The NWA House Of Cards

The NWA house of cards might be ready to collapse.

Nick Hausman, who recently branched off into his own site after being known as the guy that sparked CM Punk’s press conference rant last year, reported just a few days ago that the NWA, the group owned by Smashing Pumpkins front man, Billy Corgan, will make significant budget cuts in the near future. Hausman explained that the number of wrestlers that are flown into tapings will be reduced to save on costs, as well as minimizing the amount of hotel accommodations needed for each event. All of this makes sense, especially when the company is still being independently run in the sense that there aren’t corporate sponsorships or outside investors to help cover the tab. Billy Corgan is the owner of the National Wrestling Alliance and that means if thousands of dollars are needed to produce a live event or a TV taping, the cash is coming directly from his pocket. That can be a tremendous financial burden, especially when Corgan has to balance his personal responsibilities with the duty of being the owner of a pro wrestling organization. Granted, he has been very successful in the music business for decades so its doubtful that he would allow himself to be dragged into financial peril because of the NWA, but again that puts a realistic limit on how much he can invest into his wrestling project.

Among the tribalism of wrestling fans, many don’t realize the extensive amount of capital needed to run a sports entertainment venture on even a semi-national level.

Corgan, who is set for a tour alongside Green Day next year, dismissed the rumors when he spoke to Fightful Select, claiming that the finances of the promotion are fine and their TV deals are still in place. Obviously, if the group was in financial trouble, it’s very, very doubtful that Corgan would confirm it to a media outlet. That would do nothing to help the image of the organization that already had a storm of negative publicity recently with the infamous cocaine spot on pay-per-view. Speaking of the controversial event, there are reports online that suggest that the show only drew a few hundred buys. If that’s the case then it’s very possible that Corgan lost money on the show.

Listen, it goes without saying that as long as Corgan has the funds and is willing to spend the money then the National Wrestling Alliance will continue to exist. However, as I explained in an article I wrote last week, while the NWA has some solid talent, it will be a very tough task to carve a piece of the pie in the current crowded pro wrestling landscape. Does the NWA have a concept that will make enough fans take notice and want to spend money on it? We’ve seen their recent plans to re-establish the regional system among the independent scene, which is an interesting concept, but it remains to be seen if it can gain some traction, and more importantly, generate revenue. Ultimately, that’s the barometer of success for the NWA and any other pro wrestling league. If the money that Corgan invested into the current form of the promotion will yield him a profit than any budget cuts or criticisms of the PPV segment are moot.

On the flip side, this could be the early warning signs that the NWA is following a similar path to that of Extreme Championship Wrestling, a group that actually had Corgan in attendance for some of its later events. The Smashing Pumpkins star cracked Lou E. Dangerously with a guitar once, splitting the former Sign Guy Dudley’s head open in the ring. Corgan actually told the story on a podcast once that Paul Heyman, desperate to try to keep ECW afloat, offered to sell him a 10% stake in the organization for $1 million. Knowing that the group was already in massive debt, Corgan declined.

It’s well-known that in its latter stages, ECW started to cut back on who was booked, travel expenses, and production. Rob Van Dam famously went on hiatus from the organization because of the amount of money he was owed prior to the company’s final pay-per-view, Guilty As Charged at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where he only agreed to appear if he was paid up front. Is it possible that Billy Corgan is trying to expand the NWA too fast?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you’re going to see the NWA abruptly shut down, because again, as long as Billy has the money and is willing to pick up the tab, the NWA will continue to exist, but it’s an incredibly difficult process for one person to use their personal money to fund a pro wrestling project, especially on a national level. Speaking of which, if a pro wrestling commodity is going to be successful on the national scene, sponsorships and commercials are a major piece of the puzzle. It’s a very valuable added revenue stream and one of the reasons that it can be more profitable to reach a national platform. Without those advertisers for a national TV show, there’s only the added expense of the extra production costs without the ad revenue of the platform, which is one of the reasons ECW folded after they were on TNN for a year.

However, it’s not as simple as just getting a broadcast on the air, an organization must establish a brand identify to bring those sponsorship dollars to the table. For example, the WWE is the Walmart of wrestling, it’s relatively cheap and easily accessible so it’s not surprising that Snickers is a sponsor or that the iconic tag team with Slim Jim still exists today with the current generation of stars alongside Macho Man. Paul Heyman took ECW to national television to attempt to secure more markets for ticket sales and potential PPV buys, which makes sense on the surface, but he didn’t maximize any of the potential revenue streams associated with national television so it was only increased production costs without the commercial revenue.

The point being, I’m not sure the NWA has truly established what their brand is right now, as it has strayed away from the “tradition” aspect since Nick Aldis left the company, and a lot of the momentum the group had previously was stalled by the pandemic. I hope I’m wrong because as I’ve said before, I think the league has some solid talent on its roster, but I just don’t see how Billy Corgan can realistically fund two television shows unless there’s a tremendous upswing in NWA business. Perhaps, since business stalled more recently, maybe Corgan is trying to push the group to a bigger star in an attempt to kick start the previous hype it had?

That’s somewhat similar to the way Paul Heyman rushed ECW to TNN, and there are too many parallels for it not to be somewhat of a concern to have an effect on the organization. In some ways, the NWA is still an independent group that props itself up as a national entity because of the initials, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. As I said in the article last week, it’s better to be a profitable independent promotion than to be a small national company that loses money. Again, I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see how the economics of this scenario can work in the NWA’s favor. As we know, television production isn’t cheap, and I don’t think there’s enough of the market that will invest the time and money to follow the product that would allow for a national TV show to be successful.

Unfortunately, the most notable talent from the original NWA Power series, including Ricky Starks, Eddie Kingston, and others signed elsewhere for better money. That’s not a knock on Corgan, but rather to point out the limitations for a company that hosted their shows on Youtube. Obviously, that’s why the company wants to try to expand, but it takes more than just the willingness and the capital to be successful on the next level. There must be a roster and an overall concept that fans are willing to pay to watch. There’s a lot of competition for the sports entertainment dollar, and as of right now, the NWA hasn’t made waves for anything “must see” on their shows so I’m not sure if there’s even a demand for it on television.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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