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OPW- Mickie James Presents: HER Review (12/04/2024)




By Mick Robson


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Back with another review of an Aussie wrestling show! It's been a huge few days in Ballarat for this writer, who attended all four days of Starrcast Downunder. Organised and promoted by Oceania Pro Wrestling, this was the first time that the pro wrestling convention Starrcast travelled outside the United States, so a massive get for Australia and Australian wrestling fans. A big thanks to Cam Vale and the team at OPW for getting this done.


The overall experience of Starrcast was amazing. Although I wasn't able to get media credentials for this event, I still enjoyed it all as a fan and, ultimately, the goal of The Arena Media is to promote and bring more awareness to Aussie pro wrestling. With that in mind, I bring this review, based on my live experience as a fan. I understand the events are now available for purchase on Triller TV (fka FITE), airing on a slight delay. Not going to bother with star ratings, as I didn't take a great deal of notes- and also I don't want Eric Bischoff to kick my ass.


Before getting to the HER wrestling event itself, it's probably worthwhile and relevant to bring up some of the preceding Starrcast events leading into Friday's show. The festivities kicked off with the Mickie James Hardcore Country Kickoff Party, at Aunty Jack's opposite Ballarat Civic Hall. Mickie James appeared on stage alongside So Cal Val, Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria/Tara), Erika Reid and Lizzy Evo.


The informal panel was a great look into the evolution of women's wrestling, and how people like Mickie and Victoria fought hard in WWE to move the perception of women in wrestling from eye candy and bra and panties matches to be taken more seriously. There's an evident pride in their voices and demeanour in seeing how far things have come since then. We also get a little look for the future and some slight promotion for the OPW Women's Championship match as Erika and Lizzy appeared on stage.


Finally, Mickie fielded a few fan questions:


The first- how do you think your husband Nick Aldis is doing as Smackdown GM? Mickie thinks he's doing great, and loves the suit game. They really make his "baby blues pop", she said.


The second (asked by yours truly)- if you could face anyone in current WWE, who would it be? Mickie mentions Charlotte Flair, noting her history with Ric in WWE and meeting Ashley as a young girl. Then throws out Rhea Ripley, reacting in mock surprise to the cheers, "oh, she's from here?" After getting the cheap pop, Mickie notes that both matches would see her work as an underdog, much like her matches with Beth Phoenix.


And finally- favourite match of your career? Mickie cites a house show match in Fairbanks, Alaska, where her and Beth Phoenix tore the house down for around 18 minutes, far from the norm at the time (this was around 2008). When they came back through the curtain, the roster on the tour- including the likes of Triple H & Ric Flair- gave them a standing ovation. Mickie also notes recent TNA matches with Deonna Purazzo and Jordynne Grace as ones she's very proud of.


On Friday morning, there was a women's wrestling panel at Civic Hall, featuring Vix Crow (fka Alicia Fox), new WWE Hall of Famer Bull Nakano and Jody Threat, but I was unable to make that. To take an educated guess, I'm sure they also had words to say about the evolution and progress of women's wrestling.


Later, Friday morning, I met Mickie James at Starrcast. She was lovely! I mentioned that, as a 15 year old boy watching WWE, I was around the target audience for all the bra and panties stuff, but her feud with Trish and WrestleMania 22 match changed my young perceptions of women's wrestling, showing me that they can kick ass too.


And on that note, let's get into the wrestling. Mickie James Presents HER!


Let's do this!


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After an acknowledgement of country, we get a great opening video highlighting all the talent on the show. It's definitely wild seeing some of Australia's best like Jessica Troy and Charli Evans alongside the likes of Mickie James & Bull Nakano!


Selkirk Stadium, a basketball venue, is set up with great production value for this show. The stage looks incredibly polished and professional. I spoke with other fans that regarded it as an upgrade from OPW's trip to Wagga last year with Impact Wrestling/TNA. The lighting was great, the ring looks great and although we're not completely sold out, it's a nice turnout for a regional area. I believe it's the goal of OPW management to bring more tourism to regional areas in particular through wrestling, but not all wrestling fans are willing to make that trickier trip.


Mickie James' music hits, and the legend comes out and grabs the microphone. She says, "there's one thing that needs to be spotlighted in Australia, and that's women's wrestling". I couldn't agree more! She then welcomes Vix Crow to the ring, calling her her best friend, and then with a respectful handshake, we kick off the show big!


Match 1: Mickie James vs. Vix Crow


The artist formerly known as Alicia Fox seemed to take a minute to get comfortable, and Mickie caught her off guard with an arm drag. The former Divas Champion got herself together though, and hit a nice tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Mickie's had more ring time in recent years, and it showed as she hit a nice sunset bomb out of the corner for a near fall.


They trade strikes and Mickie narrowly misses with the Mick Kick. A bit of high risk pays off for James as she hits a diving Lou Thesz press. Mickie sets up for the DDT, but Vix escapes and hits Crow's Wings (a double underhook facebuster) for the win!


Winner: Vix Crow (at 10:58)


A nice dose of action and star power. Vix found her feet after some time out of the ring, and got the win with what I believe is a new move in her arsenal. Fun way to start with recognisable names.


Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria) came out to her old WWE music. She ain't the lady to mess with, and she's on guest commentary for the following match, alongside So Cal Val and Nims Azoor.


Match 2: The Lisa Marie Varon 6 Pack Challenge- Tarlee vs. Caity Luxe vs. Eleaine Hope vs. Charli Evans vs. Aysha vs. Lena Kross


Such a cool contrast to the opening match, from two legends who paved the way for women's wrestling in America, to six future stars from Australia. I've watched Charli Evans wrestle as far back as 2015, I've seen a lot of Aysha and Lena Kross in the last couple of years, I've seen Tarlee and Caity Luxe a couple of times, and I don't think I've ever seen Eleaine Hope.


The action is fast and furious here, and of course Charli has no fear, dropping Aysha with a superkick before everyone starts throwing strikes at each other. Bodies spill to the floor, but they're not safe out there, as Eleaine dives off the top rope to the outside with a cross body on a pile of ladies! Back in the ring, we get a wicked Tower of Doom type spot where Aysha is stopped from flying by Lena, who grabs her in a fallaway slam position, then Charli powerbombs them onto the rest of the field!


More strikes thrown as we do a large scale yay/boo. We get down to Tarlee vs. Lena for our monsters of the match. Tall, beautiful monsters, but you get the idea. They throw down. Tarlee clears Lena out, and soon after stops Eleaine in her tracks with the Alabama Slam. And that gets the 3 count!


Winner: Tarlee (at 9:45)


This was a geniune blast. I've seen some of these women have match of the night at PWA, Newy Pro and Renegades, so it's not exactly a surprise, but still awesome to see them make the most of this showcase. If someone from a major company doesn't snap up some of this talent, I don't know what they're thinking!


As a result of this win, Tarlee is now the No. 1 Contender to the OPW Women's Championship. Lisa Marie Varon comes in the ring to celebrate with her, and like she did at the Kickoff Party, calls herself a proud grandma. Respectfully, my grandma looks nothing like her!


Then, an indignant Lizzy Evo storms the ring. She has a mic, and she's pissed at Tarlee being named the No. 1 Contender. Lizzy has the title match tonight, you see. Tarlee winning has no impact on that, I... whatever. Lizzy came all the way from LIVERPOOL! She gets a bit too big for her boots and shoves Lisa, leading to the Widow's Peak! We get crazy Victoria for a second, then the announcement- that title match is happening now! OPW Women's Champion Erika Reid storms the ring, ready to take out a stunned Lizzy.


Match 3: OPW Women's Championship- Lizzy Evo vs. Erika Reid (c)


Lizzy's on wobbly legs and soon gets dropped by a running back elbow from Erika. Then more running elbows in the corner. A suplex gets a near fall, and Lizzy's in a bad way. The challenger does return fire with some hard strikes, followed by a strong whip into the corner, jarring Erika's back. Lizzy quickly revels in it, taunting Erika and the crowd. The champ comes back with Three Amigos for a near fall.


Erika looks for the Dudebuster, but Lizzy gets a sunset flip for a near fall. A big boot and a Nelson Muntz-esque "ha ha" ring out from Lizzy, but Erika comes back with Eat Defeat. A loud scream and a Dudebuster later... and the champ retains.


Winner: Erika Reid (at 6:07)


Action-wise, not quite up to the other two matches, but Erika showed great fire and Lizzy was perfectly obnoxious, making for a great atmosphere when the champ prevailed. It was also awesome to see the involvement of Victoria pre-match. She may be retired, but looks phenomenal and can still hit that Widow's Peak!


Match 4: Tenille Dashwood vs. Jessica Troy


One of the OG Aussie women to make it in WWE, long before Rhea Ripley, great to see Tenille Dashwood as part of this women's showcase. In a show blending Aussie and international talent, Dashwood can lay claim to both sides of the coin. As for Jessica Troy- she's incredible and it's honestly a miracle Australia still has her. Both women are accompanied by Triple M hosts, but I couldn't give the slightest shit about that.


One thing I find interesting here- Jessica works heel! Again, Tenille is the international star, but she's also originally from Melbourne- which is about an hour and a half away from Ballarat. So, Jess leans into it by going for her arm-centric attack with a little more venom and aggression. She also lays in the chops and strikes. Tenille makes a comeback with shots to the gut and a jawbreaker. Taste of Tenille running crossbody in the corner follows. A running kick... and it's done!


Winner: Tenille Dashwood (at 11:30)


I seriously have no idea why the radio hosts were there. They added nothing to the match. But the ladies put on a great match. I've been singing Jessica Troy's praises for years, but as someone who doesn't follow TNA or the indies super closely, it'd been a while since I'd seen Tenille have a great match. Her most recent WWE run was very uneventful. This was more reminiscent of the Emma that had killer matches with Paige way back in NXT.


We get a 15 minute intermission. Enough time for me to use the loo and grab a can of Jack Daniels. Good times!


Back with the show, we've got the Indy Goddess, Steph De Lander! We've got the same promo for the 3rd separate tour here, as she smiles and says, "Guys, I'm home... and I hate it here!" She did it at Impact in Wagga, at GCW in Sydney, and now HER in Ballarat. We gotta get something new happening. She does drop a little new knowledge- AAA Champion Flammer is not here. According to SDL, she never got on her plane. I thought this may have been some kind of heel bit, but nope, this is how we find out one of the big stars of the tour isn't here. At the time of writing, OPW has not said anything about Flammer and her absence from Starrcast/HER.


Match 5: Steph De Lander vs. Jody Threat


First time seeing Jody Threat wrestle, and man, is she a ball of energy! Definitely makes you sit up and take notice of her. Naturally, Jody is at a size disadvantage, as most are against SDL, but she doesn't back down, hitting a headscissors followed by repeated clotheslines in the corner. A spirited attack!


Steph regains control by hiding behind Referee Hannah (who did an outstanding job all night as always), before knocking down Jody with a cheap shot. A strong big boot scores for Matt Cardona's partner in crime (in wrestling, at least). Jody comes back and throws SDL to the outside, hitting a baseball slide, followed by a cannonball off the apron. The Aussie is reeling, and Threat capitalises- I actually missed the finish because the guy next to me asked me a question at the wrong time. Seemed to be a running attack, possibly a Spear? But Jody wins!


Winner: Jody Threat (at 9:30)


Wasn't particularly feeling this match. Maybe I was just disappointed by the absence of Flammer, or maybe Steph and Jody didn't have a lot of time to prepare for the singles match as opposed to the advertised triple threat for the AAA Championship. That said, it was a cool introduction to Jody, and always great to see Steph perform- I was lucky enough to see her perform in her rookie year as the masked Facebrooke, and she's come so far with her confidence and poise since then. She represents Australia proudly- even if she "hates it here"- as the hottest act on the indies today.


For the first time ever, we're crowning women's tag team champions in Australia! Historic. Y'know, as much as WWE kinda suck with doing women's tag divisions, I actually think Australia can do it better. We've got a deep enough talent pool, with some established acts, and we're off to a nice start with this championship match.


Bull Nakano comes out- after a long pause- to present the women's tag titles. The Backslide Girls make their entrance, with Kingsley singing her heart away and Shay Kassidy dancing her legs off. And the sorority sisters PPK are giving strong Stacy Keibler vibes with the camoflage gear!


Match 6: OPW Women's Tag Team Championship- The Backslide Girlz (Kingsley & Shay Kassidy) vs. Prima Pi Kappa (Frankie B & Nikki Van Blair)


Strong tandem moves and a fast pace on both sides. There's a fair chance that a lot of people wouldn't have been overly familiar with both teams, both being NSW-based, but based on conversations I had with several fans over the weekend, this match won a lot of people over. In particular, Nikki Van Blair was a riot, telling a ringside cameraman, "no ass shots! You gotta pay for that!" Love the wit.


Of course, the Backslide Girlz have the signature move of the backslide, practiced and perfected. Frankie & NIkki spend a lot of time trying to avoid that deadly pinning combination, all while trying to deliver their best offense. A Primasault comes close, as does a kick/Samoan Drop combo, but ultimately, the backslide is applied, and that's a wrap!


Winners: The Backslide Girlz (at 13:13)


Strong wrestling action, with four strong characters. That's pretty much the recipe for pro wrestling at its best, and that's what we got. I look forward to seeing a strong women's tag division around the country continuing to grow, with OPW leading the way! I also feel a sense of pride that this was essentially a PWA match, as a Wollongong/Sydney boy that's followed that promotion for the last 6 years now.


Bull Nakano gets in the ring to present the brand new tag titles and they do a little dance together. History made in a fun way!


We get a Tale of the Tape for the main event! The match that I was most looking forward to on this card. Crazy to think that Delta's only been wrestling 3 years! She's so damn good. Well, the guys have "big meaty men slapping meat", now we have big muscle mommies or something? Seriously though, a banger incoming.


Main Event: TNA Knockout's Championship- Delta vs. Jordynne Grace (c)


They waste little time trying to test each other's strength. Neither women really budging in the early going. The fight spills to the outside, where Jordynne hits an electric chair drop on the apron. Not to be outdone, Delta muscles Grace up the ramp in a suplex position and drops her on the stage! Incredible.


Back in the ring, Delta goes for the 10 punches but Jordynne turns it into a snake eyes out of a powerbomb. Shortly after, Jordynne hits a delay superplex- what the actual fu... and Delta turns it into a Michinoku Driver for a near fall. So evenly matched! Delta lifts Jordynne up in a fireman's carry for the F6, then rams her head into different turnbuckles while carrying her! Grace escapes and locks in a rear naked choke, which Delta escapes from. More back and forth and Jordynne goes for a damn Vertabreaker! Delta flips out of it, but takes a strike combo, followed by the Juggernaut Driver- and the champ retains!


Winner: Jordynne Grace (at 14:17)


I would highly recommend the vast majority of this show, but if you can only watch one match, make it this main event. Many people, including myself, had high expectations for this, but they blew past even that. Insane strength and athleticism. Even more astounding is that news that Jordynne revealed after the match- she was having nerve problems and lost feeling in one of her legs before the match, yet was still able to go out and perform to that high a level. She's amazing!


Overall Thoughts


This was a huge night for Aussie wrestling and women's wrestling. Just a couple of months ago, there was a considerable online backlash to EPW in Perth putting on a Super Show the night before Elimination Chamber, and featuring something like 3 women against about 46 men. Shows like this are why. It's not tokenistic or "woke" to feature women in Australian wrestling. They deserve it because they're that damn good, and can perform to levels as high as the men or even higher in many cases.


And if you don't want to take the word of some Aussie bloke on that opinion, take it from Mickie James, who echoed the sentiment about the talent of Australian women in a post-HER Instagram post. A show well worth your time to see the past, present and future of women's wrestling.


Overall Score: 8.5/10


Until next time, take care.

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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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