Pro wrestling lost a giant today, according to Gene Okerland:
Sad to hear my longtime friend Verne Gagne has passed today. To me their was never anybody quite like him. May you rest in peace. GO— Gene Okerlund (@TheGeneOkerlund) April 28, 2015
Gagne founded the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the most popular promotion in the upper midwestern United States during the territory days. He started the company in 1960, and represented the AWA as their Heavyweight Champion ten times before it folded in 1991.
As a performer, Gagne always worked as a babyface, and engaged in memorable feuds with Fritz Von Erich, Ray Stevens, Mad Dog Vachon, Larry "The Axe" Hennig and Nick Bockwinkel. That latter man would go on to have one of the AWA's breakout feuds against a young Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, during a peak that coincided with his company getting national television exposure on the new ESPN sports channel.
Vince K. McMahon signed many of his top acts away while he was consolidating territories, but Gagne never sold to the younger McMahon. He ended up in bankruptcy following the closing of the company.
Gagne was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, and was also enshrined in WCW, Professional Wrestling and Wrestling Observer Halls.
It's been reported that he was suffering from Alzheimers, although some speculated that it was either because of or worsened by chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He was 89.
Cageside Seats offers thoughts and condolences to all of Verne Gagne's family, friends and colleagues on their loss.