36 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois, Giant Baba defeated Abdullah the Butcher to win the All Japan PWF Heavyweight Championship.
31 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, David Alan Adkisson, best known to wrestling fans as "The Yellow Rose of Texas" David Von Erich, dies while on tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling. He was just 25.
Born July 22, 1958 in Dallas, Texas, David was an avid fisherman and hunter as a child, and enjoyed hunting with his brothers Kevin and Kerry and father Fritz. David also enjoyed raising horses, a hobby that turned into quite the profitable business away from the ring. David was a two-sport star at Lake Dallas High School and gained a scholarship to North Texas State University, but dropped out to join the other family business: professional wrestling.
David began wrestling in June 1977; just two months in, he went to a thirty-minute draw with Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. David was considered a future star primarily for his memorable promos and interviews (his natural fiery temper played a hand in that). David would be well traveled over the next few years. In May 1979, he defeated Harley Race in Missouri in a non-title match. He wrestled one match for the WWF in November 1979, then after briefly returning to Texas, wrestled in Florida under the guidance of James J. Dillon, whose stable included Kendo Nagasaki and Jimmy Garvin. During his brief time there, he was mentored by Dory Funk, Jr., and often teamed with him or Dory's brother Terry.
David returned to Texas in 1982 with Jimmy Garvin, and the two would create one of the hotter angles in World Class Championship Wrestling History. The angle culminated on July 4, 1983 when David won the WCCW Texas State Championship. The win forced Garvin and his valet Sunshine to serve as valets for David for a day. The two would go their separate ways following the feud; Garvin would feud with Chris Adams, while David joined the rest of the Von Erichs in the blood feud with the Freebirds.
It was David that invited the Fabulous Freebirds to WCCW in the fall of 1982. Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy made the trip initially, but Buddy Roberts did not. Initially booked as faces, the group turned heel when Michael Hayes turned on Kerry Von Erich after gift-wrapping the NWA world title, then Terry Gordy slammed the cage door as Kerry tried to leave the cage. David would be a part of many notable Freebirds vs. Von Erichs bouts, including a handcuff match against Terry Gordy in April 1983, a six-man tag bout at Star Wars in July 1983, and defeating Gordy for the NWA United National Championship in February 3, 1984.
During that time, he also feuded with Ric Flair, whom he defeated for the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship in September 1983; the reign was seen as a stepping stone to him winning the NWA world title the following spring. After Flair made some dismissive comments about David's brother Mike's wrestling ability, David proposed that Mike could last ten minutes with Flair. If Mike failed, David could never again challenge for the NWA world title; if Mike succeeded, David would get a shot at Ric on his own terms, naming the time, place, and stipulations for the bout. On January 30, 1984, Flair failed to defeat Mike in the 10 minutes, giving David his NWA world title shot.
The match, scheduled for April, would never happen. While on tour with All Japan Wrestling, David was found dead in his hotel room in Tokyo. In the days leading up to his death, David was taken to the emergency room at Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas after he had complained of dizziness and flu-like symptoms. The official cause of death was never determined. Many, including Ric Flair, suggested that a drug overdose led to his demise and David's friend Bruiser Brody removed the evidence, flushing the drugs down a toilet to protect the family name. Bill Irwin, who was on the same tour with David, disputes the claim. The Von Erichs themselves said it was a heart attack caused by ruptured intestines resulting from acute enteritis, a theory supported by Kevin Von Erich and former World Class referee David Manning. At the time of his death, David was survived by his wife Tricia. She was interviewed about the tragedy in the June 1984 edition of The Wrestler magazine, but has largely been out of the public eye since.
On May 6, David's brother Kerry (whom tragedy would fall upon nearly a decade later) would win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair in Texas Stadium. Kerry wore a robe memorializing David, but would not wear it again after losing the title eighteen days later.
25 years ago today, All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling co-promoted Super Fight from the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. Nearly 64,000 fans were in attendance for the event. Notable bouts included:
- Masa Saito defeated Larry Zbyszko to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
- Big Van Vader and Stan Hansen went to a double countout for Vader's IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
- Antonio Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi defated Masahiro Chono and Shinya Hashimoto. Lou Thesz was the special referee.
22 years ago today in Dortmund, Germany, Ric Flair wrestles his final bout for the WWF, losing a WWF Championship match to Bret Hart. Flair was taken off TV back on January 18 when he lost a "Loser Leaves Town" match to Mr. Perfect (the match aired on January 25).
12 years ago today in Tampa, Florida, Curtis Michael Hennig was found dead in his hotel room. He was just 44. Born in Robbinsdale, Minnesota on March 28, 1958, Curt began his career in the AWA in 1980 as "Cool" Curt Hennig, following in his father Larry's footsteps. After two years, he left for the WWF and teamed with another second generation wrestler in Eddie Gilbert.
In 1984, he returned to the AWA in 1984 and became a featured player, winning the AWA world tag team titles with Scott Hall in January 1986. With the help of Larry Zbyszko, Hennig defeated longtime champion Nick Bockwinkel to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship at Superclash in May 1987. Curt with his father Larry would engage in a father-son feud with Verne Gagne and his son Greg. Hennig would join the Diamond Exchange with Diamond Dallas Page, Badd Company, Col. DeBeers, and AWA Women's Champion Madusa Miceli. Hennig would hold the AWA world title for just over a year before losing it to Jerry Lawler in May 1988. Soon after, Hennig left for the WWF.
Hennig returned to the WWF in 1988 as "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, an arrogant athlete who bragged about being able to do difficult things perfectly. Hennig would be shown hitting no-look shots in basketball, hitting half court jumpers, running the table in billiards, sink long putts, throw himself a Hail Mary, hit home runs, and scoring 300 in bowling. Some sports stars of the time made cameos in these bits, including Wade Boggs, Steve Jordan, and Mike Modano.
Hennig would indeed be perfect for over a year; during that time, Curt would be only referred to on television as Mr. Perfect, only occasionally referring to his family history. It is also during that time that Perfect would be paired with Lanny Poffo, aka The Genius, an arrogant scholar. Perfect's first major feud came against Hulk Hogan over the WWF Championship. During the feud, Perfect beat Hogan via countout, then post-match destroyed the WWF Championship belt. Perfect would be the last man eliminated in the 1990 Royal Rumble won by Hogan. A few months later at Wrestlemania, Perfect suffered his first televised loss (though in reality, that actually came at the hands of The Ultimate Warrior, though that match did not air until after the event).
Perfect win his first title in the WWF in April 1990 by defeating Tito Santana to win the vacated Intercontinental Championship. He lost the belt to Texas Tornado at Summerslam in August, but won it back in November (the bout didn't air until just before Christmas). Perfect would take on a new manager in his final months of active competition after Bobby Heenan retired in "Coach" John Tolos, best known as "The Golden Greek" during his wrestling days. At Summerslam, Perfect dropped the Intercontinental title to Bret Hart, two months after effectively retiring from in-ring competition due to a broken tailbone and bulging discs in his back. Perfect would spend the next year and a half as a color commentator and "executive consultant" to Ric Flair.
He returned to the ring at Survivor Series in November 1992 as a replacement for Ultimate Warrior (he got released a few weeks before the event) and he and Randy Savage defeated Ric Flair and Razor Ramon via disqualification. Flair and Perfect would feud until just after the 1993 Royal Rumble when Perfect defeated Flair in a "Loser Leaves the WWF" match. The bout was a way to write off Flair as he was heading back to WCW. Perfect would feud with Lex Luger and Shawn Michaels for most of 1993. Perfect would make it to the semifinals of the 1993 King of the Ring tournament before losing to eventual winner Bret Hart. Recurring injuries forced Perfect to the sidelines again; he would leave the company just before the 1993 Survivor Series.
Perfect's feud with Luger picked up at Wrestlemania X when he cost him the WWF Championship on a disqualification. However, the feud was put on hold again when Hennig's back problems resurfaced and he left the WWF again in the spring of 1994. By the time Hennig returned in late 1995, Luger was gone. Taking out a substantial insurance policy from Lloyd's of London should he return to the ring, Hennig spent most of the year as a color commentator for WWF Superstars and some PPV events. He also refereed the 1996 King of the Ring main event bout between Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog for the WWF Championship.
Perfect was to make an in-ring return in October 1996 against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, but the attack proved to be a ruse, as "Wildman" Marc Mero was screwed out of the Intercontinental Championship against Helmsley. Perfect served as a mentor for Helmsley briefly before leaving the WWF just before the 1996 Survivor Series.
Following the path of many ex-WWF talents at the time, Hennig signed with WCW in early 1997, wrestling there under his real name Curt Hennig. He made his in-ring debut as Diamond Dallas' Page tag team partner at Bash at the Beach, reuniting for the first time since their AWA days. However, Hennig turned on Page and cost his team the match. After a brief feud, Hennig took Arn Anderson's place in the Four Horsemen (Anderson retired due to a botched surgery). However, at Fall Brawl during the War Games match, Hennig turned on the Horsemen to join the nWo. To solidify his entry into the group, he slammed the steel cage door into Ric Flair's head. Soon, Hennig's childhood friend Rick Rude was brought in, also joining the nWo. Hennig won the WCW United States Championship shortly after Fall Brawl and held it until that December's Starrcade when he was defeated by Diamond Dallas Page.
Hennig spent most of 1998 on the sidelines with a knee injury, and he and Rude were the odd men out in the nWo Wolfpac faction (the large group splintered in the spring, with the Wolfpac headed by Kevin Nash and the Hollywood Faction led by Hulk Hogan). Hennig briefly feuded with WCW world champion Goldberg before losing to him at Bash at the Beach. He was taken off TV and returned just before the end of the year at Starrcade to aid Eric Bischoff to victory over Ric Flair.
After being kicked out of the nWo, Hennig spent most of 1999 as a part of the supposedly heel West Texas Rednecks faction with Barry Windham, Barry's brother Kendall, and Bobby Duncum, Jr. and feuded with the supposedly face No Limit Soldiers led by rapper Master P. However, WCW's southern fanbase cheered the heel country faction and the angle was dropped. After losing a retirement match against Buff Bagwell at Mayhem in November, Hennig returned to briefly feud with-then align with-Shawn Stasiak. Hennig left WCW after his contract expired that summer.
After being one of the featured talents of the shortly lived X Wrestling Federation, Hennig returned to the WWF at the 2002 Royal Rumble. Once again adopting the Mr. Perfect moniker, Hennig finished third in the Royal Rumble match. His appearance was originally a one-shot deal, but his performance and positive reception led him to a full-time contract. His time in the company was short, however; Hennig would be released in May 2002 following his part in the infamous "Plane Ride from Hell". On the flight, Hennig got into a physical confrontation with Brock Lesnar, and the two nearly collided with a plane door.
Hennig's final in-ring days were in TNA. Despite pinning NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ron Killings, Hennig failed twice to win the NWA world title in October 2002. In November, he failed in his pursuit to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship with BG James. He had one last at the NWA world title in December, but lost to champion at the time Jeff Jarrett. He had his final match on January 8, 2003, defeating David Flair in an "axehandle on a pole" match.
Curt was found dead in a Tampa hotel room on February 10, 2003 just hours before he was to promote an event with Jimmy Hart. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office determined acute cocaine intoxication to be the cause of his death, though Curt's father Larry said steroids and painkillers may have played a part in his death as well. At the time of his death, Curt was survived by his parents Larry and Irene, two brothers in Randy and Jesse, two sisters in Sandra and Susan, his wife Leonice, and their four children, Joe, Hank, Amy, and Katie. Two of his children are in the professional wrestling business; son Joe wrestles in WWE under the moniker Curtis Axel. He won the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Payback in 2013, making them the first father-son duo to win that championship.
Hennig was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in March 2007, and in July 2007 into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. A biographical DVD, The Life and Times of Mr. Perfect was released in September 2008. Hennig will posthumously join the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum later this year as one of twelve inductees in this year's class.
9 years ago today, Strikeforce held its debut event at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Among the participants were ex-WWE competitor Daniel Puder (defeating Jesse Fujarczyk by submission), future Ultimate Fighter winner Nate Diaz (TKOing Tony Juarez) and Ken Shamrock's brother Frank Shamrock knocking out Cesar Gracie in just 21 seconds.
7 years ago today, TNA presented Against All Odds from the BI-LO Center in Greenville, South Carolina. It was the only time the event was held outside of the Impact Zone in Orlando. Also in an interesting bit of trivia, Awesome Kong and Scott Steiner faced the same opponents again in the 2009 event, with the same outcome.
- In a dark match, Consequences Creed & Sonjay Dutt defeated The Rock 'n Rave Infection (Jimmy Rave & Lance Hoyt).
- AJ Styles & Tomko defeated BG James & Bob Armstrong to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
- Traci Brooks defeated Payton Banks.
- Scott Steiner defeated Petey Williams in a Feast Or Fired Briefcase match.
- Eric Young defeated James Storm.
- Awesome Kong defeated ODB to retain the TNA Knockouts Championship.
- Abyss defeated Judas Mesias in a Barbed Wire Massacre match.
- Booker T and Robert Roode fought to a double countout.
- Jay Lethal & Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) defeated Johnny Devine & Team 3D (Brother Devon & Brother Ray) in a six-man tag team street fight. As a result of the win, Jay Lethal won the X-Division Championship.
- Kurt Angle defeated Christian Cage to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Samoa Joe was the special enforcer.
6 years ago today, TNA releases Petey Williams and Lance Hoyt. Williams would go to Lucha Libre USA and briefly return to TNA before retiring last July. After a brief stint in WWE, Hoyt now wrestles for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a part of the Suzukigun Army.