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The Greatest AWA TV Singles Bouts
by Marty Goldstein on 2001-06-25

We continue to analyze the basic aspects of the "annual AWA TV angle" as sarcastically described by Dave Meltzer. An angle every 3 months was more like it, and it worked most of the time because a) the market was exposed to a limited amount of pro wrestling on TV, 2)many angles were new to the fans because they hardly saw any to begin with 3) as espoused by many all-time greats in a recent interview with Dave and Chico, it was the greatest group of talent ever assembled 4) I cannot emphasize this enough and will write about it later, great great credible announcers.

1) I mention this as it was the legendary angle, passed down in oral tradition, that led to legions of Winnipeggers turning their roof antennae south to KCND in Pembina,ND, just 60 miles south in distance but 1000 miles away culturally. I never saw it but heard of it, and heard Rodger Kent mention for years to come. It was the visceral reaction that I saw in kids at school who had seen it that made me realize there was more wrestling on TV than Vancouver's All Star.

A mysterious masked man was sitting in the studio audience and caused quit a stir, demanding interview time and being cut off and restrained. He was in the crowd one day in 1968 when World Champion Verne Gagne made a rare TV appearance. With Gagne poised for victory, Dr. X hit the ring and attacked the champ, locking on the new to the AWA and very cooly applied figure 4 leglock and "broke" Gagne's leg, mere months after Gagne had broken Larry Hennig's leg.

This set the stage for Dr. X to win the world title in a 2 week switch in St.Paul in June 1968, that was never recognized on the rest of the circuit. His status as world champ was like one of those vague Omaha title deals in AWA history, only come to light in the past 10 years.

2)Dr. X - who was the best masked wrestler by far of his era- was the best heel interview and had the most over hold in the AWA.Dick Beyer had worked with his brother-in-law as his partner in a couple of territories, but that was in his guise as the Intelligent Sensational Destroyer. Now he was Dr.X and no one would associate that name with the Billy Red Lyons who stood across the ring basically pretending to be a jobber, in what promised to be a typical 2 straight fall massacre. In a stunning bit of booking, Lyons took the first fall with.. the Figure 4 Leg Lock! The studio audience went nuts, and they scrubbed the last 2 falls.

Lyons did a low-key interview in which he discussed his travels and admitted to being the British Empire Champion (Whipper Watson's old title). Dr. X, who was bowlegged and whose mask cowling made him look like a duck, screamed about the fans quacking at him as a distraction, it was HIS hold, etc. The fans truly believed Lyons could unmask Dr.X.

3)Shozo Kobayashi was the number one contender to Gagne's title, managed by the old office crony Stan " The Big K" Kowalski. Some manager. In 1971 he should have recognized the good looking young Englishman across the ring and told Kobi "watch out for the batwing suplex". He didn't and the unknown Billy Robinson became an instant star.

4) It wasn't a match but a pre-match TV angle that led to a blood feud that set the Winnipeg Arena attendance record that stood until 1986.

In 1973 squash matches featuring the eloquent Superstar Billy Graham included both a poem and a pre-match arm wrestling exhibition, in which the hapless Cesar Pabon, Peter Lee, Armando Rodriguez, etc., would have their comparatively puny arms flashed by SBG. One week Wally Karbo brought out Wahoo McDaniel (or as Graham said it- "Mac Daniels"). The former NFLer said he wasn't an arm rassler or nuthin but he would try on the Superstar.

On the verge of defeat, Graham belted the Indian star and cracked him over the skull with the heavy wooden arm wrestling table. Wahoo being Wahoo, blood was everywhere and the blowoff Indian Strap Match drew 11,323 screaming nuts in October 73 to the Arena, a record that stood until WWF champ Hulk Hogan and Jake Roberts drew over 12,000 in '86.

5) By 1972 Kobayashi was out and the Man Who Beat Bruno, Ivan Koloff was in, again managed by the Big K. To show his superior Russian skill, he challenged rookie Don Muraco to either last 15 minutes or take a fall,yet Koloff had to win 2 falls to win. That was quite a challenge, and Muraco was a great athlete, but despite a valiant effort, Koloff killed Muraco with the Russian backbraker (Jesse Ventura inverted body vice). Koloff was hated, to say the least.

When AWA matchmakers booked the top 2 contenders, Koloff and Billy Robinson for TV, fans were ecstatic. When Koloff came out with a sling on his arm and a doctors note- which we all knew was fake because Karbo could read it, and no on earth believed Wally Karbo could decipher a doctor's writing- the fans were dejected. Karbo went scrambling out of the ring to find a new opponent for Robinson, who was storming about the ring in frustration.

To show you how rare angles were, no one in the studio was looking for the now-obvious sneak attack. They shreiked in shock as Koloff wrapped the sling around Robinson's throat and tossed him around the ring. This being the AWA, blood spurts forth etc ,you know, red turns to green.How over was this feud? Try to find a modern day equivalent to the matchup between The Guy Who Beat Bruno and Gagne's Hair-Apparent.

In my recollection the AWA used more tag than singles angles, but the world was so primitive that Verne Gagne appearing on TV twice a year was an angle in and of itself, and those were 2 straight fall squashes of Sky Hi Morse and Kenny Yates. The very best all time TV Singles angle was one that really had more impact in Japan than in the AWA- another topic for another day, specifically Ray Stevens Day.

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Quotes from the boys: Moondog Manson says "Leatherface is by far the sickest man I have ever met in the ring, the moment he hits you in the head with that steal chair you here a creepy laugh come from under that hood.".
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