WrestleWatch- PWA Black Label: Cherry's All That Results & Review
By Mick Robson
PWA (Pro Wrestling Australia) are making major waves around the Aussie pro wrestling scene, and on this night, they're descending upon Coogee Bay Hotel, for a show at the iconic Selina's venue. Selina's has played host to bands such as Midnight Oil, Hunters & Collectors, and even Nirvana in 1992! They also played host to PWA on one other occasion, for the Eat, Sleep, Wrestle, Repeat event in May (review here).
An interesting note on PWA's debut show at Selina's- it was originally intended to be called Extremely Strict Rules, with an advertising focus on the villainous SMS group. It seemed as if that card would be headlined by SMS leader Unsocial Jordan challenging PWA Heavyweight Champion Ricky South, but sadly Ricky fell to a neck injury, so plans were scrapped, and the promotional material was switched. More importantly, we lost the man who carried the flag for PWA for a long time, particularly through the pandemic, the champ, "Tuff Stuff".
At this show, we get Ricky South's big return match, as he faces Unsocial Jordan. Given the history between the two and the upcoming unification match between Ricky and Interim PWA Champion Mick Moretti, it appears that this will be a non-title match. Big time match, but it's actually not the main event!
That honor would go to Cherry Stephens, hence the event name of Cherry's All That. Everyone's Favourite Student of Wrestling has experienced a meteoric rise through PWA- just two years ago she was a Green Dingo!- but she's picked up wrestling at a Kurt Angle-esque pace, excelling in both matches and segments as her technical ability and character work is off the charts. Incredible comedic timing!
Cherry's rise would not be without its roadblocks, though, as she served as "intern" to an absolute goober, the abusive Will Kiedis. She would be mentored by the loveable Big Fudge, but Fudge wasn't without his faults, as he made a bet with Kiedis that he could make Cherry a champion. Cherry was furious to learn she was the subject of a bet, and would beat both Fudge and Kiedis in a No. 1 Contender's match by cashing in her Key To The Card. As a result of that win, she challenges Mick Moretti for the Soul of PWA Championship in the night's main event!
That's not all, though, as the burning rivalry between Jimmy Townsend and Rhys Angel culminates in a Last Man Standing match, Shazza McKenzie continues her crusade against the Nations by taking on Red Nation's Jack Bonza, and we see the return of the Velocities after their overseas excursion.
Let's do this!
We begin with an acknowledgement of country from ring announcer Diego Retamales before throwing to the standard PWA opening video. Always liked that little touch.
Kris Gale & Andrew Rose are on the call. Great to see Rose back! Concrete Davidson did an amazing job filling in last show, but the banter and chemistry between Gale & Rose is unmatched. The Heenan and Monsoon of PWA.
Match 1: Backpain (Backman, Jack Pain & Gym Bro Jessie Wilde) vs. The Velocities (Paris De Silva & Jude London) & Robbie Eagles
Thoughts: A size disparity like the one we saw between the two teams would ordinarily lead me to reference David vs. Goliath, but the smaller guys definitely weren't your traditional underdogs here. With the skills and success of the smaller men, it was just a brilliant clash of styles, as the Velocities and Robbie Eagles flew around the ring and used technique to hold their own. That said, Backpain most definitely took their opportunities to showcase their power and force, rattling the ring and the spines of their opposition with powerbombs and spinebusters. Gym Bro Jessie was an interesting X-factor- she generally matched size with the Velocities and Robbie, but is strong enough in her own right to throw them around.
Backpain were wise enough to get Robbie Eagles out of the ring for an extended stretch of time, as the former NJPW Jr Heavyweight Champion is an icon of PWA, but the Sniper of the Skies made his presence known at the right moment, launching himself through Backpain and the first 3 rows at Selina's with a low flip dive. In the ring, the Velocities hit an elevated slingblade on Jessie for the 3! It's a little awkward because Jessie kicks out at 3.1, leading me to believe it was meant to be a fun near fall rather than a finish, but it's hard to believe anything other a Velocities/Robbie win was the intended result anyway.
Winners: The Velocities & Robbie Eagles (or the Fast Bois) (at 13:05)
Star Rating: ***1/4. Slightly awkward finish aside, this was a great dose of action to kick off proceedings, and a highly successful return for the Velocities, who brought their ASCA Tag Team Championships from Italy with them. Interesting...
Match 2: Shazza McKenzie vs. Jack Bonza
Thoughts: Shazza continues the crusade to take out the Nations. Not about winning- she's happily taken DQ losses in order to inflict pain on Jessica Troy and Adam Hoffman. McKenzie has seemed to become increasingly unhinged trying to deal with these ghosts from her past, but interestingly she seems to be re-building her profile and confidence as a top tier competitor in PWA through these battles, as in recent shows, the Shazza vs. Nations matches have gotten increasingly competitive.
Another fun note on this one- Shazza enjoyed more crowd support in this one than she did previously against Jessica and even against Hoffman to a degree. Early on in the show, it feels like this crowd is much more engaged in what they're watching than they did at the debut show at Selina's. Shazza hits some big moves and manages to escape some of Bonza's more devastating holds, including the ankle lock and the STF. Ultimately, McKenzie gets a steel chair in frustration and jabs Bonza with it. But to prevent it fully feeling like Groundhog Day, Bonza punches through the chair and swats it out of the way. Troy and Moretti storm the ring as back-up, and McKenzie wilts away through the crowd.
Winner: Jack Bonza (via DQ) (at 8:25)
Star Rating: ***. Shazza is doing a great job conveying the fury she feels towards the Nations stable, and even through what are technically defeats, she's building her credibility through the fight she puts up in these matches, after previously having a run of bad luck that even included a loss to a Green Dingo! It sets her up nicely for perhaps a Soul of PWA shot down the line.
Following the match, a quick promo airs for the Let's F**king Go Black Label show on Oct 21 at the UNSW Roundhouse. It reveals that we will see the PWA debut of NJPW star Shingo Takagi! I missed this live- from first appearances it looks like a generic ad for the show, with the Takagi announcement tacked onto the end, so I was helping the ringside staff clean up the screws that flew off the chair- the damn thing exploded when Bonza hit it! Anyway, Shingo is a massive get, and will enhance the show tremendously. Would love to see him wrestle either Eagles or Bonza.
Match 3: Fatal 4 Way- Will Kiedis vs. Big Brother Billy Preston vs. Victor Langaz vs. Big Fudge
Thoughts: I don't believe I've seen Victor Langaz before. I did miss the last Academy Showcase, as it wasn't really advertised, but I've seen every other show over the last few years. I know he was making his Black Label debut, but has he not been on any other shows? He has a great look though. The money in this one is the Kiedis/Fudge rivalry, which of course involved poster girl Cherry Stephens. They bicker in between trying to fight each other and their opponents. Constant yells of "f**k you" as they trade strikes or even lock eyes!
Kiedis & Fudge briefly try to team up with a double suplex on Langaz, but Langaz suplexes them before instead! Preston gets involves with his 10 punches in the corner, and also crotches Fudge on the ropes. I'm still traumatised by Pete the Pirate tickling me with his feathersword during Billy's entrance. Nice Tower of Doom spot as Langaz almost gets the win! As Fudge and Kiedis brawl at ringside, Billy catches Langaz with the schoolboy! And if you're a long-time viewer of PWA, you know that NO ONE KICKS OUT OF THE SCHOOLBOY!
Winner: Big Brother Billy Preston (at 9:42)
Star Rating: **1/2. The antics of Fudge and Kiedis gave me a laugh, Langaz definitely seems to have potential. Billy Preston is obviously very talented, but the "Big Brother" character is one of the only ones in PWA that I absolutely can't stand. Probably why Pete the Pirate targeted me- I was shaking my head during the entrance of Billy and the "Playtime Pals". Weirdos.
A promo airs for the LFG Tour in October. Includes stops in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, Wollongong, Newcastle, Sydney and Canberra. Going to be massive! For more info, visit prowrestlingaustralia.com.au, or PWA social media.
Match 4: PWA Tag Team Championship- Prima Pi Kappa (Frankie B & Nikki Van Blair) vs. MK Plus Ultra (Michael Spencer & Kai Drake) (c)
Thoughts: Be still, my beating heart, PPK are here! A very fun, clear split between faces and heels here- we love PPK, and serenade Spencer with chants of "Spencer's a wanker". Nikki is high energy in her moves and mannerisms, such a charismatic character. Frankie continues to give her all in every outing. Great tandem moves between PPK- they're the less experienced team here, but you wouldn't know it by the way they double team on kick flurries and hit crisp moves like the double suplex.
Frankie does have a couple of rough moments with a rana and Lionsault that go a little wrong, but she recovers nicely and soldiers on. Hope she's okay given her history with injuries. Spencer does an effective job of slowing things down with an abdominal stretch while talking shit to the crowd. Who says men can't multi-task? The reigning champs take advantage of PWA's lucha tag rules too, which Rose does a nice job of explaining. The champs blast the challengers with some devastating kicks, but they continue to kick out and fight on! MK Plus get desperate and introduce a championship belt to the skull of Frankie. Her beautiful face! It's enough to retain the titles.
Winners: MK Plus Ultra (at 12:37)
Star Rating: ***1/4. A spirited effort from both sides, and MK truly revel in being dicks. I feel like PPK can absolutely be at the top of the tag division, but it just wasn't their time. And as much as we like to give MK Plus Ultra shit, they do hold the tag division to a very high standard.
After the match, the Velocities come out to confront MK Plus Ultra. They lay down a challenge for the Oct 21 show at the Roundhouse, and offer to put their ASCA Tag Championship on the line as well, Winner Take All! Ooh, I love the co-promotion with the Italian wrestling promotion. Great move to expand PWA's profile- I've already seen a Tweet saying, "Italy will be watching!"
Match 5: Last Man Standing- Jimmy Townsend vs. Rhys Angel
Thoughts: Very different structure to most Last Man Standing matches you will see, as there was an absence of weapon usage or big stunts. However, Townsend and Angel did brawl through the crowd, giving the FITE TV viewers a tour of Selina's. Jimmy also went a little high risk with a cross body off the stage back into the ring. This was largely presented as a "prize fight", with both men looking for knockout shots. Rhys scored early with the superman punch that saw Jimmy down for the majority of the 10 count. Rhys Angel also wore attire very similar to that of Matty Wahlberg (Grayson Waller on NXT) when he fought Caveman Ugg. Bit of a discount, cheap knock-off, though. Matty Wish-berg, if you will.
We saw some funny character-centric spots as well- Rhys slipping on his own baby oil, Jimmy using the sleeping bag- but the move of the match was a powerbomb onto some Legos! Perhaps the only real weapon usage of the match, but they made sure to make it as violent as possible. Jimmy legitimately came up bleeding from that move! The Wandering Soul was able to rally by tying Angel up in the sleeping bag against the ropes, and keeping them down for 10 that way.
Winner: Jimmy Townsend (at 17:35)
Star Rating: ***3/4. This was highly entertaining. Silly at points, which undercut some of the more serious build, but it was still true to their characters and showed why both men have a bright future in PWA (and perhaps elsewhere) for a long time to come. Townsend secured his first Black Label singles victory in 3 years with this one, so a big step forward in his development.
Intermission. Mick Moretti vs. Tommy Knight from the All Eyez On Troy event in 2019 is played on FITE. Moretti pins Knight following a brainbuster. Of note, Jimmy Townsend took the microphone after his match and declared his intention to go for the Soul of PWA Championship, but that promo was not broadcast to the FITE audience.
Match 6: Unsocial Jordan (w/ SMS) vs. "Tuff Stuff" Ricky South
Thoughts: Early on, Ricky was basically subjected to a handicap match, as any time he found himself on the outside of the ring, the other members of SMS- Carter Deams, Aaron Jake & Belinda Pierce- descending on him like vultures. Thankfully, they were eventually caught in the act and ejected by Referee Hannah. This lead to a more competitive back and forth, where Jordan was forced to display his skills. He managed to hit a top rope Falcon Arrow that definitely had me concerned for the welfare of the champ's neck.
Jordan would hit some of his best offence, including a couple of Shining Wizards, but "Tuff Stuff" showed why he is nicknamed so with some last second kickouts! He rallies with a lariat and a piledriver- a concussive combination which normally renders his opponent defenceless- but Jordan, to his credit, kicks out! Undetered, Ricky fires off another lariat, and this time a straitjacket variation of a piledriver (leaving Jordan unable to try and soften his fall in any way), and THAT gets the 3 count!
Winner: Ricky South (at 10:40)
Star Rating: ****. The beloved world champion turns in a classic performance, putting this seemingly never-ending feud to bed. I've had my issues with the story- I feel like it spanned too long without being fresh- literally years upon years, and the Metro angle was a big mis-step, but I never doubted how great the end result would be- a despised heel and a beloved babyface, both of whom can GO in the ring. The run-time was a bit shorter than I would have anticipated for a main event match, but the pace of the action and the investment of the crowd more than made up for it. Lovely work by both.
We get the announcement of the final entrant for this year's Colosseum tournament- it's "The Prodigy" Tommy Knight! That's convenient after he featured in the intermission match. An absolute powerhouse, and one half of the MCW Tag Team Champions, alongside heated rival and fellow entrant in this tournament, Slex! I mentioned in my MCW New Horizons review that there was no one in the tournament with the size and power of Caveman Ugg... well, that's out the window now!
The music of Lyrebird Luchi hits, and he rolls out in a wheelchair accompanied by security. Security carry him into the ring like a baby, and he takes the microphone. He references Mick Moretti "being reckless" at the last show which has put him in a wheelchair (it was certainly an odd way to end the show, whatever happened). He then turns his attention to Jessica Troy. He says "she's a bit obsessed with me" but says she can't do anything to him while he's in a wheelchair.
Be still, my beating heart, it's Jessica Troy! The Arm Collector prances out with a beaming smile on her face and makes a beeline for the ring. Security steps between them as Luchi begs off. He offers a handshake as a peace offering then hits her with a cheap shot! It was all a ruse, he's fine... but he still gets security to carry him up the ramp. Jess grabs the mic and says she will take his arm at the Roundhouse. So Luchi is legitimately fine apparently, that's a relief. Whatever happened at Paint It Black Label must have seemed worse than it really was. Go Jess!
Match 7: Soul Of PWA Championship- Cherry Stephens vs. Mick Moretti (c)
Thoughts: This was a great teacher vs. student battle, playing out like a technical chess match, going hold for counterhold for much of the early going. Eventually, Moretti got a bit gritty with strikes, but seemed conflicted about it, saying, "I'm sorry, Cherry!" The crowd was behind Cherry 1000%, much like they have been over the past year or so at least. She gave as good as she got, and it played into her "Student of Wrestling" character that she continued to find ways to reverse and avoid taking the biggest moves even deep into the match.
The investment that the crowd really paid off on the near falls of Cherry, which Moretti kept squirming out of at 2.99. Moretti got frustrated and slightly desperate with how close Cherry was getting to the win, so he grabbed a steel chair after Referee Nick was bumped out of the ring. Instead of hitting Cherry with it, though, he decided to do the Eddie Guerrero special- pretend that Cherry struck him with the chair to force a DQ. Ricky South ran out and stopped him, ultimately cracking him with the chair. Moretti came up covered in blood, and Cherry was able to hit a cradle pin to capture her first gold in PWA!
Winner: Cherry Stephens (at 34:15)
Star Rating: ****3/4. This was an emotional thrill-ride, an amazing culmination to the story of Cherry Stephens over the past year or so. All the bullshit she went through at the hands of Kiedis, even all the conflict and turmoil she experienced back when the Prefects disbanded, she came out the other side of it all, after the fight of her life, with a win over one of the biggest stars in PWA. The emotion was evident in Cherry's face, and that was mirrored by the crowd.
Post-match, Ricky South raises the hand of Cherry Stephens, two champions standing togther... then Ricky drops her with a piledriver! Moretti races back to the ring to chase him away. Ricky yells at ringside, "there's only one champion! Interim ain't shit!" Moretti presents Cherry with the Soul of PWA Championship and bows, leaving the ring to her to end the show as she soaks in the crowd's adulation.
This was an absolutely excellent show. Huge step up from the first Selina's show- not that it was necessarily bad, but underwhelming by the high standards of PWA. The crowd doubled in size, making for a far better atmosphere, and we saw the pay-off on a couple of long-term stories with Townsend/Angel and the Cherry Stephens arc. Then to top it off, the heel turn of Ricky South. I've never seen Ricky work as a true heel in PWA- he was briefly in SMS, but he seemed conflicted and under duress during that time, where there seemed to be zero of that conflict here. It served as a bit of a cliffhanger to end the show, but Ricky's couple of shouted lines seem to indicate that he was upset with PWA moving on and having other champions hold the fort in his absence. Perhaps feeling he's not been given the respect as champion with all the work he's put in at PWA. It creates a clear heel vs. face divide for the unification match at the Roundhouse and something truly fresh for Ricky. Love to see it.
Exactly the kind of show PWA needed as they get set to embark on the massive LFG Tour across the east coast of Australia in October. After the show, I briefly spoke to a couple who were attending their first PWA show. They had no idea that Australia "had wrestling", but loved it and want to come back for more shows. And that's really what it's all about.
Overall Score: 9/10
Until next time, take care.