It’s hard to believe that it was way back in August when we had the pleasure of Empowerrr and NWA 73 in the same weekend. The women of wrestling got the spotlight one night while Trevor Murdoch overcame the odds the next to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. If you’ve not seen any NWA since then – well, why not? There have been plenty of ups and downs as you would expect from a company with such deep history. NWA is the place to be if you want to prove yourself against legends and show that you deserve to be considered in the same breath and Hard Times 2 was one of those nights where the new guard continued to fight for their spots while many legends of the industry came to pay their respects but also show that they’re not willing to give up that spotlight quite yet.
NWA Women’s Champion Kamille has been ducking the legendary Melina for weeks but the former MNM manager earned her shot by defeating Chelsea Green and Kylie Rae in the same match. The End also did things the traditional way and won an Eliminator tournament to get an opportunity against World Tag Team Champions La Rebelión. Not everything was done with respect, however, as Mike Knox jumped the queue by attacking Murdoch with a steel chair at By Any Means Necessary. And we can’t forget how Chris Adonis and Thom Latimer of Strictly Business finally turned on Nick Aldis leaving him on a stretcher. While the NWA has a lot of honour and tradition, things often get personal and Hard Times 2 was the place to settle some incredibly personal scores. With Joe Galli, Tim Storm and Velvet Sky on commentary it was another great night of wrestling.
And if you didn’t get a chance to check out the pre-show, get to YouTube because Darius Lockhart will become your new favourite wrestler pretty damn fast.
AND the pre-show is available on @YouTube!
— NWA (@nwa) December 5, 2021
NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship qualifying match – Austin Aries vs Rhett Titus
If you felt like you’d been transported back to an old school Ring of Honor show then I wouldn’t blame you. I still remember Aries dethroning Samoa Joe for the title back in 2004 and he’s been all over the world since then, from Impact Wrestling to WWE and everywhere in between. If you don’t know the back story – Titus was actually trained by Aries at the ROH Wrestling Academy nearly 20 years ago so to see both men across the ring from each other now was quite the treat. It became clear very quickly that the Rhett Titus of 2021 isn’t the same man as the one that used to tag with Kenny King as the All-Night Express, but he still has the same passion and desire, especially when trying to prove himself against his trainer.
Both men went toe to toe with some classic wrestling to start the match with a feeling out process that allowed Aries to take control. The experience seemed to be the difference-maker early on, seeing Austin hit a basement dropkick and getting cocky with some taunting. That lit a fire under Rhett who had had enough of their back and forth exchanges, hitting some hard chops and forearms, but it wasn’t long until Aries hit a Suicide Dive and was back on top. Titus had a never-say-die attitude but never quite recovered from Austin’s big hits, and being trapped in the Last Chancery really wore him down. He managed to escape by grabbing the bottom rope but the writing was on the wall from there. Once Austin Aries got the momentum going with an elbow and corner dropkick it was inevitable that the BrainBuster was coming and the former X-Division champion got the 1-2-3 and took a step closer to the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. A decent effort from Rhett Titus but you could see why Austin Aries has had so much more success in his career and he’s not done yet.
— Sam Blair (@SamVBlair) December 5, 2021
ROH World Tag Team Championship – The OGK (Matt Taven and Mike Bennett) (c) vs Aron Stevens and JR Kratos
If you’re not familiar with Taven and Bennett’s backstory – in short, they were together as part of The Kingdom around 2014, with Mike then leaving the company with Maria at the end of 2015. Taven would run The Kingdom from 2016-2019 until they disbanded but Mike Bennett’s return to ROH late last year gave the perfect opportunity for the team to reform. One year later they managed to defeat La Faccion Ingobernable to become 2-time ROH World Tag Team Champions. Obviously, with everything up in the air in regards to Ring of Honor, stars will be popping up all over the place and NWA is a great place for Taven and Bennett to show what tag team wrestling is all about. Stevens and Kratos are no walkovers though as former NWA World Tag Team champions themselves so this was a match with two top-class tag teams and anyone could’ve walked out with the titles.
As expected, it was a competitive bout where both teams showed promise and had opportunities to win. However, the overall story was more about how Aron Stevens has been lately and his conflicting personality when it comes to behaving how his teammate Kratos wants him to. Stevens tried to focus, taking it to both Taven and Bennett throughout the match, but it was obvious that he wasn’t quite sure how he wanted to approach the fight and how violent or risky his offence should be. The champions had their sights set on victory the whole time and knew that they only needed one gap to open up in order to sneak out with the titles. When given the opportunity, Kratos showcased some incredible strength and could’ve been the difference-maker, but he allowed Aron the opportunity to prove himself and that was their overall downfall. Matt and Mike were just that step ahead of Stevens and caught him with a forearm and a rollup to keep the titles around their waists. Aron Stevens has a lot of soul searching to do after that match and the OGK roll on to find their next contenders.
— FITE (@FiteTV) December 5, 2021
Colby Corino vs Doug Williams
I can’t even pretend to be fair here. It’s Doug Williams. What an absolute British wrestling legend and a fantastic ambassador for us worldwide for so many years, especially in companies like TNA. Considering I grew up on guys like Bret Hart, it’s no real surprise that I love a guy like Williams who puts on technical masterclasses all over the place. It’s a real art form when done right and he’s forever teaching his opponents a thing or two when they share a ring with him. Colby’s dad Steve was known as the King of Old School and technical wrestling is very much a part of that, but the younger Corino has been a bit of a sneaky guy in his NWA run so you can’t help but sit there and wait for him to take shortcuts eventually.
Williams actually retired a while ago but earlier this year, after thinking long and hard during the difficult times we’ve all been through, he decided to start taking bookings again. Once the bell rang and he tied up with Colby it felt like he hadn’t missed a step. For a guy who I first remember seeing in 2002 for ROH, he still moves just as well as his younger peers sometimes. Give me a match between him and Tim Storm and I could die happy. Williams played the straight technical game for a while against Colby but when Corino tripped him and started punching him it was clear that things had to change. Doug looked like he might be victorious on his return as he hit a painful-looking forearm right to his diving opponent at one point but it wasn’t enough. The Fixers who were outside supporting Corino were the ones who really turned the tide, stopping the Chaos Theory and instead allowing that dastardly Colby to pin the veteran and walk out with the questionable win. Not the return Doug was looking for but I don’t think it’s the last we’ve heard from the legend.
Unfortunately the debut was a spoiled by @ColbyCorino picking up the win.
Some MIGHT say The Fixers had a part in the equation, but clearly that's not Colby's opinion… Eyes pic.twitter.com/g2o5G7RD0X
— NWA (@nwa) December 5, 2021
Impact Knockouts Championship – Mickie James (c) vs Kiera Hogan
After being so heavily involved in NWA Empowerrr back in August, Mickie James certainly hasn’t rested on her laurels whatsoever. It’d be easy to sit back and bask in the glory but instead, she’s been out there all over the place fighting to show how good she still is. Her victory against Deonna Purrazzo at Impact Wrestling’s Bound for Glory PPV showed that there’s still a lot of life left in Hardcore Country and she’s not just here to live on past glories and legend appearances. Kiera’s at the start of her career, having held tag gold as part of Fire ‘N Flava in Impact Wrestling and then debuting for AEW in August. To get the opportunity to wrestle against one of her childhood idols in Mickie James on PPV was a momentous occasion for her and the real question was if the emotion of the moment would be too overwhelming or if she could deliver the goods and the upset. They’ve had a chance to do it on TV before but the whole world watches on PPV with totally different pressure.
The match was as energetic and fast-paced as you would expect from such talent but always remained respectful. James never overlooked Hogan, knowing how good she can be and having to keep focused at all times. Plenty of counters between the two showed that they knew each other very well and the real openings would come from mistakes. Mickie used a lot of strength and focus on Kiera’s wrists and arms to keep her close, not allowing her to build speed or momentum but occasionally Hogan managed to escape and hit some devastating kicks and clotheslines. Mickie rallied back however and showed her own agility and experience as the strikes became stronger between the two. The more Kiera fired up the more the champion fought back with some ground and pound attacks and elbows that could’ve easily knocked her opponent out. Just when it looked like Hogan had the upper hand and the confidence, she went for a crossbody but the veteran champ rolled through and got the victory. All respect between two classy women and hopefully not the last time we see them in a ring together.
— FITE (@FiteTV) December 5, 2021
No Disqualification Match for the NWA World Television Championship with The Pope as the special guest referee – Tyrus (c) vs Cyon
Your champion, formerly known as Brodus Clay, is all about the darkness and dastardly acts these days, especially with Austin Idol by his side. That man is so annoying that I’m not even going to mention him much here because he just needs to shut up. I completely agreed with Velvet Sky on commentary. Cyrus managed to get a title shot by winning the Champions Series, and Tyrus tried to stack the odds with the No DQ and No Time Limit stipulations but NWA President Billy Corgan balanced things out with The Pope as the referee. With both champion and challenger up against things, it looked like it might be an even playing field but knowing Idol was around along with BLK Jeez and Jordan Clearwater and suddenly Cyon had a whole mountain to climb all by himself. At least that’s how it seemed until Pope decided to intervene and get rid of both Jeez and Clearwater and suddenly the odds were looking more in Cyon’s favour.
This wasn’t quite as much of war as I was expecting, but we did get a few chair shots and a trash can and the ever-popular table. The No DQ stip really just allowed for Idol and his gang to get involved despite what Pope said because no one could be disqualified. I enjoy big men hitting the crap out of each other but this felt like it was undermined by all the different elements coming together. I’d be more interested in seeing Tyrus and Cyon go at it without all the mess that came with this match. It never really felt like Cyon was going to win the title and he didn’t because he was just against far too many guys, even with Pope trying to have his back. Tyrus and the ref got into an argument, Pope hit him a few times but it all just served as a distraction more than anything helpful. Surviving through all the chaos the champ hit his Heart Punch on Cyon and the title went nowhere.
After Ric Flair at NWA 73, we got another legend this time in Mick Foley! Naturally, because it’s nearly Christmas and he’s obsessed with Santa. But it’s always a pleasure to see Mrs Foley’s baby boy turn up wherever he goes.
— Ferman Torres (@MainEventPlayer) December 5, 2021
NWA National Championship – Chris Adonis (c) vs Judais (w/ Father James Mitchell)
This match was set in place way back at NWA 73 so it’s been a long wait for Judais, who must have spent all that time studying ways to escape Adonis’ Masterlock or just hanging around in spooky places with James Mitchell. I’m not sure really. Judais has this weird lanky look about him where he’s not actually that intimidating despite his size so I’m not a big fan really but any chance to see Chris up against someone far bigger than him is intriguing just to see if his strength can match up. Adonis always reminds me of a more old school WWF wrestler just plucked out of that time so it’s no wonder he’s doing so well in NWA where they appreciate things like that. Today I learnt that Judais’ real name is Michael Cole so IT’S BOSS TIME.
The real boss in this match was Chris Adonis who didn’t back down from the larger guy. I like that most of the time Adonis is cocky enough to believe he can take on anyone, which can be to his detriment but actually works quite well against a man like Judais who expects everyone to cower in front of him. It was surprising to see some of the technical aspects of the match, including the challenger applying a Sharpshooter at one point. I was expecting them just to smash through each other but it was actually quite logical at times with body parts focused on wearing each other down. Of course, Adonis focused on the back of Judais with a huge spinebuster to try and soften him up for his finisher, but also his legs to take him off his feet. Eventually, this came into play with Judais hitting a flying clothesline but suffering on landing, allowing Adonis to apply the Masterlock and making the bigger man pass out. I wonder who will be next to step up to the challenge against Adonis?
NWA World Tag Team Championship – La Rebelión (c) vs The End
By dethroning Aron Stevens and JR Kratos at NWA 73, La Rebelión put the NWA tag division on notice. With a rich history of working with such talent as Garza Jr, El Hijo del Fantasma, Pentagón Jr. and Fénix, there’s no doubt that Bestia 666 and Mecha Wolf 450 have a ton of worldwide experience that will make them incredibly difficult to defeat. The End are no slouches themselves as they proved in the tournament to get the title opportunity but it’s one thing to get the chance and another to make the most of it. The End have a good power game and strong tag psychology while La Rebelión can be a little more unpredictable with their offence and you never quite know what you’re going to get from them. These are guys that will put their bodies on the line in the craziest ways in the hope it’ll give them an advantage. As we’ve seen plenty of times before, it can either deliver the victories or cause bad injuries and defeat.
— FITE (@FiteTV) December 5, 2021
At first, it looked like The End might actually have the upper hand on the champions but it just took a little while for 666 and Wolf to get going. They managed to keep Odinson away from his partner and showed those successful strategic minds that brought them to the titles in the first place. The power moves of The End versus the high flying antics of La Rebelión made for an interesting clash of styles, although Odinson and Parrow are more than capable of delivering athleticism when they feel like they want to show it. They’re usually more interested in moves like the SuperCollider though and that’s what often brings them the victories. The End certainly gave it their all but the resilience and smarts of Bestia and Mecha Wolf allowed them to escape a loss, avoiding The End’s finisher and hitting a 450 splash for the win. With no time to celebrate their next potential contenders came out to stare them down – Dirty Dango (fka Fandango) and JTG. Now that’ll be an interesting clash.
— JTG ( JAY THA GAWD ) (@Jtg1284) December 5, 2021
Grudge Match – Nick Aldis vs Thom Latimer
After everything both men had been through, it was a real shock to see it end up where it did with Latimer destroying someone he had considered to be family. With no other people allowed at ringside and the stipulation that a disqualification would lead to a suspension, it seemed like everything was in place to allow both men to get all the rage out of their system and find some kind of resolution and move on from Strictly Business and build a new future away from each other. That’s how it works in wrestling right? Everyone always breaks up amicably and I’m sure there’s no rematches or anything like that. It’s good to see a new direction for Nick Aldis who did need one after losing the title to Trevor Murdoch and it’ll be interesting to see how successful he can be as a good guy going forward.
I’ll be honest and say that while the match wasn’t bad, I did expect it to be a lot more aggressive and brutal considering what both men had been through to get there. Maybe that’ll come in a future match but for such a heated and personal rivalry I honestly thought they would tear each other apart. Instead, we got to see someone’s behind and a shock pinning combination out of nowhere which just felt like a non-ending really. As one of the matches I was most looking forward to on the card, especially considering the build-up, it all just felt a bit flat and like an inevitable first step towards another match. Also when it’s a blood feud like this, I feel like more traditional wrestling and moves need to be thrown out the window and have both men approach each other like they genuinely hate each other. See the recent Eddie Kingston vs CM Punk match from AEW for a masterclass on how to do that. So Aldis walked away with a cheap win and the feud continues.
A quick interlude with the Baddest Bitch where she thanked everyone for appreciating everything she’s done in the business. All credit to her as she’s been a real trailblazer and led the way for so many. And now she’s teaching a lot of young women in NWA too. I can’t wait to see what they learn from her and who the future of the business is.
I love you so much @Phenom_Jazz !!! Congratulations on a wonderful career!! I am absolutely blessed that I got to share the ring with you. #BaddestBitch #AndStill #HardTimes2 pic.twitter.com/eO185fUfMG
— LuFisto (@LuFisto) December 5, 2021
NWA World Women’s Championship – Kamille (c) vs Melina
Considering I wasn’t too familiar with Kamille’s work before a few months ago, I was incredibly impressed by her matches against Leyla Hirsch and Chelsea Green. She’s definitely one to watch for the future and I’d expect both WWE and AEW to express interest in the next year or two if she continues to improve as she is at the moment. And working with legends like Melina will only help her grow even more as sharing a ring with someone like her is an invaluable experience. Melina has a very similar story to Mickie James in that she still wants to prove herself and show that she’s capable of being one of the best in the world and so she’s putting herself out there and working with new talent like Kamille and Deonna Purrazzo. All in all, if NWA continue to develop new stars and attract the old guard too, then the division will be a strong part of the company.
Trying to win the championship was always going to be an uphill struggle for Melina, especially as she was injured earlier on in the year. Facing Kamille at your best is difficult enough, but Melina doesn’t make excuses or show fear and really took it to her much bigger opponent. The strength and poise of the champion were enough to dominate Melina for the majority of the match, always pushing the boundaries and getting the referee involved on numerous occasions. But Melina dug down deep and used a few dirty tricks of her own to try and bring home the title and while she managed to damage the champion significantly, unfortunately, Kamille powered through the pain and hit a devastating spear to hear that all-important ‘And Still!’ at the end. A really great effort from Melina but Kamille showed once again why she’s the champion and why she’s becoming one of the must-watch stars in NWA.
NWA World Heavyweight Championship – Trevor Murdoch (c) vs Mike Knox
What almost looks like it could’ve been pulled out of an old episode of SmackDown or the new ECW or something, it’s a credit to both men that they’ve continued to work hard over the years and show everyone that there’s life beyond Vince McMahon. NWA often gives a new lease of life to people who still have a passion for wrestling and NWA 73 showed just how much it means to Trevor Murdoch so it was disgusting to see the way Mike Knox attacked him in the cage in November. With so many people vying for the prestigious title Knox simply walked in, made a statement and quickly got that headlining spot. I’m sure that annoyed the hell out of a lot of people in that locker room who were hoping to work hard and earn a shot at Murdoch but hey sometimes you just have to kick some ass and grab that brass ring. Trevor isn’t one to back down from a fight no matter who it is and he’s worked too damn hard to just give up.
If I’m honest, I can think of better challengers to watch than Mike Knox but considering how short a build they had, they did manage to make it feel pretty heated. Murdoch has something so genuine and heartfelt about his character that you desperately want him to succeed and Knox is fantastic at playing a dastardly heel so they worked together well in the main event. Trevor came right out from the opening bell, clearly emotional, and this allowed the challenger to take advantage and get some good power moves in. But as we all know, it takes a lot to keep Trevor Murdoch down and unfortunately, Mike Knox never got quite enough in to make it look like he might dethrone the champ. Despite a few wobbles along the way Murdoch was able to hit that familiar diving bulldog and gain a little revenge on Mike Knox by retaining the title.
— Matt Cardona (@TheMattCardona) December 5, 2021
It’s always nice to end a big PPV with a feel-good ending and it looked like that was what we were getting until Matt Cardona of all people turned up. Now if you’ve not been following what he’s been doing since his WWE days then he’s been involved in deathmatches and plenty of other weird stuff to try and prove himself and it seems to be working. But now he’s in NWA, aligning himself with Mike Knox and trying to become the champion. It’s a whole different ball game and Murdoch isn’t going to give up without a strong fight. Hard Times 2 was yet another enjoyable show with an intriguing finish and NWA ends 2021 on a high. I don’t know what 2022 will end up being like but I do know that NWA has a fantastic roster and they’re in a great position to deliver some very enjoyable professional wrestling.
All pics and videos courtesy of Fite and NWA