In a few short hours the PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 will be underway and for the third year of what’s become one of the biggest tournaments in UK wrestling PROGRESS have assembled some big names. Across the field of sixteen competitors from six different countries there are three international debuts, five former PROGRESS World Champions, two former Super Strong Style 16 finalists and just four men who have competed in the tournament before. With such a loaded line-up excitement is high and the field is wide open, so without further ado let’s take a look at the eight tournament matches taking place on day one;
Jack Sexsmith vs Zack Gibson
After some great performances put his name on the map in 2016, this year saw Jack Sexsmith make it his goal to enter the Super Strong Style 16. Ultimately, he succeeded, scoring a huge upset victory over the far more experienced Paul Robinson to earn a tournament spot. But it wasn’t an easy road, and along the path to proving himself he ran afoul of a very angry Scouser with a very large chip on his shoulder, Liverpool’s self-appointed number one Zack Gibson. While the stage does seem set for Sexsmith to avenge his count-out loss to Gibson, it would be unwise to disregard Zack who was one of the best competitors in last year’s SSS16 and reaching the semi-finals. Liverpool’s Number One will be out to better that result this time around, and Sexsmith has his work cut out for him if he wants to emerge the victor.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs David Starr
A big international debut here for David Starr (man of a thousand nicknames, too many to list so let’s just call him that) who has been tearing it up in Europe and the US for a year or more now, quickly becoming one of the fasting rising names on the scene. This isn’t a first-time match, however. Starr has encountered Zack Sabre Jr. on in wXw and CZW and has come up short on both occasions. Starr will undoubtedly be wanting to make a big impression on his PROGRESS debut, and what better way to do it than by taking out one of the tournament favourites. But some would say that this is Zack’s tournament to win. After narrowly losing to a young Will Ospreay in final of the 2015 tournament, injury kept Zack from competing the year after. He’s won tournaments and titles the world over, but the SSS16 tournament and the PROGRESS World Championship are two prizes that have so far eluded him. This very well could be Zack’s year.
Jimmy Havoc vs Travis Banks
The rise of New Zealand native Travis Banks over the past year has been nothing short of meteoric. He’s won over fans up and down the country, wrestled some of the top names from home and abroad and become a champion in numerous promotions. But one man he has yet to wrestle one-on-one is the former PROGRESS World Champion Jimmy Havoc. Not only is this a first-time match, but it’s also both men’s first SSS16 tournament and both will undoubtedly be looking to make an impact. Jimmy wants to regain what he sees as his PROGRESS title, but will he be able to stop the momentum of Banks? Both men could easily win this tournament, and both are probably high among many of the fan’s picks to do so, but only one can prevail and it’ll be very interesting to see who comes out on top.
Mark Andrews vs Flamita
Of all the new faces in the SSS16 tournament this year, the one the fans most likely know the least about is Flamita. The high-flying sensation has been wowing Mexican crowds for over a decade (despite being just 22 years old) but he’s probably gained more fame internationally wrestling for Dragon Gate, where his speed and aerial agility have made him a fan favourite over the past five years. On the other side of the ring, Mark Andrews. Easily one of the best high-flyers the UK wrestling scene has produced and a finalist of last year’s tournament. Suffice to say, given the skill and ability of the two men involved, the fact that this is a first-time match up and that Flamita rarely appears outside of Mexico or Japan: this is a dream match, whether you realise it or not and I’m fully expecting Mandrews & Flamita to wow the crowd like no other this weekend.
Tyler Bate vs Pastor William Eaver
Two years ago the Pastor William Eaver defeated Tyler Bate in the quarter finals of the Natural Progression Series III. A lot has happened since then: The Pastor won and lost the PROGRESS World Championship, while Tyler Bate captured the PROGRESS World Tag Titles with British Strong Style stablemate Trent Seven, and there was the small matter of him becoming the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion. Both men have been through a lot since their last encounter, but it’s fair to say that one has somewhat left the other behind. This is a perfect opportunity for Eaver perhaps change all that and to demonstrate his ability against one of the fastest rising stars in wrestling today. Meanwhile, you have to question Tyler’s motivation when the end result of him winning the tournament will be a title match against fellow British Strong Style member (and current WWE UK Champion) Pete Dunne.
Mark Haskins vs Flash Morgan Webster
This time last year Mark Haskins was one of the favourites to win the Super Strong Style 16, but after an impressive first-round victory against Pete Dunne, Haskins collapsed later that evening and was unable to carry on in the tournament. The stage seemed set for Haskins to take the tournament that year before it was cruelly snatched from his grasp. Similarly, months later Haskins would win the PROGRESS title at the promotion’s biggest show to date, only to be forced to vacate the belt due to injury. Meanwhile, ‘Flash’ Morgan Webster was hit with a devastating injury at what should have been the high-point of his career up to that point, competing in a qualifying match for the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. For both men, injury struck at the worst possible time and now with both healthy and back in PROGRESS action, eyes set squarely on the PROGRESS World Championship, this isn’t just about victory it’s also about redemption.
Matt Riddle vs Trent Seven
‘The King of Bros’ Matt Riddle has taken the wrestling world by storm over the past couple of years. He’s a bonafide star in the making, that much is obvious, and one of the most naturally gifted competitors in the tournament. He’s also the current ATLAS Champion, and also defending that very belt against the man he faces here, Trent Seven. But while Riddle’s got a lot of buzz and excitement around him, so too has Seven been making waves with British Strong Style, in PROGRESS and in WWE. Of course Seven will be looking to avenge his loss to Riddle in Orlando, but while he can be considered one of the hardest hitting men in the tournament, the former MMA fighter Matt Riddle has no shortcomings in that regard either.
Jeff Cobb vs Nathan Cruz
A big debut here in the form of Jeff Cobb, AKA the monster Mantanza Ceuto from Lucha Underground. The former Olympic wrestler is a mountain of a man, easily the largest man in this year’s tournament and a tough challenge for anyone on the roster. But, while outmatched in size, and strength, and amateur wrestling skill, The Origin’s Nathan Cruz is a crafty competitor and the former PROGRESS World Champion should most definitely not be underestimated. He does have his work cut out for him here though, Cobb easily throws around men twice Nathan’s size but if there’s anyone who can pick apart the big man’s defences it’s Cruz.