A New Era
Corgan claims to have a 20-year plan. There's the old saying "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." That certainly applies. Lucha Underground had a plan, and they struggled to make it to season 4. WCW had a lot of plans and made a ton of money, and barely made it a decade on their own. We've seen incredibly popular companies die off, and some rise from the ashes, but they usually end up failing, too.
To be completely honest, Corgan probably has a better shot with NWA than he did with TNA/GFW/Impact. The changes in the latter have been so frequent -- from Aroluxe to Dixie Carter to Hogan and Bischoff to Jeff Jarrett to Ed Nordholm to Scott D'Amore and Don Callis to Corgan himself -- there's a tainted sense on the brand these days. The NWA had that too, but it's been so far removed from any semblance of effort that much of that had been forgotten. Conclusions that many, including I, had jumped to in regards to the NWA's champion being and old guy were rectified by Corgan, opening the doors to optimism.
Going with the NWA and a championship that has history and is recognizable to even some who no longer watch wrestling had its benefits. After all, there were all those promos who list all the famous champions.
"It does have such a wonderful history in this industry's past," said Colt Cabana. "There's only so much that's real that you don't have to spend time getting over. It's an easy, cheap shortcut of getting something over, and I don't think it's a bad thing.
Tim Storm and the NWA Championship were given spotlight and center stage to work opposite Nick Aldis, as the series chronicled the lead up to their first match. Aldis young, Storm hungry for victory and respect. The NWA technically still wasn't running shows, but the two appeared all over in order to make "Ten Pounds of Gold" work.
Corgan and Lagana may have ditched the affiliates, but they're not opposed to working with other wrestling companies. Lagana himself worked for the two biggest in America in the 2000's. Corgan had had ties to many, and once had Paul Heyman pitch him on an investment in ECW. In today's age, Ring of Honor works with New Japan, Impact works with CRASH and AAA, WWE and EVOLVE work closely together, and WWN has their own umbrella of companies. The NWA isn't above doing that, either.
"We've had multiple conversations with Impact," Lagana told me, just a year after he left the company. "We haven't spoken to New Japan. I have a good relationship with the guys who do New Japan's TV because they're the guys who did Ring of Honor's television. But that's why Billy put out the open for business thing (out there)."
In the weeks after the culmination of "Ten Pounds of Gold," NWA would work with both House of Hardcore, in addition to Combat Zone Wrestling to help spotlight the company. All in addition to having the benefit of Marquez's Championship Wrestling From Hollywood platform to help things.
The Aldis vs. Storm match itself was nothing special, in my eyes. Storm looked tired after touting on the promo videos that he's never blown up in the ring. The finish didn't happen in the smoothest of fashions, but Storm retained. Many considered this a surprise. It seemed so simple for Corgan and Lagana to hit the "reset" button on the NWA as soon as they gained control of it.
Despite the criticism, I was taken on a ride. I cared. In a job where 22 hours of the week off the top are compromised by watching or recording original wrestling and MMA content, anything that isn't at the top of the heap can be a chore to get through. Aldis vs. Storm wasn't. I was excited, anticipating word from my associate editor that the live stream of the match had started. Storytelling happened. They "sold me a ticket" as Shane Helms has told me in the past.
The beauty of this is how a you can manage to make a 180 degree turn, but still go full circle. The carnies, the hurdles, all of the weird things. The negative perceptions of the NWA and their grandpa champion. Storytelling overcame all. When the NWA was last hot, the era of "kayfabe" -- pretending it was all real, was king. Since then, MMA, reality TV, shoot interviews are the norm. People want the real thing. They want to know the truth. Tim Scoggins is Tim Storm. Maybe he wasn't before Ten Pounds of Gold, but he is now, and that's not a bad thing. Tim Scoggins is a hell of a guy.
He'd also lose the NWA Championship to Nick Aldis in a rematch a couple of months later.
Was the whole first match an audible? Did the emotional connection that so many had, myself included, cause the NWA to change course and keep the championship on Storm for a while? That's it. I don't know. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know. That's special, that's different, that's real. But I had to ask.
"I hate to say what the plan always was, but the plan was always for Tim to win the first one. Because otherwise, it's a piece of shit. You know what I mean?," said Lagana. "Once people started to care, it cemented the idea, you know what I mean? And that's the good thing. It's very fluid. We all communicate. Nick was a part of the process. Tim was a part of the process. Everybody that's a part of this process is a part of this process, and because, if we get this right, if we get this process right, as we grow it is a very good creative environment for talents to work in."
Sold me a ticket.
I'm not sure how successful the new NWA will be. I don't know if a "20-year plan" will work out. I don't know that in a month or a year that I'll care. One of the biggest battles Corgan faced was erasing a stigma with the company he bought. In my eyes, he did that, and all it took was trying. This isn't the NWA latching on. This isn't the decades and decades of politics as it pertains to affiliates and board members and such. In the following months, NWA's buzz wasn't necessarily what is was in the lead-up to Aldis vs. Storm, but they were able to take unknown commodities like Jocephus and were able to parlay a feud into successful digital content.
For much of my experience as a consumer and later journalist in pro wrestling, I looked back on the NWA as the cockroach that wouldn't die. Explosion after explosion, the National Wrestling Alliance would wiggle their asses out and you'd see Shane Douglas throw the belt down.
Then you'd see Dan Severn smother someone in the UFC cage, NWA title in tow, while the NWA was portrayed as retreads of the Midnight Express on WWE TV. Then you'd see it on weekly PPV, then Fox Sports Network, then Spike TV as a part of TNA Wrestling, well for a few years. Then you'd see it on New Japan, or Ring of Honor, or maybe on Colt Cabana -- until they make him lose it.
Boom. Boom. Boom (heh).
I don't look at the NWA as the cockroach now. I don't "look back" with the NWA. I look "forward" to seeing what they do, what story they'll tell me, and who they'll introduce me to next. Even if they're a little "seasoned."
Editor's note: I'd like to thank Tim Storm, Dave Lagana, Shane Taylor, Colt Cabana, Dan Severn and many more for participating, as well as Chad and John from the Two Man Power Trip Podcast for always sending in transcripts of their show, and the Triple Threat Podcast. I'd also like to thank CK Stewart for helping with the transcript work.
Other long-form articles from Sean Ross Sapp on Fightful