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This Day in Wrestling History (July 27): Crowning A Champion

38 years ago today, WWWF Champion Bob Backlund wrestled Antonio Inoki at Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan to a one-hour draw in a best of three falls match. Inoki drew first blood with a fall in 20 minutes, with Backlund tying the match at a fall each at 36 minutes.

18 years ago today, WWF tapes the first episode of Sunday Night Heat from the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.

In the show's main event airing on August 2, WWF Intercontinental Champion The Rock and Owen Hart defeated Mankind and Kane in a #1 contender's match for the WWF Tag Team Championship.

16 years ago today, famed NWA and WCW ring announcer Francis Jonard Labiak, better known as Gordon Solie, passes away from throat cancer in his home in New Port Ritchey, Florida. He was 71.

Solie's calm demeanor (compared to other announcers of the era-and since for that matter) made him stand out in the field. He is remembered by most younger fans as the voice of WCW Pro in the mid-1990s, though he'd been voicing matches for the company for years prior to that. His final days with the promotion were tumultuous. Macho Man Randy Savage pushed for his father Angelo Poffo to be inducted into to the WCW Hall of Fame, though Solie opposed it, feeling wrestlers shouldn't push themselves nor family members for the honor. Both Solie and Poffo were inducted in 1995, but Gordon had left the promotion by the time of his induction.

Solie was to commentate the Heroes of Wrestling PPV in 1999, but could not make the show due to his health. Solie entered the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004, the NWA Hall of Fame in 2005, and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008. The above video (starting at 2:44) is his official WWE Hall of Fame induction video.

15 years ago today, famed women's wrestler Rhonda Sing, best known as Bertha Faye in the WWF and Rhonda Singh and Monster Ripper internationally, passed away in her hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She was just 40 years old.

Sing was trained by Mildred Burke in 1978 and went to All-Japan Pro Wrestling in 1979. She became the first Stampede Wrestling Womens Champion in 1987, and would win the World Wrestling Council Womens Championship in Puerto Rico five times from 1987 to 1990.

She spent a year in the WWF, and though she would win their Womens Championship, she became frustrated with the gimmick, as she was forced to reduce her moveset and be a comic relief wrestler. The same situation would befall her in her brief stint in WCW, even appearing as Nitro Girl Beef. Following retirement, Sing would return to Calgary and work as a caregiver for the handicapped.

14 years ago today at the Murphy Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Low Ki became the first Ring of Honor Champion by having the high score in a 60-minute four-way Ironman match that featured Christopher Daniels, Spanky (Brian Kendrick), and Doug Williams.

In this unique bout, a decision in the wrestler's favor earned two points, while the person who was defeated lost a point. Only three decisions were scored in the bout: Christopher Daniels pinning Low Ki (Daniels 2, Low Ki -1), Low Ki submitting Spanky (Low Ki 1, Spanky -1), and Low Ki submitting Williams (Low Ki 3, Williams, -1). Daniels had Low Ki in the Dragon Clutch as time expired, but Low Ki did not submit. Had Low Ki submitted, Daniels would have won the match.

13 years ago today, WWE presented Vengeance (WWE Network link) from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

This was the first Smackdown-only PPV since the roster split of the previous year, though brand-exclusive PPVs only began the previous month with RAW's Bad Blood. About 9,500 were in attendance, with 322,000 homes watching on PPV.

The show featured the crowning of the first WWE United States Champion (not to be confused with their first version of the United States Championship), with the company using the lineage that dated back to the NWA and later WCW United States Championship.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, Ultimo Dragon defeated Chris Canyon.
  • Eddie Guerrero defeated Chris Benoit in a tournament final to win the WWE United States Championship.
  • Jamie Noble defeated Billy Gunn.
  • Bradshaw won an APA Invitationa Bar Room Brawl by being the last man standing. Other participants were Shannon Moore, Doink the Clown, Faarooq, Brother Love, Nunzio, Matt Hardy, Chris Canyon, Danny Bashum, Doug Bashum, Idol Stevens (as the Easter Bunny), Sean O'Haire, John Hennigan, Orlando Jordan, Funaki, Los Conqistadors (Rob Conway and Johnny Jeter), The Brooklyn Brawler, Johnny Stamboli, Chuck Palumbo, Matt Cappotelli, and Spanky.
  • The World's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) defeated Rey Mysterio & Billy Kidman to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Sable defeated Stephanie McMahon in a no-countout catfight.
  • The Undertaker defeated John Cena.
  • Vince McMahon defeated Zach Gowen.
  • Kurt Angle defeated The Big Show and Brock Lesnar in a triple threat match to win the WWE Championship.

12 years ago today, two championships change hands at a Smackdown taping in Cincinnati, Ohio. On the undercard, Spike Dudley defeated Rey Mysterio to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

In the main event, Booker T was the last of eight men standing in an elimination match to win the WWE United States Championship. Other participants (in order of elimination) included Charlie Haas, Rene Dupree, Kenzo Suzuki, Billy Gunn, Luther Reigns, John Cena, and Rob Van Dam.

The making of the match was the first act of new Smackdown general manager Theodore Long. Long would serve as the show's general manager for most of the next nine years.

6 years ago today at an Impact taping at Universal Orlando, Hamada and Taylor Wilde defeated The Beautiful People (Lacey Von Erich and Velvet Sky) to win the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship.

They would remain champions until early December when Hamada was released from TNA. Hamada herself was relieved of the tag titles earlier in the year when her other partner Awesome Kong was released from the company.

1 year ago today, WWE announces in a press release that the upcoming Summerslam would be a four-hour show. There was speculation for some time that WWE wanted to expand the company's second biggest annual show. The press release that made it official (in part):

STAMFORD, Conn., July 27, 2015 - WWE (NYSE: WWE) announced today that SummerSlam will expand from a three-hour show to a four-hour telecast live on WWE Network and now begin at 7pm ET on Sunday, August 23. SummerSlam joins WWE's annual pop-culture extravaganza, WrestleMania®, as the only two events with four hours of live non-stop action.

Emanating live from a sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, SummerSlam will feature WWE Superstars Undertaker® and Brock Lesnar® in a rematch of their historic WrestleMania 30 bout where Lesnar ended Undertaker's undefeated streak. In addition, WWE Network will also air a one-hour live SummerSlam Kick-Off Show starting at 6pm ET.

The distinction of Summerslam and Wrestlemania both being four-hour events lasts for all of seven months. Wrestlemania 32, probably pegged to be a four-hour show, ends up lasting just under five hours. And that's not including the two hour pre-show.

1 year ago today on RAW from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, John Cena defeated Seth Rollins by submission to retain the WWE United States Championship. Rollins' WWE Championship was not at stake in this match.

The bout is remembered for Seth Rollins kneeing John Cena in the nose, breaking it. The next day, WWE issues a statement, confirming that Cena's nose was indeed broken:

"As you can see on television tonight, John suffered from a nasal fraction. He's got quite a bit of displacement, so we sent him over to the local emergency room so he can be evaluated by the ears, nose and throat doctor who's on call tonight and see what can be done to properly repair it."

Cena of course makes a full recovery after he undergoes emergency surgery a few days later, but he would be pulled from WWE events, not returning the Friday before Summerslam at a house show in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Happy 36th birthday to Nicholas Nemeth, best known to wrestling fans as Dolph Ziggler.

Before breaking out in the pros, Nemeth compiled record numbers in the amateurs, holding the record for most pins at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio (82), and the most wins at Kent State University over a career (121 between 2000 and 2003; the record was broken in 2006).

Nemeth was briefly the caddy for Chavo Guerrero's golfer gimmick, Kerwin White, but soon after the death of Eddie Guerrero, became one-fifth of the Spirit Squad, where he was at one point one-fifth of the WWE World Tag Team Champions.

Since going solo, he's been a four-time Intercontinental Champion, a Money in the Bank Winner, and a two-time World Heavyweight Champion. He was voted Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Most Improved and Most Underrated of 2011, and was a top ten wrestler by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2013. Last year, he was named Wrestler of the Year by Rolling Stone.

Happy 47th birthday to Paul Michael Levesque, best known as WWE superstar/chief operating officer/husband of Stephanie McMahon Triple H.

While he's serving in an executive role these days, he's of course known for his many, many, many in-ring exploits. After five years in bodybuilding, Levesque turned to wrestling in 1992. He wrestled as Terra Ryzing and Jean-Paul Levesque in WCW before joining the then-WWF in 1995.

Initially introduced as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, his ring name was shortened to his ring name initials, Triple H, by 1997, the year he won the King of the Ring tournament. A co-founder of the notorious D-Generation X stable, Triple H would become cement his main event status by 1999 when he won the first of his eight WWF/E Championships. The turn of the century saw him married in storyline--and later in real life--to Stephanie McMahon. He's also the creator of Evolution, perhaps the WWE's most dominant stable of the early 2000s.

In addition to his nine WWE Championships, he is a five-time World Heavyweight Champion (and the first when the championship was revived in 2002), a two-time tag team champion, two-time European Champion, five-time Intercontinental Champion, and the 2002 Royal Rumble winner. Levesque is a member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 2005. He's also among the most divisive wrestlers ever: he won the publication's least favorite wrestler in 2002 and 2003 and won most overrated four times. He also won for Wrestler of the Year in 2000.

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