Situated an hour out of Newcastle, just off the New England Highway, Club Maitland City in the Hunter Valley, Australia has played host to a number of legendary events: the great bingo brawl of ‘98, the salmonella scare of 2010 and some still shed a tear at the memory of the local Maitland Maids taking down the big city Newcastle Niners in the NSW Ladies Lawn Bowls League.
But home of the greatest professional wrestling match of all time? At first glance you would hardly put it in the same league as the Tokyo Dome. However it will always remain in my mind for December 12, 2015, a night that left me at times, on my feet cheering, wanting to jump into the ring and break up the match and ultimately in tears as the perfect wrestling story of good triumphing over evil, with a personal twist, played out.
Syd Parker v Falco for the Hunter Valley Wrestling Championship, the night it was still real to me dammit.
“Do you know who Syd Parker is? You’re stepping into the ring with the King himself.”
The Jurassic Punk Syd Parker had reigned as champion of Hunter Valley Wrestling since the promotions launch in December 2014. For a year he and his stablemate, The Psycho Cowboy Benny Factor and their cronies The Misfits had successfully foiled all challengers. As well as being a weasley slimeball, Syd Parker was a smart wrestler who knew how to ruthlessly exploit his opponent’s weakness or play the officials off to get the win. Not only was he the best in this fledgling promotion, he knew it and wasn’t afraid to show it, arrogantly strutting to the ring on the top of the tables that line the edges of the ring at HVW, casually kicking punters drinks aside while sneering at them.
However there was one thing in that first year that didn’t go Parker’s way, at the company’s second show, Ready to Rumble, he was eliminated from the match by local ring announcer and former wrestler Falco. Falco entered the match as much to make up the numbers and give the locals someone to cheer for but would surprise everyone and go onto win the rumble which entitled him to a match of his choice at any show he wanted.
That one loss would burn inside Syd Parker and over the course of the year Parker would constantly target Falco, laying the former wrestler out as he conducted duties as an announcer, guest ref or general helping hand for his former tag partner Grant Linestrom, the founder of the promotion. Falco was just a man trying to help out but he couldn’t stop getting in the way of the rampaging villain.
“Do you know what it’s like to rupture your Patella Tendon?”
Falco wasn’t supposed to be in the ring at all. After an accident in 2012 where the edge of a ring collapsed under him he had to have his knee surgically repaired and was left unable to walk for months. Doctors told him that while he would regain full movement, he would never be able to wrestle again, to do so would be foolish and what was to gain from wrestling in some small time indy show anyway?
But Falco was also a man of principle and this promotion was the dream of his former tag partner, something they had no doubt spoken about when they entered the business as rookies together in 2009 and as they travelled around NSW as Elite Wrestling through 2010 and 2011. Even though Falco’s wrestling dream had passed him by, his friends hadn’t and he knew someone like Parker, who took shortcuts, who attacked innocent officials and who spat in the face of the crowd was not fit to represent this new company.
Add to that the constant taunts, slaps and even full blown beatings Falco took at Parker’s hand and by October he had enough, announcing he was using his rumble contract to challenge Parker at the HVW 1st Anniversary Show. Parker threw on an Anarchy Rules stipulation and it was on.
“When I step into the ring I’m not just risking my knee, I’m risking my entire future.”
Come the night of the match the crowd was hot, the Melbourne Championship Wrestling Inter-Commonwealth Champion Dowie James had made a guest appearance defending his belt and travelling then TNA star EC3 had wrestled in the co-main event. However there was one man the Club Maitland City Crowd was waiting for, the hometown hero Falco. Amongst them was me, ready to cheer my friend on in his first match in over two years.
At this point it is worth mentioning that to me Falco is more than a wrestler I mark out for but one of my great mates, one of the few guys I genuinely call my brother. When we met at uni in 2009 he had just started training, we bonded talking about theme songs on a long car ride and by giving each other chops as a way of greeting one another. Through 2011 as I entered full time work and he finished university we lived together, sharing food and struggles of expectation and when he busted his knee in 2012 I was one of the guys that saw him back at his parents home as he recovered.
The knee injury not only broke his knee but very nearly broke him too, he lost his job as a camp counsellor, he didn’t know if he could walk again and his great dream of fighting it out in the squared circle on the biggest stage had been taken from him before he even really got a chance to try and grasp it.
As personal as this match was for Falco it was a big deal for us, his friends and family in the crowd too. When he hit the ring we exploded, we knew what he had been through and what stepping into the ring meant to our friend, and along with the other locals in the crowd we wanted to show the hometown boy some love.
“You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into. You can’t beat me.”
The start of the match didn’t go so well for Falco though, after the initial rush of adrenaline that came with his return in front of an adoring crowd, ring rust took its toll and Syd Parker took over. Every time Falco started to gain some level of ascendancy he was outmanoeuvred or outsmarted by his far more experienced and ring savy opponent. This was most emphasised when Falco got out the first table of the night but took too long to set it up on the outside of the ring. By the time he returned to the ring apron the Jurassic Punk had recovered and Falco was immediately pushed off the apron, slamming through the very table he had just set up.
I’ve seen wrestlers hit in the head with chairs and slammed into piles of thumbtacks but when Falco crashed through that table he was suddenly not Falco the wrestler any more, he was Falco, my mate that I had stayed up all night with, drinking beer, watching YouTube and talking of life’s mysteries. My friend was fighting to reclaim his dream, putting it all on the line for the win. At that moment his opponent Syd Parker became the dodgy ring that collapsed under him, the GP’s that said Falco’s dream was over, he was the voice that says you should just give up on it all and my mate needed my support. From that moment on I was lost in the match.
When Parker’s PANIC stablemate Benny Factor hit the ring I yelled out words about him and his mother that I’m not proud of, when Syd hit Falco in the knee with a crowbar I wanted to throw my empty beer glass at him and when Falco was clamped into the Figure Four leg lock, directly targeting the surgically repaired knee, I wanted to jump in the ring myself.
I have no idea if the Figure Four actually hurts or not but in that moment Syd Parker may as well have been ripping and tearing the tendons with his bare hands, the fear I felt for my friend and rage at his attacker were as real as any emotion I have ever felt.
“Do you know what it’s like to fear standing up? Have you ever had to learn to walk again?”
Falco of course turned it around, on his way to this match he had wrestled internally with far greater foes than Syd Parker. The year long story of his return to the ring was never going to end with the local returning legend getting beaten.
Just to put a cap on the story they crafted as Falco & Syd Parker wrapped up the match they referenced back a number of key moments from their feud: Parker forcing HVW owner Grant Linestrom to make a potential match ending count on his former tag partner just as Falco had tried to force a fast 3 count when he was guest ref for Parker’s championship match with Keegan two shows previously. While being held still Falco dodged a chair shot from Parker’s ally Anubis, who instead hit fellow lackey Mortis, knocking him out and harking back to when Parker dodged an attempted Falco chairshot on the previous show and Falco hit his own ally causing an end to the match. Even the finish, Falco attacking Parker’s knee with a crowbar, weakening it for a Sharpshooter was an act of ultimate justice for how Parker had so ruthlessly attacked Falco’s knee over and over again. All of these small details escalated the emotion and momentum of the match to a fever pitch.
While the crowd had mostly started out on Falco’s side there were some of the smarkier fans who appreciated and cheered the work of the Jurassic Punk but by the time Parker tapped out on top of the HVW title the crowd rose in unison for the new champion. Falco had not just conquered the man who had reigned at the top of Hunter Valley Wrestling he had conquered the darkness that threatened to consume him when he was on the couch at his parent’s home, he had beaten his own legitimate doubts in the strength of his knee and reclaimed the dream he thought he would never get to grasp again.
By itself this is a great match, it had really physical action, the violence slowly escalated and climaxed with some huge spots and each man was so deep into their character and heavily invested in the story. There are probably a whole host of matches you could objectively label as better, I’ve marvelled at the wrestler’s athleticism and technical prowess, I’ve written about matches that wove a more complex tale but I very much doubt I will ever again feel the storm of tears and emotions that accompanied watching my mate overcome the adversity that at times even he thought had overtaken him.
They say every single album released is at least one person’s favourite and while it may not be many other fans choice Falco V Syd Parker was, is, and will forever be the greatest professional wrestling match I have ever seen.
I originally wrote this piece over two years ago on the LOP Columns Forum but it has since been lost to the 2018 board crash. On Saturday my mate Falco gets married and as he has been a lifelong reader of Lords of Pain I thought today would be as good time as any to re-post it. See you this afternoon mate, can’t wait to share this special day with you.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about I’ve posted the match in all its glory below: Falco v Syd Parker for the Hunter Valley Wrestling Championship. Also Syd Parker is still very much an active wrestler in the Aussie indy scene, he’s wrestled a whole bunch of names you would know and you can check him out on Instagram @thejurassicpunk.
If you’d like to give writing for Lords of Pain a go then the place to start is the Lords of Pain Columns Forum where I originally wrote this piece. Why not try writing about your favourite match of all time down there, I’d love to hear about it. If you’d like to give it a go you can sign up here.