Ten Pounds Of Gold: The History Of The NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part Five

Last week showcased a controversial time for the NWA Title, but this week's article shows that it only got worse....

Ten Pounds Of Gold: The History Of The NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part Five

Here we are again with the next part in our look back at the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. I hope you all enjoyed what I personally felt was the best part in the series last week. This week's edition has the potential to surpass that though, as we look at the time period between 1993 and 2002. 

The nineties was a time period of huge advancement in the world. With advancements in technology, we were introduced to the wonderful world of console video gaming, with Nintendo and Sega bringing out flagship consoles that people all over the world still covet to this day. Fashion in the nineties was brash, vibrant and different, with baggy clothing being very much the style of the time, and grunge music with bands such as one of my personal favourites, Nirvana, becoming hugely popular. 

The nineties also gave us a huge boom in the popularity of professional wrestling, with the much-loved WWF Attitude Era tying in with their battle with WCW over ratings and who had the overall better product. Smaller, independent companies were also springing up everywhere, providing more alternative outlets for wrestlers and fans alike. Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Global Wrestling Federation and United States Wrestling Association all began trading within the nineties (although USWA officially began a little earlier in the latter stages of 1989) and all had a unique feel which complemented their status and what they gave to the fans. 

But unfortunately for the National Wrestling Alliance, the nineties was not a good decade for them, as two major incidents robbed them of their prestige, and almost robbed them entirely of their business. So, without any further ado, let's get into it. 

When we left off last week, Ric Flair was once again the NWA World's Heavyweight Champion, having returned from the WWF and beaten Barry Windham for the title. Shortly after this, tension started to brew between NWA and WCW, with a multitude of disputes causing disagreements between the two boards. Ultimately, the straw that broke the camel's back was WCW's insistence on running a storyline which would see Rick Rude become the champion. The NWA Board were completely against this and tried to stop it from happening, but all that did was speed up the inevitable. 

NWA wanted to stop this happening but WCW did it anyway

On September 1st 1993, WCW withdrew from the NWA, ending all affiliation with the company, but kept the title belt which was owned by WCW. This of course angered the NWA Board, and they launched a legal battle to regain the championship belt. The courts decided that WCW did indeed own the physical championship belt, owing to a goodwill agreement made with the original NWA Board, but they could not continue to use the NWA name or have any kind of affiliation with them since they had withdrawn from the company. This led to NWA stripping Ric Flair of the Championship on September 13th 1993, and WCW rebranded the title as the WCW International Heavyweight Championship. 

With the loss of WCW, NWA didn't have much left in the way of business. They still had a World Championship, but in name only with no physical representation of it, and they had a few remaining small affiliates. Over the next year, the NWA regrouped, brought in a new Board of Directors, and revived the Domed Globe belt that was used prior to 1983. They still existed as a governing body, and scheduled a tournament that would take place at one of their existing affiliates to crown a new World Champion. At the time they thought that this would revive their fortunes and bring back the honour and prestige that had been lost in their battle with WCW. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, and no one could have predicted what would happen... 

By 1994, the most televised wrestling show was NWA's Eastern affiliate, Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW). Run by Tod Gordon and a man we all know very well, Paul Heyman, the promotion was known for putting on fantastic matches and mixing in hardcore wrestling with technical bouts. They had a hardcore following, and used an old bingo hall in Philadelphia as their home, with almost all of their shows emanating from there. 

Tod Gordon owned Eastern Championship Wrestling. He was a jewellery store owner by trade, but also a big fan of professional wrestling and so created Eastern Championship Wrestling after buying out former partner Joel Goodhart from their Tri State Wrestling Alliance promotion. He initially brought in "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert as head booker, who secured TV time for them, but after a falling out, Gilbert was fired and replaced by a young Paul Heyman. 

Heyman, as we know, would go on to be a huge name in the professional wrestling world, but at the time he had just been fired by WCW and was looking to take on a new challenge. Being approached by Tod Gordon to become head booker for his promotion was exactly the kind of challenge Heyman was looking for. 

Paul Heyman is a New York native, born in 1965. He started out by taking pictures and selling them to the WWWF. He was even able to get himself a press pass to a WWWF event at Madison Square Garden as a 14-year-old kid when he called Capitol Wrestling Corporation, WWWF's parent company, and essentially lied his way into it. It's safe to say when he turned up for the show the first night there were a lot of strange looks! 

From there Heyman became producer at New York Studio 54, and after meeting Dusty Rhodes and Jim Crockett when he walked into a production meeting at a JCP taping, he was able to call on Crockett who sent down several stars for his first Wrestle Party in 1985. Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and Magnum T.A. were sent down for the show, which also featured the debut of Bam Bam Bigelow.  

Bigelow recognised Heyman's talents and urged him to pursue a career as a wrestling manager, which he did when, in 1987, he debuted for Championship Wrestling from Florida. Under the name of Paul E Dangerously, he managed some of the top stars of the time, and he later went on to work for the Continental Wrestling Federation. His character was essentially himself but turned up to eleven. A brash, cocky New Yorker with a big mouth. After garnering a reputation as a talented TV writer and producer, having had a stint as head booker for Windy City Wrestling in Chicago, he was approached and signed by WCW. 

After his time in WCW and then being hired by Tod Gordon as head booker for Eastern Championship Wrestling, his reputation was such that it was seen as a big deal for him to join the Philadelphia-based promotion. Heyman wanted to make waves, to create something that transcended the business in ways that no other company had before. When he and Tod Gordon were approached by Jim Crockett to host the NWA World Title Tournament, they were more than happy to do so, but when NWA President Dennis Corraluzzo accused Crockett and Gordon of attempting to monopolize the title, he told Crockett he had no approval from the NWA Board and that he would personally oversee the tournament. This angered Tod Gordon and he immediately began planning to break away from the NWA. It was at this point that he and Heyman came up with a plan which would be like a gun shot heard around the world. 

The tournament went down on August 27th, 1994 at the ECW Arena, and a new NWA World's Heavyweight Champion was indeed crowned, with "The Franchise" Shane Douglas beating Too Cold Scorpio in the final. Douglas was presented with the NWA World's Heavyweight Title, and then picked up a microphone... 

"No question about it, Too Cold Scorpio, you are one hell of a competitor, and I will not be a champion that hides. I stand here before God and my father in heaven tonight, as I said I would be: World Heavyweight Champion. In the tradition of Lou Thesz. In the tradition of Jack Brisco, of the Brisco Brothers, of Dory Funk Jr, of Terry Funk, the man who will never die. And to the REAL 'Nature Boy' Buddy Rogers, upstairs tonight. From the Harley Races, to the Barry Windhams, to the ... Ric Flairs. I accept this Heavyweight Title. Wait a second. Wait a second. Of Kerry Von Erich, of the fat man himself, Dusty Rhodes, this is it tonight, dad. God, that's beautiful. And Rick Steamboat, and they, can all... KISS... MY... ASS!" 

At this point, Shane Douglas threw down the NWA World's Heavyweight Title as if it was trash. He then grabbed the ECW Heavyweight Title before continuing: 

"Because, I am not the man who accepts a torch to be handed down to me from an organization that died, RIP, seven years ago. 'The Franchise' Shane Douglas is the man who IGNITES the NEW flame of the SPORT of professional wrestling. Tonight, before God and my father as a witness, I declare myself, The Franchise, as the NEW... ECW... HEAVYWEIGHT... CHAMPION... OF THE WORLD! We have set out to change the face of professional wrestling. So tonight, let the new era begin. The era of the sport of professional wrestling. The era of The Franchise. The era of the ECW." 

You can see the promo in the video below (Video Source: WWE)

The fans in attendance were shocked. The boys backstage were shocked. But most of all, NWA President Coralluzzo was shocked, angered and betrayed. Gordon and Heyman initially feigned ignorance, claiming they knew nothing about this. Coralluzzo stated in an interview shortly after the event that Shane Douglas's actions were "a disgrace" and that he was the NWA World Champion "whether he likes it or not." Coralluzzo also stated he would ensure that Shane Douglas would be stripped of both the NWA and ECW World Titles, calling him an undeserving Champion. 

But then just a couple of days later, on ECW TV, Tod Gordon responded with this: 

"I listened with great interest as the representative of the NWA Board of Directors took it upon himself to inform you that they have the power to force NWA-Eastern Championship Wrestling not to recognize The Franchise, Shane Douglas, as a World Heavyweight Champion.  

Well, as of noon today, I have folded NWA-Eastern Championship Wrestling. In its place will be ECW- Extreme Championship Wrestling- and we recognize The Franchise, Shane Douglas, as our World Heavyweight Champion. And we encourage any wrestler in the world today to come to the ECW to challenge for that belt. This is the ECW, Extreme Championship Wrestling, changing the face of professional wrestling" 

The whole incident caused massive damage to the NWA's credibility, but it served as a monumental catalyst to the popularity of ECW. Years later when quizzed about the event in an interview, Paul Heyman was quoted as saying:

"The National Wrestling Alliance was old-school when old-school wasn't hip anymore. We wanted to set our mark, we wanted to break away from the pack, we wanted to let the world know that we weren't just some independent promotion." 

Despite this major blow, the NWA regrouped once again and held another tournament just three months later under Jim Cornette's Smokey Mountain Wrestling promotion, where Chris Candido was crowned as the new NWA World's Heavyweight Champion. The tournament was once again overseen by NWA President Dennis Coralluzzo, only this time there were no shenanigans.  

Candido was crowned the youngest Champion in the title's history at just 22 years old. He had trained under Larry Sharpe, and debuted in 1986 at Sharpe's Monster Factory school. Over the years he wrestled for WWF and ECW, winning Tag Team Championships in both. His brief run in WCW resulted in him capturing the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. After leaving WCW he mostly wrestled on the independent circuit winning a host of titles before runs in both TNA and NJPW.  

Tragically, it was during a match for TNA in 2005 which led to his death. During a Steel Cage match with Lance Hoyt against Apolo and Sonny Siaki at the Lockdown PPV, Candido broke his tibia and fibula as well as dislocating his ankle during the match. The next day, April 25th, he had surgery to have titanium rods inserted to aid his recovery and strengthen his leg. After surgery he went straight to TNA's impact tapings and was manager for his stablemates, The Naturals, Andy Douglas and Chase Stevens, as they defeated America's Most Wanted of Chris Harris and James Storm for the NWA World Tag Team Championships. Two days later however, Candido was complaining of feeling ill, before collapsing and being rushed to hospital, where it was revealed he died of acute pneumonia. He was just 33 years old. At the time of his passing, he was the NWA Midwest Heavyweight Champion, and his brother won the vacated Championship just a few months later in tribute to his fallen brother. 

Candido's reign as NWA World Champion however was a fairly short one at just 97 days, as he ended up losing the title to "The Beast" Dan Severn. Almost everyone who was a fan of wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts in the eighties and nineties knows who this man is. 

Born in Michigan in 1958, he like many others, grew up on a farm and was never afraid to get his hands dirty. During his teen years he practiced Jiu Jitsu and claims he was approached by his high school coach to fill in for the wrestling team during a time when a sickness bug had decimated the school team. He did so and received training in amateur wrestling. From there he became an incredibly gifted amateur wrestler, he won the Junior World Championships in 1977 in the freestyle class, the NCAA Division 1 All American Championship in 1984, and then the Pan American Championship and World Cup at the 100kg Freestyle division in 1986. He was also an alternate for the 1988 USA Olympic wrestling team. 

Severn started his transition to professional wrestling in 1992, starting with Universal Wrestling Federation International before going on to compete for Border City Wrestling and Continental Championship Wrestling. During this time, he also competed in Mixed Martial Arts, and over the course of his career has amassed an incredible record of 101 wins, 53 of which were by submission, 19 losses and seven draws. He also has the unique distinction of being the only man who is a UFC Triple Crown Champion, winning the accolade in the early days of UFC. 

Severn was no slouch in the squared circle, in beating Candido for the title, Severn started a reign that lasted an incredible 1,479 days, and even had his own customised NWA World Title, which you can see in the main article image, before losing it to Japanese wrestler Naoya Ogawa on March 14th, 1999. Ogawa's reign was briefly interrupted by Gary Steele, a British wrestler who held the championship for just a week before losing it back to Ogawa. 

Ogawa was also a Mixed Martial Artist, and in order to focus fully on his training for a fight with Rickson Gracie, he vacated the NWA World Title on July 2nd, 2000. Unfortunately for him this ended up being for nothing as his fight with Gracie never took place, and he never held the NWA Title again. 

Once again with the title vacant, and with no major television exposure to speak of, a tournament was held on 19th September, 2000 to crown a new NWA World's Heavyweight Champion. This time the tournament was won by "The Colorado Kid" Mike Rapada, who was trained by Jeff Jarrett. Rapada had debuted in 1994 for USWA and was named their Rookie of the Year, and had won the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship in 1996. He had also been NWA North American Heavyweight Champion prior to winning the big one. Rapada would have two reigns with the NWA World Title, with Sabu winning the belt from him on November 14th, 2000. 

If you don't know who Sabu is, my advice would be to google him because I don't think anything I say will do the man justice. Terry Brunk, or Sabu, is an ECW legend, a new Yorker, and a man who was described as being "Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal, Death Defying Maniac" in his ECW days. Sabu would have some of the most intense and downright uncomfortable to watch matches during the ECW days with people like Terry Funk, Rob Van Damn and Tommy Dreamer.  

On multiple occasions, Sabu would be injured during a match but, rather than get it seen to by a medical professional, he would literally patch himself up and carry on as if it was nothing. He has in the past taped a torn triceps together and also wrapped tape around his head when he broke his jaw during a match, and that without mentioning that any lacerations he got he was just crazy glue them to heal it. His body is literally covered in scars from his many in ring injuries, and for proof of his dedication to the extreme side of professional wrestling you need only watch the Barbed Wire match with Terry Funk at ECW's Born to be Wired PPV in 1997. 

Sabu would only hold the title for a month before dropping it back to Mike Rapada on December 22nd, 2000. This time Rapada held the title for nearly five months before losing the title to an evil man, Steve Corino. 

Canadian born Steve Corino is something of a legend in the professional wrestling world, debuting in 1994 on the independent circuit as well as being part of Matt Hardy OMEGA promotion. Corino’s career has seen him win the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship, ECW World Heavyweight Championship, MLW World Heavyweight Championship, and the 1PW World Heavyweight Championship. Corino's capture of the NWA World's Heavyweight Title took place on April 24th, 2001 at a house show in Tampa, Florida. 

In addition to this he won the AWA Superstars of Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship and the WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship twice each. as well as numerous independent titles. During his time with Ring of Honor, he held the ROH World Tag Team Championship with Jimmy Jacobs. Corino now works for WWE as a trainer at the Performance Centre, and his son Colby is a wrestler on the independent circuit. 

Like most NWA World Champions since 1993, Corino mostly defended the title on the independent circuit, on account of NWA not having a major television presence. This meant that almost all title defences took place at house shows or live events for independent promotions. He did however put the title on the line against Shinya Hashimoto at the NWA 53rd Anniversary Show in October 2001 from St Petersburg, Florida. 

In this match, Corino and Hashimoto went at it from the off. In what would be a hard hitting, back and forth match, Corino ended up sustaining a head injury, which meant that the referee stopped the match. Initially, Hashimoto was declared the winner, but eventually the result was thrown out and declared a no contest (you can see the match in the video below. Credit to Cactus Back Wrestling).

The NWA Title was then considered vacant until Hashimoto won it officially in December 2001 at the Clash of the Champions show in a Round Robin style match where he took on both Corino and Gary Steele. Hashimoto won both his matches and was declared the champion. 

Shinya Hashimoto as we alluded to last week is one of only three men who has the claim to holding the AJPW Triple Crown Championship, IWGP Heavyweight Championship and the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. Born in Toki City in 1965, his early life saw him train in Judo and Karate before he joined the NJPW Dojo in 1984. He is known as one of the "Three Musketeers" who joined NJPW in the eighties and dominated the nineties, along with Keiji Mutoh and Masahiro Chono. He was a prominent competitor on the Japanese scene until his untimely death on July 11th, 2005 from a brain aneurysm. His legacy lives on though through his son, Daichi Hashimoto, who debuted in 2011 for Pro Wrestling ZERO-1. 

Hashimoto's last reign with the title ended after just 84 days, albeit in controversial fashion. Dan Severn returned to challenge for the title, and was able to beat Hashimoto in Tokyo, Japan at a Pro Wrestling ZERO-1 on March 9th, 2002. The match ended in controversy as the referee used a fast count to award the victory and the title to Severn.  

With the title back in the hands of Severn, many people expected a return to the dominance he showed in first reign. Unfortunately, that never happened, as he was stripped of the title on May 28th for not making a title defence as contracted. 

In 2002, Jerry and Jeff Jarrett founded Total Nonstop Action (TNA) under the NWA banner. Their business model was a brave one: Instead of relying on weekly television, they would instead utilise weekly pay-per-views at a cost to the viewer of $9.99. It ended up being fairly successful as the concept continued until September 8th, 2004, when the company did switch to weekly television with Fox Sports Net. 

It was at the first of these weekly PPV's that Severn was supposed to defend the title, but he failed to do so, and so the NWA Board were left with no choice but to strip him of the title. This meant that for the fifth time in ten years, the title was once again vacant. 

Fortunately for the NWA, this was where their fortunes began to change... 

Thanks once again for reading this instalment of the series. This was a really fun one to research and I got goosebumps watching the Shane Douglas promo again. If you haven't already checked out the previous four parts of this article you can find them below: 

Ten Pounds of Gold: The History of the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part One

Ten Pounds of Gold: The History of the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part Two

Ten Pounds of Gold: The History of the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part Three

Ten Pounds of Gold: The History of The NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part Four  

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