The history of professional wrestling will tell a tale of different companies in different eras that seemed to have some potential to get off the ground, but never quite made it. Pro Wrestling USA, a joint effort by a collection of promoters to attempt to stand up against Vince McMahon’s national expansion in the 80s, fell a part because those same promoters couldn’t agree on the direction of the organization, often attempting to position their own champions ahead of the combined effort. Global Wrestling Federation was rumored to be the next big group in the early-90 that would rival the WWF, but that disintegrated rather quickly when it was discovered that the mysterious financier that planned to fund the project was as legitimate as the scripted finishes on the wrestling shows. Herb Abrams thought he’d be the next Vince McMahon with his UWF venture, but a series of erratic decisions and hefty amounts of cocaine left the promotion in shambles and led to Abrams’ early death. TNA looked to be on the cusp of elevating itself to the next level after it debuted on Spike TV in October of 2005 and had a few strong years, but Dixie Carter’s decision to sign Hulk Hogan eventually led to her dad’s decision to stop funding his daughter’s vanity project when the organization spent too much money trying to expand under Hogan’s direction.
The point is, a company can have a good concept and make a lot of the right decisions, but it only takes one wrong decision to put the domino effect in motion that ruins any potential it had.
Billy Corgan and the NWA may have made a serious mistake that alters the trajectory of the company. Just recently, Corgan announced on Busted Open Radio that his organization, which he rescued from obscurity several years ago, signed two television deals with a top twenty network. The rumor mill suggested that the channel that inked the NWA was the CW, a channel that has morphed into various names over the years. It didn’t take long for not only controversy to surround the National Wrestling Alliance, but also rumors of doubt about the deal following the company’s recent pay-per-view event.
The uproar was caused by a backstage segment where Jim Mitchell, a vastly underrated manager from ECW and TNA notoriety, was shown snorting what was implied to be cocaine and then offering it to those around him. Besides the fact that this was Vince Russo-level stupidity, especially with a TV deal on the horizon, it was also completely useless. Mitchell is still one of the best talkers in the business, regardless of if he works on a major platform or not, he doesn’t need “shock jock” gimmicks to get his stable over or to promote a match so that it can draw money. Furthermore, what exactly was the cocaine spot supposed to accomplish? It didn’t get anyone over, wasn’t used to draw money, and the only attention it received was negative since it made the NWA look like an amateur hour outfit as opposed to a national entity that is ready for network television.
Herb Abrams probably would’ve enjoyed the segment, but outside of that, what exactly was the entertainment value designed to be? The CW, even as one of the smaller broadcast networks, is still main stream distribution for the NWA so why would they do anything to jeopardize that in any way? Where the story gets murky is that the CW deal wasn’t officially announced and there are conflicting reports about if the spot on the pay-per-view actually harmed the potential for a television deal, depending on what media outlet you decide to follow on the subject.
However, we know for sure that NXT, the developmental brand for WWE, will move to the CW in 2024. This is just speculation, but I honestly don’t think that the WWE would agree to air its programming alongside another sports entertainment company. That’s just not the WWE protocol so if anything, I’d take the NXT announcement as either CW dropped the NWA from consideration or the rumored channel for the National Wrestling Alliance wasn’t CW when Corgan announced that a TV deal was being signed. Still, Corgan’s original claim that his group signed with a top twenty network limits the options, and truthfully, of those listed, the CW was the only one that looks like it would’ve been willing to sign a wrestling show, which was shown when it actually landed NXT.
Again, if the story is factual depends on who you believe, but my two cents would be that it is a legitimate story, based on the top twenty networks comment from Corgan initially and the NXT announcement that was made not long after the controversy. According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, Billy Corgan denied that the cocaine spot at the pay-per-view caused any problems for the organization. It’s very possible that this might’ve been an attempt at damage control or to minimize the scope of the error in judgment.
The biggest problem is that the argument could be made that even if the NWA still lands on the CW network that the organization still has an uphill climb to truly attempt to get a measurable piece of the pie among the current crowded wrestling landscape, a market share that is much smaller than that of a previous era. Keep in mind, Raw sometimes dips below two million viewers, and Smackdown is usually just above two million viewers. That’s generally going to be the ceiling for sports entertainment viewership in the modern era so any other organization is just trying to get a portion of those viewers since the WWE has such a dominate market share. AEW can sometimes generate a little less than half of that for Dynamite as the second national group in the United States so there are exponential decreases as smaller promotions try to make a dent on that level.
Don’t get me wrong, the NWA has some solid talent, but is there enough meat on the bone so to speak for the casual viewer to consistently follow the product? Take into consideration, there’s seven hours of WWE programming and then five hours of AEW shows weekly. That’s not to mention every other entertainment option that is available that competes for viewers with the expanded distribution of media. Plus, Impact will rebrand back to TNA early next year to attempt to become an albeit smaller, but noticeable third group.
Make no mistake about it, Billy Corgan did more with the NWA than anyone else in the past thirty years, but it’s simply an incrediblly tough task to compete with the money and the brand awareness of the other national organizations. I know some fans raved about the NWA Power concept when it originally launched before the pandemic, but I only vaguely followed the show because the economics just don’t work to host a show on Youtube and get enough ad revenue generated that will allow the organization to offer competitive contracts. I didn’t see how the project could sustain itself and thus didn’t want to invest too much time into a product that could eventually fizzle out.
That’s why this TV deal is so critical if Corgan truly wants to take the NWA to a national platform, because otherwise the group is more or less an independent organization, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. It would be better to be a profitable independent promotion than a small national company that loses money trying to run on a bigger scale.
Outside of Tyrus as NWA World Heavyweight champion before his retirement, Billy Corgan made a lot of the right decisions to rejuvenate a brand that many thought was nothing more than a nostalgia act, but the decision to script the cocaine spot on pay-per-view might be the one wrong decision that hinders a lot of progress for the company.
It remains to be seen if the NWA will still secure a TV deal, but either way, the cocaine spot was completely useless. Keep in mind, while the wrestlers play a scripted role as themselves, it’s a different context than the roles on a traditionally scripted TV show. Their real names don’t role with the credits. When you take into account the unfortunately lengthy list of performers that have died from drug use, including cocaine, it shows why it was such a misguided decision to script drug use as a gimmick on pay-per-view.
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Until next week
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