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This Day in Wrestling History (May 28): Happy Birthday Seth Rollins!

this day in wrestling history

51 years ago today in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Crusher & Dick The Bruiser defeated Larry Hennig & Harley Race to win the AWA World Tag Team Championship.

41 years ago today, Satoru Sayama makes his professional wrestling debut for New Japan Pro Wrestling against Shoji Kai.

Weighing just 160 pounds, Sayama rarely appeared on a New Japan card in his early years, so he was sent out on an excursion not only for experience, but to bulk up. After five years of wrestling in England and Mexico, he would return as the first incarnation of one of New Japan’s most popular characters, Tiger Mask (based on the anime of the same name).

On consecutive days in May 1982, Sayama as Tiger Mask won the NWA and WWF junior heavyweight championships, making him the first and only man hold both titles simultaenously. He held both championships until vacating them due to injury the following April.

After regaining both the NWA and WWF junior heavyweight titles in June 1983, Sayama shocked the puro world by retiring at age 25 in August. He became a martial arts trainer before returning to the ring for the Japanese version of the Universal Wrestling Federation in 1984. Just a year later, Sayama left the promotion following a match against Akira Maeda that turned into a shoot.

Post-retirement, Sayama wrote a book on his experiences in the business and pulled back the curtain for a Japanese audience. He founded Shooto, a martial arts discipline based on shoot wrestling. Sayama left the organization of the same name in 1996 after a disagreement with management.

Sayama returned to wrestling, sometimes competing, sometimes as a trainer, sometimes as a promoter (he founded Real Japan Pro Wrestling in 2005). He wrestled as recently as June 2016.

21 years ago today, WWF presented In Your House 8: Beware of Dog 2 (WWE Network link) from the North Charleston Coliseum in North Charleston, South Carolina.

The event was a make-good to home viewers that ordered Beware of Dog two days earlier when a severe thunderstorm knocked out power to the area for most of the show.

The home audience got three matches live in addition to the two matches that did go on when there was power in the area, while the live crowd got a full card, including a WWF Superstars taping. For results of the Beware of Dog 2 event, click here.

17 years ago today in Monterrey, Mexico, El Hijo del Santo defeated Blue Panther to win the World Wrestling Association World Welterweight Championship for the seventh time.

16 years ago today, Brian Lawler was released after he had been arrested on drug possession charges in Calgary, where RAW is WAR was taking place that evening. This, despite the fact that WWF explicit warned its roster about crossing the border with contraband.

Brian, son of wrestling legend Jerry Lawler, joined the WWF in 1997 as part of their new light heavyweight division. The next year, he would form a tag team with Scott Taylor as Too Much (Brian was “Too Sexy”, while Scott was “Too Hot”).

The duo later became Too Cool, with Brian renamed Grandmaster Sexay and Scott renamed Scotty 2 Hotty. Joined by Rikishi, the trio became one of the most popular acts in the WWF, with Scott and Brian winning the WWF Tag Team Championship in May 2000. When Scotty was sidelined with a broken ankle in early 2001, Brian formed a tag team with Steve Blackman.

Following his release, he went to World Wrestling All-Stars and TNA before returning to WWE in April 2004. He wrestled just four matches for the company before he was released again just a month later. Lawler made a couple appearances on WWE programming since then, but has mostly been on the independent circuit since.

In an unrelated story, members of the Hart family were in attendance for RAW that night, patriarch Stu, oldest sons Smith and Bruce and daughters Diana and Ellie). Martha, the widow of Owen Hart, said that it would be "disgusting" if any member of the family showed up considering she was in litigation with the WWF. The appearances of some of the Hart family members drove a wedge in the family, including Martha who did not speak to Stu or Helen again until just prior to Helen’s death.

On that evening’s show, Chris Jericho defeated The Big Show to win the WWF Hardcore Championship... only to lose the title moments later to Rhyno.

In the show’s main event, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Chris Benoit via “submission” to retain the WWF Championship. Yes, it was YET ANOTHER MONTREAL SCREWJOB-esque finish.

14 years ago today, NWA announces via press release that Dan Severn has been stripped of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The press release in part:

"We regret that Dan Severn could not change his schedule to appear on the first NWA-TNA Pay Per View," said NWA President Jim Miller. "Dan Severn represented the NWA well during his two reigns as champion and proved with his difficult decision that he is truly a man of his word who could not honorably cancel a previous booking even if it meant losing the NWA World Heavyweight title. We look forward to having a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion crowned in Huntsville on 6/19/02."

It was a cover-up, you see. TNA had leased the NWA World Championship and their tag titles for five years and in reality, TNA for whatever reason had no interest in bringing Dan Severn in. The title would go to winner of TNA’s first main event, a 20-man gauntlet battle royal. Severn’s old WWF and UFC rival Ken Shamrock won it.

15 years ago today, WWE announced that Paul Heyman and Brian Gewirtz would head the Smackdown and RAW creative teams going forward.

Heyman remained on the Smackdown team until 2005 when he became the head booker for WWE's developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling. Heyman briefly returned to the creative team in 2006, overseeing the rebooted ECW until he was sent home following the disastrous December to Dismember event.

Gewirtz would remain the head writer for RAW until 2012, but would remain on staff in a consulting position until leaving WWE in 2015. Brian now works as an executive for Seven Bucks Entertainment, the production company founded by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and his ex-wife Dany Garcia.

9 years ago today, Mark Madden, best known for his brief time as color analyst for WCW, was fired from ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh a week after his remarks regarding US Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy, who had been recently diagnosed with brain cancer. The words that got him fired:

"I'm very disappointed to hear that Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts is near death because of a brain tumor. I always hoped Senator Kennedy would live long enough to be assassinated.

"I wonder if he got a card from the Kopechnes."

For those wondering why the statements were offensive, two of Ted's brothers Robert and John were both assassinated (John while as President of the United States).

The Kopechnes was in reference to Mary Jo Kopechne, the woman who drowned when she was the passenger of a car Ted drove in July 1969, after which he fled the scene and did not report the accident in a timely manner (the tragedy is loosely known as the Chappaquiddick incident).

Though the radio station, WEAE, initially didn't punish Madden for the comments (other than an ordered apology from station management), ESPN, which owned the station at the time, came down with the banhammer.

It didn't help that Madden had been in hot water with the worldwide leader in sports for months, especially following a meeting with them the previous December regarding his on-air demeanor.

Today, the controversial Madden is still doing radio in Pittsburgh for 105.9 The X.

8 years ago today, Time Warner announces that AOL would be spun off as an independent company, effectively ending the largest merger in American history.

The mega-merger, which contributed to the demise of WCW, was billed as a blend of old media and new media, but the blend never materialized thanks in part to the dot-com bubble bursting, affordable broadband Internet, and ineffective management.

In the eight years and four months the companies were merged, Time Warner’s stock plunged 77%. AOL’s stock nose-dived nearly 99% ($147 billion at the time of the merger, down to just $2 billion on the day the split was made official).

With an estimated $277.5 billion lost in market cap, the AOL-Time Warner merger is often regarded as one of the biggest disasters in the history of American business.

8 years ago today, Midway Games announced that they were accepting offers for the company's assets.

The company most famously known for hit video game series such as Galaga, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, and Pac-Man (among many, many others, including TNA Impact in 2007), would mostly end up being acquired by Warner Bros. for $33 million. The TNA license did not go with the sale; that wound up going to Southpeak Games, which only has rights to a handheld game.

8 years ago today, John Tolos died of kidney failure in Los Angeles, California. He was 78.

Born September 18, 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Tolos grew up watching pro wrestling matches at the Hamilton Municipal Pool, but he took interest in amateur wrestling. Training with his older brother Chris, he learned wrestling under “Wee” Willie Davis while working in garment manufacturing.

The brothers Tolos, known as the Canadian Wrecking Crew, began wrestling in 1951. Their rough style led them to capturing tag titles in many territories across North America, including the Pacific Coast in 1953, the WWWF United States tag titles in 1963 (from Gorilla Monsoon and Killer Kowaslki), three versions of the NWA world tag team titles (Florida and Detroit in 1964, Vancouver in 1967), the Canadian tag titles in 1967, the NWA International tag titles three times in Toronto, and a fourth time for Stampede Wrestling.

Tolos also had a massively successful singles career as “The Golden Greek”, most notably a long-standing feud with Freddie Blassie in the Los Angeles territory in the early 1970s. On August 27, 1971, a few months after Tolos blinded Blassie with Monsel powder, the two met in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with nearly 26,000 fans in attendance (though Blassie and Tolos both contended it was a bigger crowd).

Younger fans may know Tolos as “Coach”, the manager of Mr. Perfect and The Beverly Brothers in 1991. After Mr. Perfect lost the WWF Intercontinental Championship to Bret Hart at Summerslam, Perfect, real name Curt Hennig, would be sidelined with what was thought to be a career-ending back injury. With the Beverly Brothers taking on a new manager in The Genius, Tolos quietly left the company.

His last notable run came for Herb Abrams’ Universal Wrestling Federation, where he served as manager for Cowboy Bob Orton, Cactus Jack, and The Power Twins, as well as provided color commentary for UWF’s weekly show, Fury Hour.

A series of heart attacks and strokes left Tolos in a frail state in his final years. On May 29, 2009, Tolos died of kidney failure. He was 78. At the time of his passing, he was survived by his son Chris Jr., daughter Tracy, and sister Mary. John’s older brother Chris died of cancer in August 2005.

4 years ago today, Eugene "Buck" Zumhofe, self-proclaimed wrestling's original rock ‘n roller, was arrested on 12 felony counts of criminal sexual misconduct.

Zumhofe's daughter alleged that he committed as many as 1,800 separate acts of sexual abuse from 1999 to 2011. This wasn't the first time Zumhofe got busted for such a charge: he was jailed for similar charges in 1986 and 1989 (the former forced him to vacate the AWA light heavyweight championship).

Zumhofe used mostly as enhancement talent in the early and mid-1990s, ran his own promotion in the upper Midwest, Rock ‘n Roll Wrestling.

In March 2014, Zumhofe was convicted on all twelve counts. During his sentencing in May, Buck tried to flee the courthouse, but was quickly nabbed by courthouse officials. He got an escape from custody charge, but no additional jail time, as the sentence for that charge will run concurrent with the sentence on the other charges. That sentence: 25 years, 10 months in prison. In addition, upon his release, he must register as a sex offender.

Zumhofe is eligible for parole, but not until 2031, seventeen years into his sentence.

It’s a happy 31st birthday to Colby Daniel Lopez, best known to wrestling fans as Seth Rollins.

Before his successes in WWE, Lopez as Tyler Black won the Ring of Honor world and tag team titles and headed that promotion's top heel stable, the Age of the Fall from 2007 to 2009. In 2011, he signed with WWE. In their developmental territory, Lopez, now known as Seth Rollins, won every championship available in FCW (heavyweight, tag team, Jack Brisco 15). In July 2012, he became the first NXT champion, defeating Jinder Mahal in the finals of a tournament.

He debuted with the WWE late that year as part of a three-man riot squad known as The Shield. And he quickly found success there too. The group, which included Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, went unbeaten for about six months. Rollins and Reigns won the WWE Tag Team Championship less than a week after their first loss. In July 2014, just one month after breaking up The Shield, Rollins won the Money in the Bank briefcase, enabling him to challenge for the WWE Championship at any time for up to one year. He used that one shot during the main event of Wrestlemania 31, defeating Roman Reigns to win the WWE world title from Brock Lesnar.

Rollins held the championship until suffering a knee injury in November 2015 during a match against Kane. Estimated to miss as many as nine months, Rollins returned after just over six months away, attacking Roman Reigns following the main event of Extreme Rules. The next month at Money in the Bank, Rollins handed Reigns his first clean pinfall defeat since joining the main roster when he defeated him for the WWE Championship. He would the title for all of two minutes, as he was quickly defeated for it in a Money in the Bank cash-in by Dean Ambrose.

After failing to win the WWE World Championship at Battleground and the newly created WWE Universal Championship later that summer, he would have an extended feud with Triple H, beginning the night after Summerslam when he Pedigreed Rollins en route to Kevin Owens winning the vacated Universal title. The feud ended at Wrestlemania 33 in an unsanctioned match when Rollins defeated Triple H with a Pedigree.

Lopez, a fan of the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Cardinals, has a wrestling academy with former tag team partner Marek Brave in Moline, Illinois. He adopted his current in-ring name from Henry Rollins, former lead singer of Black Flag.

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