|Style American professional wrestling|
Owner(s) Robert Trobich (1989–2012) R. Bruce Tharpe (Pres.) (2012–present) Chris Ronquillo (CEO) (2012–2014) Fred Reubenstein (VP & COO) (2012–2014)
Parent Pro Wrestling Organization LLC (1989–2012) International Wrestling Corp, LLC (2012–present)
Headquarters Waterloo, Iowa, United States
Founders Orville Brown, Don Owen, Al Haft, Harry Light, Paul George, Sam Muchnick, Anton Stecher
History tradition the story of the national wrestling alliance trailer
The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) is a professional wrestling governing body which has historically been the largest league of independent wrestling promotions in the world. The organization sanctions various NWA championship bouts within its member promotions. 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.
- History tradition the story of the national wrestling alliance trailer
- Decline of the territory system
- NWA today
- Regional promotions of the past
- Recent major promotions
- NWA Wrestling Showcase
- NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood
- NWA Hall of Fame
Before 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 got 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. This storyline was often advanced in the area from which the competitor was departing as resulting from the outcome of an especially highly promoted "loser leaves town" match.
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 to the infamous NWA Consent Decree of 1956 in U.S. 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 Muchnick over a number of issues. Quinn was a partner in the St. Louis territory and disagreed with how it was being run, and 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, and Nebraska recognized Verne Gagne as 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 left the organization in 1960 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 Worldwide Wrestling Associates (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. Rogers had defeated NWA World Champion Pat O'Connor in 1961 in front of a then record crowd of over 38,000 fans at Comiskey Park in Chicago. October 1962 saw Rogers defeat Kowalski in a match promoted by Doc Karl Sarpolis, the NWA member promoter in Amarillo, Texas, and Sarpolis rose to the NWA presidency as a result. On January 24, 1963, at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Lou Thesz defeated Rogers in a one-fall match and was declared champion. After the event, however, Northeastern promoter Vincent J. McMahon refused to recognize the title change and withdrew his operation from the NWA, becoming the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF, now WWE) with Rogers as the star performer. The WWWF recognized Rogers as its first world champion in April 1963. Although both 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. Vincent K. McMahon, who had bought the WWF from his father in 1982 used these gathering trends to turn his Northeastern territory into the first truly national promotion. To combat 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, McMahon bought NWA member Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) and merged it 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 (JCP) 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. TBS owner Ted Turner bought JCP and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW) after the popular GCW TV show on TBS. 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 Junior Heavyweight Championship had had national recognition. WCW was still a member of the NWA, but with time felt that the NWA needed it more than it 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 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. In 1986, Watts renamed his promotion the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) in a bid to expand nationally, but was eventually bought out by JCP 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. He teamed with another former NWA member, the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA), and the AWA to try to compete with the WWF, but the arrangement soon fell apart due to inter-promotional politics. WCCW and the CWA later merged to form the United States Wrestling Association (USWA), which folded in 1997. Abroad, Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (EMLL), All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) all seceded from the NWA in the mid-1980s, but 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 Heavyweight 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 immediately stripped of the WCW World title but continued to be recognized as the NWA World champion, causing the separation of the WCW and NWA titles. He was officially stripped of the NWA World title upon his arrival in the WWF a few months later. 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 defeat 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 became WCW). Shane then grabbed the ECW Heavyweight Championship belt and declared himself the ECW World 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 secession of WCW in 1993, 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 Wars between WCW and the WWF.
Today, there is still a group of promoters which hold membership in the NWA and continue to use the NWA name, although no members are holdovers from the membership of the promotion's "glory days" of the 1940s–1980s.
In order to join the NWA, a promoter must have been operating for at least one year in a territory uncontested by any other NWA member, and their application must be approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors—although, there are numerous exceptions to this bylaw currently within the organization. In August 2005, the presidency of the NWA was dissolved and the duties of the office assumed by the Board of Directors, following the resignation of Ernie Todd (NWA: Canadian Wrestling Federation). On his promotion's website, not only did he explain his reasons for resigning from the NWA and its Board of Directors, but Todd stated that he would be joining AWA Superstars of Wrestling. Other members on the NWA's message board posted their thoughts on Todd's departure, and his decision to join AWA Superstars of Wrestling. It was announced on the NWA's website on Monday, October 10, 2005, that NWA legal counsel Bob Trobich would become its new Executive Director. In April 2012, North Carolina businessman and NWA Carolinas promoter David Baucom took over as the Executive Director after the resignation of Trobich.
In August 2012, International Wrestling Corp, LLC, a holding company run by Houston-based attorney and wrestling promoter R. Bruce Tharpe, sued Trobich, Baucom, the NWA, & its then-parent company, Trobich's Pro Wrestling Organziation LLC, claiming insurance fraud regarding the NWA's liability insurance policy. A settlement was negotiated that transferred the rights to the NWA name & trademarks from Trobich's company to Tharpe's. The new organization is moving from a membership model to a licensing model, which caused many promotions to immediately cut ties with the NWA, including Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. CWF Hollywood was the unofficial home promotion of both the then-current NWA champion (Adam Pearce) and the most recent previous champion (Colt Cabana), both of whom publicly left the NWA, with Pearce vacating the NWA World Title while exiting.
In 2013, NWA re-established a relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, where Bruce Tharpe became an on-screen character, portraying a villainous manager of wrestlers representing the NWA. Over the next two years, the NWA World Heavyweight, World Tag Team and World Junior Heavyweight Championships all changed hands at NJPW events.
In September 2016, NWA signed a deal with the new Japanese Diamond Stars Wrestling (DSW) promotion to promote shows in not only Japan, but also other parts of Asia. As part of the deal, DSW chairman Hideo Shimada was appointed the NWA Vice President of the Asian Pacific region, while Jimmy Suzuki was appointed senior NWA consultant.
Regional promotions of the past
Several smaller promotions that were once cornerstones of the NWA ceased to exist as the WWF (now World Wrestling Entertainment) and WCW grew to national levels. Mainly one of the NWA's biggest promotions in the past was the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now known as the WWE) which initially started out in the NWA, and managed to dominate the Northeastern U.S. territory after withdrawing from the NWA through most of the 1960s. The WWWF quietly rejoined the organization in 1971, after WWWF's biggest draw, Bruno Sammartino left the promotion and by 1979, the McMahons and associates all withdrew from the NWA, changing the name from World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in the process. 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, it 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 its 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 was a member from 1978 until it was bought by another NWA member promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), in 1985. When wrestler and Detroit NWA member Ed Farhat made several appearances as The Sheik in an "outlaw territory", his promotion, Big Time Wrestling, was deemed to have violated the NWA charter and was expelled from the organization.
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 restricted to the United States alone. At various points, promotions in Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia were members. In Canada, Maple Leaf Wrestling was a long-time member of the NWA, with its promoter, Frank Tunney, serving as the NWA President in the early 1960s. Maple Leaf Wrestling 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 also being absorbed into the WWF was Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, although when it was relaunched in 1999, it did not become a member of the NWA. Another Canadian territory, encompassing the Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, was known as the Eastern Sports Association, and operated only in the summer months. This promotion dissolved in 1977, and promoter Al Zink’s subsequent ventures into wrestling were not affiliated with the NWA. Out of Vancouver came NWA All-Star Wrestling. Run by promoters Gene Kiniski and Sandor Kovac, NWA All-Star Wrestling was an NWA member until 1985, after which 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 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 in 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 Rikidozan 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 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 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, the Inoki Genome Federation replaced 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. In 2011, Pro Wrestling Zero1 returned to the NWA as their Japanese territory.
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 ended this deal, revoked official World Heavyweight and World Tag Team championship statuses from the current (TNA-based) holders, and scheduled tournaments for both newly vacated titles. Both sides wanted to end the arrangement, as TNA wanted to brand its own World titles, and the NWA members wanted ultimate control on the choice and booking dates of NWA-brand champions.
Recent major promotions
The most visible NWA member promotion in the United States recently was NWA Wildside. It aired 300 consecutive weeks of syndicated television before closing in April 2005, when the promoter, Bill Behrens, signed a deal to work as a television syndicator for WWE. Bill Behrens and Jerry Palmer began NWA Anarchy after the closing of NWA Wildside. NWA Anarchy continues to broadcast weekly television programs appearing on stations all across the U.S. and Canada. NWA Pro Wrestling, operated out of Los Angeles by David Marquez and John Rivera, have been successful in running arena events throughout the American Southwest using top Lucha libre stars to draw houses. The promotion earlier known as NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood is broadcast in the Southern California television market on KDOC. It withdrew from the NWA in 2012.
NWA also has affiliates throughout California and New Jersey. The largest and most successful member promotion of the NWA was New Japan Pro Wrestling, the second-largest and most profitable wrestling promotion in the world (after WWE). NJPW was sanctioned by NWA member and wrestler, Antonio Inoki, who at times has also sanctioned Zero-One and the Universal Fighting Organization as NWA promotions. NJPW holds events consistently throughout Japan, and has also run shows in Europe and the United States. However, it is no longer an NWA territory, as Inoki transferred the rights to his Inoki Genome Federation when he left New Japan. At the 2010 Annual Meeting, New Japan did not renew its membership and has left the NWA. However, the NWA did re-appear in New Japan in 2013 as part of an angle with NWA wrestlers wrestling in Japan to try to take over the company, most notably former NWA Champion Rob Conway.
The late 1990s also brought in the first European member, NWA UK Hammerlock. Due to European recognition of the championships set up by the Admiral-Lord Mountevans rules and the match rule differences (for example, matches in Europe were usually divided into rounds), the NWA did not have a presence in Europe in its heyday. The promotion withdrew from the NWA in December 2013.
In 2008 a new Mexican promotion, NWA Mexico run by Blue Demon, Jr. (adopted son of the original EMLL star Blue Demon) arose as the NWA's new Mexican affiliate. Demon, Jr., made an instant impact by winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (the first Mexican luchador to do so) without any EMLL involvement. NWA Mexico was disbanded on November 13, 2013.
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 Championship Wrestling from Hollywood is now an ongoing weekly television series that originates from KDOC-TV Los Angeles. The series premiere was on September 17, 2010. On September 9, 2012, Championship Wrestling from Hollywood announced it had left the NWA.
Since the NWA was founded in 1948, there have been twenty different presidents of the organization. In 2005, at its annual meeting, the position of President was abandoned in favor of the position of "Executive Director". However, after a lawsuit against the organization and its now former management by one of its members and its current Owner/President, R. Bruce Tharpe, the organization came under Tharpe's ownership through a holding company he formed. Afterwards, the Executive Director position was abandoned in favor of a return to "President".
1 Held title of "Executive Director"
NWA Hall of Fame
The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) Hall of Fame is an American professional wrestling hall of fame maintained by the NWA. It was established in 2005 to honor select wrestling personalities, mostly alumni of the NWA.