Progress Super Strong Style 16 Weekend Review
I had this great metaphor about how the gloomy overcast weather this weekend reflected the nature of Progress in modern times, compared to the glorious weather just twelve months ago when Progress were literally hotter. And then they went and smashed it this weekend. So, bollocks to the weather. Here’s the wrestling.
May 3 2019
This was four days ago but seems like an eternity. I was originally planning the trip down on the Saturday morning but Brother Mort told me there was a show on at the ResGal so here we are. I spent the weekend rooming with Mort to save on expenses and it turned out great. We spent night one in the East London Hotel, a superbly modern hotel spitting distance from Mother Kelly’s. I checked in and awaited contact from my Danish buddy only for Mike Kilby to turn up first. We headed over to Mother Kelly’s for the first beer of the weekend. The first of many. We sat in there chatting shit for the best part of an hour before Mort turned up. The one conversation I distinctly remember is an off-brand name for Irish coffee called “Shamrock Coffee”, which we decided made your ankles hurt.
With Mort in tow we got him checked in and hit up Areba’s for food. It was easily the most expensive thing I ate all weekend. It’s a Venezuelan place next door to Mother Kelly’s and it’s delicious food. Unless you hate plantains because they’re in everything. We settled up there and strolled over to the ResGal for our first show of the weekend.
SHOW #20 OF 2019: WRESTLING LEAGUE @ RESGAL
I’ve seen a few shows at the ResGal and it’s a small room with a good atmosphere. I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd and we got stuck into the ResGal’s three bottles of Becks for a tenner deal. Rather typically it didn’t start on time (BritWres!) Also the crowd was a little smaller than I’m used to in there as I normally attend EVE who sell the place out. Having a little room to manoeuvre was nice and we settled in to enjoy some action.
Taylor Essex def. Jack Torino
? def. Aaron Warnes
Cody Hall def. Joseph Kafka
James Castle & Dexter def. Kosta K & Malik
David Starr def. Tate Mayfairs
Sadie Gibbs def. Kitt Kat
Callum Newman def. Buffalo Soldier
NIC def. Brothers Awe & Rob Lias/Mike Check
Corey McRae def. Brian Pillman Jr & Kip Sabian
This was a fun little show. I’m not going to say the standard of wrestling was mega-high because it wasn’t but I enjoyed myself. The show probably ran too long, which was not helped by them adding two matches on at the start of the show. The opener I have, in my notes, as “perfectly fine” and the second match was outright bad. Aaron Warnes, who we misheard as Alan Wolves, didn’t look show ready. I didn’t get the other guys name but he came out to Dude Looks Like a Lady and had the Adrian Street gimmick.
The best match on the show was the London School of Lucha-Libre produce match pitting Buffalo Solider against Callum Newman. I’d not seen either guy wrestle before but they both caught my eye. Newman was especially good considering he’s 16 years old. He has a touch of the Ospreay’s about him. I don’t know how long he’s been working for but I thought he looked pretty great considering.
The big star names here were all fine. Nobody phoned it in. Pillman Jr found himself background to Sabian’s final match here before leaving for AEW. Sadie Gibbs is also off to AEW. She was fine. Cody Hall was perhaps a little disappointing. A lot of his offence looked good but his mannerisms were just confusing to me. This show also had a weird fucking segment where Gideon Grey said he wanted to have perverted sex with Gene Ric’s wife. “Bestiality sex” specifically. Well, it is the ResGal.
Post show we hit up the Dundee Arms for some London priced beverages. It’s always great to get the chance to chat with Mike and Mort about wrestling so I enjoyed this. Mike had to go back to Luton and it was the last we saw of him this weekend. Him not being willing to support Saudi Arabia. He went to the Cockpit instead. Shame he didn’t come to Kaiju.
May 4 2019
With hotel kick-out time being 11am we stayed up late chatting shit and trying to get my laptop to work. Sadly it wasn’t to be. I even tested it out the day before and it played an entire All Japan show fine. Wouldn’t do shit on the hotel’s Wi-Fi though. A common theme throughout the weekend. Instead Mort decided to wreck his data and we watched Taichi vs. Jeff Cobb and I fell asleep. Shout out to Crabbies for making raspberry ginger beer btw. Epic.
I got woken up by some little shit yelling to his mother next door at 7am. Thanks for that. They yelled at each other for about 20 minutes and then pissed off so I could go back to sleep. We got up a little later but not until Mort had woken up, complained that he dreamt about eating a cheese sandwich and he “hadn’t finished” so he went back to sleep in search of a dream sandwich.
A short stroll to Bethnal Green tube followed and we headed out to Wood Green’s Wetherspoons for lunch and coffee and such. We were joined by Jackson, who said he’d be at Kaiju and N3 and we didn’t see him at either, Meg & Steve Hewitt and Keir. I am sad to report Keir’s drinking has not changed much. He got engaged last week and is still a total mess (love you x). We had to sneak off to the air bnb around 2pm so we could get checked in. It was above a pub nearby and was a fairly spacious single room. Two fold out beds, a decent kitchen and a bathroom. Everything you need. There was even coffee.
After getting settled in I talked Mort into walking up the hill. You have to do it once. We even took the subtle winding road route instead of the vertical climb I did last year. We started from the bottom, now we’re here. Alexandra Palace’s hill is a literal metaphor for Progress’ progression. I walked into the building at 4pm, at which point I realized there was a pre-show dark match that I had completely missed. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
SHOW #21 OF 2019: PROGRESS SUPER STRONG STYLE 16 NIGHT ONE
Ilja Dragunov def. Chris Brookes
Kyle Fletcher def. Daga
Travis Banks def. DJZ
Jordan Devlin def. Lucky Kid
Trevor Lee def. Aerostar
David Starr def. Artemis Spencer
Paul Robinson def. Darby Allin
Kyle O’Reilly def. Chris Ridgeway
As is customary N1 was basically a predictable series of solid wrestling matches. There’s nothing here that jumps out at me as great but there was nothing bad either. The Lee/Aerostar match was specifically engineered to be more story driven but everything else was solid in-ring stuff. I had Dragunov/Brookes and O’Reilly/Ridgeway as the best matches but nothing to go out of your way for.
Some random highlights: Daga chopping Fletcher so hard his chest was bleeding. DJZ’s air horn. A constant joy all weekend. Lee hitting Aerostar in the balls to win. Starr’s massive standing ovation before he hit the ring. Coming into SSS16 my tournament prediction was Dragunov to beat Devlin in the final. However when Starr walked out there I became immediately convinced he was winning. That was the story. There was no other tournament story that would make sense.
Post show we grabbed the bus down to Wood Green to get food and beers at the Spoons. There was only an hour in between shows but this move worked out great. We headed back up for Kaiju and I walked in as the Star Wars style crawler was playing.
SHOW #22 OF 2019: KAIJU BIG BATTEL LONDON CONFERENCE
American Beetle def. Tucor
Powa Ranjeru & Burger Bear def. Double Unicorn Dark & Bear Ranger
Dusto Bunny def. Ice Ice Kinder
Silver Potato def. Dr Cycloptopus
Unicorn Party def. Dr Cube
Oh my god, I fucking love Kaiju Big Battel. They put on a terrific show here. The buildings that got set up, and destroyed, in the ring were great. The atmosphere was great. The music choices were great. The costumes were incredible. The draw was fantastic; they had 1000 people in. Alexandra Palace has never seen something so good.
Some fun stuff; Everyone coming together in the opener to stomp Trump Tower. The ongoing theme of a drunk Hell Monkey interfering in matches. Aussie Open appearing as the Hot Cops. Both guys absolutely smashed that. Fletcher delivering some incredible promo work. Dunkzilla taking a bullet for Kyle. Dr Cycloptopus eating a building full of people. Jim Smallman getting given a present; a special edition of Suits to commemorate the union of the US and UK through Meghan Markle’s baby.
The work on this show was surprisingly strong. Some of the costumes obviously cause limitations but Kaiju set out to put on a fun show and delivered in spades. My face hurt from laughing and smiling so much and I’m so glad Progress put this on. Please beg them to get Kaiju back next year. I already have. If this ever makes tape the Silver Potato/Dr Cycloptopus match is legitimately excellent.
Post show it was back into Spoons until they closed around 1am. Myself and Mort were hanging around with James Harris and noticed that the Nags Head was still open. So we strolled across the road and had a few more beers, drinking until they closed at 3am. Not content with that we went and scored some takeaway beers from an offy and kept drinking until 4am. All in all a fantastic night. Mainly because of Kaiju but the beers helped.
May 5 2019
The initial plan for Sunday morning was to get up and watch the Big Japan show but the internet being dodgy (the pub’s wifi password just didn’t work) caused less urgency. We both ended up sleeping pretty late. We put Mort’s Samurai TV app on afterwards to catch up on the big matches. Okabayashi vs. Sekimoto and Kodaka vs. Takahashi. Neither of them were particularly great, which was perhaps a little disappointing.
Ed came and met us at the air bnb and we walked down to Spoons with him. I only know Ed (and Keir for that matter) because of Progress. We all met in the pub after Brixton and went to the after party. The only reason I went is because I was the only guy on the table who knew where it was. Now here we are, two a half years later, hanging out at Progress shows still. On our way out of Spoons I saw Frankie Phraser, the only Battle Rapper I know, standing at the end of the bar sipping on a glass of rose. Thanks to this chance encounter I got to hang out with him a lot over the course of the weekend. I thank the Graps Gods for putting us in the same place at the same time there. I love wrestling but I also love sharing that love of wrestling with other people. Some of the people I hung out with this weekend 100% encapsulated that.
I would start listing names but I don’t want to accidentally miss someone. But if I spoke to you, at any point over the weekend, I enjoyed our time together.
Back in Ally Pally and Jim reads out a list of nationalities in the building. All the UK countries get booed, because that’s how we roll. Self loathing. The crowd behaves for the rest but Mort boos Sweden. It’s a natural reaction.
SHOW #23 OF 2019: PROGRESS SUPER STRONG STYLE 16 NIGHT TWO
Aerostar def. Daga
Jordan Devlin def. Kyle Fletcher
Ilja Dragunov def. Trevor Lee
Session Moth Martina def. Jinny
Progress Originals def. Do No Resuscitate
Kyle O’Reilly def. Paul Robinson
Travis Banks vs. David Starr – no contest
DJZ, Artemis Spencer & Chris Brookes def. Darby Allin, Lucky Kid & Chris Ridgeway
WALTER def. Trent Seven
There was a lot happening here. Highs and lows. Aerostar and Daga had a terrific opener with a bunch of flips. It was probably better than anything on night one. Then Fletcher and Devlin had a legitimately great match (I had it at ****1/4). Devlin’s double KO headbutt where he fell on top of Fletcher was a major highlight of the entire weekend. Paz claimed he could do a 619 so Jim made him do it and he fucked it up. He was wearing a lucha mask though. Trevor Lee threw his water bottle over his shoulder and he landed the right way up on the mat. Huge pop. Everyone losing their minds.
However the lows really hit me during the show. This included a messy eight man tag that went north of twenty minutes and made DNR look like total geeks. It was a match full of dumb ‘partner accidentally hits partner’ spots. I pretty much hated it. Starr and Banks going to a no contest after a double pin was designed to get more heat on the Starr run but it didn’t work for me. The way the booking played out it was fine but I would have much preferred Starr to go through the tournament clean.
Then there’s the main event, which summed up my feelings about the night. It was an absolutely brilliant, hard-hitting match…until the ref bump and all the bullshit. It’s not really my bag. I have always felt that WALTER is enough of a challenge as is. He doesn’t need to cheat. His air of superiority is enough to get heat on him. Meanwhile Trent’s incredible gutsy underdog performance deserved better and the finish saw his arm drop three times and I hate that spot so much. Any clean finish, even the foot on the ropes being missed by itself, and we’re looking at **** or higher here.
My negativity towards anything almost immediately evaporated when we hit the after party in Alexandra Palace’s bar. We had multiple John Cena’s in there leading the fun brigade and assorted wrestling entrance themes played all night long. We had a lot of beers and a great time. We played pass the parcel and Keith won some WWE trading cards. One of which was Corey Graves.
What a prize pic.twitter.com/Vrq2lKGAbp
— hammerstan (@grapsed) May 5, 2019
I got Elias.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) May 5, 2019
He was an excellent beer mat. Totally did the job. After the after party we headed back to the air bnb and drank until 4am listening to Iron Maiden. Both myself and Mort have a background in heavy metal and it’s really weird talking to someone who you know as a wrestling fan and have only ever chatted about wrestling with, and finding common ground elsewhere.
May 6 2019
Last day and we kick off by having a long conversation about religion and how weird it is that people who are religious feel the need to preach about it. We decide we’re going to set up a stand outside Wood Green tube station so we can tell people about how great Hiroshi Tanahashi is. Giving out 8×10’s of his glorious hair. It’s up to Alexandra Palace for one final time and we rock up just before the show starts again. However we settle on a new standing spot, opposite the hard cam for photos and a better view. Which will inevitably lead to me getting caught on tape telling Jim Smallman to hurry up with the “hiya” bit. I have already confessed that it was me. His reaction was priceless and will forever remain in the DM’s.
SHOW #24 OF 2019: PROGRESS SUPER STRONG STYLE 16 NIGHT THREE
Chris Brookes wins the Wasteman Challenge
David Starr def. Travis Banks & Ilja Dragunov
Jordan Devlin def. Kyle O’Reilly
Paul Robinson def. Jimmy Havoc in a Death Match
Aussie Open def. Aerostar & Daga
Jordynne Grace def. Millie McKenzie, Nina Samuels & Session Moth Martina
David Starr def. Jordan Devlin
There were lows. It was all killer, no filler. This could be Progress’ best show of all time. On the way to the venue I said “I hope they kill it today” and they did. It started strong, stayed strong and finished very strong. The Wasteman Challenge started with Jim forgetting to give Roy Johnson the mic because “you haven’t been here for a while mate”. Was followed by Kid Lykos turning up to bury everyone and then a sensational spot heavy opener that was quite probably match of the weekend to that point. (I’m not even kidding).
Second match felt like it was going to bullshit and shenanigans (TK Cooper was ringside for example) but it was announced as being elimination rules so DQ’s would count and TK was hardly involved. Starr also won clean as a whistle. Which does make me wonder why they did a triple threat here. Maybe so Ilja can challenge Starr as Starr didn’t actually pin him? Anyway, they absolutely wrecked each other here and had a total banger. I went **** on it.
Match three saw Devlin and O’Reilly have a somewhat sluggish match that built and built and built with Jordan gaining an injured leg. It ended up being superb. O’Reilly worked the leg like a bastard. Jordan’s selling was great. Even when they didn’t stick to the leg work they did great spots. The moonsault into a triangle felt like a legitimate finish. Devlin winning was a bit surprising as O’Reilly felt more capable of drifting heel in the main and Devlin would come in with injury sympathy. This was also ****.
Before intermission we had the Death Match. Some people were a bit miffed the Janela/Havoc match last year wasn’t an actual death match. This one was. Robbo got cut badly on his upper back. He walked past me backstage and the five inch gash looked nasty. His back was covered in blood. Then there’s Jimmy Havoc in his final Progress match. Cut heavily across the eyebrow by a light tube he proceeded to bleed out while Progress put on a tribute video for him to watch. “I should probably go to the hospital”. He was covered. Head to toe. It’s one of the worst injuries I’ve ever seen in a death match. Certainly the worst live. Holy shit. The match was helped by the blood drama and I went ****1/4, which makes it the best Jimmy Havoc match, in my mind, since he jobbed the title to Ospreay. And we got AFI!
After they’d cleaned up all the thumbtacks and broken glass we got the second half. Aussie Open vs. Aerostar & Daga was a great little match. Then Jordynne Grace came out here to turn heel (“you fucking marks”) and steal a Millie pin to retain her belt. Martina has gotten mega over with her work recently and she had a good match. Both of these matches were fine but not a patch on the first half.
Finally we had Starr-Devlin. Two guys who’ve been bubbling under in BritWres for the past couple of years. Both stepped up here and both killed it. They went hard from bell to bell. There were a few spots I especially loved. Starr missing a lariat because Devlin’s knee buckled and proceeding to smash himself into the ropes and knock himself out. Devlin doing the headbutt spot again but having Starr collapse on top of him was a great near fall. Starr winning was greeted with people jumping for joy. I’ve seen a few celebrations like that this year. Wrestling just makes people happy when it’s done right. This was definitely wrestling done right. The overarching story here is WWE vs. the Independents and it’s pretty clear which side the crowd have gone. The emotional post match promo and the atmosphere in the building made this super special. I went ****3/4.
And that’s it. We headed back into the world satisfied that Progress’ Super Strong Style 16 had delivered. While Day 1 felt a little disposable it was solid wrestling. Day 2 had highs and lows but put into perspective was fine. There were obviously some booking things I didn’t agree with here. Day 3 absolutely smashed it. What an incredible show. Top to bottom was great. I had five matches (FIVE!) at **** or higher. Was there a live bias? Perhaps but I had barely touched any booze and still loved the show. The overarching storyline worked for me and it was all very satisfying. Plus I can’t wait to see how mad people get in September when WALTER retains again.