British fans of British wrestling tuned in to ITV on New Year’s Eve, ready to see what was about to be served up under the World of Sport banner.
And you know what? It was pretty good. Who doesn’t want to see Dave Mastiff, Grado, Johnny Moss and Viper on their TV sets at tea-time?
I loved the nostalgia clips – every programme is improved by the addition of Rollerball Rocco.
I loved the surprise appearance of Davey Boy Smith Junior (although a surprise entrant midway through a Battle Royale is weird).
I loved the enthusiasm of the audience, who were clearly being tightly controlled for the filming, and were all the better for it.
Now of course there were things I didn’t particularly like – Jim Ross and Alex Shane repeatedly hammering home the parallels between the modern day wrestlers and the World of Sport counterparts was the thing that annoyed me most. If you watched World of Sport, you could already make those connections for yourself. If you didn’t, being told that Mastiff is like Giant Haystacks or Viper is like Klondyke Kate is pretty much meaningless.
Oh, and how many times did Viper’s size need to be mentioned? Ludicrous.
There’s so much potential in this show, though. As a self-contained one-off, this was fine – if this is expanded into an ongoing series, there’s plenty to do to improve it further. Some of those legends applauding in the crowd could take a more active role, and save us from being bombarded with unsubtle reminders of the show’s history. Who fancies being a manager for the mute El Ligero?
The current talent need their characters built; it’s understandable that they didn’t do that too much for a TV special, but a series would need attention to detail.
This British showcase of homegrown talent is special. It’s not WWE, and it’s not meant to be. This is a family show, with a very different feel to it. It’s meant to be light entertainment, not sports entertainment. Yes, many British wrestlers focus on making it to WWE; and yes, that might be where the money is, if you make it. Having opportunities to show how good the scene at home is, though, is important. World of Sport’s comeback can do that.