In a medium where one of the most heralded matches of all time has an undead magical biker from the Old West toss a man with multiple personality disorder off a steel cage, the ability to suspend your disbelief is a necessary part of the wrestling fans’ toolkit.
The eternal struggle for wrestling is to balance a wide variety of characters, plot threads and tones into one seamless product that has an identity.
Freedom’s Road struggles with this.
Is it a Hollyoaks-esque look at the fortunes of various trainees as they try and navigate their way to the top of PROGRESS Wrestling? Perhaps. As Progress Wrestling grows from strength to strength as a Super indie, this series acts as an attempt to put their more out-of-focus, home-grown stars into the spotlight. That ever-elusive brass ring is reached for, friendships are formed and broken, rivalries ignited and extinguished, in the ring.
Is it a grittier look at what it’s like running and working at a dojo? It could be. It touches on financial strain, corruption and differing philosophy; instead of all of the above being settled over a desk and a cuppa they’re more often than not treated as seasoning for an encounter in the ring.
Is it a serious take on the more fantastic elements of wrestling? Maybe, if it could decide on whether it was Magical Realism or Urban Fantasy. When it’s done well it’s easily the best stuff in the series, with stakes that deservedly end up resolved in (or under) the ring.
Is it a lighter hearted take on the more fantastic elements of wrestling?
No. (Sorry Chuck Mambo)
One thing is for certain; it ends as a survival horror with most of the main characters fighting for their lives. Why that is isn’t clear, and that’s the main problem with the series. There is at least one instance where a match could be dropped in favour for a little explanation as to what the hell was going on.
It feels churlish to be a wrestling fan writing for a wrestling website to say this about a series produced by a wrestling promotion about a wrestling school, but you could argue that there’s too much… in the ring.
That’s not to say Freedom’s Road doesn’t do things well. It looks far slicker than it has any right to be, it’s really good at weaving the relevant plot threads together, the fight choreography is top notch (obviously) and some of the performances are worth watching. It just leaves you with more questions than answers.
Which, if you suspend your disbelief, will definitely leave you wanting more.