The NWA is running the Crockett Cup tonight on pay per view, and the promotion has called upon legendary wrestling voice Jim Cornette to provide color commentary for the event.
Rich in history, the Crockett Cup tag team tournament debuted in 1986 and was first won by the Road Warriors. The event ran for three consecutive years, and new NWA owner Billy Corgan is bringing back the tournament–but adding a modern touch. The card includes an NWA championship match between Nick Aldis and “The Villain” Marty Scurll in addition to the eight-team tag tourney featuring the Briscoe Brothers, Brody King and PCO, Flip Gordon and Bandido, and even WWE Hall of Famers The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express.
Cornette has played an integral role on and off camera in WWE, WCW, the NWA, and Ring of Honor during a career that that spanned four decades. He is a wrestling historian and one of the greatest managers to ever work the business, and his commentary will only serve to enhance an already stellar show.
Justin Barrasso: Before we get to the present, let’s revisit the past. What was the origin of the Crockett Cup?
Jim Cornette: There were a variety of reasons why the first Crockett Cup came to pass. At the time, Jim Crockett Promotions was emerging as pretty much the only competitor to Vince McMahon. In third place was the UWF, which was the former Mid-South Wrestling with “Cowboy” Bill Watts. TBS was getting hot–Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair as an NWA world title match was very hot around the country, the Rock ‘N’ Roll [Express] and the Midnight [Express] for the world tag title was hot, and the Road Warriors were hot.
Dusty Rhodes was booking at the time, and he came up with a tag team tournament involving all of the other promotions–Florida, Kansas City, the UWF, Portland, All Japan–and it was held in the New Orleans Superdome. That was the home of Mid-South Wrestling, but at the time it was one of the great sports venues in existence in this country. If you were in the Superdome, it was a big deal–and this was a major event that attracted a lot of attention. Obviously, the Road Warriors were a hot tag team at the time, but there were a lot of great teams in the NWA, especially in 1986 and ‘87.
The one drawback, unfortunately, was when they fully realized the UWF and its live event business, with the economy in Louisiana and south Texas with the oil situation, [it] was worse than they thought. It drew a six-figure gate, and there were still over 10,000 people over the course of the day, but we had been to the Superdome two years previously with Bill Watts and Junkyard in the Last Stampede and drawn almost 25,000 people. Then this giant mega tournament doesn’t draw but about 13,000 for its two sessions. But it was still a tremendous tournament, and then in ‘87, that was the one that fired on all cylinders. That was the Midnights and the Road Warriors again–and they were always in our way, and that sold out the Baltimore Arena for a night and almost two. It was an artistic success.
Dusty loved the big events. Starrcade, the Great American Bash, the Crockett Cup. Vince was doing that with WrestleMania and the Royal Rumble, but the NWA’s style and theme was tied more to the wrestling.
Barrasso: You’ve mentioned in prior interviews that the WWE had a similar presentation as the Harlem Globetrotters, while the NWA’s style was far more akin to the tradition-based, basketball-focused Boston Celtics.
The Celtics’ focus was on the game, nothing else–and the NWA’s style was centered around the action in the ring. Is that what we are going to see at this year’s Crockett Cup?
Cornette: In the modern way, the NWA is going to deliver a great live event with a great crowd, but it’s also going to be streamed live. Remember, we weren’t doing pay per view in 1986. You had to wait for the VHS tape in those days. Now you’re going to be able to order the broadcast and hear us call it live as it happens, and they’re doing the same thing with the same flavors.
There will be NWA talents, as well as the Briscoes from Ring of Honor, who have been one of my favorite tag teams for the past 10 years. They’ve got a Japanese team (Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata), they’ve got a lucha team (CMLL’s Guerrerro Maya Jr. and Stuka Jr.), and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express.
I love the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express and I knew Ricky and Robert well, and I know what they can do. They’ve been a team now for 36 years, and they’ve done everything except win the Crockett Cup. But I expressed my trepidation at this because the Briscoes—and I know them well also—need to win this thing. This would be a feel-good moment for wrestling fans, but ‘Dem Boys’ don’t do feel-good moments. I’m afraid that Ricky and Robert don’t know how nuts Mark and Jay Briscoe are, so I’m nervous about watching that match.
Barrasso: Even for fans who are more familiar with WWE than any other promotion, what is something that newer NWA fans will find enthralling about the Crockett Cup?
Cornette: For one thing, and I’m not knocking the WWE guys—because some of them have come through training facilities for which I’ve been responsible for—but there is a WWE style of match. If you are only a WWE fan, and you then watch the Briscoes—with their smash-mouth offense, or one of the younger tag teams with the modern athletic style, or the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, who are going to bring some passion and emotion as the most popular team in the history of Charlotte, North Carolina—you’re going to see some excitement.
I watched WrestleMania. It was 45 minutes of sheer excitement in a seven-hour package. The NWA is going to give you more bang for your buck a little quicker at the Crockett Cup.
Barrasso: Speaking of WrestleMania, has that show ended yet?
Cornette: I think they’re winding down now. The ushers are trying to get everybody filed to the exits.
Barrasso: If you’re on the fence, why should you order the Crockett Cup?
Cornette: The NWA, and Billy Corgan’s vision for it, is going about this the right way. They’re trying to rebuild the brand itself. They’ve already done a great job with the world championship, which has had a higher profile in the last year than it’s had in the last 20. And now they’re trying to bring back some of the big events and involve the tag teams, and I think it’s great.
In one night, we’re going to see who’s the best. This is the best of Ring of Honor, the best of the NWA, international teams, younger talent, and you still can’t count out the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express. This show is taking place in Concord, North Carolina at the Cabarrus Arena, which is real close to Charlotte.
In 1986, wrestling was so huge in Charlotte that we did four events at the Coliseum with the Rock ‘N’ Roll and the Midnights in a 10-week period–and sold almost 45,000 tickets and drew almost $400,000 at the gate. That was how popular the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express was in Charlotte, and the fact that they’re here and competing is a great thing. I just hope that Mark and Jay Briscoe don’t take this opportunity to make too much of a name for themselves.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.