Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Rise And Fall Of The American Wrestling Association

To truly understand the legacy of AWA you gotta know the backstory to it's forming. Lets start on June 14th 1957. Lou Thesz has just lost his NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Edouard Carpentier. The NWA later overturns the referee's decison and gives the title back to Thez, however cirtain NWA territories refuse to go along and continue to reconize Carpentier as the champion. On August of 1958 Verne Gagne defeats Carpentier, who is still be billed as champion. The NWA refuses to reconize Gagne as the new champion.In 1959, Gagne and Wally Karbo buy Dennis Stecher's majority stake in the Minneapolis Boxing and Wrestling Club and take over promotin. In 1960 after unsuccessfully lobbying NWA for a title match with the reconized champion Pat O'Connor, Gagne and Karbo convince multiple territories to split from the NWA, thus forming the AWA. The AWA reconizes O'Connor as both the NWA and AWA World Champion and gives him 90 days to defend his title against Gagne. The NWA ignored the challenge so on August 16th 1960, O'Connor was stripped of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and it was awarded to Verne Gagne, who went on to hold the title 10 times before retiring in 1981. Even though O'Connor was reconized as the 1st Champ he didnt compete in AWA until a few years later when he teamed with Wilbur Snyder to win the AWA World Tag Team Titles. After Gagne's retirement the company focused around Nick Bockwinkle. During the 1980's the AWA became one of the most sucessfull promotions in the United States drawing huge crowds wherever they went all across the country. In 1982 with the success from Hulk Hogan's role in Rocky 3, Hogan became the top babyface and AWA's biggest draw. Even though he was extremely popular, Gagne refused to make him AWA World Champion, beliving that the AWA should be centered around technical wrestling and not gimmicks. Hogan did beat Bockwinkel for the title, but he was stripped of it 6 days later for using a foreign object and the title was returned to Bockwinkel. It happened again in 1983. Hogan beat Bockwinkel and was announced as champion but Bockwinkel argued that Hogan threw him over the top rope before the pin but the match was No Disqualification. AWA President Stanley Blackburn once again stripped Hogan and gave the title back to Bockwinkel. The crowd almost rioted and Hogan had to get on the mic and calm them down. It was revealed that Gagne planned to make Hogan champion that night, but only if Hogan gave Gagne the bulk of his revenues that he made. Hogan refused wanting a 50/50 split so Gagne kept his belt. Frustrated by Gagne Hogan accepted Vince McMahon's offer to join WWF in 1983. One month later Hogan became WWF World Heavyweight Champion. The AWA began to lose momentum when they began focusing around Verne's son Greg Gagne. Soon after WWE signed away Gene Okerlund, Bobby Heenan, Adrian Adonis, Ken Pantera and Jesse Ventura. Despite the hit to his roster AWA had its most sucessful year in 1984 due to the arrival of The Road Warriors. In response to WWF's expansion the AWA formed a alliance with NWA, Mid-South, World Class, CWA and PNW in a attempt to go national and compete with WWF. They called the alliance Pro Wrestling USA. By 1985 the AWA lost fans as the WWF was coming off the highly sucessful WrestleMania 1. Tword the end of 1985 Wally Karbo sold all his AWA stock to Verne Gagne. In September 1985 Pro Wrestling USA held thier own big event SuperClash. Gagne began accusing the NWA of trying to sign AWA to thier lockeroom which led to Pro Wrestling USA breaking up. AWA fell to the 3rd major promotion behind NWA and WWE and signed stars such as Curt Hennig, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Vader and the Nasty Boys. AWA maintained a relationship with Mid-South Wrestling. Shortly after AWA formed a alliance with World Class Championship Wrestling. In 1991 Verne Gagne became involved in a legal battle with the United States Government over property he owned on Lake Minnetonka. He lost and filed for bankruptcy andthe AWA folded. WWE would later buy all AWA property.

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