The National Wrasslin’ League just debuted earlier this month and has already run four shows – two in Kansas City and two in St. Louis. They’ve also uploaded two pilot TV episodes to their YouTube channel – one directed at each city. There are a lot of familiar faces in both NWL KC and NWL STL, but how come there are very few recognizable names? Are these two promotions or just one that runs in different cities? What’s this St. Louis/Kansas City rivalry all about?
Rather than answer so many questions in the reviews themselves (thereby making them harder to read), I figured it would be best to first present a summary of the ambitious NWL project right here. If you don’t care about all that, feel free to skip to the reviews when they’re posted. Otherwise, here’s what I know:
The National Wrasslin’ League was founded and is run by Major Baisden, a pretty successful businessman and consultant, at least by this account. Last year, they began signing up local talent, acquired the assets of Metro Pro Wrestling and St. Louis Anarchy, and set dates for their debut shows in both Kansas City and St. Louis.
Think of NWL KC and NWL STL as being like WWE’s Raw and SmackDown! brands but with more crossover. If Raw only ran shows in New York City and SmackDown! in Boston, and they each occasionally sent representatives to the other brand’s show for interpromotional matches, they’d be using the NWL’s model.
According to Major Baisden’s PowerPoint presentation (oh, yes) on the first NWL STL episode, both NWL subsidiaries will have 12-month seasons, and the last show of each month will feature a Kansas City vs. St. Louis match. The city whose representatives win the most matches each year will get some sort of “League City Championship.” I doubt that means that every citizen gets a title belt, but we’ll see. Also, the middle of the year will see an event called the Midseason Classic featuring all interpromotional matches. The side that wins the most on that night will get hometown advantage for that year’s season finale.
In April, NWL’s KC and STL will each crown their own champion. Then, at the season finale, the two champions along with the two wrestlers with the best records will enter into a tournament to determine the league’s champion. (No word on whether that will unify the titles, but my guess is that the two city-wide titles will still be defended on their own shows and the league champion will travel between the two brands.) This will also be done with tag teams, though no tag team title plans have been announced as of this writing.
So the league is based, at least in part, on the intercity rivalry between Kansas City and St. Louis. I see this rivalry as mostly sports-based and baseball-centric, though there may be a bit more to it. The St. Louis Cardinals have been a pretty successful team in MLB for a long time. They’ve won eleven World Series titles, two of which came after the year 2000. They’ve existed in some form since the late 19th century. The Kansas City Royals were only founded in 1969 as an expansion team, and they’ve only won two World Series, one in 1985 and one in 2015. For most of the time between those two titles, they never sniffed the playoffs and were basically the laughingstock of the baseball world. So Royals fans tend to harbor a lot of jealousy towards Cardinals fans, and St. Louisans have been alleged to treat Kansas Citians like they’re the little brother.
While I personally think this rivalry is silly and have rejoiced at instances like the Cardinals and Royals working together to help support Joplin, Missouri, after the 2011 tornado as well as the St. Louis arch being lit up Royal blue after the 2015 World Series, I can understand why tapping into the traditional animosity could be a winning strategy for a wrestling group.
Now, onto the wrestlers. Nearly every performer on both brands has a different name than the one they use when they wrestle elsewhere. Davey Vega is now Davey Gibson, Mike Sydal is Ken Dharma, etc. According to an open letter Baisden posted on Facebook, this is for branding purposes, and each wrestler got to pitch his own new gimmick. I would be surprised to see any of these guys using these new names in any other promotion. The exceptions to the name changing are Jeremy Wyatt (who has a new nickname – “The Monarch”) and his manager, Michael Strider. Strider’s retired, and Wyatt doesn’t usually wrestle anywhere else. Plus, they’re both so established in Kansas City wrestling that changing their gimmicks would surely be jarring. Also, Marti Bell, who wrestled in TNA for a little while, is working as an interviewer and hasn’t changed her name.
As usual, this post went longer than I’d planned, but I hope it helps you understand what the NWL is doing and where they hope to go. It’s an ambitious plan that will probably take time to bear fruit, but I think it’s a cool idea, and I really hope it succeeds and lasts a while.
Prepare for reviews of NWL KC and NWL STL’s first TV shows!