Wrestling With Success – The NWA Story

March 4, 2015
By: Renny D

If you have ever taken a business course in your life you have probably heard the story of Kodak. Kodak was a camera and film company that dominated the photography space for many years. They had some of the best cameras and made 35mm film that fit those. Essentially if you wanted photos developed by a local photo shop you would use a Kodak camera to “burn” the image on Kodak film and bring that film into the store to get your prints. Kodak’s business model was strong and untouchable…until new technology came into the picture.

Now days we all have cell phones that take photos. Digital photography was a technology that Kodak did not adopt. As a result Kodak lost its market leader position to the likes of Cannon and Nikkon. Kodak today remains in business but when you ask photographers what brand do they prefer they will list off several before they mention Kodak.

The National Wrestling Alliance is Kodak. They had a strong business model that worked well “back in the day.” Failure to adopt new business trends and marketing avenues the NWA was passed by the Cannons and the Nikkons of the world (Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, Dragon Gate USA, etc). Now the NWA finds itself tryihg to regain dominance in the space saturated with all different genres of professional wrestling.

The NWA once owned the professional wrestling business. Once upon a time in professional wrestling there was only one World’s Heavyweight Champion, and that was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Former NWA champions include Harley Race, Terry Funk, the original nature boy Buddy Rodgers, the new nature boy Ric Flair, Lou Thesz, Jack Brisco, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat and Sting. Those are all first ballet hall of famers in anyone’s eyes. At some point in the road the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship lost it’s luster.

Some people point to 1994 when the NWA started its downward spiral. Shane Douglas, the current NWA champion at that time, went on ECW television and disrespected the NWA title by tossing it on the ground. This obviously led to the vacancy of the world title. NWA World Champions after that were virtually not in the same league as Ric Flair with the exception of a few.

NWA tried for years to regain dominance in professional wrestling. An alliance with the Jarrett family and TNA Wrestling took place in 2002. Can you remember those days? NWA-TNA wrestling was the hot new upstart that was bound to take down the Galiath of WWE. SPOILER: That never happened.

The affiliation with TNA and national television exposure started to bring the NWA back to the forefront of professional wrestling. Their talent roster included guys like Jeff Jarrett, Ron Killings (R-Truth), AJ Styles, Somoa Joe, Sting, Rhino, Christian, Abyss, and Raven. This roster was solid and with good reason it brought the NWA back to the forefront.

In 2007 the affiliation with TNA wrestling ended. Jarrett sold TNA to the Carter family and the partnership dissolved. The NWA no longer had national TV exposure. They basically had to start from ground zero again.

A lot of trials and tribulations lead to the NWA brass putting the company up for sale in 2011/2012. A man who was highly involved with the NWA, Bruce Tharpe, showed interest in the fledgling company. In 2012 Bruch bought the National Wrestling Alliance with the intention of returning it to dominance again one day.

When Bruce bought the company the current NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion was either Colt Cabana or Adam Pearce. Both of these gentlemen had a big following on the independent level throughout the states and the world. The NWA had buzz. Colt had his Art of Wrestling podcast that he could utilize to market not only himself but the NWA World Title. Adam was just so damn good people wanted to see him.

Their feud became so large they developed a series of matches out of it and so became Seven Levels of Hate. The theory behind this was to travel the world doing a series of seven matches, or a best of seven, but as you can expect in professional wrestling you knew it was going to go all seven. This generated a ton of social media buzz. People wanted to see these matches. Their series of matches were distributed across the world on iPPV for several NWA affiliated and even some non-NWA affiliated promotions.

I had the honor of working a show that featured one of these matches. It was for Steel Domain Wrestling in Hopkins, MN. Adam and Colt were going to wrestle in an “I Quit” match for the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship. The finish was awesome. Adam choked out Colt with the top rope but Colt never quit. In the end Colt walked away victorious putting the series at 3-0 Colt (I believe this was the count).

This match generated more buzz for Colt, Adam, and the NWA. They were making towns having hellacious matches and stealing the show wherever they went. The dirt sheet websites were picking up on this series. More and more wrestling fans were beginning to take notice. The NWA was in a good spot. Then for whatever reason they killed it.

The NWA decided that they didn’t want Colt Cabana as their world’s champion. Why? I still have no idea. The match was a cage match in the land down under of Australia. Colt Cabana won the match. Adam Pearce gave Colt the title but then shades of Shane Douglas took place as Colt said he didn’t want the title because the “leaders” of the NWA didn’t appreciate him and what he was doing. Adam Pearce also agreed with this. The video went viral.

The dirt sheets picked up on this story and it shed a bad light on the NWA. This is not what Bruce intended for, wanted, or needed. After our interview this past week with Bruce he made it apparent that it was not the right decision and he should have had a more hands-on role in this decision. This decision put the NWA back to square one.

Since that infamous moment the NWA has been on an uphill battle to get back to where it wants to be. They face many challenges in the years ahead. The wrestling business is saturated. There are a lot of good promotions and there are a lot of bad ones. The NWA needs to be different to succeed. They need something that they haven’t had in a long time. They need a special attraction.

Companies like Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Syndicate, and Dragon Gate USA are using nationally known talent because of either their in-ring skills or the marketability they have with them. Guys like Colt Cabana, Ricochet, AJ Styles, Somoa Joe, Even Bourne, Drew Galloway, etc. These are guys the fans want to pay to see. The NWA doesn’t have many of these worldly known talents. They need that.

Their NWA champion was Rob Conway. Rob Conway is a good worker. Great wrestler. With no disrespect at all, Mr. Conway is no Ric Flair. The NWA needs a champion that can bring back those three letters into dominance. They need someone that is marketable. They need someone, most importantly, that fans want to pay money to see. Their new champion is Hiroyshi Tenzan, a great talent. To the American audience he is virtually unknown. To the international audience he has more buzz. So they need to decide what they want. Do they want to be known more internationally or domestically or both? Bruce told me he wants to grow both channels. You can continue to build your own stars, but to do so it’s important to bring in other people to help build them.

My suggestion to the NWA is to continue to work hard. Look outside of the NWA for talents. Look domestically to grab hot names on the scene that can utilize their avenues to help promote your brand. Look at guys like The Young Bucks who are arguably the best tag team in the world. Look at guys like Drew Galloway, a former WWE talent with a lot of buzz. Expand your roster to feature guys that people want to pay money to see. Build a program around the world title that people want to invest in. The program starts with your main title. Make sure you have a storyline in place that is intriguing, interesting, but most importantly put asses in the seat.

I trust that Bruce has good intentions for the NWA. He is passionate about it. That is something you cannot teach. The skills he doesn’t have in certain areas, whether it be marketing or sales (although he is a lawyer so sales should be easy) is something he can surround himself with. I want the NWA to do well. I want it to become extremely popular again.

The more good wrestling there is the better it is for the business as a whole. Bruce is working on a TV deal, content to be delivered online, and an app similar to WWE network. I have offered to help in anyway I can as well. I love a good comeback story. Since Kodak screwed theirs up, maybe the NWA can be that success story. I will continue to pull for Bruce and the National Wrestling Alliance.

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