35 years ago today in New York City, WWF Champion Bob Backlund defeated NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race by disqualification. No championships changed hands. NOTE: There is no audio with the above video. However, there is video of the match with audio, which you can watch here for $1.99, or get it as part of The Best of WWE in Madison Square Garden DVD.
31 years ago today in New York City, Big John Studd defeated WWF Champion Hulk Hogan by countout.Of note, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan made his WWF debut as a manager for Studd, who actually wasn't supposed to be Hogan's opponent. That would be Jesse "The Body" Ventura. Blood clots in his lungs prevented Ventura from competing that night. Those same blood clots would soon force him away from the ring for good.
19 years ago today, WWF presented In Your House 10: Mind Games (WWE Network link) from the Core States Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. About 15,000 were in attendance, with about 162,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up 40,000 from In Your House IX: International Incident, and about the same as In Your House 3: Triple Header held in September 1995 (though some estimates have IYH 3 as high as 220,000 buys). The show saw the professional wrestling debut of Mark Henry, just weeks removed from participating in the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
- In a preshow Free for All match, Savio Vega defeated Marty Jannetty.
- Savio Vega defeated Justin Bradshaw in a Caribbean Strap Match.
- Jose Lothario defeated Jim Cornette.
- Owen Hart & The British Bulldog defeated The Smoking Gunns (Bart & Billy Gunn) to win the WWF World Tag Team Championship.
- Mark Henry defeated Jerry Lawler.
- The Undertaker defeated Goldust in a Curtain Call Match.
- Shawn Michaels defeated Mankind by disqualification to retain the WWF Championship.
18 years ago today, WWF presented RAW is WAR (WWE Network link) from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Despite taping most of the first two years of the show from New York City, this was the WWF's signature show's debut in the Garden. It's highlighted by two of RAW's greatest moments: the WWF debut of Cactus Jack and Stone Cold Steve Austin stunning Vince McMahon, planting the seed for the historic Austin-McMahon feud. Despite the blockbuster show, it was still trounced by Nitro in the ratings by more than a full point.
- Ahmed Johnson defeated Rocky Maivia in a WWF Intercontinental Championship tournament quarterfinal match.
- The Legion of Doom (Road Warrior Animal & Road Warrior Hawk) defeated The Nation of Domination (Faarooq & Kama Mustafa) by disqualification.
- Owen Hart defeated Brian Pillman via disqualification in a WWF Intercontinental Championship tournament semifinal match.
- Cactus Jack defeated Triple H in a street fight.
- Bret Hart defeated Goldust.
18 years ago, WCW presented Monday Nitro (WWE Network link) from Salt Lake City, Utah. While there is a title change on the show (Disco Inferno defeating Alex Wright to win the WCW World Television Championship), it's noted for the debut of Bill Goldberg, a former football player who played for the Georgia Bulldogs and the Atlanta Falcons. He defeated Hugh Morrus in his debut match, the first of 173 consecutive wins spanning 15 months.
15 years ago today in his hometown of Amarillo, Texas, Terry Funk defeated Lance Storm to win the WCW United States Championship. Funk last won the title in 1975. Terry would lose the title the next night back to Storm.
13 years ago today, WWE presented Unforgiven (WWE Network link) from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. About 16,000 were in attendance, with 300,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 350,000 for Unforgiven 2001. The show was the first to feature two world title matches since No Mercy the previous October.
- In a preshow Sunday Night Heat match, Rey Mysterio defeated Chavo Guerrero.
- Kane, Goldust, Booker T & Bubba Ray Dudley defeated The Un-Americans (Lance Storm, Christian, William Regal & Test).
- Chris Jericho defeated Ric Flair to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
- Eddie Guerrero defeated Edge.
- 3-Minute Warning (Rosey & Jamal) defeated Billy and Chuck (Billy Gunn & Chuck Palumbo).
- Triple H defeated Rob Van Dam to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
- Trish Stratus defeated Molly Holly to win the WWE Women's Championship.
- Chris Benoit defeated Kurt Angle.
- Brock Lesnar fought The Undertaker to a double disqualification for the WWE Championship.
11 years ago, Raymond Traylor, Jr., best known to wrestling fans as the Big Boss Man, was found dead in his home in Dallas, Georgia. He was just 41.
Born May 2, 1963 in Dallas, Texas, Traylor got into the business in 1985 after working as a prison guard in Marietta, Georgia. He began working under Jim Crockett Promotions as enhancement talent, but after head booker Dusty Rhodes saw potential in Traylor, he was pulled from television and repackaged as Big Bubba Rogers, a silent but violent bodyguard for Jim Cornette. He engaged in a heated feud with Dusty Rhodes in a series of Bunkhouse Stampede battle royals. In 1987, Traylor as Rogers won the Universal Wrestling Federation championship from One Man Gang, who was leaving for the WWF.
About a year later, Traylor would join OMG in the WWF under his most famous gimmick, prison guard Big Boss Man. Post-match, as a heel, he would handcuff his opponents to a ring rope and beat them with a nightstick. Bossman would soon engage in a heated feud with Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage as one-half of the Twin Towers (with Akeem-aka One Man Gang). The feud led to the breakup of the Mega-Powers and their clash at Wrestlemania V. The Towers would challenge unsuccessfully challenge Demolition for the tag titles for most of the latter half of 1989, but in singles, Bossman feuded with Hulk Hogan, leading to a steel cage match at Saturday Night's Main Event where Hogan suplexed Traylor from the top of the cage.
Bossman turned face after refusing to return the Million Dollar Belt to Ted Dibiase. He would feud with former Twin Tower partner Akeem and squash him in under two minutes atWrestlemania VI. Bossman feuded with the Heenan Family for the early part of 1991, then with The Mountie in the summer, defeating him at Summerslam where the loser would have to spend a night in jail. Bossman's last major feud in his first WWF run came against Nailz in 1992, where Bossman was victorious in a Nightstick on a Pole match. Bossman left the WWF just before Wrestlemania IX (though, in an interesting bit of trivia, is in the music video promoting the event).
Traylor had a brief stint in All Japan Pro Wrestling before returning to WCW in 1993. Debuting as The Boss, he defeated Rick Rude in a non-title match, but failed to take the International Championship from Rude at Starrcade. WCW was forced to change Traylor's ring name, with the WWF legal department deeming it too close to the WWF character. Traylor spent most of 1994 as The Guardian Angel feuding with Big Van Vader, then turned heel and became Big Bubba Rogers in 1995. He feuded with Sting as a part of the Dungeon of Doom, then joined the nWo. A loophole got him kicked out of the group, and he turned face again in 1997, wrestling under his real name and was managed briefly by old rival Ted Dibiase.
Traylor returned to the WWF in 1998 under the Big Bossman gimmick, but slightly tweaked; this time as a personal security officer/mercenary. He would be a key piece of the Corporation stable and feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation X, and The Undertaker (most notably, the two collided at Wrestlemania XV, where after he was defeated by Undertaker, he was hung from inside the Hell in a Cell cage). Bossman spent the latter half of 1999 feuding with Al Snow over the Hardcore Championship and the Big Show over the WWF Championship. Bossman was one of just three men to last 20 minutes in the 2000 Royal Rumble match before being eliminated by the eventual winner The Rock. He would briefly team with Bull Buchanan, even scoring wins on consecutive PPVs, before splitting in early June following a loss to the Hardy Boyz. Bossman spent about a year on the sidelines following knee surgery before returning in late 2001 as an enforcer for Booker T. His last WWF bout came in 2002, losing to Tommy Dreamer.
Traylor became a trainer for WWF farm promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling, but was released in 2003. Traylor had one last stint in Japan, competing for the IWA-Japan heavyweight championship, losing to Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the final. Traylor, who owned a storage company, ran for Commision Chairman in Paulding County, Georgia, but lost in July 2004. Traylor died of a heart attack while his sister was visiting him. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife and two daughters.
4 years ago today, TNA announces that they had signed former WWE Womens and Divas Champion Mickie James. She would make her debut for the company two weeks later.
4 years ago today, Jorge Gonzalez, best known as El Gigante in WCW and Giant Gonzales in the WWF, died due to complications of diabetes in his hometown of San Martin, Argentina. He was 44.
Born January 31, 1966 in El Colorado, Argentina, Gonzalez suffered from Gigantism, standing 6'4" by just the age of 14. Standing 7'2" at age 16, he was the tallest Argentine basketball player in history, making the Argetine national team in 1985 and 1988. His showing at the Tournament of the Americas attracted scouts of the Atlanta Hawks, and would be drafted by the team in the third round in 1988.
A serious knee injury ended his basketball career, but Hawks owner Ted Turner took a liking to Gonzalez. It just so happened that Turner also owned World Championship Wrestling, so Gonzalez was offered a wrestling gig. In May 1990, after a year of training, Gonzalez made his wrestling debut with El Gigante. Though his wrestling ability left a lot to be desired, he was prominently featured: he was a part of WCW's infamous Chamber of Horrors match, had a on-screen date with Missy Hyatt, and was one of Ric Flair's last feuds before he left for the WWF. He also wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling as part of some cross promotional events.
Gonzalez would sign with the WWF in 1993 and debut at that year's Royal Rumble as The Giant Gonzales, a monster who wrestled in a full body suit with airbrushed muscles and bushy hair. Billed as eight feet tall, he crossed paths with the Undertaker for most of the year before being finally defeated at Summerslam. Gonzalez turned face, but did not last long afterwards; his contract expired in early October and was not renewed.
His time in the WWF did get him a few roles on TV: he appeared in a 1993 episode of Baywatch, had roles on Thunder in Paradise, and appeared in the made-for-TV movie Hercules in the Underworld, a prequel to the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys series. Gonzalez would wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling and WAR (Wrestle and Romance) before retiring in December 1995. Post-retirement, he lived on a ranch in his native Argentina, but his declining health confined him to a wheelchair in his final days. Gonzalez did not marry and did not have any children.
It's a happy 42nd birthday for Robert Malcolm Sapp, or Bob Sapp for short. Before he got into wrestling, he played football. After winning the Morris Trophy for outstanding lineman play, he was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He ended up with the Minnesota Vikings, where he would play just one game in two seasons after being suspended for most of 1997 due to alleged steroid use.
Reportedly living in poverty, Sapp turned to pro wrestling. After initially competing for NWA Wildside, he was in WCW developmental in 2001 shortly before the company was bought out. In 2002, he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling while dabbling in mixed martial arts. He became one of the faces of Pride due to his size, strength, and charisma. He was soon snatched up by kickboxing promotion K-1, where he would experience some of his greatest success, most notably in 2005 where he won the K-1 Japan Grand Prix, qualifying him for the World GP. His loss to Choi Hong-Man at the event exposed Sapp; he would win just once more in kickboxing bouts over the next eight years, last losing via TKO to Youske Nishijima in 2013. His MMA career didn't fare much better; After winning on K-1's New Year's Eve show in 2007, he would go 2-16 over his next 18 fights, including losing twelve fights in a row from March 2011 to August 2013.
Pro wrestling wise, he made history in March 2004, becoming the first and only African-American to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship when he defeated Kensuke Sasaki. The title reign came at the height of the Inoki-ism era in New Japan, as Sapp was forced to vacate the title after losing a K-1 bout to Kazuyuki Fujita.
Sapp, known as "The Beast" for his 6'5", 350 pound frame, appeared in numerous commercials and television programs and movies in Japan and the United States, including Elektra and the remake of The Longest Yard in 2005, the 2011 version of Conan the Barbarian, and in his own movie, Bob Sapp: Sapp Time! The Movie in 2003.
Happy 88th birthday to Thomas Charles Lasorda, or Tommy Lasorda for short. Best known for his stint as the longtime manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Baseball Hall of Fame manager has a small but significant wrestling connection: he was one of the ring announcers for the much-maligned Wrestlemania 2 in 1986.