“If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.” –Henry V (Act IV, Scene iii)
The COVID-era of professional wrestling has stymied the growth and progress of an already-struggling American independent scene now for more than a year. And there are few promotions that can feel the pain inflicted by the pandemic more acutely than the National Wrestling Alliance. Before Spring of 2020, the NWA was getting hot—their web show, NWA Powerrr was the tentpole for a promotion that leaned in heavily to vibes of nostalgia harkening back to the late ’70s through late ’80s of the Territory Era of pro wrestling. This provided a foundation that was bringing a surge of positive attention and eyeballs. And then… the world ground to a halt as coronavirus became a part of our daily lexicon. While major U.S. promotions were able to weather the storm, that was not to be the case for the NWA. They would not run an official event under their branded banner again in the year 2020.
Back For the Attack is the NWA’s official return to action. The show, however, has something of a somber tone as it’s dedicated to recently fallen member of the NWA’s roster and staff: Joseph Hudson, also known as Jocephus and the Question Mark. We are first treated to an abridged version of a pre-filmed promo by the competitors we will see in the main event: Aron Stevens and NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis, that was first released on social media over the weekend. Stevens, Hudson’s former Tag Team Partner gives an impassioned promo not only conveying his connection to his fallen partner, but also making it clear that this Aron Stevens is all business. With the duty to fight for the honor of his friend, Stevens’ promo expresses that the comedic personas that he wore in the past for the NWA were no more – and in their place was a true competitor. Nick Aldis on the other hand, was, as always, the unflappable champion ready to take any and all comers. Including Stevens.
As the video opening fades, we’re brought back to the NWA Powerrr set at the Georgia Public Broadcasting studios in Atlanta. The look is familiar, but there are small, subtle differences. Joe Galle is now partnered with Tim Storm at the commentary booth instead of Stu Bennet. Kyle Davis standing in the place of David Marquez. For a small, independent PPV, there were of course the occasional hiccups, especially on audio. However, the production crew did a good job of hiding their negatives as much as possible, such as ensuring that there were nearly no shots of the studio audience. This allowed the outsized sound the fans made to more than make up for the fact that there were hardly any fans truly in attendance. Overall the impression came off that there were far more fans to cheer on the National Wrestling Alliance’s return than were actually present.
Nick Aldis came out to the NWA Powerrr podium with interviewer Kyle Davis. This was a callback to the energetic promo that Aldis had cut on the first episode of Powerrr as the NWA staked their claim on their chunk of the wrestling scene. This promo was meant to evoke similar feelings upon NWA’s return, but one couldn’t help but feel that this was not the same NWA that we had seen last.
Once the prelude had concluded, the time for action commenced.
Slice Boogie def. Jax Dane, Jordan Clearwater, and Crimson
A four-way matches go, this contest sadly did little favors to any of the competitors. From the outset, the goal of each wrestler seems to be to engineer as many one on one scenarios as possible, with very little done to cover the blatancy of this over-used tactic in multi-person matches. Crimson, who has not been an active competitor in the pre-COVID NWA, comes off as having something of a return of his own, with multiple chances to execute big power moves his offense is rather known for. Likewise the announcers made several callbacks to his tag team with Jax Dane as the pair began to ally in the middle stretch of the match.
Slice Boogie primarily absorbed the offense of others for a majority of the match, but as the close began to near, he found himself against Jordan Clearwater who had managed to clear the ring of Crimson and Dane with a flurry of fast-paced attacks. As the pair brought the match to a close, Slice Boogie emerged victorious after a frankly sloppy closing sequence where nobody seemed to cleanly hit a maneuver, and sadly, the cameras caught every moment. **3/4
Segment: May Valentine w/ Rinauro
We’re introduced to the NWA’s new backstage interviewer, May Valentine as she interviews Sal Rinauro, who is not on the card. May’s speech is clearly stilted and being read verbatim from something, but as can be an unintended benefit when it comes to the NWA – the cheesiness of her approach hits a few nostalgic beats that is the NWA’s strength. Sal Rinauro also predicts a loss later in the night for Da Pope, but I honestly can’t remember anyone asking him for his opinion.
Tyrus def. Kratos
Sadly a match that added little to the NWA’s return event, and possibly detracted from it without even considering the match quality. After last year’s #speakingout movement that swept the world of wrestling in the wake of #metoo, one wonders if adding Tyrus to the roster after his sexual harassment allegations is the right move to make, juxtaposed with having former World Champion Tim Storm instead calling the match meer feet away from the ring where the match was to take place.
The match itself was not the best offering the National Wrestling Alliance could provide in their return event. At the opening of the contest Kratos and Tyrus try to assert power and dominance, with Kratos getting just slightly getting the better of his larger opponent. However, the heavily taped shoulder of Kratos is the obvious weakness that Tyrus begins to exploit on his way to victory. Kratos, for what its worth, moves decently in the ring, though his selling psychology is questionable as he ends up on the mat often for selling an injured arm. Tyrus however seems sloppy and imprecise with his work, and his work lacks impact. A lackluster elbow drop would net Tyrus his first victory with the NWA. **1/4
Segment: May Valentine w/ Trevor Murdoch
An attempt to add some juice to his match later with Chris Adonis, Trevor Murdoch takes his opportunity here to allude to previous encounters he had with his challenger under his Chris Masters identity, and how this time will be different. May Valentine continues her stilted and deliberately-read delivery, but once again it seems to work for the NWA where it probably wouldn’t anywhere else.
NWA Television Championship
Da Pope (c) vs. Thom Latimer – Draw
This match opens with the commentary team explaining that the NWA TV Title will now be defended in 10:05 matches, a four-minute increase from the previous 6:05 time limit. As Latimer and Pope enter the ring, the narrative that Storm and Galle craft from the outset is one of Latimer’s power against Da Pope’s speed and athleticism. The Countdown clock in the lower-left corner of the screen also made its return during this match.
Latimer and Pope bring a strong and competitive contest out of one another, with the Pope doing a great job of making Latimer looking like he possesses genuine strength to everything he does, and likewise Latimer excels in being in place for Pope to execute his offense. While Pope did not perform many of his ‘greatest hits’ of offense made famous during his run in TNA, he did still move quite well, for those that may not have seen him work recently such as myself. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be in quite the shape he was in during previous great runs. Likewise, his striking offense comes off as feather-soft especially for someone whose offense is meant to be boxing-oriented. However, Pope’s technical abilities are still sharp, as we saw with a beautiful superplex, probably the spot of the PPV. This would be the beginning of the end, as neither could get the better of the other and the match’s countdown clock finally reached zero. Sadly a lack of genuine finish hurt what was otherwise a solid and satisfying match. ***3/4
Segment: May Valentine w/ Aron Stevens
Once again Stevens works to put over the fact that he is a more serious version of himself now than he has been in the past and he shouldn’t be underestimated. Unfortunately, for anyone who recollects Stevens’ run in the NWA before the COVID shutdown, he was 2 for 2 in comedy gimmicks, and they were characters of his own choosing. So the serious guy bit seems to come off a bit hollow.
NWA Women’s Championship # Contender Match
Kamille def. Thunder Rosa
Before the match begins, Taryn Terrell joins Joe Galle and Tim Storm in the announce booth for the upcoming women’s match, to determine the number one contender to Sareena Deeb’s NWA Women’s World Championship. The ex-WWE and TNA/Impact competitor introduces herself as a hint of the NWA women’s roster to come in the times to come.
Thunder Rosa enters this match just days after a brutal Lights Out match on AEW Dynamite against Britt Baker, which the announce team is quick to point out as Tim Storm questions just how much Rosa could have recovered in such a short time. At the outset of the match, however, Thunder Rosa seems to be in top form. Kamille as well seems to have improved significantly since the last outings in which I’ve seen her. She employs a power style that meshes well with her impressive physique, which Tim Storm makes a point to note that Kamille’s attacks are something even he respects having had experienced it first hand. Meanwhile, Thunder Rosa works to employ an offense based on both speed and technique, using swift impacts and submission holds to defeat the larger Kamille. However, Kamille’s power proves to be too much for a weakened Rosa to overcome.
While Kamille still needs time to develop, there is undeniable progress there. And when paired with an opponent such as Thunder Rosa, she can shine as a competitor in her own right. ***3/4
Segment: May Valentine w/ Austin Idol
Austin Idol is the next for a backstage interview to explain that just as he had done for Nick Aldis when Aldis became World Champion, he has been asked to be manager for Aron Stevens as he challenges for Sweet Charlotte, the 10 Pounds of Gold. This segment is really getting over that Aron Stevens is not the underdog of this match and is probably the most dangerous threat Nick Aldis has faced during his championship reign – though in the boisterous carny manner that is the hallmark of Idol’s presentation. For what it’s worth, it’s the most engaged May Valentine has seen during this entire show.
NWA National Heavyweight Championship
Trevor Murdoch (c) def. Chris Adonis
In a contest for Trevor Murdoch’s NWA National Championship, these journeyman workers put in a solid performance that works to ensure that neither competitor’s weaknesses come to the forefront during the match. Adonis works as a classic heal, talking trash to the audience, complaints about non-existent rules infractions, flexing his physique, and trying to make Murdoch chase him during the opening stretch. Murdoch in turn plays the part of the wiley hoss: someone strong enough to not get bullied by Adonis, but smart enough to not try and beat the man at his own game.
Murdoch gets the better of Adonis early by controlling him through a side-headlock. And despite Adonis trying to find a means to escape, Murdoch continues to demonstrate he’s got the higher wrestling I.Q. by re-applying the hold. Meanwhile, Adonis is working on the neck and shoulders area, all with the goal of synching in his Masterlock. Tim Storm does a great job pointing out that the only person to escape Chris Adonis’ full-nelson is currently a World’s Champion (read: Bobby Lashley). However, Adonis would never successfully apply his patented hold and instead, Trevor Murdoch would claim a clean victory in the center of the ring.
As the match closed, Trevor Murdoch offered Adonis a hand in respect and friendship, but suffered a blindside attack for his efforts. Chris Adonis was nonplussed at the arrival of NWA referees who tried to intercede on Murdoch’s behalf and would not relent on the assault until security hit the ring. ***1/4
NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship
Nick Aldis (c) def. Aron Stevens
Austin Idol joins the announce team of Galle and Storm, and once again discusses how he’s acting as manager for Aron Stevens, and implies that this is the herald to an upcoming title change. At this point I’ve heard throughout the show that Aron Stevens is a different, more serious competitor, and not at all an underdog so much to this point I know that it’s actually the opposite. He is what he seems he is – a former comedy act that is forced out of that role due to a tragic circumstance. This isn’t an unforgivable sin, but it gets egregious when there’s such an obvious narrative being rolled out to try and cram some less favorable personas into the memory hole.
Before the match begins, the NWA pays tribute to those who have fallen with a 10 bell salute as Kyle Davis gave voice to the names of Ron Reed, Jim Crockett Jr., and of course, Jocephus. This was then followed by a moment of silence.
The match itself is a respectably worked effort by both Aldis and Stevens in kind. While neither seemed to push themselves to their limits physically, they both worked their styles with consistency and flow. The match didn’t feel like it had hit stalls or lulls. Likewise, the energy and anticipation does begin to palpably build. To give the devil its due, Stevens does work with a complete seriousness in this match. Gone are his cartwheels and bows, and in their place is a competitor 100% focused on winning the Real World’s Championship (in spite of coming out in entrance attire that harkened to the Mongrovian School of Karatay, this is clearly done in tribute as opposed to be in kayfabe). However, Nick Aldis is Nick Aldis, and in the NWA that means he’s the tippy top of skill and execution.
The final third of the match starts with attempts to close the match that end in failure. Both Stevens and Aldis attempt to put away the other (with a Discuss Lariat and Kingsland Cloverleaf, respectively), but aren’t able to seal the deal – which brings us to our closing stretch of the match. Stevens kicks things into high gear and makes multiple attempts to submit Aldis via crossface, only for the champion to reach a reprieve from the ropes. As Aldis himself tries for a final Cloverleaf, Stevens reaches in for an inside cradle, and after a pair of rolling reversals, Aldis is able to pin Stevens, 1-2-3. ***1/2
The event came to its close with the NWA roster taking to the ring and holding up the Mongrovian Flag as well as the Question Mark’s martial arts salute. It was a touching moment to cap off the NWA’s return to action. However, as we would see by the talent assembled in the ring… not many of the NWA’s talent chose to return for this iteration. And as the show went to black, it was unmistakable, there is still some rebuilding yet to do for the National Wrestling Alliance. But for those that have chosen to remain, perhaps they will reap the greater share of glory should this return prove a success.
In terms of quality, this is of the wrestling caliber one might expect from previous NWA shows, such as Into the Fire. It’s not the best wrestling on planet earth, or even in America. Or even in the independents. However, the show does feel that if you were a fan of what NWA Powerrr had to offer in ring, then indeed, the NWA is back. However, gone are the touches that were unique to NWA Powerrr, such as the VHS-tape quality commercials, and vignettes that led to the Question Mark being one of the most popular acts in the company – and this is where the loss of Joseph Hudson is most keenly felt.