A few years ago, I decided to go on a bit of a road trip. Went with a mate about an hour away from home to Parramatta RSL. The reason? Pro wrestling.
PWA were holding a show called Lock, Stock & Too Sweet Barrels, featuring Bad Luck Fale and Gino Gambino, members of the Bullet Club. That was part of the reason for my interest (thank you, Facebook targeted advertising), but also I noticed that a few wrestlers who I had really enjoyed watching at my local fed in Wollongong- Rock and Roll Wrestling- were part of the PWA roster: Robbie Eagles, Mick Moretti & Jack Bonza.
The Parramatta show was excellent, and I was immediately hooked. I seemed to have become a PWA fan at the perfect time. The next show I went to was headlined by the return of NJPW high-flier Will Ospreay, at Paddington RSL. Then, things got really interesting. PWA stopped running RSL shows, and instead moved the majority of their events to the Max Watts music venue in Moore Park. That’s when things began to change. PWA was already great, but it was about to go next level.
Over the next two years, PWA would thrive. With almost a cult-like following reminiscent of the original ECW, Max Watts was our Hammerstein Ballroom. The increased venue size accommodated the ever-growing fanbase, production continued to improve by leaps and bounds, and the wrestling action itself was always top-notch. I attended most of the Max Watts shows, and it became a great social event almost every month. If I couldn’t make it for whatever reason, I was always covered by the live stream on OVO Play.
Then… COVID hit. It’s affected every form of entertainment in some way, and unfortunately that includes pro wrestling, which relies heavily on crowd interaction to make its magic. PWA ceased live shows for a few months, returning with some smaller shows at the PWA Academy with no fans. Again, the wrestling quality was there- I’d say that Don’t Call It A Cancel was the best empty arena show at a time when both WWE and AEW were struggling to find their feet with the pandemic presentation- but the energy of the fans was definitely a missing element.
Fast forward to this weekend. PWA WAP. That is, PWA Wristlocks and Piledrivers. Not sure what you guys were imagining. The first time in about 7 months that PWA were able to allow fans to attend. With COVID still being a thing, precautions had to be taken- still at the Academy, with limited attendance, masks and hand sanitizer being all the rage- but hey. We had live pro wrestling again. Damn, I’ve missed it!
Let’s do this.
Match 1: Trios Match- Speed Force (Jude London, Paris De Silva & Mat Rogers) def. The Prefects (Jimmy Townsend, William Preston & Cherry Stephens) (at 9:40)
Thoughts: This was an entertaining blend of athleticism and comedy. Early on, Cherry and Paris had a fun exchange where the girl Prefect forgot what to do, so Jimmy held up a hand-written sign that said, “RUN!” Cue endless running of the ropes, drop downs and missed strikes until the wrestlers collapsed. The powerhouse, “Full Force” Mat Rogers played his role well too, tagging in while Jude was in an arm wrench and trading arms with him.
A big story here was William Preston, being a uni student now, not being on the same page as the schoolkid Prefects. Some miscommunication sees both Preston and Townsend take a double stomp for their troubles. Later, there’s in-fighting over the use of the schoolboy- William wants to move on and not use the effective move, despite the pleas of his partners. In come London and Silva to wipe them out with superkicks, and Rogers finishes the job with a ring-shaking pumphandle slam. This furthered stories, was exciting to watch and generally entertained the hell out of me. (***)
Match 2: Kai Drake (w/ Michael Spencer) def. Steph De Lander (at 8:50)
Thoughts: This was damn hard-hitting. The opening gave me a bit of a laugh- Kai starts with his creepy crawling towards SDL, which the Python Powerhouse matches with a hissing noise. Things get serious from here though as both exchange heavy strikes. Kai is one of the best strikers in PWA and he isn’t holding back here! Big cross body by SDL gets a near fall. Kai soon responds with a sharp kick in the ropes for a close call of his own.
Spencer, who is at ringside on crutches holding the stolen PWA Tag Titles, mocks De Lander, allowing Kai to land a massive kick upside the head for a long 2 count. They once again trade strong strikes, forearms and chops that will make you question your career choice. Another distraction by Spencer allows Kai to hit a superkick, but SDL turns the tables and scores a near fall after ramming Kai’s head into the ring post. Down the stretch, they trade quick pin attempts, and yet another distraction by Spencer allows Kai to hit the Michinoku Driver for the victory. Fun in a different way to the last one, this had more of a serious tone and re-established both, SDL looked tough as nails and Drake & Spencer showed that they are despicable heels needing to cheat to get the advantage. (***1/4)
Ring announcer Nick Wray tells the crowd that a PWA “Premiership Tournament” starts on the 19th (of this month, I’m assuming). More details to come on social media.
Match 3: The BABES (Matty Wahlberg & Carter Deams) def. Rhys Angel & AJ (at 10:50)
Thoughts: Deams has dark hair now. Killing the gimmick, brother! Wahlberg is rocking a “Moretti is my bitch” t-shirt, stoking the flames of that rivalry. Wahlberg is extremely verbal and somehow seems even more animated than usual, excited to be back in front of a live crowd. He mocks AJ, calling him a “White Walker” and says, “Just stab him with a knife, I’ve seen the show!” (He’s referencing Game of Thrones, for anyone living under a rock).
AJ gets kicked off the apron, but Rhys is unconcerned, hanging out at ringside taking selfies. He eventually tags in and has a MMA-inspired exchange with Wahlberg. Matty peppers him with low kicks and almost locks in a triangle choke. Rhys takes it to Lucha City with some springboard arm drags, Wahlberg says, “I can do lucha too”, pulling the same moves off in response before taking Angel’s head off with a leg lariat.
Deams tags in and we get some classic BABES tandem offense, including the old Team Angle/WGTT leap into an attack on the back- did that move ever have a proper name? BABES set up for Posterize but AJ makes the save. Deams would make AJ pay for that soon enough- he chopped the damn soul out of his body! Deams gets isolated and is unable to make the hot tag to Wahlberg, but eventually gets out of the ring instead. With lucha tag rules in effect, Wahlberg cleans house. Rolling combination clothesline/DDT. Rolling double flatliner. Man, Wahlberg really is a special athlete.
AJ takes control later with a gutwrench facebuster that could have finished the match, but Rhys argues with him over who gets the glory of the pin, giving Matty sufficient time to kick out. Deams comes in to take out the squabbling duo with a superkick, then a scissors kick. I can dig it. Posterize ends it. Good action, although the finish was a little too close to the opening match for my liking. Still awesome to see the BABES back doing their thing, one of my favourite acts in PWA (***)
Up next, a tag team match featuring Ricky South & Big Fudge against Bel Pierce and a partner of her choosing never officially starts. Ricky & Fudge have fun during their entrance, with the flamboyant Ricky trying to ride a skateboard (bless him) and Fudge throwing out streamers… like two of them. After Bel makes her entrance, they get on the mic and make their case for her joining “the old guard” or Generation Now. Bel cuts them off and goes to introduce her partner for the match… Caveman Ugg’s music hits! As Fudge and South await the arrival of the PWA Champion, Bel hits them both from behind with a low blow! It was a trap! Then, Unsocial Jordan’s music hits and he attacks both men with his tripod. It seems that Bel Pierce has joined SMS!
Match 4: Goober Open Challenge- Will Kiedis def. Green Dingos & Parker Tomas
Thoughts: This was a little comical seeing Kiedis toy with the Green Dingos (PWA’s term for rookies/young boys). A shotgun dropkick from the top gives Nathan Pidgeon a near fall, but Will ends him shortly after with the Shining Wizard. This brings out Parker Tomas as the final challenger, who has much more success beating Kiedis down. Kiedis is able to stop the momentum with an enziguri. One punter from the crowd yells, “Finish him!” and Kiedis responds, “Yeah, I know how matches work.” Quality banter. He ends it quickly with a combo of a STO and an Anaconda Vice. Basic stuff, but got Will Kiedis showing off his character, so points for that. (**)
Post-match, Kiedis cuts a promo about how everyone’s so happy to have fans back at PWA… but not him, because we’re all a bunch of GOOBERS! Classic.
Intermission. Apparently there were some issues with the OVO Play stream. Damn, it feels good to be there live!
Match 5: Sam Osborne def. Kyle Fletcher (at 17:40)
Thoughts: This was the match of the night in my book. Don Marnell is a wonderful addition as Osborne’s manager. It’s such an odd contrast, with the Irish guy that loves sinking cans being aligned with the snobby North Shore guy, but somehow it just… works. Marnell comes out cutting a rhyming promo, in which he sneaks a Happy Gilmore reference. Tremendous.
The action starts with a feeling out process and some chain wrestling, but Fletcher soon ups the ante with a shoulder block that resembled a Mack Truck running over a small kitten! Blistering chops follow, and these two guys seem intent on making Drake vs. SDL look like shadow boxing. Osborne, ever the technician, slows down the Aussie Arrow with a smooth backbreaker/powerslam combo for a near fall.
Fletcher rallies with a dropkick, launching Osborne off the apron. He grabs a ringside chair, seats Osborne in it, and launches at him with a running cannonball that obliterates Sam AND the chair! Wow! The success is short-lived, however, as Marnell distracts Fletcher, allowing Osborne to hit a chop block. From here, the leg gets worked over, taking away the earlier physical dominance. A kneebar gets locked in, but Kyle makes the ropes.
Babyface rally starts as Fletcher slaps the shit out of Osborne! Damn! Were the PWA roster backstage taking bets on who could make the loudest noise hitting their opponent? They trade shots and double clotheslines. Kyle hits a lariat-basically a clothesline with a ton more speed and impact-and follows with a pop up powerbomb. Brutal looking hammerlock Tombstone follows, but Marnell puts Osborne’s foot on the ropes. Soon after, the Prize Bull goes back to his attack on the legs with a rolling kneebar, and there’s no escape this time. Tap, tap, tap-a-roo! (****1/4)
Match 6: Fatal 4 Way- Backman def. Donnie Mako, Kingsley & Ben Braxton (at 9:50)
Thoughts: This was just a ton of fast-paced action, packed into a relatively short timeframe, actually a welcome change of pace after the epic that Fletcher and Osborne put on. They smartly gang up on Backman to start, seeing as he is literally the biggest threat in the match. Braxton connects with a great looking Lionsault for a nice near fall. Jack Pain, accompanying Backman to the ring, gets involved by throwing Kingsley into the ring post.
And speaking of Kingsley… she was an absolute revelation in this match! She pulled out a few moves I’ve never seen before, including a tilt-a-whirl X-Factor, and countering a military press into a Codebreaker! Bruh. The match breaks down into dives, and Backman destroys Kingsley with a pounce on the concrete! Back in the ring, Backman wins it with a one-armed spinebuster. Whoa. That was a thrill ride. Someone give Kingsley a bonus, or a dinner out or something. (***1/2)
Side note, I saw Shazza McKenzie at the Academy, but she didn’t have a match. Sad times.
Match 7: Charli Evans def. Luchi (at 9:47)
Thoughts: Great work here, as Luchi was willing to make Charli look like a boss by just running away from her for an extended period to start the match. Turns out he had good reason to be afraid, because once Charli got hold of him, she turned him into a human pretzel. A tight STF looked like it could be it, but Luchi made the ropes.
He managed to land a cheap shot which gave him a chance, but soon takes further leg damage with a Dragon Screw in the ropes. Fisherman suplex gives Charli a near fall, but Luchi rallies with his trademark springboard corkscrew splash for a close call of his own. They trade strikes, and Luchi starts to sustain his advantage…. Until Charli popped up with a powerslam outta nowhere! Toehold/armbar combo makes Luchi tap the mat like he’s trying to kill a stubborn fly. (***1/4)
Match 8: Trios Match- The Nations (Jessica Troy, Mick Moretti & Jack J. Bonza) vs. HVWA (Robbie Eagles, Mat Diamond & CJ Phoenix) went to a No Contest (at 28:37)
Thoughts: This was all action, never a dull moment. Nations had more synergy as a team, but HVWA were able to find their stride as time went on. CJ Phoenix was making his PWA debut- he’s friends with Diamond and Eagles from their backyard wrestling days, and after two attempts earlier this year, he finally got a chance to shine on this show. I don’t know about his gear… as Bonza rightly mocked him for, he looked like the Red Power Ranger.
The match began with Robbie Eagles and Jessica Troy trading counters and holds in an extended battle, and it was awesomeness. They were scheduled for a singles match pre-COVID, and based on this flurry, I can’t wait to see it. Jess almost gets the armbar, Robbie almost hits the Ron Miller Special. Then Diamond and Moretti tag in for a quick go-around, then it’s CJ and Bonza. Shit. Is Bonza about to go full Hardcore Holly on his arse?
Bonza out-wrestles CJ with relative ease, and the defiant newcomer responded with a slap. He follows up with a spinning heel kick and a springboard arm drag. Lucha things. HVWA team up and hit a triple dropkick on Jess.
From here, the action is fast and furious, with way too many great moves to cover them all, but I’ll try and get the big ones. The Nations show they have tag team moves as well, with Bonza monkey flipping Moretti into Diamond. Diamond tries to get away with a Pele Kick, but Bonza snatches him out of the air with the ankle lock, which transitions into a surfboard, into a Moretti powerslam. Sweet. CJ tags back in, and scores a near fall with a hurricanrana pin, and shortly after connects with a gorgeous Asai moonsault. Robbie gets in, with a dropkick to the knee of Moretti. Bodies are flying everywhere, and we get back to Robbie and Jess. Robbie goes for the Psycho Driver, but Jess counters into a Canadian Destroyer! CJ back in, and he gets a near fall on the PWWA Champion with a Gory Bomb.
Then, the spot of the match. Eagles and Diamond launch CJ into the air, and he nails a massive Phoenix Splash on Troy! There’s really no topping that, and shortly after, Matty Wahlberg comes out to distract Moretti, and all of a sudden, we have a massive brawl, with all of Generation Now coming out to put a beating on everyone in sight. Bye, bye, awesome main event. (****)
Post-match- this may have just been a promo for the live crowd, but Wahlberg cuts a passionate promo about Generation Now, and being sick of seeing the same people, like Robbie Eagles and the Nations, main eventing year after year. He talks about how great it is to have fans back, and the show ends there.
I was already hyped for this show, so I think that just about anything they did would have been well received by me, but I’m trying to be objective as I sit here writing the review the next day. One thing I really respect here is that PWA committed to their storylines going forward. It would have been easy to put on a crowd-pleasing exhibition showcase, but instead they made some moves that might not be satisfying in the moment (like a non-finish in a half hour main event), but will pay off later. This was a well-rounded show, it had a bit of everything. Lots of action, some comedy as well, some drama… PWA never missed a beat.
I’m very curious to see how the old guard vs. Generation Now story evolves going forward. It seems layered, with no obvious face vs. heel dynamics. Wahlberg seems to be the leader, and he has been a heel in the past, but has kinda evolved into a cool face over the last year plus. He’s aligned with Sam Osborne- obviously a heel, and Jimmy Townsend- obviously a face. Robbie Eagles and Mat Diamond- faces. Nations- heels (although Moretti and Jess are kind of tweeners). And where does CJ Phoenix fit into all this? Depending on your perspective, he’s both the old guard (being around in the formative years of veterans Eagles and Diamond), but this main event match was his proper debut, so could he potentially be Gen Now as well?
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care,