The documentary detailing the rise and fall of the AWA was enlightening, as I had heard the name many times before, as the starting place for many a classic wrestler, such as Hogan and Andre the Giant, but nothing more. The parallels with the WWE were striking, as Verne Gagne basically built the AWA up to its heights near single-handedly, similar to Vince McMahon, and well as bringing his family into the business in order to keep control, again like Vince and his son Shane and daughter Stephanie. From there, the stories deviate.
Verne Gagne was known for his stubbornness, his heavy hand and personal touch in every aspect of the business, from personally training wrestlers to actually wearing the belt for long lengths of time. Through his grooming and business management, the AWA spawned a roster of world class wrestlers, from Hogan and Andre to Shawn Michaels and the Road Warriors, and other great personalities such as Bobby the Brain and Gene Oakerland. The AWA was highly successful under the rule of Verne Gagne for 30+ years.
Then came Vince Jr. When he took control of the WWWF from his father, he set out to create something completely new and fresh, with the best talent, high production values, and widespread television and pay-per-view broadcasting. Vince began to reach out to established and rising stars, including those in the AWA, one of the first being Hogan. Whether it was just an obscene offer in itself or whether Hogan was just looking for an out, whatever the reason, Hogan made the jump, and for some reason did not finish out his pre-booked dates for AWA. With the loss of arguably its greatest star, the AWA began hemoraging talent to the WWWF, which began growing, despite all arguments to the contrary by old verterans that this 'new-fangled wrestling' would never survive. Verne became even more stubborn, and drew his interests in even closer, mandating iron-clad contracts from his talent, which they didn't always sign. Vince's enterprise was gaining across the country, as the AWA began losing, and eventually faltered.
Did Vince kill the AWA? Were his tactics unsavory, or unfair? I think not, he was building a company, and wanted the best, and apparently he could afford it. If Verne Gagne had been less stubborn and had reached out to others, the AWA could have been able to evolve with the times in response to the up-and-coming WWWF, and may have lasted much longer. Yes, Vince was an opportunist, but only by seizing opportunities are fortunes and fates made. Without Verne Gagne and the AWA, the WWE as we know it, as a multi-billion dollar international enterprise, would probably not exist, but if Vince Jr. had not come along, I'm not sure if the AWA would be still be around either.