Last night was a lot of fun. Not only because it was a live wrestling show and I live for that stuff, but also it was local. I’m the Sydney correspondent for Snap Mayors, but I actually live in Wollongong, which is about an hour and a half south of Sydney. So it was great to not only experience the entertainment of live pro wrestling again, but also to be able to make the trip to the show with a drive less than 10 minutes from my house. Next week, I’m heading up for PWA, and at the end of the month, it’s a big trip (3 hour drive) up to Newy Pro in Newcastle. God help me.
Today’s review has a bit of a special place in my heart. Rock And Roll Wrestling was my first real exposure to Aussie pro wrestling. Without RNR, I wouldn’t know about PWA, or Newy Pro, or MCW. Somewhere around 2014/2015, I started attending Rock And Roll at Dapto Citizens Bowling Club. Citoz was a humble beginning for the revamped UWA, and the fanbase built and eventually outgrew the bowling club. Promoter and wrestler Hunter PS Hayes assembled a great roster of NSW wrestling talent- the likes of Robbie Eagles, Mick Moretti, Jack Bonza, Shazza McKenzie, Jessica Troy and Charli Evans could be seen at Rock And Roll long before they made the splash they have today on a national and international level.
While the Sydney-based talent was a great boost to Rock And Roll, the promotion also displays a strong collection of local talent. The likes of Captain Keato, Otis and Eric Fisher are examples of wrestlers trained and based in the Wollongong/Illawarra area, and seeing them all develop their skills over the past couple of years has been a joy to watch as well.
Rock And Roll were building some serious momentum before 2020 bitch-slapped us all. They last held a show in February 2020- headlined by a Gold Rush ladder match which saw Jay Sorbet capture the briefcase for a guaranteed title shot. The event was at Wollongong City Diggers– the monthly home of RNR, a nice upgrade from good old Citoz. After 13 months away dealing with the effects of COVID, we have The Return. An outdoor show held at the Rock And Roll Academy, with food trucks and beers to be had, 300+ strong turned out to support local pro wrestling. It really warms my heart.
Let’s do this.
Match 1: Big Fudge vs. Lee Morrow
This was Lee Morrow’s debut in Rock And Roll, and he was an excellent choice to kick off proceedings, immediately riling up the crowd with his obnoxious antics, sporting a shirt that read “Your Mum’s Favourite Wrestler”. He has a good physique and sure knew it, frequently flexing his muscles. Someone’s been watching Jade Cargill’s debut match on AEW Dynamite. He also directed a comment in my direction, telling the beautiful blonde lady next to me, “leave that loser and come be with a real man”. I went to the show by myself, but I’m flattered that Morrow thinks I could have a girlfriend that’s that attractive. At least her husband, sitting down the row with their kids, got a kick out of the mistake.
And of course, Fudge is always a massive fan favourite with the family-friendly audience here. Out of instinct, I went to high-five him during his entrance, but he reminded me that it wasn’t COVID safe, so I got an elbow bump instead. Damn COVID. He had a hell of a time trying to shoulder block Morrow down, but eventually got the job done. He landed the Butt Punch for a good near fall, and Morrow’s facial expression was priceless. My mum’s favourite wrestler came back with an RKO for a close call of his own. When you order Randy Orton on Wish… Morrow missed a theatric elbow drop, allowing Fudge to hit the chokeslam for the win.
Winner: Big Fudge
Star Rating: ***. A solid way to start the show. I look forward to seeing more of Lee Morrow at future events, both for his wrestling talent and the unintended ego boost when he tries to sledge me. And I’ll never not love seeing Fudge on any show.
Post-match, Morrow continues to be great value, being a dead weight as referees and event staff try to get him out of the ring.
Match 2: Morgan Rose vs. The Tradie
We get a big time entrance here to really sell the magnitude of The Return, as Tradie makes his entrance on an f’n forklift! Excellent way to set the show apart from a regular event, great use of the outdoor venue, and it was appropriate for the character. Top marks all around.
The Apprentice accompanied The Tradie to the ring, but an irate Rose refuses to start the match until he went to the back. So, the match eventually starts one on one, and Rose uses every underhanded tactic in the book- raking the eyes, choking and undoing the turnbuckle pad. Tradie rallies with some great power moves, including an impressive deadlift vertical suplex. He also displays surprising agility for a big man, leaping from the top rope with a flying clothesline.
A frustrated Morgan Rose bails to the outside to get a steel chair. Referee Lucas Parker stops him and yanks the chair away… only to blast Tradie with it himself! Parker tells Rose to cover and we get a 3 count!
Winner: Morgan Rose
Star Rating: ***1/4. This one gets a boost two-fold- first, the forklift entrance really set the tone and gave a sense of occasion. Second, the heel turn of Parker. He was an active wrestler a fair while back, but had been playing it straight as an impartial referee for quite some time. A nice story twist there.
Post-match, Parker continues to attack Tradie with the steel chair. He leaves and the crowd rains boos down on him.
With Lucas Parker being a horrible, no-good man, we need a new referee- enter Dicko. As an active competitor, Dicko gets entrance music- but he did serve as a referee for several years before getting the call up to the wrestling roster shortly before COVID. Here we go.
Match 3: RNR Tag Team Championship- Sorbeato (Jay Sorbet & Captain Keato) (c) vs. CBK (Ben Braxton & Tyson Reed)
Dicko shows favouritism towards the faces as they hug him pre-match. Sorbeato encourage him to put on their t-shirt, and it looks like he might be considering it before CBK jump the tag champs.
Sorbet plays the face in peril for a large portion of this match. Braxton and Reed- Newy Pro regulars- take great pleasure in frequently giving the middle finger to a frustrated Keato on the apron. This is a family show, guys! Braxton even flips Keato off in the midst of a gorgeous Lionsault- but Sorbet gets the knees up! He makes the hot tag to Keato who comes in like a house of fire, running through CBK. Keato hits the Six And Out- running basement Flatliner. He tags Sorbet back in, who hits a clean moonsault for the win.
Star Rating: ***1/2. Much like Lee Morrow in the opener, I hope we see more of CBK in Rock And Roll. Braxton in particular is super impressive. Sorbet goes from strength to strength in every match I see him in lately, and it was good to see Keato doing his thing with his burst of offense- he’s someone who has a lot of upside, hopefully with RNR back to business, he can get many more matches in to keep getting sharper.
Intermission. I have a good chat with Sorbet and Fudge, as well as a mum who came down from Sydney with her young daughter, specifically to see Jay. That was pretty sweet.
Match 4: No. 1 Contender’s Match- Otis (w/ Wayne Pickford) vs. Eric Fisher
Fisher gets easily the loudest pop of the night from the crowd, and there were a few Fisher signs around. The area I was sitting in was definitely the Eric Fisher cheering section- turns out he’s the trainer at the gym that the blonde next to me goes to. By contrast, Otis gets nuclear heat, and his manager Wayne Pickford gets the usual “Alf Stewart” taunts (the resemblance really is uncanny).
This is probably the most technical match on the card so far, with early chain wrestling setting the tone. Fisher gets the advantage with a series of arm drags, followed by a hurricanrana. Otis regains the advantage following some dodgy interference from Pickford- it makes referee Dicko look pretty bad because he does it all in plain sight. Some hard strikes and a running senton give Otis a near fall.
Pickford gets into the ring and straight up grabs Fisher, holding his arms behind his back. Dicko got bumped a little but is still watching all of this go down- WHAT ARE YOU DOING, MATE?- but Fisher ducks, causing Otis to strike his manager. Fisher with the Fisherman Suplex (of course) for the win.
Winner: Eric Fisher
Star Rating: ***1/4. Action-wise, this one deserves a higher rating. Can’t fault much of what Otis and Fisher did at all, and they both came back after a year away in noticeably far better shape. But the Pickford stuff really hurt the match, all the blatant interference right in front of the ref caused everyone around me to direct their anger towards Dicko rather than Pickford and Otis. Definitely needed to be hidden better to not make the ref look so bad, and it took attention away from an otherwise great match.
Post-match, Otis and Pickford attack Fisher. They get a kendo stick… it’s pretty bad, looks like a couple of twigs loosely taped together. It did the job though, as Fisher came up with cuts and welts on his face from it. Otis yells, “this is your number one contender?!?” and jaw-jacks with fans as he leaves.
Match 5: RNR Elite Championship- Hunter PS Hayes (c) vs. Robbie Zucco
The ring announcer mistakenly announces this “for the heavyweight championship”, but the RNR Heavyweight Championship is kind of in limbo as Ryback is the current champ, and he suffered a back injury. Based on his social media posts, he seems ready to return to the ring… but international travel is still a little tricky at the moment.
We get more big time entrances for this one as Hayes and Zucco both arrive in pristine vintage cars. Again, this kind of thing really elevates the show. If you’ve got the space and the setting, why not use it?
They jockey for position early with a lock-up, and Zucco needs to bail to ringside early to get his bearings. Back into the action, and Hayes looks for the DDT finish several times early, but Zucco is wise to it, charging him into the corner with shoulder strikes and chops. Hayes mounts a comeback with clotheslines and a big clothesline/bulldog combo out of the corner for a 2 count. Zucco hits Hunter with the DDT, but the foot gets on the ropes.
A big superplex gains a near fall for Hayes. Another Hunter DDT attempt blocked. Another barrage by Zucco in the corner. He goes for the Irish whip, but Hayes spins out of it into the DDT! 1, 2, Zucco gets his foot on the ropes… but referee Dicko doesn’t see it! Controversy!
Winner: Hunter PS Hayes
Star Rating: ***1/2. A strong main event. Hayes and Zucco have worked each other a ton of times, and the chemistry is plain to see. They took some hard bumps, but overall kept it simple and smart, building up the DDT as a massive move. Unlike the co-main event, referee Dicko missing the call seemed intentional here- but what direction do we go now? The finish seems tailor made for a Hayes/Zucco rematch with some kind of gimmick, but they could also play the crooked ref angle with Dicko. Then again, we just had that with Parker, so who knows? At least we won’t have to wait another year to see the story progress.
Post-match, Eric Fisher walks out to confront or congratulate Hunter. The champ and no. 1 contendre share a tense moment, then shake hands to end the show.
As I said from the outset, it was awesome to see the local pro wrestling scene come back to life. The outdoor setting made it COVID-safe, but it also felt fresh and fun, and I love that they made use of the unique space to do cool things like the forklift and car entrances. The only knock I have is that we should be booing the heels, not the referee- the refs shouldn’t be that oblivious, and they definitely shouldn’t be staring at the heels cheating without even making a move to stop it. Hey, unless they’re going to make Dicko the biggest heel in Rock And Roll, I guess I can’t totally rule that out. But that aside, great action all night from everyone involved, you could tell that all the wrestlers were motivated and excited to perform after such a long time away.
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care.