How does one introduce a review of Deathmatch Downunder in the early days of May, 2023? Do you ignore everything outside the ring and risk being insincere with your audience? Do you run through all of it and risk increasing the pile-on of a company that, for the most part, I really like, and really appreciate for its point of difference?
I never could decide on the answer, so I just thought I’d run through what’s happened in the last couple of months with as little judgment as possible:
- 2 days before “Pour Decisions 2”, an event to open DMDU’s own 3011 Arena in Footscray and thank donors, the event was cancelled, leaving travelling fans out of luck. DMDU’s March show is also moved from the Arena.
- Inaugural DMDU Deathmatch Champ Callen Butcher announced he was stepping away from wrestling to look after his mental health. Callen’s partner Erin followed him out of DMDU – Erin’s contributions to DMDUs comms and social media probably only became externally obvious following her departure.
- DMDU announced to its backers that the 3011 Arena would not be going ahead, and they were investigating legal options to recover the money (with the implication being that they don’t currently have the money.) DMDU doesn’t say “sorry” in its statement.
- DMDU announced that one of its regular performers would no longer be performing for DMDU in order to continue providing a safe environment for fans and performers. Again, the company doesn’t say “sorry”, and there are accusations on social media that the company knew of alleged domestic violence allegations in his private life before they became public.
- The first show of the Heathen Combat tour is moved – albeit to a very cool venue, Evie’s in Fitzroy. At the same time they announce that the headliner for the Weekend of Death, John Wayne Murdoch, would not be appearing.
- On Friday, around 27 hours before Saturday’s first show, DMDU announced on social media that the shows were moving “home” to the Arrow on Swanston.
- Throughout this – fairly or unfairly – DMDU has been subjected to a pile-on from Australian wrestling podcasts and social media.
Here’s what I will say – I appreciate that we have a deathmatch company in Melbourne. I appreciate that we have a company bringing Charli Evans & Everett Connors to Melbourne, that we have a company in inner Melbourne for wrestlers like Tyson Baxter and Jordan Samson, and that we have a company for underused wrestlers like Tarlee, Charlie Rose and Tyson Reed.
I will also say that seeing people deathride a company – any company – is unedifying in my view. There are people who are receiving opportunities (and hopefully financial remuneration) because of this company’s existence, there are fans who are seeing something different and creating a community because of this company’s existence, and there are wrestlers working when they otherwise might not be.
With all that said, DMDU launched with a very strong statement of values, and I think it would do well in the impending break between upcoming shows to revisit those values. Using potentially undertrained talent doesn’t align with those values, nor does using someone who is the subject of domestic violence accusations. And as a creative, it would devastate me if rumours of people being taken advantage of were true, be they wrestlers, tech crew or support staff – that certainly doesn’t align with the company’s values.
Before I commence the Weekend of Death review, I will note that there was a Heathen Combat-branded show on the Friday night, however I was attending BCW51.
DMDU x Heathen Combat – Pain Remains
Pain Remains is a new tournament featuring wrestlers from DMDU and New Zealand’s Heathen Combat. It was to be a 9-person tournament, however Joel Bateman pulled out at the last minute, leaving us with 8.
DMDU Tag Team Title Match: Big Dude Energy (Big Dave & Rickie Gilmore) (c) vs BlackRoach Reserve (Xavier Black and Scotty Roach)
BlackRoach Reserve have been undefeated over the last few shows, while BDE have been champs since beating Misspent Youth at The Great Emu War Games in June last year.
It’s a really flat start, as we’re late getting underway, people are still finding seats, the bar isn’t open, and we don’t have music for the opening match.
We get a surprisingly short match with a lot happening on the outside, and BlackRoach Reserve maintaining a numbers advantage for most of the match. Black hits Rickie with a Sister Abigail as Roach hits a tope suicida to Big Dave on the outside, and we have new champs!
Winners and NEEEW DMDU Tag Team Champs: BlackRoach Reserve (Xavier Black & Scotty Roach)
Pain Remains Tournament Match – Fish n Chips Death Match: Charlie Rose vs ‘The Death Match Reaper’ Vic Craig
The native Tasmanian in me is pulling hard for Charlie Rose! We have fish hooks, salt, lemons, and 2 kiddie pools, one full of vinegar and the other full of barbed wire.
Charlie largely dominates the match, with Vic taking sick bumps into both kiddie pools, but he manages a quick roll-up and proceeds to the final. A great performance from Charlie though.
Winner: ‘Rugged’ Vic Craig
Pain Remains Tournament Match – F**kery Boards Death Match: Bryant vs JT Hollow
Two New Zealand talents that I’m not overly familiar with, but JT Hollow is mad over with his ABBA entrance music! I was really impressed with Bryant’s size too, I had no idea he’d be that big.
This was a fairly short back and forth match that worked around the barbed wire boards set up. Hollow ends up slamming Bryant through one of the boards for the 3-count and moves on in the tournament.
In terms of it being a “death match” there wasn’t a lot to it, but both characters worked the crowd hard and the crowd started engaging with the show a bit more during this match.
Winner: JT Hollow
Pain Remains Tournament Match – Thumbtack Pit of Death Match: Mad Dog vs Horus
This was another short-ish match, which worked around the thumbtack “pit” in the middle of the ring. It’s probably the match of the show so far though as Horus gets in a lot of offence and looks great, before Mad Dog hits him with a piledriver in the thumbtack pit to advance. The finishing spot was a lot more gruesome than it sounds!
Winner: Mad Dog
Pain Remains Tournament Match – Blood Fighter Death Match: Charli Evans vs Jordan Samson
With Joel Bateman withdrawing from the tournament we’re left with an awesome match up between Blood Fighter comrades Charli Evans and PWDownunder favourite Jordan Samson.
This was fun because it was the exact opposite to what I was expecting. I thought we’d get a fairly long, main event-style of match between two of DMDU’s death match stars. Instead we got a short match where they beat the shit out of each other before Jordan manages to sneak in a quick rear naked choke for the quick tapout. It was almost shoot-style, which I liked.
WInner: Jordan Samson
We’re back from intermission, and we’ve only been going a tick over an hour with nothing else announced. As it turns out we got a couple of impromptu matches here.
Tag Team Match: Nu Blood (Kid Nova & Zac Hayle) vs Tommy Fusion & Phoenix Tallion
I think had this match between four young NZ talent been announced in advance, people would’ve been excited for it. However, people came back from intermission expecting we were going straight into a long tournament final, and this felt a bit flat. Tallion in particular was over with the crowd, I’m just not sure anyone really wanted this match in this position.
It’s a fun little athletic match with Nu Blood picking up the win.
Winners: Nu Blood (Kid Nova & Zac Hayle)
The next bit was weird.
We were told they’d be setting up for the final, so take 5 minutes to go to the merch stand, bar or toilet. However, everyone who attends DMDU knows that “5 minutes” to set up a deathmatch is going to become 15 minutes.
So people are scattered, we have two female-presenting people in the ring setting up tables, and then out of nowhere Jay Hunter appears and attacks both members of the ring crew. They grabbed attention with ring announcer Hawko screaming at him, but the timing of it didn’t work.
It also looked sloppy, with one of the tables not breaking, and with Hunter throwing them like rag dolls. This was a talking point at the pre-main event intermission, and has been controversial in the wake of the event as to whether those ring crew members had sufficient training to be in that situation. This is concerning to me, mainly because the spots looked quite dangerous, and they were spots that should’ve utilised people well advanced in their training.
Ring Announcer Hawko calls for anyone from the back who wants an opportunity to kick Hunter’s arse, and out comes Ryan Zero from Heathen Combat.
Jay Hunter vs Ryan Zero
A short, pretty ordinary match that the crowd weren’t into – I’m not sure whether it was because they were scattered thinking we were in a break, or whether it was because of the shoot controversy surrounding Hunter’s attack.
Zero in particular worked really hard to get the crowd involved, but Hunter took most of the match and eventually wins following a powerbomb through a table followed by a top rope splash.
Winner: Jay Hunter
At this point we got one of those notorious pre-main event set ups, where we’re told to take 10 minutes, they finish setting up after 15 minutes, then we inexplicably wait another 5-6 minutes for the match to start.
I found this break a little frustrating – we’d gone from an intermission 45 minutes earlier, expecting to come back to the tournament final, and instead had two impromptu matches, the segment involving Hunter that did not get over with the crowd (which is a big call with a small, dedicated crowd where everything gets over), and a long break to set up the main event. I think in hindsight they could’ve forgotten about those two matches – it was a weird enough vibe during the show that I think people would’ve been happy to watch the final, take a break, reset, and come back for the Not Here to F*ck Spiders show.
Pain Remains Tournament Final: Vic Craig vs JT Hollow vs Mad Dog vs Jordan Samson
This was chaos, with the four men pairing off and fighting to the floor. Blood and plunder everywhere, it was a really fun match. They’d built a scaffold that they didn’t end up using for this match, which I suspect resulted in a lot of improvisation which contributes to that really fun sense of chaos.
The finish comes when Mad Dog lays Craig and Hollow across a pain of glass set up between two chairs, he hits a leg drop, and he pins Hollow for the 3. Definitely the highlight of the show.
PAIN REMAINS Winner: Mad Dog
As a side note, the prize is a really sweet looking little trophy made from reclaimed skateboards by Charli Evans’ dad. Awesome!
Pain Remains thoughts: This show had a weird vibe – from the late start, to the lack of music for the first match, to those impromptu matches between intermission and the final, and that Jay Hunter segment.
I think the small crowd contributed to the vibe. It doesn’t usually matter much at DMDU cos there’s a band of devotees who will support everything, but on this occasion I think people struggled to engage with a lot of the show. I think the first round featuring so many short matches possibly impacted the vibe, cos there was nothing long enough to really sink your teeth into (with the exception of Vic Craig vs Charlie Rose, which was at least different to everything else, but didn’t get the benefit of being unique because it was the first tournament match.)
It breaks my heart a little to say this – I only started writing for PW Downunder to promote the wrestling that I enjoy, and as I’ve said, I like DMDU most of the time, and I want it to be successful to provide opportunities to people that I wouldn’t otherwise see.
But it felt like a vibe of death – a vibe that this company might not be long for the Australian scene. That was overwhelmingly what felt “off” to me – to the extent that I went and bought merch I hadn’t planned on, concerned that I may not get another opportunity.
After a frustrating Pain Remains show, I honestly went to the evening show mainly because I wondered if it might be the last of DMDU.
Fortunately things got much better with the second show of the day!
Deathmatch Down Under – Not Here to F**k Spiders 3
The first impression of Saturday’s second show is that the crowd was much better than it was for Pain Remains, and there was a much better, more supportive vibe from a crowd that wanted to contribute to elevating the show.
Tag Team Match: DMDU Heavyweight Champion Gore & Krackerjack vs Overkill (Hector Jones & Tom Crowe)
In some ways this match is a bit of a function of DMDU’s failure to establish any great contenders for Gore. In kayfabe, this match was set up at the recent DMDU Philadelphia & Chicago & Tokyo & Footscray show – Damien Rivers, who has since left the company, was complaining about not being on the show, Krackerjack cut him off, and he was then set upon by Jones and Crowe.
Crowe has been quite open on social media about his recent absence from wrestling being due to an assault he suffered that sounded really serious, so I’m thrilled to see him back – I think he and Hector have a great look together and could be a serious team across Melbourne promotions.
We get a really fun back and forth opener here, with Gore showing his powermoves, Krackers providing his own running commentary throughout the match, and Overkill bumping like crazy and showing some really slick offence.
The finish comes when Gore hits an avalanche dominator to Jones, with Crowe breaking up the pin, before Krackers hits the Britney Spears to Jones for the 3-count.
Winners: Gore & Krackerjack
Ring announcer Hawko tells us that Jay Hunter was ejected from the building after his actions at Pain Remains. This announcement gets over with me after the negative impact I think the Hunter segment had on the Pain Remains show.
Bryant vs Tommy Fusion
A couple of Heathen Combat talents here, and as I mentioned earlier Bryant is a really big dude, made to look even bigger against someone like Tommy Fusion.
This was more than a squash – it went a bit longer than squash, and Tommy managed to get in a little more offence – but Bryant was dominant before winning with a Black Hole Slam.
Everett Connors vs Tyson Reed
These two are exactly the type of guys that I attend DMDU for. While neither are really deathmatch guys, both are incredible wrestlers who don’t get booked in Melbourne anywhere near enough.
This was a really great back and forth match, and to this point was my highlight of the day. Reed goes really close with a Gotch-style Neutralizer, but a cocky pin doesn’t get it done, and it ultimately costs him when Connors hits a Sliced Bread #2 followed by his spinning splash off the top rope for 3.
Winner: Everett Connors
Tag Team match: Phoenix Tallion & Kid Nova vs Misspent Youth (Aysha & Murdoch)
As someone who doesn’t follow NZ wrestling, this tandem was a little strange, as they’d been on opposing tag teams on the earlier Pain Remains show.
It was however great to see inaugural DMDU tag team champions, Murdoch and PWDownunder favourite Aysha, back with the company – their appearances have been sporadic (at best) since they dropped the titles to Big Dude Energy in June last year.
This was a good, relatively short match where everyone got a chance to show some of their greatest hits. Aysha continues to show her improvement; I enjoyed seeing her in a tag match for the first time since her overseas learning tour, and seeing the psychology and mannerisms of her as a tag partner on the apron.
The match ends with a Murdoch running boot into an Aysha crucifix bomb for 3.
Winners: Misspent Youth (Aysha & Murdoch)
International Tag Team Deathmatch: Blood Fighter (Joel Bateman, Charli Evans & Joel Samson) vs JT Hollow, Ryan Zero and Zac Hayle
The New Zealand contingent enters the ring first to JT Hollow’s entrance music – “Gimme Gimme Gimme” by ABBA. We get an early pop when Bateman leads out the Blood Fighter trio demanding that their music be cut – they wanted to enter to Hollow’s music, cos “that shit f**ks”. (Amen to that!)
This was a fun war that went all through the venue, through the crowd, backstage – Zac Hayle even found himself upside-down in a rubbish bin courtesy of Charli Evans.
I don’t love the “bar fight” spots that involve wrestlers sitting down mid-match and taking turns hitting each other, and I particularly dislike it when there are headbutts involved; I also dislike deathmatches where wrestlers will stop fighting each other to watch what their partners are doing. It kind of takes me out of the psychology of it being a deathmatch. I want it to feel important, for it to feel high stakes – because if it’s not, why are you putting your life at risk in a deathmatch?
Despite that, the chaos of this match made it really fun – in a way it really involves you as a fan and makes you feel part of it, cos if you aren’t watching closely and aren’t prepared to move, you might eat a wrestler in the face. Many will dislike this, but for me, it’s an adult show, and I think people know what they’re getting in this respect with DMDU.
The high spot of the match comes with Zac Hayle hitting a frog splash off the now-safe, slightly lower scaffold, but he ultimately eats a double stomp from Jordan Samson while holding a bunch of light tubes across his chest, and it’s enough for Charli to get the 3 count. A really, really fun tag team deathmatch.
Winners: Blood Fighter (Joel Bateman, Charli Evans & Jordan Samson)
Will Walker vs ‘The Duke of Death’ Horus
We’re back from intermission, and I’m excited for this match between an underrated Melbourne deathmatch guy and a NZ guy that I’ve heard a lot about, and who had a really good match with Mad Dog on the afternoon show.
We get a really fun, brutal war here that involves gussets, chillis, doors and lit tea candles, and both men go all out to give us a different, fast-paced deathmatch.
Horus ultimately wins it with an F5 through the tea candle board, followed by a double-arm DDT into a bunch of light tubes.
Edward Dusk vs Tyson Baxter
This, for me, was the big selling point of the show. Edward Dusk has entered the upper echelon of Melbourne wrestlers and Tyson Baxter is an incredible talent who has spent an unfortunate amount of time laid up with knee injuries.
This is a story that DMDU has been telling for around a year, as Baxter became a constant target for Dusk while working commentary during his injury lay off, creating a really personal feud – probably one of the better feuds in DMDU’s short history.
We get a really brutal fight between the two, which still managed to separate its brutality from the deathmatch setting – even without using the crazy amount of weapons that we see in many death matches, this was very successful in portraying a physical war between two guys that hate each other.
After working the knee early in the match, Dusk takes early control and they’re telling the story of Baxter’s knee injury. Baxter manages to fight back though, and as Dusk becomes increasingly desperate he finds himself tapping out while holding the rope.
As Baxter argues with the ref over the tapout, a frustrated Dusk shoves the ref out of the way, kicks Baxter in the junk, and rolls him up for the 3 to escape with a win. This, along with the 6-person tag, was match of the day.
Winner: Edward Dusk
Post match, Baxter loses his mind and is attacking everyone in sight. As Dusk begins to take the upper hand in the post-match brawl the locker room empties to separate them, and Baxter challenges Dusk to a steel cage match at the July show in his home of Hopper’s Crossing. A really well done feud, a really well built grudge leading to an appropriate gimmick match… it’s a shame Hopper’s is so far away!
DMDU World Deathmatch Title – Spiderweb Light Tube Deathmatch: Vixsin (c) vs “Rugged” Vic Craig
After another long setup break, we get what I thought was a pretty basic plunder match. There were some fun spots, including a Kiwi fruit with toothpicks in it and a “meat” pie full of thumbtacks, but I didn’t think there was a lot to love. I think Craig had given a hell of a lot in his earlier 2 matches, and I suspect Vixsin might be banged up, because she was struggling to get off the ground.
The match was ok, not great, and then had a really unfortunate finish when 3 attempts by Vixsin to put Vic through a pain of glass failed, and in the end she just hit a chokebomb in the middle of the ring for the win. It’s worth noting that plenty of people in the crowd were really supportive of this match.
Winner and STILL DMDU World Deathmatch Champion: Vixsin
Final Thoughts: What a tale of two shows.
Despite the desire I have view local wrestling positively, I left Pain Remains wondering whether I’d witnessed the smoking wreckage of this company. The late venue change, the small crowd, the production issues, the Hunter segment – as I said previously, this was such a weird vibe, it was the most “off” vibe I’ve ever experienced at a wrestling show.
Fast forward a couple of hours to Not Here to F**k Spiders, and it was a good show – infinitely better than Pain Remains, it was almost like a different company. DMDU have definitely run better shows, but after all the headaches in the week leading up to the event, I suspect DMDU would’ve been stoked to deliver a good, quality show and move on.
Dusk/Baxter and Connors/Reed were both really good matches, and Blood Fighter vs the NZ trio was a tremendous war that is worth going out of your way to see.
How to watch: DMDU will eventually upload these shows to independentwrestling.tv – it’s generally a good quality stream, especially when compared to a lot of other companies on IWTV.
DMDU also announced a number of upcoming events:
- DMDU Be Kind, Rewind – Ballarat Mechanics Institute, Friday 12 May
- DMDU Such is Life – Wyndham Events, Hoppers Crossing, Friday 21 July
- DMDU Death Rules Everything Around Me Tournament (DREAM 3) – Arrow on Swanston, Saturday 26 August