In a sad bit of news to wake up to, classic wrestling icon Verne Gagne has passed away. He was 89 years old.
Gagne was an avid sportsman. He played football and baseball, and became a state champion in wrestling. Eventually, he moved on to the University of Minnesota before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps after only one year in the olympics; nevertheless, Gange returned to Minnesota afterwards and captured two NCAA titles. He was also an alternate for the 1948 Olympic Games. After college, Gange was drafted to the NFL by the Chicago bears, but decided to go with professional wrestling as it was more profitable at the time.
Our hearts go out to Verne Gagne’s family and friends. pic.twitter.com/BLRko4RLO8
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) April 28, 2015
Gagne wrestled in the NWA against the likes of Lou Thesz and others before focusing on building his own promotion. He built the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and captured its top championship a total of nine times. At one point, he held the championship for over seven years. He relied heavily on old-school booking strategies, favoring technical expertise over size and strength. Still, Gagne couldn’t compete with a national promotion like WWF, and the AWA shut down in 1991, after 30 years in business.
Later in life, Gange was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another similar disease (possibly caused by a lifetime of head injuries)
Verne Gagne has been inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame, Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, and (most recently) the WWE Hall of Fame, where his son Greg Gagne inducted him.
Our thoughts are with his friends and family.