Tom Zenk first worked for AWA from August 1984 to August 1985. At the time, AWA was a thriving federation comprising much of wrestling's major talent. The major cities and promoters included Denver (Gene Reed), Milwaukee (Dennis Hilgart), Chicago (Verne Gagne), San Francisco (Leo Nomellini), Winnipeg (Don Brinton) and Minneapolis-St Paul (Wally Karbo).
'Hulk' Hogan had recently left the promotion, after being denied a major push in favor of Nick Bockwinkel the reigning AWA Champion. Bockwinkel had in recent times defeated Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Rick Martel in title challenges and was coming to the end of his wrestling career. On February 23, 1984 he lost the title to Jumbo Tsuruta in Tokyo. Tsuruta in turn lost the title to Rick Martel (St. Paul Civic Center, Minnesota, May 13, 1984). Reigning AWA tag champions at the time were Animal and Hawk, The Road Warriors.
As a young journeyman Zenk worked preliminary bouts - part of the process of induction to the business called 'paying your dues". Though he spent most of the year on the losing side - it was against high quality competition including Bockwinkel, and in tag action with Curt Hennig against the Road Warriors.
By the end of 1984 people were beginning to take serious notice of Tom Zenk's ring work. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter recognized his talent early, jointly awarding both Zenk and Keiichi Yamada (Jushin "Thunder" Liger of New Japan Pro Wrestling) the 1984 "Rookie of the Year" Award.
In this arena match
Tom Zenk takes on the original Steve Regal, the AWA light heavyweight champion.
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