Late on Monday, the world of wrestling mourned the death of one of its greatest figures: Verne Gagne. The iconic babyface, who died in Minnesota at age 89, began his pro career in 1950 and wrestled into the 1980s, also working as a major promoter and helping to shape the careers of some of sports entertainment’s biggest stars.

Gagne, a Minnesota native, was an all-American wrestler for the Gophers in college before becoming a star in the National Wrestling Alliance during the “golden age” of television. Gagne joined the American Wrestling Association in 1960, instantly becoming its biggest attraction before eventually buying and promoting the outfit.

“He was a pioneer in modern day era wrestling,” legendary wrestling announcer Gene Okerlund told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “He was one of the first guys who became a television star. He was one of the first good-looking young guys. And I mean he was a real baby face. The gals loved him, the guys respected him because he was also one of the tough-nosed guys.”

Gagne won the AWA heavyweight title 10 times between 1960 and 1981, and he is one of a select few to have been inducted into four major wrestling halls of fame (WWE, WCW, Pro Wrestling and Wrestling Observer). From

During the AWA’s existence, it was the breeding ground for several other future WWE Superstars, including Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Pat Patterson, The Legion of Doom, Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty, Curt Hennig, Scott Hall and fellow 2006 Hall of Fame Inductees “Mean” Gene Okerlund and “Sensational” Sherri. Jerry “The King” Lawler, Larry Zbyszko, Sgt. Slaughter and numerous other legends also wrestled in Gagne’s AWA, and Verne’s son Greg also had a lengthy and successful career there as well. In addition, Gagne had a hand in training several future Superstars, including Ric Flair, Ken Patera, Bob Backlund and Ricky Steamboat.