Three years into their debut, Progress Wrestling holds their first annual Super Strong Style 16 tournament. SSS16 is a giant multi-day (started as two but changed to three in 2017) mega tournament of sixteen, featuring some of the best wrestlers from the indie scenes (and are doing some great things to this day) and have produced excellent matches each time. 2015’s tournament would not only see the continuing dissolution of Regression, but the reveal of the Faceless and the promotion’s first women’s match on a Chapter show.
Day One would whittle the field of sixteen down to eight. The Card:
El Ligero vs Will Ospreay
Mark Haskins vs Jack Gallagher
Rampage Brown vs Big Daddy Walter
Roderick Strong vs Tommy End
Eddie Dennis vs Marty Scurll
Dave Mastiff vs Noam Dar
Damo O’Connor vs Tommaso Ciampa
Zack Sabre Jr vs Zack Gibson
London Riots vs Regression (Havoc/Robinson)
0. The Harshest of Moments
Before the show began, we saw the return of Kris Travis, who had at this point taken off to deal with stomach cancer. It’s a heartwarming moment as the Progress faithful welcome Trav back and he gets to talk to them, about hoping to be back in the ring soon and how much they all mean to him. It’s the harshest in hindsight because Travis would return to the ring, his final match being at Chapter 21 where he beat Marty Scurll. However, Kris Travis would pass away on March 31, 2016 at age 32. I never got to talk much about him during this retrospective since I had to cover more major storylines, but Travis had so much potential in him, and the scene lesser with his absence.
1. Jump, Tuck, Pray
The opening match of the tournament is between Will Ospreay and former Progress Champion, El Ligero. To paraphrase commentator Jimmy Barnett (who is most definitely not Jim Smallman adding the commentary after the fact, are you crazy?), the match starts at about 150 MPH and doesn’t really let up. The two dance around each other, using their speed and acrobatics to counter and transition one another. The veteran Ligero tries to ground the pace a bit, but Ospreay fights back out and gets the crowd going again. While being a fine match on its own, it continued the story of Ospreay’s hesitance to use that 630.
In the end, Ospreay takes the win after a flurry of strikes sets Ligero up for the Essex Destroyer for the win, knocking Ligero from the tournament. This won’t be the last time we see Ligero today, but this match provided a nice opener to heat the crowd, but it didn’t go crazy enough to be match of the night (we’ll get to that). However, it is becoming clearer: the Essex Destroyer won’t be enough if Ospreay is going to win this tournament.
Let’s just get it out of the way: I love WALTER. Over this last year, the Ring General, the leader of Ringkampf and current Progress Champion has impressed me so much. If you want a Progress Match that really got me to notice the big lad, check his match against fellow Ringkampf member Timothy Thatcher that took place last February at Chapter 62. It’s just some of the hardest hitting striking (seriously, Thatcher’s chest looks like it went through a thresher by the end of it) I have ever seen while also having a dexterity and storytelling finesse that has made it one of the best of 2018.
The tournament saw his debut against fellow Big Fucking Dude, Rampage. Now bare in mind I’ve talked about how big Rampage is; WALTER is bigger. And the two go at each other with littler mercy. A true “hoss fight” strike-upon-strike. While violent, it told the story of Rampage having to play the David to WALTER’s Goliath, which is a terrifying thought, and saw him pick up the win after his second attempt at the Piledriver. A great match that saw Walter still look amazing in defeat, and the start to an amazing time in the promotion.
3. The Origin of the Faceless
Midway through the day saw Roderick Strong (who is now tearing it up in NXT as part of the Undisputed Era, Roddy, you snake) face Tommy End in a pretty good match, but it’s end aftermath of that match that was going to change everything as two of the Faceless ran in to attack End, one half of the Sumerian Death Squad that got a shot at the Tag Belts that the Faceless had). But it wasn’t just that as a new man, wearing a mask and a suit, came out with the third Faceless. And this was when the masks came off, as Danny Garnell, Damon Moser and the Third Faceless was revealed to be El Ligero, effectively turning heel, sporting a black mask now. Just one more as the man in the suit steps into the ring and reveals himself…Continued below
…Nathan Cruz, the inaugural Progress Champion, is back and is the leader of this group that will now call itself The Origin. Cruz and Ligero were at the beginning of Progress, and they weren’t going to be forgotten, as they take possession of the tag shields and kick Garnell out of the group.
The Origin would be a staple group going forward and add other members to itself. And I have to say, this has more power than Screw Indy Wrestling’s concept since, at least for me, they have a more focused goal whereas SIW was just arrogance and Above It All nature. That’s fine, but this debut serves as a more interesting start, with a much more grounded, intense Cruz at the center of it.
4. Battle of the Zacks
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Zack Gibson was definitely match of the night.
Gibson immediately got heat on himself by getting on the mic to get ZSJ to keep away from his broken finger while he would follow the rules as usual (a dirty lie). Zack cheekily agreed (because, after all, he could just break Gibson’s leg or neck or whatever) and they were off. The crowd is firmly behind ZSJ, egged on by Gibson’s Liverpool soccer team losing that day 6-1. The hot crowd only enhanced the clash of holds and submission attempts.
I think by now I’ve made it abundantly clear that ZSJ can and will twist you into knots and he takes early advantage in this match, countering everything Gibson tries to throw at him. GIbson does gain a bit of an advantage, including kicking out of ZSJ’s wicked penalty kick and managing to deal a lungblower from the top rope and a cross-legged brainbuster, both of which ZSJ kicks out of. As it was expected, Gibson tried to cheat, getting Zack in the eyes with the ref unaware, but that still wouldn’t be enough Zack clinches victory with a Northern Lights Suplex transitioning into cross armbreaker (messing with Gibbo’s broken finger to top it off) to clinch the submission.
5. Start a Riot
Where the match between Gibson and ZSJ was a technical marvel, the main event match between Regression and the newly babyface London Riots is an example of pure carnage fun.
We’ve come a long way with the Riots. Back during the Garage days, they used to be the most despised wrestlers in the promotion. Fast forward to now, their entrance got easily the biggest pop of the night. I could make a complaint about how they lose a loser leaves forever match, but hey, this wouldn’t be the last time that happens in this promotion and “yadda yadda wrestling.” On the other end, Regression get boos and middle fingers from the fans, with a more and more unhinged Havoc trying to go at it with a couple of the fans.
If this match shows anything, is that Havoc is willing to go through anything. In this match, we would see Havoc be thrown into several rows of seating, have his head smashed into the projector wall, and took a Belly-to-Back Suplex alongside Robinson (that is: Rob Lynch suplexed both of them at the same time). The other side of this coin was Rob Lynch, who, himself is a big guy, attempted a Spiral Tap from the top rope. Even though he missed, it earned massive respect from the crowd, someone even yelling “You crazy bastard.”
But in the end, in finally happened, as the Riots performed their Pop-Up Spear combination and Jimmy Havoc, for the first time since Chapter Eight, was pinned cleanly with both Riots pinning him (fittingly, it was Rob Lynch who pinned him at Chapter Eight). The pop for this was amazing, for the first time in a long time, Havoc was vulnerable. It provided a magnificent feel good moment to end this first night of Super Strong Style 16…
…It would not last…