When I last checked in on Underworld Wrestling, the Australian upstart promotion was going through some initial turbulence. Their inaugural men’s champion, Carlo Cannon, sustained a broken arm on another show leading to Underworld having to strip him and crown a new champion in Pitbull. Then the show’s taping schedules had to be reworked and the promotion moved towards restructuring so that multiple episodes are filmed at once.
Episode 3 is the second show edited together from Underworld’s taping in August. Their next taping is happening in Melbourne on November 16th, the night before Melbourne City Wrestling’s big final show of the year; End Game.
Underworld 3 opens on another flash-forward to the end of the night, with Gino Gambino threatening to cut his manager Lord Mark Williamson’s thumb off. We then rewind to earlier, where a grumpy JXT is manning the gimmick table. He promises to kick GWOC’s fucking head off following a little rant from The Jaystick about not getting the respect he deserves as an independent professional wrestler.
Zhan ‘GWOC’ Wen def. JXT
The opening contest of the episode sees JXT matched up with Zhan ‘GWOC’ Wen. As I mentioned in my first Underworld review, Wen is a rookie from Carlo Cannon’s training school. Of the new wrestlers showcased on Underworld, he has been one of the most impressive. It has already become a running joke in Australian Wrestling that he needs to be hidden from Vince because he’ll be signed up as soon as WWE gets eyes on him.
The match is solid, running around nine minutes. JXT shows more aggressiveness than in his first match in the promotion and turns most of the crowd against him. The ending comes with GWOC standing up in the Anaconda Vice and reversing into a big spinebuster like slam. GWOC picks up the win with a three count, despite JXT’s foot blatantly being underneath the bottom rope.
Post-match, JXT has a big hissy-fit about the referee blowing the call. He leaves the ring whilst being serenaded by the fans with the Goodbye song and gets in the face of announcer Lord Andy Coyne on his way to the back. Everywhere else I’ve seen JXT work, he’s been playing babyface. However, this is a guy who instead of being billed by his weight is billed by his Instagram follower count; so there’s a lot that you could find genuinely irritating about JXT’s character. JXT as a whinging heel is one of Underworld’s character developments that I am most intrigued by.
Up next, a promo from Lord Mark Williamson which mixes together flashbacks from his hammy skit in episode 1 with a more toned-down promo threatening Syd Parker for turning his back on Williamson’s faction. One of the improvements to me across the three episodes has been Williamson just toning down his performance and being a less over-the-top presence on the show.
The following scene is the introduction of Mad Dog into Underworld Wrestling. With the retirement of KrackerJack last year, Mad Dog is the premiere Hardcore style worker in Australia. He has worked tours of Big Japan in the past and has gone through somewhat of a revival this year; being featured in Underworld, WrestleRock and recently beating Rob Van Dam to become champion of the somewhat disreputable Battle Championship Wrestling. In the universe of Underworld Wrestling, Mad Dog is being presented as a former champion who has returned to find that his beloved fight club has turned into just another indy promotion.
Mad Dog def. Paddy O’Neill
Paddy O’Neill is an Irish wrestler called Andy Phoenix who got his start in Finn Balor’s Irish promotion in the mid-2000s. He has been in Australia since about 2012, where he hasn’t done much of note except for being one of the people behind the Australian House of Hardcore tours. He hasn’t impressed me the couple of times I’ve seen him live and he strikes me as a guy who can pull off moves but fails to connect with crowds. Earlier this year, I had the misfortune of seeing him try to close out a show with Willie Mack after a crowd looking for ECW nostalgia had already seen Bully Ray, Tommy Dreamer and Hornswoggle put the Spirit Squad through tables. He is playing an Irish bare-knuckle boxer character in Underworld, and at the very least it is more interesting than his previous persona.
Paddy O’Neill comes out of the gate trying to box, rather than wrestle. Mad Dog is able to take him down fairly easily, before transitioning into an armbar that O’Neill counters into a powerbomb. For the most part, Mad Dog wrestles rather than fights, which doesn’t really fit his reputation but I think helps build anticipation for when he makes it to a title match and is able to unleash his deathmatch skills. Mad Dog wins by choking out O’Neill with the Cobra Clutch after O’Neill tries to escape a few times but is unable to break the hold. A strong first showing for Mad Dog and Paddy O’Neill proved to be more interesting in Underworld than Andy Phoenix is outside it.
The scene cuts to backstage where Williamson is commiserating with Benny English about how his plan to destroy the world didn’t turn out like he expected it to and now he has to deal with the hassle of running this indy promotion. Now we’ve reached the flashforward at the start of the show, with Gino Gambino threatening Williamson if he doesn’t get his title shot. Lord Mark responds by promising Gambino that he’ll be able to enter through the Floodgate for Mitch Waterman’s next match.
Mitch Waterman def. Slickback Cash
Before the match, Benny English explains to Waterman that he needs to last the full ten minutes. Waterman responds by saying that since his face is still sore from Pitbull knocking him out last show if Cash touches his face then Waterman is going to knock him out.
To an extent, I think this is the most athletic ‘modern indy style’ match that Underworld has put on. Cash gets to demonstrate more of what he can do than in his match with Slade Mercer. The main story of the match is that Waterman has the upper hand for most of it and could put Cash away at multiple points if he wasn’t following instructions to go the full ten minutes. What ends up happening is that with a minute left, Waterman hits a Canadian Destroyer that knocks Cash loopy, followed by a thrust kick that KOs the Kung Fu wannabe. Mitch then tries to hold Cash up Weekend at Bernie’s style to try to prove that he hasn’t knocked his opponent out. Cash revives and hits a quick DDT, but is immediately KOed with a Superkick afterward. Mitch Waterman wins via KO with 10 seconds to spare. Rather than celebrating, Waterman and English run out of the building to avoid Gino Gambino who comes out to tell Mitch that he is, “fucked next show.”
Post-match, a concussed Slickback Cash is taken away in the back by his trainer Carlo Cannon; hinting that there is going to be a mentor-student storyline with the pair in the future.
Vixsin def. Erika Reid ©
Something which really struck me with this match is that probably the major in-ring drawcard of Underworld so far is its showcasing of Women’s Hardcore in the main events. To an extent, I think that’s going to draw in fans who are a niche of a niche rather than necessarily creating a broadly accessible product.
Vixsin comes into the match with a major size and power advantage over the champion Erika Reid. The Hardcore Bitch introduces the fork that becomes the main weapon the match is built around into the match, but for the most part, she ends up on the receiving end of it. Erika Reid uses the fork to attack Vixsin’s arm and forehead, busting her opponent open. Reid’s charisma shines in this match, even when she’s smearing Vixsin’s blood on her own face. Eventually, Vixsin regains control, slamming Reid through a table and following up with a Chokebomb for the victory and championship.
Again with a title match, the finish feels like it comes too early and cuts off the match just as it was starting to hit its peak. Moving the title off Reid on the second show also felt like a sudden move, especially considering they needed to crown a new men’s champion on the last episode.
Post-match, a bloody Vixsin celebrates her win and is confronted by her next challenger Avary who tells her to enjoy her victory while it lasts. On both Underworld 1 and her matches in the revived WrestleRock, Avary has proven that she has the makings of a Hardcore wrestler beneath her glamorous facade. Their match is one I’m intrigued by and also somewhat fearful of. Meanwhile, Erika Reid shouts “Fuck You, Mark Williamson” and it seems like she’ll be aligned with Syd Parker in fighting against their former manager in the future.
The episode ends with the teaser of a new character called Mike E, whose gimmick is that he’s the winner of a wrestling reality show. I’ll reserve judgment on the character until I see his proper debut, though I’m wary of how it will turn out. I think there’s promise in the idea of a reality show contestant gimmick, but I’m not sure whether it will work without the budget to do the skits needed to sell the character. The teaser didn’t particularly endear me to the character, and kind of felt like a joke being done to pop the people making the show rather than one that would actually entertain a global audience.
Three episodes in and there are still enough plot threads that I’m interested in to keep watching and reviewing Underworld, at least for this first season. The promotion still feels like it is yet to have that one killer match that I can recommend wholeheartedly, but there’s certainly the potential for that match on the next set of tapings.