We at Cageside Seats send our condolences to the family, friends, and many, many, many fans of legendary boxer, activist, humanitarian, and special enforcer for the first ever Wrestlemania main event, Muhammad Ali. He died at a Phoenix hospital Friday at age 74.
30 years ago today, Kerry Adkisson, best known to wrestling fans as Kerry Von Erich, is injured in a motorcycle accident in Argyle, Texas.
He crashes into the back of a police car as he attempted to pass a truck on a two lane highway. At the time, Kerry was wearing shorts and no shoes, hardly protective clothing for a high speed crash. Kerry would suffer a dislocated hip and a severely damaged right foot that would eventually have to be amputated.
When exactly the foot was amputated remains up for debate. Some say it was amputated during the surgery following the crash; some believe it was amputated when he reinjured it while attempting to return to the ring before he was ready. Von Erich's family claimed he had his ankle fused, limiting the mobility in his right foot, and it was only after his death they admitted he wrestled with a prosthetic.
14 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (WWE Network link), Billy and Chuck defeated Rico & Rikishi in a tag team elimination match to win the WWE Tag Team Championship.
7 years ago today, WWE re-signs Chris Masters. Though he shows some improvement from his first run, he lasts just two years before he's released a second time.
5 years ago, Mick Foley requests and is granted his release from TNA.
Foley did have some time remaining on his contract, as he was signed through the fall of 2011, but had said on Twitter he had no plans to renew his contract with the company. Foley returned to the WWE in November.
3 years ago today, TNA releases Todd Keneley. At the time of his release, he was not under contract to the company; he was working on a per-appearance fee. Though the split was on good terms, Keneley has not returned to the promotion since.
3 years ago today, SpikeTV announces via press release they have signed former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to appear on both TNA and Bellator MMA programming. The press release in part:
QUINTON "RAMPAGE" JACKSON JOINS FORCES WITH BELLATOR MMA, TNA WRESTLING AND SPIKE TV FOR LANDMARK PARTNERSHIP
Los Angeles, CA - June 4, 2013 - Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the mixed martial arts icon and action-movie star has agreed to a monumental, multi-year partnership with Spike TV, Bellator MMA, and TNA Wrestling it was jointly announced today by Kevin Kay, Spike TV President, Bjorn Rebney, Bellator CEO, and Dixie Carter, TNA Wrestling President.
The landmark partnership includes Jackson competing in Bellator MMA, along with joining the superstars of TNA's "Impact Wrestling," which includes fellow Bellator fighter "King Mo" Lawal.
Spike TV will also create a special reality series featuring Rampage that will lead into his debut with Bellator, along with other entertainment initiatives.
"Rampage is a true superstar both inside and outside the MMA cage" Bellator CEO & Chairman Bjorn Rebney said. "The partnership that we've created with Quinton is unlike anything that's ever been done in the sports & entertainment arena and Rampage is the perfect athlete/entertainer to carry it off."
"Rampage is one of the best known MMA fighters competing today," said Carter. "He is a true cross-over star and his talent, big personality and popularity among a wide range of fans make him an extraordinary fit for our company,"
"We are thrilled to create this opportunity for one of the greatest athletes and personalities in MMA," said Kevin Kay, Spike TV President. "Rampage is a proven ratings driver who brings incredible star power to both Bellator and TNA."
Jackson (32-11) joins Bellator as a former Pride and UFC champion, having last fought on Spike TV in September 2007, in a fight vs. Dan Henderson that drew nearly 6 million viewers, making it one of the most watched fights in the sport's history. In 2009, Jackson served as a coach on Spike's "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights," the highest-rated season by far in franchise history, delivering over 3 million viewers per week. Rampage joins a Bellator Light Heavyweight division that features "King Mo," Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Emanuel Newton, Attila Vegh and Vladimir Matyushenko.
The charismatic fighter from Memphis, TN began his professional MMA career in 1999 and established his legacy across the globe through epic battles with MMA titans including Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Jon Jones and Dan Henderson among others.
Jackson starred in the 2010 blockbuster film, "The A-Team," as "B.A. Baracus," the character made famous by Mr. T in the television series. Jackson's other film credits include "Confessions of a Pit Fighter," "Fire With Fire," "Never Surrender," and "Miss March."
Jackson debuted for TNA just two days later and would wrestle just one match for the company before being pulled by Bellator. Jackson was set to face Tito Ortiz in October 2013, but Ortiz suffered a neck injury in training and the match never took place.
Jackson won all three of his fights for Bellator before returning to UFC in late 2014. He defeated Fabio Maldonado at UFC 186 in April 2015. It would be his lone comeback fight for the promotion; Jackson settled his contract dispute with Bellator and returned to their promotion in February. He will face Satoshi Ishii at Bellator 157 later this month.
As for his wrestling career; it can be safely assumed that it's over for now; in a July 2014 interview, Jackson stated that after he saw how TNA "ran things", he has no intention of coming back.
Happy 43nd birthday to John Watson, best known to wrestling fans as Mikey Whipwreck.
Initially breaking into the wrestling business as a member of the ECW ring crew, Whipwreck's gimmick when he began wrestling was he was an underdog that took a massive beating, but never got an offensive maneuver, yet still finding a way to win. Whipwreck won both the ECW world television and tag team titles (with Cactus Jack) in 1994, and in October 1995, he defeated The Sandman to become ECW world heavyweight champion. After a brief run in WCW in 1999, he returned to ECW as a pyromaniac and remained there until its shutdown in 2001.
Watson largely retired due to nagging injuries in 2001, but returned in 2003 and would wrestle sporadically for over a decade, most notably at Hardcore Homecoming and ECW One Night Stand in both 2005 and 2006. Watson officially called it a career in March 2015.
Today would have been the 79th birthday of Robert James "Gino" Marella, best known to wrestling fans as Gorilla Monsoon.
Born in Rochester, New York, Marella was a three sport athlete in high school, and despite weighing over 300 pounds, he was affectionately called "Tiny" by his teammates. At the University of Ithaca, he set school records in college wrestling and finished 2nd in the 1959 NCAA Championships. During the summer months, Marella worked in construction; one of the buildings he helped construct was the Rochester War Memorial, where he's now a part of their wrestling hall of fame.
Marella after college began working for New York promoter Pedro Martinez. Debuting as Italian-American babyface Gino Marella, he gained a modicum of popularity, but his monster heel gimmick caught fire. Standing at 6'5" and 350 pounds and now growing a beard, Gino Marella became Gorilla Monsoon, a terrifying giant of a man born on an isolated farm in Manchuria that spoke no English, ate raw meat, and drank the blood of his victims. His heel gimmick got him over with fans--as in fans were legit afraid of him--and found himself face to face with Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship in 1963 in Jersey City, NJ. Monsoon won by disqualification, setting off a series of matches in Madison Square Garden between the two.
Around this time, the WWWF, the dominant promotion in the northeastern United States, broke away from the NWA. Marella would strike a friendship with WWWF owner Vincent J. McMahon and became a 1/6 shareholder of the company. Marella as Monsoon would become one of the company's top heels and despite weighing over 400 pounds, often kept up with Sammartino, wrestling the WWWF champion to a number of one-hour draws.
Monsoon teamed with Killer Kowalski and briefly held the United States Tag Team Championship, and in the late 1960's became the first-and possibly only-team to defeat Bruno Sammartino and Victor Rivera. As a babyface in the 1970s, he feuded with Superstar Billy Graham, Killer Kowalski, Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd, and as a heel again in 1977, Andre the Giant. He even airplane spinned and slammed Muhammad Ali in 1976 in Philadelphia. In June 1980, in front of a rabid Madison Square Garden crowd, Hulk Hogan quickly defeated Monsoon, and the rabid crowd became unruly, chasing Hogan out of the building and tipping over his car.
In August 1980, after losing to Ken Patera, Monsoon retired from full-time competition. He would wrestle just four times more, last competing in an old-timers battle royal in 1987 won by Lou Thesz.
In 1982, Vincent K. McMahon took over his father's company, but was asked by his father to take care of his longtime employees that were loyal to him. Vince, Jr. did so by buying Marella's shares in exchange for guaranteed lifetime employment. In addition to being a confidant of the younger McMahon, Gino would pair up on commentary with Jesse "The Body" Ventura, calling five of the first six Wrestlemanias together.
When Ventura left in 1990, Monsoon would be paired with another charismatic heel in Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. The duo would form a real friendship away from the ring and booth, with Heenan speaking of Monsoon highly during his Hall of Fame speech in 2004. Monsoon's pro-babyface "voice of reason" would seamlessly mesh with Ventura's and Heenan's pro-heel commentary. Monsoon would serve as lead commentator for four WWF programs in the 1980s and 1990s: All-Star Wrestling, Wrestling Challenge, All-American Wrestling, and Prime Time Wrestling. He also served as the co-host of Georgia Championship Wrestling with Vince McMahon for a brief period. Many of Monsoon's quips would become a part of wrestling lore: "History has been made!", "right in the kisser", "Pearl Harbor job", "Will you stop?", and most famously "the irresistible force meeting the immovable object".
Monsoon stepped away from the lead commentary position at Wrestlemania IX to make room for Jim Ross, but would call PPVs for WWF Radio. He returned to television commentary briefly in the summer and fall of 1994 calling that year's King of the Ring with Randy Savage and Survivor Series with Vince McMahon. Marella transitioned once again to a backstage role, appearing frequently on WWF programming and becoming the on-screen authority figure in the summer of 1995. Roddy Piper was briefly WWF on-screen president in early 1996 before Monsoon assumed the post again. Health concerns forced Monsoon to step away from the role in the summer of 1997. Monsoon's final television appearance was at Wrestlemania XV, when he was introduced to a standing ovation as one of the three judges for the Brawl for All match
Marella was married to his wife Maureen for more than forty years and had three children together, one of them adopted. Their adopted son, Joey Marella, was killed in an auto accident on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1994 after refereeing a WWF event, just one month after Monsoon was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame.
On October 6, 1999, Marella died of heart failure brought on by complications of diabetes. He was 62. Gino is buried next to his son in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. Both WWF and WCW paid tribute to Monsoon following his death, with Vince McMahon calling Monsoon on the RAW is WAR following his death "one of the greatest men [he'd] ever known".
Monsoon's legacy lives on in the wrestling world: The recently retired Anthony Carelli was given the gimmick name Santino Marella when he debuted in the WWE in 2007 as a tribute to Gorilla. The staging area just before the entrance was often where Gorilla was found at WWF events and is now appropriately named "the Gorilla position". Monsoon is also a member of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame class of 2010 and a member of the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2011.