Photo: Courtesy, WCWA
Northwest Arkansas has always been an entertainment hotspot.
Crystal Bridges regularly features world class works of art, and our local art scene has thrived for years, thanks to organizations like Art Amiss, and of course the efforts of our many talented local artists. Everyone reading this probably knows all about the storied history and promising future of our music scene. Stand-up comedy has been a big deal around here for quite a while now. Lots of successful craft beer breweries call NWA home, and the only cidery in Arkansas, Black Apple Crossing, is seeing success in Springdale.
Natural State of Wrestling
When: Sunday, May 19
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Fayetteville Town Center
Tickets: $10, available at Eventbrite
We’re home to superstar Marvel Comics artist Aaron Kuder, and another Marvel artist, John Lucas (the guy who used to draw DEADPOOL) recently moved to the region. Last year, former resident and University of Arkansas alumnus Nic Pizzolatto filmed Season 3 of his wildly successful HBO show True Detective in Fayetteville.
Despite all this, we’ve never really had a steady local professional wrestling scene here in NWA. That’s about to change, however, thanks to the efforts of Springdale’s World Class Wrestling Association (WCWA). In its short existence, WCWA has demonstrated tremendous promise and could bring a whole new dimension to entertainment in NWA.
Professional wrestling, largely synonymous with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is a national institution. Since the demise of World Championship Wrestling at the end of the Monday Night Wars in 2001, WWE hasn’t had much major competition, but the independent wrestling scene has thrived.
A number of smaller promotions have gained traction in recent years, and WCWA has the potential to follow suit. WCWA has already held several local events, most recently featuring matches during the Ozark Demolition Derby. Thousands of people were at the event, and WCWA was very well received by the crowd, many of whom sought out WCWA talent after their matches for autographs and selfies.
Though NWA specifically doesn’t have a ton of wrestling tradition, the Natural State does have some professional wrestling history. Smashing Pumpkins mastermind Billy Corgan bought one of the oldest wrestling promotions, the National Wrestling Alliance (also NWA) back in 2017, and at that time the NWA World Heavyweight Champion was Pine Bluff native Tim Storm.
Storm’s former tag team partner, Russellville’s Matt Riviera, is also quite successful on the independent scene, and both Storm and Riviera were trained by Continental Wrestling Association star Bill Ash at his school in Paris.
Arkansas has also given us the likes of WWE Hall of Famers Bobo Brazil and Sailor Art Thomas, former WWF and WCW Champion Sid Vicious, and Jim Johnston, who served as the primary in-house music composer for WWE for over 30 years. Johnson created countless memorable themes such as the entrance music for WWE Superstars like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and a host of others.
WCWA owner Nathaniel Tatha-Nahandji, WCWA wrestler Dusty Gold, and WCWA announcer Sunshine Broder were kind enough to speak with us about how WCWA plans to write the next chapter in Arkansas wrestling history.
The group has a series of evens coming up this summer at the Fayetteville Town Center, with match dates set for May 19, June 16, and July 7.
First off, tell us a little bit about yourself and your motivation to found WCWA. What are your specific goals with this promotion?
Nathaniel: I grew up watching wrestling with my brother. He actually got me into it. We watched WCW Saturday Night and WWF. I remember my very first match that got me emotionally invested into wrestling. It was Tatanka vs IRS. At the end of the match, IRS had Tatanka tied in the ropes and his sacred feather headdress was destroyed and thrown all over the ring. I remember feeling so much confusion, fear, anger, and ultimately, I wanted more. Even though I’ve excelled at athletics my whole life I’ve never had an urge to wrestle. But the idea of what goes on behind the camera has always been so captivating to me. My goal for WCWA Wrestling is to create a wrestling promotion that has the magic of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Great feuds, great stories, community promotion, and bringing it back to the fans. I’m not looking to take over the world. I just want to build a consistently entertaining product. But I think if we accomplish these things the world will come to us.
WCWA talent recently performed in front of a very large crowd at Parsons Stadium as part of the Demolition Derby. How did that relationship come together and do you anticipate more cross promotional events for WCWA in the future?
Nathaniel: We are always looking to work with great venues, and great businesses any chance we get. Anytime we can build a partnership with other markets that are also focused on entertaining the community, we will reach out and see if there is opportunity there. There will definitely be more of these types of ventures for the future.
Championship belts are synonymous with professional wrestling. When will WCWA introduce titles, and what divisions will you showcase? Will there be tag teams or just singles competition?
Nathaniel: We will be introducing championships very soon. And we will have multiple singles titles and a tag team title for sure. Our Power Rankings on our Facebook page at WCWA Wrestling are a good way to keep up to date with who is in the hunt for title contention. With so many great wrestlers across the country, I am excited to see who will represent WCWA as champion
Wrestling at Parson’s Arena / Courtesy, WCWA
Women’s wrestling has absolutely been on fire for the past few years, and a women’s match even headlined Wrestlemania this year. Will WCWA ever feature women’s wrestling matches?
Nathaniel: Erica, Double D’s valet, is an amazing talent in her own right. She can wrestle. And there have been rumblings that there are challengers looking to take her on. I do believe in the upcoming months we will be seeing women wrestlers coming into WCWA to leave their mark.
WCWA has a big show coming up this weekend at the Fayetteville Town Center. Why should we go?
Nathaniel: The feuds are escalating and the talent is tremendous. Terrale Tempo will be back in action after costing Dusty Gold a huge unexpected loss to Mecha Wolf 450. After the shocking events involving Erica at the Demolition Derby, Double D will be looking for revenge against Dean Flemming. Everyone’s favorite clown, Magnificent Malico, seems unstoppable. But Max Castellanos makes his return on May 19th and has a trick up his sleeve. There is so much going on you just can’t miss a show. Tickets are available on our Facebook page.
In addition to serving as a wrestling promoter, you also run a wrestling school. Tell us a little bit about the training you offer and how interested people can go about enrolling.
Nathaniel: Stryker Training Facility, or STF, is where you can go to become a pro wrestler. We are located at 4262 South Thompson Street Suite B, in Springdale. Dusty Gold is the head trainer. In addition to being one of the fastest rising stars on the Indy scene, Dusty is also a personal trainer. It is important for wrestlers, guys and girls, to have the cardio and the stamina needed during a wrestling match. Having “the look” all the big companies are looking for will also help them in their journey. We teach proper in-ring technique for all wrestling styles as well. We want to train and build amazing talent from right here in Northwest Arkansas so that they can go on to put on great shows for us and eventually get into the major corporations. We are open Monday-Friday from 7-10 p.m. A one-year membership is $1800 or $200 a month. Now is the time to chase your dreams!
That’s a perfect segue into the questions I have for Dusty. A lot of people checking out this interview will be hearing about you and WCWA for the first time. Tell us a little bit about your career and how you broke in the business. You’re originally from California. What brought you out to Arkansas?
Dusty: Okay, so a little about my career. I broke into the business four years ago, young and hungry to be the best. In my short time, I have had matches with the likes of (former WWE Tag Team Champion) Charlie Haas, (former NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion) Tim Storm, (former WWC Universal Heavyweight Champion) Mecha Wolf 450, and the list goes on. I love what I do! It’s been my dream since I was four years old watching the Monday Night Wars! I moved here for family and I was planning to go to Harley Race’s Wrestling Academy in Missouri but managed to find one closer. My trainer was Daniel Flynn and he was trained by Harley Race and the Harts. Everything happens for a reason and I live by this quote. Things seem to fall into place when I need them the most. Opportunities are hard to come by in this business, so you have to take them when you can or you may lose your chance!
You were attacked by (former Full Impact Pro Tag Team Champions) The End out of nowhere during the Demolition Derby Battle Royal. Do you know why?
Dusty: As for The End attacking me, I don’t know why exactly they did, but everyone keeps calling me the “Hometown Hero!” I do claim Arkansas as my home now, but I have to earn the hero part. One day that will be true, but for now I need to continue to be the hardest worker in the room and I believe that’s why The End targeted me, because when people talk about WCWA, Dusty Gold always follows right behind.
In addition to serving as “The Standard” in WCWA, you’re also the head trainer for Stryker. What’s that like and who are some of your most promising prospects our readers should keep an eye on?
Dusty: With my students, I don’t pick favorites, but I know my students will all be top stars in the future! I tell my students every day that we are building champions here at Stryker Training Facility! The STF is “The Standard” in wrestling academies!
As you’ve mentioned, you’re highly influenced by old school professional wrestling and the WCWA product has an old school vibe. Managers, valets, and such were much more common in wrestling in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Will we be seeing a lot of non in-ring talent featured in WCWA?
Nathaniel: Yes. We definitely want that old school vibe. Managers, valets, good vs bad, promos, the whole nine yards. Whatever it takes to keep the fans entertained and build the in-ring competition, will likely be a part of the show.
Of course, you’re primarily focused on building up local talent, but naturally you need to bring in some national talent to help the locals get over. What five wrestlers would you most like to bring to WCWA this year as you grow?
Nathaniel: There are so many talented and incredible wrestlers on the Independent scene right now. Just flat out amazing. It is extremely hard to limit this list to top 5 but I will give it a shot. In no particular order, these are the guys I would love to work with. And you never know when they might pop up in WCWA: AR Fox, Mil Muertes, Austin Theory, Johnny Impact, Brian Cage.
In the short time WCWA has been active in NWA, you’ve already built important relationships with 104.9 the X and KNWA. How has that helped you and what other ways would you like to promote the product?
Nathaniel: There are so many great media outlets here in NWA. We really want to connect with each company where there is mutual benefit. 104.9 the X has been amazing to us. Working with Sunshine, she is quite the professional and so willing to learn the business. Good Day NWA is also a great experience every time they have us on. We partner with Anytime Fitness on Joyce in Fayetteville for the Stryker Training Facility. We are looking to find other major sponsors as well. So, if any business or organization is looking to get on with us, they can shoot us an email at [email protected].
Speaking of Sunshine, we have a few questions for her as well. Sunshine, you’re a longstanding NWA social luminary and you’re involved with a lot of things – your salon, 104.9 the X, and surely many more. Tell us a little bit about how you came to work with WCWA.
Sunshine: WCWA signed on to sponsor my morning show and so I had Nate and Dusty Gold on the show. After the interview, Nate asked if I would want to be the ring announcer for their first match. I immediately said yes, because why not? New experience, etc. I am so glad I did! It really is so much fun! The wrestlers are all so dedicated and the fans- dedicated isn’t a strong enough word!
Were you a wrestling fan prior to your involvement in WCWA?
Sunshine: I had never even thought about wrestling, other than The Rock is smoking hot.
What’s the most unexpected or interesting thing you’ve experienced so far in WCWA?
Sunshine: It was completely unexpected that I would love it! I feel like I found my calling. I mean, I love getting a crowd pumped up and excited. I love the audience interaction, it’s like lighting a match to kerosene!
Will we ever see Sunshine in the Morning become Sunshine in the wrestling ring?
Sunshine: You won’t see me wrestling. I would like to think I’m pretty tough, but really, I’m a delicate flower.
Okay Nathaniel, one last question. After the Town Center show on the 19th, what does WCWA have scheduled? What is the best way for fans to keep up with future WCWA events?
Nathaniel – Our next events after the 19th are June 16th and July 7th. All at the Fayetteville Town Center. Doors usually open at 4 p.m. Tickets and information are all available on Facebook at WCWA Wrestling.