PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING
GRAND SLAM 2020
MARCH 14, 2020
STATE BASKETBALL CENTRE
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
Professional Championship Wrestling is not one of the promotions I normally review here at Voices of Wrestling. For the most part; they don’t produce a product geared towards super-indy style fans. Their focus is on meat and potatoes pro-wrestling which is aimed at the live audience they draw from Melbourne’s outer-suburbs.
However, PCW has a history of being the entry point for star talent on the Australian scene. Most recently; Indi Hartwell, The Filip Brothers and Royce Chambers began their careers in PCW. The main draw to me in watching PCW shows is that you’re likely to see a potential star amongst their (seemingly endless) sea of rookies.
This was the second Grand Slam event at the State Basketball Centre; which is now being presented as PCW’s big yearly show. PCW normally runs shows every week in their regular venue which they own and operate. Last year they drew over 2000 people to Grand Slam and this year is estimated to have drawn around 1500 through the gates. Their hustle to draw big houses for the Grand Slam shows has been very impressive.
So why am I reviewing this show? Firstly, I think it is useful for me to check in on PCW and see what sort of product they present for a big stage. Secondly, there’s a curiosity factor to me in covering this show given the current state of the wrestling world. Grand Slam took place on the 14th of March 2020; and may well be the (currently) last wrestling show in the English-speaking world to draw over 1000 fans.
A day before the show; the Australian government announced that indoor gatherings of over 500 people would be banned from the following Monday. Most political insiders think that the grace period over the weekend was put in by our Evangelical Prime Minister to give his mates at Hillsong Church time to finish the big conference they were running. PCW were able to just sneak in Grand Slam before the deadline hit thanks to this ‘Hillsong loophole’. Now we’re almost a month on, and it seems surreal that this event actually took place given the rapidly changing global climate.
Let’s get into the show itself: we open with the crowd being welcomed by PCW’s ring announcer Davis Basaga who tells them that, “nothing will stop PCW”. The set-up of this show looks great and the lighting and camerawork does a good job of highlighting the scale of the venue. For the most part, visually this looks like a big-time product.
Let’s talk about an element of the show that doesn’t come across as big-time; the lack of commentary. I am of the opinion that for pro-wrestling shows; bad commentary is worse than having no commentary. However, when you are trying to present a show on the scale that PCW are attempting here; the lack of commentary hurts the show. As someone who has just occasionally sampled the PCW product, having no commentary (or hype packages) meant that I wasn’t able to understand the storyline context of the matches.
PCW IGNITION CHAMPIONSHIP
NATE CROSS DEF. CASS STONE (c)
Ignition is the name of PCW’s weekly Saturday night show from their South Eastern Entertainment Centre homebase. This is meant to be the main secondary championship in the promotion.
Cass Stone was the champion coming into the show and is one of the handful of Australian talents who have graduated from Seth Rollins’ Black and Brave Academy. He is one of the more promising talents in PCW at the moment. His match against Adam Brooks from the end of February is the best match I’ve seen on a PCW show.
Nate Cross comes off to me as the horrible outcome of a generation who grew up watching The Miz. He very much feels like a bad indy copy of Miz, even using the Skull Crushing Finale as a signature move. I’ve seen past matches of his where he was just mediocre, but he is really bad in this match with multiple botches. Maybe the pressure of working on this bigger stage got to him.
The match begins with a yay/boo sequence and the crowd is surprisingly hot for this. There’s something to be said for a passionate family crowd who are just going to cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. Nate Cross keeps shouting out “I’m Gold Class, Baby!” and suddenly I get why Indi Hartwell used to always shout out “Impressive” to try garner heat. Repeating catchphrases must be on the heelwork curriculum at the PCW Academy.
Cass Stone tries to get some excitement going in the match; in particular, his spear through the ropes looks really good. Stone doesn’t seem to have much character yet; but he definitely has potential. The finish of the match is all based on Cross’ manager Dr Troy Alexander’s actions. First he puts Cross’ leg on the bottom rope to break up the cover (which can clearly be seen by the referee). Then he interferes again and is sent to the back by the ref. Cass Stone gets distracted by the ‘manager gets thrown out’ spot and walks straight into Cross’ finish to lose the match and the title. A weak opener to the card; but I would recommend that people seek out Cass Stone’s match against Brooksy for an idea of what his actual potential is.
PICK YOUR POISON
SAMMY FALCON & AYSHA DEF. LUCAS DANIELS
The idea of this match was that each fighter would be allowed to pick one weapon to use in the match. Lucas Daniels (a big guy with MMA Dad energy) chooses to wield a kendo stick. Sammy Falcon chooses his Rebels Before Kings stablemate Aysha to be his weapon. Unfortunately, this just turns into a regular handicap match rather than Falcon actually swinging around Aysha like a weapon which would be more fun.
Rebels Before Kings are pushed as the top heels in PCW at the moment. Aysha is actually the team member who strikes me as having the most charisma and potential in the group. She was booked for Melbourne City Wrestling’s Thornbury Theatre show on March 21st which unfortunately was a victim of the Covid-19 lockdowns.
The overbooking of the match feels more like a detriment than a strength. They still do tags in and out for the heels and the rules aren’t clear regarding what the wrestlers can do without causing a DQ. The finish comes with Lucas Daniels hitting an F5 but having the cover broken up by Aysha. Daniels then goes to F5 Aysha, but gets low-blowed by Falcon directly in-front of the referee. Aysha hits Daniels with the cane and Falcon follows up with a punt for the win. This wasn’t a bad match but was hurt by the confusing stipulation.
ROBBIE THORPE DEF. TRIKKI
Robbie Thorpe is one of the big prospects at PCW. He’s tall and jacked. In terms of look, he reminds me of a young Elliot Sexton (NXT/Evolve’s Brendan Vink). I assume the name is a reference to the fact that he also resembles Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe. My understanding is that he’s an immigrant from the UK and he got his start at the Knight Family’s WAW.
Trikki is one of PCW’s veteran heels. PCW had been running an angle where Thorpe was managing Trikki and I’m not actually sure how they broke up. This is the main example where the lack of video packages or commentary meant that I didn’t really have the full context to understand the story of the match.
This is a short match, not really a squash but clearly meant to put over Thorpe strong. His vertical leap is really impressive and he does this big jump over the top rope to the floor to go catch Trikki who is trying to back off.
Once they are back in the ring Trikki works on the arm for a while and tries to submit Thorpe with an armbar. Thorpe is able to power his way out, hits a big clothesline and takes the win. This was short and just really about putting Thorpe over. He comes off as very green at the moment but clearly he’s a talent with a big upside.
PCW NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND RB4K CHAMPIONSHIP
MARK KAGE (PCW) DEF. RYAN RAPID (RB4K)
This match is for both the PCW National Championship and the Rebels Before Kings vanity belt. Before the match, RB4K manager and PCW President Karl Grove comes out to introduce Ryan Rapid. I struggle to work out if I’m just being worked into being irritated by Grove and thus he’s an effective heel or if he’s just bad in the role and that’s why I find him irritating.
Mark Kage has seemingly been the main guy at PCW for the past couple of years. He is technically competent but quite dry as a performer. Rapid is one of the RB4K members.
I suspect that this match immediately followed intermission; the crowd seems kind of dead for the first half of the match. It is pretty common for crowds to be flat at Australian shows coming off the break; especially when the audience is primarily a family-based one like PCW’s.
For the most part this is an ok indy ladder match without much to distinguish it. Both men take some nasty bumps into ladders. There’s one awkward looking spot where Kage is suspended in the middle ropes with his arms on an open chair; Rapid dives off the top to dropkick Kage whilst he’s on the chair but it’s hard to believe that Kage couldn’t have moved out of the way of the attack.
The crowd picks up as the match moves to the floor and the two men brawl to the staging area. Here we have the big spot of the match and night. Kage is laid out on some tables by the entrance; Rapid goes to climb up to dive onto him; then decides to climb up higher onto the top of the scaffolding. Rapid does a Swanton Bomb off the top of the staging, only to crash and burn as Kage gets out of the way.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all who came and supported #PCWGrandslam ❤️
— PCW Australia (@PCWAustralia) March 15, 2020
Rapid is out of the match from this point onwards. Karl Grove comes out again, teases that he is going to try climb the ladder to win. Kage makes his way back to the ring and gives Grove an AA to take him out and then climbs up and retrieves the titles. It is a pity that Grove didn’t go through a table as that would have gotten a bigger pop. Rapid’s dive was incredibly gutsy, but it also felt like the only real highlight of the match.
CHARLIE MATTHEWS DEF. SYD PARKER, WAIK and JJ FURNO
This match is an interesting mix of characters: We have Syd Parker, who is one of the most experienced workers on the PCW roster. PCW has been his main promotion since he stopped working for MCW in 2018; His former tag partner WAIK, a short high-flyer who wears white face-paint and what looks like vinyl fetish gear; JJ Furno who is another of PCW’s young flippy wrestlers and then we have Charlie Matthews…
‘The Man Who Won The Genetic Lottery’ is coming off a stint on Australia’s version of Love Island. This exposure led to Matthews turning face. It also set-up a match with PWA and Australian Survivor’s Matty Wahlberg. ‘The 21st Century Success Story’ was brutal to Matthews in his promos leading up to their Reality Star vs Reality Star match:
This match is messy in some spots; but also one of the night’s more effective contests. It is somewhat of a sprint and everyone gets to have a moment to shine. JJ Furno shows more here than I’ve seen from him in previous matches; with his 450 off the ropes to break-up a pinfall being the highlight. WAIK is very loud in the ring thanks to the constant weird noises he makes (which is accentuated by not having commentary to drown them out). He gets in some dives but made the least impression on me of any of the competitors.
Syd has one cringeworthy spot where he bites Furno on the crotch, but otherwise puts in a good performance as the antagonist that everyone else is after. In particular, he has a cool moment where he flips out of a Chokeslam attempt from Matthews, landing on his feet. Matthews comes off as green; but he’s also tall, with a good physique and is a shoot male-model. There’s clearly potential there if he gets more experience in-ring and learns how to work in different environments. He has one signature taunt, where he wastes time shouting out his Instagram handle before hitting a Fallaway Slam which greatly annoys me. Matthews ends up taking the win over Syd with a Chokeslam into a Powerbomb.
PCW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
THE BLACK DIAMONDS (JASON BLADE/SETH TANNER) DEF. THE STALLONES (ROCCO/TOMMY HELLFIRE) (c)
I actually thought this was the most effective match of the night and very much emphasizes the strengths of PCW as a meat and potatoes pro-wrestling promotion.
The Black Diamonds are a pair of young contenders. The champions are two experienced bad guys. Tommy Hellfire is an old hand in Australian Wrestling and was actually one of the founders of MCW.
This match is a basic but effective tag match. The heels isolate one of the babyfaces; keep beating on him and cheating, the crowd desperately want the hot tag and they go wild when the babyface gets it. It is a formula that works, especially for the crowd they were working for.
The Black Diamonds showed some good fire to me and they were clearly well-liked by the fans. The Stallones were effective in their role as assholes. The Diamonds take the win and the championships with a 3D. This was by no means a great match, but I thought that it did the best job of engaging the crowd. The babyfaces going over here felt like the emotional highpoint of the show.
SAMMY FALCON WINS THE ROYAL RUMBLE
The match begins with Danny Psycho’s stalker Edward Dusk coming out at number 1 (here in PCW he is a babyface). Number 2 is Broderick Mitchell whose gimmick is basically that he is cosplaying as 1992 Shawn Michaels.
They do the requisite beginning period and the Number 3 comes out; who I don’t know. After him is Number 4, who again I don’t know.
The biggest failure of the whole show as a VOD product is this Rumble. There’s no commentary, no announcement when new people enter and no on-screen graphics for entrants after the opening pair. For a show that comes off as a big deal visually, it is a very low-rent aspect of their video presentation.
This isn’t the worst indy Rumble I’ve seen but it is long and pretty boring. My feeling of boredom was enhanced as well because they end up using very few name talents. The field of 30 is mostly made up of people who have recently graduated from their training school; so even in terms of who the PCW audience are familiar with this is a bunch of no-names.
It is especially disappointing that they chose to structure their Rumble this way considering that PCW has brought in some bigger name stars from outside their bubble recently. Over the end of 2019/beginning of 2020; PCW has booked talent like Adam Brooks, Craven, The Filips and Matty Wahlberg. Dipping into that pool of guest talent would have made the match much more exciting and noteworthy.
There are a few talents who I had seen previously and who managed to make a good impression. Murdoch showed more intensity than I’ve seen from him in prior matches and his new gear was an upgrade on his look. Aysha’s time in the Rumble was mostly about continuing her feud with Mia Rose; who is another of the PCW talents with a great look. Rose looks like a superstar but needs more experience and exposure to different audiences if she is going to live up to her potential. George Kendo was another talent who stood out amongst the crowd.
The finish sees RB4K representative Sammy Falcon eliminating the last entrant Lockie in a somewhat anticlimactic fashion. I came away thinking that between the match being overlong and the lack of star power; finishing the night on the Rumble was a misstep.
So let’s tackle the big question, is PCW Grand Slam worth your time and money? Honestly, not really, at least with PCW’s current Pivotshare price-point. The PCW Network is priced at $9.95 a month (in US Dollars) and that subscription only gets you access to PCW’s footage. There are certainly a lot of other Australian promotions which offer VOD subscriptions with deeper libraries and a stronger product for similar (if not cheaper) price points. I think that in terms of increasing exposure and awareness, PCW would benefit from syndicating their events to the bigger Pivotshares like Powerslam and Highspots.
However, I do think there’s value in watching the show if you’re an Australian Wrestling obsessive like me (or just desperately miss watching wrestling with crowd noise). A handful of performers like Cass Stone, Aysha, Mia Rose and Robbie Thorpe stood out to me as the next crop of PCW talent to potentially make a national, or even international impact.