“Magnus is dead. Long live Nick Aldis.”
That’s the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Nick Alids’ tongue-in-cheek response when we ask what he wishes people understood about him. The TNA/IMPACT Wrestling character of Magnus is not how he wants people to remember his career. In Aldis’ own words, he was a lacklustre champion, “That’s just a character I played on a TV show for six years,” he said on the phone with SteelChair Magazine this past week.
On Magnus vs. Nick Aldis
Those six years gave Aldis a unique perspective on wrestling and his legacy in the industry. That desire to prove that he’s more has guided him into a premier position in the wrestling industry. He laughs now when he sees people on leaving comments on Youtube that they’ve just realized Nick Aldis is Magnus from TNA. It’s a reminder that anything can happen in wrestling, especially now. The industry is quickly changing and evolving around him. At the helm of NWA’s resurgence, he’s also playing a role in that evolution.
After leaving Impact in 2015, with a brief return in 2017 as the inaugural Global Force Wrestling Champion, Aldis found his place in NWA. Billy Corgan (yes, the one from Smashing Pumpkins), who acquired NWA that same year, “took a chance on me when he had no reason to.” A few years ago, the NWA wasn’t exactly top of mind to most fans. Despite having the greatest legacy of any promotion in the business today, NWA just wasn’t getting to the current wrestling audience. Corgan put Aldis in the centre of the brand, they started a Youtube series called Ten Pounds of Gold, and before long, the NWA had a new lease on life. Instead of trying to model themselves after WWE, NWA dug into its roots. They’ve almost taken an old school approach. It’s one that relies on pay-per-view. Not TV to make a profit. There’s an elephant in the room anytime you’re talking about NWA, and Aldis didn’t wait for us to bring up their lack of TV deal.
On NWA’s Approach to Pro Wrestling
“People have no idea what a TV deal even is.” He’s quick to explain how it’s a huge undertaking to produce 2 hours of content every week. The gamble doesn’t always pay off. The idea that a promotion has to have a weekly episodic TV program in order to succeed is completely off-base to him. Before WWE introduced the concept 25 years ago, wrestling was formed entirely around pay-per-view. He believes that holding onto a fatigued TV-centric model isn’t the answer. It’s time for a change.
NWA knows its current audience, a group he describes as “the discerning wrestling fan. They consume multiple products. We know we’re not the only thing on their menu.” He emphasises that NWA isn’t trying to be, rather they want to put together main events that those fans know they can’t miss. It’s similar to how the boxing industry promotes events. They don’t compile mega-cards of dream matches. Instead, they pick one, and they tell that story so completely and so well that you have to buy the show. With Aldis as their champion, NWA is returning to that style of promotion, “I think maybe we need to go back to go forward.”
On Going “All In”
There’s no denying that the strategy is working for them. Aldis recalls he and Dave Lagana, Vice President and Director of Ten Pounds of Gold, were driving when they got a text from Cody about something he had seen on their Youtube channel. The texts became more frequent, observations of what he thought was interesting, and soon it became clear what he was after. He was courting them. He wanted the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on All In.
“I knew we had magic there,” Aldis said about his match with Cody at All In. The pair had never met, but were familiar with each other, and have very similar philosophies in the ring. Together, he knew they could put on the match of the night. But to make it something special, it had to be about more than that. Though not the technical main event of the show, Aldis points out that without their match, it would’ve been a vastly different experience. “It would’ve had a lot of big pops, but we brought the story and the emotion.” That, to Aldis, is wrestling at its best. “When WWE is at the top of their game…that’s what they do. They give you Rocky Live.”
To accomplish Rocky Live, the two took a different angle to their story. It wasn’t any old title match. This was about the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and the legacy that Cody’s father, Dusty Rhodes left behind. The focus of Cody’s promos was around how he wanted to win the title for his father. Even as the de facto heel, Aldis didn’t just stomp on Cody’s dream to uphold his father’s legacy. It would’ve been easy, but cheap and insincere. Instead, his motivation to defend the title was true to life: because he is a father.
They had something real in that feud, something that put people in a conundrum and pushed them to suspend their disbelief. Both of them knew they were going to have to fight against the tendency of the crowd to believe they knew the outcome of the match. “If the audience wants to play inside baseball, let them play inside baseball,” he said. Cody and Aldis made a point to get that discerning fan to a place where they didn’t even care. All they cared about was the moment.
On the Moment That Changed Everything
That moment, when the bell rang in Chicago, and a sold-out arena were all on their feet screaming for an NWA World Heavyweight Championship match, that’s the moment where Aldis said, “I’ve made it.” That was the moment that validated every step in his 15-year career. “As a heel in that match, that’s your pop…I proved to everyone, yes, you will give a shit about my title match.”
He recalls seeing the look on Cody’s face and teasing, “Pull yourself together. This is what we wanted.” It’s what Aldis had wanted, to prove what he’s capable of as a wrestler. It’s not hard to see how the stars have aligned for Aldis. The wrestling industry is shifting so drastically, opening up possibilities we could only dream of before. NWA gave him more creative control than ever, the ability to craft his legacy into what he wanted it to be. He also admits with humility that there were many things he wanted, but he wasn’t quite ready. “I am now…The last two years of my career are my vision of who I am.”
That vision? It’s of Nick Aldis, and no one else.