IN THAT WORLD where the world of Sports & Athleticism collides with the universe of the Melodrama, the Morality Play and Mythological Heroes & Monsters, we find the American phenomenon of Professional Wrestling. In it there are many variations of the species, each peculiar to its own terrain and indigenous populous.
WHEREVER OR FOR whomever they 'rassled', the Pro Grappler was basically the same and were quite adaptable to journeying between the various Eco systems. From the big shows in Madison Square Garden (NYC), the International Amphitheater (Chicago), Kiel Auditorium (St. Louis) or to any tiny venue anywhere, Wrestling was Wreatling. Its parts were very interchangeable.
BUT IN MUCH the same manner as fads and fashions, what was in vogue today would not necessarily fly the next. Where false biographies, counterfeit titles of nobility and backgrounds done a la Jules Verne were always around, it seemed that these elements were taking center stage ahead of ability on the mat.
IN THE FACE of all this excessive intrusion of the superficial, there was no greater defender of a "back to basics" than Verne Gagne. Having been in wrestling as a kid, it could be said that Gagne grew up in the sport. He was an All American Wrestler from the University of Minnesota, where the local boy also was an End on the Golden Gopher Football team*
HIS CAREER IN the pro ranks began following service in the U.S. Marine corps in World War II. It was a career that started near the top and never fell off. His matches were often nationally televised events; being several title shots vs. World Champion, Lou Thesz.**
UNLIKE MANY TALENTED persons in any variety of fields, Mr. Gagne invested wisely in a boxing & wrestling promotions business in Minneapolis, formerly run by former World's Heavyweight Champion Wrestler, Joe Stecher and his brother Tony. This Minneapolis Boxing & Wrestling Club would become the American Wrestling Association, AWA for short.
THIS WAS THE parent organization that gave the America, Canada and the whole World "AWA ALL-STAR WRESTLING". The series bowed in 1960 and lasted from 1960 until approximately 1988. Although it first was done from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, it later relocate to the Showboat Hotel in Las Vegas, where it did its last shows.
THE SHOW AS well as the AWA promotions fell victim to changes in the grappling business. In place of the former territorial system, national promotions dominated the scene. Local TV programs run on UHF stations gave way to cable and some "punk" from NYC moved in on everyone else.
THIS SHOW DID as great a job that was possible in bringing on virtually every great in the business in the course of its run. Of course, these "stars" were also going to be appearing in big cards being promoted in very big venues where the program aired. But, after all that's what the show was for!***
WE FEEL THE need to include just a brief statement about Wrestling's being 'fixed" or "rigged". At every night of pro wrestling, no matter where, the show will be opened with an address by the Ring Announcer that goesa somethinga lika thisa:
"Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to All Star Heavyweight Wrestling, Joe Blatz promoter." (and now most importantly) he continues......"These EXHIBITIONS are sanctioned by the State Athletic Commission of (your state here)." Nuff said about that.
NOTE: * Verne had a chance to go to the Chicago Bears and was an End in the 1949 College All-Star Football Game (as LaVerne Gagne). He chose wrestling.
NOTE ** Most of these matches originated in Chicago's International Amphitheater and were televised over WGN TV and the Du Mont Television Network.
NOTE*** All of those stars appeared, as well as rookie newcomers (aka "Job Men") such as this writer, who did some pro wrestling for about 7 years (part time).
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