The Powerrr of Studio Wrestling

I don’t think I’ll ever forget my discovery of studio wrestling. Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually very young and so, wrestling television was really just one thing to me. It was a 2-hour show in an arena, unless you couldn’t sell tickets anyway, featuring matches and in-ring promos that were inevitably interrupted. There was a set or ‘titantron,’ whatever, it was all very loud and big matches would happen, even if often without their eventual PPV finish. That was wrestling television.

In fact, I’d often find myself confused at the calls for some variety. Onlookers would want something different from TNA, a more defined identity but to me, there was no alternative. Very simple situation, you just do RAW but in a smaller building with a different roster, easy! Well, that format is now probably furthest from my personal preference, as slowly but surely, I explore more and more of wrestling television’s roots. Perhaps this process sounds familiar to you and if it’s not, it probably will be one day.

For me, World Championship Wrestling was the route. Naturally, I hoped to experience the nWo and all that good stuff, wanted to feel that Monday Night Wars magic. Opting for insanity though, I decided that I’d start a little further back, leading me to WCW Saturday Night. You can’t really experience that programme without being inspired to travel another chapter or two though, as it’s a strange show. Saturday Night is indeed studio wrestling but it’s a cold product, one reliant on its famed past.

That time slot was wrestling history, with WCW’s flagship simply being the continuation of that tale. It started twenty years prior, with Georgia Championship Wrestling, eventually branding the programme World Championship Wrestling. That title was famously bought by Vince McMahon, failing to impress the already existing audience and then selling the time slot on to Jim Crockett Promotions. In terms of studio wrestling, that’s my personal comfort zone. That era especially encapsulates WCW’s beginnings, the red hot territory that’d soon become an ice cold national promotion.

Even still, it’s hard to explore one without the other. Some of those elements never erase, even if they fade through the many shifts in regime. The Four Horsemen being an obvious example, WCW’s iconic faction that remains relevant over thirty years later. Even if you’ve seldom seen studio wrestling, you’ve probably caught a Horsemen promo or two, their influence is too widespread to ignore. They aren’t just four, or in some cases three, elite talents though, they are an idea in general.

That faction embodied an era, a style and philosophy that’s so often referenced in reverence. Attempts at recapturing it never end either, though some are far more enduring than others. Nonetheless, that narrative never truly vanishes from WCW, as at least one puzzle piece is always present. It represents the promotion’s roots, even during times of change as the entire industry evolves, or devolves depending on your stance. That act drew me to those Crockett TVs, a truly magical product that considering what followed, still feels connected to more familiar times.

Stylistically, it’s just the latest version of traditional wrestling TV, but add Dusty Rhodes’ own special sprinklings and you already have something special. More than that though, it’s this fascinating dynamic in which the wrestling world is about to change and things are so good that really, none of these people could ever know it. Soon, Crockett’s glory days will conclude and its successor will pursue the grand, glossy nature of Vince McMahon’s WWF. In that sense, Saturday Night is a mere halfway house.

Nonetheless, my fascination with that time really was eye-opening but considering the landscape, it felt firmly cemented as a thing of the past. Then in 2019, the NWA changed that, resurrecting studio wrestling with their throwback flagship: Powerrr. Yes, awful name indeed but Powerrr would be the centerpiece of the promotion’s planned rebuild, a weekly studio show built on promo and personality, just like the good old days! Matches? Yes, there’d be some of those too but that wasn’t really the point, there are good matches everywhere these days.

Less than two years later, that above description probably feels mocking and perhaps it is. The NWA has lost so much goodwill since then, just making blunders at every turn and almost certainly sealing their likely fate as an industry afterthought. That doesn’t change my fleeting experience with Powerrr though, an incredibly flawed programme that based on season 1 and change alone, I’ll always remember fondly. For me, that was a reminder of how simple pro wrestling can be, or at least how simple I like it to be.

In any other setting, Nick Aldis vs. Tim Storm isn’t going to capture my imagination much but armed with a studio sincerity, that thing carries some weight. I know, I know, that’s awful silly considering the inevitable result but they hooked me, it was a classic tale that I could understand, enhanced by some fiery promos along the way. The two real stars of that show are now AEW standouts though: Eddie Kingston and Ricky Starks. Credit to Corgan and co for shining on light on those two, even if their usage may have caused more frustration than joy.

Kingston was a well-known veteran of course but I’ve realised since that in truth, many discovered him through Powerrr. The same certainly goes for Starks, who was much newer to a stage of even that scale. Those two sent a message in that setting though, absolutely stealing the show with every opportunity to talk, let alone wrestle. Honestly, their efforts left me wanting more elite talent at the podium, but I’m glad that they both ended up on international television, where they quite obviously belonged.

Powerrr seemed increasingly reliant on not only nostalgia but also, an overt self-awareness. It felt like they were regularly winking at the audience, as though this was some attempt at actual time travel. I don’t think that changed their path as frankly, this destination was coming regardless but even still, it did feel rather wasteful. Kingston, Starks and others showed that studio wrestling can still pack a punch, it just takes some commitment, no different to any other wrestling arena or scenario.

Strange take really, as I’d imagine that financially, the show has been an abject failure but for whatever reason, Powerrr only proved to me that the genre still has its place in pro wrestling. Does it have a firm ceiling above its head? Absolutely, but so does almost every brand, especially in a landscape as loaded as this. That doesn’t change my point though, which is that Powerrr struggles for many reasons and in my view at least, the format isn’t really one of them.  

Unfortunately, I doubt that we’ll ever see another roll of this particular dice. Powerrr still lives of course but it just feels set in place now, devoid of any momentum and without a solution to solve it. Outside of that though, hard to see any other studio wrestling reinventions on the horizon. It seems as though AEW Dark could be headed in a comparable direction and that’ll certainly scratch an itch but it’s also the D-Show, we all know the reality of that situation.

I suppose that NXT is the actual answer, and has been for years now. It doesn’t quite feel the same but perhaps that’s the point, it’s an evolution of the concept and in NXT UK’s case, barely even that. Either way, we’ll always have the archives or I will at least, and my American friends will when the folks at Peacock finally want to add some good wrestling to their service!

Eddie Kingston and the Powerrr of Promo

Armed with nostalgic visuals and a throwback format, the NWA holds a unique place in the current wrestling landscape. In an era of in-ring thrills and athletic spectacles, NWA Powerrr has quickly become home to some of wrestling’s most engaging personalities. In four months, that programme’s podium has already hosted multiple memorable promos, allowing its performers to talk without any real filter or restriction. Thus far, that element has been NWA’s most prominent, quickly providing them with a unique selling point in an admittedly crowded field.

Some names stand out more than others though, forming an organic hierarchy of sorts. In the NWA, almost everyone talks for themselves but within those ranks, a few figures truly command your attention. You anticipate their next word or thought, awaiting every minute of promo time they receive. Eddie Kingston may be the clearest example of that right now, the least surprising highlight of a show stacked with familiar faces and breakout stars. As soon as Kingston’s involvement was announced, the results seemed obvious, the perfect fit at the perfect time.

The news sealed my interest too as if nothing else, Eddie Kingston on a studio wrestling show felt worth watching. I’m not even particularly sure why either, as my confidence in such a concept was mostly unfounded. Regrettably, my knowledge of Kingston’s body of work was relatively sparse, especially then but I’d seen enough to reach a common consensus: there was something special about him. I was far too late to the party in that regard though, only catching the fleeting YouTube promo until Kingston’s first stint in Impact.

Through no fault of his own, that initial run flattered to deceive but his presence motivated me to dig a little deeper. That led me back to Kingston’s famed High Noon promo which in turn, directed me to the match itself. There was certainly something captivating about Kingston, an authenticity that in its sheer sincerity, demanded your respect. So, with my knowledge slightly expanded, I mostly moved on, only returning to the odd clip occasionally. It was Kingston’s return to Impact that solidified my prior perception though, portraying ‘King’ to perfection and enhancing his angle immensely.

Entwined in an intriguing saga with LAX, Kingston maximised every minute, establishing a character that extended beyond wrestling’s usual parameters. Though his rare skill set was now more undeniable than ever, Kingston’s Impact return would also be relatively short-lived. He’d certainly fit the description though, translating to television seamlessly and validating every praise of his promo ability. Kingston deserved better after that performance but one year later, he found a far more fitting home: arriving on the NWA Powerrr premiere.

Since, Kingston has maintained my interest and then some, bringing an incredible energy to each appearance he’s made. Alongside Homicide, Kingston was an immediate factor, seeming at ease from episode one.  In fact, Kingston has almost felt underutilised, receiving ample talking time without being a central focus either. That had especially been the case as of late, with Kingston’s most recent character developments feeling somewhat under-cooked. Kingston’s dealings with The Pope had been featured but their story was just beginning, existing mostly in the background until this week.

My investment in Kingston made that somewhat frustrating but it was hard to be anything but reassured. After all, I knew the inevitable: at some point, Kingston would speak on this matter and in many ways, that confidence is the beauty of this show. It was well-placed too, as in just one minute, Kingston totally shifted this programme’s trajectory. As soon as he finished speaking, I felt compelled to momentarily halt my viewing. I’m not even particularly sure why, I just had to take a minute before continuing.

Minutes later and I felt the need to re-watch that single minute. Over and over, I’ve watched Kingston’s promo in hopes that somehow, I can piece together it’s brilliance. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at understanding why things like that resonate but this transcended those usual explanations. I think that partly, it was the range of emotions so swiftly covered that made this so remarkable. Kingston initially brought humour to proceedings, then intense anger followed by an almost despairing honesty.

Kingston’s rage in defending Homicide really spoke to their alliance, catapulting both characters to a whole new level for Powerrr viewers. As Kingston touted his partner’s accomplishments, his raw passion elicited cries of support from the audience but just one sentence later, he’d rendered them silent. Initially, this appeared to be just another sublime studio outburst, filled with vim and vigour. Kingston wasn’t talking to the audience here though; he was speaking directly to the culprit. As a result, Kingston was almost frenetic, unleashing his emotions with a blunt brutality.

That led to the aforementioned silence, as Kingston pointed directly at Pope, declaring “because of him, I didn’t commit suicide. Do you understand that? That’s reality, that’s real.” That particular sentence was delivered in a hushed rage of sorts. Kingston wasn’t much quieter than before, but his tone had certainly shifted. Just like Kingston’s delivery, the audience’s reaction was natural. There weren’t any grandiose elements within Kingston’s statement. Instead, there was a guarded honesty that had been fearlessly unleashed in front of us.

This segment provided great insight into the Kingston character, pushing his honour and loyalty to the forefront. It very much gave perspective to Homicide’s importance too, his impact on the industry as well as of course, Kingston himself. On the other side, it truly shaped The Pope’s still emerging character. He was clearly this story’s villain before, but his villainy had never been clearer than after Kingston had finished talking. Those effects are undeniable, this promo enhanced their angle dramatically, but it still doesn’t quite capture its impact on my own investment.

In truth, I still haven’t found the explanation for that. NWA isn’t low on confident talkers, but this promo felt different to me. It was startlingly genuine, authentic to the core. The emotional rollercoaster Kingston took us on was truly unique and if I had to guess, that’s the leading reason for the reaction it’s received since. I think it was for me anyway but perhaps all of these factors just speak to Kingston himself. There’s a special ingredient present in this, it’s part experience perhaps but there’s a trait here that simply can’t be taught or learned.

If the art of professional wrestling is capturing our imagination and evoking emotion, Eddie Kingston truly is an artist. Regardless of platform or presentation, you can always believe in this character. You may loathe him in one place and love him in another, but you’ll never doubt a move he makes. There’s no uncertainty in those eyes, bringing full commitment to every word, whether they are inspired by loyalty or deceit. In the grand scheme of things, I still know very little about Eddie Kingston, but I know more than enough to truly care.

Thankfully though, I’m now increasingly aware of why for so many years, he’s resonated so strongly with his fanbase. Simply put, Kingston can make us feel the kind of emotion that’s rare in wrestling. So rare in fact that when it’s palpable, wrestling can create moments that for those viewers, will live forever. This all sounds incredibly complex, but it should be reiterated that all of these thoughts were sparked by just one minute of Kingston talking. A single minute that I’ve since re-watched enough that it’s truly etched in my mind.

The best wrestling often appears rather simple in hindsight and I don’t think that’s necessarily a fallacy either. Far from it actually, that’s almost the charm. All Kingston needed was a minute of our time and in many ways, that’s the perfect encapsulation of what’s made him so enduring. More knowledgeable fans than me were aware of all this long ago but personally, I’ll hold this promo dear. Why? Because after all these hours of wrestling, it left me truly stunned. So much so that 1400 words later, I’m still not particularly sure why.