Tom Zenk Swindles the AWA

Tom Zenk Swindles the AWA

Date: 1984 (exact date unknown)
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Source: Wrestling Observer Live

In a brilliant scheme, Tom Zenk swindled Verne Gagne and the AWA to get his start in the wrestling business for almost no money.

Zenk had met Gagne before, and told Verne that he didn’t have enough money to train with him (Zenk was a bodybuilder at the time). One day he came up with the idea of calling the office and lying about outside interest from the WWF.

tom-brandi-tom-zenk
Tom Brandi a.k.a. Johnny Gunn with tag team partner Tom Zenk.

He called the AWA secretary and told her, “I’m trying to return someone’s phone call. Was it you who called me yesterday, or was it Vince McMahon? I didn’t quite catch the name.” The idea that the WWF would be interested in Zenk perked the ears of the secretary, and she responded with something like, “Oh yes, that was us!” The way Zenk said those words, she thought she had pulled a big coup by signing away this hot new talent that WWF was after.

But it was all just a lie. Zenk ended up getting free training out of it, and became a pretty good worker with a great look. He made his name in the AWA before ultimately signing with the WWF a couple years later. The WWF run got him a six figure contract with WCW in 1989, a job he held until 1994.

Similarly, Zenk’s WCW tag team partner Tom Brandi was hired in an equally silly way.  Zenk also told this story in the same radio show.  Tom Brandi, who wrestled as Johnny Gunn, sent photos of himself to the WCW office in Atlanta, GA.  That’s normal.  What’s not normal is that Watts went up to all the female employees and showed them the photo, asking them, “Is this guy good-looking? Is this guy good-looking?” The women said Yes, and Brandi was hired.

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