22 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois, Tito Santana defeated Cowboy Bob Orton to win to the American Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship. He was virtually the only champion in the company's existence, save for one night in 1996 when Orton wins the title, but is forced to vacate it due to interference during the match.
17 years ago today, British wrestling legend Giant Haystacks dies of cancer after a lengthy battle with the illness in his home in Prestwich, England. He was 52.
Born Martin Austin Ruane on October 10, 1946 in Camberwell, England at 14 pounds, 6 ounces, Ruane and his family moved to Swinton at age three. He worked as a laborer and nightclub bouncer before trying his hand at wrestling at the suggestion of a friend.
Ruane began his career on the British wrestling circuit in 1967 as Luke McMasters . In the early 1970's, Ruane worked for Wrestling Enterprises of Birkenhead (today known as All-Star Wrestling) as Haystacks Calhoun, named after American wrestling star William Calhoun, before his name was subsequently changed to Giant Haystacks. In 1975, he moved to Joint Productions to team with Shirley "Big Daddy" Crabtree.
The heel duo terrorized the promotion with their sheer size and power. They also had a major feud with the masked Kendo Nagasaki. Big Daddy would turn face during the feud, breaking up the duo in 1977. The Haystacks-Daddy matches would draw some of the highest ratings for ITV in Britain at the time. They would feud off and on until Daddy's retirement in 1993. A devout Roman Catholic, Ruane refused to compete on Sundays.
Ruane, who stood 6'11" and weighed 685 pounds at his heaviest, would wrestle also for Stampede Wrestling in Canada, the Catch Wrestling Association in Germany and Austria, and World Championship Wrestling in the United States as Loch Ness. He was briefly a member of the Dungeon of Doom, but following a cancer diagnosis, Ruane returned to England and lived out the remainder of his days there. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife and three sons.
17 years ago today on Nitro from Denver, Colorado (WWE Network link), the WCW World Television Championship is abandoned when Scott Hall throws it in a trashcan.
The championship is briefly revived in February 2000 when Hacksaw Jim Duggan finds it and declares himself the champion, but the title would be retired when the company goes through a hard reboot in April.
On the same episode, Juventud Guerrera defeated Jushin Thunder Liger to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. It is the first time the championship changes hands on American soil.
17 years ago today on RAW is WAR from Los Angeles, California (WWE Network link), perhaps the most powerful couple in professional wrestling is born in what else? A storyline wedding.
The wedding, set to be between storyline couple Test and Stephanie McMahon was snuffed out by Triple H when it was revealed that he married Stephanie the night before at a wedding chapel in Las Vegas.
It should be worth pointing out that Stephanie was drugged up the whole time. It should also be worth pointing out the wedding ultimately was part of a larger revenge plot concocted by Stephanie and Triple H to control the WWF, which they do for the first half of 2000.
6 years ago today on RAW from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (WWE Network link), Sheamus defeated John Morrison to win the 2010 King of the Ring tournament.
Other participants in the tournament, which began the previous week, included R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre, MVP, Exekiel Jackson, Alex Riley, Tyson Kidd, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio, Alberto Del Rio, Big Show, Daniel Bryan, and Ted Dibiase, Jr.
On the same show, The Miz defeated Jerry Lawler in a TLC match to retain the WWE Championship. At age 61 at the time of the bout, Lawler is believed to be the oldest person to compete in a WWE Championship match.
5 years ago today, comedian Patrice O'Neal dies from complications due to a stroke in Englewood, New Jersey. He was just 41.
Wrestling connection, you ask? He was a member of WWE Creative in the early 2000s. The comedian appeared regularly on Comedy Central roasts, and appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, and was a regular on the Opie and Anthony Show. Though he was often cited as one of the world's funniest comedians (especially by his peers), he was also one of the most controversial.
O'Neal, who called himself a "professional bridge burner", once blew off a Creative meeting and was fired by Stephanie McMahon over the phone. According to Patrice, she was so angry, she called him and fired him again, and again, and again.
We have birthdays aplenty, so the profiles will be brief.
Today would have been the 48th birthday of Eiji Ezaki, best known to wrestling fans as Hayabusa.
He spent the majority of his career in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, and was generally regarded as the face of the company. He wrestled briefly in Mexico in the mid-1990s and one match for ECW in 1998.
Ezaki's career ended in 2001 after a botched springboard moonsault caused him to lose footing and land on his head, cracking two of his vertebrae and leaving him paralyzed. The loss of Ezaki was too much for FMW to overcome, as just four months after his forced retirement, the promotion shut down.
Ezaki, who dabbled in singing for a few years following his retirement, served as the executive producer of the rebooted FMW. In 2014, he slowly regained the ability to walk, albeit through use of a cane.
On March 3, 2016, Ezaki’s body was found in his home in Tokyo after a friend went there to check on him. He died of a subarachnoid hemmorage at age 47.
Happy 50th birthday to John Charles Layfield, or if you prefer, John "Bradshaw" Layfield.
In the ring, he's quite accomplished, as he is a Grand Slam champion in WWE (including a 280-day run as WWE Champion in 2004-05). Today, he's a color commentator for Smackdown and PPV events, but doubles as a conservative talk show host on the occasional weekend. He's also been quite successful as a stock market investor and appeared on CNBC and Fox News and has written a best-selling financial planning book.
Happy 67th birthday to Wayne Maurice Keown, best known to many wrestling fans as Dutch Mantel.
In his 43 years in the wrestling business, he's worked for nearly every major wrestling promotion in North America, including two runs in WWE as a manager, a color commentator for Smoky Mountain Wrestling, a booker for WWC and IWA in Puerto Rico and TNA in the United States.
Away from the ring, he pushed for a law that would require parolees whose crimes were related to drugs or alcohol to be tested via a monitoring device every half hour. This was following the death of her granddaughter in 2012 after she was in a fatal auto accident with a man who was running from police at the time. The law went into effect in July 2014.
Happy 67th birthday to wrestling legend "The King" Jerry O'Neil Lawler.
Most of his 45-year career was spent in Memphis, Tennessee, where he actually was a disc jockey for a radio station. His feud with comedian Andy Kaufman in 1982 brought him into national consciousness; the feud would was revealed to be staged in the 1999 Kaufman bio Man on The Moon, a claim backed up by Lawler himself.
After dominating the CWA and USWA, he debut in the WWF in 1992 as an announcer for WWF Superstars. He feuded with Bret Hart on and off from 1993 to 1995. The feud would cross over to Lawler's USWA. The USWA-WWF feud aburptly ended when Lawler was accused of statutory rape in 1993. Lawler also was involved in a cross-promotional feud with ECW in 1997. He would remain in the WWF as their primary color commentator, most notably with Jim Ross, until 2001 when his then-wife Stacy Carter was abruptly fired; Lawler quit in protest.
He returned to the WWF nine months later and returned to his old post replacing Paul Heyman. He had largely been in the post until last year; his longest break came in the fall of 2012 when he had a heart attack on-air during an episode of RAW. He would return two months later. Lawler was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007. He twice ran for mayor of Memphis, finishing third in 1999 and fifth in 2009. Lawler is also an accomplished commerical artist and is and avid Browns and Indians fan.
Happy 74th birthday to Eugene Arthur Okerlund, best known to wrestling fans as "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
After working in radio, he began as occasional ring announcer and interviewer for the AWA, but by the end of the 1970s would become the permanent ring announcer and interviewer for the AWA.
He was one of about a dozen top talents to join the WWF from the AWA in a massive talent raid and would be their top interviewer for the company. In 1993, after not being offered a new deal to stay with the WWF, he left for WCW, and save for a couple of months in 1996, he was their top interviewer until the company closed in 2001.
He returned to the WWF following the sale, making a cameo appearance at Wrestlemania X-Seven. Okerlund, who still makes the odd appearance for the company to this day, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
The best of cSs on this day:
2015: Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley want WWE to bring back the women's championship (Three of the Four Horsewomen respond to a WWE.com poll on which championship should be brought back; hardcore title finished first in the poll)
2014: The New Day debut on Smackdown (Video) (After weeks of teasers, Big E Langston, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods debut their new gimmick)
2013: Ultimate Warrior would enter WWE Hall of Fame if 'they tell the right story' (In an interview with Digital Spy, Ultimate Warrior says he’s open to a WWE Hall of Fame induction as long as they don’t go the Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior route again)
2012: WWE 'nWo: The Revolution' DVD review: Same stuff, new video (WWE releases a DVD retrospective on the New World Order)
2011: Video: John Cena in Piper's Pit with Roddy Piper on WWE Raw (Roddy Piper goes in on John Cena, letting him know to quit fighting his feelings or The Rock’s gonna beat him at Wrestlemania XXVIII)