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AWA Championship Wrestling was a professional wrestling television series that aired on cable sports network ESPN from 1985 to 1990. It was a continuation of the earlier ESPN program Pro Wrestling USA, the co-operative venture between the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and several National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) affiliates (most notably Jim Crockett Promotions). On February 26, 2008, ESPN Classic[1] began reairing AWA Championship Wrestling episodes. Episodes are available on the WWE Network.



In September 1985, the AWA began airing weekly programming on ESPN, giving the promotion the national exposure already enjoyed by the World Wrestling Federation (on USA Network) and the NWA's Georgia/World Championship Wrestling (on TBS). However, weekly AWA shows were not treated with any priority by the cable network, sometimes being delayed, preempted by live programming, or suffering from occasional changes in time slot, making it difficult for fans to tune in on a regular basis. Following the disastrous Team Challenge Series,[2][3] the AWA lost its contract with ESPN and became virtually inactive by late 1990.

Taping locationsEdit

For many years, the AWA held their television tapings in their home base of Minneapolis, Minnesota (for their syndicated All-Star Wrestling program) at the WTCN television studios. However, in early 1985, AWA promoter Verne Gagne made the decision to hold some television tapings at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When Gagne inked the deal with ESPN later that same year, he along with the ESPN management felt that another location for the AWA television tapings was necessary. Ultimately, Gagne and ESPN settled on the Showboat Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both the WWF on the USA Network and the NWA on TBS were able to draw more crowds than the AWA's ESPN program.[4] The ESPN tapings in Las Vegas often took place in front of small, silent crowds.[5] In 1989, they taped from the Rochester, MN Civic Center until their final taping on August 11, 1990.


Rod Trongard's voice was featured on the AWA's weekly ESPN broadcasts, reaching millions of homes around the world. His signature phrase was "From coast to coast, continent to continent, and border to border". During broadcasts, he often included city names in the phrase, signifying the broad reach of wrestling and the AWA's broadcasts at the time. Trongard called matches alongside fellow commentators Lord James Blears and Lee Marshall.[6][7] Ralph Strangis' earliest national exposure was as play-by-play man and ring announcer for the American Wrestling Association on ESPN,[8] where he worked alongside Lee Marshall,[9] and later Eric Bischoff,[10] in the waning days of that promotion.

Notable momentsEdit



  • In the spring of 1987, Sherri Martel began managing Kevin Kelly. Her most memorable moment as his manager came when she interfered in an arm wrestling match between Kelly and Tommy Rich on AWA Championship Wrestling. Rich got immediate revenge by cornering the escaping Martel and ripping her dress off to reveal a strapless pink teddy and black stockings. In the following weeks, Rich would come to ringside during Kelly's matches and taunt Martel with her stolen dress.
  • In 1987, Nick Bockwinkel took on Curt Hennig.
  • A 1987 interview of Curt Hennig with Greg Gagne and Larry Nelson.
  • In 1987, Greg Gagne took on Curt Hennig with Larry Zbyzsko at ringside.
  • In 1987, Wahoo McDaniel was brought into the AWA to challenge Curt Hennig for the World Title in a series of ultra stiff brawls. Ultimately, Hennig emerged victorious in the feud by beating McDaniel in an Indian Strap match seen nationwide on ESPN.[5]



  • After Jerry Lawler was stripped of the AWA World Title (for refusing to defend it following the SuperClash III pay-per-view due to a dispute with Verne Gagne over the payout from SuperClash III), a Battle Royal to decide the new AWA Champion was held in St Paul, Minnesota, on February 7, 1989. When the Battle Royal to crown a new champ (which was ultimately, Larry Zbyszko, who emerged victorious after eliminating Tom Zenk) aired on ESPN a week or so later, the announcers, particularly Lee Marshall, tried to bury Jerry Lawler.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ AWA on ESPN Classic
  2. ^ AWA #7 Page #2
  3. ^ AWA Team Challenge Series: A Great Federation Dies in a Turkey of a Match[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Pile-driving, gut-busting, back-breaking theater - Minnesota Daily Archived 2008-10-03 at
  5. ^ a b AWA #5 Page #2
  6. ^ Harrison, Randy (2008-04-21). "411's AWA on ESPN Classic Report 04.21.08". 411mania. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
  7. ^ Harrison, Randy (2008-05-14). "411's AWA on ESPN Classic Report 05.13.08". 411mania. Retrieved 2009-12-28.
  8. ^ "What's Ralph Done?". Archived from the original on 2010-03-14. Retrieved 2009-12-24.
  9. ^ Harrison, Randy (2008-08-05). "411's AWA on ESPN Classic Report". 411mania. Retrieved 2009-12-24.
  10. ^ "Eric Bischoff Official Website". Retrieved 2009-12-24.
  11. ^ AWA #4 Page #2
  12. ^ AWA #7 Page #1
  13. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.

External linksEdit