The National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship

THE NATIONAL WRESTLING ALLIANCE WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPIONSHIP

The National Wrestling Alliance World Television Heavyweight Wrestling Championship is a secondary title that has traditionally been contested on weekly NWA programs. With matches usually set for a short time limit, the championship has served to spotlight the work of talented performers and as a springboard to elevate them higher on to card.

Historically, there were times in the fifties when the Chicago version of the NWA United States Championship was billed as the World Television Championship. There are strong ties in the seventies pointing to the NWA Mid-Atlantic Television Championship and the subsequent NWA Television Championship as the predecessors to our subject today, and there is also a connection to the NWA National Television Championship that in turn has roots in the NWA Georgia Television Championship. Some consideration could also be given to calling Dusty Rhodes the first NWA World Television Champion in 1985, and while that title became the World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship in 1991, the NWA brought back their version in 2019.

While that seems clear as mud, it’s not as bad as it sounds. To sort it out, let’s start in the Mid-Atlantic region in 1974.

On February 27th, “Dandy” Danny Miller defeated Ole Anderson in a tournament final to become the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Television Champion at the WRAL Television Studios in Raleigh, North Carolina. The tournament had all been shown on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in previous weeks, with Miller defeating The Destroyer in the semi-finals beforehand. His reign would be relatively short-lived, as “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff would take that title from him in May before entering a popular feud with Paul Jones over a lost arm wrestling contest. The two would battle in some wild fights over the next six months, trading the title back and forth twice apiece… until a young up and comer would steal the title away from Jones.

The Mid-Atlantic Television Championship would mark Ric Flair’s first singles title in the sport of professional wrestling. Now easily the most famous of all Mid-Atlantic Television champions, Flair would take the title from Jones in February of 1975. He would drop the title back to Jones in August of the same year after a respectable six months as champion, but Jones would vacate within a few months upon winning the United States Heavyweight Championship. While Flair was bound for greater things, he would eventually return to the list of multiple-time TV champions.

Angelo Mosca won a tournament on WRAL television in April of 1976, going over “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods in the finals with a handful of tights. The level of competition and talent in Mid-South at this time cannot be overstated: Swede Hanson, Doug Gilbert, Ken Patera, Red Bastien, Johnny Weaver, Tiger Conway, Danny Miller and Larry Zybysko all participated in the tournament. Although Mosca would lose to and regain the title from Paul Jones, Woods would finally get his justice in October of ’76 with a victory for the championship. It would be short-lived, as Greg Valentine would take the strap in November and enter a brutal feud with Rufus Jones over the next three months that would see the title switch back and forth four times. Rufus (incorrectly confused by some sources as SD Jones) would then leave the territory and drop the title to Valentine’s partner, Ric Flair.

Rufus R. “Freight Train” Jones with the Mid-Atlantic Television Championship.

Enter Ricky Steamboat. After a brush-off of the up-and-comer by Flair and Valentine on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in May of ’77, Steamboat – a complete underdog and new to the area – would take the championship from Flair the following month and become a superstar overnight. This is widely considered the match that made Steamboat a name. It was also the beginning of the first feud between the two, who together would move into title versus title matches in the coming months, with Flair putting up the US championship against Steamboat’s TV title. They would go on someday to wrestle for the NWA Worlds Championship in what is thought by many to be the best trilogy of title matches in NWA history.

Steamboat would eventually drop the title to an on-fire Baron Von Raschke, who had been spouting his German superiority and terrorizing the region with his “brain claw”. Interestingly, he was billed as winning a tournament of all the regional NWA Television champions during his reign. Although this did not actually appear to have happened, it gave Mid-Atlantic the opportunity to rename the championship the National Wrestling Alliance Television Championship. It would not be the last name change for this title.

After Raschke and the great Johnny Weaver traded the title, the fifth and final reign by Paul Jones began – and it was a doozy, as “Number One” served a remarkable three hundred and sixty-eight days as champion. Now a heel, Jones finally entered a No Disqualification Match against Ricky Steamboat on June 7th in Virginia, with the young challenger stating that if he did not defeat Jones he would never wrestle in Norfolk again. Steamboat defeated Jones, putting an end to his iron grip on the title and serving as champion for about five months before vacating the title upon winning the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship with partner Jay Youngblood.

A period of vacancies and tournaments would follow. While The Masked Superstar would defeat Blackjack Mulligan in the finals of a tournament in April of 1980 to fill the vacant title, he’d inexplicably give it up because Paul Jones was his new partner, and presumably wanted his championship back. Jones himself would go all the way to the finals of the next tournament, only to lose to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the finals. Piper himself served less than ninety days as champion, vacating upon winning the United States title. The third tournament would be won by Sweet Ebony Diamond, a masked wrestler who, after his win, was beaten down and revealed to be Rocky Johnson (the father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). He would enter a bitter feud and trade the strap twice with his assailant, Greg Valentine, over the next month or so.

Ron Bass would hold the title a couple of months until Ivan Koloff entered his third reign. The title takes an interesting twist in January 1982, though, as Mid-Atlantic travelled to this author’s hometown of Toronto, Ontario Canada. Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling had a strong fan base in Toronto, promoted by Jack Tunney (later kayfabe President of the World Wrestling Federation) through Maple Leaf Wrestling. Jimmy Valiant would defeat Koloff in a match, but the aftermath is extremely murky. Valiant appears to have won the title in January of 1982 in Vermont, again in Toronto in June, and again in October, but Koloff is recognized as Television champion after previous champion Jos LeDuc is caught using the ropes for leverage in a title defense against Johnny Weaver. To make things muddier, what’s recognized in Charlotte isn’t recognized in Canada. Regardless, Bad Leroy Brown would win a twenty-man Battle Royal in Greensboro in November to fill that vacant championship.

After spotlighting a young Mike Rotundo as Television champion for a couple of months between December of 1982 and February of 1983, Dick Slater would follow, holding the title a couple of months – minus a week, when Piper returned to hold the strap. Jos Leduc returned for a second reign until The Great Kabuki took the title, holding it for the next six months after his victory in South Carolina. Wrapping up 1983 was a title win by Charlie Brown, the famous masked identity of Jimmy Valiant, who vacated the title in January of 1984 when his identity was “revealed”.

By 1984, the title had been fought for by some of the greatest names in pro wrestling over the last ten years. While the parade of superstars attached to it would only continue to grow, the championship belt itself would soon get another makeover and name change. After Mark Youngblood won an eight-man tournament for the strap in March of 1983, Tully Blanchard would hold the title a full year, dominating all comers and securing his name as one of the top performers to ever wear the title. It was “The American Dream” that finally wrestled it away, and it is during this period that the famous red-plated Television championship design was introduced. The championship’s name also changed again, this time to the National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship.

The feud between Rhodes and Blanchard over this championship would be waged over much of 1985. Trading the title back and forth, Rhodes would be stripped of the championship when he could not defend it following a famous angle where his leg was broken (kayfabe) by Ric Flair and Ole and Arn Anderson. Arn himself, another name eventually synonymous with this title, would win a tournament for the vacant strap in early 1986 and hold it the better part of a year. While Dusty would return to take it from him, he would lose it to Blanchard shortly thereafter, and Blanchard’s second reign would also be a long one, ending only when beaten by Nikita Koloff in August of 1987. Although Koloff would hold the title a solid 162 days, perhaps the most notable part of his reign was the unification match he would have at Starcade ’87 with the Universal Wrestling Federation Television Champion, Terry Taylor. Jim Crockett Promotions was merging the UWF into his own promotion at the time and the angle played out over that as a backdrop.

While Mike Rotunda would trade the title back and forth with former Varsity Club stablemate Rick Steiner through the early months of 1989, an emerging Sting would win the title in March – only to have it held up in July following a match with The Great Muta. September of ’89 would see Muta take the title in a rematch, but a returning Arn Anderson would cement his TV title legacy by winning and holding the title for almost a year himself. That reign could have been longer, as Tom Zenk’s reign would last just over a month until Anderson would win it back in early 1991.

It is here that we pause. Although this title legacy continues in World Championship Wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance involvement arguably ends here, as in January of 1991 WCW began referring to this championship as the World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship. Stepping back from the details of the title scene to look at the wrestling world with a wider lens, we note that WCW had risen to prominence in recent years, its Mid-Atlantic roots now set firmly in the past, and we understand that the need for NWA involvement had severely diminished. While champions Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton and Barry Windham would hold the physical NWA World Television title belt, WCW champions over the next decade (including legends such as Paul Orndorff, Steven Regal, Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T and Chris Jericho) would hold several other physical versions of the title. While there is no doubt the legacies of the titles are intertwined, the involvement of the National Wrestling Alliance either ends during the name change in January of 1991 or the formal withdrawal of WCW from the NWA ranks in 1993, when Windham was champion.

That is until 2019. The National Wrestling Alliance, now a single entity under the leadership of Billy Corgan, brought back the NWA Television Championship. With a new rule stating that the time limit on championship matches would be six minutes and five seconds (a throwback to the 6:05 start time of World Championship Wrestling Saturday Night, and also the start time of NWA Powerrr on YouTube) and the “Lucky Seven Rule” where any TV champion who defends the title successfully seven times in a row automatically gets a shot at the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship, a tournament was held that saw Ricky Starks defeat Trevor Murdoch in the finals at the “Hard Times” pay-per-view event. At the time of writing, “Outlandish” Zicky Dice is the only other NWA World Television Champion to date.

As mentioned at the beginning of this title biography, roots for this title can also be pointed to the NWA Georgia Television Championship that would become the NWA National Television Championship. That championship, with its iconic green, red and blue title belt, sits prominently in the memories of the fans who remember it fondly. It too had a two-year run as the NWA World Television Championship between 1983 and 1985, and while several sources admittedly link the lineage tightly with our title here, this author has elected to separate it out due to its different lineage and distinct roots as a title worthy of its own biography.  

The belts themselves are all distinct, but share common symbols such as TV network logos, standing cameras and a five-plate concept. While the original all-gold design was similar to other belts of the time (smaller, which was the norm before belts got bigger in the years to follow, and with a convex top and bottom), the green-on-gold design features wrestlers in a contest before a ring, with the NBC peacock and the two wrestlers on their side plates. For many older fans this design is the most loved of them all, but there is no doubt that the most well-known is the red-plated design currently in use. (A recent poll by NWA GOLD showed that the preferred style was the red leather strap variant, which was used for a short time; the black leather strap version used today has been used much more frequently). That design, featuring a traditional eagle and standing cameras above a banner and a ring, has logos on the side plates for the three longstanding cable networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) as well as a satellite television dish.

While there are other professional wrestling titles considered more prestigious, the National Wrestling Alliance World Television Championship ranks amongst the most beloved. Its constant exposure on weekly programming gave it a distinct sense of purpose and feel that fans identified with, especially in a studio wrestling setting.  In addition to elevating so many of the stars who would hold it over the years, it also elevated other champions: with the TV title fought for weekly, contests for higher-tier championships such as the NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship or NWA Worlds Championship could remain off television, motivating fans to see those belts defended on live crowd shows, supercards or pay-per-view events. Long a stepping-stone for younger talent and wrestlers in need of exposure, it quickly became an important focal point for fans of pro wrestling television broadcasting. Even today, the fact that no actual on-air television programming exists for the NWA did not deter the excitement of the fans at the news of its return to their successful internet show, Powerrr.

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[NOTES AND SOURCES:]

Even a brief biography on a Mid-Atlantic championship cannot be written without consulting the valuable records for on The Mid-Atlantic Gateway (www.midatlanticgateway.com, and specific links below). For those interested, it is a treasure-trove of information.

Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Almanac, by David Chappell: http://midatlanticwrestling.net/almanac/almanac_index.htm

“The Canadian Heavyweight Title: The Complete History 1978-1984” (for Toronto connection, found on Mid-Atlantic Gateway), by Andrew Calvert, www.mapleleafwrestling.com: can be purchased on https://www.amazon.com/dp/1696405610

As always, I consider Wrestling-Titles.Com (www.wrestling-titles.com) to be the only reliable source for wrestling title history, and have quickly come to trust them as the definitive site when other accounts differ. Their research is thorough and top-notch. If there is one piece of advice I can give fellow researchers and novice historians of wrestling, it is to seek out the sources like this that have done the work: Wikipedia and YouTube are not reliable.

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Title [Mid-Atlantic/JCP], World Championship Wrestling World Television Title History: https://www.wrestling-titles.com/wcw/wcw-tv.html

National Wrestling Alliance World Television Title History: https://www.wrestling-titles.com/nwa/world/nwa-tv.html

National Wrestling Alliance Television Title History: https://www.wrestling-titles.com/us/ga/nwa/nat-tv.html#8503

NWA/WCW Television History video, Useless Wrestling Knowledge, uploader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpKGvUnaimA

Greg Valentine vs. Sweet Ebony Diamond (Rocky Johnson), Old School Wrasslin, uploader: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZ3CgnZMcuU

NWA World Television Championship (stub), Pro Wrestling Fandom: https://prowrestling.fandom.com/wiki/NWA_World_Television_Championship

NWA National Television Championship (stub), Pro Wrestling Fandom: https://prowrestling.fandom.com/wiki/NWA_National_Television_Championship

Lucky 7 Rule Explanation (stub), 411 Mania: https://411mania.com/wrestling/dave-lagana-lucky-7-rule-nwa-tv-championship/

[PHOTO SOURCES]

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