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OPW- Bret Hart Presents: Australian Stampede Review (13/04/2024)




By Mick Robson


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Continuing our look back at the weekend that was in Ballarat! After the ladies set it off right with a high quality all women's show, Mickie James Presents: HER, it's time for the gentlemen to take center stage! It's Australian Stampede, presented by WWE Hall of Famer, the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be (as well as my favourite Simpsons celebrity cameo), Bret "The Hitman" Hart!


Prior to Australian Stampede, the other events of the Starrcast Downunder convention were filling up the Saturday nicely. I attended the Ruthless Aggression, the Impact of TNA, Eric Bischoff: Uncensored, and TNA in the Rumble panels. I also went to a Sunday with Bret Hart following Australian Stampede. I'll have write-ups on all those individual panels in the coming days, and the goal is to have it all out by Friday. A reminder that all content hits Patreon first, so if you're reading this on the main Arena site and you're waiting on a particular article, there's a good chance it's already on Patreon!


Just as it was with the HER show, Australian Stampede boasts a nice mix of international talent with Australian mainstays and up-and-comers. And with legends like Bret Hart and Eric Bischoff making their presence known, all the ingredients are in play for an explosive show!


As it was with HER, this review will be based on my live experience, using my memory and limited note-taking during the event. The full HER and Australian Stampede shows are now available on PPV via Triller TV.


Let's do this!


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With a listed show start time of 7pm, ring announcers Lindsay Howarth and Michael Lee come out around 6:40 to jazz up the crowd at Selkirk Stadium. They then throw to our dark match of the evening, as the SLAM Champion, the Hope From The Top Rope, Luke Watts makes his entrance!


Dark Match: SLAM Championship- Luke Watts (c) vs. Dan Archer


This feels a little disrespectful, to shove the SLAM Championship in the dark match. They drew 1700 people to the Convention Centre in Canberra back in December, and they can't make the PPV card here?


Anyway, Watts and Archer are seasoned pros, and do their thing here with what they've been given. Archer draws some nice heat by insisting on absolute silence while he wrestles, which of course causes the opposite. Archer briefly beats Watts down, and the champ makes a comeback, landing on his feet on a German suplex attempt and hitting one of his own. Watts shoots Archer off the ropes and hits a Spanish Fly- and that's it!


Winner: Luke Watts (in approx. 4:00)


This wasn't a bad match, but it was very short, and it seemed like neither guy was able to really show the extent of what they're capable of. No top rope moves from the Hope From The Top Rope? No Shooting Star Press from the Master of the Shooting Star Press? Certainly disappointing, considering I know what they both can do from attending past SLAM shows. Seemed like the handcuffs were on a little.


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We move to the main show. No fancy intro video like HER got, at least from what I saw live, as we begin with the arrival of the TNA World Champion, Moose! He talks down about Ballarat and Australia- but he really hates Wagga, we'll get into that with the Impact of TNA report. He makes a challenge to any "local" Australian, and the OPW Champion, the Loose Ledge, Adam Brooks answers!


Brooksy makes it clear- he's not just "some local guy", he's a world-class pro wrestler. As the tension boils over, some familiar music hits, and we get the arrival of our General Manager of the night, Eric Bischoff! Bisch says they're making his job too easy, and books the main event of Moose vs. Adam Brooks. But that begs the question of what to do with Moose's originally scheduled opponent, Josh Alexander...


Mance Warner comes out and gets in Bischoff's face. "This show is just booking itself," laughs Eric. He makes Mance vs. Josh Alexander. Alexander comes out, and Bischoff offers to up the stakes by making the match a "Ballarat Brawl"- no disqualifications, no count-out, anything goes. Josh is for it, and Mance gets in Eric's face once more, warning the "old man" to not try "any of that karate stuff" and gives the former WCW head honcho a shove. Bischoff responds with a body shot, and with that, our opening match is on!


Match 1: Ballarat Brawl- Mance Warner vs. Josh Alexander


In very short order, the fight spills into the crowd and up into the stands. Couldn't see a thing live if you weren't in that section, hopefully cameras on Triller/FITE captured it well. During the chaotic brawling, Mance took issue with a fan that was dressed in a full Shrek bodysuit. Book Mance vs. Shrek for the next OPW show!


As the fight gets back to the ring, we waste little time grabbing implements of destruction. Mance grabs a bunch of chairs and even a screwdriver, while Josh responds to requests of "get the tables" by grabbing two thick wooden boards that resemble doors. He props them up on chairs as makeshift table legs. Mance superplexes Josh onto the boards, but truthfully takes the brunt of the impact himself. The boards do not break.


We up the ante with the most deadly weapon of all- a packet of Tim Tams! Josh grabs them, and Mance laughs- before getting hit in the nuts with the biscuits! Alexander bitch slaps him with Australia's greatest export not named Margot Robbie, then powerbombs him through one of the boards! It gets a near fall. So, Josh powerbombs Mance through another one, followed by the ankle lock, and that'll do it!


Winner: Josh Alexander (at 13:14)


This was a damn fun car crash to start the proper PPV card. It was my first time seeing Mance Warner perform at all, and I like his style. I've seen Josh Alexander wrestle a couple of times- although funnily enough, I haven't seen the acclaimed Will Ospreay match- and he was impressive again here, adapting to the hardcore environment.


As Mance struggles to the back, he continues to yell at Shrek. Gold.


Bharat Sundaresen enters to introduce Team India for the International Showcase match. He served as the replacement host for the panels that Conrad Thompson was supposed to do- sadly, Conrad was unable to make the trip to Australia due to a death in his family. Condolences go out to Conrad and his family.


Bharat heels on the crowd, of course, and makes reference to India beating Australia in cricket, which draws major boos. With his brightly coloured attire and gift of the gab, Bharat would make a fine pro wrestling manager if he wanted to go down that route as a career. He's already added far more than the radio hosts on HER added in the Tenille/Jess match.


Match 2: International Showcase- Team India (Shanky Singh, JT Baba & Toofan Singh) vs. Team Australia (Emman Azman & The Natural Classics (Tome and Stevie Filip))


It's a little jarring seeing the Classics work as babyfaces. They do have high flying abilities that lends itself to cheers, but typically have an arrogant demeanor which they toned down for this match. It's my first time seeing Baba and Toofan, who seem solid enough, but of course, the difference maker for their team is the giant Shanky, a former WWE wrestler. He even makes his presence felt from the apron, hitting a clothesline when one of the Filips get too close.


Emman Azman, due to his small stature, is used to playing the undersized underdog, and has some great bursts of offense here, including launching off a wrestler's back into a flying headscissors! Shanky gets a big moment in where he military presses Emman to the outside onto the Classics! We get a breakdown where everyone starting hitting their best moves on everyone, then Tome wipes out everyone with a tope con hilo at ringside! The Aussies are back in control, as the Classics hit Baba with a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo, then Emman finishes the job with the KL Gold running elbow!


Winners: Team Australia (at 9:06)


I thought that this was an entertaining sprint of a showcase, more designed to highlight the Aussies- Emman and the Classics are absolutely among the best talent in the country. Team India held their own and had their moments, and I thought Shanky was used well with his intermittent power spots as a monster, with Baba and Toofan handling most of the workload for the team. I'm always pro-anything that makes the Aussie talent shine, and that's what we got here!


So Cal Val is on stage with Chris Masters for an interview about his match later in the show. He's confident in his abilities and represents all the Harts as the Stu Hart Heritage Champion. He also calls himself Chris Adonis, but I'm pretty sure, trademarks be damned, they're calling him Masters on this show.


Match 3: Robbie Eagles vs. Kushida


Now THIS was the match I was most looking forward to on the Australian Stampede card. Robbie, although he splits his time between here and New Japan, is probably the best active wrestler in Australia in my opinion. And of course, Kushida has been an outstanding wrestler wherever he's gone, from NJPW to WWE to TNA and anywhere else he's stepped in a ring. Fun fact- Kushida was the first wrestler I saw when I arrived in Ballarat for Starrcast. Stepped outside the train station, and the Time Splitter was walking past!


A great mix of styles in this match. Both have comparable skill sets as junior heavyweights with a submission focused attack- Robbie with the Ron Miller Special attacking the leg, Kushida with the Hoverboard Lock going after the arms. But both can really do it all, so we started early with respectful chain wrestling, then going into more aggressive strikes, and also mixing in some high flying. A real treat.


Robbie did a nice flip fake out on a dive to the outside, but Kushida quickly regains himself, throwing Eagles to the outside then sending him into the steel barricade HARD with a baseball slide. Back in the ring, Kushida turns Robbie inside out with a clothesline for a near fall. A little strong style flavour. They trade kicks and Kushida performs a beautiful counter of the Turbo Backpack into a rolling armbar. Eagles escaped and managed to hit the signature Backpack, followed by his 450 Splash to the leg of Kushida, and finally, the Ron Miller Special to get the tap!


Winner: Robbie Eagles (at 13:59)


An outstanding match, and although there was definitely some later competition for it, this would be my Match of the Night. Both guys were so fluid and on point, it was like violent artistry in that ring. Wrestle Radio Australia Tweeted "honestly don't know if these fans know how lucky they are to see Kushida vs. Robbie Eagles"- and honestly, a fair point, but I do think the work here won the vast majority of people over by the time the match ended.


It's almost a microcosm of what OPW/Starrcast could achieve as a whole- I'm sure the attraction for a lot of fans in turning up is seeing legends and ex-WWE stars like Bret Hart, Mickie James, Shelton Benjamin etc, or even the TNA stars... but the people that turn up for that see an awesome Aussie wrestler like Robbie Eagles tearing it up, and hopefully it'll incentivize people to look closer into the Australian wrestling scene as well.


Match 4: Shelton Benjamin vs. Tommy Knight


This was a bit of a makeshift "card subject to change" kinda deal. Originally, Shelton Benjamin was set to wrestle Slex, which would have been a banger for sure, but unfortunately, a couple of days before the event, Slex was not medically cleared to wrestle. Meanwhile, Tommy Knight was going to face AEW's Powerhouse Hobbs in a "big meaty men slapping meat" fest, but it was cancelled at the 11th hour due to "scheduling issues"- that is, Tony Khan pulling Hobbs from a tour he's been advertised for for months to throw him in a tag match on Collision where Takeshita could have easily taken his place. Absolute shit move by Tony Khan, but then again, it's the same week where he aired the CM Punk/Jack Perry "fight" on Dynamite, so I guess he's not in his right mind these days.


My annoyance about all that aside, OPW did the logical thing and put the two guys without opponents together for a match. Seemingly a very different match than what either guy was scheduled for, at short notice, but they really made it work. Tommy got some nice heat by blindsiding Shelton before the bell. He's fittingly known as The Prodigy- a mountain of a man at 140kg, but that man can MOVE! He drove the air out of Shelton early with a brutal running senton. Shelton staggers the big man by ending a striking exchange with his Dragon Whip kick! He tries to knock down Knight with clotheslines, but falls victim to the World's Strongest Slam instead.


Tommy Knight goes for a Hail Mary move with a top rope senton, but Benjamin thankfully moves out of the way! Incredible display of power follows as Shelton hits him with a powerbomb! They trade German suplexes and Tommy goes up top again. Shelton meets him with a leaping superplex, then a running knee strike in the opposite corner, followed by Paydirt! Big win for Shelton!


Winner: Shelton Benjamin (at 8:06)


You know when I said other matches were in competition for Match of the Night? Well, I'd put this one right up there. Even after 20+ years, Shelton is still an absolute beast. My first ever wrestling show, WWE in Sydney in 2005. Shelton had the MOTN with Christian for the IC title, and he's still delivering the goods with a new generation today. Tommy Knight is a scary blend of power and agility, an incredibly impressive athlete. There's a reason why I named him as one of my 10 Aussie wrestlers to watch in 2024. Keep your eyes on The Prodigy!


Bret Hart makes his entrance in Ballarat to a great reception! He talks about being happy to be in Australia, and being proud of the history of the Hart Family, which leads into the upcoming Stu Hart Heritage Championship match. He's going to take a ringside seat to watch how this one plays out.


Match 5: Stu Hart Heritage Championship- Chris Masters (c) vs. Mike Rallis


This is the first match post-WWE for the man formerly known as Madcap Moss- at least, if Cagematch is correct. Both these guys are "body guys" in a sense- Masters has talked about trying to shed that label, but when you attain fame as "the Masterpiece", it kinda comes with the territory.


We get a fair bit of trying to assert dominance in the early going, with both men hitting clubbing shots, driving each other's heads into the turnbuckles, generally trying to wear the other down. Masters drops Rallis with a flying shoulder tackle from the second rope. Rallis comes back with a running kick and a big fall away slam. Impressive power! He then gets a bit cheeky by putting Masters in the Sharpshooter in front of Bret Hart, but Masters makes the ropes.


Masters comes back with a shoulder block, a clothesline and a Russian leg sweep for a near fall. Rallis tries a neckbreaker, Masters counters with a backslide, then hits a spinebuster for another near fall. Masters looks for the Masterlock, but Rallis blocks it and delivers a uranage for a near fall of his own. The battle continues, and as they run the ropes, Masters ducks under and locks in the Masterlock! And that'll do it!


Winner: Chris Masters (at 12:42)


Unfortunately, not one of the MOTN contenders. Not a terrible match, just average. Speaks more to the quality of the other matches we've had so far, really. Rallis looks like a million bucks, even with his time out of the ring, but his actual wrestling matches don't particularly set the world on fire. Masters was over with the crowd, which helped things- and also on a personal note, he was probably the most engaging and friendly of all the wrestlers at Starrcast. That says a lot as most were fantastic and very personable, taking their time to have a conversation and a meaningful interaction with the fans.


Post-match, Bret kisses the belt and gives it to Masters, raising his hand. A very nice moment.


Intermission time! I went to get a drink and a photo with Shrek. What a star!


Match 6: OPW Tag Team Championship- Gangrel & Edward Dusk vs. The Parea (Eli Theseus & Gabriel Aeros) (c)


I was rocking out during the entrances for this one. Gangrel's entrance as a kid was one of my core childhood memories. Unfortunately, no ring of fire here, but we do get him spitting out the blood- or the "red, viscous liquid" as they called it on WWF TV back then. And the Parea's theme is a remix of Eminem's "Lose Yourself"- my favourite song. So I was having a great time before the bell even rang!


With all due respect to The Parea and Dusk, who I rate quite highly, Gangrel largely stole the show here for me. Perhaps some of it was that childhood nostalgia, but I was very entertained and impressed by him from start to finish. Even when he was on the apron waiting for a tag, he was constantly playing to the crowd and getting them to react in a way that no one else on the show really was. Theseus and Aeros were effective foils, getting their shots in on both Gangrel and Dusk wherever they could. When Gangrel got the hot tag, it was mesmerising to see- he had a noticeable limp coming into the ring. He would deliver his offense with a great snap and burst of speed, looking 20 years younger- then tag out and be limping again. It was amazing.


Of course, the Parea were looking to take any shortcut that they could, trying to unfairly double team. Gabriel tried a cheap shot on Gangrel, who ducked and the shot took out Eli instead! Dusk came in at the perfect time with a roaring elbow, and Gangrel finished the job with the Implant DDT! We have new champions!


Winners: Gangrel & Edward Dusk (at 11:41)


Very fun outing, and I loved the call to let Gangrel shine here. I'd say that a large majority of the fans in attendance for the Starrcast weekend, like me, grew up on the Attitude Era, so to give the people what they want like that felt special. Dusk looked over the moon at getting a big win alongside a legend as well, and although he's shined in places like MCW as a main event singles star, he fell into this babyface supporting role very well, proving his versatility. Plus, the title win likely means... we get Gangrel back at least one more OPW tour!


Main Event: TNA World Championship- Adam Brooks vs. Moose (c)


Adam Brooks has been one of Australia's most consistently great performers for many years now. Along with Slex, he was actually signed with ROH until the damn pandemic got in the way. So it's very cool to see him get featured like this opposite the TNA World Champion.


"The Loose Ledge" showed no fear against the bigger champion, taking the fight right to him. The power of Moose is something else though, planting Brooksy with an uranage for an early near fall. They battle to ringside and Moose goes for a Spear through the barricade, but Brooks moves and Moose crashes and burns BIG TIME. That looked nasty!


Back in the ring, Brooksy has Moose reeling with punches and chops. He hits a flatliner into the middle turnbuckle, followed by a big boot. Brooksy with the backstabber and the champ is in trouble. Brooksy goes up top but Moose gets out of the way. A series of pinning combinations follow and Moose explodes with a powerbomb out of nowhere! Somehow, Brooks kicks out!


Moose looks for the Spear again and Brooksy moves again. Huge dropkick in the corner follows, then Brooks goes up top and hits the Swanton Bomb! 1, 2... and Moose gets his foot on the ropes! Brooks tries to follow up but gets dropped throat first on the ropes. Moose follows up finally with the Spear, and it's all over!


Winner: Moose (at 16:23)


This was everything you would want a champion vs. champion encounter to be. Brooks is the OPW Champion, stepping up to face the TNA Champion, and he looked credible every step of the way. Despite the size difference, Brooks wasn't shown to be some plucky underdog exactly, he got the better of Moose at different times with timing, smarts and skills. Cool way to end with Brooks getting the better of Moose if it wasn't for that pesky rope break, only for Moose to just barely gut it out.


Also, Moose gave Brooks his flowers on social media later, posting a shot from this match saying "somebody sign this man". Hell of an endorsement.


Overall Thoughts


This show was another triumph for OPW and Aussie wrestling as a whole. It warms my heart as a long time supporter of Aussie wrestling, to see shows like this where Aussies show that they're as good, if not better than the internationals. They just need the opportunities, living in this remote part of the world, to prove it. Australian Stampede was a high quality show, with Robbie/Kushida, Benjamin/Knight and Brooksy/Moose all being outstanding matches. Plus the Ballarat Brawl was a pleasant surprise and brilliant chaos.


Overall Score: 8.5/10


Additionally, the whole Starrcast experience was tremendous, getting to meet so many stars, legends, Hall of Famers, hearing them talk about their careers and getting to explore Ballarat in the process. But we'll get more into that with our Starrcast panel reports in the coming days!


Until next time, take care.

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Who's Behind The Blog
Image of Mick Robson, founder of The Arena Media

Mick Robson is a freelance writer from Australia. A lifelong fan of pro wrestling and MMA, he endeavours to bring that passion through his coverage in news, reviews and opinion pieces.

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