The National Wrestling Alliance has sanctioned hundreds of championships throughout its seventy-two year history. While we all know that major titles such the United States Heavyweight Championship, the World Tag Team Championship, and the Ten Pounds of Gold itself have been worn by some of the most storied names in professional wrestling, what’s perhaps surprising is that we also find many of those same names amongst the rolls of the more obscure and exotic championships in the NWA.
The National Wrestling Alliance Bahamas Heavyweight Championship is one of those titles. Originally the creation of the storied Championship Wrestling from Florida promotion, and interchangeably referred to as the NWA Florida Bahamas Championship, NWA Bahama Island Championship and NWA Florida Bahamian Championship, it ran from August of 1982 through January of 1987. With title matches contested exclusively in either Nassau or Tampa, the dates of title defenses and title changes were not well-kept by wrestling historians, leaving some fogginess around finer details.
The late Skip Young, wrestling at the time as Sweet Brown Sugar, was the first recognized Bahamas champion. A popular three-time Southern Heavyweight champion, Sugar would no-show a Bahamas title defense in October of 1982 and have his title’s fate decided without him present. “Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin would defeat a pre-Magnum Terry Allen at a CWF show in Florida to become the new champion, and would hold the title around forty-five days (short reigns would become tradition for this championship) before dropping it to eventual Mid-Atlantic and Central States champion Rufus R. Jones. “Freight Train” would in turn lose the strap to Canadian Football League veteran and naturalized-Canadian superstar Angelo “King Kong” Mosca sometime in April of 1983.
It is “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes who would hold the title next, adding further star power to the line of champions. It is also here where a little of that fogginess returns, as Rhodes would vacate the championship either in 1984 or early 1985 upon making the jump to Jim Crockett Promotions. The title appears to sit inactive for this indeterminate period until a tournament is held in February of 1985 in Nassau. Strangely, the exact winner of that tournament is not catalogued – though it may have been Pez Whatley, himself a two-time NWA Southern Heavyweight champion. He is not listed in any official lineage as the NWA Bahamas Heavyweight champion, however, and as such the title sits inactive until October of 1985, when “Playboy” Buddy Rose defeats Whatley to claim the championship.
“The Haitian Sensation” Tyree Pride would be next to claim the prize, and would also be the man that most people find synonymous with the Bahamas championship today. Pride held the title three times between October of 1985 and August of 1986, losing it briefly to “Golden Boy” Jerry Grey and NWA journeyman “Outlaw” Ron Bass. With Lex Luger picking up the title for a few scant weeks, Pride won it back for the final time in a tag team match that included Luger, Bass, and late Florida Heavyweight champion Ed Gantner, where the wrestler who got the pin won the championship.
Chris Champion, likely most notably known for his “New Breed” tag team with Sean Royal during his early days, held the championship next. After fifty-six days, he would lose the title to Steve Armstrong, son of the legendary “Bullet” Bob Armstrong and wrestling in the CWF at the time as “The Falcon”. Armstrong would hold it seventy days – the longest reign of anyone other than Rhodes or Pride – before losing the title to Bad News Allen. Allen rounds out the stars on this list as the last champion, unifying it with the Florida version of the NWA Southern Heavyweight Championship in January of 1987. Championship Wrestling from Florida would be purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions just a month or two later.
The title was revived for a short time by Howard Brody’s NWA Ring Warriors promotion between May of 2012 and November of 2014 as the NWA Florida Bahamian Championship. As celebrated at the time by NWA GOLD’s home site of Alliance Wrestling (www.alliance-wrestling.com), Chance Prophet, later a two-time NWA National Champion, became the first modern era champion when he defeated The Giant Titan to win the title. He’d hold it four hundred and eighty-seven days until losing it to Alex Chamberlain, whose own reign lasted over a year until the title was retired in the NWA in September of 2013. The title continued without NWA status after that time.
The two versions of the belt were both attractive and distinct. The first is silver plated, with the Coat of Arms for the Bahamas on an oval center plate flanked by two palm trees, some fleur de lis, several stars, two islands and a beach upon the sea, all of which speak to the history and European discovery of the island. The plate itself is painted in blue, red and white, and is shaped overall like many belts of the area and time, including the Florida Television Championship and the Florida version of the Southern Heavyweight Championship. There are four oval side plates, with the inner two sporting the Bahamian flag and the outer plates showing the traditional title belt image of two combatants engaged in a contest. The second version, of legendary trophy king George Levy design, is simpler, with a base silver main plate similar to the original but sporting two Olympic torches and rings – likely marking involvement from the historic 1968 Olympics, where the torch passed through Bahamas, following the same route Christopher Columbus took to the New World. The side plates on the strap, which is wider and deeper than the original, boast the Bahamian flags.
As mentioned at the top, the NWA Bahamas Heavyweight Championship struck many of us not directly exposed to the Florida territory as both somehow and exotic and obscure at the same time. The Bahamas seemed like a paradise a million miles away, and the relevance of their championship a quirky but fun choice. But if it can be hard to reconcile the importance of titles like these with the reverence that we place on titles such as the Worlds Heavyweight Championship, one need look no further than the list of men who the belt was placed upon to understand the connection between the two. In Alliance Wrestling’s notation of Prophet’s win as Bahamian champion, they write that “Chance Prophet took one next step closer to the National Wrestling Alliance’s legendary 10lbs of Gold.”This is no mere flattery: the list of NWA Bahamas champions boasts names that include two National champions, two World Television champions, three World Tag Team champions, a Canadian champion, a North American champion, two United States champions, and one NWA Worlds Heavyweight champion.
For all of us, it was these second-tier, regionally-based titles that made up the very foundation of the National Wrestling Alliance for years. They provided opportunities for young talent to grow upon, for territories to feature the stars of tomorrow with, and for local fans to someday be able to see a legend on their television sets and tell their kids, “I saw him when.”
- Tim Wood, NWA GOLD
- Bahamas Heavyweight Championship title history: Wrestling Titles (www.wrestling-titles.com/namerica/bah/bah-h.html)
- Chance Prophet article: Alliance Wrestling https://alliance-wrestling.com/your-new-nwa-ring-warriors-bahamas-champion/
- Wrestler statistics:
- Chamberlain, Prophet: Cagematch (www.cagematch.net)
- Titan, Pride, Grey: Pro Wrestling Fandom (www.prowrestling.fandom.com)
- Ring Warriors fan page: www.facebook.com/ringwarriors
- Chance Prophet w/ NWA Ring Warriors Florida Bahamian Championship: www.wrestling-alliance.com
- Bahamas Championship center plate: Dave Millican (www.davemillicanbelts.com)
- Secondary strap (Levy version): Photo courtesy of Rodney Sobelson. Used with permission. (www.facebook.com/rodney.sobelson)
- Bahamas Championship photos, #1, #2, #3: Pinterest. User TBD. (www.pinterest.com)