2023 was an interesting year for the National Wrestling Alliance. There was a public fallout with former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis and Billy Corgan. It was reported that the 37-year-old wasn’t happy about the direction of the promotion and requested his release in November 2022. Most notably, it was cited that Aldis thought the production was an embarrassment and wanted to get far away from it.
The legendary promotion has been a well-known product for 75 years. The history goes back to names such as Ric Flair, Sting, Lou Thesz, and Bruno Sammartino all wrestling under the promotion at some point in their careers. The NWA wasn’t like WCW, WWE, or ECW; it represented classic championship wrestling that had more of a traditional sports vibe to its presentation. However, as of late, NWA has reverted into a generic indie show that has been stripped out of its character.
Billy Corgan’s Purchase Of The NWA In 2017
When Billy Corgan purchased the NWA in 2017, fans were skeptical at first. However, when the show made its debut later that year, critics and fans were impressed with NWA’s presentation. The studio and no-nonsense approach to professional wrestling was unique and the promotion was slowly gaining steam because it was a quality product. Corgan managed to keep what made NWA so popular during its prime years and elevated it to modern times.
It had some sports entertainment value due to the colorful personalities on the roster, yet, it was never close to being a WWE-knock-off because it didn’t veer into sports entertainment. It was a true alternative to the typical indie stuff that was populated by NXT and AEW. The promotion had a solid roster too; Eddie Kingston, Ricky Starks, Thunder Rosa, and LA Knight were in NWA during this time. However, when the pandemic hit, there was a sudden change that remains a mystery.
The NWA’s Return Saw A New Creative Direction
The pandemic hit the professional wrestling business hard, so it was understandable why NWA had to close its doors temporarily. Unfortunately, so many names were snatched by WWE and AEW during that time. Kingston, James Storm, Ricky Starks, Thunder Rosa, and LA Knight were GONE from the promotion, which was a big blow to NWA. Still, NWA had a special presentation that made them stand out from everyone else.
Sadly, that changed when the company reopened its doors in 2022. Suddenly, it felt like a generic indie promotion that lost all of its identity. The studio aspect disappeared. So was their mindset and approach to storytelling. The promotion that tried to bring back classic wrestling in a modern world was no more.
There’s no telling exactly why Nick Aldis left. Rumor has it that he was embarrassed by the presentation of the new NWA. It could’ve been a thing where he wasn’t happy about not having the spotlight since dropping the belt to Trevor Murdoch. Whatever the case was, the former NWA star was right about the product changing direction, which wasn’t for the better.
NWA Samhain Was The Prime Example Of The Problems That The Promotion
The cocaine spot was the least concerning thing about this pay-per-view. NWA was in a bad place due to Tyrus’s run as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He was a bad wrestler. The key thing about NWA is that it usually presents some of the best wrestling in the world. It was obvious why the former WWE star was champion for nine months and the quality of the brand suffered greatly.
However, the responsibility lies back to Billy Corgan. The company negated its uniqueness which brought them the buzz in the first place. I don’t understand the heat behind the cocaine spot. The CW isn’t the Hallmark channel, so the network is no stranger to controversial shows that highlight murder, sex, and drugs. The channel isn’t as graphic as HBO or Netflix, but the uproar about the moment itself is strange.
Samhain was packed with matches that you can see anywhere these days. Intergender matches, hardcore bouts, and bland traditional matches that won’t be remembered an hour from now. I don’t mean to be so harsh on the product because I know the talents involved are working their butts off. However, it’s the opposite of the image that was restored in 2017.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll tag team match was a terrible idea. The gimmick of each wrestler taking a shot every time their partner kicks out felt low-ball and reminiscent of the bad days of TNA. It killed the flow of the match because of the silly shot gimmick, and it wasn’t believable in the slightest since no sensible promoter would allow their performers to get visibly drunk on live television.
Devil’s Last Dance Ultimate Hardcore War was another promotion attempt to copy the Lucha Underground model with Max the Impaler. Male vs. Female wrestling worked in Lucha Underground because the brand established those rules from the very beginning.
Places like NWA or TNA adopting that model recently make them come across as a Lucha Underground copycat because those types of matches were never the norm before Lucha Underground hit. Audiences are now taken out of the action because women are now treated at the same level as men. I’m not saying that women aren’t, but when your promotion has established for years that men and women are not on the same wavelength as athletes, then it’s hard to take that sudden change seriously.
The main event was no better. EC3 vs Thom Latimer was fine, but it didn’t have the same magic that Nick Aldis’s matches did during his title reign. NWA is in a sad state and their final pay-per-view of the year highlighted the many issues of Billy Corgan. His approach to booking is outdated and the brand’s identity has been killed because of it. Hopefully, things change in 2024 because there are talented names on his roster. They’re just being held back by a promoter who has lost sight of what the NWA originally represented.