The United Wrestling Network is the newest project coming from NWA, and I’m here to tell you all about it.
If you’re like me and you consider yourself to even have a passing interest in the National Wrestling Alliance, you will have been excited to hear the news: on September 15th, the NWA will join up with the United Wrestling Network to air “Primetime Live”, a weekly series of 90-minute Pay-Per-Views that, according to the press release, aims to highlight titles from across both companies’ spectrums.
This is exceptionally good news for a specific reason: contrary to recent rumours, it confirms the continued existence of the NWA as an active promotion. What with COVID halting the production of Powerrr and The Crockett Cup, as well as the #SpeakingOut allegations against then-Vice President David Lagana (who subsequently resigned), the NWA has lost a lot of the momentum they built with the introduction of Powerrr in October 2019. Add to that the loss of some key talent in the interim, and those closure rumours, however gossipy and unproven, were at least understandable.
Possibly the most positive aspect of the Primetime Live pay-per-views, outside of having new product out for public brand exposure, is the cash injection this will provide if successful. For any promotion, big or small, it goes without saying you need money to stay afloat. As Powerrr was aired for free on YouTube, the NWA’s biggest income, outside of merch sales and the four pay-per-views that they aired under Billy Corgan’s ownership, was from ticket sales; from the pay-per-views and from the Powerrr tapings. With not being able to get paying audiences in to see shows, this surely had a big impact on the company finances.
Primetime Live is an opportunity to replenish the coffers, as it were. Relaunching Powerrr wouldn’t make sense now in terms of getting the company back on its feet financially. In that respect, a weekly pay-per-view makes sense. But will it make sense to the consumer?
Times are strange and increasingly difficult. In a COVID world, many people are being furloughed or being let go from their jobs altogether. Economies globally are suffering. Money is tight. Will anyone outside of the most dedicated fans be willing to pay for essentially a TV show every week, when other demands are being made on their wallets?
Pricing is going to be the key here. If the NWA and the United Wrestling Network can present a price upfront that will be affordable to the regular viewer but cover their own costs too, then this could work. Of course, the product will need to be must-watch to keep people paying each week – the idea needs to be that this programme is unmissable. With the talent involved, I believe that’s possible – look at the way Powerrr became a cult hit on word of mouth – but at the same time, we don’t know how many paying consumers both companies need to make this a profitable, successful venture. It’s easy to speculate, but we must remember we don’t know the ins and outs of the business needs of the deal.
For example, there are other needs that could be met. TNA started on a similar weekly pay-per-view model (interestingly, this was during the period TNA had a relationship with the NWA). There are conflicting views on whether the weekly pay-per-view was financially successful for TNA, but there seems to be a consensus that where the model was successful was in establishing and building a fan base. The NWA fan base is already established. Hopefully, this will allow them to build on the foundations they laid at the end of last year and the start of this one.
You could quite reasonably ask, ‘why do Primetime Live? Why not just continue on with Powerrr without a live audience’? Well, the NWA, at the time that the WWE and AEW were starting to run their empty arena shows, took the line, understandably, that their shows, as a small studio presentation, wouldn’t work without the participation of an audience to perform in front of. They did, of course, issue daily digital content to keep the ball rolling, but this ground to a halt also with the Lagana situation. Without exposure, it put the company at risk of falling back behind everyone else.
There was also the issue of talent. Since the start of COVID, the company has had to weather the loss, for varying reasons, of Ricky Starks, Zicky Dice, Eddie Kingston, Tasha Steelz, Colt Cobana and Ken Anderson. These are no small losses to bear. In particular, the likes of Starks, Dice and Kingston were seen as big players for the company moving forward. Cabana was a recognisable name whose wealth of experience would be useful for coaching and mentoring the younger members of the team. And the loss of Tasha Steelz depletes an extremely promising but small women’s division.
Getting back on the air is an important step in encouraging talent to stay with the group. It shows that the promotion is still an on-going concern. It also allows the talent to work and be paid, very much a positive for all concerned. The other positive is that by working with the United Wrestling Network, it allows the NWA to bolster their ranks and present the illusion of a fuller roster, all the while presenting their core stars and giving them the chance to attract new talent. The UWN has some quality talent in the likes of Danny Rivera, Dan Joseph, Jordan Clearwater, Ray Rosas, and the Wolf Zaddies, and I believe that this influx of talent will work well with the NWA talent and present some fresh, exciting matchups for both the NWA and UWN families to look forward to.
The other benefit is that this will also provide larger exposure to some of the smaller, less discussed promotions in the UWN. Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and from Arizona, and also CZW, are perhaps the three companies in the Network that are the most well-known. But, according to Wikipedia, UWN membership is currently made up of 21 different promotions! The wider exposure that the Primetime Live pay-per-views could give to these smaller promotions is important.
It also allows for fresh matchups as stars from different promotions have the opportunity to collide on an equal platform. As UWN founder and owner, David Marquez, has said, “this fan first way of thinking should allow us to present match-ups that you might not normally ever see on weekly television. There may be a time when you see someone from Championship Wrestling from Hollywood go against someone from Chicago’s Freelance Wrestling, or even fighters out of the NJPW LA Dojo versus West Coast Pro Wrestling”. If you’re aware that Jay White is due to appear on NJPW USA’s Strong show on August 21st, you can understand why the cross-promotional aspect of these pay-per-views is mouth-watering.
And it’s not only promotions who are part of the UWN either that we might see featured. David Marquez revealed on Dustin Starr’s podcast that when Primetime Live was announced, he got a lot of calls from other promotions who recognised the opportunity for exposure. Apparently, some of the promotions in question were surprising, which makes the mind wonder…
Whether you’re behind the pay-per-view model or not, it’s clear that the evening of September 15th is going to be very interesting indeed. I’ll be there watching, alongside both the NWA and UWN families. Will you?