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This Day in Wrestling History (July 15): Eric Bischoff’s WWE Debut


54 years ago today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bobo Brazil defeated Johnny Barend to win the WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship. He becomes the first man to hold the championship more than once.

50 years ago today in San Francisco, California, NWA United States Champion (San Francisco version) Ray Stevens defeated WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino via countout.

Stevens thought that meant he would become the new WWWF Champion, but the WWWF had a differing opinion, stating that the title could not change hands on a countout.

34 years ago today in St. Louis, Missouri, Ric Flair defeated David Von Erich in the finals of a one-night tournament to win the vacated NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship.

The title was vacated back on June 10 when Harley Race won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

25 years ago today, Vince McMahon informed the International Federation of Bodybuilders that the World Bodybuilding Federation was disbanding.

It was a hard and expensive fall for McMahon’s first major attempt to expand the WWF empire beyond wrestling.

Born in a booth in September 1990 under the guise of announcing a new bodybuilding magazine at the Mr. Olympia competition, the signature event of bodybuilding, the booth turned out to be handing out press releases announcing the formation of the World Bodybuilding Federation, with the carrot that it would be handing out the richest prize money in the history of the sport. And no drug testing (something that would become a huge problem later).

In January 1991, McMahon announced his initial roster of thirteen WBF “BodyStars”, many of whom were previously contracted to the IFBB, the International Federation of Bodybuilders. The first WBF Championship was presented in June, with Gary Strydom winning. The competition was criticized for bringing a pro wrestling flavor to bodybuilding, walking back on an initial promise McMahon made at launch. Reviews for the event were generally mixed.

But the dominoes began to fall two weeks later: George Zahorian, the WWF’s ringside physician for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, had been found guilty on 12 counts of selling anabolic steroids (the first man to be convicted of such a crime after stricter laws were enacted in 1988). With the eyes of the federal government turned towards Vince McMahon, he announced that both WWF and WBF employees would be subjected to strict drug testing. Around the same time, the IFBB quietly dropped their drug testing policy.

Late in 1991, Vince McMahon attempted to lock up actor Lou Ferrigno to the largest bodybuilding contract in the sport’s history, a reported $900,000 over two years. However, just a few months before he was set to appear in the second WBF Championship, he walked out.

Also a few months prior to the 1992 WBF Championship, McMahon signed former WCW world champion Lex Luger. As he could not wrestle for a year, Luger appearing for the WBF would be a way to get around the no-compete clause. But just days before the competition, Luger crashed his motorcycle, severely fracturing his arm.

With no Luger and no Ferrigno, there was virtually no draw to the niche event. Just 3,000 homes bought the event on June 13, 1992, and in most major markets, the buyrate for the event is considered to be zero. It is believed to be the lowest-grossing event in American PPV history at the time. For the record, Gary Strydom won again.

32 days and one phone call to the Weider offices later, it was all over. Well, save for an appearance in a five-on-five tug-of-war with the WWF wrestlers. The WBF bodybuilders were told to pursue their craft elsewhere, with many returning to the IFBB (albeit with a 10% fine). At least one WBF contract was paid in full.

Buried in the announcement was the discontinuing of their magazine, WBF Bodybuilding Lifestyles following the September issue. WBF BodyStars, which became an infomercial late in its run due to no advertisers wanting anything to do with the show, was cancelled by the end of the year.

In the end, it was an expensive failure: McMahon lost $15 million on the venture, at the time the most money lost on a non-wrestling venture ever.

22 years ago today, ECW presented Heatwave '95 from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • Mikey Whipwreck defeated Mike Norman.
  • Tony Stetson & Don E. Allen defeated Raven & Stevie Richards by countout.
  • Hack Meyers defeated Big Val Puccio.
  • Tommy Dreamer and The Pitbulls defeated Raven, Dudley Dudley, and Snot Dudley.
  • Dean Malenko & 2 Cold Scorpio defeated Eddie Guerrero & Taz.
  • Sandman defeated Axl Rotten in a Barbed Wire Bat match to retain the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
  • Luna Vachon defeated Stevie Richards by submission in a steel cage match.
  • The Gangstas (New Jack & Mustafa) defeated Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge & Flyboy Rocco Rock) in a steel cage match.

15 years ago today on RAW from East Rutherfoird, New Jersey, (WWE Network link), Eric Bischoff, former President of World Championship Wrestling, made his WWE debut as the RAW General Manager.

An interesting side nugget: that role nearly went to Vince Russo. Russo laid out a similar scenario for McMahon when he briefly returned to the company the previous month, but the creative team talked McMahon out of it when they heard Russo's ideas.

Russo, who wanted to reboot the WCW invasion, was then moved into a consulting role, but left for TNA shortly thereafter, where he could reboot a WCW invasion. As for Bischoff, he did not arrive into the building until about 15 minutes before the show began and spent most of the first hour in a limo in the parking lot. Bischoff to on how the deal went down:

"We've been talking unofficially through third parties for almost a year now. We've come close to doing something a couple of times, but for a variety of reasons it's just never worked out. About a month or two ago, we'd gotten a little bit more serious in our conversations, and I got a chance to talk directly to Vince (McMahon). I think we were able to break a lot of ice, just over the phone. Once we did that, it just seemed like it was much easier to move forward and get a deal done for sure. Really, this just came together within the last week or 10 days."

Bischoff would stick around for quite a bit, holding the General Manager post for most of the next three and a half years. His tenure ended when literally is thrown out with the garbage on RAW in December 2005.

11 years ago today, Brock Lesnar is stripped of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship following a dispute between Lesnar and New Japan Pro Wrestling management regarding a title defense against Hiroshi Tanahashi. The story from New Japan Pro Wrestling is that the decision was made due to visa issues. Lesnar leaves the company as well as a result, with the title belt still in his possession.

Two days later, Tanhashi wins a one-night tournament for the title, defeating Giant Bernard in the final. It would be the first of a company record seven IWGP heavyweight championships.

When New Japan founder Antonio Inoki formed the Inoki Genome Federation in 2007, Brock Lesnar was named its first champion, seeing that he was never defeated for the title. The Third Belt Championship as it would be called by New Japan was won by Kurt Angle in June 2007, then finally returned to its rightful home in February 2008 when Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Angle to unify the IWGP heavyweight and third belt titles.

11 years ago today, WWE presented (an almost live) Saturday Night's Main Event (WWE Network link) from the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.

  • Batista, Bobby Lashley, and Rey Mysterio defeated King Booker, Finlay, and Mark Henry. Of note, Mark Henry injured his knee in the belt, tearing the patella off the bone and the patella itself split in half. The injury would sideline Henry for ten months
  • Carlito and Trish Stratus defeated Melina and Johnny Nitro.
  • D-Generation X (Shawn Michaels and Triple H) defeated The Spirit Squad (Johnny, Kenny, Mikey, Mitch and Nicky) 5-0 in a two-on-five elimination match.
  • Sabu pinned Stevie Richards in an Extreme Rules match.
  • John Cena defeated WWE Champion Edge by disqualification in a WWE Championship match.

11 years ago today, Ring of Honor presented Death Before Dishonor IV from the National Guard Armory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • Delirious defeated Seth Delay.
  • The Embassy (Jimmy Rave & Sal Rinauro) defeated Colt Cabana & Jay Lethal.
  • Nigel McGuinness defeated Roderick Strong by countout to retain the ROH Pure Championship.
  • The Briscoes (Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe) defeated Irish Airborne (David Crist & Jake Crist).
  • AJ Styles defeated Davey Richards.
  • Bryan Danielson defeated Sonjay Dutt by via referee stoppage to retain the ROH World Championship.
  • Team ROH (Ace Steel, Adam Pearce, BJ Whitmer, Bryan Danielson, Homicide, and Samoa Joe) defeated Team CZW (Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Eddie Kingston, Nate Webb, and Necro Butcher) in a Cage Of Death match.

10 years ago today, TNA presented Victory Road from the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.

  • Christopher Daniels won a Ultimate X Gauntlet match to become the #1 contender for the TNA X Division Championship. Other participants included Jay Lethal, Puma, Homicide, Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams, Shark Boy, Elix Skipper, Kaz, and Senshi.
  • The Voodoo Kin Mafia (B.G. James and Kip James) defeated Basham and Damaja.
  • James Storm defeated Rhino.
  • The Motor City Machine Guns (Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley) defeated Jerry Lynn and Bob Backlund.
  • Eric Young and Gail Kim defeated Robert Roode and Ms. Brooks.
  • Christian Cage defeated Chris Harris.
  • Sting and Abyss defeated A.J. Styles and Tomko.
  • Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe defeated Team 3D in the Match of Champions to win the TNA World Tag Team Championship. Angle’s TNA World Heavyweight Championship and Samoa Joe’s TNA X Division Championship were also at stake. Per prematch stipulations, the winner of the fall won the loser’s championship(s). As Samoa Joe won the fall, he won the tag titles for himself and Angle. Well, not so much Angle. Joe decided to keep the titles for himself.

7 years ago today, Chris Jericho responds on Twitter to speculation that ABC cancelled Downfall, the game show he hosted, after just five episodes:

"FYI-Downfall wasn't pulled or canceled. Due to a faster paced edited show, we simply ran out of contestants after the fifth show and didn't have enough material for a sixth show. We re gonna film more episodes in the fall. Sorry haters.."

As it turns out, the haters were right. Debuting to a solid 5.86 million viewers and a 2.0 rating in the 18-49 demographic a month prior, the series quickly experienced its own downfall, bottoming out at a 1.2 rating in the same demographic and 3.37 million viewers. No new episodes were filmed and the series is considered cancelled.

5 years ago today, WWE presented Money in the Bank (WWE Network link) from US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona. 10,800 were in attendance, with 188,000 homes purchasing the event on PPV, which was down slightly from the 195,000 in 2011.

  • In a preshow match, Kofi Kingston & R-Truth defeated Hunico & Camacho.
  • Dolph Ziggler defeated Damien Sandow , Christian, Santino Marella, Tensai, Tyson Kidd, Cody Rhodes, and Sin Cara in a Money in the Bank ladder match for a future World Heavyweight Championship match up to one year.
  • Sheamus defeated Alberto Del Rio to retain the World Heavyweight Championship.
  • Primo & Epico defeated The Primetime Players (Darren Young & Titus O'Neill).
  • CM Punk defeated Daniel Bryan in a no disqualifcation match to retain the WWE Championship. AJ Lee was the special referee.
  • Ryback defeated Curt Hawkins & Tyler Reks in a handicap match.
  • Tamina Snuka, Kaitlyn, and Layla defeated Beth Phoenix, Natalya, and Eve Torres.
  • John Cena defeated The Big Show, The Miz, Kane, and Chris Jericho in a Money in the Bank ladder match for a future WWE Championship match up to one year.

3 years ago today, WWE moves CM Punk's profile on their website from the active roster to the Alumni page.

The move, standard operating procedure for talent no longer working with the company, indicates that his contract had expired or its expiration was imminent.

The move ends nearly six months of speculation as to whether Punk, real name Phil Brooks, would return to the company after walking out following the 2014 Royal Rumble event. The sides had little communication once talks of him to return broke down in February. Brooks’ first official comments following the release came via his Twitter:

Nope, thank YOU.Thanks for all the help and support through the years. Health and happiness above all.Don't ever take any shit from anybody.

A month before his contract expired, Brooks married AJ Lee (real name April Mendez), who retired in April 2015. Brooks has maintained since leaving WWE that he's done with pro wrestling and he's concentrating on his mixed martial arts career.

He opened up about his final days in WWE on a pair of podcasts with Colt Cabana around the Thanksgiving holiday in 2014. Any chance of Brooks returning to WWE is probably out the window: in September 2014, he sued WWE for back royalties; the two sides settled for an undisclosed amount.

In February 2015, WWE doctor Chris Amann sued Brooks and Colt Cabana (real name Scott Colton) for defamation. The suit is still in litigation. He is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and an undisclosed amount in punitive damages.

After multiple delays, he made his MMA debut at UFC 202 in September 2016. He was submitted by Mickey Gall in just over two minutes; Brooks did not land a single strike in the bout.

Most recently, Brooks was a contestant on MTV’s reality compeition The Challenge: Champs vs. Pros. He was eliminated in the fourth episode.

2 years ago today, PWInsider reported that Shawn Hernandez was released from TNA.

The release came from Hernandez recently appearing on TNA programming as a member of the Beat Down Clan. No problem, you're probably thinking, until TNA was contacted by Lucha Underground with the latter telling the former that Hernandez was still under contract with the promotion/TV show hybrid thing. LU told TNA that under no uncertain terms were they to use Hernandez on their programming in any way.

Though TNA tried to work out a deal to allow their existing footage to be used, LU producers stuck to their guns, forcing TNA to edit any footage of Hernandez's previous appearances, and scrap footage of his upcoming ones. The move effectively dissolves the Beat Down Clan, its storyline, and its talent.

As for the rest of the group, MVP left the company two days later (he was probably pushed out as he convinced TNA management to bring Hernandez in). Homicide, who had been out since April with a shoulder injury, was released just over a week later. Kenny King would leave too, returning to Ring of Honor in September 2015, over three years after his controversial exit from the promotion.

Birthdays aplenty, so profiles will be brief.

It’s a happy 34th birthday to Heath Miller, known to wrestling fans as Heath Slater.

Slater, the fourth place finisher of the first NXT competition, is a four-time WWE Tag Team Champion, three with Justin Gabriel, and one last year with Rhyno. For about two years, Slater led the Three Man Band stable with Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre.

Miller was also prominently featured on the web series The JBL and Cole as JBL's nephew, Clem Layfield.

It’s a happy 40th birthday to Kitana Baker.

Born Christi Michell Josenhans, the model/actress is best known as one of the Miller Lite Catfight Girls from the series of 2002 ads.

Wrestling connection: most notably, she appeared at Wrestlemania XIX reprising her role with fellow "Catfight Girl" Tanya Balligner. It wasn't her first appearance; that came six months earlier at Unforgiven when she nearly got to perform "HLA" (Hot Lesbian Action) on Stephanie McMahon.

It’s a happy 66th birthday to James George Janos, best known as Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

After serving six years in the United States Navy, Jesse Ventura wrestled for nearly a decade, most notably for the AWA (where he won their tag team titles with Adrian Adonis) and the WWF. A blood clot ended his in-ring career in 1984, but he attempted a comeback the next year, teaming with future world champion Randy Savage.

He retired again in 1986 and transferred to the commentary booth, teaming most notably with Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon. Ventura was the first notable heel commentator on WWF programming. Around this time, he got into acting, appearing in prominent roles in Predator and The Running Man. Just before Summerslam 1990, Ventura was released.

The next year, Ventura successfully sued Titan Sports (the parent company of the WWF) for back royalties. The suit was finally settled in 1995, with Ventura awarded over $800,000. The lawsuit is considered a landmark case in the law of restitution. The lawsuit would also play a part in severing the friendship between Jesse Ventura and Hulk Hogan; during the suit, he found out it was Hogan that told McMahon of Ventura's attempt to form a labor union in 1984. Also, as a result of the suit, Ventura's commentary was removed from some WWE home video releases.

Ventura spent the early 1990s not only commentating for WCW, but as mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Ventura was let go from WCW in 1994 by Eric Bischoff, allegedly for falling asleep during a WCW Worldwide taping, but possibly due to the influence of Hulk Hogan.

Eventually, the WWF and Ventura kissed and made up, but not until after Jesse shockingly won the gubernatorial seat in Minnesota in 1998. Most notably, he appeared as the special referee for the main event of Summerslam 1999, in the commentary booth for the XFL, and in interview segments in the 2000s. Ventura and McMahon reunited on commentary in 2009 for one night only on RAW. In 2004, Ventura was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Since leaving office, Ventura has remained politically active and has considered a presidential run. He's authored eight books (five since leaving office), hosted a few TV shows (most notably Conspiracy Theory for TruTV) and made a number of TV and movie appearances. Ventura has a wife, Terry, and two children, Tyrel and Jade.

It’s a happy 75th birthday to Aaron Rodriguez, best known as lucha libre legend Mil Mascaras.

A member of lucha libre's original Big Three (along with El Santo and Blue Demon), “The Man of a Thousand Masks” is considered one of the most influential wrestlers in the history of wrestling, credited for introducing high-flying maneuvers including the plancha and tope suicida to Japanese fans.

A career tecnico (babyface), Mascaras wore a different mask for every match. Though he most famously wrestled in Mexico, he also competed for All Japan, IWA, WWF, World Wrestling Council, and WCW. During his time in the WWF, he became the first masked wrestler to compete in Madison Square Garden.

Away from the ring, he's starred in over a dozen movies. Most came in the 1960s and 1970s, though he continued to appear in movies well into the 21st century.

Despite his massive popularity in Mexico, wrestlers have criticized his unwillingness to sell moves or put people over, including Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, and John Layfield, who once called Mascaras "the most egomaniacal, selfish human being that ever lived". Mascaras defended his behavior, citing cultural differences in wrestling between Mexico and their US counterparts.

Mascaras, the uncle of famed luchador Alberto El Patron (who had success domestically as Alberto Del Rio), wrestled as recently as July 2014, the 50th anniversary of his professional debut.

The two-time World Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Champion is a member of the inaugural Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class in 1996, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010, and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.

The best of cSs on this day:

2016: UFC announces Brock Lesnar flagged for potential anti-doping violation (UFC announces Brock’s out-of-competition sample from UFC 200 turned up a possible doping violation)

2015: CM Punk says today's WWE roster is 'a big I f--king told you so' (CM Punk talks about the WWE roster being more diversified in terms of look and talent compared to a decade ago at UFC 189)

2014: CM Punk's first comments on WWE since walking out (CM Punk gives his first words following his official release from WWE)

2013: YES! YES! YES! Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena WWE championship match set for SummerSlam (Daniel Bryan hand-picked to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship at Summerslam)

2012: Video: Are You Serious? hosts Road Dogg and Josh Matthews return to poke fun at internet smarts (New Are You Serious? pokes fun at Internet wrestling fans)

2010: Dixie Carter may soon have competition for her spot as the dumbest money mark in wrestling! (New York Mets owner Milton Wilpon to invest in new wrestling company for some reason, says Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Dave Meltzer)

2009: Insane Clown Posse Does Wonderful Thing (Gathering of the Juggalos to have wrestling show that includes Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Jimmy Jacobs, Ken Shamrock, Butterbean, and Todd Bridges)

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