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This Day in Wrestling History (Oct. 5): Brian Pillman Passes Away

this day in wrestling history

20 years ago today, ECW presented Ultimate Jeopardy from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • Louie Spicolli defeated Doug Furnas.
  • Mikey Whipwreck defeated JT Smith.
  • Taz defeated Johnny Smith in a submission match.
  • The Eliminators (John Kronus & Perry Saturn) defeat The Samoan Gangsta Party (Mack Daddy Kane & Sammy Silk).
  • The Gangstas (Mustafa & New Jack) versus Stevie Richards & The Blue Meanie went to a no contest for the ECW World Tag Team Championship.
  • The Gangstas (Mustafa & New Jack) defeated The Eliminators (John Kronus & Perry Saturn) to retain the ECW World Tag Team Championship.
  • Bam Bam Bigelow defeated Terry Gordy.
  • D-Von Dudley defeated Buh Buh Ray Dudley.
  • Shane Douglas and Pitbull #2 fought to a no contest for the ECW World Television Championship.
  • The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer defeated Brian Lee & Stevie Richards. Richards replaced Raven, whose ECW World Heavyweight Championship was at stake. Since Sandman got the pinfall on Richards in the match, he became the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion. The match would air on the October 8, 1996 Hardcore TV, which you can see here via WWE Network.

19 years ago today, Brian Pillman was found dead in a hotel room in Bloomington, Minnesota just hours before WWF Bad Blood is set to air. He was just 35 years old.

Born May 22, 1962 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pillman's athletic career began not in a wrestling ring, but on a football field. He played college football as a defensive tackle for the Miami of Ohio Redhawks (then Redskins) where he set the school record for tackles for loss. He roommated with John Harbaugh, current head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. Despite being a second-team All-American twice, he went undrafted by the NFL and signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent. He won the team's Ed Block Courage Award in 1984, but was cut following the season. He tried catching on for the Buffalo Bills in 1985, but was cut just before the season. He played for the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders in 1986.

Late in the year, Pillman began his wrestling career for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling. He and Stu Hart's son Bruce would form Bad Company and would win their tag team titles twice from April 1987 to July 1988. To get Pillman over as a face, Pillman had his girlfriend Trisa Hayes portray his sister so he could come to the rescue of heel wrestlers taunting her Trisa Hayes, by the way, is best known as ECW's Beulah McGillicutty.

Pillman returned to the States in 1989 and wrestled as Flyin' Brian for WCW. He was nicknamed Flyin' Brian for his innovative (for American audiences) lucha libre-style offense, much in the way Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty was doing for the WWF. Pillman would hold the United States Tag Team Championship with Tom Zenk for a few months in 1990 and would win the WCW Light Heavyweight Championship in 1991 and 1992. During that period, he feuded with Barry Windham and took on the Yellow Dog persona after leaving a Loser Leaves WCW match.

Brian turned heel in September 1992 after an injury forced Brad Armstrong to vacate the light heavyweight title. He would chase the NWA and WCW tag team titles, first with old rival Barry Windham, then "Stunning" Steve Austin as one half of the Hollywood Blonds. The duo won the titles in March 1993 from Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas, and would feud with the Four Horsemen for the spring and summer. Their brash attitudes and outright mocking of the Horsemen made the duo quite popular, but the duo would split later in the year.

After spending part of 1994 in ECW, he returned to WCW as a face, but eventually evolved into a tweener. He and old rival Arn Anderson teamed up and feuded with Ric Flair during the summer and fall of 1995. Flair would recruit Sting for their battle with Anderson and Pillman at Fall Brawl 1995, but it turned out to be a ruse: Pillman, Anderson, and Flair, along with newcomer Chris Benoit, would form a new version of the Four Horsemen.

His erratic behavior and strange look, which began to develop around this time, would be a part of his new "Loose Cannon" gimmick. In February 1996, Pillman and Kevin Sullivan fought in a strap match, where the loser would acknowledge defeat by saying they respect their opponent. The match went less than a minute before Pillman said "I respect you, booker man", outing Sullivan as a booker for WCW. Eric Bischoff fired Pillman following the event, but believed he would return to the company after some seasoning with the new gimmick. It didn't quite work out that way: Pillman left for ECW, and eventually the WWF.

After spending a couple of months wreaking havoc in ECW (and never wrestling a match), he was in a single car accident that shattered his angle and put him in a coma for a week. While recovering from his injury, Pillman signed the first guaranteed contract in WWF history in June 1996. Brian would do commentary for the company before transitioning to a wrestling role late in the year.

He would take part in one of wrestling ‘s most infamous angles, "Pillman's Got A Gun" on the November 4, 1996 RAW. Brian's old tag team partner Steve Austin looked to take out Pillman for good after damaging Pillman's ankle with a chair a few weeks earlier, but Pillman was prepared: he pointed a 9mm pistol at the intruding Austin. No shots were fired, but a few expletives definitely went off. The WWF and Pillman both had to issue apologies the next week following the event. Pillman would be a part of the last incarnation of the Hart Fountation in 1997, feuding with Austin. Pillman was in the midst of a feud with Goldust and Marlena at the time of his death.

Scheduled to wrestle Dude Love at Badd Blood: In Your House, Pillman was found dead by hotel maids in Bloomington, Minnesota at the hotel he was staying at the previous night. Despite alcohol and drugs being found in the hotel room, an autopsy revealed that it was an undetected heart condition that contributed to his death, the same condition that lead to the death of his father.

Pillman was survived by his wife Melanie, two children (one born after his death), and two stepchildren. Pillman's stepdaughter Alexis Reed was killed in an auto accident in November 2009.

19 years ago today, WWF presented Badd Blood: In Your House (WWE Network link) from the Kiel Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

Prior to the show, Vince McMahon announced the sudden passing of Brian Pillman. The show featured the first-ever Hell in a Cell match, the debut of Kane, and was the final PPV of Vince McMahon as the WWF's lead commentator. 21,151 were in attendance, with about 240,000 homes watching on PPV, though some estimates have it at around 215,000.

  • Nation of Domination (Rocky Maivia, Kama Mustafa and D'Lo Brown) defeated The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) in a handicap match.
  • Max Mini and Nova defeated Tarantula and Mosaic.
  • The Godwinns (Henry and Phineas) defeated The Headbangers (Mosh and Thrasher) to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.
  • Owen Hart defeated Faarooq to win the vacant WWF Intercontinental Championship. The title was vacated by Stone Cold Steve Austin after a neck injury forced him to vacate the title. A tournament was commissioned to crown a new champion.
  • The Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball and Skull) defeated Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Jesus Castillo, Jose Estrada, Jr. and Miguel Pérez, Jr.).
  • Bret Hart and The British Bulldog defeated Vader and The Patriot in a flag match. The match could be won by pinfall, submisison, or capturing their country's respective flag. Hart pinned Patriot to win the match.
  • Shawn Michaels defeated The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match.

17 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Uniondale, New York, Darren Drozdov was seriously injured following a botched powerbomb by D-Lo Brown. Darren would suffer two fractured disks in his neck as a result of landing on his head, an injury that initally left him a quadriplegic.

Brown attributes this to a freak occurence, saying it could have happened to anyone on any given night. The match never aired, and no video of the actual injury exists, though Drozdov being taken out on a stretcher became a part of the WWF's "Don't Try This At Home" public service announcements for years.

Following the accident, he was a contributor for WWE's website and their Internet program Byte This!. Today, Drozdov lives near his family in New Jersey and requires 24-hour care.

17 years ago today, lead WWF writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara sign with WCW.

This comes two days after Russo on behalf of the duo resigned from the WWF. The decision allegedly came down to a wanting a reduction of workload, what with WWF introducing Smackdown just over a month earlier. The story in part as written in the October 9, 1999 edition of Pro Wrestling Torch:

Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, the two scriptwriters behind the rise of WWF Raw to the top of the cable television ratings, jumped ship to rival WCW. The sudden move, initiated by Russo, blindsided Vince McMahon when he returned from the Europe PPV on Sunday night. Russo, unhappy with the workload placed upon him since the debut of Smackdown two months ago, contacted WCW last Friday. Less than 48 hours later, he was in Atlanta, Ga. inking a two–year contract to become the head booker. His job title is technically “creative director,” which in essence, according to Russo, gives him 100 percent creative control over WCW storylines and TV shows. Bill Busch, who replaced Eric Bischoff last month as the corporate head of WCW, is the only person Russo has to report to. When Russo told Ferrara on Saturday that he was negotiating with WCW, Ferrara told Russo that if he was jumping, he wanted to jump with him. WCW signed them basically as a package deal. Russo informed McMahon of his decision to leave the WWF on Sunday night via telephone. In a “Torch Talk” interview with Russo on Tuesday afternoon, Russo said he regretted having to inform McMahon by phone, but logistically it was impossible for him to see McMahon in person before the Monday morning production meeting he was scheduled to attend. McMahon had just returned from Europe and Russo had just returned from Atlanta.

The 45–minute conversation ended on a somewhat cordial note, but overall was tense and at times combative. Russo believes McMahon is bitter about his and Ferrara’s sudden departure. Russo defends the timing of his actions, citing that he had already provided complete scripts for Raw and Smackdown this week. He did not give McMahon two–weeks notice, but McMahon did not have him signed to a contract, plus given the nature of the position Russo held, McMahon assuredly wouldn’t have wanted him at any WWF events once he had agreed to join WCW.


Sources in the know say they were responsible for upwards of 75 or 80 percent of the booking of the entire company. Vince McMahon had gained such a trust in Russo that he had never been less involved in booking the WWF than in recent months. Sometimes McMahon didn’t even read Russo’s script for Raw or make changes before letting it play out on live television. The reaction within WCW to the signing of the Russo/Ferrara team is excitement from most circles...

Russo initiated contact with WCW on Friday, letting them know he wasn’t working under a contract with the WWF and he was frustrated with the working conditions. Within hours he was on a flight to Atlanta, Ga. He met with new WCW vice president Bill Busch, Busch’s boss Harvey Schiller, and president of TBS and TNT Brad Siegel over the weekend. Sunday afternoon he signed a two–year deal. Dollar figures were not released, but best guesses based on the salary structure of WCW and Turner Broadcasting peg his salary in the $200,000 to $300,000 range, likely a slight raise on what he earned in the WWF.


The primary concern about whether Russo can be as successful in WCW as he was in the WWF is that in the WWF he had the freedom to push the envelope and use adult, borderline R-rated themes. Turner television standards are much more strict than USA Network, although Russo says he can work around the current Turner standards and use a more “sophisticated” approach to getting across adult–themes in prime time.

Russo did not attend Nitro in person Monday, but he did watch the show. He said he sees a lot of room for changes, stressing the complete lack of internal logic to the current booking. He says he will make gradual changes over the next few months, probably not beginning until after Halloween Havoc. One of his early goals is to talk to Busch and Siegel about getting Nitro cut back to two–hours and Thunder cut back to one–hour. Russo has a good relationship with Kevin Nash dating back to their days in the WWF, but no history with Goldberg, Hogan, or Ric Flair. Part of Russo’s motivation for initiating the move to WCW was the lack of recognition McMahon gave him publicly. In the IPO documents, he wasn’t listed as a primary employee. In magazine interviews, McMahon never mentioned Russo’s name. As time went by, he grew frustrated. Primarily, though, the addition of Smackdown to his workload doubled his hours. He wanted to be able to spend more time with his family and McMahon didn’t seem receptive to adjusting his workload.

While some of the wrestlers’ fortunes, especially those on the undercard, improved under Russo’s booking, ratings ultimately did not; they stayed consistent with what they were doing during the spring and summer. The “Crash TV” format that made the helped the WWF’s resurgence, turned off a lot of WCW fans, who less entertainment and more wrestling on their wrestling shows.

Russo was relieved of his duties in January 2000 after suggestion former UFC fighter Tank Abbott be WCW world champion. When a booking committee led by Kevin Sullivan did worse, Russo was brought back in April. Russo would be relieved of his duties a second time in October 2000, this time sent home for good.

16 years ago today, Anibal Gonzales Hernandez, best known as Juventud Guerrera, was arrested following an incident at a hotel lobby in Australia.

He was charged with three counts of assault, disorderly conduct, obstruction, and drug possession, likely Ecstasy, which was found on him at the time of his arrest. He would plead guilty to two counts of assaulting police and was fined over $3,000. He avoided jail time because it was proven he was the sole supporter of his family. WCW sent him home following his court appearance, and was subsequently released.

15 years ago today, Vince Russo announces that he was going to retire from wrestling when his Time-Warner contract expired in two days. Russo at the time was booking for Australian promotion World Wrestling All-Stars.

In an unsurprising swerve, he did not retire; in fact, he joined TNA less than a year later after a brief stopover back in WWE. He's still very much in the business today doing a daily wrestling podcast for PodcastOne.

Steve Corino also announces he intends to retire once he lost the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He would lose the title in December and surely enough, he did not retire either.

Despite going on a "retirement tour" in 2007, Corino is still in the business today as the color analyst for Ring of Honor.

14 years ago today, ROH presented Glory By Honor from the Murphy Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • Homicide defeated Divine Storm (Chris Divine & Quiet Storm), Special K (Dixie & Izzy), and The Spanish Announce Team (Joel & Jose Maximo) in a Tag Team Scramble match.
  • The Backseat Boyz (Johnny Kashmere & Trent Acid) defeated Homicide & Steve Corino.
  • The Christopher Street Connection (Allison Danger, Buff-E & Mace) defeated Alexis Laree, Christian York, and Joey Matthews.
  • Tony Mamaluke defeated James Maritato. With the win, Mamaluke won the rights to the FBI gimmick.
  • The Amazing Red defeated Ikuto Hidaka.
  • Don Juan and Fast Eddie fought to a no contest for the ETV Television Championship.
  • Steve Corino defeated Rudy Boy Gonzales in a Texas deathmatch.
  • Low Ki defeated Samoa Joe.
  • Prince Nana defeated Elax.
  • Jay Briscoe defeated Xavier.
  • The Carnage Crew (DeVito & Loc) defeated Da Hit Squad (Mafia & Monsta Mack) in a Philadelphia Street Fight.
  • Michael Shane defeated Paul London & Spanky in a three-way elimination match.
  • Christopher Daniels defeated Doug Williams.

12 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Boston, Massachusetts, Carlos Colon, Jr., aka Carlito makes his WWE television debut and defeated John Cena to win the WWE United States Championship.

10 years ago today, Antonio Peña, founder of Mexico's top promotion, Asistencia Asesoria y Administracion (AAA), died of a heart attack in Mexico City. He was 55.

Born June 13, 1951 as Antonio Hipolito Peña Herrada, he grew up in a wrestling family watching his uncle Ponzona compete as Espectro in the 1950s and 1960s. After training under his uncle, Rojas, Isaias Rodriguez, and Tono Hernandez, he began his wrestling career as El Genio in 1974. Eventually, with his father's blessing, Antonio would take on his uncle's persona and began wrestling as Espectro Jr. His superior technique and psychological tactics would make him one of the top rudos in Mexico in the 1970s, challenging for the welterweight and middleweight championships.

In 1980, he took a risk and radically changed his persona again, wrestling as Kahoz, a sinister rudo who would invoke dark spirits. He carried live pigeons to the ring and would release them towards his opponent during matches and smear the blood of a pigeon on himself (not really; the blood was fake and he really didn't rip pigeons' heads off). Though Peña would never win a title as Kahoz, he was one of the most sought after wrestlers in all of Mexico.

He gave up the gimmick in 1985 as Espectro de Ultratumba (The Ghost from Beyond the Grave) and passed on his Kahoz gimmick. Peña would eventually pass on the Espectro de Ultratumba in 1986 to his cousin, and eventually retired from full-time competition. He attempted comebacks in 1994 and 2001.

Peña always had a mind for gimmicks, storylines, and booking, so when he retired, he was hired by Mexican promotion EMLL to work in public relations. Eventually, he would begin writing storylines for the company, and Peña and Juan Herrera would combine to make EMLL the top Mexican promotion in the late 1980s. The promotion would break away from the NWA in 1989 and rebrand themselves as CMLL. Following the rebranding, Herrera and Peña would clash over who to spotlight. Herrera favored the heavyweights, while Peña wanted to go with younger and faster (and smaller-sometimes literally) competitors.

In the end, Herrera's philosophy won, and Peña started a booking agency for the Televisa owned AAA promotion in 1992. Quickly, the promotion flourished with young talent including Rey Mysterio Jr., Psicosis, Konnan, and Los Gringos Locos. The new company caught on so quickly, the Universal Wrestling Association, another wrestling promotion out of Mexico, went out of business. At their peak in the mid-1990s, their first Triplemania, today considered Mexico's equivalent of Wrestlemania, drew over 48,000 fans, at the time a record in Mexico for a wrestling event.

Peña's AAA co-promoted When Worlds Collide with WCW and had a TV show in the United States in August 1994. The foundation of the company's roster fell apart not long after the event: Art Barr passed away, and his stablemates in Los Gringos Locos (Eddie Guerrero and Madonna's Boyfriend) left the company. Top stars including Rey Mysterio, Psicosis, La Parka, and Juventud Guerrera, among others would leave for WCW, and a downturn in the Mexican economy caused other stars to follow.

Peña was AAA's Vince McMahon, meaning he had the final say on all matters in the company. His shocking passing left a void in the company, though his brother-in law and his son have tried to fill it. Several promotions paid tribute to Peña following his death.

Today, AAA holds memorial events every year around this time, highlighted by the Copa Antonio Peña (Antonio Peña Cup) tournament. The tournament is the highlight of the Heroes Inmortales (Immortal Heroes) event. AAA held the tenth edition of Heroes Inmortales this past weekend.

8 years ago today, WWE presented the final No Mercy event (WWE Network link) from the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. 9,527 were in attendance, with 261,000 homes watching on PPV, down slightly from 2007's event of 271,000 buys.

  • In a preshow dark match, The Colóns (Carlito and Primo) defeated John Morrison and The Miz.
  • Matt Hardy defeated Mark Henry to retain the ECW Championship.
  • Beth Phoenix defeated Candice Michelle to retain the WWE Women's Championship.
  • Rey Mysterio defeated Kane by disqualification.
  • Batista defeated John "Bradshaw" Layfield.
  • The Big Show defeated The Undertaker by knockout.
  • Triple H defeated Jeff Hardy to retain the WWE Championship.
  • Chris Jericho defeated Shawn Michaels in a ladder match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.

7 years ago today on RAW from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (WWE Network link), The Miz defeated Kofi Kingston to win the WWE United States Championship.

7 years ago today at an Impact taping at Universal Orlando, Amazing Red defeated Samoa Joe to win the X Division Championship.

2 years ago today at a Lucha Underground taping in Los Angeles, California, Prince Puma last defeated Johnny Mundo in Aztec Warfare to become the first Lucha Underground Champion.

Other participants in alphabetical order were Bael, Big Ryck, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Cortez Castro, Drago, Fenix, Ivelisse, King Cuerno, Mariachi Loco, Mascarita Sagrada, Mil Muertes, Mr. Cisco, Pentagon Jr., Pimpinela Escarlata, Ricky Mandel, Sexy Star, Son Of Havoc, and Super Fly.

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