Whether as a singles wrestler,or in a tag team, he was a standard bearer during the early 1970’s, holding title belts all over the world.
Stats: 5′ 10″ 265 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Nick Bockwinkel is one of the sport’s most famous and well-respected wrestlers of the past 30 years. During his decades-long career, he truly did it all. He won numerous N.W.A. and A.W.A. regional and World titles both as a singles wrestler and a tag team champion. Although he had a run late in his career as a “face” A.W.A. World champion, Bockwinkle is best remembered as one of the greatest “heel” champions of all-time.
A second-generation wrestler, Nick teamed with his famous father Warren Bockwinkle during the early stages of his career, and the father/son duo had a great deal of success together. A quick learner, Nick gained valuable experience and knowledge while teaming with his dad. After his father retired, Nick continued wrestling and winning. He became one of the sport’s top young stars, and a big drawing name for promoters (he even made a guest appearance on TV’s The Monkees), as fans took notice of the athletic, talented, and most of all, cocky young wrestler. He won the N.W.A. Georgia Heavyweight title, one of the N.W.A.’s most prestigious regional championships, twice in 1970. He developed a strong reputation throughout the country, as well as a hate/hate relationship with the fans…he pretended to hate them, and they really hated him!
Bockwinkle’s greatest success came when he entered the American Wrestling Association. He formed a devastating team with Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, and the duo went on to become 3-time A.W.A. World Tag Team champions, holding the title belts for a combined 3 1/2 years between 1971-1975. Bockwinkle and Stevens met and defeated (often through “cheating”) some of the most talented teams of the day…
Stevens & Bockwinkle faced the very best of the best during their lengthy tenure as champions; The Bruiser & The Crusher, Verne Gagne & Billy Robinson, Mad Dog & Butcher Vachon, The Crusher & Billy Robinson, and many other great opponents during their long partnership in the American Wrestling Association. The duo, led by “Pretty Boy” (later, “The Brain”) Bobby Heenan, is considered perhaps to be the greatest (and certainly one of the most dominant) AWA tag team champions in the 31-year history of the promotion. But after firmly establishing himself as a premier Tag Team wrestler (ala Arn Anderson) there was still more glory in store for Bockwinkle, this time as a singles wrestler…
Under the firm guidance of Heenan, Bockwinkle won his first (of 4) A.W.A. World Heavyweight championship by ending Verne Gagne’s record 7-year title run on November 8, 1975 in St. Paul, MN.
“Tricky” Nick’s arrogant and frequent proclamation of being “the smartest wrestler alive” combined with his undeniable talent, rude and often condescending mannerisms, his tendency to cheat, and his frequent reliance on DQ losses infuriated fans throughout his 5-year long 1st AWA title reign. Bockwinkel also made history by putting his title on the line in the first-ever A.W.A. vs. W.W.F. title unification match, with the classic match ending in a 1-hour draw.
The fans’ hatred for Bockwinkle continued during his second reign as AWA champion, which began after he lost the belt back to Gagne on July 19, 1980 at Commisky Park in Chicago. On May 19, 1981, the AWA awarded it’s World Title to Bockwinkel, who was the #1 contender, after Gagne retired from wrestling…infuriating AWA fans once again. Bockwinkel held the title for nearly a year and a half before he was beaten on August 8, 1982 by Otto Wanz in a major upset. Bockwinkle regained the title from Wanz 2 months later, and went on to hold it for nearly another 6 months until he was beaten by Jumbo Tsuruta on February 22, 1984 in Tokyo.
Bockwinkle, who was now without Heenan, had been out of the AWA World Title picture for nearly 2 years when the veteran (and now, miraculously, loved by the fans) Bockwinkel was scheduled to meet (and defeat) then-AWA champion Stan Hansen. When told he would be losing the title that night, Hansen walked out of the Denver arena with the AWA title belt (and immediately defended it in Japan, until he was legally forced to stop) on June 28, 1986. Still, the AWA World Championship (minus the belt) was awarded to Bockwinkel that night.
Although Bockwinkle was now a loved fan favorite, the fact that he had been “given” the World Title not once, but twice (as well as a couple of unflattering matches during which he was pinned, but was allowed to keep the title due to a technicality) tarnished Bockwinkel’s reputation in the eyes of many fans at the time. Despite all of the controversy, though, Bockwinkel used his considerable skill and wealth of knowledge (plus some good “luck” courtesy of AWA President Stanley Blackburn) to defend the AWA title for one more year, until he was defeated by Curt Hennig…forever ending Bockwinkle’s championship history.
During his combined 8 years as AWA World champion, he met and defeated a virtual “Who’s Who” of wrestling superstars…Dick The Bruiser, Rick Steamboat, The Funks, Larry Zbysko, Verne Gagne, Mad Dog Vachon, Bruiser Brody, Jerry Lawler, Rick Martel, Tito Santana, The Crusher, Baron Von Raschke, Tommy Rich, Crusher Blackwell, Wahoo McDaniel, Andre The Giant, Hulk Hogan, and many more. After his retirement, Bockwinkle was inducted into the W.C.W. Hall of Fame, and later became the WCW Commissioner, where he was an important part of several WCW storylines for nearly a year. He is now retired, more or less, from all activities in pro wrestling.
Loved or hated by the fans, Nick Bockwinkle was always respected as a superior technical performer. His accomplishments during his 25-year long career as a wrestler speak for themselves. Nick Bockwinkle is an all-time great of the squared circle, and we at The Ring Chronicle are proud to induct him into T.R.C.’s Hall of Fame…