SPW’s ‘Debut Show in Invercargill’ Review By Lewis Borsje-Clark
Hi everyone. Welcome to my first article here on SPW’s official website. My name is Lewis and I’m a university post-graduate with a passion for pro-wrestling. I used to obsessively watch WWE as a kid, though I lost interest around when I started high school. It wasn’t until I was in university that I discovered there was wrestling outside of WWE. I came across New Japan Pro Wrestling’s ‘Wrestle Kingdom 9’ show and was shocked with its unique style. I followed NJPW consistently for the rest of the year and by the start of 2016 I was totally hooked on pro-wrestling all over again. I started branching out to other promotions as well, especially the independent scene. Throughout the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, Germany, and Australia there were plenty of other promotions. Many were smaller, but still fantastic, and with their own impressive talent.
That brings me down to Invercargill with Southern Pro-Wrestling. I first heard about SPW through their 2017 documentary which detailed the promotion’s creation. The entire company seemed really down to earth. Everyone from the wrestlers to the management team appeared very dedicated to the pro-wrestling craft and determined to give fans a worthwhile show. I decided to take a shot in the dark and reach out to SPW to see whether they were interested in some written work to be hosted on their site. The team was very nice, and after a few discussions we agreed to the formulation of my current project. Starting with my first review here, I shall provide an overview of every show on SPW’s VOD service.
My goal with these reviews is to catch new or out-of-date fans up to speed with the current SPW product. Not everyone is able to dedicate their time to watching every SPW show, but many still want to get the most out of any SPW they watch or attend. My reviews shall therefore comprehensively recap each SPW show and analyse both the matches and the long-term progression of the wrestlers and their stories. If the matches and events I describe pique your interest then you should definitely take that as a cue to get SPW’s VOD service yourself and get the proper pro-wrestling experience.
My journey through the SPW catalogue begins with the debut show at the Invercargill Working Men’s Club in August 2015.
Travis Banks vs Johnny Idol
The opening match was extremely interesting to watch from the perspective of 2018, as it showed the early work of two future international stars. Travis Banks would go on to become the current world champion of the popular British promotion PROGRESS, while Johnny Idol would go on to wrestle in the world famous Mexican promotion CMLL. It is always interesting to see the work of a modern day star before their big break, so to get to see the early work of two stars is even better.
Banks seemed determined to ensure that that SPW’s debut show get off to a terrible start. He announced himself in the building by professing a very ardent pro-Auckland attitude. Despite his totally rude nature, I found Banks incredibly entertaining. The way he riled up the innocent and unexpecting audience was very funny for how unexpected it was. This was clearly not the first time Banks had a room full of people heckling him. His berating of the crowd was so absurd that I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ll come out there and punch you, little boy,” threatened Banks to a child.
Idol, noticing Banks’ impolite impression, decided to instead play up to the crowd. Unsurprisingly, he was received much more warmly. Banks became very insecure with this contrast in appreciation. The damage was already done though, as his attempts to then impress the crowd were met with the same distaste that he himself had introduced.
As the match officially began Idol soon showed that Banks may have been overcompensating with all his bravado. After a series of strikes, a few throws, and one big suplex Banks was loudly wailing and groaning. He no longer seemed as superior as he had made himself out to be. Banks would soon have to resort to some underhanded tactics to gain control. These tactics started with knocking Idol on the top rope, causing him to land crotch-first on the turnbuckle pad. Banks followed this up with some excessively stiff abdomen kicks and even some childish hair pulling. Getting caught up in this short burst of success Banks’ showmanship soon returned. He went back to mocking Idol and arrogantly acting as if there was no way Idol could continue the match, seen via Banks’ half-hearted pin attempts.
After finding out that Idol was no pushover Banks realised he would have to put some real effort in, and thus he proved to have some genuine wrestling skills in the process. He intelligently avoided Idol’s big moonsault and managed to hit an impressive lariat and fisherman buster combo for a very close near fall. Banks would get too excited off of this momentum though, as he then went for a top rope crossbody splash only for Idol to counter with a quick ace crusher out of nowhere, a la Randy Orton. Idol looked to have been running on pure instinct in that moment. The weakened and stunned Banks lay on the canvas as Idol once again attempted his moonsault. This time it connected, and Idol picked up the pin fall for the victory.
Marcus Kool Confronts T-Rex
Following this opener the audience was then treated to a preview of the main event match between Marcus Kool and T-Rex. What began as a pleasant speech from T-Rex in which he thanked the local fans for coming out to support SPW’s debut show soon turned into a heated encounter as Kool interrupted and made his way to the ring. Kool began hurling insults at the Invercargill crowd and they tossed them right back. Kool was a proud Englishman, boastfully flaunting his English attire and football hooligan personality. His energy wouldn’t give out, as he then turned his attention towards the man in the ring. Kool unloaded on T-Rex, insulting his hometown of Invercargill and promising to not only defeat him in the main event but also embarrass him.
Kool had already aggravated the crowd enough, but then he further demonized himself as he feigned de-escalating the situation and leaving the ring before instead flooring the unprepared T-Rex with his “Kool Intentions” superkick. Kool had set a very bitter tone, and T-Rex would have wait until the end of the night for a chance at revenge.
James Shaw vs Charlie Roberts
In the next match we saw another brash and outspoken performer in Charlie Roberts up against the much more jovial James Shaw. Roberts continued the night’s trend of wrestlers getting into spats with the crowd while gloating about their skills. Almost a complete opposite to Roberts, Shaw managed to entice the crowd to his side as he tossed lollies out and splashed Roberts with water. Roberts’ mood changed immediately.
Shaw was quite the personality. At one point he not only donned the referee’s uniform but also tried to force the poor man to wrestle in his spot. After masquerading as the referee for a while Shaw then went about whipping Roberts with the referee’s shirt and riding him like a horse, much to the audience’s appreciation. Eventually the poor, weeping referee was reclothed, and the Shaw vs Roberts bout would properly begin.
Roberts was understandably enraged after Shaw’s many outrageous actions and his performance reflected that. He landed quite a lot of stiff strikes and kicks to Shaw’s abdomen and back, all while aggressively mocking Shaw for how he could no longer perform his jokes and gags. Shaw wasn’t done though. He managed to gain control quite a few times in the match despite Roberts viciousness, and would often take time to appeal to the crowd with his trademark absurdity. Shaw showed his more serious and capable side too though, as he managed to escape most of Roberts’ submission holds and even withstood a large number of Roberts’ strikes by simply using his own willpower and the crowd’s support to power through them.
I must mention that at one point in the match Shaw let out the most unexpected and hilarious line of the entire show: “whooooo wants me to KILL HIM?”. This rather dark line was very amusing when looking at the colourfully clad man it came from. Shaw was very lighthearted but outside of all the fun and games he definitely still took matters seriously. Perhaps too seriously, as this line may have implied. “Proclaiming murder here in Invercargill!”, quipped the commentators in response.
After throwing Shaw to the outside Roberts teased performing a top rope move. The crowd got quite excited to see such a potentially athletic display, even if they hated the guy up until this point. Roberts gestured for the crowd to get hyped up for his dive before instead jumping down and giving the crowd another, less friendly gesture. The crowd reacted to this tease with far
greater booes than before. They definitely wouldn’t give him even the slightest amount of support after that.
Following on from some of Shaw’s humorous evasion tactics he managed to prop Roberts up across his shoulders. We would never know what Shaw intended to do from this position however, as Roberts quickly clawed at Shaw’s eyes and hit his bewildered opponent with a crucifix powerbomb named the ‘24 Carat Destiny’ before pinning him.
Roberts was very satisfied with his performance. He went back to gloating towards the crowd and insulting them during his exit. Sadly for Roberts he did not manage his time efficiently, as Shaw managed to regain consciousness and charged after him so as to get the last laugh.
Shane Sinclair vs Aaron Henry
This match was particularly exciting for me because it featured the current NJPW trainee Aaron Henry, better known as ‘Henare’ or, more recently, ‘Toa Henare’.
Henry might have been the star of the show. He came out extremely hyped up and that attitude lasted all match long, Whether he was screaming or gritting his teeth he always looked full to the brim with energy. He was also a very nationalistic figure. He performed a fantastic one-man haka during his entrance, had the New Zealand Silver Fern on both his boots, and even passed a replica New Zealand flag out to a young fan. A proud kiwi and a keen wrestler; what more could a New Zealand crowd want?
It also helped that Henry was up against Sinclair, a very proud and obnoxious vegan.
Sinclair would profess his vegan beliefs crowd all match-long, no matter how he faring. When finding success he would combatively opine with lines such as “Huh? What do you think of my vegan lifestyle NOW, huh?”. Even when half conscious after taking a real beating he could still muster up the strength to meekly explain to the audience that his vegan lifestyle meant he was better than them. The choice of who to cheer for was rather straightforward. Everyone wanted to see the plant-based-diet aficionado get embarrassed, but things would not be so simple.
The majority of the match would focus around Henry’s leg. After Henry missed a big boot in the corner his leg was left stuck up over the top rope. Sinclair intelligently took that opportunity to attack the unguarded limb. Say what you want about Sinclair’s diet and his forceful promotion of it, but he proved himself to be a very fine wrestler with how efficiently he worked over Henry’s leg. The hamstring, quad, and heel were all given equal attention as Sinclair went about destroying the entirety of Henry’s leg with various strikes and holds. Henry did his best to fight on but he was clearly incapacitated: his movement was severely reduced and his whole body was heavily off-balanced. Henry would still perform valiantly despite his injury, delivering some nice sharp chops, a big sunset flip pin attempt, and a very athletic one-legged dropkick.
Henry looked like a total star to be able to deliver so much offence in spite of his impaired leg. At one point it looked like the match was over as Henry managed to counter another of Sinclair’s heel hooks into a rear naked choke. This led to the contentious match finish, however. Sinclair was unable to escape Henry’s rear naked choke but he did manage to roll back over Henry towards the ropes. Sinclair would use the ropes added pressure for an illegal but ultimately successful pinfall, though not without first being choked conscious. The referee totally missed Sinclair’s legs on the ropes because of his position and angle, and thus Sinclair escaped with the victory. Henry, unaware of the situation, assumed he had won the match by referee stoppage with his choke. His ecstatic celebrations were very quickly cut short as the referee explained, ironically enough, that the unconscious Sinclair was the official victor.
Upon gaining consciousness Sinclair happily accepted his cheap victory and ordered Henry out of his ring. This was the last straw for Henry, as he then left Sinclair sleeping on the canvas for a second time that night after hitting a big superman punch. He then covered Sinclair and counted his own 3-count pinfall for a symbolic victory, as if to prove that he was the superior wrestler all-along.
T-Rex vs Marcus Kool
Finally the time had come for the main event: the hometown hero against the English hooligan.
Unlike earlier in the night Kool was a lot more panicked when facing T-Rex this time around. Back during their confrontation Kool was a lot more provocative because he could tell that T-Rex would not want to start a fight, especially not before their officially scheduled match. That sense of security gave Kool the confidence to poke and prod T-Rex. It was a different story once face to face in a match, though. It was all a matter of fair sport here. T-Rex was prepared now and could place his hands on Kool without any sense of guilt, and Kool was clearly terrified at this reality.
Kool went for his best option: the superkick that had previously floored T-Rex. However, with T-Rex’s attention now totally undivided, alongside Kool’s jitters likely giving away his movements, T-Rex easily caught Kool’s leg mid-move and sent him crashing to the mat. Kool began to really panic. His element of surprise was gone. He tried to compensate for his panic by upping his aggression, but this led to recklessness as T-Rex calmly read his movements and effortlessly overpowered him.
After a period of T-Rex’s domination Kool managed to gain the upperhand after guillotining T-Rex over the top rope and raking his eyes. With T-Rex trying to recover from the illegal attacks to his throat and eyes Kool finally hit his superkick. He went for the cover but failed as T-Rex kicked out just before the 3 count. Kool was second-guessing himself again, perhaps realising that his signature move was only so effective earlier in the night because T-Rex wasn’t properly in his wrestling-mode.
He was now though, and wouldn’t go down as easily as before. Kool would put his hooligan ways to use as he then unleashed some very stiff football kicks into T-Rex’s back, abdomen, and arms. He would also perform some admittedly impressive acrobatic feats including a frankensteiner and a crossbody splash. He may have played dirty but he definitely wasn’t totally reliant on such methods. After sustaining so much offence T-Rex then rallied himself together and entered into a hulk-up mode. More aggressive than ever, he began to unleash a series of vicious tackles and perform some heavy-impact power moves.
Kool was given a blessing in disguise as he accidentally knocked the ref unconscious after colliding with him. T-Rex managed to lay Kool out with a powerbomb immediately afterwards, but without a conscious referee he couldn’t get an official pinfall to win the match. Kool was totally dazed, unable to move. T-Rex attempted to force Kool to his feet for a second powerbomb but Kool managed to low-blow T-Rex instead. A totally immoral and illegal act, but the referee was down and unable to officiate, so nothing could be done about it. The referee gained consciousness just in time for Kool to then hit T-Rex with an inverted facebuster and go for a pinfall. It looked as if the hooligan was sadly going to win via hooligan-means. Luckily the ref was still very dazed from the clash, leading to a slow pinfall count that gave T-Rex just enough time to miraculously kick out.
Kool was so shocked at T-Rex’s survival that he angrily knocked the dazed referee back down as if it was his fault. With the referee once again attempting to recover from a collision the match was once again without any regulations. Kool managed to knock T-Rex’s lights out with a big whack from his football cleats but, extraordinarily, T-Rex managed to kick out of Kool’s follow-up pinfall yet again. Kool was absolutely livid, unsure if there was anything else he could possibly do. Just as had been the case at the start of the match, Kool once again let his emotions get the better of him. He loudly proclaimed his intention to deliver a pin-point penalty kick to the temple of the “fat Kiwi”, but T-Rex would manage to sidestep the attack just in time.
Kool, caught off guard by T-Rex’s surprising energy and agility, then charged T-Rex as a last-ditch effort. He would pay dearly for this though, as T-Rex managed to use Kool’s own momentum to throw him up into the air and hit him with the powerbomb once again. With the referee in place and the absence of any other possible hijinks, T-Rex covered Kool and got the pinfall for the win. He had finally overcome the hooligan, but if the stare down and aggressive handshake between the two during the post-match was anything to go by then it would appear that they were not done with each other just yet.
This was a very impressive first effort from SPW. A lot of work was made on the production’s technical end, resulting in a comfortable viewing experience. Although there were quite a few wrestlers -- Banks, Roberts, Sinclair, and Kool -- who were at stark odds with the crowd they still managed to elicit big reactions.
The crowd became invested in these wrestlers, desperate to see them punished for their unsportsmanlike behaviour. This led to the more admirable performers of the night -- Idol, Shaw, Henry, and T-Rex -- getting strong crowd support behind them as they attempted to humble their villainous opponents. No two wrestlers were the same, with each relying on a different mixture of power, antagonism, intuition, and cunning.
Ignoring moral judgements, every athlete who stepped into that ring proved to be a capable professional wrestler, and I look forward to seeing them on future SPW shows.
Thanks very much for taking the time to read my first SPW review. Hopefully you found it insightful or useful in some way, and I hope you’ll anticipate my future SPW reviews as well.