The End Is The Beginning Is The End: Billy Corgan and the NWA

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Normally if the average music fan saw that Billy Corgan and the NWA were being mentioned in the same sentence, they would assume the Smashing Pumpkins frontman was collaborating with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. But in the crazy wacky world of professional wrestling, it means that Billy Corgan – the man once in the running to become the new owner of Impact Wrestling late last year – has purchased the National Wrestling Alliance, the oldest American wrestling promotion in history. First broken this morning by Mike Johnson at PWInsider, it was reported that “the deal in place would see Corgan purchase the name, rights, trademarks to the NWA as well as the rights and possession of the NWA championship belt.”

The End Is The Beginning Is The End: Billy Corgan and the NWA

THE NATIONAL WRESTLING ALLIANCE

NWA President Sam Muchnick with Lou Thesz

The oldest promotion in the United States, the NWA was founded in 1948 (15 years after the world’s longest running promotion, Mexico’s CMLL in 1933) by five regional US promoters, Al Haft, Tony Strecher, Harry Light, Orville Brown, and Sam Muchnick. The goal was to create a unified territorial system, complete with an NWA Board of Directors, to unify the professional wrestling in the United States, Canada and Japan, with each territory holding their own regional angles and champions, but mutually agreeing upon one global company representative as the dominant World Champion, who would be shared amongst the territories. This alliance gave each territorial promoter under the NWA banner assurance of exclusivity in each region of the country and backing and promotion from the NWA as a whole. For decades, the NWA was the the biggest promotion in the world and anyone who was anyone in professional wrestling clamoured to be in a territory that waved the NWA flag.

But by the 1960’s, times were changing and promoters started to disagree with the anointed World Champions that the NWA Board was selecting. In 1960, Verne Gagne seceded AWA from the NWA, followed in 1963 by Capitol Wrestling (which would rebrand as the WWWF, the precursor to today’s WWE). By the mid-80’s, Jim Crockett had bought out more territories than even Vince McMahon, combining Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South, and more into what would become WCW, whose own relationship with the NWA evaporated in the early 1990’s. ECW pulled out following Shane Douglas‘ controversial NWA World Heavyweight title win in 1994 and went on to become the forerunner of extreme and hardcore wrestling in America. In the early 2000’s, upstart TNA allied with the company in an effort to revive the NWA’s prestige and give TNA instant credibility. But two years in TNA’s formation, they parted ways as well, and have since rebranded as Impact Wrestling.

THE NATIONAL WRESTLING ALLIANCE TODAY

The NWA is indeed still ongoing and has been since 1948. Unfortunately, they’ve lost all of their major promotions or territories and are now a collective of much smaller indie promotions under the once revered banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. Not that any of these promotions are bad – they still produce exciting indie wrestling and many of today’s top stars were groomed in many of them – but none have the draw or financial power of the height of the 1970’s NWA. There’s no Mid-Atlantic or Georgia Championship Wrestling to compete anywhere near the level that even PWG or Ring of Honor are at, let alone the WWE. Robert Trobich, the NWA’s attorney, became President following the fall out of the TNA partnership in 2005, and ran the NWA until 2012, where he was ousted in a coup by current owner, R. Bruce Tharpe (whose father, Chet Tharpe, was a former associate and ring announcer for Eddie Graham in Championship Wrestling of Florida back in the NWA glory days). If reports are indeed true, Tharpe has sold the company now to Billy Cogan.

R. Bruce Tharpe (Photo: Twitter)

One would think that the involvement of Billy Corgan could be a turning of the tide for this once proud organization. Corgan is no half hearted celebrity with a fleeting whimsy in professional wrestling – he was a frequent celebrity appearance in the original ECW and he founded Resistance Pro in Chicago in 2011 (he left the promotion in 2014). He joined Impact Wrestling shortly after leaving Resistance Pro and by last year, his influence in creative was evident – he was a strong supporter of the Broken Hardy storylines and many credit his vision as something that was helping bolster Impact after years of languid apathy from the Dixie Carter regime.

Photo: Resistance Pro

Sadly, while Corgan will gain the name and belt of the NWA, he won’t receive any of it’s famed video library. Most of that is now under the ownership of Vince McMahon and the WWE vault. From his purchase of WCW alone, McMahon acquired the libraries of not only WCW, but all of the territories that Jim Crockett had acquired prior – Mid-Atlantic, Mid South, Championship Wrestling from Florida, Championship Wrestling from Georgia, Central States Wrestling and Eastern States Championship Wrestling. Through his own acumen, McMahon had already snapped up AWA, WCCW, ECW, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Maple Leaf Wrestling (Toronto’s NWA territory) and Stampede Wrestling. If you remember an NWA classic match-up, chances are it’s in WWE’s vaults now.

Photo: NWA On Demand

What they DO have left, he would acquire through the NWA’s own streaming service, NWA On Demand (rebranded from NWA Classics last year), as well as footage from the affiliates that currently work under the NWA banner. Chances are that Corgan would want to implement one main television show to showcase the best that the territories had to offer, highlighting the NWA World Championship itself. Whether that would be shopped to another network or began on NWA On Demand is another question (although the former idea sounds far more marketable and accessible).

WHO’S IN THE NWA NOW?

This may surprise you, but there are still nearly 30 promotions working under the NWA banner, with a lot of talent. Having someone like Billy Corgan is sure to attract some bigger players to a potential show or PPV, simply on his marketing presence alone. If anything, Corgan’s mainstream appeal will at least get more people paying attention to NWA since their last days with Impact Wrestling.

Here’s a quick list of the 29 indie promotions affiliated with the NWA.

  • NWA Appalachia (West Virginia)
  • NWA Atlanta (Georgia)
  • NWA Bayou Independent Wrestling (Louisiana)
  • NWA Big Apple (New York/New Jersey)
  • NWA Blue Collar Wrestling (Oregon)
  • NWA Branded Outlaw Wrestling (Texas)
  • NWA Central States Championship Wrestling (Illinois)
  • NWA Combat Sport (Florida)
  • Diamond Stars Wrestling (Japan)
  • NWA Elite Championship Wrestling (Louisiana)
  • NWA Florida Wrestling Alliance (Florida)
  • NWA Insanity (Wisconsin)
  • NWA Mid-Atlantic (West Virginia, not the former Jim Crockett territory)
  • NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (North Carolina, still not Crockett’s)
  • NWA Mid South Pro Wrestling (South Carolina, not the former Bill Watts territory)
  • NWA New Revolution Wrestling (Colorado)
  • NWA Next Level Wrestling (Tennessee)
  • NWA Old School Wrestling (Texas)
  • NWA Smoky Mountain Wrestling (Tennessee, not the former Jim Cornette territory)
  • NWA Southern All-Star Wrestling (Tennessee)
  • NWA Supreme (Indiana)
  • NWA Mid West (Ohio)
  • NWA Texas Stampede Wrestling (Texas)
  • NWA Texoma (Oklahoma)
  • NWA Top of Texas (Texas)
  • NWA Vendetta Pro Wrestling (California)
  • NWA World Class (Texas)
  • NWA Wrestling Revolution (Texas)
  • NWA Wrecking Ball Wrestling (Texas)

Scanning that list it’s clear that the NWA has softened it’s stance on promotions holding rank over large territories – seven of the 29 promotions hail from Texas alone (which may not be surprising considering Tharpe himself came from NWA Houston). And while the Mid-West and Southern States are fairly covered, the West is only covered by Vendetta Pro in California and Blue Collar in Oregon (and to a degree Colorado’s New Revolution). Expansion with other promotions may (and should) be one of Corgan’s top priorities if he wants to gain more exposure across the entire country. Allying with some of the other top promotions that are not part of the other three major alliances (WWE/Evolve/Progress/ICW, Impact/AAA/NOAH and NJPW/ROH/CMLL/PWG), like say Beyond, WrestleCircus, AAW or AIW, would immediately help the NWA with a more recognizable presence.

Billy Corgan in the original ECW (Photo: WWE Network)

As of this article’s publication, neither Billy Corgan or Bruce Tharpe have commented on the situation, most likely because, according to Johnson’s report on PWInsider, Corgan has only “agreed in principle” to make the purchase. But you can best believe that if Corgan finally realizes his dream of owning a major promotion come true, that he’s going to do more than the NWA has accomplished in the past 25 years. He won’t sit on the status quo that has become the NWA of late. A student of the sports history as well as a fan, you can be sure he’ll be working his hardest to connect it’s rich and storied past with the indie stars of today, to create something competitive. Corgan learned a lot of what to do that works in his last year with Impact Wrestling – and lots of what not to do – and he seems ready to jump back in the game.

Here’s hoping he can restore even half of the lustre of the old NWA and offer another major destination for wrestlers and wrestling fans around the world.

 

 

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