AWA #33 Page #2
When Ray Stevens returned to the AWA in October of 1976, he didn't have a role in the Heenan family. Bockwinkel was the reigning AWA heavyweight champion. Duncum and Lanza were the AWA tag team champions. Ray was the odd man out. Bobby Heenan was so ecstatic at Bockwinkel, Lanza and Duncum all being world title holders that Bobby often ignored or interrupted Ray Stevens during the Heenan Family's allotted interview time on All Star Wrestling. The dissing of Ray during interviews went on for several weeks with Stevens growing more incensed each time. Finally on a December 1976 edition of All Star Wrestling, everything came to a head. Wrestling magazine writer Bill Apter was on hand to present Bobby Heenan with a trophy for manager of the year. Heenan thanked Bockwinkel, Lanza and Duncum for their respective roles in the Heenan family. Bockwinkel offered a few words of congratulations to Bobby Heenan then Stevens attempted to utter a few words. As Ray put his hands on Heenan's shoulder and said "Bobby, let me congratulate", Heenan quickly interrupted Stevens and yelled at Ray "Get your hands off me when I'm talking." Ray Stevens finally had enough and promptly punched Heenan in the face. Ray then knocked down Bockwinkel before smashing Heenan's manager trophy into pieces by hammering it against the turnbuckle. Lanza and Duncum then hit the ring and together with Bockwinkel and Heenan, they wailed on Ray Stevens. Later on during an interview segment, Heenan chastised Stevens for ruining his (Heenan's) big day. Stevens became a babyface as a result of this very well done angle and challenged Bockwinkel several times for the AWA title throughout 1977.
British superstar Billy Robinson returned to the AWA in late 1976 after a successful stint in Florida. Robinson had many great battles with Verne Gagne for the AWA heavyweight title in the past and AWA fans really looked forward to Billy challenging Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA crown. The matches between Robinson and Bockwinkel during late 1976 and throughout 1977 were state of the art for the time and are still held in high regard by old time AWA fans. As was the case when he challenged Gagne, Billy Robinson was unable to capture the AWA heavyweight championship from Nick Bockwinkel.
Former WWWF champion Pedro Morales entered the AWA to much fanfare in late 1976. Morales had a huge reputation because of his stint as WWWF champion in the early 70s. However Pedro wasn't very impressive in his AWA outings. His offense consisted of a left uppercut and a flying bodypress. Though Morales was viewed as a disappointment by the majority of AWA fans, Pedro still received several title shots against Nick Bockwinkel. Like all the challengers before him, Pedro Morales failed to defeat Bockwinkel.
Special thanks to AWA historians Jim Melby and George Schire. Without the hard work of men like Schire and Melby, columns like this one would not be possible.
Any comments, questions and corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll continue to cover the first AWA heavyweight title reign of Nick Bockwinkel.
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