National Wrestling Alliance


Ric Flair Terry Funk

The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) is the largest governing body for a group of independent professional wrestling promotions and sanctions various NWA championships. The NWA has been in operation since 1948. Prior to the 1980s, it acted as the sole governing body for most of pro wrestling, operating as a talent and brand name franchisor for the inter-regional "territory" system.


Further information: List of NWA territories


Before the NWA was founded in 1948, there existed many regional promotions across North America (each promoting its own “World” champion). However, none of them had backing or recognition outside of their own respective geographic base-areas. The concept of the NWA was to consolidate the championships of these disparate regional companies into one true world championship of pro wrestling, whose holder would be recognized worldwide.

In 1948, Paul "Pinkie" George, a promoter from the Midwest, founded the original version of the National Wrestling Alliance with the backing of five other promoters (Al Haft, Tony Strecher, Harry Light, Orville Brown, and Sam Muchnick). This newly-formed NWA Board of Directors recognized Brown as the first-ever NWA World champion. During the reign of the second NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Lou Thesz (1949-1956), the title was further unified with several more previously-competing "World" titles, such as those recognized jointly by the National Wrestling Association and American Wrestling Alliance (in Boston), plus another version promoted from the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium. This legitimized the NWA's claim that its title was a “Unified World Title,” and its lineage continues to this very day.

The territorial system was well-suited to the days before any one wrestling promotion received nation-wide television exposure. The NWA members divided up North America, as well as Japan, into territories that each promoter would “own” and operate in. Having a territory meant that no other NWA member could promote wrestling in that area. If non-NWA promoters tried to promote their show in an NWA territory, then the other member groups were obliged to send stars to help force the intruder out. Reportedly, threats of violence or physical retaliation were used against any promoters (and/or talent) who disregarded the territory system. If any member territory broke the NWA's rules, it faced expulsion, and thus risked missing out on having nationally-known wrestlers appear on their local shows. For most promoters under the NWA umbrella, the benefits of membership were well worth the dues. Usually, the NWA President's territory was the main territory of the entire alliance.

Beyond the benefit of having other promotions to draw on in case of an intruder, each territory also received periodic guest visits from the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. The champion did not have a “home territory” as such, but instead traveled from territory to territory, defending the title against the top stars of each territory. Many promoters would build up to the appearance of "The NWA World Heavyweight Champion" weeks or months in advance, making the local World title matches that much more special, and the shows they headlined more lucrative. In addition, each NWA member promotion usually produced a TV show that aired in their territory only, meaning that the local fans only saw the World champion when he came to their area, not year-round. It was not just the champion that would travel the territories; often, wrestlers from a different area would come into a territory (often the heels / “bad guys”), and run an angle or two with its top local faces ("good guys"). Also, if the local fans ever tired of a wrestler, he could go to a whole new area and perform the same act for new audiences, who would think the act was brand-new.


In 1991, World Championship Wrestling officially separated from the NWA. While it is believed by some that the NWA World title was simply renamed the "WCW World title" that is not the case. Ric Flair -- who had just defeated Sting to regain the NWA World championship was recognized as the first WCW World champion in 1991 as of this win. Flair was simultaneously recognised as the World champion of both the NWA and WCW (except for a short NWA title reign by Tatsumi Fujinami) until he left WCW over a dispute with top man Jim Herd (with the actual title belt in his possession) to join the WWF. Upon leaving Flair was stripped of the WCW World title causing the separation of the WCW and NWA titles, but continued to be recognized as the NWA World champion until his arrival in the WWF a few months later when he was officially stripped of the NWA World title as well. Afterwards, the NWA World title lay dormant for a year, until New Japan Pro Wrestling hosted a tournament to crown a new champion, a champion that was recognized as the “NWA Heavyweight Champion” on WCW broadcasts. In 1993, WCW withdrew completely from the NWA, and, despite Ric Flair's possession of the physical belt, made no mention of the NWA name on air after the split.

In 1994, Philadelphia-based Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) withdrew their membership from the NWA in somewhat spectacular fashion. As one of the most popular independent federations of the early 1990s, they hosted a tournament to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion after WCW had withdrawn from the Alliance. The finals of the tournament saw Shane Douglas defeat 2 Cold Scorpio for the world title. Then, in a surprising turn, Douglas threw the title belt to the ground, claiming that he did not want to be the champion of a federation that died “seven years before” (when JCP was sold to Turner). He then announced that ECW's new name was Extreme Championship Wrestling, and he was the ECW World heavyweight champion.


The latest promotion to split away from the NWA in a bid to become the "number two" national wrestling federation is Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). TNA was founded in 2002 as NWA: TNA and quickly came to hold exclusive booking rights to the two NWA world titles (Heavyweight and Tag-Team). In 2004, TNA withdrew from the NWA, but cut a deal with the Alliance to keep the promotional rights to the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team championships until 2014, thus leaving the NWA without an official world heavyweight title for the first time since its inception. However, due to TNA not reporting to the NWA about title changes in accordance to NWA bylaws, TNA and NWA worked out a split and the titles were returned to the NWA on May 13, 2007. The NWA began a tournament in June 2007 to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion.

Regional promotions of the past

Several smaller promotions that were once cornerstones of the NWA ceased to exist as the WWF and WCW grew to national levels. Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) was one of the main NWA territories into the 1980s, but, due to the aging of promoter Don Owen and dwindling profit, PNW closed down in 1992. Another territory that was once considered a main territory of the NWA was promoter and two-time NWA President Sam Muchnick’s St. Louis-based promotion, the St. Louis Wrestling Club, which ran until 1982 and was then sold to a promotion that Jim Crockett Promotion absorbed in 1985 in their attempt to create a national federation. NWA Mid-America, booked by Nick Gulas, and the Continental Wrestling Federation, booked by the Fullers, both folded in the 1980s, but were long-time members. Southwest Championship Wrestling out of San Antonio, Texas was a member from 1978 until it was bought by WCCW in 1985. When Detroit promoter and NWA Member Ed Farhat made several wrestling appearances as the Sheik in an “Outlaw Territory,” his promotion, Big Time Wrestling, was expelled from the NWA, since that was against the charter of the NWA. Another American former NWA member is Ohio Valley Wrestling, which was a member until it was made a WWF developmental territory in 2001.

The NWA is not an organization restricted to the United States alone. At various points, promotions in Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Japan and Australia were members of the Alliance, further strengthening the “World” aspect of the group. Frank Tunney Sports was a Canadian promotion that was a long-time member of the NWA, with it’s promoter serving as the NWA President in the early 1960s. Frank Tunney Sports withdrew from the NWA when it was incorporated into the WWF in 1984.

Another Canadian federation that was a key player in the NWA, until being bought by the WWF in the 1980s, was Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta. When Stampede was reborn in 1999, it did not become a member of the NWA. Another Canadian territory, encompassing Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, was known as the Eastern Sports Association, and operated only in the summer months. The federation dissolved in 1977, and promoter Al Zink’s subsequent ventures into wrestling were not affiliated with the NWA. Out of Vancouver, British Columbia came promoters Gene Kiniski and Sandor Kovac’s NWA All Star Wrestling, which was a member until 1985, and then recognized a fictitious sanctioning body known as the “Universal Wrestling Alliance".

In Mexico, the primary NWA member was Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (now called CMLL). Founded in 1933, it precedes the creation of the NWA. EMLL joined with the NWA later on, but broke away from the group in 1980. Despite not being a member of the NWA since 1980, CMLL still recognizes three titles with NWA lineage: NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Middleweight Championship & NWA World Welterweight Championship, which are all unsanctioned and only defended at CMLL events.

In the Caribbean, long-time promotion the World Wrestling Council, owned by Carlos Colon and based out of Puerto Rico, was a member from 1973 until 1988, when the territory concept became semi-obsolete due to WCW’s growth. Rival Puerto Rican promotion International Wrestling Association, founded in 1994 by Victor Quiñones, was a member of the NWA from its inception until its withdrawal in 2001.

The NWA’s presence in Japan was established in 1953, when legendary Japanese wrestler/promoter Rikidozan founded Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance, which quickly became the main promotion in Japan. In 1972, JPWA’s two top draws Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki left to form their own federations, All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) respectively. As a result, JPWA soon folded. AJPW became an NWA member upon its inception in 1973, and stayed with the Alliance until the late 1980s. NJPW was also a member of the NWA at various points between 1975 and 1985, mainly in order to gain control of the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. In 1992 and 1993, NJPW joined with the NWA once more to re-establish and promote the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, but left the NWA when WCW withdrew.

NJPW returned to the NWA in 2004, again mainly for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship, and it is not a connection that is strongly emphasized these days. Between NJPW's departure in 1993 and its return in 2004, NWA representation in Japan was scattered among a few independent promotions: International Wrestling Association of Japan (1994-96); Wrestle Yume Factory (1995-97), Universal Fighting Organization (1999-2000); and Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE (2001-04).

In June 2007, it was announced that Inoki Genome Federation would replace NJPW as the Japanese affiliate of the National Wrestling Alliance. However, in February 2008, New Japan returned to the NWA.

The NWA Wrestling Showcase will be on Dish Network's Colours (Channel 9407) on Wednesdays (9/8c) featuring Rob Conway and many other pro wrestlers. The show features various NWA matches from around the world. (Credit: Wikipedia).







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