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Verne Gagne (1923-2015)


Real NameLaverne Clarence Gagne
Lifespan - 5/10/1923 - 4/27/2015
5'10" 215 lbs. - Mound, MN
Athletic BackgroundWrestling (`48 Olympics), Football (University of Minnesota)

Teacher(s) - n/a

Professional BackgroundMinneapolis, Oklahoma/Texas(`49-`52) Chicago(`52-), AWA(`57-`91), San Francisco(`61)

Aliases - Mike Bullard

Peak Years - 1950s-1960s

Place in HistoryVerne Gagne was one of the most celebrated amateur wrestlers to ever step into a pro-wrestling ring after medalling in the Olympics. He was offered chance at pro football, but declined them to make some real money. When he stepped into the ranks of professional wrestling, he was an instant star in his native Minnesota. Furthermore, Gagne had a great aptitude for pro-wrestling, unlike many amateurs before and after him. With his sincerity he had great babyface appeal and with his in-ring savvy he commanded great respect from his peers. He was in excellent shape and he could go and established himself first as a junior heavyweight, then as a potential NWA World championship amongst the heavyweights. As he established himself throughout the 50s, it became clear he was a major star and draw, but politics dominated the NWA. There are several stories to how the AWA title was established, but it is suffice to say that it ended up around Gagne's waist sooner than later and he was the company's golden boy. In the next few years, he traded the belt with some legendary heels: Gene Kiniski, Bill Miller (Mr. M), The Crusher, Fritz Von Erich and Mad Dog Vachon. Since he was the promoter, Gagne had no problem making himself the top star. He also had a notable feud with AWA Tag stars Harley Race and Larry Hennig in the mid-60s. He returned on the title hunt, continuing his feud with Vachon. He also started a new one with Dick Beyer (Dr. X, better known as the Destroyer) and the last major rival of his career - Nick Bockwinkel. After "Slick" Nick ended Gagne's seven year reign in late `75, he enjoyed a lengthy reign of his own. It was Gagne who finally defeated him in `80. He retired a year later at the age of 58, though he did return for a few grudge matches. In a 20 year championship era, Gagne spent an amazing 15 of those as the reigning champion, a testament to his drawing power in the Minneapolis area. Though people criticize many of the booking decisions he made, Gagne's AWA was a major promotion for over twenty years before being crushed by Vince McMahon's national expansion. The AWA lasted for a few more years before closing when wrestling's popularity cooled off in the early 90s. Gagne's place in history as a world class wrestler and successful promoter are enough to place him high on anyone's list of great figures in pro-wrestling.