In one of the oddest swerve in recent times in the WWE Universe, WWE Producer (and now on-screen official) Adam Pearce will be facing off against Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship at Royal Rumble on January 31. Adam Pearce has been working with the WWE for seven years now, starting as a guest coach at the WWE Performance Center in 2013. In December of 2014, he became the first non-WWE employed person to produce at a WWE live event – NXT TakeOver: R-Evolution – before signing with WWE in May of 2015 as a full-time trainer at the PC.
He soon found his efforts constantly rewarded, moving on to produce NXT, then 205 Live, and now producing on both RAW and SmackDown Live. While he’s been seen on-screen as an executive on multiple occasions, it was during the summer of 2020 that Pearce began to take a more active role on WWE programming as the new on-screen lead official. But while it may seem odd that Adam Pearce is getting ready to face Roman Reigns in a wrestling ring, longtime fans will know that this is actually a long time coming. Since his in-ring debut in 1996, through to his in-ring retirement in 2014, Adam Pearce has been one of the top wrestlers and minds in the US independent scene, as a former 5x NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion and PWG World Champion.
Adam Pearce began wrestling in 1996, debuting with Mid American Wrestling (MAW) in Wisconsin and for the next few years, made the rounds of the Midwest region, working for such promotions as Michigan’s Northern States Wrestling Alliance (NSWA), Wisconsin’s North American Wrestling Federation (NAWF), and others, but it wasn’t until he headed to the West Coast in 2001 that his career began to flourish. He first landed at Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) in Santa Ana, California (to a roster that also included Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Frankie Kazarian, and “The Prototype” John Cena), where he was paired with Hardkore Kid in the tag team Hardkore Inc. (Kid would head to WWE in 2003 and become Jesus for a year and then to All Japan from 2008-2012 as Zodiac, and continues to wrestle as Aaron Aguilera).
On the East Coast, he debuted with IWA Mid-South and became a part of the clique known as the Gold Bond Mafia, featuring rising stars CM Punk, Colt Cabana, and Chris Hero. He soon became a fixture in the West Coast indie scene, competing for All Pro Wrestling (APW) and two young companies in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and Alternative Wrestling Show (AWS) – the latter as a booker as well. In 2004, he won the PWG World Championship, defeating Kazarian for the title. But after a 139-day reign as champ, Pearce would end up leaving PWG at the end of his run, losing a Loser Leaves PWG match for the title (back to Kazarian).
Upon his departure from PWG, Adam Pearce headed to Mexico to join upstart promotion Promociones XLUM, where he competed until the company folded in early 2005. In 2004, he also joined the new LA Dojo for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), in a class that also included Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, Sara Del Rey, and Rocky Romero. In August of 2005, he made his debut with Full Impact Pro (FIP) and a month later, began working for Ring of Honor, debuting at ROH Glory By Honor IV. The following year, in 2006, he joined the stable Sweet & Sour Inc., which also featured the likes of Larry Sweeney, Chris Hero, Davey Richards, Eddie Edwards, and Matt Sydal, as well as the unit The Three Hangmen alongside BJ Whitmer and Brent Albright.
In 2008, following the departure of head booker Gabe Sapolsky, Pearce was named the new head booker for ROH, a position he held until 2010 (amongst his accomplishments was the push of Tyler Black – now Seth Rollins – to ROH World Champion and much of Nigel McGuinness‘ 545-day reign as World champion, as well as the initial runs of Sami Zayn (El Generico) and Kevin Steen in ROH). He would return to ROH briefly during his retirement tour in 2014, where he faced a rising young star named Adam Page.
Following his departure from ROH, he returned to the West Coast circuit, appearing for Championship Wrestling From Hollywood amongst others, but it was with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) that he made his biggest impact. Pearce had been working for the NWA starting in 2006 (while still with ROH) and became a 2x NWA Heritage Champion in his first two years with the brand. But on September 1, 2007, in Puerto Rico, he won a tournament to crown the new NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion (following TNA/IMPACT Wrestling‘s decision to part ways with the NWA lineage), defeating his Hangmen teammate Albright in the process, and went on to a 336-day reign with the Ten Pounds of Gold, defending against the likes of Sean Waltman (X-Pac), Scorpio Sky, TJ Perkins, and even Nigel McGuinness in a cross-promotional match-up pitting the NWA and ROH World Champions in a Champion vs Champion match at ROH Battle for Supremacy in 2008.
Over the next five years, “Scrap Iron” Adam Pearce would become the standard-bearer for the NWA, winning the NWA World’s Heavyweight title five times, with his final reign in 2012. Adam Pearce’s five reigns as NWA World champion are only surpassed. by Ric Flair (10), Harley Race (8), and Jeff Jarrett (6), and his 1,078 combined days as World Champion is the 7th highest combined total out of the 53 different men who have held the title since its inception in 1948 – only Lou Thesz, Flair, Race, Dory Funk Jr., Dan “The Beast” Severn, and Gene Kiniski have held the Ten Pounds of Gold longer than Pearce (although current NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis is only days away from passing Pearce at press time). And while many detractors will say that Pearce held the World Title during some of NWA’s darkest days, the caliber of his opponents are some of the bigger names in the industry now – such as WWE’s Daniel Bryan, AEW’s Colt Cabana, NJPW’s Zack Sabre Jr., IMPACT’s Willie Mack, and many more.
While it’s been just over six years since Adam Pearce’s last official match in the ring (outside of this past Friday’s gauntlet on SmackDown Live), a double DQ against another Midwest veteran in Ace Steel (who is also now a trainer with WWE at the Performance Center) in December of 2014, make no mistake about Adam Pearce’s abilities inside the ring. He’s trained some of this era’s greatest stars, booked for one of the top promotions in the US, and is one of the NWA’s greatest World Champions. And while he will most likely just became the next example from “The Tribal Chief” Roman Reigns, it’s a far better match than his last one for WWF – when he lost to Tiger Ali Singh on WWF Shotgun Saturday Night in August of 1997. It’s a long time coming for “Scrap Iron” Adam Pearce, but he’s finally appearing on one of WWE’s flagship pay-per-views.
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