Curt Hennig and the AWA

Recently I wrote an article asking if Ted Dibiase was the greatest wrestler to never actually win the world title. The article got some responses but a few had said that their pick was Curt Hennig and some others answered that Hennig was a former AWA World Champion so that didn’t really count for my list.

Before he was perfect.

           I certainly do consider Hennig as a former World Champion. I became a big wrestling fan right after he left the AWA and went to the WWF in 1988 and was big in wrestling magazines at the time and they would have articles of Hennig and his big title loss to Jerry Lawler a few months before. There were articles about Hennig’s run with the title and some of the people he had beaten as Champion before the big loss to Lawler and him going to the WWF. Years later I actually found the match from an old VHS that the Memphis territory released that someone had brought online and got to see it.

           And another thing that came up was when telling people Hennig was a former AWA champion these people would answer back that the AWA itself didn’t mean anything so that doesn’t count for what I was saying.

           I disagree.

           I won’t say what I actually said out loud when I read that for the first time, but I disagree. The AWA was a major league wrestling federation long before that. They had been around since 1960 and had shown they were just as big in the United States as the NWA they had split from. Years later I have heard stories of Vince McMahon trying to by out the territory itself and not being very successful at it.

           Granted the AWA built up a negative reputation during the ’80s that they were well behind the WWF and the NWA in a lot of ways, but they weren’t nobodies either. They had a national cable television outlet in ESPN and did shows in Japan as well as their usual stay in Minnesota and places like that. They weren’t the first in wrestling at the time, but they still put on shows and their champions were considered WORLD Champions. By the fans, by the press, by everybody. Not that it is huge nowadays, but a number of AWA wrestlers are in the WWE Hall of Fame. Guys like Sgt. Slaughter, Nick Bockwinkel, Curt Hennig, Verne Gagne, Bobby Heenan, and a lot more. Granted the choice of getting into the WWE Hall of Fame might be suspect, but still. There is a lot of AWA in there.

           And if the AWA didn’t mean much, why did the WWE buy out the name and logo and also produce a DVD collection full of awesomeness. Granted someone probably pitched the idea to Vince of all the WWF guys they could highlight before or after their runs in the WWF, but even still the AWA meant something to a lot of fans and that showed that there was still an interest in the company. Sure there are stories and not all of them or good ones, but the AWA was a big thing and it makes people still salute what it did.

           And when people see Curtis Axel and remember who his father or even his grandfather was, some of those people wipe away a tear as he gets bounced around the ring.