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 - Jim Zordani

After regaining the AWA heavyweight title from Mad Dog Vachon on February 26th, 1967, Verne Gagne embarked on an impressive streak of title defenses. Vachon received several rematches in such cities as Denver, Colorado on March 13th, Moline, Illinois on April 4th, St Paul, Minnesota on April 8th, Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 14th, Winnipeg, Manitoba on April 28th and Chicago, Illinois on May 5th. Pretty Boy Larry Hennig challenged Verne on March 29th in Fargo, North Dakota, May 12th in Winnipeg, Manitoba and May 17th in Denver, Colorado. Longtime NWA World Junior Heavyweight champion and amateur wrestling legend Danny Hodge battled Gagne on May 6th in St Paul, Minnesota and June 10th in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Other superstar caliber grapplers who wrestled Verne during this time period were Johnny Powers, Harley Race, Bobby Shane, Mitsu Arakawa, Killer Kowalski, Pat O'Connor and Lou Thesz. 

When Mad Dog Vachon left the AWA after getting his rematches with Verne Gagne, it left a huge void in the AWA. There wasn't a top heel for Gagne to feud with on a regular basis. Verne desperately needed a hated rival that fans would pay to see him beat. While wrestling in Chicago during 1967, Verne Gagne saw the Sensational Intelligent Destroyer in action.  After wrestling the Destroyer in Chicago, Gagne made him an offer to come to the AWA as the number one heel. 

In reality the Destroyer was former Syracuse University football and wrestling star Dick Beyer wearing a mask. Beyer was recruited to be a professional wrestler by Ed Don George in 1953 and was trained by such luminaries as Dick Hutton, Bill Miller and Ray Stevens. For the first several years of his career, Beyer mainly competed in the Syracuse, New York area while at the same time fulfilling a military commitment. Dick didn't wear a mask in those days and wrestled strictly as a babyface. It wasn't until 1962 in Hawaii when Dick Beyer turned heel. Los Angeles California promoter brought Beyer to his territory later that year and gave Dick the masked Destroyer gimmick. Around this same time period, Lord James Blears taught Dick Beyer the figure four leg lock. The Destroyer persona proved to be an immediate success and Beyer became one of the top villains in the United States.  More...

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