Thank the gods for PWA‘s FITE TV deal. I was busy last night, meaning I couldn’t attend the show live as usual or watch live from home. But for a very reasonable price, I was able to order the event on FITE to watch at a later time. The beauty of FITE is that the shows are available for immediate replay after the live airing. I got in the door last night about 10 minutes after it went off the air, started to watch it but was way too tired to pay attention. So here I am the morning after.
The latest offering from Pro Wrestling Australia– PWA Just Happy To Be Here– is an Academy showcase, designed to help the rookies (known as Green Dingos) to gain a little experience and exposure before graduating to the Black Label shows. But considering that PWA as a whole was sitting on the shelf for much of 2020, the top guns of the company weren’t about to sit this one out, with the likes of Robbie Eagles, Jessica Troy, Jack Bonza and Charli Evans all set to show their skills.
Let’s do this!
We get a cold open for Andrew Rose to do his customary acknowledgement of country with Kris Gale. Sitting between the two regular PWA commentators is the 21st Century Success Story, Matty Wahlberg.
The PWA opening video airs. Shout out to the production team for how slick that is, and also to Cameron Eyre for the great theme song. Is there anything CJ Phoenix can’t do?
Wahlberg is given a proper introduction as the night’s guest commentator. Kris buddies up to him while Rose plays up their ongoing tension.
Match 1: Robbie Eagles vs. AJ
Interesting that they’ve opened with Robbie two FITE shows in a row. I suppose that PWA wants to catch people’s attention early with the most recognisable name on the roster. Unfortunately, the AJ on the other side of the ring is not Styles, but nevertheless, Aaron Jake is a great up and coming talent in PWA.
They tie up and Robbie pushes AJ up against the ropes and then gives him a little round of applause. Unsure if that was meant to be encouraging or mocking, given the slight character change from Eagles last time out. Moments later, AJ runs over Robbie with a shoulder block, sending the trademark bandana flying off his head. Eagles re-applies it and the fight is on!
Robbie has trouble dealing with AJ’s strength advantage early. He manages to fire off a springboard arm drag and a snap rana, but AJ avoids the spinning heel kick and maintains control of the match. They fight to the outside and Eagles hits some blistering chops that knock the areolas off AJ’s chest. Wahlberg says, “Hey, I’m Ric Flair!” in reference to his role on the new Young Rock show.
Back in the ring, Robbie keeps the advantage by working the leg. AJ avoids a springboard attack and knocks him down with a dropkick. AJ with a near fall following a knee drop. Shortly after, he scores with a big overhead throw for another 2 count on Eagles. Robbie manages to create separation with an inverted dragon screw. The follow up comes with the springboard dropkick to the knee. His precision is precise, as Mike Goldberg would say. Eagles with the patented kicks to the chest of a kneeling AJ, who fires up and asks for more. AJ blocks the running kick attempt and goes for a slam, but Robbie hits a chopblock and a running forearm to the back of the head.
The crowd applauds as Eagles hits the double knees in the corner. He blasts it again for a near fall. Rose touts the high quality of PWA, even from the opening match. That’s not just promotional hyperbole, that is straight facts. AJ blocks the Sliced Bread but drops shortly after from a wicked kick combo by Robbie. AJ responds a second later with a lariat and a beautiful unnamed move- starts like a 1916/Bloody Sunday and ends like a lifting Cross Rhodes. Awesome. Eagles with the kick out at 2.9.
AJ grabs the chain he wore to the ring, perhaps looking to use it as a weapon, but thinks better of it. He goes for a running kick but his damaged leg gives out. Eagles applies the Ron Miller Special, and after a great struggle, AJ eventually submits.
Winner: Robbie Eagles (at 12:40)
Star Rating: ***1/2. High quality opening match. Sets a great tone, with Robbie hitting some, but not all, of his trademark stuff, and AJ holding his own. Wahlberg makes a great point that the trainees work on stuff with each other when the coaches aren’t around- selling both the skills and the competitive environment of the Academy. Matty seems comfortable and is already a good addition to the commentary booth here.
Quick throw to the commentators. Wahlberg takes a shot at Robbie for “beating up rookies” but gives AJ credit for the heart he showed.
Match 2: SMS (Unsocial Jordan & Belinda Pierce) vs. Green Dingos (David Streamer & Nathan Pidgeon)
Before the match starts, Jordan gets a microphone. Oh, great. He says that the only way SMS can make change in PWA is with some championship gold. He talks about that starting in the upcoming Rumble, where every member of SMS will be involved- himself, Pierce, and- it seems like he was going to say a third member but Belinda stops him. Jordan offers the Dingos the opportunity to leave the ring and stand with SMS, or fall with PWA. They’re gonna fight.
Referee Hannah is back! Great to see her. Bel starts with Pidgeon. They do some chain wrestling before a tag to Streamer. Jordan tags in but cannot budge the larger man. Streamer with a big shoulder block and a splash before a quick tag back out to Pidgeon. Bel tags back in and Jordan runs for the hills. Pidgeon launches Bel with a hip toss but can only keep her down for a 1 count. Streamer tags back in and the Dingos hit a series of double team moves, ending in a big splash for a near fall.
Jordan intervenes with a superkick from the apron, allowing Bel to hit a cross body for a 2 count. Jordan tags in to apply a chinlock/armbar combo. Streamer escapes and sends Jordan flying out of the ring, but that brings Pierce back into the ring due to PWA’s lucha tag rules. Streamer steamrolls Bel with a shoulder block. He looks to tag Pidgeon, but Jordan rips Pidgeon off the apron and beats him down. SMS beat down Streamer, but he soon uses his power to escape and makes the hot tag! Pidgeon wipes out both members of SMS and applies the Dingo Stretch (inverted Boston crab, a great spin on NJPW’s system). Jordan comes in to break it up, and although Pidgeon resists and tries to absorb the chops, he cannot absorb the superkick!
Jordan and Streamer both tag in. Streamer looks fatigued. Jordan immediately hits the Shining Wizard! He covers, but pulls the shoulder up at 2. That slimy bastard. He tags Bel back in. He applies the sleeper then spins Streamer into a Bel spear- and now this one’s done.
Winners: SMS (at 7:20)
Star Rating: ***1/4. I actually really enjoyed that. Good tag psychology with SMS constantly cutting the Dingos off, and that made the final stretch of the match work really well. The Dingos had one of their better showings yet, to the point that they could be looking at a graduation sooner rather than later.
The commentators hype It Started Out With A Kiss, the next Black Label show on March 12. They announce yet another huge match for the card- The Nations (Jack Bonza & Mick Moretti) vs. Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis). Rose asks Wahlberg for a comment on that, given his issues with Moretti. Matty- in a very rare occurance- has nothing to say. He does snap a little at the end of the plug- “Coward!”
Match 3: Marshall Luke vs. Silvio Milano
Marshall is another Green Dingo. I do enjoy that all the Dingos are being billed as from “The Pro Wrestling Academy”. Kind of reminds me of how some kids think teachers live at school. Immediate side headlock takeover by Marshall. Arm wringer into a standing headlock. Silvio escapes by putting his foot on the bottom rope- Wahlberg calls him a “long boi” and I’ll do my best to keep my mind out of the gutter.
Silvio and Marshall trade arm wrenches, and the Dingo gets the advantage with a trip into a top wristlock. Great fundamentals here. Inside cradle by Marshall but the lanky Silvio powers out at 1. Marshall follows up with a crucifix pin that gets a 2. He sends Silvio out of the ring with a dropkick. Marshall is on fire here! As Silvio re-enters, Marshall applies a front facelock, which he loses after taking some shoulder thrusts in the corner. As technical as this match has been, it’s getting a little gritty here.
Forearm strikes score for Marshall, but Silvio returns fire with a slap! He follows up with a big boot as Wahlberg says he has “Stacy Keibler legs”. That’s taking me back. Beautiful Northern Lights Suplex by Marshall gets a long 2 count! Marshall goes for a belly to belly suplex, but Silvio headbutts him and scores with a German. Suplex, not tourist. And another one for a near fall. Silvio delivers a Black Hole Slam for another close call. The end is near- and Silvio brings it with a double underhook facebuster- Angel’s Wings, but I’m sure Silvio has his own name for it- for the win.
Winner: Silvio Milano (at 6:30)
Star Rating: ***. Another great showing for the Green Dingo. They’re getting plenty of moments to shine against the established PWA stars. Silvio showed some great offense, particularly down the stretch.
Highlights of Back In Black Label air.
Match 4: Green Dingos (Tommy D & Joseph Farrah) vs. Back Pain (Jack Pain & Backman)
“The Gym Bro” Jessie Wilde introduces herself as the financial “simp advisor” for Back Pain- while doing weights.
Tommy and Backman tie up, and Backman launches him into the mat. Backman welcomes Tommy to PWA with a slap. Tommy keeps applying headlocks and Backman keeps powering out of them. Tommy avoids a corner charge and goes for a bulldog, but gets planted into the mat again with a back suplex. Jack Pain tags in and goes on the attack. He whips Tommy, who slides out of the ring, bringing in Farrah with a lucha tag! Smart! Farrah gets amazingly high with a leapfrog then clotheslines Pain out of the ring. Low bridge gets Backman out too, and Farrah wipes them both out with a plancha! Damn son!
The Dingos go for a double suplex on Pain but Backman interrupts. Back Pain throw Farrah out of the ring and literally squash Tommy between them. Backman continue to destroy Tommy and tags in Pain. Pain hits a big boot and continues the beating. Tommy eventually escapes the Back Pain corner and tags to Farrah! Farrah cleans house and hits an incredibly graceful cross body- great height and hang time- on Pain for a near fall! He’s a big man flying like a cruiserweight, cliche but true. Backman stops the flurry by simply launching Farrah into the air. Tommy in to hit some nice flying European uppercuts on Backman, but Pain cuts him in half with a vicious spinebuster. Backman pounces Farrah out of the ring and almost through the Academy wall! Painkiller (sit down powerbomb) on Tommy for the 3 count!
Winners: Back Pain (at 7:14)
Star Rating: ***1/4. The Dingos continue to impress. Tommy had great fire, but Joey Farrah really got all the shine there. Always though he looked impressive, but here the activity matched the imposing look and then some. Back Pain were great in getting taken off guard before upping the ante and getting back to their dominant ways.
Match 5: Charli Evans vs. Cherry Stephens
Cherry Stephens is no longer a school student after the Prefects Playground Brawl, but rather a student of wrestling, with some sharp new wrestling attire. Charli is given her props for her excellent run in the Premiership during her entrance.
They shake hands before an intense lock up which sees them take turns at getting caught in the ropes. Cherry then stops the match to write some notes in her notebook. So there’s still going to be a little comedy in this evolution of Cherry’s character. They take turns working each other’s arm. Charli takes down Stephens and looks to lock in a submission, but Cherry makes the ropes. Evans runs through Stephens with a series of shoulder blocks. Fortunately, no Five Knuckle Shuffle to follow. Cherry speeds up with a springboard arm drag, followed by a cazadora arm drag. Charli stops her momentum with a victory roll for a 2 count.
Cherry fights back and hits a dropkick to the leg- noted as a Robbie Eagles influence- followed by a neck snap. Charli trips her up into the middle rope and nails a full force cross body against the ropes. She keeps up the intense attack with some brutal kicks to Cherry as she lays on the mat. A couple of scoop slams lead to a near fall for Evans. She puts Stephens into a hammerlock and drives her into the turnbuckle a few times. No mercy.
Jessica Troy walks out with her PWWA Championship and a chair, drawing the attention of Charli. If you missed it, Charli attacked Jess, her long-time friend, at the conclusion of her match with Robbie Eagles at Back In Black Label. Charli is distracted but resumes kicking the arm of Stephens. With the arms heavily compromised, Cherry uses her legs and hits an enziguri! She fires back with forearms, fighting through the pain, and delivers a great running forearm strike for a near fall. The comeback continues with a back suplex into a uranage for another near fall!
Charli fights out of a possible DDT attempt from Cherry and hits a Gory Special into a flatliner. Crazy. If Stephens wants to study, a match with Charli is like doing your Masters. Cherry manages somehow to kick out at the last second. Cherry fights back with a flatliner of her own, and then bamboozles Charli with a series of unique pinning combinations. Charli blasts her with a knee and a hangman’s neckbreaker for a near fall. Evans with the Fujiwara armbar- a clear message to Troy- but Stephens fights out. Immediately, Charli goes to her own offense- high back suplex and a lariat- to claim the hard-fought victory!
Winner: Charli Evans (at 11:02)
Star Rating: ***1/4. An excellent introduction to the new and improved Cherry Stephens. Outside of the early notebook spot, it was played pretty straight and I like that she was using Charli’s moves against her as the match went on. And Charli Evans was her usual awesome, brutal self. Cherry Stephens being in this spot is also a big deal… just over a year ago, she was a Green Dingo named Charlotte Yates. It’s amazing how much things can change in a relatively short time- proof the Academy system works.
After the match, Jess attacks Charli with a chair! She destroys Charli’s arm, and commentary speculates that it could be broken.
Intermission- they play Jessica Troy vs. Mat Diamond from Break Their Backs And Make Them Rumble. The first match of the PWWA Championship becoming an intergender title. Excellent match. Jess wins it with the Fujiwara armbar. Woo!
Match 6: Donnie Mako vs. Jay Sorbet vs. Lyrebird Luchi
Two of the most underrated guys in PWA against the winner of the 2021 PWA Premiership. Should be great action as long as it lasts. Luchi immediately throws Sorbet out of the ring and catches Mako with an inside cradle. He kicks out to prevent this being the shortest match in PWA history. Sorbet gets back in and Luchi bails from the ring. Classic Lyrebird. Sorbet makes a bad pun and Mako PUNches him in the face. Harsh.
Mako catches Sorbet with a snap rana. Sorbet hits both Mako and Luchi with scoop slam. That’s The Sorbet. Elbow drop on Mako. Single leg dropkick followed by a kip up. All day Sorbet! He wipes out Luchi on the outside and hits Mako with the Silly Boy Lariat in the ring for a near fall! Mako hits a tornado kick and they both connect with clotheslines. Both men down. Luchi scrambles in and stomps them both while they’re down.
After some back and forth, Mako kicks Luchi out of the ring. Mako with the Destino on Sorbet for a near fall. Sorbet comes back with a monkey flip but Mako lands on his feet. Unique faceplant slam gets another near fall for the Shark Bro. Mako goes up top and Luchi pushes him off. Luchi goes to the top rope and Sorbet crotches him. Tower Of Doom initiated by Mako, but Sorbet kicks out. Sunset flip by Sorbet gets a 2 count. Sorbet with a Tiger Bomb for a super close call! Huge leg capture back suplex by Mako, but he’s in too much pain to pin. He follows up with the Vader Bomb and covers, but Luchi pulls him out of the ring and pins Sorbet himself for the victory!
Winner: Lyrebird Luchi (at 9:50)
Star Rating: ***1/4. Predictable outcome but still great action. Sorbet, in particular, really shone here. I’ve seen him have awesome matches at Rock And Roll Wrestling, but that was probably the best I’ve seen him in a PWA ring. As for Luchi, he continues his run of wholly undeserved victories that will make it that much more satisfying when someone finally beats him.
More highlights of Back In Black Label play. Really pushing for people to order the replay… but yeah, do it. It kicked all the ass.
Match 7: Ricky South vs. Xander Sullivan
Xander is a conspiracy theorist, and is carrying a sign that says, “Think for yourselves, don’t be sheep”. Ricky starts by wrenching the arm with something called the “courting hold”, which is a new one for me. Looks painful- definitely would be for me with my lack of flexibility, anyway. Ricky hits a shoulder block, but Xander stays upright and runs over Tuff Stuff with a shoulder block of his own! Xander scores with a modified backbreaker- almost a STO onto the knee- but Ricky gets off the mat before even a 1 count. Ricky comes back with an atomic drop, and knocks Xander to ringside with a boot. Back in the ring, a stomp and a knee drop get a near fall for South. A follow up cannonball results in another close call.
They trade forearms. Ricky goes for a suplex but Xander lands on his feet and scores with a clothesline. They trade waistlocks, then Xander hits a ripcord forearm, followed by a headbutt that drops Ricky to his knees. Moments later though, Ricky pops up with a huge lariat! Followed by the powerslam! He blows a kiss and hits the piledriver for the emphatic win!
Winner: Ricky South (at 6:00)
Star Rating: **1/2. One-sided, statement victory for Ricky South. He’s ready for Caveman Ugg and the PWA Championship at It Started Out With A Kiss.
Match 8: MK Plus Ultra (Michael Spencer & Kai Drake) & Sam Osborne vs. The Nations (Kingsley, Jack Bonza & Jessica Troy)
MK do Osborne’s entrance pose with him. Iconic. During the Nations entrance, Kingsley asserts her place as leader by calling it “the Bad Bitch Nation”. Jess seems cool with that, Bonza… not so much. 1:57:50. Bonza & Osborne start the match with some chain wrestling and quick pin attempts. Kingsley asks to be tagged in and Bonza obliges. Osborne doesn’t want to face his Gen Now buddy at this moment, so tags in Spencer. Troy comes in a moment later via lucha rules and hits a hip toss into an armbar. Drake comes in and Jess does a victory roll into the armbar. Jess looking to collect everyone’s arms in this match!
Bonza tagged in and he drops Drake with a back suplex. Kingsley tags in and hits Kai with a Codebreaker- with a Bonza assist! Near fall. Spencer with a cheap shot from the apron, allowing Drake to hit a leaping kick for a near fall of his own. Osborne in, and now he’s happy to take some shots at Kingsley. Drake and Bonza in and they trade hard forearms. PWA’s lucha tag rules really make multi-man matches like this chaotic. A couple of huge German suplexes from Bonza. And a lariat. And a brutal sit out powerbomb! Kai kicks out at 2.99. Spencer tags in and nails Bonza with a slingshot spear as he’s attempting to hit Drake with the Napalm Thunder Driver. Very cool spot. Spencer with some driving knees into Bonza as he lays on the mat- reminiscent of Georges St Pierre in the UFC. Drake tags back in and applies an abdominal stretch while headbutting Bonza’s ribs… innovative, I guess?
Bonza eventually hip tosses Drake to escape, but Drake rolls out of the ring. Lucha tag rules, and Spencer is in re-applying the abdominal stretch before Bonza can get to the Nations corner, adding to the attack with some violent elbows. Bonza hip tosses out again, Spencer rolls out, Osborne in. Osborne goes for the abdominal stretch but Bonza kicks out of it and crawls to his corner… but MK drag Jess and Kingsley off the apron! Such a good sequence! Osborne hits Bonza with the backbreaker/T-Bone combo for a near fall.
MK and Osborne isolate Bonza for a little while longer, until he creates separation with a back body drop and makes the tag to Jess! Pump kick to Spencer. Forearms on Drake. Top rope Meteora gets a GREAT near fall for Troy. We get a triple submission- armbar by Jess, ankle lock by Bonza, and guillotine by Kingsley! The bad guys escape by slamming the Nations members into each other. Everyone’s down. Let the bodies hit the floor.
Spencer hits Jess with the Ushigoroshi but Bonza breaks up the pin. Drake goes for a dive but Kingsley throws tea in his eyes. Bonza and Kingsley hit a combo Codebreaker/Code Red on Drake but it gets broken up too. Bonza and Osborne trade strikes in the middle of the ring. Bonza delivers a great uranage. Spencer comes and tries to hit a flying knee, but Bonza blocks and applies the ankle lock! Spencer rolls through and kicks Bonza out of the ring. Jess is in, and she’s tenacious in attacking the arm. Osborne in and it sounds like they reference them being a couple? Maybe I misheard. Anyway, Troy beats Osborne down like he owes her money, and he responds with a big clothesline. Jess manages to lock a kimura, but Osborne escapes and rolls into the kneebar, but Jess escapes and rolls into the armbar. Beautiful technical wrestling. She transitions from the standard armbar into the Fujiwara version… and Osborne taps!
Winners: The Nations (at 19:12)
Star Rating: ***3/4. Really well done. Surprising how well the earlier portion went with Bonza playing the face in peril- never seen it before but it was a cool dynamic. And that finishing sequence with Osborne and Jess showcased how exciting mat wrestling can be- gave me flashback to the old Angle/Benoit matches. Osborne hasn’t lost in ages, since aligning with Don Marnell I think he may have been undefeated, so that is a significant development.
This exceeded expectations. The Academy Showcase shows are always still good, because there’s enough of a presence of PWA stars to carry the action while the Green Dingos get their feet wet, but on this one… the Dingos absolutely brought it. They were given the platform to shine, and shine they did! The main event was the MOTN, the way it should be, but that Back Pain vs. Dingos match was right up there too. Oh, and Robbie Eagles had a pretty good opener. And Charli Evans & Cherry Stephens killed it. The best in Aussie wrestling do it again!
Overall Score: 8/10
And as if that isn’t enough, right around the corner, it’s PWA It Started With A Kiss! Finally, Ricky South challenges Caveman Ugg for the PWA Championship!
Until next time, take care.