Over the past several years, Adam Pearce has gone from losing opening-card matches in Ring of Honor to becoming one of the most influential and respected personalities in the sport of wrestling. And, yet, many wrestling fans may never have heard of him.
After longtime ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky was fired in 2008, “Scrap Iron” took over as the creative head of the nation’s third-largest wrestling company. Under Pearce’s leadership, ROH has developed a new following on national television, pioneered a new Internet pay-per-view market, and helped craft some of the most compelling storylines in all of wrestling.
But that all came to an end in August when news surfaced that Pearce had been fired as ROH’s booker.
Even without that job, Pearce still holds one of the most historically prestigious posts in the sport—National Wrestling Alliance heavyweight champion. The three-time NWA champ has been especially busy as of late, defending the title against the likes of Bryan Danielson and Charlie Haas and being featured on the new NWA Championship Wrestling From Hollywood program on KDOC-TV in Los Angeles.
In this interview—Pearce’s first following his departure from ROH—the 15-year wrestling veteran spoke with Senior Writer Al Castle about his falling-out with ROH, his thoughts on ROH’s future, and the NWA’s place in the sport in 2010.
AC: You’ve been in the news as of late, largely because of your parting of ways with Ring of Honor. You’ve said a little bit about what happened, but can you tell me more about how that came about?
AP: I think basically what it boils down, and I’ve said this to practically everyone I’ve talked to, is that it’s a different ideology having literally nothing to do with the wrestling side of the operation. I’ve thought, and I’ve been adamant from the beginning, that if and when Ring of Honor finally closes its doors, the wrestling side of it—the in-ring, the creative—is never going to be the reason why. I really mean this: It doesn’t matter who the booker is. Whether it’s Gabe Sapolsky, me, Delirious, or somebody you pull off the street, it really doesn’t matter because the in-ring is going to be so strong and what Ring of Honor is going to be remembered for. It’s those other things that are equally important and often forgotten and those things away from the public eye that are going to be the things that drag the company down. And those ultimately turned out to be what the main difference of opinion was between myself and some of the other guys in Ring of Honor.
AC: Is that to say that you think there are some bad business decisions being made in Ring of Honor?
AP: I think that there are opportunities that Ring of Honor has had over the last two years, that I’ve seen with my own eyes, and doors that have gone unopened and things that are left on the table that I think the company could have really taken advantage of and have been better for business in the long term and certainly better for the wrestlers in the long term. And it’s unfortunate.
AC: What’s kept those things from happening? Is it just a disagreement about whether those things would, in fact, help the company? I imagine if those in power thought these were good things, they would do them.
AP: You would think that would make sense. You know you have good people that you work with. Ring of Honor over the last two years has come into partnerships with some strong businesses people—HDNet, obviously owned by Mark Cuban, who is a billionaire. And, from the outside looking in, you’d take it as a given to want to get in bed with a billionaire who obviously is a fan of wrestling, who has put himself in the ring in WWE several times and fronted the money to put Ring of Honor on a national platform on his television network. You’d think you’d want to expand that relationship and try to get away from a business model that has proven to not be successful—the DVD market. I don’t think it takes a lot to realize that if WWE is having problems selling WrestleMania on DVD the last couple of years, what makes anyone think that you’re going to be able to sell any other wrestling DVD, especially from a company with a percentage of the notoriety, a percentage of the familiarity of WWE? And expect to sell them at a volume to where you’d not only break even, but draw enough of a profit to sustain your business going forward? I think that Ring of Honor needs to take a look at how it’s operating and what it’s expecting. I just think there have been doors that have been knocked on and just haven’t been answered.
AC: Can you give any specific example of an opportunity that you think they didn’t take?
AP: I think the number one thing that should have been done in Ring of Honor is expand its deal with HDNet. And I know that there are opportunities to do that that were declined… Stronger help on the television side of things. Ring of Honor has been off of cable pay per view for a couple of years. And there are opportunities there to sit down with HDNet and talk about that. There’s the continued use of the DVDs that Ring of Honor has been putting out that are not in high definition format – basically just not keeping up with the technology of the day. These are all things that could have been mitigated – and in my opinion should have been mitigated – if the company is going to stay on the winning path and is going to move toward becoming solvent and well off. These are things that need to be done. People are complaining about the quality of the DVDs – that’s it’s not shot in widescreen format and it’s not in HD.
Basically, Ring of Honor, I think, on the business side of things, is stuck in 1998. They’re a generation behind of where they should be. And on one side of the coin, your wrestling is supposed to be this revolutionary product, but everything else isn’t. I was championing those things, which is why I was happy that we took a step forward with the Internet pay-per-views and the online, on-demand portal. You’re going to see that over the next five years, that’s going to be how people rent things. I don’t think there’s going to be DVDs coming off of shelves at the Blockbuster. We’re going to be looking more toward the Netflix download system. WWE’s got their online portal, and so does TNA. And they’re drawing strong revenues from that. And I think that it’s totally natural that as technology advances, you have to keep up with it. And I don’t see that happening at Ring of Honor.
AC: Was it a situation where you couldn’t remain silent and felt you needed to speak up about these problems you were seeing?
AP: I’ve always been that guy. I’m outspoken and when I see something that I see as a deficiency or something that needs to be corrected, I’m on it. The good side of that is that that’s why I’m always looked to as a leader in practically everything I do. The bad side of that is that my voice is always a little bit louder. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease. This time I didn’t get the grease I was looking for.
Anytime you’ve got two strong personalities in the same office on opposite ends of the spectrum as it pertains to an issue, there’s automatically division. If I say black and someone else says white, that puts the owner, Cary Silkin, in the middle. And if that argument continues for months and months, and there’s bitterness on both sides that has been festering, then a change is coming. And Cary Silkin was, unfortunately, in a position where he felt that he needed to make a change he thought was easiest for the company. I don’t like it, but I understand it.
AC: So you’re butting of heads wasn’t with Cary.
AP: Not at all. Cary Silkin is the most generous man I’ve ever met in my life. I consider him a tremendous friend and probably the best boss I will ever have. I can’t say enough good things about Cary. But, again, to have himself in the position that he’s got one person chirping in his ear constantly about one thing and someone else chirping in his ear about the opposite—I think there’s some hard feelings both ways, and I certainly accept the part of the turmoil that I created. But he knows. I’ve had conversations with Cary since I was let go and he knows that where I was coming from was a place of bettering Ring of Honor and taking care of the people who we have under contract on the creative side who deserve, in my opinion, more than they’re getting.
AC: I’ve got to ask who the person was that you were clashing with. Is it Syd (Eick, ROH vice president)? Jim Cornette?
AP: Absolutely not Jim Cornette. It’s not hard to figure it out.
AC: You said something a little while ago that some people would find alarming. You said “if and when” Ring of Honor shuts down. I think for realists who watch this company surviving on DVD sales and few hundred people at live shows, that’s been in the back of their heads for a long time. But I know I’ve gotten assurances from Cary over the years of, “No, we’re fine. We’re not shutting down anytime soon.” Maybe you could offer some insider perspective. Is that a realistic possibility?
AP: I think anytime you’re dealing with a small business—and I still consider Ring of Honor to be a small business and I think Cary would—in the economy we have and in the entertainment field, whose existence is based solely on selling one item, I don’t really consider the people in the area buying the tickets. That’s almost second to the DVD sales. That’s the driving force of the company. Because by the time we walk into the building and the people show up, their money is already spent. So it’s on the back end that you’re trying to make a profit. So I think when you limit yourself to saying, “We’re going to rely on “X” and “X” is your bread and butter, and if you haven’t turned a profit in “X” since 2005, then I think you have to take a look in the mirror and ask, “Why are we in business? And if we’re not making any money, why are we in business? And if we’re not turning a profit at these shows, why are we running these shows?”
To Cary’s credit, the schedule was cut quite a bit from two or three years ago to where it is now. And the TV tapings are subsidized by HDNet, so that’s not a huge expense out of Cary’s pocket. I think, at the end of the day—and this is just me, personally—Ring of Honor will continue to operate as long as Cary Silkin wants it to. But what that entails is him pulling his private funds out of his own wallet to make that happen. And the thing that I fear, and I’ve said this to him a hundred times, is that he’s going to continue pulling from his own kitty, and one day he’s going to reach in and there’s not going to be anything left. And then it’s going to be reflection time. “Oh, no. What did I do? What could I have done differently? Where did all the money go?” I would hate for that to happen for him, because I don’t think he deserves it.
Like I said, this is the most generous man that I’ve ever met in my life, who’s taken care of so many people. He’s so generous, I think to a fault. He’s primed to be taken advantage of. And I think in some situations he has been. And I think he needs the right set of people around him on the business end of things to make sure that at the end of the day not only is it bigger, it’s profitable, but also that he’s not depleting his own personal funds. At the end of the day, he’s really the one who’s going to be worse off than anyone else. The wrestlers could always go and work. I’m going to find another job. People in the office can go and find another job. If his business fails, what does Cary do next? And that’s a scary question.
AC: I think it’s fair to say it will be a very sad day for the wrestling landscape when Ring of Honor isn’t around. Inasmuch as people think of a “Big Three”—even though I know Ring of Honor’s fan base is far smaller than even TNA’s—Ring of Honor has really been carrying the weight of athleticism and wrestling as a sport on its shoulders. And I think that’s something that would be sorely missed if Ring of Honor weren’t around.
AP: Yeah, and I’ve said that to the guys in the locker room. Before every show I do a little rah-rah speech or something like that and address issues. No one will ever be able to take Ring of Honor out of the wrestling history books. And that’s good. On some level, we’ve all forged a little niche on the totem pole of wrestling through the years that will never be erased. And that feels good. But at the same time, you want it to mean something. You don’t want it to be an afterthought, like “Hey, Ring of Honor was this great wrestling company that had so many great talents, and good bookers, and legends that came through. But at the end of the day, man, they just couldn’t get it together, and they’re gone.” You don’t want that epitaph to be more bitter than sweet.
I’m not saying that Ring of Honor is going to end up being a multimillion-dollar company. I don’t think anybody would love anything more than to be able to make a good living in the wrestling business working for Cary, because we all love Cary, but I just don’t know what the future holds.
AC: Lets backtrack a bit. I’m interested in how you got involved in the creative side of things. I guess it was about two years ago that the bombshell comes out that Gabe’s been fired. And Gabe was a pretty popular booker among fans and among the wrestlers. They hear Adam Pearce is the new booker, and I think for a lot of people it was a real head-scratcher. Adam Pearce—the guy who’s wrestling in opening-card matches? What does he know about booking? Can you talk about what you brought to the table that made you a viable option?
AP: I think you hit the perception right on the head. People who were watching Ring of Honor went from one day having Gabe Sapolsky, who has this awesome knack to take people who are on the Internet and suck them into whatever idea he’s got or whatever idea he’s working with people on, and he turns them into this cult, ravenous following. It’s like him and Paul E. are the only people able to do that. And then, like you said, here’s this first, second, or third match heel putting babyfaces over, which just happened to be what my job in Ring of Honor was. I was the lower-to-mid-card heel gatekeeper for these babyfaces who were going to be moving up to the upper card or even higher than that. And the reason that job was mine was because I was experienced enough to get in the ring with guys who hadn’t been wrestling as long as I was and kind of teach them how and what to do to get on to that next level. I think if you look at your card, every spot on the card is important. You need to have your skilled and your tenured people in the right positions to mold guys going forward. And Ring of Honor has always been about the young talent ready to break out and take the next step and make themselves stars. And I think when you have that young talent doing so many moves and so many spots—these awesome things visually—you kind of lose sight of what working really is. These days, practically every locker room I go to I am the veteran. That was my job, to kind of reel people in and say, “Okay, You can do 10 flips, but we’re going to do two of them tonight and here’s where we’re going to do them and here’s why.” I don’t want to say “teach people how to work,” but just polish them. That was my job. And for three years I loved that job. I didn’t have to be the top guy. I didn’t have to be the main event …
Moving into the creative side of things, like you said the bombshell was dropped and Gabe was let go. That was a shock to everyone in the locker room, including myself. I didn’t know what was going on until actually my last date in-ring. It was September of 2008 in Philadelphia. I wrestled Brent Albright in Philadelphia and took the NWA title back from him, and I was being cut from the roster. It was a cost-cutting thing. I live in San Diego, so I’m flying everywhere. It wasn’t a drive to any of the towns. So that took a toll, and just operating expenses were being reduced. I wasn’t being featured, necessarily, in the main event. For me to be kept on for three years in the role that I was given at the expense that was incurred, I think says a lot.
And along the way I would be asked about things I might change. As a wrestler, I think it’s second nature to always question the booker—just like it is for any line of work for a subordinate to question their boss. But the guys would always come to people like me or some of the other tenured members of the locker room for ideas on how to put their match together or, “We’re stuck on a finish,” or just looking for someone else’s perspective on how to do something. I was always one of those guys as a veteran guy who they would come to. I was never shy on ideas on finishes, or angle ideas. When Gabe would say, “I want some kind of angle here,” I was always one of the first guys to wrap his head around it and we’d all knock our heads to figure out what we’re doing.
So over the last 15 years, I’ve always stuck my nose in creative, for good or bad. There have been people who appreciated and people who it’s pissed off. For Gabe it was his baby. Gabe had this thing where it was his show and he’d write everything. And I think that’s somewhat misleading. From that standpoint, it wasn’t hard for the boys to get on board with me captaining ship, because I was kind of doing that in the locker room anyway and giving young guys ideas anyway. So from that standpoint, it wasn’t a difficult transition, I would say.
AC: I talked to Chris Hero, who said that one of the things you brought to the table was that you were one of the boys, so to speak. And that goes a long way when you’re asking guys to do certain things. They know that you would and you are doing them yourself. Do you agree with that?
AP: Absolutely. People ask me what the biggest difference between me and Gabe Sapolsky was, and it comes down to being as simple as anything I ever asked anybody to do, I had already done it. Period. I had been in there, and these guys knew they weren’t going to be put in a situation that I hadn’t put myself fin or been put in before. There’s a camaraderie and respect that’s inherent when you’re one of the boys. I think the guys knew that they weren’t going to be asked to do something outlandish or something that I thought was stupid.
At the same time, I could push the envelope a bit with guys who may not have been comfortable, necessarily, with things that I wanted them to do. They trusted me because they knew Pearce had been there, done that. But they all understood that my style and the things that I was looking for weren’t going to be insane anyway. They weren’t going to be diving off the top of steel cages or going through flaming tables. That’s just not my bag.
From that standpoint, it made it for the boys profoundly easier to relate. A wrestler relates to a wrestler. And if your booker isn’t a wrestler, there’s a gap that needs to bridged. And some people are really good about bridging that gap and some people aren’t … If respect is a cup that you could fill up to 10, if you’re not a wrestler, you could never fill that cup to 10. You might fill it to nine, but you’re never going to fill it to 10.
AC: Was it a delicate balance that you had to try to reach? Because on one hand, you had your own style and your own ideas, but on the other hand, Ring of Honor came into its popularity and grew its cult following under Gabe’s booking and Gabe’s style of wrestling. So, I guess you had to be careful not to completely turn that upside down, because then you’re alienating your fans.
AP: I think what people need to realize, too, is that, if a change in Ring of Honor in style and in creative wasn’t wanted, there wouldn’t have been a need to change the booker. It’s like you said, you’re walking that delicate, fine line where you’ve got your fan base that’s already built up and they’re accustomed to being catered to and they’re accustomed to seeing certain things. But at the end of the day, if the person writing the checks wants something different in the ring, then that’s what you do. And I knew that I would be the one taking the bullets for that. And, frankly, I don’t think it mattered who the successor to Gabe Sapolsky was going to be. I think the fact that it was me, a heel who had always been a lower-card guy in Ring of Honor, it’s not as if it went from Gabe Sapolsky to Jim Cornette. It was Gabe Sapolsky to a lower-card heel who wasn’t particularly Internet-friendly to begin with. I wasn’t out there giving interviews and making myself accessible the way that Gabe did. So I think in a certain respect that kind of hindered my cause more than it would have hindered someone else.
At the same time, one of the issues that the wrestlers always had with Ring of Honor was that it seemed like Gabe Sapolsky got more credit for Ring of Honor than anyone else. This goes back to wrestlers and filling that cup of respect. Gabe wasn’t in the ring doing it. That chapped a few hides along the way. And I wanted to make sure that I, as the head of creative, took myself as far out of the spotlight as I could. I didn’t do an interview at all for three years nearly. I took myself out of the ring in Ring of Honor nearly completely for two years. I think it was important for me that the honor and the attention in Ring of Honor was on the wrestlers and not the booking.
AC: Obviously, a pitfall that a lot of wrestler/bookers have fallen into over the years has been pushing themselves and making themselves the centerpiece of big angles. Once you started booking, we hardly saw you in the ring—at least in Ring of Honor. Was there any temptation along the way of, “You know, I have this opportunity here to really get myself over”?
AP: Absolutely not. And I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I think that speaks volumes of what I thought about the product. It would have been easy. And nobody ever told me that I couldn’t wrestle. Cary Silkin never came to me and said, “Hey Adam, now that you’re going to lead things, maybe it’s a good idea to get out of the ring.” In fact, he would ask me, “Hey, do you want to bring the NWA title into Ring of Honor?” or “Hey, do you want to work tonight?” And the answer was always, “No. The focus is going to be on this locker room and these guys because they deserve it.” I didn’t want to be that guy and follow in the same steps, as you said, of so many wrestler/bookers who took the opportunity when they had it to make themselves the champion or to be at the top of the card or to get the TV time.
I mean, think about it from this standpoint: Ring of Honor gets a national television deal … Hell, I could have put myself on the TV show every week, and benefited myself personally. I would have the greatest tape ever on myself. I never appeared once. I thought to myself, If I don’t have the respect of my locker room now, which I did, I don’t think they could help but respect me by doing that. And that’s why I did it.
AC: What are you most proud of from your time heading creative? Is there an angle or a storyline that you look at and really feel was kind of a testament of what you brought?
AP: To be honest with you, being the head of creative with Ring of Honor was my dream job. I loved it. I have a family and child and the schedule didn’t require me to be on the road 200 days a year, but at the same time I was writing a television show that was airing nationally. And we were playing houses and doing reasonably well. In fact, numbers started to creep up during the last year or so, and I was really proud of that.
I think at the end of the day what I’m going to love most about what I did was solidifying the locker room in 2008. Up until the end of Gabe Sapolsky’s run, it was really fractured and really insecure—just really unnerved in not knowing what was going to go on, and really unhappy. And I was a part of that. I hated that feeling. No one wants to go to work when they hate their job. I’m not saying that the boys hated working for Ring of Honor, but that unknown, the uncertainty of the future, cast a dark cloud over what we would have been doing. It took some time when I came in because people thought that was the bottom—the beginning of the end of Ring of Honor, when Gabe Sapolsky left. It was his baby. It took some time to rebuild the confidence of these guys that, “Now we’re going to continue. We’re going to fight a different fight. We’re going to continue to fight the good fight. And at the end of the day, if we play our cards right and we get the right people on our side, we’re going to stay in business and it’s going to be better than it was before.”
I think on one hand there are some things about Ring of Honor that wouldn’t have been possible pre-2008. And there’s some really positive things to take from it. The television show I’ll put up against any wrestling television show on the air. If you’re a wrestling purist, if you like wrestling and you like athletic wrestling, and you want a little bit of sizzle with your steak, instead of a little steak with your sizzle, I don’t think you get a better hour of wrestling on television anywhere.
When I couldn’t get to the television, that was tough. Because, like the Ring of Honor’s DVD storylines from 2002 to 2008 were Gabe’s, the television show was my baby. And that was really hard.
AC: Any thoughts about where Ring of Honor goes now under Hunter Johnston (a.k.a. Delirious, ROH’s new booker)? Does he share some of your ideals? Do you expect him to go in a radically different direction?
AP: I don’t think so. From what I understand from talking to Cary Silkin and Hunter myself, I don’t think he’s going to do anything really different than what we were already doing. I think it’s more about having a different personality in that position that might be easier to work with on the other side of the business. Fortunately for the locker room, everyone knows Delirious. He has an extremely good reputation as being one of the boys with a sound mind, and a good mind. I can say unequivocally that he and I agree on nine out of 10 issues and came to same conclusion as far as wrestling goes. We see things much the same. And probably over the years I’ve spent more time in the ring with Delirious than with any other guy. He’s earned my respect tenfold.
So in that respect, you’re not going to see any radical shifts in what’s going on creatively. He’ll also have Jim Cornette to lean on. As great a mentor as Jim was for me in allowing me to be the boss and allowing me to succeed on my own merit, I hope he’ll do the same for Hunter going forward. And at least with Jim and (ROH producer) Dave Lagana on the television side going forward, you don’t lose that continuity. You still have two-thirds of the three-headed monster. And Hunter I think from a temperament standpoint, if my fuse burns at a thousand degrees, he’s a much calm, cooler guy than I am. I don’t want to say he’s less passionate, because I don’t think that’s accurate. But he’s kind of an easy, laidback kind of a guy. And maybe that is what Cary was looking for.
AC: So do you think your career on the creative side of wrestling is now over and do you want to just go back to concentrating on your own wrestling career? Obviously, there’s been talk of you maybe having a role in TNA. I think a lot of people would say your creative skills could really be used there.
AP: There have been conversations with people in TNA. I think some of the things that have been reported have been a bit overblown. I have a lot of friends that work in TNA, and a lot of them came from Ring of Honor. D-Lo Brown, who is in a good position there now, worked for me and Cary Silkin in 2009 for a stretch. And I’ve known Terry Taylor for more than 10 years, and obviously he’s head of talent relations there. There have been talks, but I talk to those guys all the time. But there’s been nothing set in stone about me going over there to try out. But you never know.
I don’t know what the future holds. I have obligations to the National Wrestling Alliance. Today we’re taping television in Hollywood that will later broadcast on KDOC TV—real Los Angeles television, finally, for David Marquez, who I’m excited for. And for the talent here in the Los Angeles and the Southern California area, this is an opportunity to really do something that hasn’t been done in Southern California since the days of the Olympic Auditorium. This is kind of the dawn of a new era in a part of the country that in the Internet doesn’t get a whole lot of play outside of PWG. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure I’ll be involved on the creative side of that in some way. Beyond that, who knows?
AC: Let’s talk a little bit about the NWA. Some people would say that the NWA is a shell of what it was 20 years ago. How do you think the NWA fits into the wrestling landscape today?
AP: The only difference between the NWA of today and the NWA of its heyday is money. It’s that simple. When Jim Crockett closed his doors, some would think that was the end of the NWA. It depends on what your perspective is. At that time, when Jim Crockett closed his doors, there were still 29 members who said, “This ain’t over yet.” But in the entertainment business, everything comes down to dollars and cents. So if you’re going to find the right kind of exposure, you’re either going to find a partner with a lot of money who could buy it for you, or you’re going to have to have a lot of money so you could buy it. And the NWA hasn’t had that. I think you could count on one or two fingers the people who have that money. Vince McMahon and the Carter family. I think for any wrestling company, Ring of Honor, PWG, any of these entities to try to take on and be a direct competitor to those two is foolish. People can say what they want about TNA, but TNA is on Spike TV every week. And even if they’re drawing a 1.0, I think people need to understand what that is. I would kill to draw a 1.0. We never got numbers from HDNet, so I don’t know what our television ever did.
The NWA I think has, obviously, a place in wrestling history. The unfortunate thing for people involved in the NWA is that without the visibility that they had in the late-’80s, today’s wrestling fan has no idea what the NWA is. Vince McMahon has done a great favor to the people involved in the NWA by putting out these DVDs about The Four Horsemen and Ricky Steamboat featuring all this great action from early in their careers that happened in the NWA. If used right, they can kind of re-light a candle that’s been smoldering for almost 30 years. I don’t blame that on the NWA board of directors. You play the hand you’re dealt. And if you simply don’t have the operating capital to go out and make a splash, then you do what they’ve done and keep a low profile and you keep it grass roots and you keep it local and you keep it alive. From that standpoint, I’m 100 percent behind the NWA because as a governing body, they could have folded up shop and left people without a proverbial pot to piss in 30 years ago. And for good or bad, these people have been struggling to keep something alive because it has a place in history.
It’s a matter of finding the right partner with the right television exposure and the right money to do something else. And David Marquez, I think, has been the one champion of the NWA, certainly in my time in the last three or four years, who has always been on the cusp and the cutting edge of seeking out and finding people. He was on Dish Network for a year. David Marquez’ NWA Pro Wrestling in 2007 and 2008 was running arenas throughout the desert Southwest. We drew 4,000 people in Las Vegas, nearly 4,000 people in El Paso, Texas. We had over 5,000 in Houston. But the Internet doesn’t follow these events, so it doesn’t get the notoriety.
But when the economy really took a dump, the first thing that goes is your entertainment dollar. And shows that David Marquez was able to sell in 2007 and 2008 for $24,000, the same buyers were only offering eight or twelve thousand. And in any economic climate, you get what you pay for. So, if you can’t afford the big name lucha libre stars and go into Phoenix and draw two or three thousand, maybe you just bring one or two stars and you draw a thousand. He was never going to put his own money in, and that’s a smart thing. And the mindset of most NWA promoters is, if you’re going to run wrestling, rule number one is don’t spend your own money.
AC: The same way that Harley Race was the definitive NWA champion of one era and Ric Flair later of his era, I think it’s fair to say you’re the definitive NWA champion of the last several years—the post-TNA era. Obviously, it’s a different era for the NWA, but what does that mean to you, to be the flag-bearer of this company that has so much history? And what do you think you bring to the table as a performer that’s given you this opportunity?
AP: I’m always going to be honored that the people in charge of the NWA, the board of directors, found that my skills were worthy enough to put a championship around. I’ve been wrestling 15 years and three of those 15 years were spent in Ring of Honor. When I started in 1995, the Internet was in its infancy. There was no Youtube. People got along by sending VHS tapes to promoters and then calling them and bugging the hell out of them until they gave you a tryout. And it wasn’t uncommon for David Prazak and I to drive 20 hours for 20 bucks, and then get shorted when we got there. The NWA has given me an opportunity to keep my in-ring dreams alive, as cliché as that may sound.
I had opportunities in the late-’90s and early-2000s with WCW to take the next step and go to a big time promotion, which obviously was on its last legs at that point. And I made a decision, personally, not to do that. And I’ve kept myself on the periphery of always taking that next step. Colt Cabana likes to say I’m the one guy who’s had every opportunity and turned them all down. And in a way he’s right. And the NWA has allowed me to live out some of the things that may have been had I made different decisions and allowed me to be in a position to be a focal point and showcase the skills that I have. I consider myself a humble person and I don’t like to put myself over, but to me drawing is talking. I think history has shown that you don’t necessarily wrestle them into the seats. You talk them into the seats. And I would put my skills on the microphone up against anybody in the world, truthfully. I think that’s the alluring part of me. That’s the entertaining part of “Scrap Iron” Adam Pearce.
Beyond that, I’m good to do business with. I do my business with the guys I’m in the ring with. My role as NWA champion, especially in this third reign, is much like it was in the ’70s in that I go to an NWA promoter in a given part of the country, let’s say it’s Kansas, and I face his top babyface. And my job is to go in there and make that wrestler look as good as I can and leave him a step higher on the pecking order than he was before I got there. And that’s what I do. And that’s what Harley Race did, and that’s what Ric Flair did all those years. And, granted, we’re not on the same level of exposure and we’re not on the same level of notoriety and we all understand that. But the job is the same. The job hasn’t changed.
And from that standpoint, it’s extremely gratifying to go into a town and work with somebody I’ve never worked before and, in the end, having him say to me, “Man, that was the best match I ever had.” And as ridiculous as that may sound to some people on the Internet, that happens to me all the time. And that means more to me than getting paid huge money or having a great amount of notoriety. And I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity.
I love professional wrestling, and I always have since I was a little boy. And for the last 15 years—we’re talking nearly half my life—it’s allowed me to be one of the guys who’s not in WWE or TNA and is making a living off of this thing. And that’s all I ever wanted to do.