Sunday, October 16, 2016

SHOW REVIEW: IWA Fighting Spirit (Penrith Panthers World Of Entertainment, October 14, 2016)

I THINK a certain amount of negativity has been floating around the Aussie scene since last Friday. Or maybe it's jealousy?
Because I am arguably the most POSITIVE man in Australian wrestling, I think it's time I reviewed IWA Fighting Spirit at Penrith Panthers last Friday.
Firstly, congratulations to EVERYONE who helped in organising this event. Your efforts showed as you drew a crowd of 500+ and the venue was done up like a treat. Great lighting, great sound, great set-up all round. :)
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I reckon this would be the biggest crowd for a Sydney show since the last Supershow in 2005, so again, CONGRATS to IWA and the guys who put this event together.
To the vast array of local and interstate talent on show, I can only say that I enjoyed myself immensely and would rate this as easily the best show IWA has ever staged. Let's do a run-down of the matches, shall we?
1. The five-way was a helluva opening match. The guys worked well together and didn't outstay their welcome considering there was going to be a loooooong Royal Rumble following them. Great moves, great chemistry and great crowd heat. Will all due respect to the interstate talent that followed these boys, but this was easily the second best match on the card. Congrats to IWA in pulling the trigger on Paris as the new Trans-Tasman champ. The company needs a new plucky babyface hero and Paris fits the bill. I was also greatly impressed, as usual, with Joshua Gatt's power moves. The bull is strong. :)
Hopefully, ex-champ Randal and Keegan can now settle into a nice lil' blood feud, culminating with a mask vs moustache match. Lucha! Lucha!
2. Super Contender Cup: This is the second local Royal Rumble I've seen this year and both were lots of fun. It was cool to see Salem stomp a hole in never-say-die babyface Turkish Delight. The interstaters all had their moments to shine. The veterans - Angus McLoud, Rob Matrix and Scarecrow - had fun but didn't overshadow the regular roster. Overall, a well-put-together rumble, especially as you had to coordinate 20 bodies in that ring. I was a bit surprised Apollo won to earn a shot at any title whenever and wherever he wants, but it played into the main storyline later that night.
3. Mark Mercedes pinned Ryan Eagles after a cool no-DQ brawl that went into the crowd, up into the upper sections, then down again. Crutches, tables, chairs – there was plenty of hard-core mayhem before Robbie Eagles interfered to put his older brother through a table courtesy of a 450 splash and hand the win to the IWA owner. Great stuff, especially from the old hand Mercedes in his first full match in some years.
4. For me, the bout of the night was Tyson Gibbs’ clash with “Jurassic Punk” Syd Parker. Just a brutal, hard-hitting affair. As a friend told me, there is NOBODY with a persona like Syd Parker in the world today. This guy has superstar written all over him. And Gibbs is the perfect opponent for him – just a hard-working BEAST of a wrestler. Also, kudos to the finish. There aren’t too many top babyfaces who’d put over an outsider clean with a submission loss. I presume that means we’ll be seeing more of Syd on future shows. That can only be a good thing.
5. After the intermission, it was time for Mr Juicy vs Jonah Rock. This promised to be the show-stealer, but sadly fell rather short. Technically, it was very sound. But there was no crowd heat whatsoever, probably because both guys did a serious, Melbourne-style match and didn’t really play to the crowd (who didn’t know who they were anyway, as they were mostly casual fans). If Mr Juicy had just done a few minutes of comedy to get the crowd pumped up and on his side, then this bout could have really clicked with the crowd. As it was, it was just......THERE.
6. I won’t speak too much about the women’s bout. The accidental injury to Harley Wonderland was terrible and I’m just glad she’s not too banged up. However, I will say that Rachel Rose was probably having the best match I’ve seen her in till the accident happened.
7. The crowd was flat at this point, but the heavyweight title match between champ Alex Titan (with manager Lord Mark Williamson) and South Oz’s Damian Slater picked them up again. Just a fantastic main event – how can you go wrong with a top-level talent like Slater in the ring, right? – with enough false finishes to put the ending in doubt before Titan finally got the sneaky three-count. Having a heel go over could have been a down ending for this card except......
8. Apollo came out, cashed in his Super Contender title shot, speared Titan and won the belt. Shades of Hogan vs Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX (or Money In The Bank) and the crowd BLOODY LOVED IT. A sensational way to close the card and send the crowd home happy. Great booking, IWA.
A few final notes... I thought Ed and Jackson meshed better as a commentary team than they have on previous shows. So that was cool.
Would have been nice to see a few more guys do post-match interviews – maybe just a quick comment as they went past the commentary desk, but that’s just a small quibble.
Guest ring announcer Summer was very pretty and wore a nice red dress.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Fighting Spirit was a tremendous card, although the first half was clearly stronger than the second half. Still, every match was good to great (women’s match aside).
As for the IWA itself, what a remarkable change in this promotion during the past 18 months. IWA has always been a financial success – hell, 18 years in existence is testament to that – but now the match quality is as high as it’s ever been. Seriously, this promotion is amazing when it comes to talent depth – and that’s not even counting the guys they bring in from interstate.

There seems no doubt in my mind that the IWA is, head and shoulders, the No. 1 promotion in NSW at present and, arguably, one of the top three in Australia. I can’t wait to see where this newfound momentum takes the promotion in 2017.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Highspots second-chance box: THE OPENING

I KNEW what was in the Highspots mystery box - not much of  mystery then - but it looked so cool I HAD to get it. Let's see what's inside.

 Looks intriguing.

Holy Mother of God! Five years ago I would have been pissed to have a Drew McIntyre T-shirt, but now? I am fucking stoked! :)

Three DVDs and all look like winners. I love the current incarnation of Pro Wrestling Guerilla, so this disc of PWG All-Star Weekend Night Two should be great.
The Funk Family two-disc set should be incredible.
Finally, I cannot wait to listen to Rob Naylor chat with my fave wrestler in Hitting The Highspots: Will Ospreay
These should be fantastic. :)

Here's the main reason I bought this box: PWG BOLA 2016 trading cards!!!
Very, very, very fucking noice!

A Konnan photo, clearly signed by the man when he was "under the weather".

And an English wrestling sheet/mag with high-quality paper and great production values. I haven't read it yet but the photography is lovely and some of the pages are in full colour, too. Score!
FINAL COMMENT: The box cost me around AUD$125. By my reckoning, it's around AUD$150 value (depending on how you value an autograph clearly scribbled by Konnan while under the influence and a Drew McIntyre t-shirt). So it's reasonable value under any circumstances. However, as I loved EVERYTHING about this box, then I'd say it was AWESOME VALUE.
Not sure if I'd recommend Highspots boxes to overseas customers due to the high postage costs, but the occasional one-off is fun, especially if you know the contents and expect to like 100% of the contents.
Of course, once the Aussie dollar inevitably rises towards parity with the greenback, then you'll find me buying loads more of these boxes, I suspect.
RATING: A big five stars out of five!

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Zealand wrestling scrapbook (c.1940s)

Kiwi grappler Lofty Blomfield wrestles an elephant (as you do)

Enjoy! Find it HERE.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

BLAST FROM THE PAST: "Confessions Of A Ring Rat" (Betty Paginated, 1998)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What Would Chris Benoit Do? The Sheet: Issue 2 (Winter, 2016)

BECAUSE Nick demanded it. :)

Download the PDF HERE.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

It's the first issue of WHAT WOULD CHRIS BENOIT DO? ... and it's FREE!

Yes, to celebrate the upcoming publication of the second issue of my zine What Would Chris Benoit Do?, I'm re-releasing the first issue as a PDF for FREE, so you can get a taste of what this publication is all about.
If you want to get your hands on WWCBD? #2, drop me an email at "danhelen" [at] "".

Download the PDF to issue one HERE.

Friday, July 01, 2016

COMICS READING FOR JUNE: “Keep It Civil – Captain America vs Iron Man (Part 2)”

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-4. Marvel Adventures: The Avengers/Hulk (Marvel, 2011) ****
- originally published in Super Heroes #9-12 (Marvel, 2011)
Writers: Paul Tobin (#9-11) and Mike Raicht (#12)/Artists: various
5.-12. Earth’s Mightiest Avengers II #1-8 (Marvel, 2007) ***¼
Writer: Joe Casey/Artists: Will Rosado and Tom Palmer (interiors); Dave Johnson (covers)
13.-18. What If... #3, 4, 20, 25, 29, 32 (Marvel, 1977-82) ***
Writers/Artists: various
19. What If Special (Marvel, 1988) ***¼
Writer: Peter Gillis/Artists: Steve Ditko and Pat Redding
20.-28. What If...? Vol. 2 #1, #5, (Marvel, 1989-99) ***
Writers/Artists: various
Most of these yarns are kinda tedious as they hinge on “key moments” to events that weren’t particularly key in the Marvel scheme of things. “What If...The Avengers Lost The Evolutionary War?” or “What If...The Avengers Battled The Carnage Cosmic?” And the creative teams are lacklustre to say the least. The only two stand-out issues among this lot (for two very different reasons) are #29 (What If...Captain America Had Formed The Avengers”) – written by the odious George Caragonne and filled to the brim with tasteless racism – and the surprisingly fun #41 (“What If...The Avengers Had Fought Galactus”) – with Kirby-esque artwork by Jim Valentino and Sam DeLarosa and a reimagined tale where the Avengers and The Watcher throw down with Galactus rather than the Fantastic Four (Fantastic Four #48-50). If only more of these tales had #41’s joy and passion.
29.-31. Marvel Universe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #1-3 (Marvel, 2012) ***½
Writer: Christopher Yost/Artists: various
32.-36. Avengers Assemble #1-3, 6, 8 (Marvel, 2012) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Mark Bagley and Danny Miki
37. The Avengers Movie Festival (ACP Magazines, 2012) ***
- featuring an Avengers tale from Marvel (Writer: Fred Van Lene/Artist: Ron Lim
38. Marvel Two-in-One #75 (Marvel, 1981) ***
Writer: Tom DeFalco/Artists: Alan Kupperberg and Chic Stone
39. Avengers Classic #1 (Marvel, 2007) ****
- featuring Avengers #1 (Marvel, 1963)
The Avengers #1: Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers
“Some Assembly Required”: Writer: Dwayne McDuffie/Artist; Michael Avon Oeming
“The Real Origin Of The Avengers”: Writer: Stan Lee/Artist: Kevin Maguire
Cover: Art Adams
40. The Avengers #6 (Marvel, 1964, 2006) ***½
- reprinted as part of Marvel Legends Mojo Series
Writer: Stan Lee/Artist: Jack Kirby and Chic Stone
41. Civil War II #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: David Marquez
This was surprisingly good.
42. Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: Nick Spencer/Artist: Jesus Saiz
Apart from the “shock” final page, I really enjoyed the start of this new series. Smartly written, beautifully drawn and with a very timely storyline about terror organisations targeting disenfranchised young men (with Hydra replacing ISIS as the bad guys).
I’m sure the “Cap is a Hydra sleeper agent” storyline was always meant to have a twist. However, I was amused by the public outcry, followed by Marvel’s denials that it was an imaginary tale or a mind control issue, followed by further public outcry – only for it to be revealed in #2 that Cap has indeed been given false memories by “sentient Cosmic Cube” Kobik (don’t ask). So either Marvel lied in the media to build interest in the new Cap title or……or someone at Disney got upset and put their foot down and had things changed pretty damn quickly. Either way, I’m intrigued to see where this storyline is going. If the writing and artwork stays strong, I might be tempted to buy this arc as a graphic novel when it comes out.
43. All New Captain America #1 (Marvel, 2015) ****
- this is the Secret Wars/Marvel Legends 3¾ inch toy version published in 2016
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Stuart Immonen.

44. The Complete Iron Outlaw (The Sunday Observer and The Sunday Review, 1970-71) ****
Writer: Fysh Rutherford/Artist: Greg McAlpine (aka “Greg and Grae”)
I first read about this short-lived weekly comic strip in John Ryan’s excellent book, Panel By Panel. Finding the full run on Fysh’s website (, I immediately downloaded them and printed them out. While the Neal Adams-style artwork is a joy by itself, it’s the storyline that I found most fascinating. The biting critique of Australia’s bogan ways and off-hand racism and xenophobia puts Iron Outlaw in Barry McKenzie territory. In fact, one could say it makes a fine companion piece. While the strip – about a Melbourne bloke called Gary who finds Ned Kelly’s helmet and assumes the role as Australia’s No. 1 superhero – starts off as a parody of the worst excesses of bombastic Marvel comics of the 1970s, it eventually takes a darker direction when Iron Outlaw decides to right all the wrongs in Australia by becoming dictator. The strip ends on a brutal note with his “wog” girlfriend Steel Sheila in a concentration camp and sobbing, “Geez! I never knew Gary was like that!” Savage stuff.
45. Ice Cream & Sadness: More Comics From Cyanide & Happiness (itBooks, 2010) ****
Writers/Artists: Kris, Rob, Matt and Dave
46. Happy End (Actus Independent Comics, 2002) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
47.-52. Jacked (Vertigo, 2016) ****
- originally published in Jacked #1-6 (Vertigo, 2015-16)
Writer: Eric Kripke/Artists: John Higgins (interior) and Glenn Fabry (covers)
53. Penny Dreadful #1 (Titan, 2016) *
Writers: Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Andrew Hinderaker and Chris King/Artist: Louie de Martinis
54.-58. Black Science Vol. 4: Godworld (Image, 2016) ****
- originally published in Black Science #17-21 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Matteo Scalera
Finally, this series is really coming together. A strong volume in this wild reimagining of Lost In Space.
59. Manhattan Projects #1 (Image, 2012) ***¾
Writer: Jonathan Hickman/Artist: Nick Pitarra
What if the Manhattan Project had actually been multiple projects exploring a wide range of mind-bending, death-dealing concepts. What if its boss, Robert Oppenheimer, was in reality his serial killer twin brother, who’d earlier murdered and EATEN the real Robert and assumed his place. From these two insane conceits, Hickman weaves a startling tale that I never gave the time of day to, but I think I may have to now check out the first couple of trades. Pitarra’s art seems a bit Chris Burnham/Frank Quitely, which is a good thing. I didn’t like Hickman and Pitarra’s previous collaboration for Image, The Red Wing, but I’m definitely gonna check out Manhattan Projects.
60.-62. Timely Comics: Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #1 (Marvel, 2016) **¾
- originally published in Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #1-3 (Marvel, 2015-16)
Writers: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder/Artist: Natacha Bustos (interior); Amy Reeder (cover)
63.-65. Timely Comics: Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Doctor Strange #1-3 (Marvel, 2015-16)
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Chris Bachalo
66.-68. Timely Comics: Drax #1 (Marvel, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Drax #1-3 (Marvel, 2015-16)
Writer: CM Punk and Cullen Bunn/Artist: Scott Hepburn
69. The Beast Of Chicago by Rick Geary (NBM Comics Lit, 2003) ****
The horrific true story of the “first serial killer” HH Holmes and his hotel of horror. A fascinating, morbid red by a true great of the comics world.
70. Crites’ Colouring Book by Tom Crites (Headpress, 2016) *****
71.-76. They’re Not Like Us: Us Against You (Image, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in They’re Not Like Us #7-12 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Eric Stephenson/Artist: Simon Gane
77.-78. The Sandman: Overture #2-3 (Vertigo, 2014) ****
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artist: JH Williams III
79. FCBD: ROM/Action Man #0 (IDW, 2016) ***
Writers/Artists: various
80.-85. Outcast Vol. 3: This Little Light (Image, 2016) ****
- originally published in Outcast #13-18 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Robert Kirkman/Artist: Paul Azaceta
86.-87. Dream Police #8, 10 (Image, 2016) ***¼
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Sid Kotian

88. Howard the Duck Newspaper Strips Vol. 2 (Marvel, 1977) ***
- originally published as single strips from Aug. 1-Oct. 2, 1977
Writer: Steve Gerber/Artist: Gene Colan
Howard and Bev take on the Entropists, doom cultists who want to put the world out of its memory. Not as strong as the first arc, but it has its amusing moments.

89. Shattuck (Fantagraphics, 2016) ****
Writer: Wallace Wood/Artists: Wallace Wood and assistants
 Obscure Wally Wood work indeed.
90. The Wonderful World Of Barry McKenzie (Sun Books, 1972) ***
- originally published in Private Eye, 1968
Writer: Barry Humphries/Artist: Nicholas Garland
I’ve seen both Barry McKenzie films but I’d never read the famed English comic strip until I came across this collection in a second-hand bookshop in Mogo on the NSW south coast. Clearly it was very popular at the time as this is a 1972 reprint of a book initially printed in 1968 and subsequently reprinted several times. The one thing that strikes me is how much Humphries despises both the English and Australians in equal measure. I enjoyed the strip for the most part, although I grew tired of the endless loop of  drinking, chundering, Aussie gormlessness and cynical negativity. It probably worked better when it was read as a weekly strip. Still, an historical curiosity.

91. Silver Surfer #15 (Marvel, 2016) ***½
Writer: Dan Slott/Artist: Michael Allred
92. FCBD: Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics, 2016) ***½
Writers/Artists; Jaime and Gilbet Hernandez
93.-96. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #12-15 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham

97. Little Mouse: A 24-Hour Comic (self-published, 2015) *
Writer/Artist: Laura Renfrew
Yep, this definitely feels like it was written and drawn in a day. Utter shit.
98. Baristasaurus (self-published, 20??) ***½
Writer/Artist: Campbell Whyte
99. Brothers (self-published, 2014) ***¼
Writer/Artist: Andrew Fulton
100. Pond Scum (self-published, 2013) ***½
Writer/Artist: Neil Sanders
These were all sent to me last year as part of an Aussie mini-comix promotion. Some were good, some were bad, but a few were amazing.