A fresh take on the professional wrestling concept, Freedom’s Road took wrestling back to its roots as a “male soap opera” – with great success.
I’ll be honest, going into this, I have no idea what on earth Freedom’s Road is. There had been speculation that this was a rebadging of the promotion’s PTNTL and ENDVR “developmental” shows, but let’s see…
“The best road to progress is freedom’s road” – a quote from John F Kennedy takes us to outside the Bedford in Balham, London, for the first part of the show. We’re watching the ring canvas being unfolded, whilst Darrell Allen is getting a hair cut. His tag team partner, Earl Black Jr, is annoyed that they’ve not won in PROGRESS, and Allen’s just worried about his hair. Black’s worried that they’re on a losing streak, but the ever-confident Darrell reckons the winning streak starts tonight.
A new scene sees Pollyanna come in with her travel case, whilst Chakara is playing on her phone. Pollyanna wants a chat… or to be more precise, she HAS to win to get back into the tournament. Chakara takes this as her time to shine, so there’ll be no laying down…
The Dazzler Team (Darrell Allen & Earl Black Jr.) vs. Never Say Die (Alex Cupid & Dillon D’Angelo)
We cut to the live arena as the Dazzler Team – Earl Black Jr and Darrell Allen – come out for their match. In the back, their opponents, Never Say Die – Alex Cupid & Dillon D’Angelo – are thrilled about their debut, and are poking fun at how long it’s been since the Dazzler Team won. Their match starts and they’re jumped from behind, and we actually have commentary here from Callum Leslie.
Cupid gets double-teamed in the ropes, before he launches a springboard double back elbow to get on the offence. A long rope running spot leads to Cupid scoring a dropkick, before D’Angelo comes in to score a near-fall after some combinations were strung together. Allen backdrops Dillion onto the apron, but that just puts him in the right place for a tag as Allen is left pretty isolated.
With the referee distracted, Allen hits a low blow on Cupid for a near-fall, before he takes a stomp to the knees as it’s his turn to be isolated whilst the Dazzler Team exchange frequent tags. They’re working over Cupid’s arm, before Allen hits a massive suplex that leaves Cupid writhing in agony on the mat. Earl Black Jr’s busy mouthing off to the fan, and that leaves him unable to help as Cupid dumps Allen with a uranage. Both men tag in, and D’Angelo lights up Black with some armdrags, before he pulls off a handspring off the ropes… into a German suplex from Black. A running knee to the downed Dillion keeps him on the mat as Allen comes back in to hit a slam and a big back senton.
Darrell teases a standing moonsault, but instead he lands a twisting standing senton for a two-count, and we’re back to Dillion being kept isolated as Allen pulls Cupid off the apron just as a tag was about to be made. We come back to see Earl smashing Dillion’s knee into the ring post, but again, Dillion hits back with a Pele kick, before a rebound headbutt knocks both he and Earl Black Jr to the mat.
Alex Cupid finally gets the tag in as he clears the Dazzler team with clotheslines, before a double dropkick takes Earl and Darrel down. Some charging forearms keeps Cupid on fire, before he suplexes Allen onto Earl Black Jr, as Cupid comes in to force them to finish off in a Code Red. Well, at least it’s not an accidental piledriver!
A blind tag brings Allen back in for a release German suplex to D’Angelo, before Cupid lands a missile dropkick to Darrell. The Razzle Dazzle kick connects, before Never Say Die shock Darrell with an assisted neckbreaker/backbreaker combo – and that gets them the win! Never Say Die looked pretty good in their debut as a team, and that’s another L for the Dazzlers.
After the match, Darrell and Earl go face-to-face in the ring, and Earl blames the crowd for their loss. The camera follows them backstage where their argument continues, as Earl accuses Darrell of being too flashy. The argument ends when Darrell asks Earl what’s on the back of his jacket. “Nothing”, was the reply – insinuating that Earl’s not invested in the team (since Darrell’s jacket has “Dazzler Team” on it).
Next up we see Bea Priestley on her phone, and in comes a wound-up Chakara. Bea gives her a pep talk, and we’re onto our next match – after a handful of crowd shots. We see Pollyanna backstage looking nervous ahead of her entrance…
Natural PROGRESSion Series Qualifier – Chakara vs. Pollyanna
This is the match where Pollyanna got her last chance to get back into the tournament after losing to Jinny at Chapter 38… and she started by landing a waistlock takedown for an early near-fall.
Pollyanna keeps going for pins, but Chakara dives into the ropes for cover. A headlock takedown leads to some pinning attempts, before Polly trips Chakara and takes her into the ropes for some double-handed chops and the indy’riffic sunset flip pinning sequence. The Pollinator’s escaped from, and Polly’s send into the ropes for a Bossman-esque knee to the back. Chakara kicks Polly back into the ring, where she follows up with a Kevin Nash-esque big boot choke in the corner. That’s followed up with a series of suplexes for a near-fall, as Chakara goes back to the big boot choke in another corner. Pollyanna’s caught as she tries to leave the ring, but Chakara catches her with a neckbreaker for a two-count, before some hair pulling finally riles up Pollyanna.
Pollyanna tries to hit back, but she’s overwhelmed with forearms as Chakara moves onto a cravat with some hair pulling thrown in, but the hold’s reversed and turned into a headlock as Pollyanna is eventually decked with a double clothesline. Yes, we’ve still got the “count ahead of the ref” gimmick, as they get back to their feet, where Pollyanna blasts Chakara with some clotheslines, then a back elbow before a forearm out of the corner gets a near-fall. She goes up top, but Chakara catches her on the turnbuckle, only to get draped across the middle ropes for Polly’s double stomp!
That gets Polly a near-fall, and she goes for the Finish Her… but Chakara gets hold of the ropes and comes back with a bicycle kick that almost wins it. Chakara disputes the count, then charges after Pollyanna in the corner which leads to Polly getting a schoolboy for a near-fall. Chakara ducks a kick, then lands two of her own, again for a near-fall, which leads to the crowd taunting Chakara “you can’t beat her”.
Another slap fires up Pollyanna, as she charged her back into the corner. Pollyanna keeps stomping on the downed Chakara, but her attempt at a suplex is caught and turned into a small package – and Chakara snatches it! To use Callum’s line, some of this “was not the cleanest”, but it was a great story that unfolded in front of us.
We fade away from a tearful Pollyanna, as we cut to a black-and-white video of her saying that it’s clear that she doesn’t deserve to be in the tournament… before telling us that “it’d be better if I go away for a while”. After losses to Jinny and Chakara in PROGRESS, this would be her final match in the company. A graphic tells us that Pollyanna retired “shortly after this episode was shot”, as PROGRESS thanked her for all she did for the company.
Next Time: Darrell and Earl are still arguing, TK Cooper threatens to punch Laura Di Matteo, and Roy Johnson has a challenge!
Our Take: Well, this was certainly a unique presentation. Freedom’s Road blended together soap opera-style presentation and different cameras – with no fixed hard camera or anything like that. Yes, it was re-using footage from the PTNTL and ENDVR shows that hadn’t aired, but if this is a way of developing characters, then great! One of the criticisms of many training schools is that for every character like Jack Sexsmith and Pastor William Eaver, there’s a lot more people who appear on shows as “just a guy”. This’ll be a love-it or hate-it proposition, but as a concept, this was bloody marvelous – and a different way of crafting characters and stories. It’s impossible to tell after one episode where this is going to go, but I’ll be tuning in regularly to see how this all unfolds.
Massive, massive thumbs up to everyone involved in this!