One of the oldest professional wrestling associations still active in the world, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) was created in 1948
and served as the biggest governing body for professional wrestling for over three decades. Unlike modern organizations WWE
or the now defunct WCW
, the National Wrestling Alliance - as its name suggests - is made up of an alliance of various local and territorial independent wrestling leagues. Although the NWA is still in existence, it is a mere shadow of its former glory days from the 1950-1960's.
The NWA was founded on the concept of unifying the various regional pro wrestling organizations that existed in the United States by the late 1940's. Its first true "world" champion would be its second title holder, the legendary Lou Thesz
, whose belt was recognized in 1949 as a "world championship" by many of the major organizations of the day, including the AWA (American Wrestling Alliance) and the National Wrestling Association. The NWA would become the main governing body for the vast majority of professional wrestling groups in North America and Japan over time, and the NWA moniker would become well known as promoting only "legitimate" wrestling organizations; these promotions entered into deals with the NWA that entitled the NWA payment in exchange for guarantees that they would each be granted their own "territory". Another guarantee from the NWA to its member groups was the promise of aid in the form of nationally known stars making the rounds in their promotions to help drive any local competitors out of business. The NWA also helped wrestlers who had become stagnant in their home territory by negotiating trades between member promotions, allowing them a new venue to develop their persona or work a fresh crowd.
However, the NWA's best known promotional tactic - one that helped to unify its various regional members - was the unified NWA World Heavyweight Championship
. The champion would travel to the various regional groups fighting the local champions, helping lend those champions even more credibility. Given the rather large number of promotions in the NWA at the peak of its success, being the world champion was a very difficult job and required large amounts of traveling and a enormous number of matches per year note
. Prior to the spread of national television having the champion visit a regional organization was considered a rare and important event, often drawing record crowds.
Various contractual disputes and antitrust lawsuits levied against the NWA throughout the 1960s would lead to many of its larger member promotions leaving the organization, starting with the American Wrestling Association
in 1960 and the World Wide Wrestling Federation
in 1963 (though it would take decades before the WWWF would even begin to become a national powerhouse).
The second and nearly fatal blow to the NWA would come in the 1980s, as national television became the norm and many of the NWA's old promotional tactics became useless, with many key members abandoning the Alliance in droves. Plot holes and inconsistencies
between the various member organizations became more readily apparent, and the NWA World Champion's appearance became less of a draw, since it was possible to watch matches from other territories. It was at this time that Vince McMahon
purchased Georgia Championship Wrestling from the NWA and merged it with his father's company to form the World Wrestling Federation. With a near-desperate need to compete, and lacking trust in the NWA's steadily-declining promotional capacity, Jim Crockett Productions (JCP), the then-largest and most successful member promotion, began buying out various local wrestling organizations from the other NWA promoters. Unfortunately, poor business decisions by Jim Crockett Jr., such as buying Bill Watt's failing UWF promotion note
, led to JCP nearly filing for bankruptcy before it was bought out by media mogul Ted Turner, who turned the company into World Championship Wrestling
. Although it turned into a national promotion, WCW would continue to recognize the NWA's authority until 1993, when it finally broke off from the organization in full. On the international level, the NWA witnessed the defection of (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre)
, All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW)
, and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)
during this time.
Once considered the ultimate authority in Professional Wrestling
, by the mid-nineties, the NWA was seen by many as a dying organization. A final effort to resurrect itself was attempted in 1994 with a national tournament involving its member promotions to crown a new NWA World Champion. Ric Flair
, the previous champion, had been stripped of the title when he joined the WWF (though he did keep the actual belt for a short period after he left, since the NWA refused to pay back his deposit). After WCW formally withdrew from the NWA, the finals of the tournament were held by the NWA's most popular regional group, Eastern Championship Wrestling
...which would withdraw from the NWA in the most unusual and most memorable
form of any wrestling organization. When the NWA took control of the tournament's booking out of fear that ECW would monopolize the tournament, ECW heads Tod Gordon and Paul Heyman hatched a plan that came to fruition the night the tournament ended - Shane Douglas
, the only other man in on the plan and
the winner of the tournament, tossed down the NWA World Championship belt, declaring that the NWA was "an organization that died - RIP - seven years ago" (when JCP left the organization), and proclaiming the beginning of "the new era of the sport of professional wrestling" before declaring himself the new "ECW champion of the world". Days later, ECW formally withdrew from the NWA and renamed themselves Extreme Championship Wrestling...and the rest is industry history.
The departure of ECW saw the end of the NWA as a truly competitive national professional wrestling organization; it was basically on the sidelines during the Monday Night Wars
(as it lacked the money, the talent, or the promotional know-how to compete with its former members). In 2002, after the wars ended, Jeff Jarrett launched a new national promotion, TNA
, which became a member of the NWA for the first two years of its existence. The NWA title itself, back in the national spotlight for the first time in a little under a decade, remained in use by TNA until 2007, when it was recalled by the NWA membership.
Although the NWA still technically exists, and its titles are still defended around the world, it is seen as nothing more than a loose collection of farm-league promotions, none of whom date back to before the 1980s. Given the massively-altered landscape of the pro wrestling industry as compared to the heyday of the NWA, it is very highly unlikely that the organization will ever return to its former glory. However, thanks to the rise of the internet, the NWA has been able to expose their product to a much wider market than, say, the 90s
, and have gotten a slight resurgence of sorts. They began with an internet-exclusive wrestling show called NWA Wrestling Showcase
in 2008 which lasted exactly for ten episodes. However, two years later it's Spiritual Successor NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood
was launched as both a TV Show and internet show via blip.tv.
A massive shakeup in the NWA ownership took place in August, 2012. The owner of NWA Houston, Bruce Tharpe, sued the NWA for fraud after promises involving insurance coverage and other benefits for his promotion following its joining the NWA were not fulfilled. In the aftermath of the lawsuit, Tharpe's promotion group ended up as owner of the entire National Wrestling Alliance. Tharpe immediately began making earthshaking changes to the group's power structure, naming himself NWA President (a title with powers that had not been use in nearly a decade) and changing the NWA itself from a membership style to a licensee model. Among other things, this meant that NWA member promotions following the shakeup were no longer entitled to any say in booking and scheduling the NWA's world champion and other group-wide decisions, instead becoming NWA members In Name Only
while licensing the group's name for their promotional use. This has led to a small exodus of promotions from the group, including the flagship CWF Hollywood and world champion Adam Pearce, in the process vacating the world championship.
For the past sixty years, the National Wrestling Alliance had been a collection of equals, with each member promotion having a say in how the group conducted business and presented its product to the world. And now, for the first time, its membership is subject to the dictates of a single owner and leader. The fallout from the ownership shakeup has mostly been resolved, and though the NWA has suffered the loss of its most visible televised promotion and several top-tier wrestlers, the remaining members appear willing to do business with the new regime. Many, if not most, of the NWA's woes of the past twenty years have been because of a lack of focus and unity in the face of powerful national powerhouses
. Now, for better or worse, the NWA has the same kind of central leadership and direction that has led those worldwide promotions to the success they enjoyed. It remains to be seen whether this new structure will lead to a resurgence in the NWA product or is simply another reshuffling of lifeboats on a sinking ship.
Notable National Wrestling Alliance Champions Include:
- A Friend in Need: They resorted to briefly leaning on Smoky Mountain Wrestling when ECW's departure left them without a World Champion. However, Chris Candido's reign in Smoky Mountain was not recognized and as soon as Dan Severn won the NWA packed up and left. Smoky Mountain would then close when its owner got a full time offer to work for the WWF.
- An Ass Kicking Christmas: Ultimate NWA's Clotheslines & Candycanes War Games, which did feature a War Games match, by the way. Also, Ring Warriors's NWA exodus show was Christmas themed.
- The Artifact
- In the form of the NWA Light Heavyweight, Middleweight and Welterweight titles. Originally local titles granted to then member CMLL for use within Mexico, they were being used by CMLL despite leaving the NWA in the 80's. CMLL has returned the belts to the NWA and are using "NWA World Historic" titles instead.
- Hilariously the Light Heavyweight/Middleweight Championships are closer to true "World Titles" than any of the NWA controlled ones since they are occasionally defended in Japan (Ultimo Dragon was Middleweight Champion twice, and the Light-Heavyweight belt, along with the NWA Welterweight belt, was part of the J-Crown).
- Asskicking Equals Authority: During the heyday of the NWA, the NWA world champion would tour around the territories, feuding with local wrestlers and eventually fighting the regional champion. Since there was always a risk that that the local champion might decide to shoot on the NWA champ and essentially steal the belt (Kayfabe being sacrosanct of course meaning that the NWA couldn't very well admit the title change wasn't supposed to happen), this meant the champion was usually someone with legit fighting or hooking skills, to ensure he could defend the title in a real fight if the need arose.
- Boring Invincible Hero: Lou Thesz is arguably the first of these in professional wrestling often going to great lengths behind the scenes to make sure he stayed champion in the 40's and 50's.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The NWA has been the victim of this numerous times. Whenever a member becomes particularly successful they will end up leaving the NWA and becoming a rival. Exampls include the WWE, AWA, WCW, ECW, and TNA.
- Cool Mask: One of the first International members of the NWA was EMLL (now known as the CMLL) from Mexico which, true to lucha libre, had numerous masked wrestlers. More recently in the form of Blue Demon Jr. a masked luchador who was champ in 2008.
- Cult: Kevin Sullivan's Army of Darkness in the original CWF.
- Department of Redundancy Department: NWA Pro Wrestling of Santa Monica, California. National Wrestling Alliance Pro Wrestling?
- Distaff Counterpart: NWA Phoenix and NWA Coastal had the Fyrebird World Order, fWo
- Divide and Conquer: When Vince McMahon took over his father's company the NWA did this to themselves. Although the leaders of the various organizations knew that together they could take out the WWF they were too paranoid to create a more unified body and decided to take on Vince one at a time.
- Do with Him as You Will: Seth Delay abandoned his tag team partner, Sal Rinauro, to Matt Sydal at Wildside after Rinauro attacked and tried to forcibly French kiss Matt's friend Daizee Haze. Delirious and Altar Boy Luke were similarly apathetic to Rinauro's pleas for help but Ray Gordy decided to help him with Sydal.
- Evil Foreigner: Many over its long existence, though its subverted completely with Japanese native Giant Titan, who speaks with a completely Floridian accent and has spent the overwhelming majority of his career in Florida. Also subverted by Low Ki in Pro Wrestling Zero 1, whom the fans really took a liking to.
- Fire Balls: This cheat has been in the alliance since at least The Sheik in NWA Hollywood and continued into the internet age with Azrael of the NWA Elite.
- The Giant: Many over the years, such as Haystacks Calhoun and Giant Titan, who are actually more mobile and agile than most examples. Still at 640 pounds, no one who had anything less than Sammartion strength was slamming Calhoun and Giant Titan prides himself on being an immovable mass who only needs a few power moves to finish his smaller opponents.
- Follow the Leader: NWA Midwest, Mid America, Max, New South, New England, Oklahoma, South Atlantic and Rocky Top having an X division is not an example of this trope, nor is Zero1 Midwest, since TNA was part of the NWA. They were just being accommodating. All Star Championship Wrestling, Com Pro Oklahoma, Steel Rage Pro Wrestling and PWX also having X Divisions is an example of this though.
- It Will Never Catch On: Ring Warriors was the first wrestling organization to stream matches online. Unfortunately it did this in during the age of Dial Up internet in 1997, so it did not catch on...in its intended market. While Ring Warriors had little success in the USA until 2011, it beat both WWF and WCW in Europe, Africa and some parts of Asia till the death of Hiro Matsuda in 1999.
- Mr. Fanservice: AJ Styles, Altar Boy Luke and Seth Delay of Wildside were pushed as such when someone made note of the pitch the majority of their cheers got.
- One Head Taller: The Unholy Alliance (not that one, or that one), holders of The South Atlantic Tag Team Championships. So Talon was not so tiny at an imperial 5'8 but Tower was 7'1!
- One Steve Limit
- Legendary trainer of Hulk Hogan, The Great Muta and others, Hiro Matsuda, set out to make an "Americanized" version of New Japan Pro Wrestling called World Wrestling Superstars, with help from Howard Brody. However, since The World Wrestling Federation had taken to calling all its wrestlers superstars and even had a show called WWF Superstars, the name was changed to Ring Warriors.
- Both Championships Wrestling From Florida (CWF) and WWE's former developmental company Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), are based on an older promotion that was called CWF and FCW interchangeably. Specifically CWF called itself FCW for a brief period when it was not allowed to use its original name.
- Power Stable: A whole lot. One of the most famous stables in pro wrestling history, The Four Horsemen with Ric Flair, started off here.
- The Remnant/The Determinator: Though reduced to a tiny fraction of its former prestige, give credit where credit is due. Almost every other wrestling promotion that's broken away has gone the way of the dodo, from the AWA and Jim Crockett Promotions in the 80's all the way to powerhouses like WCW and ECW in the early 2000's, with only a notable pair of exceptions. After being trashed by every member promotion that's gotten a whiff of success on the national scene, their World title treated as less than tin foil on television time and time again, nobody would have blamed the NWA leadership for throwing in the towel. But they've held strong, and with the rise of the internet, smaller promotions under the NWA umbrella who've never had an audience larger then a high school gym have been able to expose their product to a wider market without the need of traditional cable outlets, leading to a slight resurgence.
- The Rival: After TNA got a deal with Panda Energy and left, Championship Wrestling From Florida and Ring Warriors eventually decided to compete with one another to see who would become the new crown jewel of the NWA. CWF got its show out first but then lost its member powers and left, Ring Warriors reluctantly deciding to follow them.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: While on their own shows, Ring of Honor has taken jabs at the state of the NWA and will be quick to let anyone who asks know that they were never a member of it, ROH will send their talent out to help put over NWA guys, such as soon to be ROH World Champion Adam Cole taking a fall to NWA World Heavyweight Champion Adam Pearce at Ring Warriors.
- Vestigial Empire: About as vestigial as vestigial gets. Went from having a stranglehold on professional wrestling across several different countries to having tentative oversight of a handful of regional promotions in five-six countries.
- Wham Episode: The aftermath of Bruce Tharpe's (owner of NWA Houston) lawsuit against the NWA board of directors. To make a long story short, Tharpe had his promotion join the NWA after being assured that his promotion would be covered by the NWA's insurance and other guarantees, which turned out not to be the case, resulting in him suing the organization for fraud and misrepresentation. In the resulting fallout, the NWA itself was given over to Tharpe's ownership, whereupon he immediately began making drastic changes to the leadership structure and membership status of the league. Most importantly, the old title and powers of the NWA President, last seen in 2005, were restored; and the NWA itself was changed from a membership model to a licensee model: "Member" promotions of the NWA are no longer truly members in the sense that they have an equal stake and say in the organization's future, but instead merely license the NWA's name and partnership from the board of directors while little say in, for example, choosing the NWA's world champion and having a chance to have him appear on their programming. Those powers now remain with the board of directors, on which the various member promotions' owners no longer have a voice. As a result of this massive shakeup, several promotions and wrestlers with NWA membership withdrew their affiliation in protest; most notably, immediately following a (for the NWA, at least) high-profile series of matches called the Seven Levels of Hate between Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana for the NWA World Championship, both wrestlers tore down the new ownership's actions and left NWA programming and vacated the title.
- Wrestling Monster
- Subverted in the case of "Tokyo Monster" Kahagas, who despite holding both the South Eastern Heavyweight Championship for over a year, the Coastal Championship Wrestling Championship for over two years and then going on to become the first wrestler to win the NWA National, NWA North American and NWA World Heavyweight Championships, proved to be a vulnerable champion who retained largely by being a dirty cheat. It must be said Kahagas was respected as a tough guy offset though, as with most other NWA champions.
- Played straight as can be with NWA Wildside's Monster Abyss, at least until TNA got him to themselves, told everyone else not to touch him and had him cry to back stage interviewers.
- You Look Familiar: A common tactic in the days before national broadcasting was to have an unpopular wrestler be traded to another promotion, often with their gimmick being altered to avoid being recognized.