Vids I Dig 367: Chris Van Vliet: Bubba Ray Dudley Interview

From Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube description: Bully Ray (Bubba Ray Dudley) chats with Chris Van Vliet from his home in New York and they cover absolutely everything from his almost 30 year wrestling career. He talks about starting out in ECW with a character that wasn’t set up for success, pitching the idea to Paul Heyman of teaming with D-Von to form the Dudley Boyz, being part of the first TLC match in WWE, what his favorite TLC match was, putting Mae Young through a table, leaving WWE and going to TNA as Team 3-D, breaking away from D-Von to have a singles career that led to him becoming the 2-time TNA World Champion, the idea he had for the finish of the Sting vs. Jeff Hardy match at Victory Road 2011, Eric Bischoff coming up with the idea for him to be the leader of the Aces and Eights, his thoughts on Moose as the TNA Champion, Tessa Blanchard as the Impact Wrestling World Champion, which one of them he’d rather have a match with, his future plans and much, much more!

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: PandemicMania 2020

Well, 2020 has been a real kick in the balls. So much for going into a new decade with optimism and hope for the future.

Granted, all this COVID-19 stuff could actually be a wake up call but humans will probably just do what they always do and that’s be pissed for awhile, promise to make changes to ensure a catastrophe like this doesn’t happen again and then forget all about it after some time passes.

I hope I’m wrong about that but our leaders just react to things that happen and don’t put too much thought into preventing these problems in the first place. But I digress, as I don’t want to go on a political or social rant because that’s not what this is about, it’s about the state of the wrestling business.

Since The ‘Rona showed up and bitchslapped Earth, almost all industries and businesses have been adversely affected by it. The wrestling business is no different, as it can no longer have live shows in front of crowds and because the athletes and personalities involved have to be especially careful, as you can’t have a wrestling match and practice social distancing at the same time.

I noticed how negative it was on the wrestling community when a lot of the indie wrestlers I follow on Twitter were posting about shows being cancelled and not having any real income coming in. Some of them found ways to combat this in pushing their merchandise and by coming up with creative ways to fundraise for those most in need within their community.

The real big blow came just last week, however, on what many are now referring to as Black Wednesday.

In the much larger landscape that is World Wrestling Entertainment, many probably assumed that nearly everyone there was most likely going to be taken care of and a complete loss of their livelihoods wasn’t in the cards. But not too long after WWE’s flagship event, Wrestlemania, the company released and furloughed nearly forty employees, most of them being wrestlers.

Fans and the media haven’t been too kind in criticizing this decision with some calling it “morally heartless” and “not the way”. While it does suck, there could be a silver lining in some regards, as there was such a big pool of talent released into the wild and that could significantly alter the professional wrestling landscape going forward. Also, I’m sure that several of these people will be back sooner rather than later. For those that don’t make it back into the WWE in the next few months, there are at least more options available to them than there were even a year ago.

While they can’t all jump to All Elite Wrestling, the young company that may be able to become real competition for the WWE, there are still other places like New Japan, Ring of Honor and my personal favorite promotion, the National Wrestling Alliance.

I definitely think that AEW will scoop up a few and they could use the help, if I’m being honest. There’s some wrestlers that could flourish in fresh waters and be literal goldmines for that company.

Some of these released wrestlers have already hinted at where they could be going with one of the top tag teams letting it be known that they are most likely going back to New Japan, where they were once superstars as part of the most popular stable that country has seen in years.

All of this happened just a few days after The Revival got their release after wanting it for quite a long time. I put them at the top of the free agent list and I hope that they do stop off in the NWA because it fits their style and what they’re all about.

The landscape isn’t just going to change because of an influx of free agents into the open market, however.

It’s also going to change due to how these marquee wrestling companies have had to adjust how they present their product. Both WWE, especially at Wrestlemania, and AEW have gotten really creative in how they’re trying to make their programs work without live audiences and without being able to show their product in the traditional way that it has been presented in since the start of the television era over half a century ago.

That being said, a lot of this experimental content has been met with mixed results and it is going to be interesting to see what this means long-term.

Are we going to get more unique “matches” like the Firefly Funhouse Match or the Boneyard Match? Is it even wrestling if there’s movie style presentations, multiple camera setups, special effects and obvious edits and cuts? Does this somehow diminish the art of wrestling? While some fans may love this stuff, others don’t and won’t if this becomes the norm and with the wrestling business already having problems with ratings and audience numbers, should they try and reinvent the wheel beyond this pandemic?

While traditionalists will probably turn away, can these new creative changes possibly attract new audiences? I don’t think that they will but stranger things have happened and we live in a time where a new generation of fans don’t really know about the business before WWE became the only mainstream attraction in town.

Wrestling, like everything else, has mostly seen tradition stamped out and replaced with something that barely resembles what it used to be. I guess it’s all subjective but as a wrestling fan, I’d rather see the business thrive. But then again, if it becomes a business I no longer recognize and it can’t generate the same emotion and passion out of me as a fan, then what’s the point?

The great thing about wrestling, especially in a time where there are more mainstream options, is that there can be something for everyone. But if I’m being honest, AEW is guilty of some of the same things they claimed they disliked about WWE.

Plus, modern wrestling fans tend to have blind allegiances towards the things they deem superior. A lot of the things AEW fans claim they like about their favorite promotion’s product are the same things they say they hate about modern WWE. I’m mainly referring to the comedy shit, the goofy shit and the obvious favoritism that gives certain talent more screen time than those who probably deserve it more.

While I’m personally not against the expression of creativity and I’m all for trying new things, I hope that those that hold the keys to the business going into the 2020s don’t lose sight of the great history that existed before them.

Wrestling is fragile, right now. While it does need something to get it over this current hill, it can’t forget about the hard journey it had in getting to this point.

Side note: If you do want to help out your favorite wrestlers through this time, buy their merchandise. A lot of the current wrestlers have their shirts and other stuff available on ProWrestlingTees.

Vids I Dig 299: Jim Cornette: AEW ‘All In’ to ‘All Out’ – Deep Dive Omnibus

From Jim Cornette’s YouTube description: Presented here is Jim Cornette’s AEW All In to All Out Deep Dive Omnibus! This collection is compiled of segments from the Jim Cornette Experience & Jim Cornette’s Drive Thru between December 2017 – September 2019.

Vids I Dig 249: Chris Van Vliet: PCO Interview

From Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube description: Ring of Honor World Champion PCO (Pierre Carl Ouellet) talks with Chris Van Vliet in Cincinnati, OH. He talks about winning the ROH World Championship at age 51, his match with Walter at Joey Janela’s Spring Break, working in the WWF as part of The Quebecers, how he lost his right eye, his issues with Kevin Nash and The Kliq, wrestling for every major promotion, his goal to be on Ed Mylett and Tom Bilyeu’s podcast and much more!

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: All Elite Wrestling – Year One In Review

It’s been just over a year since All Elite Wrestling officially formed and close to a year since their first show, 2019’s Double or Nothing. We’re also several months into their weekly nationally broadcast show, Dynamite. So I figured I’d look at the first year of AEW and provide my thoughts, good and bad, as well as what I hope the future brings for those of us looking for a mainstream alternative to World Wrestling Entertainment.

Initially, my excitement was at an all time high after the success of the indie wrestling mega event All In, back in September of 2018. When I got wind that something bigger was happening beyond that, my excitement overflowed and I was “all in” on what this met for the future of the wrestling business.

However, right off the bat, there were decisions being made that made me question the newborn promotion’s direction and leadership.

First off, executive roles were given to wrestling talent that hadn’t proven themselves in that realm. While I was okay with Cody Rhodes being the public face of the company, due to who his father was and because he had flourished independently after leaving WWE, I was concerned as to whether or not he could effectively co-manage a brand new wrestling promotion with a lot of money pushed into it.

Additionally, when his wife and buddies were also given executive roles, I found that even more perplexing. Not because I’m hating on them but because none of them have had any experience in these sort of positions within a wrestling promotion.

Understanding that AEW wants to give more power and creative control to the on-air talent seems like a good idea in some regard but as history has shown, when active wrestlers become management, it typically leads to a shitty product and if I’m being frank, it’s not too dissimilar from some of their criticisms of other major league wrestling promotions, past and present. So even if they’ve got the best of intentions and are going to run their company differently, it still paints them into a corner. I’ll explain what I mean by that as this article rolls on.

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of the Young Bucks but I liked a lot of Kenny Omega’s work in Japan and especially liked his matches with Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi and Chris Jericho. However, there are distinct stylistic differences between Western and Eastern professional wrestling. That being said, Omega has primarily wrestled in Japan for years but he and the Bucks have been given three of the highest ranking jobs in the company. As far as I know, based off of information that’s been discussed by many over the last year, these guys have their hands deep into the creative side of the women’s and tag team divisions. I’ll also get more into this, further into the article.

The first mistake that these guys made is that they started hiring all their other buddies. This also isn’t too dissimilar to what other wrestlers given power in promotions have done in the past. And while I’m not saying that the talent they’ve hired isn’t good or bad, it feels as if they don’t care either way and they’re trying to hook all their buddies up with gigs because they either didn’t make it big in WWE or because WWE doesn’t want them. From the outside it looks like, “Hey, buds… we’re your saviors! Come on in and let’s party!”

Plus, most of the guys they’ve hired wrestle similar styles to the Bucks and Omega where everything is highspot after highspot to the point that highspots become way too commonplace and lose their meaning and their effect on the psyche of the audience. I’ll also delve into this more.

Additionally, almost all of these guys are small by wrestling standards and even if the game is changing, a roster full of guys that don’t convincingly look tough is detrimental to a product that is supposed to be about kicking ass and being badass. No one is afraid of the hipster asshole that runs the register at Chipotle.

Furthermore, typical Western audiences don’t want to watch two hours of just high-flying shenanigans that are done so much that we’re seeing a record number of spot botches on national television. Anyone can Google “AEW botch” and see a slew of videos and GIFs that make my point for me.

Now there are a lot of good things about AEW too. I generally like the product, for the most part, and it is a decent alternative to WWE. While it’s got its issues, so does the juggernaut WWE, which is why AEW got massive support to begin with.

I think that the writing that’s been on the wall for well over a decade is that Western wrestling fans want to try a new flavor other than vanilla. AEW has answered that challenge but it’s like they took vanilla and added some hot sauce to it. Point being, you’ve got to have a palate in order to be a good chef. It’s like AEW has the palate of a six year-old kid left home alone with a full fridge.

Now I don’t say that to be insulting but the product they’re putting out is just recycling the standard mainstream wrestling formula but trying to overpower it with lightning fast matches, countless highspots, more colorful language and a pretty high emphasis on comedy wrestling. While all of that stuff has its place, doing everything with the volume turned up to 11 is pretty fucking tiresome to experience.

I feel like AEW is just throwing a lot of shit on the wall to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Maybe they’re in a little over their head due to how fast they got off and running and because of the lack of experience running a wrestling promotion. It feels like there is a lack of understanding in regards to the fundamentals of what works on this hemisphere. While Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks were big in Japan, it doesn’t mean that what worked for them there is going to work for them here. I’m personally a big fan of Japanese wrestling, always have been since I was a tape trader in the ’90s, but I also know that my love of it isn’t something that most mainstream normal wrestling fans have on this continent.

It’s like they’re trying to appeal to a niche audience. The problem with that is a niche audience will always be niche and not mainstream. If you’re “in it to win it”, you’ve got to think bigger and you’ve got to produce a product that is enjoyed by the largest audience possible.

That comes down to one simple fact: you’ve got to know your audience. Right now, I don’t know if AEW does. At least not fully and not this early. That doesn’t mean that they won’t figure it out, re-work some things and fix some of these issues going forward. I certainly hope they do because more wrestling is good for everyone.

Diversity between promotions is a good thing that helps build brand identity and uniqueness. However, there can also be too much diversity and I think AEW suffers from that in trying to encompass many things, all at once. But I really hope this is just growing pains.

My point with this is that you can’t try to cover all bases by trying to appeal to every little niche simultaneously. You have to find the balance between them while, again, appealing to the widest audience possible. I think that the solution is to be something between WWE and what AEW currently is.

The best example I can give is the Attitude Era of WWE. No, not because it was edgy with a Jerry Springer atmosphere but because it allowed talent to be themselves, have some creative control and it took chances and had diversity within the content of its segments. At its height, it found a way to take the best elements of the mainstream WWE formula, mixed that with an ECW influence and also adopted some of the better elements of what was working in WCW, at the time.

WCW succeeded for awhile too because it was doing the same thing. Even though they had their own style that slightly differed from WWE, both promotions were just different sides of the same coin.

So since I’ve brought up WCW, I want to go back to my thoughts on wrestling talent being in charge, as that was ultimately a major factor in WCW’s downfall.

Back in the ’90s, when WCW was buying up WWE talent like Beanie Babies, they gave their heavy hitters too much control of their characters and too much power in booking the shows. This led to these guys only putting themselves and their buddies over while younger talent got the shaft and ultimately, jumped ship to WWE, which helped that company recover and win the war.

I know that the guys running AEW know this, as does anyone that loves wrestling and has been paying attention to the business for several years. But just because they probably don’t want to make the same mistakes doesn’t mean that they won’t. Power is one of those things that can change a person and while I assume that Cody, Omega and the Bucks have the best of intentions, who is to say what this will mean over time.

Having now watched AEW for about a year, I can actually say that it looks like they are actually trying to deliberately do the stark opposite of what the WCW stars did. Maybe that sounds good but it isn’t. So let me explain.

First, there needs to be a balance, just like with all things. All four of these execs are four of the absolute best wrestlers in this new promotion. However, they seem to be putting everyone over except themselves. I’m not sure if they are just afraid of being accused of what guys like Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan were accused of twenty years ago or because they think that they’re building up the rest of the roster at their expense. But that’s just it, it’s at their expense.

You can’t objectively look at what has happened over the last year and tell me that Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks’ stock hasn’t dropped. Omega has lost his luster and the Young Bucks should be reigning tag team champions. Instead, Omega has been booked to look like a goof and the Bucks resemble the New Rockers more than the real Rockers.

In regards to Omega, he sucks as a babyface and he was at his best with The Cleaner gimmick. But the guy is sort of awkward and can’t cut good promos, at least not from what I’ve seen. And I thought of the guy as a superstar over the last few years that he was in New Japan. But now that I think about it, I watched his top matches and never really saw him talk all that much outside of press conferences. Also, the style of cutting a promo in Japan is different.

The Young Bucks just do three million superkicks per match and take two million dives to the outside. This reflects a problem I have with modern wrestling where devastating moves that should be finishers (or setups to finishers) are used so frequently that they’ve lost their luster and their impact. It’s like when someone uses a stunner or a cutter in a match and the opponent recovers like it was a simple neckbreaker. It shows a complete lack of understanding of ring psychology and in-ring storytelling. It’s like they’re just playing WWE2K and put in a cheat code to always have finishers active.

While some refer to this as a reflection of the times, I say that modern times suck because no one has time to have a real conversation without looking at their phone every five seconds while only having the attention span to absorb information the size of a tweet. But these people are what this style of “wrestling” appeals to. This is also probably why AEW considers an Ironman Match to be just 30 minutes. That’s more like an Aluminum-Man Match.

In regards to Cody, he’s at least had a main event spotlight on him but they booked him so that he can’t ever compete for the AEW World Championship again. I think that’s a massive mistake and hopefully it is rectified through a storyline because Cody, as well as Omega, should be World Championship chasers when the time is right. In fact, Cody should be the guy to take the belt off of Chris Jericho when that time comes. But I’d keep the belt on Jericho for well over a year because the title needs to build prestige and not be used as just a prop, which has been WWE’s problem for a few decades now.

I also have major issues with how the women’s and tag divisions have been booked. I don’t care how it looks on paper but the Young Bucks, despite my opinion on them, should have been the inaugural tag champs. They were the most famous team in the promotion and they came into AEW super hot after leaving Japan and Ring of Honor. I guess since they run the division, they didn’t want to crown themselves as the kings. That was a mistake and, as I’ve already said, their stock has fallen in the last year.

Now that’s not to say that the Young Bucks can’t recover but they’ve booked themselves into a corner and frankly, I don’t give a shit about them or the division anymore. Hopefully, management finds a way to right the ship.

Looking at the women’s division, despite her in-ring ability, Riho is not believable as the champion. They put the belt on Nyla Rose, who is massive by comparison, and that’s a much better fit. However, having Nyla lose to Riho when they crowned the first women’s champ was a major mistake that hurt the division immensely. People have talked up the quality of their last match but I can’t suspend disbelief enough for it to have physically made sense in my brain. Especially, when Riho’s neckline is below the top rope and she’s skinnier than a stop sign pole.

Beyond just that, the women’s division in general has been booked atrociously with just about everyone looking weak. They’ve ruined Britt Baker, their first female signed to a contract, and they brought in Kris Stadtlander and got her over immediately, only for her to get knocked out of the picture in a matter of weeks.

In a perfect scenario, Awesome Kong should have been the inaugural champion and she should’ve run through the division until management settled on who the top young star should be. Then, only after climbing the ladder to the top, should the new champion have been crowned.

Moving on, AEW also suffers from a lack of creative. Most of the storylines aren’t interesting and the show is carried by just two rivalries. Those are the Jon Moxley v. Chris Jericho (and The Inner Circle) feud, as well as the superb work being done by MJF and Cody Rhodes in their emotional conflict.

Outside of that, nothing interests me. I’m half interested in the Pac v. Kenny Omega Aluminum-Man Match coming up but that’s just because of the physicality of what the match should be and not the actual storyline that’s been booked like a fucking afterthought.

I don’t give a crap about The Dark Order bullshit and they’ve got enough Ministry/evil goth faction ripoffs between The Dark Order, The Nightmare Collective and The Butcher, The Blade & The Bunny.

Granted, The Nightmare Collective have been abruptly cancelled but that also is another problem with creative. You don’t just cancel an angle in the middle of it and say, “Oh, we weren’t feeling that, so whatevs!” No, you find a way to creatively end it within a storyline. How am I supposed to buy into what you’re selling when you can just pull the plug on it at any second? How do I build trust with your brand and the universe you’re building?

I’m not going to really get into my issues with the comedy stuff other than to say that I don’t hate Orange Cassidy like many old school purists do. I find the schtick to be somewhat enjoyable and it has got him really over with the crowd. But this will only work for so long and the character has to adapt and evolve if he’s going to have longevity and not go down as another joke lost to the sands of time. He needs to have something push him into actually getting physical in a non-comedy way. He can still fuck around and be funny but something has to make him actually pull his fist back and haymaker the fuck out of someone. You have to show him break through the character if you ever want him to emotionally connect with the audience beyond just being the doofus sidekick in a stoner comedy.

Granted, I don’t know what he’s actually capable of beyond his limiting gimmick and I don’t have the faith in AEW creative to capitalize on him and strike while the iron is hot. The thing is, you can only tell the same joke so many times before people start scrolling their Twitter feed.

The last thing I’m going to harp on is AEW’s insistence of having win-loss records. This is another thing that paints them into a corner, creatively speaking. No one really cares about wins and losses, they just care about seeing great matches and having the best guys get over. But to truly get the good guys over, you have to have them overcome the bad guys. Usually, this comes with losses and misfortune, only to have them eventually get the upper hand and win the rivalry. But with also including a weekly rankings system, keeping track of wins and losses is detrimental to that, especially when you compare them to the rankings and they don’t make sense. They need to get rid of this shit fast and just focus on stories and booking proper programs and feuds. They said, early on, that AEW was going to be treated like a real sport. Well, they’ve failed in that regard and seeing a guy ranked at No. 5 with a 3-1 record behind a guy ranked No. 4 with a 0-0 record is asinine.

I know it seems like I’m taking a big shit on All Elite Wrestling but hey, I’m still watching it every week and hoping for the best. Right now, I just have to focus on the things I love about the product. Those things are mainly Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, MJF, Cody Rhodes, Pac and Hangman Page, who could be the next massive superstar in the wrestling business. All six of these guys are the absolute highpoints of every show. I’m also really excited to see what Jake Hager can do in this environment, once he gets in the ring.

Furthermore, there are probably some new faces coming in. I’m most excited for what Brodie Lee (WWE’s Luke Harper), Lance Archer, Matt Hardy and The Revival can bring to the table if they sign with AEW.

The Revival are really what the tag division needs, as they can slow the matches down and add a new flavor to the proceedings, as their in-ring style is in great contrast to teams like The Young Bucks.

As far as Lee and Archer go, they would add some real size to the roster, which is definitely needed.

Keeping up with all the behind the scenes stuff, Tony Khan, the real guy in charge, has stated that he’s had some buyer’s remorse with certain wrestlers and that AEW, at least for the moment, are primarily looking for bigger, athletic guys. That shows me that he’s aware of the criticisms and that he’s trying to plug some holes and get the promotion on track.

Also, the commentary team is solid between legends Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone. I also like the recent addition of Taz. I’m still not sold on Excalibur, though. He needs to calm down a bit and focus on the action, as opposed to yelling out the name of every move just to prove he’s a human wrestling Wikipedia.

I feel like I’ve stated enough, even though I could go into greater detail on a lot of these points. The thing is, I like AEW and I want it to succeed because real competition benefits all parties involved. I want AEW to flourish and give me something to get excited about. I also want WWE to feel the heat and to start making their product better because they’ve become really fucking complacent at the top for two decades.

I hope that 2020 is the year where All Elite Wrestling finds its groove, works out a lot of its kinks and gives the fans a wrestling show that they don’t want to miss. I’d love for the Wednesday Night War to become as big of a phenomenon as the Monday Night War. The wrestling industry needs its fans to feel the passion that existed during that time. Hell, if you’re a fan and you don’t want to feel that passion again, why are you still watching?

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Reflecting On My Personal Experience at NWA Hard Times

*I wanted to write this and have it up last weekend but I was dealing with a loss in my family, the hustle and bustle of my trip to Atlanta (for family and to see this show) and then I had to get right back to the real job while fighting off a cold for the last few days.

Being that I have been digging the hell out of the National Wrestling Alliance’s product since Billy Corgan bought them and took over, I didn’t want to miss out on one of their marquee events, as I regretted not being able to make it up to Atlanta for Into the Fire a month ago.

Making the trip this time, I wasn’t disappointed and I plan to go back because the show and everything surrounding it was fantastic. I haven’t been to a wrestling event where the promotion hosting it seemed to care this much about their fans and providing them with a memorable experience.

Also, I haven’t quite felt this level of energy while at a wrestling show since the late ’90s when I used to go to ECW events whenever they came to the southern half of Florida.

What made this even more cool was that it didn’t just feature NWA talent but it also featured some of the guys from Ring of Honor: Marty Scurll, Flip Gordon, Matt Cross and Dan Maff.

The NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis is currently in a program with long-time friend and rival Marty Scurll, which has opened the doors for NWA to crossover with ROH (and possibly other promotions). This makes for a really exciting time in the wrestling business for fans that need alternatives to the mainstream WWE content.

Hard Times was built around a tournament for the recently resurrected NWA World Television Championship. The tournament bracket featured eight wrestlers (six from NWA and two from ROH). Well, Ken Anderson didn’t make it to the event, so his first round opponent, Tim Storm, got a bye.

The tournament itself was damn cool to watch, as I’ve always been a fan of wrestling tournaments but have never seen one live, in its entirety.

Apart from that, the show also featured other marquee match ups and there wasn’t a low point. Everything was fun, energetic, engaging and kept my, as well as the crowd’s, attention.

Sadly, due to the loss in my family mentioned earlier, I was only able to go to Hard Times and missed out on the TV tapings for the third season of NWA Power. But for the one night I did go, I bought the VIP pass because I wanted to immerse myself into the product as much as possible.

I’ve got to say, even if you do it just once, the VIP experience is well worth the price of admission.

We got let into the studio an hour earlier, which we were allowed to explore pretty freely. We also got first dibs on seats, got to touch and hold the Television Championship while taking photos with it and we also got to meet producer Dave Lagana, as well as have a Q&A session with on-air personalities Dave Marquez and Kyle Durden. On top of that, we also got treated to a pre-televised “dark match” that advanced the storyline between Eddie Kingston and “The Pope” Elijah Burke.

My biggest takeaway from this was how much the NWA personalities liked us being there and how much they seemed to enjoy shooting the shit with us all. Marquez and Durden were open, personable, held the attention of the small group and didn’t shy away from answering questions on any topic. We even got Marquez setting the record straight on what the difference was between rides and attractions at Disneyland.

After the show, my friend and I waited a few minutes for the studio to clear out a bit so we could soak the place in a bit more before leaving. What I had felt that day was pretty infectious. My friend, who had just watched the show casually up to that point, became a die hard loyalist over the course of the night. We didn’t want to leave but as we went to exit the building, we discovered some seriously badass fan service.

In the lobby of the studio, the merchandise tables weren’t just selling the merch that was displayed before the show. Now most of the tables had the wrestlers themselves there, selling all types of cool stuff. But most importantly, they were there to talk to us, hang out a bit and make us feel like we were appreciated and that we were all a part of the same wrestling family. It didn’t feel like there was an imaginary line between the show and the fans. There wasn’t a guardrail or a curtain surrounded by guards, there was just us and them and just good, jovial times where everyone was happy.

I got to talk to Kamille and the Wildcards, Allysin Kay, Thunder Rosa, Marti Belle, The Question Mark and my main dude, hands down, the “Outlandish” Zicky Dice.

All in all, this was a great experience. I’ve been to dozens, if not hundreds, of wrestling shows in my lifetime and very, very few have ever made me feel the way I did seeing this modern incarnation of the National Wrestling Alliance. I’ve been backstage at WWE, WCW, ECW, old school NWA, indie shows and Championship Wrestling from Florida tapings but my first experience going to the modern NWA was one of my all-time greatest nights as a lifelong wrestling fan. There was just this overwhelming feeling of something right and comforting in my soul.

I was already sold on the NWA and Power is the weekly wrestling show I most look forward to. But what I was feeling before Hard Times has now multiplied tenfold.

Everything that the NWA is doing, right now, is perfect. I just hope that they can win over the hearts of many more people and continue to grow. For those who are already watching NWA Power but haven’t seen any of this live and in person, you really need to make the trip to Atlanta.

With the Crockett Cup returning in April, as the next big pay-per-view event, I know that I have to make the journey, wherever it is held. They’ve already announced that this show will take place in a bigger venue, I just hope it’s at least in the southeast and in a city I can fly to or drive to easily. And by then, maybe we’ll see more ROH talent get involved or even talent from other promotions.

Talking Pulp Wrasslin’: Reflecting On NWA Into the Fire

It’s been a few days since the National Wrestling Alliance’s Into the Fire pay-per-view. I tried to go to the event live but I had issues with my Internet when tickets went on sale and they sold out too fast for me to get my hands on a few. Since this event took place on my birthday, I thought that I’d make it an awesome present for myself but alas, I had to watch it on television through the Fite app on my FireStick.

I also didn’t see this live, as my friends took me out for my birthday. Instead, I watched this Sunday morning while nursing my hangover. Unfortunately, the surprise of Marty Scurll’s shocking debut was spoiled for me thanks to Twitter.

Overall, I thought Into the Fire, my first modern National Wrestling Alliance pay-per-view, was good enough to keep newer fans interested but it lacked in some areas that I want to discuss. So I guess this is kind of a review of it, even though the article isn’t labeled as such because I don’t typically review wrestling shows on Talking Pulp – although that might change.

To start, my biggest gripe about the show was match length. Every match, even the main event, which ran the longest, felt like they flew by too quickly. When I looked up what the actual match length times were, the first five matches ran between 4:15 to 9:16. The two longest matches clocked in at 12:20 and 22:00. For a two and a half hour show, these run times seem pretty scant and frankly, the matches, most of which were good albeit green in spots, felt like flashes in the pan.

Additionally, I wasn’t crazy about the pay-per-view being broadcast from the TV studio where they film Power. The main reason is the look of it. I felt like the show should have had its own distinct aesthetic to set it apart and make it feel special or next level. Granted, this could’ve been simply achieved by using different colored curtains or modified sets. I know that stuff costs money and the National Wrestling Alliance isn’t a financial juggernaut like WWE (or even AEW) but I felt like more effort should’ve been made there.

Or they could’ve moved it to a small arena in the Atlanta area. I don’t think that the promotion can sell out a decent sized arena in 2019 but even a nice hall or something like what ECW used to run shows in back in the late ’90s. Hopefully, as the NWA grows, and I sincerely hope it does, this will be something that they can do in the future. Working in marketing for nearly two decades, I think it’s important to brand the pay-per-views differently than the weekly show. As I’ve said, it can be achieved with just some minor tweaks to the studio.

I understand the concept that the episodes of NWA Power between the pay-per-views are being looked at as “seasons” with the pay-per-views themselves being looked at as “season finales” but I still think they need to differentiate them, as Into the Fire felt more like an extended episode of Power than it did a flagship event. While I’ll watch these events, regardless, I’m thinking more about making the NWA appeal to a larger audience. If you’re in business, it should be to make money. To make the most money, you have to try and appeal to the largest audience possible.

Moving on, I thought that the action in most of the matches was good. Some of the younger talent still need to refine their in-ring work but I’m not going to call out anyone specifically, as the end result was still a good show and I think that the talent is only going to improve, especially with the guidance of some of the veterans on the roster. I hope guys like Nick Aldis, James Storm, Tim Storm, Trevor Murdoch, Ken Anderson, Aron Stevens and Colt Cabana are allowing the younger stars the ability to come to them for advice.

Out of all the matches, the one I most enjoyed was the main event, two out of three falls match between NWA champion Nick Aldis and solid veteran James Storm. They put on a good match, had solid chemistry and the inclusion of Tim Storm into the story as one of the referees was a nice touch and a nice rub for a guy that doesn’t get the fanfare that I feel he deserves.

Ultimately, the high point of the entire show was the last few minutes that saw Marty Scurll, now a free agent after his time in Ring of Honor, show up to confront Nick Aldis. Obviously, this is to set up a big feud for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship that will most likely be the main event of the next big pay-per-view.

It’s damn cool to see Scurll show up and show the NWA some love. I’m assuming he is off to All Elite Wrestling in the near future, as that promotion was established by his good friends, but his presence in the NWA only helps it, even if it is just temporary.

The National Wrestling Alliance is off to a decent start, looking at this as the first pay-per-view that their newly acquired audience has seen. I hope the buyrates were solid and that it helps keep the NWA going strong, as they film more episodes of Power and build towards the next flagship show.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Television Title is coming back and will be contested for at a pay-per-view in late January. But I guess I’ll have to wait for this week’s episode of Power to find out more. And maybe I can get tickets to that show.

Lastly, I really liked Stu Bennett (formerly WWE’s Wade Barrett or Bad News Barrett) on commentary. The voice of Jim Cornette will be missed but Bennett has the chops and did a superb job calling the action.