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This Day in Wrestling History (May 10): The Most-Watched RAW Ever

Today’s TDIPWH is presented in two parts. The second part will focus on the career and life of William Regal, who turns 49 today.

this day in wrestling history

36 years ago today, Verne Gagne retires from wrestling after defeating Nick Bockwinkel to retain the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.

At the time of his retirement, the 55-year old AWA founder was on his tenth reign as AWA World Heavyweight Champion. His ten reigns as AWA champion and 4,677 total days as champion are by far the longest in AWA history.

Gagne vacates the title following his retirement; nine days later, AWA President Stanley Blackburn awards the title to the #1 contender at the time, Nick Bockwinkel.

34 years ago today, Eddie Gilbert sustains major injuries, including a broken neck, in a car accident while traveling to a WWF television taping in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Gilbert, then a rising star with the WWF, credited his return to the ring to then-WWF Champion Bob Backlund. He would leave the WWF for Mid-South Wrestling in 1984.

32 years ago today, WWF taped the first ever episode of Saturday Night's Main Event (WWE Network link) from the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

The show, occasionally replacing Saturday Night Live, was the most popular network television wrestling series after the 1950s, at a time when wrestling on network broadcast television was commonplace. Saturday Night’s Main Event is often credited with contributing to the 1980s wrestling boom.

Also helping Saturday Night’s Main Event’s popularity is its vast difference from the typical wrestling broadcast of its time. While most wrestling shows had established stars quickly defeating enhancement talent, Saturday Night’s Main Event had star versus star bouts, sometimes in special stipulation bouts (such as steel cages and best-of-three falls).

Saturday Night’s Main Event gave birth to a spinoff series, The Main Event, a one-hour Friday night version of the series airing during primetime hours. Only five episodes of The Main Event were produced, but its February 1988 premiere, featuring the Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant rematch from Wrestlemania III, would be the most-watched wrestling show in American television history.

Saturday Night’s Main Event lasted for six years on NBC before moving to FOX in 1992, when it was discontinued after its November airing. NBC reboots the series in 2006, but the concept of the original series (star versus star matches) had become commonplace by this time, and the series was discontinued after just five episodes, with the last airing in August 2008.

Early episodes of the series featured Animotion’s “Obsession” as its opening theme, with “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins as its closing theme and a “Take On Me” by a-ha used for bumpers. The debut episode, airing just a day later, also featured the world premiere of Cyndi Lauper’s music video, “The Goonies R Good Enough”.

Dark matches:

  • Salvatore Bellomo defeated Johnny Rodz.
  • Les Thornton defeated Rick McGraw.
  • Big John Studd defeated Tony Garea.
  • Jose Luis Rivera defeated Charlie Fulton.
  • Moondog Spot defeated Steve Lombardi.

Saturday Night's Main Event:

  • Ricky Steamboat and The US Express (Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda) defeated Nikolai Volkoff, The Iron Sheik, and George Steele.
  • Hulk Hogan defeated Bob Orton via disqualification to retain the WWF Championship.
  • Wendi Richter defeated The Fabulous Moolah to retain the WWF Women's Championship.
  • The Junkyard Dog defeated Pete Doherty.

18 years ago today on RAW is WAR from Orlando, Florida (WWE Network link), Debra is awarded the WWF Women’s Championship from Sable by then-Commissioner Shawn Michaels.

Sable subbed herself out of a scheduled evening gown match against Debra and Nicole Bass went in her place. Bass quickly stripped Debra, but Michaels declared post-match that the one who lost her clothes first won, so since Debra lost her gown first, she was declared the winner and new champion. No, really. That’s how it happened.

In reality, it was a write-off for Rena Mero, who in becoming popular with the fans, had become wildly unpopular behind the scenes (so unpopular in fact, Sean "X-Pac" Waltman later admitted to playing a practical joke on Mero). Mero was in a dispute with the company, and she would eventually leave—then sue—the WWF for $110 million, citing sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. The suit would eventually be settled out of court that summer for an undisclosed amount.

The show is noted for its record 8.1 Nielsen rating, the highest for a single episode in the show's history. There was an extenuating circumstance to it however: TNT aired the NBA Playoffs that night, pre-empting Nitro, meaning RAW was the only wrestling on that evening.

  • Billy Gunn and Kane fought to a no contest.
  • The Big Show and Paul Bearer fought to a no contest
  • Debra defeated Sable via reversed decision in an evening gown match to win the WWF Women’s Championship.
  • The Big Bossman defeated Test in a "nightstick on a pole" match
  • Cactus Jack defeated Viscera & Mideon in a handicap hardcore match.
  • Bradshaw and Faarooq fought to a no contest.
  • Pat Patterson & Gerald Brisco defeated The Mean Street Posse (Rodney & Pete Gas) in a loser leaves the WWF match.
  • Jeff Jarrett defeated Val Venis.
  • Ken Shamrock and Chyna fought to a no contest.
  • Steve Austin, The Rock, and Vince McMahon defeated The Corporate Ministry (The Undertaker, Triple H, and Shane McMahon). Shawn Michaels was the special referee.

16 years ago today, Vince McMahon announces via press release that the XFL is shutting down after just one season. The press release:

World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. WWF Entertainment and NBC to Discontinue XFL

STAMFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 10, 2001--World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE:WWF) in conjunction with its joint venture partner, NBC, today announced that it will discontinue its professional football league, the XFL.

The decision was made after determining that the additional investment required to further develop the XFL was not commensurate with the potential return and the risk inherent in pursuing the venture.

``While we believe that it is an extraordinary accomplishment to have created a new professional football league in what amounts to less than a year's time, we feel that it is in the best interests of our shareholders and our partners to discontinue the XFL,'' said Vince McMahon, WWFE Chairman. ``I would personally like to thank the employees of the XFL and WWFE, the XFL fans, our partner NBC and especially Dick Ebersol and his team for their perseverance, support and enthusiasm that did not waiver throughout the season. We are all proud of the creative innovations that we introduced in the production of the game as well as in the rule changes that were implemented to increase the excitement and enjoyment of the game and provide a fan-friendly brand of football.''

Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Sports and Olympics, commented, ``Launching a new football league in such a short period of time was a daunting and exciting challenge, but we gave it our best shot in what clearly is a difficult and challenging sports marketplace. I especially want to salute our partners at the WWF, the fans, players and coaches who created a fun and entertaining XFL in-stadium experience.''

WWFE will report the operations and related costs of discontinuance of the XFL as discontinued operations in its fourth quarter results for the period ended April 30, 2001. The company anticipates that its share of the after-tax cash losses will be approximately $35 million.

It was a quick and precipitous fall for the spring football league. The premiere broadcast, featuring the Las Vegas Outlaws shutting out the New York Hitmen 16-0, debuted to an impressive 9.5 rating and 14 million viewers, the highest for any show that evening. But the bottom fell out very quickly.

The next week’s broadcast on NBC opened with a power outage in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum just before kickoff, leaving NBC with dead air for more than a minute before flipping to the other game that evening. Power would be restored to the Coliseum about a half hour later. Later in the game, one player suffered a serious injury, delaying the game 15 minutes as he was carted off. That game, featuring the Chicago Enforcers and the Los Angeles Xtreme, saw LA come back from a 12-point deficit with three minutes remaining to force overtime. The game went to double overtime before LA held on for a 39-32 win.

While the game was a thriller, less than half the viewing audience saw that game compared to its debut week. Making matters worse for the XFL: the game bumped up against a highly-promoted Saturday Night Live hosted by Jennifer Lopez (who was also the show’s musical guest). While the show started on time in-studio, Saturday Night Live did not begin until well after midnight on the east coast. A mandate was handed down that for the remainder of the season, XFL broadcasts had to end at 11pm ET, whether the game reached its conclusion or not.

The ratings did not stop falling as the season progressed; in fact, one NBC broadcast (against the NCAA men's basketball tournament national semifinal) drew just a 1.5 rating, at the time the lowest rating for a first-run primetime show in network television history.

It wasn’t much better for XFL’s other TV partners, TNN and UPN (the networks who had broadcasted RAW and Smackdown respectively). TNN’s Sunday afternoon games went from a 2.4 rating for its debut in Week 2 to 0.3 by the end, while UPN’s Sunday night games went from 3.0 on opening weekend to 0.7 at season’s end. By the end of the 12-week series, about-one third of their television ads were being given away for free.

Simply put, the XFL tried to appease football and wrestling fans, and ended up appeasing neither.

The XFL would actually end up losing around $140 million over its lone season; as WWF went 50-50 on the league with NBC, they went 50-50 on the loss, meaning they lost nearly $70 million on the project, the biggest loss for any WWF venture ever—including the WWE Network.

12 years ago today, The Amazing Red receives a WWE tryout at a Smackdown taping in Reading, Pennsylvania. He would not be signed, but his opponent, CM Punk, would be.

At the same taping, future Ring of Honor star (and WWE creative member) Jimmy Jacobs defeated Eddie Guerrero by disqualification.

11 years ago today, reported that the Batista-Booker T fight that occurred during a commercial for Summerslam 2006 was indeed a shoot. PWInsider's Dave Scherer:

"When I first read's story about Booker T and Batista being in a fight at a commercial shoot, I figured that the story was a work, an angle to bring the returning-from-injury Batista back into the fold. I didn't think there would be a story about it on if it were actually a true situation. Yesterday, I started hearing that it was really a shoot and after digging around, a number of people have told me that it was. From what I have been told, heat has been building up between Booker and Batista for a while now, largely based on the fact that during his run as the champ, Batista rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by taking the "I have carried the company on my back" and the "I have drawn all the money" attitude. The feeling is that Batista came right in and got a top spot and didn't show the others in the locker room the respect that they deserved. That never sits well with the other workers. That is what Booker was referring to in his comments on I also spoke to a number of Smackdown talents who said that they were happy that Booker said and did what he did. I was told a lot of them hugged and high-fived Booker for saying what needed to be said and then backing it up with his hands. So, at this point, it's all a shoot. I would not be surprised to see it turn into a work down the road however. As for, from what I was told they broke the story to "scoop" sites like this one."

9 years ago today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sabian defeated Chuck Taylor to win the CZW Best of the Best 8 tournament.

Other participants included Lufisto, Josh Prohibition, Scotty Vortekz, Drew Gulak, Pinkie Sanchez, Spiral BKNY, Bruce Maxwell, Drake Younger, TJ Cannon, Ricochet, and Stupefied.

Shortly after Sabian won the tournament, Taylor defeated him to win the CZW Junior Heavyweight Championship.

3 years ago today, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling co-presented Global Wars from the Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

  • In a dark match, Tadarius Thomas defeated The Romantic Touch.
  • Michael Bennett defeated ACH.
  • Michael Elgin defeated Takaaki Watanabe.
  • The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) defeated The Decade (BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs) and reDRagon (Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly) in a three way tag team match.
  • Cedric Alexander defeated Roderick Strong.
  • The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) defeated Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero) and The Time Splitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA) in a three way tag team match to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi & Jushin Thunder Liger defeated CHAOS (Jado & Shinsuke Nakamura).
  • Jay Lethal defeated Matt Taven, Silas Young, and Tommaso Ciampa in a Four Corner Survival Match to retain the ROH World Television Championship.
  • BULLET CLUB (AJ Styles & Karl Anderson) defeated CHAOS (Gedo & Kazuchika Okada).
  • Adam Cole defeated Kevin Steen to retain the ROH World Championship.

3 years ago today, TNA taped One Night Only: Victory Road from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando. The show did not air on PPV until December 5, while TNA was on hiatus. The show's hook was a world title shot being decided in a battle royal, but participants had to win a match to qualify for the battle royal.

  • Austin Aries defeated Kenny King.
  • Bram defeated Davey Richards.
  • James Storm & Kazarian defeated The Menagerie (Knux & The Freak).
  • Lashley defeated Samoa Joe.
  • Abyss defeated Mr. Anderson.
  • The BroMans (Jessie Godderz & Robbie E) defeated Bully Ray & Rockstar Spud.
  • Gunner defeated Magnus.
  • Ethan Carter III defeated Sanada.
  • Samuel Shaw defeated Crazzy Steve.
  • Eddie Edwards defeated DJ Z and Tigre Uno in a three-way match.
  • Gunner defeated Abyss, Austin Aries, Bobby Lashley, Bram, Eddie Edwards, Ethan Carter III, James Storm, Jessie Godderz, Kazarian, Robbie E, and Samuel Shaw in an over-the-top rope battle royal to earn a future TNA World Heavyweight Championship match.

3 years ago today, TNA presented One Night Only: Knockouts Knockdown II from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando. The all women's show aired November 7, while the company was on hiatus.

  • Gail Kim defeated Veda Scott.
  • Angelina Love defeated Scarlett Bordeaux.
  • Reby Sky defeated Velvet Sky.
  • Madison Rayne defeated Jessicka Havok.
  • Taryn Terrell defeated Karlee Perez.
  • Mia Yim defeated Brittany.
  • Brooke Tessmacher defeat Deonna.
  • Marti Belle defeated ODB.
  • ODB defeated Rockstar Spud.
  • Madison Rayne defeated Angelina Love, Brooke Tessmacher, Gail Kim, Marti Belle, Mia Yim, Reby Sky, and Taryn Terrell in a Queen Of The Knockouts gauntlet match.

2 years ago at an Impact Wrestling taping at Universal Orlando, Rockstar Spud wins a Gauntlet for the Gold match to win the TNA X Divison Championship. Other participants in the match were Kenny King, Suicide, Zema Ion, Mandrews, Argos, Crazzy Steve, and Tigre Uno.

On the same day of the tapings, Spud vacates the title for an opportunity at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against Kurt Angle. Angle would go on to defeat Spud, making him the first person to fail in his X Division Championship cash-in.

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