In the year 1988, it had become blatantly obvious that the World Wrestling Federation was the top dog in pro wrestling. Jim Crockett had just sold his company to billionaire Ted Turner to form World Championship Wrestling to solidify itself as the number 2 promotion in the US. American Wrestling Association owner Verne Gagne was a far distant third. Most of his young homegrown talent like Curt Hennig and The Midnight Rockers jumped ship to the WWF.
In what many perceived as a last ditch effort to put the AWA back on the map…Verne Gagne got together with a few promoters of the remaining territories to put on a super card pay per view entitled Super Clash III. The primary promotions involved were Verne’s AWA, Fritz Von Erich’s WCWA, Danny McClane’s POWW and Jerry Jarrett’s CWA. The Super Clash shows were the AWA’s version of Wrestlemania or Starrcade. It was their flagship show that began in 1985. Super Clash III was headlined by a title Vs. title unification match between AWA World champion Jerry “The King” Lawler versus World Class Wrestling Association World Champion Kerry Von Erich.
The event took place in Chicago, Illinois at the UIC Pavilion. The paid attendance was about 1,600 in an arena that could seat roughly around 10,000. It was a financial flop for all involved despite several promotions advertising it heavily.
The card was nothing extraordinary, but it wasn’t so much the event that inspired this piece…it was the behind the scenes shenanigans and fallout that became legend.
First off, to no one’s surprise….a power struggle developed between the different promoters who all wanted their guy to be put over. Speaking of being put over…Greg Gagne (The son of Verne) was put over Ronnie Garvin in a featured match on the super card. The Chicago crowd turned on Greg Gagne so badly…it seemed to legitimately rattle him.
Greg Gagne went on to say…“The fans here like Ron Garvin…that’s fine that’s their prerogative…He’s a good athlete. He reminds me a lot of the Chicago Bears…but brother tonight I was the Minnesota Vikings and we just steamrolled Chicago.”
It was a little statement, that for the average fan wouldn’t think was a big deal…and it really wasn’t. However, when you consider the fact that the quasi heel speech was edited out of future broadcasts and the home video release…it makes you think that Verne Gagne was none too pleased with his son Greg’s comments. As for Ronnie Garvin, he left the AWA after this match and joined the WWF for a final run in his career.
Then there was the main event title unification match between Kerry Von Erich and Jerry Lawler. With Fritz Von Erich refusing his son to lose the title cleanly and Verne Gagne refusing Jerry Lawler to lose the AWA title cleanly…an agreement was made to have the finish of their match stopped by excessive bleeding from Kerry.
That’s where the problems arose. Kerry had taped his fingers with a razor blade inside. When the time was right, Kerry would take the blade and cut his fore head. While Verne was in the locker room going over the match sequence with both Lawler and Von Erich….Kerry scratched his arm…totally forgetting the blade was attached to his taped finger. It caused a serious gash on Kerry’s arm that quite frankly…couldn’t be properly treated as their match was next. Add to the fact, there were rumors that Kerry was heavily self medicated before the match..it caused the bleeding to worsen.
By the time the match came to a conclusion…Von Erich was a bloody mess and somewhat disoriented. The decision to stop the match was not a popular one for the few fans who cared enough to attend the event live.
With the pay per view an obvious flop…Verne Gagne decided to hold the majority of the pay per view receipts…only paying out a handful of wrestlers (some of his own veterans)…himself and his son Greg. Verne went as far as accusing promoters like Jerry Jarrett of the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) of trying to poach talent from the AWA roster.
By not paying everybody involved with the show…Verne burned every remaining bridge he had available in the business. Nobody could trust him with their promotions talent. Even his World Champion Jerry Lawler was snubbed out of a payday and because of that, held the AWA world title hostage. Lawler was eventually stripped of the belt and given to Verne’s son in law Larry Zbyszko.
The following year or so, Jerry Jarrett took control of World Class and merged his promotion with Fritz’s to form the USWA. In 1990, the AWA would also be completely out of business.