1980's Territory Map

source: www.midatlanticgateway.com

Decline of the Territory System

In the 1980s, video tape trading and cable television paved the way for the eventual death of the NWA's inter-regional business model, as fans could now see for themselves the plot holes and inconsistencies between the different regional storylines. Also, the presence of stars like Ric Flair on TV every week made their special appearances in each region less of a draw. Vince K. McMahon, who had bought the WWWF from his father and renamed it the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1982, used these gathering trends, as well as raids of competing promoters' talent pools, to turn his Northeastern territory into the first truly national promotion. To compete against this threat, various NWA promoters, along with the AWA, attempted to co-promote shows under the Pro Wrestling USA banner. Internal disputes over power and money, however, caused this deal to eventually fall apart. The AWA ended up owning the group's ESPN timeslot, and used it to broadcast its own weekly shows.

In the 1980s, NWA member Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) was sold to McMahon and merged into the WWF, with the WWF taking over GCW's long time TV slot on TBS.[4] Meanwhile, to hold off the threat of the WWF, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Jim Crockett Promotions decided to unify certain NWA territories and "go national" itself. Accordingly, Jim Crockett, Jr. began buying out some of the other NWA member promotions or, in some cases, allowed them to quietly die and just absorbed their rosters. Because of his acquisition spree, and because he failed to consistently match the WWF's ambitious marketing, TV production values, and merchandising, Crockett was facing bankruptcy by the late 1980s. In turn, Ted Turner bought Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and renamed it World Championship Wrestling (WCW).[5] With the backing of Turner’s money, it grew into a national promotion. With time, WCW became the main NWA territory with the JCP versions of the Tag-Team, United States, and Television Champions being recognized on a national scale. Up until this point only the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship had had national recognition. WCW was still a member of the NWA, but with time felt that the NWA needed WCW more than WCW needed the backing of the NWA, especially since both WCW and the WWF toured the entire country instead of staying within a confined territory. To make matters even more confusing, WCW spent much of 1992 and 1993 recognizing and promoting both WCW-brand World Champions and NWA-brand World Champions.

Another promotion that withdrew from the NWA to operate on their own was Mid-South Sports. Originally owned by Leroy McGuirk (who booked the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion for the NWA), the promotion was sold to Bill Watts in 1979. Watts changed the name of the promotion to Mid South Sports and declined to join the NWA. Watts did have a working agreement and exchanged talent with Jim Crockett Jr., allowing him to book the NWA World Champion. In 1986, Watts renamed the promotion the Universal Wrestling Federation in a bid to expand nationally, but was eventually bought out by Jim Crockett Promotions in March 1987, after going bankrupt.[6]

In 1986, promoter Fritz Von Erich withdrew World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) from the NWA in a bid to become a national promotion. They joined up with another former NWA member, the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) and the AWA to try to compete with WCW and the WWF, but soon fell apart due to interpromotional politics. WCCW and the CWA later merged to form the United States Wrestling Association, which folded in 1997. Abroad, the defections of Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling in the mid-1980s was mostly regionalized as not many American fans followed or even knew about these promotions.

In 1991, WCW 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 recognized 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 WCW president 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 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 surprising fashion. As one of the most popular independent promotions of the early 1990s, they hosted a tournament to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion after WCW had withdrawn from the NWA. 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 promotion 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.

After the AWA's bankruptcy in 1991 and the secession of ECW in 1994, the NWA wasn't what it once was. Through the mid to late 1990s, the all-but-forgotten organization was left with a small collection of independent promotions during the peak of the Monday night ratings war between WCW and the WWF.

In a bid to become the "number two" national wrestling promotion, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) split from the NWA in 2004. 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 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.

Today, there is still a group of promoters which hold membership in the NWA and continue to use the NWA name, although no members are holdovers from the membership of the promotion's "glory days" of the 1940s–1980s.

In order to join the NWA, a promoter must have been operating for at least one year in a territory uncontested by any other NWA member, and their application must be approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors -- although, there are numerous exceptions to this bylaw currently within the organization. In August 2005, the presidency of the NWA was dissolved and the duties of the office assumed by the Board of Directors, following the resignation of Ernie Todd (promoter of NWA: Canadian Wrestling Federation). On his promotion's website, not only did he explain his reasons for resigning from the NWA and its Board of Directors, but Todd stated that he would be joining AWA Superstars of Wrestling. Other members on the NWA's message board posted their thoughts on Todd's departure, and his decision to join AWA Superstars of Wrestling. It was announced on the NWA's website on Monday, October 10, 2005, that current NWA legal counsel Bob Trobich would become its new Executive Director. As NWA Executive Director, Trobich is the primary contact and decision maker for all NWA business.

source: en.wikipedia.org

When D.C. Was the Center of the Pro Wrestling Universe

Posted by Dave McKenna on Nov. 26, 2008, at 2:08 pm
source: washingtoncitypaper.com

This week’s Cheap Seats column was instigated by Brock Lesnar’s recent win over Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight championship.

Lesnar’s win thrilled me. Mainly because I thought it was great for pro wrestling —Lesnar is a former WWE performer—and I’ve always been far more intrigued by pro wrestlers than their mixed-martial arts counterparts.

I grew up with wrestling, for starters.

But, also, to my untrained eyes, a typical UFC beating isn’t any more artistic than the drunken bar brawls in Georgetown I used to love watching in my high school and college days.
To get over, wrestlers have to have as much size and strength and speed as MMA’ers, plus acting and microphone skills. Plenty of wrestlers can throw a punch as pretty as Chuck Liddell; nobody in MMA can showboat like Ric Flair.
I’ve always been peeved that D.C. doesn’t get enough credit for being the city that launched Vince McMahon, the greatest promoter in the history of the sport, or whatever you want to call it.

McMahon’s father, Vincent J. McMahon, was based here, and started the family wrestling empire now known as WWE more than half a century ago at Turner’s Arena on W Street NW.
While mulling over Lesnar’s win, I looked up this 1965 Washington Post article on the demolition of Turner’s Arena, written by the great and bought-out Post sportswriter, William Gildea. Going over the building’s past, Gildea wrote that “every wrestler from Gorgeous George to Bruno Samartino” performed there.
Gildea’s article also reveals just how big wrestling once was in this town:

“According to [Vincent J.] McMahon,” Gildea wrote, “two regular wrestling fans via television were the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Mrs. Harry Truman. MacArthur, McMahon says, limited his Thursday night engagements so that he could watch the weekly shows.

“The late Edward R. Murrow on his ‘Person to Person’ show once asked Mrs. Truman, upon her return to Independence, what she missed most in Washington. ‘Wrestling on television,’ she replied.”

Alas, Laura Bush won’t ever give that answer.
The World of Wrestling from Mythologies by Roland Barthes

Newsreel footage from the second Earl Caddock-Joe Stecher match for the professional wrestling world title - January 30, 1920