You’ve clicked on this article, which means you’re probably looking to answer the question “what the hell is a PWA?”
PWA stands for Prairie Wrestling Alliance, and it is the most prominent of several indie wrestling promotions in Alberta, Canada.
I’m going to provide some context for that, but first, I should introduce myself. I’m Jeff, and when I’m not writing several thousand words about wrestling, I can be found at my drawing desk working as a cartoonist. Among other things, and of interest to you, dear VOW reader, is my webcomic about space wrestlers, HEAT (http://heat.rentathugcomics.com/). So go check that out when you’re done here. What else are you gonna do until quittin’ time? Work?
Given that you’re a big enough wrestling fan to read a site like this, you’ve probably heard of Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling. Pretty much every indie in Alberta can either trace a path back to Stampede or, if they can’t, fabricated one. For the most part, this means employing wrestlers who were trained by the Hart family and worked for the mid-’90s Stampede revival, then having those guys mention it constantly whenever they cut promos. It’s a weird badge of legitimacy that’s almost entirely meaningless in practical terms.
Edmonton, one of two primary markets in the province, has an interesting relationship with niche entertainment, in that it has A LOT of it. In terms of pro wrestling, that means there are currently three promotions active in town (that’s actually down from five in 2013). PWA is the largest, and the subject of this article.
They have the most polished presentation, and you can tell they desperately want to be WWE. Generally, their in-ring action has the highest average quality of the locals, but their booking is fairly bland. Real Canadian Wrestling (RCW) is a much grimier indie, but their shows always have potential as either wild successes or total trainwrecks. Depending on who’s doing the booking, there are periods where it’s great and periods where it’s trash. There will pretty much always be something terrible on an RCW show, but there’s also usually something awesome. The last promotion is the smallest, Monster Pro Wrestling. Monster’s booking is very good. Their roster is, most of the time, very bad. Both PWA and RCW utilize former WWE stars a few times a year to prop up the attendance.
So, the PWA. Founded in 2001, PWA is the largest indie promotion currently running in Alberta, with monthly shows in both Edmonton (the capital, where I live) and Calgary (the city people think is the capital). They’re the primary landing spot for students from Lance Storm’s school, and Storm himself spent several years in an agent role with the company. Show attendances range anywhere from 100 to 600 depending on how hot the booking is and if there are any big-name outsiders being brought in. Several PWA alumni are currently on WWE TV – Emma, Tyler Breeze, Jinder Mahal, and Viktor. Samoa Joe is in the PWA Hall of Fame (that’s a thing), and would appear at least once a year prior to his WWE signing. I attended my first PWA show in 2010 specifically to see Joe.
Through good fortune and happenstance, I fell ass-backwards into tickets to see a show I otherwise wouldn’t have attended, but which featured the best match I’ve ever seen live. Let’s get to it!
PWA Fright Night 2016
Northgate Lions Centre
Estimated Attendance: 150-200
Full house tonight for @PWAwrestlingca Fright Night! pic.twitter.com/dqLxk1JWtj
— Spanish Announce Pod (@SATPOD) October 23, 2016
Fright Night is PWA’s annual Halloween show, and has the most unique atmosphere of their cards. Great care is put into the PWA Graveyard, which is an ever-expanding set for the Halloween show, and decorating the rest of the venue. This year the graveyard was set up on the stage of the Lions Centre, which meant many of the wrestlers entered through it. It reminded me of the late ’90s, when the WWF would build a new set for each pay-per-view, and was definitely my favourite implementation of the graveyard so far.
Our ring announcer, who is dressed in the blue Mike Tyson Mysteries jumpsuit, explains that our first match is the first of two Beat The Clock Challenge matches. Whoever beats the clock will challenge PWA Champion Marky (yes, his name is stupid, but he’s totally great, so roll with it) at the November show, Christmas Slam (also featuring Cody Rhodes). He left out the whole “PWA Title match” part in this initial explanation, but I’m here to make sure you’re not as confused as I was.
Beat The Clock Challenge Match 1
Gabriel Lestat vs. Richie Rage
Gabriel Lestat does a vampire gimmick, which, combined with his ominous theme music, made for a great entrance through the graveyard. Richie Rage then entered with a half-hearted “yeah!” and really set the tone for the opener. I’ve seen both of these guys wrestle a bunch, and usually they’re good. Lestat has some good power moves that suit his methodical pace, and Richie is short and strong with some flyer tendencies. Except for tonight, where Richie seemed totally lost and lethargic. There was no story, they just sort of did stuff, some of which was cool, and then Lestat pinned Rage. What did he beat him with? I can’t remember. That’s as good an encapsulation of this match as any description I can provide.
Winner: Lestat via pinfall at 11:01. *3/4
Gisele Shaw came out to cut a promo, the gist of which was that being a female wrestler in Alberta sucks because there are few opponents, and anyone who gets decent moves out East or to BC to work better opposition. She challenged anyone, man or woman, to come fight, which brought out the Millenial Rebels. The Millennial Rebels are Colten Kelly (the friend I attended this show with is responsible for naming him prior to his 2013 debut match), the Fury (not present for this segment), and a guy whose name I don’t know. They’re all guys in their very early 20s doing a trailer park scumbag gimmick that’s pretty well-developed. Kelly and his partner, who I’m going to call “Thickness” because that’s what it says on the ass of his tights, accept Gisele’s challenge with a simple “sure, we’ll hit a woman.”
They both attempt to attack Gisele, but before they can get a hold of her, Aiden Adams sprints to the ring and the Rebs bail to the floor to avoid him. He used to be the Bosnian Adonis Zarif Metrovic, which I think was a way better name. Anyway, it’s a Teddy Long Special tag team match.
Gisele Shaw & Aiden Adams vs. The Millenial Rebels
The Rebs are a really fun team. They’re grimy heels who cheat constantly, bump big, and yap at the fans like a drunk trying to start a bar fight. Adams is a Lance Storm trainee, so he’s a solid technician, and he’s got good babyface fire. He and Gisele lay into the Rebs, with Gisele doing some really cool lucha arm drags off the ropes. The Rebs cheat to take over, then cheat some more, then follow that up with cheating. Adams gets the hot tag, runs wild, then things break down. Kelly slams Adams into the ring post while Gisele (who has not tagged in) and Thickness (who has) are in the ring. Gisele goes for a top rope splash, but Thickness gets the knees up and cradles her for the pin.
I liked this match, but the finish made the ref look like an idiot.
Winner: Millenial Rebels via ref fuck-up. Also pinfall. **1/2
PWA Commonwealth Championship Match
Fabian Ribeiro (c) vs. Jay Taylor
I think the Commonwealth Title replaced the Cruiserweight Title? I’ve never seen it before, but it seems like PWA has finally decided to go with a fairly standard secondary singles title instead of something that constitutes its own division. This was my first time seeing Jay Taylor, who is Australian and, I assume, a Storm trainee, as has been the case with every Australian in PWA. Taylor is whatever the opposite of a butterface is, and does an ironic “sexy” heel character. Fabian Ribeiro’s character is what the Shining Stars WISH they were. He’s got more charisma than a good chunk of the roster combined, and has a very distinct dance-walk thing he does with his hips that carries over into most of his other in-ring movements.
This was almost entirely schtick, and endlessly entertaining. The match was built around Taylor getting a wedgie and never fixing it, then taking every opportunity to show his ass to the crowd. They escalated things as they approached the finishing stretch, hitting some bombs on each other, which culminated in a Rock Bottom from Ribeiro and his ultimate finisher… which I don’t know the name of. Caribbean music plays and Ribeiro dance-walks to the ropes, rebounds, stomps his opponent, dance-walks, rebounds, pulls a scarf from his boot and throws it in the air, People’s Elbow. I love it.
Winner: Ribiero via Rock Bottom and Caribbean People’s Elbow. ***
This is the point where we get the actual explanation of what the Beat The Clock Challenge’s purpose is. This is also where I’m going to take a moment to say that the ring announcer’s Mike Tyson Mysteries costume makes him look like a gym teacher who got fired for touching students inappropriately.
Beat The Clock Challenge Match 2
The Fury vs. Frenetico
Fury is part of the Millennial Rebels, but stands out as the singles guy in the stable. He’s got much shorter hair and his gear looks more polished, and has a slightly different demeanour. It’s the difference between the yappy drunk who starts a bar fight and his friend who he knows will finish it. I think he needs a new name that better fits in with his cohorts, though.
Frenetico is a masked wrestler whose energy level is the opposite of what his name suggests.
Fury had previously taken Frenetico’s mask and hair, so he and the Rebs were total dicks about that. Frenetico didn’t have any of the fire and urgency you would expect from a guy fighting an opponent he hates in a match he’s supposed to be trying to win quickly. He did a dive to the floor on the Rebs early, and spent over half of the match on offence. His moves were interesting and well-executed, but everything in between them looked gentle and lacked the energy that was required by the context. Cheating from the Rebs allowed Fury to take over, and he immediately started wrestling like a man who knew he needed to win this NOW. He would throw bombs, then fake injuries to distract the referee while the Rebs cheated on his behalf. Unfortunately, either the ref was turning too early or the Rebs’ timing was bad, as she caught them SEVERAL times. For a moment it looked like she was going to toss them, but then threw up her hands like “I can’t EVEN with you guys.” Frenetico won with a single-leg crab after Fury accidentally wiped out the Rebs. It was anti-climactic, because there was no leg work prior, and also… it’s a single-leg crab. What is this, a Young Lions match?
Winner: Frenetico via single-leg crab at less than 11:01. **3/4
Frenetico says that Fury may have taken his hair and his mask, but he just tapped out. Uh… okay. That doesn’t seem like a “this is even” situation, but all right.
PWA Mayhem Championship Casket Match
Sheik Akbar Shabaz (c) vs. Kenny Stryker
The PWA Mayhem Title is a fun, if kind of goofy, idea. It started as a hardcore title, then developed into a belt only defended in gimmick matches, hence this casket match. Also, I’m going to use the word “casket,” but what I really mean is “crate that appears to have been intended for large sound equipment.”
Sheik Akbar Shabazz is a big dude who is a good worker and has a lazy, kinda racist “I’m not from here, so boo me” foreigner gimmick. Wait, his hometown was announced as “Taliban, Ramadan?”
Kenny Stryker is a create-a-wrestler. Good worker, but no personality to speak of.
What happened here was the kind of plunder-filled, big spot match that’s all right on video and SUPER FUN live. There was a fall into thumbtacks (!), a fall-away slam on a ladder (!!), and a fireball that knocked Stryker off the top rope and through a table on the floor (!!!). After the fireball, I looked over at my buddy and said “that was fucking awesome. I think I might be a terrible person.”
Stryker won after fucking up some sort of apron-head-scissors thing, giving up, and powerslamming Shabazz into the casket.
Winner and NEW Champion: Kenny Stryker via casketing. ***1/4
Intermission. There was a costume contest, because Halloween show. Despite having done this show for at least 6 years (probably far more than that), they still haven’t figured out how to make the costume contest not stretch the intermission too long.
PWA Canadian Tag Team Championship Match
Team Hall of Fame (c) vs. Alexander Prime & Shawn Moore
I have no idea why the tag titles are the only “Canadian” championship. The champs are Team Hall of Fame, PWA Hall of Famers Chris Steele and “Dirty” Duke Durango. Duke Durango is an old-school heel that I describe as a dad whose kids are ashamed of him. Chris Steele looks like Chris Benoit but taller and wearing shitty pleather pants that scream “2002 indie wrestler.” I haven’t seen Prime or Moore before, but they look athletic and were much better at working the crowd than a lot of the PWA babyfaces.
The match starts with Durango and Steele trying to win the Larry Zbyszko Award For Stalling, which they seem to have convinced themselves is a thing. It’s mostly interminable, although Durango had some funny lines. The match broke down like this: if Prime and Moore were on offence, it was exciting and the crowd were into it; if Duke and Steele were on offence, it was slow and nobody really cared. After Prime ate the ring post and was taken out of the equation, Chris Steele hit Shawn Moore with a tag title belt, Duke Durango suplexed him, and that was the end of that.
I should note that the belt shot happened with the referee looking RIGHT AT IT. No attempt was made to distract her AT ALL. She realized nobody had turned her, looked away awkwardly, then counted the pin as if nothing had happened. This was not a good night for this particular referee, as pretty much every finish she was involved in made her look like a dope.
Winners: Durango pinned Moore after a belt-shot from Steele into a backdrop hold. **1/4
Michael Richard Blais vs. “The PWA Original” Marky
Michael Richard Blais cut a promo on Cody Rhodes before the match started, as they’re going to face off next month at Christmas Slam. MRB is the guy that outsiders face, as he’s the best worker in PWA by a wide margin. The delivery of the promo was pretty good as long as he was focused, but he pretty clearly forgot what he wanted to say next a couple of times. Character-wise, he’s “God’s Gift to Wrestling.”
Marky, formerly Marky Mark, is “The PWA Original,” as he’s been in PWA since it started. His current incarnation takes the hip-hop influences of the Marky Mark character and combines them with a wily veteran persona.
I’m not going to describe this match a whole lot, because it would mostly be “OH SHIT AND THEN THEY DID (spot).” Suffice to say, it’s the best match I’ve ever seen live, and will probably end up in my top 10 matches at the end of the year. These two have wrestled many, many times over the past decade or so, which informed the story of the bout. Blais knows that Marky uses the fans’ support to gut his way through extraordinary amounts of damage. Therefore, clearly Blais needs to kill Marky as quickly as possible. So that’s what he tried to do. A hot opening sequence built to MRB hitting a Death Valley Driver on the apron… from the TOP ROPE. I believe my exact quote in reaction to that spot was “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!?!?!?” After a count out tease designed to give time to reanimate Marky’s corpse, Blais took over but couldn’t find a move strong enough to overcome the PWA Original. Some Daniel Bryan chest kicks just pissed off Marky, and sparked his comeback. A bunch of attempted murders happened, and eventually Marky landed his top rope leg drop finisher after several failed attempts. It looks killer. I don’t know if describing a leg drop as looking mean makes any sense, but it looked mean.
Winner: Marky via top rope leg drop. ****3/4
- Spot of the Night: There were a bunch. The fireball/table spot in the casket match, and during the Marky/Blais match there was an Enziguri resulting in a flip-bump to the floor, the apron DVD from the top rope, a Canadian Destroyer DDT, and a belly-to-belly suplex variation of Spanish Fly. So I’m making it a 5 way tie, because it’s my article and I’ll do what I want.
- Match of the Night: Michael Richard Blais vs. “The PWA Original” Marky. This was a no-brainer.
- MVP: A tie between MRB and Marky, because the main event needed both of those guys to reach the heights it did.