So I know very little about the AWA and am curious. I know they were stuck in the past in the early 80's when Gagne refused to go with Hogan as "The Guy". But they lasted until 1990. I know there was a lot of bad shit like Greg Gagne and again, being stuck in the past, but they put the title on Rick Martel & Curt Hennig, were those good decisions for the time? After Hogan left & Vince raided them, was there ever a glimmer of hope there? Was there anything they could have done to survive into the 90's, whether it be push this guy or freshen up the product by going in this direction?
Oh, no, they were dead in the water like everyone else who wasn't national at that point. Everything past Vince's initial raid of the promotion in the early 80s was just Bill slowly walking away after taking the five finger death punch. I know we always simplify it to "Verne was old and wouldn't push Hogan and the Rockers derp derp derp" but really much bigger forces were aligning against everyone outside of WCW and the WWF anyway, so realistically everyone below that level either had to radically reinvent themselves or die off quickly. Verne had a good promotional base to keep himself alive longer than he should have, plus the ESPN deal, but really once Hogan/Ventura/Mean Gene/Dr. D/Patera/Verne's caterer and parking valet all jumped in the same weekend, the war was over. Verne didn't have the resources, TV deal, or PPV experience (duh) to even know how to compete with what was going to destroy him.
Martel was a good try at the time because he was the closest thing they had to a potential crossover babyface star, but he was obviously too big for the promotion and was gonna get snapped up by the WWF no matter what. Hennig was realistically the only guy who could get the title in 87 no matter how badly Verne still wanted old man Bockwinkel as his champion. But again, anyone who was pretty good and achieved past a certain level was destined to be gone anyway. Anyone who COULD have been a difference maker was gonna go, and anyone who wasn't gonna go (Jerry Lawler, Larry Z, Greg Gagne) either was someone who burned all their bridges or that fans wouldn't buy as champion. It was literally no-win for the AWA. Vince was fucking with him so badly by the end that he signed away Sgt. Slaughter, for god's sake!
I don't think Verne HELPED himself with all his stupid booking cliches and short-sighted decisions, but it wasn't like he was gonna last past 1991 anyway.