At the start of 2019, few would have believed that by the end of the year the best weekly wrestling TV show going, would not be on traditional broadcast television, but would also feature the National Wrestling Alliance. The NWA has had a pretty tumultuous few decades after splitting with WCW, followed by the whole Shane Douglas-ECW debacle. They would have brief resurgences involving WWE, and the early days of TNA but largely they have been off in the wrestling wilderness in any meaningful way since the early 1990s.
That is, until Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins fame bought the rights to the NWA name and library, setting out to reinvent and reinvigorate the NWA name. With Powerrr (it’s never been established if those “R’s” are an effect of the official title) Corgan has arguably done just that. Even with a few bumps in the road (including Jim Cornette’s departure from the company under less-than-ideal circumstances). Let’s take a deeper dive into why you should be watching the NWA every week.
Studio wrestling was a stalwart of the industry prior to the 1990s. Having a crowd close to the ring, in an intimate setting without the flashy production creates an earthy, old school atmosphere form the get-go. This also has the added benefit of avoiding the inherent logistical problems of an arena getting in the way. However, this style which was so familiar to the NWA, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Memphis and countless others, fell out of favour after the expansion of WWF and WCW.
When those companies would tape shows in a “studio”, it was intended to look like a fully functional arena. Even TNA, who recorded on a soundstage at Universal studios at the much-maligned “Impact Zone”, shunned the aesthetic of the studio in favour of something more akin to a live event. NWA Powerrr choosing to use the old-school set makes their product stand out as something unique; it feels familiar but also new and fresh. It evokes memories of a simpler time, but also it differentiates Powerrr from AEW or WWE in its look and presentation. The flags, the podium, the desk, the lack of entrance music, it creates something truly unique.
Despite only having a few weeks under their belts, NWA Powerrr has succeeded in telling some pretty compelling stories, but without over-complicating things. The Nick Aldis-Kamille situation grows more intriguing week-on-week. Tim Storm as the ageing veteran not sure whether he can continue after losing his “last shot”. Eli Drake inserting himself in everyone’s business, but without a clear motive as yet. These are simple stories that are easy to dive into without a huge degree of prior knowledge.
Who will be the next challenger for the “Sweet Charlotte”, the “Ten Pounds of Gold”? Various challengers have emerged but no clear favourite. All of this has been achieved without venturing beyond the confines of the studio. The simple format of matches with promos at the podium/desk before or afterwards is something genius in its simplicity. Everyone gets time to shine, and confrontations happen in front of an audience who are right in the thick of everything.
At just sixty minutes, NWA Powerrr packs in a lot. One big complaint that is prevalent among modern wrestling fans is the number of filler matches and content on two-hour-plus shows like Raw and SmackDown: Live. However, Powerrr has absolutely no fat on it. This is a lean, mean wrestling show.
Nothing feels like it’s just there to bulk out the show, everything has a purpose, a direction and ultimately forwards the stories and feuds that are unfolding. Even things that initially seem innocuous or random play into what happens later in the show. Stories intertwine, and it makes for a better show. Even the commercials, which are hilarious, featuring Austin Idol and Tony Falk feel like they exist to be part of some sort of bigger picture. No wasted motion.
On paper, NWA Powerrr probably doesn’t have quite the star Powerrr or name value that an AEW or WWE, or even ROH possesses. However, what they have done is collect a group of very solid workers who perhaps haven’t found a home elsewhere, and let those performers play to their strengths. While it is a vastly different product, there is an air of ECW about it, something unusual that feels organic, an “island of misfit toys” where those who perhaps haven’t managed to fit the mould of modern-day wrestling are able to make an impact.
Nothing feels overly scripted and characters are properly defined, which makes them easy to invest in. Aron Stevens is a great example, playing off his previous personas elsewhere, but with a whole new spin. It’s not complex, or difficult to digest, it’s well-drawn and the audience knows what they are watching. Nick Aldis, despite playing a tweener of sorts, is the proud champion who wants to defend his title against the best. Tim Storm, the ageing veteran giving it one last roll of the dice. James Storm, the beer-drinking cowboy with a chip on his shoulder. These aren’t new characters per se, but they are distilled into the most efficient and effective form without becoming one-dimensional either. It’s a real balancing act and NWA has done brilliantly on that front so far.
What’s Old is New
The essence of what makes NWA Powerrr such a fun weekly TV show is how they have managed to take something that was considered old and outdated and bring it back into the 21st century. One thing that feels like a proper throwback is the theme music, Into the Fire by Dokken. Although ostensibly a bit of cheesy hair metal originally released in 1984, it works surprisingly well and fits the product to a tee. Where WWE and AEW have opted for generic rock, for the most part, NWA has looked outside the box and gone in a completely unexpected direction. Instead of feeling old, it’s retro and that’s exactly what makes this work. It plays on the nostalgia many have for the past, but with a product that also brings something more to the table. The warm fuzzy feeling about wrestling from years gone by might draw you in, but the quality of what everyone is doing on NWA Powerrr is what keeps you coming back
All images and video courtesy of NWA