By: Michael Jameson
Wagga? Why of all places Wagga?
I had first messaged the OPW Instagram Page when I read about them sometime in 2022.
Seemed like a young upstart promotion that wasn’t going to stick to one city, and was going to do big things nationwide. What did I have to lose? Refs need bookings too.
Fast forward a few months I received word I was to be booked on the first set of shows OPW was promoting. I had then learned they were teaming with Impact! Wrestling. Surely there had to be some sort of copyright infringement there. Then I learned that it was the legitimate Impact! Scott D’Amore’s Impact! My first thought was excitement, that quickly turned into, “What the hell have I gotten myself into!?”
I travelled the 10 hours from Adelaide to Wagga on Thursday 29th June with Matt Hayter (@therealmatthayter) and stopped into the Mercure Wagga. Getting paid to ref and even getting put up in a hotel. Okay, this ain’t half bad. I met my counterpart, Hannah from PWA / Newcastle Pro (@refereehannah), and I just knew this was going to be a memorable weekend.
Waking up in the morning, and walking to the local Wagga Woolies, it was surreal to pass Deonna Purazzo and Steve Maclin going to the gym, and walking by the Motor City Machine Guns down a local street. If that was weird, it got even stranger when I realised I would be in the ring a few hours officiating an Impact! World heavyweight title match between two of those people.
Stepping into that locker room on night 1, it was absolutely amazing to see people I had previously worked with in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney greeting each other, and meeting the Impact! guys. I wasn’t wrestling, but I knew my ‘in’ was food, so I dumped some Tim Tams and Caramello Koalas on the table as a welcome token and a conversation starter. Americans love Tim Tams. Chris Sabin mentioned hearing about ‘fairy bread’ so night 2’s menu was sorted.
Night 1 was insane. The production meeting was more involved than anything I’d been a part of before. Wearing an in-ear piece with direct access to Scott D’Amore was a trip. The night of wrestling to follow was nothing short of breath taking. The athleticism of Shaw vs Reid. The craziness between Kelly and Aysha. The athleticism between Moose/Myers and ABC. And the world title significance of Maclin Vs Shelley.
Moving to night two, we had Edwin from MCW join us in referee duties. I’d worked with Edwin at MCW and FWA and I knew we had a dream team of wrestlers and a dream team of referees assembled. Australia’s best was ready!
Sabin loved the fairy bread, the vibe was just right, and night two has crazier! My first match was the Digital Title between Joe Hendry and Moose (who gave me a great insight into the craft of creating false finishers). Second was a slobber knocker between Kazarian and Myers. Impact’s stylings taught me you didn’t need 100 dives and finishers to make a good match. Work to the payoff! The lessons I learnt from the Impact! Guys can’t be underestimated and I will take them wherever I go, already implementing the teachings at RCW’s Gluttony show over the weekend.
Third day was a showcase between Australia’s best. The competition of Hayter and Luke Watts. The bravado of Frankie B and Aysha. The power and tag team chaos of the Parea and Top Tier. I feel sorry for you if you missed it. If nothing else, this proved Australia’s young talent have a footing on the world stage.
Leaving on Monday was bittersweet. I had 3 solid (international) shows under my belt. Made new friends (Joe Hendry follows me now!!), re-kindled old acquaintances and shared the stage with Australia’s biggest and brightest talents.
We are a territory. One day, we won’t need to go to Japan or America. Australia has the talent, the drive and the ability to make this a national past time. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane or wherever, don’t let anyone tell you there isn’t a scene in Australia. Of all I learnt this weekend, I learnt the ambition and ability and are on par with the worlds’ best.
I took lessons away to serve my referee duties a Riot City Wrestling (@riotcitywrestling) in Adelaide. I used them in Hayter & Party Powers vs the Old Guard (check it out on Youtube and the RCW Vault soon!) – but I’m always there for whatever company needs me. Echoing back to the glory days of the 70’s, Australian wrestling is alive and well, and there is an audience for it.
This event brought the country together. Not one city, but the Commonwealth. We are a wrestling nation and I couldn’t have been prouder of the efforts that EVERY PERSON ON TOUR put forth to make this event as special as possible (big shout out to Digital Beard – your photos are without peer).
4 hours from Sydney. 4 hours from Melbourne. Close to Canberra. Easy (but long) drive from Adelaide. 2 sold out nights. Wagga proved it doesn’t matter where you are in Australia. This nation will come together enhance and highlight what it loves. Wrestling.
So yeah. Wagga. That’s why.