After perhaps one of the most controversial weeks in Lightning One-era NWA history, the promotion capped off 7 days from hell with an equally controversial show. Hard Times 3 was a frustrating, occasionally entertaining show that, whether it was due to morale or to other extenuating circumstances, often felt flat and deflated. While matches like the encounters between Jordan Clearwater and AJ Cazana, the casket match between Max the Impaler and Natalia Markova, Davey Richards and Colby Corino, and La Rebelión and Hawx Aerie were quality contests, so much else just didn’t hit the mark – and that’s before we get to certain booking decisions.
Let’s look at the top 5 talking points to come out of Hard Times 3!
1. Tyrus is the New NWA World Heavyweight Champion
In a move that seems to have earned the NWA a lot of scorn and derision from the IWC, Tyrus has become the latest to add his name to the list of champions to hold ‘Sweet Charlotte,’ beating Trevor Murdoch and Matt Cardona in a triple threat match. Assuming Billy’s logic is that Tyrus’ position on Fox News will give the NWA greater exposure, then putting the Ten Pounds of Gold on the ‘Great American Smash’ might make sense. But that doesn’t take into account that Tyrus has been a member of the National Wrestling Alliance for over 18 months and was the TV Champion during that time. It remains to been seen that Tyrus increased NWA viewership during that time. Will him holding the World Title change that in any way?
The biggest issue, politics aside, is that Tyrus is ultimately not entertaining when it comes to in-ring work. Credit where credit’s due, he’s a very entertaining talker, but he’s slow to the point of monotony in-between the ropes. He gets blown up quickly, he has a very limited move set and he cannot seem to translate his charisma on the mic into his in-ring performances. I appreciate that not every NWA champion has had the quality of a Harley Race, a Jack Brisco or a Ricky Steamboat, but I would argue Tyrus is not World Champion material. At all. And certainly not NWA World Champion material. Corgan has made reference to Bruiser Brody recently, but that doesn’t take into account that not only was Brody a hoss, but he was a hell of a wrestler too.
Look, if I’m wrong and Tyrus and brings in the numbers, then I’ll be glad to admit I’m wrong. I want to see the NWA succeed. But as things stand, I can’t see Tyrus being The Guy. I hope I’m wrong.
2. Jordan Clearwater is Your New NWA TV Champion
Now this is a positive title change. Not only is ‘The Golden Boy’ the UWN World Heavyweight Champion, but he now is the holder of the NWA TV Championship, having defeated AJ Cazana in a very entertaining old school-style match up. After months of Tyrus, Clearwater will be a refreshing change on the TV Title scene. A solid wrestler who has really made the most of the opportunity of playing heel since joining Idolmania Sports Management, Clearwater has demonstrated a brand new confidence and improved charisma in recent months and it’s nice to see hard work be genuinely reward.
The age of ‘The Golden Boy’ has begun!
3. Kerry Morton is Your New NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion
Hard Times 3 could be seen as something of a rest for the NWA, with 3 title changes taking place on the show. Perhaps the least surprising was Kerry Morton’s defeat of Homicide. The NWA has been building everyone’s favourite NWA white meat babyface up for months for this position and while the match was pretty good, it was notable to me that Homicide really grabbed your attention more throughout than Kerry. The heat Homicide got when he attacked Ricky Morton on the floor was a masterful lesson in how to achieve simple heel heat.
Kerry did still look good throughout and the pop he got when he finally raised the gold is enough to suggest that the NWA and Homicide have both done their job well in making Kerry look like a legitimate player. It will be interesting to see how things go for Kerry from here. I think it’s a long-term build, but I’m optimistic Kerry can get there.
4. Thom Latimer and EC3 Gave Us an Angle Instead of a Match
If you asked most fans before the show, they would have told you that the match they were most excited for was Thom Latimer vs. EC3. Thom Latimer has long been a favourite of the NWA fandom, and a match against EC3 seemed like a strong way to further Thom’s build and get him into the main event scene that everyone knows he really should be part of.
Sadly, we didn’t really get a match. Instead, a couple of minutes in, EC3 bailed to the floor and got a mic. Trying to make Latimer snap and reveal his demons, EC3 repeatedly goaded Latimer into punching him. A couple of ‘boring’ chants were notably audible from the crowd and for once, they were justified. Fans hadn’t paid to hear EC3 ramble on. They wanted a hard-hitting match. That EC3 went to the level of bringing up Latimer’s real-life issues with alcohol, violence and previous arrests was uncomfortable and doesn’t seem to have been appreciated by a good chunk of the audience. For me, if Thom was genuinely ok with it, then ok. It’s not for me to get offended on his behalf if he was comfortable with it. But the fact that a lot of fans weren’t comfortable with it is a strong indication that the NWA would be wise not to repeat it in future.
EC3 eventually got Latimer to deck him after comments about Kamille. Not only did Latimer deck EC3, but he then applied a crossface, refusing to let go when EC3 reached the ropes. The ref tried to split things up, forcing Latimer to launch the ref to the mat. The bell was called for and that was it. Match over.
It would have made a great angle on Powerrr to set up the PPV match, but actually putting this out on the PPV itself, that fans have paid for, did come across as a slap to the face of the NWA audience.
5. Kamille Tapped Out!
For months, Kamille has been presented as an unstoppable force, and rightly so. She is built like the proverbial brickhouse and considering her relative lack of experience, I think she has done a great job as NWA Women’s Heavyweight Champion, showing clear improvement in the ring as she defended the Burke constantly and consistently.
Curiously, Hard Times 3 seemed to show a chink for the first time in Kamille’s previously impenetrable armour. During her title defence in a three-way tag match with Kilynn King and Chelsea Green, King had Kamille in a crossface. Nobody expected it, but there it was – Kamille tapped out! Big shock. New champ!
Except…no new champ. Chelsea Green had the attention of the ref at ringside, meaning they never saw the tap. King was furious as the match continued, with Kamille finally taking the win. The reign of the Brickhouse continues, but this was a big development. The champ showed weakness. Is this the start of the build-up for Kamille’s heir apparent?
Commentary was strangely cagey about it, noting Kilynn King’s anger but addressing it as if it was focussed on Chelsea Green for distracting the ref. In fact, they kind of brushed over the fact that Kamille had tapped out. When a machine like Kamille taps for the first time, it should be a big deal. Commentary didn’t make it feel like such.
Still, the NWA could do worse than build up King to be Kamille’s eventual successor. Whether they will do that though remains to be seen.