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This Day in Wrestling History (July 25): The Return of CM Punk


24 years ago today at a Monday Night RAW taping (WWE Network link) in Alexandria Bay, New York, Jim Cornette makes his WWF debut.

Cornette, the founder and head of Smoky Mountain Wrestling, was (and in some ways, still is) a staunch critic against WWF, which is what made him joining the company quite the shocker. Cornette chronicled the confluence of events that led to him landing a WWF gig in Fighting Spirit Magazine and can be read here.

One of SMW’s most successful teams, the Heavenly Bodies (Tom Pritchard & Jimmy Del Ray) also made their WWF debut during the taping, defeating Mike Bucci and Bobby Who.

It wouldn’t be Cornette’s only involvement in the taping; he was named the American spokesperson for then-WWF Champion Yokozuna.

18 years ago today, WWF presented Fully Loaded (WWE Network link) from the Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, New York. 16,605 were in attendance, with about 360,000 homes purchasing the event on PPV.

  • Jeff Jarrett defeated Edge to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
  • The Acolytes (Faarooq and Bradshaw) defeated Michael Hayes and The Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff) in a handicap match to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.
  • D'Lo Brown defeated Mideon to win the WWF European Championship.
  • The Big Boss Man defeated Al Snow to win the WWF Hardcore Championship.
  • The Big Show defeated Kane. Hardcore Holly was the special referee.
  • Ken Shamrock defeated Steve Blackman in an Iron Circle match (essentially, a parking lot brawl).
  • Road Dogg and X-Pac defeated Mr. Ass and Chyna for the rights to the D-Generation X name.
  • Triple H defeated The Rock in a strap match to become the #1 contender for the WWF Championship. Unlike a traditional strap match, the bout could only be won by pinfall or submission.
  • Steve Austin defeated The Undertaker in a First Blood match to retain the WWF Championship. As a result of Austin's win, Vince McMahon could never appear on WWF programming again. McMahon would return to WWF programming again less than two months later.

9 years ago today, Diamond Dallas Page and rapper/mogul Jay-Z come to a settlement in a lawsuit stemming from Jay-Z's use of the diamond cutter hand signal that was a trademark of Page's career.

The suit, filed by Page in 2005, was settled with Jay-Z paying an undisclosed amount in exchange for Page dropping the claim.

6 years ago today on RAW from Hampton, Virginia (WWE Network link), Rey Mysterio defeated The Miz in a tournament final to win the vacated WWE Championship.

The title was vacated following Money in the Bank when CM Punk won the title on what was supposedly his last night with the company.

Rey’s first—and only—WWE Championship run lasted about an hour and a half. In the show’s main event, John Cena defeated Rey Mysterio for the WWE Championship.

But wait, there’s more. Cena had little time to celebrate as Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” played over the arena loudspeakers. It was a theme used by former Ring of Honor superstar—and WWE Champion—CM Punk, who returned to the company following an eight-day sabbatical (perhaps the realization that Summerslam was around the corner meant Punk was being called back to work early).

Both Punk and Cena would be recognized as WWE Champion through Summerslam, but by the end of that show, neither man would be champion. Punk would defeat Cena for the undisputed title, only to be cashed in post-match by Alberto Del Rio.

1 year ago today on RAW from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (WWE Network link), Sasha Banks defeated Charlotte by submission to win the WWE RAW Women’s Championship.

On the same show, former NXT Champion Finn Balor makes his WWE main roster debut on his 35th birthday. In the show’s opening match, Balor defeated Cesaro, Kevin Owens, and Rusev in a fatal four-way match.

In the main event, Balor defeated Roman Reigns to earn a WWE Universal Championship match at Summerslam.

Also debuting on the main roster was Nia Jax, with a quick 80-second win over Britt Baker.

One more debut: James Ellsworth. Though he loses to Braun Strowman in just over a minute, his “any man with two hands has a fighting chance” gets the local competitor a cult following—and eventually, a full-time WWE contract.

It’s a happy 36th birthday to Fergal Devitt, known these days as Finn Balor.

Best known as Prince Devitt, his biggest success has come in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he's the most one of the successful junior heavyweights in company history. Devitt's a three-time IWGP junior heavyweight champion, a six-time IWGP junior heavyweight tag team champion, and one of just four men to win their annual Best of the Super Juniors tournament more than once (he did so in 2010 and 2013). He's also competed for many other promotions before joining WWE, most notably CMLL, NWA UK Hammerlock, New England Championship Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.

In May 2014, Devitt joined WWE's developmental territory, NXT. In the fall, Devitt would be renamed Finn Balor, based on Irish mythical figures Fionn Mac Cumhaill and Balor. On July 4, 2015 at Beast in the East, Balor defeated Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship. He held it for the next 292 days (a record for the title), during which he won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with Samoa Joe. Ironically, it would be Samoa Joe that defeated Balor for the NXT Championship at a house show in Lowell, Massachusetts in April 2016. He was defeated again by Samoa Joe in a steel cage match at NXT Takeover: The End in June.

In Balor’s main roster debut on July 25, 2016, Balor won a one-night tournament to challenge Seth Rollins for the new WWE Universal Championship at Summerslam. Balor went on to win the match and the title, but during the match, he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder. The injury required surgery and would sideline him for four to six months, forcing him to vacate the title.

Balor returned to WWE programming in April, teaming with Seth Rollins to defeat Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. Balor was defeated by Samoa Joe in a five-man extreme rules match at Extreme Rules when he was choked out by Samoa Joe.

Devitt, a supporter of English football team Tottenham Hotspur, holds a first-degree black belt in IBF submission wrestling. He is also an avid collector of Lego and loves comic books; in fact, during his independent career, he’s worn comic-book inspired face and body paint.

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