The NWA, as we know it in modern times, was apparently formed in the mid 1940’s. The name came to prominence in 1948 when it merged it’s championship with that of the National Wrestling Association – a collective of a number of boxing promoters that had run the business prior to World War 2. There is an unconfirmed story that the Association continued into the 1950’s but this cannot be verified.
The Alliance was the first promotion of its type to have absolutely no boxing influence. This was necessitated by changes to the rules governing boxing and general promotion in the United States. Many promotions joined the Alliance, on the proviso they recognised the NWA World champion as such – Lou Thesz. Matches were held to validate this claim in all the territories, and Thesz established a legacy through his travel and hard work to help achieve this.
The Alliance wasn’t without its critics, in particular Verne Gagne and Vince McMahon Senior. In 1960 Gagne broke away and formed the American Wrestling Alliance (AWA), and in 1963 McMahon Senior broke away and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). The two feds were at one stage members of the Alliance, but there was never a single world champion ever again – despite the almost credible claim made by the WWF in December 2001.
When the WWF expansion began, the NWA began to struggle. The NWA had the first annual Supershow before WWF’s Wrestlemania – Starrcade in 1983. And they had their main wrestler, Ric Flair. What they lacked was money, but that changed when Ted Turner bought into the business. The name of World Championship Wrestling was adopted for NWA programming, but that all started to fall apart in 1991 when WCW bookers and the NWA Board were at odds over the result of a match in Tokyo between NWA World Champion Flair and Japanese favourite Tatsumi Fujinami. At the venue, Fujinami was the new champion (the TV result beamed back to the United States was different) and a permanent wedge went between the two, despite Flair winning the rematch. When Flair jumped to the WWF later in 1991, the two sides divided again. And this time the rift wouldn’t heal. WCW allowed the NWA title to be defended on it’s programming, but the superior ranking given to it’s own champion by WCW eventually got to the NWA board and they took the title off the champion (Flair) in 1993.
In 1994, the NWA tried to establish the title again in a little known promotion in Philadelphia, Eastern Championship Wrestling. Shane Douglas won the tournament, but then he trashed the title – leading a name change for the fed to Extreme Championship Wrestling, the birth of ECW. Another tournament was held in 1995 crowning Dan Severn as champion, but then the NWA became essentially inactive until 1998 when they began promoting again. They were content to just take what they could get until June 2002, when the new promotional arm – Total Non-Stop Action (TNA) – was established. With weekly pay per view shows, TNA led to a rebirth of the NWA structure.
This however ceased firstly in 2004 when TNA withdrew from the NWA, with only the right to have the NWA World Champion remaining. On May 13, 2007 that arrangement ended with the NWA World title being vacated. A tournament was arranged with 32 wrestlers filling four brackets named after four past NWA world champions in Jack Brisco, Terry Funk, Harley Race and Lou Thesz. Australian Mikey Nicholls (Mikey from EPW Perth AKA Nick Miller in WWE) was included in the Brisco bracket but lost to Fergal Devitt (AKA Finn Balor in WWE) on June 30, 2007. The eventual tournament winner was Adam Pearce.
Australia has been involved with the NWA structure. Jim Barnett’s original WCW was a member of the NWA, and more recently with the aborted attempt to form NWA Australia in Adelaide in 2004 – and then an arm of California’s NWA Pro being established through EPW. Mikey Nicholls was the first NWA Australian champion and was recognised by the NWA. That association originated in Perth but was later based in Adelaide after the EPW expansion into South Australia was terminated. For that reason I never recognised the NWA Australian championship as truly representative of Australia. More recently Warzone Wrestling were members, but they left at the same time Adam Pearce vacated the World Title on a Warzone show in Berwick. AWA in Queensland were affiliated later but also left. A very controversial membership was held by AAW but that also ended.
In late 2017, Billy Corgan bought the organisation and ended it’s territory affiliations making it a single promotion. In 2019 the promotion started to build a following again through it’s free You Tube show NWA Power and through pay per view events. COVID-19 restrictions forced inactivity again until August 2020 when the NWA entered into an arrangement with the United Wrestling Network (UWN) for weekly pay per view shows much like NWA-TNA in the early days. Matches from these shows formed the base of a new free You Tube show – NWA Shockwave.