The Dazzler Team’s woes were further highlighted on the second episode of PROGRESS’ “Freedom’s Road”, as their search for a win continued.

We’re not going to call this a “rope opera”, since Vince Russo’s already bastardised that name… The show opens with a trope of soaps, the “previously on…” recap, featuring Darrell Allen annoyed at his partner, Earl Black Jr, for thinking that the Dazzler Team was on a losing streak… before they lost again.

We’re back at the Bedford in Balham, London, and we see Laura Di Matteo entering the building. Dahlia Black confronts her about their match tonight, and in comes TK Cooper, who kisses his fist. Subtle. Laura does what everyone in their right mind does when they’re confronted by kissing Kiwis… and left. Well, she didn’t have any whisky (or Chuck Mambo on hand) to help distract.

Wow, it only took two episodes of this for me to make a “Whisky With Mambo” reference. Look it up on YouTube…

Earl and Darrell are arguing again, and they’ve got another match coming up – but Earl doesn’t think that this is the “easiest way” to snap their losing streak. I loved how for a segment that’s so overdone in wrestling, they managed to keep it looking “real” with a covert camera, rather than these two having their argument with a camera right in their faces.

Dahlia Black vs. Laura Di Matteo
We’ve go the mobile-camera-only set-up here, and Black immediately takes down Laura with a spinning back kick to the gut as the New Zealander takes Di Matteo into the corner. Laura comes back out with a wheelbarrow armdrag, only for Dahlia to land a forearm… then get pushed away by Laura.

Di Matteo lands a series of forearms in the corner, then gets a dropkick from a snapmare before Black uses her feet to push her away, only to fall into a bodyscissor roll-up for a near-fall. Dahlia goes to the outside to be consoled by TK Cooper, but that just gets him a tope as Dahlia’s takes advantage by throwing Laura into a wall.

After rolling her back in, Black gets a near-fall as Laura’s taken into the corner for a Kevin Nash-esque big boot choke. Some more choking in the ropes gets mixed in with Dahlia making out with TK, as Black tells her opponent that she “should have stayed with Jinny”. Of course, that’s a cue for a brief comeback as a schoolboy gets Laura a near-fall, only for Dahlia to resume with a snap suplex for just a one-count.

A kick and a legdrop gets Dahlia another two-count, before she throws Laura outside… and the cunning Italian tries to pull a page out of the Eddie Guerrero playbook! TK pulls back as if he’s going to punch Laura… so she hits the apron and falls to the floor, feigning as if she’d been hit. Referee Tom Scarborough sees it, and throws out TK – rather than disqualify Dahlia for the phantom punch. Anyway, TK and his dungarees disappear, allowing Laura to hit a distracted Dahlia from the floor, before returning to the ring to land a series of clotheslines.

A tiltawhirl headscissor knocks Dahlia to the mat, but she comes back by grabbing the Italian’s throat before a kick to the chest knocks her down. Black goes to the top rope to try and finish this, but her moonsault overshoots as Laura rolls away. Laura tries to capitalise with a wheelbarrow roll-up, but Dahlia plants her with a German suplex… and as the referee starts counting both ladies down, we’re taken to the back as TK Cooper’s kicking boxes in anger.

Back to the live crowd, who are extremely pro-Laura at this point, and we see the pair trading shots as they get back to their feet. Laura gets the advantage with her strikes, before she ducks away from a corner charge by Dahlia… then goes up top for a missile dropkick. Dahlia kicks out at two after that, then blocks a back cracker by running Laura into the corner. A kick to the head rocks Laura, and so Black goes back to the top for the moonsault… but Laura gets up and trips her in the ropes for the backcracker, and that’s enough for the win. A brilliant outing from both ladies here in a match that has a shot of being repeated in the Natural PROGRESSion Series should Dahlia beat Martina on the next chapter show.

Laura’s left celebrating in the ring as Dahlia catches up with TK backstage. There’s no sound, as we see them arguing, before they flick the switch and start making out again. Moving on…

It’s time for the Bodyguy! RJ Singh is our ring announcer as Roy Johnson heads into the ring, before we’re cut to backstage where the Dazzler Team (Earl and Darrell) are looking to provide an interruption for the Bodyguy. Earl’s not impressed with this plan, particularly since he doesn’t think it’s going to be an easy win. I’m really liking the chemistry we’re seeing between Earl and Darrell here – especially Earl’s logical thinking against Darrell’s hopeless optimism (“he’s loved by the fans… we beat him, they’ll love us too!”)

The Dazzler Team’s music then hits as they head out – with Earl noticeably keeping his distance. Roy Johnson’s confused at their appearance for what I guess was going to be a Wasteman Challenge, asking “do you even talk?” Darrell gets the microphone, and he starts “spitting some bars”… all whilst Earl Black sinks into the corner in disgust. Good lord, this is something.

Darrell asks for the next track after he was interrupted, and it’s more of the same as Earl struggles to compose himself. More out of annoyance than hilarity. Allen passes the microphone so Johnson can go first, where he calls out “Bert and Ernie”. I cannot ever unsee that! The rest of the diss track seems to insinuate that Earl has feeling for Darrell, which leads to them attacking Roy… and we have a handicap match!

Roy Johnson vs. Dazzler Team (Earl Black Jr & Darrell Allen)
Black immediately chokes away at Johnson as the crowd chanted “Bert and Ernie” at him. A front facelock sees Black take Johnson into the corner as Allen tags in, then gets a one-count from a knee drop.

Black tags back in to drop Johnson with a punch, before grinding his boot into Johnson’s throat. A knee to the midsection knocks down the Bodyguy, who then takes a Bossman-style choke in the middle ropes as Allen leapt into him. Allen messes around for a while and ends up running into a Samoan drop.

Another tag in sees Black return, but he’s on the back foot as the Bodyguy continues his comeback with a back suplex, a clothesline and a full nelson slam for a near-fall, as Allen leaps into him almost like he was jumping into a mosh pit to break up the cover. The Dazzler Team double-team Johnson for a spell, before Earl resists a tag to Allen, fearing that they’d’ lose. Of course, that was prophetic, as a superkick from Allen ended up taking out his own man, before Allen took the Last Set as the Bodyguy took the win. A decent enough match, but this was all about the storyline than anything else.

After the match, Earl Black Jr stares a hole through Allen, before they have a shoving match with each other. Allen walks away, as Earl tells him “you’re not dazzling anymore”. Sounds like a ready-made chant to me. Black throws his jacket at Allen, who retorts that “you’re not as good as your old man” after noting that Black was never around to save Allen when he was getting pinned.

Character development for the win here!

Allen returns to shake hands and make up… and the split isn’t happening, yet! Especially because they’ve got another match, against the South Pacific Power Trip!

Next time: Travis Banks confronts the Dazzler team ahead of their match, and reminds them that they’re undefeated in PROGRESS… and we get Kyle Ashmore attacking Damon Moser with a leaping knee as they set-up for something.

Well, we’re two-for-two in terms of good episodes here. Freedom’s Road continued where it left off in terms of offering a unique spin on the traditional format of a pro wrestling show – and I really love this. By now you can tell that the ongoing storyline with the Dazzler Team is going to head one of two ways – boom or bust – and considering how rarely Earl and Darrell were used, the fact that they’ve become compelling viewing is a sign of just how good this format is.

What I want to know is… we know who the badman was (Roy Johnson). Who was the good, and who was the ugly?!