NWA HARD TIMES
JANUARY 24, 2020
GBP STUDIOS
ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Watch: FITE.tv

MEET OUR REVIEWERS

Neil David: Neil is staying up until 2am to write this review.  That might not sound like much, but he is essentially an old man and prefers to be wrapped up in his pajamas with a Robert Jordan book on a Friday night.  Only the finale of the amazing season 2 of NWA could make that happen! Read his five star tweets – @chubby_cthulhu

Sean Sedor: While Sean is a little under the weather, he’s very excited to check out this Hard Times PPV as a pretty entertaining second season of NWA comes to a close. You can follow him on Twitter @SASedor2994, and you can check out his Extreme Warfare: Revenge diary (where he takes over WCW in 1998) on the Voices Of Wrestling Forums at this link.

NWA TV Title Tournament – Quarterfinals – Trevor Murdoch def. The Question Mark

Neil: Trevor Murdoch came to the ring like a star.  I’ve never been to the South, but I imagine his entrance was akin to a tardy attendee at a local bar, arriving two beers too late because he had to work overtime at the mill to pay for a new attenuator.  He’s perfect. Question Mark, on the other hand, was a bizarre juxtaposition to Murdoch’s firmly grounded realism. He’s a hyperreal vision; not quite a wrestler but an Adult Swim joke in tights. Murdoch, as expected, leapt towards Question Mark with blows so violent, precision was irrelevant.  Question Mark was able to demonstrate some Mongrovian offence, but the brutal bulldogs from Murdoch were just too much. Powerrr’s strength is in reality, and Question Mark is certainly not that. He came out, got his irony pop and was eliminated. Smart choice. **3/4

Sean: I really like how the NWA handles PPVs in the GBP Studios differently from the regular episodes of Powerrr. On these PPVs, the wrestlers actually have music and enter down the stairway through the audience. Considering the two guys involved, this was perfectly ok. The Question Mark seemed firmly in control for most of the bout, but much like his match with Bram (I’m using Bram because I can never spell the name he currently uses), Murdoch just needed the right moment to either catch his opponent in a pin or, in this case, hit a big move. Murdoch hit two top rope bulldogs (Question Mark popped up quickly after the first one, so a second top rope bulldog was necessary). This was a very shocking result, in my view. I say this mainly because I figured The Question Mark going to the finals would make a lot of sense, since he and Aron Stevens have been feuding with Ricky Starks (who is on the other side of the bracket, and a favorite to win this whole tournament). However, that wasn’t the case, and Murdoch moves on. A fine opener to kick off the PPV. **1/2 

NWA TV Title Tournament – Quarterfinals – Dan Maff def. Zicky Dice

Neil:  Zicky Dice walks a tightrope between genuine heel heat and go away heat.  He must have fallen just on the right side because I’m ready for the ROH loan to knock the cocaine out of his nose.  The two men work to the time limit, with swift punches and swifter pinfalls. There’s a much needed injection of powerrr from Maff, with exploder suplexes and hair trigger spears.   This was essentially a squash, with Maff dominating the eighties casualty. It hints at Dice’s position on the guard – gobby jobber – and that’s appropriate. **3/4  

Sean: Dan Maff is the ROH representative in this tournament. I’m still not sure what to think of Zicky Dice. He looks like a fusion of Steve Corino and Brody King. While Dice got some offense in, Maff was in control for most of this one, and ultimately got the win. He connected with some big chops early on, and destroyed Dice with some big offense late. I think the 6:05 time limit in these NWA TV Title bouts works perfectly for someone like Maff, who does so much better in shorter matches. ***

NWA TV Title Tournament – Quarterfinals – Ricky Starks def. Matt Cross

Neil:  Starks, the heir apparent, is a strange man.  It’s as if he’s been generated by a computer. He has all the requisite parts – charisma, moves and good looks – but something doesn’t quite work.  The facial expressions lean slightly into gurning and he’s been struggling to show what he can really do with the lumbering Harleys in the NWA. This is very much a modern, indie style match with enough flips to make Jim Cornette turn in his grave.  It’s slightly odd to see this in an NWA ring but neither myself or the crowd mind. There’s been an odd assumption that the NWA universe can’t contain stereotypically ‘good’ matches, but of course, there’s no reason why that should be the case. That being said, Matt Cross’ offensive was impressive but strange.  The snappy time limit made it feel more like a CrossFit demonstration in parts but, the matches are so quick you have just enough time to be entertained before it’s all over.

Of course, Ricky Starks wins and it was smart to have him beat a wrestler who could match his speed. **3/4

Sean: I really liked the entrance music they picked out for Starks. This was easily the best match of the first round, up to this point. Very entertaining back and forth action between these two. Cross got to show off some of the incredible offense that he’s known for, but as expected, Starks picked up the victory. Not much else to say, beyond that. Definitely check this one out! ***1/4 

NWA World Tag Team Titles – Eli Drake & James Storm def. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (c) & The Wildcards

Neil:  NWA have fallen victim to the plague of modern wrestling – get everybody on the card.  I understand that Rock N Roll Express benefit from multi-team matches as it allows them to pick their spots a little better, but it would seem more appropriate to have a straight two versus two.  Royce Isaac has developed his gimmick into an idiot who won’t have sex which strangely compelling. He waved his hands around like a poor street kid who’s forgotten his gang’s sign, and it works very well for him.  Thom Latimer, a man untroubled by strategy, demonstrates his best use here with big clubbing blows to James Storm. Robert Gibson spent most of his time being worked over by Kamille outside which was a great way of building up the hot tag while keeping him out of the ring.

This match was never still; it was a treadmill of distractions, unseen tags and big forearms.  A double hot tag from the younger teams wasn’t quite timed right, but that’s a minor point in such a fast-paced sprint.  The work was swift and crisp, and it was over before anyone noticed Robert Gibson didn’t do anything. Morton enters and drops the compulsory Candian Destroyer before taking a Gravy Train and the fall from Eli Drake.  The nostalgia run from RnR has been great, but it’s the right choice to give the belts to two wrestlers who can take the belts to the next level. ***1/4

Sean: So for this particular Triple Threat Tag Team affair, each team had a wrestler in the ring at all times. The first few minutes were pretty out of control, as all six men were getting involved, but it eventually turned into a two-on-two affair between Drake/Storm and The Wildcards. Kamille prevented a wounded Robert Gibson from getting back in the ring (after he had been sent into the ring post), which meant that Ricky Morton was unable to get tagged in. Morton’s comeback was quickly cut off, while Gibson cutoff attempted interference from Kamille. The Wildcards got taken out during all of this commotion, and this allowed Eli Drake to hit the Gravy Train on Morton for the pin. Well, we knew The Rock ‘n’ Roll were going to lose these titles at some point. It was just a matter of when, not if. I’ve got no issues with the result. It was time for new champions, and another Wildcards title reign wouldn’t have been that interesting. As far as the match itself goes, I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but it proved to be better than I was expecting. ***1/4 

NWA World Women’s Title – Thunder Rosa def. Allysin Kay (c) 

Neil: Thunder Rosa brings the validity of a shoot fighter to the women’s division, and is easily its shining light.   This match was the NWA’s chance to reignite the division for season 3 and it certainly seemed that was their intention at the start of the match; as soon as the bell rings they were pounding each other into the canvas.  Unfortunately, the speed that defined the show to this point was lost here. Methodical would have been a nice change of pace, but Allysin Kay wrestles like she’s trying to remember the next spot in the early stages. Unsurprisingly, Rosa was hugely popular with the crowd.  Her closed fist pummels are real and vital, demanding attention from the audience. It’s a shame that Kay was never quite on her level – submissions were locked in too close to the ropes and there were a few of those confused seconds that seem to last hours. Thunder Rosa’s charisma is enough to overcome it, however, as she stalked her prey between nasty submissions.  In the third act, something clicked and suddenly Kay was back in the game, catching Rosa from a dive into an apron powerbomb. A cavalcade of near falls had me shouting for Rosa along with the crowd and any memories of a sloppy start were forgotten. An exhausted strike exchange was more than earned and when the match ground into a war of attrition I was captivated. Rosa was heart and skill combined, and I was genuinely rooting for her spectacular submission holds to work.

Rosa winning was a brilliant decision, and this match was the best thing that’s happened in a ring since Powerrr began. ****

Sean: Thunder Rosa is easily the best person in the NWA women’s division, and it isn’t particularly close. I was pulling for her to win the title here, and ultimately, she got the job done. These two went right after each other as soon as the bell rang, and after Allysin Kay had the edge early, Thunder Rosa took control with a dropkick through the ropes. From here, Rosa just tormented Kay with a variety of different submissions. Kay managed to survive these submission attempts, and fought back with a german suplex and a big powerbomb on the apron. Then we got a couple of great nearfalls, and the intensity really picked up. Rosa survived a tombstone piledriver and an AK-47 from Kay, and eventually scored the pin after hitting a Thunder Driver. This was the longest match of the night up to this point, and it was also the early frontrunner for match of the night. The crowd was invested in this one the whole way through (they were particularly behind Thunder Rosa), and the second half of the bout was incredibly strong. It truly felt like a war at various points. Both women absolutely worked their asses off in this one. It was so much better than I was expecting, and the fact that we got the right result made it that much better. Easily the best women’s match in the NWA since they brought back their women’s title, and definitely a contender for one of the best matches in the NWA in the Powerrr Era. Go out of your way to check this one out. ****

NWA TV Title Tournament – Semifinals – Trevor Murdoch def. Dan Maff

Neil: Trevor Murdoch, accompanied by the stench of whisky and sweat, entered the ring with a nervous determination that elevated this match into something intriguing right from the start.  It was the most masculine display of horrendous chops as the two big lads tried to punch their way to the finals. Maff read the room and reached into the heel bag of tricks, attracting boos with back rakes and bites.  You can’t kill the spirit of the working man, however, and Murdoch hits the bulldog with time to spare. I know Starks is the smart choice to win the tournament, but this trade unionist will be solidly behind Murdoch. **1/2

Sean: Well this is the textbook definition of a hoss fight. We got a very entertaining exchange to kick this one off, as these two just went off on each other, trading chops and strikes. After that initial exchange, Maff took control, and it looked like he was on his way to the finals. In the end, however, Trevor Murdoch just managed to get the win after connecting with the Top Rope Bulldog. I really enjoy this story they’re telling with Murdoch. He only needs a brief opening to put his opponent way. That happened in his match on Powerrr with Bram, and it happened twice on this show. All he needs is an opening, and if he can hit that Top Rope Bulldog, it’s over, no matter how much punishment he took during the match. I really enjoyed this one. Two beefy dudes having a hard-hitting slugfest. What’s not to like? ***

NWA TV Title Tournament – Semifinals –  Ricky Starks def. Tim Storm

Neil:  Tim Storm is a true testament to the quality of NWA’s story telling.  He’s the epitome of its working class spirit, fighting for his mother, his honour and for us.   A first round bye may give him the paper advantage, but Storm is so beloved by the NWA faithful, nobody will begrudge him the pass.  Starks used his speed to outwit the veteran, but Storm was able to slow him down with chops and brains. A genuine botch from Storm – not realising that the referee was going to drop for a pin – took the air out of the closing stretch slightly, but it wasn’t long before Starks had Storm in the crucifix for the win.  NWA storytelling has been so consistently brilliant, that the loss makes Storm more compelling. I want to see the sadness in his eyes as he realises that perhaps the wrestling world is moving past him. **1/2

Sean: So we missed out on a quarterfinals match earlier in the show, as Tim Storm got a bye to the semifinals after Ken Anderson wasn’t medically cleared to complete. This was a pretty solid bout as a whole. There was some fine action throughout, and although Storm came close to winning at one point after hitting the Perfect Storm, Starks was able to roll to the outside. Moments later, Starks caught Storm in a crucifix, and got the pin. Nothing that memorable in this match, but it was perfectly fine for what it was. **3/4



 

NWA National Title – Scott Steiner def. Aron “Shooter” Stevens (c) via DQ

Neil:  Aron Stevens has been better.  He’s still not good, but he doesn’t have me rolling a cigarette during his promos anymore.  The crowd cheered the Question Mark and booed Stevens because that’s they’re supposed to do.  Nothing he does feels earned; it’s a group of people following predefined rules. I found myself hoping Steiner would knock his block off.  Unfortunately, nothing anywhere near that exciting happened. It was a battle of the unskilled and an old man that was saved by a DQ finish.  Normally, such a lazy finish would be upsetting, but at least it put me out of my misery. *

Sean: This was such a random addition to the card. Thankfully, we got an explanation from Joe Galli, as he said that Nick Aldis used his pull, as the current NWA World Heavyweight Champion, to get an associate of Strictly Business a title shot. In a totally random aside, Stu Bennett noted on commentary that the initials for Aron “Shooter” Stevens spells out A.S.S., and I have no idea how I didn’t notice that sooner. As for the match, it was easily the worst thing on the show, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Steiner pretty much dominated Stevens until The Question Mark interfered for the DQ. Afterward, Steiner locked in the Steiner Recliner on The Question Mark (who was wearing a yellow Kill Bill-style jumpsuit) while Stevens ran for the hills. I guess the takeaway from this is that Stevens left his sensei high and dry. I presume we’ll see more developments with that story on Powerrr. 1/2* 

NWA World Heavyweight Title – Nick Aldis (c) def. Flip Gordon

Neil:  Aldis agreed to make this a title match on the condition that he can choose the stipulation for the Marty match if he wins.  He also said that Marty had to leave the building, so I assume Party Marty didn’t want to stay for the whole show. The tone of the match was set early with Flip threatening a suplex into the announcers’ table.  Flip was especially dominant in the early stages of the match, despite the slow ‘grab a hold’ style. The wait is rewarded, however, as Flip launched himself over the referee to the outside. Aldis has been wonderful throughout season 2. The Strictly Business stable and Sweet Charlotte have given his fantastic monologues a gravitas as he engages in a battle of ethics with the noble Tim Storm.  Unfortunately, his battles between the ropes are not as compelling. The only colours he can paint with are headlocks and clumsy figure four leglocks, and I found myself being disappointed that, as great as he is in interviews, he isn’t the in-ring wrestler I want him to be. Aldis needs time to build his case against his opponents, and this placeholder defense wasn’t given that. This was very good, but not essential.  The real story is in just how precious the ROH relationship should be to NWA. ***

Sean: In an interview segment earlier in the evening, Marty Scurll questioned why Nick Aldis wasn’t putting the NWA World Heavyweight Title on the line against Flip Gordon. Eventually, Aldis agreed to put the ten pounds of gold on the line, if Scurll agreed to leave the building (which he did). Aldis also demanded that if he retained his title here, then he would get to call the shots when he and Scurll have their rematch down the line. This was actually a rematch from a ROH show in the summer of 2018, where Aldis retained against Gordon on the leadup to All In. Gordon was firmly in control during the opening minutes of the match, whether it was outside of the ring (he tried to powerbomb Aldis through the announcers desk) or on the inside (where he attempted to slow down the pace). Aldis turned the tide after Flip connected with a big dive to the floor, and again, things slowed down. Fortunately, the action picked up in the second half, as we got some good back and forth along with a couple of very nice nearfalls for Flip. At one point, Gordon went for a victory roll, but Aldis just sat on the roll through, and caught Gordon to score the pin. This was a little slow at a few points, but these two ended up having a very solid contest. Now, Nick Aldis gets to pick the terms with any future rematch with Marty Scurll, and after Aldis was announced for Supercard Of Honor in April, I have a sneaking suspicion that we could get that rematch during WrestleMania Weekend. ***1/2 

NWA TV Title Tournament – Finals – Ricky Starks def. Trevor Murdoch

Neil:  Trevor Murdoch, chest painted red and clutching his ribs, looks monstrous under the dimmed studio lights.  The look on his face tells the story of a thousand losses and a few scraped valued wins. He wrestles like he has the weight of every rejection, roadbump and disappointment in his fists as he desperately tried to ground Ricky Starks.  It works in the early stages, and Murdoch is able to wrestle the match at his own pace. He holds Starks back for as long as he can, but it’s not long before youth and speed wins over tired experience. Maybe I was a fool for routing for Murdoch so hard, but the road suits him more than the glory of the gold and his grind will not end here.  Starks was the smart choice, and the story they told to get there was well worth anyone’s time. ***1/2

Sean: We all expected Ricky Starks to make the finals, but the fact that Trevor Murdoch got here was a pleasant surprise. After the opening exchange, they brawled on the outside for a bit, and Murdoch took control when he sent Starks into the steel steps. Even though Starks did his best to fight back, Murdoch had the clear advantage at this point. After getting tossed around a few times, Starks finally got something going after a big powerbomb. This proved to be the big turning point, as moments later, Starks hit Murdoch with The Stroke to capture the NWA TV Title. A solid main event that had the absolute right result. Starks has all the makings of a future NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and the fact that he was put in the main event slot here just shows you how much they value him. He will get there eventually, but for now, I expect Starks to have a strong run with the NWA TV Title. ***1/4