Great Ideas That Didn’t Last: Pro Wrestling USA

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Brian Damage

Throughout the history of pro wrestling bookers and promoters have always tried to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to generate interest in their product. Some ideas have not only succeed but flourished. Others were DOA from the get go. Then there are those ideas which initially were innovative but for various reasons faded away. This latest ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ takes a look at the brief union of Jim Crockett Jr. and Verne Gagne to form a national promotion called Pro Wrestling USA.

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In 1984, Vince McMahon was beginning his huge push to take his northeastern territory (the WWF) and transform it into a large scale national promotion. McMahon was eating up all the smaller, weaker territories and raiding their top talents. He also bought time on TBS and MTV which gave McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation more exposure than ever before. It was becoming more and more apparent that McMahon was succeeding in his quest of national dominance.

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With the surviving promotions and territories in desperation and seeing the grim writing on the wall…the promoters of these remaining territories united to form a front to battle against the juggernaut that was becoming the WWF. Many of these promotions included, Jim Crockett Jr. and his Jim Crockett Promotions, Verne Gagne and the American Wrestling Association (The AWA) Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association, Ole Anderson’s Georgia Wrestling and various smaller territories under the Nation Wrestling Alliance banner (the NWA)

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Together they formed a large scale promotion called Pro Wrestling USA. The unified promotion would enable to participating promotions to pool their talent and maintain them against the WWF powerhouse. This union would also allow world champions from various promotions and territories to compete under the same umbrella and cards. What an impressive roster it was…Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, Nick Bockwinkle, Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler, Stan Hansen, Rick Martel, Harley Race, Bruiser Brody, Sgt. Slaughter, Bob Backlund and many others.

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Pro Wrestling USA’s first major joint card took place on September 28th, 1985 at the old Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. The name of the card was SuperClash ’85 and it was Pro Wrestling USA’s answer to the WWF’s Wrestlemania. The stacked card saw such matches as the Road Warriors taking on the Freebirds, Rick Martel defending the AWA world title against Stan Hansen, Ric Flair defending his NWA world title against Magnum TA and many other all star matches.

To try and stick it to Vince and the WWF…Pro Wrestling USA attempted to run shows in the WWF’s backyard. They promoted shows at the old Brendan Byrne arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey…with mixed results.

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The attendance for the initial SuperClash was pretty impressive with an estimated 21,000 paying fans. It only made sense considering the level of talent that appeared that night. Not so shocking, was there was an almost immediate rift brewing between the egos of two of the main promoters of that card…Jim Crockett Jr. and Verne Gagne. The two began arguing over the actual gate receipts and what the show made money wise. It wasn’t long after that Crockett pulled all of his talent out of any future shows with the AWA and eventually completely out of the Pro Wrestling USA family.

Verne Gagne became the top recognized promoter of the remaining group, but egos continued to play into any kind of working relationship between the promoters. Vince McMahon said it best when asked about the validity of Pro Wrestling USA…

“In their first meeting, they all agreed they hated me and would do everything they could to put me out of business. The second meeting, they couldn’t even agree on where they should order lunch.”

Soon, Pro Wrestling USA dissolved and each of the remaining promoters went back to using their own business tactics to combat the WWF. As history showed us, all of those promotions were eventually gobbled up by McMahon anyway. The questions arise though…..”What if?” What if Pro Wrestling USA could have worked? It had a great stable of wrestlers that fans cared about. They still had national outlets to air their product with Jim Crockett Jr on TBS and Verne Gagne’s AWA on the upstart ESPN. If the initial SuperClash was any indication…fans wanted to support the new venture.

Think about all the future possibilities…The AWA world champion versus the NWA world champion in an inter promotional title vs title match. NWA stars wrestling AWA stars, World Class stars and other dream matches. Despite all of the seductive possibilities…egos got in the way of true success. And in the end, Vince McMahon got what he wanted. He was able to divide and conquer one territory and one promotion at a time.

You can read all previous ‘Great Ideas That Didn’t Last’ pieces here.

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5 thoughts on “Great Ideas That Didn’t Last: Pro Wrestling USA

  1. I remember watching some of the Pro Wrestling USA Shows on TV, I think either on WPIX or WSPK tv on early cable. I went to the card at the Byrne Arena, it wasn’t a bad show.

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  2. With all of those egos clashing, no wonder it didn’t work. There is only so much airtime to be given to the rosters, and by combining all of the talent, it proved to be an overblown affair. If they had had somebody like Sam Mushnick as the comissioner, having no ties with any of the organizations (yes, I know he had been an NWA president at one time) and acting independently, he could have held order in a way no other promoter could have. Vince had it right: he knew this wasn’t gonna work, and I don’t ever think he lost a drop of sweat or an hour’s worth of sleep over PWUSA.

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  3. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 12 | Ring the Damn Bell

  4. Shame, really. Never personally saw a Flair-Bockwinkel match (although I’m sure it happened a few times over the years), but if PWUSA had lasted, who knows, we could have seen a unified world champ long before WWE did that (and technically it wasn’t unified, as both world belts–WCW and WWF–at the time were WWE property) I could have easily watched that type of match as the main event of Starrcade ’84. (And I don’t count Lawler’s combined WCCW-AWA reign, as WCCW was never considered one of the big organizations)

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