Our match of the week is Nick Bockwinkel defending the AWA World Heavyweight Title against Otto Wanz, on August 29, 1982, from St. Paul Minnesota (AWA).

40 years ago today saw one of the biggest world title upsets of all time, as AWA newcomer and obscure Austrian wrestler Otto Wanz shocked the wrestling world by defeating Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World Title in front of 12,000 fans at the St Paul Civic Center.

Wanz was the promoter of Catch Wrestling Association, which mostly ran in his native Austria and Germany. Wanz entered the bout in the midst of a nine-year CWA World Title reign, which technically made him a double world champion depending on where you stand on the status of the CWA title as a “world” title in 1982, which at that point had been defended on multiple continents and would later even change hands in the United States in 1987 when Bull Power (Big Van Vader) ended Wanz’s 3172-day reign in Denver, Colorado, on what was Wanz’s third and final AWA tour.

Wanz wasn’t a good worker, nor was he a major star (or even known at all) outside of central Europe. Speculation at the time was that Wanz purchased the title. To my knowledge, neither Wanz, Verne Gagne, or Bockwinkel ever confirmed that publicly. All three men have since passed away. Speculation grew that Gagne’s title was open for business 18 months later when Jumbo Tsuruta was given a brief title run in February 1984. Years later, Dave Meltzer reported what many suspected, that the Wanz title win was a “business deal.”

I don’t know what he paid, but it was a good deal for Wanz in terms of raising his profile. He went from a relative unknown to “former AWA World Champion Otto Wanz,” his name forever etched on AWA title lineages. The cache of being a former world champion led to the the CWA receiving American magazine coverage throughout the 80s, and Wanz parlayed the brief 41-day title reign into multiple AWA and NJPW tours in the years that followed. At its peak, the CWA World Title was widely recognized as a legitimate world championship, and the CWA was considered a steady place to work for wrestlers worldwide well into the 90’s.

Watch & discuss: https://www.patreon.com/posts/match-of-week-8-71208259