AWA #32 Page #2
Nick and Ray were extremely upset and blamed special referee Greg Gagne for their AWA tag title loss.
Bockwinkel and Stevens demanded and received a match against Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell on the August 10th, 1974 telecast of All Star Wrestling. Before the match began, Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens took the microphone away from ring announcer Marty O'Neill.
Nick and Ray complained vehemently that the AWA had a conspiracy against them. Bockwinkel and Stevens stated they needed someone to watch their backs, handle their travel schedule, invest their earnings and make sure the AWA was kept in line.
Nick and Ray then introduced their new manager Bobby Heenan. After explaining to everyone watching the show that he was no longer Gorgeous Bobby Heenan or Pretty Boy Bobby Heenan and that he should be known as the Brilliant One Bobby Heenan, Heenan took his place in the corner of Nick and Ray. Bockwinkel and Stevens dominated the match but weren't really interested in winning it. They just wanted to maim Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell and ended up getting themselves intentionally disqualified. Nick and Ray threw the referee out of the ring and pounded preliminary wrestlers who tried to save Greg and Jim. All of a sudden, Larry The Axe Hennig hit the ring and shockingly cleared it of Bockwinkel, Stevens and Heenan.
Larry Hennig's run in to save Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell from Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens and Bobby Heenan changed the whole landscape of the AWA for years to come. Hennig became the newest adversary for Bockwinkel and Stevens. Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell moved from undercard status to a semi-main event role.
In his first appearance as the manager of Bockwinkel and Stevens, Bobby Heenan drew the ire of AWA fans everywhere. It was after all the beginning of the Heenan family in the AWA. The long term booking of this angle was very effective as evidenced by the gradual change in Larry Hennig from villan to fan favorite, the elevation of Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell and Bobby Heenan making his presence felt the first time he accompanied Nick and Ray to the ring.
Heenan at their side proved to be just what Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens needed to once again become the AWA's top tag team. Thanks to Heenan's interference, Bockwinkel and Stevens defeated Billy Robinson and the Crusher on October 24th, 1974 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to capture the AWA tag team titles. Bobby Heenan had changed his nickname from The Brilliant One to The Brain by this point and his interference became a focal point in the AWA tag title defenses by Nick and Ray.
The third AWA tag team title reign of Bockwinkel and Stevens was much different than the first two in terms of opposition. Larry Hennig had been added to the mix of challengers. He teamed with a variety of partners including Verne Gagne, Ivan Putski, Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell in an attempt to unseat Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens as AWA tag team champions. The High Flyers Greg Gagne and Jumping Jim Brunzell also received several tag title shots against Nick and Ray.
In late 1974, Superstar Billy Graham had a falling out with partners Baron Von Raschke and Horst Hoffman in a six man tag team bout. The AWA sided with the Superstar against the hated Germans Raschke and Hoffman. Billy Graham recruited Dusty Rhodes to be his partner against Baron Von Raschke and Horst Hoffman.
After an extremely violent and bloody feud where loaded black gloves were used by Baron and Horst, Superstar Billy Graham and Dusty Rhodes prevailed over the German duo and were granted a series of title shots against AWA tag team champions Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens. Nick and Ray defeated Graham and Rhodes on March 29th, 1975 in Milwaukee Wisconsin and beat Superstar and Dusty again on April 22nd, 1975 in Moline, Illinois to retain the AWA tag team titles.
Soon after the Moline match, Superstar Billy Graham promptly left the AWA.
With Billy Graham gone from the AWA, Dusty Rhodes was left without a partner. Larry Hennig and Ivan Putski took Graham's place as Dusty's partner in matches against Bockwinkel and Stevens throughout the AWA circuit. However Dusty used neither Hennig nor Putski as his partner in Chicago at the International Amphitheatre on May 17th, 1975. Rhodes entered the ring that night in Chicago by himself to face Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens. Nick and Ray started to pound on Dusty when coming through the crowd dressed in a suit was The Crusher. The Amphitheatre crowd popped big time as the Crusher entered the ring.
Bockwinkel and Stevens immediately attacked Crusher and ripped his suit to shreds. The match was on and before you knew it, Dusty Rhodes and the Crusher defeated Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens. Rhodes and Crusher weren't awarded the AWA tag team titles because Crusher had substituted for the missing Superstar Billy Graham. Dusty Rhodes and the Crusher battled Bockwinkel and Stevens on two subsequent Amphitheatre cards but were unable to win the tag straps. Rhodes was announced as being injured in the third match between the two teams. The Crusher wanted revenge for Rhodes so an AWA tag title match was signed between the team of The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser and the team of Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens. On July 16th, 1975 in front of a sellout crowd of 12,000 screaming fans at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois, Dick the Bruiser and the Crusher defeated Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens to win the AWA tag team titles for the fifth time.
Special thanks to wrestling historians George Lentz, Jim Melby and George Schire. Without the efforts of these men, columns like this one would not be possible.
Any comments, questions and corrections can be sent to email@example.com.
I'll begin covering Nick Bockwinkel's first reign as AWA heavyweight champion.
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