28 years ago today, Ted Turner signs papers officially finalizing the deal to make him the new owner of Jim Crockett Promotions, the top NWA affiliate in the country.
JCP’s efforts to keep pace with the exploding popularity of the WWF turned out to be an expensive—and ultimately fruitless—affair. While there was no single cause for what led to the Crockett ultimately signing over the company to Turner, it was, for lack of a better term, death via a thousand paper cuts.
Arguably, the first domino to fall was the near-fatal car accident Magnum T.A. just two months before he was set to win the NWA world title from Ric Flair in 1986.
The next year, the promotion moved Starrcade and Bunkhouse Stampede away from their strongest market in the Carolinas to Chicago and New York respectively, ailenating fans (true story: tickets for Bunkhouse Stampede had different start times printed on them). Also hurting JCP was the WWF’s ultimatum to cable providers to broadcast their Thanksgiving PPV, Survivor Series, or JCP’s Starrcade (complicating this decision, any cable outlet choosing Starrcade would not be able to carry Wrestlemania IV the following April). With the success of Wrestlemania III still fresh in the minds of many cable companies, the vast majority went with Survivor Series.
Complicating matters, JCP spent money like there was no tomorrow, using it on luxuries such as limousines and private jets and not investing that money back into the promotion (such as marketing and paying talent fair market value). Because the WWF was luring away some of JCP’s roster, Crockett had to overpay to keep their top talent around. The acquisition of Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation not only meant they inherited their talent (some of whom JCP buried, alienating UWF fans), they inherited their bills.
They further alienated fans with the “Dusty finish”, named for booker Dusty Rhodes (though he didn’t invent this type of finish), where a babyface would win a match, only to have it overturned on a technicality (such as an over-the-top-rope disqualification). Fans had seen it used so often, they were trained to expect it, so some fans simply stopped going to shows.
With bankruptcy looming, Crockett sold 65% interest in JCP to Turner for $9 million. The Crockett family retained a minority stake. The company would be rebranded after its flagship Saturday night show, World Championship Wrestling, and would remain affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance until September 1993.
17 years ago today, WCW presented Mayhem (WWE Network) from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 13,829 were in attendance, with 200,000 homes watching on PPV.
It would be the last WCW PPV to get that many buys; WCW would lose more than half their PPV audience in just three months. The hook of the show was the conclusion of a month-long tournament to crown a new WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
- Chris Benoit defeated Jeff Jarrett in a World Heavyweight Championship tournament semifinal match.
- Evan Karagias defeated Disco Inferno to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Had Disco Inferno won, he would have won $25,000.
- Norman Smiley defeated Brian Knobbs to become the first WCW Hardcore Champion.
- The Revolution (Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, and Asya) defeated The Filthy Animals (Eddie Guerrero, Billy Kidman, and Torrie Wilson) 3-2 in an elimination match. Saturn defeated Torrie Wilson to win the deciding fall.
- Buff Bagwell defeated Curt Hennig in a retirement match. To the surprise of no one, the retirement would not stick, as Hennig would be back about five months later.
- Bret Hart defeated Sting in a World Heavyweight Championship tournament semifinal match.
- Vampiro defeated Berlyn in a dog collar match.
- Meng defeated Lex Luger.
- Scott Hall defeated Booker T to retain the WCW United States Championship and WCW World Television Championship. Midnight made her debut post-match.
- David Flair fought Kimberly Page to a no-contest.
- Goldberg defeated Sid Vicious in an I Quit match. Sid actually never quit; he was passed out from a cobra clutch submission.
- Bret Hart defeated Chris Benoit by submission to win the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
16 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (WWE Network link), Billy Gunn defeated Eddie Guerrero to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
16 years ago today, WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role is released in North America.
Released just eight and a half months after the original WWF Smackdown video game, Smackdown 2 (known as Exciting Pro Wrestling 2 in Japan) introduces a redone season mode, new interactive backstage (or outdoor) arenas, new match types including tables, ladders, a redone Hell in a Cell, a new Create-a-Superstar suite, and an all-new Slobberknocker mode, where a player could face an endless gauntlet of wrestlers.
The big knock on the sequel is its long loading times (especially apparent in Season mode, where unskippable parts could sometimes take 30 seconds or more). Despite that, the game was well-received by critics and fans; 3.2 million copies of the game were sold, making it the best-selling combat sports game on a single format ever.
11 years ago today, in the wake of the sudden passing of Eddie Guerrero, WWE announces on their website that they are instituting a new drug policy.
The policy prohibits the use of performance enhancing drugs, recreational drugs, and restricts the use of prescription drugs. Testing would be handled by a third party, and it would apply to all individuals under full-time contracts.
The policy, known officially as the WWE Wellness Policy, had been amended several times since, most notably in 2007 following the death of Chris Benoit, and in 2010 to address concussion symptoms.
The policy came under scrutiny earlier this year when Brock Lesnar was not reprimanded by WWE despite failing two drug tests administered by the United States Anti-Doping Agency around the time of UFC 200. The reason given for Lesnar not being reprimanded: he’s a part-time performer and he’s not subjected to the policy.
9 years ago today, Harrison Norris, Jr., best known as Hardbody Harrison in WCW, was found guilty of sex trafficking and prostitution charges by a federal jury in Georgia. The story via the Associated Press:
ATLANTA (AP) A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a former pro wrestler known as "Hardbody Harrison" of charges that he kept eight women as sex slaves in his two north Georgia homes.
Harrison Norris Jr. was convicted of charges including aggravated sexual abuse, forced labor, sex trafficking, conspiracy and witness tampering. He was acquitted of all charges involving a ninth woman, but still could get life in prison at sentencing, set for Feb. 28.
Norris, 41, wrestled for the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling organization in the 1990s.
Serving as his own lawyer, he contended that the women willingly lived at his Cartersville homes because they wanted to train as pro wrestlers. He says many of them arrived on drugs and left in the best shape of their lives.
During a two-week trial, prosecutors portrayed Norris as a predator who used his wrestling business to lure poor and vulnerable women into prostitution and forced labor.
"I think the jury's verdict vindicates the rights of the victims who were brave enough to come forward and confront this man who abused them," prosecutor Susan Coppedge said.
Witnesses testified that Norris, a former Army sergeant and veteran of the Persian Gulf War, imposed a strict military structure, with each of the women assigned to a squad overseen by an "enforcer."
One witness testified that Norris beat or threatened them to keep control and that he threatened to throw one through a hotel window when she would not engage in sex with two customers.
In addition to forcing the victims to work as prostitutes, Norris made them work in and around his houses, requiring them to haul trees, lay sod and paint, according to testimony.
In March 2008, two people in connection with the prostitution ring were given jail sentences for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking (one five years, the other just under three years), and two others were given three years probation.
On April 1, 2008, Harrison (who was a part of a class action racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW in 2000) was sentenced to life in prison. As this was a federal crime, Norris has no chance of parole (there is no parole in the federal penal system).
7 years ago today, The Hulkamania tour made its first of four stops in the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The show featured Ric Flair's first match since his retirement at Wrestlemania XXIV.
- Nick Dinsmore & The Pimp Fatha defeated Billy Blade & Kadin Anthony.
- Brutus Beefcake defeated Heidenreich.
- Spartan 3000 defeated Shannon Moore.
- Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags defeated The Vampire Warrior & Black Pearl in a street fight.
- Mr. Anderson defeated Sean Morley.
- Brian Christopher & Kishi defeated Orlando Jordan & Osu Fatu.
- Hulk Hogan defeated Ric Flair.
6 years ago today, WWE presented Survivor Series (WWE Network link) from the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. About 8,000 were in attendance, with 244,000 watching on PPV. That's slightly up from 2009's edition with 225,000 buys.
- In a preshow dark match, R-Truth defeated Zack Ryder.
- Daniel Bryan defeated Ted DiBiase to retain the WWE United States Championship.
- John Morrison defeated Sheamus.
- Dolph Ziggler defeated Kaval to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This was Kaval's lone PPV match in WWE, as he would be released just before Christmas.
- Team Mysterio (Rey Mysterio, Kofi Kingston, Chris Masters, Big Show, and MVP) defeated Team Del Rio (Alberto Del Rio, Tyler Reks, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, and Cody Rhodes) 5-3 in a Survivor Series match.
- Natalya defeated Lay-Cool (Layla & Michelle McCool) in a 2-on-1 handicap match to win the WWE Divas Championship.
- Kane and Edge fought to a no contest for the World Heavyweight Championship.
- Justin Gabriel & Heath Slater defeated Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
- Randy Orton defeated Wade Barrett to retain the WWE Championship. John Cena was the special referee. As a result of the win, Cena was fired from WWE. Had Barrett won the match, Cena would have been freed from all obligations to the Nexus. Needless to say, the firing didn't stick, as Cena appeared the next night and was back on the roster within a month.
3 years ago today, WWE tapes the 200th episode of NXT from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. The 200 episode count includes the NXT reality series and Redemption runs. Excluding those, it's only 78.
- Sami Zayn & Tyson Kidd defeated Antonio Cesaro & Leo Kruger.
- Paige defeated Sasha Banks.
- The Ascension (Konnor & Victor) defeated Derek Billington and John Cahill.
- Bo Dallas defeated Adrian Neville in a lumberjack match to retain the NXT Championship.
3 years ago today, TNA presented Turning Point on a special edition of Impact Wrestling from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando.
- Magnus defeated Samoa Joe in a falls count anywhere match to advance in the TNA World Heavyweight Championship tournament.
- Gail Kim defeated Candice LeRae.
- Bobby Roode defeated James Storm in a Florida Deathmatch to advance in the TNA World Heavyweight Championship tournament.
- Ethan Carter III defeated Shark Boy.
- Mr. Anderson defeated Bully Ray in a no disqualification match. With the win, Aces and Eights were forced to disband. Had Bully Ray won, Anderson's career would have been over.
3 years ago today, Joseph Maurice Regis Vachon, best known to wrestling fans as Mad Dog Vachon, died of natural causes in Omaha, Nebraska. He was 84.
Born September 14, 1929 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Joseph was the second oldest of thirteen children. He often went to wrestling shows in the Montreal Forum. Vachon turned that interest into getting into the sport himself. He began amateur wrestling at age 12 at the local YMCA, then under Chief Jim Crowley. Vachon also took small jobs to work on his muscle mass.
By age 14, Vachon had become one of the top amateur wrestlers in the county. He turned that success into a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, competing in the 1948 Games in London. He pinned the Indian champion in under a minute, and went on to finish seventh at 174 pounds (79 kg). It was during the games he encountered Greco-Roman competitor Verne Gagne. After winning the gold in the British Empire Games in 1950, he worked as a bouncer at a Montreal nightclub before trying his hand in pro wrestling in 1951.
Initially competing as a junior heavyweight, Vachon in his rookie year became the North American Junior Heavyweight Champion. He had also become quite popular, something that promoter Eddie Quinn didn't quite like for fear of his top draw Yvon Robert being overshadowed.
Eventually, Vachon had radically changed his look to differentiate himself from other grapplers. He'd bulk up to 225 pounds, shaved his head bald, and grow a long goatee. He'd also change his in-ring style, breaking any and every rule possible to get an advantage over his opponent. And to make his point clear, he would often buy TV time to put himself over and put down his opponent. Soon, people caught on to Vachon's new act. Well, not quite everyone: he'd become so notorious, he was banned from wrestling in three states. Success found Maurice, as he and his brother Paul "The Butcher" Vachon would win the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship in February 1959. His success as a heel wasn't limited to the ring: he met his future wife Kathie Joe at a wrestling event after spitting a shoe string at her. Wrestling, everyone.
Eventually, "Mad Dog" Vachon (the nickname came from Portland promoter Don Owen when he commented on Vachon's wrestling style) landed in the American Wrestling Association, which was run by Verne Gagne. Vachon, seen as the complete opposite of the clean-cut All-American Gagne, made the perfect foil for the owner/champion. In May 1964, Vachon shocked audiences when he defeated Gagne for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Gagne would win it back just two weeks later, but Vachon would win it again in October. He would win the championship five times in all, including a one-year reign from November 1965 to November 1966. Gagne ended Vachon's final run in 1967.
After his championship days, he briefly returned to his hometown of Montreal and with the help Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, he was granted a license to promote in the Montreal Forum. Eventually, he returned to the AWA and concentrated on tag team wrestling, teaming with his brother Paul "The Butcher" and had a heated rivalry with The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser. In August 1969, the brothers Vachon won the AWA tag team titles; the next year, the two teams battled in a steel cage match at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
In July 1973 in front of a record crowd at Jarry Park in Montreal, Vachon defeated Killer Kowalski in a match where Mad Dog threatened to commit suicide if he lost. Vachon's win made front page news in Montreal: "Vachon Triumphs In Front Of 30,000 People And Gives Up On Suicide!" Wrestling, everyone.
After nearly two decades as a heel, Vachon formed a friendship with his one-time biggest rival, Verne Gagne. The odd couple alliance worked: in June 1979, the duo defeated Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens for the AWA World Tag Team Championship. They held them for over a year before losing them to Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis. The AWA eventually decided to go with a youth movement in the 1980s, so Vachon left for the WWF in 1984. His age (55 at the time) and lack of size made him an odd man out in the changing WWF, too, though Vachon wrestled house shows in the Midwest and Quebec.
In September 1986, just a year after appearing as a cornerman for Rick Martel in an AWA world title match, Mad Dog called it a career with one final show in his hometown of Montreal, leaving as one of its most beloved fan favorites after spending his prime years as one of its most hated villains. His psychotic, bloodthirsty style, uncontrollable demeanor, and his unique-for-the-time promos (Vachon speaking directly to the camera) made him an influence on the industry.
Maurice and Paul weren't the only successful members of the family; sister Vivian was an AWA Womens Champion for two years, stepsister Luna was one of the most well-known women's wrestlers of the 1980s and 1990s, and Ian Carnegie, a former amateur wrestler, is an arm wrestler.
After retiring, Maurice and Kathy Joe settled in Carter Lake, Iowa. In 1987, Vachon was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The driver, who was developmentally challenged and had no insurance, was never charged with the accident. The injuries from the accident forced Vachon's leg to be amputated. The family eventually moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where he'd lived out his life as an actor in beer commercials and was a restaurant critic for a Quebec City television station.
Maurice had appeared in a couple of WWF PPVs in Omaha, at In Your House 7 in 1996 and Over the Edge in 1998; both times, Vachon's prosthetic leg was involved. In March 2010, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
On November 21, 2013, Vachon died in his sleep. He was 84. At the time of his death, he was survived by six children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. In addition to being a WWE Hall of Famer, Maurice is a part of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1996, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004 with his brother Paul, and the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame class of 2009.