Ken Resnick on the Wrestling Landscape Prior to Vince McMahon8217s National Push for WWF, Discusses Mistakes Verne Gagne Made With AWA

– During the latest Wrestling With History on VOC Nation, former AWA and WWF broadcaster Ken Resinick spoke about WWF prior to the recruiting of Hulk Hogan and the company going nationwide with its programming. Below are some highlights sent to us by VOC Nation:

Resnick on AWA’s business in 1983 prior to Vince McMahon’s push to go national with WWF: Business was greatBusiness was boomingThere was a time, this was probably (19)84 where on a Sunday night the AWA sold out the St Paul Civic Center which was about 18,000 people and then had about another 3,000 to 4,000 next door in the old St Paul Auditorium watching it on a movie style screenBusiness was great; they had so many namesThis was before Vince had moved into AWA territory; Andre the Giant was there, Otto Wantz from Germany, they had a pretty good relationship with the Giant Baba, guys going back and forth to Japan Stan Hansen was there. Business was booming. I think that also contributed to the fact that as good as business was, Vern was probably a little slowif you basically have 80% to 90% of market share and market penetration, youre not really worried about some outsider thats trying to come and do business in your townBusiness was so good that it allow Vince, as strange as it seems, to come in a little bit under the radar in terms of Verns thinking.

Resnick on the territory model prior to 1983 for wrestlers: It was more (that) they would lend their talent to another promotion for maybe one or two rounds of their major cities(they didnt really work together) until Pro Wrestling USA came to the forefront in late 84 or early 85 trying to do something to hopefully stop or slow Vince McMahons spread. Thats when they would do joint TVs. The funny thing there, and one of the downfalls of Pro Wrestling USA is that even though they were working together on this television, no promoter wanted their talent to get beat by another territorys talent on national TV. Pro Wrestling USA was airing on ESPNEven though they were working together, to this point the owners of the different territories were very territorial.

Resnick on Verne Gagne’s reaction to the national push by Vince McMahon: I remember being in some of the discussions where Vince was kind of going through the country like a blitzkriegif youre facing in business what was essentially a hostile takeover attempt by Vince McMahon or the WWF, the first thing you are taught in any business school is you circle your wagons (and) protect your own business. Being old school and so angered by what Vince was beginning to successfully do, Vern focused in trying to get into Vinces backyard and let markets like Chicago and Milwaukee be basically second in thought and ripe for takeover.

Resnick’s thoughts on Verne Gagne’s mistakes: Verne sold the Winnipeg market and Winnipeg television to Wally Karbo, Jack Lanza, and Nick Bockwinkel. For a number of reasons, they ended up taking that television and giving that market to Vince. The late Dennis Hilgart, the promoter in Milwaukee, again a lot of it was financial, but he left Vern and he had the contacts and the agreements in Milwaukee and he went with Vince. It was a lot because Verne didnt quite understand the corporate premise when youre facing a hostile takeover that you circle the wagons. Vern left a lot of flanks exposed.

Resnick on if Hulk Hogan ever considered staying in AWA: Hulk did give Verne an opportunity. He was thinking about staying. One of the big things that Vince was able to offer was a high percentage of the secondary marketing the tee shirts and hats and everything else and Verne didnt want to do that. He said without me, you wouldnt be able to sell anything; Im not giving you that. I remember talking with Hulk and finally I said whats stopping you? Youve got 2 choices: Youve got A, or youve got B which is 25x what A is.


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