Thursday, June 15, 2017
Matt Riddle. Tyler Bate. Travis Banks. Zack Sabre Jr. Those four men remain in the Super Strong Style 16, which has been an excellent tournament thus far. Night two improved on night one and I could see night three continuing that trend. Not only will this show crown a winner, but Pete Dunne is also defending the PROGRESS Championship.
A video package highlighting the night two tournament matches opened the show. Jim Smallman gave us another fun (and at times emotional) opening promo.
Before the next match, Roy Johnson seemed to challenge the competitors to rap battles. David Starr went first and since he’s from Philadelphia, he did the Fresh Prince theme. He forgot the lyrics at one point, so Roy dispatched of him for that. Eaver didn’t do well, but Flash at least got off two bars. He said they weren’t friends, which apparently hurt Roy’s feelings. He wanted to end it there, but Andrews hopped on and made a short rap about HHH never calling Roy back. The reactions of everyone in the ring was priceless. Flamita then rapped the lyrics to the Macarena, since he doesn’t speak English. Watching Flash, Andrews and Eaver do the Macarena is must-see. Jimmy Havoc came out and ran them down before attacking with the chair. Jack Sexsmith came out in his sling to start the scramble match.
When I watch a Scramble match, I want to see wild and wacky shit going down. That’s what we got here. The antics between Eaver and Starr were just as great here as when they were teammates on night two. Flamita had a highlight with a ridiculous corkscrew dive onto everyone outside. Sexsmith left to go commentary, but returned after Starr started hitting everyone with his “Jewish Cannon” (thrusting crotch shots to the face). He eagerly wanted the move done to him, only to bite the cannon. The final few minutes were wild and gave Flamita a chance to shine. He picked up the win via Flam Fly on Starr at 9:46. That was so much fun. Exactly what I wanted and everyone got some sort of highlight. You won’t find many matches more fun than this one. Also, props to Flamita for having a great weekend.
In 2015, Sabre was the UK guy who broke out to me. In 2016, Ospreay and Scurll did the same. In 2017, it’s been Travis Banks, who I like more than the other three. These two aggressively beat the shit out of each right off the bat. It slowed a bit and Sabre went after Banks’ neck. The fans were rather split, but I’d say Banks had an edge there. Sabre’s submissions wore down Banks, but were never enough to put him away. He realized he had to dig deep and, after hitting a PK, busted out a Liger Bomb for a great near fall. Banks refused to give in and was prepared to go toe to toe with the Suzuki-Gun member in strikes. He fired up and nailed the Slice of Heaven. Knowing it wouldn’t be enough, he tried again, only to get caught in a triangle choke. Banks fought free and brutally stomped on Sabre’s head. Another Slice of Heaven and he advanced in 11:07. Travis Banks continues to deliver high quality matches, while Sabre was his usual self. Banks’ resiliency is carrying him through the tournament. Other guys have to bring everything in their arsenal to find anything to best him and it’s never enough.
These two met at Bang the Drum (***¾) and it ended via DQ. Bate removed his boots to be even with the barefoot Riddle. It backfired quickly, when Riddle twisted at the foot in an awful looking position. They advanced from mat work to strikes and, at one point, hit each other with brutal forearms. Bate fell outside, but Riddle stayed on his feet. It was something he was used to. Bate took things back to the mat but Riddle got back into it when it moved back to kicks. Down the stretch, they traded big offense, with a highlight being a Gotch style Tombstone from Bate. Riddle popped up from two Germans, hit the Bro to Sleep and his own German, yet it wasn’t enough. In the end, Riddle escaped the Tyler Driver ’97 and hit the knockout knee, but Bate became the first person to kick out of it! Bate avoided a kick and hit two Tyler Drivers to win at 14:14. Another strong match in this tournament. Bate tried working Riddle’s style and got a bit overmatched at times, but overcame it. Riddle looked great, it felt different and Bate got a big win without the help of BSS.
I’ve never seen Harvey before, but I’ve caught Kay Lee Ray on Shine and SHIMMER. Champion Toni Storm was on guest commentary. She didn’t add much, showing none of the personality she brings to the ring. There was some early fun, with both women looking for identical cheap shots on several occasions. The ladies went back and forth, with neither gaining a clear advantage. Ray kept going for the Koji Clutch, while Harvey wanted the Billy Goat’s Curse. Neither woman would give in. When the submissions failed, they graduated to more impactful moves. Ray survived a Curb Stomp, before winning with a Gory Bomb at 12:20. I enjoyed this. They told a sensible story and things moved into a harder hitting match as it progressed.
Toni Storm came to the ring for a faceoff with her first challenger. KLR slapped her and exited before a brawl broke out.
After a somber promo, Seven charged at Haskins and was caught in a submission. The crowd counted down, hoping for another quick loss for Seven. Interestingly, this didn’t follow typical Submissions match tropes. There wasn’t a ton of mat work. It was far more physical and better for it, especially since Seven isn’t known for his submission ability. They fought up to the stage, where Jimmy Havoc did commentary. Havoc tried giving Haskins a chair, but Seven ended up using it on Havoc. Back to the ring, Havoc returned and accidentally leveled Haskins with a sick sounding Acid Rainmaker when Seven ducked. Seven took out Havoc and put a Sharpshooter on Haskins. Haskins was out cold, so it was over at 7:05. A different and fun match. I loved how it wasn’t traditional. The finish adds a bunch of intrigue going forward. I loved that Seven, not a submission specialist, found a way to win by being a dick.
Jimmy Havoc took out his frustrations on Trent Seven, hitting him with a forearm and throwing the chair at him. Havoc then helped Haskins to the back.
During Cobb’s introduction, Dunne hit him with a low blow. PETER, PETER YOU’RE A CUNT! Once the bell rang, he charged in and was met with a bunch of suplexes. That became the story of this match. Dunne trying to find every way possible to combat Cobb’s insane power. Dunne tried cheap tactics, mat wrestling and even his own power with an impressive Explex. The best spot might’ve been Cobb countering the Pedigree into a standing moonsault powerslam. Dunne countered the Tour of the Islands into a small package, then German suplexed Cobb into the turnbuckle and finished it with the Bitter End at 8:46. A fun sprint that told another logical story. Cobb is a monster, while Dunne is cunning and always finds a way to win. They played to that here and it worked. I dug how Dunne won cleanly too. No matter what tricks he tries, the dude is skilled and sometimes that’s enough.
There was such a big fight feel to this. Two of the top performers of 2017 thus far. Normally, I write up my match reviews while watching the match, but for this, I watched the entire thing and then went back to do this review. I love that the PROGRESS fans loathe British Strong Style. Too often are great heel wrestlers (like BSS) cheered for their talent. It added so much here, because the crowd was so pro-Banks and so anti-Bate. It made for an incredible atmosphere. They went at it and when a ref bump came, I worried. Instead of something cheap, we got something awesome. Dunne and Seven arrived and you just felt like Banks would get screwed. Banks’ buddies and recent PROGRESS additions, #CCK, made the save to a MONSTER pop. They hit some great offense and took BSS to the back, leaving it one on one. The back half of this match was nuts. Bate did things like a Gotch style Tombstone on the floor, only for Banks to fire up and forearm some chair shots away. Both guys brought their best, from Banks’ coast to coast dropkick to Bate bringing out the spiral tap. When Banks kicked out of the Tyler Driver ’97, the fans reacted perfectly. Bate looked for a super Tyler Driver, but Banks countered to an avalanche Kiwi Krusher! Bate somehow kicked out, only to get locked in the Lion Clutch and submit at 22:51. Incredible. They took fans on emotional roller coaster where everything worked, including the interference segment. I’m so glad it didn’t play into the finish either. The fans ate it all up. Travis Banks has arrived and he feels like the guy who should dethrone Pete Dunne. It’s insane how good Bate is, especially for his age, while Banks could be the top guy in the back half of 2017. I might be rating this higher than some, but I loved everything about it, except for an over reliance on kickout spots at times.
Jim Smallman hugged Travis Banks and properly announced him as the Super Strong Style 16 winner. Banks gave an emotional speech and said he wants to main event at Alexandra Palace. Smallman granted it to him, so Banks will cash in his title at PROGRESS Chapter 55: Chase the Sun, in September.
Overall: One of the best shows all year and probably my favorite PROGRESS event ever. That’s saying something, since I consider PROGRESS to be the best wrestling promotion around right now. Everything on this show ranges from good to great, with the tournament matches being the best and all delivering. The main event is a legitimate MOTY contender in my eyes. See this show. In fact, see the whole tournament. Better yet, just start following PROGRESS.