30 years ago today, longtime WWF Champion Bruno Sammartino makes his commentary debut during an episode of Championship Wrestling taped at Pougkeepsie, New York.
19 years ago today, WWF Monday Night RAW and WCW Monday Nitro (WWE Network link) aired opposite each other for the first time. On Nitro, WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan defeated Lex Luger via disqualification. It was Luger's in-ring return to WCW. Debuting for WCW that night was ECW stalwart Sabu, who lost to Alex Wright via disqualification. Sabu lasted just two months in WCW before returning to ECW. In RAW's main event, Shawn Michaels defeated Sycho Sid.
17 years ago today, Wrestlefest-50 Years of Funk took place in Funk's hometown of Amarillo, Texas. The event celebrated a half century of wrestling for the Funk family. In the show's main event, WWF Champion Bret Hart defeated Terry Funk. Just before the main event, Terry was presented with a title belt proclaiming him lifetime ECW World Champion. Dennis Stamp, Bret Hart's very first opponent, was the special referee. This little tidbit is featured in the wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat. You may remember Stamp: he was the "I'm not booked" guy. Side nugget: Stamp, now 67, once diagnosed with terminal cancer, took his first booking since the Hart-Funk match last month when he refereed the main event of a show for an independent promotion in Scotland.
9 years ago today, TNA held Unbreakable (pay link) from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando. The show featured the only five-star rated match by Wrestling Observer Newsletter in TNA history.
- 3 Live Kru (BG James, Konnan & Ron Killings) defeated Diamonds In The Rough (David Young, Elix Skipper & Simon Diamond).
- Austin Aries defeated Roderick Strong.
- Kip James & Monty Brown defeated Apollo & Lance Hoyt.
- Chris Sabin defeated Petey Williams.
- Abyss defeated Sabu in a no-disqualification match.
- Bobby Roode defeated Jeff Hardy.
- The Naturals (Andy Douglas & Chase Stevens) defeated Alex Shelley & Johnny Candido, America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) & Team Canada (A1 & Eric Young) to retain the NWA World Tag Team Championships in an elimination match.
- A1 & Eric Young eliminated Alex Shelley & Johnny Candido.
- A1 & Eric Young eliminated Chris Harris & James Storm.
- Andy Douglas & Chase Stevens eliminated A1 & Eric Young.
- Raven defeated Rhino to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a Raven's Rules match.
- AJ Styles defeated Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe in a triple threat match to win the TNA X Division Championship.
8 years ago today, Trish Stratus wrestles her final match on RAW before her retirement in Madison Square Garden in New York City. Trish defeated Mickie James.
7 years ago today, Jim "Sandman" Fullington is officially granted his release from WWE. Fullington was drafted to RAW from ECW earlier that summer, but was sparingly used.
5 years ago today, Jeff Hardy is arrested on charges of trafficking prescription pills and possessing anabolic steroids. The Pilot, a North Carolina newspaper, reports that Hardy's home had turned up over 200 Vicodin pills, 180 Soma prescription pills, 550 milliliters of anabolic steroids, a residual amount of powder cocaine, and various drug paraphernalia. The arrest comes just two weeks after he left WWE to heal nagging injuries. Hardy was placed in Moore County Detention Center on $125,000 bond. In 2011, Hardy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to ten days in prison, 30 months of probation, and was fined $100,000.
4 years ago today, Mike Shaw died of a heart attack in Marquette, Michigan. He was 53. Born May 9, 1957 in Skandia, Michigan, he began his career as Klondike Mike for NWA All-Star Wrestling in Vancouver. The next year, he wrestled for Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, first under his real name, then as Makhan Singh as one-third of Karachi Vice, feuding notably with Owen Hart, Bret Hart, and Chris Benoit. His first big break on a national stage came for World Championship Wrestling in 1989 and 1990 as Norman the Lunatic (and later Norman the Maniac) and once even faced Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He also adopted a trucker gimmick as a tribute to his father. He would spend the early 1990s in Mexico as Aaron Grundy and for the Global Wrestling Federation as Mahkan Singh as part of the Cartel. Shaw transitioned to the WWF in 1993 as "angry monk" Friar Ferguson. After backlash from the Catholic Church of New York, he was repackaged as notorious hunchback slob Bastion Booger. His success was minimal, with his biggest win coming over Owen Hart just before his main event push. Following a brief feud with Bam Bam Bigelow, Shaw was released in early 1994. He opened a wrestling school in his hometown of Skandia, Michigan post-WWF, but he did return to the company for one appearance on the RAW 15th Anniversary special in 2007.
4 years ago today, Ring of Honor Wrestling presented Glory by Honor IX from the Manhattan Center in New York City. The show was the final ROH appearance for Tyler Black, as the previous month he had signed a WWE developmental contract.
- Kenny King defeated Jay Briscoe.
- Mark Briscoe defeated Rhett Titus.
- The Embassy (Erick Stevens & Necro Butcher) defeated Balls Mahoney & Grizzly Redwood.
- Colt Cabana & El Generico defeated Kevin Steen & Steve Corino in a Double Chain Tag Team Match.
- Eddie Edwards defeated Shawn Daivari to retain the ROH World Television Championship.
- Christopher Daniels defeated Austin Aries.
- The Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli) defeated Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin.
- Roderick Strong defeated Tyler Black in a no disqualification match to win the ROH World Championship. Terry Funk was the special enforcer for the match. Post-match, Homicide returned to TNA after he was granted his release a month earlier.
3 years ago today, TNA presented No Surrender (pay link) from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando.
- Jesse Sorensen defeated Kid Kash to become the #1 contender to the TNA X Division Championship.
- Bully Ray defeated James Storm by disqualification in a Bound for Glory Series semifinal match.
- Winter defeated Mickie James to win the TNA Women's Knockout Championship.
- Mexican America (Anarquia & Hernandez) (c) defeated D'Angelo Dinero & Devon to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
- Matt Morgan defeated Samoa Joe.
- Bobby Roode defeated Gunner in a Bound for Glory Series semifinal match.
- Austin Aries defeated Brian Kendrick to win the TNA X Division Championship.
- Bobby Roode defeated Bully Ray to win the Bound for Glory Series and a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match at Bound for Glory.
- Kurt Angle defeated Sting & Mr. Anderson to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
One year ago today, WWE issues a press release stating that longtime announcer Jim Ross has retired from the company effective immediately to "focus on personal business endeavors". Ross debuted for the WWE in 1993 after taking a buyout from his WCW contract. While he was in and out of the booth, he headed the talent relations department behind the scenes during the company's late-1990s boom signing future WWE Hall of Famers including Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, and Edge, and countless others who didn't quite make it that high. Ross was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. Today, questions are still raised about his sudden retirement, but he's doing okay now: he does commentary for Fox Sports 1 and hosts The Ross Report podcast for Podcast One.
Today's the 49th birthday of longtime wrestling manager (and one time promoter) Paul Heyman. Born in Scarsdale, New York, he is the son of a personal injury attorney and Holocaust survivor. As a child, he was running a mail-order business selling celebrity and sports memorabilia from his home. He broke into the business-literally-as a photojournalist for third party wrestling magazines, most notably Pro Wrestling Illustrated taking pictures at WWF events in Madison Square Garden. He also became a promoter for legendary nightclub Studio 54 at age 19. Heyman's managerial debut came in 1987, first appearing in Northeast independents, then at Florida Championship Wrestling, where he became known as Paul E. Dangerously (a brash New Yorker with a yuppie attitude) because of his resemblance to Michael Keaton in Johnny Dangerously. Over the next couple of years, he would work for the Continental Wrestling Federation in Memphis where he was the assistant booker to Eddie Gilbert, Windy City Wrestling where he was their head booker, and the American Wrestling Association.
His national big break came in 1988 came as the manager for the Original Midnight Express feuding with Jim Cornette's new version. He also managed Mean Mark Callous, who is most famously known as The Undertaker of WWE fame. He transitioned into announcing calling matches with Jim Ross, getting under his skin as well as that of Missy Hyatt. In 1991, he would return to managing as the spokesman and manager for the Dangerous Alliance. Heyman was fired from WCW in January 1993 after a falling out with new hire Bill Watts, but would later successfully sue the company for claims of anti-semitism stemming from racist comments Watts made in an interview with Pro Wrestling Torch.
Heyman attempted to start a wrestling promotion with Jim Crockett, Jr., but because of a clash of ideas (Crockett wanted a traditional wrestling brand, while Heyman wanted a fresher take on the genre), Heyman tried his luck at Philadelphia-based NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling under Tod Gordon and booker Eddie Gilbert. However, a fallout between Gilbert and Gordon the night before an event in September 1993 led to Heyman taking over creative duties. He managed most notably Sabu and 911 (the former to the ECW world and television championships), but his increased workload led to fewer appearances on camera. Eastern Championship Wrestling became the flagship promotion for the NWA, which held a tournament in August 1994 to crown a new NWA world champion. The tournament of mostly ECW talent was won by Shane Douglas, at the time the ECW champion. Heyman, Douglas, and Gordon conspired to have Douglas denounce the NWA and its traditions post-match, and Shane threw down the NWA world title. The move shocked the wrestling world to say the least, and it was only the beginning. The promotion broke away from the NWA and was rebranded Extreme Championship Wrestling; under Heyman, who would eventually become the promotion's sole owner, he encouraged wrestlers to sound off on other promotions and develop their own characters. His work ethic would spread through the talent roster as they took on multiple roles in the company from handling merchandise to answering phones. Heyman's "Extreme" vision played an important role in reshaping professional wrestling in the late 1990s. Just weeks after WCW was sold in 2001, ECW entered into bankruptcy under $7 million in debt; around this time, Heyman joined the WWF.
Heyman became the WWF's lead color commentator replacing Jerry Lawler after he quit the company over his then-wife Stacy Carter's release he reunited with WCW broadcasting partner Jim Ross on RAW. Heyman jumped back into managing a few months later, heading Team ECW, which would merge with WCW to form the Alliance. Heyman briefly left the commentary table before returning in late July, but lost his gig when the Alliance lost the Winner Take All match at Survivor Series 2001. Heyman would be replaced by the returning Jerry Lawler. He returned the week after Wrestlemania X-8 as the manager for new signee Brock Lesnar and guided him to the WWE Championship at Summerslam. Heyman turned on Lesnar at Survivor Series and managed The Big Show to the WWE title. Kurt Angle would defeat The Big Show a month later at Armageddon; a few days later, Angle revealed that he too would was taking Heyman's advisement. After suffering a neck injury in January, Heyman left the company but was retained as a consultant for their TV shows.
Behind the scenes, Heyman was the brains behind the "Smackdown Six": Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and Chavo Guerrero. The three team feud (Angle/Benoit, Edge/Mysterio, Los Guerreros) would feature some of the WWE's best matches that year, including the 2002 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year. Heyman also won an award for Best Booker. All six would go on to win world championships in WWE. In late 2003, Heyman became Smackdown General Manager replacing Stephanie McMahon, feuding with the likes of The Undertaker, John Cena, and Chris Benoit. In March 2004, Heyman "quit" the company after being drafted to RAW, deciding he'd rather not work at all than work for Eric Bischoff, the man he blames to this day for killing ECW with its talent raids.
In 2005, Heyman was involved with the promoting and booking of ECW's reunion show, One Night Stand, culminating in the show of the same name on June 12. At the show, Heyman was visually moved by the overwhelming fan support before cutting a worked shoot promo on Bischoff, Edge, and JBL. He would take over booking duties at WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling later in the year; it was there he developed a real-life friendship with CM Punk. Heyman would return to WWE in May 2006 promoting a second One Night Stand event and announcing the relaunch of ECW. Heyman would serve as the brand's on-camera authority figure, though behind the scenes, his influence was minimal. He drafted Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam to the relaunch, and Van Dam defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship at ECW One Night Stand 2006. Heyman also awarded Van Dam with the ECW World Championship, a belt that Van Dam never won in the original incarnation of the company. Heyman, who was face in his brief time back, turned heel again on the July 4 ECW on Sci-Fi when he screwed Van Dam in favor of Big Show for the ECW title. Garbage and debris littered the ring as a result of the "South Philly Screwjob". Heyman left the company following disagreements stemming from the disappointing December to Dismember PPV in December 2006. Heyman contends that his booking ideas for the main event clashed with Vince McMahon's.
In the interim, Paul launched The Heyman Hustle, a multimedia project featuring Heyman talking to various celebrities in New York City. Heyman would expand the brand and created the Looking4Larry Agency, an advertising firm specializing in viral marketing. Its clients notably included EA Sports and the now-defunct THQ. In 2011, Heyman collaborated with Brock Lesnar on Lesnar's autobiography: Death Clutch: My Story of Determination, Domination, and Survival.
Heyman returned to WWE in May 2012 as the legal advisor for Brock Lesnar, feuding with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Heyman's client Lesnar would go on to defeat Triple H at Summerslam. In September, he aligned with CM Punk in his final days as WWE Champion and in his feud with Undertaker in the leadup to Wrestlemania 29. Heyman would also manage Lesnar in his reignited feud with Triple H, but to defeat at Wrestlemania 29, and in victory in a steel cage at Extreme Rules. Heyman would take on new client Curtis Axel in the spring and summer of 2013, leading him to the Intercontinental Championship. At Money in the Bank, Heyman would shocking turn on Punk, preventing him from becoming a three-time Money in the Bank winner. He would align with Ryback in the fall, but Heyman and Ryback would fall to Punk at Hell in a Cell. Paul would once again align with Brock Lesnar late in 2013 in feuds against Big Show and Undertaker, highlighted by dominant wins for Lesnar at Elimination Chamber over Big Show and at Wrestlemania XXX over Undertaker (making Lesnar the first man to defeat Undertaker in a Wrestlemania match). He would align with Cesaro for a few months, but would again turn his attention to Lesnar in the summer, and at Summerslam, Heyman guided Lesnar to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Heyman has two children, twelve-year old Azalea and eight-year old Jacob.