IWA 25 Year Anniversary Review (14/10/2023)
By Mick Robson
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My journey as an Aussie wrestling fan has been a fun and sometimes strange one. For the longest time, I stuck to only 2 Aussie promotions- first, Rock N Roll Wrestling, as it is the local promotion in my hometown of Wollongong. Then in early 2018, PWA caught my attention, combining a few of my Rock N Roll favourites with Bullet Club members Bad Luck Fale and Gino Gambino.
In the last couple of years, I started expanding my horizons more. I've attended Newy Pro, MCW, All Star Wrestling, Renegades of Wrestling and Slam Pro League. But this very show we're reviewing today was my first experience of IWA. Celebrating 25 years, it is the longest tenured Aussie wrestling promotion. It boasts an eclectic roster featuring some of the best talents in the country, a mix of veterans and up-and-coming rising stars. The card caught my attention, with some excellent matchmaking. And with tickets being only $10 ($5 if you're a member of the club), it was a no-brainer.
I made the trip up from the Gong with a couple of hours to spare, so at the recommendation of The Tuckman in our interview (here: https://youtu.be/vP18PlWqV0U?si=d-KvT5_aGHkzDuWB), I grabbed a Meat Lovers pizza from St John's Park Bowling Club. Went down a treat, and it's a beautiful venue. I've been to a fair few bowling clubs- actually played some lawn bowls in my youth- but rarely have seen one this grand, with a multi-storey car park and sparkling areas. Even the pokie room looked great, although it wasn't kind to me on this night.
Enough about that though, you're here for the wrestling takes, so let's do this!
Also, a quick note: I'm throwing the star ratings back in for this one. Stopped it for a little while because it was getting divisive. I might write a separate article going into more detail, but basically, it's meant as a general guide of how good the match was, it's one guy's opinion, and you don't have to take it super seriously. As in movies, TV shows, video games, music etc- it's just a recognisable way to evaluate a subjective form of entertainment.
We begin the show with the introduction of our commentary team- the legendary Ed Lock and the Prize Bull, Sam Osborne. This show wasn't broadcast on any streaming service, so the commentary was on live mics purely for the paying audience, which is a novel experience for me. I haven't experienced that before.
Ed is also doing the ring announcing as well as play by play commentary, and introduces our referee for the evening, "Cosmo" Cooper Ward.
Match 1: The Tuckman vs. Ricky South
The story of the match was the more experienced South not quite taking Tuckman seriously. Tucky likes to have a drink and party (although he swapped the beers for cans of V at this family-friendly show), but he can go when the situation calls for it. A lot of Tuckman's offense saw him showcase his agility, frustrating and flustering Ricky with a variety of ways to hit arm drags that sent the reigning PWA champ flying. Ricky tries to hit Tuckman with the piledriver but he's wise to it, escaping and keeping the pressure and speed up. Tuckman gets an opening for a big power move and takes it, drilling South with a massive powerbomb for a near fall! This almost seems to wake Ricky up, and he drops Tuckman with the signature piledriver for the 3 count!
Winner: Ricky South
Star Rating: ***1/2. Great showing in defeat by The Tuckman, but Ricky South showed why he's established in the upper echeleon of Australian wrestlers right now. I could have easily watched them go at it for another 10-15 minutes, but they set a snappy, engaging pace to start the show off hot. Also, I have a little extra layer of appreciation for this match after watching the excellent "Foxhole" videos that have been released this week in advance of PWA Colosseum, which features Ricky, Tuckman and Jimmy Townsend training together. Definitely a bright future for The Tuckman. As for Ricky, let's hope he doesn't take Jessica Troy lightly this coming weekend...
IWA Trans-Tasman Champion Will Kiedis makes his entrance. Before he has his match, he wants to speak, and his buddy Sam Osborne happily obliges by handing him a mic. Kiedis, of course, insults the crowd before getting down to business- he wants to face Brad Alexander on January 20 in an I Quit match! I'm not too familiar with Alexander or his links to Kiedis, but the Anchorman is supremely talented and I'm quite partial to the I Quit gimmick, so might have to make the trip up again for that one.
Match 2: IWA Trans-Tasman Championship- Will Kiedis (c) vs. Scott Green
Scott is full of energy and throws Kiedis off with constant running of the ropes and hitting snappy moves like hurricanranas- all while holding his packet of Smith's Chips, of course. Kiedis gains the upper hand through underhanded means, such as choking, raking the eyes, and pummeling Green in the corner. Referee Cosmo has to step in a number of times to break the holds before the 5 count and disqualification. This prompts an irate Kiedis to get in the referee's face, shoving him aggressively. Cosmo eventually has enough and shoves him back- right into an inside cradle by Green for the win!
Winner: Scott Green
Star Rating: ***. Big time surprise factor boosted this one! Move for move, not as action packed as our opener with Ricky and Tuckman, but this was more about the interplay between characters, as Kiedis and Green are polar opposite personalities, and the referee's issues with Kiedis enhanced that. This did have the feel of a small part of a bigger story, which we'll get to later, but the newsworthy element of a title change, with a strong reaction from the crowd, helped set this apart as a uniquely strong element of the show.
Match 3: Cowboy Chris Abbott vs. Paris De Silva
This was an open challenge by the Cowboy, and one half of the Velocities stepped up to answer the call. As Ed Lock notes on commentary, Paris is giving up around 30kg to Abbott, but he makes up for that with his speed and innovation, literally running circles around Abbott before locking in the Throne (backpack abdominal stretch). I can't tell if Abbott's character is face or heel, some of his mannerisms and actions feel muted, the crowd gives a mix of boos and cheers, but he does display sportsmanship at the beginning of the match with a handshake. Paris is the clear fan favourite, but in the end, the size is too much, and Abbott hits a wicked finisher- a full nelson slam into a GTS of sorts- and De Silva is done.
Winner: Cowboy Chris Abbott
Star Rating: ***1/4. Fun outing. I need to see more of Cowboy Chris Abbott to figure out his deal, and it's always nice to see the dynamic Paris do his thing.
Match 4: Cherry Stephens vs. Charli Evans
This was one of the matches that sold me on coming up to IWA. They wrestled each other in a PWA Black Label opener a couple of years ago, but both ladies- especially Cherry so early in her career- have come a long way since then. There's a slight tinge of the theme from the first match here- confident veteran vs. outmatched rookie- but Cherry holds her own with some big moves throughout, including a stunning kick and a leaping DDT. Cherry's downfall was a continued reliance on her textbook, being a student of professional wrestling. It's a character beat that Cherry isn't as attached to in her current PWA arc, but the canon is a little different in IWA, and it plays well for a splash of comedy, giving Charli openings to attack. Although a Shining Wizard from Stephens comes close, it's a massive lariat that takes Cherry's head off, giving the Violence Artist the win!
Winner: Charli Evans
Star Rating: ***3/4. Definite match of the night to this point. Both women brought the intensity and big fight feel. While both had their moments offensively, I do feel it skewed more towards Evans' favour through most of the duration. Much like Tuckman vs. South, I wonder if in a PWA ring the match would get more time and more offense on both sides. Regardless, an excellent effort here that I was right into.
I'm late coming back from intermission, due to helping a friend out outside, so thanks to Adam Pokrajac (occasional Arena contributor) for providing some details on the things I missed.
The Robbie Zucco Lifetime Appreciation award ceremony. Zucco wasn't there so Vinnie Vain claimed it on his behalf. He claimed that he was No. 1 contender to the Trans-Tasman Championship and threatened Rob Oxley and Ed Lock in the process. Vinnie claims the award and championship are his birthright as Zucco is allegedly his father. Vinnie Vain gets his shot on November 25th at Pittwater RSL.
Will Kiedis and Sam Osborne return to complain about the referee's actions in the Trans-Tasman title match, the shove and a fast count. Rob Oxley agrees and restarts the match between Kiedis and Green.
Match 5: IWA Trans-Tasman Championship- Will Kiedis vs. Scott Green
Got back in for the finishing sequence of this match. We had interference by Sam Osborne, costing Scott Green the title. Kiedis nails the Shining Wizard for the win. Regrettably, I confirmed with both Scott Green and Rob Oxley after the show, and Scott's hour-long title reign does not officially count in the record books.
Winner: Will Kiedis
Star Rating: N/A
Main Event: IWA Heavyweight Championship- Jimmy Townsend vs. Jackson Kelly (c)
Kelly's uber-long title reign has been frozen coming into this match, due to a refusal to defend the gold, although he will cross the threshhold of 900 days as champion if he can beat Townsend here. Big fight feel.
Jimmy takes the fight to Kelly in the early going, forcing him to powder to ringside. Although it seems as if he's going to take his belt and go home momentarily, he eventually gets back in and resumes the fight. The champ goes for the Golden Boot, it doesn't connect. Jimmy fails to land on the moonsault initially. The dreaded schoolboy from the former Prefect only gets a two count. With North Shore Wrestling's Jackson Kelly on the ropes, a ref bump sees Sam Osborne and Will Kiedis get involved. The lights go out and we get the return of Randal! The IWA crowd pops and he drops Kelly with a Cutter. Kelly once again tries to flee with his belt, but is stopped by Scott Green, Tuckman, and Ed Lock, who bellows at him to "GET IN THE RING!" Townsend hits three devastating superkicks, followed by the moonsault, and we have a new champion!
Winner: Jimmy Townsend
Star Rating: ****. An epic main event with an incredibly satisfying finish. Part of me wants to call it overbooked, with the amount of bodies and interference involved, but truthfully, it was that chaos that absolutely made the match. It's quite the strong statement on such a milestone show, taking the belt off the long-reigning heel champion and putting it on the strong young babyface. Cody Rhodes couldn't finish the story, but Jimmy Townsend sure did! And a new chapter surely begins for Townsend, as the standard bearer for IWA for the time being. A stellar end to the show!
After the match, I got photos with our new champ, Jimmy Townsend, as well as Charli Evans. Had a chat with Tuckman, as well as the aforementioned check-in with IWA head honcho Rob Oxley and the "still-Trans-Tasman-Champion-in-my-heart" Scott Green. Oxley mentioned to me that IWA is coming to Wollongong, he believes it's happening in February. Also, keep an eye out for some new Scott Green merch coming soon! Support the Smoke Show!
Great first impression of IWA. It's easy to see why they're a mainstay of Aussie wrestling for the last 25 years. I don't know if there's any kind of aspiration to be a PWA or MCW level of promotion, but I don't think they need to be- it's not the only measure of success. To be able to come in and put on these fun, breezy, family-friendly shows, and still have a high level of quality wrestling to go along with that lighter tone, it really works, and there's a certain energy about it that's really charming. And again, for $10 a ticket, it's the best bang for your buck that you're going to get on the Aussie wrestling scene, I highly recommend getting yourself to an IWA show if you can!
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care!