Reviews Crown Jewel: The NWA
World Championship 1959-1973
In 1957, the National Wrestling Alliance found itself in an unusual situation. Dick Hutton, the man who had just beat Lou Thesz for the World Heavyweight Championship, was suddenly a champion without a belt. It took the NWA two years to have a new belt made, but in late 1959, Sam Muchnick finally presented a beautiful new title belt -- the crown belt - - to then champion Pat O’Connor.
This is the story of the events that led up to that long period without a championship trophy, and the developments during that time that resulted in a new NWA belt. For the first time ever, the belt itself gets a close look, including its origins, its construction, as well as the story of the promoter and the craftsman that put it all together.
And of course the main event is the detailed title history of the championship during the golden era of the crown belt, and a look at the six champions who wore and defended it.
Featuring dozens of photographs, some never published before, as well as over fifty pages of exhibits and memorabilia including program covers, newspaper accounts, and rare documents from the NWA archives. It’s the crown jewel of the wrestling world as you’ve never seen it before. – Promotional blurb
Wrestling historian Dick Bourne has done it again with his new book Crown Jewel: The NWA World Championship 1959-1973, a 170-page book which carefully details the events leading to the creation of the belt as well as the men who defended it before dropping it to the next champion. It also includes an amazing collection of photos of the champions, press clippings covering title changes, and other fascinating pieces of history that make it irresistible for wrestling fans, historians, and belt collectors.
The National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship, once the most-recognized title in the world of professional wrestling. For decades the NWA World Heavyweight Championship exemplified the prestige that wrestling promoters sought to impress upon fans whenever and wherever it was defended. Anyone familiar with the history of wrestling knows the giants that held the belt including Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Harley Race, Dory Funk Jr. Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, and so many others.
Dick Bourne has authored (and co-authored) several books detailing the history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (known to some fans as Jim Crockett Promotions) including The Mid-Atlantic Championship and United States Championship: A Close Look at Mid-Atlantic Wrestling's Greatest Championship. However, his best-known works are arguably his two previous books chronicling the history of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship—Ten Pounds of Gold: A Close Look at the NWA World Championship Belt and Big Gold: A Close Look at Pro Wrestling's Most Celebrated Championship Belt.
With Crown Jewel, Bourne completes the story of the NWA World Heavyweight belt, showcasing the mind-boggling story of how wrestling’s biggest promotion at the time found itself without a title belt after its previous champion (Lou Thesz) stepped down as champion, taking the belt he’d worn with him (as Crown Jewel explains, this was a belt Thesz had worn long before winning the NWA belt). The story of the NWA’s efforts to create a new belt is interwoven with the NWA’s sometimes sordid history, one which at one point saw the federal government investigate it for allegedly monopolizing the wrestling industry.
While Bourne’s previous books have dealt with an era he is familiar with (Mid-Atlantic Wrestling from the 1970s and 1980s), he steps out of his comfort zone with this one, investigating the NWA’s earliest days as well as the other NWA, the National Wrestling Association (which existed before the National Wrestling Alliance). As any wrestling historian will tell you, professional wrestling is not known for its detailed or easily accessible records so Bourne had a challenging task before him. While other authors might have stumbled, he does a fantastic job covering this era, providing new information for wrestling historians and fans of wrestling belts.
Dick Bourne’s past books have always been informative, providing encyclopedic details on wrestling history such as the history of the Four Horsemen and the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. With this book, readers will get the same high-quality detail covering the subject, but they’ll also notice Bourne has come into his own in terms of authorial voice. This book is written with style as well as substance, making it an informative read and an entertaining read.
Note: In the interest of transparency, I received a review copy of this book and have written for Dick Bourne’s site. However, I also purchased a copy of the book and am not compensated for this review or my contributions to his site, the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.