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This Day in Wrestling History (Feb. 25): Punk-Cena: The Final Chapter

Today’s TDIPWH will be presented in two parts. The second part will focus on the career and life of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who turns 68 today.

this day in wrestling history

27 years ago today, NWA in association with WCW presented Wrestlewar '90: Wild Thing (WWE Network link) from the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. 9,894 were in attendance with 170,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up from 120,000 for the 1989 event.

  • Kevin Sullivan and Buzz Sawyer defeated The Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace).
  • Norman the Lunatic defeated Cactus Jack.
  • The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) defeated The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane).
  • The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal) defeated The Skyscrapers (Mark Callous and The Masked Skyscraper) in a Chicago Street Fight.
  • Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk defeated The Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes) to retain the NWA United States Tag Team Championship.
  • The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) defeated Arn Anderson and Ole Anderson to retain the NWA World Tag Team Championship.
  • Ric Flair defeated Lex Luger by countout to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

22 years ago today, ECW presented Return of the Funker from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The show's hook: you guessed it, the return of Terry Funk after he'd been gone from the company for the past five months. Highlights of the event would air on the February 28 and March 7 episodes of ECW Hardcore TV (WWE Network link).

  • The Pitbulls (Pitbull #1 & Pitbull #2) defeated Chad Austin & Joel Hartgood.
  • Jason Knight & Paul Lauria defeated Hack Myers & Mikey Whipwreck.
  • Too Cold Scorpio defeated Hector Guerrero.
  • Axl Rotten defeated Ian Rotten.
  • Shane Douglas defeated Marty Jannetty to retain the ECW World Championship.
  • Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko defeated Sabu & The Tazmaniac to win the ECW World Tag Team Championship.
  • Cactus Jack defeated DC Drake. Post-match, Cactus and Sandman get into a brawl. Sandman gets knocked into a large box. Cactus pulls Sandman out of the box...or so he thought. He pulled out Terry Funk in Sandman gear. The three men brawl, then Tommy Dreamer comes in. Funk and Dreamer have a staredown, but gets beaten down by Sandman. Then Shane Douglas joins in. Woman tries to convince him to join Funk and Sandman in beating down Dreamer and Cactus, but Douglas ends up running off Funk and Sandman and helps Cactus. It turns out the two trained together when they first broke into the business. The angle is forever immortalized in wrestling lore as "Funk in a Box".

16 years ago today, WWF presented No Way Out (WWE Network link) from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. 15,223 were in attendance with 590,000 homes watching on PPV.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, Rikishi defeated Matt Hardy by disqualification.
  • The Big Show defeated Raven to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.
  • Chris Jericho defeated Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and X-Pac in a fatal four way match to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
  • Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley defeated Trish Stratus.
  • Triple H defeated Steve Austin 2-1 in a Three Stages of Hell match. Austin won the standard match, Triple H won the street fight to tie it, and Triple H landed on top of Austin to win the steel cage match.
  • Steven Richards defeated Jerry Lawler. With the loss, The Kat was forced to join Right to Censor. The angle never played out, as The Kat was released from the WWF just two days later. Lawler left the company in protest.
  • The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) defeated Edge and Christian and The Brothers of Destruction (Kane and The Undertaker) in a triple threat tables match to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship.
  • The Rock defeated Kurt Angle to win the WWF Championship. The win made The Rock the first six-time WWF Champion in company history.

4 years ago today on RAW from Dallas, Texas (WWE Network link), John Cena defeated CM Punk to earn a WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania 29.

The 4.5 star bout just missed the top ten for Wrestling Observer Newsletter's best worked match of the year. In a side note, it would be the last ever singles match between the two.

It's a happy 35th birthday for Maria Louise Kanellis.

Born in Ottawa, Ilinois, she was the oldest of three children. Maria was a multi-sport athlete in her younger days, taking an interest in volleyball, basketball, and softball. She attended Northern Illinois University and competed in beauty pageants before she began her wrestling career.

Maria's first national exposure didn't come in a wrestling ring, but on a reality show; she was a contestant on the short-lived reality series Outback Jack in 2004, a series that incorporated elements of The Bachelor and Joe Millionaire. The same year, after seeing an ad for the RAW Diva Search contest, Maria entered. She didn't win (she finished fifth), but she got noticed on her way out when she flipped off eventual runner-up Carmella DeCesare when she was eliminated.

She appeared for Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE's developmental territory at the time, and she even contributed to booking the promotion under Paul Heyman. Eventually, she was called up to the main roster, joining RAW that November as ditzy interviewer Maria. Her gimmick was asking the wrong questions, being an irritant, and being occasionally funny.

Eventually, Maria the backstage interviewer began to take on a more physical role. She spent most of the first year in battle royals and diva gimmick matches, though once she had the fillings slapped out of her in a match by Trish Stratus. Late in the year, she was booked in a match against Kurt Angle by then-general manger Eric Bischoff. A week later, Maria had a hand in getting Bischoff fired, and it was when many fans got their first exposure of ‘non-ditzy' Maria:

"Last week Bischoff abused his power in a way that was both malicious and capricious, and it's this rash of discourse that ultimately led to a locker room of disdain and mutiny, and it should be grounds for his immediate dismissal."

Her first major win came in February 2006 when Maria teamed with John Cena to defeat Edge and Lita. Edge hit a spear intended for Maria on Lita, leading to the win. After feuding with Melina in the early part of 2007, she began an on-screen relationship with Santino Marella that summer. The relationship took a turn when Ashley Massaro suggested Maria should be on the cover of Playboy magazine (Massaro was on the cover herself in 2007 in the runup to Wrestlemania 23).

After winning the right to be on the cover in a match, Maria revealed the cover of the magazine, but it was littered with Santino faces. Maria, when forced to choose between posing for the magazine and staying with Santino, chose the magazine and broke up with her on-screen boyfriend. In a bit of trivia, Maria is the last WWE diva to pose nude for Playboy, as WWE would transition to presenting a PG product on their programming (in a bit of trivia, Maria turned down Playboy when she was 19 out of fear for embarrassing her sister).

At Wrestlemania XXIV, Maria and Ashley (replacing another ex-Playboy cover girl Candice Michelle; she was injured in her first match back after a broken clavicle) were defeated by Beth Phoenix and Melina, but post-match, Maria got to kiss Snoop Dogg.

Maria was moved to Smackdown following Wrestlemania XXIV, but would not wrestle on television until that August, with an upset win over Victoria. She chased the Divas championship sporadically, but would never win it, though she did get a few wins over Michelle McCool in non-title bouts. Maria had brief on-screen relationships with Dolph Ziggler and Matt Hardy before leaving the company.

She briefly left to film Celebrity Apprentice, finishing fifth (she was eliminated in the penultimate episode of the series). She won the WWE Diva of the Year award at the 2009 Slammys. On February 26, 2010, one day after her 28th birthday, Maria was released from WWE.

Post-WWE released, she released an album, Sevin Sins, and was a ring announcer for MMA promotion King of the Cage. The next year, she appeared in a video for comedy website Funny or Die, launched her own perfume line, and hosted a series of B-movie DVDs for Code Red DVD.

Late in the year, she joined her real-life boyfriend Mike Bennett in Ring of Honor, debuting at Final Battle. In January 2012, she was dubbed the "First Lady of ROH".

On her 30th birthday, Maria defeated Winter in a tournament final to become the first Family Wrestling Entertainment Women's Champion. Her first run ended quickly; Winter defeated Maria just a month later for the title in a three-way match that also included TNA talent Rosita. She would win it back from Winter in July and would not be defeated for it until more than two years later at the hands of Ivellise Velez.

In the summer of 2012, Maria and Mike would feud with Eddie Edwards and Sara Del Rey. The feud abruptly ended when Del Rey signed a deal with WWE. She would be involved in a feud with Mike Mondo late in the year. She continued to accompany Bennett for his matches not only in ROH, but in New Japan Pro Wrestling as well.

At Wrestling Dontaku on May 3, 2015, Maria would be involved in the first NJPW match involving women wrestlers since 2002 when Kanellis, Mike Bennett, and Matt Taven (aka the Kingdom) defeated Bullet Club's Amber Gallows, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson.

In December 2015, after failing to come to terms on a new deal, Bennett and Kanellis both left ROH. They would debut for TNA in January 2016, with Maria serving as the valet for “The Miracle” Mike Bennett. In April, she won a ladder match to become the commissioner of TNA’s Knockouts division. In August, she forced her assistant Allie to lay down for her and would win the TNA Knockouts title for the first time. She would hold the title until being defeated by Gail Kim at Bound for Glory.

Maria and Mike got married in October 2014; Maria became a stepmother to Mike's son Austin. She's also working on an associate's degree in art. The couple briefly hosted their own podcast, Mike and Maria in Wonderland.

Today would have been the 46th birthday of Sean Christopher Haire, best known to wrestling fans as Sean O'Haire.

Born in Hilton Head, South Carolina, O'Haire made wrestled in the latter days of WCW after completing his training at the WCW Power Plant. Soon after debuting, he along with fellow Power Plant graduates Mike Sanders, Chuck Palumbo, Johnny "The Bull" Stamboli, Mark Jindrak, Reno, and Shawn Stasiak formed the Natural Born Thrillers. O'Haire and Jindrak would win the WCW tag titles together twice before pairing up with Chuck Palumbo. The duo feuded with Jindrak and Stasiak after the latter pair became jealous of the former pair's success.

The two remained together when they were picked up by the WWF following the sale of WCW, but not for long; the duo were split up after just two months. O'Haire would spend most of 2002 in WWE developmental territory OVW and on Sunday Night Heat. He returned in early 2003 as a devil's advocate, finishing his promos with the line "I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know".

Soon after, he would be mentored on-screen with Roddy Piper and feud most notably with Mr. America and Rikishi. Following Piper's release from the company, O'Haire largely floundered. He was involved in a motorcycle accident in November 2003, and was sent back to OVW once he made a recovery before being released in April 2004. His final days in wrestling came for New Japan Pro Wrestling when he defeated Abyss in 2004 and for Ultimate Pro Wrestling in early 2005.

It was in late 2004 O'Haire turned to mixed martial arts. He briefly competed in K-1 and several small MMA outfits. His most famous MMA bout came at Pride 32 in Las Vegas in October 2006, where he was defeated by Eric "Butterbean" Esch in just 29 seconds.

On September 9, 2014, one day after his suicide, he was found hanging by a bedpost by his father in his home in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was 43. O'Haire had reportedly been suffering from depression and alcohol addiction prior to his death, and had been to WWE-sponsored rehab multiple times. At the time of his death, O'Haire was survived by his father, one sister, and three brothers.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Hotline number is there to help. From

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you'll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

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