What Happened To The American Wrestling Association (AWA)?

Now, there are not a lot of wrestling fans out there that do not know or have not heard of the great, Verne Gagne. 

He was a very popular wrestler back in the good old 1950s and the fellow happened to be quite ambitious and which led to him starting his own wrestling promotion called the American Wrestling Association

Verne Gagne, long time owner and promoter of the American Wrestling Association (AWA)
Verne Gagne, long time owner and promoter of the American Wrestling Association (AWA)

The NWA was founded in 1960 but before then it had started off as being part of the National Wrestling Alliance before breaking off to run its own independent promotion. 

The AWA was very popular for most of the 60s and 70s and a lot of wrestlers found it a very favorable and lucrative place to work at.

Some very big names in wrestling had their very humble beginnings in the American Wrestling Association and some of them include, Ric Flair that was personally trained by Verne Gagne.

Some other big names that started off at the AWA would include:

  • Hulk Hogan
  • Jim Brunzell
  • Ricky Steamboat
  • Curt Hennig
Inside Wrestling September 1984
Inside Wrestling September 1984

Although the AWA had a very nice run at some point, it eventually had to close its doors in 1991 and below we shall have a look at some of the factors that contributed to its eventual demise:

1. Uprising of the WWF and NWA

The 1980s brought with it an unprecedented uprising of the WWF as a national promotion and an end to the territorial era of wrestling – which was the AWA’s main forte – was inevitable. 

The NWA was also making some major strides in wrestling during this time and this ultimately pushed the AWA even further into obscurity.

The Road Warriors AWA (American Wrestling Association) Remco action figures
The Road Warriors AWA (American Wrestling Association) Remco action figures

2. Loss of Talent

A lot of wrestlers and other staff members too made the switch from the AWA to WWF and other promotions in the 80s leaving the promotion a mere shelf of its former glory. 

Probably the biggest and most notable name that walked away from the AWA was Hulk Hogan. 

Hulk Hogan, was very quickly becoming a huge fan-favorite at the time but for one reason or another, Verne Gagne never saw him as championship material.

This pushed Hogan out of the AWA in 1983 and into the WWF where he became Champion soon after and would continue to draw huge crowds for many years to come. 

Some of the other major names that made the switch would include announcer “Mean Gene” Okerlund and manager Heenan. 

A bunch of other wrestlers also packed their bags and went the other direction and some of them are, Ken Patera, Wendi Richter, Jesse Ventura, Adrian Adonis among others. 

American Wrestling Association belt
American Wrestling Association belt

3. Internal Politics

Verne Gagne was accused by many of nepotism for insisting that his son, Greg Gagne, be included in most of the promotion’s storylines. 

This led to a lot of backroom room friction and charges of nepotism too which did nothing but harm the company’s growth.

4. Financial Problems

AWA (American Wrestling Association) logo
AWA (American Wrestling Association) logo

With Vince McMahon literally taking over everything he could get his hands on, the AWA lost a lot of TV time and this, in turn, dented its finances in a big way. 

In 1991, Gagne eventually threw in the towel and filed for bankruptcy and this was just about the last that we ever heard of the AWA.

The entire AWA library is now owned by Vince McMahon, who else!

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