NASHVILLE — Judging by the National Wrestling Alliance’s 52nd Convention card on Saturday night at the historic Nashville Fairgrounds, showcasing wrestling talent isn’t the promotion’s problem. It’s the presentation and packaging.

While the WWF and WCW can put on multi-million dollar extravaganzas, the little guys can’t. And the NWA is a collection of those little guys, promoters co-operating with each other, recognizing set of world champions since 1948.

These are the promotions running the same towns and locations week after week or month after month. Nashville is a prime example of such a promotion.

The NWA Worldwide is a promotion owned by Bill Behrens out of Atlanta, and run locally by Bert Prentice. It promotes around the state, and has a weekly TV slot in Nashville. They were the hosts for the Convention and the weekend wrestling cards. (There is also one Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.)

Nashville has always had wrestling. Nick Gulas and his family ran the territory for years, then the Jarretts ran it, while based out of Memphis. From there, a few different promoters have tried, but the fans are still around. You wouldn’t call it a WWF or WCW crowd, and especially not an ECW crowd. It was a traditional crowd, getting excited for their favourites, booing the bad guys but never being rude, obnoxious or ‘smart’/’smark’ like crowds at the big shows.

The NWA Worldwide, as promoters, spotlighted their wrestlers and company Saturday night instead of the NWA as a whole — and by doing so, ruined what was a pretty good card.

Prentice used up more than 40 minutes after the intermission handing out awards to his wrestlers and his fans. A showcase NWA event was hardly the place to do this. His actions meant that the main event, a decent showing by recently-crowned NWA World champion ‘Colorado’ Mike Rapada over ‘Wildcat’ Chris Harris (both local wrestlers), didn’t event start until 11:12 by this reporter’s watch. Then the match was further marred by two run-ins by wrestlers who had not previously been on the card at all, and therefore were unknown quantities.

No effort was made, either in the program or to the live crowd, to explain what the NWA stood for, meant or even the reason for there being a convention in Nashville.

A large screen was set up in one corner of the arena, but only used for a brief, cheezy introduction to the show, and then for a very-well done feature on Kodiak Steve Hall Jr. — a local wrestler who was not even wrestling on that evening’s show. Couldn’t the screen have been used to promo the wrestlers in the ring? Especially given that some like ECCW’s Tony Kozina came all the way from Portland, Oregon. Couldn’t there have been a video tribute to Boston NWA promoter Tony Rumble, who died last year, instead of everyone in the ring having to say something?

The whole convention started at noon with a fan meet and greet and collectibles show. However, you could count the number of dealer booths on one hand, and you could probably count the entire attendance using your fingers and toes. It simply was not advertised enough. There was a computer show as well on the fairgrounds, but not even a simple sign at that show saying that their was a free wrestling collectibles show a building over.

Yet, in the ring, things were great for the most part. The WWF developmental talent from the Ohio Valley promotion — Nick Dinsmore and Damaja beat Rob Conway and Flash Flanagan — were easily the best of the bunch, with the B.C.-based ECCW getting a great showing from the now-former NWA World Junior Heavyweight champ Kozina, who lost to a talent Vince Kaplack from Pittsburgh. Also deserving mention was the NWA World tag title match, where frequent competitors Bad Attitude (Rick Michaels and David Young) retained the belts against The Hotshots (Air Paris and Cassidy O’Reilly).

If the NWA wants to start being taken seriously, then they are going to have to start promoting seriously. The wrestling in the ring seems to take care of itself. But a pitiful turnout of less than 300 people for your marquee show of the year just doesn’t cut it.

The Card

NWA WORLD TITLE: MAIN EVENT: Mike Rapada retained the NWA World title, defeating Chris Harris.

NWA WORLD TAG TITLES: Bad Attitude (Rick Michaels and David Young) retained the belts against The Hotshots (Air Paris and Cassidy O’Reilly). A good, fast-paced, entertaining match. Air Paris is one to watch, a total Sean Waltman/1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac type who takes awesome bumps, sells great and has some great moves.

NWA WORLD JUNIOR TITLE: Pittsburgh’s Vince Kaplack upset ECCW’s Tony Kozina to win the title. Kaplack showed the best facial expressions of the night, and brought some great heat on himself after the match when he sang along to Rick Springfield’s ‘Jesse’s Girl.’ Kozina did some awesome aerial manouevers. A side-note to this match: Kozina still actually has the belt, because neither he, nor ECCW promoter Dave Republic remembered to bring the title with them to Nashville. Probably wouldn’t have been allowed across the border anyways.

NWA LADIES TITLE: (Actually announced as the Women’s Ladies Championship.) Strawberry beat Lelani Kai to retain the title with a sunset flip. Strawberry showed good enthusiasm, but seemed pre-occupied by keeping her top on.

NORTH AMERICAN TITLE MATCH: ‘Tennessee Cowboy’ James Storm beat Big Bully Douglas to win the belt.

NWA OHIO VALLEY: Nick Dinsmore & Damaja beat Rob Conway & Flash Flanagan. Dinsmore was probably the most solid wrestler on the card and had great expressions. Flanagan, a Michael Hayes-type, surprised everyone by doing a Sabu chair-top-rope-into the crowd move. Both are on WWF developmental deals.

NWA WORLDWIDE GRUDGE MATCH: Chris Champion beat Slash.

NWA WILDSIDE SPECIAL CONVENTION KICKOFF MATCH: Lazz, doing a Britney Spears thing, beat A.J. Styles.