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This Day in Wrestling History (Jan. 3): Triple H Wins the WWF Championship

this day in wrestling history

17 years ago today on RAW is WAR from Miami, Florida (WWE Network link), Triple H defeated Big Show to win the WWF Championship.

On the same show, Stephanie McMahon declared that Chris Jericho and Chyna were co-Intercontinental Champions. This came about as a result of a double pin in an Intercontinental title match on the prior Thursday’s Smackdown (taped December 28). Today, WWE considers the Intercontinental Championship vacant during this time. It remained as such until Chris Jericho defeated Chyna and Hardcore Holly in a triple threat match for the title at the Royal Rumble event.

The show has its place in infamy for the D-Generation X spoof on the recently “fired” Mankind (he was fired as a result of losing a “pink slip on a pole” match to The Rock a week prior on RAW). The spoof was entitled “Have A Bad Day”.

17 years ago today on Nitro from Greenville, South Carolina (WWE Netowrk link), David Flair and Crowbar defeated Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner in the finals of a one-night Lethal Lottery tournament to win the vacated WCW World Tag Team Championship.

Nash's regular partner Scott Hall was out with a knee injury and the Outsiders were stripped of the titles. RAW's program would nearly double Nitro's in the head-to-head rating, 6.4 to 3.3.

7 years ago today, both Jeff Hardy and Bubba the Love Sponge announced that they would be heading to TNA. They would be two of about a dozen debuts on the first Impact of the Hulk Hogan era.

Hardy’s deal wasn’t done until the day of the live Impact. Just one day after rejoining the company (he was with TNA from 2004 to 2006), Jeff was indicted on drug trafficking prescription drugs and possession anabolic steroids. Hardy would plead guilty in December 2010 and would be sentenced to 10 days in prison in September 2011. Hardy remains with the company to this day.

Bubba the Love Sponge, real name Todd Clem, didn’t last nearly as long. Just two weeks after joining the company, Clem tweeted “Fuck Haiti” in response to relief efforts following a devastating earthquake that resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in the country. Three days later, Clem got into a physical confrontation with Kia Stevens, aka Awesome Kong, about the tweets. Just over a month later, Kong filed a lawsuit against Clem alleging harassment. After Clem was involved in an ambush interview on Kong on The Cowhead Show, Clem was fired from TNA in April 2010.

6 years ago today, WWE announces plans to reboot Tough Enough on USA as part of a three-hour WWE block.

The revival was first reported back in October by The fifth season of Tough Enough (though it was referred to as Season 1 by USA) would be the first by WWE since the Million Dollar Tough Enough back in 2004. The series premiered the night after Wrestlemania XXVII and was hosted by Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The ten-episode competition was won by Andy Leavine, with Luke Robinson finishing second. Also in the cast were the reigning Miss USA Rima Fakih, Christina Crawford (sister of WWE superstar Alicia Fox), Matt Cappiccioni (aka Matt “M-Dogg 20” Cross), Ivellise Velez, and Jeremiah Riggs.

None of them actually would make the main roster, but Ariane Andrew, the first person eliminated from the competition (who made herself infamous by naming Melina versus Alicia Fox as her favorite match ever), would. She made her WWE debut in January 2012 as Cameron, one-half of the Funkadactyls. Andrew remained on the roster until her release in May 2016.

It's a happy 65th birthday of longtime commentator James William Ross, but most fans know him as "Good Ol' J.R." Jim Ross.

Born in Fort Bragg, California, Ross was a three-sport athlete at Westville High School in Oklahoma, excelling in baseball, basketball (where he lettered all four years), and football. He was also State Vice President of the Future Farmers America and was a high school football All-State honorable mention in 1969 as a center.

In college, he spent some time doing commentary for a college radio station. It is this experience that brought him into the wrestling business, when he was a last-minute substitute. Jim worked for three years as a referee for the NWA Mid-South territory in the mid-1970s.

In 1982, Ross returned to the Mid-South territory as their lead play-by-play commentator and vice president of marketing. When Jim Crockett, Jr. bought the Mid-South (aka Universal Wrestling Federation) and merged it with his own promotion in 1989, Ross was brought along and teamed with David Crockett and Tony Schiavone on play-by-play. Ross would also team with Bob Caudle in the late 1980s. He also doubled as play-by-play man for the Atlanta Falcons radio broadcasts in 1992.

Eventually, Ross became the head of broadcasting for WCW, but had issues with Eric Bischoff. Bischoff would eventually ascend to executive producer in 1993, at which point Ross demanded and got his release after he was taken off the air. He took an immediate buyout out of fear of being unemployed for an extended period of time.

Ross was quickly snapped up by the WWF and made his debut at Wrestlemania IX. He took over Gorilla Monsoon's spot on Wrestling Challenge soon after and worked alongside Bobby Heenan until Heenan left the company late in the year. Ross briefly led play-by-play for WWF pay-per-views until Vince McMahon took over the post at Summerslam 1993. Ross continued calling pay-per-views for Radio WWF (his brainchild) with Gorilla Monsoon and various guests until 1994. Ross suffered his first bout with Bell's palsy in February 1994 shortly after his contract expired and was not renewed by the WWF. He returned to announcing for the Atlanta Falcons and was reunited with Bob Caudle to call Smoky Mountain Wrestling events.

Ross was brought back later in the year when McMahon was dealing with federal drug charges. Once McMahon was acquitted, Ross was let go again, only to be brought back by the end of the year. Jim would be relegated to their syndicated shows for the next couple of years before rejoining the primary announce unit in the summer of 1996. In September, the WWF inexplicably turned Ross heel. In a worked-shoot promo, Ross outed McMahon as the WWF chairman and debuted the new Diesel and Razor Ramon. Fans hated it, and that's being generous. The angle was quickly dropped, and Ross would eventually become the primary announcer for WWF programming.

Jim had a second bout with Bell's palsy while broadcasting the UK event Capital Carnage in late 1998, just hours after being informed his mother had died. Ross again would have an extended absence from commentary, but returned with "Dr. Death" Steve Williams as his personal enforcer and provided his own commentary (as part of a storyline that he was "fired" by McMahon again due to his condition). The WWF again tried to turn Ross heel by having him kick his replacement Michael Cole in the groin, but fans cheered it, and the angle was quickly dropped. Ross was restored to his spot by Wrestlemania XV. Jim's Bell's palsy served as comedic fodder in WCW when Ed Ferrara portrayed "Oklahoma". Fans and critics, and wrestlers all hated it, and the angle would eventually be dropped, but not before Ferrara won the cruiserweight title.

Ross served as the voice of RAW during and well after the Monday Night Wars along with Jerry Lawler and became one of the most beloved commentary duos in professional wrestling history. Ross during the late 1990s and early 2000s also served as executive vice president of talent relations, a role he would step down from in 2005, citing his health and entrepreneurial efforts. Jim was kayfabe fired in late 2005 as a way to have him deal with his colon surgery. Joey Styles would briefly take his place, but Ross returned during the spring of 2006. Ross' contract expired that October, and briefly worked week-to-week for about a month before signing a new one-year deal about a month later. During Ross' one-year deal, he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Ross would be moved to Smackdown in June 2008, a move Jim himself said was he was not aware of in advance. The move ended Ross' 11-plus year run as the play-by-play man for RAW. Jim would commentate for Smackdownfor a little over a year before suffering a third bout with Bell's palsy prior to a Smackdown taping in October 2009, ending his tenure as a full-time play-by-play announcer.

Ross would make occasional appearances over the next few years, calling featured bouts at Wrestlemania, had two brief runs on RAW as commentator again, and as NXT play-by-play announcer in 2012. When Paul Levesque (aka Triple H) took over talent relations duties in 2012, he hired Ross in an advisory role and as a coach at the WWE Performance Center.

Ross retired from WWE in September 2013, though many suspect he was fired due to his actions at the WWE 2K14 roster reveal event (allegedly, he and Ric Flair were intoxicated, though Ross claimed he was not drunk, merely fatigued). Vince McMahon said in a December 2014 interview that it was Ross' call to leave the company and there's no bad blood between the two.

In October 2014, Ross and Chael Sonnen commentated the Battlegrounds MMA PPV. Last year, he joined Matt Striker on commentary for the English language broadcast of New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 9. Ross continues to provide English commentary for World Pro-Wrestling Returns, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s highlight show on AXS TV with MMA fighter Josh Barnett. Most recently, Ross did commentary for WhatCulture Pro Wrestling and the ITV reboot of World of Sport Wrestling.

Ross, an avid Oklahoma Sooners fan, is married with two daughters from a previous marriage and two granddaughters. Jim sells his own line of barbecue sauces and beef products and briefly had his own restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma. Today, Ross is also the host of his own podcast on Podcast One, The Ross Report. Later this year, Ross is due to release his autobiography, Slobberknocker.

Jim is a Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame member (class of 1999), and won the publication's best television announcer award fourteen times from 1998 to 2012, including six years in a row from 1988 to 1993, and another four year run from 1998 to 2001. He's also a lifetime achievement award winner for Pro Wrestling Illustrated (2002) and the Cauliflower Alley Club (2010).

The best of cSs on this day:

2016: Just change the Divas title design already, WWE (50% of WWE poll respondents think the WWE Divas Championship needs a redesign—it would get a complete makeover three months later)

2015: Mick Foley joins the chorus of WWE fans pumped for more Cesaro & Tyson Kidd (Mick Foley on his Facebook says Cesaro and Tyson Kidd are tag champions in the making)

2014: WrestleMania 30: Undertaker's match should be with ... ? (Cagesiders weigh on who should face The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXX—36% correctly pick his opponent, Brock Lesnar)

2013: TNA posted its lowest average rating in six years in 2012 (Impact posted its lowest yearly ratings average since entering the primetime era in 2007)

2012: WWE: Chris Jericho returns to Raw as mystery man and cuts a brilliant heel non-promo promo (Geno looks back at Chris Jericho’s return to WWE—here’s the video)

2011: Chael Sonnen Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering, Faces up to 20 Years, $500,000 Fine (Sonnen pleads guilty to money laundering in connection to mortgage fraud; Sonnen was sentenced to two years probation, fined $10,000, and stripped of his realtor’s license in Oregon after agreeing to testify against others involved in the investigation)

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