We’re at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, ten years on from the historic very first PROGRESS show.
The lights are dingy, the tracks are wild, there’s a fax machine on the stage and everyone’s hair is out of control. Welcome… to 1988.
Jim Smallman (whoever that is) comes out to let us know that Jimmy Barnett, the host of the show today has just come back from a six-month “holiday” in Colombia.
He also asks those in attendance to not film anything on their mobile phones as it CAN AND WILL cause a rip in the space-time continuum, and nobody wants that. Jim announces there are five minutes until showtime, and off he goes.
The Progress theme of the future begins to play but then launches into “With A Little Help From My Friends”. Jimmy Barnett lets us know he’s taken a LOT of cocaine and he is READY to get this show started! Our referee Alan “The Law” Parry gets into the ring and Barnett gets set to introduce the first match.
“The Babayaga” Idris Alexiyev vs. Davey America
Coming out to red lights, what sounded like a march of some kind and proudly holding a Soviet Union flag, Alexiyev made his entrance first, and it was… Sugar Dunkerton.
“Born in the USA” starts blaring over the speakers and out comes Davey America looking like the proudest American to ever carry an American flag and rocking the most American board shorts known to man. AMERICA. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Davey America is… Ilja Dragunov.
The match begins with Davey America yelling “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH” in one of the best American accents I’ve ever heard. Taking inspiration from his muses The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan, Davey America was all offence all the time. Idris Alexiyev put up a good fight, but good ole ‘MURICA put up a better one and Davey America won via pinfall after a vicious headbutt. USA! USA! USA!
This was such a great way to start the show. Jimmy Barnett had been tweeting his memories of the show in the week leading up to it, and everyone thought they had worked out who was going to be who. I laughed so hard seeing those role reversals, it was brilliant. Ilja gets a lot of criticism for his intense character and not having a lot of personality, so seeing this side of him was brilliant. I didn’t want to boo Sugar but damn it people, you have to boo the heels.
Before the next match got underway, ref William A Homer made his way to the ring, wearing shades and all. He is perhaps the most chill referee in all of wrestling history, smoking consistently through all the matches he reffed. Impressive.
Marty Fox vs. The Doctor
Marty Fox (Connor Mills) brought his hoverboard with him and took on The Doctor (Tom Baker version, Chris Brookes) whose Tardis very conveniently dropped him off backstage just in time for this match. The Doctor offered Marty some jelly babies because “I feel like that’s the kind of thing I would do” even though he didn’t understand the reference and promised that “nothing nefarious has been done to them”. Marty took one, didn’t seem to care much for it and the match truly got started. Later on in the match, The Doctor poured jelly babies onto Fox and the crowd were enraged. YOU SICK FUCK, YOU DOCTOR, YOU.
He shouted “Cheerio!” while doing a leaping cutter and “I’m a time-lord!” during the middle rope senton. Marty Fox grabbed his hoverboard and surfed over The Doctor’s back to get himself back into the match. Marty Fox hits the Mills Shot on The Doctor and pins him for the victory. This was an excellent match but sadly, all good things come to an end…. or do they?
The lights go down, the Tardis seemingly activates and when the lights are back on, the match is still continuing! Fox again goes for the Mills Shot but The Doctor evades and causes his death… by roll up.
The Teflon Sheik vs. Wally Handford
The Teflon Sheik (Dan Moloney) comes out to the ring first and he seems angry and intense.
A lovely song about being a wally starts playing. Everyone is eagerly eyeing the entrance ramp waiting for Wally Handford to appear, but he doesn’t. The Teflon Sheik is starting to look more annoyed by the second. Then, across the way, I spot Wally (Mark Davis) sitting in the front row and the whole excellent thing suddenly all clicks into place. MARK DAVIS IS WALLY FROM WHERE’S WALLY. The name, the music and the fact it was taking a while for him to appear all went over my head but when I realised, it was magnificent.
Wally Handford is a very pleasant chap. All he wanted to do is wave at the Teflon Sheik. This enraged him. He said “Thank you Bubba” to Wally at one point and for some reason this caused everyone to lose their minds laughing.
After some antics you’d definitely expect from Wally (lots of waving, hiding, and some masterful disguise work in which a member of the ring crew got murdered by Sheik after a case of mistaken identity), Wally got tired of being Wally and revealed his Dunkzilla trunks under his outfit. Dunkzilla has somehow worked out time travel and went back to 1988 to swiftly murder the Teflon Sheik.
Someone please gif Wally waving. I need it.
Blumenfeld, Harrington-Smythe and Jones vs. The Sheepwhackers
The intro went a bit meta here as NIWA thought they were doing the Dudley Bros gimmick and Trav and TK reminded him that they were doing Sheepwhackers – “we did it last year, remember? We showed you the match!” but before they could confirm whether NIWA was a brother or a cousin, those pesky lawyers attacked them.
There was a lot of fighting outside the ring, it took a while for the ref to get it under control. Pesky lawyer Jones (Scala) seemed to be losing his mind as the match and at one point left the ring area. When he returned, he’d gone full American Psycho. Raincoat, axe, the works. His teammates (rightly) looked a bit scared of him and only after he’d yelled “TAG ME IN!” more than once did he rejoin the match.
I can’t even describe the last few minutes of this match because I was laughing too hard. I will just say that Travis Banks is a comedic genius. When it drops on demand, WATCH IT. Please.
After the insanity of this match, it was only right we took a break so everyone could catch their breath/process everything/top up on cocaine etc. Whew!
Jimmy Barnett lets us know they have received a fax and excitedly tells the crowd they have received the attendance figures – there are 750 THOUSAND people in attendance. Hooray!
The Kung Fu Kid vs. Johnny Swayze
Following this was the clash of two titans as the Kung-Fu Kid (A-Kid of Team Whitewolf) and Johnny Swayze (Paul Robinson. Yes. You read that correctly. PAUL BLOODY ROBINSON as you’ve never seen him before) went head to head.
This is worth watching on VOD for Johnny’s entrance alone, I promise.
I don’t know if A-Kid or Robinson had ever had a match together prior to today but I would love to see them wrestle again! Johnny Swayze yelling “I’M GONNA LIFT YOU, YOU CUNT!” as Kung-Fu Kid was on the top turnbuckle was a particular highlight.
Johnny Swayze got the victory and happily danced his way back to the back, to chants of “PLEASE COME BACK!” I still haven’t recovered.
Candy Lauper vs. “The Look” Mariah Eagan
The penultimate contest from Progress 1988 saw Candy Lauper (Candyfloss) go up against Mariah Eagen (Mariah May, who, absolute credit to her, stepped in at the last minute when Toni Storm was unable to make the show). This was her fourth wrestling match ever and she held her own for sure.
I hope Progress bring her back in the future, say, 2019? They had a miniature squat off that William A Homer ended up winning with a booty shake for the ages.
This was a hard
Dirty Daddy Overkill vs. Detective Inspector Colin Klein
Right. You’re gonna have to bare with me for this one. This was…. an event.
Progress 1988 comes to a close as Dirty Daddy Overkill, accompanied by his beautiful wife Sweet Mama Cherry (the Haskins’, with all their crimped hair glory. The couple that crimps together stays together after all) come out to Overkill by Motörhead. Makes sense.
Kiss by Prince starts playing and a leg emerges from the curtain slowly. BIG Detective Inspector Colin Klein (Kyle Fletcher) makes his slow, sexy way to the ring. He works it for the entire song.
Dirty Daddy asks if anyone has any more drugs because he’s run out. D.I.C.K asks if he’s high and D.D responds that he is. In what may be the promo of the year, D.I.C.K responds “Ohhhhh Daddy…. being high? IT’S FUCKING ILLEGAL. If you break the law, you will go to sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy sexy SEXY jail” and the room goes wild.
Jimmy Barnett frantically signals to Vic Joseph Sr on commentary who doesn’t know what to do so he snorts all the cocaine they have at the desk (it’s a lot) in an effort to avoid going to sexy jail.
The match gets underway and people, it’s a good one. D.I.C.K looks hurt at one point so Sweet Mama Cherry asks him if he needs some cocaine. He gets up and the match continues. Dirty Daddy starts running out of steam so Sweet Mama Cherry goes to get re-enforcements…. the remaining cocaine from the announce table. There’s an altercation at ringside and everyone gets a face full of cocaine.
Chief Lieutenant Inspector… Terence makes an entrance and carries Sweet Mama Cherry off to sexy jail. D.I.C.K is all fired up from the cocaine and finishes Dirty Daddy off.
Yep, I know what I said.
With that, Jimmy Barnett advises us to be careful which way we leave, as there are currently very hazardous substances around the ring and he wouldn’t want anyone to be exposed to th- “THAT IS MY COCAINE! MINE! GET AWAY FROM HERE OR I’LL KILL YOU!”
And with that, Progress 1988 comes to an end.
We do later find out that sadly, Mama Cherry sadly passed away in sexy jail from a cocaine overdose. RIP Mama.
Please, please PLEASE watch this show once they copy it off the Betamax machine. It is well worth your time.
I haven’t laughed so much in such a long time. My face still hurts and my voice hasn’t fully recovered yet after just screaming with joy a lot.
Same time next year, 21 years ago?
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Victoria070591. Thanks so much for reading!