A Look Back at WWE’s AWA DVD Set

World Wrestling Entertainment, for better or worse, holds the majority of American pro wrestling history in their hands. Thanks to acquiring the tape libraries of such organizations as World Championship Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling, American Wrestling Association, World Class Championship Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling and others, they truly can tell wrestling history as they see fit. As they say, history is written by the winners.

So back in the fall of 2006, WWE cashed in on the AWA by releasing a set on the American Wrestling Association, entitled The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA. Without an agenda to push or an axe to grind against, WWE did pretty a solid of telling the story of Verne Gagne and the AWA the right way.

The documentary goes all the way back to the early days of Verne Gagne’s career as an amateur wrestler and into his success as a professional. The entire story of the AWA, and all of its highs and lows, is told in solid detail.

In order to truly tell the story of the AWA the right way, a cast of former AWA superstars like Nick Bockwinkel, Baron Von Raschke, Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell, Greg Gagne and former AWA promoter Wally Karbo were brought in to help tell the AWA’s story the right way. But it’s a real treat to see Verne Gagne himself interviewed to give his side of the story and tell about the AWA’s legacy the right way. It is all the more remarkable that Verne was included here as he became afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease not long after this DVD was released. Plus, long-time wrestling historian Mike Chapman was interviewed to give the proper background on the AWA and its early days.

Frankly without an agenda to push or a product to market in the future, WWE was able to tell the AWA’s story without prejudice. From Verne Gagne’s success as the company’s champion through the 1960s, the success of Nick Bockwinkel as his successor through the late ‘70s and into the ‘80s and the creation of Verne’s motion picture The Wrestler that came out in 1974 and starred Gagne and British pro wrestler Billy Robinson, it is all talked about.

From there it talks about the mid ‘80s where the AWA began to falter thanks to the defection of superstars like Hulk Hogan, Mean Gene Okerlund, Jesse Ventura and many others to the World Wrestling Federation and the pure competition between the WWF and the AWA.

Unfortunately by the late ‘80s, the AWA was one its deathbed. The company’s major stars had either gone to the WWF or the NWA and only loyalists and young stars were left. Eric Bischoff came in the closing days as an AWA announcer and the Team Challenge Series, AWA’s final big push, was a large failure.

Despite the AWA’s sad ending the company left an indelible legacy. Verne Gagne created a new option for world-class talent to compete in. He also left an incredible legacy as a trainer of nearly 100 world class wrestling superstars and his tradition to tradition of keeping scientific, technical wrestling alive as a pro wrestling medium.

The documentary ends with Verne getting inducted improbably into Vince McMahon’s WWE Hall of Fame in the spring of 2006. Thankfully Gagne was cognizant enough to wholeheartedly accept his WWE Hall of Fame induction and be recognized as a legend by a whole new generation of fans.

The extras really make the set worth it as stories from like Nick Bockwinkel and Baron Von Raschke add to the fun. Plus full length matches like The Midnight Rockers against Doug Somers & Buddy Rose, a Jerry “The King” Lawler-Kerry Von Erich AWA-WCCW World Title unification bout and the infamous Curt Hennig-Nick Bockwinkel 60-minute AWA World Title bout from November 1986 that aired on New Year’s Eve 1986 make this set worthwhile.

Long-time fans of the AWA will enjoy stories about the company they grew up with and the stars they saw on television while new fans that love pro wrestling history will get a great overview of something they missed in the past. Young fans, new fans, old fans, pick this documentary up as a remembrance of pro wrestling gone by.

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