SLAM Pro Wrestling League- Rage In The Cage Review (16/12/2023)
By Mick Robson
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This show has been many months in the making. At Canberra's National Convention Centre, pro wrestlers from all around the nation converge on the nation's capital, for the first steel cage match for the SLAM Heavyweight Championship, as Mikey Broderick faces the Hope From The Top Rope, Luke Watts!
SLAM have a very good and successful business model. They run shows every couple of months rather than monthly, building the anticipation and drawing in larger crowds. They're also- although not exactly- a halfway point of sorts between Sydney and Melbourne, bringing in the best talent from both cities. This particular show was announced more than six months out, and SLAM have done a great job of gathering corporate sponsors and extending the reach of the promotion further.
My first SLAM show was Slam Pro League 5, which saw the vacant tag titles go to the Natural Classics, Mikey Broderick defend the SLAM Championship in a hard-hitting affair against Caveman Ugg, and Robbie Eagles making his SLAM debut, taking out Luke Watts in an epic encounter.
I was fortunate enough to attend live in the front row, and I'm also watching back the YouTube live stream to get match times and jog my brain on details a couple of days after my great trip to Canberra.
Without any further ado... let's do this!
The crowd looks great in the Convention Centre as we count down. Everything looks very polished- bright, clean, professional- including the announcer and the referees. The announcer affects a bit of an American accent, I guess to make it sound more "big time"?
Match 1: Tommy Knight vs. Slex
Here's two guys who know each other very well from their exploits down in MCW. Slex is a physical specimen, but he can't match size by Knight, who is a tank of a man. He tries and fails to shoulder block and body slam Knight, but no avail. Slex looks for the Close of Business, but Tommy hits a Death Valley Driver for a near fall. Slex fights from underneath, and eventually hits a Disaster Kick, followed by The Business finally hitting the body slam, for the 3 count!
Winner: Slex (at 9:10)
Star Rating: ***1/2. Very smooth action to start the show, the familiarity between the two was very evident. Knight kicked out of the slam at 3.1, making me wonder if that was the planned finish. It was cool how they built up to the slam, but it feels very weird for such a basic move to be the finish in 2023.
Match 2: Dan Archer vs. Robbie Eagles
Robbie got a great reaction. Archer is in incredible shape, he's put on a lot of muscle mass since I first saw him at SLAM a year or so ago. Robbie gets poked in the eyes early, but comes back with his springboard arm drag. Archer works the back and delivers a couple of backbreakers. Archer gets the advantage and tries to go to the top rope, but gets crotched by Eagles in a funny spot. Eagles comes back and gets a rise from the crowd with a massive flip dive to the outside! Archer returns fire with a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. Archer misses a Swanton Bomb. The Sniper of the Skies finishes the job with a springboard dropkick to the knee, a shining wizard, 450 splash to the knee, and the Ron Miller Special seals the deal.
Winner: Robbie Eagles (at 7:34)
Star Rating: ***1/4. Good match, largely felt like a showcase for Robbie Eagles with him getting most of his signature stuff in, and Archer only really getting a couple of moments in there. But with this being a supershow of Aussie wrestling, I'm more than happy with one of the best getting a showcase match.
Match 3: SLAM Tag Team Championship- The Velocities (Jude London & Paris De Silva) vs. The Natural Classics (Stevie & Tome Filip) (c)
The defending champs are full of confidence, as the crowd chant "Natural Classholes". I've got Crofty's son sitting near me and the little fella has a sign- or more accurately, a mini whiteboard that he keeps changing- with that same phrase on it.
The champs jump the challengers right before the bell officially rings. They come back with stereo headscissors that send the Classics to the outside. Dual suicide dives. Back in the ring, the champs take back over with some devastating boots and double team moves. Paris takes a hell of a beating. He tries to fight back and make the tag but is cut off a number of times. The hot tag is finally made to Jude and he comes in with a fiery attack, including some great looking handspring stunners. Paris puts the finishing touches on the match with a Sky Twister Press! We have new tag champs!
Winners: The Velocities (at 10:28)
Star Rating: ****. This had some stellar tag team work, the high pace, the double teaming, the way the larger champs carried themselves against the smaller challengers. A bit like Slex and Tommy Knight in the opener, you can tell these teams are familiar with each other. I wish this ran for a lot longer, but the run time doesn't stop this from being brilliant!
Match 4: Loser Leaves SLAM- No DQ- Vinnie Bronson (w/ Josh) vs. Crofty
They start by throwing hands, hockey fight style, and it doesn't take too long before we're introducing weapons into this thing. Credit to SLAM for actually getting good looking weapons as far as the steel chairs, tables etc... too often we see really cheap, flimsy stuff on shows. Crofty makes use of a steel chair first. Of course Josh gets involved from ringside but does a runner when Crofty tries to get him back. Crofty backdrops Bronson onto a ladder leaning on the ropes, which absolutely warps the ladder, and Bronson returns fire by sending Crofty off the top rope through a couple of tables at ringside. After Crofty finally gets hold of Josh and plants him with a sit down Tombstone, Bronson smashes the Bogan Warrior with brass knuckles! The London Eye submission (a version of the Rings of Saturn) is applied on a defenseless Crofty, and he's out!
Winner: Vinnie Bronson (at 13:10)
Star Rating: ***3/4. Weapons used effectively in a high stakes way, believably intense given how annoying and hateable Vinnie and Josh are, contrasted with how beloved Crofty is with the SLAM crowd. Crofty has an out with the cheap shot, but hey, it's within the rules of No DQ!
Post-match, Crofty slowly gets up and gets his applause. A "Thank you Crofty" chant rings out. His 20+ year career is over.
Match 5: SLAM Women's Championship- Kingsley vs. Gym Bro Jessie
This is to crown the first ever SLAM Women's Champion. These two have wrestled previously at Rock N Roll Wrestling in Wollongong, so I've got high hopes for this one. We've also got SLAM's first female referee, Kat. As we do the introductions, we get retro video game style graphics for this championship match. Yeah! Uh huh. I like it!
Gym Bro immediately shows off her power by shoving Kingsley on her ass in the tie up. Kingsley needs to use her speed and cunning here. Jessie takes Kingsley down and does push ups on her back. KIngsley goes for a schoolboy but Jessie powers out of it. Jessie with a backbreaker, then curls Kingsley a few times before hitting a fall away slam. As fun as the Gym Bro gimmick is, she really is crazy strong! Kingsley pulls the ring apron over Jessie's head, blinding her so that she can land some punches. Kingsley tries for the Codebreaker, but Jessie continually blocks. Gym Bro takes some pre-workout mid match and here comes the Hulk Up! Giant swing, followed by the Death Valley Driver, gets a near fall.
Jessie looks for a powerbomb, but Kingsley turns it into a belly to belly for a near fall of her own. Jessie blocks another Codebreaker and goes for the Muscle Buster, but Kingsley reverses into a DDT! Kingsley, in desperation, goes for Jessie's pre workout shaker, but referee Kat stops her. As the ref gets rid of the shaker, Kingsley throws tea in Gym Bro's face and hits the Codebreaker for the 3 count!
Winner: Kingsley (at 9:32)
Star Rating: ***1/2. Great chemistry here as Gym Bro looked like an unstoppable powerhouse that dished it out and blocked Kingsley's best shot all the way until that damn tea came into play! Kingsley is such a great heel character, and Gym Bro Jessie is proving herself to be just as great on the other side of the coin. I look forward to seeing what challengers await our new champion at SLAM!
Lawson Cole announces the official attendance for Rage In The Cage- 1713! That's an amazing number, especially for an all-Aussie show with no internationals!
The Canberra Raiders mascots come out in advance of the Battle Royal, and the Canberra fans do the "Viking Clap". I don't know, I only really pay attention to NRL during finals and State of Origin.
Match 6: The $10,000 Terry Campese Battle Royal
A few of my NSW favourites feature here- names like The Tuckman, Jay Sorbet and Jimmy Townsend, as well as some local Canberra mainstays like E10 and Hugh Beauty. Dan Archer limps out to participate following his loss to Robbie Eagles earlier. The massive Slamoo enters, looking like an Aussie Vader, but everyone gathers together to get him out quick.
It's impossible to keep track of everything happening here, but of note- The Chief Rig is wearing a Newcastle Knights jersey, and stays in this thing until late, hitting a bunch of cannonballs. Dazza and Lee Morrow also have good showings. We come down to Ricky South and Hugh Beauty, who have a nice mini-match to close this out. Beauty goes for a springboard cross body, and South catches him and dumps him out to a chorus of boos.
Winner: Ricky South (at 13:30)
Star Rating: ***1/4. Battle royals are always hard to rate given their nature, but the closing stretch of South and Hugh Beauty elevated it slightly about your standard battle royal. There was a nice subverting of my expectations too- when the final 6 or so was all NSW guys and the local Hugh Beauty, I thought, "well, obviously the Canberra guy is getting it." Glad to be wrong there.
Post-match, Ricky gets interviewed. He is told that there is an offer to double the prize money and donate it to charity. Of course, he opts to keep it instead. That's what I was cheering for- treat yourself, king!" He heels on the crowd and the SLAM roster, promising to win the SLAM Rumble at the next show.
An extended hype video plays for the MIkey Broderick vs. Luke Watts feud (to give the crew time to set up the steel cage in the venue).
Main Event: SLAM Pro League Heavyweight Championship- Mikey Broderick (c) vs. Luke Watts
Veteran referee Graham "Fozzy" Young is back to officiate this massive main event. Big fight feel. The cage looks new and solid, a step up from many I've seen in Aussie wrestling. The cage door is chained shut- yep, this cage has a door- but escape must occur by climbing over the top.
Mikey wastes no time, with shoulder barges in the corner and chops on Watts. There's an early attempt at ramming the challenger face first into the steel, but Watts blocks it. He comes back with a flying headscissors. The high risk doesn't always work though, as The Hope goes for a Shooting Star Press, crashes and burns, and gets turned inside out with a lariat. Near fall. Mikey grinds Luke's face on the steel mesh of the cage wall. The beat down continues until Watts lands on his feet off a German suplex. He hits a German of his own for a near fall. They trade chops and strikes as the crowd goes into a frenzy.
Mikey fires back with a spear and a top rope elbows- but Luke kicks out! Mikey climbs the cage and Watts gives chase- and hits a super hurricanrana- or a Frankensteiner, if you will, from the top of the cage! Broderick somehow kicks out! Watts goes up top and this time hits the Shooting Star dead on- but the champ kicks out again! He goes up top again.. no, he's climbing the cage- and does a moonsault from the top! He covers... and we have a new SLAM Champion!
Winner: Luke Watts (at 11:25)
Star Rating: ****. The mesh of styles, with Mikey being more of a powerhouse (although he has a sweet top rope elbow) and Luke being the quintessential high-flier made this a very fun watch in the cage. A bit like the tag title match, this felt a little short, but they may have had time constraints- the posted finish time on the screen at the Convention Centre I believe was listed as 9:30- roughly when the main event started. Amazing action though, and it was great to see Watts crowned as the new champ after some truly death-defying feats. Excellent way to cap off the show!
This was an absolute triumph for Australian professional wrestling. Boasting unpredecented attendance numbers, with effective promotion spanning months, building a loyal and dedicated fanbase. Over 1700 people, with no former WWE stars or anything in sight? And then delivering an exciting wrestling product, with high quality, professional production. Just brilliant, and a great sign for Aussie wrestling going forward. Highly recommend this show on YouTube, and highly recommend that you buy a ticket to future SLAM shows!
Overall Score: 9/10
Until next time, take care.