Main photo by Rob Brazier
Here’s 5 things you need to know about British wrestling this week:
1) Tommy End outlasted 15 of the best to win SSS16.
Before the weekend, and despite it only being in its 2nd year, the Super Strong Style 16 – held over two days by PROGRESS at their regular Camden home, the Electric Ballroom – had already claimed its place in the calendar as one of the preëminent tournaments in world wrestling. This year’s edition, won eventually by Tommy End, only cemented that claim further, with 2 days of high-quality grappling action and a fair amount of drama & intrigue to match.
Dahlia Black’s interference goes awry – photo by Rob Brazier
Although End was the eventual winner, the SSS16 MVP was undoubtedly Chris Hero, making his PROGRESS debut, who delivered 3 outstanding contests with 3 very different opponents and received a standing ovation each time. Hero divides opinion but few were divided in the Ballroom as to his qualities by the end of the weekend. Outside of Hero, Mark Andrews – who had to work 5 matches, 4 in one day – and Zack Gibson & Big Daddy Walter, had strong tournaments, but there was little to disappoint even the most cynical observer.
End won the tournament over Andrews in the final. Andrews, eliminated by Hero on day 1, had replaced an ill Mark Haskins after winning a stunning 10-man scramble which opened day 2, and survived an attack by Mikey Whiplash, and a clinical assault from Gibson in the semi-final, to face the Dutchman. Haskins, who downed Pete Dunne on day 1, collapsed backstage and is suffering from complications from a tooth infection but is expected to be fine.
El Ligero meets a referee he can’t bully – photo by Rob Brazier
Away from the tournament – which also included Damon Moser, Kenny Williams, Sami Callihan, Matt Cross, Dave Mastiff, Rampage Brown, Jack Gallagher & TK Cooper – the focus was on tag-team action, with the London Riots finally ending The Origin’s reign of terror in a wild brawl which included referee Joel Allen laying out el Ligero. They’ll face The Dazzler Team in the future, who downed Sweet Jesus in a street fight on day 2, possibly at PROGRESS’s next show – All Hail The New Puritans – in Manchester on June 19th. All the action – and I’d really recommend you seek it out – will be on Demand PROGRESS by the end of this week.
2) GOOD things come in small packages.
There’s a trend in the UK of late for boutique festivals & micro-breweries, and wrestling has gotten in on the act with a number of smaller promotions catering to a niche audience in intimate surroundings. Running at the tiny Craufurd Arms in Wolverton, Milton Keynes, GOOD Wrestling presented their 2nd show last Friday – 2 Good 2 Glorious – in front of a small but appreciative crowd, made up of both hardcore & non-wrestling fans.
The show, which had to be moved from late April because, believe it or not, there are still sad people involved in professional wrestling in 2016 who believe in dirty tricks & promotional wars, was main-evented by a wild – and often hilarious – tag-team brawl between the London Riots and Panda Cub & Big Grizzly, even had a celebrity in the crowd as So Cal Val (now resident in the UK) decided to take in the action.
The highlight of the show was the return to Wolverton of Jack Sexsmith, who defeated Darrell Allen on his debut in January. Allen’s tag-team partner in The Dazzler Team, Earl Black Jr, earned some revenge for his mentor, hitting a low blow behind the referee’s back after a saucy contest. Rounding out the show, which also featured a showcase for local wrestling school the Wrestling Institute of Northampton, the outrageous Gene Munny beat Terry Isit and Pastor William Eaver won an impromptu three-way after Mike Bird inserted himself in the Pastor’s scheduled singles’ match. GOOD return to the Craufurd on July 29th, and the show should be available on their Pivotshare channel soon.
3) Blue Nikita is the new Queen Of The Ring.
The rise of women’s wrestling in the UK is one of the stories of 2016, with Empress-Pro, Bellatrix & Fierce Females presenting well-attended & critically-acclaimed all-women shows, a visit from arguably the top Japanese women’s promotion Stardom, and the “women of PROGRESS” (ugh!) finding a place often high on the card at otherwise male-dominated chapters, and the return of Pro-Wrestling EVE has only served to further that story with two solid shows after their 3-year break.
Photo of Toni Storm by Phil Jones
The latest, titled After The Storm because the previous show was marked by a farewell to NXT-bound Nikki Storm, was built around a Queen of the Ring tournament which delivered a four-way final, featuring Pollyanna, Kay Lee Ray, Toni Storm – arguably, with Nixon Newell, the top talents on the UK scene at the moment – and the Greek champion Blue Nikita, who outlasted the other 3 to pick up the honours.
Other than the tournament – the earlier rounds of which also featured Sammi Jayne, Erin Angel, Ayesha Ray & RevPro rookie Zoe Lucas – Rhia O’Reilly put her EVE title on the line against the veteran Jetta, and survived despite a scare when the match had to be restarted after Jetta had secured a pinfall with her feet on the ropes. The show should be available to watch on RevPro On Demand soon, and stay tuned to EVE’s Facebook page for details of their next show.
4) Rampage Brown stood tall at the Ultimate Showdown.
Much of New Generation Wrestling’s 2016 output has been building towards a big climax, and that finally came on Saturday night at Hull City Hall, when the promotion presented Ultimate Showdown. The showdown in question, an NGW Heavyweight title match between champion Nathan Cruz and challengers Rampage Brown & Zack Gibson – a series of matches to decide the challenger couldn’t split the pair – ended with a Rampage win, but unfortunately by count-out as Cruz kept his title.
A packed Hull City Hall – photo by NGW
One title that did change hands at the show – which also featured The Proven & Dara Diablo – was the NGW Tag-Team championship, strangely won by the trio of Lionheart, Kid Fite & Joe Hendry over champions Stixx & Colossus Kennedy. Earlier in the show, Mark Haskins beat Sami Callihan in what some reporters are calling NGW’s best match of 2016, Bubblegum successfully defended his Gen-X title against el Ligero, and Matt Myers defeated Wild Boar to become the new number on contender to his childhood friend Cruz’s title.
The night before, in the North Yorkshire county town of Northallerton, Cruz overcame the challenge of Martin Kirby to keep his title, Rampage Brown downed Liam, Slater, and Matt Myers clashed with Dara Diablo. Highlights will be shown on the British Wrestling Weekly show soon and NGW now build to another big show, their 8th Anniversary spectacular, in Hull on July 18th.
5) ICW taped more Friday Night Fight Club and CHIKARA wrapped up their tour.
The war between the Black Label and, well, everyone else in Insane Championship Wrestling continued on Sunday night, as the company taped more TV at the Garage in Glasgow. With ICW champion Big Damo in the US, the show – attended by comedian Josie Long (who live-tweeted her non-wrestling fan view of the show for all to see) – was headlined by a Black Label (Drew Galloway & Jack Jester) versus Local Fire (Joe Hendry & Davey Boy) tag-team match, and furthered the storylines that have ICW fans hooked, leading into Shug’s Hoose Party 3 on July 31st, which the promotion also announced will be available on iPPV.
Joe Coffey swings The 55 – photo by David J Wilson
Earlier in the card, Stevie Boy & Kay Lee Ray advanced to the semi-finals of the ICW tag-team title tournament, Carmel retained her ICW Women’s championship over Viper, and Lionheart (who Long guessed votes Tory) kept his Zero-G title, defeating BT Gunn. The show also featured The 55, Joe Coffey & Noam Dar, and will be available on ICW On Demand soon, free for the first 24 hours. Viewers in the US & Canada will also be able to watch it on the Fight Network.
Glasgow also received a visit from CHIKARA, as they wrapped up their UK tour with a show at St Luke’s Auditorium on Monday with a Grand Championship title change – Hallowicked defeating Princess KimberLee – alongside the usual shenanigans. Scottish grapplers Joe Coffey, Viper & Lewis Girvan joined the travelling British crew, and the show was headlined by a match which saw Chuck Taylor accompany his own opponent to the ring.
The preceding weekend featured CHIKARA stops in Birmingham, Manchester & Newcastle, which featured the usual CHIKARA cast, travelling regulars Nixon Newell, the Hunter Brothers & Travis Banks, and appearances from a host of British wrestling stars, like The New Nation, Chris Brookes, Tyler Bate, Pete Dunne & Mark Andrews. The Manchester show also presented a very special attraction, as Johnny Kidd & Mike Quackenbush locked up in a World Of Sport rules match, which went a one fall apiece draw after 8 rounds. CHIKARA will no doubt return in 2017 but you can see the UK stars that accompanied them at ATTACK!, Fight Club:Pro, Tidal, and other British wrestling promotions.