Former AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel passed away yesterday evening at 80 years old. Other than “health complications” it is not yet known what led to the WWE Hall of Famer’s death.
WWE made the following statement:
WWE is saddened to learn that Nick Bockwinkel, a WWE Hall of Famer and former four time AWA World Heavyweight Champion, has passed away at age 80.
Bockwinkel, known for his great in-ring skill and intelligent interviews, began his sports entertainment career in the mid-1950s after concluding his time on the University of Oklahoma football team. Bockwinkel was trained by his famous father, Warren Bockwinkel, and wrestling legend, Lou Thesz. Nick teamed with his father on many occassions, competing in Georgia, Texas and the Pacific Northwest before moving on to the where he would find the most success: the American Wrestling Association.
Bockwinkel was famously managed by WWE Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan during his AWA tenure, with the two drawing the ire of crowds everywhere. The self-proclaimed “Smartest Wrestler Alive” did it all during his time in AWA, with his crowning accomplishment coming when he defeated fellow WWE Hall of Famer and AWA legend Verne Gagne to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, ending Gagne’s historic seven-year run with the title.
Bockwinkel would go on to accumulate many more accolades as his career went on. From his nationally televised rivalry with Larry Zbyszko on ESPN to guest starring on “Hawaii Five-O,” the legend truly did it all. It was only fitting that his great career be capped off by his 2007 induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, where he will forever be enshrined as one of sports entertainments’ all-time greats.
WWE extends its condolences to Bockwinkel’s family, friends and fans.
The wrestling world took to social media to share their condolences. Here are a few of the messages:
The Iron Sheik:
GOD BLESS THE NICK BOCKWINKEL ONE OF MY FIRST TEACHER. EXCELLENT SHOOTER. EXCELLENT PERFORMER. REST IN PEACE BUBBA.
King Kong Bundy:
Sad to hear about the passig of Nick Bockwinkel. What a performer and an even better man.
Rest in peace Nick Bockwinkel. There’s no way to commend you for all you did for professional wrestling in 140 characters! Thank you sir!
Sad about the passing of Nick Bockwinkel. He was such a nice gentleman. Had a blast with him on a tour of Japan in 2006. A real champion.
Nick Bockwinkel was my mentor in my very first trip to a japan mma style show in 2000. Rip my friend hope you are in a better place.
Rest in Power Nick Bockwinkel. Class personified. My pleasure knowing you. My eternal gratitude for your contributions to our craft.
So very sad to hear of the passing of the great Nick Bockwinkle at age 80. Nick was an amazing worker, brilliant speaker, class gentleman, & represented our industry with dignity. Rest in peace my dear friend with much love & respect.
Quite saddened to hear this morning of the passing of the iconic Nick Bockwinkle who was one of the most distinguished world champions in the history of our profession. During the 1970’s Nick made the AWA championship mean as much as the NWA championship with his touring schedule and the eminent manner with which he carried that championship. Nick even came to Stampede multiple times to defend the AWA championship against Bret when we were unable to have the NWA championship come in. Nick was one of the few competitors who would have been capable of wrestling in any era, as he had the technical ability and legit toughness to survive the pioneer era. He had the class, skills and natural heel heat to be massively successful in the territorial era. And he had one of the best promos of all time and was one of the best characters wrestlers of all time which would have made him successful in today’s modern WWE era.
Before @RicFlairNatrBoy styled & profiled, Nick Bockwinkel set the standard & had it on lock!~PHS #RIPNickBockwinkel