After three decades off air, British wrestling returned to terrestrial TV in the UK, with the reboot of World of Sport Wrestling.

The key thing to bear in mind is that this show is NOT aimed at “hardcore wrestling fans”. It’s a casual product, aimed at people who never have watched wrestling before, or have a passing knowledge of it. A bit like NGW. So in that respect, we’ll be altering our mindset for these two hours…

Just like most British wrestling shows, they started late, with a “don’t try this at home” warning, then a montage that harked back to the era of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Johnny Saint and the like. They have a WWE-esque set, complete with a video floor as Jim Ross and Alex Shane are providing commentary at ringside. The good thing here is that this is near-WWE levels of production, which should help.

They show clips of what’s to come, and then we’re going to the “first World of Sport championship match in 30 years”. Err? I get what they mean, but come on guys…

World of Sport Championship: Grado vs. Dave Mastiff
Alex Shane made the Grado/Big Daddy comparison very early on. One of those guys has a chance of getting in the Hall of Fame… plenty of crowd shots of Grado working the crowd, before Dave Mastiff comes out to put an end to the Grado party. They have background music for Mastiff’s promo; Mastiff’s out with Sha Samuels and Johnny Moss as seconds.

Mastiff charges down Grado early on, before he turns a hiptoss attempt into an easy scoop slam. Grado sets up Mastiff for a pratfall for a two-count as he works a wristlock, then dumps Mastiff with a Dusty Rhodes Bionic Elbow. So many camera cuts and crowd shots invite Kevin Dunn jokes, as Mastiff takes over on Grado with a right hand for a near-fall, before the Mastiff misses a back senton off the middle rope.

Grado makes a comeback right Dusty punches and another Bionic Elbow, then lands a couple of avalanches and a big boot. Sha Samuels shoves Grado off the top rope as the referee was distracted by Johnny Moss, and that leads Grado to eat a cannonball in the corner for the win. The crowd did not like that – but this was a good opening match. **¾

My only criticism here… if this is for a new/casual market, why load it with references to Dusty Rhodes and folks non-fans don’t know of?

We’re backstage with “Rachel” and Mr Beasley, the GM of World of Sport Wrestling. Because wrestling can’t function without GMs! It’s a good promo with Beasley putting over the show, but he’s interrupted by Grado… then Mastiff, Samuels and Moss, who rub it in Grado’s face. Security run in to break them up, and we’re off to a break!

We’ve got a ladder match for a Money in the Bank contract coming up. Hmm… After one segment, it’s feeling very “ITV” – in that the production is good, but there’s a lot of camera cuts and stuff to appease those who have no attention span. So, very-WWE like then!

Grado returns with a “don’t try this at home” promo. There’s a joke I could make here if I were mean.

Jim Ross throws to Rachel backstage with Mr Beesley again, and he mentions that because of the cheating earlier, Mastiff will be defending the title against the winner of the new bout: the battle royale. Plenty of shout outs to names from the past, and speaking of that, we get a video package of some who wrestled on the old World of Sport talking about the past.

Big Daddy. Rollerball Rocco. Johnny Saint. Giant Haystacks. Scrubber Daly. Kendo Nagasaki. Brian Dixon. That’s a little weird, given that Dixon’s lost one of his holiday camp contracts to a presumed tour based on this show! Some of those guys were front row here, which was a nice touch.

Hopefully they don’t go overboard with the nostalgia, as the last thing they need is to invite comparisons to a product that’s 30-40 years old.

Ladder Match: Kenny Williams vs. Sam Bailey vs. CJ Banks vs. Delicious Danny
The winner of the ladder match goes into the battle royal later on. Kenny Williams isn’t “the Bollocks” here, since it’s ITV… They put another don’t try this at home warning on as the bell rings and echoes and echoes…

They actually have decent (by UK standards) ladders here, as Kenny Williams shines early, before Bailey launches into the trio on the outside with a hands-free plancha! Bailey folds open the ladder and starts climbing, only for Danny to cut him off. Danny gets knocked off the ladder and gets tied up in it too as Kenny shoved the ladder down, before Williams hits a crossbody.

Williams climbs the ladder, but he’s caught by CJ Banks who gives him a German suplex off the ladder – giving Alex Shane a “he killed Kenny” opportunity. Banks climbs up, but Danny pulls him down and lands a superkick. Banks hits an uppercut in the corner, before he catches Danny between the top rope and the ladder for some reason.

Bailey returns with a springboard DDT onto Banks – almost like a tornado DDT – but Danny recovers and climbs the ladder in the corner, before diving onto the other three with ease. Despite that wobbly ladder! Danny pulls out another ladder from under the ring, and we end up with two ladders in the ring, as all four men start climbing.

All four men reach for the briefcase, but Bailey and Danny get knocked down, before Kenny Williams reaches out and grabs the briefcase. Kenny Williams gets into the battle royal! Good stuff – not too spot heavy, and it helped that they had substantial ladders. ***

They show a brief graphic for the battle royal – Grado and Williams are in it, along with some silhouettes for now. Up next: women’s action, for what they’re billing as the first-ever all-female World of Sport Wrestling match.

After another break, we’ve got JR blatantly reading from his script as we pitch to another nostalgia segment.

Alexis Rose vs. Viper
Viper’s out with a snake around her neck, and my God that bell reverberates a lot.

Rose gets shoved down with ease, but she kips up… and launches into Viper with forearms, before cartwheeling off the top rope to avoid a charge in the corner. Finally Viper lands a crossbody as we get a LONG crowd shot to mask a cover. There’s more crowd shots as Viper grabs a cravat on Rose, continuing the offence.

A low crossbody gets a near-fall, before Viper slowly rams Rose’s head into the turnbuckles. Eventually Rose blocks it and hits a kick back, before landing a crossbody off the top for a near-fall. Rose misses a moonsault off the middle rope, and that leaves her open for a back senton from Viper for the win. It was alright, but nothing special I’m afraid. **

More backstage stuff here with Rachel, and she’s interviewing Dave Mastiff. He’s doing curls, and blows her off for her stupid questions. Mastiff goes to speak to “the manager” about this, as the crowd boo.

After a break, Sha Samuels gives another Don’t Try This At Home warning, before JR reads the script a little less obviously as we have yet another nostalgia segment. This time, it focuses on Adrian Street and Big Daddy’s sparkly outfits.

The Coffey Brothers (Joe Coffey & Mark Coffey) vs. Ashton Smith & Rampage
The crowd hum “Iron Man”, to the expected chagrin of the rights fee payers. Rampage has lost his surname here, and yet again, that bell reverbs big time, whilst Alex and Jim talk over the crowd chants.

Mark and Ashton tie-up into the corners, before Ashton hits a big back elbow to break free of a waistlock. More crowd shots for some reason, as the Coffeys launch into Ashton with chops, before Joe hits a headlock Giant swing and a suplex for a near-fall. A belly-to-back suplex gets Mark a near-fall, but Mark wanders towards the wrong side of the ring as he takes a lariat from Rampage on the apron.

Rampage tagged in and blasted Mark to the mat for a near-fall, before Smith tagged in and looked to grab a suplex, but Mark turned it into a small package for a near-fall. Rampage gets his surname back briefly as JR called a stomp to the midsection, as we then got a shot of a bored crowd for some reason.

Mark finally makes the hot tag out to Joe Coffey, who lights up Rampage and almost splashes himself out of the ring! A step-up crossbody gets a near-fall, before Rampage takes a suplex for a near-fall. Ashton provides a distraction to Coffey, who turns around into a spinebuster for another near-fall as Mark makes a save… then gets knocked to the outside. The heels miss a superkick as Rampage is knocked to the outside, as Ashton takes a discus forearm from Mark, then the Black Coffey from Joe for the win. More good stuff here – so far, so good for the in-ring action! ***¼

Quick note: if this is for new fans, why is JR continuing to reference names from the past – such as “Double A” Arn Anderson?

We’re backstage with Rachel again, and she pushes past Moss and Samuels to see Mr Beasley getting threatened by Mastiff. We find out here that Moss and Samuels are in the battle royal too, along with a “special guest”.

El Ligero vs. Zack Gibson
Because of course, you can’t have a British show without El Ligero! Gibson gets booed heavily, but he doesn’t get to cut his typical promo.

Gibson goes for the Shankly Gates early on, but Ligero’s smart to it as the pair end up squaring off. Ligero replies to a back body drop attempt with a dropkick to Gibson’s head, before landing a flying ‘rana off the middle rope. A standing moonsault gets Ligero a near-fall, as he then followed up with an attempted dive, as he instead went for a rana off the apron… before the camera cuts away as much as they can from Ligero getting powerbombed onto the table.

If they couldn’t show the spot because of the time it was going to air… why include it in the match?

After they return to the ring, Gibson again goes for the arm, then goes for a stalling suplex, before ultimately dumping Ligero with a Divorce Court hammerlock takedown for a near-fall. Gibson continues to work over Ligero, as once again the commentary team talk all over the crowd chanting towards the heel Gibson.

Ligero fights back with a big boot from the ropes, then finally hits a tope con hilo into the aisle. A wheelbarrow facebuster gets Ligero a near-fall, but Gibson hits back with a Helter Skelter (spinning suplex, as opposed to the “slam” called by JR) for another two-count. Gibson again tries for the Shankly Gates, but Ligero easily makes the ropes, before the masked man kicks away and lands an enziguiri.

Ligero went for another wheelbarrow facebuster, but it was blocked as Gibson locked on the Shankly Gates, but Ligero got out and rolled him up for a two-count, before hitting the C4L for the win. Pretty good stuff, but with these two guys, they’d have to go something to be bad. I still don’t get why they planned a table spot that they couldn’t air though… ***¼

We’re backstage again with Rachel with all of the Battle Royal contenders, save for the silent Ligero (who wasn’t there at first) and our mystery man. Generic pre-match promos from the Coffeys, then Ligero (who doesn’t speak…), before Sha and Johnny shoot down talk of the mystery 8th man.

Battle Royal: Grado vs. Sha Samuels vs Johnny Moss vs. Mark Coffey vs. Joe Coffey vs. Kenny Williams vs. El Ligero vs. ??
We start without the mystery man, or introductions. It’s over the top eliminations here, and our first elimination comes when Kenny gets press slammed to the floor by Johnny Moss… who then gets name-checked as Finn Balor and Zack Sabre Jr’s trainer. Good references for new fans.

Ligero gets turfed by Samuels, as JR and Shane continue to ruminate over the mystery man. The Coffeys square off, before they both get thrown out by Moss and Samuels, which leaves Grado all alone… as the mystery man appears in the form of Davey Boy Smith Jr – aka the British Bulldog (formerly WWE’s DH/Harry Smith).

The Bulldog dumps Samuels with a slam, before he lights up Moss with chops. Grado avoids anything resembling action, as Samuels gets caught on the top rope and is brought down with a superplex. Davey Boy hits his father’s delayed vertical suplex on Moss, then a double-underhook suplex on Samuels, and finally a running powerslam on Moss.

Of course, Davey Boy goes for a pinfall, like Macho Man in the Royal Rumble way back when, which makes him look dumb. The Bulldog then gets eliminated as Samuels throws him as he tried to knock Moss out – a nice easy payday for the Bulldog here!

Now it’s Grado on his own, and he fires back with Dusty punches to Moss and Samuels. They cut him off and dump him with a double clothesline, but Grado hits back with a Grado Cutter before clotheslining Samuels out of the ring. It’s down to Moss and Grado now, and Grado gets the win by low-bridging Moss as he charged at him. Grado gets an instant rematch! Way too short, with the winner taking the W via the path of least resistance (my least favourite tactic for these matches) but they had TV time to contend with, so it was what it was… **

Sha Samuels chops Grado’s knee almost immediately, but Davey Boy Smith Jr returns to make a save on Samuels and Moss. Moss gets thrown out, as does Samuels, who was lawn-darted into the aisle… and now we get paramedics out to tend to Grado’s knee as we go to a final break.

We’ve now got an empty ring, and it’s main event time!

World of Sport Championship: Dave Mastiff (c) vs. Grado
Referee Steve Lynskey ejects Sha Samuels and Johnny Moss before the bell. Mastiff calls Grado a failure in a pre-match promo that gets the “what?” treatment, and Grado finally cuts him off, as he fights off the paramedic actors to come to the ring.

Mastiff charges at Grado and hits a chop block in the aisle, then slammed him onto the entrance ramp. They finally enter the ring and the match officially starts – Grado takes an elbow drop onto the knee, and this has really slowed to a crawl. JR compared Grado to Dusty Rhodes once more, as Mastiff put him in the tree of woe and wrenched away on Grado’s knee.

Mastiff rips off a turnbuckle pad as the referee frees Grado, and that distraction leaves Mastiff with enough time to wind up for, then miss a shoulder charge in the corner. Grado lands an Ace Crusher, and that’s win. Dave Mastiff had to work for two men here, just so we could get the send-the-crowd-happy result to end the show with. *

Grado gets the massive fireworks and pyro reaction that Mastiff never had, as this show quickly wraps up a la TNA with Grado celebrating, as we found just how much you can be overexposed on a two hour show!

Overall, WOS Wrestling was a good pilot… yes, there were nitpicks – like wrestlers coming out to homogenous music that barely resembled (at best) the stuff they’re more famous for using. This was a product aimed at viewers who’ve not watched much wrestling (despite the constant name-dropping of Americans from the past like Arn Anderson and Dusty Rhodes), hence the abundance of foam fingers, light shows and everything you’d have seen on an ITV light entertainment action show in the 90s.

Yes, this was Gladiators-esque production with proper wrestlers and a wrestling ring… and this is something that undoubtedly will translate well into a touring show, say, on holiday camps. Whether it’ll sustain as a full-on, weekly series is another question entirely.

This was a good, entry-level yet self-contained wrestling show – with the only major heels established as a threat being the Mastiff/Moss/Samuels trio. Obviously you need more than three bad guys if this is going to be viable, but let’s see how this is received in the mainstream before passing any final judgment.

Bottom line: like NGW, this is “not for us”, the hardcore wrestling watchers. The buzz got our attention, but the product is a far cry from virtually anything else out there on the indy scene.