commentary as his arm is still knackered. Flamita, having adjusted to his surroundings over two days, suddenly hits another gear and starts popping off incredibly quick spots. The highlights here include Eaver using his Jesus Magic to overpower people and Flamita hitting a tornillo to the floor. Also David Starr hitting everyone in the face with his cock and Sexsmith running into the ring to demand he take one too. Starr and Eaver are both on inspired form, bringing the big laughs and the smart wrestling. Flamita catches Starr with the Flam Fly for the flash win. This was a fun ten minutes, although the finish comes over 40 minutes into the show. I heard it called “filler” but it was Progress gently easing everyone into the final night of wrestling of the weekend.
Final Rating: ***
Super Strong Style 16 Semi Final
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Travis Banks
Now we’re into the serious business and it starts in intense fashion. There’s nothing better in wrestling then two guys beating the utter shit out of each other. Travis has ridiculous intensity but Sabre is keen to show he’s equal to that. It’s not a fresh match-up (they’ve had several matches in Fight Club Pro) but the standard has always been very good. Both guys are not only intense but technically proficient. The combination of skill and attitude is a delight and this might be their most intense match to date. The kicks and slaps are badass. Both guys manage to stomp on the others head during the match. God, it’s heated. Sabre counters one Slice of Heaven into an armbar but Travis stamps on his head to break it and another Slice of Heaven gets it done. This was perhaps a little brisk, with a big match to follow, but a killer match anyway.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Super Strong Style 16 Semi Final
Matt Riddle vs. Tyler Bate
Ah the irony of Tyler Bate coming out to “Young and Bitter”, music written for Pete Dunne, right after losing the UK title to Pete. It’s not lost on the crowd who ragged Tyler all weekend long about losing the strap. Tyler, risking the belittling of his tiny feet, removes his boots to fight Riddle on an even keel, provoking a “shoes off if you love Riddle” chant and half the Ballroom crowd taking their footwear off. The smell was unbearable. It’s day three lads.
This weekend was yet another opportunity for Tyler Bate to demonstrate how far he’s progressed. Even last month he looked out of his league against Riddle and here he’s up to speed, able to compete with Riddle on the mat and with stand up. Riddle remains more intimidating but Tyler’s rate of improvement this year has been staggering. Riddle looks like one of the original Olympians, as if he hails from Sparta or somewhere equally tough. He makes his control period look sensational with an array of awesome power moves. Tyler’s offensive periods are also very strong as he’s added little bits and pieces and widened his range of attacks. It’s two wrestlers who are really, really great and yet are also very inexperienced. Imagine how good this match will be in a year!
One of my favourite chants all weekend is in this match; “tiny feet, shit tattoo”. Tyler takes all this in his stride and stands up to Riddle, refusing to be intimidated. He’s a man now, even when Riddle dishes out a vicious strike like his overhand chop or the big kick to the chest. I enjoyed this live but it’s even better on tape, able to see the nuances of both men’s expressions that adds depth. There is the odd moment that doesn’t work, like Tyler wanting to do his fancy Matt Cross-style bounce off the ropes and not having the momentum to do so, but overall the match hits epic tier with Tyler kicking out of Riddle’s running knee (which finished Trent Seven in six seconds). Bate hits the Tyler Driver ’97 twice to get the win and some fans were freaked out by that. Sensational performance from Tyler. Almost on a par with the Pete Dunne match at Takeover.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Number One Contendership Match
Kay Lee Ray vs. Katey Harvey
This is a number one contender’s match for the women’s title. Which is a bit strange because Harvey has had one match in PROGRESS and she lost. If we’re taking this seriously as a pseudo-sport that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Toni Storm joins commentary to check out her prospective opponent. Katey cut a slick promo saying the PROGRESS fans focusing on her sleeve wasn’t progress. She turns up sleeveless here and promptly gets bantered for losing her sleeve. If you complain about people taking the piss out of you, they’re probably going to take the piss out of you more. It doesn’t help that she shows up doing Xena Warrior Princess cosplay. It kinda feels like she’s just here to job to KLR. It’s also very strange placement, after that cracking Riddle-Bate match. The pre-intermission match is usually a banger. It’s ok but they don’t click too well, with some timing issues. Kay Lee looks to overcome that by just stiffing the shit out of Katey, which resulted in Harvey being injured. Although it seems her shoulder problem was actually an existing condition discovered thanks to her beating here. KLR gets the job done with the Gorybomb and sets up what should be another great Toni Storm-KLR match. Post match Toni comes down to the ring to wave her belt in front of Kay Lee’s face, so KLR slaps her for it. That’s happening next show.
Final Rating: **3/4
Mark Haskins vs. Trent Seven
This was the result of a smutty-mouthed Haskins challenging Seven to a match the previous night. The promo was “a bit sweary” but Jim thought it was funny so they aired it anyway. Resulting in slightly misogynistic “pussy bitch” chant, done in the same intonation that Haskins delivered his promo in. Trent’s own promo contains my favourite line from the entire weekend; “these are the dulcet tones of the West Midlands. I’m also suffering from borderline depression from the results of day one…now f*ck off”. Trent isn’t known for his submissions, nor his capacity to last beyond six seconds in singles bouts. He very nearly submits in a matter of moments. He looks even more depressed after chopping the ring post but amuses himself with a running chinlock. Trent hits another outstanding moment with the locals by muttering “I don’t know any moves” as he struggles to the stage. This is where the storyline kicks in with Trent Seven nailing Jimmy Havoc with a chair. Havoc tries to get revenge but accidentally nails Haskins and Trent gets the win because Mark is out. Great storyline work but not much to the match. Which is fine. I love the storyline and all these guys.
Final Rating: **1/2
Progress World Championship
Pete Dunne (c) vs. Jeff Cobb
I like that Pete has taken to smacking people’s hands when they stick the middle finger up at him. The placement of this match also confuses me as everyone was ready for the main event at this point. If I was putting the card together I would have put this on as the first half main event. Putting it right before the main event almost suggests we shouldn’t expect much from it.
Dunne is aware that Cobb is strong challenger and kicks him in the nuts before the bell and then goes to every short cut imaginable. Plus he targets the limbs and grinds Cobb down. Dunne is quite small, by wrestling standards, but has no problem being believable in beating up a larger opponent. Cobb brings his usual astonishing array of power moves, combined with the odd ridiculous flip. They cock up once, with Cobb landing in a completely different place to where Dunne was expecting, thus resulting in a dodgy transition. They try for a Strong Style sequence, which is appropriate, and it also shows there’s not a big size difference here despite Cobb’s impressive strength. Dunne’s ring awareness is quite remarkable and he saves his title by grabbing the ropes at one point; it all looks perfectly natural. Pete retains with the Bitter End in a perfectly adequate match. It escalated nicely and both guys looked great. Was the result ever in doubt? Not really. Was it the best place to put it on the card? That’s open for debate. It was good though, as Dunne vs. Cobb was always going to be.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Super Strong Style Final
Travis Banks vs. Tyler Bate
These two have terrific chemistry and have worked against each other in Fight Club Pro and ATTACK! quite a bit. Travis has been building an incredible catalog of matches in FCP and now he’s adding some PROGRESS singles matches to that haul. Although for a while I was pleased he was teaming with TK Cooper as those SPPT matches were superb, I’m very glad to see him having a chance to break out on a bigger stage.
The crowd are electric here, geared up before the two men have done a thing. The best thing about the setup here is not that it’s heel vs. face but that both men got here on merit. So although everyone hates Tyler and he’s the resident big bad guy for Travis to overcome, they’re very close in terms of skill. It makes for a great match, built steadily over a number of months. Credit to PROGRESS for seeing two young talents and sculpting them into a position where they’re this over and ready to become the two biggest stars in the promotion. Tyler, quite deliberately, looks tough as nails. He counters a lot of Travis’ offence and no sells some of the strikes, while Travis sells everything. Tyler looks incredible at times. His airplane spin is incredible. It might be even quicker than the one against Pete Dunne at Takeover. The Matt Cross rebound lariat is starting to look really good. Tyler Bate in 2017 is on another level and he was already good.
There are shenanigans, which is to be expected. There are ref bumps and inevitably the other British Strong Style lads get involved. But that’s not the finish of the match. They get that out of the way, complete with Travis getting visual pins and #CCK making a dramatic Ballroom debut to make the save. It’s a sensational save too with phenomenal double dives.
That’s not the end though as Travis and Tyler go right back into the action with a tremendous near falls sequence before Tyler hits his ridiculous dive to the floor and Travis wipes him out with the low tope. It’s a demonstration of two of the most perfect dives in wrestling, back to back. It doesn’t stop there either with a host of cool spots. Travis includes the Van Terminator in his moveset, although it’s perhaps less impressive in PROGRESS’ smaller ring. Then they start wailing on each other. It’s an epic match, loaded with effort and this is after they’ve already both wrestled once. Travis eventually gets the submission with his Lion Clutch crossface after avoiding a top rope Tyler Driver.
I enjoyed this more on tape than in person. Probably because I wasn’t leaning on the bar on this viewing, due to horrifically damaged toes. The action was great, the storytelling was great and even though the winner was entirely predictable sometimes that’s what wrestling needs to be. Something the Vince Russo’s of the world will never understand. And this wasn’t even the best match of the tournament! What a weekend!
Final Rating: ****3/4
Summary: I loved all three nights of Super Strong Style 16 for different reasons but this was the night I wanted to watch again and review for Voices of Wrestling. I felt it had something special about it and I couldn’t process that live. If I’d been in better health and more alive I would have adored this show as it happened. Luckily through the magic of VOD I can watch it back and enjoy it properly in the comfort of my own living room. Will I go next year? Try and stop me.