Classic Wrestling Images from the American Wrestling Association and other Independents
The American Wrestling Association was a Minnesota based independent promotion started by Tony Stecher in the 1930's and later run by wrestling legend Verne Gagne from 1951 until it folded in 1991. It was one of the most fertile grounds for developing wrestling talent: Rick Martel, Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty, Ric Flair, the Andersons, Scott Hall, Stan Hansen, Rick Steamboat, Curt Hennig, Vader and many others all got their start in the AWA. Although it never gained the popularity of the "big two" it did have some limited national TV exposure as the ESPN Networks favorite wrestling show. I have included shots from some of the other Independent wrestling promotions on this page as well.
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The late "Crusher" Jerry Blackwell (image above) was a true giant in the sport (at over 400 lbs!). Here he prepares to tag the Blaster.
Colonel DeBeers, a South African racist, was the perfect "politically incorrect" heel for the eighties. Here he is on the receiving end of an elbow from his arch nemesis', fellow military man Sgt. Slaughter.
Widely considered to be the first great tag team were The Kalmikoffs who won the AWA Tag Team Championship in 1963.
Here are some familiar faces - this popular tag team consists of "Big" Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon) who was the regular tag team partner of Curt Hennig (aka Mr. Perfect). In this match they faced Michael PS Hayes (who, on closer inpection is revealed to be WWF announcer "Doc" Hendrix) and his "Freebird" partner Buddy Roberts.
Here's another steller lineup. Facing us is "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin (Ron's nephew) and Steve Regal with their valet "Precious". With their backs to the camera are Road Warrior Hawk and the Warrior's manager Paul Ellering (who was "Precious" in his own right).
Yet another familiar grappler peeks out at us from under the muscular arm of Boris Zukov. "Bullpower" Leon White went to Japan shortly after this match and came back as "Big Van Vader".
Among the other great tag teams were Dick the Bruiser and The Crusher who held the AWA Tag Team belts in 1963, '64, '66, '68 and '75!
The great Nick Bockwinkle tries to put Wahoo McDaniels to sleep (against his will of course).
Pat Tanaka held the AWA Tag Team belts with Paul Diamond as "Bad Company". He now jobs in WCW.
Mr. Wrestling II appeared regularly in the AWA over the years as well as nearly every other promotion.
The Great Kabuki was another AWA stawlart.
The Olympians, were Brad Rheingans - a genuine Olympic wrestler (and coach), and his partner, Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera (in one of his rare face tours) - touted as the "world's strongest man".
File this incident under sports-entertainment. Comedian Andy Kaufman (now deceased) takes it on the back of the neck in this scene from his feud with Jerry "the King" Lawler. Kaufman invites the King to "take a powder" in this image from the same match. (Images courtesy of Duaned)
Here is my cousin Larry ("Crippler" Rip Oliver - circa 1987 - who had just won the Northwest Heavyweight Championship title in a controversial decision (which was later reversed). His father Ray (Rip "the Crippler" Oliver) was a protege of Ray Stevens, who had used the "Crippler" moniker before him. Unfortunately I have no video on my uncle.
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