30 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Antonio Inoki defeated Masa Saito in a tournament final to become the first IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
The New Japan Pro Wrestling founder would hold the title for 325 days before a fractured foot forced him to vacate the title. Surprisingly, this is the only time Inoki held the title.
26 years ago today, WCW presented Clash of the Champions XV: Knocksville, USA (WWE Network link) from the Civic Auditorium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
- In a preshow dark match, Rikki Nelson defeated El Cubano.
- The Young Pistols (Steve Armstrong & Tracy Smothers) & The Z-Man defeated The Fabulous Freebirds (Badstreet, Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes).
- Oz defeated Johnny Rich.
- Danny Spivey defeated Big Josh.
- Dustin Rhodes defeated Terrance Taylor by disqualification.
- Sting defeated Nikita Koloff.
- Arn Anderson & Barry Windham defeated El Gigante & Flyin 'Brian in a "loser leaves town" match. As Pillman lost the fall, he was forced to leave WCW. Of course, he wasn't gone for long, as he returned as the masked Yellow Dog.
- The Steiner Brothers (Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner) defeated Hiroshi Hase & Masa Chono to retain the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
- The Diamond Studd defeated Tommy Rich.
- Steve Austin defeated Joey Maggs in just 25 seconds to retain the WCW World Television Championship.
- Lex Luger defeated The Great Muta to retain the WCW United States Championship.
- Ric Flair defeated Beautiful Bobby Eaton 2-1 in a best of three falls match to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
19 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Kenta Kobashi defeated Toshiaki Kawada to win the All Japan Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship.
17 years ago today on RAW is WAR from St. Louis, Missouri (WWE Network link), Crash Holly defeated Gerald Brisco to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.
16 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Baltimore, Maryland (WWE Network link), Test defeated Rhyno to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.
Near the end of the bout, one-time Baltimore Ravens cheerleader and former WCW Nitro Girl Stacy Keibler made her WWF debut.
14 years ago today, David Sahadi gave notice of his impending resignation from his post as creative director of on-air promotions for WWE.
A part of the WWE since 1992, Saladi headed a team of video technicians that produced many of the video vignettes and promos advertising WWE's programs, wrestlers, and merchandise.
Most notably, he and his team produced the intro for Monday Night RAW in 1995 (the one with the helicopter flying over Titan Towers), the Billionaire Ted skits, a black and white vignette featuring WWF legends at Wrestlemania XIV that drove Vince McMahon to tears, and the WWF signature openings during the Attitude Era.
In 2001, his team won seven ProMax awards for their work (including a gold medal for their WWF Beauty Pageant skit). Sahidi became disillusioned with WWE over the previous year, especially following the infamous Katie Vick angle. Sahidi would leave the company a month later.
After a year away from the business, he joined TNA as a producer. Intended to stay for three months, he remains with the company to this day.
12 years ago today, WWE presented ECW One Night Stand (WWE Network link) from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. A sold-out 2,500 were in attendance, with 340,000 homes watching on PPV.
Born from the mind of Rob Van Dam, the ECW reunion was a largely storyline-free one-time reunion of ECW talent to give the influential promotion something of a proper send-off. Helping the case for the PPV was the record sales for the retrospective DVD released the previous year, The Rise and Fall of ECW.
With help from Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer was the point man for organizing the event, making him the first person other than Vince McMahon to write, produce, and main event a WWE PPV. Stone Cold Steve Austin also made an unannounced cameo appearance.
Reaction to the show was so overwhelmingly positive, the one-time reunion would become a full-time revival a year later.
- Lance Storm defeated Chris Jericho.
- Super Crazy defeated Tajiri and Little Guido in a three-way dance.
- Rey Mysterio, Jr. defeated Psicosis.
- Sabu defeated Rhino.
- Chris Benoit defeated Eddie Guerrero.
- Mike Awesome defeated Masato Tanaka.
- The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von) defeated Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman.
6 years ago today, TNA presented Slammiversary IX from the Impact Zone at Universal Orlando.
- Gun Money (James Storm & Alex Shelley) defeated The British Invasion (Douglas Williams & Magnus) to retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship.
- Matt Morgan defeated Scott Steiner.
- Abyss defeated Brian Kendrick and Kazarian in a three-way match to retain the TNA X-Division Championship.
- Crimson defeated Samoa Joe.
- Mickie James defeated Angelina Love to retain the TNA Knockouts Championship.
- Bully Ray defeated AJ Styles in a last man standing match.
- Mr. Anderson defeated Sting to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
- Kurt Angle defeated Jeff Jarrett to become the #1 contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Had Angle lost, he would have given Jarrett his Olympic gold medal.
5 years ago today, WWE taped the 67th and final episode of NXT Redemption from the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Airing the next day, the NXT Redemption finale was the end of a series that became an alternate WWE Universe show, but actually began as a second chance for NXT contestants from past seasons to make the roster. Derrick Bateman, Titus O' Neil, and Darren Young were the unrecognized co-winners.
- Curt Hawkins & Tyler Reks defeated Derrick Bateman & Percy Watson.
- Kaitlyn defeated Natalya.
- The Usos (Jey Uso & Jimmy Uso) defeated Johnny Curtis & Michael McGillicutty.
3 years ago today, WWE releases nearly a dozen talents. The announcement from WWE.com:
WWE has come to terms on the release of the following Superstars as of Thursday, June 12, 2014:
Marc Harris (referee)
WWE wishes them the best in all their future endeavors.
“Black Thursday”, as it was called by many fans, was the result of WWE’s poor financial outlook in the wake of the launch of WWE Network. A disappointing subscriber count (about 670,000 subscribers, well short of the break-even point) combined with a just-as-disappointing new TV deal (just a 50% increase in broadcasting rights when the company was expecting at least double) meant most anything—and anyone— expendable was at risk.
Kyle Decker did a “Where Are They Now” from the 2014 releases in May 2016, the most recent time WWE had a mass release. A summary and updates where applicable:
- Drew McIntyre, real name Drew Galloway, is back with WWE in their developmental property NXT. Returning at NXT Takeover: Orlando during Wrestlemania 33 weekend, Galloway had a pretty fruitful three years away from the company, including winning world titles for EVOLVE, Dragon Gate, ICW, WCPW, and TNA. Galloway left TNA in February 2017.
- Jinder Mahal, real name Yuvraj Raj Dhesi, is also back with WWE. He’s also their world champion, holding the belt on the Smackdown brand. Prior to his return in August 2016, Dhesi was on the independent circuit and wrestled for Great Khali’s independent promotion in India.
- Curt Hawkins, real name Bryan Myers, has also returned to the company. Myers peaked pretty early as far as his WWE tenure was concerned, first as one half of the Major Brothers, then as one of the Edge Heads with Zack Ryder. The duo briefly held the tag team titles in 2008. After his release, he opened a wrestling school in New York and returned to the independent circuit, and briefly joined TNA as part of an invasion angle with Global Force Wrestling. He was even TNA world tag team champion for a day with Trevor Lee. Myers returned to WWE in July 2016.
- JTG, real name Jayson Paul, had been in the WWE for about eight years prior to his release, most notably as one-half of Cryme Tyme with Shad Gaspard. Paul’s surprising longevity was the stuff of memes among Internet wrestling fans. Paul occasional wrestles on the independent circuit to this day, but has also gotten into acting. He’s written two books on his experiences in the wrestling business.
- Evan Bourne, real name Matthew Korklan, had not been seen on WWE programming since January 2012. That month, Korklan was suspended 60 days for a second violation of the WWE’s Wellness Policy. While suspended, he was involved in a car accident that broke his foot in four places and dislocated it in five others. Sydal returned to the independent circuit, competing most notably for EVOLVE, Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and Ring of Honor. He also wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling for about a year. That stint ended when he was arrested for suspicion of marijuana smuggling in September 2016. Korklan was convicted and pled guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to three years probation. He returned to the United States in December 2016. In April 2017, Korklan returned to TNA.
- Aksana, real name Živilė Raudonienė, has largely gone off the grid since her release. She debuted in the all-female season of NXT, finishing third. The former bodybuilder and FCW Divas Champion is now a personal trainer in Tampa, Florida.
- Marc Harris, the lone referee released on Black Thursday, gained infamy in August 2013 when he did not call for the bell during a submission in a mixed tag team match. Harris was at last check a referee for Global Force Wrestling.
- Yoshi Tatsu, real name Naofumi Yamamoto, returned to his native Japan and joined New Japan Pro Wrestling. Calling himself the “Bullet Club Hunter”, Yamamoto began a mission to eradicate the Bullet Club from wrestling. In November 2014, he was injured when he tucked his head in on a Styles Clash (that’s a no-no). He would be sidelined until April 2016. In April, Yamamoto, going by Yoshitatsu, joined the Taguchi Japan stable.
- Camacho, real name Tevita Fifita, was the enforcer for Hunico. Though he occasionally wrestled on the main roster, he spent most of his time in NXT. Following his release, he joined TNA as part of Drew Galloway’s stable The Rising as Micah. In 2016, Fifita joined New Japan Pro Wrestling as new Bullet Club member Tanga Roa. He teams with his adopted brother Tama Tonga as the Guerrillas of Destiny. The brothers have won the IWGP Tag Team Championship twice.
- Brodus Clay, real name George Murdoch, is best known for his run first as Alberto Del Rio’s enforcer, then as The Funkasaurus. In September 2014, Murdoch joined TNA as Tyrus, the enforcer for Ethan Carter III. His highest-profile victory came at Bound for Glory in October 2015 when he won the Gauntlet for the Gold match for a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match. Murdoch, who is still with the company today, is a frequent guest on Fox News’ The Greg Gutfield Show.
- Teddy Long is best known for his multiple stints as Smackdown general manager. Long had not been on WWE programming since he was replaced by Vickie Guerrero in July 2013. Long has appeared sporadically on WWE programming since his release and also briefly served as general manager for Booker T’s promotion, Reality of Wrestling. In April 2017, Long was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He’s also written a book.
The budget trimming wouldn’t stop there. WWE’s pre- and post-event shows on WWE Network were discontinued, and pyro was scaled back for their live events. A planned second season of Legends’ House was scrapped, and a Tough Enough reboot was tabled (the reboot would eventually happen a year later). Later that summer, about a tenth of WWE’s office staff was also laid off.