NWA HARD TIMES HITS & MISSES 1/24: Thunder Rosa vs. Allysin Kay, Storm vs. Ken Anderson, Cross vs. Starks, Dice vs. Maff, Murdoch vs. Question Mark

By J.R. Harris, PWTorch contributor

Wrestling Night in America Reunion: PWTorch columnist Greg Parks is joined by former PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill for a full match-by-match preview of WrestleMania 36
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•TV TITLE FIRST ROUND: TREVOR MURDOCH VS. QUESTION MARK – HIT: Keeping these TVtitle matches to the 6:05 time limit (outside of the final, at least) was key to making the show feel shorter and well paced but also lent to the whole PPV feeling like an extended Power episode. I thought for sure that Question Mark would get the win since he hadn’t been pinned yet but also wondered how they’d match him against Dan Maff, but it didn’t matter because Trevor Murdoch won after two top rope bulldogs. I love Trevor and always have and this tournament was built to make him a good blue collar, fight from underneath when needed babyface. And with the respect and admiration of the crowd, I know he’s got to be happy he’s back wrestling and appreciated. Good move, NWA, putting him over here.

•TV TITLE FIRST ROUND: ZICKY DICE VS. DAN MAFF – HIT: HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE OUTLANDISH ZICKY DICE? I had it all wrong at first sight but Stu is with me. Stu said that he first saw Zicky, he didn’t like him but he grows on you like a fungus. Well said. Before the match began, Dice was being outlandish, picking up the positioned TV TItle to kiss and also lick it! Yuck but so Zicky!

Dan Maff is huge, but seeing how I never heard of him in his near eighteen year career, I wonder how someone so massive remained hidden from our eyes and Vince’s especially. It would not be Zicky’s night as he lost to a behemoth outsider but I thought he came out a bigger character. He will be a long term star and could be an upper mid card person in limited bursts. His stock is very high.

•TV TITLE FIRST ROUND: MATT CROSS VS. RICKY STARKS – HIT: This was where I wondered why outsiders got straight into the tournament but Zicky, who is an NWA athlete, had to compete twice just to see Maff in the first round as punishment. Why not have an exhibition of outsiders compete for a spot instead? I get that it’s an NWA show and no one paid to see two ROH wrestlers go at it but I think you should take care of your own and Zicky.

Stroke Daddy can really toe the line between confidence and cocky. In a light sea breeze, he could easily be a heel. Going forward and moving up the card, he has to pick a lane and tighten that up.

Cross and Starks were of similar size, speed, and strength but Cross showed more strength I felt with some of his rope work. Entertaining and well paced, Starks goes over and of course he does. He’s the guy. We know this.

•TV TITLE FIRST ROUND: TIM STORM VS. KEN ANDERSON – MISS: Tim Storm came to talk to Marquez and the way this was set up made it seem like Tim would enter the ring and wait to see if Ken would answer the bell to enter. Marquez asks IF Ken isn’t here and Tim cuts a good babyface promo about the NWA being a family (instead of a universe) and how he’ll make Mama Storm proud IF Ken is here. And then it’s over. Tim walks off and we’re informed by Galli and Bennett that Anderson wasn’t medically cleared. This is all so weird. When did this happen? Where did this happen? When did you know this would be the script if this injury is kayfabe? What service do you think you’re doing your only white meat babyface by having him miss a match with Zane Dawson due to injury on Zane and now also the replacement Ken Anderson? Just weird screwy booking. Tim can talk though. So it was miss segment but not because of anything Storm did. He was a bright spot in this muck.

•STU BENNETT’S BREAKING NEWS – HIT: Stu has a new catchphrase as he’s afraid he’s got some… BREAKING NEWS for us. This was a filler segment but needed. Thank you, NWA, for not rushing into another PPV immediately. Pushing the Crockett Cup to April is a great move. However, telling us you’re taking it out the studio and not telling us what venue or city is a bad move. But kudos for waiting til April.

•NWA TAG TEAM TITLES – WILD CARDS (w/Mae, Kamille) VS. STORM & DRAKE vs. ROCK & ROLL EXPRESS (C) – MISS: I’ve been very critical of RNR Express and I won’t stop here. They’re just too past their prime to be taken seriously as real threats or champions. Eli Drake was a star in this match and brought all the movement, energy, and big moves and got the crowd into it from the jump and from his hot tag. He’s ready to be pushed to the main event. Saying that makes this all the more curious. Wild Cards never win anything since joining Strictly Business and one of them is afraid to fight and hasn’t had sex, so we’re made to think he’s a real L7 weenie. I’ve said this every week now but Isaacs and Latimer are making Aldis look bad. After, the new champs talk with Marquez and just display really good chemistry riffing off each other.

•NWA WOMEN’S WORLD TITLE – THUNDER ROSA VS ALLYSIN KAY (C) – HIT BUT CONFUSING: Thunder Rosa won the women’s title with her full face painted and the adoration of the crowd. She’s as babyface as it can get and perhaps more than now-former champ, Allysin Kay. As a match, this was a solid 2.5 to 3 stars for me, and I loved how they weaved in fatigue as part of the match. It helped add a touch of desperation and realism, but also some danger because they’re still taking bumps.

The first half of the match seemed to be just trading turns on who gets to be in control, but mid-match, Kay powerbombed Rosa onto the apron from the studio floor and it was a steady climb to the finish, including some great near-falls after Kay went for a tombstone and her AK-47 finish. Rosa went over with her Thunder Driver and it wasn’t the cleanest or best looking, but it was effective as telling and finishing a story.

So the main reason I found this result so confusing is because it felt like the popularity of Rosa got away from them. Everything lined up for Melina to be, at least, a transitional champ on the road to Rosa’s title reign. This felt like a rushed course correction of Thunder Rosa becoming so popular and over as a babyface, that they’ve changed the result here and they’ll figure out the rest later–which means Melina probably being jealous and turning on her, that aged trope.

•MARTY SCURLL AND NICK ALDIS W/ GALLI – HIT: Marty wants his title shot and Aldis is willing to give it to him but not so fast, my friend! (Lee Corso, amirite?) Aldis makes sure to spoil tonight’s match with Flip Gordon and stack the deck against Scurll because he’ll put the title on the line against Gordon and if Gordon wins, he’s champ. Plain and simple, right? If Aldis wins, then from here on out, all the movement in the story between Scurll and Aldis will be on Aldis’ terms. Such a politicking and dickish heel, I love it.

•TV TITLE SECOND ROUND: DAN MAFF VS TREVOR MURDOCH – 51% HIT: Trevor slides into the main event with a win via top rope bulldog over Maff, but it was cool to see the old school looking Murdoch go over a muscle monster with a classic era finish and while fighting underneath. If you’re the kind of person who is tired of top rope dives outside the ring and coreographed spotfests, then Trevor is your man. He’s got an ugly mug, he hits hard, he can sell, his offense is from the heyday of NWA, and the fans love him and he’s so happy to be back in wrestling that it shows in his face. I can’t say enough good things about Trevor Murdoch. This match should be a miss but seeing Trevor use his selling skills and fight as an underdog at his size made it just cross the threshold into hit…

Dan Maff, however, he’s only got one match in him and we saw it against Zicky Dice. So that may be why Vince never came calling and why I’ve never heard of an 18 year veteran with zero buzz. We should’ve gotten Zicky Dice vs. Murdoch instead. That could have been a fun four to six minutes.

•TV TITLE SECOND ROUND: TIM STORM VS RICKY STARKS – NEUTRAL: Forget the match, the match is unimportant here. Ricky Starks won and moved into the final versus Trevor Murdoch. That was the right decision and I thought this tournament was made for him. Also he came out in a different outfit, reminiscent of Macho Man in Wrestlemania IV, so that was heavy foreshadowing. That’s tertiary to everything else, though, because Tim Storm, your pure white meat babyface, fought only one match in the tournament and it was against another babyface?! Not only that, we haven’t seen Storm win a match in a long while either, so it’s going to get harder to keep buying to his fiery promos and then come out and lose another big match. Also, if the thinking was Tim to lose to give Ricky a definitive babyface rub, that’s a waste of Tim Storm. He can do that in a match for the title or as a champion losing the belt, but this was just not a good look for Tim Storm or efficient usage of him.

•NWA NATIONAL TITLE – SCOTT STEINER VS SHOOTER STEVENS (C) – TERRIBLE MISS: The best thing about this match was that it was announced as a throwaway on the previous Power, the title was added as up for grabs right before the show to no announcement, but was greatly explained away Nick Aldis politcking to get Steiner a title shot for having his back. Twice in one week, they’ve characterized Aldis as a backstage nuisance fighting to get his way and it fits his look and character. Well done.

The match is not worth the time of watching nor writing as Steiner is just done. He has nothing left to give. At least it was only two overhead belly-to-belly suplexes instead of a whole match.
Shooter comes down showing the degrees more than the faceplate. Shooter won after Question Mark interfered to keep Stevens from losing in a Steiner Recliner. Stevens took his belt and slinked away but allowed Question Mark to fall victim to the Recliner instead. A guy who was red hot and never lost has now lost to Trevor Murdoch and been placed in a submission and left to suffer alone to a mummified Scott Steiner. More curious booking decisions. At least we’re gearing up for the split of Shooter and Question Mark.

•NWA WORLD’S HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE – FLIP GORDON VS NICK ALDIS (C) – MISS: A good match with zero heat, no long term explanation of the connection between Gordon and Scurll, and even a not-so-good elbow drop from the champ made this match just a big dud. Athletically, it was fine and having a smaller Gordon allowed Aldis to show some power in his offence. This match is not worth watching though and should be on Power instead (even though most of this show felt like a long Power episode). No amount of good wrestling could rescue this match from an abyss of don’t-care from me because NWA did nothing to make me care. Add this to the losing night for Wild Cards and Strictly Business continues to take it on the chin.

•NWA TV TITLE TOURNAMENT FINAL – RICKY STARKS VS TREVOR MURDOCH – HIT: Rick Starks is a goddamn powerhouse! He executed a perfect sitout powerbomb from the corner to the middle of the ring on Murdoch and did it without a buckle in the knees or sign of wear! If for nothing else, this match is a hit just for that spot. It was simply incredible because Trevor can’t help that spot, that’s all Stroke Daddy strength. And in a night where Starks won with speed and agility, seeing his power game added a new dimension to the new TV Champion.

Trevor Murdoch changed his game again since he couldn’t fight from underneath against the smaller Starks, but he sold well and allowed Starks to show strength. Murdoch made Starks a star and put himself in a good position too, even in defeat, because the fans love him and we know he’s got the talent to be more than just a gatekeeper/entry level veteran. I wanted Murdoch to win this in my heart, and when he won over Question Mark, I became hopeful, but from the beginning, myself and the rest of Ten Pounds of Talk knew this was Ricky’s to lose and they did a good job building him up.

•OVERALL – NEUTRAL: This was a good show. If this were two episodes of Power, I’d say both were hits. Sadly, these weren’t Power and this was a show I had to pay for and I have to judge it accordingly. I liked switching the women’s title, even if completely unexpected and a bit confusing; I liked the building of Murdoch and crowning of Starks; I liked Aldis applying pressure to Scurll; I loved watching Eli Drake tonight, especially; I loved that we got zero Ken Anderson. I didn’t like some of the booking decisions because I fear for where stories will go and how cliche and hack they’ll be as we get there. I’d say watch this show. It was better than Into the Fire and paced out quite well, but, if you can watch for free? Well then you’ve watched a hit. If you have to pay for it, you’re going to wonder just how much you actually enjoyed this too. That’s hard times, daddy.

RECOMMENDED: NWA POWER HITS & MISSES 1/21: Ricky Morton challenges Nick Aldis for NWA Title, James Storm and Eli Drake talk, Shooter Stevens Karate Demonstration, Melina, more

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