NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis is focused on carving out his legacy ahead of the company’s pay-per-view Into the Fire.
The 33-year-old from Norfolk has been the face of the NWA since its revival in 2017 after Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan bought the promotion.
Aldis has since twice won the NWA’s top title and became only the second ever British born champion to capture the illustrious ‘Ten Pounds Of Gold’.
Now Aldis is readying himself to defend the title against James Storm at the promotion’s first pay-per-view since launching its weekly show, NWA Powerrr.
Speaking ahead of the event in Atlanta, Georgia, he chatted exclusively to Mirror Sport’s Tony Quant about what it means to carry the Ten Pounds Of Gold, NWA’s approach to talent, working with Corgan, the Jim Cornette controversy and much more.
How did it feel to become only the second ever British born NWA Champion?
It’s great to be the champion, at this point I am more proud of the fact that I was part of a group of guys who helped make that seismic shift for all British talent. I feel like my TNA [World Heavyweight Championship] title run helped to break the glass ceiling for British wrestlers. I have been told by WWE that they already had the quota on British wrestlers with Stu Bennett and a few others. Even at TNA there was the conversation about whether or not a Brit would be world champion.
But as time went by, we helped to change that narrative. To look at it now, it’s not even a thing anymore. It’s the same as anyone else in the States winning a title. There are so many British wrestlers now all over the world and that whole movement started around the early 2010s, when it was those of us starting to push forward and make the industry think we had the make-up of being top guys.
People started paying attention to the promotions we had come from and the next thing this huge movement came around and to be part of that and I suppose in many ways to be shining example is cool. For me though, I just focus on me and what I am doing. I have always tried to base my career on me and what I bring to the table.
It’s two years since December 2017 when you captured the 10 Pounds of Gold for the first time. I don’t suppose you imagined in your wildest dreams winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on a CZW show though?
I think I made my feelings clear about what I felt about that type of stuff at the time. It all worked together to create a talking point. It was just the right combination of things to send ripples through the business. At that point in time we needed to win the day on social media and then build on that and slowly but surely we started to bring more eyes to what we were doing. It’s how we built momentum with the Ten Pounds of Gold YouTube series.
With two NWA title reigns already under your belt, what are your goals in the promotion?
To carve out legacy and build the promotion. Considering where we started two years ago, to be in the position we are now is a huge achievement and testament to Dave Lagana [NWA vice-president] Billy Corgan, and Maureen Tracy [NWA director of operations]. We have had steady growth and are starting to see definitive revenue streams.
We have a core fan base who are supporting NWA, buying merchandise, buying the PPV and tickets. It’s about being at the forefront of the brand and help to turn it into a multi million dollar brand and beyond. Anyone who finds humour in that should look at early trajectories of companies like the UFC and see where they started.
The Ten Pounds of Gold shows really do a great job in explaining the background to the promotion for those who were not perhaps familiar with it. Where did you draw inspiration from for those videos?
My biggest inspiration was HBO boxing videos. I love the stuff that the UFC does and when we first started working together in 2017, Billy Corgan laid out what he thought was missing where he thought he could offer something different. I laid out what I felt would work in line with that. We realised we were going to have a good relationship when we realised that we wanted the same thing.
He wanted a product that appealed more to the basic primal instincts of wrestling, guys who can take and conflict resolution. I wanted to make matches feel important again. I sent a bunch of HBO 24/7 videos and some Showtime All Access stuff. What I liked about them was that you don’t have to know anything about these fighters and the next thing you know is that you can’t miss those fights.
The aesthetics of the studio in which you film Powerrr are so unlike anything else in the industry. What were you first thoughts on the studio set up when it was finally revealed to you?
When we first walked in there, David Lagana had made a point of filming it for good reason. There is just something about that room and studio which bought out so much emotion and you can feel that as a genuine feeling and buzz in that room that you can’t replicate. I really can’t wait to get back there. I can do so much better in there and I can’t wait to get back to the studio.
So many people have told me that it reminded them of what it felt like watching the NWA years ago. And then we have a whole new generation and are showing them the benefits of a studio setting, which is unlike the typical same format which some companies have been using since 1994.
As a performer does it take much to adapt to the NWA style of working, given it’s heavy focus on microphone work and promos?
It’s what I’ve wanted to do for years. When I was in TNA I was always asking to do interviews differently. They were so locked into their [format] of ‘typical wrestler, walks out with microphone for no reason’ and it’s been done to death. I miss interviews, I like interviews, not promos. I like the idea of someone with their own personality who is the consciousness of the audience asking those questions which everyone wants answered. I feel like I am having a conversation with the audience, albeit most of the time a one way conversation!
When you think about that it’s such an odd thing to do. It’s a very difficult thing to do. When you are fortunate to have people like The Rock and Steve Austin it’s easy to send them out to the ring to talk and that is all you need to do. But it takes a lot to get someone to the point of where the audience are ready to see that from them. It puts a lot of guys and girls in a difficult position.
With the focus on building to matches and microphone ability, given the different approach from the NWA, has that changed how the company has been scouting talent and what they are looking for from their roster?
Yeah I mean basically it comes down to do you fit in with the NWA ethos and can you make people feel something? Can you deliver believable interviews and believable work in the ring. Are you able to connect both verbally and physically? We are not looking for good prospects. We want seasoned professionals.
We have assembled a good roster when it comes to guys who can connect to the audience verbally. It takes them adjusting to certain talent but it’s a good adjustment. That’s why in the very first episode of Powerrr we had myself, Eli Drake and James Storm cutting promos. It was designed that way so that everybody else on that show knew ‘here’s what time it is’.
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You touched on how difficult it is for some wrestlers to build a connection with the fans when they are tasked with delivering promos. Do you feel like social media has made that more difficult for some to connect with fans?
I think it desensitise the audience a bit. It certainly closes the gap between superstars and normal human beings. But ultimately that’s a choice you make. I think a lot of wrestlers waste a lot of good promos in free tweets. There are a lot of guys who say stuff that’s more appealing on social media than they ever do on a microphone.
Sometimes it helps us and our show though, because fans have been so desensitised it reminds everyone how difficult a skill it is to walk out and whip out a promo while staring down the camera. Social media has created some obstacles but also helps highlight when people do have good verbal skills.
Do you envisage that the pay-per-views will play a big part of the growth of the NWA?
Yes, I mean we have already smashed the PPV buy rate for Cody and Aldis 2 and we still have days left until the show. Fite.tv advised us that a lot of buys happen in the final hours. We have a number in our head and if we get there we know we are on track. With the actual tickets for Atlanta, it’s not a lot, it’s not an arena but to go from where we were to selling out in four hours and also to sell out the following two days is a real positive sign of growth. We don’t necessarily want to be making outrageous claims to beat anyone, we just want to grow and be successful in own right.
I sometimes feel like there is so much content available that places are giving away PPV stuff for free or having guys wrestle for no reason and batting you over the head to buy the next PPV. To me wrestling is theatrics. It’s sports, obviously the phrase has been coined and is thoroughly embedded in our lexicon and its accurate. Pro wrestling when done right is sports theatrics.
With the positive sales of Into The Fire how many pay-per-views can we expect to see from the NWA in 2020?
We have a goal in mind but we are not going to flood the market for the sake of it. We love having a relationship with our audience and we listen to them and stay in tune with what they are feeling and anticipating. One of the benefits of having a small team and content on YouTube means we can really adapt and move very quickly.
If something takes off and something is really firing with people have the ability to put out another thing tomorrow. Doing Powerrr in seasons people have lost their minds because there is a week off. The last thing we want is for the audience to think it’s a chore to watch and follow. We want everything we are doing to feel like it is destination viewing.
Given how invested in the company you are, do you feel an additional pressure when you are headlining pay-per-views?
I have been in this position from the beginning. There is pressure but it’s the right amount. I will feel that way for as long as I wrestle in this promotion whether I am the champion or not. I am never going to suggest that everything we do will work. But every time we shoot and score it gives me more confidence that we know what we are doing and when to make the right moves. We can take it as far as we want.
Everything that the NWA has put out so far since its launch Ten Pounds Of Gold and most recently Powerrr has been very positive, barring one recent incident involving Jim Cornette. [Cornette resigned from his commentary role after making a remark many fans found offensive during NWA Powerrr]. Can I get your thoughts and comments on that incident and what you made of it?
It was just unfortunate all around. I love Jim and it’s unfortunate that it was missed in the edit. We would rather not have to worry about catching stuff to edit at all. I said this before, it is not up to me to decide what people are allowed to be offended by or not. It comes down to me that if it’s too much of a distraction from our talent, then maybe overall I think Jim is happier doing his podcast. He enjoys saying controversial stuff and riling people up, which is fine for his podcast, but not for our broadcast.
Final question. What would you say to fans sitting on the fence as to whether or not they should tune in to Into The Fire on Saturday?
If you want a show that reminds you of why you liked wrestling before and has less of the things that have turned you away and you want fun and unapologetic pro wrestling and not watered down pseudo wrestling/entertainment, then give NWA a chance. We will give you believable promos, interviews and matches that mean something and we are absolutely not ashamed of being pro wrestling.”
NWA Into The Fire is available on pay-per-view from Fite.tv on Saturday, December 14 at 11.05pm in the UK.