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This Day in Wrestling History (May 19): Andre the Giant is Born

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Today’s TDIPWH is presented in two parts. The second part will focus on one of wrestling’s most infamous moments: the Curtain Call in Madison Square Garden.

this day in wrestling history

112 years ago today in New York City, Tom Jenkins defeated Frank Gotch 2-1 in a best of three falls match to retain the American Heavyweight Championship.

The bout held in Madison Square Garden lasted two hours and fifteen minutes, or about as long as three-hour episode of Monday Night RAW without the commercials. The first fall, won by Jenkins, lasted just under 88 minutes. The second lasted 36 and a half minutes, and the deciding fall took just eleven minutes.

36 years ago today, Nick Bockwinkel is officially awarded the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Bockwinkel, the #1 contender to the AWA world title at the time, lost to Verne Gagne nine days prior in what was Gagne’s retirement match. Bockwinkel would have a death grip on the championship, holding it four times total for 948 of the next 1,009 days, including uninterrupted runs of 334 and 408 days.

Of note, only two of the four reigns are recognized by WWE. Hulk Hogan and Jerry Lawler both won the AWA world title in 1982 (Hogan in April, Lawler in December), but both times the championship was held up and eventually reverted to Bockwinkel.

28 years ago today, Road House is released in theaters.

The film starring Patrick Swayze as a bouncer protecting a refurbished roadside bar in Missouri from a corrupt businessman has former NWA world champion Terry Funk in a small role.

The film was a modest success in the box office, though critics largely hated it (38% rating based on 32 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for five Razzies). Since its initial release, it's garnered a huge cult following thanks to home video and reruns on cable.

It even spawned an off Broadway musical version in late 2003 called (and I'm not making this up) Road House: The Stage Version Of The Cinema Classic That Starred Patrick Swayze, Except This One Stars Taimak From The 80's Cult Classic "The Last Dragon" Wearing A Blonde Mullet Wig. It also spawned a direct-to-video sequel in 2006.

A remake of the original starring famed MMA fighter Ronda Rousey was in the works in 2015, but production has been discontinued.

27 years ago today, NWA presented Capital Combat: Return of Robocop (WWE Network link) from the D.C. Armory in Washington, DC. About 7,500 were in attendance, with 160,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up from 120,000 homes for Wrestlewar '89, the May PPV event the previous year.

The event is noted for a promotional crossover appearance by Robocop, who rescued Sting from a small cage during the show's main event. The crossover was to promote the soon-to-be released Robocop 2.

  • The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal) and Norman the Lunatic defeated Kevin Sullivan, Cactus Jack and Bam Bam Bigelow.
  • Mark Callous defeated Johnny Ace.
  • The Samoan Swat Team (Fatu and The Samoan Savage) defeated Tommy Rich and Mike Rotunda.
  • Paul Ellering defeated Teddy Long in a hair versus hair match.
  • The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane) defeated Brian Pillman and Tom Zenk to win the NWA United States Tag Team Championship.
  • The Rock 'n Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) defeated The Freebirds (Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin) in a "Corporal Punishment" strap match.
  • Doom defeated The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship.
  • Lex Luger defeated Ric Flair by disqualification in a steel cage match for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

26 years ago today, WCW presented SuperBrawl (WWE Network link) from the Bayfront Arena in St. Petersburg, Florida. About 6,000 were in attendance, with 150,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 160,000 homes for Capital Combat, the May 1990 PPV.

  • In a preshow dark match, The Mighty Thor defeated El Cubano.
  • The Fabulous Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes) defeated The Young Pistols (Steve Armstrong & Tracy Smothers) to win the vacant WCW United States Tag Team Championship.
  • Dan Spivey defeated Ricky Morton.
  • Nikita Koloff defeated Tommy Rich.
  • Dustin Rhodes defeated Terrance Taylor.
  • Big Josh defeated Black Bart.
  • Oz defeated Tim Parker in just 40 seconds.
  • Barry Windham defeated Flyin' Brian in a taped fist match.
  • El Gigante defeated Sid Vicious in a stretcher match. In a humorous bit of trivia, the match lasted all of two minutes and the stretcher was never used. Gigante put Sid in a claw hold and Sid just walked away while Kevin Sullivan and One Man Gang attacked Gigante. This was Sid's final bout in this run with WCW; he was already WWF-bound. He would debut that summer as Sid Justice.
  • Ron Simmons defeated Butch Reed in a steel cage match.
  • The Steiner Brothers (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) defeated Lex Luger & Sting to retain the WCW World Tag Team Championship.
  • Bobby Eaton defeated Arn Anderson to win the WCW Television Championship.
  • Ric Flair defeated Tatsumi Fujinami to unify the WCW and NWA World Heavyweight Championships.

22 years ago today in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Razor Ramon defeated Jeff Jarrett in a ladder match to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

21 years ago today, WCW presented Slamboree (WWE Network link) from the Riverside Complex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 7,791 were in attendance, with 155,000 homes watching on PPV. That's up from 110,000 homes for the 1995 event.

The show's hook was the "Lord of the Ring" Lethal Lottery, which featured wrestlers randomly paired together to compete in a tag team match. Teams that won two matches advanced to a battle royal for the "Lord of the Ring" title and...a ring. And a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match. Sound familiar? This was the concept of Battlebowl, used by WCW from 1991 to 1993.

Lord of the Ring First Round:

  • Booker T & Road Warrior Animal and Lex Luger & Road Warrior Hawk fought to a double countout.
  • The Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge & Rocco Rock) defeated Chris Benoit & Kevin Sullivan.
  • Rick Steiner & The Booty Man defeated Scott Steiner & Sgt. Craig Pittman.
  • Jim Duggan & VK Wallstreet defeated The Blue Bloods (Lord Steven Regal & Squire David Taylor).
  • Dick Slater & Earl Robert Eaton defeated Alex Wright & Disco Inferno.
  • Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian defeated Hugh Morrus & Meng.
  • Fire and Ice (Ice Train & Scott Norton) defeated Big Bubba & Stevie Ray. As the other match in their bracket went to a double count, Fire & Ice received a bye into the battle royal.
  • Randy Savage & Ric Flair defeated Arn Anderson & Eddie Guerrero.

Lord of the Ring Semifinals:

  • Dick Slater & Earl Robert Eaton defeat Jim Duggan & VK Wallstreet.
  • The Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge & Rocco Rock) defeat Randy Savage & Ric Flair by countout.
  • Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian defeat Rick Steiner & The Booty Man.

Lord of the Ring Final:

  • Diamond Dallas Page defeated Dick Slater, Earl Robert Eaton, Ice-Train, Johnny Grunge, Rocco Rock, Scott Norton, and The Barbarian in a battle royal to win the Lord of the Ring tournament and a future WCW World Heavyweight Championship match. Of note, while Page got the ring and bragging rights, he never got his world title match. Replayed footage show Barbarian eliminating Page when one of Page's feet hit the floor (either foot hitting the floor constituted an elimination).

Non-tournament bouts in order of occurrence:

  • Dean Malenko defeated Brad Armstrong to retain the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
  • Konnan defeated Jushin Thunder Liger to retain the WCW United States Championship.
  • The Giant defeated Sting to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

15 years ago today, WWE presented Judgment Day (WWE Network link) from the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee. 14,521 were in attendance, with 373,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 405,000 for the 2001 event.

This was the first PPV following the name change from WWF to WWE. Some promotional material retained the old WWF name and logo.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, William Regal defeated D'Lo Brown for the WWE European Championship.
  • Eddie Guerrero defeated Rob Van Dam to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
  • Trish Stratus defeated Stacy Keibler to retain the WWE Women's Championship.
  • Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman defeated The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff).
  • Steve Austin defeated The Big Show and Ric Flair in a handicap match.
  • Edge defeated Kurt Angle in a hair versus hair match.
  • Triple H defeated Chris Jericho in a Hell in a Cell match.
  • Rikishi and Rico defeated Billy and Chuck to win the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • The Undertaker defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan to win the WWE Undisputed Championship. Dating back to Wrestlemania X8, this was the third world title change in as many months.

13 years ago today at an NWA-TNA PPV in Nashville, Tennessee, Ron Killings defeated AJ Styles, Chris Harris, and Raven in a "deadly draw" match to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

11 years ago today, WWE Films releases its first theatrical film See No Evil.

The film, starring Glenn "Kane" Jacobs as serial killer Jacob Goodnight that has a penchant for keeping his victim's eyes, turns a profit ($15 million at the box office with an $8 million budget) despite overwhelmingly negative reviews (just an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 59 reviews).

The movie performs well when it's released on DVD later that year, making $45 million in about two months. A sequel was released direct-to-video in 2013.

4 years ago today, WWE presented Extreme Rules (WWE Network link) from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. 17,529 were in attendance, with 228,000 homes watching on PPV. That's down from 263,000 homes for the 2012 event.

  • In a preshow match, The Miz defeated Cody Rhodes.
  • Chris Jericho defeated Fandango.
  • Dean Ambrose defeated Kofi Kingston to win the WWE United States Championship. Ambrose would go on to hold the championship for the next 351 days, the longest US title reign in WWE history.
  • Sheamus defeated Mark Henry in a strap match.
  • Alberto Del Rio defeated Jack Swagger in an I Quit match to become the #1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship.
  • The Shield (Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns) defeated Team Hell No (Kane & Daniel Bryan) in a Texas Tornado rules match to win the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Randy Orton defeated The Big Show in a Extreme Rules match.
  • John Cena and Ryback fought to a no contest in a last man standing match for the WWE Championship.
  • Brock Lesnar defeated Triple H in a steel cage match.

2 years ago today, Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that the coming episode of Impact Wrestling was pre-empted by Destination America.

The reason: ratings concerns with Memorial Day weekend looming. In its place would be an edited version of the previous year's Slammiversary. The regularly scheduled episode aired in international markets, but would never air in the States.

2 years ago today, WWE announces in a press release that Matt Bloom and Sara Amato have been promoted head coach and assistant head coach respectively of the WWE Performance Center.

Bloom, best known as (Prince) Albert in the States and more recently as Giant Bernard and Tensai, was a color commentator for NXT and an assistant coach before being named interim head coach following the resignation of Bill Demott.

Amato, best known as Sara Del Rey, had a hand in rebuilding the NXT (and by extension, WWE) women's division. The press release also announced that Amato would also work with the main roster as a producer and agent.

Today would have been the 71st birthday of Andre Rene Roussimoff, though he is best known to millions as the legendary Andre the Giant.

Born to Bulgarian and Polish parents in Grenoble, France on May 19, 1946, Andre experienced symptoms of gigantism very early. At age 12, he was 6'3”, 240 pounds; so large, he couldn't fit on the school bus. He was driven to school by neighbor and future Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett. Beckett bought some land in the early 1950s and built a cottage for himself with the help of Andre's father Boris. Andre himself was a good student, but he felt a high school education wasn't necessary for a farm laborer, so he dropped out after eighth grade. Though he did farm labor, woodworking, and helped manufacture engines for hay balers, it wasn't good enough for Andre.

At age 17, Andre moved to Paris and was taught the art of professional wrestling. Billed as Geant Ferre, he moonlighted as a wrestler while working as a mover to pay living expenses. He worked Paris and the surrounding areas before Canadian wrestler/promoter Frank Valos found Andre in 1966. He would be his business manager and advisor and would travel the world, making a name for himself in Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia.

It was while he was in Japan it was discovered Andre was suffering from acromegaly, a disorder where the anterior pituitary gland produces excessive growth hormone, causing severe disfigurement. The condition is often not diagnosed in its early stages.

Roussimoff was a regular in Montreal, selling out the Montreal Forum regularly, but the novelty wore off as the number of credible opponents dwindled. He occasionally wrestled for the AWA as a special attraction, then under the advice of WWWF founder Vince McMahon Sr., suggested Andre be a worldwide special attraction and book him as an immovable monster. He would available to any organization anywhere, but only for a guaranteed fee.

Andre debuted for the WWWF in 1973 and quickly became one of the most beloved babyfaces in the sport. Though he was billed as undefeated prior to his Wrestlemania III match with Hulk Hogan, Andre had taken losses, though there were few and far between. He was beaten by El Canek in 1984, submitted by Antonio Inoki in 1986, and went to one-hour draws with Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel in world title bouts. Andre also had a boxer versus wrestler win over Chuck Wepner (the inspiration of the Rocky film series) in 1976.

Andre's biggest feuds came against Hulk Hogan, which spanned two continents, Killer Khan (culminating in a stretcher match in November 1981), and Big John Studd, which culminated in a $15,000 Bodyslam match at the inaugural Wrestlemania. Though Andre won the match, he never got his reward as he had the bag stolen from him as he was throwing cash to the fans. The next Wrestlemania, he won a 20-man battle royal featuring WWF wrestlers and top stars from the NFL.

Around the time of Andre's feud with King Kong Bundy, he would score the part of Fezzik in the film The Princess Bride (Andre himself said it was his favorite movie role). It was also around that time his acromegaly was taking a toll on his physical health. Upon his return from filming, Andre wore a mask and wrestled briefly as Giant Machine as part of "The Machines" stable. Though Bobby Heenan, Studd, and Bundy tried to prove Andre the Giant and Giant Machine were one and the same, they could not, and the indefinitely suspended Andre (he was suspended for no-showing a tag team match with Studd and Bundy; this was done to cover for his absence for filming The Princess Bride) was reinstated.

Amazingly, it would be Heenan that managed Andre the Giant for the biggest feud of his career, Hulk Hogan. It began over jealousy that Andre received a smaller trophy for never being pinned or made to submit in a WWF ring, while Hogan received a larger trophy for his three year run as WWF Champion. Andre, at the behest of Heenan, challenged Hogan to a WWF Championship match, then proceeded to rip Hogan's T-shirt and crucifix. Andre also ripped into Hogan's skin a bit, as a fingernail scratch caused Hogan to bleed.

Though Andre gained a psychological advantage by eliminating Hogan in a battle royal just weeks before Wrestlemania III (a battle royal won by Hercules), it was Hogan who would bodyslam the giant en route to Andre's first pinfall loss in a WWF ring. Famously, the 7’4”, 520 pounds Andre (though there is some dispute to this height—and weight for that matter) wore a back brace covered by his wrestling singlet. It wouldn't be the first time Hogan slammed Andre. Andre was slammed by a then-heel Hogan twice in the summer of 1980. Harley Race, El Canek, Bruno Sammartino, and Stan Hansen all also slammed the Giant at one point.

The Andre-Hogan feud would continue into the following year. On the first episode of The Main Event in February 1988, Andre defeated Hogan with the help of some shady refereeing to win his first and only WWF Championship... which Andre almost immediately sold to Ted DiBiase. That title change was made null and void, and the title made vacant until Wrestlemania IV. Though both Hogan and Andre eliminated each other with a double disqualification, they both had a say in the final match, as Randy Savage with Hogan's help went on to defeat DiBiase to win the WWF Championship. The feud came to an end when Hogan and Savage, known as the Mega Powers, defeated Andre the Giant and DiBiase, known as the Mega Bucks.

Andre would feud with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Big John Studd, and the Ulitmate Warrior thoughout late 1988 and most of 1989. Late in the year, Andre along with Haku (known as the Colossal Connection) won the WWF Tag Team Championship from Demolition. The two would hold the titles from mid-December to Wrestlemania VI in April 1990. Post-match, Heenan berated Andre, but responded with a huge slap in the face.

With his health declining, Andre's appearances became more and more sporadic until Summerslam 1991 (his final WWF television appearance). His last appearance came at a house show in his hometown of Paris, France in October. Andre's last television appearance came for WCW in a brief interview in September 1992 at Clash of the Champions XX. Andre's final in-ring appearances were for Mexico's Universal Wrestling Association in April and May 1992, and for All Japan Pro Wrestling in late 1992.

On the night of January 27, 1993, Roussimoff died in his sleep of congestive heart failure in his hotel room in Paris. He was 46. Making the death more tragic, Rousimoff was in Paris to attend the funeral of his father (his father Boris died just nine days earlier). Rousimoff’s body was cremated per his wishes and his ashes were scattered on his ranch in Ellerbee, North Carolina. At the time of his death, he was survived by one daughter, Robin.

Roussimoff has been called by those around him among the most gentle and generous people they've known (one story said Arnold Schwarzenegger try to pay for a meal, but Andre insisted so much that he carried him out of the restaurant and put him on top of his car). He was also the unofficial world's greatest drunk. Legend had it that he consumed over 100 sitting on multiple occasions; this has been cooberated by multiple wrestlers, including Mike Graham, Dusty Rhodes, and the Fabulous Moolah.

He left a lasting legacy after his death. In March 1993, the WWF established its own Hall of Fame, with Andre the Giant as its first member. He served as the inspiration the OBEY brand and the 1998 movie My Giant, written by Billy Crystal. A biographical video was released by WWE in 2005 based on his life, a reissue of the 1985 video cassette. A graphic novel, Andre the Giant: The Life and The Legend was released in 2015. A movie based on a second graphic novel, Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven, is in the works. Andre’s daughter, Robin, is a consultant on the film. In recent years, WWE added a 30-man Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal. Cesaro, The Big Show, Baron Corbin, and Mojo Rawley have been the match’s four winners.

Andre is also a charter member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class in 1996, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame class in 2002, and the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was also posthumously honored by Pro Wrestling Illustrated with the Editor's Award in 1993 and listed as the third greatest wrestler of the PWI Years in 2003.