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This Day in Wrestling History (August 1): #August1Warning


139 years ago today, George Karl Julius Hackenschmidt, famed pro wrestler and strongman, was born.

Born to a Baltic German father and Estonian Swedish mother on August 1, 1877, Hackenschmidt, the oldest of three children, devoted much of his life to physical development. He spent a lot of time in the gym and took up a number of sports, including running, swimming, cycling, and weightlifting. His feats of strength astounded anyone that witnessed them. Among them: lifting a small horse, lifting 276 pounds with one hand, and bench-pressing a 335-pound barbell from the wrestler's bridge position.

After graduating high school in 1895, he worked in a factory as a blacksmith's apprentice. He also joined the Athletic and Cycling Club of Revel (today known as Tallinn). While he was a prized cyclist, wrestling and weightlifting were his first loves. After taking on Greco-Roman wrestler and strongman Georg Lurich in 1896, Hackenschmidt began leaning toward wrestling. Two years later, he left for St. Petersburg, Russia.

He joined their Athletic and Cycling Club in 1898, and under the training of Dr. Vladislav von Krajeweski, he quickly became a competent wrestler. He began his career in April 1898, but army duty in early 1899 put his wrestling dreams on hold. Right after his service, Hackenschmidt won the Russian championship.

The championships would keep coming for Georg. In 1900, he won a six-week tournament to claim the championships of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The next year, he won world title tournaments in Vienna and Paris. In fact, he won virtually everywhere he went. By 1903, Hackenschmidt was commanding audiences in music halls, opera halls, and theaters. He'd wrestle as many as five times a night, winning them all with minimal effort. Hackenschmidt at the height of his popularity was admired by men and adored by women. His humbling, soft-spoken, yet intelligent attitude garnered praise even from President Theodore Roosevelt, who once said if he wasn't President of the United States, he would like to be Georg Hackenschmidt.

In 1904, Hackenschmidt took on Ahmed Madrali. Nicknamed the "Terrible Turk", he was under the charge of Antonio Pieri, who fell twice to Hackenschmidt and was brought in to tame the "Russian Lion". The anticipated bout packed the Olympia exhibition center in London to capacity, and traffic was backed up into Piccadilly in anticipation for the bout. The bout lasted less than three minutes. Hackenschmidt picked up Madrali and threw him down on his arm, dislocating his shoulder. The two met again later in the year. Madrali lasted longer, but he still went down to Hackenschmidt. In July, he was pushed against American rising star Tom Jenkins, but Georg still won in two straight falls under Greco-Roman rules. The two met again under freestyle rules in Madison Square Garden, and Hackenschmidt won again in two straight falls.

After defeating Jenkins, Hackenschmidt would hold the world title for the next three years. In April 1908 in Chicago's Dexter Park, Hackenschmidt took on American Frank Gotch. Gotch was in peak physical condition. Hackenschmidt, not so much, as he refused to train publicly and was barred from training at the Chicago Athletic Club. The two bout went more than two hours and had its share of foul tactics, but in the end, Hackenschmidt quit the fall and surrendered the title to Gotch. He shook his hand, went to his dressing room, and never returned to the ring. Though he was quick to praise Gotch at first, he reversed course, complaining of Gotch and Americans in general and their style of wrestling.

The two met three and a half years later again in Chicago, this time at Comiskey Park. The crowd of nearly 30,000 produced an $87,000 gate, then a record for a wrestling event (over $2 million in today's dollars) would watch one of the most controversial rematches in wrestling history. Hackenschmidt claimed he was injured in preparation for the match and that Gotch's backers paid people off to injure Hackenschmidt. The injury was ultimately declared not serious and the match was on as scheduled. It was more or less a massacre: Gotch needed only 20 minutes to defeat Hackenschmidt in consecutive falls, the second won by submission when Frank locked George in his toe hold. This time around, Hackenschmidt was full of praise for Gotch, applauding his strategy to go after the knee, saying he would have done the same had the roles been reversed.

Hackenschmidt retired due to a knee injury while preparing for a match with Stanislaus Zbyzsko to take place the following summer. The two losses to Gotch were believed to be the only times he had suffered defeat in his career. Though Hackenschmidt remained in the public eye following retirement due to his contributions in wrestling (he wrote a few books on health, wrestling, and bodybuilding), he had lived a relatively quiet life. But even into his mid-80s, he had a strict workout and diet regimen.

While hospitalized in Dulwich, England, a suburb of London, Hackenschmidt died of natural causes on February 19, 1968. He was 90 years old. His body was cremated at West Norwood Cemetary in London, where his headstone has him as George Hackenschmidt.

Hackenschmidt left a lasting legacy in the wrestling world, often being credited with popularizing catch-as-catch-can wrestling in England. Wrestling historians call the Gotch-Hackenschmidt rivalry the height of the Golden Age of Wrestling. Their exploits were national and international news and also launched amateur wrestling outfits in the United States. There is a museum dedicated to him in his honor in Tartu that opened in 1969. Not surprisingly, Hackenschmidt was inducted in the inaugural Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class in 1996 and is a member of the inaugural class of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2002.

10 years ago today at an ECW on Sci-FI taping in New York City, CM Punk makes his WWE in-ring debut with a submission victory over Justin Credible.

The show’s most infamously remembered for the main event between Big Show and Batista for the ECW World Championship. Both competitors got booed throughout the match, and there were very vocal chants against the bout, including “Boring!”, “Same old shit!”, and “Change the channel!” The bout ended in a disqualification win for Batista when Show title-shotted Batista.

It would be WWE’s final appearance in the Hammerstein Ballroom, but this show isn’t to blame. That blame goes to the infamous December to Dismember PPV taking place late in the year. The record low buyrate contributed to WWE abandoning single-branded PPVs, including a planned third One Night Stand PPV in the Hammerstein Ballroom the following June.

5 years ago today, Beth Phoenix wins a battle royal to earn a shot at the WWE Divas Championship at Summerslam.

The story, however, is what happened during the match, and chances are, you may not have seen it in its original airing. At 45 seconds of the above video, Gail Kim eliminates herself from the match by going under the bottom rope.

It turned out to be her final appearance in the WWE, as she announced on Twitter a few days later that she had quit the company. Kim tried to get released, but WWE would not budge, seeing she only had a couple of months left on her contract. Her contract expired September 30, and returned to TNA, where she had her biggest success, less than a month later.

3 years ago today, Tito Ortiz made his return to TNA as the infamous August 1 Warning.

Ortiz was last seen in TNA in 2005 when he refereed a pair of NWA world title bouts on PPV (Hard Justice between Jeff Jarrett and AJ Styles and Bound for Glory between Jarrett and Rhino).

Ortiz was last seen in TNA in 2005 when he refereed a pair of NWA world title bouts on PPV (Hard Justice between Jeff Jarrett and AJ Styles and Bound for Glory between Jarrett and Rhino).

The #August1Warning as they called it, was heavily promoted on TNA’s programming and on social media (it even had its own Twitter account).

Coming at a time when TNA wasn’t really in a position to bring in new talent (it had released about a dozen wrestlers two weeks prior, including a pregnant-at-the-time Madison Rayne and Jesse Sorensen, who was still recovering from a broken neck), the idea to bring in the former UFC light heavyweight champion didn’t come from TNA.

It turned out that the angle was mandated by Spike to promote an upcoming Bellator matchup between Ortiz and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson that would take place at their very first PPV—a fight that never took place because Ortiz got injured just days before the fight was set to take place.

The heavy promotion didn’t do any good either, as viewership for the episode dropped 5% from the prior week (1.25 million viewers for this episode compared to 1.31 million for the week prior).

In a side note, shortly after Ortiz turned on the Main Event Mafia to join the Aces and 8s, both Ortiz and Jackson were pulled from TNA programming by Bellator themselves, making the whole #August1Warning...entirely pointless.

1 year ago today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ronda Rousey defeated Bethe Correia by knockout in just 34 seconds to retain the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. Post-match, she dedicated the victory to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who died just a day earlier in his home.

The 34 seconds is actually longer than her previous two fights combined (14 seconds over Cat Zingano and 16 seconds over Alexis Davis). It would be the last of her six successful title defenses; Rousey would be defeated by Holly Holm in November 2015 by knockout.

It’s a happy 44th birthday today to Devon Edgar Hughes, best known to wrestling fans as D-Von Dudley.

One half of the famous--and infamous--Dudley Boyz in ECW and WWE (later Team 3D in TNA), Hughes collected two dozen championships, most of them tag team titles across TNA, WWE, ECW, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. In October 2014, he and Mark Lomonaco, aka Bubba Ray Dudley (later Brother Ray, then Bully Ray) was inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame. Last year, Hughes along with LoMonaco returned to WWE after a ten-year absence from the promotion.

It’s a happy 51st birthday to Michael Laauli Hayner, best known to wrestling fans as Prince Iaukea.

Hayner was a two-time WCW cruiserweight champion and in 1997 won the WCW World Television Championship. Today, Hayner owns an independent promotion in American Samoa and New Zealand, and wrestles himself along with his son Nick for a few small independents in Florida.

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