PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.
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•OPENING MONTAGE – HIT: This was mostly a hit because it set up the main event of the Rock & Roll Express looking for their ninth reign as NWA Tag Team Champions and the footage of them through the years set a nice tone.
•COLT CABANA VS. RICKY STARKS – HIT, BUT BARELY: This was supposed to be a non-title match but before the bell could ring, Aron goddamn Stevens comes out ready to chew up scenery. Question Mark rode side saddle as Aron has his fingers in his ear as to not hear the miserable crowd that don’t like him. Stevens felt like he deserves a title shot, even though we saw him lose a pinfall to Ricky Starks in three seconds and never win a singles match. Cabana says fine, big baby, you want a title shot even though you’ve done absolutely nothing to earn or deserve one, go beat Ricky and earn one because Ricky is an actual wrestler and you’re a clown. This, I’m giving barely a hit because Colt was serious and he needed to be since Aron Stevens is already the clown, kayfabe and shoot.
•RICKY STARKS VS. ARON STEVENS, IF STEVENS WINS, HE EARNS AN NWA NATIONAL TITLE SHOT – MISS: I like Ricky, he’s a good wrestler. To me, he’s like if Sammy Guevara were a little taller but also not as ready for the big screen. I like Question Mark a lot; I make zero apologies for how much I love that stupid gimmick. But once again, like toxic masculinity, Aron Stevens ruins the party.
The match was pretty short, as expected with Power and studio wrestling, but it was mired by a two minute long feigned knee injury by Aron Stevens. I knew his knee wasn’t hurt. You knew his knee wasn’t hurt, and there ain’t enough suspension of disbelief in the world to make this work. They had the referee show concern and tend to Aron. They had Dave Marquez come from the podium to show concern and see what the referee would decide. This went on for too long even for a studio show, but I expected the move to be Question Mark will wrestle for Stevens. Nope, they went an even worse route. While all eyes were on Stevens, Question Mark clobbered Ricky Starks and then Mongrovian Spiked him as somehow the referee neither felt nor heard the assault just two feet behind him. And then Aron Stevens got the pinfall and celebrated with cartwheels to show us all his knee was never hurt; I was reminded of Daunte Culpepper with the Raiders playing against the Dolphins and running it in for a touchdown and pointing at his knee and giving the OK hand sign.
Did I mention Aron Stevens was wearing nude colored tights too? Ugh, I hate him. I petition to rename X-Pac heat as Aron heat.
•”COWBOY” JAMES STORM PROMO – HIT, KINDA: Before this segment began, Joe Galli informs us that both Nick Aldis and Storm will select their own referee for a pinfall and then flip a coin for the third fall, if needed. (Eh, whatever.)
Storm appears to be standing in his kitchen and is convinced that there’s a conspiracy from the NWA against him. He was mad that he wasn’t booked on the debut episode; he was mad he was stuck in a six man tag that eventually led to him fight Colt Cabana and lose his National Title; he was mad that the video of a three way dance between himself, Ken Anderson, and Eli Drake for number one contendership to the World’s Heavyweight Title was never aired; he may have spoken measuredly but he was clearly just mad.
He eventually turned his focus to Nick Aldis and the actual title match and declared Brian Hebner to be his choice for the first fall of the title match.
I liked the anger and frustration of Cowboy’s words while keeping a level tone and never screaming but I think he was cutting a promo more on being wronged by the NWA, at least as he sees it, rather than cutting a promo to say he’s going to kick Aldis’ ass and become World’s Champ. I would have much rather seen a more directed promo but with the same spirit, but I think with the two out of three falls and the dual referees and all, he had to circumnavigate a lot in a little time and nothing ever seemed quite focused.
•QUESTION MARK SPOT – HIT! BUT…: Y’all, I have no idea what the hell this was. A woman spoke in a vague central European accent about answers and questions while scenes of Question Mark in shoot clothes at WrestleCade (but sadly, we didn’t see Bruce Mitchell). He’s on the elevator in his mask and clothes; he’s making the rounds with Teddy Long, Stevie Ray, Ricky Morton, and Kamille and making them say Kah-rah-taaaay and do the hook hand sign. But as far as its purpose? I haven’t the slightest idea. I just know I liked it because it’s so camp! Oh, also apparently, Question Mark’s eagle name is bru-tu-ta. Or something like that? I don’t know. I could try to explain it but you’ve just got to experience it yourself. It’s a hit though, that’s for sure. It’s a dang hit, y’all.
•MELINA WITH DAVE MARQUEZ – MISS, BUT BARELY: I’m being harder on the women’s segment because they’ve had a high standard they created themselves, so this fell short but barely.
Melina did another promo ringside but this time with Marquez and standing up and thank goodness she had less time to try to search for words to fill silences with and call herself a legend. This promo wasn’t bad, but I have to grade on a curve after last week. She got a big pop, which still shocks me but okay. She looks like a star, that’s undeniable. But when she has to speak, it just doesn’t work for me. I’ll give her credit for one good line though, she said the women’s division has been good but they’ve been just a commercial break until her return. I thought that was cute, but last week she said all the women are deserving of title shots just for being there, sooooo what changed? She called herself an exquisite mosaic of all her battles she’s fought and won and, I mean, I guess. I would just like her to focus on Allysin Kay and the women’s title and say why she feels she should be champion. Instead, we get her talking about participation trophies and mosaics and who knows what else.
Allysin Kay broke up her minor word vomit, got right in her face with fire and showing how much thicker she is, and they look as if they’re about to scuffle but Thunder Rosa and Marti Belle come out and play the numbers game, ending with an incredibly bad Pedigree from Marti Belle on Kay.
What almost made this segment a hit but barely is how well Thunder Rosa knows how to play to the camera even if she’s not the focal point. She mocked Allysin’s pinkies up and curtsy and it was just perfect but soft and off to the side.
•TONY FALK’S WAFFLES AND TIRE IRONS – HIT!: This isn’t the first time this spot has aired during Power, but hot damn do I love it. I mean, after all, he taught Shawn Michaels how to speak kizarney! I can just see him in 1981, travelling the streets in his Delta 88 falling in love with both tire irons and waffles and thinking why not have both! My friend just started watching Power and saw this ad and called me from work to tell me how much he loved it. MORE TONY FALK SPOTS, Y’ALL! PLEASE!
•NICK ALDIS PROMO – HIT, HIT, AND HIT: The easy thing people do with Nick Aldis is say he’s modern day English Ric Flair, and sure the comparisons are there, but I think he can cut a promo like Jake Roberts and that’s talent. He never yells, he never wastes words, and he gets his message out and is easily understood. Sure, Jake’s promos felt grittier and maybe darker, but how they see speaking directly into the camera and perform it strike me as quite similar.
I love how Aldis started the promo with shooting down James Storm’s ideas of conspiracy by saying that the three way dance number one contender match didn’t air because Storm wasn’t even supposed to be in it but he’s the squeaky wheel that got the grease. Whew, boy! Using an old wrestling cliche that we all know a generation past loved was such a great touch, especially as Cowboy seems very much a modern and distant past wrestler at the same time.
So after letting us know that Cowboy Storm only got in a match because he bitched and moaned for it, he then says you want to be the squeaky wheel, well I’m going to drown you in grease. You’ve gotten this title match because I want to kick your ass and that’s what I’m going to do. LOVE IT, NICK!
Oh and for his referee? Tim Storm. YES! This was perfect because go back to episode three or four, we saw Aldis interrupt a ringside interview between Joe Galli and Tim Storm to remove Tim from the situation of talking retirement and work something else out with him. So this is paying off loose ends from over a month ago and is logical to the entire Nick Aldis-Tim Storm respected rivalry.
Off camera, someone asks about Kamille, and Nick perfectly stutters and stammers as if he hasn’t the words but he’s also annoyed. He’s really firing on all cylinders right now and is unquestionably the best top champion in North America. He reiterates that Kamille is her own person and if they’re not together, she’s acting on her own accord. He respects a woman’s agency. That’s my champion. He also said he’s giving her the night off, with pay though, for Into the Fire because he doesn’t want James Storm to have a single excuse.
I just can’t say enough about this segment and how over the length of it, he systematically shot down all of James Storm’s conspiracies, addressed how much he wants to beat him, and distanced himself from the Kamille goings-on.
•MAIN EVENT – ROCK & ROLL EXPRESS VS. THE WILD CARDS FOR THE NWA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS – HIT, MISS, BIGGER MISS, INCREDIBLY BIG MISS (IN THAT ORDER): Reader, I couldn’t care less about this match when it was announced last week but the opening montage and how hot the studio audience was for this match, I was ready and here for it.
It seemed like it was going to be the usual R&R match, but they switched it on us! Robert did the selling and took the beatdown and Ricky got the hot tag! They hit one of those Wild Cards with the double dropkick for the one-two-thr–OH SO CLOSE! That double dropkick, even for some 60 year old guys is still thrilling to see, especially in an era where matches have CANADIAN DESTROYERS as transition spots. (I’m looking directly at Lucha Bros and LAX.)
The Wild Cards got back on top rather quickly and isolated Robert as Wild Card Thom held him from behind and Wild Card Royce was setting up a dangerous strike with all of the theatrics, but just before Royce could strike, Ricky rolls up Royce and Robert sends Thom to the outside! We got new NWA Tag Champs in the grizzled vets of Rock & Roll Express! THIS IS A HIT! HOW GREAT IS THIS MO–WAIT, WHAT’S GOING ON! NOOOOOOOOO!
Cornette jumps in the ring to celebrate with his long time frenemies and ugh, I’ve overlooked Cornette on commentary, but this was too much. Miss.
Joe Galli is still on commentary and is beaming for his coworker and friend in Jim Cornette and discussing how important Ricky, Robert, and Corny are to each other, but in a time where you just fired him and are trying to create distance? Bigger miss.
Oh no, it got worse. After the match and a short spirited celebratory backstage promo from Ricky Morton, we get an upfront of Joe Galli, ON BEHALF OF THE NWA, thanking Jim Cornette for being himself and a legend in wrestling and yadda yadda yadda.
Yes, Corny is wrestling history and folklore, and while I think Lagana and Corgan should fire themselves instead, Corny took the fall for a stupid ass joke. Racist, sure. Insensitve, sure, but really it was just dumb and not funny. But NWA, you threw away an episode last week and this week you don’t show him on camera until the very end because Cornette is in ring and it’s unavoidable considering the moment, but either don’t draw attention to it or go all the hell in on being Team Cornette. This was just a steaming turd on such a high note. Incredibly big miss.
•NICK ALDIS CLOSING SEGMENT – HIT: The National Treasure is sitting at a kitchen bar and has an iPad standing up in front of him on the counter. He says NWA will have a new announcer for Into the Fire and for season two going forward and that for Aldis, it’s good news, but for others it may be bad news. He turns the iPad and it’s Stu Bennett!
•OVERALL – MISS: That’s a shame. We got a great Aldis promo and closing segment. We saw Ricky and Robert win the NWA Tag Team Championships for the ninth time. We saw Thunder Rosa pick her moment smartly in the women’s segment. We saw Allysin Kay get right in the face of Melina to really show intensity and size disparity. We saw a hot crowd for the main event. We saw a great but odd Question Mark spot. So much good just ruined by their inability to just let a sleeping dog in Jim Cornette lie. And for that, I cannot rate this show a hit. It took a sure fire hit and made it a miss. GET SOME DIVERSITY IN YOUR STAFF, NWA. I’m black and queer, hell I’ll do it for y’all!