Ten Pounds Of Gold: The History Of The NWA World's Heavyweight Championship: Part Seven
Today this series comes to an end as Paul brings us right up to date with the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship
Well, we have arrived at the final part of the history of the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship, and I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
With this series now complete, the chronology of the first ever World Wrestling Championship brings us up to the modern day, and over the course of this final part we will go over the last decade and a half of the title. Some parts will be more in depth than others, but will be no less interesting.
With this series coming to a close, I will be starting a new topic from next week. I have yet to decide on what that will be, but I may stay away from Championships for a little while and go into a promotion perhaps, or a specific wrestler. As ever if anyone has any suggestions feel free to comment here, or message us through Facebook and Twitter. We reply to all comments and messages sent to us and it makes our day to know what we're doing is well received.
Before we get into today's article though, I just want to briefly discuss something that came up in the last article that a lot of people have asked about.
As mentioned last week, TNA were not an official NWA Affiliate, and this seemed to cause some confusion from some readers, so I thought I would clarify this before getting into it.
TNA had a licensing agreement with NWA through Jerry Jarrett as he had contacts within NWA. They allowed TNA to use their World and Tag Team Titles and became NWA-TNA in name, but the licensing deal gave NWA no power over decisions within TNA as to how the title was booked, or who it was put on. Essentially, TNA rented the titles from NWA, and they were associated with them as a coalition of sorts, but they were never officially affiliated. Once the six-year licensing agreement was up, they went their separate ways and TNA created the TNA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships.
All of this of course led to the NWA being without a champion once again, and gives us the starting point for today's article. So, let's dive in one last time with the NWA World's Heavyweight Title!
After the licensing agreement with TNA came to an end, the NWA Board of Directors decided to hold a tournament to crown the next NWA World's Heavyweight Champion. Sixteen men from all corners of the professional wrestling world were chosen, and NWA: Reclaiming the Glory took place between June 2nd and September 1st, 2007 in the form of several house shows.
The tournament competitors were split into 4 blocks, with each block being named after a previous NWA World Champion. The blocks were Lou Thesz, Terry Funk, Harley Race and Jack Brisco. Four competitors were placed into each block and would face off in singles matches, and the winners of those singles matches would face each other in the quarter finals.
In the Lou Thesz bracket, Brent Albright won through to the semi-finals after beating Osamu Nishimura and Fred Sampson, Claudio Castagnoli, better known today as Cesaro, won the Terry Funk block by beating Sicodelico Jr and Pepper Parks. Bryan Danielson was victorious over Nelson Creed and the man formerly known as Fergal Devitt, the current NXT Champion Finn Balor, in the Jack Brisco bracket, and "Scrap Iron" Adam Pearce overcame Aaron Aguilera and Chad Parham in the Harley Race bracket.
This left the final four to face off for the right to be in the finals. Brent Albright bested Castagnoli to reach the final, and Bryan Danielson beat Adam Pearce in the second semi-final. The stage was set for a mouth-watering clash between Albright and Danielson, who had faced off many times in Ring of Honor before.
Sadly, the match never took place, as just a week before the match Danielson suffered a severe eye injury during a match with Takeshi Morishima. This meant that Adam Pearce got a reprieve and took on Albright in the final. Danielson would be the enforcer of the match, wearing an eye patch, and, when the referee was knocked out, he counted the pin to give Adam Pearce the win and the Championship.
Most people know Adam Pearce as a WWE producer now, and he has appeared on TV semi-regularly during the covid era shows, but he was a phenomenally gifted wrestler too. Debuting in 1996 on the independent scene, he would make sporadic appearances as an enhancement talent for both WWF and WCW, and was a prominent figure on the Californian circuit for almost fifteen years.
He had a five-year spell with Ring of Honor between 2005 and 2010, whilst also regularly competing in Mexico and Japan, and joined the NWA in 2006. In a near twenty-year career, he won twelve Heavyweight Championships, five of which were the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship, but more on those later.
Pearce's first reign as champion would last an incredible 336 days, almost a full calendar year. He lost the title to the man he beat in the final of the tournament, Brent Albright, at Death Before Dishonor VI, a Ring of Honor show held in New York City on August 2nd, 2008.
Albright was no slouch in the ring either, having debuted in 1998 for All Pro Wrestling. He spent five years on the independent circuit before being signed by WWE and sent to OVW development. He was renamed Gunner Scott and actually had a brief main roster run, debuting with a win over Booker T on Smackdown. From there he was mostly used on Velocity before being sent back to OVW. he was released from his WWE contract in October 2006 and went straight back to the independent circuit, as well as competing for Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan. He found a home for five years with Ring of Honor, before eventually retiring in 2011. His reign with the NWA Title lasted just 49 days before he dropped it back to Adam Pearce, who began his second reign as Champion.
It would be a short second reign however, as just 35 days later, Pearce lost the title to Blue Demon Jr in Mexico City. As with all luchadores, very little is known about his personal life, other than he is the adopted son of the original Blue Demon, and was the first Mexican wrestler to win the NWA World Title. Blue Demon Jr debuted in 1985, and has been a staple of the Mexican scene for the entire time. He was part of Lucha Underground in 2014-15, and is undefeated in nineteen Luchas de Aspuestas matches. For those who don't know, that is a mask v mask or mask v hair match.
Demon's run with the title lasted a staggering 505 days, defending the title all over the world in that time, but the Scrap Daddy was on his case again and reclaimed the title from the Mexican legend on March 14th, 2010 in a triple threat match held at a house show in North Carolina. This meant that Adam Pearce was champion for the third time, and this time he held the title for an impressive 357 days before losing it once more.
However, this was no ordinary loss, as this sowed the seeds for one of the most heated and famous feuds of the modern day.
Hot off of being released from WWE, Colt Cabana beat Adam Pearce at a TV Taping for NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. No one knew it at the time, but a few years later these two would throw down in some truly classic matches for the title. But before that, Colt embarked on a short 49-day reign as Champion before losing it to the Sheik. No not that Sheik, this is the man who is more commonly known today to Major League Wrestling fans as Josef Samael.
He however was stripped of the title after 79 days for refusing to defend the title against Adam Pearce at the Ohio State Fair on July 31st, and so once again, the title became vacant.
At the aforementioned State Fair, NWA held a show with the main event being a fatal four-way match between Adam Pearce, Chance Prophet, Jimmy Rave and Shaun Tempers for the vacant title. And it was that man Scrap Daddy himself who picked up the win and a fourth NWA Title reign.
Throughout his reigns as NWA Champion, Adam Pearce had been a heel, but prior to this fourth reign he had supposedly changed his ways and was now, in his words, "a good guy", and had even won back the trust of Colt Cabana. This didn't last though as soon after, Adam Pearce attacked Colt Cabana while his guard was down and viciously beat him, stating that he just could not get over the fact that he had lost the title to him previously.
This led to a hugely anticipated rematch, which had taken them a year to get to, but was essentially a repeat of their first match for the title as Pearce was the Champion. It was de ja vu for the champion though as once again Cabana bested him and walked away with the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship on April 8th, 2012. Colt may have thought this was the end of it, but Pearce had an ace up his sleeve. He was of course due a rematch for the title, but he had something far bigger in mind: The Seven Levels of Hate.
The "Seven Levels of Hate" was a seven-match series, with each match being contested under a different stipulation, and each time the title would be on the line. If the Champion was beaten in the match, then they would lose the title, but there was an added stipulation that whichever of the two won four matches first, they would be the NWA World's Heavyweight Champion, and the other would walk away from the NWA. Colt Cabana accepted, and the first match of the series took place at a TV taping on 13th May, 2012.
The stipulation for the first match, or Level 1 if you like, was First Blood. In this match, Pearce was busted open after some brutal back and forth action to give Colt a 1-0 lead in the series, and to retain the title.
Level 2 took place on the 8th June, 2012 at NECW Stronger than Hurt, and was a Street Fight, with Cabana once again picking up the victory by making Pearce pass out. Level 3 took place on July 7th at an independent SDW show and was an I Quit match. Initially, it seemed Pearce had won this match, as he choked out Cabana, but the match continued after Cabana got up and said that he had not said the words "I Quit". Cabana eventually picked up the win here as well to put him three up in the seven-match series.
Level 4 took place at Metro Pro Wrestling's TV Tapings on 21st July, 2012 and was a Two-out-of-Three falls match. Cabana, needing just one more victory to win the series, ended up losing this match and the Championship to Pearce, who cheated by nailing Cabana with the title to pick up the decisive pinfall.
NECW's Hot August Fight show was the battleground for Level 5 on 18th August in a Dog Collar match, and Pearce made it 3-2 with a win here against Cabana who was tangled up in the chains. Level 6 also went the way of Pearce when it took place on 30th September at a West Coast Wrestling Connection show. The match was a Texas Death Match, with the pinfall coming after Pearce hit Cabana with a fireball!
So, it all came down to the final match. Level 7, a Steel Cage match, at NWA WarZone on October 27th, 2012. After a back-and-forth battle with several near falls and near escapes from the cage, Cabana hit a huge splash from the top of the cage before locking in his patented Billy Goat's Curse submission hold. Adam Pearce tapped out and the series was won by Cabana 4-3.
Now you're probably thinking that this meant Colt Cabana was the new NWA World's Heavyweight Champion, but you would be wrong. You see, prior to the match taking place, the NWA Board of Directors for whatever reason would not allow Pearce to defend the title in this match. Therefore, after the match took place, Pearce grabbed a mic, and stated that as of now, he had resigned from the NWA and handed the title to Colt Cabana.
Colt, for his part, took the mic and said that he did not want to be associated with a company that refuses to evolve and robs the fans of big matches. They took their feud around some big towns and cities, and Colt realised that people cared more about the wrestlers than the title. Colt ended this by refusing to accept the title and therefore the NWA Title was vacant once more. You can find a full comprehensive write up of this feud here: https://wrestlingrecaps.com/2015/10/07/7-levels-of-hate-cabana-vs-pearce/
NWA did not wait long to crown a new champion, as just five nights later on November 2nd, at Wrath of Champions, Kahagas, who was the National Heavyweight Champion at the time, beat several competitors to win the vacant championship in an elimination match.
Japanese competitor Kahagas was a well-known independent competitor and carried the title well for 134 days. He was due to defend the title against Jax Dane at Monsters Ball on March 16th, 2013, but due to injury his opponent was changed to that of Rob Conway.
Now we all remember Rob Conway I'm sure from his time in WWE, where he formed La Resistance with Sylvain Grenier, but he never really pushed his way up the card in WWE. For NWA however, he was a star attraction alongside his tag team partner Jax Dane, whose place he had taken in this match.
Given the reputation of Conway and his less than stellar WWE departure sometime prior, you could have been forgiven for thinking he would be beaten easily. But this was not the case, and he actually beat Kahagas to become the NWA World's Heavyweight Champion. Not only that, but he and Dane won the NWA World Tag Team Championships a few months later, making Conway the only man to have held both titles simultaneously.
Conway's reign was a good one as well, as along the way he had matches in Japan where he beat Satoshi Kojima and Jushin "Thunder" Liger, as well as retaining against Chris Masters. He and Jax Dane competed in 2013's NJPW World Tag League, losing only one match. But that loss led to Conway losing the NWA World Title as he lost to the man that pinned him after 294 days as champion, Satoshi Kojima, at Wrestle Kingdom 8 on January 4th, 2014.
Kojima held the title for a decent amount of time, and as mentioned in a previous instalment is one of only three men to have held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, AJPW Triple Crown Championship and NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He made his first successful defence of the NWA Title against a wrestler named Big Daddy Yum-Yum, before defeating Rob Conway in his second defence, and Wes Brisco in his third. At the end of May 2014, Kojima travelled back to the United States to continue defending the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship, and after successful defences against Jeremiah Plunkett, Damien Wayne and Houston Carson, Kojima lost the title back to Rob Conway on June 2nd in Las Vegas.
Conway's second reign would be almost as long as his first at 257 days, and he spent a lot of his time in Japan that year, wrestling again in the World Tag League. This time however, he did not lose the NWA Title at Wrestle Kingdom. He did however lose the title on February 14th, 2015 at New Beginning in Sendai, to Hiroyoshi Tenzan.
Aside from two years in Europe, Tenzan has spent the vast majority of his career with NJPW, amassing numerous championship successes along the way. He is a four-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and a 12-time IWGP Tag Team Champion. He has also won three separate G1 Tag Leagues and G1 Climax tournaments, so it's safe to say that Tenzan is a big deal. Tenzan made successful defences against Satoshi Kojima and Big Daddy Yum-Yum, before losing the title to Jax Dane on August 29th, 2015 at World War Gold in San Antonio, Texas.
Dane had finally got his hands on the championship he was supposed to have a shot at over two years before, and he set about proving himself as Champion. And prove himself he did, as he held the title for fourteen months, before losing to Tim Storm on 21st October, 2016.
A teacher by day, Tim Storm was a veteran of the independent scene, and when I say veteran, I mean this was by no means his first run around the block. Since debuting in 1995, he spent most of his career with Texas based promotion, Professional Championship Wrestling, where he is a one-time Heavyweight Champion and five-time Tag Team Champion. He had a match against Big Daddy V on ECW on Syfy in 2007 which was about as much exposure as he had ever gotten.
At 51 years old, Tim Storm became the oldest person to ever win the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship, and he began a lengthy reign with the title, taking on all comers. most notably Jerry Lawler in his first defence, as well as beating Nick Aldis and Jocephus in separate defences also. Tim Storm became something of a cult celebrity due to his win, and there were news videos made of him, but his time as champion was brought to a close by a man he had defended the title against before; Nick Aldis.
Nick Aldis has become almost synonymous with the NWA World's Heavyweight Title since winning it on 9th December, 2017. Born in Norfolk, England, he began his career as most UK wrestlers do on the holiday park circuit for Brian Dixon's All-Star Wrestling, as well as DAM Productions, Summit Wrestling and the Knight family's World Association of Wrestling.
His career paused slightly when he was signed to the Sky TV revival of Gladiators, where he was the Big O, Oblivion, and he credits his time there as helping him to establish his promo style. Shortly after this, he was signed by TNA under the name Brutus Magnus, a modern-day Gladiator. He would have tremendous success in TNA, winning two TNA Tag Team Championships and one IWGP Tag Team Championship as part of the British Invasion with Doug Williams. He had great success as a singles wrestler too, shortening his name to Magnus, as he became TNA World Heavyweight Champion. He also held the short-lived Ring-Ka-King Heavyweight Title, which was TNA's ambitious attempt to break into the Indian market.
After leaving TNA he signed with Jeff Jarrett's Global Force Wrestling and was the GFW World Champion, but this title was effectively meaningless as the company had no TV deal and barely ever held shows. In the end they merged with TNA and Magnus returned for one night to drop the GFW Title to Alberto el Patron.
On May 1, 2017, it was reported that Billy Corgan, of Smashing Pumpkins fame, had agreed to purchase the National Wrestling Alliance. This included its name, rights, trademarks and championships. The purchase was confirmed by NWA president Bruce Tharpe later that same day, and Corgan's ownership took effect on October 1, 2017. Shortly before this, Aldis had made his debut for NWA and challenged Tim Storm to a match for the title, which became the first match of Billy Corgan's tenure on November 12th, 2017. Storm was successful in defending the title in that one, but the return match on 9th December saw Aldis take the win and the Championship.
After winning the title, Aldis embarked on the "Aldis Crusade" adopting the gimmick of a travelling Champion accepting all challengers to his title. He would defend the title twenty times in 60 days in a bid to reignite the prestige and honour of the Championship. The final defence in that run was against former champion Colt Cabana in China.
In the Summer of 2017, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, and Adam Page would announce their plan to hold an event, entitled "All In" after Dave Meltzer responded to a fan question asking if Ring of Honor could not sell 10,000 tickets to an event. Meltzer replied "Not any time soon", but Cody saw this as a challenge and tweeted Meltzer, saying "I'll take that bet, Dave", and the idea was born. It was later announced that Nick Aldis would defend his title against "The American Nightmare" Cody on the show. This match was hyped up massively, and tickets to the event sold out in record time. Everyone wanted to see Cody get the chance to win the same World Title his father Dusty had so famously held before.
Now we all know the story of Cody Rhodes. Debuting as the tag team partner of Hardcore Holly and holding the WWE World Tag Team Championships with him in 2007, betraying him and joining Legacy, then becoming Intercontinental Champion as "Dashing" Cody Rhodes. Cody is possibly one of the biggest names in the sport today.
Add to this his multiple other Tag Team Title reigns with Damien Sandow, Drew McIntyre, his brother Goldust, and Ted DiBiase Jr, he left a huge mark on WWE. But not as big as the one he is now trying to inflict with All Elite Wrestling. After spending a couple of years working with NJPW, Impact, Ring of Honor, and becoming ROH World Champion, Cody and the rest of the Elite held the All In show on 1st September, 2018.
At the 11,263 sell out attendance event, a visibly emotional Cody Rhodes defeated Nick Aldis to win the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. If you go back and watch the match, you can see how much it meant to Cody to win the title, as he won the championship his father had before him. Cody carried the belt with distinction for fifty days, before losing it back to Nick Aldis at the NWA 70th Anniversary Supershow on 21st October, 2018. Amazingly Nick Aldis is still in that same championship reign today, having clocked up 763 days as champion and still counting.
So there we have it, The complete history of the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. Overall, there have been 96 officially recognised reigns, with nine vacations.
The record for the longest reign as Champion goes to Lou Thesz with his first reign lasting 2,300 days, and he also holds the record for longest combined time as Champion at 3,749 days. Predictably, Shane Douglas holds the record for the shortest title reign at less than five minutes after the ECW Incident, and Ric Flair holds the record for most reigns with ten.
The youngest ever Champion at this point is Chris Candido, who was just 22 years old when he was victorious, and Tim Storm is the oldest Champion in history at 51 years old. But there is every chance that these records will be broken in the future, as more and more competitors join the newly revived NWA Promotion.
Overall, there can be no doubt that despite some real crazy twists and turns, the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship has an incredible legacy. Not only have the best wrestlers in the world held it, but it also spawned several other titles that you can see in the image below.
The NWA World's Heavyweight Championship has cemented it's place in history. It will forever be revered as one of the top championships in the world, and for my money, it is the most important championship in the world. With a hugely respected and impressive lineage such as this, the title will surely remain relevant for many years to come.
Thank you all so much for going on this journey with us, it's been a wild ride! As ever please leave us your comments we will of course reply to them! Please continue to support the website through our social media channels and of course our YouTube channel for podcasts.
Don't forget if you missed any parts of this series you can look back at them in these links:
I'll be back next week as we take on another journey through time with a look back in History!
To keep upto date with news from all the major promotions as well as the uk indies, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Listen to the podcast over on our YouTube channel, and don't forget to like & subscribe!