COMMENTARY | For decades, the National Wrestling Alliance was the most powerful professional wrestling entity in the world. As such, the greatest pro wrestlers in the world called the NWA home for many years. Today, many of the NWA World Heavyweight Champions are giving back to the industry in a number of ways.
Take a closer look at where five former NWA Champions are today.
Dory Funk, Jr. (1969-'73)
You'd be hard-pressed to find a tougher pair of wrestling brothers than Terry and Dory Funk. Hailing from "The Double Cross Ranch," Dory Funk only held the NWA Championship once, but his 1,563 days with the belt are second only to the 1,941-day NWA title reign of Lou Thesz.
People were amazed that Ric Flair continued to wrestle in TNA after reaching 60 years of age. But Dory Funk is still wrestling at 72. Funk now lives in Ocala, Florida where he runs the Funking Conservatory wrestling school and !BANG! promotion. Dory Funk is in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Harley Race (1973, '77-'79, '79, '79-'80, '80-'81, '81, '83)
From everything I've researched, Harley Race may be the toughest NWA wrestler in history, both in and out of the ring. Race was in his prime in the NWA at a time when the belt switched hands like a hot potato. Race's seven recognized NWA title reigns are second only to Ric Flair.
Since retiring, Harley Race has made a handful of appearances and cameos for TNA and WWE. Like the Funks, Race is enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame and he trains future pro wrestlers. He still lives in Missouri where he runs the Harley Race Wrestling Academy and WLW promotion.
Dusty Rhodes (1979, '81, '86)
Dusty Rhodes was a pioneer in terms of how he used charisma to get over with NWA fans. Rhodes had a hilarious in-ring style and he cut some of the greatest wrestling promos in history while in the NWA. Dusty Rhodes was also one of the NWA's top bookers while he was wrestling.
After leaving the NWA, Rhodes stayed active in a number of wrestling promotions. The WWE Hall of Famer now lives in Florida where he works for NXT, the WWE's development promotion. In fact, Rhodes is the NXT head of creative and he is credited with developing the Bray Wyatt character.
Tommy Rich (1981)
As opposed to other NWA Champions who held the title over 1,000 days, Tommy Rich was champion for four days, the shortest reign up to that point. Rich was extremely popular in Georgia and other southern states and he later had a legendary feud with Buzz Sawyer in the NWA.
Today, Tommy Rich continues to wrestle in indy promotions throughout the south. He briefly returned to the national wrestling scene in the mid-1990s as part of the Full Blooded Italians in ECW. The Tennessee native is one of the few NWA stars of this period who never worked for the WWE.
Ricky Steamboat (1989)
Many fans consider Ricky Steamboat's match against Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 3 and his matches against Ric Flair in the NWA as some of the greatest in history. Steamboat is also considered by many to be the greatest wrestler of all-time to never work as a heel (or bad guy).
Even in semi-retirement, Ricky Steamboat stole the show one last time. In 2009, at the age of 56, Steamboat wrestled an incredible match on WWE Raw that had the crowd in a frenzy. Today, Steamboat lives in North Carolina and he works for the WWE as a road agent. He is also a WWE Hall of Famer.
Endnote on other NWA Champions
I have already covered the whereabouts of NWA Champions Ric Flair and Terry Funk in similar articles on other promotions. To catch up with these and other World Heavyweight Champions, see the articles linked below.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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