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 - Jim Zordani

The first few months of 1979 featured AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel defending the coveted strap against old adversaries like Billy Robinson, Verne Gagne, The Crusher and Greg Gagne. Nick defeated Billy on January 7th in Green Bay, Wisconsin and again on January 12th in Rockford, Illinois. Bockwinkel and Robinson battled to no contests (double countouts or double disqualifications) on January 28th in Minneapolis, on February 1st in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and on February 24th in Milwaukee. Verne Gagne beat Nick by disqualification on February 10th in Chicago. The Crusher won by disqualification over Bockwinkel on March 21st in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Greg Gagne also beat Nick Bockwinkel by disqualification on March 7th in Davenport, Iowa.

Getting disqualified or counted out of the ring in order to retain the AWA title was nothing new for Nick Bockwinkel. He'd been doing that for a number of years by this point. What was different in 1979 for Nick Bockwinkel was the absence of longtime manager Bobby The Brain Heenan. Heenan had been suspended indefinitely by AWA television matchmaker Wally Karbo on an edition of All Star Wrestling in early 1979. Karbo's role on television was very similar to that of a troubleshooting commissioner.

Whenever something chaotic would happen on All Star Wrestling, the AWA's weekly television program, Wally Karbo would come out to solve the problem. 

Karbo often "suspended" wrestlers or managers when they were leaving the AWA for another territory. The case of Heenan was different than a performer just leaving for another territory. Verne Gagne had purchased an interest in Georgia Championship Wrestling based in Atlanta so Heenan, Blackjack Lanza and eventually The Crusher were sent to Georgia in an attempt to boost business there. 

Verne Gagne recruited his long time nemesis Mad Dog Vachon to be his tag team partner in February of 1979. The reason given was Verne needed a partner that would fight as dirty as AWA tag team champions Ray Stevens and Pat Patterson did. In addition to teaming with Gagne, Mad Dog received several title shots against AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel. After Vachon and Gagne won the AWA tag team titles from Stevens and Patterson on June 6th, 1979 in Winnipeg, Mad Dog Vachon had to defend the AWA tag team titles with Verne Gagne and thus AWA his title shots against Bockwinkel were few and far between. 

With Bobby Heenan "suspended" and working in Georgia along with Blackjack Lanza, Bockwinkel allied himself with Bobby Duncum, Stevens and Patterson teaming with all three men at different times against Vachon and Gagne. For those who are wondering why Bockwinkel would once again team with Ray Stevens after the two had a falling out and a major feud a few years before, it was never fully explained. After an absence of several months, Stevens returned to the AWA with Patterson as his partner and they were heels.

Eventually they got together with Bockwinkel and Duncum to battle common enemies. That's all there was to it. 

In the Spring of 1979, Jim Brunzell fled the AWA to compete in the Mid-Atlantic region for Jim Crockett Promotions. Brunzell's departure left Greg Gagne without a regular tag team partner but also allowed Greg ample opportunity to go after the AWA heavyweight championship held by Nick Bockwinkel. Nick and Greg battled numerous times during the second half of 1979 all around the AWA circuit in cities such as Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Denver, Rockford, Omaha and Winnipeg. Try as he might, Greg Gagne was unable to lift the AWA strap from Nick Bockwinkel.  

Nick Bockwinkel had two tours of duty in the Mid-Atlantic region for Jim Crockett promotions in 1979. Bockwinkel who was billed as AWA champion in his matches for Crockett appeared at arena shows and on Crockett's flagship TV program World Wide Wrestling wearing the AWA belt.    More...

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