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Again, way too many thoughts about NWA Powerrrrrrrr… thanks for indulging me, folks. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Marty Scurll interview with Stu Bennett they take a piece from for the countdown segment. I’m generally unfamiliar with his work as RoH ran me off awhile back, and I’ve found keeping up with New Japan without paying for it difficult. Really, the most I’ve seen of him was his brief run through 10 Pounds of Gold against Nick Aldis, and this feels like little more than a mulligan on that, right down to the out of character interview. This really feels like a time that we needed something in character rather than “Marty and Stu chat over tea and scones, just without tea and scones.” I’m needing some reason to get interested in Scurll challenging Aldis again, and so far, I haven’t seen it. Right now, Marty Scurll just comes off to me as a moderately less ridiculous Jimmy Havoc. The countdown segment continues with another look at the formation of Aldis’s faction. We need a name for this this team. Royal Flush, maybe? Aldis called himself “The Dealer” during the Cody Rhodes feud, and he’s backed up by Wild Cards… Kamille is the Queen… maybe find a heater to fill out the hand. Also, babyfaces can make toilet jokes when chasing them. I dunno… The show proper opens with a recap of the finish of Aldis’s title match with James Storm at Into the Fire, which I appreciate since I’m a cheap bastard and didn’t buy the show. In light of what’s come after, the finish feels like an aborted story now, though. Aldis takes out the ref, ostensibly by mistake. Aldis pulls of the turnbuckle pad, possibly on accident. Aldis launches Storm into the exposed metal, maybe coincidentally. Lots of things that could be Nick being naughty, but plenty of plausible deniability as well. It set Nick up to continue to be the perfect tweener, gave Tim Storm a good spot as the loyal-but-possibly-duped patsy, and set James Storm up to continue his path of righteous rage at a system that’s wronged him, while Aldis could play dumb. We seem to be abandoning all this now. Can’t say I’m especially pleased with that. It feels like a change McMahon would make after inhaling a few lines of Adderall. We go to the interview desk, with David Marquez hyping the TV Title tournament alongside Trevor Murdoch. Zicky Dice is milling about the side. Trev pays off his story from the earlier episodes by announcing he’s signed a full time contract, and he looks so genuinely pleased that you can’t help but be happy for the big galoot. Wrestling needs more Trevor Murdochs. Zicky is suitably ridiculous trying to rain on Murdoch’s parade, but before he can spoil Trev’s good mood, “Pope” D’Angelo Dinero saunters out to make his NWA Powerrr debut, looking like the proverbial million bucks. Pope does his best Dusty Rhodes impression (no, wait… that’s just his act) indicating he’s looking to find a team or build a stable to lead. Zicky offers himself up as a candidate, and Pope fades out on him, earning a belly laugh from Murdoch. Pope joins the commentary team for the next match which is… Ricky Starks versus Eddie Kingston in a TV Title tournament qualifier. Starks and Kingston start off slower than I’d expect with a 6:05 time limit. Ricky gives Eddie a lot of respect here, toning down his quirkiness substantially. Eddie transitions smooth as butter into a headlock spot that pops the crowd. Have to appreciate a crowd that will applaud a good headlock. We get some good grappling, made urgent by the time limit, until Starks goes to strikes. Kingston starts egging Starks from his knees, looking like he’s setting up a rope-a-dope without ropes, until Ricky kicks him right in the jaw and Eddie just wilts like an orchid in winter and it’s kind of beautiful. Eddie’s sell is so perfect, it sets up a believable near-fall off a simple kick. Newsflash: Eddie Kingston is fucking great. Shocking, I know. Crowd is split, chanting for both men and deservedly so. Pope’s commentary isn’t as over-the-top and distracting as it was in OVW and TNA during his runs there. I still wouldn’t want him at the desk, though. Starks fights to get his finisher (an elevated Pedigree apparently called “Buster Keaton,” which is a reference my old ass gets) and finally hits it for the win. Great little four minute match that leaves me wanting more; exactly the sort of thing I wanted from this format. These two really excel in the studio environment, as Starks mannerisms and Kingston’s trash talk would connect less in an arena environment. Both sell like champs after the match, bringing home the sense that they both went balls out to get it done in the short time limit. Dinero nods to Kingston after the match, so maybe we get a hint at who is being eyed to join the Pope’s congregation. We come back to another look at the debut of Aldis and More (nah… too punny; sounds like something WWE would give to a team of “creative has nothing for you” low-carders). That transitions to Senior Marquez bringing our Wild Cards’ Royce Issacs, who introduces his new ladyfriend May Valentine. I don’t know May at all, but I hardly follow women’s wrestling. She could be a 4x Shimmer champion for all I know. A Google search doesn’t help either, except one chap’s review indicates she was a Diva Search contestant. Anyway, she seems to be playing a bubblehead who’s just happy to be there. Issacs meanwhile comes off as a total dork, apparently whispering something inappropriate about her in Marquez’s ear. Issacs wants to prove his manliness to Ms. Valentine by making an open 1-on-1 challenge. Cowboy James Storm swaggers out to take the challenge, because James MF’n Storm. Valentine is excitedly bouncing and applauding, but Issacs chickenshits around, asking for kisses and shoulder rubs from May. They barely exchange a few shots before Royce bails, taking a seemingly befuddled Valentine with him. Storm keeps the crowd from shitting on the fuck finish by goofing with the ref and fans during the count. Good on Storm, but its cognitive dissonance seeing him be happy and goofy, particularly after being furious last we saw him. Thankfully, he makes the “belt-on-my-waist” motion before we cut, so we know he’s still got his motivation. The Cowboy is a professional, at least. What the fuck were you doing with that segment, NWA? I was begging for some character development for Wild Cards during the earlier episodes, but making Royce a spaz now? After making him ¼ a part of the top heel faction? Royce was looking at the floor, the podium, Marquez, the fans (briefly)… anywhere but the camera. It made him come off as nervous and unready. Then we get a non-match with Storm acting out of character, and all seemingly to introduce a new lady to the show without telling us anything about her. Man… this was WWE bad. Now Marquez brings out Eli Drake, who is packing a half-drunk bottle of J Roget Extra Dry, and is playing a half-drunk Eli Drake. Drake does a tipsy version of his act, drinking straight from the bottle, which honestly is about the appropriate amount of respect to show J Roget. Thankfully everyone resists the urge to say “bubbly.” Drake plays the jolly drunk very well, flubbing a line and getting a laugh. This somehow turns into Drake crashing Josephus Claus and lady-I-don’t-recognize doing a solid rendition of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Josephus has a decent set of pipes, and looks suitably annoyed at Drake’s contributions to the chorus while I get flashbacks to unfortunate office parties. It’s goofy and fun and doesn’t overstay its welcome, as the Aldis Alliance (eh… not terrible) comes out to interrupt Drake’s interruption of Josephus’s interruption of Drake (cue the Inception sound). Nick and Kamille are festive in red, while Wild Cards Issacs and Latimer are dressed to wrestle. No May Valentine… guess she’s not part of the team. Both Drake and Josephus look on in annoyance, but are ignored. Aldis presents his team with personalized matching jackets. Classy! He proceeds to revel that everything we’ve seen from him these past few weeks has been part of a master plan. Errr… not sure what this plan accomplished, as the only thing that seems to have happened directly as a result is Tim Storm getting speared by a lady. Maybe it’s still just a work in progress. Nick Aldis asks the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express to come out to address Ricky Morton’s comments last week about Aldis not yet being ready to be on the NWA’s Mt. Rushmore. Though the magic of editing, they oblige instantaneously. Ricky is wearing a RnR-themed ugly Christmas sweater, and I resist the urge to go looking for it to buy online. When confronted, Morton makes nice and, in the spirit of Christmas, apologizes. Aldis accepts the proffered hand, but is suitably menacing when accepting the apology. If they don’t end up grinding Ricky’s face into the concrete someday soon, I’ll be shocked. We recap the women’s stories from Into the Fire, showing Ashley Vox taking the elbow injury from Thunder Rosa, and ODB’s surprise appearance as Allysin Kay’s partner. New we have Vox, Kay, and ODB versus Rosa, Melina, and Marti Belle. I’m only about 50/50 on caring about watching these ladies by the numbers, but I could watch Thunder Rosa watch paint dry, and she starts the match, so no complaints. ODB and Kay both use their size, but Rosa holds her own and takes control. Vox quickly gets the chance to play Ricky Morton, which she excels at. The heels take turns, on her. Belle lays in some adequate stomps, and a hip attack that probably felt worse than it looked. Rosa goes on the attack, and Bennett echoes my thoughts in his commentary when he says he is “equally in awe and terrified of this lady.” Melina gets a turn and while her work is a little slow and rough, her facial expressions are downright scary. She looks very believable as a lady that will gladly kick your goddamn ass. Vox manages to make a tag to Kay, who looks clinical in her attack on Melina. Perez looks a little lost, but in an “I’m in a real fight” kind of way, not an “I forgot the script” one. Then she sells like she was shot when Kay kicks her in the damn face. If we’re building Melina as a veteran who has lost a step and is manipulating Rosa and Belle to keep her relevant, I’ll be pleased. Melina throws Kay off with a jawbreaker and rolls out to recover, so we reset to ODB and Thunder Rosa. Things get chaotic, and Kay gets dropped awkwardly on the top rope and ends up outside checking to be sure she didn’t lose and parts. It ends up with Vox and Rosa, with Rosa literally chewing her way out of Vox’s submission, and hitting a tombstone shoulderbreaker, hanging on to her, flatly declaring to everyone “It’s over,” and then hitting a Michinoku Driver, except with Vox’s neck getting folded over Rosa’s thigh. Fuuuckkk. If you told me Thunder Rosa crawled Ring-style out of a Mortal Kombat game, I’d half believe you. The stipulation of the match gave the winner of the pinfall a singles match of their choice. When Rosa goes to declare at the interview desk, Melina talks over her and picks ODB for the opponent. Of course, the obvious choice for Rosa would have been to demand a shot at Kay and the World title. Instead, Melina has picked her top henchwoman to go after the biggest roadblock in Melina’s way. Good setup for any number of directions they could take things. Marquez is out with the fishbowl to draw for another TV Title tournament qualifier, with Tim Storm and the Dawsons hanging about. A silent, pretty lady named Anastasia Fletcher from a legal firm (it sounded like “Morg, Bork, and Simon” … did I miss an in-joke?) is there to draw. In an amazing coincidence, Tim’s name comes out first, followed by Nick Aldis, and Storm proceeds to cut a promo that is fucking AMERICA; just outstanding, and straight form the heart. Our main event is Colt Cabana versus the Question Mark for a spot in the tournament. I can’t stress enough how much more I enjoy Cabana when he’s reigning in the goofiness and just working as the earnest man of the people. He’s just so much more interesting that way than as a pure comedy act. The Question Mark is still over with the crowd, so I can’t blame the NWA for running with it, even if I’m getting a bored with it. No Aron Stevens with ‘?’ as we’re told the NWA has banned any seconds to prevent outside interference. The crowd is free to cheer ‘?’ to their hearts’ content, despite Cabana being over with them as well. Bennett is having a ball on commentary gravely talking about Mongrovia. Cabana dutifully does the job to ‘?’ Kah-Rah-Tay poke to the neck, and the crowd loves getting to be part of the joke. I find myself looking forward to the day Josephus unmasks and berates the fans for their callow and gullible nature. In the meantime, I hope they sell a million Question Mark t-shirts. The show closes with Aron Stevens and the Question Mark proclaiming their intent to hold all the BELTSBELTSBELTS. Well, the National Title sure means zilch now. No one is chasing it, except maybe Colt, and he just jobbed clean as a sheet to the champ’s partner, and Stevens is more interested in chasing other titles than defending the one he has. Sloppy, NWA… get that thing off Stevens as soon as you can if you’re going to use him as a contender and not a champ. Hopefully it’s a temporary devaluation to get the TV Title heated up as an undercard belt. I still say you shouldn’t have a TV Title without TV, though.