Impact Wrestling Down Under Tour Night 1- Results & Review (30/06/2023)
By Mick Robson
It's been a minute, but we are back on The Arena Media! Hiatus over and done with, personal issues taken care of, my mind, body and soul is doing... okay. Hah.
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Plug over- I've chosen quite a big weekend to kick things off, as Impact Wrestling is touring Australia for the first time ever with the Down Under Tour. We're deep in the heart of Wagga Wagga- as Joe Hendry says during this show, a city so nice, they named it twice. We've got two nights of Impact Wrestling- with a handful of Aussie wrestlers sprinkled in- and an Aussie Showcase on Sunday afternoon, giving more Australian wrestlers a chance to impress Scott D'Amore and the powers that be at Impact.
A little background on this one- the NSW Government are funding this in a bid to increase tourism to the city of Wagga (as Aussies call it, because we're too lazy to say the name twice). Originally, it was meant to be New Japan Pro Wrestling making the trip for something called the Oceania Cup, but scheduling conflicts arose, and we've got Impact Wrestling instead. After I write this review, I'm going to Google "things to do in Wagga", because ya boi checked into his hotel at about 6:20pm, threw his stuff into the room, and flew to the Equex Centre to get to my seat with about 5 minutes to spare.
Let's do this!
We open with a Welcome To Country by an Aboriginal Elder. A classy touch to add a splash of indigenous Australian culture to proceedings. I'm basing this review on my in-person experience, not the FITE broadcast, but I did come across an IG post featuring Tom Hannifan on commentary (from the studio) stating that they were the first wrestling company to receive such a Welcome.
Match 1: Slex vs. Adam Brooks
The action starts with two very experienced Aussie stars getting us going. Both men were actually signed to Ring of Honor and set for a ROH PPV match before the pandemic shut those plans down. I read some online complaints about matching these two up- and it's a theme across the shows this weekend in Wagga- they have taken wrestlers who have had seemingly 100s of matches together on the Aussie scene and paired them up. And while I understand wanting to see fresh match-ups, I also get the logic of the matchmaking, they have familarity, they have chemistry, and that's the best way to showcase their talents to a worldwide audience who may have never seen them before.
So we get a lot of back and forth between the two Melbourne mainstays, lots of chain wrestling, counter holds, and evasions. You can tell by the pace they're setting that we're not locked in for a 25 minute barnburner. Brooksy goes for a suicide dive, but is caught and awkwardly suplexed on the apron. Later, we get back in the ring, but not for too long, as both men are jockeying for position going for a vertical suplex, and they both tumble over the ropes to the floor!
We don't have much time to catch our breath, as Brooks takes control in the ring and looks for the massive Swanton from the top- only for Slex to get the knees up! The Business gets back up and nails the Slexecution tornado kick for the win.
Both Slex and Brooks came to make a statement in that one, and I believe that statement was "sign us motherf***er!" The match ran under 10 minutes, so relatively short, but oh so sweet. Balls to the wall action.
We get a promo on the big screen from the Motor City Machine Guns. They talk about their history in TNA/Impact, with Chris Sabin having been X-Division Champion before, but Alex Shelley experiencing something very new, as the brand new Impact World Champion. They've got separate matches on Night 1 but join forces as MCMG to take on ABC on Night 2.
Match 2: Gisele Shaw vs. Erika Reid
This is my first time seeing either of these ladies wrestle. Cards on the table- I don't follow Impact Wrestling closely. Used to watch a bit from around 2005-2010, then the whole Hogan Era put me off. Seen a couple of shows over the years since, but nothing with Gisele on it.
The crowd gives Gisele and Erika lots of respect early, but it's quickly apparent that the Quintessential Diva isn't having it. She beats down Erika, and when Erika appears to suffer some sort of arm injury, Gisele zeroes in on it like a shark smelling blood. She has a great time mocking Erika and the Wagga crowd in the process. Reid is a plucky underdog though, and gets the crowd right behind her as she tries to make a fiery comeback. Shaw cuts her off though, locking in an armbar at a grotesque angle, and Erika is forced to tap!
Winner: Gisele Shaw
A solid outing from both. Gisele has a ton of personality and had no issue riling up the people, while the proud Wiradjuri lady, Erika has an innate X-factor- the people LOVED her despite her not yet having the fanbase/exposure of the Impact talent or some of the more high profile Aussies.
Steve Maclin gives a short promo where he acknowledges that mistakes were made in his title loss, but he's going to rectify that. He challenges Shelley for the Impact gold in our main event.
Match 3: Impact Digital Media Championship- Eddie Edwards vs. Joe Hendry
I have seen Eddie Edwards wrestle a couple of times, but Joe Hendry was completely new to me, and my lord, I think I have a new favourite wrestler. Charisma out the wazoo. I BELIEVE IN JOE HENDRY! Hendry cuts a well-received pre-match promo, but even before that, his music and presence immediately caught my attention.
Eddie is hard hitting and blisters Hendry with some brutal chops- Scottish skin, I have that heritage and feel his pain. The crowd is heavily involved here, willing Hendry on at every step of the way, and he impresses with a big fall away slam and a kip up. A big uranage puts Edwards away.
Winner: Joe Hendry
So, I need to binge all the Joe Hendry stuff I can find. A very quick YouTube search shows that the man makes music videos like "Edge's B***h" for Brian Myers? Wow. What a dude.
We get a short promo showing the wrestlers checking out Wagga Zoo. Hmm, maybe that's something I could hit up tomorrow.
Match 4: Killer Kelly vs. Aysha
Unlike the previous women's match, the Aussie gets little to no love from the crowd. That's because people LOVE Killer Kelly. I have seen Kelly wrestle before- I remember her from her NXT UK days- but Impact have really nailed her presentation- her entrance bathed in red light was an entrancing sight.
Aysha looks creeped out in the early going, and Kelly does a little mind games by crawling towards her. When the action gets going, things get serious, as Kelly busts out an array of suplexes that look absolutely brutal. Panicked, Aysha reached for the bottle of champagne she brought to the ring- hey, I thought the Equex Centre was an alcohol free zone!- but it backfires. Kelly locks in an interesting choke- looked a bit like an anaconda vice to start but rolled into an RNC/Tazmission looking deal... might have to check out the FITE broadcast for that one. Anyway...
Winner: Killer Kelly
Lots of fun on both sides, with both ladies showing a ton of personality in very different ways. It did feel a little more like a showcase for Kelly, but that's fine, this is an Impact show. We know from Renegades @ Knotfest that Aysha has all the tools to be a big star- in this country and beyond.
Match 5: X Division Championship- Chris Sabin (c) vs. Frankie Kazarian vs. Robbie Eagles
This was the match I was most looking forward to on Night 1. All three men get a healthy amount of cheers and respect from the crowd, and even a "this is awesome" chant at the start. Sabin humourously notes, "But we haven't done anything yet!"
Break-neck pace through this one, but unlike Slex vs. Brooks in the opener, this wasn't particularly short. I appreciated the effort to have all 3 men involved in spots throughout, rather than the tired old trope of "one man gets taken out, we do some one on one, then that man comes back for a different one on one". Very small portions of one guy being out, but lots of trading of strikes and holds, as well as breaking up pin attempts- Kazarian particularly impressed by breaking up a pin with a slingshot leg drop. Ultimately, Sabin gets Kaz out for a moment, allowing him to hit Robbie with the Cradle Shock and retain.
Winner: Chris Sabin
I had very high hopes for this match, and I would say that they met them. Great action and innovation, and our own Robbie Eagles looked completely like he belonged alongside the Impact vets. Sniper Bob in the X-Division, anyone?
Match 6: Impact Tag Team Championship- Moose & Brian Myers vs. ABC (c)
The Ace and Bey Club received a hero's welcome coming in. Moose got some respect (and perhaps fear), and we got under the skin of Myers. I'll say this- as someone who hasn't really followed Impact, it's refreshing to see Myers as more serious and credible here than Curt Hawkins was.
Chris Bey played the face in peril for much of this one, but managed to create an opening- and a hell of a moment- when the 280lb Moose decided to take to the skies and Bey caught him with a cutter! Tag to Ace and we get some rapid fire tag offense that had the crowd rocking. Myers tried to weasel his way to openings, but with Ace keeping Moose at bay, Bay hit the most devastating move in sports entertainment, the schoolboy! And still.
I did catch a recent match of ABC which had me interested in this one as well, but damn! That was right there with the X Division match for MOTN consideration.
Match 7: Deonna Purrazzo (c) vs. Steph De Lander
I think this may have been a non-title match, with Deonna set to face Gisele Shaw for the women's gold on Night 2. Steph grabs the mic pre-match and talks about coming home and having the Southern Cross on her gear... but of course, it was all a set-up to heel on the crowd and call Wagga "the worst city in Australia". Look, jury's still out for me on that one. I got here, went to the show, came back to the hotel, woke up and wrote this review. It's currently 9:53am on Saturday as I write this. I'll give my thoughts on Wagga at the end of this weekend. Maybe in the Aussie Showcase review.
SDL is always the main physical presence in any match she's in, a towering figure that Deonna couldn't just knock down with brute force. Steph takes control with clotheslines and big boots, but they call the champ "the Virtuosa" for a reason, and its her graceful, clinical way of dissecting her opponent's body. She chips away and chips away, and eventually applies the Fujiwara armbar for the win.
Winner: Deonna Purrazzo
This had some similarities to the Gisele vs. Erika match, only with a David vs. Goliath twist. Gisele was bullying with her submission game, breaking down the underdog, whereas Purrazzo worked as the underdog due to the size difference, and used the weakening of the arm to combat the power game. Good outing, but I think both will shine more on Night 2 with their different opponents.
Main Event: Impact World Championship- Steve Maclin vs. Alex Shelley (c)
Big time support for Alex Shelley! I mentioned not following Impact closely, but I do know and appreciate the Motor City Machine Guns. To see Shelley capture the world title was a huge surprise to me. My friend Keanu, who IS a big Impact fan, also shared that same surprise.
The champ spent much of this match fighting from underneath. Maclin was bigger, harder-hitting and stronger... but was he tougher? Shelley put that to the test with his game plan, attacking the legs with multiple kicks and dragon screws, even using the ropes for assistance. Maclin was in agony, further compounded when Shelley applied the Figure Four! Somehow Maclin made the ropes, but you know what they say about a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Keanu picked the worst time to say something to me, but a move was hit, and I looked in the ring to see Shelley pin and win. I would guess it was Shellshock.
Winner: Alex Shelley
Great battle here. Maclin is imposing and hard-hitting, and Shelley showed all the guts and heart you could want from a fighting world champion.
Post-match (and I would say after we went off the air on FITE), Shelley grabs the mic and thanks the fans, saying that without the fans, there wouldn't be pro wrestling, let alone Impact Wrestling. He also says he dreamed of being world champion as a kid, and specifically dreamed of coming to Australia.
This was a high quality wrestling show. Maybe it's because I'm used to WWE house show tours where a lot of the talent seem to just get by, but I felt like the Impact crew really took pride in this, and gave it their all. Especially considering we have a Night 2 tonight, they could be forgiven for taking it a little easy. But the X Division, Tag & World Title matches were all PPV quality in my book, and of course the Aussie talents were hungry and eager to impress. They all looked like they belonged. Slex, Brooks and Eagles have been at that level for years, and Erika Reid is one to watch for sure.
The crowd was fun and engaged in what they were seeing. It wasn't completely sold out for Night 1, but a quick look at the website shows that Night 2 is close to full capacity. Running a place like Wagga, a country town in between Sydney & Melbourne, is a tough sell. Even more so on a Friday. It took me 4.5 hours to drive to Wagga. As I said earlier, we'll see if Wagga is worth the trip at the end of this weekend. But the Impact/Aus stars made sure to deliver a show worth the price of admission.
We're just getting started, baby!
Until next time, take care.