Having attended some really fun PWA events in Sydney and Melbourne in recent years, including the 2022 version of Colosseum, I decided to take PWDU on the road this year for Colosseum’s return to Sydney for the first time since COVID.
My first impression walking in was at the merch table. PWA place their merch table near the entrance, so you have to walk past it to get to the seating/bar/toilets. I love that PWA talent are all treating Colosseum as a big deal from a merch perspective – so many of them had new shirts and other merchandise available, which was great.
My second impression wasn’t as good – I’d bought a front row seat, but there were none left when I went to sit down. What can you do? You can’t go around asking to see everyone’s ticket.
I was there early enough to see some of the house band, who called themselves Red Hook. They were doing largely emo/nu-metal covers, but they were pretty good!
We get the Acknowledgement of Country, which is always treated really respectfully by PWA crowds, and the quest for the Iron Mercy sword is about to get underway.
Colosseum Round 1 match: Emman Azman vs Jude ‘The Dude’ London
Emman is enormously over as a babyface in Sydney, which as a Melburnian, and as someone who recently had the privilege of interviewing Emman for PWDU, made me smile – PWA crowds haven’t seen much of him, but they were obviously keen on him.
Jude is out to “What is Love” by Haddaway, which I think is the first time he’s used it – again though, with a Melbourne lens, I think it fits Lucky O’Leary’s gimmick much better when he uses it.
This was the perfect opening match. It was athletic, it was high-flying, it was hard-hitting, and both guys worked really hard to deliver. It’s probably not quite at the level where it goes on the December re-watch list, but damn it’s close, with Jude in particular hitting some wildly crisp aerial stuff.
London ends up winning with a cut-throat hook kick to the back of Emman’s head, and the crowd loved this, with Emman continuing with his streak of banger matches in 2023 and Jude continuing in the Colosseium tournament. The crowd loved this.
Winner: Jude “The Dude” London
Colosseum Round 1 match: Mat “Grimm” Basso vs Cherry Stephens
I don’t know what Basso is carrying in his bullhorn on the way to the ring, but he splashes a lot of it on the crowd, so I hope it’s water!
Cherry comes out with a special entrance that I guess celebrated her study group?
Basso looks massive compared to Cherry, and it’s an interesting match up with the super-pushed Cherry Stephens, and cancer survivor Mat Basso who, as far as I know, is making his PWA debut.
Basso used his size and strength to dominate this match, but this was so much more than a squash, with Cherry leaning into her gimmick and her popularity to nail some hit and run submissions to get the crowd behind her.
And when it was her turn to sell? She bumps like a demon against massive opponents like Basso.
Grimm wins with a chokeslam and a big boot that looked like they’d killed Cherry dead. A bit of a surprise to see the non-PWA talent move on, but Basso looked like a savage in victory.
Winner: Mat “Grimm” Basso
Tag Team Gauntlet Match: SMS (Aaron Jake & Belinda Pierce) vs Backslide Girls (Kingsley & Shay Kassidy)
David Streamer is out to introduce the new “wrestlepop sensation” on behalf of “Streamer Capital Asset Management” (SCAM – clever!) – the Backslide Girls.
Kingsley and Kassidy come out with a choreographed song and dance, and Kingsley sounds ok on the mic, but the dance needs work – neither of them seemed particularly confident in it.
Sadly I think SMS are losing some of their heat – the recent Belinda Pierce false babyface turn along with the injury to Unsocial Jordan and the very unfortunate injury and retirement of Carter Deams have left these two SMS representatives in a bummer of a spot.
There wasn’t much to this – it was just the first part of a gauntlet match. SMS have Kassidy up for the Magic Killer, but Streamer is up on the apron pointing at Jake, who tries to bite his finger off. Pierce goes for a spear, but Kassidy moves, Pierce hits Jake, and Kassidy rolls up PIerce in – you guessed it – a backslide for the three.
WInners: Backslide Girls
Backslide Girls vs PWA Tag Team Champions The Joker and the Thief (Mick Moretti & Jimmy Townsend)
I had a brief chat to Jimmy at the merch table – he seemed like a super cool guy, and he pointed out one of his and Mick’s new (awesome) Pulp Fiction inspired tshirts, which was an instant buy.
Kingsley starts out hot until Kassidy’s stuffed bear Barnaby enters the match, only to be kicked into the crowd by Townsend. Kingsley has Jimmy in the backslide, but the ref is distracted by Kassidy freaking out, and Jimmy rolls Kingsley up in a schoolboy for 3.
WInners: Joker and the Thief
Joker and the Thief vs MK+ Ultra (Michael Spencer & Tommy Dee)
Tommy is the new member of MK+ Ultra, replacing the injured Kai Drake. He and Spencer hit some really crisp tag team stuff before Mick steals Drake’s scooter, distracting Spencer and Drake.
Townsend spits something in Dee’s eyes, hits a springboard kick and pins him.
Winners: Joker and the Thief
Joker and the Thief vs PPK (Nikki van Blair & Frankie B)
PWDU’s own Nikki van Blair and her sister Frankie B are a house of fire against Moretti, before Nikki begins an assault on Jimmy. They’re able to maintain a period of dominance over Moretti until Jimmy trips up Frankie from the outside.
With both opponents on the outside, Frankie hits an assisted moonsault, and Nikki is able to get a two-count on Jimmy.
Following a slap to the face, Jimmy feigns an eye injury, and Mick enters the ring to cover Frankie with JImmy’s sleeping bag. With the ref distracted by an outraged Nikki, Jimmy puts a sleeper on Frankie, gets rid of the sleeping bag, and gets the three-count. That’s three thefts from Jimmy Townsend, and they’re really trying to get him over as “The Thief.”
Winners: Joker and the Thief
Joker and the Thief vs Backpain (Backman & Jack Pain)
These two teams met in the final of the PWA Premiership, albeit with a different iteration of Backpain. Backpain dominate Jimmy to start the match, and the wheel barrow/spine buster looks like it’ll win it for Backpain before Moretti pulls the ref out.
Moretti slides Jimmy a chair and distracts the ref – he hits Backman, who isn’t the legal man, he throws the chair to Pain, Pain throws it back but hits Backman, and with Townsend leaving the ring to constitute a tag under PWA’s lucha rules, Moretti enters the ring to roll up Jack Pain with his feet on the middle rope.
I thought this was a strange result with Moretti and Townsend essentially cleaning out the division in one match.
Tag Team Gauntlet Winner: Joker and the Thief (Mick Moretti & Jimmy Townsend)
Post match, Backman is pissed off and attacks Jack Pain, breaking up the team and leaving Gymbro Jessie confused.
Colosseum Round 1 match: Jack J Bonza vs Zack Sabre Jr
The co-leader of Bullet Club sub-sect Rogue Army takes on the leader of TMDK, which was founded in Australia.
ZSJ is probably the best technical wrestler in the world – he had a whole feud recently in AEW with Bryan Danielson over it! And Bonza was able to hang in the early phases of the match, which was cool.
Bonza then tried to move it to his turf with a striking battle, which he largely got the better of until Zack continued finding technical reversals. This technical vs striking battle became the story of the match, with Bonza also able to find some cool reversals and technical holds along the way, and Sabre Jr wrecking Bonza with some strikes. The crowd was also super into this, getting behind ZSJ and riding Bonza hard.
ZSJ wins it with… a surfboard backslide? An excellent match that told a great story; another one that probably only falls just shy of the December re-watch list.
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr
Colosseum Round 1 match: Delta vs “Spartan Spirit” Paris de Silva
We’re back from intermission with the final round 1 Colosseum match. With my Melbourne lens on, I can’t wait to see how Delta performs – she’s the biggest name in Melbourne at the moment, she’s arguably the biggest name in Adelaide, so seeing her in Sydney’s biggest tournament is huge.
This is another really fun match that told a really clear story of Delta’s power vs de Silva’s quickness and athleticism. The crowd treats Delta like a star, and as always she reciprocates by being a star.
de Silva spends way too long playing into Delta’s strengths, trying to match power with her. When he ultimately does hit a power move – a brainbuster – it results in him eating a spear and powerbomb from Delta for a super close nearfall.
Delta goes onto hit a big boot, but then tries to play in Paris’ yard, missing a moonsault, having an F5 reversed into a DDT, and then eating a shooting star press for the three-count. I really liked this match, I loved the story that it told of them trying to engage with each other’s strengths.
Winner: Paris de Silva
Soul of PWA Championship Match: Unsocial Jordan (c) w/ Aaron Jake & Belinda Pierce vs The Tuckman
It’s wild how over The Tuckman is. I don’t know if it’s the energy, the gimmick, the beer helmet, or a combination of factors, but you’d scarcely find a more inexperienced talent who is more over.
The crowd hates Jordan, they swear at him, and he takes the mic to say that if the crowd swears at him he’s just going to hit Tuckman with his tripod and get disqualified.
The bell rings, Tuckman flips a double bird and says “f*ck you” to Jordan. Jordan tries to hit him with the trips, but Tuckman ducks it, hits a Rock Bottom… and that’s three. We have a new Soul of PWA Champion! (Sadly, I believe Jordan is injured, as he hasn’t worked for a while, and this was a bummer of a way to lose the belt he only just won. Good luck to him.)
Winner and NEEEW Soul of PWA Champion: The Tuckman
PWA Heavyweight Title Match: “The Example” Ricky South (c) vs “The Arm Collector” Jessica Troy
Jess won the PWA Rumble, before losing her title opportunity in an unscheduled match against Caveman Ugg, all the while Ricky South running the line that she was not worthy. However, she went on to win the Key to the Card to set up this match, and she resisted South’s urging’s to cash it in at the last show and “prove she’s not worthy.”
We get a great video package re-capping the feud, which gives this even more of a big fight feel than it already had – along with ZSJ, Jess’ coronation is what got me to Sydney.
Troy comes out in new gear and with balloons flying around the crowd. Ricky South’s entrance is preceded by a Japanese drummer (she was a boss). For its foibles, PWA does a great job of making the fight feel important! We get the super special ring announcements, and Diego significantly announces South as the champion of 953 days.
We get another match here with a clear story of Ricky’s power vs Troy’s technical ability, with Jess particularly targeting South’s arm in preparation for her finisher. As the match quickens, Jess also engages her high-flying, hitting a suicide dive followed by a suicide dive into a DDT… before she moves Ricky into the chair in front of your PWDU correspondent, and meteora’s South through it, who bumps his head on your correspondent’s chair and sends it flying, as Jess apologises to the woman whose chair she broke..
Back in the ring, South regains some momentum and gets a close nearfall with a sitout gutwrench powerbomb. Jess kicks out, but South starts to dominate with strikes before Jess gets a nearfall with an awesome West Coast Pop out of nowhere.
Ricky reverses into an Indian death lock, begging Troy to tap, and as she’s dragged to the middle of the ring she looks like she’s going to before she stands up out of the hold and nails South in the face with kicks.
As both competitors recover they trade stripes before Ricky levels Jess with a piledriver for 2.9999. Ricky accosts referee Hannah in the corner – but she slaps in him the face, so he resumes his assault on Troy before inadvertently wiping Hannah out in the corner.
With referee Hannah down, South retrieves a chair from the outside and goes to piledriver her on it… your correspondent receives a thump on the shoulder, and a guy in a pink mask rushes the ring.
It’s Big Fudge, and Ricky does the most incredible job of looking like he’s seen a ghost as the crowd explodes. Fudge hits a chokeslam to to South on the chair and leaves, with Hannah and Jess recovering at the same time. Jess is a house of fire with strikes and a hurricanrana, she blocks an avalanche piledriver attempt and a superplex attempt, reversing Ricky into a poisonrana off the middle rope. She follows up with a meteora and a clothesline for two and can’t believe it’s not over.
Ricky manages to reverse briefly with an atomic drop and a chin breaker, but Jess locks in the Fujiwara Armbar. South breaks the hold, so Jess hits that awful Overdrive move that Randy Orton did 20 years ago. Ricky kicks out, bounces up to hit a piledriver and a huge lariat… and the crowd goes silent, they absolutely believed this was it! But Jess kicks out, and we continue.
Another lariat, and Jess kicks out again, and she summons the energy to reverse South into a brainbuster. She lifts him to the top, hits an avalanche spider German, and then spins a hurricanrana into the Fujiwara armbar. Ricky fights hard, but Jess gets it locked in, Ricky taps, and the crowd EXPLODES!
I have many thoughts on this match! Firstly, I’m glad they went through with the coronation of Jess – it was an incredible moment to be there for. Second, I think this probably goes on the December re-watch list – but it was very “PWA” in its booking, with the babyface getting the benefit of the ref bump, and Jess being the one to benefit from the interference. Third, it’s undeniable how well PWA do “big fight feels” – despite only a couple of hundred people in attendance, this audience was incredible, and it adds so much to a convincing nearfall like the one South got after the piledriver and lariat. The crowd went dead silent, they were convinced that was it. Those are cool moments to witness live, cos they never translate through Fite streams.
Winner and NEEEW PWA Heavyweight Champion: Jessica Troy
Post match the first woman to hit the ring to congratulate Jess is Madison Eagles, and I immediately start salivating. Jessica Troy vs a returning Madison Eagles, jealous that Jess had the opportunities that Eagles never did to achieve what Eagles never could, is the biggest match PWA could do in my opinion. That gets me back to Sydney in heartbeat!
It could have just been a nice, heartwarming moment between the trailblazer and the successor, and it’s fine if that’s the case… but damn I want to see the match!
Eagles is followed by the rest of the female PWA talent to celebrate with Troy and hoist her on their shoulders – they used heels and part-time talent as part of this, which really put over “the moment” of Jess being the first woman to win the PWA Heavyweight title. This felt really significant for Jess, for the women involved, and for the company.
Final Thoughts: This was an incredible show! A potential match of the year contender between Ricky and Jess, two matches that were only just shy of that level in Jude vs Emman and ZSJ vs Bonza, and we got that moment at the end with Jessica Troy’s coronation.
I think it’s a valid criticism of PWA that they pull the trigger on the babyface a little too late sometimes; I think it’s also a valid criticism that babyface title reigns can be damaged when they needed assistance to begin with (Big Fudge in this case; ironically it was Ricky South who interfered in the similarly incredible Moretti vs Cherry match last year) – but I don’t know that you can argue with that crowd reaction, either post match to Jess, or the reaction to Big Fudge.
This was a true moment, it was one of those examples that reminds me why I’m a wrestling fan – the elation and the emotional release of a crowd that is invested in a good longterm story with a good heel and a babyface that they loved. It’s wrestling 101, but it’s still so, so incredible when done well!
I’ll be back in the next day or two with a review of Night 2 – I hope you’ll join me again then!
How to watch: Colosseum is available to Fite+ subscribers at no additional charge. You can watch it at https://www.fite.tv/watch/pwa-colosseum-2023-night-1/2pdu7/