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This Day in Wrestling History (Mar. 14): Chris Benoit Wins The World Heavyweight Championship

DISCLAIMER: I know today's one of those "trigger days", if you will, but we are the best wrestling community in the galaxy for a reason. If you must discuss Chris Benoit, do it responsibility. Even though TDIPWH is one of the quieter corners of the community, the rules still apply. Thanks.

38 years ago today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dino Bravo and Dominic Denucci defeated Mr. Fuji and Professor Tanaka to win the WWWF Tag Team Championship.

29 years ago today, NBC aired the tenth edition of WWF Saturday Night's Main Event (WWE Network link). The show, taped February 21, emanated from the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The show featured a tribute video for Roddy Piper set to Frank Sinatra's "My Way". Piper was set to retire following Wrestlemania III.

  • Randy Savage defeated George Steele by countout to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
  • Hercules Hernandez last eliminated Billy Jack Haynes to win a 20-man battle royal. Other participants included André the Giant, Outlaw Ron Bass, Demolition (Ax & Smash), Hillbilly Jim, The Honky Tonk Man, Hulk Hogan, The Islanders (Haku & Tama), The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair & Jim Brunzell), Blackjack Mulligan, Paul Orndorff, Lanny Poffo, Butch Reed, Sika, Nikolai Volkoff, and Koko B. Ware. Of note, Andre the Giant, the challenger for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania III, eliminated Hogan.
  • King Kong Bundy defeated Jake Roberts by disqualification.
  • The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) defeated Tito Santana & Dan Spivey to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship.
  • Ricky Steamboat defeated The Iron Sheik.

29 years ago today in Atlanta, Georgia, Ivan Koloff and Dick Murdoch defeated Ron Garvin and Barry Windham to win the NWA United States Tag Team Championship.

17 years ago today, WCW presented Uncensored (WWE Network link) from Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. 15,930 were in attendance, with 325,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 415,000 homes for the 1998 event.

  • Billy Kidman defeated Mikey Whipwreck to retain the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. (3.5/5)
  • Stevie Ray defeated Vincent in a Harlem Street Fight. (0)
  • Kevin Nash defeated Rey Mysterio, Jr. (1.5)
  • Jerry Flynn defeated Ernest Miller and Sonny Onoo in a handicap match. (0.5)
  • Hak defeated Bam Bam Bigelow and Raven in a triple threat falls count anywhere match. (3)
  • Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko defeated Curt Hennig and Barry Windham in a lumberjack match to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship. (2.75)
  • Perry Saturn defeated Chris Jericho in a dog collar match. (0.5)
  • Booker T defeated Scott Steiner to win the WCW World Television Championship. (2)
  • Ric Flair defeated Hollywood Hogan in a first blood steel cage match to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Flair bled first, yet referee Charles Robinson never stopped the match. Flair won when Hogan's shoulders were down while Flair had the figure four leglock applied. The win also gave Flair complete control of WCW. (2.75)

16 years ago today in Yokohama, Japan, Naoya Ogawa defeated Dan Severn to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The win ended Severn's run at 1,479 days, or just a shade over four years, the third longest in the history of the championship.

12 years ago today, WWE presented Wrestlemania XX: Where It All Begins Again (WWE Network link) from Madison Square Garden in New York City. About 20,000 were in attendance, with 885,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up from 560,000 for Wrestlemania XIX.

At $2.4 million, Wrestlemania XX was at the time the highest grossing event in the history of Madison Square Garden. And at four and a half hours, it's the longest Wrestlemania ever. By comparison, the first Wrestlemania, held in the same building, lasted about half as long.

  • John Cena defeated The Big Show to win the WWE United States Championship. (1.25/5)
  • Rob Van Dam and Booker T defeated Garrison Cade and Mark Jindrak, The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) and La Résistance (René Duprée and Rob Conway) in a fatal four-way tag team match to retain the World Tag Team Championship. (1.5)
  • Christian defeated Chris Jericho. (3.5)
  • Evolution (Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair) defeated The Rock 'n Sock Connection (The Rock and Mick Foley) in a in a three-on-two handicap match. Of note, this would be The Rock's last match until Survivor Series in 2011. (3.5)
  • Torrie Wilson and Sable defeated Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie in a Playboy Evening Gown match. (0.25)
  • Chavo Guerrero last pinned Rey Mysterio to win the Cruiserweight Open and retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. (2.5)
    • Último Dragón pinned Shannon Moore.
    • Jamie Noble defeated Dragon by submission.
    • Noble pinned Funaki.
    • Noble defeated Nunzio by countout.
    • Billy Kidman pinned Noble.
    • Rey Mysterio pinned Kidman.
    • Mysterio pinned Tajiri.
    • Mysterio defeated Akio by forfeit.
    • Chavo Guerrero pinned Mysterio with interference from Chavo Guerrero, Sr.
  • Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar. Steve Austin was the special referee. Of note, this was the final WWE match for both men. Goldberg has not returned since, and Lesnar did not return until 2012. (1.25)
  • Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty defeated The World's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin), The Basham Brothers (Danny and Doug) and The APA (Bradshaw and Faarooq) in a fatal four-way tag team match to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship. (1.25)
  • Victoria defeated Molly Holly in a hair versus title match to retain the WWE Women's Championship. With the win, Victoria got to shave Molly's head. (1)
  • Eddie Guerrero defeated Kurt Angle to retain the WWE Championship. (4)
  • The Undertaker defeated Kane. (1.25)
  • Chris Benoit defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels via submission in a triple threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. (4.75)

11 years ago today on RAW, The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) defeated La Resistance (Rob Conway & Sylvain Grenier). This was the first match for The Rockers as a team since December 1991.

On the same show, Chris Jericho's Highlight Reel featured Jake "The Snake" Roberts. It was his first WWE appearance since his firing in February 1997.

8 years ago today, Vince McMahon receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

8 years ago today in an Albany, New York court, Dr. Gary Brandwein pleads guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance. Brandwein was a Florida doctor who wrote prescriptions for performance-enhancing drugs including steroids and HGH to celebrities and professional wrestlers.

He was in the crosshairs as part of the Signature online pharmacy scandal. Brandwein would serve a year in jail, followed by a year of probation. In exchange for the plea agreement, he would assist the prosecution in their investigation into the pharmacy.

8 years ago today, Ring of Honor made its debut in Dover, New Jersey. Between matches, the final scenes of The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke were being filmed. The scene involved Randy the Ram, played by Rourke, facing his arch rival, the Ayatollah, played by Ernest Miller, at an ROH show.

6 years ago today in Charlotte, North Carolina, Adam Pearce defeated Blue Demon, Jr. and Phil Shatter in a three-way bout to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

5 years ago today on RAW from St. Louis, Missouri, Vickie Guerrero defeated Trish Stratus to regain her position as General Manager of RAW.

Post-match, Vickie on behalf of Laycool (Layla & Michelle McCool) and Dolph Ziggler issues a challenge to John Morrison, Trish, and Snooki of Jersey Shore fame to a Wrestlemania match, which they accept. In an interesting bit of trivia, Vickie Guerrero is the first person to defeat Trish in a one-on-one televised match since July 2006.

On the same show, King Sheamus defeated Daniel Bryan in a career versus title match to win the WWE United States Championship.

Today's the 74th birthday of Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, best known to wrestling fans as The Iron Sheik.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Khosorov made a name for himself as an amateur wrestler and a bodyguard for Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1968, he was a member of the Iranian national team in the Summer Olympics in Greco-Roman Wrestling. Two years later, he moved to the United States. He would win the AAU Greco-Roman wrestling championship at 180.5 pounds (82 kg) in 1971 and was an assistant coach for the United States national team in the 1972 Olympics.

That same year, under the encouragement of Verne Gagne, Khosorov gave professional wrestling a try. He trained under Billy Robinson (and alongside Ric Flair) before joining Gagne's American Wrestling Association. Khosorov would also work as a trainer, training Ricky Steamboat, Greg Gagne, and Jim Brunzell.

Initially wrestling as a face, a promoter suggested Khosorov adopt a heel gimmick similar to that of the original Sheik (Ed Farhat). Shaving his head, growing a traditional buffo-style mustache, adding wrestling boots with a curled toe, and swinging Persian clubs, a sport in his native Iran, Khosorov became The Great Hossein Arab. He would gain success, winning the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship (Vancouver version) in 1978. The next year, he would join the WWWF. He won the first ever battle royal in Madison Square Garden in 1979, giving him a shot at Bob Backlund's WWWF Championship. He would lose that bout in a 30-minute effort. He would feud with another former champion, Bruno Sammartino and Chief Jay Strongbow before leaving the promotion in 1980.

He would spend most of the next three years in the NWA Mid-South and Mid-Atlantic territories, where he became The Iron Shiek, playing off real-life animosities Americans had for Iran, particularly during and after the Iran hostage crisis. He would capture the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship and the National Television Championship during his time there.

In 1983, The Iron Sheik returned to the rechristened WWF and feuded with Bob Backlund over the WWF world title. Backlund accepted and successfully swung the Persian clubs, after which Sheik attacked him from behind and injured his neck. That injury would play into one of the WWF's most famous bouts just two days later when Sheik trapped Backlund in the camel clutch. Backlund's manager, Arnold Skaaland, would throw in the towel out of concern for his safety, awarding the WWF title to The Iron Sheik. Sheik primarily defended the WWF title against jobbers on television, but would defeat Pat Patterson, Salvatore Bellomo, Bobby Bradley, and Tito Santana, as well as fought to no contests against Backlund.

On January 23, 1984, Hulk Hogan, substituting for Backlund, would challenge for the Iron Sheik's WWF Championship. Despite Iron Sheik trapping Hogan in the camel clutch, Hogan powered out and would hit atomic legdrop for the WWF Championship in what is generally considered to be the beginning of the Hulkamania era. Sheik was then moved into a bitter feud with Sgt. Slaughter, culminating with Slaughter winning a Boot Camp Rules match.

The next year, he would team with Nikolai Volkoff as part of the Foreign Legion. The duo waved the flags of Iran and the Soviet Union. Their act would begin with demanding quiet and respect from the crowd followed by Volkoff singing the Soviet national anthem. Then Iron Sheik would declare Iran #1, Russia, #1, USA, hacktoo (spit). This, unsurprisingly, was met with boos from the crowd. With Classy Freddie Blassie as manager, the duo would defeat the US Express in the first Wrestlemania for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Sheik was quite popular during the Rock ‘n Wrestling era, appearing in Cyndi Lauper's "Goonies ‘R' Good Enough" music video, and appearing (albeit in animated form) as a recurring character on Hulk Hogan's Rock ‘n Wrestling.

On May 26, 1987, Sheik and Hacksaw Jim Duggan were pulled over by New Jersey police suspecting Duggan was driving under the influence. After a search, it was discovered both men were under the influence (Duggan of marijuana, Sheik, the passenger, of cocaine). Though both men avoided jail time, the story made national news as the two rivals seen together in the same place was a blatant breach of kayfabe; as a result, the angle was abandoned and both men were released. Sheik would be brought back in February 1988, but would wrestle mostly on the house show circuit before being released later in the year.

After some time in smaller national promotions, including World Class Championship Wrestling and the American Wrestling Association, as well as Puerto Rico-based World Wrestling Council, Sheik returned to the national spotlight for WCW in 1989. His most notable bout was a losing effort against Sting for the WCW World Television Championship at Wrestlewar '89. Sheik briefly aligned with Ron Simmons that summer, but the angle was eventually dropped. Sheik was to be gone from WCW in early 1990, but because someone forgot Sheik's rollover clause, he got to stick around. His only notable television bout was at The Great American Bash in a losing effort to Mike Rotunda. He spent most of the remainder of his tenure on the house show circuit before leaving in January 1991.

Just over a month after his final WCW bout, Sheik returned to the WWF as Colonel Mustafa, aligning himself with one-time nemesis Sgt. Slaughter. Along with General Adnan, the trio, unofficially named the Triangle of Terror, were a group of Iraqi sympathizers at the time of the first Gulf War. They feuded with Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior through the spring and summer; following the feud, Slaughter turned face, and Adnan and Mustafa were lower-card wrestlers. Mustafa left the WWF following a Superstars taping in May 1992.

Sheik wrestled on the independent circuit over the next few years and has appeared sporadically for the WWE. He managed the Sultan in 1996 and 1997 before being released after failing a drug test. In 2001, he won the Wrestlemania X-Seven Gimmick Battle Royal, only to be put in the cobra clutch by Sgt. Slaughter post-match.

In 2004, an MWF studio shoot interview made him a new generation of fans, as he talked about his hatred for Hulk Hogan, Brian Blair, Jake Roberts, and others. The next year, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his longtime rival Sgt. Slaughter.

His final match came in April 2010, a winning effort by Sheik as he submitted "Stalker" Dylan Kage in a tag team match. The following February, Sheik underwent surgery to repair damage on his left ankle that accumulated over his wrestling career.

Sheik, a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show, had a cameo appearance on Robot Chicken and The Eric Andre Show. He has been married to Caryl Peterson for 40 years. The couple have three children together and five grandchildren (the eldest of the three, Marissa, was found strangled to death in her apartment in 2003; her boyfriend at the time, Charles Reynolds, confessed to the murder; Reynolds received a life sentence).

In August 2013, thanks to crowdfunding, a documentary on his life was produced, the film, originally scheduled to be released way back in 2008, was released in 2014 under the title The Sheik. Sheik was the first ever winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Most Underrated Wrestler award, winning it in 1980.

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