WrestleWatch: Progress X PWA
Decided to turn my WrestleWatch Facebook posts into full fledged reports after some good feedback from friends. So, basically, here I will give my in-depth thoughts on wrestling shows I've watched, rather than the condensed versions on my Facebook. Also, while I write my Facebook posts spoiler-free, in these blog posts, I'm going to do them as a play-by-play report with analysis, so results, spoilers, danger ahead! You have been warned.
So, last April, popular UK wrestling company Progress did a tour of Australia. In doing so, they tangled with Australia's top wrestling promotions in head-to-head showdowns. There was Perth's EPW, Melbourne's MCW, and finally, Sydney's PWA. This was the last stop of Progress' tour, and they went all out against the PWA Black Label crew, who brought their A game on the biggest stage the Sydney-based wrestlers had seen to date- 1000 strong in the Star Casino. Among them? Yours truly! And, my mate Brent. The show was recently added to the PWA streaming service, PWA Play, so I re-watched it today. Let's get to it.
To kick the show off, Progress Wrestling founder Jim Smallman introduces himself, praising the quality of Australian wrestling, and finally, letting everyone know the key rule of Progress- "don't be a dick!" Solid rule, a good way to live life overall, really.
Match 1: WWE United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne vs. Caveman Ugg
A non-title match, but with Progress/PWA bragging rights on the line, I was a little surprised to see this match kick off the show, given that it was the most heavily promoted going in, even more so than the champion vs. champion main event of Banks vs. Eagles. Ugg is a huge fan favourite, and he goes all in with his caveman gimmick, wrestling barefoot, not speaking English, and most importantly being from "the third cave on the left"- but all of that does not prevent Pete Dunne from getting a MONSTER reaction from the PWA faithful. The Bruiserweight is a WWE star, currently competing on NXT UK, but at the time of this show was appearing on main NXT on the WWE Network, feuding with Roderick Strong and the Undisputed Era. Dunne seems to enjoy the atmosphere and the big positive reaction, but this doesn't stop him from giving the middle finger to a couple of unruly fans and threatening to break the fingers of another.
Anyway, the action gets under-way and Dunne quickly negates Ugg's size advantage- the Caveman stands 7 boulders tall and weighs a whopping 8 boulders. He, of course, gets the upper hand by seizing Ugg's hand and performing his trademark joint manipulation, bending, twisting and snapping the fingers. He also bites Ugg's nipple and toes. Pro wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. Ugg manages to rally with some impressive power moves, including a spinning side slam and his Ugg Boot stomp. He also shows his uncanny agility for a big man, going for his Ugg Splash moonsault. Dunne is able to regain the upper hand with a X-Plex on the apron. Ugg does manage to hit the Splash Mountain powerbomb, and it looks for a moment like he will beat the WWE UK Champion, but Dunne shows his veteran savvy and finds the ropes. He then exhibits more resourcefulness by countering a moonsault attempt with a well placed kick. This is followed by the Bitter End. 1,2, 3, the Bruiserweight gets it.
Winner: Pete Dunne (Star Rating: ***1/2)
In a nice touch, the big screens show a Progress X PWA scoreboard. Progress- 1, PWA- 0.
Match 2: Four Corners Tag Match: Conco & The Fudge vs. The Velocities vs. Juan Direction vs. The 4 Nations
This match is not Progress vs. PWA, but rather an opportunity to showcase PWA's strong tag team division on a big stage in a high energy manner. Conco & The Fudge (that's Concrete Davidson and Big Fudge for the uninformed) are the most beloved team by a considerable distance, although commentator Jeff? seems to get a massive kick out of the One Direction loving luchadors, Juan Direction. The Velocities are a high-flying team reminiscent of Paul London and Brian Kendrick, comprised of Jude "The Dude" London (no relation as far as I'm aware, but a strong resemblance) and Paris De Silva. Rounding out the match is the serious wrestlers Adam Hoffman & Madison Eagles, of the 4 Nations stable. We go to some comedy early, with Fudge hitting Madison with his patented butt punch, which the 6 foot tall lady no-sells. It's lucha style rules, meaning that once a wrestler exits the ring, another wrestler is able to make themselves the legal competitor.The Nations manage to beat down the smaller Velocities as the action breaks down. London and Paris rally, with London hitting the top rope blockbuster on Hoffman, followed by a gorgeous Shooting Star Press from Paris. The high fliers get the dub!
Winners: The Velocities (**1/2) Fun dose of action, short and sweet, but a nice showcase.
Match 3: No Disqualification: Jimmy Havoc vs. Ricky South
Polar opposite in terms of characters- Havoc is a "death match" specialist who calls himself the "King of Goths", while Ricky hails from Oxford Street and is a flamboyant man who arrives with David Bowie facepaint to the tune of "I Will Survive" blaring from the speakers. A staple gun is used early by South, giving Havoc the crimson mask in the opening minutes. Havoc retaliates with a staple to the nuts, because, of course. Havoc brings some chairs into the fray and throws a couple at Ricky's face. He also uses his own 8 X 10 as a weapon, giving "Tuff Stuff" some paper cuts. Ricky brings in a "flaming table"- that is, a table painted rainbow. Unfortunately, it was an incredibly flimsy table, that buckled even without anything on it. Nonetheless, South ultimately hits a piledriver from the second rope through the table, putting PWA on the scoreboard!
Winner: Ricky South (Progress- 1, PWA-1) (***) Was better than I remembered live. The flimsiness of the table really hurt the match and finish, but the rest was decent.
Michael Spencer, the self-proclaimed Prince of Wrestling, comes out to bitch about being left off this monumental card. The PWA locker room empties, and a battle royal is promptly made!
Match 4: Over The Top Rope Battle Royal
Among the competitors, "Full Force" Mat Rogers, Mat Diamond, Diego, Jax Jordan, Luchi, Kai Drake, Rob Lynch, Danger Paul, Jay Sorbet, Tough Juan... it comes down to Rogers, Lynch, and Spencer, who hid on the outside for the majority of the match. Spencer gets it with the sneaky come-behind! Classic heel work.
Winner: Michael Spencer (*) Eh. Just there. Got a bunch of guys a paycheck.
Match 5: The 4 Nations (Mick Moretti & Jack Bonza) vs. Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate & Trent Seven)
Lots of playing to the crowd and comedy early. The crowd loves Mick Moretti, but detests Jack Bonza, and of course, everyone loves Moustache Mountain. So everyone took turns playing to the crowds, with the reactions being what you would expect. Bonza and Moretti tease leaving before storming the ring. There was a fun spot with Trent Seven playing dead, and the Nations trying to lift him to no avail. Eventually, things got a bit more serious, and the Nations took over. Bonza superplex, Moretti frog splash, PWA take the lead!
Winners: Mick Moretti & Jack Bonza (***1/2) A lot of fun, mixing the comedy with the technical prowess of the Nations. Big win for Moretti and Bonza after spending much of 2018 putting over the visiting international stars. (Progress- 1, PWA- 2)
Seven hilariously demands they stop playing the Nations music post-match, which results in it getting played at a louder volume. Moustache Mountain laugh it off and wave to the appreciative crowd.
Match 6: Progress Women's Championship: Toni Storm (c) vs. Jessica Troy
Really great video packages, of note. Tremendous production. The biggest match of Troy's career, and she is noticeably shitting bricks. Err, figuratively. Of note, I was in the second row, and right before this match, the row in front of me filled up with a group of young ladies- friends of Troy, I'm guessing. Really well worked technical display by both ladies, with Storm and Troy trading attacks and holds on each other's arms. Storm gains the advantage following a snap German Suplex and a strong hip attack in the corner. The cameraman zoomed in on Storm's ass at this point. Perv. Even though the PWA crowd supports their girl Troy, Storm also gets a favourable response and a "Welcome Back" chant on her return to her native Australia. Ultimately, Toni hits the Storm Zero (the piledriver version) to retain her title.
Winner: Toni Storm (***) Well worked. Troy held her own, but it was a bit of a Storm showcase, which still went over nicely with the live crowd. (Progress-2, PWA- 2)
There was a commentary switch after intermission. Jeff is joined by Concrete Davidson, replacing Matty Wahlberg who did colour commentary the first half of the show. Wahlberg is a great talker, but didn't add that much on commentary. Concrete seemed much more comfortable and gave greater insight.
Match 7: PWA Tag Team Championship- The BABES (Matty Wahlberg & Carter Deams) vs. SMS (Unsocial Jordan & Snapchad)
This was sizzle over steak, with The BABES having an awesome entrance with dancing cheerleaders and money confetti... and then lost in under 5 minutes. Quick tags and rapid fire action between Wahlberg and Deams, they miss their Posterize double team stomp and prompt take a twisting 3D, and the L!
Winners: SMS (*1/2) Extremely disappointing. No idea why the BABES lost so quickly and decisively. The only thing I can think of is that there was rumours of backstage issues with Wahlberg at the PWA Academy around this time... but if there was heat, why let him do commentary and give them the big entrance? Maybe they were strapped for time and had a very strict cutoff from Star Casino higher-ups? Seems weird. I'm a big fan of the BABES, especially Wahlberg, so didn't want to see them lose at all, but that quickly? Straight up horrible.
Match 8: Progress Champion Travis Banks vs. PWA Champion Robbie Eagles
Jeff speculated that the fans might welcome Banks in a similar way to Toni Storm- no such luck as the fans pelted him with chants of "fuck you Kiwi!" Well, PWA Black Label is an 18+ product. Eagles and Banks move at a breakneck pace and hit a lot of hard strikes, especially kicks. They get a good amount of time and seem to get all their stuff in, making the BABES result in the previous match all the more puzzling... the main event didn't feel rushed one bit, despite the fast pace. Robbie hits a sick Sliced Bread on the apron, and later takes Banks out with a flip dive between the first and middle ropes. Turbo Backpack and Psycho Driver are good for a couple of good near falls for Eagles. A 450 Splash nearly puts Banks away. Banks rallies with a top rope Kiwi Crusher, followed by the Slice of Heaven springboard kick for a LONG two count. Undeterred. Banks locks in a Rings of Saturn submission and forces the Sniper of the Skies to tap out!
Winner: Travis Banks (****) High level wrestling melding a few different styles- technical, strong style, high-flying. Banks is currently a top star on NXT UK, and Robbie showed himself among the world's elite with his performance, especially when you consider that he got into Sydney from performing for PWG in California mere hours before the show. Incredible effort.
(Progress- 3, PWA- 2)
Overall score: 8.5/10.
This was the biggest stage, the biggest exposure for PWA to date, and they knocked it out of the park. Robbie Eagles and The 4 Nation's Mick Moretti and Jack Bonza especially stood out as world class talent holding their own against internationally renowned wrestlers signed to WWE. From start to finish, every wrestler that performed on the show seemed to understand and appreciate the gravity of the situation, performing in a venue like the Star Casino. Every single performer on the show stepped up and put every ounce of effort into what they were doing. I can only hope this leads to more cross-promotional shows and/or more large-scale opportunities for the exceptional Aussie talent I've been fortunate enough to see over the last couple of years. We're starting to see it now, with Robbie Eagles appearing for New Japan Pro Wrestling in the Super Jr. Tag League, and Jonah Rock signing to WWE (although it's currently unknown what capacity he will appear in, NXT or NXT UK). The Aussie wrestling scene started a movement where they said, "you're gonna notice us." Shows like this marked a turning point where they can now say with confidence, "now we conquer".
Until next time, take care.