Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thoughts on the AWA Documentary

The AWA documentary we watched in class really opened my eyes to a lot of things. I didn't know too much about the history of wrestling before the WWF. I always assumed that wrestling began with the WWF and I never bothered to either confirm or refute this assumption.

It was interesting to see the different organizations that owned different territories and how they coexisted with one another. They each had their own champions along with their championship belts. Because they all stayed within their limits, they were able to gain success. Nowadays, whenever there is some kind of competition the answer is usually to the buy them out, as Vince Jr. is known to do.

Verne Gagne was a name I had never heard of either. If it weren't for Verne and the AWA, wrestling as we know it would be completely different. In addition to being, arguably, one of the greatest wrestlers, Verne knew how to make other wrestlers great. I now know that he is responsible for a lot of the legends of the WWF/WWE. When Hulk Hogan was struggling to find his place, like many others, Verne gave him the tools to become the legend that he is today. All of the familiar names from the WWF that I started out watching were products of Verne's AWA.

I also thought it was unfair that the wrestlers would use the AWA as a springboard to get into the WWF. A lot of them had no intention of staying with the AWA long-term. I don't know if they really appreciated the fact that Verne made a lot of the wrestlers who they are. Even though Verne was losing a lot of his talent, he was always optimistic and never thought of throwing in the towel. In order to survive he had to become stubborn and keep the belt within his tight circle. It's really amazing to see how long he was able to last when he not only had to compete with the WWF, but compete against all the talent that he developed.

I realize that there is so much more to wrestling than I had originally imagined. I now have an appreciation for Verne Gagne and the AWA. The contributions that Verne made to wrestling definitely influenced its development to what it is today.


Sam Ford said...

Ismael, I'm glad that the AWA documentary, and some of these other viewings have helped develop some of your historical understanding of the genre. We're going to be talking next week about the Dallas, WWWF, and Detroit territories. I would be interested in knowing how your view of the AWA crosses over with the views we've read of Georgia and St. Louis from Ole Anderson and Sam Mushnick, as well as the views of these other territories.

Carolina said...

Very well written post! You hit the nail right on the head for me. I knew a small bit about Verne Gagne before class, but not nearly as much as I should have. I had no idea the AWA was that influential to the WWF/E in the 80s, and as well it should have been since the stars were defecting left and right. It's very interesting to me too that Vince just took a star in Hulk Hogan and turned him into an icon, as opposed to taking him when he was a nobody and transforming him into that same icon, which many seem to think he did. This isn't to say that Vince hasn't done this with many stars, because he has - but arguably his biggest star in the history of his company, was built and brought up by Verne Gagne. Verne took in Hulk when Hulk was on the verge of never wrestling again and turned him around, which shines a different light on Verne that I hadn't seen before. I'm glad he got his induction in the hall of fame, he's a classy man to take that invite from the man who put him out of business - but classy seems Verne's style from the very beginning.

Anonymous said...

You've got to give credit to Verne Gagne for building the AWA and taking almost the entire burden upon his (and his family's) own shoulders. He held the belt most of the time, so that he could control where it went and didn't have to deal with 'prima-donna' champions that might use it to get their way. He was stubborn enough to keep the AWA going as his stars began to sneak up north to WWWF.
However, despite all his strengths, I think Verne's stubbornness was indeed partial to his downfall. He kept everything about the business so close to his chest, so personal, that as he aged and became more outdated, so did the company. The AWA wasn't able to change with the times, so as the WWWF emerged, and people were shouting 'This is ridiculous! It will never last!', the AWA kept with the 'old standard' that had served them well for 30+ years, but the new guys up north stole the AWA stars anyway. If Verne had been able to evolve and lead the AWA in a more flexible manner, they may still be around today.