99 years ago today, wrestling legend Frank Gotch died of uremic poisoning in his hometown of Humboldt, Iowa. He was just 39.
Born April 26, 1877, he was raised on a small farm by German parents. He took up wrestling in his teens, when he earned a reputation of beating locals, and he would often rely on his toe hold to defeat opponents.
Gotch began wrestling in April 2, 1899, just three weeks before his 21st birthday. His first significant match came two months later against a man claiming to be a furniture dealer. After a hard fought contest lasting over two hours, Gotch lost to the dealer...only he wasn't a dealer. The man he lost to turned out to be American Heavyweight Champion Dan McLeod. Later in the year, he would lose to another former American Champion "Farmer" Martin Burns, but Burns was so impressed, he took Gotch under his wing. He would win matches in Iowa and in the Yukon area of Canada.
When Gotch returned to the States, he challenged American champion Tom Jenkins, but lost. Gotch would defeat Jenkins in 1904. After a series of matches with Jenkins and Fred Beel, he turned his focus to the World Heavyweight Championship and the man he would be most linked with: Estonian Georg Hackenschmidt, who would defeat Jenkins to claim undisputed world champion status in 1905 in New York. Rather than face Gotch, Hackenschmidt went home to England.
It would be three years before the two finally met at Dexter Park Pavilion in Chicago. After two hours, the superior conditioned-Gotch took down Hackenschmidt. Using questionable tactics, including leaning on Georg, thumbing and butting him, even oiling his body pre-match, Gotch wore him down and nearly put Hackenschmidt in his toe hold. Georg escaped, but quit the fall and did not return for the second fall, thereby awarding the title to Frank. Though he was gracious in defeat at first, Georg held a grudge against Hackenschmidt and Americans in general.
Over the next three years, Frank would dominate the freestyle heavyweight circuit, defeated other top heavyweights of the era, including Jenkins, Dr. Ben Roller, and Stanislaus Zbyszko, who won nearly a thousand matches before being defeated by Gotch in under 30 minutes in June 1910 (the first fall took just six seconds). His popularity made him in high demand, starring in a play and having an audience with President Theodore Roosevelt, even attending a baseball game with him and his wife.
Gotch-Hackenschmidt II would take place at the new Comiskey Park in Chicago on September 4, 1911. There were conflicting stories about how the challenger Hackenschmidt was injured in the weeks prior to the bout. Eventually, Dr. Ben Roller and referee Ed Smith both cleared Georg to compete. Unlike their first meeting, Hackenschmidt fell prey to the toe hold, losing in consecutive falls in 30 minutes.
Frank would remain champion until his retirement following defeating another Estonian, Georg Lurich on April 1, 1913 in Kansas City. His five-year run as world champion would be surpassed only by Verne Gagne, Lou Thesz, and Bruno Sammartino, all of whom reigned as world champion for over seven years.
Gotch, who was comparable to boxing champion John L. Sullivan in his dominance, was among the most popular athletes in all of sports in his day: his world champion bouts would garner national and global attention. Post-retirement, Gotch joined the Sells-Floto Circus where he would pay anyone $250 (over $5,400 today) to anyone that could last fifteen minutes in a match with him without being pinned or made to submit. No one collected the money. Growing weary of the road life, Gotch retired to his hometown of Humboldt, Iowa.
After a year of health problems, Gotch would succumb to uremic poisoning on December 16, 1917, though it was rumored at the time of his death that syphilis was the cause of his death. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife Gladys and son Robert.
Gotch would be posthumously inducted into the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in 1951, the inaugural Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996, the professional wing of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2016, Gotch was among the inaugural inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame’s legacy wing.
His athletic ability and ability to promote himself made Frank Gotch one of America's great sports heroes and was a major contributor to making wrestling mainstream.
26 years ago today, NWA and WCW presented Starrcade '90: Collision Course (WWE Network link) from the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, Missouri. About 7,200 were in attendance, with 165,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up 35,000 homes from the 1989 edition.
One of the show's main hooks was the Pat O'Connor Memorial International Cup Tag Team Tournament, the wrestling legend who died earlier in the year of cancer. The other was the payoff of one of wrestling's most infamous angles, The Black Scorpion.
- In a dark match, Bill Irwin defeated TC Carter.
Pat O'Connor International Tag Team Tournament (matches were interspersed throughout the show):
- Team USA (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) defeated Team Africa (Col. DeKlerk & Sgt. Krueger).
- Team Mexico (Konnan & Rey Misterio) defeated Team United Kingdom (Chris Adams & Norman Smiley).
- Team Japan (Mr. Saito & The Great Muta) defeated Team New Zealand (Jack Victory & Rip Morgan).
- Team USSR (Salman Hashimikov & Victor Zangiev) defeated Team Canada (Danny Johnson & Troy Montour).
- Team USA (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) defeated Team Mexico (Konnan & Rey Misterio).
- Team Japan (Mr. Saito & The Great Muta) defeated Team USSR (Salman Hashimikov & Victor Zangiev).
- Team USA (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) defeated Team Japan (Mr. Saito & The Great Muta).
Non-tournament matches (in order of occurrence):
- Bobby Eaton defeated The Z-Man.
- Michael Wallstreet defeated Terry Taylor.
- The Skyscrapers (Dan Spivey & Sid Vicious) defeated Big Cat & The Motor City Madman in just 61 seconds.
- Ricky Morton & Tommy Rich defeated The Fabulous Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes).
- Lex Luger defeated Stan Hansen in a bullrope match to win the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship.
- Doom (Butch Reed & Ron Simmons) vs. The Four Horsemen (Arn Anderson & Barry Windham) ended in a double pin for the NWA World Tag Team Championship in a street fight.
- Sting defeated The Black Scorpion in a steel cage match to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Dick the Bruiser was the special referee. Post-match, the Black Scorpion, rumored at various points to be Ultimate Warrior, Dave “Angel of Death” Sheldon, and Al Perez, was unmasked. It was Ric Flair.
16 years ago today, lucha libre legend Blue Demon died of a heart attack on his way home from his morning training session. He was 78.
Born Alejandro Munoz Moreno on April 24, 1922 in Rinconada, Mexico, he was the fifth of twelve children to farmer parents. After dropping out of school at an early age, he moved to Monterrey, where he worked on the National Railroad. His co-workers called him "Manatos" for his large, powerful hands.
A chance meeting with Mexican wrestler Rolando Vera got him interested in lucha libre wrestling. Under the training of Vera, he began wrestling without a mask in March 1948. Later in the year, he would return to Mexico and adopt the persona of The Blue Demon. Demon would form a tag team with fellow luchador The Black Shadow and became Los Hermanos Shadow (The Shadow Brothers). The partnership lasted until 1952, when Black Shadow lost his mask to El Santo.
Blue Demon, who was a rudo, would become a tecnico and would feud with Santo for over a year, culminating in a series of matches in 1952 and 1953. Blue Demon would have a five year-run as NWA World Welterweight Champion, defeating Santo for the title in 1953, and holding it until 1958. The Demon-Santo rivalry never truly died; they weren't friends in real life, though the two starred in nine luchador films together (Demon starred in 25 films altogether from 1964-1977). Throughout the 1960s, he had a heated rivalry with El Rayo de Jalisco. The rivalry would span into the late 1980s, defeating him in a mask vs. mask match in 1988.
At age 67, Blue Demon retired in 1989, teaming with his adopted son Blue Demon Jr. in his final match. That year, a documentary, Blue Demon, the Champion, was released. Blue Demon would die of natural causes while on a bench near a subway kiosk on his way home from his regular morning training session at the Blue Demon Instituto Atletico, where he would pass on his fighting teachings to others. Though there were attempts to get him to a hospital, he was unable to be revived. Blue Demon was buried with his trademark blue mask, a mask he would never remove publicly.
10 years ago today in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Carlito defeated Jon Heidenreich to win the World Wrestling Council Universal Championship. Moments later, he lost the title back to Heidenreich.
9 years ago today, WWE presented Armageddon (WWE Network link) from the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. About 12,500 were in attendance, with 237,000 homes watching on PPV.
- In a preshow dark match, Jesse & Festus defeated John Morrison & The Miz.
- Rey Mysterio defeated Montel Vontavious Porter by countout in a WWE United States Championship match.
- Big Daddy V & Mark Henry defeated CM Punk & Kane.
- Shawn Michaels defeated Mr. Kennedy.
- Jeff Hardy defeated Triple H to earn a WWE Championship match at the 2008 Royal Rumble event.
- Finlay defeated The Great Khali.
- Chris Jericho defeated Randy Orton by disqualification in a WWE Championship match.
- Beth Phoenix defeated Mickie James to retain the WWE Women's Championship.
- Edge defeated Batista and The Undertaker in a triple threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
8 years ago today at an TNA Impact taping at Universal Orlando, Lethal Consequences (Jay Lethal & Consequences Creed) defeated Beer Money, Inc. (James Storm & Robert Roode) to win the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
7 years ago today, TNA knockout Christy Hemme announces her retirement from in-ring competition, citing her concerns of reinjuring her neck.
Hemme broke into the business in 2004 winning the first RAW Diva Search competition. She posed for Playboy in 2005 and was released late that year. She signed with TNA in 2006, where she has remained ever since, taking on many roles, including manager, valet, ring announcer, and member of their creative team. After a decade with the company, Hemme left TNA in April 2016.
4 years ago today, Ring of Honor presented Final Battle: Doomsday from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. The show featured the final in-ring appearance of El Generico.
- In a dark match, Grizzly Redwood defeated Q.T. Marshall.
- Roderick Strong defeated Michael Elgin.
- Jay Lethal defeated Rhino.
- R.D. Evans defeated Prince Nana.
- Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team (Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas) defeated Rhett Titus and BJ Whitmer in a New York Street Fight.
- Mike Bennett defeated Jerry Lynn.
- The American Wolves (Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards) defeated reDRagon (Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish).
- Matt Hardy defeated Adam Cole.
- Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe) defeated S.C.U.M. (Jimmy Jacobs and Steve Corino) and Caprice Coleman and Cedric Alexander in a three-way tag team match to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship.
- Kevin Steen defeated El Generico in Ladder War IV to retain the ROH World Championship.
4 years ago today, WWE presented TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs (WWE Network link) from the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, New York. 15,748 were in attendance, with 170,000 homes watching on PPV.
- In a dark match, JTG defeated David Otunga.
- In a preshow match, Naomi defeated Layla, Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox, Natalya, Tamina Snuka, Aksana, Rosa Mendes and Cameron in a Santa's Helpers battle royal to earn a WWE Divas Championship match later in the show.
- Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow) defeated Sin Cara and Rey Mysterio in a tables match for the #1 contendership for the WWE Tag Team Championship.
- Antonio Cesaro defeated R-Truth to retain the United States Championship.
- Kofi Kingston defeated Wade Barrett to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
- The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns) defeated Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) and Ryback in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.
- Eve Torres defeated Naomi to retain the WWE Divas Championship.
- Big Show defeated Sheamus in a chairs match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
- Alberto Del Rio, The Brooklyn Brawler, and The Miz defeated 3MB (Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater & Jinder Mahal).
- Dolph Ziggler defeated John Cena in a World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match.
3 years ago today, Allen Jones, best known to wrestling fans as AJ Styles, leaves TNA after 11 years with the company.
The multi-time NWA and TNA world champion and the company could not come to an agreement on a long-term deal; TNA had been in budget-cutting mode for some time in the wake of the company not getting nearly the return on investment it expected when they brought in Hulk Hogan back in late 2009.
Styles issued a statement on his site declaring his free agency just hours after his contract expired:
Today for the first time in 11 years, AJ Styles awakes to find himself without a professional wrestling contract. I can't help but think how did I get here, what must I have done wrong, did I not deliver in the ring, etc. All of those are pertinent questions that any man or woman who finds himself or herself unemployed would ask. I have always prided myself in being the wrestler that stays away from the things in this business that could easily destroy myself, my family, my marriage, and even my career. A wrestler who goes above and beyond to give the fans what they paid to see. I move forward not bitter, but better for the blessings and memories that I have been a part of since TNA's inception.
When this contract renegotiation journey started several months ago, my wife and I began praying for God to close doors that needed to be closed and to open the doors that He wanted us to walk through. We asked him to prepare us for this journey and to help us to have the faith to be obedient to what He would have us to do. I am assured by the name Immanuel in Matthews 1:23 that I will never be alone. Hebrews 13.5, says He will never leave us or forsake us. There is a lot in this world that I am unsure of, especially in this moment, but there is one thing that I am certain. Contracts may expire, but the promise of Immanuel will never expire.
As my family and I move forward with my wrestling career, we will turn to Jabez's prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10.
Oh, that You would bless me indeed,
and enlarge my territory,
that Your hand would be with me,
and that You would keep me from evil.
My family and I are both grateful for the platform that TNA has allowed me to experience. TNA has been a blessing to our family for many years. We have made many friendships and many more memories. While you may not be seeing AJ Styles in TNA, you can be sure that he will be traveling the world and delivering many more Phenomenal matches. Visit AJStyles.org for a complete list of bookings.
AJ Styles P1
It did not take long for Styles to find work; his agent announced that he had dates on the independent circuit already lined up for January and February. In March 2014, Styles signed a deal to return to New Japan Pro Wrestling, and would debut at Invasion Attack in April 2014. In his first match with the company in six years, Styles defeated Kazuchika Okada to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
2 years ago today, WWE presented Super Smackdown Live! (WWE Network link) from the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The show was a milestone one, as it was the 800th episode of the series.
- Roman Reigns defeated Fandango.
- Erick Rowan and The Usos (Jimmy & Jey Uso) defeated Luke Harper, The Miz, and Damien Mizdow.
- Ryback versus Seth Rollins fought to a no contest.
- Nikki Bella defeated Naomi to retain the WWE Divas Championship.
- Kane defeated Adam Rose in just 80 seconds.
- Dolph Ziggler defeated Seth Rollins to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
1 year ago today, NXT presented Takeover: London (WWE Network link) from The SSE Arena in Wembley, England. This was the first Takeover event presented outside the United States.
Preshow matches taped for future broadcasts:
- Jason Jordan and Chad Gable defeated The Vaudevillains (Aiden English & Simon Gotch), The Hype Bros (Zack Ryder & Mojo Rawley), and Blake and Murphy.
- Elias Samson defeated Bull Dempsey.
- Sami Zayn defeated Tye Dillinger. This was Zayn’s first match since suffering a shoulder injury in his main roster debut in May.
Matches airing during Takeover:
- Asuka defeated Emma.
- Dash and Dawson defeated Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to retain the NXT Tag Team Championship.
- Baron Corbin defeated Apollo Crews.
- Bayley defeated Nia Jax by submission to retain the NXT Women’s Championship.
- Finn Balor defeated Samoa Joe to retain the NXT Championship.
The best of cSs on this day:
2015: Roman Reigns gets his custom WWE world heavyweight title side plates (As per standard operating procedure, WWE releases a picture of the new champion’s side plates)
2014: Why the Sun is already setting on The New Day (Sean Rueter is not sold on The New Day—and let’s be honest, a lot of you weren’t either)
2013: With WWE TLC 2013 in the books, the next stop is Royal Rumble 2014 (With TLC done and dusted, Geno lays out the roadmap to Wrestlemania)
2012: WWE TLC results: Dolph Ziggler wins after AJ Lee turns on John Cena (Dolph Ziggler holds on to his Money in the Bank briefcase with help from AJ Lee)
2011: That was awesome! (clap clap clapclapclap): I guess it's true ... you CAN hit the RKO from any angle (A look back at the legendary Shooting StaRKO; the video’s not on the page. But you can see it here)