IMPACT/OPW Australian Showcase Results & Review (02/07/2023)
By Mick Robson
Patreons got this review first, as well as all the content The Arena puts out. For early access and to support the work we put in here, check out patreon.com/thearenamedia
Back for one more round in Wagga! As I write this, the Wagga weather got the best of me- I was warned by friends and family. "Be careful, it's freezing up there!" Well I stayed in my nice warm jacket, and relative to what I was expecting, it wasn't so bad. Then Sunday hit, I checked out of my hotel on 10am... and welcome to Winterfell. So, I'm a little sick and feeling sorry for myself, but getting the writing done nonetheless.
But never mind that just now, it's not why we're here. It's all about the Australian Showcase! Several Aussies got some shine over the two nights of Impact Down Under, broadcast on FITE, but this one was a free "house show" of sorts, not broadcast live, although it was recorded for some kind of future use, so we'll keep an eye out for that. Some of the wrestlers on this card competed across the previous nights, but most are getting their one shot, one opportunity (yo) here on this Showcase.
The event was free for anyone who bought tickets to Night 1 or Night 2 of Impact, and there was a meet and greet before the show- also advertised as "free entry", which was a tad misleading, because you could be in the building, but if you wanted to actually meet the stars of Impact, you had to cough up the dough. Fine by me, I had budgeted to spend a bit this weekend as a mini-holiday, but I heard some grumbling about it.
I met Knockouts World Champion, Deonna Purrazzo, Impact World Champion Alex Shelley, X-Division Champion Chris Sabin, Digital Media Champion Joe Hendry, and Killer Kelly- who may not be champion of anything, but won my heart. On a serious note, I had followed these wrestlers' careers for quite some time across different promotions (and earlier TNA days for MCMG), but as someone who wasn't a current Impact diehard coming in, Joe Hendry made me enough of a fan in two nights to want to meet him. He was an absolute gent. All were lovely, really.
On with the show!
Following the meet and greet, all the Impact wrestlers- and Scott D'Amore- went up to the stands to watch the show. We had what seemed like a few hundred fans at the meet and greet, but probably about 100 fans stayed for the Showcase. Very disappointing that more people wouldn't stick around for a free wrestling show, especially considering the talent involved. Aussie wrestlers are among the best in the world!
Match 1: Ricky South vs. Jimmy Townsend
Both men made very quick entrances, almost like they had a flight to catch right after their match. Ricky did not bring the PWA Championship out with him.
Jimmy used his agility to help combat the size, intensity and power of South, landing on his feet on a back suplex attempt, hitting an atomic drop, following by his signature springboard cross body. Ricky regained the advantage by kicking the rope into Jimmy's midsection, then landing a running boot to the head. Soon after, a spine-shattering backbreaker connects. Jimmy tries to rally, but Ricky hits a southern lariat, then sets up for the piledriver- but Jimmy reverses it into a jackknife pin for the 3 count!
Winner: Jimmy Townsend
The ring announcer, Anjelica, mistakenly announces Ricky as the winner. Whoops.
These guys have had better matches. This wasn't bad, but felt very rushed. They got some of their key stuff in, but it felt like they could have killed it with another 10 minutes. A bit like Slex vs. Brooks from Impact Night 1, minus some of the intensity those two had.
Match 2: OPW Women's Championship- Xena vs. Erika Reid
Making history here as we crown the first OPW Women's Champion. We crowned the Men's Champion on Night 2 of Impact Down Under- a big congratulations to Adam Brooks- and we've still got the tag titles to sort out too.
Xena comes out looking like a million bucks, just back from Stardom in Japan, where she is part of the Club Venus group. Meanwhile, Erika made a great impression, featuring on Night 1 of Impact against Gisele Shaw and got the crowd behind her in a big way!
They start in a fun way, as a test of strength turns into a bit of a dance-off! Things get serious as Erika hits a barrage of running strikes in the corner. Xena's got considerable skills though, firing back with a suplex and nipping up. Spinning side slam earns her a near fall. Xena keeps up the pressure, but Erika is able to find an opening and hits a Deadeye for the win!
Winner (and first OPW Women's Champion): Erika Reid
Post-match, Xena congratulates Erika, hugs her, raises her hand- then drops her with a gutbuster! Does the new OPW promotion have a feud on its hands?
Very good match, both ladies came across like big stars and polished performers. Honestly outshone a couple of the Knockouts matches from the Impact shows.
Match 3: Luke Watts vs. Matt Hayter
Not massively familiar with either of these guys, but I've seen Watts a couple of times at SLAM. He's most definitely a big time babyface there, and Hayter carries himself like an arrogant heel, but the crowd don't seem to be a big fan of Watts, with a couple yelling out that he's a "discount Ric Flair". Meanwhile, they seem to like Hayter's attitude. He shrugs like, "I'll take it."
We get some jumps and flips early, then Watts drops Hayter with an enziguri. He looks for an early dive but Hayter rolls to the other side of the ring. Hayter looks for a superkick, but it's blocked and Watts hits a standing Spanish Fly. Watts goes for the Shooting Star Press but crashes and burns, allowing Hayter to nail the superkick to end it.
Winner: Matt Hayter
These matches are short and sweet, but these guys are endeavouring to make the most of the minutes they have.
Match 4: Kingsley vs. Lena Kross
Ah, in Kingsley we have someone who can work well with limited minutes. All she needs is a moment or two to get her personality across and she's golden. On the other end of the scale, Lena is someone who can quickly get her point across with physical action.
Kingsley plays the cat and mouse game with Lena, and trips her up with a few roll-up attempts. Kross clubbers Kingsley down with a clothesline, and then mocks her. She's a tall, powerful lady and has reason to be confident. Shoulders in the corner. Lena charges Kingsley in the corner but cops a boot to the face. Soon after, Kingsley goes to the ropes and hits a super Codebreaker for the win!
Good battle. Both had their moments and clearly got across what each of their characters and wrestling styles were about, which is paramount in a Showcase like this, with the likes of Scott D'Amore watching on.
Match 5: OPW Tag Team Championship- The Parea (Gabriel Aeros & Eli Theseus) vs. Top Tier (Mitch Ryder & Tim Hayden)
The guy next to me said that this match was heel vs. heel, but it was evident early on that Queensland's Top Tier were settling into the face role for this one. The Parea exude arrogance, and are as athletic as they are cocky. I haven't seen Top Tier wrestle before, so this should be interesting.
Theseus puts a Greek flag around his neck at one point and does his version of Rene Dupree's "French Tickler" dance, but after that showboating, misses the follow up elbow drop. Ryder hits a rough looking slingshot senton at one point, but Hayden cleans up nicely after a hot tag with a top rope flying clothesline. Ryder redeems himself with a slingshot German suplex, which Hayden follows up with a top rope splash, but the pin is broken up.
The action breaks down and the Parea are able to use a ref distraction to their advantage, hitting an undetected low blow. Their double team elevated enziguri follows, and they capture the gold!
Winners (and first OPW Tag Team Champions): The Parea
One of the better matches of the day due to getting a little more time to build and breathe. Both teams showed impressive tag team synergy, always good to see tag teams in a true sense rather than feeling like two singles guys thrown together because they have nothing better to do.
Match 6: Anth Cava vs. Syd Parker
I've seen Anth Cava a time or two in MCW, first time I've seen Syd Parker wrestle. I've seen pictures of him online, so I was aware of the crazy look, but I wasn't anticipating how well his wrestling style would compliment his look! He started the match in a crazy, frenetic manner, chasing after the refined Cava.
Syd was very fast and showed some high flying acumen with a brutal looking top rope stomp to a crouched over Cava. Anth was able to eventually slow things down and gain control, and I'll tell you, it's clear this man was a Chris Masters fan, because everything from his entrance to his full nelson finisher screams it. Syd escapes the hold once, but then Anth hits a clothesline and re-applies it, and Syd is done.
Winner: Anth Cava
Anth got the win, but I walked away from that one wanting to see more of the Jurassic Punk, Syd Parker. With a spiky orange mohawk, covered in green paint, with a high-impact, high-flying style... how can you not find a spot for someone like that?
Match 7: Frankie B vs. Aysha
This match suffered from the lack of a crowd. Both characters, even with Frankie adopting a more babyface stance for this one, are big time "look at me" types, and it's a hard gimmick to lean into properly with a small audience watching.
That said, that's not a reflection on their performance, more the atmosphere they were working in. Frankie brought the fight to Aysha, including a top rope sunset flip that she seemed to land really hard on. Frankie goes for the middle rope moonsault, but Aysha gets the knees up and immediately starts talking trash. The advantage doesn't last long though, as Frankie turns it around with a faceplant, a basement dropkick and a gutwrench suplex. Nice sequence.
Frankie manages to hit the middle rope moonsault for a near fall. Just when it seemed like all hope was lost for Aysha, she takes a shortcut with a poke to the eyes. followed by a Shining Wizard and a double arm DDT to cap it off.
A well-worked match in front of a crowd that just couldn't play their part. Small crowd, but also it was towards the end of the third wrestling show in 3 days. Unless you're a weirdo like me, it's probably going to burn you out a little on the whole wrestling thing. The ladies definitely brought it, and again, bell to bell, neither would look out of place in the Knockouts division. They look like knockouts, but will definitely knock yo ass out!
Main Event: Mick Moretti vs. Jack J Bonza
This is approximately the 972nd meeting between these two, but they always have a banger match, so I'm not mad about it. Moretti brings the crowd to life a little- it's impossible to sit in silence when the Rapscallion is around!- and he gives Bonza a little grief for always being an angry man.
They play their greatest hits here- Mick engages in shenanigans by tripping Bonza up on the ropes, doing the "got ya nose" thing and luring him into the Mick Togo. Bonza's seen it all before too though, so he has his ways to deal with it- catching a handstanding Moretti and dropping him with a Tombstone. He also ties Moretti in knots with submission attempts.
Moretti unveils an interesting strategy of attacking the hand. This pays off down the stretch when they get into a chop battle and Bonza hurts his hand more trying to chop Moretti. It creates an opening where Moretti is able to hit the snapmare driver, followed by a big Stomp, to put away his fellow Nations member- if indeed, the Nations are still a thing. Rogue Army and all.
Winner: Mick Moretti
As a wrestling show, can't fault it other than feeling like it ran short. Started at 12:30 and wrapped up around 2:15, so yeah, 8 matches in that time span is pretty snappy. What we got was really fun though, incredible level of talent, especially when you consider it was free. Those people that came for the meet and greet then left severely missed out. Wasn't as good as a PWA Black Label show, but I'd definitely rate it over Academy shows and other house show type event of that ilk.
I wonder what this Showcase means for the talent involved? Was it essentially an Impact tryout? There's people on this card like Bonza and Moretti who could have been picked up by a major international promotion years ago- it seems like a no-brainer to pair Bonza and Fale in NJPW right now, not just the Tamashii off-shoot. Younger talent like Jimmy Townsend, Ricky South, Frankie B, Aysha... all with tremendously bright futures if there's any justice in this world. Then there's people like Erika Reid and Syd Parker, who I saw wrestle for the first time this weekend, but clearly have some kind of X factor around them and should be set for great things as well.
And just before we wrap up- my thoughts on Wagga Wagga. This entire thing was an initiative by the NSW Government to get more tourism to rural towns, right? Most people I talked to drove a good 4 hours plus just to see these wrestling shows. Wagga is a nice place. Bit small- found it kinda of funny that it's considered a "city". Saw a pretty light show at the Festival of W, had some great food and beers at the Thirsty Crow brewery, and checked out Wagga Zoo and Aviary before the trip back to the Gong. The zoo was cute but very tiny, with some brisk walking you could basically see the lot in 15-20 minutes. Wanted to check out the art gallery too but it closes at 2pm on a Sunday.
Wagga might be worth another trip if I get another day or two around it to see more sights, and nicer weather. All in all I spent just shy of 48 hours in Wagga, a good chunk of that time was wrestling or wrestling-adjacent activities, and Sunday was bloody freezing and gave me the sickness. So was Wagga worth the trip? I'm leaning towards no. Good thing the wrestling was worth it though.
Until next time, take care.