February, 12 2021
Factory Theatre Marrickville
On a wet Friday night, I attended PWA Black Label: Back in Black Label, my first live wrestling event since December 2019. My first since the world was much more normal. Just to really make the time passed since then seem super long. I saw Jushin Thunder Liger at the last wrestling show I attended in the 2010s. Human beings were absolutely crammed into the room with not a whole lot of regard for personal space at the last show I went to. That’s how long ago it was.
Granted, PWA has promoted a number of events in the meantime, before COVID-19, and minor ones since, but before everything was shut down, I guess I took these events for granted. They were on regularly enough, I would just catch the next big one. Being stuck inside for months made me miss going to things like this very much. This isn’t me declaring to attend every single wrestling show in Sydney from now on, but definitely much more than I used to.
COVID-19 in a lot of parts of Australia is not running as rampant as it is in a lot of parts of the world. I’m not an expert on the virus. I don’t know any more than any other regular person in their early 20s. But I know that right now, in the state of New South Wales, it’s minor enough that I don’t have to wear a mask everywhere, I can eat at a restaurant, I can go to the movies, and I can watch live professional wrestling.
After checking in via QR code, paying $8 for 700 mL total of bottled water, and waiting for the doors to open, I found my seat at the end of the distanced Row B, or so I thought. I guess I have a pandemic to thank for having some serious leg room at a live event. After sitting, waiting, watching the timer on the projector screen, the person set to sit to my right hit me with “Sorry, you’re in my seat.” I sat in the end seat of a 31–36 row, my ticket was for Row B Seat 36, but the row of chairs was short one, and the crew panicked as it seemed as if every row was short a seat. I stood awkwardly as they scrambled to amend this issue, but I was seated before the card began.
PWWA Championship match: Robbie Eagles d. Jessica Troy via DQ
The show opened with Jessica Troy, a young stand-out in this promotion, defending her PWWA Championship against Bullet Club-turned-CHAOS Junior Heavyweight Robbie Eagles in a match that could’ve and probably should’ve gone on last if not for the finish.
I have complicated feelings on intergender wrestling, and I won’t get into it in this column because that’s not what it’s about. With that aside, there was a lot to like in this one. Since the last time I watched Troy wrestle, she’s gone from being in great athletic shape to borderline shredded; I cannot stress enough that my point here is that Troy has gone from being in great condition to even greater condition.
People behind me even said “Oh my god” as she made her entrance. I need to get a hold of the Jessica Troy diet and/or workout plan. Eagles had no choice but to work heel here, and did a very decent job doing so. Finger-gunning at Troy’s mother who was seated in front of me was a highlight amongst working over Troy’s leg to set up for his Ron Miller Special. The match had serious heat, I was enjoying it, but when Charli Evans came to ringside with a towel and water bottle I knew where it was going.
Robbie climbed to the top rope, setting up for a 450 splash onto Troy’s knee when Evans pushed him off for a DQ. I knew as soon as Evans appeared at ringside that something was going to happen, I didn’t think it would be a finish this bad. Troy and Evans then argued, Troy rightfully saying Evans didn’t need to do what she did, before Evans superkicked her, turning heel, and staking her claim for a PWWA Title shot.
I just think a DQ cheapened the match. Troy could’ve rolled up Robbie for a pin and the crowd would’ve lost their shit. Evans could’ve celebrated with Troy and then superkicked her for the turn. I just don’t know about doing a DQ on the big opener with two of your biggest stars.
Unsocial Jordan and Bel Pierce defeated Shazza McKenzie and Big Fudge
Next was Unsocial Jordan and Bel Pierce vs. Shazza McKenzie and Big Fudge. This was made when McKenzie & Fudge challenged Jordan & Pierce during the latter’s heel promo. There was a lot of comedy, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but the audience loved it. McKenzie has tons of charisma and was maybe the best worker in the match, likely due to her level of experience and poise in the ring. I’m least familiar with Pierce but she did nothing bad and played her part perfectly. Part of Jordan’s gimmick is that he hates curse words, and I’ll just say this: Australians who don’t curse are like rules in AEW tag team matches. They’re non-existent. These fans were launching every swear-word under the sun at Jordan.
If you listen to “Family Reunion” by blink-182, those lyrics might cover everything that was said. Big Fudge doesn’t look like a wrestler but that’s part of his gimmick. He seems to be the promotion’s preeminent comedy wrestler, which again isn’t exactly my bag but the crowd does love him and in that environment it’s hard to not say he is successful. Just don’t let someone like Jim Cornette see this guy. Jordan pinned McKenzie.
Sam Osborne defeated Steph De Lander
Sam Osborne wrestled Steph De Lander in the next bout. Osborne, who’s a first-round draft pick in this promotion, is managed by Don Marnell who sort of looks like Orange Cassidy’s dad. De Lander is quite tall and looks very comfortable in the spotlight. I could see her in NXT or AEW Dark in the not too distant future after a little more ring time. The majors should be paying attention to SDL.
Darnell’s stable is called “MMA,” which is an interesting name for a squad in pro-wrestling, but I can see how it could garner heat. Osborne won this the same way Jay White beat Kota Ibushi for the briefcase last year. This was a good showcase of two future stars if they travel the world when it opens back up.
Kingsley defeated Jack Bonza via submission
The next match, Kingsley vs Jack Bonza, had the most intriguing storyline.
During the stricter COVID-19 lockdowns. PWA did their own round-robin/G1-style tournament called the PWA Premiership. Kingsley’s lack of success and frustration of which led to her challenging the stable leader for which she bears the flag, the Red Nation. Bonza, baffled by the very notion of the challenge, put his leadership of the group on the line, saying he’d let Kingsley lead the group if she were to beat him. He even wore street clothes (with wrestling boots) to the ring. I’ve seen Bonza many times and he’s one of the most solid workers in this promotion. He’s grown a pretty full beard and looks more hench than ever as a result.
I’ve only seen Kingsley a couple of times but she easily has the most potential of any of the talent on the younger side of the roster. She can play heel and babyface well and has improved immensely in-ring since the first time I saw her work.
This match was by no means perfect, but the story of it very much enhanced the drama. Bonza got plenty of heat, making the referee employ a 10-count while Kingsley was off her feet. There was a spot where the referee had to sell just being scared by a near-collision with Bonza for way too long, and there was a spot that had it gone wrong could have very well ended Kingsley’s career, at least that’s how it looked from where I was sitting, but this was in no way bad. Kingsley submitted Bonza, and if you weren’t on the hard cam’s side you’d think it was legit, but the mannerisms in the submission indicated that there’s going to be a lot more to this story. Bonza just nonchalantly tapped, essentially handing Kingsley the win and the leadership. After the match, Bonza gave Kingsley a congratulatory hug and only sold his leg when she was looking. Kingsley’s persona will make for a great stable leader and one has to wonder what Bonza’s grand plan is by letting Kingsley win and lead HIS group.
Aussie Open defeated Ricky South and Matty Wahlberg
Up next was a tag team open challenge issued by the tandem of Ricky South and Matty Wahlberg. South is a relatively big dude with a flamboyant gimmick, Wahlberg appears to be a massive NBA fan (nice) and could easily be the face of this promotion some day. He has an interesting look wearing gloves, boxing shorts and carrying a red solo cup to the ring, but he’s got tons of charisma. This was the best bout on the show, one of the main reasons for this was that the open challenge was answered by Aussie Open. Get it? Open Challenge. Aussie Open.
For whatever reason, Aussie Open got something like 60% of the pop they should have. I was super excited to see these two in person. I didn’t take a lot of notes because I was just really glued to the match. There isn’t much else to say other than this was a super fun modern-style tag team match, and if you watch one match from this card, make it this one. Aussie Open looked seasoned and worked incredibly well, I couldn’t imagine how much those guys miss working the UK promotions. Do I have to thank COVID-19 again? For this great match?
During the intermission there were people standing in the walkway/aisle between all the chairs and holding up a lot of other folks trying to pass. If this was you and you’re reading this, don’t do it again.
I didn’t see the cinematic playground match as it wasn’t shown in the room, and, well, it’s a playground match.
Tree Hugger Luchi defeated Mick Moretti
The next match was the culmination of the aforementioned Premiership, Mick Moretti vs Tree Hugger Luchi. Moretti is in impeccable condition and has a great look with the facepaint, and Luchi I think could be a big deal under a different gimmick. I’m not sure if it was intended but Moretti was wrestling in what appeared to be compression tights that guys wear to the gym underneath shorts, with no boots, no belt, nothing. It almost seemed like he forgot his normal gear.
It was a weird match and shorter than I expected it to be for a tournament final. There were a bunch of clowns that entered with Moretti, then they left. I assume that they may have been doing this throughout the tournament, I didn’t watch the whole thing, shoot me. After maybe 5-10 minutes of decent work, the clowns came back later to interfere, against Moretti, before one clown laid out Moretti when the referee was distracted and was revealed to be Matty Wahlberg. I’m not familiar with any recent storyline between these two but the reveal got a major pop. As a result of this, Luchi took the “W” and the Premiership.
This was the fourth win of the night, maybe a couple too many, I wouldn’t expect it after a lengthy tournament either. It might have been said, if so I didn’t hear it, but I’m assuming Luchi will get a shot at one of the promotion’s belts.
Charli Evans defeated Matt Diamond, Rhys Angel and Will Kiedis in a four-way match
There was a four-way match next, this was the match that in hindsight maybe could’ve been cut as the show already felt a little long and there was still the main event to come. I understand why it was there. More people on the card, they can get paid, and it was good to give Charli Evans a win. She pinned Matt Diamond, also involved was Rhys Angel and Will Kiedis. The match was fine. Matt Diamond was one of the most crisp workers on the card. Angel and his manager were a fun act and were over big with the crowd. Kiedis has this thing where he calls people a “goober” and then everyone around me proceeds to chant “goober”, and if you know that the C in C.J. stands for you’ll understand why this wasn’t fun for me. Charli Evans was solid and is being built for the match against Jessica Troy for the PWWA title.
PWA Tag Team Championship TLC match: The Velocities (Paris de Silva and Jude London) defeated MK Plus Ultra (Kai Drake and Michael Spencer)
This main event was a doozy. An advertised ladder match that was really a TLC match, for the PWA Tag Team Championship titles. The Velocities, Paris de Silva and Jude London, defended against Kai Drake and Michael Spencer, c.k.a. MK Plus Ultra. I had woken up at 5:00 a.m. that morning, as I do near-daily, so I was quite tired by this point. I even considered leaving the show early and ordering the replay to see the main event, because of both the tiredness and I just had a bad feeling with the danger of this type of match, and my premonition proved to be quite accurate.
The ratio of high spots to actual attempts to pull the belts down was lopsided, but the spots were impressive, even spectacular and I certainly could never do them myself, but it just felt like it was too dangerous a match to do in such a confined space. With that said, the crowd was very much invested in this match. The big spots and stunts got great responses, some of the better ones were the air raid crash off the ladder, the driver off the apron through the table, and the twisting flip dive thing off the ladder to the outside.
The match’s momentum was ruined, however, when a young girl sitting ringside was accidentally hit in the face with a chair. This was so bad. I’m not going off on the wrestlers here, shit happens, it was clearly an accident, and these things are always a possibility when you’re doing a garbage match in a setup with no barricade, nothing between the fans and the ring except rules and common sense.
This girl was lucky to not lose any teeth or have any blood drawn by the chair, an ice pack was brought out and many that work for the promotion came to her to ensure she was okay. This unfortunate event made me think to myself that maybe you shouldn’t try to have a big spectacle TLC match in a venue that is really quite confined.
There’s no such thing as a perfect promotion, and I like to think a lesson was learned by this accident. These teams could’ve had a great straight wrestling match and still done some big high spots. I was in the second row and even I was worried about a ladder flying out and hitting me in the face.
Overall, this was a good show. The crowd was full of energy for every single match. It very much feels like a PWA has a loyal and dedicated audience and a lot of the wrestlers on this roster have a great connection with the fans. The storylines are interesting, the booking is good, aside from a few of the finishes on this card, and this show is fun. It’s definitely something you could bring a non-fan date to. It’s something you can go to with your pals, and from what I saw it would’ve come across well on FITE. I give it a thumbs up overall, I want this promotion and its talent to further succeed. It felt good to be back watching wrestling live in the flesh.