NWA Commentator Stu Bennett (formerly Wade Barrett in WWE) did his final interview promoting his movie "I am Vengeance: Retaliation" with Chris Van Vliet on Van Vliet's podcast. Bennett talked about how he first got contacted by NWA through watching current NWA Worlds Champion Nick Aldis, who he has known for a long time.
"I think for the past couple of years, I was getting calls from the NWA. They started their reboot two or three years ago," Bennett recalled. "Nick Aldis is a former colleague of mine. We actually started training together in 2004. He was my first singles match. I was aware of what was going on there. We kind of stayed in touch ever since. I saw that he was their champ and he was doing well. I was being sent there for their 'Ten Pounds of Gold series'.
"It was pretty exciting times, but I think they were contacting me frequently because they wanted to get me back in the ring and be one of their main guys on their roster as they rebooted. That wasn't in the cards for me."
Bennett said he was not interested in an in-ring run at that time, but he has said on The Wrestling Inc. Daily Podcast that he is not retired just yet. He said that he kept in touch with NWA about any opportunities for commentary.
"I wasn't looking to get back in the ring that soon," Bennett admitted. "Maybe I will at some point, but I told them, 'look, I've done quite a lot of commentary before. I've done commentary for Florida Championship Wrestling while I was in developmental. I've done it for What Culture Pro Wrestling in the UK or Defiant which it later became and also for World of Sport.
"I love doing that, so if you have anything in that world or if anything comes up, please think of me. I'd love to talk to you about that, but as far as the in-ring stuff, I'm not actually looking for that right now.' We stayed in touch, and they would send me episodes of NWA Powerrr. They would say, 'hey, here's our new series. It's NWA Powerrr. What do you think? Give us a critique.' I'd look at it, and I was always very impressed with it."
Former NWA commentator Jim Cornette resigned from his role after making racist remarks on an episode of Powerrr. Bennett said he was called soon after and came in to do commentary for NWA's Into The Fire PPV for the first time in 18 months.
"Then suddenly, the Jim Cornette thing happened where he decided to move on from his role," Bennett described. "I think three or four day after that, they realized, s--t, we got to get someone in pretty soon. We've got a PPV coming up next week and we've got to tape NWA Powerrr. I got a call then, and they were sounding me out about it. They knew I was a fan of the show already, and very quickly, we came to an agreement. I was excited to go join them.
"I think I did WOS or World of Sport in the summer of 2018. So, I probably hadn't done any commentary for about 18 months at that point. So I got the call, and they were like, 'here's what it is.' I was already up to speed on the storylines, the characters, and the personas. I needed to do a little bit of research here and there, but for the most part, I knew what was going on which helped."
Van Vliet and Bennett discussed the current state of NWA during the COVID-19 pandemic. NWA has not run any events since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the United States. Bennett agreed with NWA President Billy Corgan's view of not wanting to do shows without fans because of how important fans are to pro wrestling.
"So very quickly when this pandemic broke out and everyone got locked down at the end of February and the beginning of March, NWA management came out and said very specifically, there is no circumstances by which we will be putting on shows without a crowd there," Bennett said. "Billy Corgan specifically sees the audience as an integral part of professional wrestling.
"I actually agree with him. I've seen what the other companies are doing. Not to take a shot at them, I just think you lose so much when a fan base isn't there. I heard a great quote I'm paraphrasing. It was along the lines of, 'a great crowd takes a good match and makes it great, and it also takes a bad match and makes it good.'"
Van Vliet wondered if NWA had plans to run a show in 2020, and Bennett said that they were eyeing October as a date to return. But with the rising positive COVID-19 cases, especially in Georgia where NWA tapes shows, those plans were scrapped. Bennett gave his personal opinion, saying he would be surprised if NWA put on a show in 2020 due to the spikes in positive COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
"I think we were slowly getting closer to it. I'd heard rumors that we're kind of looking at October at doing something if things continue going well," Bennett revealed. "Then suddenly the U.S. had this giant spike and we're back to square one. I would be amazed, and this is not coming from anyone in management, if NWA puts on a show for the rest of 2020 just based on how all this stuff is spiking.
"I just don't think it's gonna be safe for the rest of the year for anyone to put on a show or have a crowd there. Do not take my word for it. At the end of the day, it's Billy Corgan's decision, but I would be surprised if anything comes in 2020."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit The Chris Van Vliet Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.