In part two of our interview with Nick Aldis, the NWA Champion discusses the relationship between NWA and ROH, and the impact Marty Scurll had on that. His friendship with Scott Steiner and what Billy and Dave said to him before his segment with Scott on Powerrr. He also discusses the precedent he and Marty are trying to set for the wrestling business. All of this and so much more in part two of this exclusive interview.
We talk about guys like Ricky Morton, and I think it makes sense when NWA incorporates legends because of the old school vibe. But is there a balance you have to try and maintain when utilising these legends on the show?
“We’re obviously conscious of it. Our approach as far as the overall direction of the company and the show tends to be a three-headed monster with Billy making the final decision. You know, Billy is very hands-on with the creative and he books as well. Then it goes through a sort of refining process with Dave and I, but also I’ve earned the trust with Billy, obviously because we’ve got to this point on my story. They’ll be times when Billy might reach out to me for help with angles for other talent, and he’s very much out of the box. He played a big part in the Broken Matt stuff in Impact and stuff like that. So you can see he’s a guy that’s not afraid to go to these new places. Dave leans more towards traditional TV as far as like what makes good TV versus what makes good wrestling. But Dave is also a lifelong wrestling fan who has been in the business for twenty years. Then there is me, and my underlying principle and influence on the show is how does this sell tickets and PPV? Because we are in many ways a modern equivalent of a territory in the sense that we don’t get paid to make content, our content is there to drive revenue in the form of ticket sales or PPV buys.
So it helps us trim the fat because we cannot give ten minutes to a segment on TV if it is not going anywhere because we’re not getting paid to make the segment, and that’s where we might butt heads sometimes. I might be like, “How does this sell any tickets?” I’m asking if it’s going to lead to anything because if it doesn’t, it can’t be on our air. You have to find that balance, and I think that’s the influence I bring to the process. But as far as going back to your question on the legends, and the balance, it’s like, I might be the one to occasionally say that we have to be conscious of criticism. Not because we’re worried that any of us are thin-skinned and worried about being criticised, but it’s more in the sense that we know that every single week, we need to be attracting a new audience, and there is going to be some audience turnover because we know that we’re in like fifth place.
We know, the chances are, maybe ten percent of our audience are just watching us and us alone because we see that in some of our feedback where people say that they stopped watching wrestling in the 80s, 90s, and then they were told about NWA and this is the only wrestling they watch now. And that’s great, and we would obviously love a whole audience of that, but we have to be realistic and cognoscente of the fact that a great majority of our audience are people that are prioritising RAW first. SmackDown second, Dynamite third, etc. So our stuff has to be concise. It has to be digestible, fun, and easy to watch, so people aren’t sitting there thinking, they cannot put this in their weekly rotation.
Our objective is to get people in, and when they’re in, make them think that “Man, this show’s a real breath of fresh air. I’m gonna come back next week, and I’m gonna keep watching.” The difficulty you run into is, if you have too many old guys and everything is based on perception, and everyone is making a split-second decision based on five seconds of an impression. So if it looks like it’s just a bunch of old guys – and you see that as we’ll get some trolls who say “No one’s gonna care about this old fashioned bullshit.” It’s not old fashioned. If you actually watch it, you’ll understand that our set and throwback feel is designed to be new, but it’s designed specifically to highlight the qualities our roster has over other rosters. We have the best extemporaneous speakers in the business. Period. End of story. You talk about me, Eddie Kingston, Eli Drake, Tim Storm, Aron Stevens – give any one of them a microphone, and they could talk for ten minutes, and people would be captivated.”
I’ve been binge-watching some of the episodes, and sometimes, I don’t want to see the matches, I just want to see the promos.
“Right, right. That was our objective from the beginning because what’s really lost now is the art of the promo. Like, I used to see when I talked to people – I’ve always made a point to try get a feel for the average person on the street, and they might say something like, “I used to watch wrestling but not anymore.” I would ask “why?” and a lot of times, they would say because the matches are too unrealistic or the guys are too small. However, a lot of the time, they would say there is too much talking, but then I would press them for what they like, and they’ll be like they liked Ric Flair, The Four Horsemen, Billy Graham, and I’m thinking they’re all promo guys. There’s not too much talking in wrestling now. There is too much bad talking.”
I also found that because I would be watching wrestling and people would chime in by complaining that these guys can’t talk like The Rock or Stone Cold etc.
“Well, yeah, because they’re not given the opportunity to. But ultimately, the why doesn’t matter, it’s the what, and the what is that people aren’t enjoying the promo segments on the bigger shows, and we tried to strip that down and figure out why. And maybe it’s because they’re not the ones speaking, essentially. We kind of looked at it and went, “Man, I love a real promo.” If you go back and look at the very first episode of Powerrr, Dave designed that show very deliberately in terms of who went out to talk. The first person you see at the podium was me because I had sort of become the face of the organisation, and in terms of our audience, the most recognisable star at this point. He knew, and he said to me that I’m going out first and he would not tell me what to say, but that I knew that I needed to set the tone for what this show was going to be and that I needed to set the bar for the rest of the talent.
I come back, and I see James Storm, Eli Drake, Aaron Stevens, and they’re all looking at me, and you know they’re thinking, “Let me out there” because they want to try and top it. And you see it in the rest of the roster, everyone’s promos have improved so much because people are enjoying them again. They’re not going out there thinking I hate promos and just trying to get through it. People are like, “I cannot wait to get out there.” That’s the difference. If you’re enjoying it, they are enjoying it. It’s kind of like an imbalanced portfolio if we’re gonna do a nice high-brow stock reference. If you have too many stocks and not enough real estate or whatever, you run the risk of bottoming out. I felt like the last couple of decades, the business had been a little match heavy, not enough promos, and the non-wrestling segments had become more of these weird scripted scenes.”
Speaking of promos, and legends as well, you guys had Scott Steiner involved recently. Obviously, he went through some health issues recently, but fortunately, he seems to be doing better. What’s your relationship like with Scott, and what was it like doing a promo with him?
“Well, that was one of the reasons we used him in the capacity that we did was because Scott and I do have a good relationship. Everything I said when I teed up Scotty in that promo segment was true. When I first came to the States, everybody that knew I was going to TNA were going off revisionist history and asking me if I was worried about being around Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner. Turns out, those two guys probably helped me more than anyone. The thing that helped me build my relationship with Scott was when we went to India to do the Ring Ka King show in 2011. It was such a unique experience, so anybody who was there automatically has a bit of kinship then.
It was the first time I was put in a role as a top guy. I had the championship there for a while, and that was the first World Title I ever had, the Ring Ka King World Title (laughs). That was because Jeff Jarrett basically asked for me when talking to TNA about what talent he could have. Jeff told me that this was my opportunity. He was going to show them what I was going to be for them. Scott saw that through Jeff, so he was very receptive to me and went out of his way to help me. He always made a point to try and include me in his stuff to give me that rub, and pretty early in my TNA run, I developed a good relationship with Kevin Nash. Nash also went out of his way internally to say that they needed to do more with me because he said, “This kid gets it.” So it was kind of like all the guys from that era could see that hunger and principal I had for the business. I wasn’t just a guy who wanted to do spots to appease the minority audience. They saw me as someone who wanted to appeal to a wider, mainstream level.
Scott’s also so used to having people kiss his ass or tiptoe around him, and he appreciated with me that I talked to him like a normal guy. Our relationship has been great. It’s not like we call each other all the time, but whenever we see each other, I’m always happy to see him. When our son was born, I remember running into Scott somewhere, and he’s like picking up my son and playing with him and stuff.
So when it came down to how to use him on Powerrr, we knew if he was on my segment, we can trust him, and it’s not gonna go off the rails (laughs). Dave and Billy were just like, “Please, please, please make sure that Scott doesn’t go rogue. You know where the line is.” So just before we went out, I told him that I know he didn’t need me to tell him, but there is a line, and he said, “I got you, man. Don’t worry about it.” And he was just on the right side of it. He’s a pro, man.”
Going back to the situation we’re in now, was the timing of all this even worse considering you and Ring of Honor were heading into arguably the biggest month of the year with the Crockett Cup and the Supercard of Honor?
“Yeah, for sure. There is no getting around it. It was disappointing. Also, I think I talked about this in the video announcing the cancelation, the ticket sales for the Crockett Cup with me vs. Marty II was the strongest opening day box office we’ve ever had, including NWA 70, with the rematch between me and Cody. So it definitely seemed like we were tracking to do our best yet. I knew the entire world was being put on hold. So in many ways, we’re kind of set up better because we kind of build our shows in a more traditional way that WWE tried to move away from, building around the main event. Not to say the other matches don’t matter, but there was always a clear path to the main event. We knew in a crowded space, we’re not going to get people’s attention by giving a super show with ten huge matches.”
It’s like the boxing formula.
“Yes, right. Nick Aldis vs. Marty Scurll II, yes, that’s interesting, I could see that because it’s been a year since I’ve seen the last one. Also, it’s the added stipulation of Marty refunding the audience if he loses. So it’s one thing, and then everyone else gets the benefit of being on the undercard. Look, somewhere down the line, I’ll probably be on the undercard, and someone else will take that spot if they step up. But for now, it’s me. So in that respect, we can very easily reset because unlike other shows, you don’t have to watch every week to know what’s up. You know who the champion is. Within an hour of watching our show, you can kind of get back on track.
We’ll just reset. Again, we’ll listen to the audience on that. Once things get back to normal, whenever that may be, we’ll look at it and reset. If we know there is still interest in Nick vs. Marty or whatever, we’ll work it out. The authenticity is what helps us build our relationship with the audience because we try not to pretend things aren’t the way they are. And again, I don’t want this to come across as I’m throwing shade at WWE, but instead of pretending and saying, “It’s too big for one night.” We just go, look, we’ve all suffered in this crazy period in our history. When people are ready for pro wrestling again and ready to give a shit about what we’re doing, we’ll come back.”
Straight shooting, basically.
“Yeah, we talked about that in one of our earlier episodes of Ten Pounds of Gold. “The authenticity era.” It’s like, I’m a millennial, and most millennials don’t accept the first line that gets fed to us. We tend to delve deeper or look somewhere else. Those days of accepting whatever a promoter tells you or whatever a show tells you, to me, are over. Especially with pro wrestling. Look, wrestling is a victim of its own success. It’s made millions and millions on selling the backstage story of how things really happen. So you can’t do that and then expect people to blindly accept what you’re telling them without going the extra mile with the details. You can’t have it both ways. Again, that’s not a knock. We just know that’s how the audience thinks now.”
Going back to something you touched on earlier about promotions not working with one another. NWA and ROH are kind of perfect examples of two companies flourishing by working together. We know your relationship with Marty, and fans know his position with ROH now. Could all of this have happened without Marty, do you think?
“Certainly, my relationship with Marty was the thing that kind of opened the door, but if you’re asking whether the relationship would still be there had it not been for Marty becoming the booker, possibly. We had it before but had kind of put it on ice because we were getting ready to focus on Powerrr, and we felt like we needed to sort of separate the brands again. I had been heavily featured on a lot of ROH stuff to a point where we didn’t want people to assume I’m going to be on every ROH show. Not trying to sound too arrogant about this, but that’s a real benefit to ROH but not a huge benefit to us and me. ROH is getting me, and what are we getting in return, you know?
When we got the right stuff in return like the Cody match or the use of their equipment and infrastructure for the Crockett Cup, then we saw the benefit. So like I said, we put it on ice because we sort of realised that we were perhaps becoming a little too dependent on them, and we needed to sort of stand on our own two feet. Then we went and did Powerrr, and the response was so positive, and I don’t think any of us were expecting the critical acclaim to be so overwhelmingly positive. So off the back of that, Marty is in the midst of deciding where he is going to go.
I’m not going to go into it too much. Obviously, Marty and I are close, and when he told me he was considering staying put because of this phenomenal offer that was made to him, he pretty much said that the first thing he wanted to do if he stayed was rekindle the working relationship between the NWA and ROH. So, yes, we were aware of it, and it sped things up. But who’s to say what would have happened if he decided to go elsewhere. Although I don’t have a definitive title, my position in NWA is pretty similar to Marty’s in ROH. So we both kind of know we’re pretty integral as talent to the success of the brand, and the trust is there between the two companies because they know the trust is there between Marty and I.
All we want to do is make money, and while I might be pretty f*****g envious of Marty’s paychecks (laughs), it’s also inspiring me to want to get a piece of that and do all of this together.”
Also, you get to come to these fun shows with ROH in a different capacity almost.
“And our shows are so different that we have certain talent that will benefit from showing up on our stage like Beer City Bruiser or Silas Young. Like people might say they can see that guy fitting on Powerrr. Conversely, you see a guy like Ricky Starks, and you think I’d love to see him mix it up with Jay Lethal or Jonathan Gresham on a very wrestling orientated show. It’s the sort of dream matches. We’ve fantasy booked ten tags like Villain Enterprise vs. Strictly Business. They’re all right there.
I wish more wrestling companies could identify that. The top guys in the business sort of drive the way the market goes, and me and Marty are trying to set that precedent. Most of the time, we need to operate in our own world. Most of the time, we need to cultivate our own audience, build our own stars, and we need storylines and creative angles focusing on our talent. But, you can’t have all the top guys in one company. I know there were lots of people that were disappointed that Marty didn’t go AEW, and there were people questioning why I didn’t go. There is only a certain amount of spots available to be the top talent, right? So it comes down to not only money but being utilised to your full potential.
If you put all the best wrestlers in one company, it might sound great on paper, but it doesn’t work because there is no hierarchy, and nothing feels special, and someone is going to have to be diminished. Look at how many talents have gone to WWE, and it is not a knock on how they are being used, but there is only one main event. There is always inevitably going to be a bunch of people that say, “Oh my god, their wasting Cesaro or Bobby Roode.” It’s not a waste. There’s only so many top spots. So if you’ve got a whole company full of main eventers, it’s not that easy.
But what me and Marty are trying to usher in is kind of more similar to how the culture has been in Japan historically, where there is a handful of top guys, really good mid-card guys, and it’s a competitive environment. Then every now and then, we put our territorial bullshit squabbling aside, and we come together for a giant show that’s going to be good for the whole health of the industry. People think it can’t be done, but it absolutely can be done at any time, and that’s what we’re displaying here. The top guy in the NWA and the top guy from ROH are going to wrestle. The stories write themselves. The business is about making moments.”
Stay tuned for part 3!
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