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This Day in Wrestling History (Feb. 19): Japan’s Big Three Unite For One Night Only

this day in wrestling history

Our condolences to the families, friends, and fans of Nicole Bass, who passed away Friday at age 52, and Ivan Koloff, who died Saturday at age 74.

49 years ago today, famed pro wrestler and strongman Georg Karl Julius Hackenschmidt dies in a hospital in London, England. He was 90 years old.

Born to a Baltic German father and Estonian Swedish mother on August 1, 1877, Hackenschmidt, the oldest of three children, devoted much of his life to physical development. He spent a lot of time in the gym and took up a number of sports, including running, swimming, cycling, and weightlifting. His feats of strength astounded anyone that witnessed them. Among them: lifting a small horse, lifting 276 pounds with one hand, and bench-pressing a 335-pound barbell from the wrestler's bridge position.

After graduating high school in 1895, he worked in a factory as a blacksmith's apprentice. He also joined the Athletic and Cycling Club of Revel (today known as Tallinn). While he was a prized cyclist, wrestling and weightlifting were his first loves. After taking on Greco-Roman wrestler and strongman Georg Lurich in 1896, Hackenschmidt began leaning toward wrestling. Two years later, he left for St. Petersburg, Russia.

He joined their Athletic and Cycling Club in 1898, and under the training of Dr. Vladislav von Krajeweski, he quickly became a competent wrestler. He began his career in April 1898, but army duty in early 1899 put his wrestling dreams on hold. Right after his service, Hackenschmidt won the Russian championship.

The championships would keep coming for Georg. In 1900, he won a six-week tournament to claim the championships of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The next year, he won world title tournaments in Vienna and Paris. In fact, he won virtually everywhere he went. By 1903, Hackenschmidt was commanding audiences in music halls, opera halls, and theaters. He'd wrestle as many as five times a night, winning them all with minimal effort. Hackenschmidt at the height of his popularity was admired by men and adored by women. His humbling, soft-spoken, yet intelligent attitude garnered praise even from President Theodore Roosevelt, who once said if he wasn't president of the United States, he would like to be Georg Hackenschmidt.

In 1904, Hackenschmidt took on Ahmed Madrali. Nicknamed the "Terrible Turk", he was under the charge of Antonio Pieri, who fell twice to Hackenschmidt and was brought in to tame the "Russian Lion". The anticipated bout packed the Olympia Exhibition Center in London to capacity, and traffic was backed up into Piccadilly in anticipation for the bout. The bout lasted less than three minutes. Hackenschmidt picked up Madrali and threw him down on his arm, dislocating his shoulder. The two met again later in the year. Madrali lasted longer, but he still went down to Hackenschmidt. In July, he was pushed against American rising star Tom Jenkins, but Georg still won in two straight falls under Greco-Roman rules. The two met again under freestyle rules in Madison Square Garden, and Hackenschmidt won again in two straight falls.

After defeating Jenkins, Hackenschmidt would hold the world title for the next three years. In April 1908 in Chicago's Dexter Park, Hackenschmidt took on American Frank Gotch. Gotch was in peak physical condition. Hackenschmidt, not so much, as he refused to train publicly and was barred from training at the Chicago Athletic Club. The two bout went more than two hours and had its share of foul tactics, but in the end, Hackenschmidt quit the fall and surrendered the title to Gotch. He shook his hand, went to his dressing room, and never returned to the ring. Though he was quick to praise Gotch at first, he reversed course, complaining of Gotch and Americans in general and their style of wrestling.

The two met three and a half years later again in Chicago, this time at Comiskey Park. The crowd of nearly 30,000 produced an $87,000 gate, then a record for a wrestling event (over $2 million in today's dollars) would watch one of the most controversial rematches in wrestling history. Hackenschmidt claimed he was injured in preparation for the match and that Gotch's backers paid people off to injure Hackenschmidt.

The injury was ultimately declared not serious and the match was on as scheduled. It was more or less a massacre: Gotch needed only 20 minutes to defeat Hackenschmidt in consecutive falls, the second won by submission when Frank locked George in his toe hold. This time around, Hackenschmidt was full of praise for Gotch, applauding his strategy to go after the knee, saying he would have done the same had the roles been reversed.

Hackenschmidt retired due to a knee injury while preparing for a match with Stanislaus Zbyzsko to take place the following summer. The two losses to Gotch were believed to be the only times he had suffered defeat in his career. Though Hackenschmidt remained in the public eye following retirement due to his contributions in wrestling (he wrote a few books on health, wrestling, and bodybuilding), he had lived a relatively quiet life. But even into his mid-80s, he had a strict workout and diet regimen.

Hackenschmidt left a lasting legacy in the wrestling world, often being credited with popularizing catch-as-catch-can wrestling in England. Wrestling historians call the Gotch-Hackenschmidt rivalry the height of the Golden Age of Wrestling. Their exploits were national and international news and also launched amateur wrestling outfits in the United States. There is a museum dedicated to him in his honor in Tartu that opened in 1969.

Not surprisingly, Hackenschmidt was inducted in the inaugural Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class in 1996 and is a member of the inaugural class of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2002. In 2016, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame’s legacy wing.

49 years ago today in New York City, WWF held its first event in the fourth and current incarnation of Madison Square Garden (the original opened in 1879, with two newer versions opening in 1890 and 1925).

In the featured bout, WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino defeated Bull Ramos by submission.

34 years ago today in Philadelphia, Andre the Giant, Salvatore Bellomo, Rocky Johnson, Pedro Morales, and Jimmy Snuka defeated Mr. Fuji, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Muraco, Buddy Rose, and Ray Stevens 3-1 in a best of five falls match. The bout was billed as the first best-of-five falls ten-man tag match in the history of Philadelphia wrestling.

Fuji scored the first fall of the match on Bellomo, but Fuji’s team would lose three straight after that, with Bellomo getting his pin back, then Snuka and Andre the Giant both defeating Buddy Rose to win the match. Though the match had a two-hour time limit, Andre’s team won the bout in only about 20 minutes.

22 years ago today, WCW presented Superbrawl V (WWE Network link) from the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. 13,095 were in attendance, with 180,000 homes watching on PPV, though some estimates have it as high as 215,000 homes. That's up from 130,000 for Starrcade 1994 and 110,000 for Superbrawl IV.

Match ratings are provided by Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer as recorded in the Internet Wrestling Database. Ratings are out of a possible five stars.

  • In a WCW Main Event preshow match, Paul Orndorff defeated Brad Armstrong.
  • In a WCW Main Event preshow match, Stars 'n Stripes (Marcus Alexander Bagwell and The Patriot) defeated Romeo Valentino and Dino Casanov.
  • In a WCW Main Event preshow match, Arn Anderson defeated Johnny B. Badd in a lumberjack match to retain the WCW World Television Championship.
  • Alex Wright defeated Paul Roma. In a side nugget, Roma was fired from WCW following the event for essentially sandbagging all of Wright's offense and attempting to kick out of the planned finish of the match. (1/5)
  • Hacksaw Jim Duggan defeated Bunkhouse Buck. (-0.5)
  • Kevin Sullivan defeated Dave Sullivan. (-2)
  • Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) defeated The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) by disqualification to retain the WCW World Tag Team Championship. (2)
  • The Blacktop Bully defeated Dustin Rhodes. (1.25)
  • Sting and Randy Savage defeated Avalanche and Big Bubba Rogers. (3)
  • Hulk Hogan defeated Vader by disqualification to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. (3.25)

15 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Rockford, Illinois (WWE Network link), Billy & Chuck defeated Tazz & Spike Dudley to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.

11 years ago today, WWE presented No Way Out (WWE Network link) from the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. About 11,000 were in attendance, with 220,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 240,000 the previous year.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, The Boogeyman defeated Simon Dean.
  • Gregory Helms defeated Brian Kendrick, Funaki, Kid Kash, Paul London, Psicosis, Scotty 2 Hotty, and Super Crazy in a nine-way match to retain the Cruiserweight Championship. (2.5/5)
  • John "Bradshaw" Layfield defeated Bobby Lashley. (0.75)
  • Matt Hardy & Tatanka defeated MNM (Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro). (1.75)
  • Chris Benoit defeated Booker T to win the United States Championship. (3.25)
  • Randy Orton defeated Rey Mysterio to win a World Heavyweight Championship match at Wrestlemania. (3.25)
  • Kurt Angle defeated The Undertaker to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. (4)

5 years ago today, WWE presented Elimination Chamber (known as No Way Out for German audiences) (WWE Network link) from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 15,306 were in attendance, with 178,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 200,000 homes for the 2011 edition.

  • In a dark match, Hunico defeated Alex Riley.
  • CM Punk defeated Kofi Kingston, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, R-Truth, and Chris Jericho in an Elimination Chamber match to retain the WWE Championship. (3.25/5)
  • Beth Phoenix defeated Tamina Snuka to retain the WWE Divas Championship. (2.25)
  • Daniel Bryan defeated Santino Marella, The Great Khali, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, and The Big Show in an Elimination Chamber match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. (3.5)
  • Jack Swagger defeated Justin Gabriel to retain the WWE United States Championship. (1)
  • John Cena defeated Kane in an ambulance match. (3)

5 years ago today, All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Noah co-presented All Together: Mōikkai, Hitotsu ni Narō ze (All Together: Once More, Let's Become One) from Sendai Sun Plaza Hall in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.

This was the second of two events co-presented by all three Japanese major wrestling organization to benefit the Japanese Red Cross and those affected by the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Like the first All Together event the previous August, the show was booked as a supercard, with no championships at stake or storyline progression. Sendai was chosen to host the second All Together for being the nearest major city to the epicenter of the earthquake and tsunami.

The event, presented on PPV and on tape delay for later broadcast, also featured participants from Michinoku Pro Wrestling, Diamond Ring, Kensuke Office, and Sendai Girls' Pro Wrestling. Of note, All Japan's Kenso and New Japan's Kazuchika Okada and Prince Devitt were not at the event due to schedule conflicts.

  • The Great Sasuke, Ryusuke Taguchi, Taiji Ishimori and Tiger Mask defeated Gedo, Jado, Kenoh and Taro Nohashi.
  • Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kentaro Shiga and Satoshi Kojima defeated Captain All Japan, Captain New Japan and Captain Noah.
  • Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kaz Hayashi, Shuji Kondo and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Jushin Thunder Liger, Kai, Kotaro Suzuki and Minoru Tanaka.
  • Takashi Sugiura and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Manabu Soya and Togi Makabe.
  • Akebono, Kensuke Sasaki, Naomichi Marufuji and Yuji Nagata defeated Suzuki-gun (Masayuki Kono, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and Yoshihiro Takayama).
  • Akitoshi Saito, Hirooki Goto and Jinsei Shinzaki defeated Chaos (Shinsuke Nakamura, Takashi Iizuka and Toru Yano).
  • Keiji Mutoh and Kenta Kobashi defeated Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi, Suwama and Takeshi Morishima defeated Go Shiozaki, Seiya Sanada and Tetsuya Naito.

The best of cSs on this day:

2016: NXT tag champs Dash & Dawson are now 'The Revival' (NXT's top guys are now officially “The Revival”, probably because “The Brainbusters” was taken)

2015: NXT Champion Kevin Owens responds to criticisms of his build (Kevin Owens talks about the criticism thrown his way abou this appearance in an interview with

2014: Are you buying the WWE Network? (With WWE Network's launch less than a week away, Cagesiders weigh in on whether they're putting money down for it)

2013: The new WWE championship title story: The making of, when it was supposed to debut, and more ( gives the fascinating story of the company's new world title belt)

2012: WWE Elimination Chamber results: Alberto Del Rio and Christian return to support John Laurinaitis (Former world champions Alberto Del Rio and Christian return to back RAW interim general manager John Laurinaitis; David Otunga looks like a goof)

2011: Early Signs for Tough Enough Aren't Encouraging (Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer says WWE had no hand in picking the Tough Enough cast initially, which may explain why Miss USA Rima Fakih is a part of the cast)

2010: If Linda McMahon really wants to do something good for the citizens of Connecticut... (Federal and state authorities cracking down on contractors as a tax dodge... may not mean much for WWE)

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