33 years ago today, Satoru Sayama, the original Tiger Mask, calls it a career at just age 25, citing his dislike for backstage politics as the reason. At the time of his retirement, Sayama was the both NWA and WWF Junior Heavyweight Champion.
As is often the case in wrestling, this retirement didn't stick, and Sayama was back in a wrestling ring less than a year later for the Japanese version of the Universal Wrestling Federation. Citing backstage politics again, he retired again in September 1985 following a shoot match in which he was kicked in the groin by Akira Maeda (whether he left voluntarily or was pushed out the door depends on who’s telling the story). The promotion would never recover from Sayama’s exit, and folded less than a year later.
After a decade away from wrestling, he returned again for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Despite undergoing emergency heart surgery and continuing to suffer from angina (basically, constant chest pain), Sayama still occasionally wrestles to this day, competing in a match as recently as June 2016.
28 years ago today in Los Angeles, California, Owen Hart and Curt Hennig make their WWF television debuts.
Hart came into the WWF off his success in Stampede Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was the first foreign-born wrestler to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Hennig was last seen in the AWA as their world heavyweight champion (he actually nearly left for the WWF a year prior), but he left the company shortly after losing the title for the WWF with the promise of fame and fortune.
Both win their TV debuts; Hart as The Blue Angel defeated Barry Horowitz, and Hennig (who wasn’t Mr. Perfect yet) defeated Special Delivery Jones.
24 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Masahiro Chono defeated Ravishing Rick Rude in the final match to win the G1 Climax tournament and the vacated NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Chono was the first NWA world champion since Ric Flair vacated the title when he left for the WWF in the summer of 1991. The title was officially vacated when Flair made his WWF TV debut in September. Believe it or not, it was the first time the belt was officially vacated in its then 43-year history. It remained vacant for nearly an entire year.
24 years ago today at in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Johnny Hot Body defeated Larry Winters to become the first ECW Television Champion.
19 years ago today at a WCW Saturday Night taping in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Chris Jericho defeated Alex Wright to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
11 years ago today in Dayton, Ohio, James Gibson defeated CM Punk, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe in a four-way match to win the ROH World Championship. Click the pic for the match.
10 years ago today in Liverpool, England, Bryan Danielson defeated Nigel McGuinness to unify the ROH World and Pure Championships. The ROH Pure Championship was retired following the match.
9 years ago today, TNA presented Hard Justice from the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
The show is notable for the debut of the much-maligned Adam "Pacman" Jones, the then-Tennessee Titans (currently Cincinnati Bengals) cornerback who was suspended by the NFL for a full season without pay following multiple violations of the league’s personal conduct policy, most notably for his involvement in a shooting in a strip club in Las Vegas. However, just days before his debut, the Titans filed a restraining order preventing Jones from engaging in any physical contact.
- Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt defeated Triple X (Christopher Daniels and Senshi) and The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley).
- Kaz defeated Raven.
- James Storm defeated Rhino in a Bar Room Brawl.
- The Latin American Exchange (Homicide and Hernandez) defeated The Voodoo Kin Mafia (B.G. James and Kip James).
- Robert Roode defeated Eric Young.
- Chris Harris defeated Black Reign by disqualification.
- The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) defeated Team 3D (Brother Ray and Brother Devon).
- Abyss, Andrew Martin, and Sting defeated Christian's Coalition (Christian Cage, A.J. Styles and Tomko) in a Doomsday Chamber of Blood match. In a interesting bit of trivia, this was the only ever TNA match for the former Test. With Congress looking into performance-enhancing drugs in wrestling, Martin, who was unusually large around this time, was quietly released a few weeks later. He was offered to return when he lost weight, but never did.
- TNA World Heavyweight and IWGP Heavyweight Champion (IGF version) Kurt Angle defeated Samoa Joe to win the TNA X Division and World Tag Team Championship. Angle’s championships were also at stake in the match.
9 years ago today, New Japan Pro Wrestling presented the semifinals and final of G1 Climax 17: Winner Take All from Ryogoku Kokugikan (New Sumo Hall) in Tokyo, Japan.
Non-tournament matches in order of occurrence:
- Tetsuya Naito defeated Mitsuhide Hirasawa.
- Samurai Gym (El Samurai, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yujiro) defeat CTU (Gedo, Jado & Jushin Thunder Liger)
- Italy Brothers (Milano Collection AT & Minoru) defeat Koji Kanemoto & Tiger Mask.
- Riki Choshu & Shiro Koshinaka defeat Great Bash Heel (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Toru Yano).
- Akebono, Giant Bernard, and Masahiro Chono defeat Manabu Nakanishi, Naofumi Yamamoto, and Takashi Iizuka.
G1 Climax 17 Semifinals:
- Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Togi Makabe.
- Yuji Nagata defeated Shinsuke Nakamura.
G1 Climax 17 Final:
- Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Yuji Nagata to win the G1 Climax 17 tournament.
4 years ago today, TNA presented Hardcore Justice from the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
- Chavo Guerrero & Hernandez defeated Kid Kash & Gunner.
- Rob Van Dam defeated Mr. Anderson and Magnus in a three-way falls count anywhere match in the Bound for Glory Series.
- Devon defeated Kazarian to retain the TNA Television Championship.
- Madison Rayne defeated Ms. Tessmacher to win the TNA Knockout Championship.
- Bully Ray defeated James Storm, Jeff Hardy, and Robbie E in a four-way tables match in the Bound for Glory Series.
- Zema Ion defeated Kenny King to retain the TNA X Division Championship.
- AJ Styles defeated Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, and Christopher Daniels in a four-way ladder match in the Bound for Glory Series.
- Austin Aries defeated Bobby Roode to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As a result of the loss, Roode could not challenge for the title again as long as Aries was champion.
4 years ago today, New Japan Pro Wrestling presented the final day of G1 Climax 22: The One and Only from Ryogoku Kokugikan (New Sumo Hall) in Tokyo, Japan.
Block B matches:
- MVP defeated Lance Archer.
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Shinsuke Nakamura.
- Hirooki Goto defeated Tetsuya Naito.
- Kazuchika Okada defeated Togi Makabe to win the B Block and a spot in the final match.
Block A matches:
- Shelton Benjamin defeated Satoshi Kojima.
- Toru Yano defeated Naomichi Marufuji.
- Yuji Nagata defeated Minoru Suzuki.
- Karl Anderson defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the A block and a spot in the final match.
- Kazuchika Okada defeated Karl Anderson to win the G1 Climax 22 tournament and an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestle Kingdom 7. The win made Okada the youngest G1 winner ever (he was 24, beating Masahiro Chono, who had won his first G1 in 1991 at age 27). Anderson was the first gaijin (foreign-born) wrestler to make the final since 1992 (Rick Rude).
It's a happy 44th birthday to Jonathan Coachman.
Born in Kansas City, Coachman had many interests, including basketball, theater, and commentary. He did sports reporting for KAKE in Wichita and KMBC in Kansas City before joining the WWF in 1999 as a sideline reporter, commentator and presenter, and quite often, object of ridicule for The Rock.
In 2003, he became the on-screen assistant to then-RAW general manager Eric Bischoff. He made occasional in-ring appearances over the next three years while doing commentary before becoming Vince McMahon's on-screen executive assistant (and occasionally acting general manager in McMahon's absence; he actually had a couple of brief runs as GM during the summer of 2007).
Coachman left the WWE in April 2008 to work for ESPN and became a Sportscenter anchor the following year. Coachman took over the afternoon drive spot for ESPN Radio in 2012 and 2013 for his show Coachman and Company.
It’s a happy 51st birthday today to Juan Manuel Gonzalez Barron, aka Dr. Wagner, Jr.
Wagner, the son (and father) of a wrestler, began his career at age 20 in 1986 for Universal Wrestling Association. Tragedy struck the younger Wagner early on in his career: on the day he was to debut as his father's tag team partner, Wagner, Sr. was involved in a fatal auto accident that killed longtime partner Angel Blanco and left Wagner Sr. disabled. Wagner Jr. would win the CMLL World Tag Team Championship in 1997 with his real life brother Silver King. Success found Wagner Jr. in CMLL, as he'd also win their world light heavyweight title and their world trios title four times.
A dispute with management caused Wagner Jr. to leave CMLL for AAA in 2009. He quickly found success there, winning the AAA Mega Championship (their world heavyweight title) just three months after his debut at Triplemania XVII. He would win it a second time at the next Triplemania. He would become the first AAA Latin American Champion at Triplemania XIX in 2011, defeating Rob Van Dam in the final. Another falling out with management caused Wagner Jr. to leave AAA in early 2013 for Todo X el Todos (TxT) before returning to AAA in time for Triplemania XXI...only to leave again soon after the event...only to return again just in time for Triplemania XXII.
Since then, he’s wrestled primarily for CMLL (but quit again out of protest of L.A. Park’s firing just before their 82nd Anniversary Show), but has also appeared for AAA, Japanese promotions World Wonder Wing Stardom and Tokyo Gurentai, and Lucha Underground.
It’s a happy 53rd birthday to Koji Kitao.
Before becoming a professional wrestler, Kitao was a sumo wrestler, beginning his career at just age 15 in 1979. He rose up the ranks and was controversially promoted to yokozuna, the top rank in sumo, in 1986 (at the time, Kitao had not won a top division tournament, which is a standard for earning promotion to yokozuna; once a sumo receives yokozuna status, they can’t be demoted—ever). Kitao would compete under the shikona (ring name) of Futahaguro.
It turned out promoting Kitao wasn’t a good idea after all; he posted a 3-4 record with eight absences in his first tournament as a yokozuna (he pulled out of the tournament midway through). He came back winning 24 of his next 30 bouts over two tournaments, but did not win either of them. He finished second for the seventh tournament in his career in November 1987. After confrontations with junior members of his stable and his stable boss, yokozuna Tatsunami, Kitao stormed out, allegedly hitting Tatsunami’s wife on the way out. The Japan Sumo Association voted to expel Kitao without giving him a formal hearing, making him the only yokozuna to never win a top division tournament.
After considering playing for the NFL, Kitao tried pro wrestling. He briefly wrestled for the AWA as Monster Machine before joining New Japan Pro Wrestling. He defeated Bam Bam Bigelow in a New Japan/All Japan supershow in February 1990. Kitao’s temper got the better of him again; that July, he was fired for detrimental conduct after using a racial slur on Korean-born wrestle Riki Choshu.
Kitao turned up in Super World of Sports in November 1990, a promotion founded in part by another former sumo in Genichiro Tenryu. The promotion’s working agreement with the WWF got Kitao a spot in Wrestlemania VII, where the two defeated Demolition. Just over a week later, Kitao’s temper got him in trouble yet again when he performed shoot moves on Earthquake (another ex-sumo John Tenta), then kicked the referee. To top it off, Kitao told the audience that wrestling was fake and he could take Tenta whenever he wanted. In the end, Kitao was fired from SWS.
Kitao was a freelance wrestler for most of the remainder of his career, and took up martial arts, earning a black belt in karate in 1992. Kitao competed for UWF International, Wrestling Association R, and reconciled with New Japan Pro Wrestling. He even dabbled in mixed martial arts, fighting one time each for UFC (a loss at UFC 9 to Mark Hall) and PRIDE (at its very first show with a win over Nathan Jones). Kitao retired from pro wrestling in 1998.
Kitao returned to the world of sumo in 2003 as a coach for his old Tatsunami stable; he was allowed to return due in part to the retirement of his old coach Tatsunami, real name Haguroyama Sojo, who had been ousted due to being accused of illegally pocketing money from the stable’s funds.
It’s a happy 61st birthday to Paul Worden Taylor III, aka Terry Taylor.
Taylor found early success in the Mid-South territory, winning the Mid-South television title four times, the UWF television title once, and the North American Heavyweight Championship. After a brief run in World Class Championship Wrestling, he would have four stints each with WWE and WCW before joining TNA in 2003. His first WWF gimmick is among the most infamous in wrestling history: The Red Rooster. It got something of a modest push, highlighted by a 30-second squash victory at Wrestlemania V.
In his first WCW run, he was 1/3 of the six-man tag champions with Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich as part of the York Foundation, and was one-half of the US Tag Team Champions with Greg Valentine.
After a brief stint in the American Wrestling Federation as a commentator in 1994, he was a part of WCW's creative team before returning to the WWF in 1998. He commentated WCW Saturday Night with Larry Zbyszko when he returned to the promotion in late 1999 and remained in the company until its shutdown in 2001. He worked with TNA from 2003 to 2011 as a road agent, trainer, interviewer, and eventually head of talent relations. His firing from TNA was a blessing in disguise; he got to be by his wife Trudy’s side in her final days before succumbing to cancer in July 2011. In 2012, he rejoined WWE as a trainer for their developmental territory, NXT.