|RIP Verne Gagne|
Photo Credit: Pro Wrestling Illustrated via WWE.com
Verne Gagne, a veritable titan in professional wrestling and promoter of one of the most successful territories in history, passed away last night at the age of 89. He had been in assisted living until 2009 and suffered from dementia in his later years.
Gagne grew up in the state of Minnesota, where he became a standout in several sports. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears of the National Football League, but chose professional wrestling when given an ultimatum by Bears owner George Halas. He went on to found the American Wrestling Association, which for 31 years was one of the most notable companies in America. At its height in the territory days, it promoted shows from the American and Canadian Midwest all the way west to San Francisco. Gagne took the company national in the '80s, but critical errors in roster management, including not knowing what to do with Hulk Hogan, caused the steady decline of the company until its closure in 1991.
Regardless of promotional foibles, Gagne was known as a titan both in the ring and in the office. He trained or introduced the world to several of the most beloved wrestlers in history, including Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, The Iron Sheik, Sgt. Slaughter, Arn Anderson, and most importantly, Ric Flair. He was also a highly-regarded technician in the ring, with an active career spanning over four decades before settling into a retirement schedule in the '80s. His influence can still be felt today, as noted by his inclusion in no fewer than four important halls of fame, including the WWE and Observer halls.
Gagne's massive presence was an indelible mark on the world of pro wrestling. He may have been aged, but his passing is no less sad for the amount of lives he touched. Rest in peace, Verne Gagne.