A View from A DKM: NWA Invasion – Houston
Let me explain something about myself, I tend to think most places outside of an hour drive from my home aren’t worth going to. Now I have gone on to see family or gone on vacations and driven and flown for up to 10 hours but in general, I prefer to stay close to home. So despite the fact that I have lived in Texas since 1983, I have never been to Houston, a four hour trip because I never had a reason to go.
Well that changed this summer when NWA Houston announced a joint card with New Japan Pro Wrestling. I saved my money, got a couple of tickets, a hotel room, and a friend to join me on the journey. I’m really glad my friend, JES, came with me because I knew he would be a good measuring stick for the show. JE doesn’t watch WWE, TNA, or any other wrestling. He doesn’t follow promotions on Facebook or Twitter (He doesn’t even have accounts) or any other part of the web. He is a gamer in his free time. However, when I want a partner to go to a show with he comes along because he tends to find wrestling entertaining. We also have the kind of relationship where if he doesn’t like a show he will tell me in no uncertain terms.
So we took the day off, drove down to Humble, TX, checked into the hotel, relaxed a bit and then headed off to the show. First off, I must say the Humble Civic Center was a really nice place and if feasible, would be a good place to continue to hold bigger shows. Anyway, we picked up our tickets and waited for the VIP time to start. Once we got in we went around to the different tables where most of the wrestlers were selling their items and picked up a “killer” KES t-shirt. I accomplished my main goals of saying hi to some of the wrestlers I know from Facebook and taking pictures of the three NWA world belts that were there.
After that we waited for the show to start and JE and I set out to answer the question I know most people would want to know, “How many fans would be would be there tonight?” Honestly it was not as easy as one might think. For example the first time we did a count of chairs and then later tried to estimate the crowd based on the percentage we thought the chairs were were empty. Both being numbers geeks we kept a tally as the show got ready to start. One problem, we got a number that seemed lower than the crowd we were seeing. We looked around again a realized we left out an entire section of chairs. It wasn’t a big section but since it was full it did influence the perception. So at intermission I asked JE his opinion and he said “Eh, 500 give or take” so that is what I’m going with.
Now on to the show. The first match up saw Ricky Starks and the Modern Day Hero Kevin Douglas vs Carson and Mike Dell. Starks is the only one I had not seen before but is a young guy that has some skills. It was a good opening match with people the crowd knew, appreciated, and enjoyed. The end came when Carson super kicked Douglas and then Starks which allowed Dell to pin Starks. Ok time for a little personal commentary. Wrestling promoters in Texas or across the NWA. Douglas is a former NWA World Junior Heavyweight champion and Carson a former NWA North American heavyweight champion. If you can get these two as well as Mike Dell, then do it. They have skill, talent, passion, can work the crowd, and would be a benefit to your promotion. As for Starks, I don’t know what the future holds for him, but based on what I saw, he has a future.
The next match was a Teacher vs Student match as Lou Marconi, NWA Eastern States champion (nice belt BTW) took on his former student, Ray Rowe. First off both men just look like professional wrestlers, neither big brawlers nor small high flyers and they put on a pro wrestling clinic. However, maybe the best part of this story took place on the outside as former NWA Lone Star champion Jasper Davis was ringside holding signs like “I beat Raymond Rowe” and “Rowe-verated.” Near the end of the match Davis jumped the guardrail, got chased by one security guy who later brought in a couple of more to finally catch him. Although I didn’t see any direct interference by Davis, will all the distraction Marconi was able to take advantage and pin Rowe. Some people might say a good match was spoiled by Davis involvement but it told a story, was entertaining, and I’m guessing we will see more between Rowe and Davis.
Our third match was the first title match of the night as NWA Midwest tag team champions Lords of K.A.O.S., Damien Wayne and Lance Erikson challenged NWA Lone Star Champions the Sons of Texas, Cowboy James Claxton and Alex Reigns. The teams were similar in that they each had a big brawler and a technical wrestler. They were every evenly matched and put on an excellent tag team match. It ended with both teams getting counted out and at one point Erikson almost ending up in the lap of JE. I see great things for Erikson and Wayne and can’t wait for them to challenge for the World Tag Team Title. [UPDATE: KOS were in a four team elimination world title match the next night in San Antonio, at the end it was KES vs LOK with KES retaining, but I doubt it is over between these two teams)
Our first international match was up next as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Gedo and Watanabe pinned former NWA World Tag Team Champions the Kingz of the Underground, Scot Summers and Ryan Genesis. I’ve seen Summers in person a few times and he was typical Scot Summers, part Rick Steiner and part Kevin Sullivan. A stiff worker who fits with the Japanese strong style and excelled in the match. This was my first time seeing Ryan Genesis and I was very impressed and more promoters need to be looking at him. As for Gedo & Watanabe, all I can say is “WOW”. They were the heels in this match and played it perfect. The crowd had a lot of respect for them and it showed. I’d like to take this chance to talk a bit about the crowd. First off, the thing I noticed the most was crowds are just smarter than they use to be and they can separate what they “know” and they need to “believe” to enjoy the show. They knew who the Japanese wrestlers were and it showed in their response. In fact during the meet and greet and later during the intermission no table was more popular than the New Japan table. I hope New Japan felt the love the crowd gave.
In the match just before intermission, it was a battle of the big men as Michael Tarver faced off against Jax Dane. Dane is a monster, a big man who has a big future in the sport. Before the match started Byron Wilcott attacked Dane from behind and injured his shoulder and stayed around for the rest of the match. Now there was a reason for it but instead of seeing a classic battle of big men like I was hoping it was Dane needing to mount a comeback but being pinned after Wilcott hit him with the Shakeweight.
After intermission we had the first of the world title matches as Jason Kincaid defended against former champion Chase Owens. Just before the match Bruce Tharpe presented Kincaid with the new NWA World Junior Heavyweight championship belt. I wonder if Kincaid knew that is not normally a good sign for the defending champion? Chase Owens was accompanied by fellow Illuminati member Chris Richards, which had me a little worried. Much like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, I don’t think it is possible for Kincaid and Owens to have a bad match. Not well known by the local crowd, it took a little bit of time for the crowd to warm to the match but by the end they were chanting “This is Awesome.” My concern about Richards was unfounded as he just stood in Owens corner and Owens hit his roaring elbow for the clean pin.
Time for the World Tag team title match as Killer Elite Squad, Lance (Archer) Hoyt and Davy Boy Smith Jr defend against Hiroyoshi Tenzan and a true wrestling legend Jushin Thunder Liger. In this match, the New Japan team where the clear fan favorites. JE awarded this one match of the night and I sure agree. The crowd ate it up and after Liger fell to the Killer Bomb and the Japanese team was ready to leave the ring the crowd chanted “Please Come Back”.
Finally time for the Main Event, NWA World Champion Rob Conway retained his title after pinning NWA Lone Star champion Byron Wilcott in a no DQ bout. Now this wasn’t a Flair/Steamboat classic wrestling match but it did remind me of some of the classic Harley Race and Dusty Rhodes no DQ matches. Plenty of wrestling, brawling, chairs, in ring, and out of ring action as these two gave what they had. Tarver would come out and stick his nose in the match which would bring out Jax Dane. After Dane cleared the area of Tarver, Conway was able to regain his focus and at the end hit the Ego Trip on Wilcott for the pin. Crowd goes home happy tonight even if it was pouring rain outside (seriously, do you know how much fun it is to be driving in an area you don’t know, at night, and in the pouring rain? Not every!)
So was it worth it? The cost of tickets, hotels, gas, and 9 hours round trip in a minivan? Well according to JES it was “a great way for two friends to spend a weekend road trip, we will have to do it again sometime.” Yes we will.