How would the National Wrestling Alliance compare to the many various wrestling promotions in circulation today when it comes to pay per view?
On Saturday night the NWA returned to pay per view with Into The Fire in a night filled with surprises, turns and ended with a shock debut.
Stu Bennett gave the commentary a fresh new voice, the entrance stairway and music made the night feel special and different from the weekly Powerrr shows, but the usual studio set-up complete with ringside interview podium and commentary booth gave the show a nice familiar feel. The performances of the competitors in the ring were stepped up as the NWA delivered their very own style unique style of pay per view.
Eli Drake defeated Ken Anderson via pinfall
We began the night with a perfect opener for a pay per view: star power, solid action, good crowd interaction and a nice straight forward finish. This didn’t tire the crowd out with multiple kick-outs and near-falls towards the end (if anything the end came a bit abruptly), Drake got the win after he blocked a sunset flip powerbomb and used his weight to sit on Anderson’s shoulders. Drake controlled most of the early match, grounding Anderson with a neck breaker and flying shoulder tackle. Anderson did fire back and looked to be gaining some momentum before Drake cleverly outsmarted the veteran to get the W in this fine opener. As mentioned, this did seem a little quick at the time, but given how short the next matches were, in comparison- the timing was fine for what it had to achieve. Anderson looked angry after the match and this played well into their angle later in the show…
Nick Aldis then had the crowd on their feet chanting and cheering along with him when he was interviewed – along with his opponent James Storm- by Dave Marquez. Storm said at the end of the night, Aldis will know he has been in the ring with the toughest S.O.B in the world. This use of the interview podium on the PPV was a nice touch and it seemed like they were still sticking to what they know and not following the crowd and painting by numbers.
Thunder Rosa defeated Tasha Steelz via pinfall
Tasha Steelz will be a great addition to the NWA Women’s division: great wrestler, character and talker. She had her work cut out for her here with the unstoppable Thunder Rosa but this was a great exhibition for Rosa and the division.
“Styles make fights” and these two gelled incredibly well for the little time they had. Strong strikes, Lucha spots and submission sequences flowed throughout the match. Rosa got the win after a double foot stomp to the back on Steelz, and if they get to go again (with a little more time) I will be happy.
Ashley Vox came out to make the save as Rosa was beating down Steelz after the match. Rosa injured Vox with a shoulder breaker and brutal looking elbow submission. Both Vox and Steelz were helped to the back which made Rosa look like a killer.
Question Mark defeated Trevor Murdoch via pinfall
Aron Stevens accompanied the most popular wrestler in the world today: The Question Mark… well, that is what the NWA crowd makes it feel like whenever the Mongrovian master appears before them. A little bit of comedy before the bell involving a national anthem, a flag, and Stevens dressed like a ninja gave this all a light-hearted feel. Despite what you might think of both The Question Mark and Stevens, the pairing is over just now and the crowd are into them.
Bennett summed up this match pretty well when he described the action as “two big beefy guys in there” – and he was not wrong. Murdoch scooped and slammed Question Mark all around the ring, then pummelled him in the mount position to the disgust of this punctuation partisan crowd.
Murdoch kicked out of the deadly single spike to the throat as the master of kara-TE took control and nearly had Murdoch pinned after a middle rope dropkick (if it wasn’t for the pair being so close to the ropes). After some outside distraction from Stevens and the Mongrovian flag, the Question Mark hit a devastating DOUBLE spike to the throat to pick up the win to the sheer delight of the crowd.
Again, a fine match but just too short. A few extra minutes and this would have been much better. I thought that Murdoch’s style was an odd fit with the comedy duo of Stevens and Question Mark. I would like to see Murdoch used in matches with more serious opponents- that being said it was good to see both in action here.
NWA World Tag Team Championship: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) (c) defeated The Wild Cards (Thomas Latimer and Royce Isaacs) via pinfall
The year of the Rock ‘n’ Rolls continued as Morton and Gibson dropkicked, suicide dived and Canadian Destroyer’ed their way through the Wildcards to retain the NWA Tag Team titles, complete with their original gear from Starrcade 1986.
The Dawsons and the team of Homicide and Eddie Kingston accompanied the teams to ringside and got involved in the finish when Royce Isaacs got distracted by the brawling on the outside and then a Double Dropkick from the the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express inside the ring won them the match.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Express were great at what they do for the age that they are. Very simple but effective tag team wrestling, but given that they have been doing this for nearly 40 years, they deserve to have the freedom to do what they want in the ring.
In what seems like a quick turnaround for a second pay per view, Stu Bennett then announced that the NWA will return to PPV on January 24th where the NWA World Television Championship will return.
After a brief brawl around ringside, Ken Anderson wrapped a chair around Eli Drake’s neck and rammed him into the ring post. He then added insult to injury with a Mic Check onto a seated chair. This almost seemed like a double turn, turning Anderson heel and Drake back to babyface- time will tell but Drake seemed to be going for sympathy by being helped to the back by the medical team.
Tag team match: Allysin Kay and ODB defeated Melina and Marti Belle via pinfall
Kay came to the ring herself and it looked like the champ would be fighting alone after Vox was taken out earlier in the night. But not to be as ODB surprisingly and triumphantly appeared to be Kay’s partner. This was a fine tag team match with Kay and Belle taking 90% of the match, ODB getting in for some of her signature spots and Melina only getting involved in the finish. ODB picked up the win for her team when she pinned Belle after Melina was taken out by Kay’s reverse piledriver. There really wasn’t too much more to add in: Belle and Kay were fine and ODB and Melina hit their spots but were kept out for most of the match. If Thunder Rosa and Tasha Steelz were involved this would have been a lot better.
NWA National Championship: Triple Threat Match: Aron Stevens defeated Colt Cabana (c) and Ricky Starks via pinfall
Triple threat, triangle, three-way-dance… whatever you prefer to call them they are often hard to structure and the flow tends to suffer due to the odd number of participants. Here, the two babyfaces (Cabana and Starks) isolated the comedy heel (Stevens) and got rid of him for large chunks of the match, which left the two great wrestlers to have brilliant exchanges when left to their own devices.
If it were one-on-one I’m sure Cabana and Starks would have had a tremendous match, not that Stevens being present made it worse from a technical aspect, just his performance is 90% character so his spots involved cowering behind a Christmas tree, hiding under a blanket and playing up to the crowd. When Stevens was involved he used a low blow on Cabana then beat down Starks as he was recovering. Good heel tactics but it meant Starks and Cabana never really got fully into the swing of things before they were broken apart.
Cabana and Starks had some great near falls towards the end, but you knew Stevens would be involved in some way, and with a little help from The Question Mark (who spiked Cabana in the throat), Stevens won via a WWE special: jumping in a triple threat match and stealing the pinfall after someone else had hit their finisher. And in this instance, he walked away with the win AND the National Championship.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Best 2 out of 3 falls match: Nick Aldis (c) defeated James Storm two falls to one
The main event was built around a few different aspects: Nick Aldis had given his “insurance policy” Kamille the night off, both competitors had handpicked a referee for each of the first two falls, and Aldis and Storm had already clashed at an NWA Pop-up event where a controversial finish saw Aldis pick up the win after Billy Corgan had stopped a double count-out from taking place- leading to Aldis eventually picking up the win. All these previously placed chess pieces were woven into this well-structured match between two great workers.
Even though she “had the night off”, Kamille made her presence known early on and unintentionally distracted Aldis which let Storm hit the Last Call Superkick to pick up the first fall after only a few minutes.
The fight then spilt into the crowd, but not before James Storm got us all thinking when he mocked the second referee, Tim Storm, for counting them both out. He asked him “you are counting us both out? Then what would you do?”, and he makes a good point. I guess Storm would win 2-1 if that were to happen.
The announcers then actually brought up the count-out finish as Storm began throwing Aldis out the ring trying to get him counted out. But the champion rallied and even brought chaos to Christmas as he sent the studio Christmas tree flying when he whipped Storm into it.
Storm hit the Eye of the Storm as he kept on top of the champion, and even threatened to sacrifice a fall to clobber Aldis with a steel chair, but referee Tim Storm pulled the chair away and moments later Aldis reversed a small package and picked up the second fall tying the bout at 1-1.
The third fall had a lot of high impact moves and close near falls. They traded move for move but neither could put each other away. Storm hit a back-stabber, elbow from the top rope and a figure four leg lock. Aldis hit a Michinoku Driver, superplex, a tombstone piledriver and a big elbow drop of his own too.
The referees came back into the thick of it when Brian Hebner was knocked out when he was hit with an Aldis clothesline. This brought Tim Storm back into action to officiate and call the third fall. Aldis ate a second Last Call Superkick and inadvertently pulled the top turnbuckle pad off. In the resulting exchange James Storm ended up colliding with the exposed turnbuckle and then Aldis then locked in a Sharpshooter on a knocked out James Storm, and Tim called for the bell. Aldis picked up the win 2-1 but the finish was shrouded in controversy- controversy that James Storm will certainly want to address.
As Aldis was celebrating his victory at the interview podium with Dave Marquez, Marty Scurll made his surprising and shocking debut to the absolute delight of the crowd. A “holy sh*t” chant broke out as Scurll made his way down the stairway and went face to face with Nick Aldis, who eventually backed off and left the Villain alone in the ring.
All in all, it was a good show, nothing stood out as being excellent, but it was an enjoyable show. The main event was by far the standout match- and so it should be. The added layers and backstory added to the drama, and there is still an underlying feeling that something between Aldis and Tim Storm, and James Storm and Kamille is about to boil over. And then add Marty Scurll into the mix and you have an intriguing next few weeks leading into their next PPV on January 24th.
To add a bit of constructive criticism I would say that a lot of the undercard felt like a normal NWA Powerrr episode, nothing that would differentiate their matches from a pay per view calibre show. A lot of the early matches were very short and could have benefited from a few more minutes, but in the intimate studio surroundings, there is a risk of easily burning the crowd out.
There are definitely more positives than negatives in the NWA at the moment. They are continuously adding to their roster and that will help them nourish a core group of stars who can carry them forward into the new year.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @oli_iai. Thanks for reading!