Today’s Election Day in the United States. Don’t forget to vote. Unless you voted already.
41 years ago today in St. Paul, Minnesota, Nick Bockwinkel defeated Verne Gagne to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
The win ends a 2,625-day championship reign for the AWA founder, or a little over seven years. To put that in proper perspective, that is 17 days longer than every AWA world title reign from Gene Kinski’s first reign (July 11, 1961) to the beginning of Gagne’s historic reign combined.
Bockwinkel would go on to have a long championship run himself, holding the title for over four and a half years (1,714 days, the second longest world title reign in AWA history) before Gagne defeated him to win his tenth and last AWA world title in 1980.
36 years ago today, Tony Garea and Rick Martel defeated The Wild Samoans (Afa & Sika) to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.
22 years ago today, WWF taped Sunday Night Slam: Survivor Series Showdown ’94 from Fernwood Resort in Bushkill, Pennsylvania.
Airing November 20 on the USA Network, the show served as a preview of the upcoming Survivor Series, which would take place three days after airing. Of note, two of the three matches on the show were on this taping; the other (Yokozuna defeating John Crystal) was taped a day earlier.
- The Smoking Gunns (Billy and Bart) defeated The Heavenly Bodies (Jimmy Del Ray and Tom Pritchard)
- The British Bulldog defeated Owen Hart by disqualification.
17 years ago today on Nitro from Indianapolis, Indiana (WWE Network link), Scott Hall defeated Bret Hart, Sid Vicious, and Goldberg in a ladder match to win the WCW United States Championship.
17 years ago today on RAW is WAR from State College, Pennsylvania (WWE Network link), The New Age Outlaws (Jesse James & Billy Gunn) defeated Mankind and Al Snow to win the WWF Tag Team Championship for the fifth time.
Though a few men have held the title tag titles five times to this point (Gunn, IRS, Mankind, Mr. Fuji, and Tony Garea), the Outlaws are the first to win the titles five times as a team. It would be a WWF record until just before Wrestlemania X-Seven when Edge & Christian won the titles for a sixth time.
The tag titles had been on quite the adventure: it’s the fifteenth—and last—tag title change in 1999. You’d think that would be the most ever, but you’d be wrong: 2001 saw the tag titles change hands sixteen times.
11 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Indianapolis, Indiana (WWE Network link), Eddie Guerrero defeated Ken Kennedy via disqualification to earn a slot on the Smackdown vs. RAW match at Survivor Series.
Sadly, this would be Guerrero's final televised match, as Guerrero would be found dead in a hotel room in Minneapolis five days later of heart failure. Randy Orton would replace Guerrero on the team—and would get the winning fall for Team Smackdown at Survivor Series.
In an interesting bit of trivia, four years later, Kennedy would be the last opponent for Umaga.
9 years ago today, WWE released the suspended Chris Masters and developmental talent Ryan Wilson.
Masters, real name Chris Mordetzky, was released just a week after he went on suspension for a second violation of the WWE's Substance Abuse and Drug Policy.
Wilson was the masked Jacob Duncan and was once the OVW Heavyweight Champion, but is most famous for his brief TNA run as Trytan.
9 years ago today, CNN aired Death Grip: Inside Professional Wresting.
The one-hour documentary focused primarily on the murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family, but also focuses on drugs and the toll they have taken on the industry since the 1980s, where dozens of wrestlers have died before their 50th birthday. There is also a transcript of the show, which can be found here.
8 years ago today, tickets went on sale for Wrestlemania 25.
$4.8 million in tickets were sold in the first day, on its way to $6.9 million at the gate, at the time a WWE record. The record would stand until Wrestlemania XXVIII (that record has since been broken by Wrestlemania 29, then Wrestlemania XXX. Then Wrestlemania 31. Then Wrestlemania 32.).
7 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Tiger Mask IV defeated Mistico to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
2 years ago today, New Japan Pro Wrestling presented Power Struggle from Bodymaker Colosseum in Osaka, Japan.
- In a preshow dark match, Bushi and Máscara Dorada defeated Fuego and Tiger Mask.
- The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) defeated Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero) and Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Taka Michinoku) in a three-team match.
- Kazushi Sakuraba and Toru Yano defeated Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki and Takashi Iizuka).
- Jushin Thunder Liger defeated Chase Owens to win the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship. It’s the first time Liger held the title since 1997.
- Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Yujiro Takahashi) (with Shiori and Tama Tonga) defeated Captain New Japan, Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma.
- reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly) defeated Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and Kushida) to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
- Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Taichi to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
- AJ Styles defeated Yoshitatsu. This was Yoshitatsu’s New Japan in-ring debut. Of note, Tatsu, real name Maofumi Yamamoto, suffered a neck injury when he tucked in his neck on the Styles Clash. Yamamoto would wrestle for a couple of weeks before sidelined with the neck injury. He would have two broken bones in his neck. After more than a year away, Yoshitatsu returned in April at Invasion Attack.
- Tomohiro Ishii defeated Hirooki Goto to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship.
- Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi defeated Chaos (Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi).
- Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Katsuyori Shibata to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
It’s a happy 29th birthday to "The Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada.
Born in Anjo, Japan, Okada was trained by Ultimo Dragon at his Toryumon professional wrestling school. He made his professional debut at age 16 in August 2004 against Negro Navarro. He would wrestle primarily for Toryumon Mexico, Ultimo Dragon's promotion. He participated in the Young Dragons Cup in 2004 and 2005, winning the event in 2005. In 2006 and 2007, Okada wrestled primarily on the United States and Canadian independent circuits, most notably for UWA Hardcore Wrestling and Chikara.
In 2007, Okada returned to Japan and trained at the New Japan Dojo. He made his debut for the company in a losing effort that August to Tetsuya Naito. Not long after his debut, Okada would be injured and sat out eight months. While debuting as a junior heavyweight, he moved to the heavyweight division upon his return in 2008. By 2009, he would become a breakout star for the company during the NJPW vs. Pro Wrestling NOAH feud, wrestling big matches against Japan's top stars including Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooko Goto, Tajiri, and Go Shiozaki. Often his efforts came up short, but he developed a major crowd following. Just as he was picking up steam, Okada was sent away to TNA Wrestling for a developmental tour. In his final bout before leaving for TNA, Okada was defeated by Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Okada made his TNA debut in Feburary 2010, losing to Alex Shelley in a dark match. He would wrestle in dark matches over the next two months, finally making his television debut in April 2010 in a losing effort in a tag team match where he and Homicide were defeated by Generation Me (aka The Young Bucks) on Xplosion. His Impactdebut came in July during a run-in against former ECW wrestlers. Okada finally got in the win column on August 9 in a dark match against Kid Kash. Okada teamed with Akira Kawabata, aka Kiosyhi for most of the remainder of the year primarily in house show, dark, and Xplosion matches. Okada would not appear on Impact again until January 2011, when he was revealed as a cameraman exposing D'Angelo Dinero's lies. Inspired by Kato in the Green Hornet TV series and movie (which was released around the time of the new gimmick), Okada was renamed Okato. Okato and Dinero fought once, on the March 24 Impact, with Okato winning via disqualification. He would subsequently peform under his real surname following the feud, but went largely unused before he was released in October 2011.
While he largely sat on the sidelines in TNA, Okada returned to New Japan in December 2011, suplexing the 290-pound Yoshihiro Takayama (Okada at the time weighted about 220 pounds). He made a one-time only appearance at Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome for a New Japan-Pro Wrestling NOAH tag battle, where Okada and Hirooki Goto were defeated by Takayama and Takashi Sugiura. Okada was also part of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Invasion Tour of the United States in 2011.
He returned full-time to New Japan for Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2012. Now weighing 236 pounds, he fully qualified as a heavyweight. He defeated Yoshi-Hashi (himself returning from an excursion in Mexico) in his return bout. Post-match, he challenged Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. The next day, the match was made official in a press conference; at that event, Okada revealed he joined top heel stable Chaos, enlisted Gedo as his manager and spokesperson, and called himself "Rainmaker". He went on a winning streak in the month leading to the bout, including defeating Tanahashi in a tag match two weeks before the world title match.
On February 12 at The New Beginning, Okada defeated Tanahashi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He would hold the title for the next four months before losing at Dominion 6.16 back to Tanahashi. In August, Okada entered the G1 Climax tournament for the first time. He would go 5-3 (one of the three loses would be to fellow Chaos member Shinsuke Nakamura) , winning his block and a spot in the final match. In the final, he defeated Karl Anderson to win the tournament, making him the youngest G1 Climax winner ever. Post-match, he announced he wanted a shot at the IWGP heavyweight title again at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome on January 4. As that match was more than four months off, Okada would have to defend the right to the title shot. He did so, turning back challenges from Karl Anderson and Hirooki Goto. The match was made official following Power Struggle in November: Tanahashi-Okada III was on for Wrestle Kingdom 7. Okada was voted by Tokyo Sports magazine as the MVP of puroresu in 2012 in December, and also won match of the year for the publication for his bout against Tanahashi at Dominion 6.16.
However, at Wrestle Kingdom 7, Okaka fell short in winning the title. Less than two weeks later, rumors swirled that Okada was being courted by WWE, but New Japan officials quickly shot them down and announced he signed a contract extension to stay with New Japan. In March, thanks in part to a new submission maneuver he calls Red Ink, Okada would win the New Japan Cup, defeating former tag partner Hirooki Goto in the final. The win gave him another shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. At Invasion Attack on April 7, Okada defeated Tanahashi to win the title for the second time. He would turn back challenges from Suzukigun leader Minoru Suzuki, Togo Makabe and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt in consecutive months. In August, his quest to win a second G1 Climax was virtually snuffed out after a 1-3 start... or so it seemed. He would win three of his next four matches, going to a 30-minute time limit draw with rival Hiroshi Tanahashi. But needing a win against Satoshi Kojima to advance, he lost. However, he would get revenge, defeating him in September in an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match.
At King of Pro-Wrestling in October, Okada defeated Tanahashi in what was billed as Tanahashi's final shot at the title. With the win, New Japan claimed that Okada was the "Shin Jidai no Ace", the "Ace of the New Era". Fan reaction to an Okada versus 2013 G1 Climax winner Tetsuya Naito was disappointing, so New Japan let the fans decide if the world title match or an Intercontinental title bout between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura should main event Wrestle Kingdom 8. The Intercontinental title bout won by a 2-1 margin and was given the main event slot, but it wasn't a total loss: the same day the results were announced, Tokyo Sports named Okada the puroresu MVP for the second straight year, making him the first wrestler to win back-to-back MVPs in a quarter century. Okada would go on to retain the title at Wrestle Kingdom 8.
On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku, Okada was defeated by former TNA world champion AJ Styles, ending his run at 391 days, the fifth longest IWGP Heavyweight Championship run in history. Okada unsuccessfully tried to regain the title at the Ring of Honor-New Japan co-promoted War of the Worlds in May in a three way match that included Michael Elgin. In August, Okada defeated Chaos stablemate Shinsuke Nakamura to win the G1 Climax tournament for a second time, enabling him to challenge for the challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Okada would fail in his bid to capture the title at the event, losing to Hiroshi Tanahashi.
The loss sent the former champion into a physical and mental tailspin; two months later, he would be defeated by Bad Luck Fale in the first round of the New Japan Cup. Okada got over the Bad Luck hump when he defeated him at Invasion Attack in April; post-match, he declared his intention to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship again--which he did three months later at Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall from AJ Styles. Shortly after winning the championship, he took part in the 25th G1 Climax tournament. Despite going 7-2 in the tournament, he lost a spot in the final on a head-to-head tiebreaker to Shinsuke Nakamura, who would be defeated by Hiroshi Tanahashi in the final. On the day of the G1 Climax final, he had a staredown with puro legend Genichiro Tenryu. In November, Okada defeated Tenryu in his retirement match. The bout was voted Match of the Year by Tokyo Sports.
In December 2015, Okada signed a one-year extension with New Japan Pro Wrestling; however, the departures of top stars AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura prompted the promotion to discontinue the one-year contract system and make Okada their top priority, offering a 5-year, 200 million yen (about $2 million US) deal.
At Wrestle Kingdom 10 on January 4, Okada defeated Tanahashi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He held the title until April’s Invasion Attack when he was defeated by New Japan 2016 Cup winner Tetsuya Naito with help from Naito’s stablemates, Los Ingobernables de Japon. Okada wouldn’t be without the title long; he won it back two months later at Dominion 6.19. In August, Okada went 5-3-1 in the G1 Climax tournament, missing the final after going to a 30-minute time limit draw with Hiroshi Tanahashi on the final day of the round robin stage (the draw also mathematically eliminated Tanahashi from the final). One of Okada’s three defeats came at the hands of Pro Wrestling Noah’s Naomichi Marifuji. On the strength of that upset, Marifuji earned a title opportunity at Okada at King of Pro-Wrestling, but Okada retained. At Wrestle Kingdom 11 on January 4, Okada is scheduled to defend his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against G1 Climax winner Kenny Omega. It will be Okada’s fourth Wrestle Kingdom main event in five years.
Okada, who is featured in the Japanese music video for Pharrell Williams' Happy, is the founder of Rainmaker Kikin (Rainmaker Fund), a charity out to fight children's cancer. The fund was established in August 2014 when both his uncle and cousin were diagnosed with the disease. Okada is one of six wrestlers who make a cameo appearance in the upcoming Japanese video game Ryū ga Gotoku 6: Inochi no Uta (Like a Dragon 6: Poetry of Life, also known as Yakuza 6).
In addition to the three Tokyo Sports MVPs, Okada has collected multiple accolades from Wrestling Observer Newsletter, including four five-star matches (three of them against Hiroshi Tanahashi; their Invasion Attack bout from 2013 won Match of the Year for the publication), Feud of the Year with Tanahashi in 2012 and 2013, Most Improved Wrestler of 2012, and two-time winner for best wrestling maneuver (The Rainmaker, a wrist-lock short arm clothesline). In 2016, Okada was ranked the #2 singles wrestler in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in their annual PWI 500.
The best of cSs’ past on this day:
2015: With Seth Rollins injured, who is the best choice to win the WWE world heavyweight title? (An informal cSs poll on who should win the WWE world title; for the record, though 28% correctly picked the tournament’s winner Roman Reigns, just 1% had Sheamus, who would win the title five minutes later)
2014: ‘Tag me in you stupid cow’ (A Vine from a WWE house show in Birmingham where Paige is demanding stupid—not fat—Nikki Bella to tag her in)
2013: WrestleMania XXX rumors: WWE planning match card and line up (Early plans for Wrestlemania XXX include Undertaker vs. Lesnar, Orton vs. Punk, Shawn Michaels vs. Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes vs. Goldust)
2012: Triple H teases WrestleMania 29 match card line up (Triple H in an interview with the New York Post talks about possibilities for the big event)
2011: That was awesome! (clap clap clapclapclap): Bam Bam Bigelow throws, Spike Dudley surfs (In a classic ECW moment, Bam Bam Bigelow tosses Spike Dudley into the crowd, Dudley crowdsurfs his way back to ringside. Video’s not available on the page, but here it is from WWE’s official Youtube)