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This Day in Wrestling History (August 3): Hart and Soul

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20 years ago today, ECW presented The Doctor Is In from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The event was named for the debuting "Dr. Death" Steve Williams. Highlights of the event aired on the August 6, 13, and 20 episodes of ECW Hardcore TV (WWE Network links).

  • Mikey Whipwreck defeated Devon Storm to retain the European Junior Heavyweight Championship.
  • Johnny Smith defeated Louie Spicolli.
  • D-Von Dudley and Axl Rotten fought to a no contest.
  • Raven defeated Sandman to retain the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. Steven Richards was defending the ECW title on Raven's behalf with Raven out due to a foot injury, but Raven not only played a hand in the outcome, he got the fall.
  • 2 Cold Scorpio defeated Chris Jericho. This was Jericho's final ECW appearance.
  • Shane Douglas defeated Pitbull #2 to retain the ECW World Television Championship.
  • Taz & Brian Lee defeated Tommy Dreamer & "Dr. Death" Steve Williams.
  • The Gangstas defeated The Eliminators, The Bruise Brothers, and The Samoan Gangsta Party in a four-way dance to win the ECW World Tag Team Championship.
  • Sabu defeated Rob Van Dam in a stretcher match.

19 years ago today, WWF presented Summerslam: Hart and Soul (WWE Network link) from the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. 20,213 were in attendance, with 250,000 homes watching on PPV.

In a sign of the WWF perhaps turning the corner, it was more than 100,000 more than the 1996 edition, when a record low 145,000 homes bought the show. The show was the final appearance for Todd Pettengill, and the debut of his replacement Michael Cole. It was the also the first televised WWF show in New Jersey in nearly a decade. Oh, and the show also had an attempted million dollar giveaway.

  • Mankind defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a steel cage match.
  • Goldust defeated Brian Pillman. As a result of the match, Pillman was forced to wear a dress the next night on RAW.
  • The Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal) defeated The Godwinns (Henry and Phineas).
  • The British Bulldog defeated Ken Shamrock via disqualification to retain the WWF European Championship.
  • Los Boricuas (Savio Vega, Miguel Pérez, Jr., Jose Estrada, Jr., and Jesus Castillo) defeated The Disciples of Apocalypse (Crush, Chainz, 8-Ball, and Skull).
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Owen Hart to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Had Austin lost the match, he would have to kiss Owen Hart's ass. The story was what went down near the conclusion of the bout. On an piledriver, more of Austin's head was exposed than normal when properly executing the maneuver, resulting in Austin's neck being injured. For about a minute, Austin was actually paralyzed. After some brief stalling, they immediately went to the finish, which saw Austin roll up Hart to win the title. Due to the injury, Austin vacated the title a month later.
  • Bret Hart defeated The Undertaker to win the WWF Championship. Shawn Michaels was the special referee. Per prematch stipulations, had Hart lost the title, he would be banned from wrestling anywhere in the United States. In addition, if Shawn Michaels’ officiating was deemed to be biased, he too would be banned from wrestling in the United States. Late in the bout, Michaels hit Undertaker with a steel chair intended for Undertaker after Bret spat in Shawn’s face. Hart took advantage and Michaels with that ban looming, was forced to count the fall. With the win, Hart joined Hulk Hogan as the only five-time WWF Champions in company history.

6 years ago today, TNA suspended Samoa Joe indefinitely.

Joe, who did not appear at the July 26 & 27 Impact tapings, was suspended for an incident at the July 13 tapings. Following a match with Jeff Hardy (the above video), Joe went backstage and into the production truck (seen as a no-no in wrestling etiquette) and yelled at the production team for essentially giving away the finish of the match.

The bout, scheduled for a 10-minute time limit, went to a draw, but Jeremy Borash, on orders of TNA management, announced late in the bout there were 30 seconds remaining. Joe was adamant about not being told of how much time remained, saying it would tip the finish.

The suspension would last all of three weeks. Joe returned on August 23 for that week’s Impact taping.

It’s a happy 50th birthday for Eric Scott Esch, but he’s best remembered by his nickname, Butterbean.

Born in Bay City, Michigan and growing up Jasper, Alabama, Esch had a rough childhood; the oft-bullied Esch lost his mother when he was just eight years old. On a dare from his co-workers at a manufactured homes plant, he entered a local Toughman contest, a completion featuring a mix of amateur, untrained, and semi-retired boxers (anyone could enter as long as they had five or less wins in a sanctioned boxing match in the previous five years, assuming they pass the physicals and such).

Esch would become quite successful on the Toughman circuit, winning 56 of 61 fights, 36 by knockout, and becoming a five-time World Toughman Heavyweight Champion. Esch, who often flirted with the 400-pound weight limit for Toughman bouts, had to diet (mostly consisting of chicken and butterbeans, thus the inspiration for his nickname) often to make weight.

His professional boxing debut came in October 1994, defeating Tim Daniels by decision. He would go unbeaten for just over a year, winning 15 in a row before being defeated in the second round by Mitchell Rose. Despite the setback, Esch would become a cult favorite (he would gain the nickname “The King of the Four Rounders”) and a monster success, winning the IBA Super Heavyweight Championship in April 1997 from Ed White.

Wrestling connection: he made a pair of appearances for the WWF in the late-1990s during the height of his popularity. At D-Generation X: In Your House in December 1997, Esch defeated former Golden Gloves champion Marc Mero by disqualification in a worked bout. He’s more remembered for his shoot bout at Wrestlemania XV when he knocked out Brawl for All winner Bart Gunn in just 34 seconds. Other wrestling connection: Esch was the Pro Wrestling Syndicate heavyweight champion for nearly a year, spanning parts of 2009 and 2010.

After his loss to Mitchell Rose, he would win 48 of his next 51 fights (the other three ended in draws, meaning he had a 51-fight unbeaten run), not losing again until August 2001 when he was defeated by majority decision by Billy Zumbrun. His most notable boxing match came against 52-year old Larry Holmes in July 2002. Despite Esch being credited with a knockdown in the final round, Holmes went on to win the match via unanimous decision. It was the only ten-round bout of Esch’s career, and one of only three to be scheduled for more than four rounds.

Esch would eventually venture into kickboxing and MMA over the next decade before returning to the boxing ring in 2012. In what was likely his final professional boxing match, he quit following the second round due to a shoulder injury in June 2013. It was only his second TKO defeat—his first came back in that loss to Rose in 1995.

Eric, a reserve deputy sheriff in his hometown of Japser, Alabama, was the star of a reality series for Investigation Discovery in 2011, Big Law: Deputy Butterbean. He also appeared on Adult Swim’s Squidbillies and was a contestant on the lone season of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling (he finished third to Todd Bridges and Dennis Rodman). He was also the final boss character for the 1995 Sega Genesis and Sega 32X release, Toughman Contest. He also appears in The Witcher and Fight Night: Champion.

Eric is married to his high school girlfriend Libby Gaskin, and the couple have three children: Brandon, age 28, Caleb, age 25, and Grace, age 20.

Today would have been the 81st birthday of William Dee "Haystacks" Calhoun.

Born in McKinney, Texas, Calhoun grew up on a farm about 30 miles north of Dallas. Calhoun was an unusually large child; a regular breakfast would often include a dozen eggs . By age 14, he weighed over 300 pounds; he doubled his weight by his early 20s. His weight was not a burden at first; manual labor on the farm was a breeze for Calhoun as he had the strength of several men. Legend has it that he was discovered by some wrestling promoters that saw him literally pick up and move cows across a field.

He broke into the wrestling business in 1955 under local promoter and first NWA World Champion Orville Brown, competing primarily in Houston, Kansas City, and Canada. His national breakthrough would come on the variety show Ark Linkletter's House Party, where Calhoun demonstrated his immense strength, including tossing bales of hay into a high loft. His appearance would bless him with the nickname "Haystacks". Billed from Morgan's Corner, Arkansas, he went with a hillbilly gimmick, complete with beard, white tee, blue overalls, and a horseshoe necklace. Though he was quite imposing, he was also mild-mannered and charming, making him a fan favorite. Calhoun also has an uncredited role in the movie version of Requiem For A Heavyweight in 1962.

However, due to his size, he was seen as a special attraction and would be booked as such (Calhoun rarely lost a match, and was largely restricted to handicap matches and battle royals). William was determined to not be seen as simply an attraction; he possessed some technique, putting him far ahead of other super heavyweights at the time, including Happy Humphrey, who weighed over 800 pounds. Only one man was able to lift Calhoun: Bruno Sammartino. At the height of his popularity, he was more sought after than the world champion at times. Calhoun teamed with Mountain Man Mike when he wrestled out west. At a combined weight of over 1,200 pounds, the duo made up the second heaviest tag team in professional wrestling history.

Though he had never won a world singles title, he won tag team championships in the United States and Canada, and was briefly one half of the WWWF tag team champions in 1973. Calhoun's weight and declining health (at the height of his career, he weighed about 640 pounds) forced him into retirement. He would sadly lose his leg to diabetes in 1986 and would be confined to a double-wide trailer for the remainder of his life. It would be diabetes that ultimately claimed his life on December 7, 1989 at age 55.