Verne Gagne was one of the most important
wrestlers in history.  Originally from Minnesota,
Gagne was an amateur champion a member of
the 1948 U.S. Olympic team.  He became a
professional grappler a year later under Tony
Stecher of Minneapolis and became the biggest
prospect in the business.  With his youthful looks,
excellent conditioning, and top-notch wrestling
abilities, few veterans were able to contend with
him.  He won the NWA World Junior championship,
and then upped his weight to wrestle as a
heavyweight.  In 1953, he was recognized as the
United States Heavyweight champion, and was
booked all over the country.  At times, it appeared
as if his popularity was greater than the NWA
World champion Lou Thesz himself.

Click on the following links to read more about
specific chapters of Gagne's career:

Read Verne Gagne's Military History
Read Verne Gagne - U.S. Title Situation
Read Verne Gagne vs. Lou Thesz history

It was clear from an early point in Gagne's career that he was destined for greatness.  Sam
Muchnick even noted that Verne would make a great replacement for Leroy McGuirk as NWA
World Junior Heavyweight Champion if McGuirk decided to retire.  As in the case of Antonino
Rocca and others of high demand, there was some debate during Gagne's initial year in the
business to where he'd appear and who would make decisions for him.  Texas was one of
Gagne's first territories after his debut, and from there he went to St. Louis and then Chicago to
appear for Fred Kohler on national television.  Apparently in early 1950, there was a belief by
Morris Sigel of Houston that others were trying to steal Gagne away from them, and Sam
Muchnick affirmed that his only interest was the welfare of Gagne - written in an April 20, 1950
letter to Sigel and Frank Burke.

Kohler's quest to get Gagne publicity had no bounds.  The Associated Press, on October 17,
1953, informed readers that Gagne "challenged heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano
to a mixed match." Kohler reportedly offered Marciano a "minimum guarantee of $150,000." In
such a mixed match, Gagne would stick to wrestling maneuvers and Marciano would punch.

Research by Tim Hornbaker
Verne Gagne Wrestling History
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