The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Aug. 23, 2022

Billy Corgan On Balancing A Pro Wrestling Company And The Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan On Balancing A Pro Wrestling Company And The Smashing Pumpkins

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Billy Corgan (@billycorgan) is the lead singer of The Smashing Pumpkins and also the owner and promoter of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). He joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about the upcoming NWA 74 event in St. Louis, how wrestling is both similar and different to the wrestling industry, his thoughts on whether NWA can compete with WWE and AEW, what he learning from his time working at IMPACT Wrestling, being referenced on Family Guy and much more!


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On owning the NWA:


“Yes this is not a dream, I do own the National Wrestling Alliance. It’s been a great commitment and a great honor, but I feel now at the 4 or 5 year mark it is going the way that I want it to go, so I am happy about it.”


On what is going Billy Corgan’s way:


“The best analogy is that you can buy your way to the World Series, or you can build a culture and a system. I chose to not try and buy my way to the World Series but to build the system. I think now you can start to see the system that I built with the consistency of the talent, the consistency of the narrative and the consistency to put on a high quality show every time that we go out there. I think that took time and required a lot of patience, having been through a brand build with The Smashing Pumpkins, I know what that feels like. I know what victory looks like and I know what fake victory looks like, so I have been able to build something that will live on past me.” 


On how many Smashing Pumpkins fans are wrestling fans:


“Very few. I would love it if 100,000 Smashing Pumpkins fans would come over to see the NWA, it would make my job easier and enthuse the talent. But it just doesn’t translate that way, so it is what it is. It does help when you are dealing with media and the corporate side of things. If they don’t know the NWA but they know me, that opens up certain doors. But the job of building and rebuilding the NWA has to stand on its own two feet, and I am proud of that in a way. I wish it was easier, but knowing it is not makes me proud.”


On trying to get NWA to the level of WWE and AEW:


“It’s proportional. I’m not running 4 to 5 hours of content a week, I am running an hour to an hour and a half. You have to look at things to scale, if you look at what the big companies spend and the oxygen they get from the media vs. what I spend and what I get, you can see that I am outpacing my costs, so we are ahead of the curve as opposed to behind it. It does feel frustrating when you feel like you are behind the curve but we are ahead of the curve. For example I was talking to someone who is in the television business. He looked at all of my expenses and said ‘How the hell are you doing what you are doing. How are you producing over 100 hours of television a year at these numbers with this level of quality?’ I said that it’s culture, it’s building a team and finding the right talent. It is building an atmosphere where the talent feel that they can take chances and if they go off the beaten path for a second then someone is not going to knock them with a club. That takes time and people don’t necessarily believe you. I do deal with people who have had promises made to them and then have the rug pulled out from underneath them. So it takes time for the NWA to be a safe space to work both physically and emotionally. These are high strung, talented people who want to feel that their efforts in the gym and the ring being rewarded.”


On wanting to have a weekly NWA show on TV:


“It is on TV, it’s just on a different TV. I don’t think anybody would argue that if a major digital platform came along and gave me money that it wasn’t TV. We are still in this schism of is YouTube TV and is Peacock TV? I think it is all about economic reach. With the YouTube model you can reach everybody. The hard thing about that is you don’t know with their AI systems what is being recommended. You can have one video go crazy and everything is going well, but the next week you will have 1/10th of the numbers and it has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t do, it’s weird how the AI works. It’s frustrating because you can’t really get a real read. Access, marketing and economics always go together, we are still in a medium where the economics are my own, I still want to drive my vision. The reason why there are no partners is because no one has made me an offer to make me want to give up equity in the company or give up control on some level of the business. But we are now right on the level where some serious numbers are being discussed. But entertainment is cyclical and the Pumpkins have had the biggest period we have had in 20 years, we are about to do another arena tour this fall. Those things go together, when I go into a boardroom to talk about my vision and they see that I am headlining Madison Square Garden, it doesn’t hurt, those pieces start to get put together.”


On having talent disputes:


“There hasn’t been a lot of that honestly. I think I am blessed that I have worked on the indies for long enough that I start to understand the mentality of what is important to a wrestler. Then I started to work in TNA, not only in booking but also as a producer. I got to see how people translated their characters through the screen and how it translated into the wrestling ring. As you work from the independent talent to the higher up talent in TNA, you start to see that this is important, this is what will draw money, this is not as important. Once you have those experiences and a company like NWA where it is my world, things are a little different. It’s not like I bought the NWA with no experience in wrestling, I have been working in it long enough that I can appreciate it.”


On shaving his head:


“That’s the stupid part of my life, you make headlines for doing anything. Look at me being sad at Disneyland, it was on Family Guy. I just didn’t like the way my hair was looking, decided to shave it and that was it. When you shave your head you get some really weird compliments like ‘Oh you have a nicely shaped head.’ I’m like ok, thanks. What do you do with that kind of complement?”


On what Billy Corgan is the most proud of while owning NWA:


“I just think that being still here. I wish there was some magic, you turn the key and the NWA is back and tens of thousands of people care and Pumpkins fans are into wrestling. I wish it was magical but it is really hard. It is a complicated market and there has never been more independent talent and have never been valued more, it is a lot to navigate. The fact that we are doing a 2 night pay-per-view coming out of a pandemic, working at The Chase, there is so much cool stuff. I think that is the best part. Secondly the quality, raising the stakes and putting talent in high pressure situations, which they should want to be in as talent. I want to be in high pressure situations as the president of the NWA, as it comes up then so does the pressure. We are seeing who is going to be the next star, that is all just the best part of it.”


On giving Matt Cardona his first major championship:


“I didn’t think about it until it happened and he started to talk about it. In my mind he was this big star, and I’m not a person who usually correlates being a star to championships, but that’s just the way that it goes. There is no question in his previous life that he was certainly undervalued. He was a guy who got continually over no matter what was put in front of him. I was certainly impressed by what he was able to do with seemingly not a lot. And there a lot of people I have worked with, Aaron Stevens comes to mind, where they were just able to get over with whatever they were given because they are just super talented people. So it was not a question in my mind of putting the belt onto Matt. But now putting the belt on Matt, I think what distinguishes this is not only has he done a great job and brought an audience to the NWA that maybe wouldn’t have been interested in the programming. But in his darkest hour when he is injured and there is a pay-per-view named after him, he is facing a 5 to 6 month rehab, but the freak that he is he is pretty much already rehabbed in 3 and a half months. The day he has the surgery, he holds up the 10 pounds of gold and says he will be at the pay-per-view. He doesn’t have to come, and I thanked him for that. I said thank you for everything you do and he said that it wasn’t a problem, he likes being here. That to me is why he is a champion. Yes he is a champion because he is a star, a draw and a top level wrestler, but to me he is a champion because he is a great person to work with. He represents the company on every level behind the scenes and in front of the camera and to the public. Someone asked me how I felt that he got hurt on someone else’s show. Well that’s his life, I support that. By extension I support the effort of the other independent companies including Game Changer. Matt Cardona is an independent wrestler in an era where he should be an independent wrestler. Unless I am going to come in and break the bank to sign him to an exclusive contract, he should go out to do what is best for him and Chelsea. So yeah I have no problem.”


On Triple H taking over WWE creative:


“I’m looking forward to seeing what he does. Somebody asked me if I saw any changes and I said that you don’t turn a battleship around quickly. That’s a big institutional culture with a lot of pieces. As someone who runs a big organisation with The Smashing Pumpkins world, you don’t flip switches and see what happens. You are going to poke around and put some people in places, but I don’t think we will know until about 18 to 24 months what the vision of Triple H is. I do know, well this is speculation, I do know as AEW has gone out of their way to pick fights with the WWE world and the WWE world has not responded, I don’t think that will continue under Triple H. I don’t feel that he is the type of personality that will let people sock him in the chops over and over again and he’s not going to respond. He was in D-Generation X and I think he was a big part of the sass that they had. I think there is business there as well, it is blow for blow and competitive. Now the position from WWE corporately, from what I see from a public observation, is we are not going to sweat it publicly even if we are sweating it privately. I think those dynamics are definitely changing.”


On TNA taping out of sequence:


“I might have been part of some of that. We used to purposely try to confuse people occasionally because we didn’t want the spoilers to make sense even if you read them, so we would shoot things out of sequence sometimes. There were times where we had to shoot out of sequence, and that was mind numbing. Somebody would win and the next night they would cut the promo of ‘I’m gonna beat you.’ It was so confusing.”


On NWA possibly not coming back:


“During the pandemic I had days where I thought that this is not going to work. It wasn’t that it wasn’t going to work based on my plan, it was do I have the commitment level to make this work on the highest levels. It’s like the joke I tell where you take an 8 mile walk but after 4 miles you turn around and go back instead of reaching your destination. You have that thing where I could turn back and I haven’t gone too far or I can go to my destination, I had that conversation daily in my head. I talked to people privately in meetings about what would happen when the NWA came back, and people were surprised that I had reservations about restarting again. I think some people ran and went ‘Oh he’s going to sell, he’s going to get rid of it.’ I was never going to sell, it was do I have a deep enough commitment level. Now I see what I need, do I want to take this journey. The good part is that I went all in and it has benefited from my commitment. That is not to put myself over, but the talent has seen my commitment and that will reward them for years to come.” 


On what Billy Corgan is grateful for:


“My family, The Smashing Pumpkins has continued and to be the proprietor of the NWA.”