A couple of months ago I reviewed the first episode of Underworld Wrestling. Since their first episode’s release, the upstart promotion has endured ups and downs. The first episode is now available on Amazon Prime; giving the promotion an accessibility internationally that no other Australian Wrestling has. However, they also suffered the setback of their champion Carlo Cannon breaking his arm on another show. Thus, Cannon had to be stripped of his championship and the main narrative thread of this episode ends up being the race to crown a new champion.
Likely, in response to this; Underworld has changed their production schedule. The show released as Underworld Wrestling 2 is not the entire card that was filmed on August 17. This show only runs for 70 minutes and contains about half of the matches filmed that night. For future shows, Underworld are going to be taping multiple episodes at each live event. This seems like a good move to me, as it is clearly going to be difficult to make a serialised wrestling television series if you have to rely on people being available for future dates and not getting injured between shows.
Overall, the second episode of Underworld is an easy watch, however it doesn’t really contain a stand-out match. It also feels like the promotion is cutting back on some of the more ambitious vignettes and storylines from the first episode. This feels much more like a traditional wrestling show.
The show begins with a cold open of Carlo Cannon relinquishing his championship in the ring. This is one of the more artfully shot sequences in Underworld, and is closer to the visual style I’d like to see Underworld going for in their vignette sequences. Carlo leaves his aviator glasses on top of the championship and walks away, leading to the smash cut to the Underworld logo.
I still think that Underworld Wrestling would benefit from a reality TV style opening credits sequence that explains the concept, point systems and Floodgate at the start of each episode. Every show should be looked at as potentially being someone’s first. It is really important for the show to clearly and succinctly explain to a first time viewer what makes Underworld different from other wrestling shows.
The first vignette we are shown is Slade Mercer being handed a dossier on his opponent Sam Cannon by one of Underworld’s many random hooded figures. The Mercenary looks at the dossier, and describes his opponent as ‘just another payday.’ Mercer’s hitman persona is one of Underworld’s better developed characters.
Slade Mercer vs Sam Cannon
As I covered in my last review, Mercer is a New Zealand wrestler who has moved to Australia. With his height, he has a look that helps him to stand out on the Australian scene. In both of his matches so far on Underworld, he has just dwarfed his opponent. Sam Cannon is a wrestler from Queensland, and he’s sold as being the prize pupil of Queensland wrestling staple Mason Childs. Cannon is a thick wrestler, though he demonstrates more agility than you would expect based off his look.
There were two main highlights of the match to me: Cannon surprising me with a roll into a kip-up to avoid a Mercer lariat and Mercer later on fishhooking Cannon’s cheek, which is a spot I’d like to see more often in wrestling.
The match ends on Sam Cannon getting a near-fall off a running knee to the head; which should have been used as a tease of a KO based off how Mercer sells it. The match is solid, but I question whether it was the right choice to go the full 10 minutes. Generally, I think more thought needs to be put into utilising the time-limits in Underworld and that wrestlers really need to lift their intensity in the final minute before the Floodgate open.
Slade Mercer vs Sam Cannon vs FOX
The Floodgate opens, and OH MY GOD IT’S FUN TIME PHIL! I’m ready for Nothin’ But a Good Time! Wait, Phil isn’t smiling or eating potato chips. What’s wrong with him?
Oh wait, it’s FOX instead. Sigh. I suppose I should explain why I’m disappointed. Fun Time Phil is the currently top comedy babyface in Melbourne City Wrestling and WrestleRock. Imagine an Australian rock and roll Grado. Most recently he has garnered tremendous audience sympathy with a series of open challenges leading to him getting the shit beaten out of him by the likes of Jimmy Havoc and Alan Payne. The vignette of his first date with Aria from MCW 99 is the comedic highlight of the Australian Wrestling year. However, outside MCW and WrestleRock, Phil works a grim and gritty character called FOX (though he’s announced as The Big Rig here, so that might be the name he will go by in Underworld.) I can’t help but feel that it is a massive missed opportunity for him to be working Underworld as FOX rather than Fun Time Phil. Underworld is already full of dark and brooding characters, a lovable Fun Time Phil who doesn’t understand what he’s gotten himself into would stand out a lot more on the show.
Anyways; the match continues for another couple of minutes once FOX makes his run-in. FOX hits a nice looking Blue Thunder Bomb, before both Mercer and Cannon turn on him. The match ends with Mercer tapping out FOX with the Kaiju Lock (a standing neck-crank).
Post-match we have interviews with all three participants. Sam Cannon gives a generic babyface, ‘I’ll do better next time for Queensland’ promo. Slade Mercer continues his mercenary gimmick, and he seems primed to be one of the promotion’s stars. FOX says he’s here to cause chaos and fuck shit up; and my soul dies a little as I watch sweet Phil act so mean.
Next up, Carlo Cannon comes out to the ring to show off the gnarly scar on his arm and express how pissed off he is at being forced to relinquish the title. He is interrupted by Pitbull, who was meant to be his opponent at this show. Pitbull continues to be the most compelling character and promo on Underworld, he just fits the high-concept of the show. Pitbull promises Carlo that they will have a title match once Carlo’s healed up. It feels like Pitbull is the replacement lead babyface for Carlo; which feels like a wise choice to me as he has been Underworld’s most charismatic figure.
Andy Roy vs Gino Gambino
Current MCW Champion and New Japan Rumble 2018 combatant Gino Gambino is the biggest name associated with Underworld. His transition from the comedic Mr Juicy to the mob-boss influenced Gambino character has worked out well so far. In Underworld, Gambino is now being managed by top heel Lord Mark Williamson. The Underworld President still describes himself as the leader of The Claw, but it feels like there has been a withdrawal from the supernatural overtones to his character on the last show. Andy Roy is a wrestler from South Australia who normally works under a mask for Adelaide’s Riot City Wrestling.
Roy gets a flurry of offense at the start of the match until a springboard goes wrong for him and Gambino takes control. The match is primarily about putting Gambino over, with the Superheavyweight winning with a stoppage from mounted punches on the mat.
Post-match, Gambino shittalks Underworld’s cheap microphones again and gives a shout out to his Bullet Club OG partner Bad Luck Fale with a, “Fuck em.” Benny English comes up to Andy Roy post-match and tells him that he’s been assigned as Roy’s new manager.
Next up, we have a vignette of the referees going over the rules of an Eliminator match. Basically, it is a normal four-way elimination match; but the winner of each fall gets Underworld points. I think it is a little early in the show’s lifecycle to introduce a gimmick match; but I understand that the way they’ve booked themselves into a corner with wrestlers needing points to get title matches necessities finding ways around their own self-imposed rules.
Four-Way Eliminator: Bianka vs Avary vs Izzy Shaw vs Taylah Rose
This is the match I enjoyed the most in terms of action, however the structure confused me and it was hard to keep track of who was playing face and who was playing heel. Avary was in the stand-out match of Underworld’s first show against Erika Reid and is a total star in the making. She is currently involved in a feud in MCW with Kellyanne, which might be the most heated feud in Australian Wrestling. She has a great look, is great at character work and is developing well as an in-ring worker; she’s someone I would love to see get a chance in Stardom or Tokyo Joshi Pro. Taylah Rose also returns after being squashed by Vixsin at Underworld 1. She is the purest babyface working Underworld at the moment. Izzy Shaw is a South Australian wrestler I’ve seen a few times live at Southern Hemisphere Wrestling Alliance shows in Perth. She is a solid worker with a pop-punk gimmick. Bianka is the only wrestler in the match who is new to me, I believe she primarily works the lower-level promotions in Victoria.
The match begins with all four women going at it, with Bianka quickly being established as the only clear heel in the match. Bianka gets a quick spot of dominance before missing a hip attack on Rose into the corner. Rose climbs on the top and hits a crossbody on Bianka to score the first elimination and her first point in Underworld.
Next, there is a very short lived alliance between Shaw and Rose as they team up on the more experienced Avary. Taylah decides that Izzy is her friend, and her hug is repaid with a low blow and cutter. Taylah is then quickly eliminated by Avary, after Avary spikes her with a version of Paige’s Rampaige finish. Taylah is eliminated via KO and Avary is awarded two points.
The final section of the match is where the heel/face dynamics get the most muddy. Avary was a super-babyface at the last show, and Izzy Shaw had done the most heelish action of the match so far in turning on the sympathetic underdog Taylah Rose. However, the last fall starts with Avary baiting Shaw in with a handshake into a kick, whilst announcer Lord Andy Coyne talks about how venomous and untrustworthy Avary is. It just feels like more thought needed to be put into how the match was going to be structured and who the audience is meant to be rooting for.
Izzy Shaw misses a crossbody, giving Avary the opening to hit a sliding lariat and transition into a Koji Clutch for the victory. With the submission, Avary is back at 4 points and in contention for another title match.
Post-match, Bianka says she’s looking for revenge against Taylah Rose. The concussed Rose struggles her way through her post-match promo. Izzy Shaw promises to come back to Underworld. Avary has a two sentence promo where she promises to win the championship. It is very short, but her charisma really pops off the screen. Again, Avary has star potential and I hope that international promotions take notice of her.
Next up, we have a vignette featuring Jackson Kelly enjoying a coffee on Bondi Beach and shittalking his opponent Simon Oath. Kelly’s nickname of The Beach Bum Booter is still awkward to me. It took me too long to work out that Booter was a reference to the idea that he’s meant to be wrestling with a loaded boot and that his finish is a boot to the head.
Jackson Kelly vs Simon Oath
Simon Oath enters to the sounds of the sound-a-like version of The Magnificent Seven theme that has accompanied Victoria Bitter’s television commercials in Australia since the 1960s. He is one of Carlo Cannon’s students, and enters the ring in a Vicious Pursuits t-shirt (Cannon’s training gym). The gimmick is meant to be that he is the son of a former Underworld Champion.
Kelly dishes out the bulk of the offence in the match. Oath gets a flurry in, and manages to lock in a key-lock he calls The Melbourne on Tap. Oath gets distracted paying homage to his dead father, which allows Kelly to escape and then boot his opponent in the head for the KO. Kelly now has 8 points, meaning that he is eligible to challenge for the vacant Underworld Championship which means….
Pitbull © vs Jackson Kelly
After Kelly’s win, Pitbull comes out to goad Kelly into a title match. The microphone doesn’t work which means that Pitbull needs to shout his promo which actually fits him better. Kelly pretends to walk to the back, then attacks Pitbull from behind with the Underworld Belt to start the match.
The match is a brawl. Pitbull feels limited in-ring, but he has charisma and the crowd behind him and that’s enough for me to be invested in his work. The most notable spot in the match is Kelly hitting Pitbull with an unwise unprotected chair shot to the head. The finish comes with Kelly missing the boot and Pitbull putting Kelly away with a spear.
We close with Uncle Pitbull celebrating with his title and cutting a killer promo. For whatever Pitbull lacks in-ring, he makes up for with his character work.
One of the main takeaways I took from this second episode is that it felt a lot more like a traditional wrestling show than the first. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good or bad thing. This episode is really missing a stand-out match, but I’m also pleased that Pitbull is being rewarded for his excellent mic-work and that Avary continues to be featured as one of Underworld’s top acts. I’m intrigued as to where Gino Gambino’s storyline is going.
Two episodes in, and it seems clear to me that Underworld is a story-focused rather than workrate-focused promotion. There are enough stories I’m interested in seeing played out to keep me watching, at least for the first season of shows. I do think that investing in bringing over more experienced talents would lead to a more exciting in-ring product. Up next on Episode 3 will be the Erika Reid vs Vixsin title match, which got the biggest reaction online out of any of the matches from people who were at the taping. That’s a match which I’m interested in seeing for myself.