We had the NXT tour and tryouts of 2016. Then came the New Japan tours of 2018 and 2019. We were also fortunate enough to have PROGRESS tour Australia in 2018.
Australia was right on the cusp of its own BritWres revolution right up until the pandemic hit, relegating the tours of the pre-pandemic years to a false dawn when it came to the elevation of Australian wrestling.
Fast forward to 2023, and the new dawn appears upon us again.
In late 2022 Deathmatch Downunder hosted ICW No Holds Barred for a weekend of deathmatches. Late 2022 and 2023 has also seen the commencement of New Japan TAMASHII, which was(/is?) preparing the local market for a local “New Japan Cup” tournament. In April 2023 Billy Corgan brought the NWA on a national tour as part of a music festival. And we had IMPACT Wrestling run its two shows in Wagga around a month ago.
Personally, the most exciting of the international tours/announcements came when Renegades of Wrestling announced that it would be hosting Game Changer Wrestling for a three-city tour in August of this year.
GCW is arguably the top indy in the US currently. Boosted by a Dark Side of the Ring episode focussing on Nick Gage, this episode coincided with GCW booking John Moxley and the hotter-than-white-hot indy God Matt Cardona.
GCW would later do a deal with Fite TV to air its shows for free on Fite+, abandoning the previous PPV model and making their shows much more accessible to fans.
With a mixture of hardcore/deathmatch wrestling, great storytelling and the introduction of incredible talent from Mexico and Japan, one might reasonably refer to GCW as the spiritual successor to ECW – the successor that the industry has been crying out for since ECW died.
GCW’s success is further demonstrated by previous international tours of Japan, Mexico and England, and an upcoming tour of Europe, so recognition of the growth of the Australian scene was possibly inevitable – especially when considering the previous GCW contributions of Australian stars like Charli Evans, Steph de Lander, Shazza McKenzie, JXT, and the Australian-based American Everett Connors.
Renegades of Wrestling Promoter Mikey Jay recognises the enormity of combining arguably America’s top indy with arguably wrestling’s greatest untapped market. “GCW is one of, if not THE hottest independent wrestling brand in the world at the moment, and the Australian wrestling scene has been spoken about for years as being the next hot territory to keep an eye on, so to me, it’s about harnessing the power of the GCW brand and getting more eyes on the talent in Australia as a result.”
From the perspective of a local fan who is yearning for the new dawn of Australian wrestling that we deserve, Mikey’s aim for this tour is exactly what we need – using a big promotion to increase overseas exposure to the local product/talent (as opposed to large companies who turn up, make as much money as they can, and contribute nothing to the local scene.)
“There has been a huge influx of international talent coming to Australia over the past 7 or 8 years” says Mikey, “but one of the things that makes this tour stand out is that the GCW brand has been positioned side by side alongside an independent Australian wrestling promotion as well, which hasn’t really been done since I worked to bring PROGRESS Wrestling out here in 2018.”
With matches announced to date including Emman Azman vs el Hijo del Vikingo, Maki Itoh vs Aysha, Outback Adam vs Joey Janela and BUSSY vs PPK, there is a clear focus not only on showing Australia’s talent to the world, but doing so in a true GCW context against GCW opponents.
Emphasising the “Renegades vs GCW” element of the tour is clearly in line with Mikey’s goal for the tour. “My hope is that people who either don’t know about Australian wrestling, or haven’t yet come back to the scene since COVID will see this tour and find themselves pleasantly surprised by the level of talent that we have on our shores, and will continue to check out what Australian wrestling has to offer.”
But not only is the tour aiming to increase exposure of Australian talent – it’s also worth taking a moment to recognise the age profile of the local talent who’ve been announced so far, names like Emman Azman, Aysha and Lochie Hendricks representing a younger age profile of talent being exposed to the world.
Once again, this forms a critical part of the Renegades strategy. “Since day one, Renegades of Wrestling has been working to showcase and promote the next crop of wrestlers rising through the ranks, and I think we’ve led by example with that, which has resulted in a wave of names finding themselves being featured more prominently elsewhere.
Mikey continues “So I think the GCW vs ROW tour will continue to build on that, and will really shine a light not just on the tried and tested names that everyone is already familiar with, but also a whole crop of up and comers who’ve been working hard behind the scenes, hoping to break through to that next level.”
It might be considered by many to be risky business, putting the next generation of talent in such prominent positions, rather than relying on the incredible current generation of wrestlers. But from a promotional perspective the move appears to be paying off, with Mikey saying “it’s been great to see how receptive the audience has been to names like Aysha and Outback Adam being matched against some of the most prominent independent names in the world, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them shine on a larger stage.”
The Renegades vs GCW tour’s contribution to exposing a new dawn for Australian wrestling is supported by ticket sales, with sections of the Melbourne show beginning to sell out, and Sydney sales also thriving with a month to go before the tour.
“It’s been encouraging to see how well tickets have sold so far” says Mikey. “Sydney has been tracking well, and Melbourne has been exceptional, which I feel can also be attributed to the presence we’ve had here so far.”
Perhaps the biggest risk of the tour from a promotional perspective was the decision to include the relatively untapped local wrestling market of Brisbane in the tour above a more established market in Adelaide.
Mikey appears very happy to have taken the risk though, saying “Brisbane is an interesting one, as it’s still a growing market for independent wrestling, but we’re investing in that scene there, and I think this is really going to help bring the Brisbane metro scene in line with places like Melbourne and Sydney too.”
“That’s not to dump on the hard work that Brisbane based promotions like Pro Wrestling League and Wide Bay Pro Wrestling have been putting in over the past couple of years either. They’ve been staying the course and really putting on some great events that haven’t been noticed so much by online sections of the Australian wrestling community, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the talent coming out of Queensland are really smashing down doors all over the country in the next year, as they’ve been working really hard to finally create something sustainable up north.”
It’s heartening to hear positive words about Brisbane, both from a promotional and from a talent perspective. If we are truly to see a new dawn in the growth and expansion of Australian wrestling, the south-east of Queensland is way too big of a market to ignore. Including the largely untapped city of Brisbane will hopefully be worth the risk, as exposing that largely untapped talent and audience sounds entirely in line with Renegades of Wrestling’s stated aims for the tour.
All we need now to further this new dawn is for fans to support it. While the NWA shows were buried in an expensive music festival, and IMPACT was confined to Wagga due to the NSW Government arrangement, Renegades and GCW are providing our major cities the opportunity to demonstrate that they will support wrestling, and that Australia is worth the effort for overseas companies.
It’s up to us now to further the momentum.
Links to ticket purchases are available at https://lnkfi.re/gcwvsrow
And I recommend following Renegades of Wrestling on Twitter at @RoWrestlingAU
Broadcast info hasn’t been announced for these shows. They will be broadcast on Fite+, however Renegades shows and GCW international shows are generally broadcast on a delay.
Thanks to Renegades of Wrestling Promoter Mikey Jay for his generosity of time!