Talking Pulp: 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.

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.

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.

Vids I Dig 149: Whang!: Wrestling E-Feds – Angelfire Adventures

Taken from Justin Whang’s YouTube description: The rise of the Internet in the late ’90s coincided with the most popular period in pro wrestling “The Attitude Era”. As such, wrestling and early Internet culture are inextricably tied. This was expressed with South Park Wrestlers, Fan Sites and E-Feds, which were roleplaying organizations in which fans created or took on the persona of existing wrestlers. In this episode of Angelfire Adventures, I browse what remains of some wrestling e-feds

Video Game Review: WWF King of the Ring (NES)

The original WWF wrestling game for Nintendo was a piece of shit. I mean, it was passable in 1989 when I first played it but it’s a clusterfuck of buggy controls, strange physics and is limited by its roster and only having one match type.

This was the fourth WWF game for NES, after the three Wrestlemania games. This one took the King of the Ring tournament format and brought it into the game.

Now while this is limited by having basic one-on-one or tag team matches, it does boast a bigger roster than the original Wrestlemania game.

However, what makes this much, much better than Wrestlemania is that it is playable!

This game isn’t hard to figure out pretty quickly and you certainly don’t get as frustrated with it as you do the other early WWF titles. Sadly, there isn’t much as far as move sets go. I’m not even sure if you can do finishers. This is basically a button masher and as long as you can adapt to the patterns of the game, it’s really damn easy.

But because of this being a basic bitch of a wrestling game, it gets repetitive fast and after playing through one tournament, there isn’t much else to keep your attention.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other NES wrestling games: Pro Wrestling, Tag Team Wrestling, WCW Wrestling and WWF WrestleMania Challenge.

Documentary Review: WWE 365: Alexa Bliss (2019)

Release Date: June 23rd, 2019
Cast: Alexa Bliss

WWE Network, 49 Minutes

Review:

This was the first of the WWE 365 documentaries that I watched. But based off of this one, I will probably check out the others.

I watched this one because it aired immediately after a pay-per-view I was watching and because I have really dug Alexa Bliss since she was first called up to the main WWE roster in the summer of 2016.

For having less than three years on the main roster, she has already carved out one of the best careers out of any of WWE’s female superstars in history. Sure, she’s not quite on the Trish Stratus or Fabulous Moolah level (yet) but her rise to the top was almost immediate and she hasn’t let go of that brass ring other than where injuries kept her out of action.

What’s really compelling about this documentary is that it follows her for a year and it was the year where she started out on top but had to work through a lengthy and dangerous injury in an effort to get back to form and to once again rule the women’s roster.

Alexa has a great personality, is pretty damn likable and she gets to be herself and not just a character on television. Her charm and charisma come through and this solid episode of 365 allows you to connect with her on a real level.

You learn about her past struggles, her loves outside of the ring and you see her in a different light, as she has mostly been a villain since winning her first (of many) championships.

For wrestling fans, WWE 365 is worth checking out. For fans of Alexa Bliss, this installment is a must watch.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other WWE 365 episodes, as well as their other documentary series, WWE 24.

Video Game Review: WWF WrestleMania (NES)

I was so excited for this game when it was coming out. I remember my cousin and I playing this game all night before Wrestlemania V. While we were waiting to see the Mega Powers due battle on the “grandest stage of them all” we simulated the upcoming match, over and over, taking turns as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.

But I also remember how frustrated we were playing the game. The mechanics stunk, even for a wrestling game from 1989. We tried other characters but none of them seemed to work too well.

For those wondering, this features a massive roster of six WWF superstars: Hulk Hogan, the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Andre the Giant, the Honky Tonk Man and Bam Bam Bigelow, who made us laugh our asses off because his special move was a friggin’ cartwheel.

Playing this game now is even worse than it was in 1989. Sure, Pro Wrestling had bad controls but one can still play it and figure things out. This game is just a mess though and it’s damn boring to look at. At least Pro Wrestling and Tag Team Wrestling had a bit of visual flair to them.

WWF WrestleMania is just mindnumbingly bad. But WWF games would get better in time. The follow up to this at least looked better. But really, WWF games didn’t start to flourish and improve until the next generation on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other NES wrestling games: Pro Wrestling, Tag Team Wrestling, WCW Wrestling and WWF WrestleMania Challenge.