55 years ago today in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Bruno Sammartino defeated Buddy Rogers to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Sammartino, however, refused the title due to Rogers suffering a groin injury during the match.
25 years ago today in Baltimore, Maryland, Ron Simmons defeated Big Van Vader to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Simmons was the benefit of good fortune that night. Sting, the originally scheduled challenger, was taken out of the world title match by the debuting Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
You may remember Roberts from his six-year run in the WWF. His run ended following Wrestlemania VIII when he did not get a position on the creative team in the wake of Pat Patterson being involved in a sexual harassment scandal. Feeling betrayed, Roberts threatened to no-show Wrestlemania unless he was granted an outright release following the event.
Just before Roberts’ 90 day no-compete clause expired, Kip Allan Frey stepped down from WCW and was replaced by Bill Watts. Because Roberts and Watts had issues dating back to their days in Mid-South Wrestling, Jake ended up taking a massive paycut (as he estimated in the 2006 DVD Pick Your Poison, Roberts went from making $3.5 million a year to just $200,000 annually), with the contract Jake signed with Frey made null and void.
With Roberts taking out Sting, a raffle was held to determine who would get the shot, and Simmons got the lucky draw.
With his win in the evening’s main event, Simmons became the first African-American to hold a major world title in wrestling, though some dispute that the first to do so was Bobo Brazil in the early 1960s (Bobo won the title from Buddy Rogers in 1962; Brazil refused the title when Rogers claimed a groin injury. However, a later medical exam revealed that Rogers was not injured, leading the title change to stand. This reign, lasting for a little over two months, is not recognized by NWA.).
Simmons’ run as world champion didn’t last long either: in what would be one of Bill Watts’ final acts as WCW boss, he put the world title back on Vader in late December. As for Roberts, his run in WCW lasted barely more than a cup of coffee, leaving the company after just three months.
19 years ago today, ECW presented Heatwave '98 (WWE Network link) from the Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio. 4,376 were in attendance, with about 73,000 homes watching on PPV, though some estimates have it as high as 100,000 homes. In any event, it's the most watched ECW PPV in the company's brief history.
- In a dark match, Balls Mahoney & Axl Rotten defeated the FBI (Tracey Smothers & Little Guido).
- Justin Credible defeated Jerry Lynn.
- Chris Candido defeated Lance Storm.
- Masato Tanaka defeated Mike Awesome.
- Sabu & Rob Van Dam defeated Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki to retain the ECW World Tag Team Championship.
- Taz defeated Bam Bam Bigelow via submission in a falls count anywhere match to retain the FTW Championship.
- Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, and Spike Dudley defeated Buh Buh Ray, D-Von, and Big Dick Dudley.
14 years ago today, Full Impact Pro Wrestling is born from the Arena in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Created by Sal Hamaoui, FIP based out of Florida was a sister promotion to Ring of Honor. The two promotions worked with one another until 2009. The next year, Hamaoui along with former ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky created the World Wrestling Network, which included Dragon Gate USA and its flagship promotion, Evolve Wrestling (Dragon Gate USA folded in 2014; WWNLive in recent years has added Shine Wrestling in 2012 and Style Battle earlier this year. Viva La Lucha and American Combat Wrestling are also a part of WWN).
Full Impact Pro went dark from November 2011 to February 2013, but has resumed running shows about once a month since.
FIP events can be streamed on FloSlam, a collaboration of WWNLive and FloSports.
- Hector Guerrero defeated Aaron Epic
- The Hellraizers (Axis & Python) defeated The Heartbreak Express (Phil Davis & Sean Davis)
- Kahagas defeated Dagon Briggs and Thunderbolt Norton in a three-way dance
- Steve Madison defeated Jaison Moore
- Mike Graham defeated Steve Madison
- Kid Romeo defeated Big Wood in a Male Review match.
- David Young defeated Gangrel by disqualification.
- Mike Awesome defeated Justin Credible and New Jack in a three-way dance.
12 years ago today at a Velocity taping in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Nunzio defeated Paul London to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. This is the only title change in the four-year history of Velocity.
9 years ago today, Ric Flair was released from WWE just four months after his retirement match at Wrestlemania XXIV, citing he wanted to work outside of the company when doing appearances.
Flair, who requested his release, began his second and longest run with the company in late 2001 as the storyline co-owner of the WWF.
He returned to the ring in 2002 and would be a part of the Four Horsemen-inspired group Evolution. Flair would complete the WWE triple crown during his second run with an Intercontinental Championship and three world tag team titles. Flair was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before his retirement match.
Flair would join TNA in 2010, and would have his last professional match just before Bound for Glory in September 2011. In May 2012, Flair tried to get fired from TNA, leading to the company filing a tampering lawsuit. Flair would eventually be fired from the promotion.
Flair returned to WWE in December 2012 and has been with the company in an ambassadorial role ever since.
9 years ago today, Ring of Honor presented Death Before Dishonor VI from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.
- The Briscoe Brothers (Jay & Mark Briscoe) defeated The Vulture Squad (Ruckus & Jigsaw).
- Chris Hero defeated Delirious.
- Eddie Edwards defeated Roderick Strong.
- Brent Albright defeated Adam Pearce to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
- Austin Aries defeated Jimmy Jacobs and Necro Butcher.
- Naomichi Marufuji defeated Go Shiozaki.
- Kevin Steen & El Generico defeated the Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin).
- Nigel McGuinness defeated Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, and Tyler Black in a four-way elimination match to retain the ROH World Championship.
It’s a happy 53rd birthday for Jorge Ernesto Guzman Rodriguez, but lucha libre fans know him best as the legendary El Hijo de Santo.
Sometimes called “Santito”, Jorge would be the only child of ten to follow his legendary father’s footsteps into the wrestling business. Beginning his career without his father’s blessing in February 1982, he would don the legendary silver mask, tights, and cape worn by El Santo by the end of the year after he finished college.
Though he never became the cultural icon his father did, El Hijo de Santo would become successful in his own right, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1983, and winning the UWA World Lightweight Championship in 1985. He added the UWA and WWA’s welterweight titles in 1991. Late that year, he landed in the newly formed AAA.
His signature feud in AAA came in 1994 against the American stable Los Gringos Locos, culminating in a classic hair versus masks match at When Worlds Collide. The duo of El Hijo de Santo and Octagon defeated La Pareja del Terror, Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero. Santito left for CMLL the next year following objections to an evil El Santo angle.
Perhaps El Hijo de Santo’s biggest rival Jose Casas Ruiz, aka Negro Casas. In 1987, Santito defeated Negro Casas in a luchas de aspuestas (bet match; in this case, for Negro Casas’ hair). The feud reignited when Santo joined CMLL in 1995. The two met at the 63rd anniversary show in September 1996, with Casas winning. The match began a double turn for the two men, with Casas turning face during Santo’s absence.
El Hijo de Santo joined the rudo side when he, disguised as El Felino (Negro Casas’ brother), joined Scorpio Jr. and Bestia Salvaje in an assault on Casas. Fans were so irate, fist fights broke out in the crowd. The feud ended at CMLL’s 64th anniversary show in September 1997, with Santo avenging his defeat from the previous anniversary show. El Hijo de Santo would eventually rejoin the side of the tecnicos following the bout, and believe it or not, the two rivals won the CMLL world tag titles together in March 1999. Save for a brief spell in 2000 (when he had a disagreement with management) and a sabbatical in 2002, El Hijo de Santo remained in CMLL until 2004.
Since leaving CMLL, El Hijo de Santo has wrestled primarily on Mexico’s independent circuit and ran his own promotion, Todo x el Todo. In 2007, the promotion ran a “25 Year Anniversary Show” celebrating El Hijo de Santo’s 25 years in the wrestling business; the show aired on Televisa, the leading TV network for Hispanic American audiences (this was seen as an accomplishment, as Televisa rarely aired independent promotions). He would lose three times on the show, but won the main event of a Revelos Suicidas tournament (losers advance, and the winning team had to fight one another in a bet match), unmasking Pentagon Black in the final.
The next year, El Hijo de Santo was honored by the World Boxing Council as the WBC Wrestling Champion for his contributions to the wrestling business. Though it was an honorary title, he defended it a few times, including on a tour in London, England.
His last championship win came in May 2013 when he and Blue Demon Jr. defeated Brian Cage and Derek Sanders for the Pro Wrestling Revolution tag team championship. That November, Santo announced he was taking an indefinite leave to repair damage in his spinal area. The damage was worse than imagined, and in February 2014, El Hijo de Santo retired after 32 years in the wrestling business. One of his sons has followed him into the wrestling business. Originally wrestling as El Nieto del Santo and Tempestad, he recently adopted the ring name El Santo Jr.
Like his father, El Hijo de Santo has crossed over into mainstream Mexican media, appearing in several films, most notably Infraterrestre in 2000 and Mil Mascaras vs. The Aztec Mummy in 2007. He was the star of an animated series for Cartoon Network Mexico in 2004 entitled Santo Contra Los Clones, or Santo Versus the Clones. He’s also dabbled in charity work, becoming the spokesperson for environmental non-profit Wildcoast.
El Hijo de Santo, undefeated in luchas de apuestas (wager matches such as mask versus mask; he’s won 64 of 64), was ranked among the top 20 singles wrestlers in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2003 and 2004, and is among the top 100 singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003. In 1997, El Hijo de Santo was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.