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 - Jim Zordani

Even though AWA boss Verne Gagne stripped Jerry Lawler of the AWA championship on January 20th 1989, most fans who watched the AWA on ESPN had no idea Lawler had been stripped of the title. In the weeks following Super Clash III, ESPN aired bouts from the aforementioned pay per view broadcast and did not show any new AWA matches. Unless you were a subscriber to a wrestling newsletter or had friends in the know, there was no way of knowing about the fallout between Verne Gagne and Jerry Lawler.

With the belt taken away from Lawler, the AWA needed a new man as AWA heavyweight champion. Rather than have a tournament to crown a new champ, Verne Gagne in his infinite wisdom decided the AWA championship would go to the winner of a Battle Royal to be held in St Paul Minnesota on February 7th 1989. Larry Zbyszko emerged victorious in the Battle Royal by eliminating Tom Zenk to become the AWA heavyweight champion of the World.

When the Battle Royal to crown a new champ aired on ESPN a week or so later, the announcers particularly Lee Marshall tried to bury Jerry Lawler saying several derogatory things about Jerry. With the alliance between Lawler and Gagne kaput, the talent roster of the AWA was severely depleted. To illustrate this fact, lets take a look at all the wrestlers who entered the Battle Royal to crown a new AWA champion. The wrestlers were Akio Sato, Steve Ray, Wayne Bloom, Derrick Dukes, Mike Enos, Tommy Jammer, Pat Tanaka, Tom Zenk, Paul Diamond, Greg Gagne, Ken Patera, Ricky Rice, Larry Zbyszko, Wahoo McDaniel, Manny Fernandez, Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel DeBeers and the WWA champion from Kansas City, Mike George. Looking at that list of wrestlers it's easy to see the talent problem the AWA had at that time. 

Larry Zbyszko wasn't a bad choice to be AWA champion. There weren't many other options. There was one problem with Larry as AWA kingpin. Zbyszko was married to Verne Gagne's daughter. This fact only gave the AWA critics more ammunition. The thinking was Verne could not put the strap on his son Greg so he did the next best thing. Verne Gagne made his son in law Larry Zbyszko the AWA champion.  More...

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