PWA Black Label: Die Hard Is A Christmas Movie Review (10/12/2022)
By Mick Robson
Writer's Note: Apologies for the late nature of this review. I normally like to get these out the day after the event, but a family emergency prevented me from finishing this on Sunday. My mum is quite ill, and has been suffering from stomach/bowel issues that have seen her in and out of hospital several times this year. Please keep her in your thoughts as we look for the cause of the problem. I hope you enjoy the review!
Ah, the holidays are soon to be upon us! Christmas is just about here! If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share a bit of Christmas poetry with you all:
Tis the season to be spreading love and holiday cheer!
I'm pissed, I've been getting ripped off for 26 years
I asked for presents, all I ever got was yellow snow
So this year, I turn Mrs Claus into a ho, ho ho
- John Cena, Smackdown 2003
Yep, to say the least, pro wrestling and Christmas go together wonderfully. So that's why PWA are bringing us their own brand of Christmas magic! Rock N Roll Wrestling brought us their take on a holiday show last week (review here), and this week, PWA explore the age old question: is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
This is a question that has plagued Internet debates for many a year. I'm fairly neutral on the whole matter. I've seen Die Hard, but not since I was maybe 10 years old, and it was a frequent showing on TV for Friday night movies. Might have to re-watch it for Christmas. Or... maybe not?
Holiday shenanigans aside, this is an interesting time for PWA as a promotion. They're coming off their massive LFG tour which spanned the east coast of Australia, culminating in perhaps their biggest show yet, LFG at the Roundhouse (review). That show saw an Undisputed Heavyweight Champion crowned, an end put to the Prefects saga with Jimmy vs. Cherry, and the heated rivalry between Jessica Troy and Lyrebird Luchi was settled (along with Towns playing their *ahem* greatest hits with Troy's help). So this show will see the reset button hit in a couple of areas as those stories have wrapped up.
PWA Die Hard will see a couple more long-running angles wrap up from the looks of things- Shazza McKenzie finalises her crusade against The Nations by taking on the "final boss" Mick Moretti. Shazza has been determined and taken her game to a vicious new level, but Moretti is the master of mind games. Something's gotta give! And finally, we get the trilogy decider between Jack J Bonza and Punchdrunk Istria. It started at Colosseum a few years ago, they ran it back in a classic earlier this year at University of Falling Off a 20 Foot Ladder, and we end 2022 with the rubber match.
Let's do this!
Diego delivers the acknowledgement of country to start the show, and the PWA opening video airs.
We have some technical issues as the competitors enter for the opening match, as it initially seems that commentators Andrew Rose and Kris Gale aren't doing an intro, but we can faintly hear Rose saying "testing, can you hear me?" a couple of times during Streamer's entrance.
Diego introduces the competitors with whether or not they believe Die Hard is a Christmas movie. And now the boys are on the comms!
Match 1: Triple Threat- Jude London vs. The Executive David Streamer vs. The Tuckman
Tuckman won Trainee of the Year last week at the PWA Awards, and I guess gets rewarded for it here with a featured spot on Black Label! He was in the Gimmick Battle Royal at the Roundhouse, but this is a full-fledged chance to see what he's all about. He's got something of a bogan party boy gimmick going on, I guess, and has a clipboard with a checklist- Xmas With The Boys, and Crack. One of those is checked off, and it's not Xmas. Tuckman's got presents for his opponents, what a guy! A Nerf gun for Jude, and... condoms for Streamer? Alrighty then! Streamer is enraged and attacks both of his opponents.
Jude and Tuckman fight back, as Tuckman body slams Streamer and Jude follows up with the double stomp. Jude hits a drop toe hold and calls for Tuckman to follow up with an attack, but Tuckman is confused and locks in a front facelock rather than the low dropkick as Paris normally would. Jude sets him straight and the kick scores! Excellent. Jude and Tuckman have an exchange of rapid pin attempts, giving Referee James a workout, before Streamer re-enters the ring and the boys turn their attention back on The Executive.
Jude takes down both Streamer and Tuckman with a headlock/headscissors combo. Beautiful. Jude cracks Streamer with an elbow and catches Tuckman in a Code Red of sorts in one motion for a near fall! Streamer then makes his presence known with a devastating clothesline on one half of the Velocities. Jude goes for a cross body but Streamer catches him in a spinning uranage. Streamer then launches off Tuckman's back to splash Jude for a near fall of his own. Streamer beats down Jude, then turns his focus to Tuckman, who explodes with a Northern Lights suplex for a near fall.
All three men point at each other as if they have guns in a great comedic spot, before Tuckman screams "let's be civil!" and they all lower their guns to the ground. Jude pulls out a small Nerf gun taped to his back, Tuckman grabs the larger one from earlier, and Streamer is begging for mercy. Tuckman's gun won't work properly, which reminds Kris of his personal life. Jude is successful with his shot, prompting a "you sick f**k" chant. Streamer's had enough of the hilarity and clotheslines them both down.
Well, maybe we've got some more hilarity... and danger, Streamer pours a bag of Lego all over the ring. Jude and Streamer battle over a suplex onto the Lego, but ultimately Streamer applies a Cobra Clutch! The barefoot Tuckman walks over to break it up... but has to walk over the Lego! He battles through the pain and breaks it up. Tuckman calls for Jude to bring in the chair, and it's an office chair! They then get Christmas lights from under the ring and tie Streamer to the chair. The lights are working, for those playing at home. With Streamer detained, Jude hitsTuckman with a Spanish Fly on the Lego! He then applies the Koji Clutch... and it's all over!
Winner: Jude London (at 13:52)
Star Rating: ****. This was outstanding. Littered with Die Hard references, which Rose was all too happy to add to on commentary, but even with not really getting the references, this was still hilarious and action-packed. Tuckman was extremely impressive in his first feature spot on a Black Label, Streamer's character work was on point, and Jude was his usual excellent self. Honestly, I had very little expectations for this one, just felt like a random thrown together deal, but it worked so much better than I could have possibly imagined.
Adam Hoffman & Jessica Troy make their entrance for our next match. It's scheduled to be Nations vs. PPK, but Nikki Van Blair makes his entrance and says that Frankie B is unable to participate in the match due to her hairdresser making her hair the wrong shade of blonde. So we have a pledge for PPK for the night- it's Lena Kross! Pretty gutted that Frankie's not there, but that's a creative excuse.
Match 2: The Nations (Adam Hoffman & Jessica Troy) vs. Nikki Van Blair & Lena Kross
Jess and Lena start things off, and the taller Kross powers Jess back to the corner. Troy, as usual, starts attacking the arm to try and gain the advantage. Lena calls for a test of strength, mocking Jess because she can't reach that high. Side note, some of the people in my section were hilarious, calling Hoffman a "short king" and he replies "that's right, I'm a king!" So Jess became our "short queen" as well. Jess snatches the arm, and Lena forearms her in the face!
Jess goes for a tilt-a-whirl, but Kross drops her with a sidewalk slam. She follows up with a boot in the corner for a near fall, managing to mock Hoffman in the process with motorbike motions... the Hoff is an avid rider. Nikki tags in and looks for a double team move, but miscommunication leads to Nikki clotheslining Lena out of the ring! Hoffman tags in and hits a 619, and Jess follows with the Meteora. Adam looks for a monkey flip, but Nikki cartwheels out of it! Impressive. Nikki looks for a bulldog, but Hoffman handstands out of it! Very nice. La Magistral cradle by Hoffman gets a 2.
Nikki tries to slow things down by seducing Hoffman- classic PPK tactics- and calls in Lena to help. Lena just smashes Hoff with a forearm. Nikki argues with her and gets dropkicked out of the ring by Hoffman. Lena calls for a test of strength, but Hoffman just press slams her to the outside! Jess tags in and wipes out Nikki with a suicide dive! Jess locks Nikki in the Fujiwara armbar in the ring, but Lena breaks it up. Lena's legal via lucha rules, and levels Jess with a clothesline for a near fall. Quick exchange between Kross and Hoffman results in Adam locking in a surfboard, while making motorbike sounds... honestly, I've never seen Hoffman be this funny, it's great. Van Blair in to break it up. Nikki hits Adam and Jess with a double Samoan Drop! What power!
Jess is legal and comes back with a series of headscissors on both Lena and Nikki. She looks for the Meteora on Nikki in the corner, who moves, and Lena comes in with a sliding German suplex. Awesome. Nikki with a sit down spinebuster, a pin, but Hoffman makes the save. Lena tags herself in and Nikki argues over who's legal. They set up a double team but Lena accidentally boots Nikki. Hoffman in and hits Lena with a huge suplex, followed by the surfboard again- and Jess comes in with a Meteora off the ropes for the pin!
Winners: The Nations (at 11:05)
Star Rating: ***3/4. We're two for two for excellent matches on this show. It carried over some comedic elements, with Nikki being a riot, but the surprise of the night was Hoffman displaying as much personality as I've ever seen from him- came across better in person on the night, but the FITE broadcast still caught bits of it. And underneath those shenanigans and the Lena/Nikki in-fighting, was a really well-worked tag match where everyone had moments to shine, and we got a snippet of Jessica Troy vs. Lena Kross, which could be a massive match for PWA in 2023!
And speaking of 2023... we get a hype package for PWA's next Black Label show... Jan 27, with a GTA-inspired theme... it's Stories From Liberty Hall! PWA returns to the former Max Watts, their spiritual home where the explosion of the company really took place pre-COVID. Can't wait!
Big Brother Billy Preston is in the ring with his Playtime Pals and a guitar. He sings "If You're Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands". SMS's music hits and I've never been happier to see them! A chant of "Fuck you Jordan" starts, but he says that we've got the wrong idea. He likes Billy, they've got the same morals, and he joins the sing-a-long. Billy tricks him into singing "f**k", and now we've got a trios match on our hands!
Match 3: Big Brother Billy Preston and the Playtime Pals vs. SMS (Unsocial Jordan, Belinda Pierce & Carter Deams) (w/ Aaron Jake)
SMS jump Billy and the Pals to start the match. Jordan and Belinda drive Ben the Banana crotch-first into the ring post, then Carter comes in with a top rope double stomp- wearing sunnies! What a man. I'm pro SMS all the way in this one. Belinda in to keep the attack going. She peels the banana costume, leading to a "you sick f**k" chant. Carter in but the Banana trips him up and makes the tag to Phil-mingo! Deams levels her with a superkick. Jordan in and they drop the banana and the flamingo with tandem half and half suplexes. What did I just write...
Belinda in to hit a double spear. Billy breaks the pin up and fires up on all of SMS! He's not legal though so has to go to the apron. Phil-mingo fights back and hits a second rope cross body! Billy gets the hot tag and rallies with tomahawk chops, including a double springboard version on Belinda and Deams! Jordan legal and goes on the attack, placing Billy on the turnbuckles, but Preston fights back and hits a flying dick to the face- sorry, a seated senton- for the victory!
Winners: Big Brother Billy Preston & The Playtime Pals (at 5:52)
Star Rating: **3/4. Okay, as much as I'm not a fan of the Big Brother character, I did get a little kick out of this, and the stage was set nicely with the uber conservative Jordan getting tricked into swearing. Well done all around.
Match 4: Shazza McKenzie vs. Mick Moretti
Moretti is not sporting his Rapscallion face-paint tonight, just straight up Moretti. Mick immediately rolls out of the ring, grabs a steel chair and tells Shazza to hit him and throw the match away, much like she's done in past Nations matches in recent months. She throws the chair aside and Moretti surprises her with an inside cradle for a near fall. A series of pin attempts have Shazza scrambling for the ropes, then Mick mocks Shazza with her own signature pose.
After some back and forth, Moretti misses the Mick Togo. Shazza ties him in the ropes and delivers a series of kicks. A bulldog through the ropes gets McKenzie a near fall. Shazza fires off a number of chops and locks in an octopus stretch. Moretti fights to his feet but soon falls victim to a back suplex. Shazza looks for a suicide dive but Mick catches her and delivers a suplex on the apron. Ouch! Mick Togo connects in-ring for a near fall. They trade strikes and Moretti delivers a fisherman buster for a near fall. Momentum building for Moretti!
They trade strikes and Moretti briefly gets the better of things with a headbutt. They run the ropes and Shazza with a little innovation, hitting a spinning Stunner! ... but in the process, wipes out Referee Hannah. Shazza's gonna try a little Carpe Diem, seize the chair, or whatever Robin Williams said. Moretti looks to the entrance, perhaps expecting the Nations to back him up, but nothing. McKenzie lays into him with the chair! Shazza revives Hannah... but Moretti kicks out! Shazza grabs the chair again, the ref stops her, and Moretti hits the snapmare driver! Moretti looks to follow up with a move from the second rope.. but Bonza storms the ring and stomps Shazza! That's a DQ!
Winner: Shazza McKenzie (at 10:43)
Star Rating: ***3/4. Excellent battle, with both competitors seeming to fight their own inner demons as well as each other. Bonza robbed them, and us, of a definitive finish, but I'm sure there's more to that story.
Post-match, Moretti is beside himself. "I had her!" he says. Hoffman and Troy hit the ring to back Bonza away from the situation. Shazza cackles as she rolls out of the ring. Has she succeeded in destroying the Nations after all? Bonza offers a handshake, and as Moretti looks to accept, Bonza turns it into a Too Sweet right in his face. Moretti's pissed, but Bonza says he's just kidding around. He hugs Moretti, then leaves on his own. Hoffman and Troy leave with Moretti. Intriguing...
A video package airs spotlighting the PWA tag team division. Wait... they're bringing back the Premiership! I've talked to people at PWA about doing the Premiership again, I loved it so much the first time, and the general answer I got was that it was way too much work to put together. So glad to see it return! The tag team format adds a hell of a layer to proceedings as well. Backpain are my front runners for it, they deserve all the good things in 2023.
Match 5: Wayward Brewery 6 Pack Challenge- Jimmy Townsend vs. Everett Connors vs. Paris De Silva vs. Ben Braxton vs. Charli Evans vs. Ricky South
The match starts with everyone hitting simultaneous superkicks on Ricky. Well, everyone except the ref. Beautiful. Everyone else hits everyone else, and Jimmy goes on a little run with arm drags and a rana on the rocked champ. Connors hit Jimmy with a rana, then Ricky comes in and stomps the hell out of him. Welcome back to PWA, Everett!
Jimmy gets a highlight with a butterfly suplex, only for Everett to immediately hit him with a corkscrew dive. Near fall. Everyone battles to the entrance way and Connors wipes them out with a suicide dive! Not to be outdone, Braxton scores on the pile of bodies with an Asai moonsault!
Back in the ring, the champ tries to take over on Braxton with a leg lock submission, only for Paris to apply the Throne! (Backpack abdominal stretch). Charli locks Everett in a unique submission as well, and Charli & Paris slap each other as the holds are still being applied! They break the holds and Paris goes on a run beating up Charli and Ricky, but the champ spikes him with a powerbomb. A pretty exchange between South and Braxton goes down, but Ricky punctuates it with a devastating lariat! Bodies flying everywhere and Paris sets Ricky up on the ropes... only to get driven to hell with a HUGE top rope powerbomb! Everyone in to break up the pin.
Braxton launches Connors into orbit with a belly to belly. Charli takes some fools on an excursion to Suplex City. Double leg lock on both Everett and Paris by Charli. South boots her in the face to break it up... but she absorbs it! Evans with a bridging German- with the double submission still applied!- and the other competitors break up the pin. Braxton scores with a Lionsault on Jimmy, but Chevs breaks it up with a steel chair. No DQ in a multi-man, I guess? She goes nuts with the chair, puts Jimmy in the tree of woe, puts the chair in front of his face, and hits a low dropkick. Shades of Tommy Dreamer!
Braxton and Connors have the ring to themselves, and Braxton hits the Sick Kick directly into a nip-up, followed by his signature spinning flatliner- almost like a modified Bitter End- for the win!
Winner: Ben Braxton (at 12:06)
Star Rating: ***3/4. High level sprint where everyone got a chance to shine. I was particularly impressed with Everett Connors, who just felt like he was "there" at King of the Metro. South was suitably vicious, Charli was on point, and Braxton gets a much deserved spotlight. Love to see it!
Ricky attacks Braxton after the bell and lays him out with the piledriver. He yells at Braxton off-mic that he has his shot. That'd be one fresh title match for Liberty Hall! And Braxton definitely fits the whole GTA aesthetic. Marketing. Branding. Synergy. Insert corporate buzzword here.
Intermission. Lyrebird Luchi vs. Jessica Troy from the first Premiership. The match ended in a 10 minute draw, sending Luchi to the Premiership finals. That bastard!
It's time for the Cherry Stephens Open Challenge! MK Plus Ultra answered the call. I'll be honest, I was a little disappointed as I really expected a return of Steph De Lander here since she was at MCW the other week- found out post show that she actually went to Malaysia. Damn. That said, Spencer & Drake won me over by pouring a stack of Pokemon cards- NOT YU GI OH- on Rose.
Match 6: Soul of PWA Championship- Cherry Stephens (c) vs. Michael Spencer
Spencer takes the title shot, which Kai Drake is not happy about. He even punched the lighting rig at ringside! Cherry off to a good start with a couple of arm drags and a leg sweep, then lays in a kick to the back. Cherry's going to need to up the aggression to stay champion! Spencer changes the momentum with a massive overhead throw for our first 2 count of the contest. Cherry comes back with an intricate roll up that started off a schoolboy into the ropes! The Soul of PWA Champion is amazing. I feel like every time I see her wrestle, I see something that I haven't seen before in almost 25 years of watching wrestling.
Spencer starts working the back with some powerful backbreakers. Well, they don't call him the Prince of Wrestling for nothing. Cherry fights back with a Gory Bomb into the turnbuckles! She looks for the leaping DDT through the ropes, but Spencer cracks her with a Codebreaker! Near fall. Spencer maintains the pressure with a twisting gutbuster for another two count. Cherry tries to battle yet again, and scores with a leaping enziguri, followed by a Code Red for a 2 count of her own! The leaping tornado DDT scores- great sell by Spencer- and we reset.
They battle to the ropes and Cherry scores with the Diamond Dust, and looks to follow up with a victory roll, but Spencer turns it into a Boston Crab. Awesome sequence. The champ makes the ropes. Kai tries to toss the Soul of PWA Championship to Spencer to use as a weapon, but slides it too far and Cherry grabs it! She hits the Tiger Driver for a near fall. Cherry looks to grab her notebook, but Kai takes it away. She knocks him off the apron and hits the C-Bomb on Spencer for the win!
Winner: Cherry Stephens (at 10:22)
Star Rating: ***1/2. A great title defence for Stephens, but the real story might be dissension between MK+ Ultra. It looked like Kai Drake was storming the ring to challenge, while Spencer declared himself the contender. Both guys could do great things solo, and they've done lots as a team, so I wouldn't be too mad about a potential split.
Match 7: Backpain (Backman & Jack Pain) (w/ Gym Bro Jessie) vs. Big Fudge & Will Kiedis
As Fudge explains in a pre-match promo, Kiedis is forced to be his "intern" for the night due to losing the bet and not paying the money. So Fudge has Kiedis dressed in an elf costume with... a reindeer g-string? The Goober is humiliated. Fudge also makes Kiedis start the match and Backpain beat the hell out of him. Fudge tags in for half a second, pretends to hurt Backman, then tags right out. As Kiedis is getting crushed, Fudge calls for the hot tag, but drops off the apron at the last moment. Backpain do their slingshot into a spinebuster for the 3 count!
Winners: Backpain (at 4:30)
Star Rating: *****. Love a bit of Christmas cheer!
Fudge grabs a mic and reminds us that the bet was "double or nothing", so Kiedis has another match...
Match 8: Backpain & Big Fudge vs. Will Kiedis
Fudge hits the Butt Punch, Backman hits the Pounce. 1-2-3.
Winners: Backpain & Big Fudge (at 0:25)
Star Rating: *****. More Christmas cheer! It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Main Event: Jack J Bonza vs. Punchdrunk Istria
Rose sets the stage by calling this the decider between "two of the best technical wrestlers this country's ever produced" and "a masterclass in grappling". True to that theme, they chain wrestle to start, but the fight soon spills to ringside. Bonza slams Istria head-first into the ring post. I decide to be a smart-arse from my front row seat and call out to Bonza, "You gotta get him in the ring to beat him, y'know", and the Rogue Commander fires back, "You gotta eat less food to lose weight, y'know". Damn! I'll have you all know I'm down 9kg after starting on the Man Shake a few months ago, but still, great burn.
Bonza punishes Istria with leg submissions, wearing him down in preparation for the ankle lock finisher. Bonza continues to administer a beatdown before Punchy scores with a back body drop. He kicks Bonza's arm then hits a Northern Lights suplex for a near fall. A belly to belly follows for another 2 count. They trade strikes. Istria lands a couple of chops and Bonza takes them, saying "you hit like that guy looks"- pointing me out in the crowd. Istria says, "With all due respect, that guy looks rough as guts." No mercy! I guess I gotta hit the gym harder. And Istria and Bonza start hitting each other harder as well!
Bonza blocks a kick and hits a sit out powerbomb for a near fall. Istria hits a hot shot and a running knee for a near fall of his own. They trade running strikes before Istria locks in an armbar, then transitions to a triangle choke. Bonza fights out but takes a couple of spinning backfists for his trouble. Stomps and Kawada kicks from Istria, but Bonza returns fire with a release German suplex. Snap dragon by Istria. Lariat by Bonza!
They trade slaps in a wild sequence, then Bonza takes it to the mat with the ankle lock! Istria counters his way out into a rear naked choke! An up and over is somehow turned into a Bonza Tombstone... and somehow, we get a kick out! Bonza locks in a crossface but Istria makes the ropes. They battle to the top rope and Istria throws Bonza to ringside through a gaggle of PWA staff members! Istria follows up with a suicide dive! Istria then boots Bonza into the second row. This just got really wild, really quick.
Back in the ring, Istria looks for a submission, but the ref gets knocked over in the process. Bonza takes the opportunity to land a low blow, resulting in "F**k you Bonza" chants. Bonza then hits a GTS- shout out to his new Bullet Club buddy, Kenta- but Istria kicks out! Bonza hits the Napalm Thunder Driver... but Punchdrunk kicks out at 2.99! Bonza applies a bow and arrow lock... and Istria is forced to tap!
Winner: Jack J Bonza (at 23:41)
Star Rating: ****1/4. What a crazy battle! Technical as advertised, but also hard hitting and had the chaos we've come to know and love from major PWA matches. The Factory Theatre crowd loved Punchy, and were all too happy to give Bonza grief. But this main event had a bit of everything- including a mid-match Inferno Match which I lost in devastating fashion.
Bonza stands tall as we go off the air on FITE. His post-show speech was hilarious, showing love to the PWA fans and crew as only he can, and Istria's little speech was heart-warming. Always an incredible live experience at PWA.
This was a smorgasboard of everything that makes pro wrestling great. From the hilarity of the Die Hard spoof in the opening match, to the frenzied flying around of the six-pack challenge, to the cathartic feeling of seeing Will Kiedis get destroyed... all the way to Bonza vs. Istria III, which gave us all the good stuff in a more serious package, presenting Bonza as a different type of threat now that he's joined Bullet Club... and he's the Grinch that stole Christmas, ending the show by defeating our beloved Punchy. Strong way to end the year with a festive yet violent showcase. Bring on 2023 in all its glory! See you at Liberty Hall.
Overall Score: 8/10
Given the late nature of this review, I feel compelled to shout out PWA alumni and NXT Superstar Grayson Waller (fka Matty Wahlberg), who became the first ever Men's Iron Survivor at NXT Deadline, securing a championship shot against Bron Breakker. Shawn Michaels recently had some glowing words to say about Waller, and Vic Joseph even included a quick PWA shoutout on a recent episode of NXT. Wild to see how far Aussie wrestling has come!
Until next time, take care.