It’s time to step inside that time machine again as PROGRESS took us all back to 1988.
We open with a homage to the old WWF Superstars title sequence (nice), before Jimmy Barnett goes through the side effects of something he’d had to shoot up earlier. Much like last year’s 70s show, this is a non-canon line-up with everyone playing dress up. Even the crowd, although some of them did seem to be about thirty years too early with their “ohh”ing, which Jimmy Barnett did well to shoot down.
“Vic Joseph Sr.” and “Sweet Clint Sugarman” are doing your commentary throughout. If you listen to the cut with that track.
Davey American (Ilja Dragunov) vs. Idris Alexyev (Sugar Dunkerton)
We’ve not got entrances here, since they used “real music” live. In its place, we’ve got old school inset promos as there’s a bit of role reversal going on. There’s so many flags on show here, I had to make sure I wasn’t watching GWF…
American starts out with a shuffle as the crowd chant “Eye of the Tiger”… prompting him to go all Team America on us. Alexyev takes American into the corner before busting out an Iron Sheik-ism. Shoulder tackles force Davey to start a USA chant, before he lands his tackle, then a bodyslam.
He powders outside and almost beats the count before Davey dropkicked him off the apron, following in with a plancha. Alexyev’s rolled back in for a two-count, so Davey just punches him out, only to leap into a headbutt as he jumped off the top rope. A press slam off the top followed from Idris, who then had Davey go into the corner a la Ric Flair… this time going all the way to the floor. Back inside, Davey unloads with some body blows before running into a clothesline, as Alexyev began to fish hook away on him. Boo those dirty tactics.
Alexyev keeps up with a Northern Lights suplex for a near-fall, then uses a chinlock to try and drag American down. Eventually, Davey counters with a back suplex, then with some clotheslines and a stalling suplex. A running big splash nearly puts away Brother Russia, before some rope shaking turns Davey into a warrior for a top rope elbow for a near-fall. When that doesn’t work, Dusty punches follow from Davey, before a Bionic elbow’s countered with a chokeslam for a near-fall.
The Rocky callbacks continue ahead of some kicks from Alexyev, who Hulks up, complete with a big boot and a legdrop. When that doesn’t get the job done, we get a U-S-A (beseigbar?) chant and the Torpedo Chattanooga for the win. Okay, huge pop for that, and for the match that was true to form with its 80s pacing. The role reversals felt a little too wonky, but hey, it’s non canon. **½
We’ve another cutaway as Vic Joseph Sr’s rocking the Kip Sabian ran to segue to the next match. Featuring “a Doctor” (because he’s the only one wanting to save himself from trademark lawyers) and Marty Fox from “the future”.
Marty Fox (Connor Mills) vs. The Doctor (Chris Brookes)
The Doctor’s leaps into the ropes when someone metallic wants to exterminate him, before offering some jelly babies. Yeah, you know what the crowd does here.
Marty takes a jelly baby and… of course it’s poisoned. He spits it back at the Doctor, then takes him down with a dropkick as it seems like Marty’s wrestling in the comically oversized jacket. We’re straight in with some of the more modern-day stuff as both men are time travellers, so it fits. Fox sweeps the leg and slingshots into a stomp on the Doctor for a near-fall, before he got trapped in the corner by his long sleeves as the Doctor put a beating to him. A snapmare and a low dropkick to the back gets a two-count, before the sleeves come back into play for a Japanese stranglehold.
The referee breaks the act briefly as Fox gets free and chops the Doctor with his sleeves. Then with his hands. A whip into the corner gets countered with a springboard uppercut, before Fox’s Quebrada lands for a near-fall. A strike exchange led to a rebound head kick and a Millshot… erm, Foxshot, for a two-count. Fox gets taken outside for a tope from the Doctor, then replies with one of his own ahead of another of those new fangled modern day moves. Back inside, the Doctor lands a cheerio slingshot cutter. Repeated failed brainbusters open the door for a reverse ‘rana from Fox, before he fell to a brainbuster anyway, kicking out at two.
The Doctor heads outside for a bag of jelly babies (yeah, I didn’t get the reference either), before he used the referee as a human shield. One shot with a Sonic Screwdriver later, and the Doctor looked to win with a Praying Mantis Bomb, but Fox kicked out at two. From there, the Doctor grabs the Hoverboard, but Fox ducks it to land an enziguiri before he Hoverboard Stomped onto the Doctor for another two-count, before a 450 Splash did the win. Or did he?
The Doctor runs to the back as the lights go out… cue some weird sound FX and they’re back on as the Doctor’s back in the ring, as they rewind the finish, except he gets his knees up and cradles Fox with a small package for the win. ***
More amped up Joseph and Sugarman now. If you’re not a fan of regular Glen, you’re probably going to find these segments get old quick… they pitch to more promos, and I’m howling as a guy who looks a lot like Dan Moloney does a spot on Iron Sheik bit.
The Teflon Sheik (Dan Moloney) vs. Wally Handford (Mark Davis)
Wally Handford apparently is from Hampstead, doing the full on Where’s Wally gimmick.
Sadly, they don’t do an invisible man-style gimmick, nor can they stop each other from corpsing. Send for the man.
When they get going again, Wally heads through the ropes to counter a hammerlock, before he got whipped into the corner, sailing over it a la Ric Flair, catching his cap in the process. That sparks a game of Where’s Wally, which worked somewhat. They perhaps should have tossed a few Sunderland, Stoke and Southampton shirts into the crowd to throw the Sheik off the scent.
Eventually the Sheik finds Wally… except it’s someone from ring crew wearing the hat. Don’t worry, I hear this guy’s kid develops a fondness for gammon and lariats in about thirty years time.
Wally trades places with him, then surprises the Sheik with a small package for a two-count. More roll-ups ensue, before the Sheik slapped him out of his trousers. CHRIST. Chops follow as Wally loses his shirt, then transforms into Dunkzilla before a snapmare and a PK cracked him for a near-fall, before he charged into the Sheik with a cyclone kill big boot. Sheik elbows out of a Gold Coast Waterslide, then throws some more hard chops before he pulled Wally into the camel clutch… which is easily broken up. More chops follow from a defiant Sheik, who gets cracked in the gut before a whoopee cushion, a sliding punch, and a pull-up piledriver get the win. Well, this was all comedy until Wally got fed up with it and snapped to the future. Marmite. **
More inset stuff follows as we’ve got googlie eyed Glen pitching to the Sheepwhackers – back after a decade away – and with a new cousin! Meanwhile, Sid Scala’s tie’s a little skewy.
Blumenfeld, Harrington-Smythe & Jones (Lewis Howley, Sam Stoker & Sid Scala) vs. The Sheepwhacker Cousins (NIWA, TK Cooper & Travis Banks)
The gag here was that Cousin NIWA thought he was a Dudley Boy… oh, and the evil yuppies had names that were interchangable. Jacob Blumenthal/Jonah Blumenfeld. I mean, if you slip up, just own it, no?
The yuppies jump them as the mach heads outside. Somehow Sid Scala’s lost his shirt… must have been a bad day at the office. We’re straight in with the plastic forks as the Sheepwhackers try to carve open their opponents, before Cooper just hurls whichever yuppie Lewis Howley was through some chairs.
Howley’s back to put Brother NIWA in the crowd with a running superkick, while Stoker got tossed into the crowd, who didn’t move for him. Whoops. Scala and Howley do the ironic Bushwhacker battering ram offence,while Stoker pulled off a wacky plancha off of the mini balcony. Back in the ring, Howley (I guess Blumenfeld?) works over NIWA, before Harrington-Smythe (Stoker) tagged in. There’s a Thesz press with plastic fork stabbing that had Cooper and Banks frothing in the corner, before NIWA broke through a double clothesline and tagged in his cousins. Who were instantly sent to the outside.
Back inside, Jones (Scala) traps Banks in some headscissors, using it as a chance to do some sit ups, before he got into it with the ref, which led to him shoving Scala into a schoolboy roll-up for a near-fall. The evil law firm get back on top as Scala returns from the back in a… see through anorak with an axe? I mean, we just got rid of Jimmy Havoc…
Scala demands to be tagged in so he can behead Banks. Wasn’t this how TK was brought back? Instead, they look to cut away Banks’ tongue, only for TK to make the save again, before Brother NIWA tagged in and did his best Bully Ray. By which I don’t mean he has fans tweeting about being pulled backstage.
Dusty punches and Bionic Elbows were the order of the day again, before he slammed Scala and had Cousin TK go up for a wazzup headbutt. Banks wants to do it too, sticking his landing and coming up in an extremely non-PG manner, licking his lips. Hey, in 2019, we don’t judge. They might have in the 80s…
A Parade of Strikes break out until all six men were left laying. The Sheepwhackers come back with the Strong Zero (Roppongi style), before lifting up Howley for a top rope Dudley Bomb from NIWA, which isn’t enough for the win. The solicitors target banks with a pair of apron superkicks before Scala dropped TK with a neckbreaker across the turnbuckles… following up with a slingshot splash of of the ringpost. NIWA’s next with a tope con giro, before Howley threw in a moonsault. Something weird happened as Scala made a cover, but the ref didn’t start to count until everyone’d done a move.
In the end, a double Bubba Bomb from NIWA led to the Sheepwhacker battering ram, then a 3D to Scala, and that mercifully, was it. You know, the wild brawl with the Sheepwhackers worked “last year” on the 70s show because that’s what they were in the 70s. In the 80s they were overly sanitised in the WWF. Much like that transition across, this match also lost some of its charm. **¾
Googley-eyed Glen is amped up to bridge to the next match… complete with a very sly Vince McMahon impression. That’s good shit.
Johnny Swayze (Paul Robinson) vs. The Kung-Fu Kid (A-Kid)
Sadly, we don’t see Swayze’s entrance, because of the music. So you don’t get the context for why the crowd love Robbo in a black vest so. Fortunately, PROGRESS put it on Twitter to fill in that blank:
— PROGRESS Wrestling (@ThisIs_Progress) May 26, 2019
We start off with some Dirty Dancing, before the Karate Kid took Swayze down with a series of armdrags and dropkicks. A crane pose gets destroyed with a low dropkick, with Swayze stopping to gyrate as he worked over the Kid’s legs. Decidedly non-karate forearms from the Kid turn into a dropkick as he tried to keep Swayze at bay, kipping up into a nice Northern lights suplex for a near-fall.
Kid keeps up with a springboard moonsault to the floor, then a Fisherman’s suplex back inside as the crowd seemed to only care about Swayze. They got their chance when he landed on his feet out of a monkey flip and got right back on offence, rolling Kid into a forearm as the crowd really just wanted him to sweep the leg. References. A Spanish Fly gets Kid back in for a near-fall, but he’s caught on the top rope with a headscissor takedown before a shooting star press led to a near-fall for Swayze. Kid looks to head back up top, but stops to put his headband back on before he steadied himself off of the new balcony for a missile dropkick.
Swayze’s quickly back up though, and after he pancaked Kid, a curb stomp followed… and there’s the win. Aw, he didn’t sweep the leg. This was a hell of a fun match between Paul Robinson and A-Kid – but for those not in the Ballroom, you’d be left wondering if the character work was much more beyond “a new wifebeater and a headband”. ***½
Candy Lauper (Candy Floss) vs. Mariah Eagan (Mariah May)
Mariah was a late fill-in for Toni Sixx, who had traven issues, and was promoting to have us get physical. Squat.
Of course, the ref gets involved in bending and snapping, before we Candy broke up a push-up with an armbar. Eagan’s back with a dropkick, but from the cover we’re back to the armbar as Mariah heads outside for the break… only to have her arm kicked away. Back inside, a Codebreaker to the arm dropped Eagan for a near-fall, while the ref again screwed up names.
Not to worry, Candy goes back to the arm and wrist, stomping on it some more before some nice headscissors from Eagan took Candy down. A big boot followed, ahead of a discus forearm, before a crossbody off the top almost put Lauper away. There’s a weird pull down from Candy as she went to stomp Eagan, before taking her into the corner for a Shibata-ish dropkick.
Eagane’s put away with a cross-armed back cracker for a bear-fall, before the Candy Crush armbar forced the submission – with Eagan tapping pretty damn quick. Considering Mariah was a late fill-in and (I believe) on her fourth match, this was kept pretty short and nowhere near as bad as you could have expected. *¾
Detective Inspector Colin Klein (Kyle Fletcher) vs. Dirty Daddy Overkill (Mark Haskins)
Acrostics are fun! Meanwhile, Colin Klein need to be rebooted halfway through his promo…
We start with Overkill looking for a score. Right in front of a policeman. That’s not the dumbest thing on this show. Kayfabe. Klein looks to arrest him, but we stop to look at Vic Joseph Sr with powder on his nose. Things make sense now…
As Klein tries to arrest Overkill, he gets free and lands a roll-up before booting Klein right in the arse. A dropkick stops Overkill in his tracks, but a missed charge just sent Klein outside right for a dive… before Overkill boots him right out of a seat. Back inside, Overkill starts to pepper Klein with shots in the corner, only for the tables to turn as a series of chops has Klein back on top.
Out of nowhere, Klein’s knee looked to buckle on him, which caused a bit of an eggy moment as the match just stopped… with the line “do you need some cocaine?” breaking the awkwardness. Sensing blood, Overkill goes right for that leg, dropping a knee on it and working in a grapevine as that left leg became a real focus for Overkill. Klein flips out of a kneebreaker, but Overkill just rolls him into a Figure Four – complete with some rope-assisted cheating. Extremely phallic chanting breaks out as Klein got back to his feet, but Overkill is quickly back in with a left hand before he’s sent outside for a dive from Klein… who takes him back in for a diving kick in the corner, and a neckbreaker out of it.
A Michinoku driver out of nowhere snuffs out Overkill’s comeback, with Klein getting a near-fall and more phallic chants. A roll-up death valley driver gets Overkill a near-fall, before he trapped Klein in the ropes with some short-range knees… before countering a roll-up into a crossface. Klein gets to the ropes, then makes a comeback with a superkick before dual diving boots left both men down.
Both men rub themselves and get up (f’narr), before Overkill rakes the eyes and boots Klein into the corner. The misdirection tope catches Klein off guard outside, as does a punt off the apron, before Overkill headed back up top for a flying double stomp that almost got the win. Out of nowhere, Klein hauls him up for an Aussie Arrow lawndart and a spinning tombstone, before Sweet Momma Cherry went up to commentary and stole Vic’s coke. It’s spilled into the ring just before Detective Inspector Colin Klein’s partner appears. He’s called Constable Lieutenant Inspector Trevor. Some say he’s hard to find.
He arrested Cherry and takes her to “sexy 80s jail”, and with everyone distracted, Overkill whacks Klein in the head with the tray of coke, prompting him to hulk up and eventually drop Overkill with the one-man Fidget Spinner for the win. This was fun, but started to drag a little towards the end. Still, at least both men kept to their characters. ***
We close with a “you have been watching” clipshow, and that’s your lot. This show is going to be one you’ll either love or hate, with precious little middle ground. Much like last year’s affair, there’s some character work that clicked delightfully, and others that just had you scratching your head in the sense of “wha… why?”, especially when it came to what you could see as folks having their regular match but in dress-up.
We watched the version of this without the commentary. You’ll probably want to wait for the edit with commentary to drop. You see, with them using real music for this, all of the entrances got chopped out, which means we’re back to the early days of PROGRESS as far as jumping to “already in the ring” announcements, which removed almost all of the colour of this show.
Yes, it’s back to the old point of “well it’s either licensed music or you edit out entrances”… and if you’re ruling out overdubbing, you’d be right… but doesn’t the Paul Robinson entrance prove something else? Have good music, the crowd’s hot for you. Sure, this was a one-of gimmick show this time, but there’s plenty of history to show you when good music gets a good reaction into the match, and not just in PROGRESS. But that’s a dead horse to beat for another time. For a non-canon show, this is fun – but also, not essential viewing.
Herein was a show that was perhaps solely for the live crowd. I enjoyed parts, was indifferent to others, and rolled my eyes at some. Did the look and feel of the show fit? Absolutely, although this felt like a step down from last year’s 70s show. Viewers of wrestling who are of the mindset that “throwback shows should be of the style”, perhaps skip over if you wanted this show to be more of your old school 80s graps. Even “just on the fence”, I’d suggest skipping this, because this show is very much for die hards, and not much of this will carry over to later shows. Perhaps all bar the penis-related chants, I’d dare wager. Assuming we’re getting one of these next year, the Attitude Era throwback should be a lot of fun and very much in people’s wheelhouses.