Talking Pulp: The National Wrestling Alliance: Out of the Fire

For almost two decades now, World Wrestling Entertainment hasn’t had any real competition, at least in the United States, its home country. But even on a worldwide scale, it’s been pretty hard for other companies to rise up and challenge them. It’s become an empire, poaching the best talent from everywhere on Earth while becoming a boring shell of what it once was. Because without someone really on your heels, what are you running from and what are you running towards?

In the last year or so, the landscape has changed pretty immensely.

Ex-WWE stars and other stars not wanting to ply their trade in that company (because of how they’ve wasted and misused talent) have started to band together, make noise and a new company has formed: All Elite Wrestling.

This fledgling AEW is being bankrolled by the Khan family, who own the Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham F.C. after becoming billionaires in the automotive parts industry.

The Khans teamed up with an ex-WWE star, Cody Rhodes, as well as some of the top North American wrestlers that were working in Japan, one of which is arguably the best in the world, right now: Kenny Omega.

They then started doing their own pay-per-view events, showcasing all the great talent that left WWE or that didn’t want to go there. Then they got a major television deal with TNT, the same network that used to host World Championship Wrestling’s weekly Nitro program, the show that nearly broke WWE two decades ago until WCW imploded.

Companies like Ring of Honor and Impact (formerly TNA) started stepping their game way up. New Japan Pro-Wrestling started coming Stateside and everything started to evolve in an exciting way.

But this isn’t really about any of those companies. It’s about the one really old promotion that seemingly hadn’t come up for air in a really long time. A promotion that no one was looking at because for most fans, old and new, it had died out years ago, even if its championships still existed and were contested for at indy wrestling shows that didn’t have much, if any, national exposure.

I’m talking about the National Wrestling Alliance, the NWA, the once gigantic organization that served as a network and governing body between all the territories in the United States.

The thing is, the NWA never really left. On the grander scale of the professional wrestling landscape, however, it hasn’t made very much noise in quite some time. In fact, it’s been pretty damn mum and kind of an afterthought once the WWE absorbed it’s top competitors and nearly every major video library of every territory that got swallowed up by the global juggernaut. They even absorbed the libraries of several NWA-allied companies from yesteryear.

Two years ago, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame bought the National Wrestling Alliance. He had some prior experience running Revolution Pro Wrestling and handling creative for TNA, now Impact Wrestling. However, TNA had a lot of issues and Corgan ended up on the outs. But he had always had a love for professional wrestling and decided to purchase the NWA with the hopes of building it back up into the large brand that it once was.

In the time since, Corgan has grown the NWA’s exposure and with the help of his current world champion, Nick Aldis, he’s brought some real prominence back to the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

The title was defended in a major marquee match at the culture shifting pay-per-view event All In. Aldis even dropped the title to the soon-to-be AEW Executive Vice President, Cody Rhodes. Although, Aldis won it back a few months later in another massive match that got a lot of exposure.

The thing is, people were talking about the NWA and it’s premier title once again. It had national exposure, it helped make Aldis a more recognized performer on a larger scale and it planted seeds for something bigger on the horizon.

So back in October of this year, AEW was finally ready to debut their television show on Wednesday nights. WWE then decided to take their developmental brand, NXT, off of their WWE Network streaming service in order to move it to television, on the USA Network, to go head-to-head with AEW in order to try and keep that brand from becoming a juggernaut on the level that WCW once was. You know, because Vince McMahon is kind of a dick and has to own it all, unopposed.

This battle for wrestling ratings supremacy was coined the Wednesday Night War, as a play on words of the Monday Night War that was the nickname of the intense ratings battles between WWF Raw and WCW Nitro from 1995 through 2001.

But while all this was going on, the National Wrestling Alliance decided that it was going to return to the ways of old and start filming wrestling shows in a studio setting like they used to do in the ’80s, at the height of the organization’s popularity.

Knowing that nostalgia can be a very good thing and that this sort of studio presentation would generate the right kind of feeling in old school wrestling fans that miss the days of yore, Billy Corgan gave us NWA Power.

Personally, I was aware that the show was coming and that it would be broadcast on YouTube weekly on Tuesdays at 6:05, similar to how the NWA shows of old started at :05 on the hour because that’s how TBS did things back then. But I didn’t know what to expect or if I’d even like the end product that much. I knew it was going for the nostalgia thing and while that made me happy, I was unsure of what the end result would be. It could be disastrous if handled poorly and in a cheesy, hammy way that insulted fans’ intelligence.

Then the first episode dropped and as soon as I heard Dokken’s “Into the Fire” blare through my TV’s stereo speakers, I was immediately in the right place. I felt a nice ease come over my body, releasing the apprehension I had and then I heard Jim Cornette’s voice, the excitement of the live crowd in the studio and the classic blue ring apron and a set that looked like it was from the era it was emulating.

I didn’t care that NWA Power looked dated, that’s what made it so damn cool. But it also didn’t just rely on that. It taps into the right vibe and hits the right notes for fans of what the NWA once was but it doesn’t rely so much on old faces, as it showcases a lot of young, newer talent, most of whom seem like they’ve got legit chops in the ring and in the realm of being entertainers.

As each new episode dropped, my rekindled love of the National Wrestling Alliance grew. And despite the great shows that AEW and NXT have been putting out since the start of their war, it’s NWA Power that I most look forward to each week. There’s just something special about it. It’s pure and it sparks that feeling that I used to get watching wrestling when I was a kid. But nostalgia alone can’t do that.

NWA Power has stars and I don’t mean that to come across like they’re the stars of tomorrow. No. These are the stars of today. And while they might not be on the biggest platform, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete and also, who’s to say that the biggest platform is the right platform for everyone? It’s been clear that it hasn’t been right for a lot of wrestling talent. And, at the end of the day, where the biggest platform fails their talent, it only benefits companies like the National Wrestling Alliance.

Billy Corgan has big plans for new things going forward. There’s a reality show starting soon, which works as a talent search for indy wrestlers that want a shot at being on NWA Power. There is also pay-per-views, which the NWA has streaming through Fite TV, an app worth getting. Plus, there’s the ongoing Ten Pounds of Gold documentary series that follows the story of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

So this Saturday night, the NWA is putting on a big pay-per-view called Into the Fire. And that’s honestly the inspiration for me to put down my thoughts in this article. Reason being, I haven’t been this excited for a wrestling pay-per-view in decades, as far back as the Monday Night War era.

I feel like I just have to tip my hat to the National Wrestling Alliance, Billy Corgan, Dave Lagana, Nick Aldis and all the talent in front of and behind the camera for making me feel as excited as I do. Being a wrestling fan has been a really rocky road for a long time with only one big show in town. But now things are changing and weathering the storm ended up being worth it.

While the big pay-per-view is called Into the Fire, the National Wrestling Alliance really just rose like a phoenix out of the fire: reborn and ready to ignite the hearts of fans across the globe.

Film Review: Girls Town (1959)

Also known as: The Innocent and the Damned (reissue title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1959
Directed by: Charles F. Haas
Written by: Robert Hardy Andrews, Robert Smith
Music by: Van Alexander, Paul Anka
Cast: Mamie Van Doren, Mel Tormé, Ray Anthony, Paul Anka, James Mitchum, The Platters

Albert Zugsmith Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 89 Minutes

Review:

“This is Chip’s father.” – Michael Clyde, “You killed my son!” – Mr. Gardener, “I’m sorry for you, Mr. Gardener, but you’re dialing the wrong number.” – Silver Morgan

This movie was the focal point of the first episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000‘s sixth season, the first full season to star Mike Nelson. It was also the last episode that I needed to cover for that season, as I had watched and reviewed the rest of the pictures from that lot. In fact, I have one episode left in season four and then a handful or so in season five.

So on this journey of reviewing every film featured on MST3K, I have come across a lot of ’50s delinquent movies. While this one is equal to the quality of the rest of the lot, which doesn’t say much, this may be the most star-studded of them, as it features rising star Mamie Van Doren, as well as musicians Mel Tormé, Paul Anka and The Platters. It also has James Mitchum in it but James’ career never rose to the heights that his father’s did.

Sadly, despite the musical flourish, Girls Town is a pretty boring movie.

The story follows Van Doren’s Silver Morgan, who is sent to a Catholic reform school, where she doesn’t quite fit in. Additionally, Silver has been accused of killing a rapist but the girl that actually did the killing was Silver’s sister. The sister is then blackmailed by a creep who is into “hands-off drag racing”. The same creep has plans of selling the sister off to some Tijuana slave traders.

Yes, that’s really the plot. I didn’t pull any of that out of my ass. It’s fucking insane, I know.

And well, the film itself is just a baffling mess that deals with heavy subjects like rape, sex slavery and swooning over Paul f’n Anka. That’s pretty hardcore shit for 1959!

Anyway, there’s nothing all that noteworthy about the film, other than its cast and how nuts the story is.

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: other delinquent movies featured on MST3K.

Documentary Review: Tommaso Ciampa: Blackheart (2019)

Release Date: October 9th, 2019
Cast: Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Triple H

WWE Network, 29 Minutes

Review:

I like Tommaso Ciampa and was pretty bummed when he got hurt earlier this year and didn’t get to pass the torch to his best friend in a match that most assuredly would have been another classic between the two.

That being said, I’m now really glad that he’s back and doing his thing.

However, his injury and road to recovery were pretty tough things to deal with and roadblocks he had to overcome in order to get back to where he was before he had to leave.

This short documentary was made for the WWE Network and it focuses on Ciampa before surgery and how he is putting more focus into his family during his time off.

It’s a pretty good piece and it shows the man in a light that most people haven’t seen him in.

Overall, I thought it was actually too short and that there was a bigger story to tell.

Regardless, it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of the guy and want to see a peek at what he’s like beyond his character.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: WWE 365 and WWE 24.

Book Review: ‘King of Strong Style: 1980-2014’ by Shinsuke Nakamura & Jocelyne Allen (translator)

This popped up as a suggestion on my Kindle, which made me happy. I’ve been following Shinsuke Nakamura’s career for years.

Being a fan of puroresu a.k.a. Japanese professional wrestling, I’ve watched Nakamura in New Japan going back to his time as a rookie. He’s since become a legend and now he wrestles in the United States for the WWE, where he is underutilized, if I’m being honest. But Vince McMahon doesn’t seem to have a great track record with Japanese superstars. But I digress.

This book is presented as an interview. It’s a couple hundred pages long interview but it is still pretty interesting from start to finish, as Shinsuke Nakamura is a pretty interesting dude.

The first few chapters deal with Nakamura’s childhood and his love of professional wrestling, which was in opposition of his father’s love of baseball. But we also learn what his school life was like and how he was pretty athletic between playing basketball and excelling at amateur wrestling.

After that, Nakamura delves into his professional wrestling career in the years that he worked for New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

This is where the book really brings the meat and potatoes. Nakamura is pretty respectful of the other professionals around him but he still provides great stories and insight into one of the coolest wrestling promotions on the planet.

For those who like reading wrestling biographies, this one is pretty good and it is very different, as there aren’t a lot of biographies on Japanese puroresu stars in the United States.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other recent biographies by professional wrestlers and mixed martial artists.

Film Review: 711 Ocean Drive (1950)

Also known as: Blood Money (working title)
Release Date: July 1st, 1950
Directed by: Jospeh M. Newman
Written by: Richard English, Francis Swann
Music by: Sol Kaplan
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Joanne Dru, Otto Kruger

Frank Seltzer Productions, Essaness Pictures, 102 Minutes

Review:

“Time wounds all heels.” – Mal Granger

711 Ocean Drive was showcased on TCM’s Noir Alley a few years ago but it happened to air on a weekend that I was traveling, so I missed it. It’s since been in my Prime Video queue for a really long time but I finally got around to checking it out.

The film stars Edmond O’Brien, who is always dynamite in these sort of pictures. He’s no different here, as he commands the screen every time he walks into frame.

However, Otto Kruger also has an incredibly powerful presence here but when didn’t he?

Both of these guys are the things that make this picture work as well as it does and frankly, they kept me captivated and at full attention even if I thought that the script was kind of weak.

I like the premise about a telephone repair man finding a way to intercept horse racing results. However, even for the time, the premise and how it’s done in the film seems pretty far-fetched. If horse racing results are delayed from the east coast to the west coast, couldn’t mobsters just get other mobsters on the phone from across the country and get them to read them off the results as they happen, live? Landline telephones pretty much worked like they do now. So while I liked the idea behind the premise, it doesn’t feel wholly fleshed out in any sort of logical way. And if it was this way back then, I need to build a time machine to show these halfwits how it’s done.

Anyway, I’m being nitpicky.

That setup is there just to get the story moving, right?

Facetiousness aside, looking past that issue, I do mostly like the movie once it gets rolling. It’s well acted, as I’ve stated but it has a hardness to it. Hell, we see a greedy, double crossing shitbird get murdered by a car crushing him into a pier railing! That’s some hardcore stuff for 1950!

In the end, this movie is more good than bad, I guess. It just ultimately left me underwhelmed and baffled.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other noir films like The Miami Story, Johnny Allegro, The Killer That Stalked New York and Escape In the Fog.

Film Review: Killer’s Kiss (1955)

Also known as: Kiss Me, Kill Me (working title)
Release Date: September 21st, 1955 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Howard Sackler, Stanley Kubrick
Music by: Gerald Fried
Cast: Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Ruth Sobotka

Minotaur Productions, United Artists, 67 Minutes

Review:

“It’s crazy how you can get yourself in a mess sometimes and not even be able to think about it with any sense-and yet not be able to think about anything else. You get so you’re no good for anything or anybody. Maybe it begins by taking life too serious. Anyway, I think that’s the way it began for me. Just before my fight with Rodriguez three days ago…” – Davy Gordon

I consider myself to be a massive Stanley Kubrick fan. However, I’ve yet to see this film, which came very, very early in his career. Like his other early film The Killing, this one is a classic film-noir, shot in black and white but with an extra level of grittiness that can only be described as Kubrickian.

Now this came out a year before The Killing and in a lot of ways, it feels like a rough draft or a practice run before he made that other, superior noir picture.

That’s not to say that this is weak or unworthy of admiration. The Killing was absolutely superb but I don’t think that Kubrick could’ve made it as good as it was without having done Killer’s Kiss first.

This film shows that even if Kubrick hadn’t quite reached greatness, at this point, he was always a visual storyteller. While employing several atmospheric tropes of the classic film-noir style, this movie also uses a lot of interesting angles and it showcases New York City in a way that even in its cold bleakness, it feels alive and becomes a character within the picture.

The story is about an aging boxer, at the end of his career. He falls for a taxi dancer across the courtyard from his apartment but he gets pulled into her seedy world and draws the ire of her villainous employer. One thing leads to another and their world is turned upside down. Luckily, this one surprisingly has a happy ending and the two lead characters are at least good people just trying to escape the hell that has become their lives.

Nothing all that remarkable happens in the movie. The plot is straightforward with a few noir-esque swerves but it’s very, very short and even if the plot has a lot of stages to it, it’s still pretty simplistic.

The film’s greatest quality is its look and its style. Experimenting with the noir genre here, allowed Kubrick’s The Killing to be a much better movie than just its script. But this certainly isn’t a waste of anyone’s time. This is pretty solid and engaging with characters that you care about.

In the end, this isn’t a bad outing from Stanley Kubrick and it helped lay the foundation for one of the greatest careers in film history.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Kubrick’s other noir picture: The Killing.

Retro Relapse: The Truth About Strength & Resilience

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Whether you’re a man or a woman, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “You don’t know your own strength” at some point during your life. Never have truer words been spoken to you. It doesn’t matter if you are a strongman able to throw giant tires half the length of a football field or a petite girl trail running. Inside all of us lies more strength and resilience than we know. All it takes is that extra something to push it out of us.

I’ve had a few situations in my life where I’ve come to realize this after being faced with a scenario where I had to tap into something deeper in order to succeed or in some cases, survive. The most recent example came just yesterday, as I pushed myself harder than I should have and found myself in a potentially life-threatening situation.

I went hiking at Estero Bay Preserve, which I like due to the muddy and watery spots, as well as the changes in environment for a seemingly small area encased within the outer trail: a 4.5 mile loop. I have mapped out a course using every inch of trail available at this state park. My custom course is a hair over 6.5 miles, using unmarked trails I can extend it to about 10 miles. Yesterday, I attempted to do the 6.5 mile version because I knew that I could complete it in well under three hours and I needed to spend my day productively, as I was getting cabin fever sitting at home on a Sunday.

The mistake I made was starting at just before 1 p.m., as I usually start at 8-9 a.m. The reason why this was a mistake is that it was hot as shit outside. My weather app said it was 96 degrees but it said it felt like 105. It wasn’t unbearable when I started but by the time I got over 3 miles in, 96 degrees felt like 120. I found myself at a point in the trail where I was the furthest out and no matter which route I walked back, I had 3 miles ahead of me. In this situation, I chose the path of least resistance.

When things got unbearable, it hit me like a brick wall. Leading up to it, I felt myself getting hotter and I rested here and there but when it hit, it hit hard. I drank three liters of water, not to mention the two 20 oz. bottles I had within an hour before hiking. It didn’t seem to matter. My skin was extremely hot, my head felt like it was boiling inside and I was sweating profusely. When I got about another mile, I was still sipping on the water I had but I was no longer sweating. I felt the need to piss but my body couldn’t urinate. My vision was somewhat blurred and I was really sluggish as I continued down the trail. I was feeling the effects of what was close to becoming heat stroke.

Each time I got to a place with sufficient shade, I would rest for a few minutes out of the sun: sipping water. There weren’t a lot of shady areas, so the stretches between them seemed almost endless, as I struggled in the heat. When I got to some shade that I knew was less than a mile from my car, I could feel myself getting worse, even as I laid in the shade. I was alone, no one was there and I had to rely on myself to get me back to my vehicle, more water and a cold A/C. I didn’t think I could move at all but I knew I had to push myself because if I stopped again, I wouldn’t get up. I had carelessly put myself in one of the most dangerous situations I have ever been in.

But I got up, I pushed myself harder than I ever had. It was hard, part of me wanted to keel over and just wish for sunset and rain. I kept on walking. What was less than twenty minutes seemed like hours and I got hotter and hotter. I tried to distract my mind and think of other things but it wasn’t possible. It was literally hell but I didn’t stop.

After getting to my car, getting home, taking a cold shower for an hour and passing out, I woke up knowing that I had tapped into something that usually isn’t there. When I’m in the gym and need to push that extra bit, I do but I know if forced I could go even harder. Same thing goes for when I do other physical activities. If it gets too hard and there is an easy out, usually we take it. It isn’t until we’re forced or some other circumstance arises that most of us unlock that extra resilience and strength.

When I get to that point where I feel like giving up, I remember moments like this. I remember that I’ve faced some harrowing shit and walked away. I’ve also dealt with the worst that the universe could throw at me and overcome that. It’s not to brag because I’m not special. We all have this. We just have to remember it when we’re down or when we need to overcome an obstacle whether physical, mental or emotional.

It’s too easy to tap out.