Picture Credit: Brian Leahy
After a great day of action at Day 1 of the Super Strong Style 16 tournament, the four quarter-final matches kicked off Day 2 of a lengthy afternoon of quality wrestling. First up was Will Ospreay vs Mark Haskins, which proved to be a perfect opener to liven up the crowd. The match started off at quite a pace, Ospreay landing a standing shooting star press early on for the first of what would be many near-falls. The match went back and forth, but Haskins showed his technical qualities as he grounded Ospreay and worked over his ankle. Will fought back, but was favouring his ankle heavily and, eventually, Haskins transitioned beautifully into a stretch muffler submission, only for Ospreay to shift his weight and roll-up Haskins for the three-count! Another great tournament match, awesome work from both men.
The second quarter final saw Rampage Brown taking on Roderick Strong. Both had faced tough competition in their first round matches, but after some stalling from Strong neither showed any restraint as the match got underway and quickly turned into a very hard hitting affair. Rampage tried for the piledriver on multiple occasions, but Strong always managed to squirm free. He hit the big man with some huge offence, including an Olympic slam that dumped Brown right on the back of his neck. Roderick almost managed to pull out his vertical lift backbreaker, but Rampage floated over and got Strong up for the piledriver. However, similarly to the last match, Strong shifted his weight and forced Rampage to fall backwards out of the move, before pinning him with a jacknife cradle in something of an upset. Many had predicted Rampage would go all the way. Great match, regardless.
Next, ‘The Bastard’ Dave Mastiff faced off against ‘The Villain’ Marty Scurll. In spite of his new villainous persona, Marty’s still fairly popular with the crowd and that in part has to be because of his finisher, the crossface chickenwing. Scurll seems to know a multitude of ways to transition into the move, the fans joining in as he calls the move before locking it in on some hapless foe. However, he struggled to keep the hold on Mastiff, the big man proving tough to wear down and even tougher to topple over. It had been announced before the match that, due to the concussion he suffered against Mastiff yesterday, Noam Dar was not medically cleared to compete, but at about eight minutes in he made his way to ringside, distracting Mastiff and finally allowing Marty to lock in the chickenwing, drop down to the mat and force the big man to tap. Noam got on the mic and said that makes them even, but Mastiff replied that as far as he’s concerned nothing’s settled between them.
The last of the four quarter final matches saw Zack Sabre Jr. taking on ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’ Tommaso Ciampa and this one certainly lived up to the hype, turning out to be one of the best matches of an already stacked weekend. Things started out tentatively, Ciampa testing his skills on the mat against the ‘Technical Wizard’, but coming up just short. After almost falling prey to the armbar, Tommaso took the match to the floor and gained the upper hand, but he couldn’t keep Sabre down for long and the match broke out into a fight, both men throwing some vicious strikes. Zack eventually caught Ciampa with the armbar a number of times, but Tommaso was very quick to scramble for the ropes. He turned the tide in his favour with a devastating air raid crash on the ring apron that saw Sabre barely make it back in the ring for the ten count, before scoring a near, near-fall with a sickening powerbomb backbreaker. After trading a series of brutal kicks and forearm smashes, Zack eventually locked in the double-wristlock, kicked Ciampa repeatedly in the face with his free foot and forced ‘The Sicilian Psychopath’ to tap. What a war this was, amazing match.
After the first of the day’s two intermissions, the show returned with a no disqualification match between Pollyanna and ‘The Fashionista’ Jinny, who was accompanied to the ring by her personal assistant Elizabeth. This match was notable for being the first women’s match on a PROGRESS chapter show (although Jinny & Polly have been feuding on the ENDVR shows) and also for being a wild and crazy brawl that featured tables, chairs and kendo sticks as the two women beat each other from pillar to post. Pollyanna tried to make early use of the kendo stick, but Jinny and her assistant soon took control and, as Elizabeth held Polly down, Jinny smashed the kendo stick over Polly’s back, shards of it flying out of the ring. Jinny set up a chair and tried to superplex Polly into it, but Polly kicked her off and left her draped over the middle rope, before leaping off the top with a double-stomp. As the advantage went back and forth, it looked like Jinny had things won when she hit a tornado DDT onto a chair, but Pollyanna kicked out and fought back valiantly, powerbombing Jinny through a table for the victory. A great performance from both wrestlers, the crowd loved every minute of it and gave them a good ovation both before and after the match.
Next up was the first semi-final of the afternoon, as Will Ospreay faced off against Roderick Strong. The match seriously looked like it was going to be over in the first thirty seconds, after Roddy attacked Will during the introductions, hitting a Sick Kick that knocked him out of the ring, throwing him into the fans at least four rows deep, throwing him hard into the ringpost and hitting a sickening backbreaker on the ring apron. The crowd urged Will to get up as he was barely moving with the ten count fast approaching, but at the last possible moment Ospreay leapt up and back into the ring to a huge roar of approval from the fans. Roderick went to work, contorting Will and punishing his back to set up for the Strong Hold, but a smart enziguri caught Roddy and sent him spilling out to the floor. Ospreay hit the ropes and soared out of the ring with a huge tope con hilo, before rolling Strong back inside and hitting a reverse springboard DDT for a near-fall. Will climbed the turnbuckles, but still seemed hesitant to hit one of his more spectacular top-rope manoeuvres (after he was injured performing a 630 splash last year) and Strong caught him with a kick to the face. Strong hit a Gibson Driver for a close two-count and locked in the Strong Hold, applying a ton of pressure to Ospreay’s back, but Will smartly twisted out of the hold, floored Strong and pinned him with a leg-clutch roll to go to the finals! This was such an exciting match, a real highlight of the weekend and a fantastic performance from the veteran Strong and young Will Ospreay.
Following that was the second semi-final pitting Zack Sabre Jr. against his tag partner Marty Scurll in a battle of the LDRS and a great throwback to Chapter 1, where Zack and Marty faced off in the opening round of a tournament to crown the first PROGRESS Champion. This was one of the longer matches of the afternoon, but the crowd were well into it throughout and the match felt like a homage to classic British wrestling, with all manner of clever holds and escapes from both men as they tried to one-up each other and lock in their respective submission finishers. After a lengthy knuckle lock counter-for-counter sequence, that culminated in a headstand slap battle, the match became somewhat more heated with Marty lighting up Zack’s chest with some vicious chops, only for Zack to respond with some devastating kicks that turned the tide in his favour. Marty almost fell victim to a dragon suplex off the top-rope, but he managed to squirm his way out of it and hit a huge backdrop driver off the top that left both men laying on the mat. They struggled to their feet and began exchanging forearms and elbows, before Marty tried to lock in the chickenwing which set off another round of counters and reversals, which ends as Zack trips Marty and applies the armbar in the middle of the ring to force The Villain to tap. Post-match, they slap each other in the face, before hugging and walking off to a big ovation from the crowd. Great match.
Closing out the middle-third of the show was the PROGRESS Tag Title match, featuring dubious tag champions The Origin of Nathan Cruz & El Ligero against The Sumerian Death Squad of Tommy End & Michael Dante. The Origin sent their goon Damon Moser to attack the Death Squad as they made their way to the ring, but they made quick work of him and set to brawling with The Origin. The match spilled over to the far side of the arena and we lost track of the action for a good five minutes, before eventually they returned to ringside. Ligero set up a chair and placed Tommy on it, but as he charged Tommy got out of the way and Ligero went crashing through a few rows of chairs. The referee took an errant knee to the face an was knocked out cold, so The Origin took the opportunity to use the numbers game, ordering Moser to hit Tommy in the face with a chair, but Moser was reluctant and it cost him as Michael Dante sent him flying with a huge spear. The finish came when Tommy knocked Ligero loopy with a kick to the head, before elevating him into a spear from Dante for the win to a big roar of approval from the fans. Post-match The Origin attacked Damon Moser for his hesitation and left to a chorus of boos.
The penultimate match of the night featured five of the wrestlers who lost their tournament matches yesterday in a five-way scramble match, with Jack Gallagher vs Damo O’Connor vs Eddie Dennis vs Big Daddy Walter vs Zack Gibson. Once again, Gibson got on the mic and whined about Sabre going back on his word and attacking his broken finger in their tournament match yesterday, also adding that he’d popped his shoulder in the match and asking that his four opponents not go after his various injuries, which of course no one paid any attention to whatsoever. Seeing Damo and Walter square off was pretty spectacular, easily the two biggest wrestlers competing in the tournament, the ring shook as they collided. After a lot of fast-paced action from four of the five men (and a wary Gibson, who was smartly picking his spots), Eddie Dennis brought the crowd to their feet when he managed to get Big Damo O’Connor up and hit the Next Stop Driver for the three count!
Lastly, closing out an epic two days of wrestling, the finalists of the first annual PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 tournament faced off in what was their fourth match of the weekend. The crowd seemed evenly split between Zack Sabre Jr. and Will Ospreay as the introductions were made, both men shaking hands as the match got under way. Sabre went to work, testing his younger opponent and finding him a good match in terms of technical ability, but as Ospreay sought to unleash some of his spectacular high-flying arsenal, Zack viciously kicked out his arm as he went for a handspring. The Technical Wizard was merciless as he contorted Will’s arm, trying to force a submission victory, but despite being in a great deal of pain Ospreay fought back with his good arm, even hitting a no-handed rebound flip off the ropes to floor Sabre with an enziguri. Ospreay scored with his second tope con hilo of the day and minutes later went to the top again, only to second-guess himself once more. The hesitation cost him and, as he came off the top with a shooting star press, Zack got his knees up and then locked in an armbar. Will scrambled to the ropes, but Sabre hit a big dragon suplex for a near-fall. He later tried to repeat the move from the top-rope, but Ospreay got himself free and hit an absolutely devastating reverse hurricanrana off the top for a near, near-fall of his own. Ospreay headed up top and, this time, there was little hesitation in his mind as he leapt into the air and hit a huge corkscrew shooting star press for the three-count, becoming the winner of the first ever PROGRESS Super Strong Style 16 tournament and winning another shot at PROGRESS Champion Jimmy Havoc.
Right on cue, the Champion appeared, flanked by his cronies Paul Robinson and Omega. Zack and Will tried to fight them off, but the numbers game proved too strong and both were subdued in short measure. Havoc produced a goddamn axe from under the ring and picked up a microphone, delivering a scathing attack on the PROGRESS fans and threatening to decapitate Ospreay unless he demands were met. Namely, that he wanted to be un-banned from the PROGRESS shows at Download festival this year, he wanted a pay-rise and he wanted his match with Ospreay to be a no-DQ match. Havoc orders Robinson to place Ospreay’s mouth over the bottom rope and delivered another curbstomp, before he and his band of mugs departed. Jim Smallman got on the mic and said that they’ll agree to all of Havoc’s demands, but as the match is now no-DQ, The London Riots will be at ringside! An enraged Ospreay took the mic and said that on July 26th, with 700 screaming fans and The London Riots in his corner, it will be Havoc’s last day as Champion.
Overall this was a fantastic weekend and, for my money, two of the best shows PROGRESS have ever held. Full credit to all the guys involved, behind the scenes and in the ring, because everyone worked their arses off to entertain the fans and put on a fantastic pair of shows. There’s almost too many great matches to list amongst the highlights, but bouts like Sabre vs Ciampa, End vs Strong, #SSS16 final itself, Jinny vs Pollyanna’s no-DQ math and The London Riots vs Havoc & Robinson are matches you really should go out of your way to see. Check out PROGRESS Chapter 19: Super Strong Style 16, which should available to view shortly on Demand PROGRESS; demandprogress.pivotshare.com