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  #1  
Old 04-27-2015, 11:02 PM
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Default Verne Gagne Passes Away

News just broke out on WWE.com that legendary Minnesota wrestler and WWE Hall of Famer Verne Gagne is now dead. He passed away this evening at the age of 89, and I wish I had more details, but don't at this moment. RIP
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Old 04-28-2015, 01:14 AM
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9 Time World Champion and one of the most successful promoters of all time. The man who first trained Ric Flair and made Hulk Hogan a star, also broke in and trained Shawn Micheals, Scott Hall, worked extensively with The Road Warriors, Curt Henning, not too mention Nick Bockwinkle.
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Old 04-28-2015, 02:43 AM
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One of the star names from the golden era of pro wrestling.
AWA in its day, was a thriving territory before the mid 80s.... and as mentioned above its a who's who of wrestling who passed through the territory on the way to becoming bigger stars:
Hogan, Flair, Steamboat, Michaels, Hening, Hall, Martel, Ventura, Billy Graham, Santanna, Road Warriors, Iron Sheik, Heenan to name a few.

RIP Verne Gagne

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Old 04-28-2015, 05:09 AM
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Really sad to hear.

It will be interesting to see how WWE handle this, they put him the HOF for example but his later life was controversial and this raises some uncomfortable parallels and questions on how they handle it.

His career is almost faultless, AWA is a legendary promotion and for much of it Verne was on the nail in running it, it was only Hogan's era that really stymied it but without him a lot of the guys we grew up watching don't develop.

As a wrestler he was a top 3 of all time shooter, he knew what the hell he was doing and few ever disrespected Verne.

Sadly as he got older he got sick and it led to an unfortunate issue where as an 85 year old, without control of his faculties... he killed his nursing home roommate.

Why bring it up? Why is it important? Before anyone flames, think about it... it's VERY important.

Somebody else also killed someone with the brain of a senile 85 year old...

Verne never faced any charges and remained "in care", as would that other person had he lived... Verne also famously was the guy who offered Sheikybaby money to break Hogan's leg...so not the nicest guy in the world when pissed off... but it was a genuinely tragic situation, a guy who physically could still shoot but who didn't have control to know he wasn't in a shoot. It's hearbreaking that it happened, but it did, just as it did for Chris Benoit.

Rightly or wrongly, WWE is in a tough spot. They can't "demonise" Benoit and eulogise Gagne without courting a lot of controversy as basically, the same thing happened in both cases. A guy not in control for medical reasons killed (allegedly with wrestling moves), one a "legend" and one "future legend", the only difference is one was already in a home, the second would have been put in one or a psych ward for life. Neither would have seen prison and nor should they have.

So I think we get a brief video package (as he is a HOF'er) and that's it, never mentioned again. Not what Verne deserves, but likewise, Benoit also deserves better than he gets, but WWE markets to kids so... If Trips was worried about what people google about Chyna, what happens tonight when they look up Verne? Food for thought but so sad because it shouldn't matter when it comes to their careers... inevitably it will though, especially if WWE overdose on AWA/Verne tributes, which may be richly deserved... but so would Benoit's be for his career less 3 days.

RIP Verne, without you we never get Mr. Perfect, Road Warriors, The Model, The Rockers, HBK or Hogan...
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  #5  
Old 04-28-2015, 07:03 AM
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It will receive a mention, some individual comments from wrestlers and announcers, but I'll be surprised if it gets 10 seconds of airtime on Raw or Smackdown. Gagne was a legendary wrestler and promoter from the 40s onward, but he also became the poster child of out of touch, intransigent authority: cronyism, nepotism, and a blind eye to the fact wrestling was moving away from smoky halls where people watched two 40 something guys sit in a headlock for 45 minutes to faster paced matches with colorful characters where the wrestling was secondary.
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Old 04-28-2015, 12:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyJoeJoe View Post
It will receive a mention, some individual comments from wrestlers and announcers, but I'll be surprised if it gets 10 seconds of airtime on Raw or Smackdown. Gagne was a legendary wrestler and promoter from the 40s onward, but he also became the poster child of out of touch, intransigent authority: cronyism, nepotism, and a blind eye to the fact wrestling was moving away from smoky halls where people watched two 40 something guys sit in a headlock for 45 minutes to faster paced matches with colorful characters where the wrestling was secondary.
The AWA helped create many of the more "colorful" characters of the time, including The Road Warriors, Shawn Michaels, Col DeBeers, etc....and they were playing to large crowds, especially during stadium shows in the mid 1980s, live crowds in the 50,000 range all right in the middle of the wrestling expansion and the two pronged war between Vince McMahon & Jim Crockett Jr.

Like many promoters he didn't see the danger in McMahon's "expansion" into their territories and underestimated the rock style or Sat Morning cartoon style of marketing action figures, posters, etc that McMahon revolutionized in the industry. It's unfair to limit him to "smoky halls where people watched two 40 something guys sit in a headlock for 45 minutes".

Meanwhile, in terms of match quality, 1980s WWE was VERY SLOW, and VERY LIMITED, matches rarely displayed anything outside the most basic of power moves and relied heavily on headlocks, tests of strength, bear hugs, and other time killing spots to stretch time frames into the ten minute realm with such limited arsenals of holds & moves. More talented wrestlers in WWE were often held back in the ring so as not to overshadow Hogan and the growing collection of muscled up or overweight monster types who populated the roster.

You can argue that Match Quality during this time was much higher in the NWA but many NWA stars either started or spent significant time learning from and working for Gagne, including LOD & Flair.

Some of Hulk Hogans best matches were against Nick Bockwinkle in the AWA, comparable if not better than any of his work with Flair & Savage later which is often considered his best in ring product. Likewise, Curt Henning had two of his all time best matches in the AWA against Bockwinkle, and The Rockers were trained and learned the craft directly from Gagne.
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Old 04-28-2015, 01:24 PM
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It's fair to say that... the AWA however always had that "legit" air to it that the NWA and WWE didn't focus on, he didn't make Hogan his champ and kept it on Bockwinkel an inordinate amount of time when other talents could have done more for the company.

To me the biggest proof that Verne had "lost his way" was that almost to a man, his champions never actually made more than the WWF mid-card, yet guys he didn't put the belt on like Hogan, Slaughter, Vader and even Sheik could get to that level in New York or the NWA...

The only guy who he put the belt on and had that success elsewhere was Stan Hansen who never came back to the US full time.

A few chances taken on different talents and the whole history of the business changes...
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Old 04-28-2015, 02:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlairFan2003 View Post
The AWA helped create many of the more "colorful" characters of the time, including The Road Warriors, Shawn Michaels, Col DeBeers, etc....and they were playing to large crowds, especially during stadium shows in the mid 1980s, live crowds in the 50,000 range all right in the middle of the wrestling expansion and the two pronged war between Vince McMahon & Jim Crockett Jr.

Like many promoters he didn't see the danger in McMahon's "expansion" into their territories and underestimated the rock style or Sat Morning cartoon style of marketing action figures, posters, etc that McMahon revolutionized in the industry. It's unfair to limit him to "smoky halls where people watched two 40 something guys sit in a headlock for 45 minutes".

Meanwhile, in terms of match quality, 1980s WWE was VERY SLOW, and VERY LIMITED, matches rarely displayed anything outside the most basic of power moves and relied heavily on headlocks, tests of strength, bear hugs, and other time killing spots to stretch time frames into the ten minute realm with such limited arsenals of holds & moves. More talented wrestlers in WWE were often held back in the ring so as not to overshadow Hogan and the growing collection of muscled up or overweight monster types who populated the roster.

You can argue that Match Quality during this time was much higher in the NWA but many NWA stars either started or spent significant time learning from and working for Gagne, including LOD & Flair.

Some of Hulk Hogans best matches were against Nick Bockwinkle in the AWA, comparable if not better than any of his work with Flair & Savage later which is often considered his best in ring product. Likewise, Curt Henning had two of his all time best matches in the AWA against Bockwinkle, and The Rockers were trained and learned the craft directly from Gagne.

Look back at the title history of the AWA title in the early 80s and it proves my point.

1980 - 46 year old Nick Bockwinkel held the title for 5 years before dropping it to the owner, Verne Gagne, who was 54 years old.

1982 - 39 year old Otto Wanz, also a promoter of a European wrestling promotion, beats 48 year old Bockwinkel and drops it back a little over a month later. This happened AFTER Gagne decides to not put the belt on Hogan, who had a decision reversed on him a few months earlier.

1984 - Jumbo Tsuruta finally wins over now 50 year old Bockwinkel. Other members of the roster at that time: Dick the Bruiser (55 years old), Crusher (58 years old), Baron Von Raschke (44 years old)...all these guys were considered top contenders at that point!

Even Rick Martel and Curt Hennig, two very talented guys, were reactions to the criticisms of the cronyism and overuse of Bockwinkel at the time, but in the meantime, lots of guys had already bailed on the AWA by this point. He finally gave the belt to 40 year old Jerry Lawler, but the promotion's demise was all but written on the wall by this point.

Gagne managed to alienate or lose many stars during the early and late 80s, so I have to stand by my assessment of his promotional ability. He wasn't alone, obviously, but he had more ammo available than most to have changed history had he not been so myopic.
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Old 04-28-2015, 05:24 PM
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I don't think it is fair to use the term myopic, that would imply that he never listened at all or only went for old guys or his friends... , indeed a lot of talents did rise through him. That Martel and Hennig could get that belt is something Vince Jr or Sr. would never have done or did do...

Of the era only really the NWA belt changed hands in what you'd call a "suitable way", with good length reigns but then a change to prevent staleness. Backlund had it for 7 years, then Sheik a month, then Hogan for 4 of the next 6 years... so Vince wasn't doing much better if that's being myopic.

The problem Verne had was two-fold, he spent far too much time trying to groom his own son to be something special, rather than focusing on other talent he had who he could have made big money with. The sheer number of guys who he trained in the 70's alone who went on elsewhere is staggering, yet Greg was still getting the good spots. He could have kept Flair... Jim Brunzell is a classic example of someone who could have done a lot with a good push for the AWA, especially with the title around the late 70's/early 80's, making them look younger, more exciting but Greg was getting that spot as the "top young guy" on nepotism... The Road Warriors are another classic case, they could have dominated and sold out for years given the right push... but he was happy to let them walk and that really was the think he never recovered from in terms of credibility... it's one thing letting Hogan go, then finding gold again in a tag team like the Warriors and letting them go, then with Hennig, Vader... he didn't learn or rather decided not to change.

Verne ultimately was one dimensional, not a terrible promoter by any stretch, but business and creatively wise he couldn't seem to grasp that not only the times were changing but that tastes of his own fans were. To not push either Hogan OR Ventura to the title is crazy looking back, Jesse was not "great" in the ring, but he'd have been a major draw for a face to knock down rather than the classic Bockwinkel/Stanley Blackburn reversal finish repeated ad-nausem as he got.

It's hard to be overly critical of the guy, he made enough in his life and did give a lot of guys their starts, but there really COULD have been 3 big nationals... and the whole outcome makes me glad Vince and Bruno fell out... could you imagine the WWF had it been in Bruno's preferred image, or Backlund's "only credible athletes" or if Fritz had managed to take WCCW truly national and ramming his kids down everyone's throat. Verne wasn't the only one guilty of it, but he's the one for whom it tanked his business the most.
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Old 04-28-2015, 08:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THTRobtaylor View Post
It's fair to say that... the AWA however always had that "legit" air to it that the NWA and WWE didn't focus on, he didn't make Hogan his champ and kept it on Bockwinkel an inordinate amount of time when other talents could have done more for the company.

...
In fairness regarding Hogan, story has it he WAS supposed to win the belt clean from Bockwinkle but Hogan turned it down because of the financial situation.

Flair (who was no where near World Title level at this early stage of his career) told the story in his book about Verne insisting that if he left the AWA to work elsewhere Verne was entitled to a percentage of his income. After discussing the matter with Wahoo McDaniel, who was recruiting Flair to join the NWA, Flair decided he wouldn't give Verne the "commission" but would give him some money in return for training him and breaking him into the business. After becoming NWA Champ, Flair, now a big name featured weekly on TBS, would make appearances in his off time through out the year on AWA Cards to help draw for Verne, he wasn't required to but did it out of gratitude. That stopped around 1986 when Crockett started restricting Flair's non NWA appearances.

As for Bockwinkle, I think the belt kept coming back to him because he was a legit big name and loyal to the company .... plus he could get younger stars over, building for the future. The problem was stars like Martel & Henning left.

There is no doubt that Verne had "money issues" regarding pay but nonetheless he's a legend in the business and made many significant contributions and helped build some of the biggest stars of all time.
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