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This Day in Wrestling History (Dec. 5): AJ Styles’ final TNA match

this day in wrestling history

19 years ago today in Waltham, Massachusetts, Doug Furnas and Phil Lafon defeat the Full Blooded Italians (Little Guido & Tracy Smothers) to win the ECW World Tag Team Championship.

12 years ago today, TNA presented Turning Point from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando.

  • Team Canada (Bobby Roode & Eric Young) defeated 3 Live Kru (BG James & Ron Killings) to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship.
  • Hector Garza, Sonjay Dutt, and Sonny Siaki defeated Kazarian, Kid Kash, and Michael Shane.
  • Monty Brown defeated Abyss in a Serengeti Survival Match.
  • Johnny B. Badd & Pat Kenney defeated The New York Connection (Glen Gilberti & Johnny Swinger).
  • Diamond Dallas Page defeated Raven.
  • Petey Williams defeated Chris Sabin to retain the TNA X-Division Championship.
  • AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, and, Randy Savage defeated The Kings of Wrestling (Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall). This turned out to be the final match in the legendary career of Randy “Macho Man” Savage... and his direct involvement in the match lasted all of 51 seconds. The win was to lead to a brief NWA world title reign for Savage (he would defeat Jarrett for the title at Final Resolution in January, only to lose it back to Jarrett at Against All Odds in February), but Savage left TNA after getting wind that they were trying to bring in Hulk Hogan. After injuring his back the next month while training some students at the Harley Race Wrestling Academy, Savage quietly announced his retirement in February 2005.
  • America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) defeated Triple X (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper) in a Six Sides of Steel match. As a result of the loss, Triple X was forced to disband. The match was voted sixth best in the 2005 Match of the Year category by Wrestling Observer Newsletter (the match came too late to be entered in the 2004 category).

11 years ago today on RAW from North Charleston, South Carolina (WWE Network link), Eric Bischoff's three and a half year tenure as RAW General Manager comes to an end in spectacular fashion.

Made to answer for his failures as longtime boss in a mock trial by Vince McMahon, Bischoff was unceremoniously dumped in the back of a garbage truck and driven off by the honorable McMahon. Bischoff would make sporadic appearances for the company through 2007.

7 years ago today, TNA announces via press release that they would air a special three-hour episode of Impact head-to-head against Monday Night RAW on January 4.

The show, highlighted by the TNA debuts of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair and the return of Jeff Hardy, would be the most watched in company history. They would still be crushed by RAW, which on the same night had the return of Bret Hart. The record audience basically greenlights TNA's move to Monday nights a couple months later.

6 years ago today, TNA presented Final Resolution from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando.

  • Beer Money, Inc. (James Storm and Robert Roode) defeated Ink Inc. (Jesse Neal and Shannon Moore) to become the #1 contender for the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
  • Tara defeated Mickie James in a Falls Count Anywhere match.
  • Robbie E defeated Jay Lethal by disqualification to retain the TNA X Division Championship. Cookie was suspended above the ring in shark cage.
  • Rob Van Dam defeated Rhino in a First Blood match.
  • Douglas Williams defeated A.J. Styles to win the TNA Television Championship.
  • The Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) defeated Generation Me (Max and Jeremy Buck) in a Full Metal Mayhem Tag Team match to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
  • Abyss defeated D'Angelo Dinero in a casket match.
  • Jeff Jarrett defeated Samoa Joe in a submission match.
  • Jeff Hardy defeated Matt Morgan in a No Disqualification match to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Mr. Anderson was the special referee. Of note, the match nearly didn’t happen. Multiple reports came out the day after the show that Hardy showed up in no condition to perform (just days before he was set to go to court to answer for his arrest on multiple drug charges in September 2009, no less). Though there was a plan in place to run an alternate world title match, TNA stuck to the original booked plan. For what it’s worth, Hardy was not reprimanded.

3 years ago today at an Impact taping in Universal Orlando, Chris Sabin defeated Austin Aries to win the TNA X Division Championship.

On the same taping, Magnus defeated AJ Styles in a unification match to become the undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

It turned out to be AJ's final match with the company, as the two sides were far apart money-wise on a new contract. Styles became a free agent when his contract expires twelve days later, meaning by the time the match airs—January 9, 2014—Styles had already debuted for his new home, New Japan Pro Wrestling. He would wrestle there and Ring of Honor primarily for the next two years before joining WWE in January 2016.

It’s a happy 58th birthday today to Thomas Billington, best known to wrestling fans as the Dynamite Kid.

Born in Golborne, Lancashire, England, wrestling was in his blood. His father Bill, uncle Eric, and grandfather Joe were all boxers at one point or another; another of his ancestors, James, most famous for being a state-employed executioner, wrestled as a child. Thomas was drawn into sports as a youth himself, taking up interest in wrestling, gymnastics, and boxing. It was during a wrestling show he went to with his father that his interest in wrestling began. After catching the attention of wrestler Ted Betley, Billington began formal wrestling training, primarily as a way to avoid working in the coal mines.

Thomas began working for Joint Promotions under long-time owner Max Crabtree. In April 1977, he would win the British lightweight title; he would add their welterweight title the following January. Later in 1978, Billington moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Billington, who would soon take up the ring name The Dynamite Kid, made a huge impact with Stampede Wrestling for his bouts with brothers Bruce and Bret Hart, the latter brother calling Billington “pound-for-pound, the greatest wrestler who ever lived”. It was also while he was with Stampede Billington got into the drug culture of the wrestling business, being introduced to anabolic steroid Dianabol by Sylvester “Big Daddy” Ritter (who would go on to great fame as the Junkyard Dog) and speed by Jake Roberts.

Billington would spend most of the early 1980s in Japan, most notably for New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he would engage in a legendary feud with Satoru Sayama, the original Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask would make his pro wrestling debut with a win over the Dynamite Kid. The feud is often credited with popularizing junior heavyweight wrestling in Japan. The feud intensified when Dynamite injured Tiger Mask in a tag match in April 1983; the injury forced Tiger Mask to vacate both the WWF and NWA junior heavyweight titles.

Later in the month, the two met for the vacant WWF junior heavyweight title, but after going to a draw three times, no champion would be crowned. Tiger Mask would win the title in June in Mexico City, holding it until his shocking retirement in August. Dynamite Kid would finally win the WWF junior heavyweight title in February 1984, defeating The Cobra in a tournament final. In an interesting bit of trivia, he would defeat his future tag team partner earlier in the tournament: Davey Boy Smith.

Shortly after the Stampede Wrestling buyout in August 1984, Billington made his WWF debut, teaming with Bret Hart to defeat Iron Mike Sharpe and Troy Alexander. The two would eventually split up, with Hart joining his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart as The Hart Foundation, while Billington would reunite with his rival-turned-tag partner Davey Boy Smith as The British Bulldogs. The Bulldogs and the Hart Foundation had a long-running feud with one another with their bouts often going to no contests. At Wrestlemania II in April 1986, the Bulldogs defeated The Dream Team (Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake) to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.

Late in the year, Billington would suffer a serious back injury in a tag match against Don Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton. While recovering from back surgery, Vince McMahon was trying to strip the Bulldogs of their tag titles, with Bret Hart being sent to get Dynamite’s tag belt; Billington not only ultimately refused, but checked himself out of the hospital. Furthermore, Billington stated that he would drop the titles, but only to the Hart Foundation. McMahon agreed, and the Bulldogs dropped the titles to the Hart Foundation in January 1987. To cover up for Dynamite Kid’s injury, Bulldog assisted Kid into the ring by linking arms, then in the early moments of the match, Dynamite was knocked out by Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. The loss practically ended the Bulldogs’ run as a top-tier team in the WWF; they would hang around, but never seriously become a threat in the tag title scene again. Billington left the WWF following the 1988 Survivor Series after he got in a dispute with management over complimentary plane tickets; in solidarity, Davey Boy Smith followed out the door.

The duo returned to Stampede Wrestling after leaving the WWF and would win their International Tag Team Championship. They frequented All Japan Pro Wrestling and were allowed to pick and choose which tours they wanted to participate in. Billington would get into a heated singles feud with Johnny Smith in February 1989 after Smith had cut his hair. The Bulldogs would split up in May 1989 and feuded with each other, with Billington joining his rival Johnny Smith as the British Bruisers, and Davey Boy Smith partnering with Chris Benoit.

Late in 1990, the Bulldogs split up for good when Davey Boy withdrew their team from All Japan’s annual World’s Strongest Tag Determination League (think the G1 Climax, but for tag teams) and opted to return to the WWF. He even fabricated a story saying that Billington was in a car accident. Johnny Smith would take Billington’s place in the tournament as The British Bruisers (which, if you recall, was the name of the tag team Billington had with Smith). It’s not the only thing Smith took; during the Bulldog’s first WWF run, Davey Boy trademarked the term “The British Bulldog” and upon his return to the WWF, he would be coined as such, and British promoters could not promote Billington as a “British Bulldog”.

Billington was legit tough as nails (so tough, wrestlers would use him as a bodyguard on the road—Randy Savage did so once when he went to a bar frequented by NWA wrestlers), but also very stiff in the ring (Mick Foley remarked he was once manhandled so badly by Billington, he had a ligament torn in his jaw, preventing him from eating solid food for a while). His in-ring style, combined with his drug use (including once experimenting with horse steroids), led to Billington to retire just one day after his 33rd birthday in 1991.

Billington continued to wrestle sporadically until October 1996; it was remarked by Billington himself in his book Pure Dynamite: The Price You Pay for Wrestling Stardom that his body had degenerated to where he was “practically skin and bones” at the time of his final match. While at the airport waiting to return home, Billington had a seizure. It wasn’t his first near-death experience; while staying with Dan Spivey, the two took LSD. Billington came close to death twice on the same day, with paramedics having to revitalize him with adrenaline shots both times.

In 1997, the numerous back and leg injuries cost Billington the use of his left leg. He uses a wheelchair to move around. Billington has been told by doctors he would never be able to walk again. Also contributing to his paralysis was the use of the diving headbutt, a move first made famous by Harley Race (Race regrets inventing the move due to the spinal problems and concussions the move had caused). Billington, who reportedly suffered a stroke in 2013, was named in a class action lawsuit against WWE regarding concussion-based injuries.

A member of the Stampede Wrestling and Wrestling Observer Newsletter Halls of Fame, Billington was ranked the #41 singles wrestler of the PWI Years in 2003 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated; he and Davey Boy Smith were ranked the fifth best tag team of the PWI Years that same year. In 2002, Billington was named by New Japan Pro Wrestling fans as the greatest gaijin (foreigner) junior heavyweight of all time.

It's a happy 65th birthday to Lawrence Whistler, best known to wrestling fans as "The Living Legend" Larry Zbyszko.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Whistler trained under Bruno Sammartino and made his professional debut as Larry Zbyszko, a tribute to 1920's Polish wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko. He wrestled in and around the Pittsburgh area, appearing on Studio Wrestling before receiving bookings in Vancouver, then eventually landing with the WWWF in 1972.

After stops in California and Guatemala in 1975 and 1976 respectively, Zbyszko returned to the WWWF in 1976 and would team with Tony Garea. They would win the tag titles together in November 1978 and hold them until being defeated by the Valiant Brothers in March 1979.

Zbyszko's singles career took off when he turned on his mentor Bruno Sammartino in a fit of rage on January 22, 1980. Dominating the early stages of a student-teacher bout between the two, Sammartino was struck with a wooden chair by Larry and left in a pool of his own blood. Needless to say, the attack turned him heel. It also got him the kind of heat that nearly gets someone killed; he was so hated in the Northeastern part of the country that any car he traveled in, whether it was his own or a taxi, suffered damage and was often turned over by overzealous fans. He was also struck with an iron pole following a match by Ivan Putski and stabbed in the butt by Pedro Morales in a different match. Despite being approached by Captain Lou Albano, Freddie Blassie, and the Grand Wizard to take him under their wing, Larry chose to wrestle without a manager. The feud gripped the WWWF for most of 1980, culminating with Showdown at Shea where Sammartino, the "Living Legend", defeated Zbyszko, the "New Living Legend", in a steel cage match on August 9, 1980.

In 1981, Larry joined NWA affiliate Georgia Championship Wrestling, claiming to have retired Bruno Sammartino (ironically, the same year, Bruno retired from wrestling full-time). He feuded with Tim Woods, Paul Orndorff, and Bruno's son David. Zbyszko bought the NWA National Heavyweight Championship from Killer Tim Brooks after he had defeated Orndorff for the title in March 1983. $25,000 well spent, thought Larry, but NWA President Bob Geigel didn't quite think so, and stripped Larry of the title a month later. Just one week after being stripped of the title, Larry would win it back in a tournament, defeated Mr. Wrestling II in the final. He would lose the title in September to Brett Wayne.

Larry next turned up in the AWA in March 1984. The next year, he was awarded the AWA Americas Championship, mainly as a means to feud with Sgt. Slaughter. The two feuded for six months, with Slaughter winning the title in June 1985. It was during the feud one of Larry's most notorious qualities came to light: he often stalled for minutes at a time when Slaughter gained an advantage (Zbyszko once remarked he stalled for sixteen minutes in a match with Slaughter). The next year he feuded with Nick Bockwinkel, Ray Stevens, and boxer-turned-referee Scott LeDoux. The feud culminated in 1987 when Zbyszko assisted Curt Hennig in winning the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Following an assault on Bockwinkel in the rematch two months later, Larry was suspended from the AWA "for life". Larry began claiming he retired Bockwinkel (who retired shortly after the incident) too.

He briefly returned to the NWA in late 1987 and feuded with Barry Windham over the NWA Western States Heritage Championship, a title he would win from him in January 1988. His second manager Gary Hart had tried to line up Zbyszko for an NWA World Heavyweight Championship match, but was unsuccessful. Zbyszko and his partner Al Perez were on the outside looking in when Jim Crockett Promotions was bought out by Ted Turner, and Zbyszko left for a second run in the AWA in 1989.

Shortly after returning, he won an 18-man battle royal under dubious circumstances, last eliminating Tom Zenk, to win the then-vacated AWA World Heavyweight Championship. He would win it a second time at AWA Superclash 4from Mr. Saito a year later. Zbyszko would be the AWA's last world champion as he signed with WCW in December 1990; the AWA soon declared bankruptcy and folded the next year.

Intially returning as a partner for Terrance Taylor of the York Foundation, Larry would team with Arn Anderson as the Enforcers. Larry himself would gain notoriety in late 1991 when he broke Barry Windham's hand by slamming a car door on it. Larry would nickname himself "The Cruncher" from then on. The Enforcers would join Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, and Madusa to form the Dangerous Alliance managed by Paul E. Dangerously. The alliance would fall apart when Zbyszko accidentally hit Eaton with a turnbuckle near the conclusion of the WarGames match at Wrestlewar '92. Zbyszko was immediately fired from the stable, essentially turning him face. After briefly feuding with Austin and Eaton, Larry retired from full-time competition and began a new career as a color commentator.

Larry did occasionally wrestle; in May 1994, Larry defeated Lord Steven Regal for the WCW World Television Championship. Regal would win it back just seven weeks later. In late 1997 and early 1998, he feuded with Scott Hall and Eric Bischoff, defeating the latter at Starrcade 1997 and the former at Souled Out when Dusty Rhodes, Larry's cornerman turned on him. He wrestled a retirement match against Curt Hennig in December 1999 and lost, though he was back a month later as part of the Old Age Outlaws stable in early 2000. He remained with WCW, mostly in a commentary capacity, until his release late in the year.

Larry wrestled largely on the independent circuit over the next few years and served as an on-screen authority figure for TNA from 2004 to 2006. In 2008, he penned his autobiography, Adventures in Larryland! In 2013, Larry signed a WWE Legends contract and recorded interviews for future DVD releases and WWE Network features. Larry is a regular at NXT tapings in Orlando and has appeared at Wrestlemania Axxess.

In 2015, Larry was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his longtime rival and mentor, Bruno Sammartino.

The best of cSs on this day:

2015: Who should win the Royal Rumble? (An informal Cageside poll on who should win the 2016 Royal Rumble)

2014: Bray Wyatt talks his feud with Dean Ambrose and has the best response to Vince McMahon (Bray Wyatt talks TLC and brass rings with 106.7 The Fan’s Chad Dukes)

2013: HHH officially in charge of WWE Creative (PWInsider reports that Triple H will take Stephanie McMahon’s place as head of creative)

2012: CM Punk passes John Cena for longest WWE championship reign (381 days) in past 25 years (WWE infographic on the longest reigning champions of the last 25 years is now topped by CM Punk)

2011: WWE Network details emerge: Channel to reach 40 million homes and feature other sports properties? (Sports Business Daily reports that WWE in negotiations with cable and satellite providers to launch a cable channel in time for Wrestlemania XXVIII)

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