Previously on NWA Powerrr: Computerized Man of the 1990s Richard Morton challenged Nick Aldis for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and came up short. Plus, The Question Mark held an exhibition of Mongrovian Karah-tay, and Ken Anderson betrayed his friend to win a gauntlet to get into a TV title tournament he didn’t actually want to be in.
If you’d like to keep up with these columns, you can do so on the NWA Powerrr tag page. Remember, NWA Powerrr and all its extra Rs is free to watch on YouTube. You can find information on how to watch a replay of the pay-per-view on Fite TV.
And now, the Best and Worst of NWA Hard Times. Cue the Charles Brown Amy Grant Paramore Dusty Rhodes William Patrick Corgan.
Worst: Trevor Murdoch Defeats The Question Mark In Three Minutes And Knocks Him Out Of The TV Title Tournament, Completely Busting My Bracket And Keeping Us From The Question Mark Vs. Zicky Dice In The Semi-Finals
You know, sometimes I have to remember that the wrestlers I think are important and cool really aren’t the ones everyone else thinks are important and cool. I’m over here like, DANIEL BRYAN! LULU PENCIL! THE QUESTION MARK! While most folks just wanna see The Undertaker.
Anyway, now that that completely unrelated note has been shared, welcome to Hard Times Pay-Per-View, featuring Bill Pat Corgan and Dave Lagana reading my preview column and going loooool fuck this guy. My predictions for shows usually end up being pretty wrong, but my picks for Hard Times were hilariously bad. Firstly and foremostly, as mentioned in the boldface, Trevor Murdoch hits two (2) top rope bulldogs on The Question Mark to dump him out of the tournament like three minutes into the hours-long pay-per-view. At least Sensei got to power up out of the first one. And at least he got to imagine what the Erik Watts dropkick would’ve looked like from the second rope. It turns out the entire B Block of the tournament is about Trevor Murdoch! Who knew?
That’s immediately followed by two more letdowns:
- Zicky Dice ALSO getting dumped out of the tournament by Dan Maff, who doesn’t even work here. Maybe Dice and TQM can mix it up on a random episode of Powerrr and heal these Hard Times wounds. At least his post-match interview was hilarious. WHERE’S MY FANNYPACK??
- Tim Storm not even WRESTLING in round one, as Ken Anderson isn’t at the show due to unclear and mysterious circumstances. At first I was like, “oh, maybe they’re doing something interesting and new with Colt Cabana’s character,” but nope, the scuttlebutt is that he got dropped from the NWA for agreeing to work the TNA throwback show for Impact Wrestling. If that’s not true, we’re left with an injury. No Anderson is whatever, but didn’t y’all just have a gauntlet match to fill this spot? Wouldn’t one of the other guys want it? Use Cabana. And if Cabana’s supposed to be hurt and you don’t want to dip into the gauntlet, maybe have someone from Strictly Business fill the spot and attack Storm with a chair or something? It’d be a match, at least, and Storm could have some injuries that would explain his inconsistencies in the semi-finals. Or anything except “no match.”
So … round one, certainly not going the way I’d imagined.
Best: At Least The A Block Is About Ricky Starks
The saving grace of round one, and arguably the best tournament match of the night, is Ricky Starks vs. Matt Cross. If you aren’t familiar with his work, Cross first got national notoriety as the gymnastics guy in Roderick Strong’s comically threatening No Remorse Corps., but eventually grew into one of the most well-traveled and well-respected veterans on the independent scene. He accidentally got over too much as a jobber in Lucha Underground and ended up one of the show’s most popular and important characters. It’s a shame that his biggest contribution to WWE was being the guy who said hi to CM Punk and got eliminated on Tough Enough.
He and Starks are familiar with each other and both wrestle a dynamic, fast-paced style that’s perfect for these 6:05 matches in the TV title tournament. They’re guys who know how to make the most of whatever little bit of time they’ve been given. Plus, Cross adds showy offense to a studio wrestling show not really known for showy anything, and can make Starks’ offense look great. The match ends with Cross missing a big shooting star press, allowing Starks to hit “Buster Keaton” to win. Only now it’s not called Buster Keaton anymore, it’s called “The Stroke,” which would be a huge improvement if that wasn’t already the finishing move of a multiple-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
That, of course, sets up Starks vs. Tim Storm in round two. In my preview post I predicted that those two would be paired up to play on their shared experience with Nick Aldis. Storm’s been manipulated out of the World title picture by Aldis, and Starks has not only been treated like a jobber pawn by the champ, he upset Aldis by lasting 6:05 with him in a match when he wasn’t supposed to. The promo earlier in the night from Storm set up some interesting plot threads as well, as he’s currently the easy choice for best babyface in the world, explaining that he hates getting a bye and moving on without winning a round one match, but is gonna do it for his momma and all the fans he loves so much. He thanks them and everyone who watches the show on a regular basis by calling them his FAMILY. This is the wrestler who LOVES TO LOVE. It’s such a lay-up to have something shitty happen to him in the second round.
Except … he just loses. Starks beats him. At one point in the match, Storm hits his finisher, goes for the pin, and then just … doesn’t. He stops pinning him, and they set up another spot. It’s super weird and kills the tension of the match. The announce team admirably tries to explain that Storm’s momentum from hitting the Perfect Storm kept him spinning and made him unable to maintain the balance necessary for a lateral press, or whatever, but it’s a reach. To clarify, the biggest problem I have here is that things didn’t go the way I expected and it felt like the NWA missed a lot of opportunities for exciting pairings and creative moments. That’s a good problem to have, I guess, over “bad wrestling” or “boring wrestling” or “wrestling that makes you stupid for watching it.”
Things continue to pick up in the semi-finals of the B Block, with Trevor Murdoch and Dan Maff having a full-on hoss fight that leaves Murdoch’s tit looking like hamburger meat. If you put Murdoch over the most unstoppable powerhouse on the show, it makes sense to put him over Mafia Mack and send him to the finals.
By the time the finals took place, I’d made peace with my own imaginary fantasy booking not coming to fruition. It’s important for wrestling fans to fantasy book in their heads and get excited about what could happen, but to also let that shit go if it doesn’t. I’d like pro wrestling to follow some consistent story beats and use things like foreshadowing to reward fans for watching closely and paying attention, but it’s not A Song Of Ice And Fire, and The Question Mark losing in three minutes after several weeks of being the alpha predator in the promotion isn’t exactly Daenerys flipping a switch and burning down King’s Landing.
Would I have liked to have seen the comedy dream match in round two, or Tim Storm being more important than a big confused Matt Cross, or the plot developments from the weeks of NWA Powerrr having more of a direct influence on the tournament? Sure. But in the end, Ricky Starks vs. Trevor Murdoch was a finals match between two underrated fan favorites, with the young, brash new star winning the championship. Maybe that’ll jumpstart a whole new set of stories and plotlines for the next set of Powerrr tapings, and I’ll be retroactively and brilliantly happy that things worked out like they did.
Best: The Championships, They Are A-Changing
Best match of the night goes to the NWA World Women’s Championship match between Allysin Kay and Thunder Rosa. Kay’s still pretty blatant about loudly calling her spots when there’s a camera in her face, but that’s just background noise for the competitive, consequential match the NWA women’s division desperately needed. It’s been one of the weakest parts of the show so far, but refocusing on Thunder Rosa, especially after the inspirational video packages she got (in contrast to the unclear personalities and motivations of everyone she teams with or faces) and the bad efforts from Marti Belle and Melina. Rosa’s your star. Build around her now, and see where it can take you.
This one really shined thanks to how engaged the crowd was. That can make or break a lot of matches, especially in a studio environment. Having the shows happen in front of the same folks every week can feel stifled, but it also forges believable relationships between the performers and the people watching. It’s what made all those NXT stars feel special back in the day, and what makes folks like Thunder Rosa and The Question Mark work so well in the modern NWA. This really felt like the company listening to its audience and making the right call, and I appreciate that a lot.
The NWA Tag Team Championship also changed hands, with the makeshift team of James Storm and Eli Drake sneaking out a win over the champions, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, and the former champs, The Wild Cards. I liked that so much of the match was built around the Strictly Business henchpersons trying so hard to defeat the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, and the RNRs trying so hard to defend against them, that Drake and Storm — already two of the most opportunistic characters on the show, good or bad — could play them against one another and come out on top.
In case you didn’t see the match, Kamille (who looked so unbelievably good at this show that it made everyone within a 50 mile radius look worse) distracts Robert Gibson’s good eye and prevents him from making the tag. He gets knocked off the apron, and when Morton hits a Canadian Destroyer on Thom Latimer, Kamille slides into the ring to break it up. Gibson pulls HER out of the ring, then, and BALLYHOO ensues on the floor. Royce Isaacs grabs Morton’s leg trying to keep him from hitting the Destoyer on Drake, so James Storm wanders over and kicks him in the face. All of that allows Drake to counter into the Gravy Train, put Morton down, and win the match. The match lived and died by the triple threat stipulation. It’s a little complicated, but it worked.
After the match, Drake cuts a promo about all the different things you could call the team, suggesting things like “Beer Muscles” and “Drinking Buddies.” Personally I think that if they’re a team built on surviving the miscommunication of others, Eli Drake has a move called the “Gravy Trian,” and James Storm once murdered a lady by pushing her INTO a train, they should call themselves Malfunction At The Junction.
Best: A Win That Tastes Worse Than Shoney’s
The NWA National Heavyweight Championship almost changes hands, because the champion is an actor who appears to hate and be terrified by pro wrestling, and the challenger is SCOTT STEINER. The match kinda goes the way you think it would, with Steiner dominating every time there’s wrestling involved, and The Question Mark showing up to save Shooter Stevens from the Steiner Recliner. In a nice bit of storytelling, Question Mark saves Stevens from the hold, but when Question Mark gets Steinerly Reclined, Stevens bails instead of helping him.
Two small complaints:
- Joe Galli identifies the Question Mark’s gear as “Tarantino,” when all good dorks should know that Kill Bill was just an homage to Bruce Lee in Game of Death
- There’s no way Scott Steiner should look that much like a late-in-his-career Billy Graham, be wrestling a guy who pretends to do karate, and not show up as a Karate Master himself. The world demands Scott Steiner doing karate, Billy Corgan.
Best: NWA > Ring Of Honor
Then, now, always. Except for 2004-2007.
The Penguin Villain Marty Scurll finally returns to the GPB Studios with a demand — Nick Aldis should put the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on the line tonight against Flip Gordon, unless he’s a coward — and the ridiculous notion that Aldis has been “ducking him.” Marty clearly doesn’t watch Powerrr, as Scurll showed up talking a big game an entire pay-per-view cycle ago, disappeared from NWA television, and didn’t even show up when Aldis invaded multiple ROH shows looking for him. There haven’t exactly been any segments of Scurll showing up looking for Aldis, have there? But now we’re on pay-per-view again, so here he is.
That adds some instant, immediate stakes to Aldis’ match. Per the agreed-upon stipulations, Aldis is putting the belt on the line for the chance to control all future interactions between Strictly Business, Marty Scurll, and the NWA. Plus, Flip Gordon’s getting a title shot in what’s suddenly the biggest match of his career, no counting that time he wrestled Will Ospreay in the Best of the Super Juniors, which was like the Go-Bots challenging the Transformers. Scurll gets Marty hurled out of the building, and Flip is left to do his Flip thing.
Aldis works overtime making him look good, too. He gives him arguably too much offense, like, way too much, and takes a lot of unexpectedly deep two-counts off things. He doesn’t even get to win with a finisher; he only “survives” Flip by countering a victory roll, stacking it up for the pin. The major message I got from this is that some combination of how the NWA runs with the type of wrestling Ring of Honor’s been obsessed with for the past 10 years could really be special. You could combine exciting, athletic, and innovative in-ring work with a classic structure and presentation, spotlighting young, hungry stars without letting them go bonkers with 45 minute matches and 265 2.9-counts every night. They’d get real stories, and you’d get great weekly TV with a cohesive narrative and wrestling to make people’s jaws drop.
Shit, was that just Lucha Underground? Now I’m sad again.
Anyway, that’s Hard Times. Like every Powerrr and Powerrr-related show so far, it’s been a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and never feels boring or makes you tired trying to get through it. It’s to the point, effective, and purposeful. A lot of the matches were good, especially the title maches, and while the TV title tournament let me down, there’s still some good there.
Next Time On NWA Pay-Per-View
NWA pay-per-view returns in April with this year’s edition of The Crockett Cup, which is a sentimental favorite for any aging dorks who grew up watching the National Wrestling Alliance in the ’80s. I don’t know any of those, I’m just guessing. [shifty eyes] Until then, make sure you’re keeping up with the NWA by watching Powerrr on YouTube on Tuesdays at 6:05, by reading our weekly NWA Powerrr column, and by dropping a 20 in their can when these big shows come around.
As always, thanks for reading. If you need me, I’ll be burning a candle at my Question Mark shrine.