365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.
Since the heyday of Bobby Heenan in the WWF, I’ve always enjoyed a heel manager who is good at what he does. Even as a kid, I would root for Heenan (though maybe not the people he managed). It made sense to 10-year-old me, OK?
These days, managers appear to be making a comeback in major televised wrestling, but for most of the 2000s, a good manager was hard to find anywhere on the scene. That’s what helped Prince Nana shine so brightly. The real-life descendant of a royal bloodline in the Ashanti tribe in Ghana, Nana amplified this into a gimmick as an arrogant royal who used his family’s wealth to bankroll The Embassy in Ring Of Honor. He got so much heat at some of these ROH shows. The combination of his word choice and the cadence and sound of his voice really got the fans going. The roster of the Embassy stable ebbed and flowed, but the peak Embassy for me was Jimmy Rave, Alex Shelley, Abyss, in 2005 or so.
Nana wasn’t just a manager, though; he also was a trained wrestler. In fact, he competed regularly on the very first run of ROH shows including the promotion’s debut event in 2002.
We take a look at Nana’s in-ring career, but in ECWA, for this match against Ace Darling from February 28, 2004.
You can watch this match on IWTV.
Nana is the ECWA Mid-Atlantic Champion here, and that’s the secondary title in this promotion. It’s now known as the ECWA Legacy Title. At the time of this match, Nana has been champion for 300 days, and he’s wrestling in the main event of the card against an opponent chosen by a vote of the fans in attendance.
The fans’ choice is Darling, who is completely unfamiliar to me. Some research informed me he was a mainstay in ECWA, that his trainers included Iron Mike Sharpe, and that he wrestled on the independent circuit in the Northeast U.S.
We’ve become conditioned here in the 2020s to see main events go long. This is not that type of match. Nana jumps Ace as he slides into the ring, and they maintain a fairly fast pace for the duration, which is less than 10 minutes from bell to bell.
The setup of the match reminded me of the very first Summerslam, when Ultimate Warrior hit the ring as a surprise opponent and trucked The Honkytonk Man in seconds to win another secondary title. We see a similar result here, but take a different path to get there. Nana isn’t happy about Darling winning the vote and he shows it with some physical offense. He lays in some chops that have Darling’s left pec turning a bright shade of red by the end of the bout. He levels Darling with a charging clothesline. Later, he delivers a charging body smash in the corner, then immediately follows up with a hip attack.
At one point, Prince Nana just blatantly stomps Darling in the balls but even that won’t put him down for the three count. Ace tries to mount a comeback, and Nana cuts him off by slapping him right in the mouth. He’s more of an imposing figure here than he ever was in ROH. For all the beatings, Nana ends up losing the match and the title when Darling counters a modified Cobra Clutch into a pinning predicament. Nana shows the requisite amount of shock at the sudden defeat, and Darling is still flat on his back as he receives the belt and has his hand raised.
Darling’s selling really helps make this match. Even when he’s on offense, such as a flying cross body on Nana, he sells the effects of the move and past punishment and is unable to cover for the pin. He sells the low blow spectacularly, curling up on the mat and throwing in some retching coughs for emphasis. Bravo.
–Check out Straw Hat Guy from ECW in the front row!
–Nana gets on the microphone before his opponent is announced and riles up the crowd, mocking some of the possible choices for his foe. Threatening to pick someone out of the audience and thrash them instead was a nice touch.
Final Rating: 6.1
I really liked this match. Nana plays an effective heel champion and his offense looks good — especially the chops and his combination attack in the corner. Ace meanwhile does a fantastic job selling to further elevate what’s happening. These two don’t try to reinvent the wheel; they just go out and have a damn solid wrestling match that is worth watching. This is definitely worth checking out, especially if you primarily know Nana as a manager and mouthpiece and haven’t seen him wrestle.
We recap the February list, then move on to another Guest Selection from a guy who really getz wrestling.