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This Day in Wrestling History (July 4): WarGames Is Born


Two things (well, three): first, happy Independence Day if you’re in the States and a happy belated Canada Day if you’re Canadian.

Second, we at Cageside Seats send our condolences to the Hart family. The oldest of the 12 Hart children, Smith, died Sunday after a battle with prostate and bone cancer. He was 68.

31 years ago today in Dallas, Texas, Chris Adams defeated Rick Rude to win the World Class Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship.

30 years ago today in Atlanta, Georgia, Jim Crockett Promotions presented The Great American Bash.

What made this, the first show on the tour, special was the debut of the WarGames match.

Created by Dusty Rhodes and inspired in part by Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the double-ring, single cage match was presented as the signature match of the Four Horsemen. It’s a two-team match (usually teams of four or five) with participants joining in via staggered entry.

The match begins with one member of each team in the cage, while the rest of the team waited outside (or backstage). After five minutes, the team that won a coin toss could send in a man immediately; the other team had to wait two minutes before sending one of theirs in. Teams alternate sending someone in every two minutes until all participants are in the cage, at which point, “The Match Beyond” begins (important to note: the match cannot be won unless everyone is in the cage, though this was changed for the WarGames match in 1998).

The bout continued until there was a submission or surrender (or in rare cases, someone is deemed unable to continue by the head referee). The person that submits loses the match for their team.

There are no pinfalls, countouts, or disqualifications in the bout, making WarGames one of the most brutal matches in all of wrestling.

The results of the full show are below.

  • Kendall Windham defeated Gladiator #1.
  • Sting defeated Thunderfoot #1.
  • LazerTron defeated MOD Squad Spike.
  • Jimmy Valiant defeated MOD Squad Basher.
  • Barry Windham defeated Rick Steiner to retain the NWA Western States Heritage Championship.
  • The Garvins (Ron & Jimmy) defeated Vladimir Petrov and The Barbarian.
  • The Lightning Express (Tim Horner and Brad Armstrong) defeated The Angel of Death and Big Bubba Rogers to retain the UWF World Tag Team Championship.
  • Chris Adams defeated Black Bart by disqualification.
  • The Fabulous Freebirds (Buddy Roberts, Michael Hayes, and Terry Gordy) defeated Ivan Koloff, Manny Fernandez, and Paul Jones.
  • The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) defeated The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane) in an NWA World Tag Team Championship match.
  • Steve Williams defeated Dick Murdoch in a Texas Deathmatch.
  • The Super Powers (The Road Warriors (Animal & Hawk), Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes, and Paul Ellering) defeated The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Tully Blanchard, and JJ Dillon) in a WarGames match.

27 years ago, Keith Franke, best known as "Adorable" Adrian Adonis, is one of three people killed in a single-car accident in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, Canada. He was 33.

Adonis was a AWA tag team champion with Jesse Ventura in 1980 and a WWF tag team champion with Dick Murdoch in 1984. In the early 1980s, he also contended for the WWF Intercontinental and world championships.

Following the split with Murdoch after losing the titles in 1985, Adonis traded in his biker gear for pink gear and lots of make up, calling himself "Adorable". It was also around this time, Adonis, who had gained considerable weight since his time with Dick Murdoch, wrestled at his heaviest, at around 350 pounds.

Adonis in 1986 was a primary cataylst for turning Paul Orndorff heel on Hulk Hogan during his talking segment, The Flower Shop. Adonis' most famous feud was against Rowdy Roddy Piper, who would ruin his set in retaliation for Adonis taking Piper out at the legs. The war culminated in a hair versus hair match at Wrestlemania III, won by the then-retiring Piper. Piper, who struggled to cut Adonis' wet hair, got help from Brutus Beefcake, which birthed his most famous gimmick, "The Barber".

Franke returned to the AWA shortly after Wrestlemania III still under the "Adorable" Adrian Adonis gimmick, but now managed by Paul E. Dangerously. His run is highlighted by a feud with Tommy Rich and making it to the final of the AWA International Television Championship tournament in late 1987 before losing to Greg Gagne. An ankle injury forced him to the sidelines in early 1988 just as he was set to tour with New Japan Pro Wrestling. It was also around this time, Verne Gagne stopped paying him. He tried to return to the WWF, but the attempted comeback was unsuccessful. Franke would make that tour of New Japan Pro Wrestling,

On July 4, 1988, Franke was one of three men killed in a single-car accident when driver William Arko swerved off a road in Lewisport, Newfoundland, Canada to avoid a moose. With the driver blinded by the sun, the car careened into a nearby lake, killing the passengers inside. Along with Franke, who later died in the hospital due to severe head injuries, fellow wrestlers Victor Arko (William’s brother) and Dave McKigney were killed. William, the sole survivor, suffered severe leg injuries.

At the time of his passing, Franke was survived by his wife and two daughters.

27 years ago, Ed Leslie, best known as Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, suffered serious facial injuries while parasailing in Florida. It took eight steel plates, more than forty screws, and a hundred plus staples to repair his face.

The accident would have been fatal had it not been for B. Brian Blair, who was with Leslie at the time of the accident. Leslie would make a full recovery, but would not return to the WWF until 1993 (outside of a brief comeback in 1991 as the masked Furface). Leslie was rumored to be the next man in line for the WWF Intercontinental Championship at Summerslam a month later.

24 years ago today aboard the USS Intrepid in New York City, Lex Luger (via helicopter arrival) bodyslammed WWF Champion Yokozuna.

The slam kickstarted Luger's new All-American babyface gimmick designed to make him the heir apparent to Hulk Hogan. The slam sets up an angle that ultimately led to Luger taking on Yokozuna at Summerslam. Luger would go on to defeat Yokozuna at the event, albeit via countout.

23 years ago today, WWF referee Joey Marella, adopted son of Gorilla Monsoon, is killed in an auto accident on the New Jersey Turnpike while traveling from a WWF Superstars taping in Ocean City, Maryland. He was 31.

Marella is best known as the referee for the main event at Wrestlemania III between WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant and the Summerslam 1992 main event between Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith for the Intercontinental Championship.

The accident occurred when Marella fell asleep at the wheel on the New Jersey Turnpike as he was driving home to Newark. Also in the car was Bruno Lauer, best known to wrestling fans as Harvey Whippleman. Lauer was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, while Marella was not. The seatbelt saved Bruno’s life, though he was critically injured.

17 years ago today at a Smackdown taping in Sunrise, Florida (WWE Network link), Val Venis defeated Rikishi to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

12 years ago today on RAW from Sacramento, California (WWE Network link), Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels and defeated Kurt Angle and Carlito.

Post-match, Michaels turns heel for the first time since since his brief run since his brief nWo run in 2002 (or if you prefer not to count that, the summer of 1997) when he superkicks Hogan. The surprise Sweet Chin Music sets up an angle that ultimately led to an infamous "Icon Versus Icon" match between Michaels and Hogan at Summerslam.

11 years ago today on ECW on Sci-Fi from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Big Show defeated Rob Van Dam in an extreme rules match to win the ECW World Championship.

The title change comes just one day after Van Dam had lost the WWE Championship to Edge. Two days earlier, Van Dam was arrested on drug possession charges, and as a result would serve a thirty-day suspension for a violation of the WWE's Wellness Policy.

Big Show's win makes him the first (and to this day, only) person to hold the WWF, WCW, and ECW world championships.

2 years ago today, WWE presented The Beast in the East from Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall) in Tokyo, Japan. Of note, this was the first time a WWE event aired live from Japan.

  • In a preshow dark match, Cesaro defeated Diego by submission.
  • In a preshow dark match, The Lucha Dragons (Sin Cara and Kalisto) defeated The New Day (Big E and Xavier Woods).
  • Chris Jericho defeated Neville by submission.
  • Nikki Bella defeated Paige and Tamina in a triple threat match to retain the WWE Divas Championship.
  • Brock Lesnar defeated Kofi Kingston. This was Lesnar's first non-PPV bout since 2004.
  • Finn Bálor defeated Kevin Owens to win the NXT Championship. This was the first (and to this day, only) time the NXT Championship changed hands on a main roster show.
  • John Cena and Dolph Ziggler defeated Kane and King Barrett.

It's a happy 57th birthday to Barry Clinton Windham.

The son of Blackjack Mulligan, Windham was a member of the second incarnation of The Four Horsemen. Though he won WWF tag team gold with his brother-in-law Mike Rotunda as one half of the US Express, his greatest successes came in the NWA and WCW, where he won nearly every major championship possible there, including the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1993. Windham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012 as part of the Four Horsemen.

The best of cSs on this day:

2016: Brock Lesnar’s SummerSlam opponent to be revealed on SmackDown this week (Smackdown’s second-to-last Thursday show to feature the announcement of Brock Lesnar’s Summerslam opponent—spoiler, it’s Randy Orton)

2015: Finn Balor wins NXT title from Kevin Owens at WWE Beast in the East in Tokyo, Japan (While you slept probably, Finn Balor was a half a world away defeating Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship)

2014: Ronda Rousey on CM Punk; WWE in her future? (Ronda Rousey talks wrestling ahead of UFC 175)

2013: WWE Raw segment ratings for July 1: John Cena still delivers (Breaking: John Cena still brings eyeballs)

2012: Bruno Sammartino declines WWE Hall of Fame induction invitation (The long reigning WWE Champion turns down a Hall of Fame induction again—eventually he would walk it back a few months later and take his rightful place in 2013)

2011: Shoot Angles: They Don't Always Work (S.Bruce with a brief history of shoot angles, plus ten signs a shoot angle is probably a work)

2010: Brock Lesnar’s UFC 116 victory caps off a remarkable resurrection of fortunes for his mouthpiece Paul Heyman. (Brock Lesnar BFF Paul Heyman’s feeling pretty good after Lesnar defeated Shane Carwin for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 116)

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