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This Day in Wrestling History (June 3): TNA Impact Debuts

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30 years ago today at a Wrestling Challenge taping in Rochester, New York, The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) defeated Jose Estrada & Jimmy Jack Funk.

The match would never air; following the taping, Michaels and Jannetty caused what Bret Hart called in his autobiography a “drunken disturbance” at the post-show part at a nearby hotel. Michaels and Jannetty would be fired by the WWF later in the month.

The duo would return almost a year later as The Rockers.

Returning to the WWF during the taping was Wrestlemania I main-eventer Mr. T, most famous for his role as B.A. Baracus on action series The A-Team (which had been cancelled after five seasons earlier in the year). Mr. T served as the WWF’s “enforcer”, usually as a guest or secondary referee, but also reversing decisions when needed. Mr. T was only around through the summer.

28 years ago today in Boston, Massachusetts, Dusty Rhodes makes his WWF television debut at a house show broadcast on NESN, a cable sports channel in the New England region.

The three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion was last seen nationally at Starrcade ‘88. Rhodes a month prior to the event booked a storyline where he would bleed out of his eye from a spike from Road Warrior Animal’s shoulder pad. Turner Broadcasting, who had just bought Jim Crockett Promotions and rebranded it World Championship Wrestling, decreed that there would be no on-screen bloodletting on their programming, and Rhodes was fired for the incident (in an interesting tidbit, Dusty’s son Dustin was fired from WCW for the same offense in 1995).

In his debut, Rhodes, substituting for Jake “The Snake” Roberts, defeated “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.

For most of the rest of the country, Rhodes’ television debut on WWF Superstars airing the same day came in the form of this vignette: Dusty Rhodes, pizza delivery man. It was the first of a series of vignettes where he was presented as a “common man”, doing working class jobs before being recognized by the end of the skit, but not outing him by name initially.

Rhodes, most notably for wearing black with yellow polka dots as a way to poke fun at him, left the WWF following the 1991 Royal Rumble and retired from full-time wrestling.

26 years ago today at WCW Worldwide taping in Birmingham, Alabama, “Stunning” Steve Austin defeated “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton to win the WCW World Television Championship.

Of note, debuting at the taping was Jeannie Clark as Austin’s valet, Lady Blossom. Clark also happened to be Austin’s wife.

15 years ago today on RAW from Dallas, Texas (WWE Network link), Bradshaw defeated Steven Richards to win the WWE Hardcore Championship.

The episode is best remembered for Shawn Michaels' surprise return to the WWE as the newest member of the New World Order.

Michaels was last seen on WWE programming in the summer of 2000 as the outgoing commissioner of the WWF. There were plans for Shawn to return in some capacity in 2001, but they were scrapped after he was found passed out backstage and in no condition to perform (legend has it that longtime friend Triple H was so angry at Michaels, he refused to talk to him for a year).

Shawn doesn’t last in the nWo long though; the group dissolves just over a month later when Kevin Nash injures his quad during a ten-man tag team match.

In the show's main event, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Ric Flair in a "pure wrestling rules" match. It would be Austin's last match on RAW before his sudden walkout two weeks later.

14 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Anaheim, California (WWE Network link), Rey Mysterio defeated Matt Hardy to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

The show is probably best remembered for Kurt Angle returning to the WWE following neck surgery. Opting for an alternative method where only the neck spurs and part of the affected discs were removed, Angle's rehab time was cut from a full year to just three months.

13 years ago today, TNA taped its first ever episode of Impact from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

For many, this show, which would air the next day, would be their first exposure to the promotion. Prior to their first national broadcast TV deal, TNA was a PPV-only promotion; consumers had to pay $9.99 a week for their two-hour show (TNA continued to run their weekly PPVs until September 2004). Impact aired on Fox Sports Net on Friday afternoon, but it would often be rescheduled or pre-empted altogether due to local sporting events or other programming.

Impact also introduced TNA's six-sided ring. It also introduced a modified set of rules which would only apply for Impact tapings: ten-minute time limits for non-title matches, thirty minutes for title matches. In the event a match went the full-time limit, three judges at ringside would render a decision.

The first version of the series lasted just 51 episodes, ending the following May when their deal with Fox Sports expires and is not renewed.

  • In a dark match, Desire, Pat Kenney, and Sonny Siaki defeated the New York Connection (Trinity, Glen Gilberti, and Johnny Swinger).
  • In a dark match, Heavy Metal defeated Kazarian.
  • Team International (Amazing Red, Sonjay Dutt, and Hector Garza) defeated Team Canada (Petey Williams, Bobby Roode, and Eric Young).
  • Abyss defeated Shark Boy.
  • America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) defeated Kid Kash & Dallas to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship.
  • AJ Styles defeated Elix Skipper, Chris Sabin, and Michael Shane to earn a TNA X Division Championship match.

10 years ago today, WWE presented One Night Stand: Extreme Rules (WWE Network link) from the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 13,250 were in attendance, with 186,000 homes watching on PPV.

The show’s hook was that every match on the show would have some sort of hardcore rules stipulation.

  • In a dark match, Santino Marella defeated Chris Masters.
  • Rob Van Dam defeated Randy Orton in a stretcher match. Post-match, Van Dam was assaulted by Orton, got an elevated DDT from the barricade, and was stretchered out. The post-match beating was a write-off; it was Van Dam's final appearance for the company, as he was leaving to tend to his ailing wife. Other than a one-off appearance at the 2009 Royal Rumble, Van Dam would not appear again for a major promotion until his TNA debut in 2010. He did return to WWE in 2013.
  • CM Punk, The Sandman & Tommy Dreamer defeated The New Breed (Elijah Burke, Marcus Cor Von & Matt Striker) in a tables match.
  • The Hardy Boyz (Jeff & Matt Hardy) defeated The World's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin) in a ladder match to retain the World Tag Team Championship.
  • Mark Henry defeated Kane by knockout in a lumberjack match. Serving as lumberjacks were Chris Benoit, Val Venis, Santino Marella, Balls Mahoney, Stevie Richards, The Miz, Kevin Thorn, Chris Masters, Johnny Nitro, Chavo Guerrero, Kenny Dykstra and Carlito.
  • Bobby Lashley defeated Mr. McMahon in a street fight to win the ECW Championship.
  • Candice Michelle defeated Melina in a pudding match.
  • Edge defeated Batista in a steel cage match to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
  • John Cena defeated The Great Khali in a falls count anywhere match to retain the WWE Championship.

9 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Los Angeles, California (WWE Network link), Natalya defeated Cherry, Layla, Maryse, Michelle McCool, and Victoria in a "Golden Dreams" gold star-on-a-pole match.

Lest you think this match served no purpose, this was actually a qualifying match to crown the first ever WWE Divas Champion. There would be a second "Golden Dreams" match (same rules, same participants sans Natalya), but not until a month later. That match was won by Michelle McCool, who would go on to win the Divas title at The Great American Bash.

The same episode Cousin Sal of Jimmy Kimmel Live fame defeating Santino Marella.

1 year ago today, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., best known to millions as Muhammad Ali, died of septic shock in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 74.

Born January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, he was the older of two boys. He began boxing at age 12 as a means to get back at a boy that stole his bike. He would become probably the most successful amateur boxer in Kentucky history, winning six state Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an AAU national title, and the gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in the light heavyweight division. He would win 100 of 105 amateur fights.

He turned pro in October 1960 and would amass 19 straight wins through 1963, 15 by knockout. Clay often belittled his opponents and talked up his abilities during and after bouts. His behavior made him very much hated among fans, critics, writers, former boxing champions, and pretty much just about everyone.

In February 1964, a 22-year old Clay made history when he defeated Sonny Liston by TKO after the sixth round to become the youngest boxer to defeat a reigning heavyweight champion for his title. Soon, Clay converted to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam and would rename himself Muhammad Ali. In May 1965, Ali defeated Liston in a controversial rematch made famous for an alleged phantom punch. Some speculate Liston threw the fight under threats on his life or to pay off debts.

Ali was to have met Ernie Terrell in a unification bout in March 1966, but just before the fight, he was reclassified by the Louisville draft board, making him eligible for military service. Ali refused to serve, and after title defenses in consecutive months in early 1967, he was stripped of the heavyweight title. His boxing license was revoked by the state of New York. The rest of the country would soon follow. Fighting overseas was out too, as Ali's passport was revoked. Ali was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000 (about $73,400 in today's dollars). Ali remained free while his case went through the appeals process.

Ali would return to the ring, but until October 1970, meaning he had lost three and a half years of his career. While his case was in appeal, he was granted permission to fight again in a federal court. During his time away from the ring, he spoke out against the Vietnam War and in support of racial justice and pride for African-Americans. With sentiment against the Vietnam War growing, Ali's 1967 conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 1971 by a unanimous vote.

One of Ali's most famous fights was held in March 1971. Dubbed "The Fight of the Century", Ali and Joe Frazier fought for the heavyweight championship. Frazier would give Ali’s first defeat via unanimous decision, but the animosity between the two lingered long after the final bell. Ali would go on to win six in a row before being defeated by Ken Norton in 1973. After considering retirement (in part due to a broken jaw he suffered during the bout), Ali and Norton rematched, and Ali won via decision. In January 1974, Ali defeated Frazier in the rematch via unanimous decision, setting up a title bout with George Foreman.

Dubbed "The Rumble in the Jungle", the 32-year old Ali used unconventional means to defeat Foreman: he let the hard-hitting Foreman strike at will, then Ali would clinch, then counterattack when Foreman tired out. The idea went so far against conventional wisdom, pundits believed the fight may be fixed. The strategy, known as the "rope-a-dope", worked. Foreman's punches got less effective in later rounds, and with the Zaire crowd chanting "Ali, bomaye!" (or “Ali, kill him!”), Ali knocked out the exhausted Foreman in the eighth round to regain the heavyweight championship. The bomaye (later Kinshasa, the city that held the fight) would be the inspiration for the name of former NXT and IWGP heavyweight champion Shinsuke Nakamura’s finishing knee strike.

Following Ali regaining the title, one of Ali's first's title defenses was against Chuck Wepner. "The Bayonne Bleeder" would knock down Ali in the ninth round and would go the distance before ultimately losing on decision. The bout would be the inspiration for the Rocky film series.

In October 1975, Ali and Joe Frazier met for a third and final time in "The Thrilla in Manila". With temperatures well into the 90s, the aggressive Ali would tire out, going back to the rope-a-dope strategy he applied with Foreman in Zaire. It worked again. Frazier tired in the 12th round, opening the door for Ali to dominate late in the bout. Frazier refused to answer the bell for the final round, and Ali retained. Post-fight, Ali said the fight was "the closest thing to dying that I know".

The next year, Ali fought Antonio Inoki in an exhibition in Tokyo's Budokan Hall. The bout, largely a publicity stunt, went to a draw after fifteen three-minute rounds, but was poorly received by the paying crowd. Ali suffered leg bruises, two blood clots, and an infection. The worked bout affected Ali's mobility for the remainder of his career.

In 1978, Ali faced Leon Spinks. Despite having only seven professional fights to his credit, Spinks scored the split decision upset for the heavyweight title. The next year, they rematched, and Ali won the heavyweight title back on unanimous decision, making him the first three-time heavyweight boxing champion ever. Ali briefly retired, but returned to the ring in 1980 to face champion Larry Holmes. The lethargic Ali was dominated by Holmes, and trainer Angelo Dundee stopped the fight in the eleventh round. Ali fought one last time in December 1981, a ten-round decision loss to Trevor Berbick. He retired with a career record of 56-5, with 37 wins by knockout.

In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome, but he continued to make public appearances, most notably as a guest referee for the inaugural Wrestlemania main event, lighting the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and in promoting his own biopic, Ali, in 2001. The disease would take a toll on his health in recent years, and his public appearances have become less frequent.

On June 2, 2016, Ali was hospitalized in Scottsdale, Arizona with a respiratory illness. Though his condition was described as fair, he died of septic shock the next day. He was 74. Networks including ESPN, BET, CNN, Fox News, and ABC News presented extensive coverage of Ali’s passing.

On June 9, a traditional Islamic Janazah prayer service was held at Freedom Hall. A private funeral was held on the morning of June 10, with a public memorial held later in the day in Ali’s birthplace of Louisville, Kentucky. Will Smith (who played Ali in the biographical movie of the same name), and boxers Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, George Chuvalo, Larry Holmes, and George Foreman were among the pallbearers. Said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer about his passing, "Muhammad Ali belongs to the world. But he only has one hometown."

Ali's unorthodox boxing style made him one of the greatest of all time; contrary to his heavyweight peers, Ali relied on his speed and reflexes instead of raw power to confuse his opponents; one study done said that Ali's punches were 25% faster than welterweight Sugar Ray Robinson, considered by many as the best pound-for-pound boxer ever. Ali's trash talk was heavily influenced by wrestler Gorgeous George and was revolutionary in fight promotion.

Ali's legacy is legendary to say the least: he is a five-time Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year (no one else has more than three), won five Fight of the Year awards from the same publication, is one of three boxers to win Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year (the others are Sugar Ray Leonard and Ingemar Johansson), the BBC Sports Personality of the 20th century, the 1997 Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the top boxing heavyweight of the 20th century by the Associated Press.

Ali is survived by his wife of 30 years, Yolanda, two sons in Assad and Muhammad, Jr., and seven daughters: Laila (who went on to a successful boxing career herself), Hana, Khaliah, Rasheda, Jamillah, Miya and, Maryum.


The best of cSs on this day:

2016: John Cena vs. AJ Styles match announced for WWE Money in the Bank 2016 (John Cena and AJ Styles to meet for first time at Money in the Bank)

2015: Dolph Ziggler on Lana: She's a babe; I like what she's got going on (Dolph Ziggler talks Money in the Bank and his relationship with Lana in sit-down interview with Michael Cole)

2014: Seth Rollins betrays The Shield and joins Evolution: Reasons to be Excited and Afraid (Sean Rueter breaks down what the future may hold for Seth Rollins post-Shield)

2013: Bret Hart wants WWE to induct Owen Hart into the Hall of Fame (Bret Hart in an interview with Calgary’s 660 News says he’s frustrated Owen Hart is still not in the WWE Hall of Fame)

2012: Widespread panic within WWE over terrible Raw rating (Low rating for RAW against stiff competition causing mass panic behind the scenes)

2011: Racial whistleblower Mark Henry is tormented again by WWE management (WWE ribs Mark Henry post-Smackdown taping in Des Moines; Dave Meltzer opines the rib may also be on the fans due to low ticket sales)

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