AWA World Heavyweight Championship: Nick Bockwinkel [c] vs. Hulk Hogan – AWA Super Sunday 4/24/83; St. Paul Civic Center
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a ton about the AWA. I know he’s a legend, but I’ve also not seen a lot of Nick Bockwinkel. That made this match winning the vote pretty cool.
This event did very well. Not only was the arena sold out, but a nearby arena viewed the show on closed circuit television and that also sold out. This is pre-Hulkamania Hogan, as he wouldn’t win the WWE Title for almost another year. Bobby Heenan managed Bockwinkel here, showing that his feud with Hogan had a long history. Fresh off Rocky III, Hogan came out to “Eye of the Tiger” and was crazy over. It was clear that this guy was headed for massive success.
As expected in a match from this era, Bockwinkel brought all the stalling techniques. It’s not the most exciting style, but I understand why it happened. Whenever Hogan finally got his hands on the champ, the fans ate it up. They clearly wanted to show that Bockwinkel was physically overmatched. Hogan would run through him and when Bockwinkel got in offense, Hogan would kick out. Bockwinkel nailed all the little things heels do. He choked Hogan where the referee couldn’t see and his stalling drew a lot of heat. Hogan took everything Bockwinkel threw at him and persevered through his raw strength. After a ref bump, Hogan sent Bockwinkel over the top. Back inside, he hit the Leg Drop and got the three count in 18:32. BUT WAIT! A second referee arrived to reverse the decision, giving Nick the win via DQ because Hogan threw him over the top rope.
Shenanigans. I’ve always heard this was one of the issues with the AWA. They pulled these dusty, cheap finishes on some big events and if you do that too much, the fans will stop buying into the possibility of a title change. Anyway, the match was a great example of playing the crowd perfectly. Nick and Hulk did exactly what they had to for the crowd to go nuts. Not a match that’s for everyone, but one I could appreciate for its time period. [***]