Very few people start wrestling and get to where they want to be in the sport right away. Some never get there at all. For professional wrestler Jeremiah Plunkett, it has taken him more than 16 years. The 34-year-old wrestler from central Tennessee has been wrestling for the National Wrestling Alliance since March of this year and he is enjoying every minute of it.
It has been a long road for the journeyman whose career was slowed by a neck injury in 2019 and by the Covid pandemic in 2020. Jeremiah found himself so discouraged to the point where he bought what was going to be his last pair of wrestling tights and boots.
“In December of 2019, I helped the NWA backstage for a pay-per-view taping. Several months later I received a phone call from a New Jersey area code and I didn’t answer it,” Jeremiah Plunkett said. “I listened to the message and then I got a text and I found out who it was. The text said they wanted to talk to me about the NWA. I called back immediately.”
Being the oldest wrestling promotion in operation, the NWA has always been a place where Jeremiah saw himself wrestling. After he made his professional debut in 2005 that was always the goal. He has always been a fan of the NWA and he loves the nostalgia attached to it. Throughout its history, the company has experienced different degrees of success and notoriety. Of course, many fans will remember some of the greats who wore the company’s belt. Many of them are wrestling legends and will never be forgotten. Men like Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, and Ric Flair are recognizable names who held the precious 10 pounds of gold.
Then there were times when people were not aware that the NWA was still in existence. Starting in July of 1993 and for more than a year, the iconic leather strap was the center of controversy and drama. World Championship Wrestling withdrew from the NWA while Ric Flair was the champion. With both companies unable to come to suitable terms, the NWA Title was vacated and Ric Flair was no longer their champion. The stability for the once strong wrestling organization started to falter and left many fans disheartened.
In August of 1994, Shane Douglas, the Eastern Championship Wrestling’s Champion won the NWA Title in a tournament. Dropping the belt in the middle of the ring, he denounced his reign and desire to be the titleholder. From there, Eastern Championship Wrestling withdrew their association with the NWA and renamed themselves Extreme Championship Wrestling. From that moment on, to the wrestling world, the promotion became known as ECW. ECW quickly gained a reputation for having violent and dangerous matches which became known as hardcore wrestling.
Over the next two decades, the belt changed hands over three dozen times. Going through the collection of names is enlightening. Appearing on the list are such wrestlers as Dan Severn, Christian Cage, Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Adam Pearce, and Ron Killings (R Truth). The belt that at one time traveled the globe frequently only went to Japan and Australia a handful of times in those 20 years.
Winning the coveted NWA Title is a dream of almost every wrestler, however many are willing to settle for just stepping in the ring with the Champion. On May 30, 2014, Jeremiah had his chance in Millersville, Tennessee when he faced Satoshi Kojima with the NWA SAW Wrestling promotion. Kojima is a highly decorated wrestler who has won a multitude of championships. His wrestling career started 30 years ago and he is still currently wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Like in most organizations pro wrestling has its share of politics. Unfortunately, Jeremiah experienced it firsthand. At the time, the NWA management was not happy with SAW’s decision to pit Jeremiah in a match with Kojima for the World Title. Despite the disagreement between both parties, the match took place. Jeremiah got his shot at the Champion’s belt.
“It was a bit nerve-racking. I saw the email so I know there was controversy about me being in that match,” Plunkett clarified. “I wanted to go out and have a good match for the people who fought for me. I didn’t want them to think they went out and fought for nothing.”
The venue was packed and the SAW promotion experienced record attendance. Tickets were sold to the overwhelming number of spectators who were willing to watch the event through an opened garage door from the parking lot. Cheering fans made their allegiance known to Jeremiah who was humbled by their support. The match lasted nearly 15 minutes and Kojima retained the belt. However, through the conflict overshadowing the match, and the stress Jeremiah endured due to it, he still was a part of wrestling history.
“After the contest, Kojima congratulated me on how good it was and he wished it could have gone longer,” Plunkett mentioned. “It was amazing because everyone in the building was behind me.”
Everyone including Tracy Smothers, “The Wild-Eyed Southern Boy.” There are a lot of wrestlers who have intentions of leaving wrestling better than what they found it, Tracy made sure he did. Countless stories have been shared about how Tracy influenced other wrestlers or went out of his way to help them.
Tracy called promoters to convince them to book younger wrestlers who he thought needed a break. He watched their progress and critiqued them on it. Some stories might not have been even told yet. Jeremiah is one of those wrestlers. Leading up to his match with Kojima, Tracy traveled to Tennessee on a regular basis to hype up the event.
“Tracy knew how important that match was to me so he came to do vignettes and promos to give me a credibility rub,” Plunkett affirmed. “He did it for a little bit of gas money when he could have wrestled in a match and made a better payout.”
The wrestling community lost Tracy on October 28th, 2020, and his death affected many throughout the industry. However, the memories he left behind bring smiles to the faces of those who knew and loved him. There is no doubt that Tracy would be proud of where Jeremiah is today. Since the Spring of this year, Jeremiah has been wrestling with the NWA. He is not currently under a contract, but the matches have been consistent.
It might be a while before Jeremiah steps in the ring with the current NWA Heavyweight Champion, Trevor Murdoch. However, he is getting television time and going up against the likes of Nick Aldis, The Pope, Jordan Clearwater, Luck Hawx, and many other top-notch wrestlers.
“Tracy pounded into my head to be ready to do anything anywhere. Sometimes you may be in the first match or you have to go out and make somebody look good,” Plunkett replied. “Being a utility player or a journeyman may not always be great for your career, but it may always keep you employed.”