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This Day in Wrestling History (July 27): Sunday Night Heat is Born


39 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Bob Backlund wrestled Antonio Inoki to a one-hour time limit draw in a best-of-three-falls match for the WWWF Championship, with each man winning one fall.

Inoki scored the first fall about 20 minutes in, with Backlund tying it up at the 36-minute mark.

19 years ago today, WWF tapes the premiere episode of Sunday Night Heat from the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.

Debuting five days later, the one-hour program was a supplemental weekly show to RAW is WAR and was structured similarly to the Monday night counterpart, with an emphasis on promoting the next day’s RAW. Originally intended to run for just six episodes leading up to Summerslam, the show proved very popular and remained on USA Network’s schedule. On PPV evenings, Heat would serve as the preshow. Like RAW is WAR at the time, the show alternated weekly between live and pre-taped airings.

By far, the most popular episode of the series was a special episode airing during halftime of Super Bowl XXXIII. Dubbed Halftime Heat, the abbreviated show featured The Rock and Mankind fighting for the WWF Championship in the company’s first (and to this day, only) empty arena match.

With the addition of Smackdown in August 1999, Heat’s profile greatly decreased, with its matches taking place prior to Smackdown tapings (it was around that time that WWF introduced Jakked and Metal, one-hour syndicated series in the vein of the old WWF Superstars; matches for those shows would be taped prior to RAW). Heat also briefly experimented a magazine-style format, summarizing the week’s events on the company’s main shows via music videos.

In the fall of 2000, Heat moved to MTV, with its shows broadcast live from WWF New York. Following the brand extension in April 2002, the show served as the B-show for RAW (with the recently-introduced Velocity doing the same for Smackdown). By this time, ratings for Heat had been in decline for some time (thanks in part to the introduction of Smackdown). Heat was moved from MTV to TNN (later renamed Spike TV) in March 2003, and would remain there until Viacom lost the rights to WWE programming in the fall of 2005.

With USA Network opting not to bring Sunday Night Heat with them, the show was streamed for American audiences to WWE’s website and moved to Fridays, with the site also airing a 30-minute preshow prior to PPVs (the preshows were discontinued in April 2006), while the show continued to air internationally to fulfill programming commitments. The series ended on May 30, 2008 after 513 total episodes aired.

Of note, this show is Shane McMahon’s WWF on-camera debut (if you don’t count his time as referee Shane Stevens in the early 1990s).

  • Edge defeated Jeff Jarrett.
  • Darren Drozdov and The Headbangers (Mosh & Thrasher) defeated Kai En Tai (Dick Togo, Men's Teioh, and Sho Funaki).
  • D-Lo Brown defeated Ken Shamrock to retain the WWF European Championship.
  • The Nation (Owen Hart & The Rock) defeated Kane & Mankind in a #1 contender’s match for the WWF Tag Team Championship.

17 years ago today, famed NWA and WCW ring announcer Francis Jonard Labiak, better known as Gordon Solie, passes away from throat cancer in his home in New Port Ritchey, Florida. He was 71.

Born January 26, 1929 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gordon moved to Tampa, Florida in 1950 after completing military service for the United States Air Force. Solie did promotions and was a radio disc jockey before transitioning to pro wrestling.

In the late 1950s, Solie joined Championship Wrestling from Florida. After emceeing weekly events for the promotion, Gordon was moved into the broadcast booth and would become the promotion’s lead announcer. Solie's calm demeanor (compared to other announcers of the era--and since for that matter) made him stand out in the field. His on-mic demeanor was comparable to that of famed sportscaster Jim McKay. When he wore glasses in his later years, many say he bore resemblance to game show host Bill Cullen.

Solie conveyed a seriousness to in-ring action, but would throw in his occasional "Solieism", such as calling suplexes su-plays (a term picked up by Terry Taylor and Mauro Ranallo), call out of control fights a "Pier 6 brawl", and refer to someone's bloody face as "a crimson mask". He often referred to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as “the ten pounds of gold”.

Solie gained national prominence when the weekly CWF show was sent out across the country through Superstation WTBS. The exposure led him to work for promotions in Georgia, Alabama, and Puerto Rico.

After Championship Wrestling from Florida folded in 1987, Solie returned to Georgia and joined what would become WCW. In his later years, Solie was the primary play-by-play announcer for WCW Pro, the promotion’s Sunday morning program. Solie’s final days with WCW in 1995 were tumultuous. He often butted heads with WCW executive vice-president (later president) Eric Bischoff, whom he called a “corporate assassin”. In addition, Solie opposed the WCW Hall of Fame inductions of both Big John Studd (due to an ABC report on steroid use released the prior year) and Angelo Poffo, the father of “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Solie believed that wrestlers shouldn’t push for their own blood to be honored). Both Solie and Poffo were inducted in 1995, but Gordon had left the promotion by the time of his induction and retired from the wrestling business.

Post-retirement, Solie was diagnosed with throat cancer (reportedly, he smoked as many as four packs of cigarettes a day) and his vocal chords had to be removed. His failing health led him to pass on participating in the Heroes of Wrestling PPV in October 1999. The throat cancer would claim his life on July 27, 2000 in his home in New Port Richey, Florida. Solie was 71. At the time of his death, Solie was survived by five children, Pam, Danise, Jonard, Eric, and Greg. His wife Eileen died of cancer in 1997.

Solie is well-honored: the three-time Wrestling Observer Newsletter award winner for Best Television Announcer (he won it from 1981 to 1983) was an inaugural member of the publication’s Hall of Fame in 1996. That same year, he was honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club.

Posthumously, Solie was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004, the NWA Hall of Fame in 2005, and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009. In 2005, some of Solie’s short stories and poetry was published with Gordon Solie... Something Left Behind. A biography on his life, The Solie Chronicles, was released in 2009. Solie's trademark "So long from the Sunshine State" was a part of Florida Championship Wrestling weekly TV show as a tribute to the announcer.

16 years ago today, famed women's wrestler Rhonda Sing, best known as Bertha Faye in the WWF and Rhonda Singh and Monster Ripper internationally, passed away in her hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She was just 40 years old.

Sing was trained by Mildred Burke in 1978 and went to All-Japan Pro Wrestling in 1979. She became the first Stampede Wrestling Womens Champion in 1987, and would win the World Wrestling Council Womens Championship in Puerto Rico five times from 1987 to 1990.

She spent a year in the WWF, and though she would win their Womens Championship, she became frustrated with the gimmick, as she was forced to reduce her moveset and be a comic relief wrestler. The same situation would befall her in her brief stint in WCW, even appearing as Nitro Girl Beef. Following retirement, Sing would return to Calgary and work as a caregiver for the handicapped.

15 years ago today in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Low Ki defeated Spanky, Christopher Daniels, and Doug Williams in a four-way 60-minute Ironman match to become the first Ring of Honor Champion.

In this unique bout, a decision in the wrestler's favor earned two points, while the person who was defeated lost a point. Only three decisions were scored in the bout: Christopher Daniels pinning Low Ki (Daniels 2, Low Ki -1), Low Ki submitting Spanky (Low Ki 1, Spanky -1), and Low Ki submitting Williams (Low Ki 3, Williams, -1). Daniels had Low Ki in the Dragon Clutch as time expired, but Low Ki did not submit. Had Low Ki submitted, Daniels would have won the match.

14 years ago today, WWE presented Vengeance (WWE Network link) from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.

This was the first Smackdown-only PPV since the roster split of the previous year, though brand-exclusive PPVs only began the previous month with RAW's Bad Blood. About 9,500 were in attendance, with 322,000 homes watching on PPV.

The show featured the crowning of the first WWE United States Champion (not to be confused with their first version of the United States Championship), with the company using the lineage that dated back to the NWA and later WCW United States Championship.

  • In a Sunday Night Heat preshow match, Ultimo Dragon defeated Chris Canyon.
  • Eddie Guerrero defeated Chris Benoit in a tournament final to win the WWE United States Championship.
  • Jamie Noble defeated Billy Gunn.
  • Bradshaw won an APA Invitationa Bar Room Brawl by being the last man standing. Other participants were Shannon Moore, Doink the Clown, Faarooq, Brother Love, Nunzio, Matt Hardy, Chris Canyon, Danny Bashum, Doug Bashum, Idol Stevens (as the Easter Bunny), Sean O'Haire, John Hennigan, Orlando Jordan, Funaki, Los Conqistadors (Rob Conway and Johnny Jeter), The Brooklyn Brawler, Johnny Stamboli, Chuck Palumbo, Matt Cappotelli, and Spanky.
  • The World's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) defeated Rey Mysterio & Billy Kidman to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.
  • Sable defeated Stephanie McMahon in a no-countout catfight.
  • The Undertaker defeated John Cena.
  • Vince McMahon defeated Zach Gowen.
  • Kurt Angle defeated The Big Show and Brock Lesnar in a triple threat match to win the WWE Championship.

13 years ago today, two championships change hands at a Smackdown taping in Cincinnati, Ohio.

On the undercard, Spike Dudley defeated Rey Mysterio to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.

In the main event, Booker T last defeated Rob Van Dam in an eight-man elimination match to win the WWE United States Championship. Other participants (in order of elimination) included Charlie Haas, Rene Dupree, Kenzo Suzuki, Billy Gunn, Luther Reigns, and John Cena.

The making of the match was the first act of new Smackdown general manager Theodore Long. Long would serve as the show's general manager for most of the next nine years.

7 years ago today at an Impact taping at Universal Orlando, Hamada and Taylor Wilde defeated The Beautiful People (Lacey Von Erich and Velvet Sky) to win the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship.

They would remain champions until early December when Hamada was released from TNA. Hamada herself was relieved of the tag titles earlier in the year when her other partner Awesome Kong was released from the company.

2 years ago today, WWE announces in a press release that the upcoming Summerslam would be expanded to four hours. This confirms what many were speculating for some time: WWE wanted to expand its second biggest annual show and make it a summertime version of Wrestlemania. The press release in part:

STAMFORD, Conn., July 27, 2015 - WWE (NYSE: WWE) announced today that SummerSlam will expand from a three-hour show to a four-hour telecast live on WWE Network and now begin at 7pm ET on Sunday, August 23. SummerSlam joins WWE's annual pop-culture extravaganza, WrestleMania®, as the only two events with four hours of live non-stop action.

Emanating live from a sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, SummerSlam will feature WWE Superstars Undertaker® and Brock Lesnar® in a rematch of their historic WrestleMania 30 bout where Lesnar ended Undertaker's undefeated streak. In addition, WWE Network will also air a one-hour live SummerSlam Kick-Off Show starting at 6pm ET.

The distinction of Summerslam and Wrestlemania both being four-hour events lasts for all of seven months. Wrestlemania 32, pegged to be a four-hour show, ends up lasting just under five hours, with Wrestlemania 33 crossing the five-hour barrier.

2 years ago today on RAW from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (WWE Network link), John Cena defeated Seth Rollins by submission to retain the WWE United States Championship. Rollins' WWE Championship was not at stake in this match.

The bout is remembered for Seth Rollins kneeing John Cena in the nose, breaking it. The next day, WWE issues a statement, confirming that Cena's nose was indeed broken:

"As you can see on television tonight, John suffered from a nasal fraction. He's got quite a bit of displacement, so we sent him over to the local emergency room so he can be evaluated by the ears, nose and throat doctor who's on call tonight and see what can be done to properly repair it."

Cena of course makes a full recovery after he undergoes emergency surgery a few days later, but he would be pulled from WWE events, not returning the Friday before Summerslam at a house show in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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