I've always been a semi-closeted fan of fantasy booking. I don't usually indulge in this habit on the board due to a lack of interest and a lack of intelligent feedback. Generally, I like to rebook difficult times in wrestling history and I'm going to rebook a once great wrestling promotion on its death bed. That's right I'm going to rebook AWA for the calendar year of 1989.
Let's look at what really happenned... In 1988, AWA joined forces with fellow struggling promotions, CWA and World Class Championship Wrestling. CWA legend Jerry Lawler was even allowed to win the AWA World title from the departing Curt Hennig. After a contentious and unsuccessful venture into PPV in December (SuperClash III), the collaborative effort fell apart. As a result, Jerry Lawler was stripped of the AWA World title on January 20th, 1989. Lawler kept the title belt and continued promoting himself as The World Heavyweight Champion on the independent circuit in an attempt to leverage PPV revenue from Gagne that was owed to him. Gagne was forced to commission a new AWA World Heavyweight title of similar design and on February 7th, 1989, the AWA would crown its new World Champion. How would AWA do this? Perhaps a one night tournament? No...a 18 man over the top rope battle royal would determine the new World Champion! The winner of that battle royal was Larry Zbyszko, longtime AWA employee and son-in-law of Verne Gagne. Zbyzsko wasn't the worst choice they could have went with but while his "human chess match" (IE stalling filled) brand of wrestling and promos may have gotten him heel heat, it wasn't exactly what you wanted to build a promotion around. With a diminishing roster and the focus of the promotion turning to the insipid, nonsensical Team Challenge Series, the promotion took a nose dive and would be finally put out of its misery in 1991.
So let's go back to late January 1989 and see what I have to work with
AWA World Champion- Vacant
AWA International Television title- Greg Gagne (A vanity title created for Verne's baby boy in December 1987. While Gagne wasn't nearly as bad of a worker as the IWC occasionally makes him out to be, he was well passed his prime at this point and by year's end, he (along with the title) would be retired. Even though the reason for the title's creation was somewhat dubious, we need a secondary title and this will do the job. Gagne, though washed up, was still a somewhat formidable veteran and over with The AWA crowd so he'll still be champ...for now.)
AWA Tag Team Champions- Badd Company (Paul Diamond and Pat Tanaka) (Even in the dire, dying days of AWA, they usually managed to have some decent tag teams on the roster or at the very least, a good team on top. Badd Company was no exception and they would soon go onto leave for greener pastures. But that won't be for a while so they'll remain the centerpiece of the tag team division. Oh yeah, they have some guy named Diamond Dallas Page as their loudmouthed manager. Wonder whatever happened to that guy?)
Let's run down some of the members of the AWA roster circa January 1989;
Akio Sato: Joined the roster of the dissolution of Central States Wrestling. Again, another guy who was a bit passed his prime but he was still half-decent in the ring so he'll make perfectly competent mid-card material.
The Destruction Crew (Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos): Former AWA job guys who would slowly ascend to the top of the tag team division over the course of the year. I like these guys, I'd repackage them and have them raise hell and beat up jobbers. They'll be the #2 heel tag team)
The Top Guns (Ricky Rice and Derrick Dukes): A salt and pepper pretty boy team. Pedestrian but not entirely terrible. Due to a lack of babyface teams, I'll keep 'em as midcard fodder.
Tommy Jammer: A new guy to the scene. In fact, made his AWA debut in the 18 Man Battle Royal for the AWA World title. This guy kind of sucked but he was somewhat of a rookie so I'll keep him on as a job guy.
"Z Man" Tom Zenk: Future internet icon, making his comeback to the wrestling world after his release from The WWF. Would go onto be the last man eliminated the 18 Man Battle Royal and have a world title feud with Zybyszko before leaving for the greener pastures of the NWA, Given the lack of youngish talent and the fact he's a half decent worker and a native Minnesotan, I'll keep him.
Larry Zybszko: We've gone over him a bit. He may not be World Champion material but with a roster this thin, there's no doubt that he's worth keeping and making an integral part of the promotion. He may have been a bit past his prime but he had plenty of gas left in the tank and was part of one of the biggest feuds in North American wrestling history.
Ken Patera: Coming home after a downright terrible WWF run. He was way way way past his prime but surprisingly, I'm going to keep him. However, there's no way I'm going to keep him as a babyface. He's a natural heel. I'll go into more detail over how I'll use him in Part Two but let's say his...umm...colorful history will be brought up.
Wahoo McDaniel: Another guy way passed his prime. I don't really see much use for him besides putting over younger talent.
Manny Fernandez: What do you know? Another wrestler who's seen better days on the roster? See The Last Entry.
Sgt. Slaughter: Umm..I could say just "See Last Two Guys" but I'll elaboarate a bit. The former WWF main eventer and GI Joe star was slumming it in the AWA. Who knew at this point that he would have another WWF World title run ahead of him? Obviously, I'm going to keep him as a top guy thanks to his name value and the fact that he could still go (Was probably just trying to impress Vince and get the hell out of there ASAP).
Colonel DeBeers: Controversial and tasteless as hell gimmick but I'm going to keep him. Watching these old shows on ESPN Classic, I see that he's quite an entertaining old school heel. I'll probably stick him in a feud with Sgt. Slaughter for the time being.
John Nord: Beloved doofus and Bruiser Brody clone. Works best as a goofy babyface or wildman heel. Given the lack of credible babyfaces roster, I'll have him as the former.
Scott Norton: Relative newcomer. Had a great look, will definitely keep him and build him up as a monster heel rather than the flapjack loving lumberjack that the AWA used him as in reality.
Brad Rheingans: Bland but technically proficient veteran. The type of fucker that Verne goes gaga over. Perfectly competent mid-card guy.
The Guerreros (Hector, Chavo, Mando): Probably the most exciting guys on the roster, ringwork wise. Some combination of them will be in contention for the tag team titles.
The Texas Hangmen: Generic masked heels. Will be used as a stepping stone for babyface teams before they go onto face Badd Company.
Kokina Maximus: The future Yokozuna was then weighing in just under 400 pounds. Would be main-event material eventually but that was a few years. Still a valuable addition to the roster.
Baron Von Raschke: Way way way past his prime. But still over enough to be used occasionally as a special attraction.
If I forgot someone, they probably aren't important enough to factor into my booking plan. Now, that's not the greatest roster obviously but its not completely without potential. Plus The AWA still had a weekly nationally televised show that promotions would covet. Still getting the AWA to recapture even a fraction of its past glory will require some outside talent being brought in.
Now this is the portion of fantasy booking most people have a problem with. They like to crow about how it wouldn't be possible to bring wrestler X into *insert name of promotion here) because such and such of a reason. Well they call it fantasy booking for a reason. I like to keep it realistic though so I'm not going to try to bring The Hulkster back to AWA or make a run at Ric Flair because that would be ridiculous.
So here are some guys (or tag teams) I'll bring in who the AWA actually might have had some semblance of a shot at getting in January 1989...
Big Van Vader: Formerly known as an indistinguishable AWA babyface, Leon "Baby Bull" White, Vader had reinvented himself as a monster heel in Japan. He had famously squashed wrestling legend Antonio Inoki in his home court, The Sumo Hall. I'll be using him as a mysterious virtually indestructible monster superheel. More along the lines of his Darth Vader helmet spewing character.
The Killer Bees: Both guys are former AWAers and a well established tag team in the wrestling world. The AWA desparately needed another good babyface tag team and these two were probably the best on the market (Yeah The Bulldogs were still on the market but Dynamite was broken down at this point and they really hated each other).
Scott Hall: Another former AWA guy, on his way to an indistinguished run in NWA. Even at this point, I think if booked properly, Hall could have been a main eventer. And he'd be a fresh addition to a stagnant group of top babyfaces.
Don Muraco: Like Patera, he's another guy who was way past his prime- workrate wise but was definitely worthy enough for a career resurrection as a heel. He was always entertaining on the mic as a heel and the AWA was in desparate need for entertaining guys at this stage.
Davey Boy Smith: Was just starting to become a singles star with Stampede. I figure there needs to be somebody on the roster who can hang with all of the hosses I have. He also hasn't yet seen the peak of his wrestling career.
Jerry Lynn: Considering he's another Minnesotan, he's a perfect fit for the roster. Lynn had just debuted at this point so I'll use him as cannon fodder at first and slowly move him up the card.
Eddie Guerrero: The Andy Gibb to his brothers' Bee Gees. The tagalong little brother who slowly starts making a name of his own in wrestling.
Coming up at some point this week...Vol. 2---I'll be highlighting the major feuds and title changes leading up to SuperClash IV in December.
If you managed to read all of this beast, I'll give you a cookie.