Live Review: MCW High Stakes

Melbourne City Wrestling’s “High Stakes” show took place on Saturday 3 June out of the Thornbury Theatre, following on from its previous Blood in the Water show in April. A couple of noteworthy things happened in the lead up to this show – the first is that the show was delayed by a couple of weeks after an issue with the venue, the second is that the Fite TV livestream was quietly pulled, replaced with a VOD to premiere on Friday 9 June.

MCW’s tweet on the subject alluded to “production changes”. This should’ve been a warning. We walked into the best produced show in Australia to find giant spotlights pointed at the crowd – the impact of that on your eyes, with beaming lights in the background, is that everything in the foreground appears dark. This became an issue that I’ll come back to.

In my view the promotion of this show was a little odd, and very different in the MCW sphere. We only had one title match on the show, and everything else had a stipulation relating to next month’s Ballroom Brawl show. It kind of felt like the old pre-Wrestlemania No Way Out shows – which would be fine, but it creates potential for a throwaway show when MCW is currently only producing 8-9 shows a year.

I needn’t have worried…

Fusion Pre-Show Match: Barry O’Leary w/ The Mongrels vs Sensational Shen

I believe this match was born in PCW. Shen has previously worked a Fusion match, ‘The Mongrels’ are a really entertaining act in BCW otherwise known as the Sexy Greek Boys, but I think this was my first exposure to O’Leary. 

I spent most of this match at the merch table/bar, but Shen overcame the odds to record another Fusion win.

Winner: Sensational Shen

We open with a graphic celebrating the life of Kristen “Miami” Mitchell.

MCW Intercommonwealth Title: “Golden Boy” Emman Azman (c) vs Nick Armstrong

The event proper starts with the incredibly popular Emman Azman, which gives us an electric, packed crowd right off the bat. Ring announcer Lindsay Howarth announced that Emman’s stipulation was putting up the title, while the MCW faithful had voted for Armstrong’s stipulation to be “loser leaves MCW”. I don’t remember seeing this vote being promoted on MCW’s twitter, and it was a strange stipulation when Nick Armstrong isn’t someone the crowd has seen in MCW before – where’s the investment in the stipulation for a guy we don’t know?

Regardless of the odd stipulation, we got a really great opener here, with Emman relying on his speed and high-flying, while Armstrong relied on strength, power, and heel 101 tactics.

A fun back and forth match ends when Armstrong’s roll-up with his feet on the ropes is caught by referee Edwin, his low blow is unsuccessful, and Emman ultimately wins it with a stunner and a lariat.

I’m still not convinced by a guy of Emman’s size using a lariat as a finisher, but I’m not sure it’s a big deal – certainly the crowd doesn’t care, Emman is as over as anyone in the company (not named Delta.) It’s fun watching the athletic, high-flying MCW Emman juxtaposed with the obnoxious jerk Emman in Renegades. The dude is wildly talented.

Winner and STILL MCW Intercommonwealth Champion: “Golden Boy” Emman Azman

We see a video of Mick Moretti being taken out by three clowns from the main event of the previous Blood in the Water show. We then cut to him being beaten, and as he wakes up a clown tells us in a garbled voice that they’re upset with Mick for no longer wearing the clown make-up.

These videos are always good when you go home and watch them on Instagram, but the issue in the building is that you can never hear them. This was a garbled message to begin with, so the live crowd had no chance.

Next up is the contract signing for Tommy Knight’s title challenge against Buddy Matthews at Ballroom Brawl. New MCW GM Rocky Menero is in the ring, he invites Tommy out wearing street clothes, and as Tommy is about to sign a contract we see a video of The Parea beating up Slex backstage.

The Parea join us in the ring – Eli Theseus wearing Slex’s sunnies, and Gabriel Aeros wearing his jacket – and Eli Theseus, who was supposed to be facing Slex, now wants to put his Ballroom Brawl spot on the line against Tommy, and if he wins he will face Buddy Matthews. (Aeros calls Tommy a “big balloon”, which made me giggle!)

Tommy thinks about it and leaves, so Eli demands the referee count Slex out to formalise his win. As the ref gets to 9, Tommy Knight’s music hits, and now he’s in his wrestling gear.

Tommy Knight vs Eli Theseus

To recap, the stakes here are Tommy’s title shot against Buddy vs Eli’s spot in the Ballroom Brawl.

What followed was a tremendous match. Tommy largely dominated, but using some heel tactics and some interference from Aeros, this was by no means a squash – it was actually a really fun match.

After interfering at least half a dozen times, Aeros is working to remove a top turnbuckle pad, but referee Edwin catches him and kicks him out. Eli is distracted by his own rage, and eats a senton, a spear, and a brainbuster for the win.

This was a much better, much more competitive match than I was expecting! The Parea are such a great act, everything they do is entertaining.

Winner: Tommy Knight

After the match Slex enters the ring with the Ballroom Brawl contract – Tommy signs the contract, and he finally joins his fellow tag team champion in doing Slex’s sunglasses spot to a huge pop.

Tommy and Slex leave, and we’re rejoined by Rocky who is incredulous that Theseus risked his Ballroom Brawl spot. “I raised you, and you’re both idiots.”

But he offers them the chance to go double or nothing – if Aeros wins against a mystery opponent, they’re both in the Ballroom Brawl, but if they lose they stay back in Adelaide. They obviously accept Rocky’s terms

Gabriel Aeros vs Caveman Ugg

The surprise opponent is Caveman Ugg, which I like from a storyline continuity perspective, as Ugg’s most recent MCW appearance was at MCW12, when The Parea’s decision to turn on ‘dad’ Rocky Menero led to Ugg’s win in the Stone Burial match, ultimately retiring Rocky.

Eli Theseus remains at the ringside, while Aeros stupidly ends up in a chop battle with Ugg, who slaps the skin off his chest and gets a nearfall with his gutwrench bomb. A match largely dominated by Ugg is interrupted when Theseus finally removes the top turnbuckle pad and throws it onto the stage. As referee Edwin chases it, Theseus enters the ring and The Parea hit Ugg with their Hart Attack/Roundhouse kick tag team finisher for the win. 

Winner: Gabriel Aeros

While the Tommy vs Eli match was pretty good, this was really different from a MCW perspective – it was kind of like one long segment setting up the next big event. I thought it was fine as a set up for Ballroom Brawl, cos it’s the biggest show of the year – but I don’t think you could structure segments like that every show, there just isn’t enough shows every year to pay them off.

Back from intermission and ring announcer Lindsay is announcing that, as part of his visit for the upcoming IMPACT tour, Conrad Thompson will be doing an “Ask me anything” show at Thornbury Theatre the night before Ballroom Brawl.

Jarvis vs “The Wandering Soul” Jimmy Townsend

This was strange. We had Delta and Jarvis set up a feud at the last show. Their match for High Stakes was announced, and you could even vote on Jarvis’ stipulation (whereby Delta was at risk of losing her title to ‘vacant’, while Jarvis faced a voted upon stipulation.)

The match was never “unannounced” – we were never told that Delta was a no-show. But what we got instead was Jarvis vs Townsend for a spot in the Ballroom Brawl. I like Jimmy, but I thought this was an odd spot – of all the PWA wrestler’s we’re familiar with from their recent co-promoted shows, Jimmy isn’t one of them. So, while his appearance had been announced the week beforehand, it all seemed a bit random.

As it was, it didn’t feel like Townsend took a lot of the focus in this match – it was all centred around Jarvis being a jerk and getting his heel character even more over. The crowd were into it, with strong “We hate Jarvis/We love Jarvis” chants throughout the match, so the work being put into Jarvis is certainly working.

The match finishes with Jarvis hitting a springboard stunner, but Jimmy rolls him up for a two-count. Jarvis reciprocates with a roll-up of his own with his feet on the top rope, and it’s enough for the win, with Jarvis going through to the Ballroom Brawl match.

Winner: Jarvis

As Jarvis heads to the back, we see a video of Delta, who is met with a HUGE pop. She announces that she hasn’t forgotten at their wager, and their stipulation match would still be happening at Ballroom Brawl, with Jarvis risking his hair.

Out next is former champ Mitch Waterman, hobbling in a moon boot. He says he’s been told he can speak for as long as he wants, and says he feels like he’s been here before. A year ago he had to come to the ring to tell us he was hurt – but this time it’s a bit different.

He says that with the MCW Heavyweight Title came a lot of pressure because MCW is the pinnacle of Australian wrestling, and it was a lot of weight on his shoulders because so many people believed in him. 

He says that because of that pressure he lost himself a bit, and he did some things he wasn’t proud of cos he didn’t want to let anyone down. (At this stage small segments of the crowd starts turning on the segment…)

Mitch says that in the opening minutes against Buddy Matthews he broke his nose, but he didn’t want to let anyone down. Fast forward to Blood in the Water, the show named after him, his body broke on him again. He says he’d never felt like he let more people down, and he came to the realisation that maybe his body wasn’t meant to do this any more. “Maybe this business I love so much, doesn’t love me back.” (Someone’s cutting onions in here…)

The crowd starts chanting for one more match, and Mitch says he’d love to, but he realised something else that night – that all the pressure was on him, he was the only one who didn’t believe in him, everyone else did. Mitch says he hasn’t been feeling like himself for a while, his body gave up on him, and now his mind has given up on him.

Mitch says he’s come here tonight to announce that he’ll be stepping away from MCW. He says broken bones will heel, but he needs to go home and heel himself now. He runs through the camera crew, the ring crew, and the crowd being what makes MCW special.

“I don’t know if this is see you later, I don’t know if this is goodbye. But I need you all to know that I love you all so much. Thanks for letting this brat live out his dream.”


As Mitch leaves the ring the locker room empties onto the stage to give Mitch an applause.

This was a desperately sad segment that I think is going to come across terribly on the stream, for a couple of reasons.

First is that we’d come back from the intermission, straight into Jarvis vs Jimmy, and the lighting issue appeared to have become more pronounced. People appeared to have been getting progressively angrier about the issue, and Mitch’s promo segment, as well as being impacted by the lighting, was the first opportunity post-intermission for the crowd to make themselves heard. And they did during this segment.

Secondly, there were some jerks screaming really rude stuff at Mitch during a really emotional segment. That he’d “let us down”. That he needed to “wrap it (the segment) up.” I don’t know if these were wankers trying to get themselves over with mates – but I suspect the issue is that no one believed this speech until the end. I think everyone had been expecting a Mitch heel turn since the end of last year, and sadly, I think that’s where most people thought it was coming – we were probably half way through the speech before it became clear that it was real.

Mitch deserved so much better out of his career – his story of going from 14 year old fan to MCW Champion is awesome. But the reason his speech is so heartbreaking is because it’s so true. As soon as he won Ballroom Brawl then eventually challenged for the title, he appeared to be getting a different injury on every show.

That line – “maybe this business that I love so much doesn’t love me back” – so devastating.

On behalf of PWDU I hope Mitch finds peace outside of wrestling. I’d love to see him healthy enough to be in the ring again – but watching him over the last 2 years, and hearing him during this speech? This is a guy screaming for a break, screaming to find something else to invest in. I hope he finds it. He’s still young, and he deserves all the success in the world.

And he deserved better than this retirement. It was no one’s fault, obviously MCW didn’t set out to undermine the retirement of one of it’s true homegrown success stories – but the convergence of issues with lighting, with storyline (and the crowd not believing it), and with unfamiliar show pacing conspired to not give Mitch the segment that he deserved to have.

“The Taiga” Tome Filip vs “Absolute Excellence” Anth Cava

I love Cava. He’s Melbourne’s best looking wrestler, he has an amazing body, and his development as a wrestler has come a million miles over the past couple of years.

Tome, on the other hand, is a tag team legend along with his brother Stevie. But neither of them are doing much for me as singles performers – there just doesn’t appear to be the spark that exists when they’re together as a tag team.

I hoped they might use this match – which is continuing to re-establish Tome as a singles wrestler – to swerve us and give us the upset. Sadly it didn’t go that way.

A fairly short match ends with a Tome cross body off the top, followed by a Sister Abigail-turned-DDT for the three. I think this was for a spot in the Ballroom Brawl, but the stipulation for this match wasn’t as clear as it was for other matches.

Winner: “The Taiga” Tome Filip

We get a video of Edward Dusk before the main event, and while the crowd is still hot and broadly supportive of the show, there’s still sections of the crowd using things like videos to vocalise their displeasure over the lighting.

The Sacrament: Edward Dusk vs Adam Brooks

“The Sacrament” is a segment that Dusk has introduced this year – for 15 minutes, the commencement of which is denoted by a siren, it’s no holds barred, falls count anywhere. Interestingly, they’d never explained what happened after 15 minutes when the hourglass on the screen emptied…

The stipulation here is a big one, with only the winner going through to the Ballroom Brawl – that means a big, pushed name is missing out.

This match started fast, hot and violent. They brawl inside and outside the ring, and leaning into the “high stakes” theme of the show Dusk uses a card to slice the webbing of Brooks’ thumbs.

We get a brutal spot of Dusk eating a chair set up in the corner, with his face going straight through it, which is followed up by a pumphandle backbreaker for two. We get another brutal spot with Brooks backdropping Dusk on the stage, which was emphasised beautifully by the sound that it made.

As Dusk recovers and regains momentum by use of a trash can lid, he hits a flurry of offence including a clothesline, German suplex and a neckbreaker, but his back is too hurt for him to hit The Wicked End (his version of the One-Winged Angel.)

With six chairs set up and with both men fighting on the top rope, Dusk ends up sprawled on the chairs, with Brooks attempting a Swanton Bomb. Dusk moves, and Brooks eats the chairs. Dusk gets a near-fall, and I love what happened next so much – I hope the commentary saw it the same way as I did and puts it over on the VOD.

After the missed Swanton bomb and nearfall, Dusk decides to prevent Brooks hitting his big move again by untying the top rope – genius. Sadly for Dusk, Brooks responds by getting a ladder – it’s too high for the Swanton though, it’s up in the light rigging.

So, with the top rope down, with Dusk hung across the middle rope, and with a table set up on the outside, Brooks hits a huge Panama Sunrise from the ladder, to Dusk on the apron, through the table on the outside. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good 7.5/10.

As Dusk recovers, he escapes through the crowd, and he and Brooks end up fighting up the stairs to the mezzanine where commentary sits. As they fight back and forth on the commentary desk – the siren goes, signalling the end of the sacrament.

With Brooks distracted by the siren, Dusk strikes him, throws him from the mezzanine through a table on the floor, and ring announcer Lindsay tells us that with The Sacrament now over, normal rules resume – the first time we’ve heard this rule.

So with normal rules back in place, Dusk grabs referee Edwin (who is checking on Brooks). He charges through the crowd with Edwin, inadvertently knocking over about two dozen chairs like bowling pins (hilarious!), and then forces Edwin to count out Brooks. As he reaches the ten count, Brooks is being loaded onto a backboard by event staff.

I LOVED this match so much. It was violent, it was crazy, it had some mad high spots, and it had a great, creative ending that protected the good guy.

I had thought that when the 15-minute Sacrament expired the match would be a draw – but going back to normal rules creates so many more creative opportunities. In this case, the visual of Dusk winning a match by countout – despite being surrounded by carnage – was enough to sell me on The Sacrament as a really cool, creative storytelling device.

I said after the last show that the Dusk vs Brooks match was the best match I’d seen Dusk have – this one was better again, and it goes straight onto the December re-watch list.

The loss means Brooks is out of the Ballroom Brawl, which is interesting. But given how the match-finishing bump was sold, with Brooks leaving the Theatre on a backboard, it’s possible he’ll just miss the show.

Winner by countout: Edward Dusk

Final thoughts: I have a LOT of thoughts!

  • This was a great, albeit weird show. As I said, it kind of felt like the No Way Out before Wrestlemania, or maybe the Raw before a PPV. But it was a super hot crowd, we got that one great match at the end, some really good stuff at the start, and the show felt greater than the sum of its parts.
  • I’m already super excited for Ballroom Brawl! Already sold out, the show comes to us on 8 July – it’s not clear whether it will be livestreamed yet. Announced so far is the Ballroom Brawl, Buddy Matthews vs Tommy Knight, and Delta vs Jarvis. I’m hoping Dusk wins!
  • MCW deserves enormous credit for how it’s been able to establish new talent over the last couple of years. Emman and Dusk have become two of the biggest names in the company. Jarvis is on his way to becoming a star. It’s odd seeing them bringing in so many guys from interstate, because MCW has proven that it can build local talent, and build them really well. All three of those names are legit. (Jarvis has become legit quickly enough that Delta’s title vs Jarvis’ hair might’ve booked them into a corner.)
  • The production was a really severe issue. MCW did acknowledge it on Twitter during the show, saying they were aware of it, and they’d be trying a new solution for Ballroom Brawl, but there was nothing they could do during the show. I totally understand the difficulty of making running changes – but they had an afternoon-long bump-in installing those lights, the lighting should’ve been tested and adjusted as required before the show. I can’t overstate how severely this impacted swathes of the crowd being able to see the ring.
  • MCW crowds are becoming an issue. Not the size, but the attitude, the “look at me” rubbish, the disrespect for workers. As I said, I think it was difficult to understand what was going on with Mitch until the second half of his speech – but regardless, who goes to a wrestling show to tell the talent to “wrap it up” or to use someone’s retirement speech to complain about the lighting? It really bothered me, cos it’s so disrespectful to the wrestlers. I know they aren’t being paid what they deserve, so the least we as crowds can give them is some respect and appreciation.
  • PWDU’s friends at Wrestle Radio Australia did a podcast last week with a correspondent suggesting that we, as wrestling fans and wrestling media, need to call out the lack of opportunities that MCW is providing to women. The first show of the year featured one female wrestler, the second show featured two female wrestlers, and this show featured none. I love MCW, but this is by far and away my biggest issue with the promotion – we have wildly talented women in this country, they work and train just as hard as the men do, and they deserve recognition and bookings. It really bothers me that MCW will happily fly in new male talent like Jimmy Townsend and Nick Armstrong and provide opportunities to them, but they aren’t providing any opportunities to women, local or interstate. (That’s nothing against Jimmy or Nick – both are great, and both really impressed on this show. But why are MCW flying in and providing opportunities to men not involved in current storylines while not providing any opportunities to women?)
    With Delta facing Jarvis at Ballroom Brawl, it doesn’t appear that this situation will be rectified next month. So aside from the lack of respect to Australia’s female wrestlers, how are MCW going to build a credible challenger to Delta if they aren’t booking women on the show? How do they keep Delta as the hottest act in the company if she’s a division unto herself?

    As I said in a previous dot point, MCW have proven their ability to build whoever they want – Delta is the best example of this. So why aren’t they building any other women?

How to watch: MCW will be premiering High Stakes on Fite TV this Friday, 9 July. I absolutely recommend watching it!

To learn about upcoming shows, follow MCW on Twitter @mcitywrestling – their shows are selling out weeks in advance, so you’ll need to follow them to learn about ticket sales.

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