The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) is a governing body for a group of independent professional wrestling promotions and sanctions various NWA championships in the United States. The NWA has been in operation since 1948. Prior to the 1960s, it acted as the sole governing body for most of professional wrestling, operating as a talent and brand name franchiser for the inter-regional "territory" system.
1940sBefore the NWA was founded in 1948, there existed many regional professional wrestling promotions across North America (each promoting its own "World" champion). None of them, however, had backing or recognition outside of their own respective geographic base-areas. The concept of the NWA was to consolidate the championships of these regional companies into one true world championship of pro wrestling, whose holder would be recognized worldwide. In 1948, Paul "Pinkie" George, a promoter from the Midwest, founded the original version of the National Wrestling Alliance with the backing of five other promoters (Al Haft, Tony Strecher, Harry Light, Orville Brown, and Sam Muchnick). This newly formed NWA Board of Directors wanted Brown to be the first-ever NWA World champion. During the reign of the second NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Lou Thesz (1949–1956), the title was further unified with several more previously-competing "World" titles, such as those recognized jointly by the National Wrestling Association and the American Wrestling Alliance (in Boston), plus another version promoted from the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium. This legitimized the NWA's claim that its title was a "Unified World Title," and its lineage continues to this day.
The NWA members divided up North America, as well as Japan, into territories that each promoter would "own" and operate in. Having a territory meant that no other NWA member could promote wrestling in that area unless special arrangements were made between the promoters involved. If non-NWA promoters tried to promote their show in an NWA territory, then the other member groups were obliged to send stars to help force the intruder out. Reportedly, threats of violence or physical retaliation were used against any promoters (and/or talent) who disregarded the territory system. If any member territory broke the NWA's rules, it faced expulsion, and thus risked missing out on having nationally known wrestlers appear on their local shows. For most promoters under the NWA umbrella, the benefits of membership were well worth the dues. Usually, the NWA President's territory was the main territory of the entire alliance.
Beyond the benefit of having other promotions to draw on in case of an intruder, each territory also received periodic guest visits from the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. The champion did not have a "home territory" as such, but instead traveled from territory to territory, defending the title against the top stars of each territory. A number of former NWA World Champions often remarked that their primary goal was to make the top stars of each territory "look good" and give crowds the impression that those "local heroes" had the potential of being the champion by almost winning the title. Many promoters would build up to the appearance of "The NWA World Heavyweight Champion" weeks or months in advance, making the local World title matches that much more special, and the shows they headlined more lucrative. In addition, each NWA member promotion usually produced a TV show that aired in their territory only, meaning that the local fans only saw the World champion when he came to their area, not year-round. It was not just the champion that would travel the territories; often, wrestlers from a different area would come into a territory (often the heels / "bad guys"), and run an angle or two with its top local faces ("good guys"). Also, if the local fans ever tired of a wrestler, he could go to a whole new area and perform the same act for new audiences, who would think the act was brand-new.
Upon becoming the booker for Lou Thesz in 1950, Muchnick, who was the head of the St. Louis Wrestling Club, became the new NWA President and maintained that position until 1960.
In the mid-1950s, serious disputes broke out within the NWA. There were antitrust problems with the government and there were a number of competing factions who wanted to replace Thesz as champion with different wrestlers such as Verne Gagne. The antitrust case led the infamous NWA Consent Decree of 1956 in US v. National Wrestling Alliance. There were also disputes over the number of dates wrestled by the champion in various parts of the country. The first break within the organization occurred in 1957 when Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn walked out of the August NWA meeting in St. Louis. Quinn had fallen out with Sam Muchnick over a number of issues. Quinn was a partner in the St. Louis territory and disagreed with how it was being run. Quinn was also angry that Muchnick had business dealings with rogue promoter (and Quinn rival) Jack Pfefer. At the time Quinn walked out, a wrestler of his named Édouard Carpentier was involved in an angle where he and Lou Thesz were both being presented around the NWA as champion. This occurred after Carpentier had a disputed win over Thesz on June 14, 1957, and some of the NWA promoters considered it a legitimate title change, while others did not. The original idea was to build the idea of the "disputed" NWA title into a high-profile rematch. When Quinn left the NWA, Muchnick announced that Carpentier had never been an official champion and had no claim on the title.
Afterward, Quinn saw the financial possibilities in the Carpentier situation and began to negotiate with factions within the NWA, as some territories such as Boston (AAC/Big Time Wrestling), Nebraska, and Los Angeles (NAWA/WWA) continued to recognize Carpentier as champion. He offered to have Carpentier lose a title match to their prospective champion thus giving them, if they decided to break away, a legitimate claim on the world title. The AAC recognized Killer Kowalski as World Champion when he defeated Carpentier in Boston. Nebraska recognized Verne Gagne as World Champion when he defeated Carpentier in Omaha. (After winning the belt, Gagne tried for two years to work things out with the NWA, but finally in 1960 left the organization forming the American Wrestling Association. Gagne's win over Carpentier was used to legitimize the world championship status of the AWA title.) The NAWA/WWA recognized Freddie Blassie as World Champion when he defeated Carpentier in 1961. The promotion then left the NWA officially and became the World Wrestling Association (WWA) until it returned to the NWA in 1968. Muchnick's replacement at the NWA's helm in 1960 was Toronto's Frank Tunney; he in turn was succeeded by Fred Kohler, who was the main booker for the new NWA World champion, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers. October 1962 saw Rogers defeated Kowalski in a match which was promoted by Doc Karl Sarpolis, the NWA member promoter in Amarillo, Texas. As a result, Sarpolis rose to the NWA presidency. On January 24, 1963 in Toronto, Lou Thesz defeated Rogers in a one fall match and was declared Champion. After the event, Promoter Vincent J. McMahon refused to recognize the title-change, and withdrew his operation from the NWA, becoming the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) with Rogers as the star performer. The WWWF recognized Rogers as its first World champion in April 1963. Although both Verne Gagne and McMahon promoted their own World champions, their promotions continued to have representatives on the NWA Board of Directors and regularly exchanged talent with NWA promotions.
Decline of the territory system
In the 1980s, video tape trading and cable television paved the way for the eventual death of the NWA's inter-regional business model, as fans could now see for themselves the plot holes and inconsistencies between the different regional storylines. Also, the presence of stars like Ric Flair on TV every week made their special appearances in each region less of a draw. Vince K. McMahon, who had bought the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1982, used these gathering trends, as well as raids of competing promoters' talent pools, to turn his Northeastern territory into the first truly national promotion. To compete against this threat, various NWA promoters, along with the AWA, attempted to co-promote shows under the Pro Wrestling USA banner. Internal disputes over power and money, however, caused this deal to eventually fall apart. The AWA ended up owning the group's ESPN timeslot, and used it to broadcast its own weekly shows.In 1984, NWA member Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) was sold to McMahon and merged into the WWF, with the WWF taking over GCW's long time TV slot on TBS. Meanwhile, to hold off the threat of the WWF, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Jim Crockett Promotions decided to unify certain NWA territories and "go national" itself. Accordingly, Jim Crockett, Jr. began buying out some of the other NWA member promotions or, in some cases, allowed them to quietly die and just absorbed their rosters. Because of his acquisition spree, and because he failed to consistently match the WWF's ambitious marketing, TV production values, and merchandising, Crockett was facing bankruptcy by 1988. In turn, Ted Turner bought Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW). With the backing of Turner’s money, it grew into a national promotion. With time, WCW became the main NWA territory with the JCP versions of the Tag-Team, United States, and Television Champions being recognized on a national scale. Up until this point only the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship had had national recognition. WCW was still a member of the NWA, but with time felt that the NWA needed WCW more than WCW needed the backing of the NWA, especially since both WCW and the WWF toured the entire country instead of staying within a confined territory. To make matters even more confusing, WCW spent much of 1992 and 1993 recognizing and promoting both WCW-brand World Champions and NWA-brand World Champions.
Another promotion that withdrew from the NWA to operate on their own was Mid-South Sports. Originally Mid South owned by Leroy McGuirk (who booked the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion for the NWA), the promotion was sold to Bill Watts in 1979. Watts changed the name of the promotion to Mid South Sports and declined to join the NWA. Watts did have a working agreement and exchanged talent with Jim Crockett Jr., allowing him to book the NWA World Champion. In 1986, Watts renamed the promotion the Universal Wrestling Federation in a bid to expand nationally, but was eventually bought out by Jim Crockett Promotions in March 1987, after going bankrupt.
In February 1986, promoter Fritz Von Erich withdrew World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) from the NWA in a bid to become a national promotion. They joined up with another former NWA member, the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) and the AWA to try to compete with WCW and the WWF, but soon fell apart due to interpromotional politics. WCCW and the CWA later merged to form the United States Wrestling Association, which folded in 1997. Abroad, the defections of Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling in the mid-1980s was mostly regionalized as not many American fans followed or even knew about these promotions.
In January 1991, WCW officially began to recognize a WCW World champion, with Ric Flair, who had just defeated Sting to regain the NWA World championship, as the first title holder. Ric Flair was simultaneously recognized as the World champion of both the NWA and WCW until he left WCW over a dispute with WCW president Jim Herd (with the actual title belt in his possession) to join the WWF. Upon leaving, Flair was stripped of the WCW World title causing the separation of the WCW and NWA titles, but continued to be recognized as the NWA World champion until his arrival in the WWF a few months later when he was officially stripped of the NWA World title as well. Afterwards, the NWA World title lay dormant for a year, until New Japan Pro Wrestling hosted a tournament to crown a new champion. In September 1993, WCW withdrew completely from the NWA, and, despite Flair's possession of the physical belt, made no mention of the NWA name on air after the split.
In August 1994, Philadelphia-based Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) withdrew their membership from the NWA in somewhat surprising fashion. As one of the most popular independent promotions of the early 1990s, they hosted a tournament to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion after WCW had withdrawn from the NWA. The finals of the tournament saw Shane Douglas defeated 2 Cold Scorpio for the world title. Then, in a surprising turn, Douglas threw the title belt to the ground, claiming that he did not want to be the champion of a promotion that died "seven years before" (when JCP was sold to Ted Turner). Shane then grabbed the ECW Heavyweight Championship belt and declared himself the ECW World Heavyweight Champion. ECW owner Tod Gordon then renamed the company to Extreme Championship Wrestling and officially withdrew ECW from the NWA. This act all but obliterated any remaining prestige connected to the NWA World Championship and relegated it to an all but forgotten status among wrestling fans.
After the AWA's bankruptcy in 1991 and the secession of ECW in 1994, the NWA wasn't what it once was. Through the mid to late 1990s, the all-but-forgotten organization was left with a small collection of independent promotions during the peak of the Monday night ratings war between WCW and the WWF.In a bid to become the "number two" national wrestling promotion, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) split from the NWA in 2004. TNA was founded in 2002 as NWA: TNA and quickly came to hold exclusive booking rights to the two NWA world titles (NWA World Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Tag Team Championship). In 2004, TNA withdrew from the NWA, but cut a deal to keep the promotional rights to the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team championships. However, due to TNA not reporting to the NWA about title changes in accordance to NWA bylaws, TNA and NWA worked out a split and the titles were returned to the NWA on May 13, 2007. The NWA began a tournament in June 2007 to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
In May 2017, Billy Corgan purchased the NWA, including its name, rights, trademarks and championship belts. In an interview in October 2017, Billy Corgan stated that the NWA had let all regional contracts lapse and that the NWA will be one big organization going forward, instead of having licensed affiliates, essentially ending the NWA's territory system. Corgan said live events will start running in the spring of 2018 and that while no specifics have been contractually set upon yet, the current goal is to run a free show, that is available to watch online anywhere in the world. He expected to start signing talent soon to create a regular roster.
Regional promotions of the past
Several smaller promotions that were once cornerstones of the NWA ceased to exist as the WWF and WCW grew to national levels. Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) was one of the main NWA territories into the 1980s, but, due to the aging of promoter Don Owen and dwindling profit, PNW closed down in 1992. Another territory that was once considered a main territory of the NWA was promoter and two-time NWA President Sam Muchnick’s St. Louis-based promotion, the St. Louis Wrestling Club, which ran until 1982 and was then sold to a promotion that Jim Crockett Promotions absorbed in 1985 in their attempt to create a national promotion. NWA Mid-America, booked by Nick Gulas, and the Continental Wrestling Federation, booked by the Fullers, both folded in the 1980s, but were long-time members. Southwest Championship Wrestling out of San Antonio, Texas was a member from 1978 until it was bought by WCCW in 1985. When Detroit promoter and NWA member Ed Farhat made several wrestling appearances as the Sheik in an "Outlaw Territory," his promotion, Big Time Wrestling, was expelled from the NWA, since that was against the charter of the NWA. Another American former NWA member is Ohio Valley Wrestling, which was a member until it was made a WWF developmental territory in 2001.
The NWA is not an organization restricted to the United States alone. At various points, promotions in Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia were members, further strengthening the "World" aspect of the group. Frank Tunney Sports was a Canadian promotion that was a long-time member of the NWA, with its promoter serving as the NWA President in the early 1960s. Frank Tunney Sports withdrew from the NWA when it was incorporated into the WWF in 1984.
Another Canadian promotion that was a key member in the NWA, until being bought by the WWF in the 1980s, was Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, although when it was relaunched in 1999, it did not become a member of the NWA. Another Canadian territory, encompassing Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, was known as the Eastern Sports Association, and operated only in the summer months. The promotion dissolved in 1977, and promoter Al Zink’s subsequent ventures into wrestling were not affiliated with the NWA. Out of Vancouver, British Columbia came promoters Gene Kiniski and Sandor Kovac’s NWA All-Star Wrestling, which was a member until 1985, and then recognized a fictitious sanctioning body known as the "Universal Wrestling Alliance."
In Mexico, the primary NWA member was Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (now called CMLL). Founded in 1933, it precedes the creation of the NWA. EMLL joined with the NWA later on, but broke away from the group in 1980. Despite not being a member of the NWA since 1980, CMLL still recognizes three titles with NWA lineage: NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Middleweight Championship and NWA World Welterweight Championship, which are all unsanctioned and only defended at CMLL events.
In the Caribbean, long-time promotion the World Wrestling Council, owned by Carlos Colon and based out of Puerto Rico, was a member from 1973 until 1988, when the territory concept became semi-obsolete due to WCW’s growth. Rival Puerto Rican promotion International Wrestling Association, founded in 1994 by Victor Quiñones, was a member of the NWA from its inception until its withdrawal in 2001.
The NWA’s presence in Japan was established in 1953, when Japanese wrestler/promoter Rikidōzan founded the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance, which quickly became the main promotion in Japan. In 1972, the JPWA’s two top draws Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki left to form their own promotions, All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) respectively. As a result, the JPWA soon folded. AJPW became an NWA member upon its inception in 1973 and stayed until the late 1980s. NJPW was also a member of the NWA at various points between 1975 and 1985, mainly in order to gain control of the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. In 1992 and 1993, NJPW joined with the NWA once more to re-establish and promote the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, but left the NWA when WCW withdrew. NJPW returned to the NWA in 2004, again mainly for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship, and it is not a connection that is strongly emphasized. Between NJPW's departure in 1993 and its return in 2004 NWA representation in Japan was scattered among a few independent promotions: the International Wrestling Association of Japan (1994–1996); the Wrestle Yume Factory (1995–1997), the Universal Fighting Arts Organization (1999–2000); and Pro Wrestling Zero-One (2001–2004). In June 2007, it was announced that the Inoki Genome Federation would replace NJPW as the Japanese affiliate of the National Wrestling Alliance. In February 2008, however, New Japan returned to the NWA. At the annual meeting in 2010, New Japan did not renew its membership and left the NWA yet again.
The NWA brand name has been seen most prominently in recent years in conjunction with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), a former NWA member promotion started by Jeff Jarrett and his promoter father Jerry in 2002, which withdrew from the NWA in 2004. In 2004, TNA negotiated a new deal to license the NWA name and the use of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World Tag Team Championship, for ten years. On May 13, 2007, the NWA announced that it had ended this deal, revoked official World Heavyweight and World Tag Team championship statuses from the current (TNA-based) holders, and announced tournaments for both newly vacated titles. In reality, both sides wanted to end the arrangement, as TNA wanted to brand its own World titles, and the NWA membership wanted final say on (and control of the booking dates for) NWA-brand champions.
Recent television programs
NWA Wrestling Showcase
In January 2008, Colours TV on Dish Network and the NWA announced that they would begin airing an hour-long show entitled NWA Wrestling Showcase, featuring the NWA's current lineup of stars in action. The show was hosted by David Marquez (with Rob Conway co-hosting the first four episodes) with match commentary by announcers Todd Kenneley, Kris Kloss and Rick Otazu. Ten episodes were shown before re-runs began. All the matches were taped at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. In January 2009, NWA Wrestling Showcase started airing new episodes, this time the tapings took place in Hollywood California.
NWA Championship Wrestling From Hollywood
On July 12, 2010, NWA Pro Wrestling, Inc. and KDOC-TV Los Angeles announced a partnership in producing National Wrestling Alliance branded television programming to the station beginning September 2010.
NWA Mountain State
NWA Mountain State Wrestling and production company Cucumber and Company co-produced NWA Mountain State as an hour long show which aired on the local Fox station WVNS-TV (West Virginia, USA) Sunday mornings.
|1||Paul "Pinkie" George||1948–1950||NWA Iowa|
|2||Sam Muchnick||1950–1960|| Sam Muchnick Sports Attractions /|
St. Louis Wrestling Club
|3||Frank Tunney||1960–1961||Maple Leaf Wrestling|
|4||Fred Kohler||1961–1962||NWA Chicago|
|5||Karl Sarpolis||1962–1963||NWA Western States Sports|
|6||Sam Muchnick||1963–1975||St. Louis Wrestling Club|
|7||Jack Adkisson (Fritz Von Erich)||1975–1976||World Class Championship Wrestling|
|8||Edward Gossett (Eddie Graham)||1976–1978||Championship Wrestling from Florida|
|9||Bob Geigel||1978–1980||Central States Wrestling|
|10||Jim Crockett, Jr.||1980–1982||Jim Crockett Promotions|
|11||Bob Geigel||1982–1985||Central States Wrestling|
|12||Jim Crockett, Jr.||1985–1986||Jim Crockett Promotions|
|13||Bob Geigel||1986–1987||Central States Wrestling|
|14||Jim Crockett, Jr.||1987–1991||Jim Crockett Promotions|
|15||Jim Herd||1991–1992||World Championship Wrestling|
|16||Seiji Sakaguchi||1992–1993||New Japan Pro Wrestling|
|17||Howard Brody1||1993–1995||NWA Florida|
|Dennis Coralluzzo||Championship Wrestling America|
|Steve Rickard||All-Star Pro Wrestling|
|18||Steve Rickard||1995–1996||All-Star Pro Wrestling|
|19||Howard Brody||1996–2001||NWA Florida|
|20||Jim Miller||2001–2002||NWA East/Pro Wrestling eXpress|
|21||Richard Arpin||2002–2003||NWA Tri-State|
|22||Bill Behrens||2003–2004||NWA Wildside|
|23||Ernie Todd||2004–2005||Canadian Wrestling Federation|
|24||R. Bruce Tharpe3||2012–2017||NWA World Class|
1 Brody replaced Jim Crockett, Jr. a short time into this term.
2 Trobich is the NWA's first Executive Director, after the Presidential position was abandoned at the 2005 NWA annual meeting.}
3 Tharpe became President/Owner after he gained ownership of the organization's properties through a holding company due to the result of his lawsuit against the organization & its former management.
|#||Executive Director||Term||Home promotion|
|2||David Baucom2||2012||NWA Carolinas|
1 Trobich became the organization's first Executive Director after it abandoned the position of President at its annual meeting in 2005.
2 Baucom was the final Executive Director of the organization prior to it coming under the ownership of its current President as the result of his lawsuit against the organization & its now former management.
|Championship||Current champion(s)||Date won|
|NWA World Heavyweight Championship||Nick Aldis||December 9, 2017|
|NWA World Tag Team Championship||The Heatseekers (Sigmon and Elliot Russell)||June 17, 2017|
|NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship||Barrett Brown||August 12, 2017|
|NWA World Women's Championship||Jazz||September 16, 2016|
|NWA North American Heavyweight Championship||Tyson Dean||July 16, 2016|
|NWA National Heavyweight Championship||Kahagas||February 3, 2017|
Hall of Fame
- NWA Title Histories
- History of the National Wrestling Alliance
- September 1,2010 Audio Interview with Howard T. Brody former President of the National Wrestling Alliance
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- YouTube channel
- CAGEMATCH.net Profile
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