A comprehensive history, from the RSPW FAQ at http://www.thesmarks.com/home/rspwfaq/part2/nwa.asp...I've edited it to make it more cohesive.

The NWA was and is the National Wrestling Alliance.

In an effort to get around strict antitrust laws in the United States six mid-west promoters, Sam Muchnick, Al Haft, Harry Light, Pinky George, Tony Stecher, and Orville Brown agreed to work together and recognize a single 'World' champion in the heavyweight, Jr.-Heavyweight and Lt.-Heavyweight divisions. Representing the promotions in St. Louis, Des Moines, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Columbus, OH the N.W.A. named Mid-Western Wrestling Association champion Orville Brown the first N.W.A. World champion on July 14, 1948.

It should be noted that any attempts to trace the NWA World Heavyweight title back further than this are necessarily fictitious. The organization simply did not exist. The NWA's immediate predecessor as the most widely recognized world title was the National Wrestling Association championship which was held by Lou Thesz at the time of the formation of the NWA. A title unification match was scheduled for November 25, 1949 between Thesz and Brown and it is believed that Brown was scheduled to win that match. However, Brown suffered a career ending injury in a car accident prior to the match. On November 27, 1949, Thesz was awarded the NWA title.

From its formation in 1948 until 1980 the N.W.A. grew into the largest and most recognized wrestling promotion around. For over 35 years the N.W.A. was the true power in pro-wrestling. It had the most prestigious 'World' heavyweight title because it was truly defended around the world.  At its greatest point the N.W.A. had twenty-six promotions and countless promoters around the world including the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Australia. Some of these promoters were Frank Tunney (Canada), Clarence Luttrell, Fred Kohler, Bob Geigel (Central States), Jim Crockett (Mid-Atlantic), Jim Barnett, Eddie Graham (Florida), Jack Adkisson (World Class), Don Owen (Pacific Northwest), Shohie Baba (All-Japan), Steve Rickard (Australia/New Zealand) as well as others. In the 1980s, however, things started to fall apart when at the end of 1980 the Los Angeles promotion run by Gene & Mike Lebell's closed. Almost a year later Roy Shire's San Francisco promotion also folded.

Also in the 1980s cable TV started to changed the whole face of wrestling as promoters could now get simultaneous national exposure for their shows.  Ole Anderson, who was running Georgia Championship Wrestling, was the first to try to take advantage of cable TV by promoting outside his own territory.    He ran shows throughout Ohio and Michigan, as well as in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other areas. The promotion changed its name from Georgia Championship Wrestling to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and for a while in 1983 gave up the rights to the Georgia territories to try to promote nationally. In the summer of 1983 it was rumored that WCW was pulling out of the N.W.A. after they chose not to announce that Harley Race had defeated Ric Flair for the world title on June 10, 1983. Eventually they did recognize Race and continued within the N.W.A., including a planned joint promotional effort with Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic promotion into the Northeast.

Despite what some saw as Ole's basic mismanagement, WCW was doing pretty well competing against the other group that was trying to go national: Vince McMahon's WWF. The competition ended in May 1984 when Jack & Jerry Brisco, the top investors in World Championship Wrestling sold control of the company to Vince McMahon. The WWF took over the TV slot on TBS. Very few of the wrestlers from Georgia agreed to work for McMahon, and Anderson formed a new group, which came under the control of Jim Crockett by March 1985. Crockett then paid McMahon $1 million to get back the rights to the TBS time slot and the World Championship Wrestling name.

However this caused problems for other N.W.A. members.   Toronto had featured Jim Crockett's wrestlers since October 1978 and was the first territory to bring in talent from Mid-Atlantic. Now Crockett no longer felt that he could spare his wrestlers for shows in Toronto, and the quality of the Toronto cards plummeted. With his area starved for talent, Jack Tunney had little choice but to make a deal with Vince McMahon--taking one of the hottest areas for wrestling out of the N.W.A. and into the WWF.

In 1985, Jim Crockett announced that he would no longer allow N.W.A. Champion Ric Flair to accept more than 2 dates per week outside Crockett-promoted shows. Also from that point on, promoters would have to pay a guaranteed amount, rather than the 8% of the gate that was traditionally paid to the N.W.A. Champion. Crockett would later also insist that he supply the wrestlers for the top half of the card for any show on which Ric Flair appeared. This pretty much marked the end of the N.W.A. as it had existed since 1948.

In February 1986, Fritz Von Erich, in an effort to take World Class national, pulled his promotion out of the N.W.A. and recognized his own world champion. Later in the year, Crockett took over the St. Louis promotion, the flagship of the N.W.A. since 1948, and brought in his own wrestlers for shows there. He also briefly took control of Bob Geigel's Central States promotion in Kansas City. Geigel tried to start up again in February 1987 and briefly recognized his own world champion before the promotion folded in 1988.

Crockett bought out the Florida territory in February 1987, and a few months later took control of Bill Watts' UWF (formerly Mid-South and which was not part of the N.W.A.). By the end of the year, all of the territories had been homogenized into a single Crockett-controlled entity, which still ran under the name N.W.A., but really had little to do with the group that had existed for the preceding 40 years. The only former N.W.A. territories that still operated in the US were Don Owen's Pacific Northwest in Portland, and Continental in Alabama, both of which no longer claimed ties to the N.W.A.

On 01/01/1991, WCW officially dropped the NWA name entirely and operated without a World champion or World tag team champions for a period of 10 days.  They continued to recognize the Mid-Atlantic version of the NWA US title, which was held by Lex Luger at that point, as well as the Mid-Atlantic version of the NWA World TV title, which was held by Tom Zenk.  These two titles were renamed the WCW US title and WCW TV title, respectively, and have direct lineage to the original NWA versions of the titles.

On 01/11/1991, Ric Flair defeated Sting to win the NWA World title, and immediately afterwards WCW named him as the first WCW World champion.  It cannot be pointed out strongly enough at this point that these were TWO DIFFERENT TITLES.   Ric Flair was simultaneously NWA and WCW World champion, and one title did not follow from the other.  The WCW World title was created completely separate from the NWA World title and has NO direct lineage to the NWA World title, aside from the fact that the NWA champion happened to be the first WCW champion.

In 1992, after the re-creation of the NWA, Masa Chono was established as NWA World champion.  His reign, and those of the Great Muta and Barry Windham are regarded as legitimate World titles.  WCW pulled out of the NWA for good in 1993, however, which rendered the "NWA World championship" being defended in WCW totally meaningless. When Ric Flair, as WCW World champion defeated Sting, the WCW "International World champion", to "unify" the titles, it actually unified nothing, as the NWA had died many months prior to this match.

On November 19, 1994, Dennis Coralluzzo finally crowned a new N.W.A. World Heavyweight Champion in a tournament in New Jersey.  There was controversy again when promoter Jim Crockett, who did not like the choice for champion and, according to some, was upset that he would not be able to control the champion as he did in the 1980's refused to recognize tournament winner Chris Candido as the N.W.A. Champion. Several independent promoters did recognized Candido as the N.W.A. World Champion, including Jim Cornette's Smoky Mountain Wrestling.

In January 1995 rumors circulated that the N.W.A. Board served Crockett dismissal papers.  At the same time Crockett began to claim he and Coralluzzo ran two different promotions that both used the N.W.A. name. Crockett and the N.W.A. seemed to have an uneasy agreement where Crockett used the N.W.A. name and agreed not to crown another N.W.A. "World" champion.

Today, the N.W.A. still exists, however it has returned more to its original form of small independent promoters, currently 15, who recognize a single World Heavyweight Champion. The only relation it bears to the N.W.A. of mid-to-late 1980s is the name.

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