When Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan purchased the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in May, its world heavyweight champion Tim Storm didn't know what his future in the company held or if he even had one in the wrestling business.
In the ring, 53-year-old Storm (real name Tim Scoggins) is the oldest man to ever hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, professional wrestling's most historic title. The biggest legends in the history of professional wrestling have held the title – from Lou Thesz to Ric Flair, to current stars like AJ Styles – but when his reign comes to an end, Storm says that it very well may be the end of his career.
Outside the ring and in reality, Storm lives a modest life as a grade school history teacher in Texas. Talking to Rolling Stone during his off period, school bells ring in the background as he discusses the transition into working with Corgan, how rival promotions tried to bribe him for the championship following Corgan's purchase and how the 53-year-old plans to help lead the NWA into the modern era. Storm will defend his NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Nick Aldis this Sunday at Championship Wrestling from Hollywood.
When you think about the men who have held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, you think of flashy guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. You're sitting behind your desk at a middle school in Texas right now. It's quite the parallel.
This year has been the biggest challenge, because I’ll be standing in the hall and I'll have a group of kids walk by and yell, "Hey, Tim Storm!" I do my best to not allow that to be a distraction. I'll never show them any wrestling videos because the last thing I need while teaching 13- and 14-year-olds world history is them thinking of me in a pair of trunks. The only thing I've ever been happy doing is wrestling, that's the thing I've wanted to do more than anything else. Before I even started training, I had a wife, two kids, a house, two car payments and a vice president business job. I don't know if people know, but George "The Animal" Steele was actually a school teacher, too. There were all sorts of those guys who coached or taught.
Billy Corgan and David Lagana are trying to give the NWA a modern feel, especially in its presentation. What about in-ring style? How do you feel like fans will respond to wrestlers like you who still use the classic, brawling style?
One of the reasons I've had success in the wrestling business is I had two separate sets of training. The first came from a guy named Bill Ash, who training-wise was as old school as you could possibly get. The ceiling in training where the ring was, was so low that you couldn’t climb up on the top rope. You could barely climb up on the second rope, so there were no high spots. Most of that training was legitimate shoot wrestling – ground and pound, rolling on the mat. Then when I moved to Dallas, I started helping train another group of guys and the guy who I was helping train had the exact opposite. He had a lucha and more Japanese style. Not that I can do everything, but I've got a basis in both sets of training.
How much communication is there between you, Lagana and Corgan about your title reign?
I know very little, truthfully. In a way I kind of admire that because they don't want to make a commitment that they're not going to follow through on. That's the whole purpose of Billy Corgan's 20-year plan. So, along those lines, I haven't been told a month or a year [about the length of the title reign].
How do you go about a work environment like that where you really don't know what’s happening next?
Would it be easier for me if I knew a definitive date [that there will be a title change]? Probably so. It probably would be easier, but I try to be very upfront in all of my bookings. If I'm taking a booking that's non-NWA and somebody's booking me and they want the NWA champion, I will say, "You and I need to talk about if you're booking 'Tim Storm' or 'Tim Storm, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.'" There's no guarantee I’ll be the world champion at that point. From a business standpoint, it would really help me, but I'm OK with it.
Were you expecting to still be the NWA World Heavyweight Champion after the ownership change?
I didn't know what was going to happen. Obviously, it couldn't have worked out any better. At 53 years old, what other opportunity was I going to have to be thrust into the mainstream media of any kind and be looked at fairly positive?
What was that day like when you found out Corgan was buying the NWA?
The easy answer is: One big question mark. I learned about it just like everybody else did. There was just a big question mark. This was a surprise to everybody, and I had guys contacting me throughout the day saying, "Is this true? This is what I've heard." There was a lot of chaos. I just kind of sat back and watched and for the most part, my attitude has been – even with the big question mark – however this goes, I'm going to handle this as professionally as I know how to handle it. And there have been some situations where people have tried to do some things that I considered fairly dishonest. No matter how much money some people have offered me, I'm going to do what's right for the NWA and what's best for the world title.
What "dishonest" situations are you referencing?
There were some people out there who would’ve like to have won [the NWA World Heavyweight Championship] and were willing to pay a lot of money for that opportunity. There were some people who wanted me to take bookings in places that weren't good for the NWA for a lot of money. I could've done well for a couple months, but in the big picture it would've been very unprofessional for me to do that. I represent the legacy and the history of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
So you had wrestlers trying to pay you to drop the title to them?
That or, "I tell you what, I'll pay you to come in and wrestle this guy for the world title and let's see how that works out," with the kind of wink-wink of if I lose, he's the World Heavyweight Champion. There's always a little temptation with money, but it was absolutely the wrong thing for the legacy of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
As the champion of an alliance that works with so many other promotions, is that a concern to be worried about a "screw job?"
You know, it's always in the back of my mind a little bit. Realistically, it's never happened. That's part of being a world champion, to not put yourself in those situations. You have to be aware and at least think about it. I always have discussions before taking a booking and now all NWA World Title matches go through the NWA office and they have to approve them.
Where do you see the NWA going in terms of affiliations with other companies?
I can only tell you what I've read and what I've heard. What I did hear Billy Corgan say on a podcast was that he believes with all promotions, there ought to be a way for everybody to work together to be mutually beneficial. In the past, to the detriment of many organizations, they were so protective of their guys and what they were doing that they weren’t willing to do that. With the alliance that I think Mr. Corgan is trying to build, I think he's open to work with literally anybody as long as it's mutually beneficial. I don't know how difficult or easy that's going to be. They have said they'll have some sort of wrestling show by spring of 2018. It'll probably be weekly. It may not be TV, it might be on another media platform, and they've also talked about how they don’t want to hide behind the pay curtain. They want to build a following. They want people to understand the product, get to know the product, like the product. Every type of media platform you can imagine, they’re looking at options on that.
Logistically, what have your interactions been like with Billy Corgan? He's touring on his new record Ogilala right now, so how often do you talked to him and have his ear to talk about the future?
I would just say on a very limited basis. Dave Lagana is very approachable. He’s got a very vast history and over 10 years in the wrestling business [with TNA and the WWE]. As far as a contact person, Dave is available almost any time – he's just a phone call or a text message away and he and I communicate quite a bit. With any relationship, you've got to build trust and get to know each other. I think we've gotten past all those initial things and I trust those guys.
So it's been about a handful of times you've been able to sit down with Dave and Billy to discuss plans?
Not even that. Our schedules are so vast and varied. Dave and Billy took a 30-day ride together in an RV all over the country this last summer. They basically laid out plans and a lot of the initial planning came between those two guys. They're the brains and the heart of putting all of this together. Just the fact that I get to be even the smallest part is just fantastic for me.