ALTHOUGH WE ARE not always able to react to such sad events so soon after they occur, we felt it was important to commemorate the late “Superstar” Billy Graham, who passed away yesterday, May 17, 2023, at the age of 79.
Standing at 6’5” tall and weighing in at a muscular 275 pounds, Graham profoundly impacted the industry with his memorable promos and one-of-a-kind ring presence.
Graham was a larger-than-life performer, both due to his physique and ability to draw thousands of paying fans all over the U.S. After holding championships for NWA Florida, NWA Texas, and the Japanese IWA promotion, the Arizona native defeated the legendary Bruno Sammartino on April 30, 1977, to win the WWWF World heavyweight championship. That title win—and subsequent 296-day reign as champion—defined Graham’s career.
Able to draw the ire of fans like no one else, peak-era Graham similarly inspired strong reactions in his would-be peers. His persona, brightly colored attire, and flashy promos influenced the work of all-time greats including Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Dusty Rhodes.
Over the course of his career, Graham regularly graced the pages of publications such as PWI. He was a close friend of wrestling magazine giant George Napolitano, who, in an interview around his 2022 Stanley Weston Award acknowledgment, recalled being invited by Graham to a WWWF show in Baltimore. As fate would have it, that was the day when Graham unseated Sammartino as World heavyweight champ. Napolitano was on hand to photograph the unforgettable title change.
Today, the news of Billy Graham’s passing has been widely reported by most major news outlets, indicating the iconic grappler’s lasting impact on the world at large.
Simply put: “Superstar” Graham was one in a million. He will be missed.
TAKE THIS AS literally as you like, but I never saw it coming.
I certainly didn’t foresee JR Kratos heinously attacking me during a recent National Wrestling Alliance broadcast. Likewise, I could never have predicted the outpouring of fan support that followed.
On a February episode of the flagship program NWA Powerrr, “The Thrillbilly” Silas Mason again faced Kratos. It was the second match in a rivalry that kicked off amidst the NWA’s Champion Series.
During the first encounter, my loyalties were divided. Naturally, I wanted Silas to win. But, as Captain’s Assistant for Team Brickhouse, NWA World Women’s champion Kamille forced me to cheer on our team member Kratos. (Silas won anyway … yay!I)
When they again squared off, there were no distractions, as I rallied Knoxville behind its homegrown hero. In a rare moment of emotion, I slid into the ring, urging the ref to check Silas. That’s when the former NWA World tag team champion struck. It was violent and uncalled for; a thoroughly disgusting and unprovoked assault.
After pouncing me clean out of the ring, showing exactly the kind of Durn Dirty No-Gooder he truly is, Kratos secured a tainted victory. But that’s not where the story ends—not by a long shot!
At NWA’s Nuff Said in Tampa, “The Most Feared” became “the most bloodied!” When my baby sidestepped a huge splash attempt in the corner, Kratos knocked himself silly on a turnbuckle he exposed. In a pool of blood center-ring, Silas secured a gruesome, yet glorious, TKO victory to teach him a lesson!
Naturally, everyone loves a winner—and, with each match, it’s blatantly obvious we’re one step closer to NWA gold. Next in our crosshairs: cowardly NWA National Champion The Great Cyon and his geriatric father Austin Idol.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter if fans support our journey or not. Most are fickle and selfish when showing love. Someone wise once said, “Your approval is neither required nor desired.” And truer words have never been spoken.
However, I can understand the sudden about-face. “Big Daddy Thrill” and I are undeniable, the epitome of must-watch programming. How could anyone in NWA take their eyes off “6’6” Of Oooooh Yummy, Honey” and “The Lovely” Pollo Del Mar? The answer is simple: They can’t … and never could.
With that in mind, the sudden affection is easy to comprehend—but it’s equally clear the only thing that’s “changed” is how folks see us.
OVW’S GANG WARFARE
As one of today’s longest, continuously running promotions, Ohio Valley Wrestling saw greats like John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, and Cody Rhodes long before most of the world.
Now, between its popular YouTube series and extended streaming and broadcast agreements, more eyes than ever are on the hallowed halls of Davis Arena! The company’s recent growth was arguably built on the well-defined back of Jessie Godderz.
Whether for two reigns as IMPACT World tag champion or as a contestant and ongoing talking head for TV’s Big Brother, “Mr. PEC-tacular” is a name known to many. Those paying attention, though, recognize him as OVW’s crown jewel.
For much of 2022, Godderz and manager Shannon “The Dude” plotted to regain OVW’s National heavyweight title from “The Indian Lion” Mahabali Shera. Having finally succeeded, the dastardly duo devised a delightfully devious defense. Taking a page from greats of generations past, Godderz aligned himself with some of the company’s most established and promising competitors.
Flanked by multi-time OVW champion Adam Revolver, well-traveled veteran EC3, and upstart “Certified” Luke Kurtis, “The Dude” even convinced former rival Shera to join their “Godderz Gang.” With a protective phalanx of beef, Godderz and the belt seem very secure!
Together, these men have run roughshod over opponents, collecting myriad titles and dishing out punishment along the way. Not since Josh Ashcraft’s long-since-dismantled Legacy of Brutality has an OVW faction proved so devastating.
For Godderz, perhaps it’s a means to an end: protecting that coveted gold. For others—notably Kurtis, who, as OVW’s impressive Rush division champion, shines exceptionally bright in the mix—I suspect it’s a launching pad for much, much more.
For the promotion, though, it’s a testament to its motto. With OVW, you truly do “See The Superstars Of Tomorrow Today.”
AEW’S LETHAL COMBINATION
It’s taken far too long for Jay Lethal to find his footing in All Elite Wrestling. The Ring of Honor legend floundered amid less-than-compelling outings upon his arrival. His partnership with Sonjay Dutt and “One In A Billion” Satnam Singh also seemed questionable.
Enter Jeff Jarrett.
Despite their performances as Ric Flair’s seemingly hand-selected final opponents, I was initially skeptical. Now, with time to gel, the pairing is hitting its stride in an apparent quest for the highly competitive division’s tag team gold.
On the February 22 Dynamite, Jarrett and Lethal earned a multi-team shot at champs The Gunns, which took place at Revolution on March 6. As challenging as it is for anyone to truly stand out in AEW, Lethal and Jarrett are masters of the game. Having each won countless titles across nearly every promotion going today, both should have felt like major individual acquisitions for AEW in their own right … yet neither did.
But now, together, they inch closer to a deserved AEW spotlight with each outing. When all is said and done, the partnership just might be a stroke of genius for both.
ON HEELS: Zicky Dice, Silas Mason, Dominik Mysterio
TEXT BY POLLO DEL MAR
SOMETIMES IT’S BEST to recognize you’re fighting a losing battle. Zicky Dice should have remembered this when our paths crossed recently in Connecticut.
On Sept. 22, Best Trivia Ever collected a mixture of today’s brightest talent and legends like Scott Steiner and Scotty 2 Hotty for SLAM 2, an unforgettable night of pro wrestling action in Milford. Seeking revenge for his humiliation at a SLAM event a year prior, Dice had the temerity to direct his anger toward me to begin the show.
The IMPACT Wrestling star’s callous and unwanted disruption turned me from the night’s emcee into an impromptu “general manager” and matchmaker of sorts. The grave error of threatening me if “appropriate opposition” was not offered did not end well for “The Outlandish One.”
Dice fell into a trap far too many do: underestimating the cunning and calculated “Manager Of Champions.” He also failed to recognize just how far my connections extend in the wrestling world.
Some 90 minutes later, when he returned to the ring to menace and intimidate, it was my turn to surprise. You should have seen Zicky’s expression when the music hit and Eddie Kingston came through that crowd!
Tonight @ZickyDice threatened to kick my ass if I didn’t find “appropriate competition” for him at #BTESlam2. Careful what you ask for, Zicky…Now THAT’s outlandish!
Fresh from devastating Sammy Guevara the night prior during an AEW Rampage taping, Kingston was all-too-ready to avenge that disqualification loss. Though I find no joy in siding with fans, I, like everyone in attendance, rejoiced as Eddie thoroughly trounced the former National Wrestling Alliance Television champion.
Yet again, Dice’s big mouth was temporarily silenced—thanks to my new buddy Eddie. Now that is “Outlandish”!
IT’S A THRILL RIDE!
Being forced to acknowledge one of the all-time great fan favorites galls me to no end. However, when Ricky Steamboat is right, he’s right—and the National Wrestling Alliance’s new “Steamboat Proclamation” is very, very right!
Returning for Season 10 of NWA Powerrr, the former World’s heavyweight champion immediately convinced NWA owner and president William Patrick Corgan to expand title opportunities for everyone in the company. That resulted in, among other things, a single elimination tournament to determine the #1contender to The Great Cyon’s National heavyweight title.
The Hall-of-Famer Steamboat hand-selected 12 competitors of varying NWA tenure to compete for a title shot at the November 12 Hard Times 3 pay-per-view in New Orleans. With gentle persuasion, “The Thrillbilly” Silas Mason joined the likes of Jax Dane, “Magic” Jake Dumas, and more!
To the shock of apparently all except me, Silas “upset” former National champion Anthony Mayweather in the opening round. We then went on to face that demon-worshipping Judais in the semi-finals. I ran interference as that devilish garden gnome Father James Mitchell tried some shenanigans, allowing Silas to take “The High Priest Of Punishment” on a Thrill Ride he could not survive!
Soon, “The Thrillbilly” will face Chris Adonis and relative NWA newcomer Dak Draper in three-way finale. Adonis is a two-time National champion and Draper is a former Ring of Honor Top Prospects Tournament winner. However, neither has faced someone like Silas Mason—and certainly not with “The Lovely” Pollo Del Mar at his side.
Stay tuned to NWA’s weekly programming—NWA Powerrr every Tuesday on FiteTV and NWA USA Saturdays on YouTube—to catch this must-see match-up. Silas Mason’s ready to take the entire NWA on a Thrill Ride straight into New Orleans!
Poor Rey Mysterio! The man simply can’t control his family.
First, daughter Aaliyah seemingly strayed amidst his ongoing feud with Seth Rollins. Now, son Dominik has stabbed him in the back to join The Judgment Day.
Sure, becoming the first father/son team to hold WWE tag gold was cute, but did Rey expect that to satisfy Dom forever? How long could Daddy reasonably expect Dom to ride his coattails, treating him like a child when all he wanted was to his own man? Little Dom finally stepped from his father’s shadow—and all it took was Rhea Ripley’s encouragement.
As the nephew of a legend himself, surely Rey knows the pressures of following an icon’s footsteps. To ever be seen as more than “Rey Mysterio’s son,” Dominik needs to establish himself individually … and could never do that under his father’s thumb.
Now Dominik shows dastardly depth and determination at the sides of Finn Balor, Damian Priest, and Ripley. He’s turned the page, and his back, on the past to forge his own legacy. And it’s clear fans like it no more than Rey does.
A recent Raw audience in California nearly booed Dominik and company of San Jose. Still, the smile on Dom’s face said it all. For perhaps the first time in his young career, he’s eliciting a crowd response entirely his own—and that’s presumably all he ever wanted.
The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) figures prominently into the June 2022 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated—on newsstands nows—with a feature story on reigning NWA World champion Matt Cardona and a special “12 Questions” feature with NWA World Women’s champions The Hex (Allysin Kay & Marti Belle). The magazine, which features former Raw Women’s champ Becky Lynch on the cover, also includes interviews with stars from WWE, AEW, and the independent circuit.
As you’ll note from the photo above, we’ve opted to create an alternate cover featuring reigning World Women’s tag champs The Hex—who, with their recent accomplishments, have quite palpably helped put women’s tag team wrestling back on the map. More on that in a moment …
The issue escalated slightly when we informed Mr. Cardona that we wouldn’t submit to his demands. However, we pressed on (literally). After the issue was released, featuring Becky Lynch’s photo front and center, “The Broski” hit back with a new demand: that we release an alternate cover for the issue.
And here we are. While we agreed to Cardona’s request, we were quick to note that he never specified who or what should be on the cover. Enter The Hex, who, as mentioned above, is the subject of our latest “12 Questions” feature in the same issue.
In addition to not threatening us, vaguely or otherwise, Allysin Kay & Marti Belle made history last year by winning the newly reintroduced NWA World Women’s tag team title in a tournament final at NWA Empowerrr. Since then, they’ve gone on to wear tag team gold in prominent women’s promotions SHINE and Pro Wrestling: EVE in the U.S. and U.K., respectively. They’ve also defended the NWA tag belts proudly in the NWA, various independent promotions, and even overseas.
For that reason, we are thrilled to offer this free, digital-only download of our OFFICIAL Alternate Cover (same specs as our print magazine) for the June 2022 issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, featuring Kay & Belle with their World tag team title belts. Hope you enjoy the cover, champs!
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