This past week PROGRESS held what was, in my opinion, the best Super Strong Style 16 tournament they’ve ever held.
With no clear winner in sight, it was a completely wide open field coupled alongside some huge non-tournament matches, full of both prestige and emotion. To pick a favourite match is a difficult task to say the very least. There was something for everyone; ranging from unadulterated violence, graceful high flying to the marquee itself, strong style combat.
Even to nail it down to just five was a struggle, but after a week to decompress and think about it in hindsight, I managed to pull together a list of what I feel were the five best matches from PROGRESS’ three-day extravaganza inside Alexandra Palace.
5. No Disqualification – Do Not Resuscitate (Drew Parker, Spike Trivet, Chuck Mambo & Bill Eaver) vs. Jimmy Havoc, Mark Andrews, Mark Haskins & Ligero)
A delightful brawl between the past/present and what I hope is the future of this promotion. It’s a shame that we did not get Eddie Dennis in-ring (he is currently injured) but you can’t get a better replacement than the first ever PROGRESS champion, Ligero. Also, when Ligs wears his jeans you know that shit is getting SERIOUS.
All eight men went to war in a wild brawl that had great set-pieces (I live for Ligero being given a barbed-wire cricket bat because he can speak perfect Leeds English now) and went all over Ally Pally. I personally was only a few feet away from Jimmy Havoc using the very hard, very metal seats we were in and just bludgeoning Chuck Mambo with them. We also got the emotional reuniting of F.S.U as Eddie Dennis was saved from a DNR beatdown by his former compadre Mark Andrews. The embrace, the cheers, it was all very cathartic to see the friends make-up a year and a bit on from their falling out in the same venue.
The match was just fun to watch (Magul) and the big curtain call for all four PROGRESS O.Gs, to the soundtrack of Andrew WK’s ‘Party Hard’, the anthem of the Eddie Dennis we all know and love, cementing his face turn.
4. SSS16 Quarter Final – Paul Robinson vs. Kyle O’Reilly
The aggressive (and that’s an understatement) Paul Robinson squared off with Kyle O’Reilly in the quarters. This was a great, strong style contest between two of the hardest hitting men in wrestling. They both went full pelt as Kyle worked the leg with Paul trying his best to turn it into a brawl. The finish came out of nowhere as well, a realistic end to the contest between two men who are incredibly well versed in martial arts.
I hate using the phrase ‘exceeded my expectations’ but they went through all the gears (brawling, striking, high flying, submission) in a fantastic showcase that made Robinson look like a big deal, on par with the NXT superstar.
3. SSS16 Quarter Final – Kyle Fletcher vs. Jordan Devlin
Unlike the previous match, I knew this match was going to be brilliant as I saw this a year previous during the Brighton Championship tournament at Riptide Wrestling. These two stole that show with an unreal contest and my hopes were high that we could get a similar high octane showcase. Somehow, on a bigger stage, they proceeded to steal the show AGAIN and hit another gear but with an interesting twist on it. It wasn’t as ‘spotty’ as the Riptide contest, replaced with them going hell for leather; big moves and huge strikes.
Alongside that, the finish of this match was a THING OF BEAUTY. Using a thing that has been memed for one Jordan Devlin as a lethal weapon, showing both men had given everything they had to the point where the one who hit the hardest walked away the victor. I could watch these two wrestle a thousand times and never get bored.
2. Deathmatch – Paul Robinson vs. Jimmy Havoc
And now for something completely different.
This is my only match with a caveat. If you are at all squeamish or not a fan of deathmatch wrestling, the goriest match in PROGRESS Wrestling is probably not for you. However, if you are a deathmatch pervert like myself, this was a phenomenal spectacle. An absolute crescendo of violence, not hampered by any frivolous nature. This was brutality for a reason. Teacher and student, both one match apiece in the war for superiority following Robinson’s betrayal during the crumbling ashes of Jimmy Havoc’s PROGRESS Title reign. Add to that the emotion of this being Jimmy Havoc’s final match in the promotion, this was just the perfect way to round out the ‘King of The Goths’ run.
Lighttubes, chairs, thumbtacks, tables, lighttube covered tables, the blood. OH LORD THE BLOOD. The Ally Pally was awash with the red passion of two warriors butting heads one last time. Following this; an emotional video package documenting Havoc’s time in PROGRESS and a hilarious farewell speech from Jimmy for what I feel was a perfect send-off.
1. SSS16 Final – Jordan Devlin vs. David Starr
The only final that we could have had, in hindsight. Jordan Devlin; the man in form, the cult hero from last year’s SSS16 tournament. David Starr; the torchbearer for independent wrestling, who had no issue in calling out PROGRESS for their ‘less than independent’ status and fighting the good fight in ‘Us vs. Them’.
These two cannot physically have a bad match. The mat wrestling that seemed like a legitimate struggle, the sequences where you couldn’t put a slice of paper between either man’s advantage, the heavy hit after heavy hit and the fact this felt like it mattered. The near falls were out of this world, I bit for pretty much every single 2.9 count.
This was as close to watching a movie final battle as I’ve seen in wrestling. I absolutely adored this.A fitting, climatic end to a fantastic tournament.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @MattyID. Thanks for reading!