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The Dawn of War

 

          It appears that Vince McMahon’s road to controlling the wrestling industry has some real competition and it is coming from Verne Gagne and the American Wrestling Association.  It all started with a phone call between Jerry Jarrett and Verne following the NWA quarterly meeting in March of 1983. Jerry informed Verne that Vince was threatening once again to break away and start his own national promotion and everyone in the room knew had the money to do it.  Jarrett’s other concern and the real reason he called Gagne was that he felt that the NWA would never break away from their territory system as each owner was too pigheaded to see the forest through the trees.

The original deal between Jarrett and Gagne to have Memphis break away from the NWA and join the AWA hinged on one big factor; Verne must sign Hulk Hogan to a long- term contract.  Verne and Jarrett both loved the sport of wrestling but while Verne wanted to focus on the technical side, Jerry knew that in a large national promotion where you only visited major venues once or twice a month, Hogan’s schtick would be way over in every market.  This required Verne to do two things.  First, he had to agree to give Hogan the best merchandising deal ever handed out in the pro wrestling.  This was the only way Verne could compete with the contract being offered by Vince McMahon and his money.  Verne also allowed Hogan to go to Japan numerous times a year to pad his pockets with a whole lot of Yen. 

The contract extension for Hogan in 1983 means that Stanley Blackburn never entered the ring on April 24th, 1983 in Minneapolis.  This was the night that Hulk Hogan had defeated Nick Bockwinkle for the AWA World title.  In real life, AWA President, Stanley Blackburn entered the ring and reversed the decision saying that Hulk Hogan had thrown Nick Bockwinkle over the top rope and was therefore disqualified.  In our version of wrestling history, Hulk Hogan is still the AWA World champion as we enter 1984. 

          The next phone call by Verne was to Joe Blanchard of Southwest Championship Wrestling.  Southwest had a great working relationship with the AWA and recognized their World Champion.  Verne knew that SWCW was a key to the AWA succeeding and Vince not controlling the whole enchilada.  The reason for this is that Southwest worked out a deal with the USA Network and was being seen across the United States on cable television each and every Saturday morning.  Word was that Vince wanted this spot and the USA Network was intrigued as it would give them some major viewership in major east coast markets.  While Joe and Verne were okay business men, Jerry Jarrett was a genius.  Just look at his 17,000 square foot mansion outside of Memphis and you can see he is the one small time market who made it big.  Jarrett had pitched an idea to Verne who was to relay it to Joe. 

          TNT Wrestling…. Texas and Tennessee!  TNT would combine Memphis and Southwest but with a name like TNT it would not have a regional feel. Combining some of the huge names from Southwest with the likes of Jerry Lawler and Nick Bockwinkle, who has been in Memphis ever since losing to Hogan in 1983, would make TNT one hot AWA show each and every week.  Joe Blanchard loved the idea and so did the USA Network Executives who signed a long-term deal with Verne Gagne.  TNT Wrestling will be airing each week starting in January of 1984.  The other reason USA Network agreed to stay with the AWA and not go to Vince was another of Jerry Jarrett’s good ideas.  “We only asked for 30% of what the WWF wanted from USA.  We understood that we were not making much on our TV broadcasts at the time but as long as Vince’s product not being seen on national tv, he was not going to dominate the industry.  Now all we had to do was put on a product that the fans loved and we would be the brand FOREVER! 

          Since that original phone conversation with Jarrett back in March of 83, Verne has completely bought in to the idea that cable is the way to go. Taking a page out of Georgia Championship Wrestling and Fred Barnett, Verne looked to the new superstations of cable tv.  WTBS has done wonders for Georgia as it has allowed him to move into places like West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan.  These are three states that Gagne had hoped would someday become AWA but now he sees that as an uphill battle; all because of Ted Turner.  So, what does Verne do?  He turns to WGN, a superstation based in Chicago.  Chicago, along with the Twin Cities has long been an AWA stronghold and if he could secure air time on this channel, he could lock up the third largest market in the county and bring in money that could rival Vince in, NY.  Verne, once again, offers a major network a contract they can’t resist.  He gives away some money in the deal for longevity as he knows McMahon is running out of cable options. 

               Verne next turns to Stampede Wrestling and Stu Hart based out of Calgary.  Gagne has already been running shows in Winnipeg and his AWA Major League show is shown across Canada on TV station CKND and syndicated across the country.  Verne now wants to   convince Hart that it is okay to jump ship and come to the AWA.  In talks with Stu, Verne promises to keep his boys, Brett, Keith and Bruce over and to add a Light Heavyweight title and to bring in Stampede’s North American title as the second major title in the AWA.  As luck or lack of luck would have it, the action was so hot on December 2, 1983 in the Ogden Auditorium in Calgary, a riot broke out as Bad News Allen turned on his teammates, the Stomper and Jeff Gouldie.  After piledriving Gouldie on the concrete floor, Bad News Allen took the microphone and told everyone that he wished that his attack on Gouldie led to his death.  This caused the crowd to erupt in anger and several injuries were reported.  After this, Stu Hart was suspended from promoting events in Calgary.  Without Calgary, Hart and Stampede was dead so it!  Verne again calls Stu and offers him a small share of the AWA for his promotion.  Hart is still reluctant until Verne gives him one more little nugget.  For this bit of information, everyone will have to tune into WGN and All-Star Wrestling each and every week. 

          Verne was on fire now, and once again took to the phones.  He contacted both ESPN and TSN, the Canadian equivalent of ESPN, looking to make a deal.  ESPN originally wanted a weekly show but Gagne felt that the way ESPN was looking to promote the AWA was a little too stuffy and came across with a boxing style feel so Verne went with WGN for the weekly show.  He offered ESPN and TSN something bigger; 6 major cards with all the true stars facing each other.  ESPN and TSN salivated at the idea of cheap, live, prime time shows that could see the likes of Hulk Hogan vs Jerry Lawler.  Verne also gave ESPN and TSN all the rights to run the shows as often as they liked in reruns but he retained the video rights!  Verne saw his audience growing and growing and for the first time, he thought that he might actually succeed in going national.  We will see.

          Hopefully you enjoy Dawn of War and thanks to my partner in this project; Spaldoni.  Any questions pm either one of us.

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It seems the winds of change in the professional wrestling industry are blowing harder and harder.  Ever since Roy Shire left the wrestling business in 1981 and Mike LeBell left Hollywood Wrestling earlier this year, the AWA has taken over northern California and especially San Francisco and the legendary Cow Palace.  This left Don Owen up in Portland completely isolated from his other NWA buddies.  He has struggle to attract major talent in the last few months and many have headed for stronger territories.  According to the rumor mill, Billy Jack Hayes, Playboy Buddy Rose and Rip Oliver have one foot out the door if Owen can't promise them bigger gates.

Verne Gagne who seems to always have one ear to the floor has also heard these rumors.  He could just offer Owen's stars a contract but he wants more.  He wants everything!  Again, this is only a rumor but Verne and Don have been said to be behind closed doors.  What will this mean for the wrestling industry.  If Pacific Northwest very joined the AWA, Verne would have a stranglehold on almost all wrestling west off the Mississippi and with his recent TV deals, expansion seems to be the way to go.  Hold on to your hats and keep reading the wild and bumpy ride of Pro Wrestling and the growth of cable TV as we hit the New Year.... 1984

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AWA BREAKING NEWS:

It appears that Jim Barnett and Georgia Championship Wrestling were stuck between a rock and a hard place but found a last minute solution.  Barnett was really not happy with the idea of selling his company to either Ole Anderson or Vince McMahon, both of whom he distrusts immensely.  Barnett has seen the landscape of professional wrestling change dramatically offer the last few weeks with many of the old guard NWA promotions joining Verne Gagne and AWA wrestling so Barnett figured he had nothing to lose when he picked up the phone to call Vern.  Rumor has it that the talks have gone well as Barnett would love to stay in the game and Verne would love to scoop up the Superstation as another national television channel airing his new brand.

Stay tuned.... who could be next?   Cowboy Bill Watts, Fritz Von Erich, the Grahams in Florida or maybe even Vince himself will succumb to the power that is AWA Wrestling!

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AWA BREAKING NEWS

It appears that Ron Fuller and Southeastern Championship Wrestling have decided to jump on board with the AWA and break ties with the NWA.  Ron Fuller, struggling for national exposure made the move in hopes of securing a national TV show as he has seen the success of the other promotions who have weekly shows on the USA Network, TBS, WGN and ESPN.  

The deal became a No Brainer for Verne Gagne when it become obvious that the deal included the NWA Champion Ric Flair.  Hulk Hogan was given a huge contract to stay away from the WWF and rumor has it, Ric Flair received the exact same contract.  Other wrestling stars coming to the AWA as part of this deal include Junk Yard Dog, Robert Fuller, Jerry Stubbs, Bob Armstrong and Superstar Billy Graham.  Rumor has it that ESPN executives are salivating at the chance to get Ric Flair on one of their prime time shows.

Stay tuned.... who could be next?   Cowboy Bill Watts, Fritz Von Erich, the Grahams in Florida or maybe even Vince himself will succumb to the power that is AWA Wrestling!

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AWA BREAKING NEWS

The National Wrestling Alliance has been in a state of flux since Ric Flair forfeited the NWA World Heavyweight Title and joined the surging American Wrestling Association as part of Southeastern Championship Wrestling. Today, another blow was struck to the NWA as Bob Geigel resigned as President of the Alliance and announced that he was merging his Central States Wrestling office with the Mid-South Wrestling office of "Cowboy" Bill Watts.

Hours after that bombshell, another dropped, as Watts and Geigel finalized a deal to acquire the Dallas booking office of World Class Championship Wrestling from Fritz Von Erich. Those in the know say that Fritz had been growing frustrated at the AWA signing many of his regular talents to exclusive deals, and then the recent death of his son David in Japan is said to have driven all the wind out of his sails. However, him selling the company comes as a shock to many.

Then "Cowboy" Bill Watts turned the wrestling world upside down when he held a press conference and withdrew from the National Wrestling Alliance, and announced the closure of Mid-South Wrestling!

He then announced his new venture, AWA World Class Wrestling, a new promotion featuring all of your favorite stars from Dallas, Kansas City, and Mid-South, that would be airing every week in syndication all across the United States and be touring the great states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, and Missouri.

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AWA BREAKING NEWS:

The mission is complete.  Verne Gagne has control of the wrestling business in the United States.  First, Verne was able to put the NWA out of business but that only meant that the war was down to two!  It was Verne vs Vince and many people would have put their money on Vince and his Northeast powerhouse WWF but it was not to be.  Verne really was organized from the get go with his plan as he controlled the major TV stations and through a network of cooperation never seen before in the Wrestling World, the AWA worked as one.  Vince had no choice left but to bring the World Wrestling Federation and the WOR Superstation to the AWA and now in less then 5 months, Verne has done it.  Complete control of the American Wrestling scene but he will not stop there.  It is on to Montreal, Toronto, Mexico and Japan!

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DAWN OF WAR:  LAST CALL FOR NEW WRITERS:

Dawn of War has room for one more writer.  Combining our current free agent list along with the list of eligible free agents joining the game in 1985, their is plenty of talent left including such stars as Gino Hernandez, Terry Taylor and Buddy Landell.  If no new writer steps forward in the next week, the current writers of Dawn of War will hold a draft to divide up the free agents that would be entering the game in 1985.  This does not include 1985 rookies and that draft will still be held in December.  If interested, please send a PM as soon as you can.

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