Twin Wars ’90: The Last Gasp of the AWA

You have to give AWA owner Verne Gagne credit where credit is due. Despite all of his bad booking decisions and bad business ventures, Gagne was still doing everything he could to keep his sinking American Wrestling Association afloat any way he knew how. Everything he tried failed, but hats off for Verne to give it that ol’ college try.

The AWA was spiraling downward at a rapid pace. This once proud promotion couldn’t even draw crowds in their own backyard of Minnesota. Verne decided to go back into business with World Championship Wrestling to hold another “Supercard” of AWA and WCW wrestlers on the same show. It was called Twin Wars ’90 as it would take place in one of Minnesota’s twin cities of St. Paul at the Civic Center where the AWA always used to draw big crowds. There would be not one, but two world title matches, as AWA world champion Larry Zbyszko would defend against Nikita Koloff and ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair would defend the NWA/WCW world title against ‘Flyin’ Brian Pillman.

Ric Flair along with Woman would cut promos that aired locally in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area where Flair mentioned this would be his triumphant return to the AWA…where his career all started. He and Woman then began running down the state and making fun of their sports teams. In reality, Flair was said to be very excited about wrestling on an AWA show again and competing as a traveling world champion again…even though his opponent would be another NWA/WCW wrestler in Pillman.

The Twin Wars ’90 even was held on May 5th, 1990. It was being billed as ‘Two wrestling powers, two World Champions, Twin Wars ’90 is coming to the Twin Cities!’ For the first time in Twin Cities history, both the AWA and NWA World Heavyweight championships will be defended on the same card. While it was nowhere near a sell out, it was reported that 4,000 fans were in attendance. By far, the largest crowd an AWA show had in some time. Dave Meltzer reported that the actual paid attendance was 2,000 with the rest of the audience given free tickets to make the arena look more full. A bit odd, considering that this show wasn’t a pay per view and not aired on ESPN. It was nothing more than a glorified house show.

As expected, many of the under card matches were sub par and the co main event between Flair and Pillman garnering the best match of the evening. It was reported that after Flair retained the title against Pillman, many fans got up and left before the main event match between Zbyszko and Koloff signaling that many fans paid to see Ric Flair wrestle live. The main event AWA world title match was considered below average. Nikita Koloff, who was at one time a big star in the NWA…was no longer committed to the wrestling business as he once was for personal reasons. He grew out his hair and lost a considerable amount of muscle mass. AWA legend Nick Bockwinkel was the referee for both world title matches. The entire care went as follows:

1) Tony DeNucci defeated Todd Becker

2) D.J. Peterson defeated Jonnie Stewart

3) John Nord & Scott Norton fought the Texas Hangmen to a double disqualification

4) Bob Lurtsema, The Trooper, & Brad Rheingans defeated The Destruction Crew & Tully Blanchard

5) Ric Flair defeated Brian Pillman to retain the NWA World Title (Nick Bockwinkel special referee)

6) Larry Zbyszko defeated Nikita Koloff to retain the AWA World Title (Nick Bockwinkel special referee)

Before the show ended, an announcement was made that the AWA would return to the St. Paul Civic Center in June of that year…but was later canceled. Twin Wars ’90 marked the very last AWA show for that building. It was heavily rumored that after the show, Flair went backstage to collect his pay and was told by Verne that he was withholding a percentage of it for payment of services rendered. It was believed that Gagne kept Flair’s pay for when Flair trained with Verne years earlier and allegedly never paid for his training sessions.

Regardless, the Twin Wars ’90 show was another financial disaster for the AWA. One can’t help but think the show might have improved if Verne booked Flair versus Zbyszko in a title for title match as the main event instead. Who really knows, but that lack of vision was one of the reasons the AWA eventually folded in 1991.

11 thoughts on “Twin Wars ’90: The Last Gasp of the AWA

  1. Wow. I thought I knew my AWA history, but this story has eluded me. Match #1 is definite Huh? and Who? Match #4? Bob Lurtsema? As in the ex Football player? The final days of the AWA were truly sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Should’ve added more AWA and NWA talent to sell out the building. The Destruction Crew vs Road Warriors, Lex Luger & Nikita Koloff vs Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson would’ve been better matches.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Other than the Flair match, the rest of that card looks absolutely abysmal. No wonder the AWA portion didn’t hold up its end.
    They even had Tully Blanchard there!? I didn’t know he was in the AWA back then. I wonder if he ran into Flair backstage at some point, because I’m sure that would’ve been awkward AF.


    • Yeah, Tully was there in yet another thing that did not work out for the AWA. His father, Joe, was named as the Kayfabe authority figure and Tully was brought in with Christopher (Bert Prentice) Love as his manger. So of course we will get some kind of angle with dad not liking son’s heel tactics, right? Nope. Tully was gone in record time. I only recall one television appearance and it was all a non issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hold up. It’s more than a bit disingenuous and outright incorrect to say Koloff was “no longer committed to the business” without exploring the reason why.

    His wife Mandy was battling cancer and had passed not more than a year prior to this AWA event.

    Don’t make it sound like he didn’t give a shit when in reality he had been watching his spouse’s health decline for two years and been her caretaker.


  5. I’m from MN and I was at that show. And yes Flair was the big draw. Being a teenager, Woman was a definite attraction to me and unfortunately she wasn’t at the show. Somewhere I have a pic of a bloody Flair that night post match returning to the back.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Twin Wars ’90: The Last Gasp of the AWA — Ring the Damn Bell – Classic Wrestling Association, Ray Mileur, Publisher

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