Watching the Nick Aldis/NWA drama play out on social media mere days away from its upcoming Hard Times pay-per-view, my inner Ron Burgundy had this to say:

Boy, that escalated quickly.  I mean, that really got out of hand fast.

If you are just now tuning into this because the backstage feuding of All Elite Wrestling feels too tame, let’s recap what’s taken place. Aldis, a former NWA World champion, had secured himself a number one contendership to face Trevor Murdoch for the very same title he lost to him at NWA 73. Now the main card was set for NWA 74 in a hotly anticipated rematch.

But, for reasons unknown, NWA owner Billy Corgan, acting under his William Patrick Corgan persona, decided to pull him out of that spot and insert Tyrus in the main event against Murdoch for the Ten Pounds of Gold. I had already covered that show, and while it was just as good, one cannot help but wonder how Murdoch and Aldis could have topped things from last year.

Was this a shoot or a work? Nobody truly knew but in all public appearances Aldis seemed to be game and still championed the “History, Legacy, and Tradition of the NWA,” even though he was further down the card. For three months, all was quiet on the Western Front until Aldis went on Instagram on November 6 — his 36th birthday — with a video that has since been deleted. In it, he gave his notice to the NWA and said he will be leaving in January once his contract was up.

That led the NWA to issue a press release saying Aldis was suspended effective immediately and will not be at Hard Times 3 this weekend. That led to Aldis going on Twitter to apologize to the fans for his non-appearance but, according to him, “unfortunately the company doesn’t seem to share the same values.”

Like I said, that escalated quickly.

Now, I very rarely get shocked by things, especially anything in and out of the squared circle. But news like this hits differently when there did not appear on the surface that both men had any heated animosity. It’s a lot like having your parents divorce. While it feels like it came out of nowhere there were signs something was brewing underneath. Let’s take a moment to examine both men and where their paths led to this moment.

Starting with Nick Aldis, a man who not only cut his teeth in England wrestling but also came to America to TNA/IMPACT Wrestling with a great look and physique but was saddled with a ridiculous gladiator gimmick as “Brutus Magnus.” Once he ditched the gimmick and paired up with Doug Williams and Rob Terry as The British Invasion, he moved up the card. During his seven-year career, he won TNA tag team championships and became the TNA World heavyweight champion once. It should be an impressive resume, but for a lot of that timeframe, he was overshadowed by others in stables he was in (e.g.  The Main Event Mafia, Team Dixie).

It wasn’t until 2017 that a meeting with Billy Corgan really changed things around. He and Tim Storm were part of the historic Ten Pounds of Gold series to bring back prestige to the NWA Heavyweight belt. From there, the NWA started to gain ground and a new following. The centerpiece was “The National Treasure” himself, who carried himself like the champions of old, dressed to the nines and taking on all comers who wanted a taste of “Sweet Charlotte.” It was a spot where he shone brightly and it can be argued held on longer than expected. But he can be counted on to be front and center of any media wanting to know more of the National Wrestling Alliance.

Now let’s talk about Billy Corgan. The controversial frontman of the 1990s indie band The Smashing Pumpkins (who are still touring) has been an avid fan of professional wrestling, getting involved with ECW during its waning years and later working with and being part of TNA/IMPACT before legal issues put the kibosh on that deal. But Corgan wanted to be part of the sport of professional wrestling. When he purchased the rights to the National Wrestling Alliance in 2017, he slowly built up the empire one match at a time (literally) starting with Tim Storm and Nick Aldis on Championship Wrestling from Hollywood until shows like NWA Powerrr and NWA USA gained momentum. In most interviews I’ve done with the talent and backstage management of the NWA, the thing that keeps coming up is that Corgan has a 20-year vision for how he wants to see the company expand.

Billy Corgan in December 2021 at the NWA tapings in Atlanta. Photo by Greg Oliver

So how did things take a turn for the worse between the owner and the most recognizable face of the NWA?

It boils down to the creative differences at the end of the day. Aldis has a particular vision of himself being the main star not unlike Harley Race or Ric Flair back in the day with the entire roster orbiting around him. Also, if I had to guess, he wanted to ensure that position was protected and shared among those close to his inner circle, such as his wife, Mickie James, who was instrumental in executive producing the first EmPOWERRR PPV ahead of NWA 73 (more on that later). If I were to be an armchair psychiatrist about this, given his previous experience in TNA/IMPACT, it’s no wonder he’d feel protective about losing his spot. Given what I’ve heard about those years, even I would have a chip on my shoulder and would want to prove myself to anyone as a top dog.

As for Corgan, what can I say that hasn’t been covered in SPIN or Rolling Stone, or a number of other music magazines? He’s a rock star, first and foremost, and has been ruthlessly driven to reach those rock ’n’ roll dreams for a long time. Hell, this is the guy who admitted that he played all the parts (guitar, bass, drums) when recording the Siamese Dream album and has caused so much friction (to put it kindly) with his bandmates and others in the music industry (and let’s not even go down the Courtney Love rabbit hole). In comparison, the bickering of Fleetwood Mac in their heyday seems pleasantly subdued.

You think I’m kidding? Ask yourself whatever happened to the Pumpkins’ original bassist, D’Arcy?

Exactly! You don’t often get to the top if you wanna rock ’n’ roll without being something of a tyrant. But it definitely works if you’re the head honcho of a major wrestling promotion.

For the most part, whatever differences Corgan and Aldis had in the vision of the NWA, they were able to set them aside for the greater good. But it wasn’t long before those problems started to bubble over. It started around July 20th of this year, when Corgan did a promo in July on NWA Powerrr that, at the time, I dismissed as just a promo. But with hindsight it feels like a harbinger of what was to come, where he said:

Let me say one thing, too; I reserve the right to dismiss any number one contendership at any time. Being the number one contender doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want, say whatever you want, whenever you want. You must represent this company, in fact, to a greater extent than a champion.

We all know what happened from there. Corgan also went on other wrestling media platforms and podcasts (strangely, not on my TV TAN Podcast, The Only Podcast That Matters™), laying out that he was tired of all the politicking from backstage. He mentioned it as it related to Matt Cardona, but also lumped in Aldis as well. It was easy to dismiss it as part of the storyline, but from there the lines get blurry, which I’ve documented for NWA Powerrr and NWA USA.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back for Aldis probably had to do with comments Corgan made on the Ten Count podcast on November 7th (again, not mine!), where he discussed why there wasn’t an EmPOWERRR 2 PPV:

Of course there are plenty of great professional women’s wrestlers in the world. Can they wrestle the NWA style? Can they carry a three-hour pay-per-view? Can they move the case of women’s wrestling, not just in wrestling but in terms of international media, forward? These are my concerns. Everybody has their own version of it. That’s my version of it and that’s why I’m still on that. Until we can provide a world-class event with some of the best professional wrestlers in the world, in this case, females on the card, we won’t do it.

Considering his wife Mickie James was the driving force behind EmPOWERRR, it’s easy to imagine how Aldis could take this as a slap to his face and his family’s face.  Then, faster than you can say, “What’s causing Aldis?” the last few days have been nothing but a whirlwind.

There are two sides, and I see both points behind it. Aldis was and is instrumental in bringing the NWA into the modern era and has proved it night after night building off what he calls his “sweat equity.” Of course, Aldis is invested, and has a right to be, but here’s the other side: How long can he reasonably stay in the top spot before the act got stale? There was a reason wrestlers in the old days of the NWA moved from territory to territory to keep things fresh. Nowadays, moving to other companies is the next logical step, and as much as I hate to say it, going to WWE would be the best direction for The National Treasure. If it worked for his rival Cody Rhodes, it can work for him.

Alternately, Corgan is probably tired of the backstage shenanigans. Hell, I would be if a talent started telling him off night after night, and if said talent decided to deal with things on social media (the best/worst thing to do to handle all problems), I would feel empowered to shut that down in a hurry. At the end of the day, Corgan is the boss, and right or wrong, he has a particular vision of how the NWA is going to move forward in the modern era.

At the risk of sounding blasé, this is nothing new in professional wrestling. There are countless instances of wrestlers leaving a promotion and, to paraphrase Jim Ross, “go home and take their ball with them.” In cases like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Brock Lesnar, to name a few, they went home and after a period of time, cooler heads prevailed so they could work again. There are other instances of maybe certain people should learn to play nice, even if surrounded by children (looking at you, CM Punk).

But this is me speculating without all the facts. There may be more that is obscured from the public eye that we just don’t know about. Either way, it is a shame that it came down to this handling from both sides, especially for a company that is still relatively new, and the timing is just plain bad with a PPV coming up. The only thing to do, in my opinion, is just move forward and wish the best for both parties and hope they can both be civil in their future endeavors.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The interview with Billy Corgan drops on Thursday, but was conducted before everything happened with Nick Aldis.

TOP PHOTO: Nick Aldis when he was NWA World champion.