The Not So Old Guard
I reached out to Bruce Tharpe for this story, but he didn't respond. He's largely off social media these days, but in the years prior to the sale, was the face -- and owner -- of the NWA. Since, he's had an interview with Dave Penzer lightly touching the subject and that's about it. He'd show up on New Japan Pro Wrestling waving the NWA banner, garnering whatever publicity he could.
“I acquired the brand, it was an unusual turn of events, but the brand was dropped on my doorstep, kind of like a baby that was abandoned," Tharpe told Penzer. "I took that baby in my arms, ran with it and did the best with the NWA for five years. Did all I could to get it on a national TV deal, but could not do it. Along came Billy Corgan and I had several conversations with him and he has tremendous respect for the NWA brand. It’s important to me because I grew up with this brand and Billy Corgan proved to me he had tremendous respect for it, number one. Number two, he had a vision for the future. He’s got the capital and he’s got the connections in Hollywood to get the NWA back on national television. As hard as it was for me to do, I thought it was best for the brand to turn it over to Billy Corgan’s new partner Dave Lagana and I am wishing both of those men the best,”
While Tharpe wasn't able to get the NWA where he'd have liked it, he's looked at fondly among those I spoke to. With the affiliates that were left behind? Maybe not so much.
"All of us had strong points and weak points, and I'm sure Bruce did too," said Storm. "But I know where some people question some of Bruce's decision making -- he loved the NWA. When he bought the NWA, it wasn't a selfish thing. He was trying to make it better. There will be those that argue one way or another whether he was successful, but over a period of time, it's just like any other job. If you go in and you do a job in position one, and prove yourself, you have an opportunity and a promotion, and they trust you with something else, and you prove you can do that and you get another promotion. That's kind of the way it worked. I think he has intentionally laid low, where I think he wanted -- there were a lot of affiliates, and I won't say all, but many affiliates who were really unhappy that the NWA sold, especially once the decision was made not to really have affiliates any more. All the affiliates that basically were coming into Las Vegas, thinking that they were going to be having a meeting about the future of the NWA, found out all at the same time that it had been sold and nobody knew what was going to happen."
From a champion's standpoint, an affiliate uses the NWA World Champion at least once a year, and two other champions throughout the year as well. Storm would tell me that many affiliates didn't live up to their end of the bargain.
Some may have felt like the NWA hadn't held up their end of the bargain, to the degree that there were plans put in order to try to throw as many speed bumps in the company's way as possible.