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This Day in Wrestling History (February 18)

30 years ago today, WWF presented The War to Settle The Score from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The featured bout of the show, WWF Champion Hulk Hogan defending against Roddy Piper, aired on MTV, and would provide the backdrop for the main event of the first Wrestlemania. The show would surpass The Brawl to End it All as the most-watched show in MTV history. It would be the last WWF show on the network until 2000 when Sunday Night Heat came over from USA in the Viacom deal. MTV and the WWF parted ways following The War when the network demanded a share of the company in exchange for airing more shows. There was a full card for the 26,092 in attendance.

  • Johnny Rodz defeated Jose Luis Rivera.
  • Hillbilly Jim defeated Rene Goulet.
  • The Magnificent Muraco defeated Salvatore Bellomo.
  • Moondog Spot vs. Rick McGraw ended in a 15-minute time limit draw.
  • David Sammartino defeated Moondog Rex.
  • Nikolai Volkoff defeated Swede Hanson.
  • Leilani Kai defeated Wendi Richter to win the WWF Women's Championship.
  • Barry Windham & Mike Rotundo defeated The Assassin & The Spoiler in under a minute to retain the WWF World Tag Team Championship.
  • Paul Orndorff defeated Tony Atlas.
  • Jimmy Snuka defeated Bob Orton.
  • Hulk Hogan defeated Roddy Piper via disqualification to retain the WWF Championship. Near the end of the match, singer Cyndi Lauper tried to get in the fracas, but would be cornered by Piper and Paul Orndorff. Mr. T., sitting in the crowd, jumped the rail and was attacked by Piper and Orndoff until Hogan fought them off. This would set up the main event of Wrestlemania six weeks later.

26 years ago today, famed women's wrestler Mildred Bliss, best known as Mildred Burke, dies of a stroke in Northridge, California. She was 73. Born August 5, 1915 in Coffeyville, Kansas, Mildred worked as a waitress on an Indian reservation in New Mexico as a teenager. At age 18, Mildred left for Kansas City, Missouri and married her boyfriend.

After her boyfriend took her to a wrestling event, Mildred took an interest in the sport. An office stenographer by day, she trained by night under famed women's wrestling trainer Billy Wolfe. Hoping he would get Burke out of his hair, he instructed a male wrestler to bodyslam her. Burke, who was well-developed in the muscular department, bodyslammed him instead. Wolfe trained her and over time realized she was the student he'd been seeking. Over time the teacher-student relationship became a husband-wife one. In Janaury 1937, Burke would defeat Clara Mortensen to win the Womens Championship.

Despite having a very beneficial marriage financially (he the successful manager, she the successful wrestler), Wolfe was a known womanizer on the road, often enjoying the companionship of the women with whom he traveled. Eventually, his extramarital affairs would drive a wedge between the two and ultimately into divorce. The two divorced in 1952; immediately, Burke was frozen out of the NWA. The group attempted to reconcile their business dealings, but only agreed that one would sell out to the other; Burke would sell to Wolfe, in August 1953, Wolfe boldly declared himself to be the booker for Burke and her stable of wrestlers. This would be quickly go into dispute with Wolfe citing Burke was violating a binding agreement that she would not compete against him.

As women were banned from NWA yearly conferences at the time, Wolfe would get to make his case, but not Burke. In the end, at the September 1953 meeting, the NWA declined to recognize women's wrestling, giving Wolfe his stake in Burke Attractions, Inc. Many of the women sided with Burke and refused to wrestle for Wolfe. Burke would make her case in a November 1953 letter, claiming she would work with 12 grapplers instead of just one that Wolfe claimed.

Emotionally exhausted, Burke wrestled Wolfe's daughter-in-law June Byers in August 1954 in Atlanta. Because of the genuine heat between the two, it became a shoot fight. With Wolfe's influence, he had a friendly referee for the bout. Burke gave up the first fall, but the match ended during the second fall when officials called the bout. Burke technically didn't lose the title, but the press didn't see it that way; Byers was recognized as the new champion.

Burke started the World Women's Wrestling Association in Los Angeles, and returned there and still called herself the world women's champion, though the NWA declared June Byers the champion. Burke vacated the belt when she retired in 1966. The belt would be revived in 1970 by All Japan Womens Pro Wrestling (AJW) and would become their top championship until the promotion folded in 2005. Her efforts would also find another joshi promotion, the World Wide Womens Wrestling Association.

Burke ran a women's wrestling school in Encino, California; her most famous trainee was Rhonda Sing, who would go on to success in the WWF as Bertha Faye and Monster Ripper internationally. Burke would be posthumously inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1996 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002.

22 years ago today, Kerry Adkisson, best known to wrestling fans as Kerry Von Erich, shot himself to death on his father's ranch in Denton, Texas. He was 33.

Born February 3, 1960 in Niagara Falls, New York, Kerry was a standout in high school track and field and broke the high school record in the discus throw. In May 1979, Kerry made his professional debut for his father Fritz's Big Time Wrestling (aka NWA Texas).

Championships came quickly for "The Modern Day Warrior", even when he went to World Class Championship Wrestling. He twice won the NWA American Heavyweight Championship in a six-month span (he would win the championship five times total) and won the NWA American Tag Team Championship with Terry Orndorff. He would have a standout win over then NWA world champion Harley Race in June 1982. Two months later, he got his first shot at that championship against Ric Flair, but failed to win it in a best of three falls match. On Christmas Day 1982, he got another shot at the title and was on his way to winning it, but his honor got the best of him. Not wanting a tainted victory, Terry Gordy slammed the cage door on Kerry's head, allowing Flair to retain the title. The act would set off a long feud between the Freebirds and the Von Erichs.

Kerry and Bruiser Brody would take the NWA American tag titles from the Freebirds in June 1983. Two and a half weeks later, the Von Erichs (Kerry, Kevin, and David) would take the Freebirds' Texas six-man title. The trio would trade the titles back and forth for the remainder of the year.

In May 1984, three months after the death of his brother David, Kerry would defeat Ric Flair to win the NWA world title for the first and only time. He would lose the title just 18 days later back to Flair in Yokosuka, Japan. His reign would be among the shortest in the history of the championship. One reason for his short reign is his substance abuse issues; something that would follow him for the remainder of his life.

In June 1986, Kerry was involved in a motorcycle accident. He would suffer a dislocated hip and injured right leg. The injury was so bad, doctors were forced to amputate his right foot; according to his brother Kevin, this was due to Kerry walking on it right after surgery. Kerry would wrestle with a prosthetic in his right leg for the remainder of his life, something many wrestlers and fans did not know about. In the dying days of WCCW, he feuded with Jerry Lawler over who would be the undisputed WCWA/AWA champion. The championships were unified at Superclash III. Prior to the match, Kerry cut his arm. During the match, Kerry got a cut on his head. When he had Lawler in the famous Von Erich Clawhold, the referee saw the blood on Kerry's head and stopped the bout. Thought to have won the bout by submission, Kerry instead lost the bout due to excessive blood loss, awarding the victory to Jerry Lawler.

After wrestling for a year under the USWA banner following their acquisition of World Class, Kerry left for the WWF. He debuted as "The Texas Tornado" in July 1990 on Saturday Night's Main Event, defeating Buddy Rose, Kerry's opponent in his professional debut. A month later, Kerry, subbing for an injured Brutus Beefcake, won the WWF Intercontinental Championship at Summerslam from Mr. Perfect. He would lose the title back to Mr. Perfect by the end of the year. Kerry would have moderate success over the next year, but would never reach championship status again in the WWF. In the 1992 Royal Rumble, Kerry's last PPV appearance, he would be eliminated by the eventual winner Ric Flair, the man he defeated for the NWA world title eight years earlier. Kerry would serve as a "jobber to the stars" for the remainder of his WWF run, leaving in August 1992.

Kerry's last championship would come for Texas-based independent United States Wrestling Federation in the fall on 1992. His final match came for the Global Wrestling Federation where he and one-time arch rival Chris Adams lost to Johnny Mantell and Black Bart via disqualification at the Sportatorium, a building he and his family made famous.

After Kerry's foot was amputated, he would develop a drug abuse problem. The problem would play a part in driving a wedge between he and his wife Catherine. In February 1992, just five days after his  32nd birthday, Kerry was arrested for falsifying drug prescriptions. Two months later, Kerry and Catherine divorced. In October, two months after he leaves the WWF, he pleads no contest to six felony counts of prescription forgery. He's sentenced to ten years probation and fined $6,000. In the new year, Kerry is arrested on cocaine possession charges. As he was on probation, Kerry was looking at a long jail sentence. On the morning of his arraignment, Kerry drove to the family ranch, took a .44 caliber Magnum to his heart, and pulled the trigger. Tragedy unfortunately was nothing new for the Von Erichs; he would be the third Von Erich brother to commit suicide (Michael overdosed in 1987; Chris shot himself in 1991). Including David's death in 1984, four of the five Von Erich brothers had died, leaving Kevin as the only survivor. At the time of his death, he left behind a widow, Catherine, and two children, Hollie and Lacey (who would briefly have a wrestling career of her own).

In 2009, the Von Erich family would be (mostly posthumously) inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

20 years ago today, Eddie Gilbert died of a heart attack in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. He was just 33. Born Thomas Edward "Eddie" Gilbert, Jr, on August 14, 1961 in Lexington, Tennessee, Gilbert always had a love for wrestling. He began his career in 1979 as Tommy Gilbert Jr. in honor of his father. He would make up booking sheets and matches like his idol Jerry Lawler while Gilbert was in school. He had a cup of coffee in the WWF in the early 1980s, but a serious car accident derailed his push in 1983. He would return to the company with the inspiration of then-WWF Champion Bob Backlund.

After leaving the WWF in 1984, he would wrestle for Mid-South and CWA Wrestling as Eddie Gilbert. Gilbert and Tommy Rich as "Fargo's Fabulous Ones" would win the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship. After splitting up, the duo had a brief but intense feud before Gilbert left for the Universal Wrestling Federation in 1986, where Gilbert arguably had his greatest successes. "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert, he formed Hot Stuff International, Inc., which included a young Sting, Rick Steiner, Ultimate Warrior, Dick Murdoch, and Missy Hyatt all before they were big names. In fact, Gilbert married Missy in 1988.

As a booker, Gilbert was the brains behind the infamous "Battle of New Orleans" in 1987, a post-match brawl that would spill into the stands and involve everything from trash cans and tables to popcorn machines and beer kegs.  Gilbert won best booker for Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 1988. He would remain with UWF until Jim Crockett Promotions bought UWF in 1989.

During his brief time with JCP, he would feud with the Varsity Club and the Horsemen while teaming with Rick Steiner, Ricky Steamboat, and Lex Luger. After leaving WCW, he divorced Missy and returned to the independent circuit, most notably the USWA where he feuded with his idol Jerry Lawler and in the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, a precursor to ECW. He also briefly married Madusa in 1990. He and Doug Gilbert also worked for the Global Wrestling Federation, but left in 1992 as their North American Heavyweight Champion due to a contract dispute.

His final wrestling and booking days came in 1995 for Puerto Rico's World Wrestling Council. Gilbert is also credited with pioneering the wrestling shoot video when he sat down with Bob Barnett after leaving ECW in 1993. The video, Looking for Mr. Gilbert, is highly sought after among wrestling collectors.

Gilbert died of a heart attack in his apartment on February 18, 1995. Eddie's father Tommy stated that injures he had suffered in a serious auto accident in 1993 could have been a factor. Eddie's addiction to painkillers following the accident may have played a role in his death. For a few years following Eddie's death, The Eddie Gilbert Memorial Brawl would be held in the Philadelphia area promoted primarily by NWA New Jersey and promoter Dennis Coraluzzo.

19 years ago today in Norfolk, Virginia, Johnny B. Badd defeated Lex Luger to win the WCW World Television Championship just one night after Badd lost the title to Luger.

19 years ago today, WWF presented In Your House 6: Rage in the Cage from the Louisville Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky. About 5,500 were in attendance, with 238,000 homes watching on PPV.

  • In a Free For All Match, Jake Roberts defeated Tatanka.
  • Razor Ramon defeated The 1-2-3 Kid in a "crybaby" match. With the loss, The 1-2-3 Kid was forced to don a baby's outfit.
  • Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Duke Droese.
  • Yokozuna defeated The British Bulldog.
  • Shawn Michaels defeated Owen Hart to become the #1 contender for the WWF Championship.
  • Bret Hart defeated Diesel in a Steel Cage match to retain the WWF Championship.
  • In a post-show dark match, The Godwinns (Henry O. Godwinn & Phineas I. Godwinn) defeated The Body Donnas (Skip & Zip).
  • In a post-show dark match, Ahmed Johnson defeated Isaac Yankem.
  • In a post-show dark match, The Undertaker defeated Goldust by countout in a WWF Intercontinental Championship match.
9 years ago today at a WWE house show in Long Island, New York, Paul Heyman announced that there would be a second ECW One Night Stand that summer. The 2006 One Night Stand would serve as a relaunch of ECW.

8 years ago today, WWE presented No Way Out from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. About 14,000 were in attendance, with 218,000 homes watching on PPV.

  • In a dark match, Rob Van Dam defeated Shelton Benjamin.
  • Chris Benoit, Jeff Hardy & Matt Hardy defeated Joey Mercury, Johnny Nitro & Montel Vontavious Porter.
  • Chavo Guerrero defeated Gregory Helms, Daivari, Funaki, Jamie Noble, Jimmy Wang Yang, Scotty 2 Hotty , and Shannon Moore in a Cruiserweight Open Match to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
  • Finlay and Little Bastard defeated The Boogeyman and Little Boogeyman.
  • Kane defeated King Booker.
  • Paul London and Brian Kendrick defeated Deuce 'N Domino to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Mr. Kennedy defeated Bobby Lashley by disqualification in a ECW World Heavyweight Championship match.
  • John Cena and Shawn Michaels defeated Batista and The Undertaker.

7 years ago today, WWE announced Ric Flair would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He was the first active wrestler to be inducted. The "active" part didn't last long, as he was retired by Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXIV the night after his induction. Flair would be inducted again in 2012 as a member of the Four Horsemen.

4 years ago today, WWE aired the 600th episode of Smackdown. The show was taped three days earlier at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. With the airing, the show surpassed Lassie for third most shows of a weekly episodic series.

  • Edge, John Cena, John Morrison, R-Truth, Randy Orton & Rey Mysterio defeated CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Kane, King Sheamus & Wade Barrett.
  • Layla & Maryse defeated Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres.
  • The Miz defeated Kofi Kingston.
  • Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov defeated Heath Slater & Justin Gabriel by disqualification to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Edge defeated Dolph Ziggler to win the World Heavyweight Championship. The title was vacated when Edge used the banned spear the previous week in a match. Returning general manager Teddy Long restored the move and ordered Ziggler to defend the title just minutes after he had been awarded the belt.

2 years ago today, WWE announces that Wrestlemania XXX would be held in New Orleans on April 6, 2014.

2 years ago today on RAW from Lafayette, Louisiana, The Rock unveils the new WWE Championship belt. The new title belt (which was partially designed by Orange County Choppers of American Chopper fame)  featured a large cut-out of the scratch WWE logo (encrusted with diamonds) inside a large irregular heptagonal plate. The word "CHAMPION" appeared underneath the logo in large letters. On each side was a divider bar and a large plate. By default (mainly when the title was vacant), the side plates consisted of a red globe with a WWE logo underneath a crown. The reigning champions all had their logos onto the side plates as a similarity of the name plate feature. The design would be tweaked slightly the next year with the WWE Network logo and the words "WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION" in small print under the logo. The new belt replaced the "Spinner" belt WWE used since 2005.

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1 year ago today, Nelson Frazier, Jr., also known as Mabel, Viscera, and Big Daddy V, died of a heart attack. He was just 43. Born Valentine's Day 1971 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Frazier made his professional wrestling debut as Nelson Knight, one half of the Harlem Knights with his storyline brother Bobby (no relation to the famed basketball coach of the same name obviously; real name Robert Horne). They wrestled for USWA and the Pro Wrestling Federation before signing with the WWF in 1993.

The storyline brothers were given a new gimmick when they came to the WWF: Nelson became Mabel, Bobby became Mo, and combined with rapping manager Oscar, the trio became Men on a Mission, three African-American men looking to make a positive change in inner-city neighborhoods. The group had moderate success, winning the WWF Tag Team Championship in April 1994 in London. They'd lose the titles just two days later to the Quebecers, the team they beat for the titles.

The group broke up in 1995 after losing a match to the Smoking Gunns for the tag titles when both Mabel and Mo attacked Oscar. Mabel would adopt a thug-like persona and would get a monster (no pun intended) push, winning the King of the Ring tournament. Following the win, Mabel became King Mabel, with Mo becoming Sir Mo. Mabel even had his own championship belt created for him, but the belt was never seen on WWF television. Mabel would be the top heel, but the WWF decided to go with British Bulldog as their top heel just days before the event. A stable involving Bulldog, Mabel, Mo, and Jim Cornette would never come to pass. The Summerslam bout with Diesel nearly resulted in his firing when Mabel performed a sitdown splash on Diesel, hindering his movement for the remainder of the bout. Diesel, aka Kevin Nash, would ultimately talk Vince out of firing him, but he would be deemphasized for the remainder of his time in the WWF.

Frazier's history of injuring wrestlers would be a breaking point for Vince when he injured Undertaker's orbital bone and knocked him out for two months. Mabel would lose to Undertaker in December in a casket match at In Your House 5: Season's Beatings, then again on WWF Superstars the next month. The same month, he was defeated in eight seconds by Diesel and eliminated third in the 1996 Royal Rumble match. Both he and Horne were fired following the event.

He would spend the next three years on the independent circuit, primarily in Tennessee-based United States Wrestling Association, which would be rebranded twice while he was there (first to Memphis Championship Wrestling, then to Memphis Wrestling). He also was briefly WWC Universal Heavyweight Champion, feuding with Carlos Colon. Frazier also made one-night only appearances in 1998 for the WWF and ECW.

He returned full-time to the WWF in 1999, first as Mabel during the preshow for the Royal Rumble PPV, then was kidnapped by the Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness. He was introduced the next night as Viscera, the group's enforcer. When the group broke up that summer, he floated around the low and midcard ranks, primarily teaming with Mideon and competing in the hardcore division. He was briefly WWF Hardcore Champion at Wrestlemania 2000, but Frazier would be released again that summer. He would spend the next four years on the independent circuit, save for two appearances for TNA in 2003.

Frazier began a third run with the company in 2004, attacking former Ministry of Darkness leader The Undertaker with Gangrel and one-time Acolyte John "Bradshaw" Layfield. After two weeks on Smackdown, Frazier was moved to RAW. His first major appearance on the show in the brand extension era came in April 2005 when he aligned with Trish Stratus in her feud with Lita and Kane. Viscera's failed attempt to seduce Trish would accidentally on purpose give birth to Frazier's new gimmick: Viscera, the world's largest love machine.

Frazier would make lewd gestures and wear pajamas to the ring. He would attempt to seduce ring announcer Lilian Garcia for a few weeks. Eventually it worked, and the two were about to be storyline engaged, but Lilian would be left behind when The Godfather arrived with his band of "hos". The two attempted a reconciliation the next year, but Viscera was attacked by Umaga. A few weeks later, Lilian was legitimately injured when Charlie Haas knocked Lilian off the ring apron and sprained her wrist. The injury would be written into storyline, with the two fighting over Garcia. After Lilian decided she just wanted to be friends, Viscera "accidentally on purpose" Samoan dropped Lilian. After feigning it was an accident, both men laughed about it, turning Viscera heel. The two teamed briefly before Haas reformed The World's Greatest Tag Team with Shelton Benjamin.

Viscera would be sent to ECW in June 2007 and would soon be repackaged as Big Daddy V, the enforcer for Matt Striker. He would feud with The Boogeyman, Tommy Dreamer, CM Punk, and Kane before being phased out following Wrestlemania XXIV. He would be sent to Smackdown in the 2008 Supplemental Draft, but would never wrestle for the brand; Frazier was released for a third time that August.

Frazier would spend the remainder of his wrestling days on the independent and international circuit, competing for promotions including Juggalo Championship Wrestling, NWA, Pro Wrestling Extreme, Inoki Genome Federation, Family Wrestling Entertainment,  Nu-Wrestling Evolution, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and World Wrestling League in Mexico. Frazier's final bout came in October 2013, a win over Rene Dupree for Qatar Pro Wrestling.

Frazier died of a heart attack just four days after his 43rd birthday. His death was first reported by his agent Eric Simms. Frazier was cremated, with his ashes sent in pendants for his loved ones. 500 were sent in all.

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