If At First You Don't Succeed..
Lagana, Corgan and Tim Storm are far from the first people to make a major effort to restore the profile of the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship. For over two years, Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana tried their damndest, even if it didn't start out that way. The former WWE and ROH star Cabana said while the NWA Championship held weight (no pun intended), it was helping a friend that motivated him in the first place. Helping the Championship was something that just came with the territory.
"It was more about working for Dave (Marquez) and bringing respect to Dave's title," Cabana said, speaking of Dave Marquez's Championship Wrestling From Hollywood, which has long worked with the NWA. "That was the title Dave was using. He'd been bringing me out, and he was using that as his main title. I don't know if in my heart I was trying to make the NWA Championship mean something. I had a lot of respect for the title, but because it had been dormant so long, until I won it and heard from so much of the older generation telling me how cool it was, I don't think it hit me that much. One of the first text messages I got (after winning the title) was Dr. Tom Prichard. Hearing his excitement was one of the first catalysts of me realizing how important it was. I knew and respected the NWA title, even to the idea of Dan Severn and Colorado Kid. I understood what was going on with the NWA Championship,"
Cabana was at one of his hottest points. He was a proven draw, and if anything, he was giving the NWA Championship a rub at that point. Adam Pearce was a great foil, but eventually, NWA mandated that The Sheik win the championship. The odd, governing body decades after it was out-of-style had killed momentum.
Yeah, a governing body for a professional wrestling championship.
"I think it was kind of silly it was a governing body back then," Cabana said. "There were so many irons in the fire, so to speak. Especially with The Sheik stuff and all of that. It's like it was a title, not a promotion. It's not one booker, it's this thing that can go anywhere. So many people had a vested stake in it that it made it difficult. That was one of the hottest periods of my career. I was booked for 150 shows. Between tours of Germany, NOAH, Europe, England Scotland -- I wasn't willing to say I'll drop everything to dedicate my life to the NWA. A lot of the 'board members' wanted me to almost kiss the ass of the NWA title, but I thought I was helping the NWA title because it had been dead so long. I had this crazy schedule, including when I won it, I went on tour in NOAH and was defending it. I wasn't booked because I was NWA Champion, I just showed up as NWA Champion and they were like 'woah, really?' They (the NWA) wanted to give me all these dates, but I wasn't going to cancel to appease them. The goal was to have it for a year or two and take it around the world, and that just didn't happen."
Sheik vacated the championship, rendering the switch from Cabana to himself pointless. "Seven Levels of Hate" took place, as Pearce and Cabana made their best to conjure up the steam they had prior. Political issues would again result in momentum reaching a screeching halt, when the NWA refused to allow the title to be defended between the two. Once again, it looked like the company was all to happy to cut off its nose to spite its face.
The term "carnie" kept coming up in interviews I'd conduct about the National Wrestling Alliance, particularly in regards to events that took place in the last couple of decades. Things that you just don't see in present-day pro wrestling seemed to happen there. For so long, there was a sense of mistrust and a level of carnie associated with the NWA. Former UFC Superfight Champion remembered his title victory in 2002 being the product of such.
"There were times when I felt the NWA used me," Severn told me. "I was in Japan and Shinya Hashimoto was NWA Champion, and wouldn't hand it down to any of the heirs to the throne, so to speak. About as soon as I landed on him, the three count came and I was the champion all of a sudden."
Severn would later have to vacate the title due to a scheduling conflict with NWA: TNA. Again, the title switch was rendered pointless. It's a good thing they had a board to govern everything, I guess. A few years later, the NWA and TNA had a falling out and the championship wasn't sanctioned when Kurt Angle "won it" at TNA Sacrifice 2007. Overall, the title was vacated six times in about twelve years, stripped and handed back to a champion another time, all in addition to the unusual story Severn told.
Not everyone wanted to lend their stories to myself or Lagana himself for "Ten Pounds of Gold." Shane Douglas is closely associated with the NWA Championship, and much of the perception that the title itself isn't relevant. In 1994, he threw the championship down after winning it in order to christen the new ECW Championship.
"The NWA to me died seven years before I threw the belt down. Like my Dad in 1993 and my Mom in 2010 until somebody comes up with a way to resurrect the dead, the dead are dead to me. The NWA died seven years before I threw the belt down," Douglas said on an episode of his Triple Threat Podcast podcast. "I wish Billy Corgan and Tim Storm all the best in the future and I've always said that a rising tide rises all ships and clearly the wrestling industry right now needs as many ships rising as possible because "sports entertainment" doesn't seem to be getting the job done. So I wish them nothing but the best. But for me to comment on something from twenty-three years ago seems to be at the very least dated so that is why I declined the interview in the first place. You are talking about something that is archaic in wrestling terms for me. I don't wish them any ill will and I wish them all the best but to bring me into that fray I think is trying to capitalize on something that is part of ECW lure and that is something that I am very protective of."
Perhaps appropriate that "The Walking Dead" is still cable's hottest show, because the NWA could be pro wrestling's Zombie, waking from their death to get another bite over and over again.
Lagana himself knows that Douglas is an important part of the NWA's history. Douglas appearing would be akin to Bo Jackson showing up in Cincinnati and saying "you can win playoff games now, the curse is lifted," or Babe Ruth appearing out of nowhere in the 1990's and dropping "well, okay, I don't hate Boston. You guys are cool."
"I'd love to interview Shane Douglas," Lagana admitted. "Maybe one day we'll get to do that. He just said at this time, I'm going to decline. It's not like he said give me a bunch of money and I'll do it. He was, again, super cool. I'm friends with Tommy (Dreamer), he respects Billy, I think he just wants to see what happens. I think he thinks it could be great for him. I respected it. We're going to put up a slide that he declined to appear in the episode, because it's the number one question. 'Well did you do something with Shane? He was there."
Despite the decades passing, the idea that Douglas gutted the NWA as Too Cold Scorpio looked on, baffled, is still a visual ingrained in the brand, replayed over and over. If that's a hurdle, the NWA itself was a canyon that many had to jump over before any efforts to matter again could happen.