WrestleWatch- PWA: Stories From Liberty Hall (27/01/2023)
By Mick Robson
Ah shit. Here we go again.
Outside of a one-off show in 2021, Pro Wrestling Australia have not called Liberty Hall home for 3 years. The former Max Watts venue was where the popularity of PWA and Aussie wrestling as a whole really exploded. Some incredible matches and moments, and a rabid atmosphere that is really unmatched.
I'm grateful that we had Factory Theatre as a place to go as PWA navigated out of the pandemic, but the general vibe was never the same as those Max Watts shows. I attended a couple of PWA shows at RSLs before going to Max Watts on a monthly basis in 2018 and 2019. It was a truly magical time.
I could write a lengthy intro talking about PWA's history at the venue now known as Liberty Hall, but instead I'll let this outstanding video by Video Boy Jax do the work for me.
Also, I get a kick out of the branding for these shows. A Grand Theft Auto- inspired theme hits perfectly in the nostalgia gland for me (although, cards on the table, I never played the Liberty City games, was all about Vice City and San Andreas back in the day). The main event of the show plays into that in a way as well- the PWA Champion, The Example, Ricky South, puts his title on the line for the first time since unifying the belts at the Roundhouse. His challenger is a man who would not look out of place on the streets of Los Santos- the Exception, Ben Braxton. With a thug-like demeanour, Brax is an awe-inspiring athlete who frequently steals the show on any PWA card he appears on, and was able to have his break-through moment at PWA Die Hard in the Six Pack Challenge, punching his ticket to the top spot for the first card of 2023.
Let's do this!
The opening of the show resembles the PS2 boot-up screen, but reading "Pro Wrestling Australia" instead of "PlayStation 2". Brilliant.
Our commentators for this evening are Kris Gale and the one and only Big Fudge. My sources tell me that Andrew Rose was pre-occupied with a hookers and cocaine-fueled binge and couldn't make it. But in seriousness, wishing him well and hoping we get Rose back on the next one.
Kris gives Robbie Eagles the big, dramatic introduction... but it's actually Paris De Silva who's out first. Whoops.
Match 1: Paris De Silva vs. Robbie Eagles
Kicking off the show with a bit of dream match here, possibly the two best high-fliers to ever grace PWA. Robbie is quick to remind us that he "hits like a heavyweight" though, and begins proceedings by slapping the taste out of Paris' mouth. They trade holds, Robbie goes for an early Ron Miller Special, Paris kicks out of it, double nip up, stalemate.
Paris quickens the pace, sending Eagles sprawling to the outside after a hurricanrana and wasting zero time in hitting a suicide dive! Back in the ring, they trade strikes and Robbie kicks the soul out of Paris' body. Fudge talks about Eagle's educated feet, saying "they've been reading books all day". Jokes aside, Fudge is very switched on on commentary, adding a lot of insight early on. Sunset flip by Eagles, snap rana by Paris, they trade pin attempts. Nail biting stuff here.
They trade blistering chops and Robbie starts to attack the leg, both setting up for the Ron Miller and attempting to negate De Silva's high flying game. That said, Paris digs deep with a lariat, flipping Eagles inside out! Something new from the Spartan Spirit! A tornado DDT follows, then a brainbuster... then a massive top rope Frog Splash! Unreal height by Paris for a near fall. Paris immediately applies a crossface, but Robbie makes the ropes.
Paris is moving a bit gingerly due to the leg attacks by Robbie, and the Sniper exploits that by hitting a springboard dropkick to the knee! A real tide turner. They trade roughly 20 chops each and the intensity has accelerated in this one! Eagles attempts the Ron Miller, Paris turns it into an inside cradle for a 2 count. Robbie right back to it and locks in the submission! Paris rolls out of it and kicks his way to his feet. Robbie looks for... wait, has he renamed the Turbo Backpack the "Pack and Send Driver"? That's the case according to Fudge, but Paris turns it into a poison rana! A massive satellite DDT follows, but Robbie kicks out at 2.95!
They battle on the ropes for an extended period of time, and Robbie ultimately scores with a Super Pack And Send Driver! Paris kicks out, but Robbie feels the momentum swing. 450 Splash to the leg, Ron Miller Special, scene.
Winner: Robbie Eagles (at 16:30)
Star Rating: ****1/2. That was an absolute statement. The last PWA match at Liberty Hall was a classic- also involving Paris De Silva, funnily enough, Velocities vs. Aussie Open- and this was right up there too. As Kris pointed out, this shows that Paris has definite major upside as a singles competitor, but he fell just short of the Ace of PWA, Robbie Eagles. Outstanding work.
Post-match, Robbie raises Paris' hand, then makes his intentions clear- whether it's Ricky South or Ben Braxton, he's coming for PWA gold. Love to see it.
We get an on-camera with Kris and Fudge, where they run down the rest of the card. Interestingly, they note that the Premiership this year is a single-elimination tournament- ah, so it's really a Premiership in name only, not the awesome original round robin format with the blocks, the point system and the 10 min time limit. Still, it'll be good to see the tag division get a spotlight.
Match 2: Premiership First Round- Green Dingoes (Tuckman & Langaz) vs. Rogue Army (Jack Bonza & Bad Luck Fale)
Hey, I thought Tuckman graduated from the Dingoes, he was on the last Black Label show in full gimmick, back to the Dingo gear for this one. The work never stops. Bonza does a pre-match promo talking about how Mick Moretti hurt his feelings on social media, so he found a new tag partner- the imposing Bad Luck Fale from New Japan! What a monster.
The Dingoes jump Bullet Club, trying to go on the attack early, but to no avail. Fale mows Tuckman down with a shoulder block. Bonza tags in and hits a sit-down powerbomb for the 3 count- while still wearing his Bullet Club hat.
Winners: Rogue Army (at 1:30)
Star Rating: *1/2. Just immediate domination. Fale was a fairly obvious choice after Bonza's promo online, but his presence still lent extra star power to this show. Easy night of work, and that's too sweet!
Bonza gets back on the mic and says that the real reason Fale is here- the Rogue Army is recruiting. Very interesting!
A video package airs on the Billy Preston/Unsocial Jordan feud. Billy tricked Jordan into saying "f**k" at the last PWA show. In this match, if Billy wins, Jordan has to say "c**t". If Jordan wins, then Billy gets his mouth washed out with soap.
Match 3: Unsocial Jordan (w/ SMS) vs. Big Brother Billy Preston (w/ The Playtime Pals)
They start throwing fists at each other immediately, hockey fight-style. Billy is sent to the outside and Jordan distracts Referee Hannah, allowing SMS to get some cheap shots in. Back in the ring, Billy scores with a double leg takedown and rains down strikes. Billy throws Jordan outside and the Playtime Pals stomp him down!
Preston takes control wiith his tomahawk chops, including one of the springboard variety. We get the 10 punches in the corner- yay, now I know how to count to 10! Billy runs the ropes but Aaron grabs his foot, allowing Jordan to hit a superkick. The Playtime Pals approach SMS but they get smashed. Nice. Preston goes for the cazadora but gets faceplanted by Jordan. The Shining Wizard follows, but Billy kicks out! The dream (to make Jordan say "c**t") is still alive! Jordan goes for the Kiwi Crusher, Billy goes for the Overdrive. Those moves are blocked. Jordan hits a superkick, but Billy responds with an enziguri! Both men are down!
Billy scores with a clothesline and a back suplex. Rolling neckbreaker gets a 2 count. He goes up top but Belinda interferes, allowing Jordan to throw him off. Cross legged Falcon Arrow scores for the win.
Winner: Unsocial Jordan (at 7:20)
Star Rating: ***. Good action and use of the people at ringside. Billy showed nice fire throughout this one and the crowd was behind him more than I've heard before- or is that the Liberty Hall effect?
Post-match, SMS attack Billy and not only put soap in his mouth, but duct tape it in! Wow.
Match 4: Premiership First Round- Prima Pi Kappa (Nikki Van Blair & Frankie B) vs. Backpain (Backman & Jack Pain) (w/ Gym Bro Jessie)
Backman and Frankie begin. We get a tie up, a go behind... and all of a sudden, Backman is a little embarassed, covering his crotch and tagging out. He's only human. Tags on both sides to Jack and Nikki. We get a wheelbarrow... and now it's Jack embarassed, holding his crotch and looking to tag out- but Backman wants none of it. He also has some tissues. Very emotional match.
PPK take advantage of the shenanigans with a double Russian leg sweep on Jack, followed by a pair of kicks. Backman gets back in and Frankie hits him with the universal "small dick" taunt. He responds by throwing the tissues at PPK, which they seem disgusted by. Men are allowed to have emotions, y'know! Backman seems to have pulled himself... together and whips Frankie into a Jack Pain clothesline. Kick out by Frankie. Both members of Backpain take turns slamming Frankie, but she kicks out both times.
Frankie fires back with strikes and chops. An arm drag off the ropes isn't the cleanest, but it gets Backman down and to the corner. Tag to Nikki and she's on fire with boots, punches, headbutts, got it all going on! Big Samoan Drop on Jack, then Frankie tags in and hits the moonsault. Backman breaks it up. PPK low bridge him out, Jack looks for a powerbomb on Frankie but she turns it into a rana. Frankie with the Camel Clutch to make him humble, but Gym Bro Jessie throws pre workout into Jack's face, and he hulks up! Backman in, and we get the slingshot into a spinebuster on Frankie for the win!
Winners: Backpain (at 6:46)
Star Rating: ***1/2. This was great. Hilarious throughout most of it, but still underpinned with a little seriousness and intensity when it was needed, given the prestige of the Premiership. Backpain are my picks to win this thing, but PPK are stars and have an extremely bright future.
Kris Gale and Big Fudge make the point that PPK have something missing- with Gym Bro Jessie being a difference maker in this match, perhaps PPK need a new sorority sister? Well, I don't think it'll be Lena Kross.
Match 5: PWA No. 1 Contendership Gauntlet Match
Our first two competitors are Shazza McKenzie & Kingsley. Kingsley throws tea in Shazza's face immediately and hits a backslide for a near fall. They trade some kicks and pin attempts. Kingsley goes for a sunset flip but Shazza sits down, grabbing the ropes for leverage and gets the 3 count. KINGSLEY IS ELIMINATED.
The next entrant in the gauntlet is Jessica Troy. Jess is fired up for this one- her and Shazza have a lot of history, more recently in Shazza's crusade to end the Nations, but they also had one of the greatest matches in Liberty Hall history at All Eyez on Troy. They furiously trade strikes, then Jess sends Shazza to the outside and nails her with a suicide dive! Back in the ring, a Meteora to the arm gets a near fall. Shazza comes back shortly after with a fisherman buster for a near fall of her own. Shazza goes for the Stunner, but it's blocked. Jess applies the Fujiwara armbar, Shazza tries to roll through- and Troy stacks her up for the 3 count! SHAZZA MCKENZIE IS ELIMINATED.
The next entrant is Will Kiedis. Jess immediately locks him in the Fujiwara armbar, he scrambles to the ropes... but Jess won't let go, and gets disqualified. Wait, I get why she was fired up facing Shazza, but why does she hate Kiedis so much that she's willing to get herself DQed? The commentary team are echoing my thoughts, so surely there's more to come from this. Anyway... JESSICA TROY IS ELIMINATED.
The next entrant is Carter Deams. Carter hits the End of Days, followed by the kimura, and WILL KIEDIS IS ELIMINATED.
Next up is Jude London. They exchange holds. Jude looks for the Koji Clutch but Carter blocks it. Carter looks for the End of Days but Jude flips out of it. They exchange strikes, and London gets the better of it with a spinning heel kick. Jude gets caught in the tree of woe but manages to avoid taking a double stomp from Deams. London hits a satellite DDT for a long 2 count. Springboard slingblade gets another near fall. The Koji Clutch is applied, but Carter appears to escape it by raking the eyes. He scores with the scissors kick, followed by another kimura. JUDE LONDON IS ELIMINATED.
The next competitor is Andrew Villalobos. He's a big boy! Villalobos brings the fight, but a defiant Deams returns fire with a slap. Fudge makes the point that they know each other from training together previously in the Fale Dojo. They trade heavy strikes. Villalobos with a big spinebuster, and tries to follow up with a Boston crab, but Carter grabs the ropes. Deams with a roll-up... and a handful of tights secure the victory! ANDREW VILLALOBOS IS ELIMINATED.
Next is Charli Evans. A dangerous glint in her eye as she enters Liberty Hall! She throws strikes with reckless abandon and sends the much larger Carter flying with an overhead throw. A knee strike plus a fisherman suplex get Charli a near fall. Charli goes for a superplex, but Carter applies the kimura to get out of it, followed by a top rope double stomp. Massive frog splash hits but Evans kicks out at 2. A frustrated Deams grabs a steel chair. Referee Sarge tries to stop it, but Charli says "bring it on", so he allows it! We're getting hardcore! Charli superkicks the chair into Carter's face! She then launches the chair at Deams' face, Sabu-style. She puts Carter in the tree of woe and hits a sliding dropkick through a stack of chairs! A running kick through Carter and another chair gets a near fall. Evans puts a line of chairs in their seated position, setting up for something big- but ultimately it's Carter who hits a package piledriver through the chairs! Somehow, Charli kicks out! Carter transitions into the kimura... and Charli taps! Wow! CHARLI EVANS IS ELIMINATED.
Our last entrant... it's Big Fudge! He gets up off commentary to handle some business! And damn, Carter has some massive welts on his back, I assume from the stack of chairs he went through. What a beast. He drops Fudge with an enziguri and tries to gather himself. Carter looks for the kimura, but Fudge counters with an inside cradle for a near fall. Deams looks for a suplex, but Fudge reverses into a Stunner. Fudge then scores with the DDT, and hits a senton off the second rope right into the back of Carter, welts and all. Near fall. Fudge with the Butt Punch, followed by a Code Red, for another close call. Fudge looks for the chokeslam but Carter blocks and hits a scissors kick. Deams looks for the package piledriver again- but Fudge counters into a seatbelt pin for the 3 count! Oh my god!
Winner: Big Fudge (at 30:15)
Star Rating: ****. Outstanding. Big Fudge is a huge surprise as a new no. 1 contender, and that'll lead to some fun shenanigans, but that was a breakout performance by Carter Deams. A wrestler who has established himself as a main event player in Newy Pro, this was perhaps his biggest opportunity in a PWA ring, and he knocked it out of the park. Charli Evans was also excellent, and I'm very curious to see where Jessica Troy is headed. Top tier pro wrestling all around.
Post-match promo by Fudge. "I fucking did it!" He hilariously says "I just beat 8 of the best in Australia". The Summer of Fudge has begun!
Intermission. They play a match from We Sold Our Souls To Rock & Robbie, which I believe was the very first Max Watts/Liberty Hall show. Adam Hoffman vs. Concrete Davidson vs. Mikey Broderick vs. Mat Diamond. Mat gets the win with the Diamond Cutter on Hoffman.
A promo airs for the Soul of PWA Championship match. It focuses of Cherry teaching Kai English, and once he learns it, he challenges her to a title match.
Match 6: Soul of PWA Championship- Kai Drake vs. Cherry Stephens (c)
They share a fist bump out of respect before the match. Chery gets the advantage in the early going, seemingly having a speed advantage, dropping Kai with a rolling neckbreaker. He soon returns fire with a German suplex for a near fall. Kai shows his strength advantage wiith a hard whip into the turnbuckles. Near fall. A low dropkick gets another 2 count. Cherry battles back with a jawbreaker and strikes. She hits a 619 to the gut, followed by a high kick. Diamond Dust by Cherry gets a near fall.
They trade simultaneous strikes, but Stephens gets the better of it with an enziguri. Kai surprises her with a bridging pin for a long 2 count. Kai levels her with a superkick but has trouble following up after the offense he's taken. They slowly get up for a yay/boo strike exchange. Cherry looks for the Tiger Driver, Kai fights out. Kai looks for the single leg Boston crab, Cherry fights out. Highly competitive match here!
Drake hits a sit out powerbomb for a 2 count. He nails a massive kick to the head and Cherry just manages to touch the ropes to break the count! After Kai hit some of his best stuff, he goes to Cherry's exercise book for extra guidance... then just rips a page out and eats it. He sets her up on the ropes, but Cherry counters and hits a schoolboy powerbomb! Running knee to the head- and it's all over!
Winner: Cherry Stephens (at 13:30)
Star Rating: ***3/4. The better of the two Cherry vs. MK Plus matches by a small margin. The story coming in, with Cherry playing teacher, added some more investment to this thing, and I like how it started very respectful then got gritty, such is the prestige of the Soul of PWA Championship.
Post match, Kai grabs a microphone and says, you've beaten Spencer, you've beaten Drake, but you haven't beaten MK Plus Ultra. I thought for a moment he was challenging her to a handicap match, but no. "PWA Premiership. Find a partner." Fun times!
A video airs where Jimmy Townsend and Mick Moretti seem to form an alliance, hence Bonza getting mad and getting Fale earlier.
Match 7: Mick Moretti (w/ Jimmy Townsend) vs. Sk8er Boi Nathan Pidgeon
Moretti implores Pidgeon to give it his best shot, and after a couple of attempts, a forearm drops the Rapscallion. An arm drag takedown follows, and it's a solid start for Pidgey. Pidgeon hits a couple of vertical suplexes, followed by a shotgun dropkick. Near fall for the young Sk8er Boi.
Moretti avoids a charging Pidgeon in the corner, then undoes the top turnbuckle. Moretti asks Jimmy for a steel chair but he doesn't oblige, allowing Pidgeon to hit an elevated DDT for a near fall. Moretti gets out of the ring and gets his own chair, only to do the classic Eddie Guerrero spot, tossing the chair to Pidgeon and feigning getting hit, which causes the ref to call for the DQ.
Winner: Mick Moretti (at 4:24)
Star Rating: **. Nice veteran wiles by Moretti. He seemed to be encouraging the fight from the relatively newly graduated Pidgeon, before outsmarting him for the easy victory.
Jimmy gets in the ring and he has the next match!
Match 8: Jimmy Townsend vs. Lyrebird Luchi
An aggressive tie up to start, then Luchi boots Jimmy in the gut and applies the side headlock. Jimmy fights back with a rana and a dropkick for a 2 count. Luchi rakes the eyes and hits a jawbreaker for a 2 of his own. Jimmy tries hard to fight back, and finally gets a real opening after a springboard cross body. Close near fall after the tornado butterfly suplex.
Jimmy goes for a moonsault, misses and tweaks his knee. Moretti jumps to the apron with a steel chair. Jimmy refuses to use it. Luchi takes advantage and hits the Stroke for the win!
Winner: Lyrebird Luchi (at 5:18)
Star Rating: **. Very similar to the previous match- some nice action, but it's more about building characters and story here. Speaking of...
The Bullet Club music hits, and Bonza & Fale make their presence known once again. Bonza calls this display "pathetic". He calls Townsend a loser. But, Moretti is still his brother, so he asks "do you want to join the Rogue Army?" (their branch of Bullet Club). Luchi explodes through the pack and takes out Moretti and Townsend. A Too Sweet is thrown up, and it's Luchi who's joining the Rogue Army! Intriguing development ahead of New Japan Tamashii next weekend.
Main Event: PWA Heavyweight Championship- Ben Braxton vs. Ricky South (c)
They lock up a couple of times and seem even in strength. Braxton hits a go behind and a waistlock takedown. Score one for Brax. They trade heavy chops then Braxton hits a sidewalk slam for a near fall. Braxton superman punches him to the outside and wipes him out with an Asai moonsault! They get back in the ring and Ben nails a spinebuster. He goes for the Lionsault but Ricky clips his legs out, then stomps his head against the apron. Ouch.
Ricky takes control of the match until Braxton hits a Buckshot Lariat. He stumbles a bit on it, proving that Logan Paul might be the greatest wrestler to ever live. Braxton goes to the ropes but Ricky catches him with a Flamingo Driver for a near fall! Soon after, Ricky chops the life out of Braxton, causing Fudge to question who he wants to face in his title shot. Braxton fires back with a Claymore and nips up. Next level athlete. Huge belly to belly by Braxton follows. A Death Valley Driver off the ropes after that, and the champ is reeling!
The crowd chants, "this is awesome" as they trade strikes. Braxton reverses a lariat into his signature spinning flatliner! The champ slowly rolls away from any pin attempt. He rolls out of the ring, looking for a break... but Braxton hits a flip dive off the ring post! Incredible! Back to the ring, he goes for a Swanton, but South moves out of the way. South goes for a piledriver but it's blocked. South blocks a kick and applied a seated single-leg Boston Crab! Braxton finds the ropes.
Referee Hannah tells Ricky to back up, and Ricky grabs her by the hair and yanks her up. Kris, who often skews towards the antagonists on the show, is outraged here, saying 'This is The Example?!?" Braxton hits a superkick for an excellent near fall. Braxton goes up top but Ricky stops him with a top rope German Suplex! Lariats follow, then the Doctor Bomb- but Braxton somehow kicks out of all of that! Brax is on his knees, trying to punch but flailing weakly. He's given all he can. Piledriver. 1-2-3.
Winner: Ricky South (at 18:15)
Star Rating: ****. Ricky gave Braxton a ton in that match, he was a human highlight reel! Extremely fun main event where Brax showed guts to go along with the flash, and Ricky showed that even though some may not like his attitude these days, his toughness cannot be questioned, taking everything Braxton had to dish out. A high level main event to close the show on a strong note.
Post-match, Big Fudge goes to check on Braxton but Ricky returns and lays out Brax with a piledriver. Fudge picks up the championship belt and raises it in the air... and the FITE broadcast finishes there. There was more to that little segment, but I guess I'll leave that for PWA social media to cover. Apparently, the next event at Liberty Hall, either Mar 4 or 5, I heard conflicting dates, is called Summer of Fudge, I'll leave it there.
This was an outstanding way to kick off PWA's run of shows in 2023. The top matches all delivered, with the opener and main event being stand-outs, but that gauntlet was something else! Throughout all the action, we had stories and characters established and built on, and a major moment with Lyrebird Luchi joining Bullet Club.
Also need to give a shout-out to the build up, especially in regards to Cherry vs. Kai Drake and Robbie vs. Paris. They could have been thrown out there cold, but clips were put out on social media to add context as to why the matches were happening and what the character motivations were.
And the final tick in the column- the atmosphere. Crowd participation and engagement is such a major part of what makes pro wrestling special, and the atmosphere at Liberty Hall far outshined any Factory Theatre show- especially the last one, where I felt people were quite muted and it affected my enjoyment of the show a bit. On this night, people were buzzing the whole time, which I think just elevates everything. Highly recommended show, and if you're not on the PWA bandwagon, now's a great time to jump on!
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Until next time, take care.