PROGRESS took a step back in time, as their fifth show of the month was a throwback to the 70s.
Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Electric Ballroom (under that name), the promotion opted to theme their show in that way – with the pretense that we were in 1978. Some of the crowd came dressed up for the occasion. Others did not. Some decided to portray their love of a character from a cartoon that lived and died in the 60s, with Dick Dastardly floating around with some magic box that took moving pictures.
Hosted by Jimmy Barnett, complete with a descending microphone from the ceiling, going through the usual routines from forty years earlier. We’ve got two commentary tracks, by the way, with one version coming complete with commentary from “Glennt Walton” and Matthew Richards (who was tagged as “Matt Smith” later in the show)… the other is silent, if you’re a little fearful of the audio.
Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: The Mod & The Rocker (Flash Morgan Webster & Mark Haskins) vs. Greased Lightning (Connor Mills & Maverick Mayhew)
How ironic, the first wrestler to emerge from the curtain for this show was someone whose character fitted in both 1978 and 2018, without changing a single thing, while his partner found an Andre the Giant-esque singlet and some cowboy boots.
I cannot tell which would have been more uncomfortable.
Being part of the tag team series, this was sort-of in 2018 storylines, with Webster and Haskins keeping up their own disagreements as they tagged each other in and out of the ring, prompting Greased Lightning to capitalise. On commentary “Glennt” was really good in character here, being incredibly subdued compared to his 2018 counterpart, while Matthew leaned in hard on the ol’ Mancunian act… although it was a little jarring to hear them refer to Webster’s “collar injury” and other stuff “from the past, but in the future”.
It was a pretty one-sided showing for Haskins and Webster, with Maverick Mayhew finally getting a shot in with a dive to Haskins on the floor before a crossbody to Webster’s rolled through for a near-fall. The Brit Pop Drop from Webster draws our first “what a maneuver” from Glennt as Greased Lightning rebound, throwing in a Millshot and a Blackheart Buster before Haskins smashed Mayhew with Webster’s helmet for the win. That’s two points for Webster and Haskins, and another loss for Greased Lightning, who can’t seem to buy a win in any decade. ***
Our second referee comes out: Clive Roberts! Things were a little backwards, as we’ll see…
Catweazle Jr. vs. Chris Only
Or in 2018, Chuck Mambo vs. Chris Brookes – with Mambo at least covering up his usual gear!
Catweazle Jr. had some music that looked like it’d been lifted out of 70s kids TV, timing the ending of it with a high five to Jimmy Barnett… while Only came out to “Human Fly” by the Cramps, conveniently released in 1978…
They started off simply, with Catweazle getting caught as he hammerlocked himself, before returning the favour by fooling Only into running the ropes. Comedy! That continued as a La Magistral cradle drew a really old-school “one-ahh, two-ahh” count, that the crowd ate up… except the wrestlers were more bemused that Clive Roberts was refusing to go down to make the count. So they showed him with a live demonstration, only for Clive to roll up Only in an inside cradle for the win!
Of course, the match continued as Only wore down Catweazle into a camel clutch – complete with a wet willie, described extremely nonchalantly and in great detail by Glennt on commentary. Richards has me in stitches as he described how Only “stays in a caravan in Oberhausen every year”, which apparently may have just given Only a “venereal disease”. Ye Gods.
As for the match, Catweazle leaps off the ring apron and onto the back of Only before landing a springboard flip dive onto Only outside. Another splash off the top almost wins it for Catweazle, who then ate a knee and a slingshot cutter, before countering out of the Praying Mantis Bomb with the Chuck You. Only’s back in with another knee, then a brainbuster, before an Octopus hold forced Catweazel into the ropes… while Glennt described in great detail how to replicate the hold on yourself.
Catweazle fires back again, dropping Only with a half-nelson suplex and a thrust kick, before the Praying Mantis Bomb got the win. A pretty good match, with Catweazle excelling in his new found character. ***¼
Natural PROGRESSion Series Semi-Final: Drew Parker vs. Chris Ridgeway
The rib here? Drew Parker, master of death matches and general weapons-based nastiness, was “Peace Loving” here, coming out to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and giving hugs to all.
Meanwhile Chris Ridgeway, the black belt, came out to “Paint It Black” as his litany of martial art qualifications were read out, including, bizarrely, origami. Paper cuts to death, eh? This was sort-of in canon, as the winner of this makes it to the Natural PROGRESSion Series final, facing the winner of Mark Davis vs. Danny Duggan later in June. That could well be a busy few months for Davis, as he’s also in the Thunderbastard tag team series…
Ridgeway keeps Parker on the mat early, working over the arm and other limbs, but Parker gets free and hits a ‘rana before getting sent onto the apron… where he low bridges Ridgeway to the floor for a double stomp off the apron. A chop proved to be a bad idea as Ridgeway happily kicked back, including a handstand kick to trap Parker in the ropes for a near-fall.
Another double stomp from Parker puts Ridgeway in the corner for a dropkick, then another standing stomp as we descended back into strikes, with Ridgeway’s kicks being described as “martial arts”, except pronounced in the same was as the Manchester United player Anthony Martial (as in “marsh-ee-al”). Ridgeway’s kicks eventually put Parker on the mat as a double-arm armbar almost forced a submission, but instead he opted for a pinning attempt for another near-fall.
Parker nearly nicks the win when he flips out of a rear naked choke, before a Detonation kick and a small package driver earned another two-count… a dive to the outside sent Parker three rows deep, before another dive saw Ridgeway catch him in a triangle choke, as another flurry of strikes ended with a hook kick to Parker, then a release German suplex. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander as Parker throws in a kick of his own, before the small package driver’s shrugged off as Ridgeway gets the submission with his take on the Kirifuda driver. A solid bit of ground work, but this felt a little flat as both guys had been off of the main chapter shows as of late. Nitpicking time, but when you’re running more than monthly, it’d be nice to not have folks disappearing off shows for four months because they’re “just” in the tournament. ***
El Phantasmo & Jordan Devlin vs. Sheepwhackers (Sheepwhacker Coop & Sheepwhacker Banks)
Where the hell do you begin with this? It’s a Ballroom debut for El Phantasmo, and a welcome return for Jordan Devlin, because the Boy’s Back In Town. Meanwhile 2018’s South Pacific Power Trip rolled back the clock and…
Woah! Yay! Hongi! Luke and Butch would go on to age horribly, I feel…
This was just insanity. Never mind the “international flair” of a pair of New Zealanders, an Irishman and a Canadian, we started with Banks going full, erm, Bushwhacker, licking Devlin to get away from an armdrag, before Phantasmo went on a spot of rope walking with Coop en route to a headscissor takedown for a near-fall.
The match quickly spilled to the outside, with Banks roaming the crowd like a deranged lunatic. Yes, it’s character stuff like this that allows Banks to show off his expressive best, hamming up the Sheepwhackers (or is that the Bush Herders?) stuff to the nines, tagging in and getting clotheslined to the outside as we got a glimpse of what would happen to a Sheepwhacker in a Royal Rumble. If that were to be invented.
We move into dives next as El Phantasmo’s top rope moonsault saw him crash into the pile – and a chair – before the Sheepwhackers pulled out some plastic forks to stab their opponents with. Where we’re going, we don’t need no rules…as it’s like we’re getting a tour de force of the future Bushwhackers, all amid a long stretch of the match having broken down into a (not quite) bloody brawl! Things calmed down back in the ring as Devlin and Banks went at it, with the Irishman landing a nice Spanish fly for a near-fall and another what a maneuver! Devlin booted Banks into the corner for a back cracker… with a Coast to Coast on top of it for a near-fall. Cooper returns as the Sheepwhackers laid out their opponents with headbutts above and below the belt, before we got a move straight out of the 21st century, with a spiked Jig ‘n’ Tonic almost getting the New Zealanders the win.
Phantasmo catches Coop up top with a springboard enziguiri – almost wiping out Devlin on the way down – before Jordan returned to help bring him down with a double Spanish Fly! A Parade of Moves breaks out as tags became a thing of the past… as did Devlin’s head nearly, as a shotgun dropkick saw him crash into the bottom turnbuckle. With no help, a Slice of Heaven from Banks and an axe kick from Coop left Phantasmo down, as the battering ram took home the win. This was all kinds of craziness, and easily the best thing on the show – for the gags and the variety. ***¾
PROGRESS World Tag Team Championship – Thunderbastard Tag Team Series: Kings of Europe (Zack Gibson & James Drake) (c) vs. Billabong Boys (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)
Ah, happenstance. In 1978, we’d have been a little over two weeks removed from Liverpool having retained the European cup at Wembley… however, in 2018, we were just hours on from an awful loss from Liverpool, as they lost the Champions’ League final to Real Madrid. Cue chants as 2018 was brought crashing into 1978.
The otherwise impartial Jimmy Barnett couldn’t help himself from bouncing along to the Billabong Boys’ entrance music, as the team that’d become Aussie Open came out with moustaches (one real, one nicked from referee Alan Parry). This being a Thunderbastard Tag Team Series match, the tag titles were on the line here as the Kings of Europe had their first of many defences.
We finally have a jump start as the champions looked to overwhelm Davis in the early going, before catching a dive from Fletcher and dumping him onto the apron with a double-team powerbomb. Gibson tries to end it quick with a Ticket to Ride on Davis, but it only gets a two-count as the Kings enjoyed a spell on top… before Davis tried to chop his way back into things. A double suplex from Davis finally gave himself some hope, but Kyle Fletcher was still down and out from that earlier apron powerbomb… so it was all on Davis for the time being.
Drake crashed and burned with a step-up knee into the corner, but Davis still had to fight on to get free to Fletcher, who quickly sprung off the middle rope with a Quebrada. Kyle keeps up with a step-up cannonball senton to the floor, before his attempt to springboard in saw Fletcher crash and burn. The Kings tried to capitalise on that, but Fletcher snuffed it out with a top rope ‘rana before Davis returned with a double-team sit-out spinebuster for a near-fall. Things turned around as the Kings gave Fletcher a Doomsday Device for a near-fall, as a double clothesline left both men flat on the mat.
Davis tries to fire back, but a cross chop stops the pull-up piledriver, before he got some revenge with a sliding forearm into Gibson in the corner. Drake tries a 450 splash, but he just leaps into a superkick, getting a tag in on the way down which was good luck, as he was left prone for a Fidget Spinner… since he wasn’t legal, the referee refused to count the pin. The legal man was, of course, Gibson, who took advantage of the confusion with a roll-up as the champions retain. This was pretty good stuff, with the Kings retaining their titles – but you get the feeling that relying on underhanded-yet-legal means will cost them their belts before we get to Wembley. ***½
So, after two shows, Aussie Open, the Grizzled Young Veterans and Haskins & Webster share the lead with two points – although the Aussies’ have wrestled twice to get their points. Mills & Mayhew are bottom with nothing out of two matches, while Sexy Starr, the Anti-Fun Police and CCK are yet to go – with CCK perhaps needing to be replaced, if the Twitter storyline at time of writing is anything to go by.
Before the next match, we were interrupted as Nina Sparkles and Bonnie Bolan stormed the ring, protesting the London-wide ban against women’s wrestling. The Greater London Council would overturn the ban a year later… but the “modern day” Nina Samuels and Isla Dawn would protest and have a match anyway.
Nina Sparkles vs. Bonnie Bolan
Yeah, it felt a little weird that the two protesting would have a match against each other – but it was a nice touch that they didn’t have music or entry graphics… because why would they have prepared that?
Commentary did return for this one… but in truth it was a bit of a weird one. Sure, this was a nice touch to have the protest, but the crowd’s enthusiasm behind it fell away a little. They tried, but in the “real world”, Isla Dawn’s been limited to Dome shows while Nina Samuels has been a bit-part player in Jinny’s group, which was perhaps a bit of a reach for the crowd. Despite being the loudest complainer, Sparkles was the bad guy in this equation, using underhanded tactics to try and wear away on Bonnie, using a cravat to keep the Scotswoman down, before a series of kicks put Bolan down for a near-fall. A suplex into the corner gets Bolan back in it, before a head kick, a Fireman’s carry spinebuster and a stomp gets a near-fall.
Sparkles gets in Bolan’s face again as the crowd got on her back… and a series of kicks led to both women falling down. Nina’s back up first with a butterfly backbreaker for a near-fall, before finally getting the win with a Go To Sleep. Decent enough, but this felt like a way to retroactively protest rather than anything that would have been more representative of the time. **¾
AJ Streetsmith vs. Jizzy Jizzbourne
In the days before the show, Jimmy Barnett shared his “memories” of the show… and this match was instantly circled as something of interest.
You’re damn right it was.
Calling back to the great Adrian Street, AJ paraded around the ringside area with his peacock-like head dress, before managing to get into the ring without budging it. He’d be announced from Luton, because who doesn’t like cheap heat? Jizzy, on the other hand, came out and bit the head off of a chicken while downing a pint… he’d later be seen crying out for “Sharon”. Before the match, Jizzy pulled out a bag of powder… referee Clive Roberts confiscated it, but Jizzbourne tried to get it back, leaving him open for a low blow and a roll-up. The crowd were on AJ’s back throughout… even more so as a charge into the corner saw AJ miss so much his hair came off!
Jizzy responds by snapping AJ’s braces against him, before finishing his pint… only to get met with an atomic drop for a near-fall. They spill outside, where Streetsmith keeps up the offence as Jizzy tried to get to his mysterious bag of powder. He’s stopped as AJ used his braces to choke Jizzbourne with… earning himself a public warning in the process.
All that did was give Jizzy a chance to get his powder… snorting some of it, and now we have a comeback! Another snort of “fighting powder”, another comeback!, and AJ’s wig comes off again! A double clothesline led to a moment where they somehow swapped hairpieces! AJ kisses Jizzy after getting his hair back, which is met exactly how you’d expect before Jizzy bites the tongue… then pokes the eyes, as this becomes rather Keystone Cops. In the end, they go all South Park and Ro-Sham-Bo each other until they fell to the mat once again.
They get the ref too… as Jizzbourne nails a piledriver for a rather high-pitched three count. Comedic and rather fitting for the time. Exactly the sort of match I wanted to see from this show. Still, at least we’d be more accepting of AJ’s “like” in forty years…
Andrew Wilmot vs. Popeye Mulligan
When the “memories” were announced for this show, this was a match that nobody could piece together. Who in the blue hell were Andrew Wilmot and “Double Meat” Popeye Mulligan? Well, we’d find out – it was only Adam Brooks vs. Matt Cross from another life, as the King of the Bogans came out with his boots in a carrier bag and a can of Fosters. Uh-huh…
As a main event, this was a weird choice – in 2018, I doubt few would pick Adam Brooks vs. Matt Cross for this spot, but under their alternative dimension acts, we did have some good moments… like Wilmot trying to work a match while not spilling his tinnie. With Mulligan refusing to “bump for a greenhorn like (him)”, Wilmot had to go the extra mile with shoulder blocks, which included spilling his pint, which naturally made him angry.
Wilmot tried to give Mulligan a shoeing, but instead he had to settle for a thumb to the eye after the referee removed the flip flop from play. Mulligan’s scared to take a bump, as he begged away from a simple bodyslam… but he flips out of another move before confounding Wilmot with a backflip to bring the match to a temporary halt. Dives looked to follow, but instead Mulligan sweeps the leg as an attempted kick off the apron was turned into a faceplant… which the King of the Bogans quickly recovered from.
Mulligan tried to climb up top, but he’s pulled down into the turnbuckles as the Aussie scored a couple of near-falls. A double crossbody winds both men, but it’s Mulligan who’s back flying again, hitting a springboard elbow and a crossbody as he took Wilmot to the outside for a Sasuke Special that saw Popeye land sitting down in a chair! Going airborne again, Mulligan hits a double stomp for a two-count, before he telegraphed a clothesline and got dragged into the turnbuckles.
A tornado DDT from Wilmot dumps Mulligan, as do some flying knees, but the “old timer” was able to get back in control, before he’s forced to abort a 450 splash. Wilmot rushed back in with a shotgun dropkick, only for a suplex to be escaped and met with a rebound cutter for a near-fall from “Double Meat”. Out of nowhere, a Destroyer gets Wilmot a two-count as commentary lost their mind… but Mulligan’s able to block a repeat on the apron as the pair exchanged right hands, before Popeye finally catches him with a death valley driver onto the apron!
Wilmot rolled into the ring, rather than to the floor… and that was the beginning of the end as Mulligan headed up top to pounce onto the prone Wilmot… but a shooting star press misses. Another rebound cutter doesn’t… and that’s the win! A solid main event, albeit not spectacular, as “Double Meat” closed the Electric Ballroom’s debut with a win! ***½
So, while this may seem like the nittiest of picks… aside from the fact that social media output from the day looking more like aged video tape than the “actual video tape” of the show (and if that’s a bugbear of yours, they’ve since uploaded a “70s cut” of this show, complete with aged-tape feel!), almost every match on this show felt like a lost opportunity. Save for Jizzbourne/Streetsmith, this felt like a 2018 show in fancy dress – like the proverbial dodgy school disco. It’d have been nice to have seen matches that were closer to the 70s style – and I’m not talking about squashes or ground-based affairs… but likewise, an abundance of flips kinda took you out of the moment.
Some other moments were a little… odd to say the least. I absolutely adored “Glennt”’s commentary throughout the show, handled with the staid delivery that was right out of the 70s. Only thing was… when he was paraded during the show, he was staggering around like he was hammered. Still, those who were fearing the worst needn’t have worried. As a one-off, out-of-context show, this was fine. Whether it becomes an annual thing like Unboxing remains to be seen, although they did tease a follow-up show from the 80s… it may be an idea to not go to this well too quickly as the themed shows may not fit in so well like ATTACK!’s Press Start! or even Joey Janela’s Spring Breaks.
- “Chapter 70 – May 27, 1978” is available now via Demand-PROGRESS.com – either to rent, buy, or as part of their monthly subscription service. And possibly on Betamax, if you find the tape.