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AWA Championship Wrestling aired on cable sports network ESPN from 1985 to 1990. It was a continuation of the earlier ESPN program Pro Wrestling USA, the co-operative venture between the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and several National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) affiliates (most notably Jim Crockett Promotions). On February 26, 2008, ESPN Classic[1] began reairing AWA Championship Wrestling episodes.



In September 1985, the AWA began airing weekly programming on ESPN, giving the promotion the national exposure already enjoyed by the World Wrestling Federation (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. Following the disastrous Team Challenge Series[2][3], the AWA lost its contract with ESPN and became virtually inactive by late 1990.


Taping locations

For many years, the AWA held their television tapings in their home base of Minneapolis, Minnesota (for their syndicated All-Star Wrestling program) at the WTCN television studios. However, in early 1985, AWA promoter Verne Gagne made the decision to hold some television tapings at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When Gagne inked the deal with ESPN later that same year, he along with the ESPN management felt that another location for the AWA television tapings was necessary. Ultimately, Gagne and ESPN settled on the Showboat Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both the WWF on the USA Network and the NWA on TBS were able to draw more crowds than the AWA's ESPN program.[4] The ESPN tapings in Las Vegas often took place in front of small, silent crowds[5].

Notable moments

  • In the spring of 1987, Sherri Martel began managing Kevin Kelly. Her most memorable moment as his manager came when she interfered in an arm wrestling match between Kelly and Tommy Rich on AWA Championship Wrestling. Rich got immediate revenge by cornering the escaping Martel and ripping her dress off to reveal a strapless pink teddy and black stockings. In the following weeks, Rich would come to ringside during Kelly's matches and taunt Martel with her stolen dress.
  • In 1987, Wahoo McDaniel was brought into the AWA to challenge Curt Hennig for the World Title in a series of ultra stiff brawls. Ultimately, Hennig emerged victorious in the feud by beating McDaniel in an Indian Strap match seen nationwide on ESPN[5].
  • In the weeks following December 13, 1988 pay-per-view, SuperClash III, ESPN aired bouts from the aforementioned pay-per-view broadcast and did not show any new AWA matches[7].
  • After Jerry Lawler was stripped of the AWA World Title (for refusing to defend it following the SuperClash III pay-per-view due to a dispute with Verne Gagne over the payout from SuperClash III), a Battle Royal to decide the new AWA Champion was held in St Paul, Minnesota on February 7, 1989. When the Battle Royal to crown a new champ (which was ultimately, Larry Zbyszko, who emerged victorious after eliminating Tom Zenk) aired on ESPN a week or so later, the announcers particularly, Lee Marshall tried to bury Jerry Lawler.

See also


External links


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