The NWA Turns Seventy-Five


When I was in college, I wrote a monthly pro wrestling article for my school’s newspaper.  One month I decided to write about the NWA since they were having an anniversary.  When I picked up the newest edition of our paper a couple of weeks later, I was excited to see my article, then I saw the headline.

“The NWA Has an Anniversary of Its Own”

I felt disappointed.  I had put a good amount of time and effort into the article, and I know that wasn’t the headline I submitted.  That’s how the NWA has been represented for close to the last thirty years, no respect whatsoever.  But it wasn’t always that way.

In July 1948, six wrestling promoters came together to form an organization with the goal of having one recognized world heavyweight champion.  This promotion would change the landscape of professional wrestling for many years, so they formed the National Wrestling Alliance.

The oldest governing body in the United States for professional wrestling and the second oldest promotion in the world, the NWA had some of the biggest stars in wrestling history compete with incredible battles and legendary rivalries.

The first NWA World Heavyweight Champion was Orville Brown when he was crowned champion on July 14, 1948.  He would be champion for almost a year and a half before a car accident in November 1949 ended his career.  The man who would be the next champion set the bar high for the NWA for many years to come.

Lou Thesz was awarded the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on November 27, 1949, and would reign as champion for six and a half years before losing the title to Whipper Billy Watson on March 15, 1956.  Lou Thesz was the first pillar of the foundation of the NWA and would be the face of the organization for many years.

Another pillar of the NWA wasn’t a wrestler but a promoter, Sam Muchnick.  Muchnick attended the meeting to form the NWA in 1948 and became the second president of the NWA in 1950.  He was one of the most respected men in all professional wrestling and a man of his word.

Muchnick was president for ten years and saw the NWA grow during his first run as president.  He would become president again in 1963 and remain president until 1975 while promoting the St. Louis territory, a hotbed for professional wrestling.

The argument could be made that the peak time for the NWA was from the late 1970’s through the 1980’s.  Wrestlers like Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Wahoo McDaniel, and so many other wrestlers became stars at this time.  But one wrestler stood out above the rest and became the flag bearer of the NWA, Ric Flair.

Ric Flair defeated Dusty Rhodes for his first NWA World Heavyweight Championship on September 17, 1981, and would begin his decade of dominance as the premiere wrestler in the world.  Wherever Flair went, people paid to see him get beat or beat up somebody.  He would hold onto the NWA World Heavyweight Title six times in the 1980s and his rivalries were legendary.

From Dusty Rhodes & Magnum T.A. to Kerry Von Erich & Ricky Steamboat, Flair was the champion’s champion.  Traveling all over the world defending the title on a nightly basis, sometimes wrestling for sixty minutes to retain his championship.  But while Ric Flair was the face of the NWA, its time at the top was starting to run down.

During the 1980s Vince McMahon would make the World Wrestling Federation a national promotion and would buy all the territories to expand his empire.  By the end of the decade, the WWF was the number one promotion in the United States while the NWA was falling behind, and the downfall wouldn’t stop.

The 1990’s was a bad decade for the NWA as their relationship with WCW ended in 1993 thus losing their spot among the top promotions in the United States.  But perhaps the most damaging moment was the following year as Shane Douglas, after winning the NWA World Heavyweight Title, threw the belt to the ground not wanting to in his words “be the man responsible for carrying an organization that died, R.I.P. seven years ago”.

In 2002 some life was breathed into the NWA when Jeff & Jerry Jarrett formed Total Nonstop Action.  It would be under the NWA name and would feature the World Heavyweight Title and Tag Team Titles on the weekly shows.  The NWA would have a working relationship with TNA until May 2007 when TNA decided to go on its own.

However, the last six years have been rather kind to the NWA when Billy Corgan, the lead singer of Smashing Pumpkins bought the promotion and changed the organization from a territory-based company to a national company.  One of the wrestlers who benefited from this new direction of the NWA was a man who had been Impact World Champion but never really got a chance to break out and shine in Nick Aldis.

Aldis defeated Tim Storm on December 9, 2017, and would hold onto the title for almost nine months before losing the title to Cody Rhodes on September 1, 2018.  Aldis would quickly regain the title and was the face of the NWA as their world champion for close to three years.  During that time, we saw the NWA start a weekly YouTube series called “NWA Power” with the show getting rave reviews, and another series called “Ten Pounds of Gold” which followed the life of the World Champion.

Since Corgan has taken over as owner of the NWA, we’ve seen five wrestlers hold the NWA World Heavyweight Title with the current champion being Tyrus.  The prestige of the title has always been there but has risen again during the last six years.

In a recent interview with Chris Van Vliet, Billy Corgan discussed the potential of the NWA and said, “They’re positioned to be the next big company”.  He also said, “In terms of product, I think the NWA fits quite comfortably between AEW and WWE”.  Only time will tell if Billy Corgan is correct in these statements.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the NWA, I recommend the book “National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Professional Wrestling” by Tim Hornbaker.  It goes in-depth on the organization and the troubling times that the NWA had to go through in the early years, one of the best wrestling books I’ve ever read.

For seventy-five years the NWA has been a fixture in professional wrestling.  The organization has had good times and bad times, trying to stay alive to be in the spotlight of the wrestling scene.  But the history of professional wrestling could never be complete without the story of the NWA, the National Wrestling Alliance.