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This Day in Wrestling History (Oct. 2): John Cena Vacates The WWE Championship

this day in wrestling history

23 years ago today, Eastern Championship Wrestling presented NWA Bloodfest Part 2.

In a featured bout, Sabu defeated Shane Douglas to win NWA-ECW Heavyweight Championship. In the show's main event, Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge and Flyboy Rocco Rock) defeated Ian & Axl Rotten and Badd Company (Paul Diamond & Pat Tanaka) in a three-team steel cage match.

Also on this show, Tommy Dreamer makes his ECW debut in a loss to the Tazmaniac.

17 years ago today, Psicosis is awarded the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Lenny Lane, the champion at the time, was pulled from WCW programming by Turner management over the controversially gay character.

17 years ago today, WWF presented the UK exclusive Rebellion (WWE Network link) from the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England.

Of note, this is the last WWF event Vince Russo booked. He remained in the States finalizing his deal to leave for WCW the weekend of the show. The event was made available for US audiences on VHS in December.

  • In a preshow dark match, Christian defeated Crash Holly.
  • Jeff Jarrett defeated D'Lo Brown to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
  • The Godfather defeated Gangrel.
  • Val Venis defeated Mark Henry.
  • Ivory defeated Luna Vachon, Tori, and Jacqueline in a four corners match to retain the WWF Women's Championship.
  • Chris Jericho defeated Road Dogg.
  • Chyna defeated Jeff Jarrett.
  • Kane defeated The Big Show in a no disqualification match.
  • The British Bulldog defeated X-Pac.
  • Edge and Christian defeated The Acolytes (Faarooq and Bradshaw) and The Hollys (Hardcore & Crash) in a triangle match.
  • Triple H defeated The Rock in a steel cage match to retain the WWF Championship.

16 years ago today on Nitro from San Francisco, California (WWE Network link), Booker T defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the vacated WCW World Heavyweight Championship in a "San Francisco 49ers" match.

The title was won the previous week by Vince Russo against Booker in a cage match, but Russo vacated the title at the beginning of the show. The match is immortalized in the Wrestlecrap Hall of Fame. And this GIF.

10 years ago today on RAW from Topeka, Kansas (WWE Network link), Jeff Hardy defeated Johnny Nitro to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

9 years ago today, John Cena is diagnosed with a torn right pectoral muscle by Dr. James Andrews. The tear occurred during a botched hiptoss in a match with Mr. Kennedy the previous night.

The injury ends Cena's 380-day run as WWE champion, at the time the longest WWE Championship run of the modern era and the sixth longest in company history. Though the timetable for his return was an estimated six to eight months, he returned about four months later and won the 2008 Royal Rumble match.

5 years ago today, WWE presented Hell in a Cell (WWE Network link) from the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana. 9,400 were in attendance, with 182,000 homes watching on PPV, down from 210,000 the previous year.

The show featured, surprisingly, the first three-way Hell in a Cell match in company history.

  • In a preshow dark match, Daniel Bryan defeated JTG by submission.
  • Sheamus defeated Christian.
  • Sin Cara Azul defeated Sin Cara Negro.
  • Air Boom (Evan Bourne & Kofi Kingston) defeated Jack Swagger & Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Mark Henry defeated Randy Orton in a Hell in a Cell match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
  • Cody Rhodes defeated John Morrison to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
  • Beth Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly to win the WWE Divas Championship
  • Alberto Del Rio defeated CM Punk and John Cena in a triple threat Hell in a Cell match to win the WWE Championship.

5 years ago today at SHIMMER Volume 44 from Berwyn, Illinois, Cheerleader Melissa defeated Madison Eagles to win the SHIMMER championship.

The win ended Madison Eagles' 539-day run as champion. Melissa became just the fourth SHIMMER champion in the four-year history of the promotion.

On the same show, the Knight Dynasty EXPLODES and Brittani Knight, today known as WWE diva Paige, defeated her mother Saraya in a no disqualification match.

4 years ago, WWE taped the first episode of Main Event for Ion Television from the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In the featured bout, WWE Champion CM Punk defeated World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus in a champion versus champion non-title match.

It’s a happy 47th birthday today to puroresu legend Jun Akiyama.

A multi-sport athlete in his younger days, he concentrated on wrestling after high school, eventually joining an amateur wrestling team. The team produced other outstanding pro wrestlers, including Riki Choshu, Hiroshi Hase, and Manabu Nakanishi.

His success in the amateur ranks caught the eye of All Japan Pro Wrestling scouts, and he would join the company in September 1992. By the next year, he became a tag team specialist, often teaming with Takao Omori. His biggest success in the tag ranks came with Mitsuhara Misawa, winning the All Japan tag titles in 1996 and reaching the finals of the World's Strongest Tag Determination League in 1996 and 1997, losing both years to the Holy Demon Army (Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada).

In 1998, Akiyama formed Burning with his first ever professional opponent, Kenta Kobashi. The duo would win the tag titles twice and win the World's Strongest Tag Determination League in 1998 and 1999.

In 2000, Akiyama was a part of the mass exodus of All Japan, joining Pro Wrestling Noah. He quickly established himself as a major player for the new company, winning both falls in NOAH's first main event, choking out Kenta Kobashi in the second show, and becoming the second GHC heavyweight champion in the summer of 2001. Eventually, he would transition back to the tag circuit, winning the GHC tag titles with Akitoshi Saito.

In 2004, he created the GHC Openweight Hardcore Championship; this in combination with exhibiting odd behavior made him a main eventer once again, eventually winning the GHC heavyweight title in January 2006. Akiyama would win it a third time in 2009, but was forced to vacate the title due to injury. He would wrestle sporadically for about the next year or so while struggling with back injuries and dealing with post-traumatic stress syndrome following the death of Mitsuhara Misawa.

While competing for Pro Wrestling Noah, in October 2011, Akiyama finally won the one prize that eluded him, the All Japan Triple Crown Championship. Early the next year, he and Saito would add another GHC tag team title to their trophy case. Akiyama would hold the All Japan Triple Crown for about ten months before losing it in under five minutes to Masakatsu Funaki in August 2012. It would be his last bout of significance for Noah, as he decided to leave the company when his contract expired. His decision was made official in late December, but not before working one last match as "Mr. Christmas", defeating Atsushi Aoki. Akiyama would return to the company for Kenta Kobashi's retirement bout in May 2013.

In 2013, Akiyama along with Aoki, Go Shiozaki, Kotaro Suzuki, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru all rejoined All Japan and reformed Burning. And it didn't take long for them to dominate. In March, Akiyama and Shiozaki won the All Japan tag titles. Akiyama won that summer's Champion Carnival, earning him an All Japan Triple Crown Championship match, but would lose the title bout to Suwama. The group would all sign exclusive deals to All Japan after Keiji Mutoh led a second mass exodus of the roster in July. But the good times would end there. After losing the tag titles to Joe Doering and Suwama, Aoki, Shiozaki, and Suzuki all left the stable.

In July 2014, Akiyama became the president of All Japan Pro Wrestling. He's also the company's representative director and co-head booker. And he's still wrestling today. Akiyama and Takao Omori won the All Japan World Tag Team Championship twice in 2014, and last year, Akiyama claimed his second All Japan Triple Crown Championship from Akebono. Last month, Akiyama appeared for Wrestle-1 (the promotion started by Keiji Mutoh in the wake of the All Japan exodus of 2013), teaming with Naoya Nomura and Yuma Aoyagi to defeat Mutoh, Koji Doi, and Kumagoro.

Akiyama is credited with innovating the Blue Thunder Driver and a variation of the wrist-clutch exploder suplex. He has participated in seven five-star rated bouts by Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and won the publication's Match of the Year award in 1996 and 2004, and was ranked one of the world's top ten wrestlers by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2012.

Today would have been the 50th birthday of Rodney Agatupu Anoa'I, best known to wrestling fans as Yokozuna.

Born in San Francisco, Anoa'I grew up in the famed wrestling family and was trained by his uncles, the Wild Samoans. After wrestling in Japan and Mexico as the Great Kokina, he entered the AWA as Samoan superstar Kokina Maximus managed by Sheik Adnan El Kassey. Anoa'I is in AWA lore for breaking the leg and ending the career of Greg Gagne.

On Halloween 1992, Anoa'I debuted in the WWF as Japanese sumo wrestler Yokozuna under the management of Harry Fujiwara (aka Mr. Fuji). As Yokozuna, he was pushed as a monster heel in every sense of the word. At Survivor Series, he easily defeated Virgil. Two months later he defeated Koko B. Ware on the first Monday Night RAW. He eliminated a match-high seven competitors, last eliminating Randy Savage to win the 1993 Royal Rumble match, and with it, a WWF Championship match at Wrestlemania IX. Yokozuna in the first few months was rarely knocked off his feet; only Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Savage were able to do so in his first six months in the company.

At Wrestlemania IX, Yokozuna defeated Bret Hart to win the WWF Championship, only to lose the title just two minutes later to Hulk Hogan. Hogan would not defend the title in his two and a half months as champion, losing it back to Yokozuna at King of the Ring (at this point he weighed about 570 lbs.; he entered the WWF at 505 lbs.) with, ironically, a leg drop. With Yokozuna and Fuji claiming they ended Hulkamania (in reality, Hogan had indeed left the company to pursue an acting career), they issued a Bodyslam Challenge on the Fourth of July. After dozens of amateur and professional athletes tried unsuccessfully, Lex Luger, arriving via helicopter, did so. This established Luger as the next man up for Yokozuna's title. Luger would go on to defeat Yokozuna at Summerslam, albeit by countout. Despite it being Luger's one and only shot at the title, the two would feud for most of the remainder of the year.

Yokozuna feuded with the Undertaker during the holiday season and into 1994, culminating in a casket match at the Royal Rumble event. With the help of a dozen competitors and a broken urn, Yokozuna defeated Undertaker. At the same show, Bret Hart and Lex Luger co-won the Royal Rumble match, establishing both men as challengers to the title at Wrestlemania X. While Luger got disqualified in his title bout with Yokozuna, Bret Hart defeated the behemoth to win the WWF Championship. With Yokozuna's championship days behind him, he tagged with Crush for a few months before finishing his feud with Undertaker; this time with the Deadman defeating Yokozuna in a casket match.

Yokozuna wrestled sporadically until Wrestlemania XI when he was revealed as the surprise tag team partner of Owen Hart. Together, they knocked off the Smoking Gunns to win the WWF Tag Team Championship. They would hold the titles until In Your House 3: Tripleheader in September when Shawn Michaels and Diesel defeated them for the titles-sort of (Davey Boy Smith subbed for Owen Hart in the match, yet it was Owen who got pinned). Michaels and Diesel were forced to return the belts the next night back to Owen and Yokozuna, but they would lose them by the end of the hour to the Smoking Gunns.

While Yokozuna's weight increased, his in-ring success decreased. By 1996, he ballooned to 650 pounds and he was becoming an increasing liability. Jim Cornette tried to broker peace between Yokozuna and newcomer Vader, but it did not work out; Yokozuna turned face, retaining his original manager Mr. Fuji (waving an American flag as opposed to a Japanese flag in his previous three years in the company) and speaking English. The two super heavyweights feuded until shortly after Wrestlemania XII when Vader broke Yokozuna's leg (in reality, it was to give Yokozuna some time off to lose weight). Post-match, Yokozuna had to be carried off on a forklift.

Yokozuna defeated Vader at In Your House 8: Beware of Dog, but the match never aired due to a severe thunderstorm in the area. A rematch was done two nights later, this time won by Vader. Three months later in an event eerily similar to his humiliating defeat at Wrestlemania X, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Yokozuna in the Summerslam preshow. The next night, he seemingly turned heel again, facing WWF Champion Shawn Michaels in a non-title match, but lost. After appearing at Survivor Series that November, Yokozuna was taken off TV again to lose weight. Despite losing over 100 pounds, he could not be medically cleared to wrestle and was finally released in 1998.

Yokozuna's last notable appearance was in October 1999 for the infamous Heroes of Wrestling PPV event. He was set to take on King Kong Bundy in a featured bout, but an intoxicated and inebriated Jake Roberts forced a change in the match, with Yokozuna (now at 760 pounds and getting bigger in an attempt to break the world record for heaviest pro wrestler ever) teaming with Roberts to take on Bundy and Jim Neidhart, with the latter team winning.

Anoa'I died on October 23, 2000, just three weeks after his 34th birthday in Liverpool, England while on a wrestling tour in Europe. While it was first reported he died of a heart attack, the actual cause was pulmonary edema, a fluid accumulation in the air spaces of the lungs. At the time of his death, he weighed about 580 pounds, about his weight at the time of his WWF title win in 1993. Anoa'I, the only man with pinfall victories over both Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan in a WWF ring, was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his cousins the Usos in 2012.

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