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Old 10-16-2010, 08:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

The following is my secondary BTB, started with the permission of Dubya. My other BTB, WCW 2007: Don't Call It A Comeback..., WILL continue, but this thread allows me to explore something I've been working at for a while.

This thread will be written, as closely as possible within the confines of BTB, in the style of a book about this (obviously fictional) promotion. That means shows will be recapped and, possibly, even skimmed over entirely. It's also written as a retrospective, in the past tense, as though it's a book being written now about a promotion that may or may not still be in existence in the present day.

With that mildly boring bit of explanation out of the way, let's get to it:


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NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

Chapter 1: The History Of The NWA


Our story begins long before the formation of NWA: New Frontiers, as the history of the National Wrestling Alliance can be traced back as far as the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Before the formation of the NWA, professional wrestling existed as a global array of independent regional promotions, each with their own ‘World’ champions that were neither recognized nor promoted in other territories. At that time, the system could reasonably be described as a mess; the variance in promotional rules and ethics among promoters was vast and regional stars, with the exception of exceptional performers such as George Hackenschmidt and Karl Gotch, had never had much opportunity to see their fame spread.

It was in 1948 that promoters realised it was time for a change as Paul “Pinkie” George, a promoter from the Midwest, formed the first version of the NWA with five other regional promoters: Al Haft, Tony Strecher, Harry Light, Orville Brown and Sam Muchnick. Each of these promoters had their own regional territory, the two most successful of which were Muchnick’s St. Louis territory and Brown’s Kansas City, MO promotion.

After much discussion, Brown himself was awarded the first NWA World Heavyweight Championship reign and set about the Board of Directors’ project of unifying the belt with other promotions competing ‘World’ championship belts. The most significant of these saw Brown defeat Frank Sexton, the holder of the American Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Title, at that time the second-most important championship in the United States. Brown would continue to unify the title during the course of his two reigns as champion prior to his retirement in November 1949.

His successor was a man who would go on to become recognized as one of the true greats in the sport, Lou Thesz. During his seven-year reign, Thesz would unify the belt with almost all of the other ‘World’ titles in the business, including those promoted by the rival National Wrestling Association, the Detroit version of the American Wrestling Alliance belt and another ‘World’ title being promoted in Los Angeles. This gave the National Wrestling Alliance the ability to legitimately claim their belt at the first ‘Unified World Title’ whilst promoting Thesz himself as the ‘Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World.’

As time went on, the alliance grew stronger, dividing the United States and Japan up into regional territories that were ‘owned’ and operated by individual promoters. These territories were fiercely guarded by the Alliance and it’s promoters, with severe penalties for any who crossed into another territory without special arrangement with that promoter. Non-NWA promoters could expect harsher penalties; if they encroached upon the NWA’s territory, they often found themselves faced with everything from verbal and physical threats from the Alliance members and being forced to run against stacked cards filled with NWA stars from all over the country.

Not all the Alliance’s activities were so dubious, however. A travelling NWA Champion meant that local audiences only got to see the champion a few times a year, with his appearances being promoted months in advance. The champion would come into a territory and often face that area’s top star in a match that made both men look good, with narrow wins or time limit draws a common occurrence.

More importantly, wrestlers had the freedom to move around for the first time. If a wrestler’s act became stale in one territory, they’d simply move on to another area and continue their career.

In 1950, Sam Muchnick took responsibility for promoting NWA Champion Lou Thesz out of his St. Louis office, in turn becoming the NWA President and seeing his territory promoted as the NWA’s flagship group. Muchnick would hold the position for ten years, overseeing one of the most tumultuous times in the history of the NWA.

Major arguments broke out amongst the NWA promoters as the threat of a Supreme Court antitrust suit loomed large over the organisation and various promoters disagreed over the continued promotion of Thesz as the World Champion. In 1957, a key battle took place between Muchnick and one of his business partners, the Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn. Quinn disliked that Muchnick had business dealings with ‘outlaw’ Montreal promoter Jack Pfefer.

Quinn walked out at a time when the promotion were in the midst of one of the first ‘shoot’ angles: Montreal wrestler Edouard Carpentier had notched a disputed win over Thesz for the World Title with NWA promoters divided over who they recognized as the champion; this led to both Carpentier AND Thesz being promoted as the champion in various parts of the company. The plan was to build up this dispute until the two men would meet to crown an ‘undisputed’ champion but, when Quinn left the Alliance, Muchnick announced that Carpentier had no claim to the belt and the angle was dropped.

The possibilities of the Carpentier situation were not lost on Quinn, however, and he began to negotiate with unhappy factions within the NWA. He offered t have Carpentier lose a title match to their prospective champion, thus giving them a legitimate claim on the World Title should they decide to break away. In 1958, Quinn arranged for Carpentier to drop his title to Verne Gagne in Omaha but this led to more controversy as he had also arranged for his ‘champion’ to drop the belt to Killer Kowalski in Boston.

In 1959, Quinn also began to negotiate with the Los Angeles promotion, who also recognized Carpentier as champion. It was arranged for Carpentier to drop the belt for a third time in 1961 to Fred Blassie. The LA promotion would then secede from the NWA, promoting as the World Wrestling Alliance for seven years until rejoining in 1968.

It was around the time of Quinn’s walkout that a rift began to form between Muchnick and Minnesota promoter Gagne. After two years of trying to work out their differences, Gagne would walk away from the Alliance in 1960, with his newly-christened American Wrestling Association forming the second-largest promotion in the country, with himself as champion. One of the key issues in this rift was the scheduling of Thesz to regain his title in Minnesota despite the popularity of the then-champion Pat O’Connor.

Between 1960 and 1962, the Presidency of the NWA changed hands three times; Toronto promoter Frank Tunney had replaced Muchnick, and was in turn replaced by Fred Kohler, the main booker for new NWA Champion “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. In October 1962, Rogers beat Kowalski in a match promoted by Doc Karl Sarpolis in Amarillo, Texas. The success of this match led to Sarpolis being handed the NWA Presidency. In 1963, however, under Sarpolis’ stewardship, the NWA stripped the title from Rogers after a match in Toronto. This move angered Northeast promoter Vincent J. McMahon so much that he withdrew from the NWA, forming the World Wide Wrestling Federation, now the WWE, in it’s place. In April 1963, McMahon recognized Rogers as his first World Champion.

Although both McMahon and Verne Gagne promoted their own World Champions, both men continued to have representations on the NWA Board of Directors and exchange talent with the Alliance.

For the remainder of the 1960s and the 1970s, business for the NWA was more stable; the territory system was a success and the Alliance was producing stars at every turn with the rise of names such as Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair. This success wouldn’t last, however, as the NWA bubble was about to burst. If the 1970s had been an undisputed boom period for the promoters in the Alliance, the 1980s would present a different proposition altogether.

The rise of cable television and video tape trading signalled major threats for the inter-regional territory system and would eventually pave the way for the death of the territories as fans began to see the plot holes and inconsistencies in storylines between the various regional promotions for themselves. With stars such as Flair and Rhodes now appearing on television nationally, their appeal in the regional markets was diminished when they appeared for live shows.

In 1982, Vincent K. McMahon purchased the World Wrestling Federation from his father and began to exploit this new trend in television viewing and raid his NWA competitors talent pools to turn his Northeastern territory into the first truly national promotion. To compete against this threat, the various territorial promoters, along with the AWA, attempted to co-promote shows under the “Pro Wrestling USA” banner. Disputes over money and power quickly caused this relationship to fall apart and it was Verne Gagne’s AWA who came out owning the shows weekly ESPN timeslot, which he used for his own weekly shows.

In 1984, the NWA’s Georgia Championship Wrestling was sold to Vince McMahon and merged into the WWF, with the company’s lucrative and long-running TV time slot on TBS being used to broadcast McMahon’s own wrestling shows. At that time (in an effort to hold off the threat of the WWF) Jim Crockett Promotions, the Charlotte, NC-based NWA affiliate decided to unify various NWA territories and attempt to ‘go national’ itself. Jim Crockett, Jr. - the company’s president - began to buy out the other NWA territories and simply let others die, absorbing their rosters into his own. Unfortunately this move, along with his failure to match the WWF’s aggressive marketing and merchandising campaigns, found Crockett facing bankruptcy. In 1988, Atlanta businessman Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett Promotions and rebranded them as “World Championship Wrestling.”

With the backing of Turner’s endless financial resources, the territory finally grew to become a truly national promotion. With time, it became the key NWA territory and began to promote the JCP versions of the Tag Team, United States and Television Titles on a national basis alongside the World Heavyweight Title. Prior to this, only the World Heavyweight and Junior Heavyweight belts had ever been recognized throughout the country.

Eventually, a situation arose where the NWA started needing WCW more than WCW needed the NWA and by the early 1990s the promotion was recognizing both the NWA and a WCW-branded World Heavyweight Title, signalling the beginning of WCW’s withdrawal from the NWA.

At around the same time, another significant NWA territory decided to withdraw. In 1986, Fritz Von Erich decided to make a big to turn his Texas-based World Class Championship Wrestling into a national organisation in it’s own right. WCCW would co-promote the Memphis-based Continental Wrestling Association and form a working agreement with the AWA in a bid to try and take on WCW and the WWF, but this arrangement soon fell apart as a result of in-fighting amongst those involved. WCCW and the CWA would later merge to form the United States Wrestling Alliance, which continues to promote on a smaller-scale in the former CWA territories around Memphis and Nashville, leaving Texas without an NWA-Affiliate for the first time in the history of the Alliance.

Overseas, more defections rocked the NWA. The major Mexican promotion, Empressa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, was among them, as were the two major Japanese promotions, All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

In the early 1990s, the NWA finally began to fall into disrepair and disarray. In 1991, WCW began to promote Ric Flair as the “WCW World Heavyweight Champion” at the same time that he was recognized as the NWA Champion. In July 1991, a dispute between Flair and WCW President Jim Herd led to Flair being fired and the WCW Title being vacated. Two months later, on September 8th 1991, Flair was also stripped of the NWA Title after appearing with it on WWF television, marking the final separation between the NWA and WCW Titles.

After the title was vacated, the NWA World Heavyweight Title lay dormant for over a year, until the NWA Board of Directors approved a tournament to be co-hosted by New Japan Pro Wrestling and WCW for the belt at NJPW’s G1-Climax event. That tournament was won by Japanese star Masahiro Chono and between 1992 and 1993 the belt would go on to be defended both in Japan and on WCW television alongside WCW’s own version of the World Title.

Tensions between the NWA and WCW continued to mount, reaching a breaking point over a variety of issues in the summer of 1993, not least a storyline intended to put the belt on Rick Rude. In September 1993, WCW finally and formally withdrew from the NWA, but retained ownership of the physical ‘Big Gold Belt’ that represented the champion, which they would go on to rename the “WCW International World Heavyweight Title.”

The NWA Championship was once again vacant and would remain that way until August 1994. Under the Presdency of Dennis Coraluzzo, a tournament for the belt was scheduled to be held under the auspices of the new NWA flagship promotion, Eastern Championship Wrestling. ECW had become the flagship by default, holding the most television exposure of the remaining territories. This sparked the most controversial moment in the history of the NWA, as the tournament was won by then-ECW Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas, who shocked the world by throwing the NWA belt down, spitting on it and declaring it dead, saying he had no intention of being the champion of a promotion that had ‘died seven years earlier.’ He then went on to declare himself the ECW World Heavyweight Champion, marking the secession of ECW from the NWA.

It was a crushing blow for the NWA. In an interview for ECW’s television show, Dennis Coraluzzo’s anger boiled over and he broke down in tears. With no flagship promotion and a World Heavyweight Title that had spent two of the previous three years vacant, many industry insiders declared the NWA dead.

In November of that year, one phone call would change the course of history…


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Old 10-17-2010, 12:37 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

Wow, LoneShark. Also known you as a smart and sane guy in the forums here and that's a rarity these days. I've caught some of your stuff in the WCW thread and I'm liking what I'm reading so I'll be trying to get a review for you very soon. So obviously I'll be keeping my eye on this thread as well.
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Old 10-17-2010, 12:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

Thanks, RRS. I've been enjoying yours too. I have feedback coming your way soon

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Chapter 2: The Von Erichs and The Sportatorium: A History Of Wrestling in Dallas


Whilst the NWA was going through troubles, it was the death of WCCW in 1990 that becomes the most important catalyst for our story.

WCCW was founded in 1966 when the owner of the Sportatorium, Ed McLemore, partnered up with local wrestler Jack Adkisson - better known to fans as Fritz Von Erich - to buy out the local Dallas-Fort Worth wrestling office from Houston promoter Paul Boesch. This promotion became known as the NWA-affiliated Big Time Wrestling. In 1969, Von Erich took full control of the promotion when McLemore died suddenly of a heart attack. In the process, he also gained full ownership of the Sportatorium and began to build his own wrestling empire.

In the early days of the promotion, Von Erich would perform as the promotion’s top villain with his long-time character, a goose-stepping Nazi pastiche, hated all over the territory but it was in late 1966 that he became a good guy, beginning a feud with hated manager Gary Hart and his revolving stable of wrestlers that would span two decades, eventually involving Von Erich’s sons and a whole host of legendary wrestlers, including Karl Von Brauner and Al Costello.

The days of Big Time Wrestling would see a whole host of future legends come into the promotion; performers like Stan Stasiak, Johnny Valentine, Bruiser Brody, The Sheik, Lord Alfred Hayes, “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel and Jose Lothario would come to define the promotion’s exciting in-ring style and cement it’s place as one of the NWA’s strongest territories.

As the 1970s rolled around, Von Erich’s sons - Kevin, David, Kerry and, later, Mike - began to forge wrestling careers of their own and quickly rose to become top stars in their father’s company, signalling that it was time for Fritz to cut back on his own in-ring appearances and focus on the business of promoting. He would retire in 1982, following an NWA American Title win over King Kong Bundy at Texas Stadium in Irving, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

By that point, the promotion had switched to the World Class name and began to promote it’s own hour-long weekly syndicated television show, which innovated and introduced many of the production techniques still seen in professional wrestling to this day. The promotion also became the first to use familiar rock songs as the wrestlers’ entrance music.

Talent deals and exchanges helped WCCW to bolster their roster with the acquisitions of many future stars during the mid-eighties, including “Gentleman” Chris Adams, The Fabulous Freebirds, Cactus Jack, Jake Roberts, Scott “Razor Ramon“ Hall, Shawn Michaels, Gino Hernandez and Iceman King Parsons. The television show would be syndicated across the United States and, at one point, was scoring arguably higher ratings than NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

The early-to-mid-eighties weren’t all highlights for the promotion, however, as the Von Erich family was rocked to the core by the death of David while on tour in Japan in February 1984. Ugly rumours surrounding his death, including a rumoured drug overdose, were later proved untrue. His death shocked fans, with a huge outpouring of grief among local residents after the news appeared on the front page of the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex. 5,000 people would attend David’s funeral, one of the largest ever to take place in the Dallas Metropolitan area at that time.

The death of David also marked the beginning of a decline in popularity for the Von Erich family and their promotion soon followed. In 1985, however, the promotion began to make moves towards becoming a national and international power, starting with a tour of Israel. The tour was a huge financial success for the promotion, but was marred by an injury to Mike Von Erich, who separated a shoulder and found himself staring death in the face after a bout of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Though he would recover, this injury inadvertently led to what many believe to be Fritz’s biggest booking mistake: an angle which saw Pacific Northwest Champion Kevin Vaughn brought in, billed as ‘Lance Von Erich’ - son of Fritz’s former (unrelated) tag team partner and “brother” Waldo - to fill a slot as the cousin and tag team partner of Kevin. The angle was a disaster.

On February 1986, the promotion was once again left reeling - this time by the death of Gino Hernandez, one of the company’s major stars. In addition, then-NWA President Jim Crockett’ Jr. had also decided that he would no longer book then-NWA Champion Ric Flair in the state of Texas. The two events led to the Von Erich family announcing their withdrawal from the NWA on February 20th and the company became known as the World Class Wrestling Association, though it retained the WCCW name for it’s telecasts.

The NWA American Heavyweight Championship, which had been their top title for nearly 20 years, was immediately rechristened as their ‘World’ title with then-American champion Rick Rude recognized as the first World Champion. As a result of the withdrawal from the NWA, WCWA introduced a new title-change rule in which the title would change hands in the event of a count-out or disqualification, much to the on-screen dismay of the promotion’s villains, who would often disqualify themselves to protect their titles. The rules had previously come into play during an 1984 NWA World Title bout between Ric Flair and Kerry Von Erich and was used sporadically before World Class seceded from the NWA.

The promotion continued to boom in the early part of 1986, but between July and September the promotion suffered major talent losses. Top stars such as Chris Adams, Iceman King Parsons, Missy Hyatt and the Freebirds defected to Bill Watt’s fledging UWF promotion, following former World Class booker Ken Mantell, who had quit after a fall out with Fritz. Adams was the promotion’s World Champion shortly before his defection, but was stripped of the title following his arrest for an in-flight assault on a stewardess and ultimately quit in protest. The vacant title would be won by Kevin Von Erich, who would hold it for nearly a year.

June of 1986 also saw a further cruel blow to the promotion and the Von Erich family; Kerry was involved in a motorcycle accident and suffered injuries that would later worsen as he tried to rush his comeback to the ring. Eventually, this would necessitate the amputation of his right foot, ending his career. This caused attendances to drop dramatically and the situation would only worsen towards the end of the year as the Texas oil business entered recession and Mike Von Erich’s health and substance abuse problems worsened. In April 1987, the situation reached a climax as Mike would commit suicide, ingesting a large amount of painkillers and washing them down with alcohol. It was a crippling blow to the Von Erich family on both a personal and professional level, as this meant that two of the Von Erich brothers - still the promotion’s biggest draws - had left the roster in less than a year. The second death among the brothers also led people to speculate upon the so-called ‘Von Erich family curse.’

By late 1987, the promotion had added a second show to it’s line-up with Texas Championship Wrestling beginning to air on the now-defunct cable network Tempo Television. This only served to confuse the fans, however, as the show never referenced matches or angles with took place on the promotion’s other television shows.

Throughout late 1986 until the early part of 1987, World Class had fallen behind the UWF as the top promotion in Texas but this would soon change as Bill Watts would sell to Jim Crockett Promotion in mid-87. Former World Class booker Ken Mantell went solo, opening his own promotion, “Wild West Wrestling” out of a bar in Fort Worth. Many of Mantell’s headline stars were former World Class talents, including the former Lance Von Erich (now competing as Fabulous Lance) but the promotion was short lived and would be absorbed by Kevin and Kerry Von Erich following their purchase of the company from their father. Ken Mantell would become a co-promoter at World Class and all the talent that had left previously returned, with the notable exception of “Fabulous Lance” - the dispute with whom had already become personal with the Von Erich family.

Chris Adams, one of the few to stay with the NWA following the UWF buyout, abruptly left the promotion following a dispute over money and would return to Texas to once-again become a headline star at the Sportatorium. Kerry Von Erich also returned to World Class, wrestling with a prosthetic foot. He would interfere in a match between his brother, Kevin, and Brian Adias. After being taunted to enter the ring by Adias, he discussed punched him from the ring and then brought the crowd to their feet by joining his brother to double dropkick Adias’ manager, Percy Pringle, from the ring.

After the return of Mantell, business looked to be picking up once again with an angle in which Fritz Von Erich collapsed and had a seizure in the ring following a mass brawl gaining headlines throughout Texas and the reignited Freebirds-Von Erichs rivalry.

1988 was marred by a series of strange matches and angles, with Terry Taylor arriving in the promotion to feud with Chris Adams. Taylor claimed he wanted to team with Adams but attacked him, leading the two men to feud for most of the year. They, along with Iceman King Parsons and Al Perez, would form the basis of the Title picture throughout the year.

That year also saw the end of the short-lived Pro Wrestling USA experiment - a coalition between World Class, Memphis’ CWA promotion and the AWA. The three groups co-promoted a pay-per-view super card, AWA SuperClash III. Despite being headlined by a match to unify the World Titles, in which Jerry Lawler beat Kerry Von Erich, the show was a massive failure, and Pro Wrestling USA dissolved.

In the aftermath of SuperClash, a deal was made by the Von Erichs and Ken Mantell to sell the promotion to CWA owner Jerry Jarrett. The combined promotion would be known as the United States Wrestling Association and run out of two offices; one in Memphis and one in Dallas. The Fort Worth shows were discontinued, though recording of both the World Class Championship Wrestling and Wild West Wrestling television shows would continue, though both broadcasts ended in August 1990. Despite the name continuing as part of a brief feud involving Memphis’ booker Eric Embry, the cancellation of these television shows effectively marked the end of the promotion. By the end of the year, all operations had been moved to Memphis.

On November 23rd, 1990, the doors of the Sportatorium closed to wrestling for what most assumed was the last time with a final WCCW show. But in 1991 the building was adopted by the fledgling Global Wrestling Federation. Founded by Max Andrews and Joe Pedicino, the GWF opened its doors in June 91 and by the end of the year was under the creative direction of “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert.

Under Gilbert’s leadership, the promotion quickly established a sizable television presence on ESPN, at one stage broadcasting five days a week on the network. The promotion used the Sportatorium (briefly renamed the “GlobalDome”) as it’s main base of operations and would feature several memorable angles in its short history, including the rise of The Cartel, a faction consisting of Cactus Jack, Scotty Anthony, Rip Rogers and Makhan Singh. Their feud with Steve Simpson, Chris Walker and The Patriot would provide the central focus of the promotion for several months.

In 1992, Joe Pedicino would leave the promotion, replaced by Grey Pierson. Pierson’s vision for the promotion saw it become a much more regional promotion, shunning outside talent and focussing mostly on local Texas mainstays and older stars from the World Class era. Among those stars who returned were Chris Adams and Kerry Von Erich, recently released after a stint in the WWF as The Texas Tornado. This provided a huge upswing in fortunes as fans flocked back to see their old heroes.

This boom was short-lived, however, as the promotion moved back to a much more entertainment-based style featuring a host of bizarre angles, including a psychiatrist as a valet and the infamous ‘Bungee’ match in which Steven Dane wrestled Chaz Taylor in a scaffold match outside the Sportatorium, after which “Maniac” Mike Davis attached himself to a bungee cord and jumped from the scaffold, claiming to have launched himself to the moon and returned with a ‘moon rock.’ You couldn’t make this up, could you? Well, apparently, someone did.

In 1993, the promotion held a tribute show in memory of Kerry Von Erich, who had tragically killed himself on February 18th of that year. In a cruel irony, Von Erich was scheduled to face the Angel Of Death in a match that day but, instead, a memorial service was held at the Sportatorium prior to that night’s matches. The memorial show was headlined by the final match between the Von Erichs and the Freebirds, as Kevin teamed with Chris Adams - who wore Kerry’s ring jacket in his memory - to defeat Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts. Fritz and Skandor Akbar were in their teams’ respective corners and it also marked Fritz’s last appearance on a wrestling card. Several WCCW legends attended the show and the proceeds were used to set up a memorial fund for Kevin’s daughters, Hollie and Lacey.

Eighteen months later, on September 21st 1994, the GWF would fold due to financial issues, but it was actually thirty-one years prior to this that our own journey truly begins…
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Old 10-20-2010, 08:39 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

I really, really like this. Great job on the back story too. This is good because its totally different. I mean who doesn't like to read a good book?? Especially a wrestling book. Plus this format lets you move at a much quicker pace. I know I for one get burned out on my stuff because I have all these ideas but it takes forever to get to them having to continually write detailed shows.
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Old 10-20-2010, 12:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

This is something we certainly haven't seen and it's packed with knowledge. I do enjoy a good read and have read what you've had so far. Seeing as though I've never read a build like this it makes me even more interested in seeing where it goes. This is certainly something I support and will follow, keep up the great (and intense) work. Its a very well thought out product.
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Old 10-20-2010, 06:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: NWA New Frontiers: Taking Tradition Into The 21st Century

Thanks again for all the feedback, guys. I wasn't sure if the book thing would work or not, so it's nice to see it appreciated. I'll probably post Chapter Four next week, because I have to get a new WCW show done at some point, but for now, enjoy Chapter Three:

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Chapter Three: Humble Beginnings


Thomas L. Sharkey was born on November 22nd 1963 in Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. This has often afforded him the joke, whenever asked where he was when Kennedy was assassinated, that he was ‘two floors up, three centimeters dilated.’

His parents, Thomas Sharkey Sr. and his wife Gabriella, moved to Dallas six months before the birth of Thomas Jr. Thomas Sr. was a first generation New York-Irish immigrant, having been brought to the US by his own parents as a teenager, while Gabriella was New York-Sicilian, the only daughter of a notorious New York gangster. They had secretly been high school sweethearts, being forced to hide their romance as the stigma that surrounded Italian-Irish relationships was still strong in the Brooklyn neighbourhood in which they had grown up.

Despite managing to keep their relationship a closely guarded secret until they turned 23, they both knew it was just a matter of time before they got found out. By this time, Gabriella had trained as a nurse at a city hospital whilst Thomas had served in Vietnam with the Army, discharged after a gunshot wound to the leg would leave him with a permanent limp, forcing him to walk with a cane. Sneaking around whilst tending to a wounded soldier is difficult and her family began to notice that she was spending a disproportionate amount of time with her ‘patient.’

Discovered, a war broke out between the two families as they battled to keep this real-life Romeo and Juliet apart. The mob, feeling disrespected by the deceit, called for Thomas’ head, forcing him to flee the five boroughs and hide with family in Boston. Faithfully, he wrote to Gabriella every day, making sure she knew where he was. Within a few weeks, she had discovered that she was pregnant and the couple made yet more secret arrangements to elope and head south, out of the reaches of her family.

In just two weeks, Thomas Sr. made the arrangements and the two eventually left New York behind forever, heading first to Vegas for a quickie wedding before settling on Dallas as their new home. With little money, no job and no family to support them, life was initially hard for the young couple. They managed to find enough money for a small, run-down apartment in one of the shadier areas of town and Thomas eventually found a job as a mechanic, allowing him to make use of some of the skills the Army taught him.

His meagre income was barely enough to support himself and his wife, determined that she wouldn’t have to work whilst pregnant and, following the birth of his son, he took a second job working at the Cotton Bowl, taking tickets and doing maintenance, whatever was asked of him.

By the time Thomas Jr. was two years old, his mother had gone back to work part-time as a nurse at Parkland and eventually things improved for the family. By 1969, the family had moved into their own home in the nicer Lakewood Heights neighbourhood and by saving every spare penny, they managed to scrape just enough money together to allow Thomas Sr. to open his own business, a now-legendary used-car dealership known as Sharkey Automotive.

It was around this time that Thomas Jr. and his father became regulars at the Sportatorium. For years, they’d enjoyed watching the Von Erich’s wrestling promotion on the television together but now they could afford to become regular visitors to the southern wrestling Mecca. Over the years, Thomas Jr. would grow up in that building, eventually taking his first job there in 1979, aged fifteen, selling concessions during the wrestling shows.

He loved the job and, the more familiar his face became the more access he got to the world of the wrestlers. He was never allowed right behind the curtain into the locker-rooms, but eventually he was given other jobs to do by Fritz Von Erich himself. Sometimes it would be just to sweep the arena, others he’d be asked to take or sell tickets, sell programmes or go down town to hand out fliers and posters. He was getting paid handsomely, earning enough to earn a measure of jealousy from his classmates as he managed to save enough money to put himself through college.

At the behest of his father, he spent his college years close to home and studied accountancy at TCU whilst continuing to work weekends at both the Sportatorium and his father’s dealership. After graduating in 1984, he went on to work for his father full-time, taking over the administrative side of the family business. All was good, the family was making good money and eventually became affluent enough for his Gabriella to open her own Sicilian restaurant, DiGiovanni’s, which was named in honour her family.

By 1993, the family businesses were thriving and Thomas Jr. was making a good living managing the books for his parents’ businesses and those of a few select family friends. But his parents were worried for him; living at home with no career aspirations outside of being his family’s bookkeeper was no way for a nearly thirty year old man to exist. It was on his thirtieth birthday that his father took him aside and asked him what he intended to do with his life.

Thomas Jr. had known this for some time, but wasn’t sure how his father would react to it: He wanted to be a wrestling promoter. When he confessed this to his father, there was no shock or surprise - it had been expected. Fritz Von Erich had been a beloved and trusted mentor to Thomas in his younger years and had grown into a close family friend. Reassured that he would have his family’s backing, both spiritually and financially, he approached Fritz for advice.

Despite the two men having a usually friendly, cordial relationship, Thomas Jr. was surprised to find the old man a little cold to his request for advice and guidance. The elder Von Erich was adamant that there should only be one promotion in Dallas, even if it weren’t his own, and didn’t want to be involved in anything that might break that covenant. So Thomas set out to seek advice elsewhere.

Having read about the thriving professional wrestling scene north of the border, he embarked on a winter vacation to Canada, where he visited the various famed wrestling camps run by the Hart Brothers and Ron Hutchison, presenting himself as a protégé and envoy of Fritz seeking new talent for a new promotion. He watched and listened, getting given free advice and asking the opinions of these experienced heads on ideas he’d been toying with.

When he departed Canada, he left with the names of two other trainers he should visit and did so on the way home. In Boston, he met with Killer Kowalski and left with an earful of advice and an eyeful of talent, one of whom, Joanie Lee, would go on to be his most acclaimed discovery in the early days. In New York, he found the much more accommodating figure of former WWF star Johnny Rodz.

The advice he got there was invaluable and he prepared to head home, armed with an address book full of names and numbers. But on his last night in New York, he picked up a copy of Pro Wrestling Illustrated from a street vendor where he discovered that Ric Flair would be performing in Charlotte that weekend. A long-time fan of “The Nature Boy,” Thomas Jr. - by now almost universally known as TJ - decided to head down to North Carolina instead. It was while driving his ‘77 Buick Riviera down Highway 1, just south of Cameron, that he saw a sign advertising a wrestling show and decided to follow it.

It was just before seven on that fateful Saturday night that he pulled into the small town of Southern Pines, North Carolina. The wrestling show was a small, independent affair in the National Guard Armory, exactly the kind of thing he had in mind for his own promotion whilst the Sportatorium was playing host to the GWF. He paid for his $5 ticket and sat down to watch as a dilapidated home-made ring, part trampoline-part shop class project, played host to what proudly proclaimed itself as the ‘New Frontiers Wrestling Alliance.’

The action was fast-paced, the wrestlers young, agile and energetic - this was wrestling of a type that TJ had never witnessed before. It was at that moment that he knew he’d found what he was looking for. When the final bell rang, signalling the end of the main event, he made a point of hanging around, hoping to get a word with the owner. Eventually, somebody emerged from the back to count that night’s take and he decided to approach him and ask if he could speak to the owner.

In was this action that gave him the biggest surprise of the night so far; as he approached he became aware that the young man counting the money was the man who had won that night’s main event. It turned out he was also the company’s promoter. At twenty years old, ten years his junior, this man had just become TJ’s greatest inspiration. His name was Matt Hardy.

They got talking, with Hardy interested to hear the story of a man who, like himself, was a huge wrestling fan. A man who had worked for the legendary Fritz Von Erich and wanted to open his own promotion in Texas. The more they talked, the closer they became; Matt confided that he’d been having trouble financing the promotion, that they needed a new ring and more money to expand. By this point, the two had been talking all night but TJ knew he could trust the younger man. He took the plunge and a deal was done: he bought the New Frontiers Wrestling Alliance.

Surprisingly, it was Matt who suggested they move their operation to Texas. He felt that the NWA had too much control in North Carolina and that they had a greater chance of succeeding in Dallas - especially with the apparently impending implosion of the GWF.

Three weeks passed and it was in January of 1994 that things all fell in place for the new business partners. Despite having an original crew of seven, only four members of the NFWA crew made it to Texas, the others deciding that moving was too great a risk when they had stable jobs. The four men who made the trip were Matt, his brother Jeff and their close friends, Shane Helms and Shannon Moore.

From what he had seen, The Hardy brothers were exceptional, high-flying wrestlers whilst Helms had a much more rounded talent - he was clearly the better trained of the three. He couldn’t recall seeing Shannon on the Southern Pines show. It was explained that Shannon had only just begun to train with them; he was only sixteen in any case and thus couldn’t legally get his wrestling license for two years. Seeing a little of himself in the long-haired youngster, TJ suggested he just work as a general dogsbody for the fledgling promotion.

They scheduled their first show for March, having used TJ’s initial investment to buy a ring and order a new title belt for the promotion, now renamed “New Frontiers Wrestling.” The five men worked tirelessly to promote the show, whilst the trip to visit wrestling schools across the roster garnered a fruitful gathering of talent. The debut show, which was aptly named “The Beginning,” was scheduled to be held in the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum at TCU and featured a card of unknown stars:

Quote:
New Frontiers Wrestling presents “The Beginning”
March 12th, 1994
Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX


Match listing:
Jason Jett vs. Martin Kane
Scott Taylor vs. Lance Storm
Devon Hughes vs. Mongo Vyle
Scott Borders vs. Terra Ryzing
Sexton Hardcastle (w/Christian Cage) vs. Rhino Richards
Lance Diamond & Johnny Hollywood Swinger vs. The Hardy Boys
NFW Heavyweight Title: Joe E. Legend vs. Shane Helms
The show was a catastrophic failure. Despite the phenomenal performances of the wrestlers in the ring, the show was marred by a disastrously low attendance: Just 400 people filtered into the 7,000-seater arena. TJ had learned the hard way that all the advertising in the world wasn’t enough to fill such a big venue. NFW had no reputation, no brand to draw the fans. There were no big stars in the promotion and they didn’t have an established television show. There was a lot of work to do.

In a flash of inspiration, TJ decided to edit the footage of the show into seven half-hour long episodes and paid for them to air on the local cable access station. It was money well spent, allowing them to promote their talent and upcoming shows and they managed to recoup some of the money from advertising fees. The show’s format was simple: interviews with the wrestlers on the show followed by a single match, enough to satisfy the fans and stretch the footage out properly so that they could run bi-monthly shows. TJ and Matt Hardy assumed pseudonyms (Tommy DiGiovanni and Matthew Moore) to provide the commentary and the show very quickly became popular among local fans.

The next show was scheduled for a May taping and this time they decided to take fewer risks, booking the gymnasium at Woodrow Wilson High School in East Dallas for the event. Once again, they managed to draw 400 fans but this was a big success for the promotion - its first sell-out. The card was as impressive as the first, headlined by an exceptional NFW Title match between Shane Helms and Terra Ryzing that went to a 20-minute time limit draw.

Now that the company had figured out its problems, business was good. The television show was expanded to an hour, meaning that the promotion started to run monthly shows and all of the wrestlers on the roster started to gain a fan base. The Hardy Boys, especially, were quickly gaining a following among young female fans. The feud between Terra Ryzing and Shane Helms gained momentum, with the rematch between them in June leading to a title change as Terra managed to secure a victory with the aid of a run in by Joanie Lee.

There was a collective gasp as the goliath female wrestler appeared, followed by widespread terror as she successfully power bombed the former champion after the match. This groundbreaking event got the promotion its first PWI coverage as a full-page article proclaimed Joanie Lee the ‘female Andre The Giant.’ It was outstanding publicity for the promotion as fans began to flock to see her. Due to her immense size and lack of any other females in the company, the promotion could only book her against men but she regularly came out victorious, establishing her reputation as “the ninth wonder of the world.”

For the rest of the year, the promotion was able to dine out on the discovery of Lee and the feud between Terra and Helms. The Champion was successfully defending his title every month as he raised the ire of the fans by refusing Helms a rematch under any circumstances. The Hardys engaged in their first high-profile feud in the meantime, as they found themselves embroiled in a war with the mammoth team of Rhino Richards and Martin Kane. Easily the two most physically dominant athletes in NFW, Richards and Kane very quickly became the dominant team in the company, raising the question of when the company would look to establish tag team titles.

It was in August that the winds of change blew through management. As TJ and the Hardy Brothers first caught wind of the events in Eastern Championship Wrestling, they gained an immediate understanding that what NFW needed to take itself to the next level was clear: They had to become an NWA-affiliated promotion. The product they had was new, fresh and unique, exactly what the NWA needed to revitalise their fortunes - after all, why else would they choose the now-infamous ECW as their flagship?

They began to mail out tapes of their show, each with a carefully worded letter pitching the promotion, tailored it to fit each network’s ethos. By November 1994, they had a bite; they were ready to make the call…
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