Corrigan’s Corner: Bruce Tharpe Talks NWA—Then And Now (Part 1)

f you’re tired of waiting for the WWE Network to upload more old school footage, Bruce Tharpe has the solution for you. As President of the National Wrestling Alliance...
If you’re tired of waiting for the WWE Network to upload more old school footage, Bruce Tharpe has the solution for you.

As President of the National Wrestling Alliance (yes, the NWA still exists,) Tharpe believes it’s his responsibility to preserve the history of professional wrestling rather than bury it in favor of sanitized, corporate, sports-entertainment. With a treasure trove of lost matches from Houston promoter Paul Boesch’s collection, Tharpe has decided to release the best of wrasslin’s yesteryear via a new streaming service: NWA Classics 24/7.

For $8.99 a month or $99 a year, you get access to hundreds of matches dating from the late-60s to the mid-80s. I plan on signing up this weekend to see what all the fuss is about, and so can you at

I spoke with Tharpe over the phone on Monday to discuss the new service, his history in the business, and the status of the NWA.

For Part II of my interview with Tharpe, click here.

What is NWA Classics 24/7?

Tharpe: “ has got to be the greatest collection of vintage wrestling matches ever. We believe that very quickly we’ll have more vintage content than WWE has on theirs. We already have probably a hundred matches up, and we’re looking to put up another hundred. We probably have between 1,200 and 1,500 matches, 500-600 hours of videotape that is in pristine condition. These tapes have been kept in an air-conditioned vault for all these years. Most haven’t been seen in 30 years, some have never been seen before. They are owned by Paul Boesch, the promoter of Houston wrestling. I’m monitoring every match before it uploads.”

That sounds like a dream job.

Tharpe: “It really is. It’s a very expensive, ongoing project. We’ve had to transfer this library to a laboratory in Indianapolis. They are transferring the film from 1-inch, 2-inch, 3-inch tape to high-definition. We’ve had to restore some of the tapes, but surprisingly, most of them are in excellent, excellent condition. Right now we’re going through matches from the ‘70s. Rocky Johnson vs. Bruiser Brody. The color, the audio, the clarity is amazing. You feel like you’re almost in the ring or sitting in the front row.

And the longer that we’re doing this, the more I realize we’re actually doing a service of preserving wrestling history. We’re not trying to rewrite this history in our own style. We’re presenting these matches to the fans the way they really are. We’ve got a match that was available on the day of the website launch: NWA World Title match, Harley Race vs. Andre the Giant. It’s probably the most talked about match that we’ve released. It was never before seen on television. You’ll actually see Harley Race bodyslam Andre the Giant on the floor. So for the sports-entertainment folks who want you to think Hulk Hogan was the first to bodyslam Andre the Giant, we’re going to prove them wrong. And you’ll see it for yourself.

Of course, Paul Boesch only taped the main events. So you’re not going to see any preliminary matches whatsoever. This is a gold mine for an old school fan or a student of the professional wrestling business. You can come home from work any day and watch the greatest stars of the National Wrestling Alliance on your big screen television for less than the cost of one Indy wrestling ticket.”

Why would Boesch film certain matches and never air them on TV?

Tharpe: “I think for the Harley/Andre match, he realized the historical significance. There’s also an entire card at the Summit, none of those matches were shown on television. Yet we have the entire card on film. This library is literally the Holy Grail. JYD and Dusty Rhodes and Tony Atlas, I mean, it’s a who’s who of the wrestling world. It’s going to take us two or three years to upload all of these matches. For people who join the website, every month the database will grow.”

I read in a press release that this project has been in the making for five years now. Is that true?

Tharpe: “Actually, no. I’m an attorney and I’ve been representing the Boesch family, trying to liquidate this library for more than five years. Paul has been gone for, I don’t know, 20 years. This is pretty much all they have left. They wanted to sell it, but they want a fair market value for this library. It’s 14 years worth of television. Who’s the only buyer? WWE.

I met with representatives from WWE–they sent a crew out to Texas to look through the tapes for two or three days with us. They couldn’t believe the quality. I figured man, they’re going to go back and prepare a glowing report for WWE and offer us what this library is worth. We’re going to sell to Vince McMahon and go on our way. Well, they never offered us an amount of money that was even close to what this library is worth. Not even close. I mean, it was an insult.

So we declined that offer and a year later there were still no buyers. I realized if we don’t take the money they offered us, you know, Paul’s widow may not get any money whatsoever. So we reached out to WWE and they offered us less than half of the initial offer.”


Tharpe: “I think they realized they had us over a barrel, or so they thought. They’re ruthless business people. Maybe they were waiting for Mrs. Boesch to die so they could get it at a bargain-based price.”

How much were you hoping to get for the library?

Tharpe: “Look at it like this: 14 years worth of not only just raw footage, but intellectual property. Paul Boesch’s heart and soul, basically. So think to yourself how much does it cost to produce one week of television? The wrestlers, the crew, what, $5,000 a week? $10,000 a week?”

I’d lean closer to $10,000 with all of the stars Boesch had on the roster.

Tharpe: “Okay, let’s say $10,000 for 52 weeks a year times 14 years. That’s about $7 million. That’s really what I think the library is worth. Realistically, do I think Vince would pay that? No. But he didn’t even get to $1 million. He didn’t even come close to offering us $1 million.

Actually, the woman who was negotiating was Lisa Lee (former Executive Vice President of Content.) I think it was five, six days after NWAClassics launched, that she was fired. Now I have no evidence to prove that it was connected, but she was the one in charge of acquiring this library. She low-balled us beyond the word low-ball.”

So how did you come up with this streaming service plan?

Tharpe: “I remember going to New Japan, I’ve been working with them quite a bit, and meeting up with a buddy of mine at one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo. We were talking about NJPW World and how they got 10,000 subscribers in the first month. That’s $100,000 a month they’re making. So I thought, we have all these old tapes, maybe we need to go forward and do something like that. From inception at that restaurant table to the launch on July 4, 2015, it took us four months.

That’s development of the website, setting up the platform, we had to go to Houston and get a truck to physically pack up the library and ship it to Indianapolis. Transfer the tapes, they send the hard drives to us, we do the final edit and put them on the website. Surprisingly, we had very few technical issues. Ninety-nine percent of the feedback has been positive. We just need more subscribers to keep this pipeline going. We have to get the word out there.”

Check here for Part II as Tharpe discusses his family connection to Championship Wrestling from Florida, how Dusty Rhodes pissed him off, and the future of the NWA.

2 Comments on this post.
  • Corrigan's Corner: Bruce Tharpe Talks NWA—Then And Now (Part 2) | Wrestledelphia
    23 July 2015 at 1:16 PM
    Leave a Reply

    […] Corrigan's Corner: Bruce Tharpe Talks NWA—Then And Now (Part 1) […]

  • Corrigan’s Corner: Life On The Indies With Sigmon (Part II) | Wrestledelphia
    25 August 2015 at 12:39 PM
    Leave a Reply

    […] Yeah, we’ve covered it at Wrestledelphia. I still haven’t subscribed, but it seems like the perfect alternative to the WWE Network. […]

Leave a Reply