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This Day in Wrestling History (Apr. 18): Ultima Lucha!

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this day in wrestling history

35 years ago today in St. Paul, Minnesota, Hulk Hogan defeated Nick Bockwinkel to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.

AWA President Stanley Blackburn overturns the decision six days later, citing both men used illegal objects in the match. The title change was voided and the win stricken from the record books.

In a bit of trivia, on the one year anniversary of the decision being overturned, Hogan again defeated Bockwinkel for the title in a no disqualification match. Again, Stanley Blackburn strips Hogan of the title, returning it to Bockwinkel. The second time Hogan was stripped of the title played a part in Hogan leaving the AWA for the WWF by the end of the year.

32 years ago today, Bruiser Brody makes his singles debut for New Japan Pro Wrestling against Antonio Inoki.

27 years ago today, Salvador Guerrero Quesada, best known to lucha libre fans as Gory Guerrero, died of cirrhosis of the liver due to hepatitis in El Paso, Texas. He was 69.

Born January 11, 1921 in Ray, Arizona to a family of migrant workers, Salvador attended school in the United States until his mother’s death at age 9. His family moved to Mexico, where his father worked as an interpreter.

Guerrero joined a gym intending to learn boxing. He learned wrestling instead from Deablo Velasco and El Indio Mejia. He debuted in September 1937 in a losing effort to El Rojo. Initially wrestling as Joe Morgan, he was renamed Gory Guerrero due to his bloody matches.

In 1943, Guerrero debuted for Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (EMLL), and was the promotion’s rookie of the year. His first championships came in 1945, winning both the Mexican National Welterweight and Middleweight Championships. Late in the decade, Guerrero teamed with El Santo as La Pareja Atomica, “The Atomic Pair” (the two even appeared in a few of Santo’s films together). In February 1946, Guerrero ended Tarzan Lopez’s four-year reign as NWA middleweight champion. In 1954, Gory took on NWA World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz for the title, but did not win.

In February 1966, Guerrero left EMLL after refusing to drop the NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship to Ray Mendoza (Guerrero kept the physical belt for nearly a decade after he left). After working on the independent circuit, he went into training, booking, and promoting. He booked shows for World Class Championship Wrestling and NWA Hollywood Wrestling.

Gory called it a career in the 1980s, but he would leave a lasting legacy on the business. He invented the Gory Special, a back-to-back stretch hold. The hold has branched out into a number of maneuvers, including a facebuster (Gory Bomb), a piledriver (Barry White Driver), a powerbomb (Stu Hart Special), a reverse STO (Done Deal), and a neckbreaker/backbreaker (Widow’s Peak). He’s also credited with inventing la de a caballo, the camel clutch.

Guerrero married Herlinda Llanes, sister of wrestler Enrique Llanes, in 1947. The couple had six children, sons Chavo, Mando, Hector, and Eddie (all of whom wrestled), and daughters Maria and Linda. Following his retirement, Guerrero sold auto insurance and became a boarder for aspiring wrestlers, training them in his backyard.

In early April 1990, Guerrero’s liver failed and he developed cirrhosis due to hepatitis. The illness would claim his life on April 18, 1990. He was 69. In 1996, Guerrero was posthumously inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.

17 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (WWE Network link), Triple H defeated Tazz in a non-title match. It's the first time that WWF's and ECW's world champions faced each other in a sanctioned bout.

13 years ago today, WWE presented Backlash: The Final Encounter (WWE Network link) from Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. About 13,000 were in attendance, with 320,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 345,000 for the 2003 edition.

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.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, Val Venis defeated Matt Hardy.
  • Shelton Benjamin defeated Ric Flair.
  • Jonathan Coachman (defeated Tajiri.
  • Chris Jericho defeated Christian and Trish Stratus in a 2-on-1 handicap match.
  • Victoria defeated Lita to retain the WWE Womens Championship.
  • Randy Orton defeated Cactus Jack in a hardcore match to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
  • The Hurricane and Rosey defeated La Résistance (Robert Conway and Sylvain Grenier).
  • Edge defeated Kane.
  • Chris Benoit defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H via submission in a triple threat match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.

12 years ago today at a RAW/Smackdown Supershow taping in New York City, MNM (Joey Mercury & Johnny Nitro) defeated Eddie Guerrero & Rey Mysterio to win the WWE Tag Team Championship.

During the RAW portion of the taping (which aired live), Jim Ross defeated Triple H in a no disqualification match.

10 years ago today, WWE ends its developmental relationship with Deep South Wrestling.

The promotion based in McDonough, Georgia was founded by Jody Hamilton (aka Assassin #1). This is actually the second incarnation of DSW, with the first lasting from 1985 to 1988 (the first incarnation ended shortly after Hamilton suffered a career-ending back injury). In the interim, Hamilton worked for WCW as a booker and a trainer for their training facility, the Power Plant (he would eventually become the school’s director).

The second incarnation of DSW lasted just a year and a half, opening on September 1, 2005; Mike “The Miz” Mizanin would be the first heavyweight champion of the promotion, winning the title that december. Other champions included Roughhouse O’Reilly (real name Ryan Parmeter, aka Konnor of WWE fame), Vito, and Bradley Jay (TNA’s Jay Bradley and Aiden O’Shea); Austin Creed (aka Xavier Woods) would win the DSW heavyweight title post-split from WWE in July 2007. The promotion shut down for good in October 2007.

Following the WWE-DSW split, all talent under WWE developmental deals were reassigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling (they would be reassigned again less than a year later when they ended their relationship, this time to Florida Championship Wrestling). Those that were not under WWE developmental deals left the company altogether.

The WWE-DSW split was far from amicable; in April 2009, Jody Hamilton filed a lawsuit against WWE, claiming breach of contract (WWE did not give 90 days notice that the agreement was ending) and intentional interference with contractual and business relations. Two wrestlers alleged that then-WWE executive vice president of talent relations John Laurinaitis said that anyone who continued to work for Hamilton or DSW would never again work in the wrestling industry.

After WWE unsuccessfully filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the two sides settled before it was set to go to trial in January 2010. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

7 years ago today, TNA presented Lockdown from the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri. As per TNA tradition, all of the matches on the show were contested in a steel cage.

  • Rob Van Dam defeated James Storm. With the win, Team Hogan would have the man advantage in the Lethal Lockdown match.
  • Homicide defeated Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, and Brian Kendrick in an Xscape match to earn an X Division Championship match later in the show.
  • Kevin Nash defeated Eric Young.
  • The Beautiful People (Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky) defeated Angelina Love and Tara. With Madison Rayne getting the win, she became the new TNA Knockouts Champion. The Beautiful People's Knockouts tag team titles were also at stake in the match.
  • Kazarian defeated Shannon Moore and Homicide to retain the TNA X Division Championship.
  • Team 3D (Brother Ray and Brother Devon) defeated The Band (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) in a St. Louis street fight.
  • Kurt Angle defeated Mr. Anderson in an Xscape match.
  • A.J. Styles defeated D'Angelo Dinero to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
  • Team Hogan (Abyss, Jeff Jarrett, Jeff Hardy, and Rob Van Dam) defeated Team Flair (Sting, Robert Roode, James Storm, and Desmond Wolfe) in a Lethal Lockdown match. Had Flair's team won, Hogan would have been banished from TNA.

5 years ago today, Derrick Bateman is declared (unofficially) the winner of NXT Redemption. The show stopped being a competition in late 2011 and became an alternate WWE Universe show.

Bateman was declared the winner because he was the lone man on the show that was never eliminated—this despite the fact that he joined the competition more than four months after it began.

Bateman would have all of one televised match on the main roster, a losing effort to Ryback... in May 2012, a little over a full year later.

4 years ago today, WWE announced via press release that they were creating a "Performance Center", a place where future WWE talent can develop, and not just wrestlers, but production staff as well. The press release:

STAMFORD, Conn., April 18, 2013 - Opening this summer, the WWE state-of-the-art Performance Center will serve as the new home to WWE's talent developmental system, recently re-branded NXT® and create nearly 100 high-wage jobs in Orlando, Florida.

With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the new Performance Center will give WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development. The new center will be the training ground for talent that includes former professional and collegiate athletes, Olympians and entertainers, and will offer a best-in-class sports medicine program creating a central location for all WWE talent to receive the best care both in and out of the ring.

"Our economy has created nearly 300,000 new private sector jobs in just over two years, meaning that thousands of Florida families now have the opportunity to pursue their dreams," said Governor Rick Scott. "WWE could have chosen anywhere in the world to house this new global performance center - and they chose the Sunshine State. Today's announcement that WWE will create nearly 100 more jobs for families in Central Florida is further proof that everything we do is geared towards job creation and it's working."

"We are so excited that WWE has chosen to establish its training and talent development operations in Central Florida," said Teresa Jacobs, Mayor of Orange County. "In addition to strengthening our burgeoning entertainment production industry, the WWE Performance Center brings high-value jobs, capital investment and continued economic expansion to our area."

Today's announcement solidifies WWE's presence in Orlando and evolves WWE's partnership with Full Sail University. Last year, WWE and Full Sail announced an innovative partnership that moved live tapings of WWE NXT series, WWE's weekly one-hour show that broadcasts on WWE.com and in more than 60 countries worldwide, to Full Sail Live, the university's state-of-the-art performance venue. The partnership, which created a new student scholarship fund, also allows students of the university's entertainment-focused degree programs, including Film, Show Production, Digital Arts and Design, Internet Marketing and Entertainment Business, to gain real-world experience alongside WWE production staff during WWE NXT tapings.

"The WWE Performance Center and our partnership with Full Sail University are critical to the future of our company," said Paul "Triple H®" Levesque, Executive Vice President, Talent and Live Events, WWE. "Orlando is now the home to the next generation of WWE Superstars."

"Collaborating with WWE has elevated the education experience here at Full Sail University by creating many opportunities for our students to gain hands-on experience by being mentored by some of the best minds in the entertainment production industry," said Garry Jones, President of Full Sail University. "We are excited to welcome WWE to the neighborhood and can't wait to see what the future holds for this evolving partnership."

The WWE Performance Center would open about three months later in Winter Park, Florida, about three miles from Full Sail University, the home of NXT.

2 years ago today, Lucha Underground taped the first half of Ultima Lucha, the show's season finale, from The Temple in Los Angeles, California. The first part aired July 29. The second half of Ultima Lucha, the double episode season finale, was taped two days later and aired August 5.

  • Cage defeated The Mack in a falls count anywhere match.
  • The Disciples of Death (Barrio Negro, El Siniestro de la Muerte, and Trece) defeated Angelico, Ivellise, and Son of Havoc to win the Lucha Underground Trios Championship.
  • Drago defeated Hernandez in a "fan's revenge" lumberjack strap match. This would be Hernandez's final match with Lucha Underground. A few weeks after the taping, Hernandez re-signed with TNA, but was soon released when it was revealed that he was still under contract to Lucha Underground (he told TNA that he was a free agent; in reality, his release from LU never went through). Hernandez was eventually released from Lucha Underground in late September.

It’s a happy 56th birthday to Steven Kenneth Lombardi, or Steve Lombardi for short.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lombardi studied biochemistry at St. Francis College before turning to pro wrestling. Steve debuted for the World Wrestling Federation under his real name in July 1983 with a loss to Swede Hansen.

Lombardi would become a regular on WWF programming, primarily as an enhancement talent. His first pinfall win didn’t come until just before his first anniversary with the company with an upset win over Mad Dog Vachon in Long Island, New York.

In January 1989, Lombardi would give birth to his most famous gimmick, the street-fighting Brooklyn Brawler. He wore tattered jeans and a torn New York Yankees shirt. He was managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who famously quipped if he could make Red Rooster a star, he could make anyone a star. The alliance with Heenan was brief, as Rooster defeated The Brooklyn Brawler in a pair of televised bouts in the spring of 1989, and Rooster defeated Heenan in short order at Wrestlemania V.

Lombardi went under a pair of gimmicks in 1993; first as the short-lived baseball inspired MVP (no relation to the wrestler of the same ring name), then as a replacement for Matt Bourne as Doink the Clown. For a short period, Lombardi also wrestled as Kim Chee, one of the handlers of Kamala (he had multiple stints as Kim Chee when Kamala was in the WWF). By the end of the year, Lombardi reverted to the Brooklyn Brawler gimmick.

It wouldn’t last long though: in the summer and fall of 1994, he wrestled as Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz, a baseball enthusiast who blamed the fans for the players’ strike that ultimately led to the early conclusion of the 1994 Major League Baseball season. The gimmick wouldn’t last long as by the end of the year, Lombardi became The Brooklyn Brawler again, a gimmick he would use for the remainder of his career.

Lombardi’s biggest win came in September 1997 when he won a 20-man battle royal in Madison Square Garden for a future WWF Championship match. He would get his first—and only—WWF Championship bout on November 15 against Shawn Michaels (again in Madison Square Garden). Despite dominating the champion, The Brooklyn Brawler was defeated by Michaels. It would be his last high-profile match for the company, as Lombardi soon retired from full-time competition.

Lombardi became a road agent for the WWF in early 1998, but still competed sporadically (especially when WWE was in the New York City area), notably defeating Triple H in a handicap match in 2000, appearing in the Wrestlemania X-Seven Gimmick Battle Royal (as Kim Chee), and competing in the APA Invitational Battle Royal in July 2003. In a bit of trivia, The Brooklyn Brawler was Kurt Angle’s last win in the WWE in August 2006 at an ECW taping (Angle went to a no contest against Sabu the next week in what would be his final WWE bout). Steve’s last bout for the WWE came for Superstars in July 2013 when he was defeated by Ryback.

After nearly 33 years with WWE, Lombardi was released in May 2016.