Monday, February 9, 2015

Monkey Flip: NOVA 2014 Recap

In February of 2014, Boo Moritat wins Ring of Gold's annual Super 8 tournament.  The honor is tarnished by the fact that none of his fellow competitors ever amount to anything, other than their association with the superstar who will one day be known as BM Pro, a name he assumes, while still in RoG, a year later.  Everyone who knows him calls him Boo.  He's significant because in 2018, Boo will be Alex Helton's World Famous opponent once both have emerged on the grand stage of World Pro Wrestling.

Alex will have a different name, too, if you remember: Alex Dane.  But that is another lifetime, compared to 2014.  In this year, Alex is still competing for Colt Carson's NOVA.  In some ways, the whole year is a huge step backward for his career, at least as he initially views it.  It's also hugely significant.

Like everyone else in the locker room, Alex dreads January's pay-per-view, Idolwild, the second such card in the promotion's short history.  For the second year running, it is a chance for NOVA to introduce new faces to its fans, and not just any faces, but significant ones, who have already made their names elsewhere, big names.  Names like Mondo Joe and Manny Cruz, two wildly respected wrestlers, as well as Ivan Pulig, once hyped as best in the world, and Red Hook, one of the fiercest hardcore attractions in the business, still around and fast becoming a staple.  If that weren't enough, there's Oz Hedges making his company debut.  In the main event.  Booked to defeat NOVA champion Ian Maust.

Surely more than enough to make Alex feel uneasy.  He seeks reassurance from his pal Scott, who's scheduled to face Pulig on the card.  It's at this time Alex realizes something else, that Scott perhaps has greater potential than him, too, and that now will be the moment everyone realizes it.  To most of the boys, Scott Peavy is just another member of NOVA's roster, an original from its earliest days.  He's always been a little larger, the rare indy wrestler in the six foot range, not yet having developed muscle to convert his bulk, perhaps a little slower in the learning curve.  To Alex, he's been a loyal friend from the start, and that will never change.  But with increased learning potential, if any of them will ever leave NOVA behind and become a star somewhere else, it's beginning to look like it will be Scott.

Scott, whom some in the locker room have already nicknamed "The Beast," a name that will become his official moniker in WPW.  That's years in the future, though.  Alex can't know that he and Scott will headline World Famous together.  For now, he has another contender in mind.  Jealousy.

And a great deal of insecurity, something he's been dealing with for the past year already.  At Idolwild, he defends his kendo championship against Gabe Parkman, who by October has captured a new NOVA honor, the stretcher title, the most grueling one possible.  Carson pulls him aside just before the match is to begin and lets him know.  It's the only time all evening Alex feels at all significant.

By March, his worries begin to feel validated when Alex is pulled aside again, in advance of the Pink Mist card, and told he will drop his belt to Cruz, who by the same card next year will have completed his transition to becoming known as Proof and therefore solidifying what NOVA has helped define as a bold new era in his career.  Already an established standout in New World Wrestling, the second biggest promotion after WPW, this is certainly a notable development.  What is Alex doing, meanwhile?  Losing to Pulig at Fluid Karma the next month.  He's becoming enhancement talent.  He makes others look good.  Sure, it's an honor to be put in the ring with that level of talent.  But his ego wants more.  He wants his own career to shine.  At this point, that's looking less and less likely.

For the Smokin' Aces card in May, Alex is told his willingness to put the bigger names over will be rewarded.  He will be in a tag team with Adam Hayes, one of the standouts of the '90s in the American Championship Wrestling scene along with Joey Williams, who went on to bigger and better things.  Who knows?  Maybe he'll get a similar rub from Hayes, who used to be known for a rich man gimmick.  As with any tag team match in NOVA, it's for the tornado championship, and the one who gets the pin also wins the title, to be held with a different partner each defense.  Alex will be getting the pin.

From Scott's experience, this is one of those things about NOVA that sounds and looks good, but is really as much of a back-handed compliment as can be given by Carson.  It's exciting for the fans, but the most thankless spot of all the featured roles in the promotion.  Scott hated his three months with the belt.  They'll both like the title a lot more in 2015, because they will share several months with it.  But for now?  June's Alpha Dog card is a nightmare.  They're on opposite sides.  It's more evident than ever before how needlessly chaotic the tornado championship is as a concept.  It's the worst kind of gimmick.  Yet by July and August, when Alex teams with Ian Maust, he changes his tune.

Maust was the first big name that caused him to panic.  Maust was the NWW guy who looked like he diminished everyone else around him, in an instant, and the first outsider who was given an immediate push at the top.  Yet the more Alex got to know him, the more he realized how humble Maust really is.  It's Maust who campaigned for this early deviation from the tornado title norm, allowing the same tag team partners to stick together for more than one match.  He's the one who whispers into Alex's ear: "You've got big things in your future."

Does Alex even believe him?  For two months he does.  Their matches against Oliver Pine and Oscar Guerrera are among the most highly-praised in the whole industry that year.  They're a definitive turning point.  The steel cage rematch in August's Three Rules card is one of only three matches that evening.  It's given all the time it needs to shine.  That evening, Alex doesn't feel like he's part of a gimmick at all.  He really does feel as if he's being taken seriously.

At the third Unleashed card, the annual celebration of NOVA's debut, he's back in the kendo title hunt, but he's going against Scott.  It's the first time a wrestling commentator calls Scott "The Beast" on the air.  They tear the house down.  They do so again on the Cold Snap card in October, as part of a tournament.  Alex doesn't mind putting Scott over at all.  His pal ends up in the quarterfinals against Maust, who helps Parkman claim the inaugural stretcher championship in the finals.

When Scott receives a main event match on the Thriller card the next month, Alex could not be more proud.  His fears from earlier in the year look childish now.  He's teamed with Pine in a tornado title match the same night, going opposite Guerrera and Damian Goch, who's the next person to whisper in Alex's ear: "I'm doing it to honor the matches you guys had with the Beast.  You guys are creating history."  At December's Sudden Impact, Goch has a match with Scott.  Alex has the night off.

He's not at all concerned about his future.

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