History of the National Wrestling Alliance: Past, Present & Future
by Brian R. Westcott and Eric Chmiel
Here is an article about the NWA from Eric Chmiel’s The Wrestling Tribune Newsletter from the May 28, 1994 issue: #43, p. 8. with additional content included.
“In 1948, six of the most powerful promoters in North America (Al Haft, Pinkey George, Orville Brown, Sam Muchnick, Tony Stecher and Harry Light) formed the National Wrestling Alliance and agreed to recognize one World champion that would be shared between them because they believed it would improve their business. On July 18, 1948 the newly-formed NWA awarded the organization’s first World title to Orville Brown, who was still an active wrestler at the time.”
“Over time, the National Wrestling Alliance grew into the largest wrestling organization in the world. Eventually, every single long-standing promoter in this country (including the McMahons of the World Wrestling Federation) became members of the NWA. The only one that didn’t (Verne Gagne’s AWA) was still invited to NWA meetings and was generally regarded as an honorary member. The advantage of having all the promotions in the country belonging to the NWA is that the established promoters all maintained monopolies over their own regional territories because NWA rules dictated that no promoter could cross over into the territory of any other promoter. Thus, being a member of the NWA meant not having to deal with competition from any other promoter. If a non-NWA promoter tried to muscle in on someone else’s territory, the rest of the NWA members would join forces to make it nearly impossible for the invading non-member promoter to survive. Since NWA rules also dictated that members of the organization could recognize only one World title, the McMahons’ title was always called the WWF title (not the WWF World title), until 1983 when Vince McMahon broke away from the NWA. With NWA outlets in Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Canada, Santa Domingo, Singapore and elsewhere by the 1970’s, the NWA World title was easily the most prestigious and well-known wrestling title in all the world. To be chosen to be the champion was the greatest honor a wrestler could achieve because it meant being recognized as the choice of the most powerful promoters in the world as the best wrestler (in terms of drawing power, match working, interviews, etc.) to be found anywhere. Every member of the NWA was entitled to have the champion wrestle in their territory, and they almost always drew bigger crowds than normal for World title matches.”
Jim Crockett was one of the main members of the NWA. Crockett sold JCP to Ted Turner in 1988. The NWA started making noise about WCW’s using the NWA name for their title when Sting won the NWA title from Ric Flair in 1990 because Crockett was an NWA member but not Turner or his new organization. So, WCW started using “WCW” for all their titles in January 1991 although they legally joined the NWA at the same time to avoid troubles.
When Ric Flair joined the WWF in September 1991, the NWA let then-WCW Vice President Jim Herd become the president of the NWA and gave him the right to strip the NWA World title from Flair.
“In 1992, then-WCW Executive Vice President K. Allen Frey worked out a deal with the remaining NWA members to get permission to revive the NWA World title. He originally planned to simply change the names of the promotion and the title back to “NWA”, but it was decided that all the name switching would be too confusing to fans. So, Frey decided to have a tournament to crown a new NWA World champion in Japan and have WCW recognize two World titles. The remaining NWA members took legal action in 1993, when WCW wanted to have Rick Rude win the NWA World title from Ric Flair, on the grounds that they didn’t approve of Rude as the champion. In court, the NWA was given the right to control the NWA World title, not WCW. So WCW simply started call the title “The Gold Belt” for a brief time before settling on the “International World title.” However, neither the “Gold Belt” or the “International World title” are recognized by the NWA.”
The WCW International World title was unified with the WCW World Heavyweight title when Ric Flair, WCW World champion, defeated Sting, WCW International World champion, on June 23, 1994 in Charleston, SC. The International World title was abandoned after that.
After WCW left the NWA, the remaining members of the NWA were Jim Crockett, Jr., Dennis Coralluzzo, Howard Brody, Steve Rickard and Tod Gordon. The NWA held a tournament to crown a new NWA World champion on August 27, 1994 in Philadelphia, PA. The tournament was hosted by Eastern Championship Wrestling. Shane Douglas defeated Too Cold Scorpio in the tournament final, however, Douglas refused to accept the NWA belt and later declared himself ECW World Heavyweight champion. Eastern Championship Wrestling died and was reborn as Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW).
So again, another tournament was held to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion, this time the location was in Cherry Hill, NJ on November 19, 1994. Chris Candido defeated long-time rival Tracy Smothers to win the vacant NWA World Heavyweight Title. But it was a short title reign for Candido. On February 24, 1995, “The Beast” Dan Severn upset Candido to win the NWA World title in Erlanger, KY. Severn had a long four-year title reign which included title defenses against wrestlers such as Devon Storm on June 24, 1995, Tarzan Goto on August 20, 1995 at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium. Severn would also continue to fight in mixed martial arts competitions during his reign as champion.
1998 would be a very significant year for the NWA as it entered a working agreement with the WWF. Howard Brody and Dan Severn both appeared on WWF Monday Night RAW. WWF wrestlers such as Jeff Jarrett and The Headbangers received the opportunity to wear NWA titles around their waists. Steven Regal (now known as William Regal in WWE) received a title shot against Severn at the NWA’s 50th Anniversary show in October 1998.
Severn’s long title reign finally ended on March 14, 1999 in Yokohama, Japan when Naoya Ogawa upset Severn for the victory and the title. Dory Funk, Jr. was the special guest referee for the bout. A lot of fans wondered about the NWA Board of Directors’ decision to award Ogawa the title. Sure, Ogawa was very marketable in Japan and had a long-running feud with Shin’ya Hashimoto in New Japan Pro Wrestling. But Ogawa was unknown to fans in the United States, even when he arrived in America to defend his title on September 25, 1999 at the 51st Anniversary show in Charlotte, North Carolina. On that fateful evening, Gary Steele, a wrestler from the United Kingdom’s NWA Hammerlock promotion, upset Ogawa to win the title in a Three Way Dance. Brian Anthony was the other participant in the match. Ogawa regained the title from Steele on October 2, 1999 in Thomaston, CT.
The Ogawa experiment came to an end on July 2, 2000 when Ogawa was forced to vacate the title. This gave the Board of Directors a chance to put the belt around the waist of a young deserving contender by the name of Mike Rapada. Rapada was known as The Colorado Kid and was a multi-time holder of the NWA North American Heavyweight Title. On September 19, 2000 in Tampa, Florida, Rapada defeated Jerry Flynn in an 8-man tournament to win the vacant title. But Rapada would lose the NWA World Title to, of all wrestlers, Sabu on November 14, 2000 in Tampa, Florida. Rapada regained the belt from Sabu on December 22, 2000 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Rapada would continue to defend the belt within the various NWA promotions against all challengers. On April 24, 2001 in Tampa, Florida, Rapada lost the NWA World Heavyweight Title to the “King of Old School” Steve Corino. Corino made an acceptable and hard-working champion, defending the title in Japan, Canada, and across the United States. The NWA World Heavyweight Title was held up after a controversial match between Steve Corino and Shin’ya Hashimoto on October 13, 2001 in St. Petersburg, Florida when Corino was unable to continue due to injuries he sustained during the match. The controversy was settled on December 15, 2001 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania when Hashimoto defeated Corino and Gary Steele in a round-robin triangle match to win the held-up title.
Hashimoto would return to Japan to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Title, only to lose it in a very controversial ending to Dan Severn on March 9, 2002 in Tokyo after the referee delivered a fast count. Severn’s second title reign was shorter than his first one. Severn was stripped of the NWA World Heavyweight Title on May 28, 2002 by unanimous vote of the NWA Board of Directors for not being able to schedule a title defense on June 19, 2002 in Huntsville, Alabama. Severn was already previously booked for a mixed martial arts bout on that day.
June 19, 2002 would also become a very special day in the history of the NWA as Jerry and Jeff Jarrett presented NWA Total Nonstop Action on pay-per-view by hosting a tournament for the vacant NWA World Heavyweight Title. It started off with a battle royal and the last two men were none other than Ken Shamrock and Malice (formerly The Wall). Shamrock defeated Malice to win the vacant title using his superior submission skills. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was the special referee.
Shamrock eventually lost the NWA World Heavyweight Title to Ron “The Truth” Killings on August 7, 2002 in Nashville, Tennessee. Killings became the first African-American wrestler to win the NWA World Heavyweight Title. Killings lost the belt to Jeff Jarrett on November 20, 2002 in Nashville, Tennessee. In a complete upset, A.J. Styles defeated Jeff Jarrett and Raven in a Three Way match on June 11, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. Jarrett regained the title from Styles on October 22, 2003 in Nashville, Tennessee. During Jarrett’s second title reign, he defended the title successfully against Dory Funk, Jr. in 18:23 on Sunday, January 25, 2004 in Ocala, Florida. However, A.J. Styles would regain the NWA World Heavyweight Title in 13:36 on April 21, 2004 in Nashville, Tennessee. Styles would lose the title to Ron “The Truth” Killings in a Four Way match on May, 19, 2004 in 19:12 in Nashville, TN. The other two participants were Chris Harris and Raven. Jeff Jarrett regained the NWA World Heavyweight Title for a third time on June 2, 2004 in Nashville, TN, winning a “King of the Mountain” match in 20:10, defeating Ron Killings, A.J. Styles, Raven, and Chris Harris.
A.J. Styles regained the NWA World Heavyweight Title for a third time defeating Jeff Jarrett on May 15, 2005 in Orlando, FL as part of the NWA TNA Hard Justice PPV. Raven won the NWA World Heavyweight Title during a King of the Mountain match on June 19, 2005 in Orlando, FL in 14:17, defeating A.J. Styles, Sean Waltman, Monty Brown, & Abyss. Jeff Jarrett regained the title for a fourth time defeating Raven on September 15, 2005 at a Border City Wrestling house show in Oldcastle, Ontario, Canada. Chris Harris and James Storm helped Jarrett to win the title, turning themselves heel in the process. The match was held under “Raven’s Rules”, basically No Disqualifications. Jarrett’s title reign was ended on October 23, 2005 in Orlando, FL when Rhino upset Jarrett with the Gore and pinned him in the main event of the NWA TNA Bound for Glory PPV. But Jarrett would win the title back for a fifth time on October 25, 2005 in Orlando, FL during a TNA Impact TV Taping, with the help of Gail Kim and America’s Most Wanted. Christian Cage ended Jarrett’s title reign in 16:23 on February 12, 2006 in Orlando, FL in the main event of the NWA TNA Against All Odds PPV.
Jeff Jarrett regained the NWA World Heavyweight Title for a sixth time in controversial fashion on June 18, 2006, defeating Christian Cage, Sting, Abyss, and Ron Killings in a King of the Mountain match at the TNA Slammiversary PPV. Sting defeated Jeff Jarrett to regain the NWA World Heavyweight Title in 15:00 on October 22, 2006 in Plymouth, Michigan at the TNA Bound for Glory PPV. Kurt Angle was the special enforcer for the match. Abyss would win the NWA World Heavyweight Title in controversial fashion, defeating Sting by disqualification on November 19, 2006 in Orlando, FL at the TNA Genesis PPV. Christian Cage ended the controversy, and regained the title, by defeating Abyss and Sting in a Three Way Elimination match in 13:18 on January 14, 2007 in Orlando, FL at the TNA Final Resolution PPV.
The TNA era came to an end on May 13, 2007 when Christian Cage was stripped of the title after TNA ended their working agreement with the NWA. A 16-man tournament was started on June 2, 2007 to crown a new champion. Adam Pearce defeated Brent Albright in the tournament final on September 1, 2007 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Albright upset Pearce to win the belt on August 2, 2008 at an ROH show in New York, New York. This was the very first time the title changed hands in New York City. Pearce regained the belt on September 20, 2008 in Philadelphia, PA. On October 25, 2008, Blue Demon, Jr. defeated Pearce to win the title in Mexico City and became the first masked Luchador to win the belt in Mexico. Blue Demon, Jr.’s long title reign was ended by Adam Pearce on March 14, 2010 in Charlotte, NC in a Three-Way match along with Phil Shatter. Pearce’s reign ended on March 6, 2011 in Hollywood, CA, courtesy of a man who would become a huge rival: Colt Cabana. Cabana’s reign would be ended by The Almighty Sheik on April 23, 2011 in Jacksonville, FL.
Due to huge controversy, The Almighty Sheik was stripped of the NWA World Heavyweight Title on July 11, 2011 after refusing to do a scheduled title defense. On July 31, 2011 in Columbus, OH, Adam Pearce defeated Jimmy Rave, Chance Prophet, & Shaun Tempers in a Four-Way match to win the vacant belt. Colt Cabana regained the ten pounds of gold on April 8, 2012 in Glendale, CA. On May 13, 2012, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce would begin a seven match series known as “Seven Levels of Hate”. The stipulations involved were: First Blood, Boston Street Fight, I Quit, Two-out-of-Three Falls (Pearce regained the belt on July 21, 2012 in Kansas City, KS), Dog Collar, Texas Death, and finally, a steel cage. The last match became a non-sanctioned, non-title event. Pearce lost to Colt Cabana on October 27, 2012 in Berwick, Australia. After a passionate speech, Pearce vacated the title.
Another vacancy, another tournament. This time, a 9-man elimination tournament was held on November 2, 2012 in Clayton, New Jersey. The winner turned out to be a huge surprise. At that time, then reigning NWA National Heavyweight Champion “The Tokyo Monster” Kahagas upset Damien Wayne to win the tournament and the ten pounds of gold. On March 16, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas, “Iron Man” Rob Conway defeated “The Tokyo Monster” to win the ten pounds of gold. On January 4, 2014 at the Egg Dome in Tokyo, Japan, Satoshi Kojima upset the “Iron Man” to win the ten pounds of gold. On June 2, 2014, “Iron Man” Rob Conway regained the ten pounds of gold upsetting Kojima with the Ego Trip in Las Vegas, Nevada.
— Brian Westcott and Eric Chmiel