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This Day in Wrestling History (August 30): Highway to Hell

47 years ago today in Chicago, Illinois, Mad Dog and Butcher Vachon defeated The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser to win the AWA World Tag Team Championship.

23 years ago today, WWF presented Summerslam (WWE Network link) from the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. 23,954 were in attendance, with an event-low 250,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 280,000 homes last year, and from over 400,000 just two years ago.

  • In a dark match, Owen Hart defeated Barry Horowitz.
  • Razor Ramon defeated Ted DiBiase. The bout was Dibiase's final WWF match, as he left the company following the event. After a brief stint in All Japan Pro Wrestling, Dibiase retired from in-ring competition.
  • The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) defeated The Heavenly Bodies (Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray) to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship.
  • Shawn Michaels defeated Mr. Perfect by countout to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
  • Irwin R. Schyster defeated The 1-2-3 Kid.
  • Bret Hart defeated Doink the Clown by disqualification.
  • Jerry Lawler defeated Bret Hart by disqualification. Hart had won the match via submission, but refused to release the hold post-match and the decision was reversed.
  • Ludvig Borga defeated Marty Jannetty.
  • The Undertaker defeated Giant Gonzalez in a Rest in Peace match.
  • Tatanka and The Smokin' Gunns (Billy and Bart) defeated Bam Bam Bigelow and The Headshrinkers (Fatu and Samu).
  • Lex Luger defeated Yokozuna by countout in a WWF Championship match (Yokozuna retained the title). Despite the post-match celebration, due to the pre-match stipulation, since Luger failed to win the WWF Championship, he was not entitled to a rematch as long as Yokozuna was champion—a rematch he would get at Wrestlemania X by co-winning the Royal Rumble a few months later.

23 years ago today at a WCW Saturday Night taping in Atlanta, Georgia, Dustin Rhodes defeated Ravishing Rick Rude to win the NWA/WCW United States Championship.

Rhodes would be the recognized US Champion by WCW when they broke away from the NWA the next month. At the time of Rhodes' win, the championship was vacant for three months.

18 years ago today, WWF presented Summerslam (WWE Network link) from Madison Square Garden in New York City. A sellout crowd of 21,588 people were in attendance, with an event record 700,000 homes watching on PPV.

  • D'Lo Brown defeated Val Venis via disqualification to retain the WWF European Championship.
  • The Oddities (Kurrgan, Golga, & Silva) defeated Kaientai (TAKA Michinoku, Men's Teioh, Sho Funaki & Dick Togo) in a handicap match.
  • X-Pac defeated Jeff Jarrett in a Hair vs. Hair match.
  • Sable & Edge defeated Marc Mero & Jacqueline.
  • Ken Shamrock defeated Owen Hart via submission in a Lion's Den match with an anklelock. The match took place at the adjacent Theater in Madison Square Garden, where a UFC-style cage was constructed for the event. Thousands bought tickets to see the match live and watch the remainder of the event from the theater screens.
  • The New Age Outlaws defeated Mankind in a falls count anywhere handicap match to win the WWF Tag Team Championship. Mankind's partner Kane wasn't there during the match, but showed up in a dumpster afterwards and nailed Mankind with a sledgehammer.
  • Triple H defeated The Rock in a ladder match to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
  • Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated The Undertaker to retain the WWF Championship.

17 years ago today on RAW is WAR from Boston, Massachusetts (WWE Network link), Mankind and The Rock defeated The Unholy Alliance (Undertaker and Big Show) to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.

It would be Mankind's fifth tag team title win his fourth different partner (Steve Austin, Terry Funk, and two with Kane), while it's the first for The Rock. The duo would soon be named the Rock ‘n Sock Connection.

9 years ago today, WWE announces via press release that through information from the Albany County, New York District Attorney's Office that a number of wrestlers obtained performance enhancing drugs from Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, Florida, ten performers were found to be in violation of the WWE's Wellness Policy instituted in February 2006.

The ten were not named in the release, though they were found to be Chavo Guerrero Jr., Shane Helms, Randy Orton, John Hennigan (aka John Morrison), Ken Anderson (aka Mr. Kennedy), Shoichi Funaki, Charlie Haas, Eddie Fatu (aka Umaga), Darren Matthews (aka William Regal), and Adam Copeland (aka Edge). Mike Bucci, who ran WWE's developmental program following his retirement in 2006, was also named in the report and was given his outright release. The others would receive one-month suspensions for violation of the policy.

An addendum was also made to the Wellness Policy following the report, stating that effective November 1, anyone found to be in violation of the policy would have their names publicly released.

7 years ago today, Walter "Killer" Kowalski, died days after he was taken off life support following a heart attack he suffered earlier in the month. He was 81.

Born Edward Wladyslaw Spunick in October 1926 to Polish immigrants in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Kowalski didn't expect to become a wrestler, or go into sports at all for that matter. He majored in electrical engineering in college and worked at the Ford Plant in Detroit to help pay his way. Getting paid just $50 a week and hearing he could make more as a wrestler, he eventually decided to give wrestling a shot.

He began his career as Tarzan Kowalski, but also wrestled as Hercules Kowalski, the Polish Apollo, and Killer Kowalski (the one that stuck-he even legally changed his name to Walter Kowalski in 1963, though he changed his name to Wladek Kowalski to sound more menacing briefly). Kowalski's earliest recorded match was in May 1948, and by the end of the year, he was taking on Orville Brown for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. He would wrestle as a heel usually, unless he faced Buddy Rogers, who was even more heel. Away from the ring, promoters complained about Kowalski's friendly demeanor away from the ring because it broke kayfabe.

Kowalski cemented his status as a hated heel in an October 1952 match against Yukon Eric where he ripped off part of Eric's cauliflowered ear (the injury was accidental). He also accidentally knocked out boxing great Jack Dempsey in a match when he faced Pat O'Connor in 1958. He clawed Australian talk show host Don Lane in 1967. In 1972, Kowalksi was the first man to score a pinfall win over Andre the Giant in North America. Kowalski was Bruno Sammartino's main antagonist in the 1960s and 1970s during his run in the WWWF. Kowalski would win the WWWF Tag Team Championship with Gorilla Monsoon in 1963, and again with Big John Studd as the masked Executioners in 1976.

After retiring in 1977, Kowalski started a professional wrestling school in Malden, Massachusetts. Among his most famous students are Triple H, Chyna, Perry Saturn, John Kronus, Big John Studd, April Hunter, Christopher Nowitski, Brittany Brown, Eddie Edwards, Frankie Kazarian, Damien Sandow, and Fandango. A vegetarian who didn't drink or smoke (nor would he drive with wrestlers who smoked and a lifelong bachelor, Kowalksi married at the spry age of 79 in 2006.

Kowalski was rehabbing a knee injury in August 8, 2008 when he suffered what would be a fatal heart attack. After his family was informed that there was no chance of recovery, Kowalski was taken off life support ten days later. His death was erroneously reported at the time, but he would end up passing away twelve days later. Kowalski is a member of the inaugural Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class of 1996, the same year he went into the WWF Hall of Fame, and would enter the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003. He was honored with the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Stanley Weston Award for lifetime achievement posthumously in 2010.

5 years ago today, WWE presented Super Smackdown Live! from the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

  • John Cena defeated Wade Barrett.
  • Sin Cara defeated Daniel Bryan.
  • Natalya & Beth Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly & Alicia Fox.
  • Sheamus defeated The Great Khali by disqualification.
  • Randy Orton defeated Christian in a steel cage match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.

1 year ago today in Reseda, California, Zack Sabre, Jr. defeated Chris Hero and Speedball Mike Bailey in a three-way elimination match to win Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Battle of Los Angeles tournament.

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