PROGRESS Chapter 30: Super Strong Style – Day 1
May 29, 2016
Electric Ballroom – Camden, Greater London
Finally, the time has come for the SSS16. This is something I’ve been looking forward to all year for PROGRESS. Last year’s tournament is what got me in to the company. This tournament has to reach some lofty heights to be better than the one from last year, but there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get some fantastic stuff from this tourney. Let’s get in to it.
This was a pretty damn good opener with two of my favorites from the U.K scene. Seeing the names involved, I expected some intensity and they didn’t disappoint. At one point Dunne nails Haskins with a pretty gnarly sitout powerbomb where he landed neck/shoulder first. The finish to this match is very cool as Mark Haskins countered the suplex slam Dunne likes to do with a float over Fujiwara armbar for the win. This kept a great pace and definitely kicked off the weekend well.
I don’t “get” Damon Moser. I don’t know what I’m supposed to leave with after watching him. I don’t get why I’m supposed to like him. As a character I just don’t know what I’m supposed to see in him. As a worker, Moser is one of the least compelling guys on the roster. All that being said, this match was fine. Probably the most skip worthy match of the show, but still competent. Mikey Whiplash soundly put away Moser, but Moser did put up a fight and showed himself to be scrappy. Moser kicked out at one on two powerbombs and flipped off Whiplash before being put down by a death valley driver.
Kenny Williams is my new favorite person. Just look at his gear. How could one not love this man? As soon as I saw him walk out, I immediately wanted a match between him and KUSHIDA. Let me dream.
Zack Gibson cuts a promo saying he’s Liverpool’s number 1 and soon to be number 1 anywhere else. Zack gets a ton of heat here.
This was a great match. Gibson targeted Kenny Williams’ arm very well. Williams would try to mount offense, but every time he got something remotely going, Gibson would cut his momentum off. An underrated aspect of Gibson’s game is how large he is. Gibson is a big dude and while he doesn’t wrestle like a T-Bone, Big Daddy Walter, or anyone else that would get associated with the “big lads” division, he uses his size effectively. Kenny Williams is also one of the most likable wrestlers I’ve seen in awhile. Whenever he had his spurts of offense, he looked great and he showed some craftiness in the match as well. It was a really good example of a true heel/babyface dynamic where the heel is easy to hate and the face is easy to get behind. The finish comes when Gibson pulls the ref in front of him, distracting Williams. He then throws Williams in to the ring post shoulder first and locks in Shankly Gates for the win. Seek this match out. Kenny Williams made a tremendous first impression on me and Gibson continues to be one of the best heel workers in wrestling.
TK Cooper wastes no time going after the extraordinary one and jumps him before the bell rings. I liked this from Cooper. He showed a sense of urgency and desperation through his facial expressions. As Gallagher gets back to his feet and the bell rings, he catches Cooper in an Achilles hold and the Electric Ballroom erupts. After that we see Gallagher do some of the things that have made him a standout in the European scene. He really is amazing with a lot of the things he can do on the mat. He’s not just a good wrestler in that sense, he also has an underrated level of charisma to him. That charisma causes something as simple as kissing Dahlia Black’s hand to make the crowd go nuts. This was the best TK has looked in all the times I’ve seen him. He looked super motivated to prove himself. Gallagher would wind up beating Cooper after somewhat of a “flash” knockout with a running corner dropkick.
Time for the #biglads…
This was probably my favorite Atlas Tournament match so far and the best work from Mastiff I’ve seen in some time. Big Daddy Walter is consistently awesome so it’s no surprise Mastiff looked a bit more motivated facing him. Not a lot of nuance to this match. Just two dudes going in there and working a snug, hoss match. This was very good and didn’t ever feel like it dragged on. Walter won here and got his first win ever in PROGRESS.
Coming out of the weekend when this tournament took place, the match that was getting the most buzz was Hero vs Andrews. Now that’s not surprising considering how good Hero is and the year he’s having, but Mark Andrews? I’m not someone that hates Andrews or even dislikes him, but I think he’s just okay. I was curious to see the heights this match could truly reach.
This match was everything it was hyped to be and more. Everything about this was incredible. It’s not a MOTYC in my eyes, but I wouldn’t begrudge anybody who views it that way. This match had a lot of things going for it.
One great part about this match was the commentary. They played up Hero’s resume in tournaments. I really loved that. Running down someone’s record, specifically in tournaments is something that I don’t think enough companies do, so it’s a welcome addition to any show like this, especially with a guy as decorated as Hero. They also did a good job bringing up and establishing the resilience of Andrews in PROGRESS. That was a vital part of this match because without the commentary talking about how much damage he has taken in this company and kept fighting, that may have hurt the match for people because they could have reasonably viewed it as kickouts for the sake of kickouts. Commentary made it make sense. They also weren’t afraid to let themselves get lost in the excitement of watching a stellar match. The audible giddiness of the team really put over the fact that EVERYONE in the building were enamored with what they had seen. Great job on part of Glen Joseph and Callum Leslie.
The atmosphere for this was insane. PROGRESS crowds are almost always lively, but this was something different. Hero and Andrews had the crowd in the palms of their hands. They hung on every single thing they did in this match. The way they popped when Andrews started putting offense together, or when he kicked out, or when generally really cool stuff happened, they were losing their minds. It made this match feel like something special just happened.
This was something that made me appreciate both guys a lot more. I already thought Chris Hero was the best wrestler in the world so far in 2016, but this match erased the possibility of anyone being able to challenge him for that crown. Hero has become a master of the “bully” match style. He’s not a “giant” by the standards someone would think of, but he uses every bit of size just as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s cocky, he runs his mouth, and he can be this menacing mountain that you want the underdog to conquer. He’s an established force and if the underdog can beat him, well he’d have the biggest win of his career. He’s done this kind of match with several different people this year and they’ve all worked to perfection. Fred Yehi, Zack Sabre Jr., Trent Barreta, Jojo Bravo, and now Mark Andrews. I’ve seen/heard people say that the Southern tag match formula is the easiest way to get a decent match. Well the Chris Hero bully formula is starting to look like the floor for that match is ****. You plug anyone in to that situation with Hero and he’ll make it work. I also left this match being somewhat won over my Mark Andrews. Out of all the guys I mentioned earlier who played underdog babyface roles against Hero, Andrews may have the best performance of the bunch. Maybe even the best performance of his life. He was so great that I even wanted him to somehow pull off the upset against Hero. Will I say I’m a “fan” of Andrews now? No, that’d be a bit too strong, but now that I’ve seen how good he CAN be, I’ll be more willing to defend him.
Hero wound up putting Andrews down for the count with a tombstone piledriver. The match gets a well deserved standing ovation. At the end of the match, Glen Joseph said “Fuck me, I love pro wrestling” and I couldn’t agree with him more. Go out of your way to watch this.
Everyone is still reeling off of that last match, but Callihan and Cross come out and start off with an insane pace, trading suicide dives to each other. They have a fun sprint with each other until Callihan ends the match with a low blow the ref didn’t see and a double underhook piledriver. Not the best from either guy, but still good and did the best it could following Hero/Andrews.
This was another short, sprint of a match and very enjoyable . Rampage Brown dominated Tommy End for most of it, but Tommy kept fighting and hit his signature offense too. Rampage hit Tommy with the piledriver and End kicked out. Now usually someone kicking out of a piledriver isn’t big news, but it is when someone kicks out of one done by Rampage Brown, that’s pretty impressive. End winds up winning winning with the roundhouse kick.
The only non tournament match of the show and boy, was it a good one.
I’ve sung the praises of Ligero and Cruz before about being unafraid to lean into being coward/cheating heels and they are the absolute best at it.
This match is a case where overbooking didn’t bother me because it fit the narrative of Ligero and Cruz just fine. It actually added to the match for me. They’ve spent their entire reign using underhanded means to get victories. Distracting refs, using the championships as weapons, they’ve found ways to escape. This match had interference from the other Origin members, ref bumps, the ref actually hitting somebody, and Damon Moser interfering to get back at his former stablemates. It all fit.
Beyond all the shenanigans, the action in the ring was pretty damn good.
The only awkward moment was when after a catapult spear from the Riots on to Nathan Cruz, there was a really convincing two count and the timekeeper rung the bell and the Riots’ music got played. Minor complaint, but that’s the only issue I had with this match. London Riots would win after James Davis launched El Ligero from the top rope into a spear from the waiting arms of Rob Lynch. Cool finish to a really fun match and a feel good moment for the London Riots.
A really enjoyable show from beginning to end. Hero/Andrews is must see, but End/Brown, Haskins/Dunne, Walter/Mastiff, and Gibson/Williams are worth watching as well.