AWA #35 Page #2
When Jim Brunzell healed from his injury, the AWA needed a way to get him back in the limelight again. So the promotion had Brunzell win Battle Royals on October 25th in Peoria, October 28th in Milwaukee and October 29th in Denver to earn title shots against AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel on the next card in each city. Nick got himself disqaulified against Brunzell in Peoria on November 10th and in Denver on November 17th. Bockwinkel was able to defeat Jim on November 11th in Milwaukee. The bouts between Bockwinkel and Brunzell received high praise from those in attendance and Jim accounted himself quite well in those matches.
Dick the Bruiser was the most popular grappler ever in the storied wrestling history of Chicago and had been for many, many years by the time the Fall of 1978 rolled around. Even at his advanced age, Bruiser was the kingpin of Chicago. The Windy City fans worshipped Dick throughout the years in his battles with nearly every big name in the sport from Mad Dog Vachon to Johnny Valentine to Superstar Billy Graham to Ernie Ladd to Baron Von Raschke to Blackjack Lanza. Every so often in order to pop a couple big houses at the International Amphitheatre, Bruiser would be matched against AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel. That was indeed the case in the latter part of 1978. Nick Bockwinkel won by disqualification over Dick the Bruiser on October 14th in Chicago. Bockwinkel with help from Bobby Duncum beat Dick the Bruiser in their second matchup on November 25th, 1978. Bruiser gained revenge by winning a non-title to end the series on December 30th. It was an excellent booking scenario. By winning the non-title rematch, Dick the Bruiser was kept strong in the town where he was king. Nick Bockwinkel retained his his title but not before losing a match giving credence to the theory he could be beaten on a given night and fans should pay to see him defend the title because the title just might change hands. And most importantly Chicago popped three large houses.
In between his two matches with Dick the Bruiser in Chicago, Nick Bockwinkel headed for Japan not only to team with fellow Heenan family member Blackjack Lanza in All Japan's annual Real World Tag Team Tournament but to wrestle in several singles matches. Bockwinkel and Lanza opened the tag tourney with three straight victories beating Rocky Hata and Takashi Ishikawa on December 1st in Tokyo, downing Billy Robinson and Black Angus Campbell in Nagasaki on December 2nd and defeating Kim Duk and Kim ILL in Saga on December 3rd. Nick triumphed over old rival Dory Funk Jr in Oita on December 4th. Dory Jr bounced back teaming with brother Terry to beat Nick and Lanza in a tournament match on December 5th in Osaka. Bockwinkel won by disqualification over the Sheik in Kochi on December 6th. Nick fought Terry Funk to a draw on December 7th in Matsuyama. Bockwinkel downed Kim Duk in Gifu on December 8th. Shohei Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Nick Bockwinkel and Blackjack Lanza in another Real World Tag Team Tournament match on December 9th in Tokyo. Nick upended Black Angus Campbell on December 11th in Fukishima and slipped by the Destroyer (Dick Beyer) in Sendia on December 12th. Bockwinkel and Jumbo Tsuruta went to a draw on December 13th in Aikita. Nick also battled Shohei Baba to a draw on December 14th in Hakodate. Nick's final match on the tour saw him and Blackjack Lanza fight Tor Kamata and Abdullah the Butcher to a draw on December 15th in Sapporo. Shohei Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta ended up winning the Real World Tag Team Tournament edging out the Funk Brothers by one point. I've seen conflicting reports of what place Bockwinkel and Lanza finished in the tournament. One source says they finished in third place; the other says they finished fourth. This was a very important tour for the AWA as a whole as it marked the beginning of a talent trading agreement with All Japan Pro Wrestling. Bockwinkel would make several more tours with AJPW during his career while Baba and Tsuruta would venture to the AWA at least once a year.
As I wrote in the first paragraph of this column, Nick traveled to other territories far more than any other AWA champion. Here's a partial listing of Nick's travels during 1978:
1/20/78 Houston Nick Bockwinkel beat Rocky Johnson dq
2/8/78 Honolulu Nick Bockwinkel beat John Tolos
2/10/78 Atlanta Nick Bockwinkel beat Tommy Rich
3/13/78 Augusta GA Nick Bockwinkel beat Mr Wrestling (Tim Woods)
3/24/78 Houston Nick Bockwinkel beat Rocky Johnson
4/16/78 Atlanta Mr Wrestling II (Johnny Walker) beat Nick Bockwinkel dq
4/26/78 Honolulu Rick Martel beat Nick Bockwinkel dq
5/17/78 Honolulu Nick Bockwinkel beat Rick Martel
5/19/78 Houston Jose Lothario beat Nick Bockwinkel dq
5/28/78 Houston Nick Bockwinkel drew Jose Lothario
6/14/78 Honolulu Russ Francis beat Nick Bockwinkel dq
7/19/78 Honolulu Nick Bockwinkel beat Tor Kamata
8/21/78 Memphis Jerry Lawler beat Nick Bockwinkel dq
9/25/78 Memphis Nick Bockwinkel beat Jimmy Valiant
10/13/78 Houston Nick Bockwinkel beat Dusty Rhodes
Special thanks to George Schire, publisher of The Champion's Name Is Bockwinkel, and Jim Melby, publisher of many AWA themed record books. Without the work of men like Schire and Melby, columns such as this one would not be possible.
Any comments, questions and/or corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm always on the lookout for AWA results as well. If you would like to share or trade AWA results, please email at email@example.com.
I'll cover Nick's career in 1979 and 1980.
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