|We're still having
a bit of difficulty with the precise chronology of Tom Zenk's wrestling
career which has been extraordinarily diverse.
Prior to this we'd believed Tom Zenk returned to AWA in early 1989 - this article clearly indicates that Zenk came back to AWA somewhere around April, May 1988 after an absence of around 8 months - an absence commencing with his move from WWF and punctuated by some work with independent promotions and All Japan Pro-Wrestling (check here)
This article first appeared in June 1988 and sets up the future confrontation between Zenk and former tag partner, Curt Hennig.
Hennig, was then AWA World Champion, and at this stage weighed in at only 235 lbs - the same weight as Zenk.
The top ten AWA wrestlers
of June 1988 were, in this order -
Ric Flair was NWA Champion, Dusty Rhodes was US Champion, and The Honky Tonky Man was WWF Intercontinental Champion. Ric Martel was in the WWF teaming with Tito Santana as Strike Force.
Like many of today's
top stars, Zenk brought an impressive list of credentials with him into
the ring. He'd even won the Mr. Minnesota bodybuilding contest prior to
turning pro. His muscular build, coupled with lightening quickness, made
Zenk a tough customer for his opponents who had difficulty matching him
in the strength department or, trying to keep up with his blurring speed.
Trained as a scientific wrestler, Zenk impressed many people in the AWA.
Fans watched him develop into a bona fide star, before moving on to the
Pacific Northwest where he reigned as that territory's champion. After
that he traveled to the WWF where he gained most of his fame and fortune.
In his early days in the AWA, Zenk was befriended by former champ Rick Martel who coached him, giving him pointers and generally watching his development into a fine scientific wrestler. Another man who Zenk was close to was current AWA World Champion Curt Hennig. Hennig tag-teamed many times with Zenk when they went after the Road Warriors, hoping to knock off the mighty duo when they ruled the AWA. Both Zenk and Hennig were youngsters on their way up, showing lots of promise as a tag team as well as in their singles careers, compiling winning streaks and impressing promoters.
Zenk continued his winning ways in the WWF as he and Martel formed the successful Can-Am Connection, becoming the hottest tag team in the territory. They battled top villain tag teams until they were number one ranked on the tag team ladder. Perhaps the greatest victories came against the Islanders, after their former friends turned against them on television, setting off a hot feud which continued until Zenk left the WWF to embark on a solo career away from the fast pace and hype.
His return to
the AWA sets up an interesting possible confrontation. Zenk's former friend
Hennig is now a full-fledged villain which sets up title matches down the
road between these two great athletes from Minnesota. Hennig's coaching
of Zenk in their earlier days may just come back to haunt the champ when
he meets his newest challenger in the ring. This will happen as soon as
the Championship Committee deems Zenk the number one challenger, which
should not be too far away judging by the successful return he has made
to the AWA in the past few months.
The first opponent Zenk faced after his return was "Mr. Magnificent" Kevin Kelly, who tried to make Zenk regret the day he signed on with the AWA. Kelly tried everything in his power to cause his rival pain and make him pack his bags and leave the area in a hurry, but despite Kelly's brutal assault, Zenk hung tough taking every punch and kick that the big man gave out. Zenk responded in kind with his own scientific assault, which quickly took Kelly off his feet.
The longer their
match went on, the more in control Zenk became as his plan of attack for
Kelly began working to perfection. The snap arm drags kept Zenk in control
as Kelly began getting more and more frustrated at Zenk's dominance. Even
a fired-up response from Kelly could not drive Zenk to defeat as Zenk completed
his triumphant return by upsetting "Mr. Magnificent." It was an important
match on his road back to prominence in the AWA, and this victory over
Kelly has paved the way for more victories by Zenk over other top AWA wrestlers.
He is no doubt laying the groundwork for his challenge for the AWA World
The matchup between Hennig and Zenk will pit more than just two top-notch wrestlers against one another. It will also give Hennig a stiff challenge to his claim of being Minnesota's greatest athlete. Zenk's strength, speed, agility and wrestling knowledge make him a tough opponent, and will make him an even tougher challenger when he finally gets the opportunity to prove himself against the Champion.
The future looks
bright for Zenk as he returns home to the AWA, hoping to make it big where
his career started. With a little luck and with his incredible skills backing
him up, Zenk is bound to succeed and turn even more heads in the process.