AWA #41 Page #2

One of the first encounters between Lanza and Bockwinkel in Ch icago on December 18th, 1983 saw Bockwinkel win by countout when Lanza went after Heenan. Lanza then demanded and was granted a series of non-title bunkhouse matches against Nick Bockwinkel. Before the bunkhouse matches took place, Bobby Heenan brought back Blackjack Mulligan to team with Bockwinkel against The Crusher and Mad Dog Vachon at the St. Paul Civic Center on January 15th, 1984. In the middle of the match, Blackjack Lanza came to ringside and began talking to Mulligan as Bockwinkel competed inside the ring. Lanza convinced Mulligan to leave the ring area and let Bockwinkel fight Crusher and Mad Dog by himself. Nick stood no chance against Crusher and Mad Dog and lost the match. The Blackjacks reformed their legendary tag team. Lanza went on to defeat Bockwinkel in those previously scheduled non-title bunkhouse matches during late January and early February of 1984. 

After losing the non-title bunkhouse matches to Lanza, Nick Bockwinkel once again travelled to Japan where he had a scheduled title defense against Jumbo Tsuruta on February 23, 1984 at Sumo Hall in Tokyo. In a match refereed by Terry Funk, Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Nick Bockwinkel in 32 minutes to become the AWA heavyweight champion. In reality, All Japan owner Shohei Baba had paid Verne Gagne a sizeable sum of money for Tsuruta to have a brief reign as AWA champion. Of course Verne had done this once before a few years earlier with Otto Wanz. Tsuruta came to the United States and defended the AWA title several times. Here is a listing of Jumbo's AWA title defenses. 

3/4/84 Chicago- Jumbo Tsuruta beat Blackjack Lanza in 14:32 

3/11/84 Green Bay- Jumbo Tsuruta beat Billy Robinson in 19:47 

3/15/84 Salt Lake City- Jumbo Tsuruta beat Jim Brunzell in 15:59 

4/28/84 San Francisco- Jumbo Tsuruta and Nick Bockwinkel fought to a double countout in 18:12 

4/29/84 Chicago- Nick Bockwinkel beat Jumbo Tsuruta by disqualification in 10:52 

5/2/84 Rochester- Baron Von Raschke beat Jumbo Tsuruta by disqualification in 16:13 

5/4/84 Denver- Nick Bockwinkel beat Jumbo Tsuruta by disqualification in 15:01 

5/5/84 Rockford- Jumbo Tsuruta beat Billy Robinson in 25:10 

5/6/84 Green Bay- Nick Bockwinkel beat Jumbo Tsuruta by disqualification in 21:37 

5/7/84 Montreal- Jumbo Tsuruta beat Nick Bockwinkel by disqualification in 17:02 

5/10/84 Salt Lake City- Greg Gagne beat Jumbo Tsuruta by disqualification in 15:13 

5/11/84 Milwaukee- Jumbo Tsuruta beat Blackjack Mulligan by countout in 13:15  

At the same time Tsuruta was busy defending the AWA title, Nick Bockwinkel continued to feud with Blackjack Lanza and Blackjack Mulligan. French Canadian superstar Rick Martel returned to the AWA after an absence of four months and stated his intentions of beating Jumbo for the AWA title. A match in St. Paul, Minnesota on April 15th, 1984 was signed between Bockwinkel and Martel with the winner getting an AWA title shot against Jumbo on the next card in St. Paul. Rick Martel defeated Nick Bockwinkel on April 15th in St Paul earning a title shot against Tsuruta on the May 13th card at the St. Paul Civic Center. Rick Martel skocked the world by defeating Jumbo Tsuruta on May 13th, 1984 in St. Paul, Minnesota to become the new AWA heavyweight champion. As the story goes, Martel had been offered a spot in the WWF by Vince McMahon and Verne Gagne gave Rick the AWA title so Rick would stay in the AWA.  

Rick Martel winning the AWA title from Jumbo Tsuruta marked a turning point in Nick Bockwinkel's career. Bockwinkel was no longer the focus of the AWA. Nick did receive more than his share of title shots against Martel but could not regain the coveted strap. As the weeks went by, Bockwinkel was relegated to mid-card status and Nick eventually formed a team with Mr Saito. Bockwinkel and Saito quickly entered a feud with the Fabulous Ones after attacking the Fabs on behalf of Bobby Heenan during an interview on All Star Wrestling. The feud with the Fabulous Ones kept going throughout the remainder of 1984. The only big thing of note that happened during that time period was Bockwinkel's longtime manager Bobby Heenan leaving the AWA for the WWF in mid September of 1984.   

Special thanks to George Schire, Masa Horie and Jim Melby.


I'll cover Nick Bockwinkel's feud with Larry Zbyszko.

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