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As another year passes, the Australian wrestling scene continues to fly under the radar. Yet, it’s a hotbed for talent and the scene continues to rise. Considering the substantial decline in quality of the UK and US indies, it’s nice to see a region that is still growing and improving. Anyway, I (ScorpioCorp) and fellow VOW writer Kevin Chiat will guide you through the best of Australian wrestling in 2019.
Wrestler of the Year
1. Robbie Eagles
2019 is the year where an international audience is beginning to truly notice just how good Robbie Eagles is. The Sniper of the Skies made his first appearance for New Japan Pro Wrestling last year as a part of Bullet Club. He now looks comfortable in the NJPW setting after some initial jitters. Had an intriguing story with the newest BC member El Phantasmo, where Eagles got bumped down the BC juniors hierarchy and El P would constantly steal his thunder because Phantasmo has an enormous ego. This would culminate at the Southern Showdown shows where Eagles snapped at El P after my favorite match of the year (Ospreay vs Eagles) on Night 1 and then completely turned on Bullet Club at the end of Night 2 to join his mate Will Ospreay as a member of CHAOS. So yeah, he’s getting more opportunities and is rising up the junior ranks.
Outside of New Japan, he hasn’t had as strong of a year in Australia compared to 2018 where he was on fire. However, Eagles still has that star factor that he brings to the table. When he’s booked for a show here, it’s the must-see match of the card. He’s the type of guy who can make people look a million bucks and get the best out of them.
2. Mick Moretti
‘The Rapscallion’ is one of the most unique wrestlers on the planet. There are very few who have the eccentric and athletic offense that he can pull off. Has the right balance of being an outlandish personality who can still come across as a serious threat in the ring. Got a well-earned Battle of Los Angeles booking and did enough to impress the faithful as he’s still getting PWG gigs. Him, Jack Bonza & Adam Hoffman made the King of Trios finals for the second year in a row, which really shows just how much Quackenbush likes those fellows. Very happy seeing Moretti getting that treatment considering that US promoters used to underrate him. I remember (not too long ago as well) when he jobbed to a Fat Elvis on some Southern show and I was thinking WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?
He’s had a pretty great year in PWA. Won the Black Metal sword against Jack Bonza in an excellent match. Not to mention some pretty fun tags with his 4 Nations members like the feuds with TMDK & The Velocities. Is firmly one of the top guys and crowd favorites for that promotion.
3. Jack Bonza
A couple of years ago, I was debating whether Bonza should be on a list that did for VOW which was about Australian wrestlers to look out for. He was that last-round pick. Because I believed that he could take his game to another level and his best was yet to come. Sure enough, a couple of years later he has done just that. He looks refreshed and more motivated than ever. Had fantastic matches with the likes of Moretti and Caveman Ugg. Fun tags as a part of the 4 Nations. The man is just a beast. Dangerous combo of hoss strength and technical cunning.
1. Mick Moretti
I’m taking a different approach to Scorp and I’m not considering Robbie Eagles for this award. I feel like he has played more of a special guest attraction role on the Australian Independents this year. If I were considering what people had achieved at the top levels of international pro-wrestling then Robbie would be far and away the Australian of the Year, but I want to use this platform to signal boost people who don’t get the same level of worldwide recognition.
That being said, that Mick Moretti is starting to break out internationally is part of the reason why he is in this top spot. He has finally broken into PWG and is becoming more of a featured player in places like Chikara when he makes excursions to the US.
At home, he started off the year hot with some excellent matches against the likes of Gavin McGavin, Jack Bonza and Marty Scurll. His big accomplishment of the year was becoming the first winner of PWA’s Colosseum tournament. He also became one of the guys interstate promotions used to boost their credibility (see the way that Queensland start-up Pro Wrestling League used him as their first champion). Throughout the year he continued to have top quality matches against the likes of Adam Brooks, Tommy Knight and in 4 Nations Tags.
The booking focus on The Rapscallion in PWA faded a little bit in the second half of the year, but he’s going to start 2020 by making a big impact with his Colosseum Winner vs Colosseum Winner match-up against Matty Wahlberg on January 11th.
2. ‘The Don’ Michael Morleone
The Don continues his two-year streak of being the MVP of pro wrestling in Western Australia. I kind of expected going into 2019 that he would take somewhat of a backseat compared to his big 2018. I was wrong. After defeating former partner Hayden Zenith at the start of the year, The Don won back the EPW Championship from Gavin McGavin in a great brawl at Goldrush. He defended the belt valiantly throughout the year (including my Australian MOTY against Davis Storm) until he dropped it to Mikey Nicholls in the main event of EPW Re-Awakening XVIII.
In his alter ego of Dallas McLane, he also won the NHPW Headshrinker Samu Legacy Cup with his tag partner Hercules Rockefeller and held their tag belts throughout most of the year (never technically losing the belts himself as Rockefeller lost them in a handicap match). He also made some appearances for Battle Championship Wrestling in New South Wales and Victoria.
The Don is one of the best professional wrestlers in the country. What he is really good at is at drawing a crowd into a match and making them care, something that a lot of flashier wrestlers struggle with. I’d love to see him get more exposure interstate and he’s my personal dark horse pick for the 2020 PWA Colosseum tournament.
3. Matty Wahlberg
The 21st Century Success Story exploded over 2019 to become one of the top wrestlers in the country. An excellent talker, who has both a great look and is massively charismatic; he is likely to be the next Australian star to make it big overseas.
Wahlberg took his exposure on the latest season of Australia’s Survivor and parlayed it into only being behind Robbie Eagles and Adam Brooks in terms of being the most in-demand wrestler in the country. He even did a reality star vs reality star match against Charlie Matthews (a Love Island contestant) in Melbourne’s PCW.
Wahlberg doesn’t just slide by on his charisma or reality-show fame, however. He has had strong matches with the likes of Caveman Ugg, Travis Banks and York. It was noticeable to me that between seeing him live in July and seeing him in November that he has also greatly improved his ability to project his character and charisma to a live crowd. Wahlberg has also been part of some of my favorite comedy wrestling of the year with his body-swap matches at Wrestling Go against Big Fudge and Kingsley.
Promotion of the Year
1. Pro Wrestling Australia
They practically deserve the number one spot for the ambitious Colosseum tournament alone. In a time where there are indies that are declining or stagnant, PWA feel like they are improving rapidly in many areas. Their partnership with streaming service OVO Play has given them the ability to do iPPVs on a regular basis which was a big move by them. They have constantly improved their production with the likes of their promo videos, graphics, stage layout etc. They also introduced Green Label & student shows to showcase their younger wrestlers, which they have a strong crop of. If there was a big criticism (not necessarily a criticism but you can debate about that), it’s that they are very eager to please their audience in that some feuds (South/SMS & 4 Nations/TMDK) feel rushed for a quick payoff. But at the same time, it’s very much a promotion that knows its audience and how to cater to it. So, I can’t fault them for it.
2. Melbourne City Wrestling
Not as noteworthy or interesting as last year, but it was also going to be an extremely tough challenge to try and top their 2018. MCW has remained steady for 2019 even with a few slumps in their divisions and a disappointing Slex title run. They have a bunch of fresh faces to help boost their midcard like Ritchie Taylor, Danny Psycho (well, he’s been out of MCW for so long that he’s practically a fresh face), Jett Rouka, Royce Chambers, Emman The Kid etc. The WrestleRock & GIRL shows continue to be solid additions to expand themselves and do something different, even if they aren’t my cup of tea. Had a couple of great moments and storyline payoffs with the Slex title win at Clash of the Titans and Brooks getting the title at End Game. As well as the Dowie James’ heel turn where he cut one of the best promos of the year. Big shout-out to Criss Fresh, who has done a great job with booking MCW even if I might make petty criticisms from time to time and it has most probably been factors beyond his control that inspired those criticisms. Hope they continue to do well without him as he stepped down at the end of the year.
3. Explosive Pro Wrestling
EPW has shown improvement from their previous few years. I think the shows have been better structured and talent is better utilised. ‘The Don’ Michael Morleone had been a lovable champ with the good dad energy that he brings. And then there’s Gavin McGavin, Marcius Pitt, Damian Slater and Davis Storm who are a solid group for the top of the card. Heck, even current champ Mikey Nicholls (who’s currently in the ‘YOSHI-HASHI’ territory in New Japan, maybe even worse than that) has been presented very well and looks much stronger here than in NJPW.
1. Pro Wrestling Australia
PWA has made huge strides in 2019, building on from a strong 2018 to arguably being the most popular promotion in the country. They are selling out their home venue on a consistent basis, have great video packages and are building for the future with their academy and Green Label shows.
Their storytelling and overall tone of the show isn’t always to my personal tastes. I’ve made the observation before that watching PWA back on tape sometimes feels like you’re peering into the window of a party you weren’t invited to. I share a similar frustration to Scorp with how quickly the Evil Richard South storyline was blown off.
But whatever my qualms with the product, I can’t argue with the success and growth PWA have demonstrated over 2019. I’m looking forward to a 2020 where we’ll see talent like Ricky South, LUX and Sam Osborne get elevated.
2. Explosive Pro Wrestling
Explosive Pro Wrestling is my home promotion so I have some bias towards it. However I was pretty down on their 2018 overall. Whilst the wrestling was generally of a good standard, storylines felt stagnant and some of their attempts to push new talent weren’t working out.
2019 was a huge improvement. The booking has been logical but with enough surprises to not feel stale. EPW’s main shows were in my opinion the most consistently strong in-ring product throughout Australia. The School Showcases have become a way for EPW to blood their talented new class of wrestlers.
They have work to do to further their growth (particularly with improving production values of the VOD product) but I think EPW is a promotion that more people around the world should be paying attention to.
3. Melbourne City Wrestling
Melbourne City Wrestling remained steady throughout 2019; though as Scorp pointed out they didn’t feel like the undisputed top promotion in the country like they did the two years prior. This year saw MCW move all their main show to The Thornbury Theatre which was both a sign of their increased popularity as well as a contributor to their slump in the middle of the year.
A problem that arises when you are running all your shows at your premiere venue is that now shows that would have been fine as transition shows in a smaller venue feel like a bit of a letdown. Obviously it doesn’t help when injuries or wrestlers going on training excursions stuff up plans.
MCW bounced back with the Dowie James heel turn and the build to Adam Brooks’ title win. Their GIRL shows continue to be the best showcase for women’s wrestling in the country and I have more fun watching WrestleRock than any other shows from the scene. They’ll be starting off 2020 hot with a big Dowie James vs Will Ospreay match.
Match of the Year
- Will Ospreay vs Robbie Eagles – NJPW Southern Showdown (Melbourne): *****
- Mick Moretti vs Jack Bonza – PWA The Fight For Black Metal: ****1/4
- Robbie Eagles vs Ritchie Taylor – MCW Clash Of The Titans: ****1/4
- Davis Storm vs Michael Morelone – EPW Hell Or Highwater: ****
- Mick Moretti vs Gavin McGavin – EPW Hot Summers Night: ****
- Paris De Silva & Jude London vs Tyler Payne & Richard South – PWA All Eyez On Troy: ****
- Jett Rouka vs Royce Chambers vs Emman The Kid – MCW 9th Anniversary Extravaganza: ****
- Caveman Ugg vs Jack Bonza – PWA Colosseum N2: ****
- Slex vs Adam Brooks vs Dowie James – MCW End Game: ****
- Caveman Ugg, Paris De Silva & Jude London vs Jack Bonza, Mick Moretti & Adam Hoffman – PWA Colosseum N1: ****
As a note I’m not counting the Ospreay vs Eagles match from NJPW as an Australian indy match, otherwise, it would be number 1 or 2 on my list.
- Michael Morleone vs Davis Storm – EPW Hell or Highwater: ****3/4
- Damian Slater vs TJP – EPW Hell or Highwater: ****1/2
- Slex vs Gino Gambino – MCW Clash of the Titans: ****1/2
- Street Gang Hooligans vs The Plague – EPW Re-Awakening XVIII: ****1/2
- The Brat Pack vs Street Gang Hooligans – MCW Fallout: ****1/2
- Gavin McGavin vs Michael Morleone – EPW Goldrush: ****1/2
- Matty Wahlberg vs Travis Banks – PWA Colosseum Night 2: ****1/2
- Danny Psycho vs Lochy Hendricks – MCW Ballroom Brawl: ****1/2
- TMDK vs 4 Nations – PWA Call to Arms: ****1/2
- The Brat Pack vs Adam Brooks/Dowie James vs Elliot Sexton/Jonah Rock – MCW Vendetta: ****1/2
Tag Team of the Year
1. The Velocities (Paris De Silva & Jude London)
Paris De Silva and Jude London are incredibly dynamic flyers. De Silva is the star of the group and he recently debuted in PWG. However, London is probably the most improved wrestler in Australia. It feels like things are clicking for him and Jude has gotten much cleaner with his offence. They are a more complete act now and only going to get better. Won the PWA tag titles against 4 Nations at the Rumble show.
2. 4 Nations (Mick Moretti & Jack Bonza)
Moretti and Bonza are a well-oiled unit. Tremendously sharp team that can bombard with combo moves or just ground you down to a halt. The matches with The Velocities really showcase their ability as awesome bases and you got a more heated side to them in their feud with TMDK. These guys work so well together.
3. Street Gang Hooligans (Logan Grey & Alex Kingston)
‘Yeah The Boys’ which the EPW crowd chants to the beloved team of Alex Kingston and Logan Grey. They have been the EPW tag champs for most of the year and were the highlight reel guys for those shows. In particular, Logan Grey is a madman who throws himself with reckless abandonment. Had some really fun matches with The Velocities, Untouchables and The Plague. Unfortunately, Logan Grey is going on hiatus and that means no SGH in 2020. However, Alex Kingston is probably going to have a singles run and he’s a really solid veteran to have back in the EPW main event mix.
1. Street Gang Hooligans (Logan Grey & Alex Kingston)
Street Gang Hooligans had a consistency of excellence that I don’t think anyone else matched in 2019. Every one of their tag matches this year I rated 4 stars or above. Not only were they stars in EPW but they also had one of my favourite matches in MCW’s year against The Brat Pack. Unfortunately the team is over for the time being with Logan Grey’s hiatus from wrestling. That leaves a massive hole in the EPW Tag Division.
2. The Velocities (Paris De Silva & Jude London)
Sydney’s hot tag team of the moment. Whilst Paris De Silva was the immediate stand-out of the team, in 2019 Jude London grew to match him as a partner. Mat Diamond’s addition to the team has also resulted in some fun matches and team dynamics. The stand-out match to me for The Velocities this year was the Robbie Eagles/Mat Diamond vs Paris/Jude match from PWA’s first Green Label show.
3. The Brat Pack
The Brat Pack has been the cornerstone of the MCW Tag Team Division. They are tremendously over and have had some excellent matches against the likes of the Street Gang Hooligans and The Natural Classics. Nick Bury showed tremendous heart in their match against the Natural Classics in August, where his chin got demolished but he still finished the match and shaved a slit in the side of his hair to represent their fourth championship win.
The Brat Pack maybe feel a little overexposed; but it is hard to fault MCW for going back to them when the rest of their tag division is so depleted. Their awful match against Adelaide’s The Parea in May hurts their case for tag team of the year, but it is also hard for me to put much of the blame for it at their feet. That match had a team of interstate challengers coming in cold against popular heels, with the Parea trying to do their shtick that was established in Adelaide but no one in the MCW crowd knew and all topped off with an awful finish. One of the worst Australian matches to make tape in 2019. Apart from that though, Brat Pack have been really good throughout the year.
Breakout Wrestler of the Year
1. Matty Wahlberg
It has to be Wahlberg. The PWA crowd turned him babyface because he was too charismatic and cool as a heel. Had a losing effort against Caveman Ugg for the PWA title but got a big babyface reaction throughout that match and then went on the reality show Australian Survivor for a bit. This only increased his popularity and momentum. He won the second Colosseum tournament with big wins over Travis Banks and Orange Cassidy in one night. The guy just has the ‘it’ factor. Great look, fantastic promo and tremendous athlete.
2. Ritchie Taylor
The workhorse of MCW’s midcard (don’t let his dad bod fool you), Ritchie Taylor has endeared himself to the MCW fans and been their most consistent performer with his hard-hitting style. I will even go further to say that he was the MVP of MCW for this year. Had a great feud with DCT that ended with a wild street fight. Had one of the best Aussie matches of 2019 with Robbie Eagles. Very much a no-nonsense, hard hat worker.
3. Sam Osborne
Osborne came into PWA as a member of The Kelly Gang and he was immediately the clear standout of the team. He has been the highlight of the Green Label shows that proved he is among the top young talent. His power and speed makes him an eye-catching prospect. So much so, that he was chosen as a part of the Colosseum tournament that PWA loaded up with talent. He is a man who can grapple you down with his BattleArts trained skills or slam you into unconsciousness with brute force.
1. Matty Wahlberg
Go back to what I wrote about him in the Wrestle of the Year section.
The one note I’ll add is that I pretty much knew Wahlberg was winning this category in January when he released his excellent promo for his No-DQ match against Jimmy Havoc on the first PWA show of the year.
2. Ritchie Taylor
In Ritchie’s first real match for MCW in 2018, it felt like he was just being used as a jobber to the stars to put over JK Moody. Instead, Taylor was the guy who came out of the match with real buzz. Ritchie is naturally likeable whilst coming off like a badass. He has had a succession of excellent matches across the country whilst also becoming a star in MCW. He closed the year by becoming the WrestleRock Champion and looks poised to be a key part of MCW’s 2020.
3. Ricky South
Ricky South is a performer who mixes strong character work with an impressive Japanese influenced move-set. His big angle of the year (being brainwashed into joining Unsocial Jordan’s SMS) felt like it was cut off too soon for him to have gotten the most he could’ve out of his short heel run. However he was a star in the Colosseum Tournament (him vs Davis Storm was my top match of the tourney outside of the final). His No-DQ match against Felix Young on the final All Action Wrestling show is a great match that went under the radar of most Australian Wrestling watchers as well. In 2020, it looks like Ricky South will be elevated to the PWA main event.
Show of the Year
1. PWA The Fight For Black Metal
This was the best top to bottom show from an Aussie promotion in 2019. Every match delivered its purpose for their spot on the card and an extremely breezy show to watch. PWA’s booking was very interesting at this point in time and they had a lot of stuff going on. I go into more detail about this is my VOW review here. Finished with a fantastic main event between Moretti & Bonza.
2. PWA Colosseum N1
The Colosseum shows really felt like the biggest event for the Australian scene in 2019. The international guests (Travis Banks & Orange Cassidy), added pageantries, the vignettes etc had been top notch. Night 1 was slightly more well-balanced and better paced than Night 2, while also doing an excellent job to set up and build Night 2.
3. PWA Colosseum N2
Nice way to cap off PWA’s big and ambitious tournament. Matty Wahlberg wins the Colosseum tournament and Green Thunder sword in a great moment to establish himself as a true star of the Aussie indies. There was also a beefy hoss battle between Bonza and Ugg as well as an entertaining undercard.
1. EPW Hell or Highwater 2019
Go back to my review of the show from earlier in the year for my full thoughts. This show not only had my top two Australian indy matches of the year but also a great Street Gang Hooligans vs Taylor King/Tyler Jacobs tag match. There wasn’t anything bad on the show and its heights were, in my opinion, the best of Australian independent wrestling in 2019.
2. PWA Colosseum Night 2
PWA did a great job of building up the Colosseum Tournament as a must-watch for Australian wrestling fans. Both nights were strong cards, but I thought that night 2 with the Wahlberg vs Banks final and Jack Bonza vs Caveman Ugg in a PWA Championship match made it the standout show of PWA’s year.
3. MCW Ballroom Brawl 2019
Again, go back to my review for a full analysis of the card. This was a show with three very strong matches (Psycho vs Hendricks, Slex vs Moody and Dowie James vs Wahlberg vs TK Cooper) along with an undercard that was mostly good to passable. Whilst the Ballroom Brawl match itself was pretty weak for the first half, Adam Brooks’ return and victory was one of the best moments in Australian Wrestling throughout the year.
As Scorp said in the intro, Australian Wrestling is on the upswing at a time whilst the majority of other international scenes are going into decline. Whilst Australian fans with a greater sense of the international landscape might look at the possibility of an NXT Australasia with dread; for the time being the Australian scene is one of the most vibrant and exciting in the world.
Let’s hope that energy continues throughout 2020.