PWA Colosseum 2023 Night 1 Review (21/10/2023)
By Mick Robson
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As I write this, I'm in the midst of a pretty full-on weekend, both for The Arena and myself personally. I had a tremendous time live at Liberty Hall last night for Night 1 of Colosseum, and I'm sitting here early Sunday morning on 3 hours sleep, as I got up for the top two fights of UFC 294. I don't feel as dead as I was expecting, and I've got 3 reviews to smash out (possibly 4 if I can get to MCW's Fight To Survive in the next few days). Let's gooooo.
Colosseum is the biggest event on the PWA calendar. I've been to every one and they always deliver. The initial one was a star studded tournament which took place over several months. Mick Moretti was crowned the inaugural Colosseum winner, beating fellow Nations member Jack J Bonza at The Fight For Black Metal in February 2019. In late 2019, Matty Wahlberg (now known as Grayson Waller) won Colosseum and was scouted by WWE officials. Then, after COVID f**ked on us all, we went interstate for Colosseum 2022, where the legendary Robbie Eagles claimed the sword, beating Adam Brooks in Melbourne.
While last year was fun- an excuse to go on a little mini-holiday, and met some AMAZING people- it didn't quite feel right. Colosseum was born in Max Watts/Liberty Hall. This year, we're home.
Let's do this!
After an extended amount of dead air on the FITE broadcast VOD, we open with Diego's acknowledgement of country, followed by the standard PWA intro video. I will say, I expected the crowd to be bigger- the mezzanine was completely closed and I feel like there were way more people at the Rumble earlier this year.
Big "PWA" chants ring out as Andrew Rose & Kris Gale welcome us to the show. The people that are here are definitely passionate, which counts for a lot. "We are on top of the mountain!" exclaims Rose. We are home indeed.
Match 1: Colosseum Quarter Final- Emman Azman vs. Jude "The Dude" London
Jude has a new entrance theme- "What Is Love?" by Haddaway. We get formal, championship-esque in-ring introductions by Diego. Referee Hannah is overseeing our opening contest.
They keep things grounded in the early going, but you can tell by the pace that they move and exchange holds, the turbo button could be pushed at any moment. Jude gets somewhat of an advantage by relentlessly holding on and floating over on a front facelock. A snap rana and a dropkick sends Emman sprawling to the outside. Emman gets back in and hits a rana of his own, and it's London's turn to bail from the ring. No rest here, as Azman hits a top rope cross body to the outside!
Back in the ring, Emman takes control and gets an early near fall following a running elbow drop. Emman misses a dropkick and takes a stomp, followed by a standing moonsault, handing a near fall to Jude. We speed things up with some running of the ropes, and Jude monkey flips Emman into the mezzanine! Jude, being the larger man for once, hits an exploder suplex and nips up! Long two count. Jude shows off the versatility of his offense by landing a flurry of kicks, followed by a submission with a seated abdominal stretch.
Emman creates separation with a hurricanrana and looks to reset. Crowd is split but generally supporting both guys here. Emman gets a boot upside the jaw of Jude and leaps off the ropes with a Fameasser for a near fall. Emman lands a rewind kick but Jude responds with a reverse DDT. He hits a MASSIVE springboard cutter... but Emman kicks out at 2.99!
Emman charges to Jude in the corner but takes boots to the face, followed by a top rope double stomp to the back of the head! Our first "this is awesome" chant of the night rings out in Liberty Hall. They battle on the ropes and Emman gets the better of it with a rana out of the corner. He charges- right into a flapjack by Jude! Excommunicado Kick- and it's over!
Winner: Jude "The Dude" London (at 11:42)
Star Rating: ***1/2. A furious sprint to kick off Colosseum the right way. Dead even right until the finish. They've sold the story of a potential Velocities final between Jude and Paris, and a hell of a start here for Jude, taking out an in-form former MCW Intercommonwealth Champion in Emman Azman. Emman had a great performance and I really hope he's included in some capacity in Night 2.
Match 2: Colosseum Quarter Final- Mat "Grimm" Basso vs. Cherry Stephens
My first time seeing Basso, quite a huge, intimidating presence. Meanwhile, Cherry gets a unique entrance- a tunnel comprised of students holding up textbooks. Cherry's my pick to go all the way in this thing.
Big size difference, but Cherry's not intimidated. She goes for an arm wringer but Basso immediately pushes her off. A headlock garners the same result. Basso appears to tell her to just lay down and not get hurt, but she's not having that. Grimm grabs her by the throat and looks for a big boot, but Cherry avoids it. One huge knee to the gut immediately drains the life out of Cherry. I feel like I'm watching Dragon Ball Z with the way our hero's body just went limp. Huge body slam follows and Basso pins with his boot, but Cherry still has some life left.
Another big slam, and this time, Basso has enough respect to make the cover and hook the leg, but Stephens still kicks out. Slam #3, with a tighter cover, but Cherry breaks free. Soaring... flying... there's not a star in heaven that she can't reach... but if Basso has his way, Cherry might be seeing the heavens sooner than she's intending!
Cherry shows heart and throws some body shots and chops, but all it takes is one huge chop from Basso to drop her. Basso charges Cherry in the corner, who avoids it with an up and over- right into a sleeper hold! Basso breaks it momentarily, but Cherry jumps right back on the back! Basso slings her down with a snapmare of sorts. Basso goes for a big running elbow drop, but Cherry moves out of the way! She catches Basso with a kick and looks for her leaping DDT, but Basso blocks it! He looks for a chokeslam but Cherry flips through into a gullotine choke! Basso fights out, but Cherry locks in the sleeper again! In a move of desperation, Basso cannonballs himself at the corner with Cherry on his back to break the hold. Massive chokeslam, big boot, done.
Winner: Mat "Grimm" Basso (at 7:28)
Star Rating: ***. Well. There goes my pick. This was less one-sided than I felt like it was live, although I think my disappointment in seeing Cherry go out in the first round clouded my 'in-the-moment" judgement. Very well done David vs. Goliath battle here, although make no mistake- Cherry did still get her ass kicked. But she fought valiantly against someone who was at least a foot taller and over 50kg heavier, so kudos for that. With Cherry out of the picture, I'm leaning more towards that Velocities final on Night 2.
Wayward Beer promo featuring Big Brother Billy Preston. We'll see him in the 6 Pack Challenge tomorrow night.
Match 3: Tag Team Gauntlet
We begin with Aaron Jake and Belinda Pierce of SMS. Then it's David Streamer, introducing the Backslide Girls, Kingsley and Shay Kassidy! They come out singing and dancing to a very catchy song. I chose the wrong time to go to the bathroom and missed the greatness of this entrance live.
Streamer joins commentary to talk about Streamer Capital Assets Management, or SCAM, as the crowd chants "Backslide". The Backslide Girls team up for a flurry of kicks on Belinda, before Aaron yanks Shay down by the hair and Pierce hits a clothesline. Aaron Jake tags in and hits a leaping clothesline. Kingsley comes back with a tornado DDT! Tags on both sides and Belinda drops Shay with a German suplex. Fisherman suplex gets her a near fall. SMS are in control but Streamer gets up on the apron, pointing at them- and Aaron bites his finger! Some miscommunication by SMS follows, and Belinda spears Aaron- and Shay hits a backslide for the 3 count!
Our next entrant in the gauntlet is the tag champs, The Joker and the Thief! Moretti and Townsend strut onto the stage and look full of confidence. Great theme song too. Jimmy catches Barnaby the Bear- the... mascot of the Backslide Girls, I guess?- and punts him to ringside into the arms of Andrew Rose. This enrages Shay, who unloads on Jimmy with a flurry of strikes. Kingsley gets a backslide but the referee is busy getting Shay out of the ring. Moretti comes in, allowing Townsend to reverse into a schoolboy for the 3 count! There's still a little Prefect left in him after all.
MK+ Ultra are next, and Kai Drake comes out in his gear, but is still injured, on his knee scooter... it's a ruse, allowing Spencer and Tommy Dee to attack from behind! Mick and Jimmy come back with a hip toss/neckbreaker combo on Dee for a near fall. MK fire back with a kick/knee combo for their own 2 count as commentary discuss the ramifications of beating the champs in this non-title gauntlet. Mick creates a diversion by stealing Kai's scooter and riding it around the ring! While that's happening, Jimmy spits something into Tommy's eyes and hits a springboard kick to get the 3!
Here comes PPK! The alluring and dangerous Frankie B and NIkki Van Blair are all business here, with Frankie taking it right to Moretti! Jimmy comes in and Nikki beals him across the ring! Russian leg sweep/Backstabber combo by PPK. Near fall. Jimmy gets involved and the champs come back with a German suplex/neckbreaker combo. PPK need to step it up, and do, with Frankie hitting an assisted moonsault to the outside! In the ring, Nikki hits a Samoan Drop on Jimmy, which leads to a near fall as Mick breaks it up. Mick creates another distraction, allowing Jimmy to put Frankie in a sleeping bag, and out with a sleeper hold! Genius way to stop a highly impressive PPK.
Next, we've got BackPain! Well, I've always got back pain, but I digress. Backman and Jack Pain make their entrance looking fired up! Must be good pre-workout. They immediately make the ring shake, isolating Moretti and smashing him with a clothesline. Jimmy's in and goes for a springboard crossbody, but takes a Backman backbreaker. Tag to Jack Pain and they hit the slingshot spinebuster- but Moretti pulls the ref out of the ring! He detains the official while sliding Townsend a steel chair. Townsend tries the Eddie Guerrero spot, but Jack hurls the chair back at him- but instead it takes out Backman! Moretti in with a schoolboy- with the feet on the ropes- for the final 3 count!
Star Rating: ***1/4. I'm a sucker for a tag gauntlet, or as WWE call them, Tag Team Turmoil. This got a variety of acts on the show, and effectively introduces a new one in the Backslide Girls- part of me wonders if this would be different had Everett Connors not gone back to America. PPK particularly shone in their bit as well, and the Joker and the Thief got across the idea that they will truly do anything to win, and Jimmy getting 3 of those eliminations was cool to see. Well done all around.
Post-match, Backman storms the ring and he is PISSED. He pushes Jack Pain, then punches him. He pushes Gym Bro Jessie out of the way and takes his leave. As I write this portion of the review, it's post-Colosseum weekend (was too tired to smash the whole review out yesterday in the end), but my thoughts at the time was that this was leading to the separation of BackPain in order for them to both pursue singles careers. There's been tension in the team for a long while now, and it boiled over here at Colosseum.
Match 4: Colosseum Quarter Final- Jack J Bonza vs. Zack Sabre Jr
It's Bullet Club vs. TMDK here. And likely a technical wrestling masterclass to come. Looking for various holds early, and it's Sabre transitioning from an ankle pick up into a grounded side headlock. Bonza escapes and looks for a front facelock, but ZSJ scrambles free. Not writing every move down here. Just setting the scene. Stalemate in the early going.
ZSJ picks the ankle again and this time wrenches it a few times. Bonza comes up gingerly. Any more of that and he'll be limping around like me with my Cerebral Palsy. "Bonza's a dickhead" chants from the Liberty Hall faithful. ZSJ escapes a headlock with a headscissors then works the leg some more. Bonza drops Sabre with a forearm and it looks like we're going to get a little rugged here!
Bonza clubs Sabre Jr down and hits him with a backbreaker. ZSJ comes back with European uppercuts and Bonza responds with chops. Here we go! Zack goes for the left arm with a couple of crushing kicks, giving him more targets to work with in his submission game. Bonza fights back but ZSJ gets him in an octopus stretch in the ropes! Innovative. Bonza returns fire with the Command and Conquer throw into the turnbuckles. Bonza goes for the ankle lock but ZSJ applies another octopus stretch in the middle of the ring! Bonza reverses into the ankle lock but ZSJ rolls through into an armbar. Tekkers!
Bonza stomps his way free and looks for a powerbomb but Zack rolls into another armbar. Bonza gets his foot on the ropes. They grapple some more, trading chinlocks with their legs laced up. They trade strikes, then clotheslines. ZSJ ducks one and hits a snap dragon suplex! Penalty kick gets a long 2 count. ZSJ looks for a guillotine choke but Bonza just lifts him up and dumps him to ringside. He joins Zack outside and throws him into a wall. Very technical. Sabre back in the ring at 9 and takes a lariat for a 2 count. Southern lariat, followed by a sleeper. As Zack begins to fight back, Bonza turns it into a sit-down powerbomb for a good near fall.
Zack avoids the Napalm Thunder Driver, but takes a German suplex instead. He fires up back to his feet and takes another Bonza lariat. Bonza looks for the Napalm Thunder Driver, but a series of reversals leads to a jackknife pin- and ZSJ advances!
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr (at 15:19)
Star Rating: ****. That was outstanding. When it was announced that Zack Sabre Jr was coming to Australia, this was the match that I wanted to see, and it absolutely delivered. Bonza can go with the tekkers style, but he can also throw down, which forced an increasing level of aggression as the match went on from Zack. This was the first of the tournament matches that I feel truly lived up to the high standard that the prestige of Colosseum has set.
Intermission time. A big Wayward beer graphic is plastered on the screen on FITE. I miss when they'd show old matches on FITE during intermission.
Match 5: Colosseum Quarter Final- DELTA vs. Paris De Silva
Like Jude earlier, Paris has a new entrance theme, Falling Apart by Zebrahead. Smackdown vs. Raw vibes. Good matchmaking here, as DELTA is a physical beast, allowing Paris to still be the underdog, where he thrives. Big "f**k him up, DELTA" chants from the crowd. I may have joined in. Sorry Paris, it had a good rhythm!
They lock up and DELTA immediately puts Paris on his ass. Commentary make the point that Paris isn't unfamilar with singles matches as he's had some overseas- a missed opportunity to talk about Paris being in Colosseum in 2018, a killer match with the reigning PWA Champion, Ricky South. Paris fights out of a headlock and takes a big shoulder block. Paris builds up speed and sends DELTA to the outside with a hurricanrana. He looks for a baseball slide but instead DELTA catches him, drops him face-first on the apron, then delivers a big clothesline. Ouch!
Back in the ring, DELTA takes control and throws De Silva around. German suplex gets her a near fall. Paris gets some space and goes for a spin kick, but is caught like a baby and powerslammed for another 2 count. Paris leapfrogs a charging Delta, causing her to hit the turnbuckle, and hits that spin kick for a near fall of his own.
Delta goes for another German suplex but Paris hits the superhero landing! He nails a brutal brainbuster for a near fall. Paris looks for a dive but Delta avoids it, and she hits a spear followed by a powerbomb for an excellent near fall! Delta nails a pump kick and goes up top for a moonsault- but eats nothing but canvas! Delta comes back looking for a F5, but Paris reverses into a DDT! Shotgun dropkick, followed by the gorgeous Shooting Star Press- and Paris is through to the semis!
Winner: Paris De Silva (at 10:08)
Star Rating: ***1/2. Really strong performance on both sides. The people seemed in awe of DELTA, and she lived up to her imposing presence with her performance in this match as a believable monster opposite Paris, who showed both great heart and athleticism in bouncing back en route to a potential Velocities final!
The Tuckman makes his entrance for the Soul of PWA Championship match to a big ovation! Unsocial Jordan saunters out, of course accompanied by SMS members Belinda Pierce and Aaron Jake. After Diego gives the formal championship introductions, Jordan grabs the microphone. He responds to "shut the f**k up" chants with, "No. I'm going to speak, and you're going to listen." He's disappointed- this is Colosseum, and Tuckman is the best competition they could get for him? He's also disappointed that his one request over the years- that we don't swear during his matches- is not adhered to. Now, as champion, he's demanding it- if anyone swears, he'll just hit Tucky with the tripod and get himself DQed. Finally, a heel that is upfront about it!
Match 6: Soul of PWA Championship- The Tuckman vs. Unsocial Jordan (c) (w/ SMS)
Jordan charges with the tripod, but Tuckman immediately hits a Rock Bottom and gets the 3 count! "What the hell just happened?" asked Kris Gale."Holy shit!" exclaimed Rose. Well said.
Winner: The Tuckman (at 0:14)
Star Rating: *****. What a classic! On a serious note, a fun, shocking moment for this show. It does make me wonder about the health and status of Unsocial Jordan- he's been out for a while, and relinquished the middleweight title up at Newy Pro. Are his injuries so bad that he could only do the one bump and be done with it? Huge for Tuckman though, who's had probably the best rookie year of any Aussie wrestler that I can recall. Awesome stuff.
Before the main event, Emmy from Red Hook (the band, not Taz's hometown) is introduced as the special guest timekeeper. She killed it during the pre-show entertainment, covering songs like Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" and Rage Against The Machine's "Bulls On Parade"!
An epic video package plays highlighting Jessica Troy's journey to this match. I still hate that Ricky South was able to just go "lol no" after Jess won the Rumble- imagine that happening in WWE with the WrestleMania title shot? Anyway, she overcame the additional unnecessary obstacles, and we're here now, so we ride. Very cool inclusion in the video of past women who paved the way for Jess in PWA, including Cassie Lee, Jessie McKay, Evie (Dakota Kai) and Shazza McKenzie.
Main Event: PWA Championship- Jessica Troy vs. Ricky South (c)
Jess is rocking some new attire, which almost feels like a flowery take on the kind of gear that Charli Evans normally wears. Balloons in the shape of flowers fall from the ceiling. Ricky gets a dramatic entrance with drums being played on the stage. In the introductions, Diego notes that Ricky has reigned as champion for 953 days, with his eyes on 1000...
They tie up and Ricky immediately shows his obvious power advantage by flinging Jess into the opposite corner. Jess attacks the arm but Ricky counters into a front facelock. The PWA Champion is as good as it gets technically as well. They exchange holds and covers and South slips a boot in there, sending Jess tumbling back. Reminding the challenger that he can do it all.
Troy creates movement and picks up the pace, sending South reeling off a springboard arm drag. Arabian arm drag follows. South avoids a boot and yanks Troy down by the hair. That's The Example? South takes control and grounds Troy, while talking trash to the crowd. Commentary point out that Jess' outfit is leaning into South's criticism that she's a "flower-wearing hippie". They trade forearms, then Troy blocks a boot and hits an arm wringer, sending the champ crashing shoulder-first to the mat. Troy ups the aggression with a continual attack to the left arm of South.
Ricky grounds Jess and attacks the leg, contorting it at an awkward angle. Jess tries to mount a comeback but takes a lariat to the back of the head. They battle on the apron and Troy escapes a powerslam attempt, pushing South into the ring post and hitting a Meteora to the back of his head! Troy looks to build momentum, and does so with a suicide dive! She looks for another one, but turns it into a DDT on the floor! Wow! She's not done though, as she places Ricky on a front row seat then hits another Meteora! Cracks can be heard, and hopefully that's the chair.
Back in the ring, Jess hits a leg sweep while applying a hammerlock. More arm trauma! Middle rope Meteora to the arm gets a near fall. Ricky comes back with a gutwrench powerbomb for a near fall of his own. That quickly, the game can change. Jess has heart though, and soon fights back by ducking a lariat and hitting a beautiful hurricanrana straight into the pin for a long 2 count. Rey Mysterio-esque on that one. Jess looks for a poison rana, but Ricky blocks it. He goes into a leg lock, perhaps trying to negate the speed of Troy. Leg Collector doesn't quite have the same ring to it. She turns around, stands up and stomps her way out of the hold.
Ricky blocks a charging Jess by simply throwing her up into the air- almost like a flapjack? and then hits the piledriver! 1, 2... and somehow Troy kicks out! A furious South gets in Referee Hannah's face, grabbing her by the hair- and after a year of such treatment, Hannah's had enough and slaps the champ! South turns his attention back to Troy. He looks for a clothesline- but she ducks and he hits Referee Hannah instead! South sees the opportunity and gets a chair from under the ring. He looks to piledrive Jess on the chair- but the lights go out.
When the lights come back on- it's Big Fudge! He rocks Ricky's jaw with right hands and drops him with a chokeslam on the chair! He leaves and we're back to Troy vs South as Referee Hannah comes to. They battle to the ropes and it looks like South is setting up for a piledriver off the top! Troy blocks it and hits a top rope poison rana! She follows up with a Ricky-esque lariat- insult to injury- but South kicks out! Troy applies the Fujiwara armbar, but Ricky rolls through. Jess hits the Overdrive for a near fall. Thank god that wasn't it.
Ricky turns a tilt-a-whirl into a piledriver, followed by the massive lariat... but Jess kicks out at the last possible moment! Another lariat. Another kickout. Troy rallies with a brainbuster! Troy sets up Ricky on the top rope- and hits a spider suplex! Shout out to the OG, Madison Eagles! Tilt-a-whirl into the Fujiwara armbar! Ricky tries to stand, crawl, roll, escape... but Troy ties up the legs too! South is forced to tap! We have a new champion!
Winner: Jessica Troy (at 25:42)
Star Rating: ****1/2. I think that was one of my favourite matches in PWA history. At the end of the day, Jessica Troy and Ricky South told a phenomenal story. The perennial underdog, with all the heart and grit. The confident champion, with all his physical gifts and bravado. Both incredibly skilled, putting on a performance for the ages. Jess had to use every ounce of her speed, evasion, technique and heart to get it done. Ricky ends his reign on one of the best matches of his career. Wrestling brilliance.
I did quick maths on the 953 days stat, and was fearing that they'd use that number to have Ricky retain for a "last chance" deal, as the December 2nd show still falls before the 1000 days. Very glad we got the happy ending here instead.
Post-match, an emotional Jess takes a moment. You can see proud Mama Troy in the background waving a giant cardboard Jess head. The women's roster of PWA- including Madison Eagles!- comes out to celebrate with Troy to end the show.
Pro wrestling is about moments, right? Well, you'll often get the argument of, "what matters more- moments or matches?" The truly great shows give you both, and that's what Colosseum Night One was. The titular Colosseum tournament was set in motion, with the standout match on this night being Zack Sabre Jr's first appearance in a PWA ring, putting on a clinic with Jack Bonza. The coronation of The Tuckman was a huge, memorable moment, and the progression of the Velocities as singles stars is certainly a story worth keeping an eye on.
And finally, that main event. Along with matches like Wahlberg vs. Ugg, Bonza vs. Ugg and the Eagles vs. Ospreay matches, I think Jessica Troy vs. Ricky South might be in there to make up my personal PWA top 5. Of course, recency bias is a thing, and I joked about being an "unbiased journalist" in the lead up to Colosseum. I'm personally a massive fan of Jessica Troy and have been for years, but they genuinely delivered on every conceivable level. Even the Big Fudge return and interference- seen some criticism that it took away from Jess, but I think that's more about the character of Ricky "reaping what you sow", and it didn't play into the actual finish, which was all Jess. Outstanding way to finish an amazing night- and we still have Night 2 to go.
Overall Score: 9.5/10
Until next time, take care.