The history of building, maintaining, and growing the United Wrestling Network
Written by Todd Keneley
Currently, United Wrestling Network programming including UWN’s flagship weekly one-hour studio professional wrestling program Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, its partner promotion Championship Wrestling from Arizona, and several regional versions of the CWFH broadcast is available on over 130 television outlets across North America. This equates to 75% domestic market coverage. United Wrestling Network programming also airs on additional international television outlets, as well as other platforms including the FITE ap and YouTube. This level of media exposure came with a lot of effort, an extremely stringent budget, and an origin story with many twists and turns. The over decade long Journey of the United Wrestling Network illustrates how this collective of professional wrestling programs and promotions has become affectionately known as “The Little Engine that Could”.
The Studio System
Televised professional wrestling in a studio setting was a fixture in the dawn of broadcast television. This time-tested presentation of professional wrestling recently garnered a renewed level of appreciation with the response to the relaunch of the National Wrestling Alliance, and its weekly studio wrestling program NWA Powerrr. The United Wrestling Network was instrumental in the launch of the new NWA, and had made moves in resurrecting the studio wrestling format over a decade prior.
UWN President David Marquez has been referred to by some as the “king of modern studio wrestling”. Marquez first entered that field in Missouri, looking to develop a sustainable television program that was fairly inexpensive and easy to produce, with the ability to leverage it to sell advertising. This is the exact recipe that made studio wrestling such a viable option in the early days of television. Marquez helped to create World League Wrestling in Missouri, attracting legendary wrestler Harley Race and iconic wrestling broadcaster Gordon Solie to take part in the program. Eventually, Marquez made his way to California where he produced the likes of Ultimate Pro Wrestling, MTV’s Wrestling Society X and others. Marquez partnered with Big Vision Entertainment for the earliest incarnation of Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, which took place with a series of tapings at Columbia Square Studios in Hollywood. The program known at the time as NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood would help shape current United Wrestling Network and NWA programming as well. Current NWA executive David Lagana was involved in creative and production on these early CWFH episodes which were star studded to say the least. The roster at the time included the likes of Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Adam Pearce, The Young Bucks, Trevor Murdoch, Blue Demon Jr. and many more. United Wrestling Network will soon open the vault and re-release some of these early matches featuring many of today’s top stars with a weekly segment called “Heritage Hall”.
An Ultimate Return
While the episodes shot at Columbia Square Studios had high production value, and a roster that would make any wrestling promotion jealous, the show didn’t land in its expected television home of KTLA Los Angeles at the time. David Marquez eventually found a new home for the launch of Championship Wrestling from Hollywood on KDOC, where the program continues to air ten years later. The first tapings for the launch on KDOC took place at The Galaxy Theater in Orange County, CA. The Galaxy had an illustrious history in Southern California wrestling in the past as the home of Rick Bassman’s Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW). As previously noted, Marquez was a producer for UPW during that time. UPW launched the careers of many top wrestling stars including John Cena and Samoa Joe, who wrestled their first matches in the Galaxy. It is fitting that CWFH filmed at The Galaxy Theater as well, as the tradition of creating some of the top stars in wrestling at the venue was reignited. Peter Avalon wrestled Colt Cabana in the first CWFH televised match from the Galaxy. It was a losing effort for Avalon, who would then undergo an incredible growth process career wise under the United banner. Avalon became the longest reigning Heritage Champion in program history, had high profile matches with Nick Aldis, David Arquette and others. Avalon even went on to face his original opponent Cabana not only in CWFH, but AEW as well. Other stand out talent at the time that would use experience in the Galaxy Theater as a career springboard included Scorpio Sky, Joey Ryan, TJ Perkins and many more.
A Growing Heritage
Over the years, Championship Wrestling From Hollywood had several venue changes. After CWFH’s run at The Galaxy, homes for its events included Glendale Studios and the Showcase Theater in Hollywood. Though the venue may have changed, the quality of action and talent had never been higher. Current NWA and AEW stars respectively, Eli Drake and Brian Cage benefitted from being under the learning tree of legendary manager Percy Pringle (Paul Bearer). Percy had a huge impact both in front of the camera and behind it, imparting his wisdom on the talent. His legacy continues to be celebrated by the company to this day with an annual tournament for the PP3 (Percy Pringle the 3rd) Cup. Percy would influence other colorful managers and personalities on the show at the time like Stu Stone, and current mouthpieces in The United Wrestling Network Howdy Price, Halston Boddy, and Jamie Iovine. Another of today’s top stars, Willie Mack won his first singles title in United during this period, when he became the TV Champion in a competitive rivalry with Scorpio Sky. The battles between Sky and Mack over the TV Title would become a highlight in both of their young careers. Other highly regarded talent including Austin Aries, Timothy Thatcher, and Drew Gulak among others took notice and called CWFH home during this time. “Scrap Iron” Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana had a captivating feud for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship that generated buzz in wrestling, entertainment, and on the internet. With momentum at an all-time high, the company even produced large arena events drawing thousands of spectators to venues including the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Everything was on the upswing for United Wrestling Network and CWFH, or so it seemed.
A Fork in the Road
Just as momentum for the company was at a fever pitch, it was thrown a major curveball. Adam Pearce and Colt Cabana were in the middle of a high profile and widely publicized series of matches for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship dubbed “The 7 Levels of Hate” in 2011. These epic clashes to finally settle the score between the rivals each had a unique stipulation, and took place in CWFH and partner promotions. The NWA had new management at the time, which stripped David Marquez of the ability to promote the NWA on his television programming in a controversial and counterproductive flex of power and authority. The 7 Levels of Hate ended in an “unsanctioned” steel cage match in Australia in which Cabana defeated Pearce to win the best of seven series. Pearce handed the NWA Title to Cabana who in turn left it in the cage, and both walked away from the National Wrestling Alliance. Marquez had no choice but to move on from the NWA, a shame because United programming through CWFH had done a lot to showcase and promote the talent and title.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. As a result of the split from the NWA, The United Wrestling Network was officially born and branded. A partner promotion to CWFH was launched in the form of Championship Wrestling from Arizona. The United Wrestling Network became the sanctioning body for the company’s own championships including the Hollywood Heritage Championship, United Television Championship, United Tag Team Championship, and Arizona State Championship. The company also branched out to offer regional broadcasts of UWN programming in Memphis, Amarillo, and San Francisco with more to come. The United Wrestling Network also created annual blockbuster events including Red Carpet Rumble, PP3 Cup, Coastline Clash, and Milestone in CWFH. Grand Canyon Clash, Cavalcade of Champions, and Silver Spotlight became yearly blockbuster events for CWFAZ. Some of wrestling’s biggest stars such as AJ Styles, X-PAC, Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jake Hager have also mixed it up with United Wrestling Network talent on UWN blockbuster events.
Reclaiming The Glory
The NWA management that stripped Marquez of promotional rights eventually relinquished the rights to the oldest sanctioning body in pro wrestling. William Patrick Corgan and David Lagana resurrected the once iconic brand, and looked to return the luster to the legendary Ten Pounds of Gold. To do that, they called on David Marquez and his resources to help in the relaunch efforts. Tim Storm appeared in front of the CWFH audience with the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title. Everything had truly come full circle, dating back to the Columbia Square Studios tapings. Some of the first matches of the rebranded NWA including the first clash between Storm and current Champion Nick Aldis took place at CWFH. Once again, United Wrestling Network was a valued springboard and catalyst for success. UWN and the NWA partnered on a historic event that became the first pro wrestling event from The People’s Republic of China to be broadcast in North America. It was also the first NWA Title defense in China in the over 70 year history of the NWA. The challenger for Nick Adis on that historic event was none other than Colt Cabana, victim of the controversial decisions by the previous NWA management. It was truly redemption for Marquez, Cabana, and The United Wrestling Network. The partnership between UWN and NWA remains strong. The NWA Worlds Title, Women’s Worlds Title, North American Title, and World Tag Team Titles have all been defended on United Wrestling Network programming. On the flipside, United Wrestling Network in-ring, broadcast, and production talent have played a big role on NWA Powerrr and pay-per-view events.
Clear the Tracks
The United Wrestling Network programming is run by by a small collective of dedicated, hard- working staff members who wear many hats to build the brand. The dedicated UWN staff are collectively rolling up their sleeves and giving their all to bring United to the next level. In today’s ultra-competitive landscape, where some wrestling companies are throwing around tens of millions of dollars, UWN is and always has operated on a shoe-string budget. (Although recently, the biggest companies in sports entertainment had to adopt a version of the studio wrestling system. UWN programming has held up quite nicely in terms of quality and execution against its vastly more expensive counterparts). United’s home venue, the Oceanview Pavilion, is a live events venue and also an adult daycare facility for people with special needs. Oceanview Pavilion management and staff along with UWN production staff have managed to transform it into a top- notch filming location for studio professional wrestling (So much so that other promotions, including Impact Wrestling, have used it as a location for their television programming). UWN is in the process of creating an extensive slate of new behind-the-scenes content designed to bring fans closer to the product and the effort that goes into it, than ever before. Additionally, United is in the process of partnering with leading Agencies, Podcast Platforms, Merchandisers and other industry professionals to take things to the next level. The United Wrestling Network has entered the squared circle and taken its rightful place under the bright lights, to kick “The Little Engine that Could” into a whole new gear!