The American Wrestling Association was not only Verne Gagne’s legacy to the professional wrestling world, it was the place where countless athletes, managers and personalities including Hulk Hogan, Curt Hennig, Rick Martel, Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerland made their marks before heading over to then WWF.
The biggest piece of Vince McMahon’s empire prior to purchasing WCW, his eventual conquest over the AWA made it possible for the industry to grow as much as it did in the ’80s. Ironic, considering how the demise of the AWA took opportunities away from athletes by consolidating the amount of places performers could travel and offer their services.
Rich in history, the AWA is still an important footnote in the industry’s history and thanks to a six-hour DVD from WWE entertainment, “The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA,” many of the holes and hard to put together information needed to get a true idea of the company’s impact on the sport have been compiled on this two-DVD set. Nonetheless, while the documentary itself is an interesting romp through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s world of professional wrestling, with a ton of interviews from many of the main players of the company, the extra features haven’t aged well, giving this set a stale feel when compared to many of the other WWE home entertainment offerings.
For instance, watching the plummet of the company, mainly due to the Gagne’s refusal to change with the times, is a great watch, but watching a Verne Gagne vs Baron Von Raschke match is a complete bore for anyone who isn’t a student of the sport or someone who appreciates the history behind the glitz and glamor. The same thing goes for watching Greg Gagne try to replace his father as a single’s star and the company attempting to push youngster stars when they finally realized the error of their ways. It is tragic, but again, nothing is more tragic than watching a 55-year-old Verne Gagne defend the AWA title against an older Nick Bockwinkel when the company had so many future stars that the WWF and WCW would use to help lead their companies.
The tone of the documentary cements this tragic notion even more as every wrestler interviewed and even the Gagne’s themselves voice their dissatisfaction with the decisions that were made. It’s not the most enjoyable WWE documentary because of this, but it’s honest, informative and thorough and well worth a watch. Had the extra’s besides the interviews held up a little better over time, this set would have been much better, but just like the AWA itself, time has not been particularly friendly to this set. It’s still a solid choice for wrestling DVD collectors, just not the best one.