EPW Goldrush 2019
April 6, 2019
Gate One Theatre
Perth, Western Australia

Watch: vimeo.com/ondemand/epwfromthevault & epwperth.pivotshare.com

While the eyes of the pro-wrestling intelligentsia were fixated on the smorgasbord of shows emanating from the New York/New Jersey area over WrestleMania weekend; here in Western Australia, our biggest promotion Explosive Pro Wrestling put on another strong show for local fans. So far in 2019, it feels like the changes EPW made to their product over the Christmas break has paid off; with a higher standard of matches and storytelling throughout the start of the year.

The big draw for Goldrush 2019 was the return of local hero Mikey Nicholls to the promotion he helped found. Fresh off his run in the New Japan Cup; this was Nicholls return to a hometown where he is arguably the most decorated pro-wrestler in the city’s history. In the main event, Gavin McGavin defends the EPW Championship against the man he defeated for the title, ‘The Don’ Michael Morleone.

I was at this show live, and have rewatched it now on VOD; so this review reflects both experiences.

EPW Coastal Championship
Scotty Ryan def. Julian Ward

It feels like Scotty Ryan and Julian Ward are being built up to be EPW’s next generation of main event talent. This match was built up at EPW’s first show of the year, in which the pairing lost as a team against The Untouchables. Post-match, they had harsh words for each other which lead to this match being booked.

I highlighted Julian Ward as one of the most underrated talents in Australia in our 2018 Australia/New Zealand awards. I think Ward has tremendous skills and potential and should be someone other promotions in Australia are looking to fly-in. However, I don’t think anywhere near as highly of Scotty Ryan. I thought that he underperformed throughout 2018 and spent the year mired in cold programs. Despite being EPW Coastal Champion for the entire calendar year; Ryan didn’t really feel any more over than he was when he won the title in mid-2017. That being said, his last match of 2018 with Gavin McGavin was a step up from the quality of work I’d seen from him throughout the rest of the year (though not on the level of the 2017 series that elevated both men).

Pre-match, The Untouchables’ manager Amber comes out to observe the match. At the last show, she promised she’d be watching this match since she is on the hunt for a new client. Amber has become something of a heat magnet at EPW, at the last show she was booed so consistently that it took her a couple of minutes before she could actually get her promo in. This is set up as a babyface/babyface match, though Ryan gets a slightly more negative reaction (Though much of the booing was directly from me).

The match begins with trading holds back and forth. The point made by Davis Storm on commentary is that Ward needs to find a killer instinct to get the win. Pretty quickly they are on the outside, with Ward hitting a nice looking crossbody over the top rope onto The Big Rig. Ryan responds with his senton dive over the top to the outside (which he always looks like he’s going to kill himself on).

A key part of the story of the match is both men get distracted by Amber on the outside. A distraction leads to Ryan getting caught off a top-rope springboard into a uranage followed by a standing moonsault by Ward. The next big spot of the match is Ryan looking for his version of Seth Rollins roll-through superplex, but Ward reverses it into a powerbomb off the ropes for Julian’s biggest nearfall of the match.

Pretty much straight after we have the finish. Ward reacts to the kickout with disbelief and exhaustion, leading him to lean on the ropes and talk to Amber. A distracted Ward is caught straight away with a spin-out backstabber from Ryan for the win. After the match, Amber presents the championship belt to the still-champion Ryan.

This was a pretty strong match, that kind of ended just as it was about to peak. The match’s story felt like it was more about getting over Julian Ward’s heightened intensity and I think that was communicated effectively. Ryan gave a stronger performance here than most of his matches last year. However, like his title defense against Craven in February, I would have liked to see more viciousness from the champion and seen the match built more off the natural inclination a crowd has to support a challenger against a long-running champ.

TK Taskforce (Tipene and Jack Edwards) def. Del Cano and Jay Taylor

The TK Taskforce is the bodyguard and obsessed fan of EPW’s child star Taylor King. Del Cano is another person I highlighted as being an underrated talent in Australia. His storyline so far this year has been about him looking for a new tag partner now that his old team of The Nacho Friends has split up. Jay Taylor is a veteran of the West Australian scene who does a ‘sexy’ gimmick.

Jay Taylor and Del Cano work well together for the first half of the match. Honestly, I got quite into the idea of them working together as the Sleazy Male Stripper tag team. Tipene and Jack Edwards are both relatively new performers, but this match is one of their strongest performances as a team.

Del Cano eats the heat for a long time, but then Jay Taylor gets knocked off the apron by Tipene as the luchador goes for the tag. Jay Taylor then decides to walk out of the match, leaving Del Cano to work the match by himself. He gets a flurry, but can’t fight off both men. This match suggests to me that Del Cano and Taylor are now transitioning into a program against each other.

Post-match, a suspended Taylor King rushes the ring and continues his spiraling child star storyline. Complaining of being disrespected; King proceeds to recreate 2007 Britney Spears by shaving off his own blonde locks in the ring. King is dragged off by referees and will hopefully go on to make his equivalent of fucked-up Britney’s pop classic, Gimme More.

Lumberjack Match
Dan Steel def. Dan Moore

This is the blow-off to Dan Steel and Dan Moore’s feud. Unlike a traditional Lumberjack match where you have a set of babyface and heel lumberjacks, the outside wrestlers just beat up anyone who ends up on the outside.

The in-ring highlight of the match is Dan Moore’s picture perfect moonsault and Moore doing a spot I’ve never seen before; where he finishes the 10-count punches in the corner with a dropkick.

Steel eventually takes the win after the referee is taken out when the Headhunters member uses the referee as a shield from the lumberjacks and a masked man takes advantage to lay out Dan Moore.

A solid match to end the program, with Moore moving onto a new storyline and Steel being elevated.

Mikey Nicholls def. Bobby Marshall

This is the return of Mikey Nicholls to his home promotion of EPW and is the first time he has worked here since he left for NXT with Shane Thorne. His opponent Bobby Marshall is a contemporary of Mikey; who was one of the main eventers in EPW around 10 years ago. Marshall was greatly respected as a performer throughout Australia, but apart from sometime on the American independent circuit was unable to reach the sort of international success that Nicholls managed.

Bobby Marshall and Mikey Nicholls have history. They competed in the final of the 2007 tournament to crown the first NWA Australia champion. That title is now the Wrestle Rampage Australian National Championship, one of the top belts in Australia. Marshall returned to EPW last year as the bodyguard for a failed Scarecrow cosplayer gimmick, but now looks to be working as a solo competitor which is a much more effective position for him.

Mikey Nicholls enters to the Mad Max: Fury Road soundtrack and gets a big reaction as the returning hometown legend.

This match is a fight. Mikey’s chops are truly vicious and allow him to be on the offensive for the start of the match. Marshall is only really able to get the upper hand when he crotches Nicholls on the top rope and then follows up with a superplex.

Marshall then is able to duck a sliding lariat and hits one of the best looking scissor kicks I’ve ever seen. Mikey is then able to regain control after the kickout, leading to eventually him going for a moonsault; but again being caught mid-air with the scissor-kick for Marshall. This was the moment that most had me live; that actually got me to think that Mikey might lose his return match.

They continue to trade shots and suplexes with each other in the finishing stretch. This really has the feel of a fight, which is something that other Australian workers often struggle to achieve.

Unfortunately, the match finishes with a botch; as Mikey hits a final sliding lariat for the three count. I’m not sure if Marshall lifted his shoulder late or the referee didn’t see it in time, but straight after the three count Mikey hits the MikeyBomb which was presumably the planned finish.

Apart from the botched finish, this was really good. Both men returned to EPW with fighting spirit and looking like they can be players for the promotion in the future. Outside of the finishing stretch of his New Japan Cup match with Okada, it is the strongest performance I’ve seen from Nicholls since his return from the NXT warehouse.

EPW Tag Team Championship
Street Gang Hooligans (Alex Kingston/Logan Grey) def. David Nero/Kiel Steria

These two teams had an excellent match in August of last year, and this match was of a similar level. I don’t know if I can say that the tape really captures exactly how over The Street Gang Hooligans were on the night. Being there live, it felt like the pairing were by far the hottest and most over act in the promotion.

Kiel Steria and David Nero are both big and agile guys who started teaming together last year and have quickly become one of the strongest tag acts in the state. Having worked babyface since they teamed up; their storyline seems to be pointing towards either a heel turn or a break-up, as at the last show Kiel Steria got the victory over Logan Grey after some unseen interference from David Nero.

This was a fast-paced and exciting spotfest and the chants of ‘Yeah the boys’ for the Hooligans was by far the loudest the crowd was the whole evening. Both teams utilize a variety of exciting and innovative double-team moves throughout.

It is largely worked as a babyface vs babyface match until the very end when Nero tries to use the title belts as a weapon but is stopped by his partner who doesn’t want to win that way. The distraction allows for The Hooligans to hit their finisher, The Iron Lotus for the victory.

This is another hot match from these two teams, with the door open for them to come back to the program later in the year depending on where Nero and Steria’s story leads to. A match that I would definitely recommend checking out; especially now that the Street Gang Hooligans are making their Melbourne City Wrestling debut on April 27th.

Post-match, a hype-video airs showing that two of the three members of PWA’s Velocities are coming to EPW’s next show. The match-up between The Street Gang Hooligans and The Velocities’ Jude London and Matt Diamond is booked for EPW’s next major show on May 25th and it should be another showcase match for both teams.

Marcius Pitt def. Craven

These are two of my favorite performers in Australian Wrestling against each other. Marcius Pitt is one half of The Untouchables and one of the best workers in Australia. Craven has been a strong addition to the EPW roster since debuting last year. He’s also one of the hardest working wrestlers in Australia who has the hustle to get bookings almost every week. Craven might also be known to Lucha fans as a semi-regular for The Crash.

The match starts off with Pitt laying into Craven with kicks in the corner. Pitt is able to keep on offense for most of the match, throwing Craven around with ease. Craven is able to get a few hope spots in, such as a Canadian Destroyer, but is always playing defense.

Eventually, Pitt’s tag partner Damian Slater distracts the referee allowing Amber (in stilettos) to sneak in and hit Craven with a nasty looking Eat Defeat. Marcius Pitt follows up with an F5 for the victory.

Live, I thought that this match suffered in terms of crowd reaction having to follow The Street Gang Hooligans. I do think that the match would have been better served opening the show, but on tape it is clear that the work is all of a high standard. I’d be very interested in seeing these two match up again.

Post-match, Damian Slater cuts a promo where he bemoans his fate being determined by ‘armchair critics and amateur journalists’ (imagine cutting to me in the crowd looking sad here). The promo got a great reaction, particularly when he insults the current tag team champions. This set up the end of the show and EPW positioning Pitt and Slater as their top heels for 2019.

EPW Championship
‘The Don’ Michael Morleone def. Gavin McGavin

This was set-up at the end of the last EPW show when Morleone came to the ring after McGavin’s title defense against Mick Moretti to challenge the man who beat him for the championship. The stipulation set for the match was that if Don lost, then he wouldn’t get another shot at the championship.

This match is an intense brawl; which feels very reminiscent of an Attitude Era style main event. It begins with Don taking the upper-hand, beating the crap out of the champion. Both men end up hitting their finishes on each other for nearfalls, then things step up a gear.

McGavin accidentally knocks out the referee with a chair; leading to wild brawling on the outside. They go into the crowd, where Don’s son gets in a chop on McGavin (making him a much more effective family member than Miz’s Dad). This got a big pop live, especially considering that McGavin had gone out of his way to antagonize the kid at the last EPW house-show.

Eventually, Don misses a dive off the stage onto McGavin and he ends up crashing through the merchandise table. The referee is eventually revived and starts the 10 count, which was the nearfall that most got me.

Another two referees get taken out as part of the closing stretch until Don eventually hits a Stunner (complete with McGavin doing a Rock flip-sell to go along with it). This leads to Don hitting a Chokebomb off the top rope for the victory.

This was a wild, fun brawl that went all over the building. I feel like depending on what style you’re more into, it is a toss-up between this and the tag title match for MOTN honors. Don winning was a welcome surprise; so far EPW has managed to pull off a couple of surprise finishes this year that feel logical rather than being a swerve for the sake of doing a swerve.

After the match, a victorious Morleone is jumped from behind by Damian Slater and Marcius Pitt. He is beaten down until his stablemate Scotty Ryan runs out for the save. There’s a small tease that Ryan will turn on the new EPW Champion; before he starts to fight back against The Untouchables. Then Julian Ward comes out, and cracks Scotty Ryan over the head with a kendo stick to officially turn heel and join up with Pitt and Slater (you can hear me shouting out “Do it” when he looked to be considering taking the shot).

To me, it was one of the more effective angles EPW has pulled off for a long time. Whilst Julian Ward was very popular with the crowd; he’d been booked to lose too many big matches and was losing credibility as a babyface. I am very excited to see where things go next for him and the rest of his new teammates.

Final Thoughts

Goldrush 2019 was another strong show from EPW, with no real duds on the card. The biggest weakness of the VOD presentation (which I haven’t touched on yet) are the technical problems with the commentary. This is a real pity as EPW generally has one of the stronger commentary line-ups in Australian Wrestling. Hopefully, these issues will be resolved in the future.

EPW’s 2018 was inconsistent in quality; however, it already looks like 2019 has gotten off to a stronger start. Explosive Pro Wrestling is in my opinion very much a promotion to be watching out for in 2019, both for the Australian and worldwide indy scene.