56 years ago today, Verne Gagne awards himself the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Pat O'Connor was named the first AWA World Champion when they broke away from the NWA. O'Connor, the recognized NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time, was given 90 days to defend the title against Gagne, but as the NWA snubbed the challenge, the match never took place.
The American Wrestling Association founder would go on to win their world title ten times, including an uninterrupted seven year run as champion from 1968 to 1975.
30 years ago today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Rock ‘n Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) defeated the Midnight Express 2-1 in a best of three falls match to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship.
26 years ago today, Patrick John "Pat" O'Connor, dies of cancer at Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri just six days shy of his 66th birthday.
Born in New Zealand, Pat helped tend to the sheep and cattle on his family farm in his younger years. After briefly serving in the New Zealand Royal Air Force, he became an accomplished amateur wrestler, representing his country in the Pan American Games in 1948 and the British Empire Games in 1950, where he was a silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. He won the New Zealand Heavyweight Championship in amateur wrestling in consecutive years, 1949 and 1950.
From 1955 to 1957, O’Connor would win singles and tag team gold for NWA territories in Chicago and Toronto, but in 1959, Pat would win at the time wrestling's biggest prize, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Dick Hutton. However, the title change caused a rift between bookers Sam Muchnick and Chicago promoter Fred Kohler; the rift would in part lead to the formation of the American Wrestling Association. When the AWA was formed, Pat was named its first champion, but he never defended the title, so it was awarded to Verne Gagne three months later.
O'Connor would lose the NWA world title in June 1961 to Buddy Rogers at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The attendance of 38,622 fans and $148,000 ticket gate were both records at the time, and would stand until the 1980s. Pat would finally wrestle for the AWA in the late 1960s, winning the tag team titles with Wilbur Snyder in November 1967. They'd lose the belts less than a month later.
O'Connor was a part of Sam Muchnick's final wrestling show in January 1, 1982; Pat then become a part-owner of the St. Louis territory along with Gagne, Harley Race and Bob Geigel. One of O'Connor's final bouts came for the WWF in November 1987 as part of an Old Timers' battle royal won by Lou Thesz. Following his death from cancer, an eight-team tag tournament held in O'Connor's honor. Pat is a member of the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame since 1996, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame since 2007.
24 years ago today in Fukuoka, Japan, The Great Muta defeated Riki Choshu to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
23 years ago today in Poughkeepsie, New York, WWF presented Summerslam Spectacular. The show, airing six days later (and re-running a condensed version the next night in place of RAW), served as the “hard sell” for the following Monday’s Summerslam.
Of note, Lex Luger’s “I’ll Be Your Hero” music video debuted on this show.
- Yokozuna defeated “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan.
- Razor Ramon defeats Blake Beverly.
- Tatanka and The Smoking Gunns (Bart Gunn & Billy Gunn) defeated Barry Horowitz, Reno Riggins and The Brooklyn Brawler.
- Shawn Michaels defeats Bob Backlund to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
- Marty Jannetty defeats Dwayne Gill.
- The Steiner Brothers (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) defeated Money Inc. (Irwin R. Schyster & Ted DiBiase) in a steel cage match to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship. While the match could only be won when both members escaped the cage and reached the floor, one of the escapees could climb back in the cage (only over the top though as the door was locked) and return to the match. This of course meant that they would have to climb out again. Also of note, this would be the last ever tag team match for Money Inc. DiBiase left the WWF following Summerslam.
15 years ago today, the WWF presented its first ever live episode of Smackdown (WWE Network link) from the E Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The show debuted a new theme, "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson, and a new set, a large fist breaking through glass.
- The Rock defeated Shawn Stasiak.
- X-Factor (Albert & X-Pac) defeated Tajiri & William Regal.
- Rhyno & Rob Van Dam defeated Chris Jericho & Jeff Hardy.
- Chris Kanyon & Diamond Dallas Page defeated Edge & Christian.
- Kurt Angle defeated Tazz.
- Booker T and The Rock went to a no contest in a "lights out" match.
12 years ago today on RAW (WWE Network link) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Randy Orton defeated Chris Benoit to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
It’s the post-match proceedings that grab the headlines: as Evolution celebrated Orton retaining the title, Batista hoisted Orton on his shoulders as Triple H gave his approval of the young world champion—an approval that would get the proverbial downvote a few seconds later. The thumbs down was the signal for the surviving Evolutionaries to go after Orton, leaving him in a bloody heap as the show ended.
The beatdown turned Orton face by default, but Orton would go return to his heel alignment just before Wrestlemania 21.
This also happened on the show.
10 years ago today in New York City, Layla El wins the 2006 RAW Diva Search.
The 29-year old ex-Miami Heat dancer is the only foreign-born winner in the competition’s history. She’s also the competition’s oldest winner. Jen England finished second, and J.T. Tinney finished third.
Neither England nor Tinney would be signed, but nearly everyone else in the final eight did, including Maryse Ouelett, Rebecca DiPietero, Amy Zidian, and Milena Roucka. The Garcia twins did not make the final cut, but they were also signed. You may know them today as the Bella Twins.
Following Layla’s retirement in July 2015, Roucka, aka Rosa Mendes, is the longest-tenured woman of the group. Maryse returned to WWE earlier this year after a four and a half year absence. Brie Bella retired following Wrestlemania 31, while her twin sister Nikki Bella is currently rehabbing a neck injury.
11 years and a day ago today on RAW from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Ashley Massaro wins the 2005 RAW Diva Search.
At 26 years old, Massaro was the oldest competitor in the field. Canadian-born Leyla Milani finished second. Milani may have had the moment of the competition when she had a wardrobe malfunction while running an obstacle course in the early stages.
Unlike in 2004, where six of the final ten eventually got contracts, just two of the runners-up would get a deal: Elisabeth Rouffaer and Kristal Marshall. Rouffaer would never appear on the main roster before being quietly released in January 2006.
Trenesha Biggers, who was cut prior to the final, also got a contract, but would also never make the main roster. Biggers would go on to moderate fame in TNA as Rhaka Khan.
7 years ago today, TNA presented Hard Justice from the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
In a precursor to the Hardcore Justice events, all of the featured matches on the show were contested under hardcore rules.
- Daniels defeated Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Consequences Creed, D'Angelo Dinero, Jay Lethal, Suicide, and The Amazing Red in a Steel Asylum match to become #1 contender to the TNA X-Division Championship.
- Abyss defeated Jethro Holliday. Had Holiday won, he would have collected a $50,000 bounty.
- Hernandez defeated Rob Terry to retain the #1 contender to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship briefcase.
- The British Invasion (Brutus Magnus & Doug Williams) defeated Beer Money Inc. (James Storm & Robert Roode) to retain the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
- Cody Deaner & ODB defeated The Beautiful People (Angelina Love & Velvet Sky). As a result of Deaner getting the pinfall, he wins the TNA Knockouts Championship. (It's a women's title. Held by a man. You figure that one out.)
- Samoa Joe defeated Homicide to win TNA X-Division Championship.
- Booker T & Scott Steiner defeated Team 3D (Brother Devon & Brother Ray) in a falls count anywhere match to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
- Kevin Nash defeated Mick Foley to win the TNA Legends Championship.
- Kurt Angle defeated Matt Morgan and Sting in a three-way match to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
6 years ago today at a RAW taping in Los Angeles, California, Sheamus defeated Zack Ryder in just 11 seconds to retain the WWE Championship. It’s the fastest WWE world title match in RAW history. The record still stands today.
4 years ago today, WWE releases Christina Crawford.
The younger sister of Victoria Crawford, aka Alicia Fox, Christina as Caylee Turner was the last FCW Divas Champion. Christina was a member of the 2011 Tough Enough cast and finished fourth of fourteen contestants. She would make just one appearance on the rebranded FCW, NXT, just a week before her a release. After a brief run on the independent circuit, Christina left wrestling altogether and is now a cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Today would have been the 70th birthday of Hoyt Richard Murdoch, best known by his wrestling nickname Dick Murdoch.
The son of a wrestler and growing up with fellow second-generation wrestlers Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr., Murdoch watched his father wrestle throughout Texas. Dick would begin wrestling himself in 1965 and team for a few years with Dusty Rhodes as The Texas Outlaws.
Following their breakup, Murdoch wrestled for Florida Championship Wrestling and the NWA, but his most notable work was as "Captain Redneck" in Mid-South Wrestling where he teamed with the Junkyard Dog. Their alliance galvanized both the working class white and African-American fanbases.
In 1984, Murdoch teamed with Adrian Adonis and won the WWF Tag Team Championship. The next year, he left for a second run in Mid-South before joining Jim Crockett Promotions and feuded with the likes of Ric Flair, Nikita Koloff, and his old tag team partner Dusty Rhodes. After a brief run in World Wrestling Council, he joined WCW in 1991 as one-half of the Hardliners with Dick Slater.
His last major wrestling appearance came in the 1995 Royal Rumble, where he entered #27; he lasted just over five minutes before he was eliminated by Henry Godwinn.
Murdoch was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and was a known racist among the wrestling industry. The story has been corroborated by other wrestlers including Tito Santana, Bad News Brown, Dusty Rhodes, and Rocky Johnson. Murdoch died of a heart attack on June 15, 1996 in Canyon, Texas. He was 49.
Today would have been the 87th birthday of Jack Adkisson, best known to wrestling fans as Fritz Von Erich.
Born in Jewett, Texas, Adkisson was a two sport athlete at Southern Methodist University before trying his hand at wrestling. While trying to break into the Canadian Football League, he met Stu Hart and was paired with Walter Sieber, aka Waldo Von Erich as pseudo-Nazis (they weren't really Nazis or brothers). At 6'4", 260 pounds, Adkisson was an imposing figure.
He would wed Doris Smith in June 1950 and give birth to Jack Barton, Jr. two months later. Jack Jr. would die via accidental electrocution and drowning at just six years old in Niagara Falls, New York. Jack Sr. stopped travelling to the east coast following his death, allowing Waldo to carry on the Von Erich name in the WWWF.
Jack's biggest in-ring wrestling accomplishments came in the 1960s where he would win both versions of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. He was a prominent figure in the NWA St. Louis territory until losing a NWA World Heavyweight Championship match in 1967 against Gene Kiniski. Jack Sr., with Sam Muchnick's backing, would become the promoter for all the major territories in Texas. His Iron Claw hold was revered and feared not just in the United States, but in Japan as well, where he's credited in part of the rebirth of the sport there following Rikiozan's fatal stabbing.
In 1982, he wrestled King Kong Bundy in what was billed as his retirement match for World Class Championship Wrestling, one of the most successful promotions of the 1980s. By the end of the decade, with their talent pool raided, WCCW merged with Jerry Jarrett's Continental Wrestling Association to form the USWA.
Doris and Jack would have six sons, and the couple divorced after 42 years in 1992. From 1984 to 1993, four of the five living second generation Von Erichs would die (three of them to suicide). Fritz left the business altogether after that and lived the remainder of his days on his ranch. On September 10, 1997, Jack died of brain and lung cancer at his ranch in Denton County, Texas. He was 68.