Craig Wilson and Brian Damage
It’s Saturday so time for the latest instalment of ’This Week in Wrestling’. Today, in part 40, Craig talks about Billy Corgan buying the NWA while Brian talks about Lance Russell and shares all the best viral content he’s stumbled upon this week.
A New Era for the NWA?
This week it was announced that Billy Corgan had formally completed his purchase of the iconic National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) brand.
For those around my age (early 30s), NWA will be remembered for a brief period in the early 90s due to its association with World Championship Wrestling. Oh, a few years later, its part in the formation of Extreme Championship Wrestling when Shane Douglas famously throw down the belt and lambasted the wrestlers who previously carried it.
But, in fact, the NWA dates back to 1948 and was, for a while, the most famous and dominant brands in wrestling.
Under the control of the NWA Board of Directors (a group that was once the focus of a federal investigation), the organization acted as a governing body for the Alliance’s national territory system which recognized one world champion, participated in talent exchanges, and collectively protected the territorial integrity of member promotions.
It thrived for decades through its control of territories across the United States with some of the most famous names in wrestling, including Lou Thesz; Ric Flair; Buddy Rodgers and Terry Funk, all held the title at one time or another.
The beginning of the end came during the 1980s as Vince McMahon’s expansion of the WWF carried on at a pace that caught the NWA off guard. It wasn’t helped with by the popularity of both cable television and cable trading. With both allowing wrestling fans to see NWA stars on a more regular basis, it meant their appearances became less special and less of a draw. Promotions began to withdraw from NWA, including World Class Championship Wrestling, leaving the WCW as the most recognisable brand which still had an association with the NWA.
By 1991, this came to an end as the company created their own world title. What followed was more than two decades in the relative wilderness, including a terrible fleeting run in the WWF in 1998. In recent years, the NWA has continued to be associated with small independent wrestling companies throughout America before a brief association with Total Non-Stop Action (TNA).
This past week, however, the NWA found itself in the news again with the announcement that former Smashing Pumpkins frontman and TNA creative member Billy Corgan had purchased the company. Speaking as the news of the purchase was finalised, Corgan said: “We want to be part of a new revolution of how wrestling can be consumed by fans and matches can be presented. This NWA brand dates back to 1948. The past few years have not been as kind as we would have liked, but we plan on building this into a powerhouse over time.”
Corgan went on to say: “Our focus is on the NWA plan, and we have a 20-year plan. We’re not going to just come in and throw money around for two years. We’ve learned from the past mistakes of TNA, which we have intimate knowledge of.”
But can Corgan resurrect the NWA? Ultimately time will tell but things are against him. The WWE has the monopoly over wrestling and has raised much of the independent talent, much to the detriment of others (y’know, much like the 80s when it competed against the NWA).
But with a net worth of $50m, Corgan does have some financial clout but, as Mark Madden once said: “You know how to make a small fortune in wrestling? Start out with a large fortune.”
On the face of it, this seems like a man who has money and was a fan of the NWA using his wealth to make owning the promotion a reality. It doesn’t sound like he’s going to throw every penny at the company to get a quick fix overnight, which is absolutely the right approach but doubts remain over whether or not the NWA can be revived in 2017. I’m not holding out all that much hope.
This past Tuesday, the wrestling world lost another true legend in this business. Lance Russell, the longtime play by play announcer and interviewer of the Memphis wrestling scene passed away. Now I know when fans talk about the greatest wrestling announcers of all time, people will immediately say names like Gordon Solie or Jim Ross but Lance Russell also needs to be in that conversation.
For over 38 years, Lance Russell was the one and only true “voice of Memphis Wrestling.” Being a kid growing up in the north, I wasn’t privy to Memphis’ Continental Wrestling Association on television. The only way I got to learn about Russell was through wrestling magazines and watching VHS tapes of him in action. Russell was an absolute maestro of portraying the heels to be dastardly and the babyfaces being the ultimate heroes.
He wasn’t a screamer like some announcers were and are…but he would certainly get the point across as to why you should love or hate a particular wrestler. I think Paul Heyman said it best about Russell and what he meant to Memphis wrestling: ‘If you could piss off Lance Russell, you have made it in Memphis.’ Russell and his broadcast partner Dave Brown were the staples of Saturday mornings and they did it live each and every week.
Lance never really had a fair shot at the big time national level as a broadcaster. He did have a short run in WCW from 1989 to 1992 but was relegated as C show announcer behind others like Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and even Eric Bischoff. It speaks volumes, that despite him not being recognized nationally for most of his career, he is still widely regarded as one of the all-time greats.
Lance Russell played a huge part in helping get over future stars like Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett, the Rock n Roll Express, Jimmy Hart, Sid Vicious and countless others. As some of the great Memphis stars would affectionately refer to Lance: Rest in Peace ‘You old Banana Nose!’ Pro wrestling lost a legend.
Team Hell No Reunion
As Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs campaigns to win the Republican nomination to fight the election to be the Knox County Mayor, he’s only gone and put the band back together, as you can see below.
These were custom made Ric Flair sneakers made for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons player Julio Jones. He wore them last Sunday.
This was from the Sylvester Stallone movie called Demolition Man. The movie was set in the year 2035. As you can see, Stallone wore a WCW cap.
Congratulations to Joe ‘Road Warrior Animal’ Laurinaitis who recently got remarried!
Here is a pic of a young 13-year-old Paul Heyman with Larry Zbyszko. A few years later, Heyman would go on to manage Zbyszko in WCW.
You know you have made it as a pro wrestler in Japan when they let you record a Christmas album a la Dick ‘The Destroyer’ Beyer
A really cool drawing…
Still not a fan of wrestling-themed tattoos, but this isn’t that bad.
Just think about, all three of these men are currently in the WWE. Roderick Strong, PAC aka Neville and El Generico aka Sami Zayn. Do you think that maybe the company is wasting its talent?
Here are some bloopers featuring the late, great Lance Russell.
All previous ‘This Week in Wrestling’ pieces can be read here.