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This Day in Wrestling History (Sept. 12): Hunting for a Viper

this day in wrestling history

34 years ago today, Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle are awarded the NWA World Tag Team Championship.

NWA's spin is that they defeated Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki in a tournament final, but that's about as true as Pat Patterson in Rio in 1979. The real story: they wanted to get the belts on somebody after Ole Anderson and Stan Hansen split up.

27 years ago today, NWA presented Clash of the Champions VIII: Fall Brawl ‘89 (WWE Network link) from the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, South Carolina.

The show, which did a solid 4.7 rating with 2.4 million homes watching, is noted for the post-match angle: Terry Funk tied a plastic bag around Ric Flair’s head as he put a beating on his rival with a cast (the cast was a result of Funk having a staph infection removed, forcing him to miss the event). To the easily impressionable mind, this looks like Terry Funk more or less tried to kill Flair. After TBS received many phone calls regarding the angle, Funk had to issue an apology the next week.

  • The Road Warriors defeated The Samoan Swat Team.
  • Tom Zenk defeated The Cuban Assassin by submission.
  • Sid Vicious defeated Ranger Ross.
  • The Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes) defeated Rick & Scott Steiner.
  • Brian Pillman defeated Norman the Lunatic.
  • Steve Williams defeated Mike Rotundo.
  • Lex Luger defeated Tommy Rich.
  • Sting & Ric Flair defeated Dick Slater & The Great Muta via disqualification.

25 years ago today, Chris Adkisson, aka Chris Von Erich, committed suicide via a single gunshot wound to the head. He was just 21.

Born September 30, 1969 in Dallas, all the youngest of the six second-generation Von Erichs wanted to do was wrestle. He did odd jobs for World Class Championship Wrestling and worked the cameras. He made his pro debut in June 1990, but faced a number of challenges: like his brothers, he had drug abuse issues, but Chris also had bones so brittle, they could break on the simplest of maneuvers, and he was an asthmatic. In addition, he was just 5'5" and 160 pounds. His lone major feud was with Percy Pringle (later Paul Bearer of WWE fame) at USWA.

Depression and frustration set in young Chris' mind, not just because of his career outlook, but he was still heartbroken over the suicide of his brother Mike four years earlier. Chris shot himself in the head less than three weeks before his 22nd birthday. He was the third Von Erich to die in less than a decade, two of them via suicide.

17 years ago today, WCW presented Fall Brawl (WWE Network link) from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 7,491 were in attendance, with just 135,000 homes watching on PPV. That's less than half of the number of buys for the previous year (275,000 for Fall Brawl 1998), and more than 100,000 less than Road Wild the previous month.

The PPV is noted for two things: (1) it's the last PPV of the Eric Bischoff era (he was fired two days prior to the event—more details later in the week), and (2) it's the first Fall Brawl since the event went to PPV that did not feature a WarGames match.

  • The Filthy Animals (Eddie Guerrero, Kidman, and Rey Mysterio Jr.) defeated The Deadpool (Shaggy 2 Dope, Vampiro, and Violent J).
  • Lenny Lane defeated Kaz Hayashi to retain the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
  • The First Family (Brian Knobbs & Hugh Morrus) defeated The Revolution (Dean Malenko & Shane Douglas) in a no disqualification match.
  • Rick Steiner defeated Perry Saturn to retain the WCW World Television Championship.
  • Berlyn defeated Jim Duggan.
  • Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) defeated The West Texas Rednecks (Barry Windham & Kendall Windham) to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship. The win made Harlem Heat the WCW tag champions for record ninth time.
  • Sid Vicious defeated Chris Benoit to win the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship.
  • Goldberg defeated Diamond Dallas Page.
  • Sting defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The win gave Sting his sixth and final WCW world title.

12 years ago today, WWE presented Unforgiven (WWE Network link) from the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. About 10,000 were in attendance, with 239,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 360,000 buys for the 2003 edition.

  • In a preshow Sunday Night Heat match, Maven defeated Rodney Mack.
  • Chris Benoit & William Regal defeated Ric Flair & Batista.
  • Trish Stratus defeated Victoria to retain the WWE Women's Championship.
  • Tyson Tomko defeated Steven Richards.
  • Chris Jericho defeated Christian in a ladder match to win the vacant WWE Intercontinental Championship.
  • Shawn Michaels defeated Kane in a no disqualification match.
  • La Resistance (Rob Conway & Sylvain Grenier) defeated Rhyno & Tajiri to retain the World Tag Team Championship.
  • Triple H defeated Randy Orton to win the World Heavyweight Championship.

10 years ago today, the unthinkable happened: ECW made its debut in Madison Square Garden. In the show's main event, Big Show defeated Sabu in an extreme rules match to retain the ECW Championship.

6 years ago today, Matt Hardy was sent home from their latest WWE European tour with the company citing his physical condition as a concern. The shows more or less would burn Matt's bridge with WWE, as soon after, he posted videos expressing his disinterest in the product. The videos have since been taken down or made private. Hardy asked for and was granted his release a month later.

4 years ago today, independent filmmakers Kevin Kiernan and John Philapavage take to Kickstarter to fund a documentary on ECW.

The documentary, Barbed Wire City: The Unauthorized Story of Extreme Championship Wrestling, would indeed get the funds and would eventually be released in April 2013. Cageside Seats' own Keith Harris reviewed the documentary shortly after its release, and you can read that review right here.

3 years ago today, TNA presented No Surrender from the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri.

This event was not held on PPV, instead presented as a special episode of Impact. As with recent editions of No Surrender, the show focused on the semifinals and finals of the Bound for Glory Series.

  • A.J. Styles defeated Austin Aries in a Bound for Glory Series semi-final match.
  • Magnus defeated Bobby Roode in a Bound for Glory Series semi-final match.
  • Bully Ray defeated Mr. Anderson in a Last Man Standing match to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
  • A.J. Styles defeated Magnus to win the Bound for Glory Series and a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match at Bound for Glory.
  • On the same taping, but airing the next week, ODB defeated Mickie James to win the TNA Knockouts Championship.

Today would have been the 59th birthday of Michael Hegstrand, best known to wrestling fans as Road Warrior Hawk.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Hegstrand moved to Minneapolis as a boy. After graduating from high school in 1976, he worked odd jobs to make ends meet, such as meat butchering and bouncing for a bar. It was while he was a bouncer he caught the eye of trainer Eddie Sharkey, thinking Hegstrand, along with Joe Lauriniaitis, and Barry Darsow, could make something of themselves in wrestling.

Hegstrand would begin his wrestling career as Crusher Von Haig as part of the Traveling All-Stars in Vancouver. Despite his love for power lifting, he was considered small and many thought he did not have the skills to make it. Hegstrand would grow weary of road life, so he along with Sharkey trainee Rick Rude headed back home to Minneapolis.

In 1983, Hegstrand in a pinch would be paired with Joe Lauriniaitis (Joe's original partner was facing legal issues) and Ole Anderson would dub them the Road Warriors. The duo would be paired with manager Paul Ellering in Georgia Championship Wrestling. Michael and Joe would be renamed Hawk and Animal, and together the trio would be the Legion of Doom. Inspired by the movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the duo would have mohawked heads, studded dog collars, spiked shoulder pads, and (usually) red, black and white face paint.

Over the next few years, their smashmouth, no-nonsense style and bombastic promos (often trademarked by Hawk's "WELLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!" and "OOOOOOOOOHHHHHH, WHAT A RUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH!" would prove to be a hit with the wrestling world, winning tag team championships in Georgia Championship Wrestling, AWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling, and by the end of 1998, the NWA. Despite being heels for much of their initial run, fans loved their style, which was innovative for their time.

The duo would land in the WWF in 1990 and would feud with their counterparts, Demolition initially, and at Summerslam 1991, the duo would add the WWF tag team titles to their trophy case. They briefly left the WWF after losing the titles in January 1992, but returned with longtime manager Paul Ellering and a wooden dummy. Both members of the team thought the gimmick was stupid and Hawk left the WWF entirely.

Hawk would find moderate success as a singles competitor in Japan and Europe, wining the IWGP tag titles twice for New Japan Pro Wrestling with Kensuke Sasaki as the Hellraisers, but no North American promoter thought of bringing the new duo over. He would also win the Catch Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Championship before making his way back to the States in 1993.

Hawk would compete in NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling for a spell, then returned to WCW as a partner for Dustin Rhodes and Davey Boy Smith. He left WCW again following Starrcade 1993, and after a brief singles run in 1995, returned full-time with longtime partner Animal in January 1996. They unsuccessfully challenged for the tag titles, and with the rise of the New World Order, they left again for the WWF.

LOD would be a part of the border war feud with the Hart Foundation in the summer and fall of 1997, and would defeat the Goddwins to win the WWF tag titles in October 1997. They'd lose the belts a month later to upstart team the New Age Outlaws. The duos would feud through the latter part of the year, with one of Hawk's Mohawks being shaved by the Outlaws. They would be repackaged as LOD 2000 with Sunny, but would not be with the duo long. They would be paired with Darren "Puke" Drozdov and would be a part of a controversial storyline involving Hawk's real-life alcohol and drug issues. It would be later revealed (in storyline) that Hawk was enabled by Puke, ultimately leading to Hawk's "suicide" on-air. That hit a little too close to home, and both Hegstrand and Laurinaitis left the company.

While Michael struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, Joe would wrestle solo. In 2001, Hegstrand was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, preventing him from wrestling for a while. By the next year, the duo would work regularly again, mostly on the independent circuit aside from one wrestling appearance for TNA and WWE in 2003. Michael's final bout came two weeks before his death teaming with Joe to take on Greg Valentine and Buff Bagwell. A sudden heart attack would claim his life on October 19, 2004 in his home in Indian Rocks Head, Florida. He was just 46.

Hegstrand as part of the Legion of Doom would be inducted into the WWE and Professional Wrestling Halls of Fame in 2011, and was a part of the original Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class in 1996.

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