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.


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