Thursday, May 24, 2018

PROGRESS Chapter 68: Super Strong Style 16 Night Three Review

PROGRESS Chapter 68: Super Strong Style 16 Night Three
May 7th, 2018 | Alexandra Palace in Alexandra Park, London

The final night of the always fun Super Strong Style 16 capped a huge three night event for PROGRESS. Coming into the show, the big news was that Tyler Bate was injured. He beat Kassius Ohno in an excellent match to make it to the semifinals, but now had to miss a chance to win the tournament. A video of he and Glen Joseph informing us was how the show opened.

Jim Smallman spoke with the live crowd to say that Pete Dunne had to miss the show due to a family emergency, while also breaking the news of Bate’s injury. He then directed fans to the video screen for footage from a performance last night by Mark Andrews and his band, Junior. In an absolutely awesome angle, Eddie Dennis ran out onto the stage and began choking out one of the members of the band. Andrews and security pulled him away to massive heat. It was so well done.

That brought out Andrews to the ring and he clearly meant business. He called out Eddie Dennis, who had been waiting eight months for this. Andrews ran him down for his actions recently, especially during the concert. Andrews challenged him on the condition that Dennis doesn’t appear in PROGRESS when Mark is there until he’s cleared to wrestle. Dennis wasn’t happy that his livelihood would be messed with, as he’s still indy and doesn’t have a guaranteed annual payment, but accepted. That line about money got him some cheers. Eddie only agreed if he got to pick the conditions of their match. Andrews agreed and got shoved. He went after Dennis, who bailed. As Andrews went to leave, Dennis attacked him from behind and choked him out in the ring. We’ve finally got something in stone for this feud, which has been great so far. I’m looking forward to the eventual match, though I wonder how the build will be handled with months to go.

Wasteman Challenge Scramble: Angelico vs. Chris Brookes vs. Chuck Mambo vs. David Starr vs. Kassius Ohno vs. Jordan Devlin vs. Roy Johnson
After last year’s awesome scramble, the Wasteman Hangover is now a tradition. It began as an open challenge issued by Roy Johnson and like last year, became a bit of a rap battle. Like last year, Johnson got DESTROYED by Jordan Devlin. You gotta hear it to believe it. Meanwhile, Ohno rapped the lyrics to his old theme song. Jim Smallman interrupted before more people rapped, to announce that the winner of this would take Tyler Bate’s spot in the tournament. Once the match got started, it was exactly the insanity you’d expect. I’m not going to recap the moves. I will say that everyone got a chance to shine, and the action went from bell to bell. Ohno got the win with Death by Elbow on Devlin in 7:25. It wasn’t as crazy as some other scrambles, possibly because they had to preserve their energy in case they advanced. Still, lots of fun and just a bit under last year’s Wasteman Challenge. [***¼]

Mark Haskins, Vicky Haskins, and a reluctant Flash Morgan Webster came out. Mark said they wanted to make a statement, and with Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate unable to compete, he demanded a match.

Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Haskins w/ Vicky Haskins vs. M&M
For those unaware, M&M is Maverick Mayhew and Connor Mills. Haskins attacked before the bell, which Webster wasn’t happy with. Despite that, they still showed off some impressive tandem offense. M&M got to hit some cool looking stuff of their own, but they had no real chance. Haskins went off on his own in the end, winning via Sharpshooter in 2:38. A squash that served its purpose.[NR]

Super Strong Style 16 Semi-Finals: Keith Lee vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
These guys entered this match 2-2 against one another. They worked at a tentative pace early on. Since they knew one another well, they didn’t want to make the first mistake. We got the incredible spot where Sabre bridged up on his neck while having the giant Lee on top of him. Following that, it became a battle of Lee’s power and striking ability against Sabre’s speed and grappling skills. Whenever Lee found a way to do something that involved strength, Sabre would counter with a submission. Though Sabre hits hard, he made the clear mistake of trying to exchange them with Lee. Sabre found a way to counter Ground Zero into the European Clutch to advance to the finals 12:22. This was very good, like all their matches. They played to their strengths and worked a smart, exciting match. [***¾]
Super Strong Style 16 Semi-Finals: Kassius Ohno vs. PROGRESS Tag Team Champion Zack Gibson w/ James Drake
Gibson ran cut one of his heat filled promos before the match. He ran down Tyler Bate as another indy favorite getting hurt while he remained consistent. Gibson put his focus on Ohno’s arm, looking to set up Shankly Gates. Commentary noted how much of a European style Ohno has and how it matches up closely to Gibson’s style. James Drake got involved a few times, with the referee seemingly letting it slide. Ohno began to rally and looked to be on the verge of winning when Drake cheated again. This time, though, he was finally caught and ejected to a huge pop. With Gibson left alone, it was time for a running elbow to put him down in 11:18. This was good and they finally let the interference stuff pay off, though it never reached the level I was hoping for. [***]

Death Match: Jimmy Havoc w/ Vicky Haskins vs. Joey Janela
Havoc got “I Hope You Suffer” back! He never fully felt like Jimmy Havoc without AFI. This is a rematch from PROGRESS: New York City last year (***), which Havoc won. Similar to the New York battle, there were all sorts of wild spots in this one. Chairs, cheese graters, and thumbtacks were used in the first few minutes. Like the opener, I’m not going to mention each spot, because you should probably see them to fully grasp them. Just know, it was a ton of wildness that was fitting for the two men involved. Blood, tables, and more throughout this one. In a bit of a surprise, Janela picked up the win with a suplex onto thumbtacks in 14:26. An improvement on the New York match. It was nowhere near the level of Havoc/Haskins from Alexandra Palace last year, though. Tons of weapons, big spots, and the kind of violence you want from this gimmick. [***½]

Post-match, Havoc plucked tacks out from his feet and ass. He got on the microphone to say he doesn’t get the respect he deserves from PROGRESS, even though he built the company off his blood and broken body. He directly addressed Jim Smallman, saying he returned to PROGRESS to help him. Yet, because he’s not from Australia or New Zealand, and doesn’t have three letters (WWE) attached to his name, he’s looked over. Havoc explained that he and Haskins began teaming together and attacked Sexy Starr because after killing each other in Alexandra Palace at Chapter 55 (my PROGRESS 2017 MOTY), neither were booked on Chapter 56. Instead, an import like Keith Lee was given a spot. Havoc also ran down Smallman for bringing back Will Ospreay less than six months after losing a “Loser Leaves PROGRESS” match. That brought out Ospreay, carrying an AXE. Havoc set his head up in a chair, symbolically calling back to their past. He almost begged Ospreay to put him out of his misery. Will threw the chair aside and said he waited so long for this opportunity, but doesn’t want it now, because it’s too easy. He dropped the axe and said Jimmy changed because the old Havoc would’ve already hit him with it. Will said he agreed with Havoc’s thoughts. However, he’s “progressed” in recent years, while Jimmy regressed. Now, Jimmy is just some guy named James. Will said he doesn’t want James, he wants Jimmy Fucking Havoc. He wants to suffer and he wants it on September 30th at Wembley Arena. Ospreay left, but before fully heading to the back, Jimmy accepted the match and took bumps into the thumbtacks. Ospreay smiled. An incredible segment. Everything worked and this was easily the best thing Ospreay has been part of in over two years. I loved this entire segment.

Following intermission, Jim Smallman announced the “Coast to Coast” Tour coming to the United States. In August, PROGRESS will hit Boston, Seattle, New York, Detroit, and Chicago. That last one got a “CM Punk” chant.

Jim then introduced someone who wanted to talk to Pete Dunne today, wXw’s Christian Michael Jakobi. CMJ came out and talked about being the most powerful man in European wrestling. He namedropped a bunch of guys he helped shape and find, who are the future of wrestling, like Alexander Wolfe, RINGKAMPF, Aleister Black, and Axel Dieter Jr. However, a name that’s missing is Pete Dunne. The fans believe Dunne is the best independent wrestler in the world, which is a lie according to CMJ. CMJ claimed Dunne wasn’t even the best in Europe. He came with an offer for Dunne to prove his status as the best. The challenge laid down by the man they call “unbesiegbar” (invincible/unbeatable), Ilja Dragunov! I’ve never seen him wrestler, but I’ve heard great things. For reference, people were literally jumping out of their seats in excitement at the challenge. I smell another Wembley match.

PROGRESS Women’s Championship: Toni Storm [c] vs. Charlie Morgan
Morgan joined the House of Couture recently, though she doesn’t really seem to fit in with them. Jinny, the stable leader and Toni’s opponent for Chapter 69, joined commentary. There was an intense pace to this from the start, as Toni caught a charging Charlie with a German. They brawled outside, with Toni being thrown into chairs and taking an Asai moonsault. Morgan fared better than a lot of Toni’s opponents. The champion had to resort to some rarely seen offense, like a middle rope leg drop. However, Morgan’s arrogance cost her and allowed Toni to gain some momentum. I loved the spot where Morgan hit a superplex and went to roll over into another suplex (ala Seth Rollins), only for Toni to be prepared with her own Brainbuster. The finish was awesome, as Morgan caught a diving Toni with a cutter. When she went for a springboard, Toni cut that off with a German and added Strong Zero to successfully defend her title for the 14th time in 9:28. Better than I thought and I had high expectations. It was heated, told a great story, and featured some great counters. Toni continues to find new ways to add layers to her matches and is in the midst of arguably the best title reign in wrestling. [***½]

Non-Title Match: TK Cooper vs. PROGRESS Atlas Champion WALTER
WALTER’s shot at the PROGRESS World Title was ruined by TK Cooper, so he was out for some revenge. This was an angry WALTER, who dominated Cooper. Travis Banks showed up to cause a distraction. It led to TK hitting a Roman Reigns Spear, but it obviously wasn’t enough. WALTER hit a powerbomb and pulled TK up in the middle of the pin. He added a lariat and Boston crab, which he transitioned into an STF that made TK tap in 2:52. The right kind of squash. [NR]

After the match, Banks put himself over as the best PROGRESS Champion of all time (15 successful defenses is a fantastic number). He told WALTER to stay in his division and as long as WALTER was Atlas Champion, he had no business getting a World Title shot. As a result, WALTER picked up the Atlas Title and handed it to Jim Smallman, before going after Banks. Yes, the title has been vacated. That’s a great way to do a “drop the title” angle without making the title look bad. Jim was showered with “Jim is our champion” chants.

Super Strong Style 16 Finals: Kassius Ohno vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
Here’s one of the best rivalries in recent wrestling history. They faced off all over the place including Evolve (where Ohno dominated Sabre until their final meeting before he went to WWE), NOAH, PWG, wXw, AAW, and more. There’s also the added intrigue of this being WWE vs. NJPW happening on a PROGRESS show. Something that made their matches work in the past was the bully nature of Ohno. He attempted that at the start, but Sabre managed to catch his leg and twist it in weird ways. That turned the match into a battle of strikes against submissions, which is a good idea for these two. Ohno seemed a bit rattled by losing to Sabre in their last match, so he busted out some rarely seen stuff, including a moonsault. Of course, Sabre caught into an armbar. It’s as if that previous win gave him the confidence he needed to take things to the next level. Late, Ohno just began throwing elbows and strikes, overwhelming Sabre. However, the Brit managed to pull him into the European Clutch and win the tournament in 18:58. Another great match between the two, though not quite on par with their best stuff. I appreciated how Sabre seems to have grown from their series and used it to help him win here. [****]

Sabre adds Super Strong Style 16 to the Battle of Los Angeles, New Japan Cup, and 16 Carat Gold Tournament wins. The two men embraced and showed each other respect after the match. The fans also showed a lot of respect for Ohno as well. Sabre got on the mic and insinuated that he’s taking his title shot at Wembley.

Overall: 8.5/10. Another successful Super Strong Style show. A fitting end to a very strong set of shows. The tournament semifinals were both very good and we were treated to a great finals. WALTER’s squash worked well and the Women’s Title match ruled. The Wasteman Challenge was a lot of fun. The segments really worked, from the Dragunov announcement to the incredible Havoc/Ospreay promo.