29 years ago today the biggest and last super card in AWA history took place. WrestleRock better known for the WrestleRock Rumble took place today in 1986 in what some could argue was the beginning of the end of the AWA.
WrestleRock was Verne Gagne’s answer to the super cards being presented by his rivals the WWE and Jim Crockett Promotions. While the super card was not a new concept, WrestleMania took that idea to new heights. JCP was already in the game with Starrcade which by 1986 had become its own entity for the NWA fan base.
[adinserter block=”1″]The AWA was on ESPN during this time and unlike the WWE and even JCP who booked their super card angles up to a year in advance, WrestleRock seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember watching the shows at the time and thinking about how random the event seemed. One would have assumed that with the power of ESPN television, WrestleRock could have turned the wrestling war around. It didn’t.
One of the biggest questions looking back on the event is why Verne didn’t take it to pay-per-view. For whatever reasons he did not and instead invested into an event similar to the Great American Bash which produced a tour and one big show to highlight the tour. The show took place on April 20, 11986 in the home base of the AWA, Minneapolis, MN.
Almost 30 years later this event is not remembered for any match, any angle, or any moment on the show. This show is remembered for one of the campiest, corniest, silliest promotional videos of all-time, the WrestleRock Rumble! This gem produced by Verne featured all of his talent rapping, yes rapping for an event with “rock” in the title, promos behind music. It was based on the highly popular cult video that the Chicago Bears put it out a few months earlier before the Super Bowl.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the event itself was that it was a flop. It wasn’t. The event reportedly outdrew both Crockett Cup tournaments which turned out to be a big financial flop for JCP. Financially it is hard to ascertain what the final result was because the payroll was ridiculous for the show. The show drew 23,000 fans and featured fifteen, yes fifteen matches! Sounds like a bad independent show lineup but that is what Verne came to town with.
Another interesting fact that many fail to remember is that the event featured a concert by Waylon Jennings. So to recap you have an event with “rock” in the title to play off of the rock and wrestling success the WWE had, promoted by a rap video, featuring a country music concert. You have to love Verne!
One other note which kind of surprised me. This is not on the WWE Network. The WWE bought the rights to the AWA library and owns the footage. I would have expected to see this on the network by now, especially with so many future WWE Hall of Fame wrestlers like Mr. Perfect, Barry Windham, the Road Warriors, Shawn Michaels, and Scott Hall on the bill.
I won’t go through an entire review of the show because quite honestly I can’t force myself to watch them all again. What I do remember is that for such a big event, there were a lot of non-finishes. In fact, two out of the three championship matches on the show ended in disqualifications. The only finish in a championship match was Scott Hall and Curt Hennig defeating the Long Riders.
The lineup was quite an eclectic mix of talent. The best match on the show was probably the Midnight Rockers against Buddy Rose and Doug Somers, but that only went 12 minutes. Special guests on the show included Harley Race, Mike Rotunda, Barry Windham, Tiger Mask, Kamala, and Wahoo McDaniel. Other notables on the show were full-time and part-time AWA players Sgt. Slaughter, Bruiser Brody, champion Stan Hansen, Jimmy Snuka (who cooled off quickly after coming in hot from the WWE), Rick Martel, the Road Warriors, Michael Hayes, and Jimmy Garvin.
What should have been the turning point in the 1980s wrestling wars was the beginning of the end. The AWA never came close to hosting an event like this and by the end of the year most of the big names had left for Japan, WWE, or the NWA. Looking at the results throughout the rest of the year, the Road Warriors only did a couple of dates after this as they were pretty much full-time JCP. Stan Hansen was gone in a few months. Rick Martel left shortly after to return to the WWE. The Freebirds and Sgt. Slaughter were gone. Jimmy Snuka also worked minimal dates by the end of the year leaving the usual AWA suspects.
[adinserter block=”2″]By the time Verne got into the pay-per-view game it was 1988 and he had lost all of his big guns. While the idea of coming to pay-per-view with a title vs. title headliner was nice, there was little demand in seeing two declining territorial champions in Kerry Von Erich and Jerry Lawler unify titles. In all actuality it was Super Clash 88 that was truly the end of the AWA as the promotion survived on life support for the remainder of its existence.
It is interesting to look back and wonder what would have happened if this card was televised on pay-per-view or didn’t happen at all. Would Verne have been able to keep his big guns around longer if he didn’t lose a fortune on this and future events? We’ll never know but in the meantime take a few minutes out of this historic day to enjoy yourself some WrestleRock Rumble…you earned it!
AWA WrestleRock 1986 Results…
Road Warriors defeated Michael Hayes & Jimmy Garvin in a cage match
Verne Gagne defeated Sheik Adnan in a cage match
Greg Gagne & Jimmy Snuka defeated King Kong Brody & Nord the Barbarian in a cage match
Nick Bockwinkel defeated AWA Champion Stan Hansen via DQ
Scott LeDeoux defeated Larry Zbyszko via DQ
AWA Tag Team Champions Curt Hennig & Scott Hall defeated Bill Irwin & Scott Irwin
Sherri Martel won a 10 woman Battle Royal
Rick Martel no contest Harley Race
Shohei Baba defeated Bulldog Bob Brown
Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo defeated Fabulous Ones
Tiger Mask (Misawa) defeated Buck Zumhofe
Buddy Rose & Doug Somers defeated Midnight Rockers
Colonel DeBeers defeated Wahoo McDaniel via DQ
Brad Rheingans defeated Boris Zhukov
Little Mr. T and Cowboy Lang defeated Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo