Previously on NWA Powerrr: Powerrr turned into a clip show for a couple of weeks to promote their upcoming pay-per-view and awkwardly move past that whole Jim Cornette thing. Also, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express won their ninth World Tag Team Championship despite both of them being in their sixties, but it’s cool, because they’re infinitely cool.
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 Into The Fire. Cue the Dokken.
Best: A Grudge Match That’s Not Really Very Grudgey Turns SUPER GRUDGEY
As a guy who has watched every episode of NWA Powerrr (all nine of them), I felt like calling Ken Anderson vs. Eli Drake a “grudge match” was a little generous. To me, the feud seemed less of a “grudge,” and more like two guys who love to hear themselves talk butting heads and going “oh yeah?” “YEAH!” “OH YEAH?” “YEAH” until a match was signed. And yes, I know “grudge match” is mostly just wrestling slang for, “a match that isn’t for a championship,” and sounds a lot better than, “exhibition match.” I also thought it felt a little weird that they had two veterans wrestle a competitive but still technically basic and sound wrestling match, the kind you’d see in the main event of your local wrestling promotion’s show if it featured a “legend,” and kept talking about how much of a grudge it was. Like, they’re exchanging headlocks and doing clean breaks. Can we get some closed fists in here?
That ended up resolving itself throughout the show, though, and I was glad to see it. The match goes for about 10 perfectly serviceable minutes and ends with Mr. Anderson accidentally being too tall for a sunset flip powerbomb (pictured) and getting pinned ass-to-chest. This would make anyone mad, but when Drake shows up later in the night to cut a promo about how great he is and how many championships he deserves for what’s essentially a pro wrestling TKO, Anderson shows back up and beats the ever-loving dog shit out of him. I’m talking a finisher onto an open steel chair, ramming him into the ring post with a chair around his throat, and needing an entire cadre of dudes in referee shirts to pull him off.
Now it’s a grudge. Good stuff.
Best: Bad News Barrett Trying To Impersonate Cardi B
One of the best parts of the show is the inclusion of Stu Bennett, NXT season 1 winner and The Artist Formerly Known As Bad News King Wade Barrett, on commentary. I’ve long though Barrett was one of the best talkers in wrestling and probably the most underrated talker/performer of the decade, so seeing him get to shine along a guy like Joe Galli, who could honestly do compelling play-by-play with a sock puppet on color, made me happy.
I think my favorite moment of the entire night was when Tasha Steelz showed up to do a pre-match introductory promo and dropped a Cardi B-style “okurrr,” prompting both Galli and Bennett to try it out. “Wade Barrett quoting Cardi B” is one of those dream ideas I’d pitch to Vanity Fair if I worked there and never get approved.
Best, Then Worst: The Women’s Division
The structure and arrangement of the women’s matches on the pay-per-view were really utilitarian, and were the pro wrestling booking equivalent of “no wasted motion.”
Up first was the debuting Tasha Steelz against Thunder Rosa, which goes about how you’d expect. Steelz requesting a pre-match interview from Dave Marquez to establish herself was a nice bit of character work, as it showed how she’s actually confident instead of just arrogant and weird, or just saying she’s confident over and over. But you also know she’s going to get eaten up, because you don’t give Thunder Rosa a multi-part, dramatically shot video package about her MMA run and what a warrior she is if she’s not going to dominate on pay-per-view. As a bonus, Rosa getting a dominant singles match removes her a partner option for the tag team match later in the night, which explains why Melina and Marti Belle wrestle it. Because why would you have the most physically threatening member of the team stand at ringside if she wasn’t occupado, you know?
They needed to get Ashley Vox out of that tag match, too, to set up the surprise partner for Allysin Kay. So how do they do that? By having Thunder Rosa dominate Steelz and continue doing so after the bell, and sending out Vox for the save. Vox has beef with Thunder Rosa and her crew already, so it makes sense. She’s the lowest ranked regular in the division, though, so Rosa immediately murks her and gives her the Alexa Bliss double-jointed arm bar special. So you’ve explained the removal of a competitor from your tag match in two different directions with conflicting connotations in one match. That’s pretty cool.
Unfortunately, the tag match is the clear low point of the pay-per-view.
It’s not a bad idea, though. Allysin Kay’s replacement partner being ODB of all people is a fun surprise, as Kay’s whole thing is that she’s a “pinkies up” type, and One Dirty Bitch (which is what ODB stands for, were you not aware) is a nice Steen and Generico dynamic. They’re basically Class Warfare, the tag team. I think the reason the match missed for me is actually because of Melina, whose in-ring career at this point should probably be done. She had her moments back in the day, especially any time she wrestled Beth Phoenix, but 2019 Melina seems more suited to be a valet and a personality than a heel tasked with carrying a seven minute tag.
Still, I’m not sure there’s a dynamic I want to see more of more than ODB and Joe Galli.
ODB: [drinks from flask, grabs one boob repeatedly] “YOU WANNA BE A MAN? YOU WANNA BE A MAN?”
Galli: [beat] “I don’t know if I’m man enough for that.”
ODB: [offers flask]
Galli: “I’m not old enough.”
Galli: [weak double thumbs up]
How can I get a Joe Galli and ODB episode of Ride Along?
Best: Mongrovia Forever
Speaking of Joe Galli being fantastic, I loved him identifying the animals on The Question Mark’s flag as an emu and a “lesser anteater.” “Lesser anteater” is a phrase I never thought I’d hear on a wrestling show, and I think you all for it.
So yeah, now we enter the most bulletproof portion of the program: ?THE QUESTION MARK?, continuing his nigh-inexplicable run of comical dominance with a victory over Trevor Murdoch. The whole thing starts with Question Mark performing the “Mongrovian National Anthem,” which is literally him just making zombie noises into a microphone, while Aron Stevens stands behind him in a karah-tay gi holding a ridiculous “national flag” with a big question mark on it. And a goddamn “lesser anteater.” Is the NWA selling those flags yet? If they aren’t, they should be. Hard-working southern every-man Murdoch interrupts a heel’s performance of an extremely bad national anthem and gets heavily booed, because pro wrestling is very weird in 2019.
Murdoch holds his own against the OP offense of The Question Mark until he makes the bad decision to desecrate the Mongrovian flag. The Question Mark, who had already teased going full Ultimate Warrior earlier in the match when the Touch of Death didn’t put Murdoch away, retaliates by hitting Murdoch with his big match finisher, a DOUBLE TOUCH OF DEATH. Mongrovian colors don’t run, motherfucker!
Later in the night, total and complete comedy jobber Aron Stevens ends up winning the NWA National Heavyweight Championship in a triple threat match against the NWA’s most established modern name (Colt Cabana) and its biggest future star (Ricky Starks) because an unbelievably popular guy who’s SUPPOSED to be a total and complete comedy jobber is actually Stone Cold Steve Austin and can kick everybody’s ass.
The triple threat, which is probably the best match of the night as it played to everyone’s strengths and featured three performers who couldn’t be more different, ends with Cabana going for the Superman pin on Starks, going too far out between the ropes with it, and getting I Love You’d in the throat by The Question Mark. Lo and behold, Aron Stevens ends up winning the organization’s second most prestigious title, making him ostensibly the number one contender to the 10 Pounds of Gold and maybe kinda sorta setting him up for another Rhodes Scholars situation where any amount of success turns him into a violently self-destructive narcissist monster.
I’m going to go ahead and put this energy out into the world: “Stevens wins the NWA Heavyweight Championship and turns somehow even more heel on the Question Mark for always overshadowing him, and then The Goddamn Question Mark ends up as the NWA Heavyweight Champion.” And then maybe the Midnight Rider shows up to unseat him, I haven’t thought it through.
Best: Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Koo
One of the biggest and most welcome surprises of the night was that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express actually retained the NWA Tag Team Championship against the Wild Cards, and that their run is actually a real run, and not a last second nostalgia pop to sell a pay-per-view to weirdos like me. They even found a way to keep it short, and have the Dawsons and Outlaw Inc. brawl on the outside to create a fairly reasonable distraction that the RNRs were able to capitilize on due to veteran know-how.
From our write-up of episode 9:
Finally we have the in-their-sixties Rock ‘n’ Roll Express winning the Tag Team Championship from the Wild Cards, which would be a really great moment if (1) Jim Cornette hadn’t gotten into the ring to celebrate with them, necessitating that Leonard Maltin-ass explanation of his existence, and (2) they weren’t doing a rematch at Into the Fire and (again, presumably) switching them right back. I reserve the right to get all my boyish excitement about this back if Morton and Gibson manage to retain at the pay-per-view — there are a lot of stories you can do with legendary tag champs thrust back into relevancy by a tag title win and exposure on a national stage again, certainly more than you can tell with the Great Value Ascension.
Welcome back, boyish excitement! I want to see if they go somewhere new and interesting with these stories now, as pro wrestling’s never had guys in their sixties who actually seem relevant and exciting in the context of their promotion. You guys have like five years before WWE’s Saudi Arabia shows beat you to it.
Best, Mostly: All The Booking In The World
The 2-out-of-3 falls main event also delivered, even if a Nick Aldis vs. James Storm match feels a little more 2015 TNA than 1985 NWA. There’s a metic shit-ton of booking going on here, from the 2-out-of-3 falls stipulation with each man getting to choose a referee for their fall and a ref flipping a coin to see who’ll gain an advantage in fall three even though the previous announcement was that the NWA would choose their own ref — whew, and we’re only through the first thing — to Kamille being given “the night off” by Aldis and still showing up early in the bout to inadvertently distract him and cost him a fall. Kamille, man.
There’s also Tim Storm preventing his namesake James (are they related? Wrestling surnames are weird) from using a steel chair, which allows Aldis to win the second fall, and then returning to ref the third fall when Brian Hebner gets lariated out of his shoes. I like the callback to Aldis accidentally clotheslining Kamille in his match against Tim being the same spot that gets Tim “involved in the title picture” again. And of course with Tim in there reffing, that’s when Aldis is able to score another cheap fall by exposing a turnbuckle and reversing an O’Connor Roll with a shove right into it.
So there’s a lot going on, but it thankfully all played into the stories and situations we’d been presented in the first nine episodes. Nick Aldis is insistent on being this legendary fighting hero champion, but he’s clearly manipulating literally everyone around him to make sure he stays that way. Kamille’s on some weird double agent stuff that’ll get paid off in the next episode, Tim Storm has been emotionally manipulated into submission because of how Aldis has played on his age and remaining value as a wrestler, and James Storm’s basically the only guy who can get a whiff of the Machiavellian pro wrestling bullshit holding him down.
Best: Woop, And I Cannot Stress This Enough, Woop
There’s still time for one more surprise at the end of the night: the NWA return of The Villain Marty Scurll, who bloodied the champ and took him to his limits but came up short at the 2019 Crockett Cup. It’s a cool moment featuring a guy who’s a legit “name” free agent right, and a great get for NWA TV whether he’s sticking around for a long time or not.
I might’ve had him stay up in the crowd for the big staredown at the end of the night, though, both to connect him to the fans and to not necessarily point out how much smaller he is than Nick Aldis. It’s a real “Billy Gunn in an AEW battle royal” kind of moment. Still though, some folks are just short, and it doesn’t make them less of a bad-ass or any worse at breaking your fingers and jabbing at you with an umbrella.
Powerrr returns to its regularly scheduled time and format, and they’re bringing back the low-key prettiest wrestling championship ever.
BREAKING on #IntoTheFire
The NWA TV Title returns.
— NWA (@nwa) December 15, 2019