There was once a time when the “Big Three” of wrestling didn’t consist of the WWF, WCW, and ECW. Before anyone ever got “extreme”, there was a company that prided itself on delivering a product that focused purely on wrestling. And for many years, it did so very well. That company was the AWA (Amercian Wrestling Association), and up until about 15 years ago, it was just as big and powerful as the WWF and WCW.
The AWA played host to many of the major stars in the history of pro wrestling. Hulk Hogan, Curt Hennig, Bobby Heenan, Shawn Michaels, the Road Warriors, and many others all called the AWA home at early points in their career. The AWA played to big crowds throughout the midwest. They even had a daily show on ESPN.
Life was great for the AWA until the mid 1980’s, when it all fell apart. The big name talent departed, and the AWA was left to fill the gap with has-beens like Johnny Valiant and never-weres like Doug Sommers. They were further hampered by a horrible announcing crew consisting of Lee Marshall and a young Eric Bischoff.
“I can fit a whole cucumber in my mouth!”
“Are you sure you mean a cucumber?”
Nice rug, Eric.
After several years of dwindling attendance, the AWA was on its last legs. It needed a fresh new idea, a concept that would revolutionize wrestling.
It got the Team Challenge Series.
The Team Challenge Series placed all the wrestlers in the promotion into three separate teams, headed up by Larry Zbyszko, Sgt. Slaughter, and Baron von Raschke, the company’s three main draws. After some unspecified amount of time, the winners would receive a million bucks. (In fact, after the series ended, the Apter Mags (who were the only folks to pay any attention to the TCS) ran some bullshit story about how Larry Zbyszko ran off to WCW with the money.)
Due to the fact that no fans were coming out to the events, the AWA made up a story about how there was too much interference in their matches, and thus they moved all the matches to an empty arena. Well, it wasn’t really an arena, per se, but rather a BIG PINK ROOM. There were “guards” that were there to keep wrestlers from interfering in the matches. Here’s Lee Marshall to tell you more.
Sounds really terrible, right? It gets worse. See, all the matches were gimmick matches. But not just ANY gimmick matches – really TERRIBLE gimmick matches, like the “Behind the 8 Ball Battle Royal” or “The Great American Turkey Hunt.”
For my money, “The Great American Turkey Hunt” is the worst match in the history of pro wrestling. Yeah, Hogan-Warrior II sucked, and sure any match featuring Lex Luger is bad…but all pale in comparison to the sheer horror of seeing Col. DeBeers and Jake “The Milkman” Milliman fighting over an uncooked bird.
The object of the match was simple – climb up the pole and grab a turkey that was impaled atop the rod. Sgt. Slaughter was a guest commentator, offering up such inciteful wisdom as this. The match went on for days, until finally there was a ref bump (yeah, we needed THAT), and DeBeers was able to climb the pole and grab the turkey.
But wait – that was just a FALSE FINISH! The ref wasn’t revived yet, so Milliman grabbed the bird from DeBeers. Suddenly, the ref wakes up, sees Milliman with the turkey, and awards the match to “The Milkman”.
So the lowliest of jobbers wins the last of the AWA matches.
Somehow, that seems appropriate.