Start-up Australian promotion Underworld Wrestling promises to bring about ‘The End of All Things’, but its first show is instead the beginning of a unique wrestling product.

Underworld is the brainchild of Australian Wrestling identities Adam Bruiser and Lord Mark Williamson; but much of the promotion’s initial buzz has to be credited to Justine Colla (one of the more popular artists on Wrestling Twitter under the handle @pastasauca) who is the promotion’s community manager. Along with their own on-demand service, Underworld is one of the wrestling promotions who have been picked up by Amazon Prime Video. Ultimately, I found Underworld 1 to be an interesting first step but with some frustrating moments.

Underworld in a lot of ways feels like a low-budget version of Lucha Underground, with supernatural overtones and a focus on presenting the promotion as a hidden fight club. The backstory of the promotion is that it has been running under the radar in Melbourne for over 200 years; and has just gone public with Lord Mark Williamson’s ascension to the club’s presidency. Much of this backstory has been fleshed out on social media online; however I don’t think that the worldbuilding on the show itself is particularly well established.

Underworld Wrestling differs from the presentation of a normal promotion in a few ways. Firstly, they have a points system to decide championship contenders. Male fighters need eight points to challenge for the men’s title and female fighters need four points to challenge for the women’s title. If a fighter loses, then their points tally is set back to zero. Pinfalls and countouts gain one point, submissions and KOs gain two. There are disqualifications in regular matches, but title matches are no-DQ.

So let’s talk about The Floodgate. This is Underworld’s most gimmicky element and I suspect that if you can’t get into it, then this just isn’t going to be the promotion for you. Every normal match has a 10 minute time-limit. At 10 minutes, another wrestler can run down to the ring and enter the ring to make it a three-way, and so-on if the match lasts another 10 minutes. The idea is that there will be wrestlers fighting to make their way to being the first into the ring like a reverse battle-royale. Title matches go 15 minutes and allow no interference. If this gimmick doesn’t appeal, then I don’t think Underworld is going to be your jam.

The show begins with a cold-open showing Melbourne City Wrestling regular JXT beaten up backstage, then rewinding back to his arrival at the venue. Two issues that arise to me immediately with this first vignette; firstly a grainy filter running over the vignettes is a poor substitute for cinematography that actually captures a grindhouse aesthetic. Secondly, wrestlers and backstage staff aren’t trained actors and it shows when you ask them to do dialogue scenes.

We then go straight into our first match, announced by Lord Andy Coyne from MCW and Mohammed Ali Vaez (who moved to Australia to be Jeff Jarrett’s talent scout for Global Force and never left). They are both effective in their roles, however Vaez’s voice is often lost in the sound-mix.

JXT vs Jackson Kelly

Using star-ratings to talk about Underworld’s matches feels like it would be counterproductive. This is going to be a story-focused promotion rather than workrate focused. The time limits and gimmickry of the promotion feels like it is going to hold matches in Underworld back from fitting the criteria of traditional ‘good’ workrate matches.

That being said, this is a solid opener that established the differences between Underworld and other Australian promotions. Elements of JXT’s character grate on me—his finish is a Pedigree called The Retweet—but this match highlights his ability to draw a live audience into his matches. Jackson Kelly is a New South Wales based wrestler who is mostly unknown to this audience. He demonstrates good intensity and wins off a flash KO. The match does a good job of putting over the story that traditional pro-wrestler JXT isn’t used to this fight-club environment.

After the match we have an intro with Andy Coyne introducing the concept of Underworld Wrestling. This feels like it would be more effective at the start of the show, rather than trying to confuse the audience with the cold open.

Before the next contest, we have a vignette introducing The Claw; Underworld’s top heels. An overacting Lord Mark Williamson babbles about how his group will have control of both Underworld titles after tonight. The image of Williamson, flanked by his hooded minions reminds me more of Power Rangers villains than anything genuinely intimidating. Highlight of the vignette is Erika Reid reminding Williamson that her partner Syd Parker, “is a fucking dinosaur, he isn’t going to look at you like he’s a human.”

Slickback Cash vs Slade Mercer

Slickback Cash is an Australian rookie who looks kind of like a Young Bucks cosplayer. His introductory vignette sets him up as a wannabe Kung Fu master. Slade Mercer is a tall New Zealander who has been getting more buzz in Australia lately. Mercer just completely dwarfs Cash here. The match is essentially a five minute squash, with Cash just getting a small flurry of offence near the end. Mercer gets the win via submission with a neck crank.

Taylah Rose vs Vixsin

Taylah Rose is just breaking through in the Melbourne wrestling scene, having recently made her debut for MCW. She is green (literally that’s her hair colour), but shows promise as a bubbly underdog babyface. She gets absolutely monstered by Vixsin, with Vixsin choosing to finish Rose off with a submission to gain the extra points. It is literally a sub-minute long squash, but Rose’s facial expressions do a good job of communicating her fear of her opponent.

Post-match, we’re introduced to Pitbull Craig Cole. An old veteran of Melbourne wrestling, who plays a Chopper Read style character; he fits better into the grindhouse tone of Underworld than anyone else on the card. His promos are entertaining, and he genuinely comes off like someone who belongs in an underground fight club. If anyone stands out as the star of this debut show, it’s him.

Campbell Crawford vs Pitbull

Campbell Crawford plays a comedic character in MCW, but here he is portraying himself as a serious brawler. Pitbull comes out looking like an old jacked uncle, slapping hands with fans and asking them if they want to see him KO Crawford. The match opens with Crawford jumping Pitbull from behind, but the old brawler quickly takes control. The match is mostly a showcase for Cole’s character, which works very well in this environment. Crawford tries to work on Pitbull’s leg, but his offence needs more intensity if he’s going to sell himself as a more serious fighter in this environment. Pitbull wins via KO, with a right hand that Crawford sells beautifully.

Before the next match, Lord Mark Williamson comes out to gloat with his minions. His scenery-chewing performance works better in the ring, where he has an audience to play-off. So far I am not sold on the supernatural undertones to the promotion, which feels like it is just there because Erika Reid and Syd Parker are two of Underworld’s featured stars. Like with Lucha Underground, the supernatural worldbuilding feels underdeveloped and something that could turn into a detriment to the product rather than a strength.

UnderWorld Championship
Erika Reid (c) vs Avary

This is the best match on the show. Being a No DQ championship match, it is helped by the fact that they get to use toys that no one else gets to play with. The match has a heightened intensity that is missing from the rest of the card. Erika Reid and Avary have fought before but this is the first time I’ve seen them with the face-heel alignment switched. Reid; whose nickname is The Dreamtime Voodoo Witch, is a unique character with excellent presence. Avary had a very good match with Toni Storm at MCW’s Ballroom Brawl show, which opened my eyes to her potential as an in-ring performer. In MCW her gimmick is essentially that of an evil cheerleader/succubus. This was the first time I’ve seen her play face instead and I was impressed with her ability to show babyface fire.

They utilise props well, an early highlight being Reid choking out Avary with a putter. The sickest spot in the match (and the moment I’ve seen GIFed the most on Twitter) is Avary sticking a screwdriver through on of Reid’s ear piercings. Avary ends up setting up a table in the corner, that doesn’t come into play during the match. Erika Reid picks up the win after putting a trash can over Avary’s head and delivering a Pump Kick. The match is a good brawl, but only goes around eight minutes. I am very wary of the 15 minute time-limit on title matches; as this was a case where the match ended just as it started to hit its peak.

Post-Match, Vixsin comes out to announce that she’s challenging for the title at the next show. The segment ends with Erika Reid being sent through the table which doesn’t fully break.

After the beatdown; current MCW Heavyweight Champion Gino Gambino rushes the ring. Since turning heel in MCW, he has let his manager Sebastian Walker do all of his talking but this promo is proof of Gambino’s skills at drawing heat on the microphone. Gambino bashes the dodgy microphone and expresses how angry that “the best super-heavyweight in the country” wasn’t invited to the club. The one sour note in the promo is when he verbally abuses Justine Colla in the crowd; which feels like a moment that won’t mean anything to you if you don’t follow the minutiae of Melbourne Wrestling scene politics.

In what is perhaps a case of tipping their hands too clearly; a promo package plays with the referee explaining how the Floodgate works right before the first match where it comes into play.

Mitch Waterman vs GWOC

Mitch Waterman is one half of The Brat Pack in MCW, and this is the first time I have seen him in a singles match. The ‘Great Wall of China’ (also known as Zhan When) is a tall jacked Chinese wrestler who is a Carlo Cannon trainee. As soon as WWE become aware of him, he is getting a one-way ticket to Orlando. The story of the match is that Waterman’s manager Benny English (on the orders of Lord Mark Williamson) is on the outside encouraging him to last the 10 minutes so that the Floodgate can open. It is a solid match, with more comedy than the rest of the card. The timer ends, and for the first time the Floodgate opens. Jackson Kelly is the first person to run out but before the referee can see that he has jumped on the apron and declare him in the match; Pitbull yanks Kelly off the ring and becomes the third entrant.

Mitch Waterman vs GWOC vs Pitbull

Pitbull and GWOC trade shots to start, until Pitbull clotheslines GWOC out of the ring. He then immediately spears and KOs Waterman to pick up the two points, bringing his total up to eight. The Floodgate ended up playing out more anti-climatically than I had hoped. There’s promise in the concept, but it feels like there are going to be a lot of teething problems in getting it right.

UNDERWORLD Championship
Carlo Cannon (c) vs Syd Parker

Carlo ‘Cash-Money’ Cannon was Lance Storm’s first student, and went on to become one of the first stars of 00s Australian Indy Wrestling. He has also been the most important trainer in Melbourne’s scene over the past 10 years. Having kept a lower profile for a while, Cannon reemerged with a changed physique and more intimidating presence. ‘The Jurassic Punk’ Syd Parker is one of MCW’s rising stars, with a unique gimmick and skill set. The match starts off hot, with Parker stomping down Cannon in the corner. There is a heightened intensity to the action in this first minute compared to the rest of the card. Then 10 seconds later, the match is over. Parker gets legitimately knocked out on a clothesline and what looked to be a good match is cut off at its very beginning.

Post-Match, Parker is helped to the back. Cannon begins to cut the show-closing promo and Pitbull comes out to confront him and makes the challenge for next show. The show closes with Pitbull cutting a great promo on Cannon and the vignette of Gambino signing up to fight in Underworld.

Final Thoughts

I come away from Underworld 1 with mixed thoughts. Obviously, Parker vs Cannon was going to be the showcase match of the show, but shit happens in a wrestling ring and it unfortunately did not turn out that way. I still have concerns that all of the promotion’s gimmicks are going to turn out to be more harmful to the product than helpful. Under the internal logic of the point system; I struggle to see how you could justify booking a tag match. The focus on knock-outs somewhat diminishes the value of near-falls in matches as well.

In terms of production, it sometimes feels like the ambition is beyond the reach of the budget. The show is missing a Dario Cueto figure to handle the heavy acting load in vignettes. The two stand-outs for the show for me were Pitbull; who is just a perfect fit for the product and the Reid vs Avary match, which whilst short really put over how tough both women are.

If you enjoy Lucha Underground and are interested in seeing a product with a similar presentation; then I’d recommend checking out Underworld. For people on the fence; I think waiting for the edited version of the show on Amazon Prime may be a wise move, as it will likely be a tighter show.