Before his upcoming match-up against Mike Bennett, NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis chatted with Wrestling Inc. President Raj Giri about the state of pro wrestling today. Giri noted that NWA appears to bringing back the importance of promos in pro wrestling, and Aldis agreed elaborating on how the industry has shifted its focus more on the in-ring work and not on promos.
"Well, that I 100% agree with. I don't know if it's shifting back," Aldis admitted. "It's hard to make broad statements on the business because obviously, you have one company that has such a large market share, and their product is so vastly different both in terms of their execution and in their philosophy. I hope that it is because I think that to me, I think the business is 50% wrestling and 50% promos. I think that somewhere along the way, in the last sort of 20 years, the business sort of became a little fascinated with critical sort of feedback from a very specific, discerning audience and this narrative emerged that the wrestling was most important, and I absolutely disagree with that.
"I think we can all agree that the overall quality from top to bottom, in terms of physical talent has improved, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the overall quality of the stuff in the ring, in my opinion, necessarily [has] because, this is just me talking, a big part of my enjoyment of the industry is in suspension of disbelief. And I find it very hard to suspend my disbelief in a lot of the product that I watch now, and one of the reasons that I decided to really double down on the NWA was because I had spent my career sort of learning and working on a storytelling kind of style. I'm a good athlete. I'm not going to shy away from that, but I'm not a gymnast.
"I see some matches, they feel like one long high spot. It's impressive but just on a very sort of surface level. I don't get a sort of deep emotional connection with what's happening. I don't feel like I'm watching a sport, and again, I'm just speaking for me, I want to feel like I'm watching a sport with the volume turned up. I want to feel like I'm watching a great prize fight."
Aldis has spoken in the past about envisioning NWA featuring big matches like prize fights. Aldis used UFC as an example of how Dana White explained that the sport can be universal because the idea of two people fighting is more universal than other sports.
"Dana White, I heard him say everyone around the world plays different sports," Aldis recalled. "He used cricket as an example, and he said in India and in England and other parts of the world, cricket's a huge sport, but in other parts of the world, they have no idea what it is. People have the same feeling about American sports like baseball or American football. But two people fighting is understandable in any language to any culture because it's a human level.
"I believe that the progression of pro wrestling and the reason that pro wrestling has survived and has been viable for such a long time is because the only thing with real fighting, for lack of a better term, is that sometimes it ain't that interesting. It can be built up, but there's no guarantee that it can meet your expectations. I always felt like the point of wrestling was to basically create all that and guarantee that it would meet your expectations by giving an exciting contest."
Aldis looked back on the history of pro wrestling back in the carnival days. He said that once those early wrestlers realized that they could reach people on a human level, then everything changed for the business, and he said that is what he strives for.
"It stemmed from the carnival's like guys were having two-hour matches that ended in a draw, and they're basically just sort of grappling with each other and trying to grab a hold or trying to grab a front facelock and everyone was going, I'm going kill myself," Aldis said. "Until eventually they went, OK, look, we're beating the hell out of each other, and we got to do it all again tomorrow or next week or whenever. Why don't you win this one. I'll win the next one, and then we'll have a tiebreaker. Then we'll make more money, and that to me, I wish more people kept that in mind when they were looking at the way they approach the business because ultimately, I'm trying to reach people on a human level.
"Like I'm trying to create packages and an outcome and a contest or simulated contest that makes people go, I'm ready to see this right now. This is going to be a war. This is going to be a contest between two guys or two girls who really want it. They don't always have to hate each other's guts. They don't always have to be sociopaths. They don't always have to run each other over with a car. Sometimes, it can just be, I'm better than you. No, I'm better than you. OK, let's prove it, or hey, you have something that I want, the Worlds Championship. That's really my underlying philosophy on the whole business."
Aldis continued on the UFC example noting that someone like Conor McGregor can be seen as a larger-than-life figure in the UFC. However, in the world of pro wrestling, he could probably not compete against those in the NWA if they are on the same playing field.
"The reason that we put such an emphasis on promos, especially with Powerrr with the podium and the stickman and everything was because when someone comes along in the UFC who can actually cut a half-decent promo, they're considered this crazy, larger-than-life, unbelievable character like Conor McGregor," Aldis pointed out. "Conor McGregor is an incredibly charismatic guy, and he's a very talented talker, but if you sent him out on the NWA Powerrr set, he wouldn't cut a promo that blew one of mine away or blew one of Eli [Drake's] away or Tim Storm's or James Storm's or Eddie Kingston's. It wouldn't. It would be good, but if the fame levels were the same, it would be entertaining, but it wouldn't be this groundbreaking thing.
On the topic of stickman interviews, Aldis explained that he prefers that style of promo because of how organic they feel. He noted that it is unnatural for someone to just go out when they don't have a match and cut a promo especially when done outside of a pro wrestling setting.
"You can't compete with UFC on a fundamental level because it's real," Aldis noted. "You can't do worked MMA, and then go, see we can do it too, but what you can do is go, look, I challenge any of your roster to talk like this. Especially with a stick man because the reason I love stickman interviews is because regardless of how much preparation has gone into it, it feels more organic. No one really knows. Who's to say? But when you watch our show, has there ever been a point where you've watched it and you thought that feel scripted, that feels contrived and overproduced. No, because there's an interviewer there filling in the gaps and moving things along.
"Even in TNA, I would always say, hey, can I do this with JB (Jeremy Borash) instead of just walking out to the ring with a microphone for no reason, which when you really break it down, it's a weird thing to do. Boxers don't walk out to the ring when they're not boxing someone and just start talking. They do it at a press conference, and they do it in an interview setting. They do it somewhere else, just little things like that."
Aldis recalled that following formulaic traps was called "Golden Goose" disease back in TNA. He said while that style of interview of going out to the ring with a microphone worked for The Rock, not many wrestlers are The Rock. He noted that Ric Flair, someone who many consider to be the best wrestler on the mic, typically had someone to play off with like a Mene Gene Okerlund.
"It's like we fall into these formulaic traps based on the success of one thing," Aldis stated. "Like wrestling's notorious for, what me and some of the guys from TNA used to call, 'Golden Goose' disease, which is like, 'hey, that one thing worked. Let's do it over and over and over again until it's completely dead. Hey, this Golden Goose is laying eggs. Let's cut it open.' Let's say the pioneer of the in-ring walk out into the ring with a microphone promo is The Rock.
"He was the guy. You wanted to see that. No one was going, 'on God, why is he walking out to the ring?' it's like, it's The Rock, but not everybody can do that. Conversely, all of Flair's iconic promos, even on Nitro were still with Mean Gene. He did start doing them in the ring, but prior to that, it was Tony Schiavone, David Crockett or whoever on the set. The idea being that it felt like it was a happening, and he was talking to you. He was talking to you at home, and that's what we wanted to create with Powerrr. We wanted people to feel like he's talking to me."
Aldis will defend the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship defense against Mike Bennett at UWN's Primetime Live PPV debut on Tuesday, September 15th. The event will air live on FITE.tv.
Aldis' full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.