They Bought The NWA?!
I was as skeptical of Billy Corgan buying the National Wrestling Alliance as anyone. I've come around, and I can't believe I'm saying that about the NWA going into 2018.
I was perhaps even more skeptical -- definitely more critical -- of the NWA's 53-year old world champion (52 if you believe wikipedia) Tim Storm. Suspicious, no doubt, but NWA's new regime found a way to make me connect with the man, as I anxiously awaited results from their weekend Championship Wrestling From Hollywood tapings in late 2017.
How did I care about the NWA, let alone Tim Storm? This wasn't 1987. By the way, Tim Storm is older than Shane Douglas, a man who "killed" the NWA over two decades ago.
After dealing with the sideshow of TNA wrestling in 2016, I figured the Smashing Pumpkins frontman Corgan would just exit wrestling altogether. Not because he couldn't handle it, just because I couldn't imagine a man so successful outside the business even wanting the bother of potentially going through that again. When it was announced that Corgan was purchasing the NWA, it was a curious decision at best.
The NWA hasn't been relevant in a long, long time. It seems like every few years, they latch onto a popular promotion and get their world title on TV. The last really prominent NWA run was in the late 80s and 90s before WCW broke away. There was the ECW debacle in 1994 where Shane Douglas seemingly shoved a knife in the heart of the Alliance by throwing their championship down and calling it dead, too. Perception is often reality in pro wrestling, and talking points are parroted whether they're true or not. Douglas' seemed rooted in truth.
I didn't grow up on the NWA. I was born in 1985, so virtually everything I knew of the NWA growing up was the stereotype -- the dimly lit, southern, gritty style of wrestling and presentation -- which is what WWE would have you believe in their many DVD's touching on the subject in the 2000's. I knew Shane Douglas threw the title belt down, and that Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes and several others were big there in the years preceding it.
You could have colored me confused when they popped back up in 1998 WWF with Jeff Jarrett, Jim Cornette, Bob Holly, Bart Gunn, Dan Severn and a few others. The storylines sucked, and at a young age it wasn't tough to see that the NWA was a shell of itself, struggling to get some television time. Still, the "NWA" name lived on.
The NWA attached themselves to Total Nonstop Action in 2002. That lasted five years, got their championship on TV, and launched a promotion that is (somehow) still here today. If anything, this helped re-establish and add names that could be mentioned in every single promo about the list of former champions -- Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Raven, Christian Cage, Ken Shamrock.
But that was the go to -- and kind of still is. It's the title belt and the three letters. It's the ability to say "Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers held this title!" In recent years, it's been Jax Dane, Kahagas, the aforementioned Tim Storm -- guys who don't have a ton of national exposure, and with all due respect, aren't likely to be mentioned in upcoming promos of luminaries who held the title. They're joined by Japanese great Hiroyoshi Tenzan and former WWE Tag Champion Rob Conway who did have national exposure but were past their primes.
NWA were able to grab hold of Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling for periods and get their title on PPV events for a while, too. Seven Levels of Hate garnered some publicity, that the NWA messed up. More on that later.
But today? What was Corgan buying? Why not start a new wrestling company? Why go through the hassle of dealing with a previous regime? They didn't have a tie in to ROH, NJPW, WWE, TNA anymore. There is no more WCW or ECW.
Questions that myself and others had as it relates to Corgan and the NWA would soon be answered.
Ten Pounds Of Gold
There were videos being posted under the NWA name. Woah, that's different for them. I noticed them when uploading my own content and seeing theirs under recommended videos. NWA in the digital age seemed to be limited to their over the top service -- which ceased to exist when Corgan took over. Fair play, I thought. I waited a couple of days and watched one of the clips.
Titled "Ten Pounds of Gold," the videos highlighted that ol' geezer Tim Storm. 53 years old, the NWA Champ. A different situation to say the least. I watched, I listened, and I felt for Tim Storm. I connected with him, and I related to him. He was a fan who made a go of it, and got where he wanted to. The NWA Championship title meant so much to him. It wasn't a gimmick, it wasn't for show. It was important to him.
"It wasn't until Ten Pounds of Gold that I opened those areas of my life that I've protected for so long up to the public," Storm told me. That just came about more from William Patrick Corgan and Dave Lagana and I building just a trust where I knew that I could trust them, and they told me kind of what their direction was, which is, 'we want Ten Pounds of Gold to be real. We want to show people who you really are. We want to tell stories but we want the stories based -- because we think everybody has a good story, we believe you have a good story.'"
It wasn't a "this guy is larger than life, he has nothing to worry about!" portrayal of so many wrestlers and world champions that we see these days. He's a school teacher. The guy has a day job. There's something endearing about that. We see it in the UFC all the time (UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic is a firefighter, Demetrious Johnson never trained full time until he lost his first UFC title fight). In mainstream pro wrestling, it's almost taboo these days. The characters have to be above concern over money and void of desire to capture something they grew up appreciating, something that fuels so many viewers. Where's the motivation? Tim Storm had it.
Dave Lagana produced the wonderfully constructed videos almost by himself -- with a little help on the narration from former TNA wrestler Sam Shaw. He opened up about the uphill battle that Storm faced with viewers, and the challenges of overcoming age and perception.
"He's 53," Lagana said to Fightful. "Besides the age discrimination, why don't you like him? Are you dead inside? Do you not feel what this man feels? Is Tim the greatest professional wrestler ever? No. But Tim -- he is the guy that we got. His story is exactly the story of what we bought. It gets to a meta level that I hate talking about because I think it's silly, but Tim represents what we bought. He is ... he has a heart, and the brand has heart. It's not like we bought WCW, you know what I mean? A brand that people started to hate. People used to love the NWA, and now we're hoping that they'll love it again.Tim is exactly that. He's a guy that once you fall in love with, it's hard to not feel something.,"
Before this, I wasn't that familiar with Tim Storm outside of wondering what the hell a fifty something year old man was doing as champion after dropping in on the NWA's Wikipedia page. I wasn't alone, even among those who dedicate their lives to wrestling.
"I watched a couple of the videos. Now I know who Tim Storm is. Especially after I've wrestled everywhere ever in 20 years in independent wrestling and that was a first for me, which is interesting," said former NWA Champion turned ROH color commentator Colt Cabana.
Even though Tim Storm wasn't a household name -- or anything resembling it in the years prior to "Ten Pounds of Gold," he maintained the respect of those who worked with him in the years prior.
"Tim Storm's great. He's a real old school dude, real professional. Hard worker, hard hitter," ROH's Shane Taylor told me, which he followed with a ringing endorsement. "He's the guy they need right now, and he's shouldering that load. That's a lot of pressure when you're dealing with the legacy of those three letters. Anybody who can do it the way that Tim has with that class, is one of the best."
Nick Aldis fits the opposite bill of Tim Storm pretty well. He's married to WWE Superstar Mickie James, and already reached a world champion status twice in TNA and Global Force Wrestling. He's outright turned down deals from Impact Wrestling in the past and once had an "iron clad contract" in TNA.
"It was my decision. The way my contract was structured, without getting too detailed, they couldn't release me. There was something in there that prevented that, which was nice," Aldis told me in 2015. Turning down good money isn't something you see that often in this line of work, but it becomes a recurring theme as you read along.
Aldis isn't the every man, but he was the man who kicked off the new NWA as challenger to Storm's NWA Championship. It's a story as old as time. Young vs. old, new vs. used, underdog vs. favorite.
It was such a simple story. One I've seen a million times on television, but rarely executed as well. But it wasn't all daisies and rainbows getting there.
The NWA has a storied history of being...well, crapped on. Sometimes by their own.
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.
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.
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.
I really though Nick Aldis was a shoe in to take the NWA title right off the bat. The champion himself did, too. At least he knew it was a distinct possibility. He saw the writing on the wall.
"I'm sitting there, as the world champion of an organization that has changed ownership," Storm said. "My approach on the whole thing -- I approach life, and I approach wrestling, I try to do things in a professional way. So the way I was looking at it was, it's out of my control about who the owner is and how they're going to go forward. I'm sure there was a lot of discussion, people asking me, 'don't you think that as they move forward they're probably going to want to make a splash and probably get the world title on somebody well known?'"
We've seen it happen with a lot of new regimes. WCW vacated all their titles once. We've seen quick title switches as a sort of "reset" in the past. Storm told me that if that's the way that Billy Corgan and Dave Lagana wanted it to go down, then he would have made their wishes a reality.
"That was obviously, for me, a possibility," said Storm. "And truthfully while that would have been a little disappointing, I also would have done that without hesitation. Because to me this is really simple. I don't own that world title. I hold that world title as an honor, and I earned, I think I paid the price and I earned the ability to carry it. But as far as pure ownership, it's not mine. So if they come to me and say 'here's what we want you to do, here's the plan, or here's who we're going with because we believe that's our future, in my opinion, I don't have a choice but to say, 'Okay, it's yours. I get it.'"
Storm understood what many of the others associated with the National Wrestling Alliance didn't.
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