The promoters of Auckland-based Impact Pro Wrestling are so pleased with their Whanganui Warfare crowd turnouts, they are taking the show to the biggest indoor arena in town.
Prison corrections department officer Benjamin Thorpe, aka Ben Mana, was victorious against Auckland's Jake Sheehan in the main event of Saturday night's show at the Wanganui Racecourse's Eulogy Lounge.
Seven matches were held in front of around 280 rowdy fans – slightly down on the 300 from 2019 but still on an upward curve for their debut show two years ago.
"It just goes to show, pro wrestling in Whanganui keeps on rising, keeps on getting better," Thorpe said on the house microphone after his victory, as he was joined in the ring by fellow local wrestlers 'Skyflyer' Jamie O'Hagen and Michael Isaacs, aka 'The Cuz' Mikaere.
Thorpe said because of the demand, next year's fourth annual show will be going to where legends like Andre the Giant, Ric Flair and recent Whanganui Sports Hall of Fame inductee Pat O'Connor had performed.
"Next year, Saturday, February 27, Whanganui Warfare goes 'On the Mat'.
"We go back to the place in Whanganui where professional wrestling, back in the heyday, was at its biggest, at its brightest.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Whanganui Warfare: On the Mat, will be going to the Whanganui War Memorial Hall."
Thorpe stated the lofty goal of putting nearly 1000 fans in the central city building, which would be a record for an independent wrestling show in the North Island, and nationally second only to the 1200 who attended the SPW Southern Rumble in Invercargill last year.
"We've got an entire year to try to rally everyone in Whanganui, to try and fill that place up, and we're going to make that the biggest professional wrestling event Aoteroa has ever seen, right here in our home town of Whanganui, baby."
It capped off a fun evening where the local wrestlers went 2-1 against their opponents.
Mana overcame the cheating of Sheehan and his valet Amber Saint to win the main event by pinfall.
Sheehan initially refused to get into the ring until an impatient Mana threw him in and delivered hard chops to the chest in the corner.
The action spilled outside where Mana slammed Sheehan onto the ring apron, but missed a charge to crash into the corner post.
Back in the ring and Saint illegally grabbed Mana's leg, allowing Sheehan to clip the Whanganui wrestler and go after his knee, taunting the crowd as he did.
Mana recovered to catch a leaping Sheehan with a powerslam off the ropes, then looked to put the match away with a clothesline, sideslam and running splash.
Saint continued to interfere, which backfired after Sheehan staggered out of the ring, only to pull his valet into Mana's path as he charged at him.
With officials helping the injured Saint away from ringside, Sheehan took advantage to hit a low blow on Mana and drive him to the mat with his bulldog finisher.
However, Mana kicked out of the pinfall when the referee returned, leading the desperate Aucklander to go grab the taiaha (spear) that Mana had brought to the ring for his pre-match haka.
Mana blocked Sheehan's swing and lifted him up for a big face buster into the mat for the victory.
Early, Mikaere had got a little payback for local fans when he and tag team partner Ted defeated The Young Nats tag team of Sir Mr Burns and his protege Stefan Busche.
Burns, aka David Gerbault, had defeated Mana at the first Whanganui Warfare and was undefeated at this annual event, taunting fans with his comments about the town.
But after a chaotic match that saw The Young Nats double team Ted and interference from their faction member Nico Dandy, Mikaere managed to get tagged back in and cleaned house, finally getting Burns alone to deliver an STO, or leg sweep slam, to pin him and snap his Whanganui winning streak.
Dandy was so upset that he challenged Ted and Mikaere's valet in women's wrestler Grace Lightning to an impromptu match, with Lightning pinning him in just a couple of minutes.
In the opening match, O'Hagen wowed the crowd with his high flying manoeuvres, but it wasn't enough to overcome veteran wrestler Rufguts Roddy Gunn, aka David Tubb.
After O'Hagen flipped off the top rope with his entrance, Rufguts did some flipping of his own with a middle finger taunt to the crowd, and then at match-time laid in some vicious slams and a headbutt.
The veteran used stretching submission holds, which O'Hagen countered with quick pinfall combinations, before making a death-defying dive from the top rope to the floor on his stunned opponent.
Back in the ring, O'Hagen delivered a double knee facebreaker to Rufguts, but rather than go for the pinfall, climbed the turnbuckle ropes for another leaping move.
Rufguts staggered into the ropes, causing O'Hagen to slip on top of the turnbuckle, with the Rufguts climbing up with him to suplex slam him off the top for the pinfall.
The wrestlers weren't the only locals to see action on Saturday night, as local barber Dakota Flood from the sponsoring Barber Town was invited into the ring to give villainous wrestler James Shaw an impromptu head shaving after the tag team championship match.
Rufguts Roddy Gunn bt Jamie O'Hagen by pinfall; Ted and The Cuz Mikaere bt The Young Nats by pinfall; Grace Lightning bt Nico Dandy by pinfall; Alfred Valentine and James Shaw bt The Wainui Express by pinfall to retain the IPW Tag Team Championship; Matty Short bt Liger and Adam Avalanche by double pinfall to retain the Kinkade Cup; Jamie Tagataese bt Will Stone by pinfall to retain the IPW Heavyweight Championship.
Ben Mana bt Jake Sheehan by pinfall.