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This Day in Wrestling History (July 22): McMahon Beats The Feds

21 years ago today in Uniondale, New York, Vince McMahon is acquitted on all three federal charges that he conspired to distribute steroids. From the Los Angeles Times:

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Promoter Vince McMahon, who transformed wrestling into a multimillion-dollar industry during the 1980s, was cleared Friday of charges that he fueled the sport's growth through a widespread steroid conspiracy.

A federal jury acquitted McMahon of conspiring to distribute steroids among his heavyweight charges in the World Wrestling Federation. The panel deliberated 16 hours over two days before reaching its verdict.

"I'm elated. Just like in wrestling, in the end the good guys always win," said McMahon, 48, of Stamford, Conn.

McMahon's family and friends joined wrestling fans in wild applause as the verdict was announced in a crowded courtroom.

Despite the verdict, the trial did damage the reputations of both McMahon and one of the prosecution's key witnesses--Hulk Hogan.

Hogan, appearing smaller than when he ruled the WWF at 302 pounds, took the stand July 14 before a courtroom packed with wrestling fans and autograph hounds. The blond wrestler admitted that he had injected and popped steroids for 13 years.

Hogan said McMahon never encouraged him to take steroids, although he acknowledged that they shared the drug during the 1980s.

In a interesting side note, three days after Hogan took the stand, he won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Bash at the Beach. If you have a little time to kill, I recommend reading the timeline of the McMahon steroid trial on WWF Old School.

19 years ago today on a live episode of Monday Night RAW from Seattle, Washington, WWF Champion Shawn Michaels and Intercontinental Champion Ahmed Johnson defeated the WWF Tag Team Champions The Smoking Gunns by disqualification (The Gunns retained the titles) when a man in a blue gladiator suit attacked Johnson. That man in the suit: Faarooq Assad, better known as former WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ron Simmons. The full episode is on WWE Network...right here.

18 years ago today on Nitro from Jacksonville, Florida, Ultimo Dragon defeated Lord Steven Regal to win the WCW World Television Championship.

14 years ago today, WWF presented Invasion (WWE Network link) from the Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. 17,964 were in attendance, with a staggering 775,000 homes purchasing the event on PPV. Here's some perspective on that number: Wrestlemania XIV got 730,000 buys. Wrestlemania XIX got just 560,000 buys. The 775,000 buys are the most for any non-Wrestlemania ever (a record that will likely never be broken thanks to the advent of the WWE Network and major satellite providers DirecTV and Dish discontinuing offering WWE events). However, they were unable to sustain the momentum, as they would lose more than half of their PPV audience before the angle mercifully ended four months later. The majority of the show had WWF superstars taking on a conglomerate of ECW and WCW superstars known at the time as the Coalition (later known as the Alliance), main evented by "The Inaugural Brawl", a ten-man tag team match between the two squads.

  • In a Sunday Night HEAT preshow match, Chavo Guerrero, Jr. defeated Scotty 2 Hotty.
  • Edge and Christian defeated Lance Storm and Mike Awesome.
  • Earl Hebner defeated Nick Patrick. Mick Foley was the special referee.
  • The APA (Faarooq and Bradshaw) defeated Sean O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo.
  • Billy Kidman defeated X-Pac.
  • Raven defeated William Regal.
  • Chris Kanyon, Shawn Stasiak & Hugh Morrus defeated The Show Gunns (Billy Gunn and The Big Show) & Albert.
  • Tajiri defeated Tazz.
  • Rob Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.
  • Trish Stratus and Lita defeated Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler in a bra and panties match. Mick Foley was the special referee.
  • Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) defeated Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker and Kane in the Inaugural Brawl match. Team WWF had the match in hand, but Austin stunned Angle just as he was going for the cover, costing his team the match. This would be the third time (there would be a fourth in November) time Austin turned in 2001.

13 years ago today on RAW from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rob Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy in a title for title ladder match to unify the Intercontinental and European Championships. This was Hardy's second defeat in a ladder match in three weeks, having also lost a ladder match for the Undisputed WWE Championship to the Undertaker.

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8 years ago today, WWE presented the Great American Bash (WWE Network link) from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. 13,034 were in attendance, with 229,000 homes watching on PPV, about the same number as the 2006 edition.

  • In a preshow dark match, Chuck Palumbo defeated Chris Masters.
  • Montel Vontavious Porter defeated Matt Hardy to retain the WWE United States Championship.
  • Hornswoggle defeated Chavo Guerrero, Funaki, Hornswoggle, Jamie Noble, Jimmy Wang Yang & Shannon Moore to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. The championship would be retired two months later by then-Smackdown general manager Vickie Guerrero, making Hornswoggle the last man to hold the title.
  • Carlito defeated The Sandman in a Singapore Cane on a Pole Match.
  • Candice Michelle defeated Melina to retain the WWE Women's Championship.
  • Umaga defeated Jeff Hardy to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
  • John Morrison defeated CM Punk to retain the ECW Championship.
  • Randy Orton defeated Dusty Rhodes in a Texas Bullrope Match.
  • The Great Khali defeated Batista & Kane in a triple threat match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
  • John Cena defeated Bobby Lashley to retain the WWE Championship. It's the final WWE show for Bobby Lashley. He takes time off to get the shoulder surgery he had put off since Backlash. Lashley is released the following February.

6 years ago today at an Impact taping at Universal Orlando, Mick Foley defeated Kevin Nash to win the TNA Legends Championship.

3 years ago today, five (yes, five) championships change hands in Japan.

  • In New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ten-Koji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) defeat Chaos (Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano) to win the vacant IWGP Tag Team Championship. The championship was vacated after the teams went to a no contest back on June 16.
  • Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero) defeat Jushin Liger & Tiger Mask IV to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
  • Shinsuke Nakamura defeats Hirooki Goto to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. He would hold the championship for more than 10 months before losing the title to La Sombra in a two-out-of-three falls match.
  • Over at Pro Wrestling NOAH, Magnus & Samoa Joe defeat Akitoshi Saito & Jun Akiyama to win the GHC Tag Team Championship.
  • Ricky Marvin & Super Crazy defeat Atsushi Aoki & Kotaro Suzuki to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

Happy 34th birthday to Kenny Layne, best known to wrestling fans as Kenny King. More recently known for his time in TNA where he is a two-time X Division Champion, he first broke onto the national scene as a contestant on the second season of Tough Enough. He spent five years in Ring of Honor and won the ROH world tag titles as one half of the All Night Express. Shortly after winning the titles, he controversially left for TNA. King more recently has been a member of the Beat Down Clan, but the storyline was abruptly aborted when one of the group's members, Hernandez, turned up on their programming while still under contract to Lucha Underground. King is the group's lone remaining member on their roster, but that may change soon; rumor has it he too is on his way out of TNA.

Turning 32 today is Curtis Jonathan Hussey, best known to wrestling fans as Fandango. In the wrestling business since he was 16, Hussey joined the WWE in 2006 and worked in their developmental system until late 2010. He was the winner of NXT's fourth season as Johnny Curtis, but found little success in the years that followed. In 2013, he was repackaged as ballroom dancer Fandango. He did have a flash of popularity when his theme song experienced a brief surge on iTunes charts in the United Kingdom.

Today would have been the 56th birthday of David Adkisson, aka "The Yellow Rose of Texas" David Von Erich.

Born 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.

Today would have been the 78th birthday of Yasuhiro Kojima, better known as Hiro Matsuda. Matsuda was the trainer for many future world champions including Lex Luger, Ron Simmons, Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta), Paul Orndorff, Scott Hall, and Hulk Hogan, whose leg was broken by Matsuda in his first day of training. Kojima died in November 1999 of colon cancer at age 62.

Today would have been the 92nd birthday of Mary Lillian Ellison, aka The Fabulous Moolah.

Born in Tookiedoo, South Carolina, a small town near Columbia, Ellison was the only daughter and the youngest of five children. Her mother died of cancer at age eight and lived with her paternal grandmother and worked on her cousin's cotton farm to make ends meet. Still affected by her mother's death, her father began to take her to local wrestling matches. She eventually moved back in with her father and brothers in Columbia, but married a 21-year old man at just age 14. The couple had a daughter together, but would divorce just a year later. She left her daughter with a friend and Ellison set out on a wrestling career.

Ellison broke into the wrestling business under famed women's wrestling promoter Billy Wolfe in the late 1940s. Her debut bout came in May 1949 against June Byers. Wolfe, a notorious womanizer, encouraged his talent to enter sexual relationships to guarantee more bookings. Ellison did not go along with this, but eventually wound up in a relationship herself, and through that relationship and a couple of contacts, served as a valet for Buddy Rogers and Elephant Boy. After a near-death experience (she was nearly stabbed when she kissed Elephant Boy (real name Tony Olivas, who was thought to be black, but was really Mexican) at a show in Oklahoma City), she worked for a promotion in Boston before landing in Captiol Wrestling Corporation in 1955.

The next year, Moolah defeated Judy Grable in a 13-woman battle royal to win the vacant World Women's Championship, which shared the same lineage with the NWA World Womens Championship. Initially, she was not recognized as the champion due to Billy Wolfe controlling the promotion . Following the bout, Vince McMahon Sr. gave her a new ring name: The Fabulous Moolah. June Byers challenged Moolah for the title, but was unsuccessful in taking the title from her. Moolah would hold on to the championship for the next ten years, defeating top contenders including Judy Grable and Donna Christanello, and befriending some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood, including Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Moolah would finally be recognized as the NWA Women's World Champion in 1964 following June Byers' retirement. In 1966, Moolah lost the title to Bette Boucher, but would get it back just weeks later. She lost to and regained the title from Yukiko Tomoe in 1968. Neither of these reigns are officially recognized by WWE today. On July 1, 1972, Moolah became the first woman to wrestle in Madison Square Garden (in fact, she had a hand in overturning the ban on women's wrestling in New York, even taking down football player Rosey Grier on The Mike Douglas Show). Moolah would reign as women's champion until Sue Green defeated her in the Garden in 1976. Again, Moolah regained the title a short time later. Her reign would go uninterrupted, save for a two day run by Evelyn Stevens in 1978, until 1984. (Green's and Stevens' championships are also not recognized officially by WWE.) Around this time, Moolah bought the legal rights to the NWA World's Womens Championship. She would sell the rights to Vince McMahon Jr. in 1983 and agreed to appear exclusively for the WWF, making her the de facto first WWF Womens Champion.

Moolah would be a key figure in the Rock ‘n Wrestling Connection, getting caught in the feud with singer Cyndi Lauper and manager Captain Lou Albano. Each would send a charge to act on their behalf to settle their issues. Albano chose Moolah, while Cyndi chose Wendi Richter. The July 23, 1984 bout at the Garden, broadcast live on MTV, was dubbed The Brawl to End it All. Richter won the match, ending Moolah's 28-year stranglehold on the women's championship. Wendi would lose the title the following February to Lelani Kai, who was managed by Moolah. Richter regained the title at the first Wrestlemania a few weeks later, setting up a possible rematch. The rematch in reality, was most unexpected. In November 1985, Richter was on sour terms with the WWF, and a decision was made to take the title off her. Moolah, dressed as "The Spider Lady", quickly defeated Richter in a match since dubbed "The Original Screwjob" to regain the title. Richter promptly left the WWF, while Moolah held the title (save for a six day run by Velvet McIntyre In 1986) until July 1987, when she was defeated by Sherri Martel.

She wrestled and made appearances somewhat regularly over the next few years, and in 1995, would become the first woman to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. In the late 1990s, Pat Patterson and Ellison kicked around the idea of a comeback. The comeback would prove a reality, as she and BFF Mae Young returned to the WWF in 1998. Mostly appearing in comedic roles, a 76-year old Moolah shocked the world in October 1999 when she defeated Ivory to win the WWF Womens Championship, making her the oldest champion in professional wrestling history.  Her reign was not nearly as long as the others, as she lost the title back to Ivory just eight days later. In 2003, Vince McMahon made good on his promise to give Moolah a match on her 80th birthday, and a couple months after her 80th birthday, Moolah defeated Victoria on RAW. Moolah would make sporadic appearances until Summerslam 2007, her final appearance before her death.

Ellison wrote her autobiography, The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle in 2002, and was criticized for keeping kayfabe, something that is not looked at as positively in the 21st century as it was during her prime. Ellison was often praised and criticized for her training and promoting efforts, and often chided for strong-arming her protégés into giving up possible primed positions, even accused of being a pimp for various wrestling promoters.

Ellison was married three times and had six grandchildren, five biological, one adopted. She lived with longtime friend Mae Young from 1991 to her death in 2007. She also lived with midget professional wrestler Katie Glass and Donna Christanello off and on for 40 years. In addition to being a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, Ellison is a member of the NWA Hall of Fame 2012 class, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame class of 2003, and is the winner of the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Stanley Weston Award for lifetime achievement in 1991.

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