Nick Bockwinkel is a four-time AWA World Champion and son of Warren Bockwinkel. He
was one of the most influential champions of his time, breaking down territorial barriers
throughout the 1970s. Bockwinkel traveled through many National Wrestling Alliance
Territories as the AWA World Champion in an attempt to strengthen his claim to the World
Title. He was very successful. He also spent time in the Midwest and Georgia early in his
career. Bockwinkel won the Georgia State Championship before settling out west. He won
the NWA International Television Tag Team Title on several occasions with Edouard
Carpentier and Lord James Blears. He was in the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 1964, and
was billed as a claimant to the United States Heavyweight Title.
In the late 1960s, Bockwinkel entered the American Wrestling Association. He captured
the AWA World Title in July 1971 from Verne Gagne in Milwaukee. Officials reviewed the
situation and disqualified Bockwinkel before he could settle in as the champ. Gagne
remained the top man in the AWA. Bockwinkel formed a successful tag team with Ray
Stevens. On January 20, 1972 in Denver, the two beat Crusher Lisowski and Red Bastien
in two-of-three-falls, capturing the AWA World Tag Team Championship. They held the title
all year. Bockwinkel and Stevens lost the belts on December 30th in Minneapolis to the
popular team of Gagne and Billy Robinson. In January 1973 at St. Paul, Bockwinkel and
Stevens regained the title. They also took Bobby Heenan as their manager.
During a defense in Green Bay on July 21, 1974, Bockwinkel and Stevens lost the title to
Crusher and Robinson. They won their third tag title in Winnipeg in October 1974. The
24th to be exact. Finally in Chicago on August 16, 1975, Crusher and Bruiser beat
Bockwinkel and Stevens and took the AWA World Tag Title. Bockwinkel returned his focus
to the main prize, the World Singles Title. On November 8, 1975 in St. Paul, he beat Gagne
and captured the AWA World Title, a huge accomplishment. He took his AWA World Title
into Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio, working for many NWA Promoters.
In what was to have been the most important wrestling card in American History, with
three World Championships decided, Bockwinkel appeared in Houston for Paul Boesch on
May 29, 1977. He faced Jose Lothario in the semi-final and was held to a 20:00 draw.
Bockwinkel was forced to wrestle Terry Funk in a second match, the main event, which was
originally scheduled to have been the NWA World Champion’s match, but Harley Race was
unable to appear. Bockwinkel and Funk went 60-minutes to a draw. In two matches, he
wrestled 120-minutes. On the undercard, the Fabulous Moolah and Billy Graham both
defended their titles. He was forced to wrestle without a manager after Bobby Heenan was
banned from AWA Territories by President, Stanley Blackburn in early 1979.
In Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens, Bockwinkel wrestled Bob Backlund in a WWF vs.
AWA World Title Unification Match on March 25, 1979. In June 1979, Bockwinkel traveled
to the Mid-Atlantic region and gave the NWA United States Champion, Rick Steamboat, a
shot at the AWA World Title. Bockwinkel used a foreign object to beat Steamboat. He
regained Heenan as his manager in 1980. After an astonishing 1,714 days at the top,
Bockwinkel lost the AWA Title back to Gagne on July 18, 1980 before a large crowd in
Chicago at Comiskey Park. It was Gagne’s ninth victory. He teamed with Jim Brunzell in the
1980 Real World Tag Team Tournament in Japan and tied for third place. In May 1981,
Bockwinkel was defeated by Gagne. Afterward, the champ retired the belt.
AWA President, Stanley Blackburn awarded Bockwinkel his second title, stating that he
was the top contender. He nearly lost the belt at the International Amphitheater in Chicago
to Hulk Hogan in February ‘82. The title could have changed hands on a disqualification,
which was dangerous for both Bockwinkel and his manager Heenan, and, as it was
predicted, Heenan interfered in the match and Hogan left with the AWA Title. Officials
quickly reviewed the situation and decided that they would not let the belt change hands
despite the circumstances. Bockwinkel remained the champion. Otto Wanz, a European
Legend, beat Bockwinkel on August 29, 1982 in St. Paul and captured the belt. In early
October, he regained the championship in Chicago. His third. Bockwinkel traveled to
Tokyo and appeared at the Kurame Sumo Arena for a February 22, 1984 defense against
Jumbo “Tommy” Tsuruta. Former NWA World Champion, Terry Funk was the special
referee. He lost the title in the overseas contest.
Bockwinkel remained active. He wrestled the World Champion, Stan Hansen on April 20,
1986 in Minneapolis and lost by disqualification. Bockwinkel was awarded the AWA Title for
a fourth time on June 29th at the McNichols Arena in Denver. Stan Hansen refused to
wrestle him and Blackburn was forced to act. He met the challenge of the Barbarian on
Sunday, August 3rd in Denver. The champ won by disqualification when The Sheik
interfered at the 17:04 mark. He had a classic bout with Curt Hennig on New Years Eve in
Las Vegas. Bockwinkel lost the belt to Hennig in San Francisco on May 2, 1987 at
SuperClash II before an estimated 2500 fans. Larry Zbyszko added his two sense in the
match, helping Hennig get the win. AWA Officials looked at the video and decided that it
did not show any evidence of the interference. He soon retired from active wrestling.
On December 26, 1990, Bockwinkel made his return and wrestled in Hamamatsu, Japan
against another former AWA World Champion, Masa Saito. Saito pinned Bockwinkel to win
the event. Another American Wrestler was on the card, of note. Lou Thesz wrestled his
final match against his former pupil, Masa Chono. Bockwinkel signed on to be the
Commissioner of World Championship Wrestling in early 1994. He faced a controversial
situation between Ric Flair and Rick Steamboat between April and May. The WCW World
Title was held-up and finally won by Flair in a rematch. Bockwinkel nearly gave Flair the
WCW World Title in another situation on August 24, 1994 in Iowa after the champion, Hulk
Hogan was injured and almost unable to compete. Hogan was rushed to a hospital during
the early stages of Clash of the Champions XXVIII and after being threatened by Bockwinkel
that if he didn’t defend, he would lose it by forfeit, he returned to action. After it was all said
and done, the champion retained via loss by countout, and Bockwinkel watched on as he
was loaded, once more, into an ambulance. He remained on post into 1996.
As a villain, he was one of the best. As a wrestler, there weren’t many who compared.
In the history of the AWA, Nick Bockwinkel was the only man to achieve the World Title four
times, other than Verne Gagne. The Association was one of the major organizations in the
United States for more than forty-years.
-A three-time co-holder of the AWA World Tag Team Title
w/ Ray Stevens (1972)
w/ Ray Stevens (1973)
w/ Ray Stevens (1974)
-A four-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion
-Defeated Verne Gagne (1975)
-Defeated Otto Wanz (1982)
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Nick Bockwinkel Wrestling History
Legends of Pro Wrestling