NWA Champ Nick Aldis on Working With Billy Corgan & Stepping 'Into the Fire'
When Billy Corgan announced intentions of acquiring what was left of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), it caused some head-scratching. What would the Smashing Pumpkins lead singer and lifelong fan do to raise the once prominent brand out of the ashes?
A little more than two years in, his vision is becoming clearer as NWA’s popular throwback-infused YouTube show, Power, built toward the upcoming Pay-Per-View Into the Fire. Nick Aldis, who has been NWA’s world champion for the majority of this new era, couldn’t be prouder to see the promotion’s exponential growth. The Englishman invested tirelessly to bring prestige to the NWA and the title, defending the “Ten Pounds of Gold” against top talent on four continents. The hard work is paying off.
“I think Into the Fire is special to all of us because this one is the first Pay-Per-View of the NWA Power era," he says. "The show has driven this Pay-Per-View buy.... This is the first one we are doing on our own with talent we’ve selected and groomed. It’s more gratifying to me that it’s doing well with the presale and FITE TV.
He continues, “It’s one thing to get people excited on social media and to say nice things. It’s cool when The Rock and Edge, these legends of our business, put the show over. Ultimately, the objective is to get fans to part with their hard earned money. We’ve been able to do it more and more. That’s the most gratifying thing.”
“This is a great opportunity to show growth and a path to sustainability,” Corgan adds on what the PPV means for the NWA's future. “Our prime objective is to define what makes our brand unique and, in time, find a broadcast partner that believes in our vision as a 21st century promotion.”
Aldis describes the collaborative atmosphere among a dedicated group of individuals with a shared desire for the NWA to succeed. That's what he believes separates Corgan from others who were in a similar position.
“I don’t think he gets enough credit for what a strong business mind he has,” Aldis says. “He is very much about the business side of things. It’s not like he is sitting back saying, ‘Here is a few million bucks. I just want to do creative and book.’ This isn’t glorified fantasy booking for him. He enjoys the creative part and collaborates where everybody gets a say. The thing that is cool I feel like this is the first time in my lifetime and career where I’m working for a company that is thinking about box office.
He elaborates, “It’s not about who is in the right camp and so and so’s guy and favorite. Everywhere else I worked, there was never really a necessary focus on what is going to drive the most interest, what is going to get people to buy tickets and Pay-Per-Views ... I think creative is easy. If you’re paying attention, you know what guys people give a s**t about. Where companies make it hard for themselves is when they start to play God. ‘We really want you to give a s**t about this guy, and they just don’t.’ ‘This guy disagreed with me, so I’m going to bury him’ What if people are willing to see him?”
As an example, he cites the reaction the returning Trevor Murdoch received in the GPB Studios in Atlanta during his debut appearance in the NWA. The feedback from the crowd gave the powers that be a sense Murdoch was resonating with audiences. Thunder Rosa is another name Aldis saw seize the opportunity and has not disappointed. The unique intimate setting and nod to the old school days has caught on with new fans and old alike.
“We’re working with limitations of the size of the building. It doesn’t hold a lot of people. But the atmosphere really is the 12th man,” Aldis says of the studio that hosts Power and will host Into the Fire. “The way the room is laid out and feeling of that room, it really comes through on the TV. We’re careful not to step on that. We also know when you’re asking people to pay to watch something, it has to feel distinctly bigger and more important than the show.
“One drives the other. All I can say for certain is there will be significant presentation differences. We’ll do all the things you don’t have time to do on Power. The whole premise of Power was no filler. An easy to digest, fast paced, well executed show that really drives the storylines and gets you into characters. When it comes to the Pay-Per-View, we’ll have time to luxuriate on entrances, music, introductions and packages. That’s the major difference. As far as the ascetics... We’d love to be in a bigger venue, of course, but we want to make sure the quality is there first. And in many ways, the GPB Studios has become a draw in itself.”
The NWA’s current run hasn’t been without its challenges. Strong backlash came from what were largely perceived as offensive comments made by color commentator Jim Cornette during an episode of Power. Cornette and the company have since parted ways.
“All I was worried about was losing momentum,” Aldis recalls. “That’s what kind of fed into the mentality that perhaps it was time for Jim to move on. It was a distraction. Contrary to what people on social media want to say, Jim wasn’t fired. Basically the situation was presented to him like, ‘Look, at the end of the day, it is for the good of the big picture, for once in your life, acknowledge you were wrong or acknowledge it was taken wrong.
“I don’t think anyone thought there were bad intentions there. That’s the most frustrating part. It was unnecessary. It was missed in the edit. That was a mistake, but that was apologized and owned. Ultimately, when he wouldn’t apologize, we knew where we stood now because his principles and podcast persona was more important to him.
He concludes, “We can’t be another vehicle for him to say controversial stuff. This is not how I wanted NWA Power to be trending. I’ve defended him in the past. At this point, he is better off on his own. Negative into a positive, we got Stu Bennett and he is going to crush it. At the end of the day, it was just a bump in the road ... I don’t think anyone is going to be worried about that after the weekend. I’m confident in my ability.”
Aldis is expecting the landscape of the NWA to be determined by the matches on the Pay-Per-View. He is ready to once again prove his viability in a surefire two-out-of-three falls classic against James Storm.
“At this point, anyone who dethrones me is going to be a massive change for the company. With James, these are the title fights people want. Two completely different characters with different backgrounds and philosophies but equal levels of abilities,” Aldis says. “A 20-year veteran loud mouth, beer-drinking cowboy as the face of the NWA would be a big departure from the Brit, quintessential championship athlete. That’s a good prize fight.”
NWA Into the Fire, Saturday, December 14, 6:05/5:05c, Pay-Per-View and FITE TV