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This Day in Wrestling History (Feb. 20): Ricky Steamboat Wins the NWA World Title

this day in wrestling history

39 years ago today in New York City, Bob Backlund defeated Superstar Billy Graham to win the WWWF Championship.

The win ended Graham's run at 296 days, at the time the longest championship run by a heel in company history.

In a bit of irony, Graham, who used a foot on the ropes to win the title, wasn't saved by a foot under the ropes to lose it. Save for a one-week interruption by Antonio Inoki, Backlund would hold the championship for the next five years, losing it in 1983 to the Iron Sheik.

28 years ago today, NWA presented Chi-Town Rumble (WWE Network link) from the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois. About 8,000 were in attendance, with 130,000 homes watching on PPV.

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

  • Michael Hayes defeated Russian Assassin #1. (1.5/5)
  • Sting defeated Butch Reed. (0.5)
  • The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane) and Jim Cornette defeated The Original Midnight Express (Jack Victory and Randy Rose) and Paul E. Dangerously in a loser leaves NWA match. Randy Rose was the one pinned in the match, so he was forced to leave NWA. (3.25)
  • Mike Rotunda defeated Rick Steiner to win the NWA World Television Championship. (1.5)
  • Lex Luger defeated Barry Windham to win the NWA United States Championship. (3.75)
  • The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal) defeated The Varsity Club (Steve Williams and Kevin Sullivan) to retain the NWA World Tag Team Championship. (2.25)
  • Ricky Steamboat defeated Ric Flair to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. (5)

25 years ago today in Niagara Falls, New York, WWF Intercontinental Champion Rowdy Roddy Piper defeated WWF Champion Ric Flair. Neither championship was at stake.

23 years ago today, WCW presented SuperBrawl IV (WWE Network link) from the Gray Civic Center in Albany, Georgia. About 7,600 were in attendance, with 110,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up from 95,000 homes for the 1993 edition.

In an interesting bit of trivia, this event was never released on home video, meaning the WWE Network launch in 2014 was the first time the event was made legally available since its original airing.

  • In a dark match, 2 Cold Scorpio & Marcus Alexander Bagwell defeated State Patrol (Lt. James Earl Wright & Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker).
  • Harlem Heat (Kane & Kole) defeated Thunder And Lightning. (0/5)
  • Jim Steele defeated The Equalizer. (-2.5)
  • Terry Taylor defeated Diamond Dallas Page. (0.5)
  • Johnny B. Badd defeated Jimmy Garvin. (0)
  • Lord Steven Regal defeated Arn Anderson to retain the WCW World Television Championship. (0.5)
  • Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne defeated The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags) by disqualification in a WCW World Tag Team Championship match. (3)
  • Dustin Rhodes, Flyin' Brian, and Sting defeated Paul Orndorff, Rick Rude, and Steve Austin in a ThunderCage match. (4.25)
  • Ric Flair defeated Vader in a ThunderCage match to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The Boss was the special referee. (3.5)

22 years ago today on Monday Night RAW from Macon, Georgia (WWE Network link), Sid Eudy made his return to the WWF as the bodyguard for Shawn Michaels.

Eudy was last in the WWF in April 1992. He quit the company rather than serve a suspension for a positive drug test he had just before Wrestlemania VIII. Eudy was allowed to have his Wrestlemania bout with Hulk Hogan and went on their European tour following the event.

Sid was last seen on the national stage for WCW just before Starrcade 1993, but a near-fatal confrontation with Arn Anderson in a hotel room in England got him fired. Sid in the interim wrestled primarily for the Memphis-based United States Wrestling Association and was briefly their Unified World Champion. Sid was also the challenger for the UWF World Heavyweight Championship against “Dr. Death” Steve Williams at the infamous Blackjack Brawl in September 1994.

Sid was only Shawn’s bodyguard for about a month and a half; after he had proven ineffective in neutralizing Diesel at Wrestlemania XI, Shawn told Sid to take the night off at the rematch at the first In Your House. Sid responded by attacking Michaels and delivering three powerbombs to his former boss.

18 years ago today on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Bill Goldberg said he would put up $100,000 of his own money to wrestle or fight Stone Cold Steve Austin anywhere in the world, even if it's in a back alley.

Of course, this challenge got back to Austin, and a few days later as a guest on the Howard Stern radio show, Austin responded, saying they can wrestle "when Goldberg makes it to the big leagues".

The fight, real or otherwise, would never take place, as just as Goldberg was about to debut for "the big leagues", Austin retired from in-ring competition. Bill Goldberg, at age 50, will challenge for the WWE Universal Championship at Fastlane next month.

17 years ago today, WCW presented SuperBrawl 2000 (WWE Network link) from the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California. 8,569 were in attendance, with just 70,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 485,000 homes for SuperBrawl IX a year earlier, a staggering 85% drop in a one-year period.

The show is also noted for an unadvertised appearance by music legend James Brown—an unadvertised appearance that cost WCW $25,000.

  • The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea defeated Lash LeRoux to win the vacant WCW Cruiserweight Championship. (0.5/5)
  • Brian Knobbs defeated Bam Bam Bigelow to win the WCW Hardcore Championship. (0.25)
  • 3 Count (Evan Karagias, Shannon Moore, and Shane Helms) defeated Norman Smiley in a 3-on-1 handicap match. (1)
  • The Wall defeated The KISS Demon. (-1)
  • Tank Abbott defeated Big Al in a "leather jacket on a pole" match. The bout is notorious for Tank post-match pulling a knife on Big Al threatening to kill him. On camera. This is a real thing that happened. (0.25)
  • Big T defeated Booker T. (-1)
  • Billy Kidman defeated Vampiro. (2.25)
  • The Mamalukes (Big Vito and Johnny the Bull) defeated David Flair and Crowbar in a Sicilian Stretcher match to retain the WCW World Tag Team Championship. (0.5)
  • Ric Flair defeated Terry Funk in a Texas deathmatch. (2.5)
  • Hulk Hogan defeated The Total Package. (1)
  • Sid Vicious defeated Scott Hall and Jeff Jarrett in a three-way match to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. (1.75)

16 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Kansas City, Missouri (WWE Network link), The Kat and Ivory fought to a no contest.

It would turn out to be the final WWF match for Stacy "The Kat" Carter. The company would release her just a week later; why she was let go depends on who is telling the story. Then-husband Jerry Lawler says Vince McMahon decided to abandon the Right to Censor angle. Others believe it was her backstage attitude that led to her release.

Whatever the real reason, Lawler followed Carter out the door, quitting in protest. The couple separated a few months later, and would officially divorce in 2003. Carter left the wrestling business after separating from Lawler.

12 years ago today, WWE presented No Way Out (WWE Network link) from the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 9,500 were in attendance, with 240,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 265,000 homes for the 2004 edition.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, Hardcore Holly and Charlie Haas defeated René Duprée and Kenzo Suzuki.
  • Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio defeated The Basham Brothers to win the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Booker T defeated Heidenreich.
  • Chavo Guerrero defeated Funaki, Spike Dudley, Shannon Moore, Aiko, and Paul London in a six-man elimination match to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
  • The Undertaker defeated Luther Reigns.
  • John Cena defeated Kurt Angle to win the #1 contender's tournament for the WWE Championship. With the win, Cena earned a championship match at Wrestlemania 21. (3.75/5)
  • John Bradshaw Layfield defeated the Big Show in a barbed wire steel cage match to retain the WWE Championship.

12 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Satoshi Kojima defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan by knockout to unify the All Japan Triple Crown and IWGP Heavyweight Championships.

11 years ago today on RAW from Trenton, New Jersey (WWE Network link), Shelton Benjamin defeated Ric Flair to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship.

7 years ago today, Scott Colton, best known to wrestling fans as Colt Cabana, more recently, Scotty Goldman, was released from WWE. The announcement via his MySpace:

SEEYA!!!!! Yes. I was released by WWE. There's only two things that are on my mind right now.

1) Move back to Chicago.

2) Go to England and Professionally Wrestle Johnny Saint.

There'll be a lot more to come, but for now, sit tight.

Goodbye Scotty Goldman. Hello (again) Colt Cabana!

The reason for his release according to Colton: creative had nothing for him. Colton would take those five words and run with it, creating an online comedy show that ran for about 70 episodes in 2011 and 2012.

While occasionally dabbling with the wrestling thing (Colton returned to Ring of Honor last April), these days, Scott hosts the Art of Wrestling podcast.

6 years ago today, WWE presented Elimination Chamber (aka No Way Out for German audiences) from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. About 19,000 were in attendance, with 200,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 272,000 for the 2010 event.

  • In a dark match, Daniel Bryan defeated Ted DiBiase) to retain the WWE United States Championship.
  • Alberto Del Rio defeated Kofi Kingston. (3.25)
  • Edge defeated Kane, Drew McIntyre, Wade Barrett, Rey Mysterio, and The Big Show in an Elimination Chamber match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. (4.25)
  • The Corre (Heath Slater & Justin Gabriel) defeated Santino Marella & Vladimir Kozlov to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. (1.25)
  • The Miz defeated Jerry "The King" Lawler to retain the WWE Championship. (3.5)
  • John Cena defeated Randy Orton, John Morrison, R-Truth, King Sheamus, and CM Punk in a Elimination Chamber match to become the #1 contender for the WWE Championship. (4)

4 years ago today, Jake Hager, aka Jack Swagger, is arrested and charged in Biloxi, Mississippi for speeding, DUI, and marijuana possession. All three are misdemeanors, but he could have been looking at jail time if convicted.

Despite that, Hager was not punished, at least initially. He still got his Wrestlemania bout against Alberto Del Rio, but he was almost immediately shuffled down the card following the loss.

Four months later, he was convicted of DUI and speeding, but was sentenced to six months probation, fined $1,500, and ordered to participate in a substance abuse class. The marijuana possession charge was dropped.

Today would have been the 96th birthday of Herman Gustav Rohde, Jr., but he is best known to wrestling fans as Buddy Rogers.

Born to German immigrants in Camden, New Jersey, Rogers had a knack for athletics growing up. At just age nine, he took up wrestling at the Camden YMCA. He joined their wrestling league on the advice of one of the instructors and won their heavyweight championship. He also excelled in four other sports growing up: football, boxing, track, and swimming, where he won the YMCA three-mile swimming championship.

His young adult life saw Rogers join a circus, work at a shipyard, and became a police officer, but in July 1939, he made his professional wrestling debut after a chat with promoters Frank and Ray Hanley. In his debut, he defeated Moe Brazen. Under his real name, Rohde would soon become a household name in his hometown when he defeated Ed "Strangler" Lewis.

Rodhe, all 5'11" and 195 pounds of him, would become Buddy Rogers when he worked in Houston. Success would find him there, winning the Texas heavyweight championship four times (one of the four title wins was against Lou Thesz). While working in Columbus, Rogers bleached his hair and became "Natural Guy", then "Nature Boy" by promoter Jack Pfefer. Rogers even had a valet in the early 1950s: Lillian Ellison, aka the Fabulous Moolah (but at the time Slave Girl Moolah). The partnership ended when according to Ellison she refused Buddy's sexual advances.

Rogers came along right in the advent of television. His flashy look, stunning physique, and off-the-charts charisma made him an instant hit...and very hated among audiences. In fact, Rogers was so popular, Sam Muchnick's wrestling promotion in St. Louis with Rogers merged with a rival promotion that had Lou Thesz as its top star. Rogers was dominant in the Midwestern United States, frequently selling out an 11,000-seat arena in Chicago. Buddy would expand his reach to Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling Corporation.

On June 30, 1961 with 38,622 watching at Comiskey Park, a North American attendance record for a wrestling event until 1984 (the gate of $148,000 also set a world professional wrestling record, a record that stood for nearly 20 years), Buddy Rogers defeated Pat O'Connor to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a best of three falls match dubbed "The Match of the Century".

Rogers would also gain tag team gold, winning the United States Tag Team Championships with Johnny Barend. They held them until the spring of 1963, losing them (but shouldn't have) to Killer Buddy Austin & The Great Scott (it was a best of three falls match, and one fall was a disqualification).

Rogers seemed to favor the northeastern promoters over other territories, and that drew the ire of other NWA promoters and wrestlers: Karl Gotch and Bill Miller confronted Rogers and Broke his hand. Killer Kowalski broke his right tibia in Montreal. Eventually, the NWA voted him out of the title, ordering the switch in Toronto on January 24, 1963 to Lou Thesz. Rogers, hesitant to drop the belt, put three safeguards to guarantee his cooperation: (1) the match was only one fall instead of best two out of three (a custom with world title matches until the mid-1970s), (2) threatening to give his $25,000 deposit to charity if he didn't cooperate, and (3) Thesz would shoot on Rogers if needed. In the end, Rogers cooperated and Thesz won the title.

Later in the year, Vince McMahon Sr. and Toots Mondt withdrew their membership from the NWA and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation, citing Lou Thesz wasn't a strong draw in their area. In their first major act, Willie Glizenberg, the WWWF "president" announced on television that Rogers won a tournament in Rio de Janeiro to become the first WWWF Champion. A mild heart attack that greatly diminished him physically basically cut the first ever WWWF title reign short. With fans unhappy, McMahon made the decision to put the championship on the hugely popular (and much more powerful) Bruno Sammartino.

On May 17, 1963, Bruno defeated Buddy in just 48 seconds to win the WWWF Championship. Rogers, who allegedly had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of his hospital bed to drop the title due to him being ill (though some, including Sammartino, claimed Rogers was faking it), quickly left the ring disheartened and stunned. Rogers remained near the top of the card while he waited for his rematch.

The rematch was set to take place on October 4, 1963. But on that day at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey, Rogers announced his retirement. Gorilla Monsoon, who had won a tournament, would get the shot at Sammartino (Bruno won). Rogers wrestled occasionally in 1969 for The Sheik's promotion in Montreal and Detroit. He also wrestled and co-hosted Wrestling Show Classics in Ohio with former manager Bobby Davis.

In 1978, Rogers returned at age 57 in the Florida territory, then went to Jim Crockett Promotions as a heel manager for wrestlers including Jimmy Snuka, Ken Patera, Gene Anderson, and Big John Studd. His most notable feud was against new "Nature Boy" Ric Flair. In July 1978, Flair defeated Rogers. He soon left for the WWF where he was a babyface manager, part-time wrestler, and talking segment host of "Rogers' Corner". While feuding with Captain Lou Albano and Ray Stevens in 1983, Rogers broke his hip and retired from wrestling for good.

In early 1992, he was set to face "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel for the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, but the promotion shut down and the match never took place. Later in the year, Rogers suffered a severe broken arm and three strokes (two of the three occurring on the same day). Rogers was put on life support, where he would live out his final days.

Rogers, while not well-liked and barely respected in his prime, mellowed out in his later years and would become one of the sport's most respected veterans. And he wasn't afraid to throw hands at his advanced age: at age 68, he fought off a 29-year old man who was harassing two female employees at a sandwich shop in Fort Lauderdale. He's credited with inventing the figure-four grapevine, a hold that would later be adopted—strut and all—by Ric Flair. In 1994, he was posthumously inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame. He was also posthumously inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, Debbie, one son, David, and brother John.

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