The NWA Round-Up! (Week of May 18th)

It’s been an exciting week for the NWA with the announcement and launch of new content, set to air on YouTube five days a week, Monday-Friday.

The current schedule is as follows:

NWA schedule - May 2020

Rather than give a daily review, my aim, starting today, is to give a weekly round-up of the week’s NWA content on a Saturday, giving my thoughts and observations on what’s presented and pulling out the most exciting and interesting parts of the shows.

This week, only three of the programs aired, with Girl Powerrr not dropping on May 22nd as anticipated. We anticipate that the first full week of programming will air next week.

So, without further adieu, let’s get straight to this week’s first new program: Carnyland!

Carnyland (Aired May 19th)

NWA Carnyland logo

The show Billy Corgan said was almost impossible to describe is, indeed, almost impossible to describe! The closest I can get to it is that it’s like Being the Elite on acid, which, let’s face it, is a pretty rubbish description of anything.

Billy Corgan actually put it better himself when discussing the show on Inside the NWA, where he described it thus: “We actually went into Turner Sports years before a little company called AEW got there, and we pitched them on this idea as part of a spate of larger NWA programming. The idea is a celebration of wrestling culture, kind of a fun meta take on what it means to be in professional wrestling…and really celebrate our culture…oftentimes the mainstream world doesn’t really understand the insanity that is professional wrestling, but there’s a lot of fun in professional wrestling, there’s a lot of crazy stuff that goes on behind the scenes, there’s a lot of great stories, a lot of great characters. So our whole idea is to celebrate the entire history of wrestling, its culture, what makes it so fun and different, why do people involved like us get so passionately involved in it, and we feel it’s a perfect fit, with the NWA being sort of in many ways the historical grandfather of everything that exists. So it’s a comfortable fit.”

Essentially then, we get a kind of sketch show, all set in the world of ‘Carnyland’, using the characters of the NWA against colourful backgrounds and good use of locational footage to present a visual and conceptual idea of the Carny side of the wrestling business.

The show seemed to get a divisive reaction on social media, with the arrow pointing only slightly more to the favourable side. I’m still not sure this is for me but I’ll look forward to next week’s episode. The idea is great; it’s success will fall on its execution.

Notable Happenings:

  • Eddie Kingston gave a beautiful, heartfelt promo regarding how much the wrestlers want to entertain us and cannot wait to get back in the ring to build their legacies and have their names forever remembered. A 5* promo.
  • Stu Bennett is the invisible narrator of Carnyland and has the power to make Joe Galli disappear and reappear at will. Poor Joe gets a bit disorientated by these metaphysical moments!
  • Nick Aldis recounts how a promoter we shall call ‘Carny Chris’(not me – promise!) faked the booking of a hotel for him in the hope Aldis would put his credit card down for incidentals and the card would be charged for the room. The way Aldis related the tale reminded me a tiny bit of Tim Roth in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ – not a bad thing!
  • Allysin Kay gave us a brilliant segment from Carnyland College – Cliché Promo 101. As she ran through the checklist of awful heel promo techniques, certain wrestlers sprang straight to mind (I’ll name no names, though!)
  • Tim Storm would have us believe Benjamin Franklin wrote a paper on the joys of farting and had 15 dead bodies in his house. Nice try Tim!
  • Aron Stevens gave us a geography lesson on Mongrovia, which unfortunately fell flat for me.
  • Zicky Dice endeavours to allow a ‘lucky’ fan to win a date with him via a game show-style quiz. It does not end well for Zicky!

Inside the NWA (Aired May 20th)

Inside the NWA title card

This is set to be a straight interview show, with Joe Galli talking to various NWA people about their careers, their drives and desires and their thoughts on the current global situation.

And what better way to start than to interview the NWA head honchos themselves, Billy Corgan and David Lagana?

I really enjoyed this show. The format was simple by necessity as the three men talked via a Zoom-type app, but it looked attractive with a cool blue NWA background giving it its own aesthetic.

But, as always with a show like this, the best thing about this was the talking itself. Billy was perhaps more vocal than Mr. Lagana but ultimately, I didn’t mind as Billy proved himself to be an excellent speaker in this scenario, giving fair, even-handed responses and considered answers, not just about the NWA but the wrestling business and global media generally in the current situation we’re in.

Any show like this will depend on the quality of its guests, to an extent, but Joe Galli asked some great, probing questions and both Billy and David were candid and detailed in their responses.

A great debut!

Notable Happenings:

  • The NWA lost over half a million dollars in incoming revenue on ticket sales and PPV buys for the Crockett Cup.
    • Billy wants to let everyone know the NWA will fight like hell to keep their position in the market and be creative and entertaining and just because they’ve taken a couple of punches, it doesn’t mean they’re going down.
    • Billy supports big companies who put live shows on and appreciates they have the money to afford safety procedures whereas they don’t. He doesn’t want to overdo things in this time of uncertainty otherwise there might not be a next year. Carnyland is part of this as it helps to keep people connected and motivated.
    • Ken Anderson, who apparently has the nickname ‘Dark Robot’ backstage, still talks to David Lagana once a month. In regards to his sudden disappearance from NWA programming, Ken was working hurt but only told the company two weeks before the ‘Hard Times’ ppv, and then missed his flight and would have arrived at the PPV late. The sides had a chat and agreed that Ken would keep them updated about his injury and they would go from there.
    • Billy states that as two guys who not considered to be part of the ‘boys’, they have to be really consistent about what behaviour they tolerate. Ken’s behaviour was outside of their expectations, but they love Ken and would work with him again. As a little independent company, they have had to be clear on their expectations of talent from the start.
    • Billy believes Allysin Kay, Homicide and Trevor Murdoch have been the real locker room leaders, working with people on improving their matches. Lagana praises Tim Storm and says he’s “everyone’s dad.”
    • Billy mentions he has “tremendous respect” for EC3 and doesn’t understand why he wasn’t pushed in WWE. No-one works harder and Billy would love it if he landed in with the NWA, but he is currently a free agent.
    • As they don’t have access to the top talent, NWA management has to make critical decisions on who they work with. Wrestlers who have great back stage character will win out. The carny way of doing business has to go.
    • Billy Corgan found himself alone with a cigar-smoking Michael Jordan after the Chicago Bulls won their 5th championship. I’d love to have seen that conversation!
    • Billy’s friend Wally’s neighbour is Scott Steiner. Billy met him first backstage after one of Billy’s shows and they kept in touch here and there. Billy met Scott personally to invite him to appear on Powerrr.
    • Scott Steiner was due to appear at the last set of tapings but unfortunately got sick. They may still go with their plan for that in the future.
    • Stu Bennett has been very clear he doesn’t want to wrestle.
    • Stu Bennett as Cornette’s replacement was Lagana’s idea. Stu had been watching the show and had been loving it.
    • They’re unsure regarding international travel in the future with all the uncertainty of the pandemic.
    • Billy worries about fake crowds coming into wrestling in the way the NFL are considering. He’s unsure if he would want to put on a TV show where the live audience has to be social distanced.
    • For Lagana, Powerrr needs the people for it to work, which is why they are trying to do something else at the moment with Carnyland.
    • Billy comments that it is strange watching wrestlers in empty arenas play to a non-existent crowd. He likens it to when he would play to silence with the Pumpkins in Japan.
    • Joe Galli makes the astute observation that it is hard to gauge how over a wrestler is without live audience reactions.
    • Billy argues that if they can’t foster a vision, then what are they doing?
    • Lagana has told the talent they’re all producers now to get them ready for their new reality. It’s taking wrestlers out of their comfort zone and asking them to do new things like Nick Aldis interviewing people.
    • Lagana makes the pertinent point that this is affecting all media, including Hollywood. “There will be no fall season.”
    • Billy on Carnyland: “There is no end to the absurdity of professional wrestling, so we’re here to absolutely celebrate it. By the way, we have a hundred years of history to deal with.”
    • Billy credits the Elite with changing the business with Being the Elite. Whenever there’s a major change in the business, there’s always someone there to take advantage of it.
    • Billy: “We’re a talent-positive company…if you get yourself over, we’ll push you.”
    • Lagana argues that Carnyland will be true to its characters – “Tim Storm’s a teacher, we’re not going to have him on the moon on the show.” Billy says that actually sounds like a good idea.
    • Lagana believes that when Powerrr started, fan commitment to the NWA went from 2 to 10.
    • Billy makes some interesting comments about getting heat for not playing live on camera from home. Billy respects others who do that, but he feels people have personal choice as to how they can best entertain and for him currently that’s the NWA.
    • There’s going to be a deep dive series – tentatively called ‘Year One’ – where they will look back over the last 3 years since Billy bought the NWA, as a lot of fans only came in when Powerrr started and missed the initial stories and struggles.
    • The Last Dance is one of Lagana’s favourite sports documentaries because of the depth they went into and because Michael Jordan was so honest.
  • Billy: “Our position in wrestling is we’re a little bit more meta than a lot of the kids, most of the kids are very into the “did he get his shoulder up on the pinfall?”, you know what I mean? And the faux controversies, people going at each other on Twitter and then the next thing, they’re sharing pictures of their dog. We’re more into the meta thing that wrestling can be a unique form of entertainment, (it) stands alone as sort of, like, ancient Grecian theatre in the modern context, and I think ultimately, we’ll be rewarded for that.”

The Eli Drake Show (Aired May 21st)

The Eli Drake Show title card

This was the one I was really looking forward to. Eli Drake is perhaps one of the best on the mic in the business today, and if the debt to The Rock and Steve Austin seems obvious, it’s not to Eli’s detriment.

So, what is The Eli Drake Show? I’m not sure Eli knows yet, but he admits as much during the show. It’s Eli in his office chewing the fat and shooting the breeze with a skit and some random, funny inserts popped in from Eli’s life.

At times the show seems to derail itself and at those moments it feels like watching a car crash, but hell, it’s an entertaining one! Eli’s less than honest about the fact he’s still working the show out, and his natural personality carries the show greatly with complete charisma and enthusiasm. There’s almost the feel of ‘shock jock’ kinda vibe at times, not a bad thing when filtered through wrestling, and when Eli gets on to topics he’s passionate about – the heat culture of WWE, social media responses to COVID-19 – he’s onto a winner!

Notable Happenings:

  •  Eli began with a heartfelt speech about the kindness Shad Gaspard showed him when he had a tryout at WWE. Gaspard made a point of making him look good and came to see him in the ‘extras’ dressing room. Eli will always be grateful for that kindness. 
  • Eli has a ‘portal’ in the doorway of his office, where he’s filming the show. Freaky!
  • Eli is a 17-year veteran, and is also an actor, stock trader and had developed a mobile app once.
  • Eli believes the NWA gives the best interviews in the business right now.
  • Eli has the disturbing ability to make his wrestling debut sound like the story of losing his virginity…
  • Eli claims that stories of WWE letting people stay at home with no heat is “bull***t”. He believes it is more of an issue in wrestling as a whole, though, with too much “double talk”. He discusses the heat people would get at the WWE Performance Centre if they didn’t do things classed as “optional”. He said of course he wanted it – wanted it enough not to put extra strain on his body doing supposedly optional classes.
  • Eli’s big issue with people in wrestling is them not saying what they mean. He is approachable and coachable but he won’t play nice if he hears second or third hand that you’ve talked smack about him.
  • He doesn’t want to bitch about TNA/Impact!, as it gave him the chance to travel the world, but he doesn’t have too many nice things to say about the current Impact! management…
  • He believes the current empty arena shows are soulless and uncomfortable (comparisons to porno, complete with grunting, are made).
  • We get a strange segment with Eli pretending to be a French dog trainer. He threatens to eat his dog’s intestines if it doesn’t stay(!)
  • Eli, in a point I quite agree with, mentions how social media drives him mad at the moment with the hubris of opinion regarding people discussing COVID-19. He’s happy to admit he doesn’t know what information is correct and so will listen it all. People need to calm down before it all pops off, like the Boston Massacre. He says all this whilst wearing a very fetching tin foil hat.
  • We get an insert of Eli at a shooting range with a gun saying “I’m a 40% student, people.”
  • Eli has been blown away by ‘The Last Dance’; in particular the way music was used to pump up the viewer, and how the beat for ‘Sirius’ by The Alan Parsons Project drops as the credits kick in.
  • He thought he could be a basketballer until he went to basketball camp in 8th grade and realised, he wasn’t as a good as he thought.
  • While Eli loves LeBron James, he thinks Michael Jordon is the GOAT.
  • On that note, he hates the phrase GOAT because so many people get called it, making it irrelevant. We then get a montage of; a goat licking something while Eli makes goat noises; Eli crawling out of a kid’s play-castle in an airport, saying “king of the castle, lord of the manor; and Eli and his partner under a raining money filter as he shouts something about wasting money.
  • Eli has been doing motion capture for the character movements in WWE games for the last 4-5 years.
  • Eli’s favourite wrestling faction is the NWO, even though there were too many guys. It was still fun to watch.
  • His favourite thing about wrestling for the NWA is the audience, who are an integral part of the show.
  • Eli’s favourite promo by The Rock is the one he gave on the first Raw of 2000, where the control he had over the crowd was unreal.
  • His favourite Back to the Future film is the first one, although he might go with two.
  • His favourite Biggie track of all time is Juicy.
  • In the end, Eli, complete with tin foil hat, vanishes through the portal in his office door to see what’s on the other side.

Final Thoughts

James Storm chugs a beer

It’s been an exciting and fascinating week to be an NWA fan. We knew we were getting one new show in Carnyland, but 5 new weekly shows was a very pleasant surprise.

With the COVID-19 pandemic not ending anytime soon, it was important for the NWA to offer new content to keep their brand fresh in people’s minds, potentially gain new fans and of course offer opportunities to monetise their product, through the Carnyland Patreon, and promoting their available merchandise through the shows. The NWA has gone about this in a whole-hearted, committed fashion that is commendable and the excitement of the majority of performers is palpable through the screen.

Yes, a reasonable chunk of the programming was a little rough around the edges, but it must be remembered this was just the first week and so there will be changes and improvements as the NWA assesses what worked and what didn’t. Also, they are creating new content under difficult circumstances and that must be reasonably taken into account.

What was clear over the course of the week was that the NWA understands that a substantial amount of wrestling in the west is as much about the characters as it is about the actual grappling, and as they can’t offer grappling at the moment, they can certainly go all-out on the characters. I know from watching certain other promotions, for instance in Japan, that grappling can be entertaining in itself without overt characterisation, but can a wrestling show rely solely on its characters to entertain without the grappling? It depends on the characters, I suppose, and we’ll get a clearer idea of the NWA’s success here as the week’s progress.

One thing I found interesting was Billy Corgan’s description of his version of the NWA as being meta, whereas with the likes of ‘Ten Pounds of Gold’, the company very much pushed the idea of their respect and passion for the tradition of the NWA as an institution. Perhaps there’s a way a company can be traditional and meta at the same time?

And on that note, I’ll bid you farewell. Join me next week for more exciting NWA content – I’ll meet you on the streets of Carnyland!

Chris Flackett

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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