Carnival Of Carnies
The wrestling business has come a long way. Not only do fans know what they're watching is a performance, it's widely acknowledged by the companies themselves, too. Still, egos are prevalent in any business. With the NWA and territories that answer to them and vice-versa, it led to some incredible decisions. Lagana and Corgan quickly became acquainted with such.
Corgan wasn't interested in giving up on wrestling, despite his sour experience with TNA. He learned that establishing an entity was far easier when you acquire something that was already established to some degree. Dave Marquez -- who has served as a helping hand to the NWA for many years -- floated the idea of Corgan moving in to purchase the company.
"Billy had actually spoken to Bruce Tharpe (former NWA owner) when we were at TNA," Lagana recalled. "I know they had at least one discussion before we made the overture in I think February or March of this past year. The idea was actually brought to us by Dave Marquez, he's like, 'hey! Have you guys thought about the NWA?' He knew we were -- I hate to use the word struggling, but I dare you to start a wrestling promotion and come up with a name for it right now off the top of your head, you know what I mean? Branding a wrestling promotion is very difficult, so when there's obviously one that everybody has some sort of recognition on it was obviously a very easy thing to chase down. And obviously valuable. Especially valuable to us because we knew what we wanted to do with it."
The NWA still had those affiliates and territories, though. Remember Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce's attempt to improve the profile of the title? Lagana himself was there, and helped film Cabana's first title victory. In a concentrated effort to bring the NWA up to date, the video was uploaded that day. After seeing how things unfolded for Cabana, Pearce and the NWA back then, Lagana and Corgan weren't interested in dealing with the same.
"I just remember all the headaches and discussions with Pearce and Cabana and everything that went on," Lagana recalled. "It kind of made me sad, because I had a large affinity for the NWA, all the way back to Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair in the '80s. So it always seemed like that's what the NWA was. A lot of politics and not even in politics of the guys who were in the rings, there were a lot of promoters and stuff. So that was sort of the first thing we looked at and went, 'does this help us?' And I think the answer is showing in sort of the direction we've taken the company."
Bearing witness to such oddities in the wrestling world seemed to have stuck out to the duo. The two weren't new to the business. Billy Corgan had had experience with TNA and Resistance Pro, and had talks with MLW 15 years prior. Lagana was a writer for WWE and TNA. They were well aware what they faced, but perhaps not to the extent they did technically from within the company.
"We announced Billy was buying it in May, I went to work the next day basically, and I called every one of them, I made myself available to all of them," Lagana said of the remaining affiliates. Basically any time they called I answered. Any time. They had paid a license fee to Bruce Tharpe, we didn't get any of that license fee, but I wanted them to obviously all have an opportunity to feel a part of this process, and see what was there. See who was professional, who wasn't, who was a carnie. And boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, were there a lot of those."
Several wanted six figure office jobs. Others tried to mail back replica versions of championships to the new owners. Lightning One, the LLC that Corgan used to purchase the NWA, had to give legal lessons on what would happen if things didn't run smoothly. Still, some champions weren't happy that their titles would be "dormant" during a period where new ownership figured things out.
"That offended them highly and ... I'm sorry that they were offended, but we bought the brand and had a vision for it," Lagana explained. "We didn't want rogue champions touring around because it would have been distracting for what we knew we were going to do. And that was always the focus, on the world title, because it honestly is the most valuable of the titles. Nobody is worried about the North American title. They're not, you know what I mean? It's important to the guy that held it, because he got booked because of it, but it just didn't help grow anything."
Some affiliates weren't either, and went to great lengths to try and thwart Lagana and Corgan's new vision. One unnamed promoter even went as far as to try to double cross the new regime by paying Storm to drop the title against the new NWA's wishes.
"It was this one phone call I had for him, because we had unbooked Tim from an NWA show, and this shitstorm happened," Lagana revealed. "All these guys are like -- they thought we were going to screw Tim over. And they didn't care about Tim. I'd say about thirty hours of my week was spent dealing with the childishness of these people who thought it was real. I still to this moment don't understand why, except they wanted a voice of something. They didn't put their money in. Not that we needed their money, but I offered. My phone was open. Hey, call me with ideas. Hey, let's do this. Nine times out of ten it was always self-serving to them and did nothing for the brand. The promoter that offered Tim a lot of money said basically, come over, we'll do ... he never told me that he wanted to do a switch. He told other people that I said it was okay. I called him and said, 'Did we discuss this?' He said, 'no, no.' 'So then why did you tell other people we discussed it?'"
After some back and forth with the promoter, everything ended up okay, and Tim Storm looked like roses. It was an unplanned pop quiz that he passed with flying colors. But even Storm admits that the thought of cashing in crossed his mind.
"I'm not going to lie and say I didn't think about it," Storm admitted. "I didn't take it serious, but any time money's part of the equation, I think anybody would be lying to say no, I won't even think about it. I don't want to get into who, and where, and how much, because I don't want to throw anybody under the bus. There were some guys, and they were very tricky about it. I don't mean to me, they were telling me what they wanted. But they were giving me a way to kind of opt-out, you know, you can pretend like you didn't know this was going to happen. If I'm sincere about approaching this stuff professionally, that couldn't even be a possibility. When money starts getting thrown around, it gets your attention. No matter how much money, it doesn't make it the right thing to do. If I do something like that then everything that I have said that I am, and everything that I said the NWA World Title means to me, it then becomes a lie."
If you admire the approach Storm took, you wouldn't be alone. That decision may have very well led to him being exposed to more people than ever in his career in the months that followed. Tim Scoggins, the man, shined through Tim Storm, the wrestler.
"In that process I learned a lot about Tim the human being, and the business man," said Lagana. "He could have made a lot of money. He would have probably made more in that one transaction than we'll probably pay him over six months. But he cared about the NWA. Once I sort of felt that, I wanted to see what was really there with Tim. So we did the first taping, and I got back, and I didn't have a lot of time to interview the guy because we flew him in and out the same day just to save money, to maximize. Tim had to get back to the classroom the next day, so it was all sort of crunched. I didn't get the interview I wanted. So I proposed a budget to Billy and said hey, I'd like to go to Dallas for the day. Fly in morning of, out the same day, and go to his classroom, interview his wife, we'll meet his grandkids, we'll go work out, and I basically did the same thing with Aldis, I went to his house."
"Ten Pounds of Gold" was born. Some would even say that in the consciousness of many wrestling fans, Tim Storm as a wrestler was born that day. The series would bring more positive attention to the NWA than any time since the advent of Youtube. But with the acceleration forward, some get left in the dust. Gone were Tharpe. Gone were the affiliates. The old NWA was gone, and what remained was a rock star, a writer, a championship, it's owner and a challenger.
That's all they needed.