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One of the most interesting things on the independents this year is the NWA Heavyweight Championship situation. NWA:TNA paid to use the title on television from its inception and entirely took over the booking of the titles. The NWA has never been particularly happy with TNA, and TNA distanced itself every year, even removing the ?NWA? from their name. Now the National Wrestling Alliance, still a collective of regional and local promotions, has its title back in its own hands and is ready to start making noise. They?ve already made two good moves.
Firstly, their title tournament won?t be held in one building. Since the NWA represents many promotions, the preliminaries will take place in three different cities, hosted by a number of NWA affiliates. This promotes people backing their regional guy, like the old days of big inter-territorial matches. It also shows good faith to the various affiliates. It is rumored that the finals of the tournament will be in an entirely different town from any previous part of the bracket, showing that the NWA isn?t going to favor just one area.
Secondly, and undeniably bigger, they?ve signed a DVD distribution deal with Big Vision Entertainment. The deal will put their DVD?s in outlets like Wal-Mart and Target. That?s penetration even Ring of Honor has never successfully attained; the closest they came was the bungled Takedown Masters deal. This DVD distribution is no Dish/InDemand PPV deal, but it?s great for NWA?s exposure.
The deal only presents one problem for the booking of the title.
This paragraph may SPOIL the outcome of the title tournament for some people ? skip down to ?As Bryan Fritz? to avoid the potential spoilers. For months the favorite contender to win the newly-liberated NWA title was Bryan Danielson. In April, Danielson signed an exclusive deal with Ring of Honor. He can work other indies, even shows that get released on DVD by third parties ? but Big Vision Entertainment can?t sign him away. If they can?t sign him to an exclusive contract, there is the possibility of ROH pulling him. As a longtime fan of ROH who has observed their business tactics, I can?t imagine them doing this ? they?d probably enjoy cross-promotion with the NWA and proudly showcase the title, just as they did when AJ Styles was champion. However, because the possibility exists, Big Vision doesn?t want Danielson for its champion.
The NWA?s official announcement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ly1J5IUw1d0 ) featured only two non-TNA wrestlers. One of them, Roderick Strong, now has a legally binding contract with Ring of Honor. And it's not just Danielson and Strong; Jimmy Rave, Davey Richards, the Briscoes and many other very popular guys have signed with ROH. Even Brent Albright and Claudio Castagnoli, who are in NWA's title tournament, are expected to sign with ROH in a few weeks, if they haven't already.
As Bryan Fritz pointed out on the Between The Ropes radio show, it?s really hard to find a renowned wrestler who isn?t signed to WWE, TNA or ROH. A lot of the prospects NWA might have found on its own are absorbed by WWE?s developmental system, and most of the guys who are ready to be stars are either in or are waiting to get into TNA or ROH. The sixteen guys in the title tournament are mostly NWA affiliate wrestlers with very little exposure, even on the internet. This is no attack against their talent, but at the very least the NWA should look across the indies for challengers or future champions.
Heck, when the NWA title situation was announced most of us had at least one guy in mind to take it. Some of us had more. Even if just as a list of future challengers to bring into the NWA circuit, there are very talented guys who aren?t strung up to any of the big three promotions worth considering.
A Few Good Men
I?ve endorsed Mike Quackenbush before, to join ROH?s regular roster. Fans adore him; no one in the history of the ROH message board received the kind of support that he did to be brought in. PWG fans feel the same way now that TNA talent is off limits and they have spare money to fly a few people in for their big shows. He stole the show at the Ted Petty Invitational this year against Claudio Castagnoli (who it should be noted is already in the title tournament). Heck, Quackenbush is already the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, so they obviously like him. Breaking the weight barrier isn?t too hard, either, when he?s not that much smaller than several of the guys in the 16-man title tournament, and when you?ve got somebody with so many of the tools for success. He?s clean cut, looks respectable as a champion and delivers solid promos (for a taste, here?s his promo after winning the Junior Heavyweight title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xalkz58VuY ). He can join the commentary booth any time they want, as he has the experience of being a regular commentator for Chikara Pro for years. Thanks to running the Chikara Wrestle Factory, he?s also enormously qualified as a guest trainer at any wrestling camp they want to book him for. Despite back injuries he can wrestle the mat-based and high-flying styles with the very best across North America. He is somebody that some company is going to kick themselves for not signing in the years to come. Ring of Honor recently caved and booked him to a doubleshot of extremely positive reviews, and will bring him back shortly. If they want to bring him to PPV, they?ll sign him to an exclusive contract and NWA will miss out.
Then there?s the Human Tornado. Not to be a racist ****head, but it wouldn?t kill the NWA to have a couple more black champions. There are few people on the indies who get a crowd into a frenzy quite like the face Human Tornado. His humor quickly endears him to the fans (for a taste watch the man in blue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5_Wwj3HfW0 ), from which they will follow him into technical and hardcore matches with fervor comparable to what Colt Cabana and Delirious can do. At 24 years old, he?s more crowd-savvy than many 30-year-olds, and could have a very long career ahead of him. His look is unique from head to toe to ring gear, and he?s proven to be fully capable at both raucously funny comedy matches and serious contests. He?s already got a little national exposure from appearing on WSX and in Nacho Libre, and his work along many indies has garnered him followings coast to coast. Probably best of all, Tornado isn?t on ROH or TNA?s radar yet, so NWA can get him with no competition.
Ring of Honor has no interest in the Necro Butcher. He doesn?t match up to their workrate style and fits better in FIP. TNA and WWE will probably never even look at him because of his look. Yet he?s one of the better draws on the indies, and a legit indy superstar. He has been very well received in Pennsylvania (with CZW), California (with PWG), Florida (with FIP), and the mid-south (with IWA: Mid-South? dur). Now I don?t even like the guy, but if they want someone with recognition on the indies or someone who will stand out, Necro is considerable. It would help the NWA title to be defended in half the promotions he?s connected to, now that it?s lost TNA?s constant TV exposure. Heck, putting the title on somebody TNA would never hire might even be a move the NWA wants.
Consider this one: the Dragon Gate office has an obvious fetish for the American independents, so much so that they send their top stars for guest appearances across America and even lent Shingo Takagi to FIP and ROH for several months just to get experience abroad. While someone like Ultimo Dragon or CIMA wouldn?t be available, could Dragon Gate allow a younger star to spend the next several months exclusively in America if they were to become the new NWA champ? Dragon Gate was happy to send a team to MTV?s WSX project. The NWA has a history in Japan, with two retired NWA titles serving as part of NJPW?s Triple Crown championship. A DG wrestler as champion or in title contention might even open up a market for imported NWA DVD?s in Japan.
Naruki Doi is reasonably seasoned and has a very distinct look, even amongst Japanese wrestlers. In an American promotion he will be unmistakable, and will draw ROH fans that have bought DVD?s to see his rare performances for that company. His limited but beautiful high flying and fast paced style has captivated every American audience I?ve seen him perform in front of (except for the All-Star Extravaganza 3 match, which was unfortunate derailed by Mark Briscoe?s injury).
For those concerned over DG?s ?highspot? stereotype, there is Masaaki Mochizuki. Mochi?s distinct and physical style should be able to gel with most indy guys. He had a heck of a singles match with Davey Richards the last time he visited the U.S. He could easily work as a Senshi-like character, with more legitimacy, mystique and a greater range of emotion to his matches. That?s not bad when smaller companies are running to make Senshi their champion.
Play Us Out
With all the free wrestling on television, DVD and internet-bound wrestling companies need to work hard to get and keep attention. The internet buzz around the title tournament has already faded a little, and there?s no easier asset than bringing in guys who are nationally successful on the indy scene. The NWA has already brought in international talent, but there are more high profile and better-exposed companies that will probably work with them if they ask. The NWA has something very special on their hands, something that we?ve been looking forward to for years. Hopefully they make the best of it.
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