“I like the wrestling business, and I like talking about the business. And I think it’s not a bad thing sometimes that I bring a different perspective to the business. I mean, that’s how I’ve always been in my rock career.”
The truth behind those words became even more self-evident during the course of SlamWrestling.net’s interview with Billy Corgan – or William Patrick Corgan, as he goes by when conducting official business as the owner and President of the NWA – held just days before this Saturday’s Hard Times 3 pay-per-view event.
Indeed, Corgan, speaking to Slam from his tour bus (he and his legendary alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins are currently on the road) was happy to share his thoughts on what his vision is for NWA in the short- and long-term, and his vision for the company, and himself, in the wrestling industry today.
“My play with the NWA is a mainstream play,” he said definitively. “I’ve been very transparent: I want to make the NWA a mainstream, televised product – a company that can compete with the top companies. So everything I do is to get us there. I don’t want to be a big indy.”
Corgan addressed recent comments he’d made about the NWA potentially being used as a developmental company for WWE or AEW. While he did acknowledge the comments, he clarified that the intent was not to be absorbed or bought out by one of those companies. Rather, his focus was always on how such a potential arrangement could primarily be used to bolster the NWA.
“You have to look at it as a strictly a business proposition,” he explained. “Wrestling at this level is all about funding and momentum. And so if somebody from a major company wanted to work with me to help develop talent, I think there’s a business decision there where it would be very beneficial to the NWA. But that doesn’t mean that’s what I want to become. And I think that’s where people (reading those reports) get it twisted.”
“To me,” he continued, “it seems very simple. The two biggest companies in America, they have a ton of talent that are not particularly happy (because they’re) not working a lot, and/or they’re feeling that they’re not getting the developmental (that would afford them) the greatest opportunity to end up on television every week. That’s where a developmental situation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How would that be bad for the talent? How would that be bad for the NWA? And how would that be bad for the company that might want to lend that talent out for a particular time. To give that talent a different look? To put them in front of different people that they could trust to know what to do with the talent?”
Corgan reinforced his ideas through an example from relatively-recent wrestling history.
“After ECW went out of business, it came out that Vince (McMahon’s WWE) was funding some of what ECW was doing, and sending talent down to ECW at different times. That was not a bad thing. It worked for (then ECW owner) Paul (Heyman)’s benefit, and it worked for the (talents’) benefit. That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about,” he clarified.
But Corgan was adamant that, despite how some people interpreted those reports, his primary goal would be to benefit NWA and help its growth, as opposed to, say, becoming an extension of a company like WWE’s NXT brand.
“Any deal that I would make for the NWA, involving another company would have everything to do with developing the NWA. I don’t want to be a AAA baseball franchise in Poughkeepsie. That’s not what we’re here to do, you know? (Any hypothetical deal) would not be to sublimate what I’m trying to do. I don’t want to stand in somebody’s shadow. I mean, all you have to do is look at my music to understand I’m not in it to be in a shadow. When you think about my personality – which is easy to do when you think about me in music terms – how would that same personality be okay, essentially working for someone else? It doesn’t compute.”
In terms of the music versus wrestling mentality, Corgan noted that it’s not possible to simply turn a switch on and off in his head. Both endeavors occupy his mind and his mindset constantly. As for how he manages to balance both, Corgan did note that sometimes it is a challenge.
“The easy answer is that you just make it happen,” he said. “But there are days where it’s really, really difficult. Particularly when I’m on tour, because there are just things that are very time sensitive. When you’re staging a massive arena tour, there are times where you just cannot bend the rules.”
“Like, even for (Hard Times 3), I’m not going to be able to be there. And that’s very difficult for me, because I’m very hands on; I produce the shows in the truck, generally. So not being on-site and being able to deal with certain things that only happen on the day of the show, it’s very, very difficult.”
Helping assuage his concerns is the enormous trust that he has in his team, who will be running the show in his absence.
“Billy Trask, who directs the shows, came out of Dave Marquez’s world on the west coast, working on Championship Wrestling from [Hollywood], so he brought a lot of experience into the company. Pat Kenney, aka Simon Diamond. He’s the Talent Director, and he’s done a fantastic job of putting together the rosters. Then we have Joe Galli and Kyle Davis, two of the announcers, they sort of work in the office and deal with the personnel issues and all that stuff on a day-to-day level. I have a trust in those guys, and they’re all very hands-on with not only who’s on the roster, but also the presentation of the television product. They know what we’re trying to accomplish, so even if I’m not there, they’ve kind of got me in their ear, so to speak, in what we’re trying to achieve.”
So does that mean Corgan won’t be thinking about the show while he’s on stage that night, doing a Pumpkins show in Seattle?
“Trust me, when I’m on stage, I’ll (also be) worried about the pay-per-view,” he laughed.
“The worlds definitely blur together at times,” he acknowledged. “And I don’t mind that. I mean, it’s a little simplistic way to put it, but my philosophy is that life is a very rare opportunity. And if you have a dream, you should go for it. To think that somewhere, back in the day in the ’70s, there I was in a basement in western Chicago, watching Bob Luce put on wrestling shows and watching the very early stages of MTV and listening to the radio. And those became the formative things that turned out to be to define my life as far as what I was going to put my attention to.”
But as much as he was a fan growing up, Corgan said that he “never, in a million years, would have imagined that I would end up working in the professional wrestling business.”
But when the opportunity arose, Corgan took it, describing the path to get there as a “wild journey.” Though, ultimately, he is happy where he ended up.
“I think (my decision to buy NWA) was because it was essentially a clean slate. Which sounds weird, because the history is not a clean slate. But the company at the time was a clean slate. And there was something about that combination that really appealed to me,” he noted.
“In essence, I could tell a story with my own journey of buying the company and what I hope to achieve in the company. And it’s been very interesting, because there’s positives and negatives to that story. One great thing is that you inherit this incredible legacy, and we really try to embrace that. For example, Bobby Fulton has come into the pay-per-view, and I love stuff like that. I love that I’ve gotten to work with people like Bobby Fulton and Ricky Morton. I love that people like Magnum TA want to be part of the NWA. Even recently, Ric Flair has reached out to me. And having that little bit of communication just helps give a connection to the history, and that means a lot to me.”
“At the same time,” he observed, “there are some people who would put expectations on me that have nothing to do with modern 21st century reality. They say things like, ‘Well, it’s not what is used to be.’ As we used to say in Chicago, no shit Sherlock. For one, we are the single owner of the NWA, which I think at its height had 160 chapters and all those power brokers running multiple territories. (We) can’t have sugar plums dancing in our heads thinking that we’re going to back to the (look and feel) of Dusty and Arn. It’s not going to happen.”
“Rather,” he said about his vision, “it’s going to create a new story, on the backs of those giants that built the old story. And that story means something.”
That story will continue at Hard Times 3, which is a huge show on paper with over a dozen matches already announced. While the card is always subject to change (as an example, after this interview, the company announced that former NWA World champion Nick Aldis was suspended from the company and removed from his scheduled match), Corgan says that putting together an order for the card is not dissimilar to structuring a set list for a concert. While the temptation would be to use a standard formula in doing so, that’s not necessarily the best way to ensure an entertaining experience for the fans.
“It’s a very similar exercise,” he said about how he plans both a card sequence and a setlist. “You have to understand how to bring a crowd up and cool the crowd down, and do it effectively.”
“I used to go to ECW shows back in the day, and there would be like, four blood matches in a row. And by the fourth blood match in that row, you’re like, I’m gonna go get some popcorn. People think more is more, but it doesn’t always translate that way from the stage – to use your wording, I’m not an ‘always rising’ guy.”
“I’ll give you another example,” he said to explain the rationale. “TNA pay-per-views almost always started with a hot X-Division match. And that would kind of set a tone for the night if the match got chants going, stuff like that. But in my opinion, you can’t do that every show. Because then the crowd becomes habituated to the emotional effect of a show always starting that way. If you look at the traditional Jeff Jarrett-era TNA pay-per-view, you start with a hot X-Division match, and then a big main event with about 17 run-ins. That happened in a lot of those pay-per-views that I bought. And if you habituate the crowd to think ‘OK, I know what’s coming next,’ that’s the worst thing you can do.”
“To me, (the experience should be) more like a movie. You’re eating your popcorn, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re really, really enjoying the movie. And when the movie is over, you go, ‘Man, that was great. That was really worth my time, my energy, my money, whatever.’ That’s how I try to book our pay-per-views. For what we charge, I think what we bring to the table are very, very world-class, high-quality pay-per-view events.”
And even if it’s not appreciated by all of the wrestling fans who may be used to seeing more formulaic shows or pay-per-views full of a barrage of fast-paced matches that are “always rising”, Corgan is focused on delivering a good steak in addition to a loud sizzle. And he feels that’s an essential to take NWA to the next level.
“Trust me,” he said about the strategy. “Even if some wrestling fan don’t understand, television executives understand – they see what we’re doing. I have conversations with them, and they’re, like, ‘Man, we don’t know how you’re doing this level of quality, both in terms of how you guys the shoot the pay-per-views and in running a consistency in culture.’”
“That’s what I’m talking about when I say it’s a mainstream play. Even though that’s not necessarily what’s going to get the wrestling writers all excited. You know, because some hot indy kid that everybody’s drooling all over has a four-star Meltzer match… that’s not the business. I’m running.”
“And that’s not a compliant,” he said, perhaps to avoid any further misconstruing of the message or cropping of that comment for shocking headlines. “I’m just trying to consistently make the case that people shouldn’t sleep on the NWA. Because if you look at what I’m doing, and why I’m doing what I’m doing, and how I’m doing it, it starts to tell a story that is very different than what anybody else right now is doing in wrestling.”
“I’ve consistently and very quietly – which has not been a word you normally associate with wrestling – enabled us to build a story where now I can walk into (any TV executive’s office) and say, ‘Look, this company can run weekly.’ Five years ago, they would kind of go, ‘Yeah, sure, sure, sure. Who’s gonna pay for that?’ And now when I go and have those meetings, now they take me really seriously. Because with real funding and real promotional backing, this company has the ability to run on national or international television weekly. There’s a very big story building, very quietly, and not a lot of people seem to notice because it doesn’t necessarily work with how they perceive wrestling. But the dream is actually there.”
NWA Hard Times 3 takes place on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at the Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center in Chalmette, Louisiana. It is available through Fite TV. Feature bouts include: a Three-Way Match for the NWA World title with Trevor Murdoch (c) vs. Matt Cardona vs. Tyrus; a Three-Way Match for the NWA Women’s World title with Kamille (c) vs. KiLynn King vs. Chelsea Green; NWA National Championship with Cyon (c) vs. Dak Draper and more.
TOP PHOTO: The two Billy Corgans — performing in October 2022 with The Smashing Pumpkins in Houston, and pushing NWA merchandise. Twitter photos
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