What was the AWA?
The American Wrestling Association was one of the most important wrestling promotions in America. Started in 1960, WWE Hall of Famer Verne Gagne was one of the owners and the first champion of the company. If you would like to know more about the history of the company, the WWE released a DVD about the company in 2006.
How can ESPN broadcast this show?
The WWE owns the rights to the AWA video library. However, the show currently being broadcast on ESPN was produced in association with them and thus they have the right to rebroadcast it on one of their networks.
What time period does this show cover?
This show was on ESPN from
1986 until 1990.
Correction: Since writing this, I have discovered that the show started in 1985.
What was the wrestling landscape like in 1986?
The wrestling world was in upheaval due to the WWE expansion that started a few years earlier. Prior to the WWE expansion, the wrestling world was divided up by geographic area and a gentleman's agreement between promoters to not violate those boundaries. However, between the growth of cable TV and the expansion of other territories to combat Vince McMahon, by 1986 there were five companies that were a part of the national scene.
The Five National Companies in 1986
- WWF: In 1986, Hulkamania had swept the country. The WWF was the number one wrestling company in the country at the time. There live events were held throughout the country. Their major television programs of the era were shown nationally via syndication plus they had a show on the USA Network. Additionally, their show Saturday Night's Main Event was shown occasionally on NBC. Now known as the WWE, they are the only company from the era to have survived.
- Jim Crockett Promotions: Jim Crockett was the dominant promoter in the National Wrestling Alliance and in 1986 his company was second only to the WWE. His programming could be seen nationally on WTBS and although they were syndicated nationally, they never reached the same size audience as the WWE. As part of their expansion strategy, they took over the operations of regional NWA territories. By 1988, the company was sold to Ted Turner and eventually became known as World Championship Wrestling.
- UWF: This is not to be confused with the UWF that ESPN Classic recently showed. This company, was known as Mid-South Wrestling earlier in the year, but renamed themselves the Universal Wrestling Federation. They syndicated their show nationally and raided the talent roster of World Class Championship Wrestling. They did some shows at the Superdome with Jim Crockett Promotions because both organizations were a part of the NWA. However, the oil crises of 1986 wrecked havoc on the company because this impacted the area they did their live events. In 1987, the WWE signed two of their top stars, Ted DiBiase & Jim Duggan. The company was then purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions.
- AWA: When Vince McMahon started his expansion, he targeted the AWA and signed most of their top stars. Their attempt to align themselves with Jim Crockett in a venture called Pro Wrestling USA failed miserably and saw their best talent of the era, the Road Warriors sign a deal with Crockett. By 1986, the company was in bad shape and their talent roster lagged behind that of the three companies listed above. Their shows featured wrestlers that would go on to do great things but at the time were very green in the ring. A big problem for the company was that whenever one of the wrestlers got good enough, they signed deals with the WWF or with Jim Crockett. This trend kept happening and within a few years they had such a tough time getting people to their shows that they eventually broadcast their show in a pink room that featured no audience.
- World Class Championship Wrestling: A few years earlier, they were on top of the wrestling world. However, things went very bad very quickly. Everything that could have gone wrong for the company in 1986 did. The oil crisis in 1986 destroyed the local economy in Texas. The UWF raided their talent base. The company seceded from the NWA. One of their top wrestlers died of a drug overdose. However, what is commonly referred to as the Von Erich family curse took center stage in 1986. Mike Von Erich returned to action following an infection he suffered in surgery a year earlier that nearly took his life. However, the near death experience took a toll on him emotionally and physically and he killed himself in 1987. Kerry Von Erich was involved in a motorcycle accident that caused his foot to be amputated. Just like they did with the AWA, the WWE recently released a DVD about the history of the company.
Why should I watch this show?
Sadly, the period of time this show covers is the fall of the company. However, there were some good things about the show. You get to see the development of wrestlers like Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty, Curt Hennig, and Scott Hall. Once these men leave, you will get to see the company align themselves with the USWA (a combination of the Memphis promotion and the WCCW). However, one of the nice things about the show is that they would occasionally show matches from their glorious past. Unlike the UWF show that was recently broadcast on ESPN Classic, this show will occasionally provide you with some great matches.
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