I was born about a month after Flair won his first NWA championship, so he was always at the forefront of the NWA/proto-WCW title picture in my experience. I’ve read quite a bit about how the NWA model revolved around a so-called "traveling champion" and why having a heel carry the belt for prolonged periods was (*GROAN*) best for business in that particular era. That said, a couple questions:
*Did any faces enjoy lengthy world championship reigns during the pre-Flair era? (I’ve read the title lineage, but can’t divine who was a face/heel at what point.)
*If so, how–if at all–did the various territories react? Seems the tried-and-true Flair model boiled down to "red-hot regional hero steps up to hated heel champion, goes down fighting/gets screwed over/scores upset victory/etc." With a babyface champion making the rounds, did more promotions push a heel into the top spot, or did they simply run face vs face title matches?
Lou Thesz was mostly a babyface in his home territories, but when he was doing the travel he wrestled as a "rough babyface" who would be mostly a heel. Really, the logic is sound, because local fans want to see their top babyface challenge for the title, not their top heel. Flair was obviously a much more exaggerated heel for a new era, but typically the longest title reigns were guys who get heat in the local area because the formula worked so damn well. But yes, in the case of babyface champions, they’d just do scientific face v. face matches.