The American Wrestling Association (AWA) was an American professional wrestling promotion based in Minneapolis, Minnesota that ran from 1960 to 1991. It was owned and founded by Verne Gagne and Wally Karbo. The territory was originally part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), becoming an independent territory in the late 1950s.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, AWA television production was headquartered at Minneapolis independent station WTCN-TV, then owned by Metromedia. The ring announcer was longtime Minneapolis - Saint Paul sports broadcaster Marty O'Neill, who also conducted the post-match interviews. O'Neill announced the matches for the local WTCN audience. But fans watching the syndicated version of the show heard commentary provided by Rodger Kent. In the mid-1970s, during a prolonged illness, O'Neill was occasionally replaced as ring announcer by program producer Al DeRusha and interviews were conducted by both Kent and Gene Okerlund. By 1979, Okerlund had permanently replaced O'Neill, who died a couple of years later, and production was transferred to Minneapolis station KMSP-TV. During the AWA's existence, it produced or had a hand in production of several TV programs:
- AWA All-Star Wrestling - syndicated program, which aired from 1960 until 1991.
- AWA Championship Wrestling - aired on cable sports network ESPN from 1985 to 1990 and ScreenSport in Europe via Cable or Satellite TV; it was a continuation of the earlier ESPN program Pro Wrestling USA, the co-operative venture between the AWA and several NWA affiliates (most notably Jim Crockett Promotions).
- AWA Major League Wrestling - Canadian program produced in Winnipeg, Manitoba for that city's station, CKND, and syndicated across Canada during the 1980s.
In 1985, Gagne began airing weekly programming on ESPN, hoping to help the promotion compete with the national exposure already enjoyed by the WWF (on USA Network) and the NWA's Georgia/World Championship Wrestling (on TBS). However, weekly AWA shows were not treated with any priority by the cable network, sometimes being delayed, preempted by live programming, or suffering from occasional changes in time slot, making it difficult for fans to tune in on a regular basis.
On February 26, 2008, ESPN Classic began reairing AWA Championship Wrestling episodes, circa 1986-1990.
The AWA ran only one pay-per-view card, SuperClash III, during its 30-year run. However, From 1999 to 2002, a series of AWA-related pay-per-views were produced. Titled AWA Classic Wrestling, they featured compilations of old AWA footage, hosted by Greg Gagne and Todd Okerlund (son of Gene Okerlund), with occasional appearances by Verne Gagne. The pay-per-views ceased following the acquisition of the AWA tape library by World Wrestling Entertainment.
World Wrestling Entertainment ownership
All footage for the AWA is owned by WWE. WWE released The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA on November 21, 2006. The DVD includes a documentary on the amateur and professional career of Verne Gagne, the rise and fall of the AWA over its 30-year history, and numerous interviews and features with Gagne, Hulk Hogan, Jim Brunzell, Michael Hayes, Baron Von Raschke, Greg Gagne, Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan, Gene Okerlund and Nick Bockwinkel.
In 1996, Dale Gagner, a former AWA employee, began using the AWA name in the state of Minnesota and formed an organization known as AWA Superstars of Wrestling, infringing on the AWA name. In April 2007, WWE filed a lawsuit against Gagner, citing trademark infringement, as WWE owned all AWA properties due to their purchase after the AWA's closure. In a move to sidestep WWE, former AWA wrestler, Jonnie Stewart, trademarked the name "American Wrestling Alliance" instead. However, the United States Patent and Trademark Office later indicated that the request was abandoned in February 2008.
In October 2008, the court ruled in favor of WWE. The court ruling prohibits Gagner and his associate from exploiting or trading on the AWA name or any other derivatives. As a result, the organization was renamed to Wrestling Superstars Live.
- National Wrestling Alliance World Tag Team Championship (Minneapolis version)
- American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association World Light Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association United States Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association World Tag Team Championship
- American Wrestling Association World Women's Championship
- American Wrestling Association Brass Knuckles Championship
- American Wrestling Association America's Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association British Empire Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association International Television Championship
- American Wrestling Association International Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association International Tag Team Championship
- American Wrestling Association Midwest Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association Midwest Tag Team Championship
- American Wrestling Association Southern Heavyweight Championship
- American Wrestling Association Southern Tag Team Championship
- World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version)