Then in 1957 the current championship puzzle started. On June 14th of that year, Edouard Carpentier defeated Lou Thesz in Chicago. The title and belt were awarded to Carpentier, but the NWA over-ruled the referee and gave the title back to Thesz because one of the falls was on a disqualification. However, in this case, many states refused to follow the edict of the National Wrestling Alliance.
One of these states was Nebraska. They continued to recognize Carpentier as champion until he lost the title to Verne Gagne in August of 1958. Carpentier also had recognition from various other states and the fact is that there were several title versions involved, but all of them are now merged into one of the three versions that are still left today.
At this point Wally Karbo was still a member of the National Wrestling Alliance. However, he was a strong supporter of Gagne, and Verne already held the Nebraska version of the title. Karbo had been working for five years to arrange a NWA title match for Gagne in Minneapolis. Finally, in 1960, he felt that he needed to take drastic action to force this match. He called a meeting of all the promoters who agreed with his view that unless Gagne was given a shot at the NWA title it would be meaningless, because to have a true world champion, he must defend the title against the very best challengers. Verne Gagne, at that time, had been ranked among the top ten contenders for over five years, often in the top position, and yet he had never had a title shot during that period.
Karbo and his associates formed the American Wrestling Association. Ironically, the first champion recognized by the AWA was not Gagne, but Pat O'Connor, who was the current NWA Champion. However, the AWA stipulated that O'Connor had three months to sign for a title match with Gagne or else lose recognition. When O'Connor refused to sign for the match and when the 90-day period had elapsed, the AWA took action on it's own and removed recognition from O'Connor and crowned Gagne the World's Heavyweight Champion. The National Wrestling Alliance, of course, did not go along with this title switch and so two champions were the result.
As the years passed, the AWA title received wider and wider recognition. Although Gagne has been the champion for most of the past decade, Bill Miller and Mad Dog Vachon also had the title for periods of over a year, and Wilbur Snyder, Don Leo Jonathan, Fritz Von Erich, The Crusher, and Dick the Bruiser all had brief stints as champion.
A super bowl type match between Gagne and the NWA champion was proposed several times, but the match was never signed. The reasons shy are complex, but probably the chief one is that NWA promoters feel that Gagne would not keep the rigid schedule the NWA demands and that Gagne would favor the present AWA promoters with more appearances in that area. However, history disproves this because when Gagne held the NWA World's Junior Heavyweight Championship some years back, he was without a doubt the most traveled champion that division ever saw and defended the NWA World title in more areas than any other champ in that division's history.
The time factor may have chief importance. One champion can only defend his title a maximum of around 300 times per year. Two champions mean twice as many title matches when you add up both NWA and AWA promotions, so an agreement would have to include the provision that all promoters in both alliances would have to cut down the number of title matches in each individual city if they had one champion for both groups. The promoters individually are reluctant to cut down the number of times they have the champion per year and the collective result is that super bowl type eliminations have been blocked by the individual demands made by promoters from both alliances on the universal champion that would result.
Still there is hope. Wally Karbo, the most powerful AWA promoter, still maintains his membership in the NWA and follows their edicts in all aspects of the sport except for heavyweight title recognition.
Although no elimination has been signed, the promoters of the NWA and of the AWA work in close harmony. The channels are open and who knows what the future may bring. The AWA has never disputed Dory Funk's lineal claim to the throne. The whole alliance has been based on the injustice of not giving Verne Gagne a shot at the NWA title for the past fifteen years. For Verne Gagne's sake, we must hope that this injustice is corrected soon. After 22 years of professional wrestling, he no longer has many of his prime years of professional wrestling ahead of him.
Verne Gagne sincerely believes that he is the very best wrestler in the world today. His record certainly supports that belief and the true World's Heavyweight Champion should be the man who is the very best wrestler in the world today. For the sake of wrestling, the Verne Gagne vs. Dory Funk Jr. match must be made.
Article provided by Mike Rogers
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