Laverne Clarence “Verne” Gagne ( February 26, 1926 – April 27, 2015)was an American professional wrestler, football player, wrestling trainer, and wrestling promoter. He was the owner and promoter of the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association (AWA), the predominant promotion throughout the Midwest and Manitoba for many years. He remained in this position until 1991, when the company folded.Gagne was a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion, having held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship ten times, the World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version) five times, and the IWA World Heavyweight Championship once. He holds the record for the longest combined reign as a world champion and is third (behind Bruno Sammartino and Lou Thesz) for the longest single world title reign. He is one of only six men inducted into each of the WWE, WCW and Professional Wrestling halls of fame.
Gagne was born in Corcoran, Minnesota and grew up on a farm in Robbinsdale , Minnesota. He left home at the age of 14 after his mother died. He went to Robbinsdale High School and excelled in football, baseball and wrestling, winning district, regional, and state championships in high school wrestling, as well as being named to the All-State Football Team. In 1943, he was recruited to play football at the University of Minnesota, where he was named to the All-Big Ten Team.
After one year of college, Gagne enlisted with the Navy Underwater Demolition Team.He chose to return to the University of Minnesota, where, as an amateur wrestler, he captured two NCAA titles. He was also an alternate for the U.S freestyle wrestling team at the 1948 Olympic Games; he later said that he might have wrestled in the Olympics, but his coaches had discovered that he had earned money winning a wrestling match at a carnival, thus putting his amateur standing in question.
Illness and death : Gagne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (or possibly chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused by a lifetime of head injuries)and had been living in the memory-loss section of a Bloomington, Minnesota health care facility. In January 2012 (and possibly since the 2009 altercation), he was living in the home of his daughter Beth and her husband Will. He continued to make public appearances in his last years, aided by his son Greg.
On the night of April 27, 2015, Gagne died in Bloomington at the age of 89.
Championships and accomplishments
- Amateur wrestling
- Amateur Athletic Union
- Northwestern AAU Championship (1942)
- National AAU Championship (1948, 1949)
- Big Ten Conference
- Big Ten Conference Championship (1944, 1947, 1948, 1949)
- Minnesota State High School League
- Minnesota State Championship (1943)
- National Collegiate Athletic Association
- NCAA Championship (1948, 1949)
- Olympic Games
- Member of 1948 United States Olympic Team
- NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Chicago version) (2 time)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Chicago version) (1 time) – with Edouard Carpentier
- NWA Minneapolis Wrestling and Boxing Club / American Wrestling Association
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (10 times)
- AWA World Tag Team Championship (4 times) – with Moose Evans (1), The Crusher (1), Billy Robinson (1), and Mad Dog Vachon (1)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Minneapolis version) (4 times) – with Bronko Nagurski (1), Leo Nomellini (2), and Butch Levy
- World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version) (5 times)
- AWA United States Heavyweight Championship (2 times)