There are icons of the professional wrestling business and then there are individuals such as Verne Gagne. Gagne was a legend of the industry, a world heavyweight champion on at least 16 occasions and third on the list for the longest recognized single world championship reigns. A talented overall athlete, Gagne first pursued a career in the National Football League at a time when pro football did not pay as did the world of pro wrestling, and thus Gagne chose to pursue the path that made him one of the more famous figures that the North American wrestling industry has ever known.
Gagne was more than just a talented in-ring performer who held multiple championships during what was a legendary career that landed him in multiple halls of fame. Gagne also spent a significant amount of time as a booker and a promoter while with the American Wrestling Association, the wrestling company that he founded after he parted ways with the National Wrestling Alliance. It was during his time with that organization that Gagne served as a trainer for up-and-coming performers, who would learn the ropes of what it meant to put matches on inside of the ring while working with Gagne at a farm.
The list of wrestlers who were trained by Gagne in the early days of their careers could serve as its own hall of fame. It includes numerous performers who held world heavyweight championships, not to mention men who are widely seen as some of the greatest workers in the history of the business. The first name that likely jumps off of the list for even casual fans of the business is the man who was known as the “Dirtiest Player in the Game,” a now semi-retired worker who still causes fans to leave their feet out of respect and in anticipation whenever he makes his way to a wrestling ring.
20. Brad Rheingans
Brad Rheingans was a successful amateur wrestler in the NCAA, and he qualified for multiple Olympic squads. He would then link up with Verne Gagne and the American Wrestling Association in the 1980s, and he made sporadic appearances in other organizations until the end of his active in-ring career. Rheingans made further significant contributions within the industry as a trainer of other pro wrestlers. The list of pupils who worked under Rheingans at one point or another includes John Layfield, The Nasty Boys, Curtis Axel and none other than Brock Lesnar.