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This Day in Wrestling History (Apr. 10): WCW Starts Over Again

this day in wrestling history

17 years ago today, Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo return to WCW on Monday Nitro (WWE Network link) from Denver, Colorado.

Bischoff hadn’t been with WCW since he was removed from his post as president of the company last September; he was essentially the fall guy for WCW’s troubles. Russo, originally brought in along with Ed Ferrara around the same time as Bischoff's departure to turn the tide, was sent home after just three months after suggesting that Tank Abbott should be WCW world champion. When the replacement booking committee headed by Kevin Sullivan did even worse, Bischoff and Russo were called back.

The show, essentially the third form of a company reboot in just over a year (following the introduction of a new logo just over a year prior and Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara taking over creative in October), began with a (mostly) company-wide roster meeting with Bischoff and Russo discussing the company's future.

This was soon followed by every champion in WCW being stripped of their championship, with new champions to be crowned that weekend via tournaments at Spring Stampede. Tournaments for the WCW United States and tag team championships would take place at the PPV, while the world title tournament was conducted over two shows (this one and the PPV). The vacancies for the cruiserweight and hardcore championships would be filled in one-off bouts. The mass title vacancy ends the title reigns for the following:

  • Sid Vicious’ WCW world title reign at 76 days (of note, this would be the fourth time in 2000 the WCW world title is vacated, fifth if you include last October—the title was vacated four times total prior to October 1999)
  • Jeff Jarrett’s United States title reign at 84 days (It’s the second time Jarrett vacated the title; he vacated it at Souled Out due to injury, but was awarded the title back by then-WCW commissioner Kevin Nash the next night)
  • The Harris Brothers’ tag title reign at 22 days (the fourth vacancy of WCW’s world tag titles since the start of 1999, but the first without injury)
  • Brian Knobbs’ hardcore title reign at 22 days
  • The Artist’s cruiserweight title reign at just 10 days (third title vacancy since last October)
  • Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s world television title reign at 54 days

Actually, the WCW World Television Championship, which dated back to February 1974 as the NWA Mid-Atlantic Television Championship, was abandoned and retired without any mention of the belt. 54 different men held the championship, with a total of 108 reigns. In a side note, this is actually the second time in six months the title was vacated; the title was vacated the previous November when Scott Hall threw it in the trash. Hacksaw Jim Duggan dug the belt out the trash in February and claimed the title for himself. It was defended on house shows and WCW Saturday Night until its retirement on the reboot Nitro.

But wait, there's more: Michael Alfonso, best known to wrestling fans as Mike Awesome, makes his WCW debut. Mike Awesome, by the way, was at the time the ECW World Heavyweight Champion. The debut was supposed to be a surprise, but a few days prior, the surprise was leaked on, of all places, The Bubba the Love Sponge Show.

The plan was for Awesome to pull a stunt similar to what Madusa did in 1995 with the WWF Women's Championship, but his soon-to-be-former employer found out, and ECW not only lawyered up, they signed some of their own roster to contract extensions or new deals altogether. Paul Heyman informed the locker room of Awesome's defection and produced documentation that stated Awesome had a three-year deal with ECW. ECW's legal department sent faxed copies of that contract to every member of WCW's staff, including Brad Siegel, and even (allegedly) one Ted Turner.

It took a substantial settlement (rumored to be $300,000) for Awesome's appearance to happen, but it came with a few concessions: Mike Awesome had to be referred to as the ECW world champion, but he could not be seen with the belt. Awesome also could not speak. And he had to drop the ECW world title in Indianapolis later in the week, which would have been plugged by WCW.

WCW reneged on part of the deal (Awesome spoke, and while he was referred to as the ECW world champion, there was no mention of upcoming his title defense), so Awesome would be pulled from the Thunder taping. His legal issues would be cleared up in time for Awesome to appear at Spring Stampede.

That Thursday, Mike Awesome did indeed go to Indianapolis and did indeed drop the ECW world title. To whom, you ask? Former ECW world champion and WWF superstar Tazz. The title change made that Friday's ECW on TNN broadcast.

As for the show, it did a 3.1 rating, its highest in about two months. They still get crushed by RAW is WAR, which gets a 6.2 rating.

  • Diamond Dallas Page defeated Lex Luger in a WCW World Heavyweight Championship tournament match.
  • Sting defeated Sid Vicious by countout in a WCW World Heavyweight Championship tournament match.
  • Jeff Jarrett defeated Curt Hennig in a WCW World Heavyweight Championship tournament match.
  • Ric Flair defeated Shane Douglas by disqualification.
  • Diamond Dallas Page defeated Sting in a WCW World Heavyweight Championship tournament match.

16 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (WWE Network link), Jeff Hardy defeated Triple H to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

8 years ago today, Torrie Wilson announces via MySpace that she is retiring from wrestling, citing a back injury. Her statement on the site:

"My health is doing ok as far as back problems. I must say there are days that I wake up and ask myself why the heck I put my body through what I did the last few years but it's all worth it. I can never trade all of the awesome experiences that I have had in the WWE and of course all of the great lifelong friends that I have made along the way. I have been told by 2 back surgeons that I should never set foot in a wrestling ring again if I want to be moving around in a few years on my own. Pretty depressing if you ask me....I don't even have some awesome memory of what my last match even was or who it was with. Hopefully it was with Victoria and I beat her! (-: I guess everything happens for a reason for sure."'

Wilson, who was released in May 2008, appeared in the Miss Wrestlemania battle royal at Wrestlemania 25, but did not take any significant bumps. Torrie's final appearance was at a Smackdown taping in November 2007 with a win over Victoria.

Most notably, following her retirement, she appeared on the NBC reality series I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!; she finished second to actor Lou Diamond Phillips. She also dated baseball player Alex Rodriguez for four years, and the couple appeared together at Wrestlemania XXVIII.

3 years ago today at a TNA Impact taping at Universal Orlando, Eric Young defeated Magnus to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

BREAKING NEWS: Having surgery today! pic.twitter.com/sQPiInfL2E

— Lilian Garcia (@LilianGarcia) April 10, 2015

2 years ago today, Lilian Garcia announces via Twitter that she would undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in her right knee. According to Garcia, she suffered the injury during an overseas tour the previous November.

The surgery forces her to miss to the spring overseas tour. Smackdown ring announcer Brandi Rhodes (aka Eden Stiles) took over for Lilian on RAW, while NXT ring announcer Jojo Offerman moved up to Smackdown. Lilian returned to work at the Elimination Chamber reboot on May 31.

Today would have been the 62nd birthday of William Alvin Moody. Known as Percival Pringle III in his early wrestling days, he is known to wrestling fans as Paul Bearer.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Moody got into the wrestling business as a ringside photographer. While enlisted in the Air Force, he wrestled for some independents on the Indian Coast during his off-duty time.

He began managing in 1979 as Percival "Percy" Pringle III on the Southeastern independent circuit (there were two people prior that used the Percy Pringle name). His wrestling career was put on hold after his wife Dianna gave birth to his first son Michael (they would have a second son, Daniel; their older son Michael died in September 2014; Dianna died from complications of breast cancer surgery in January 2009). Michael's birth put William's wrestling career on hold some; he became involved in the mortuary business, obtaining certification as an embalmer and a mortician.

He would return to managing in 1984 as Percy Pringle III, managing for Championship Wrestling from Florida, World Class Championship Wrestling, and its successor the United States Wrestling Association. His most notable charges included Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Mark Calaway, Lex Luger, and The Dingo Warrior (all of whom would go on to major success elsewhere).

Upon the recommendation of Rick Rude, Moody joined the WWF in December 1990 (in a bit of trivia, Konnan—THAT Konnan—signed with the WWF the same day). McMahon used his real-life involvement in the funeral business (he was a mortician by trade) to create Paul Bearer (as in pallbearer), a ghostly mortician who often carried an urn and shrilled "Ohhhhhhhh yesssssss!" during his promos.

Two months later, he made his WWF debut to take over the managerial duties for The Undertaker (Brother Love was his original manager). Bearer also hosted a talking segment appropriately named "The Funeral Parlor". For over five years, his alignment was right in line with The Undertaker's...until Summerslam 1996, when Bearer turned on Undertaker and aligned with his rival at the time Mankind. Bearer also got Vader and The Executioner to battle with The Undertaker.

In April 1997 at In Your House: Revenge of the Taker, Undertaker would set Bearer's face on fire. Bearer's face would be bandaged for some time; once removed, he went to his natural brown hair and wore less makeup. He also became more of a loudmouthed, shrill manager. During the spring and summer, Bearer attempted to get Undertaker back under his camp, hanging a dark secret about him over his head. Undertaker would refuse, and Bearer revealed that Undertaker's mom and Paul birthed a half-brother, and Undertaker's parents and half-brother were killed in a funeral home fire. Undertaker denied such claims and put the blame on his half-brother. Undertaker's half-brother Kane, under the charge of Bearer, was very much alive, introduced at Badd Blood in October 1997. In his first act, he cost Undertaker the Hell in a Cell match with Shawn Michaels. The brothers would feud well into 1998; in April, Bearer and a DNA test revealed that Kane and The Undertaker were indeed brothers.

Bearer and Undertaker would reunite near the end of the year, when Paul betrayed Kane. It was then Undertaker revealed he was the man behind the fire that killed their parents. They would form The Ministry of Darkness, but the group disbanded in September 1999 when Undertaker was injured.

Bearer would return at the side of Kane in February 2000, but would retire from on-screen performing following Wrestlemania 2000. He would serve as a road agent, stage manager, and talent scout until his departure in 2002.

After a brief run in TNA where he once again worked as Percy Pringle III, Moody returned to WWE in October 2003. After initially refusing to return due to declining health and depression, Moody signed a new deal with the promise that WWE would pay for gastric bypass surgery. In the year before the surgery, he admitted to weighing 525 pounds; following the surgery, he dropped to under 300 pounds.

He would make his television return at Wrestlemania XX, managing The Undertaker. Shortly thereafter, he would be kidnapped by The Dudley Boyz and Paul Heyman (in reality, he was written off TV to undergo gallbladder surgery). In one of the more infamous angles in WWE history, Bearer would be "killed off" via concrete crypt at The Great American Bash. The angle raised a lot of complaints due to the show's parting shot of Bearer being completely buried in cement. In reality, Moody wasn't there; a stunt double was in place, but a rehearsal of the stunt leaked and in many areas, and that's what aired for many people. Bearer would be used as a booker for the next few months before he was fired in April 2005.

Moody would rejoin the company under a legends deal in June 2005 and would work autograph sessions, the occasional TV or house show in the Mobile area, and make appearances for a few WWE video games (he also did voiceover work for Smackdown vs. RAW 2011). Moody also briefly ran his own wrestling promotion for about two years, but was shut down when his business partners decided to run the promotion without him.

Moody returned to television as Paul Bearer in September 2010 to aid The Undertaker in his feud with Kane, but would turn on him again at Hell in a Cell when he shined the light of the urn in the Undertaker's eyes as he was about to tombstone piledrive Kane. Bearer would aid Kane later in the month at Bragging Rights in the Buried Alive match, defeating Undertaker. Kane would enter a feud with Edge; this time, Edge would kidnap and torment Paul in an attempt to force Kane to a match. Kane would accept, but he continued to torment Paul and Kane. The storyline wrapped with Kane pushing Paul (thought to be a fake Paul) off two ladders onto the concrete floor. Other than a brief appearance in April 2012 where Bearer emerged from—then back into—a storage freezer, that was Bearer's last major appearance for the company.

On March 2, 2013, Moody complained of coughing and breathing problems while attending their annual Gulf Coast Wrestlers Reunion in Mobile, Alabama. Though he told friends he was going to seek treatment for respiratory problems, he would die of a heart attack just three days later. He was 58.

A 10-bell salute was given in his honor the Monday following his death on RAW. His death would be a driving point in the Undertaker-CM Punk storyline leading to Wrestlemania 29. Though many questioned the taste of using Bearer's death, William's oldest son Michael came out in support of it. Undertaker would defeat Punk and take back the memorial urn stolen from him at Wrestlemania.

Almost a year after to the day of his death, Bearer was announced as a member of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2014. He would be posthumously inducted by his two sons Michael and David and The Undertaker.