The wait is over! 16 wrestlers compete over a three day tournament with the winner getting a world title opportunity further down the road. Day one is the first round matches, let’s get to it.
The opening match sees one of Progress Wrestling’s longest serving alumni in Nathan Cruz against one of the newest and perhaps most decorated member of the roster in Jeff Cobb. Cruz wastes no time in getting to work, hitting Cobb with forearms to stun him before trying to take the monster down by his knees. Jeff eats a DDT outside the ring early on before regaining his composure.
Cobb shows his impressive strength by holding up Cruz with one arm before he comes crashing down in a vertical suplex. On the offensive he tears apart Cruz’s chest with a vicious chop and clothesline combo. A beautiful release suplex from Cobb looks to finish it, but Nathan has more in the tank. More back and forth action, Cruz is fighting against the tide but hits a lung blower which gets a 2 count. Cobb retorts with a huge slam and makes his way to the second round.
Flash Morgan Webster enters the ring for his opening round against Mark Haskins next. Neither has had much luck with tournament matches over the more recent history; with Flash having to take time off after that epic match with Zack Sabre Jr for entry into the Cruiserweight Classic and Haskins withdrawing from last year’s SSS16 tournament after advancing to the next stage. Both athletes are hoping to kick-start their road to the title.
Haskins seizes the opportunity early on to kick Webster’s legs out from underneath him, resulting in a possible hyperextension. He uses this to his advantage, working the leg as if it has a target on it. Flash is clearly angry at what he sees to be underhanded tactics. Some high knees and headbutts break the onslaught, but Haskins reverses some offence into a scorpion death lock for a submission victory. A fuming Flash must sit out the rest of the tournament.
Much has been made of the fact most of the entrants into the tournament are here for the first time. Jimmy Havoc being the Progress champion in one tournament, injured for the second, and Travis Banks not being on a lot of people’s radar early on in his UK work experience only make up 2 of the dozen new entrants. A lot of eyes are on this bout due to their intensity and need to get the job done at any cost.
It starts with a middle finger in defiance, kicks and taunts follow immediately, the action spilling to the outside. Havoc decides to bring chairs into the mix, the fact that Banks is able to brush them aside with his forearms while advancing on his opponent like he’s the creature from the black lagoon probably aids the referee in not disqualifying Havoc at this early stage. Banks tries to use the chair on Havoc, but not to be outdone – he bats it out of the sky using nothing but his head!
Havoc is bringing a lot more moves into his arsenal lately, he performs a sweet hurricanrana before going back to an acid rain-maker which misses. Banks tries a dragon suplex and then a death valley driver but only gets a 2 count, soon after he ends Havoc’s hopes of making the second round with a kiwi driver.
Our first half main event sees Philadelphia’s born and raised David Starr take on the UK’s Zack Sabre Junior in what some people would consider the hardest match to pick a winner. Both are no stranger to tournaments against top opposition, Starr narrowly lost a close fought match with Walter in WxW’s own 16 Carat tournament earlier in the year.
They both start the feeling out process, mat wrestling to try and sus out a weakness to potentially exploit. Starr’s chops cut the tension and riles up ZSJ who comes back with a series of kicks. Starr is locked in a triangle choke but breaks the hold with a mighty powerbomb. He looks to finish the match with a suplex into a neck-breaker combo but Sabre Jr’s shoulders are up in the nick of time. The match is won soon after when Starr is unable to defend himself following a submission hold where Zack’s feet come crashing down on his opponent’s head to leave the referee no alternative.
Zack Gibson is next, against someone who he believes should not even be in the tournament; Jack Sexsmith. Gibson has taken a dislike to Jack and says he will relish the opportunity to crush his dreams of advancing to the next stage. Sexsmith is on the receiving end of some devastating lung-blower’s early on, Gibson trying to fulfil his promise as quickly as possible, but Sexsmith is getting up before the referee can count to 3. Gibson yells “stay down!” but the Pansexual Phenomenon keeps rising to his feet.
Sexsmith mounts some offence of his own and gets out Mr Cocko when he has a slight bit of reprieve, this is cut short with an attack to the ribs. He then manages to climb the ropes and leap onto Gibson with a double foot stomp but only gets a 2 count. He tries to capitalise on this by trying a topei to Gibson outside but this is countered into a suplex to the hard floor. Sexsmith is trying to get back in the ring to continue the match, much to the dismay of Zack Gibson. Jack is helped by fans as he seems to be running on fumes. Gibson looks to finish the job when he is pinned by a simple roll-up and is out of the tournament!
Tyler Bate is the first British Strong Style member to have an opening round match, he faces Pastor William Eaver who is hoping to reclaim Progress gold after being the first Projo graduate to win a major title for this company.
Pastor tries to claim victory with a fisherman’s suplex, but even hooking the leg brings a 2 count only. Further attempts at pins are equally unsuccessful. Tyler hits a flying European uppercut, a Tyler-driver97 (and some questionable grabbing of the tights) later, and Tyler advances to the next stage.
The penultimate match this evening is Mark Andrews vs Flamita. Much has been said about the Mexicans incredible agility in the ring, who better to be up against in the first round than White Lightening himself? Contrary to what people expected, this match starts off with mat wrestling, we then get some lucha action, both guys performing some deep arm-drags and further high risk offence.
Flamita shines with a handspring elbow drop and a standing shooting star press, he tries a head-scissor takedown, but Andrews lands on his feet! Adrenalin takes over and both wrestlers are pulling their biggest moves out of the bag in order to claim victory. Flamita lifts Andrews into a muscle buster position, then arches his back to bring him down into a lung-blower. Before going for the cover, Flamita climbs the ropes for a frogsplash, then performs a spectacular 450 but Andrews lifts the shoulder up. Mark Andrews tries to get back into the match with a stundog millionaire but is caught up in a standing C4 which ends his hopes of winning the tournament. A standing ovation follows what was truly a remarkable match.
The eighth and final match in the opening day of the tournament sees the second half of the tag team champions; Trent Seven against Matt Riddle. The moustachioed loudmouthtook an opportunity to grab the microphone from co-owner Jim Smallman and proclaim that British Strong Style were on their way to greatness. The rest of the match was a bit of a blur. A fierce kneestrike from the King of Bro’s ended Trent’s dream of becoming a double champion in just six seconds. Six, Trent, six!
This match showed that anything can happen on any given day, and not to take anything for granted. The crowd were in high spirits and there was a great atmosphere. Chants of “six, six six” echoed through the Electric Ballroom, and probably still ring in the ears of Mr Seven even now. All in all, this was a fantastic opening day to the tournament, day two is sure to be another belter.