6 NWA World Champions that never held the WWE title
- Many legendary superstars won the NWA Heavyweight title, however, not all of these great wrestlers managed to reach the pinnacle of WWE.
When the McMahon family first opened Capitol Wrestling Corporation in 1953, it would establish itself as a part of the northeast wrestling scene, that was a key area during the territory days. The fledgling promotion also joined the National Wrestling Alliance and would host early NWA Champion Buddy Rogers.
After Rogers lost the title in 1963, Capitol Wrestling Corporation would withdraw their membership from the NWA and change their name to World Wide Wrestling Federation. WWWF rejoined the NWA 8 years later, in 1971, but would sensationally leave again in 1983.
These actions caused significant tension between WWF and the NWA. With the WWF, under Vince McMahon Jr, looking to establish themselves as the biggest promotion in the country going against the Alliance of territory based wrestling promotions under the banner of the NWA.
As a result of the tension between the two factions, stars would routinely go back and forth between NWA-affiliated promotions and WWF shows. With WWF's steadily rising popularity, the promotion was able to buy their smaller territory rivals out, which often included their stars and television times in the local area.
The strength of WWF's booking ability and prestige meant that a large amount of NWA Champions found themselves on WWF payroll at one time or another. NWA Champions like Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Ric Flair, Dory Funk, and Sting have all spent time in WWF. However, despite their success in NWA promotions, it didn't mean that they would find success in the northeast based WWF promotion.
In the late 80s and early 90s, the NWA associated itself with Jim Crockett Promotions and World Championship Wrestling, as the company had control over the majority of the NWA territories. By the mid-90s, the relationship between WCW and the NWA broke down with the NWA establishing itself as independent again.From 2002 to 2007 the NWA was aligned with Total Nonstop Action. However, the NWA is once again working as an independent promotion with Nick Aldis in his second reign with the title.
#6 Ricky Steamboat
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat was a wrestler ahead of his time, producing classic matches against the likes of Ric Flair and Macho Man Randy Savage. Steamboat wrestled for a variety of promotions including Jim Crockett Promotions and it's successor WCW. Steamboat also had multiple runs with the WWF but never reached the main event for the promotion.
Steamboat first made his name in NWA sanctioned Jim Crockett Promotions, he was booked as a babyface and wrestled against Ric Flair before Flair became the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. The two would continue to feud even after Flair became the World Title. However, in the middle of the 80s Steamboat left Jim Crockett Promotions and joined WWF.
In WWF, Steamboat became the Dragon. During his time in WWF, Steamboat won the Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion and had memorable feuds against Jake Roberts and Macho Man Randy Savage. In his third WrestleMania, Steamboat participated in the tournament for the vacant WWF World Heavyweight Champion but lost in the first round to Greg "The Hammer" Valentine.
After leaving WWF, Steamboat would join the successor to Jim Crockett Promotions in WCW. Within a month of returning, Steamboat became the number one contender to Ric Flair's NWA World Heavyweight Title, defeating him at the Ci-Town Rumble Pay Per View. He lost the title back to Flair and spent the majority of the 90s wrestling for WCW before retiring in 1994 for the first time.