One of the good things about going to the NWA Invasion Houston Show was I got a chance to meet and have short conversations with several of the wrestlers, including Jax Dane, Ray Rowe, Lance Erikson, and Damien Wayne at the “Meet and Greet.” I do my best to remember my place at these events. These people may be “friends” on Facebook, but on the day of an event they are all busy and my job to support them is to stay out of the way. I introduce myself, shake their hands, have a brief exchange and move on so other fans can have their turn. Two people who were not officially part of the Meet and Greet but were also walking around happened to be the NWA President and Vice-President, Bruce Tharpe and Chris Ronquillo.
Not the shyest of people anymore, when the opportunity presented itself at different times I did the same with them, went up and introduced myself, shook their hands, and had a brief conversation. I was a little surprised that both seemed have at least a small idea of who I (as DKM) from my time with the Alliance Guys and some of the Facebook groups. Now in the past I had exchanged some messages with Mr. Ronquillo for an interview and recently he answered some questions about the NWA Invasion event so I could make my plans. I had never directly communicated with Mr. Tharpe before so that I rang a bell in his memory is impressive (to me at least). Again, being the night of the event I tried my best to stay out of the way.
The next morning JES (see my review of the show) and I got up and got ready to head home so we went down to the lobby to get some breakfast and I once again ran in to Bruce and Chris in the lobby. I had stayed in the “official” hotel of the event as had several of the wrestlers it turns out. Some of them asked how we had liked the event and separately I was able to have some brief conversations, including with Bruce and Chris.
OK, I hear you asking, “Great name dropping DKM, but Brad, Angelina, and I would like you to get to the point.” Well a lot of people are trying to evaluate the “new” NWA since a year has passed with the new ownership in place. “Is the NWA better off?” is being asked and in some corners there is a lot of negativity often limited to the very carefully thought out, “They suck.” I always say, “Criticism is easy, anyone can do it.” So I’m going to look at some of the good things that have happened.
Rob Conway as the NWA World champion has exceeded most people’s expectations. When he first won the title many thought he would hold it long enough to lose it in Japan. Instead Conway has victories over the likes of Kojima, Nakanishi, and a true wrestling legend Jushin Thunder Liger. In addition to those defenses here in the states he has faced and beaten the likes of Chris Masters, Rhyno, Ricky Morton, Chase Stevens, NWA stand outs Kahagas and Damien Wayne, and local NWA stars like Bryon Wilcott and Chris Richards. In seven months Conway has proven himself worthy of being called NWA World champion.
The deal with New Japan opened doors and created several benefits as well. The last American NWA Champion to defend the title as much as Conway has in Japan was probably Ric Flair. The relationships also lead to the Invasion Weekend and a couple of very successful seminars. According to Mr. Tharpe over 30 enrolled and attended the clinic which was headed up by World Champion Conway and Jax Dane and took place in front of a New Japan group consisting of NJPW booker Gedo, Mr. Hattori, Watanabe, Tenzan and Jushin “Thunder” Liger himself.
While various lament the loss of some of the old promotions, the addition of promotions like NWA Southern All-Star Wrestling, NWA Championship International Wrestling, and NWA Branded Outlaw Wrestling has helped the NWA reach new fans. NWA Houston and NWA Smoky Mountain continue to grow and get stronger. Still other promotions are inquiring and seeking information.
I’ll be the first to admit I have not been a fan of everything that has been done and if you have followed the message board you will know what I have said. I’m sure even Bruce and Chris would like to have a “do over” or two on some decisions. Yes, mistakes have been made, but as long as they learn from them, then I’m OK. Furthermore, they have tried to learn not only from their mistakes but from other past mistakes as well. They applied some lessons learned from troubles with the promotion of past NWA events like the Ohio State Fair cards and the World Junior Heavyweight tournament in Charlotte when promoting the Parade of Champions and NWA/NJPW Invasion cards, both of which were successful.
Bruce Tharpe has also has traveled a great deal to see the promotions at work and some of the many talents used around the NWA and internationally. Based out of Brownsville, Texas he has made four trips to Japan and visited Toledo, Tampa, St. Louis, Nashville and North Carolina as well as the promotions in Houston and San Antonio. Why? Believe it or not, it is because he cares, because he wants to introduce himself, shake people’s hands, and look them in the eye when he talks to them.
I know, “Dude, do you have a point yet?” Yes and here it is:
Despite what troubles there have been I feel positive about the future. When you get to meet a person, talk to him, look him in the eye, read his body language, and hear his tone you learn a lot about him. You know when they are trying to sell you a bridge, rattling off clichés, or just plain fantasizing. When I talked to Bruce, Chris, and the wrestlers what I got was passion, optimism, and purpose. These are people who have a thought out plan and vision. Things may not being happening as fast as some may like but but they aren’t in this for short term gain, they all have commitment. From Tharpe, Ronquillo, the wrestlers and even the ticket takers, they are in this for the long haul and you may be surprised by what happens next.