The hardest part of being a part the wrestling family is when you have to say goodbye to your favorites to often and sometimes too soon. Late last night it was reported that Mr. AWA, Legend Wrestler Verne Gagne had passed away at the age of 89. In his early years Verne was a three sport athlete in High School at Robbinsdale High School, exceling at Football, Baseball, & Wrestling. After high school he was recruited by the University of Minnesota where he was named to the Big Ten Team. After one year in college Verne decided to enlist in the US Marine Corps, following the war he chose to return to the University of Minnesota; not only did Verne become a two NCAA champion, but he also was an alternate on the 1948 US Olympic Team. Verne would even get drafted in the 1947 NFL Draft by Chicago Bears, but because Verne was forced to chose between wrestling and football and the fact that he could make better money in wrestling, he chose wrestling; and as they say the rest is history.
Then fast forward to 1960 when Verne had enough of the NWA and decided to break away and make his own company called the American Wrestling Association. Gagne's first World Champion would be crowned as NWA legend Pat O' Connor. Verne would go on to not only become the sole owner of the company after taking over the company, but he also becomes a 10 time World Champion. Some of Verne's biggest feuds were with the greats from the era like Gene Kiniksi, Ray Stevens, The Crusher, Larry Hennig, Nick Bockwinkel, Mad Dog Vachon, and many other greats. As a promoter Verne seemed to value the technical wrestling specialist as opposed to the hulking brutes that most companies had. The one problem many say Verne had was being caught in a time warp and even the old-school style was outdated Verne stayed with it.
Around late 1983 to early 1984 is when the talent exodus of the AWA began with the company’s biggest draw in Hulk Hogan heading to New York for the WWF. Others talents that would soon follow Hogan include: Slaughter, The Rockers, Nasty Boys, Bobby Heenan, Mene Gene, Iron Sheik, Bob Backlund, Steamboat, Curt Hennig, and many others. By 1991 the AWA the damage had been done and the AWA was officially Out of Business, after 30 years. Those who may not have heard of Verne Gagne or all he did for the wrestling industry will not be able to understand how much Verne meant to the industry. Verne gave more than half of his life the wrestling business and that debt is something we can never pay back, but something we can be extremely grateful and thankful for.
Without Verne's willingness to teach the business to a new breed wrestlers which included some wrestling biggest name like: Ric Flair, Ken Patera, Ricky Steamboat, Dick The Bruiser, Curt Hennig, Blackjack Mulligan, Bob Backlund, The Iron Sheik, Buddy Rose, Greg Gagne, and many others. Thank You Mr. Gagne for all you did for this wrestling industry and though your influence hasn't been felt in a couple of years your effect on the business will be remembered forever. I would also like to send my condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Gagne during this most difficult time.
RIP Verne Gagne
1926 – 2015
You May Be Gone But Will NEVER Forgotten Bottom of Form
I love looking back wrestling's past. I view my job as bring new life to the part of wrestling some people thought was gone.