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Mat Matters: Should the NWA and ROH consider a partnership?
By MATTHEW BYER - SLAM! Wrestling


During the last year, NWA President Bruce Tharpe and Vice President Chris Ronquillo have made some huge strides bringing the National Wrestling Alliance back to greater prominence. They have re-signed approximately 35 promoters in the U.S. and elsewhere, developed a strong relationship with New Japan Wrestling, are in negotiations to sign up a new promotion in Australia, and one in Brazil, put on a couple of wrestling supercards in Houston, and revamped the website to promote the brand and merchandise.

However, at this time the NWA is lacking two important things: a television deal and pay-per-views. Both are critical revenue streams for a wrestling organization, particularly if it aspires someday to compete with World Wrestling Entertainment. While, Tharpe has indicated that they are looking into the possibility of a television deal in North America, it is very clear that this is in its infancy stages. Thus, without a North American-wide television deal in the immediate future, the question becomes should the NWA consider partnering with another company that does have one, and if so which company?

When Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) was formed back in June 2002, the company signed a partnership with the NWA which gave them control of the NWA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships. While TNA later on changed its name to NWA-TNA, it was clear very early on in the partnership that the brand being prominently promoted was TNA and not the NWA.

This likely played a role in why the NWA, in May of 2007, decided to end its partnership with TNA; and there may have been concern within the NWA that it was better to terminate the agreement on their terms instead of taking a chance of having what happened with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) back in 1994 reoccur.

For those not aware, in 1994, Shane Douglas won the NWA World Heavyweight Title, and immediately rejected it in favour of the newly christened ECW World Heavyweight Championship, which hurt the NWA's reputation and credibility for many years.


However, when looked at through a critical historical lens what may have been the most damaging to the NWA during the 1990s was when World Championship Wrestling (WCW) withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance on September 1, 1993. When WCW chose this course of action they kept the title belt which they owned. This ultimately led to a court battle where it was ultimately decided that WCW couldn't use the NWA to promote the belt, but through a goodwill agreement could continue to make a claim to the lengthy historical lineage going back to 1905. The loss of the national and international television coverage of the WCW was damaging, but the continuing association with the historical legacy of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship caused confusion for many wrestling fans and a belief by some that the WCW World Heavyweight Championship had in fact replaced the NWA Title.

Perhaps one of the great ironies surrounding WCW pulling out of the NWA is had they remained a part of it, it is very likely that some of their more controversial decisions with the WCW Title would never have happened, including making David Arquette and Vince Russo WCW World Heavyweight Champions. The reason why is the NWA Board would have likely blocked these decisions, and by doing so WCW would have been much better off.

Yet, as current NWA World Heavyweight Champion Rob Conway pointed out in a recent interview when asked about the ECW and the National Wrestling Alliance, he felt that Shane Douglas back at that time wasn't downplaying the NWA, but were using them as a launching pad to move ECW forward.

"They needed the NWA, and the NWA brought them up to where they were," Conway told SLAM! Wrestling. "Shane Douglas got to be NWA Champion, and they saw it as an opportunity. It was definitely a negative for the NWA, but I don't think they were downplaying the NWA, so much as putting the spotlight on them, and transferring it onto their new company, and that's how they chose to do it."

Still, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship has regained much of its prestige through the hard work of past champions, and Conway, and as he correctly states all of this happened back in 1994.

"If you're 25 years old in the wrestling business you've only seen that on tape, you didn't see that live. A lot of the stuff that we hold in our minds like it was yesterday, we lose sight of who is a wrestling fan now and not in 1994, which was a long time ago."

Nevertheless, due to how that earlier partnership may have ended, the NWA might have reluctance to exploring an agreement with TNA again. Plus, TNA has spent a great deal of time and effort promoting their own brand, and titles, and would probably not be interested in a new agreement with the NWA.

However, that still leaves one other organization that might be a potential match for the NWA: Ring of Honor (ROH).

As detailed in a recent Mat Matters Editorial by SLAM! Wrestling writer Matt Bishop [Ring of Honor feeling flat], ROH has been a bit flat lately due in part to the talent they've lost to TNA and WWE, and also their inability to replace the depth they once had. However, ROH continues to have a hard hitting and exciting style of wrestling, and television deals for several markets throughout Canada and the United States.

What ROH is lacking is a greater number of larger sized heavyweights who can connect with the crowd and generate excitement, which are all things that the NWA has in abundance. Many of the NWA's wrestlers are former WWE superstars, including Conway, and are very versed with connecting with an audience. The NWA also has an international presence through their agreement with New Japan Wrestling, and potential future deals with promotions in Australia and Brazil. Perhaps most importantly, due to the hard work of not only NWA management, but also its wrestlers, the NWA World Heavyweight Title has begun to recapture a great deal of its lustre and importance that it used to have in the past within the professional wrestling industry.

A partnership between the National Wrestling Alliance and Ring of Honor would benefit both companies at this time provided it is handled correctly. An agreement similar to the one that the NWA had with TNA wouldn't really make sense, but one in which the NWA wrestlers were used as invaders to ROH would. There is even a bit of a historical precedence for such a plotline, as back in 2008, Adam Pearce, the NWA Heavyweight Champion at that time, defended the title against ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness on June 27th, lost the title to Brent Albright on August 2nd, and regained it from Albright on September 20th. All of these events took place on either Ring Of Honor pay-per-views or their television program.

Thus, all of that now could be used to set-up a storyline war between the two organizations which would almost certainly energize the fans, and would set-up champion-versus-champion matches that could be built over a lengthy period of time.

Both organizations could pool their monies to put on joint pay-per-views, which would help keep their individual costs down, while at the same time taking advantage of that lucrative revenue stream. Also, if the NWA eventually did get their own television program, the partnership could still continue with the storyline war between the two organizations taking place across two different TV programs.

As long as both the NWA and ROH treated each other as equals, a partnership between the two could be beneficial to each of them both in the short term and the long term. Given enough effort, hard work, and a bit of luck, over time such a partnership between the NWA and ROH could result in a joint organization which could one day be a competitor for the WWE.

RELATED LINKS

  • Previous Mat Matters Editorial columns

    Be sure to check out Matthew's first fictional novel Finding My Way Through Life's Follies along with a free preview here and also Matthew's first collection of poetry Mustard Marinade Poetry along with a free preview here.