Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Review: NWA EmPowerrr

On August 28, the NWA held its first-ever all-women pay-per-view, EmPowerrr, emanating from the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis — a legendary home to a multitude of professional wrestling events over the years. In addition to EmPowerrr on August 28, the next day, on August 29, NWA 73 is taking place at The Chase, commemorating the 73rd anniversary of the formation of the National Wrestling Alliance, which took place in 1948. Read on for my thoughts on NWA EmPowerrr.

NWA EmPowerrr kicked things off in the Khorasan Ballroom at The Chase with a pre-show featuring a match between Christi Jaynes and Skye Blue. In the end, Skye Blue’s hand was raised in victory. This was followed by the opening of the EmPowerrr pay-per-view proper with a retro segment from the “NWA Archives” featuring “Shooter Stevens” and Krusher Kratos” being interviewed by “May South.” It was a humorous segment that set up the live show well. However, it could have been trimmed down to be more impactful.

In the Khorasan Ballroom, the fans were greeted by Mickie James, the show’s Executive Producer, making her way to the ring. After stepping through the ropes, Mickie said the following:

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But tonight is not about me. Tonight is about women’s wrestling. You know, they told me that tonight wouldn’t be possible. They told me that women’s wrestling doesn’t make money. So I said, ‘You know what? Bet!’ I’m going to find the best women for the NWA. I am going to lean on women who have paved the way; broken bones, broken dreams, broken hearts…all for the sake of this ring.”

“You know, if I was to be serious. This means so much to me and the fact that you are all sitting out here for a night that I did not think was possible, to be humbled for so long…I love you. These women love you, the NWA loves you. And when I think about the history that has been made inside of these four walls and for the first time in 37 years, and the first matches to be held in these hallowed halls is women’s wrestling. So tonight, this is for every little girl in the back who said I want to be a professional wrestler, and had to work twice as hard for half the respect to know that you matter. You have arrived. And you were born for this. This is the NWA, and this is EmPowerrr!”

This was a great way to kick things off and emotionally appeal to the fans and the pro wrestling community as a whole. As I watched this, and the entire show, I realized that it wouldn’t have happened had Mickie James, and others, not been let go by WWE. Mickie and these ladies took what seemed like a tragedy and turned it into a massive opportunity to celebrate the history of women’s wrestling while simultaneously thrusting it into the future with a first-of-its-kind pay-per-view for the NWA. That’s pretty damn cool!

CHIK TORMENTA (AAA) VS. DIAMANTE (AEW) VS. KYLIE RAE (NWA)

The opening contest was merely OK. The coolest part was Kylie Rae, who was clearly the fan favorite. Kylie has always been fun to watch, and I’m happy for her success in the NWA. Despite some sloppy work in the ring, these three ladies delivered a decent match, with Diamante coming out on top.

THE NWA WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL:  THE HEX (ALLYSIN KAY/MARTI BELLE) VS. HELL ON HEELS (RENEE MICHELLE AND SAHARA 7)

The following match decided one of the two teams heading into the finals for the newly reinstated NWA World Women’s Tag Team Championship. In this bout, I was rooting for The Hex to get the win because I’m a fan of both of these women, and they proved they are the better team by advancing. However, I should point out that Sahara 7 was abysmal in this match. Multiple times she failed miserably when trying to execute moves with the infinitely more talented Marti Belle. For example, at one point, Sahara 7 delivered the worst looking slingshot I’ve ever seen in a wrestling match. It made me cringe watching it because it was so bad. Hopefully she was just having an off night. If not, then, perhaps, the NWA should be more picky about the female wrestlers they feature in a high-profile event like this.

THE NWA WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL:  THE FREEBABES (JAZZY YANG/MIRANDA GORDY) VS. KILYNN KING/RED VELVET

The next tag team match determined who would face The Hex in the finals for the NWA World Women’s Tag Team Championship. I enjoyed seeing The Freebabes, which is, essentially, an all-female version of The Freebirds. I had no idea that Jimmy Yang, who I interviewed for my book about the history of IMPACT Wrestling, has an 18-year-old daughter who is in the business. She did a great job, as did everyone else in this match. It was a solid contest with Red Velvet and KiLynn King going on to the finals.

The next segment may be my favorite, as Gail Kim made her way to the ring. She addressed the fans and said the following:

“Thank you. Thank you. This place is filled with so much history and tradition, I’m just…I’m just having a difficult time expressing what I’m thinking of feeling right now. You guys know that talking wasn’t always my thing, but I’m gonna do my best right now.”

“For the past 20 years. I’ve poured my sweat, my tears, my love, my life into professional wrestling. Just like all the women before me; Mildred Burke, Sensational Sherri, Wendy Richter, Medusa, Jazz, just to name a few. And now we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Tonight, it’s such a historic night. I am truly humbled and so appreciative that NWA asked me to be a part of this historic events. And I just hope that you, the fans, appreciate the love and passion that I have for women’s wrestling.”

Gail was interrupted by Taryn Terrell, with Jennacide and Paola Blaze. Taryn, reminded everyone of the amazing matches she had with Gail in TNA, and then proceeded to dismiss Gail from her ring. After a tense moment, Awesome Kong’s music hit and she made her way to the ring. Kong decimated Taryn’s team and then had a face-to-face confrontation with Gail, who handed her the microphone. Awesome Kong said the following:

“Now, some of you may not know I’m not much for words. It’s been a hard, hard year in the Kong residence, and only one thing that can get me off my couch, and away from them delicious ice cream bars….and that’s this woman right here. And I said to myself, ‘If I’m gonna go out, I’m gonna go out with the toughest foe I know.’ I love you. I’m done, and I love you, Gail!”

This was an emotionally raw moment between two legends, and I was enormously happy to see them both. It was also a great way to lead into the match for the title they fought over back in the glory days of TNA Wrestling.

IMPACT KNOCKOUTS CHAMPIONSHIP: DEONNA PURRAZZO(C) VS. MELINA

I grew up watching Melina, who is exceptionally talented, and I adore Deonna Purrazzo, IMPACT Wrestling’s long-reigning Knockouts Champion and all around badass. Deonna has grown on the microphone over the past year or so, and she always delivers in the ring. These women put on the match of the night. It was a seesaw battle, with both ladies being given the opportunity to shine in their own unique way. Deonna retained her title, but not before Melina made it clear that she was a more-than-worthy competitor. Also, I’m almost 100% certain that when introducing her, Kyle Davis referred to Deonna as “Deonna Purrazza.” That’s pretty terrible. I felt bad for Deonna because, at the very least, Kyle should have taken the time to learn how to properly pronounce the defending champion’s name.

THE NWA WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT FINAL: THE HEX VS. RED VELVET/KYLYNN KING

The finals for the NWA World Women’s Tag Team Championship was terrific! In a pre-match promo, earlier on, Allysin Kay said, “Tonight at The Chase, Hex marks the spot!” She couldn’t have been more right because The Hex won the newly reinstated tag titles in the best tag team match of the night. I’m very happy for these two competitors because they earned it, and they deserve this kind of recognition. I wish them well!

NWA WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: KAMILLE(C) VS. “LEGIT” LEYLA HIRSCH

Before the start of the next match, Billy Corgan was seen at ringside holding a bag and Kyle Davis said the following:

“Ladies and gentlemen. On January, 1937, a young and gifted 21 year old mother from Coffeyville, Kansas, Mildred Burke, won the newly christened women’s Welterweight Championship; a title when she would hold until 1956, undefeated and unbowed. Notably, it was a rise that coincided with the formation of the National Wrestling Alliance in 1948 as Mildred single handily forced state commissioners to change laws that, in that era, banned female athletes from competing in the ring. And so great was Mildred’s affertile (sic) success from magazine covers, to breaking box office records, that even the NWA would recognize her as the one and only world’s Women’s Champion. Tonight, we celebrate Mildred Burke and her incredible legacy by sharing with you, that original championship belt; the very one that ushered in this current and historic era of empowerment some 84 years ago as an active title [that] last appeared in a National Wrestling Alliance ring. August 20 1954.”

This was a cool moment and yet another example of the NWA being a forward-looking company that isn’t afraid of embracing its past. I love things like this, and it as really cool to see such a historic championship on display.

I’ve been a fan of Kamille’s for as long as she’s been in the NWA. Her presence, aura, and ability is unmatched. She’s a dominant NWA Women’s Champion, and I was excited to see her lock up with “Legit” Leyla Hirsch. It was a David-and-Goliath situation, as Kamille towered of Leyla. Despite the difference in size, this was a really fun bout, filled with high-energy moves and intense competition. In the end, Kamille reigned supreme, and this match is the second best of the evening, right behind Deonna Purrazzo vs. Melina.

THE NWA WOMEN’S INVITATIONAL CUP

Featuring 10 female wrestlers, the NWA Women’s Invitational Cup started off with Chelsea Green and Kiera Hogan. Both ladies made a name for themselves in IMPACT Wrestling, so it was cool to see them do the same in the NWA, especially at such a historic event.

Lady Frost, who I adore, had a bizarre entrance because of a massive production issue. She came to the ring and waited outside, which is perfectly fine, but while she did so her onscreen graphic wasn’t removed for what felt like an eternity, and there was only one camera angle, which wasn’t even focused on the ring. It was bizarre. Since relaunching amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the NWA has struggled with making its production feel professional and polished. Unfortunately, this is still a gigantic issue for them, which is a shame. They should pay closer attention to what David Sahadi and his team are doing at IMPACT Wrestling and follow suit. Here’s to hoping they get their act together sooner rather than later.

In the end, Chelsea Green, the first entrant in the match, walked away with the cup, and she will be the challenger at tonight’s NWA 73 pay-per-view for the NWA World Women’s Championship. Despite any of the shortcomings mentioned earlier, NWA EmPowerrr was a rousing success. I encourage you to buy these pay-per-views on FITE, and you can save some money by purchasing them together in a bundle. If NWA 73 is anything like EmPowerrr, then we’re in for another fun night of wrestling. I’ll see you at The Chase!

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