21 years ago today, WWF tapes the 467th and final episode of Wrestling Challenge.
Debuting September 7, 1986, Wrestling Challenge (known as WWF Cavalcade in Canada) was the WWF’s B-syndicated show (Superstars of Wrestling, later Superstars was the A-show). Much like Superstars, Wrestling Challenge featured top- and mid-level talent in squash matches against jobbers, with one bout between star talent in the main event (usually). The show would include highlights of past events and promoted upcoming house shows in local markets.
The show featured exactly one title change in its nine-year history: Money Inc. defeating the Natural Disasters for the WWF Tag Team Championship on the November 1, 1992 episode (taped October 13).
The show wouldn’t entirely go away; after its final airing on August 27, the show continued on as the all-highlight show WWF Challenge for about a year (a little longer for international markets) before being dropped entirely in early 1997.
In the final taping, The Blu Brothers (Eli & Jacob) defeated Jason Arndht and Matt Hardy, Hunter Hearst Helmsley defeated Nick Barberry, and Razor Ramon defeated Tony DeVito.
17 years ago today in Toledo, Ohio, Balls Mahoney and Spike Dudley defeated The Dudley Boys (Buh Buh Ray and D-Von) to win the ECW World Tag Team Championship.
The match was originally taped for the debut episode of ECW on TNN, but would later that month on ECW Hardcore TV (WWE Network link).
17 years ago today, WCW presented Road Wild (WWE Network link) from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. 5,500 were in attendance for the free event, with 235,000 homes watching on PPV. That’s down from 365,000 buys for the 1998 event.
It is the final PPV of the Eric Bischoff era as head of WCW. The mounting losses in revenue (partly contributed by this event which made $0 at the gate for the fourth year in a row) would force Bischoff from his management position less than a month later. It is also the final Road Wild PPV, as it would be replaced with New Blood Rising the next year.
- The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr., Billy Kidman and Eddie Guerrero) defeated Vampiro and The Insane Clown Posse (Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope).
- Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) defeated Kanyon and Bam Bam Bigelow to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship.
- The Revolution (Saturn, Shane Douglas and Dean Malenko) defeated The West Texas Rednecks (Barry Windham, Curt Hennig and Bobby Duncum, Jr.).
- Buff Bagwell defeated Ernest Miller.
- Chris Benoit defeated Diamond Dallas Page in a no disqualification match to retain the WCW United States Championship.
- Sid Vicious defeated Sting.
- Goldberg defeated Rick Steiner.
- Randy Savage defeated Dennis Rodman.
- Hulk Hogan defeated Kevin Nash in a retirement match to retain the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. As a result of the loss, Nash was forced to retire. Of course, it didn’t stick. He would return two months later.
16 years ago today in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, three championships change hands on WCW Monday Nitro (WWE Network link), but only one of the three titles changed hands in a match.
The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Juventud Guerrera) defeated The Dark Carnival (Vampiro and The Great Muta) to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship. Lance Storm, at the time WCW United States, Cruiserweight (renamed the 100kg and Under Championship), and Hardcore Champion (renamed the Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title) (at the same time), gives two of his titles away.
Elix Skipper is awarded the Cruiserweight Championship (the 100 kilo and under belt), and Carl Ouelette is awarded the Hardcore Championship (the SHIT belt), though Carl would lose the title later in the show to Norman Smiley.
11 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Masahiro Chono defeated Kazuyuki Fujita in the final match to win the 2000 G1 Climax tournament. It would be Chono’s fifth G1 Climax title, a company record that still stands.
11 years ago today, TNA presented Sacrifice from the Impact Zone at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. The show featured the finals of the Super X Cup tournament to determine the challenger for Christopher Daniels’ X Division Championship at Unbreakable in September.
- in a preshow dark match, Apolo and Sonny Siaki defeated Jerelle Clark and Mikey Batts.
- Chris Sabin, Shark Boy, and Sonjay Dutt defeated David Young, Elix Skipper, and Simon Diamond.
- Alex Shelley defeated Shocker.
- Abyss defeated Lance Hoyt.
- 3 Live Kru (Konnan & Ron Killings) defeated Kip James & Monty Brown. BG James was the special referee.
- Christopher Daniels defeated Austin Aries.
- Jerry Lynn defeated Sean Waltman.
- Team Canada (A1, Bobby Roode, Eric Young & Petey Williams) defeated America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) & The Naturals (Andy Douglas & Chase Stevens).
- Samoa Joe defeated AJ Styles to win the Super X Cup.
- Jeff Jarrett & Rhino defeated Raven & Sabu. As a result of the win, Jeff Jarrett would get a shot at Raven’s NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Had Jarrett and Rhino lost, Jarrett could not challenge for the title for an entire year, regardless of who was champion.
10 years ago today on RAW from Charlottesville, Virginia (WWE Network link), Lita defeated Mickie James to win the WWE Championship.
7 years ago today, Nick Dinsmore, best known to wrestling fans as Eugene, was released from WWE just one month after returning to the company and four days after returning to WWE television. The reason for his release? According to Dinsmore’s friend Randy Orton, he put on a few extra pounds:
“He came back two weeks ago and came in a little heavy from where (management) wanted him to come in. Nick is a good friend of mine. I pulled some strings to get his job back and he comes back all overweight. So all in all, I’m a little upset with him right now.”
Dinsmore was brought back as both a wrestler and trainer to coach up the young talent. The ten-time Ohio Valley Wrestling heavyweight champion was brought back again in September 2013 as a trainer for the NXT developmental territory. He was released a third time a year later (Dinsmore was first released back in September 2007 after he failed a drug test).
Today, Dinsmore runs his own promotion, Midwest All Pro Wrestling, based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
5 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Tetsuya Naito in the final match to win the 2011 G1 Climax tournament.
5 years ago today, WWE presented Summerslam (WWE Network link) from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. A sellout crowd of 17,404 were in attendance, with 296,000 homes purchasing the event on PPV. That was down from 350,000 in 2010.
- In a preshow dark match, Dolph Ziggler defeated Alex Riley
- Kofi Kingston, John Morrison and Rey Mysterio defeated The Miz, R-Truth and Alberto Del Rio.
- Mark Henry defeated Sheamus by countout.
- Kelly Kelly defeated Beth Phoenix to retain the WWE Divas Championship.
- Wade Barrett defeated Daniel Bryan.
- Randy Orton defeated Christian in a no holds barred match to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
- CM Punk defeated John Cena in a title-for-title match to win the undisputed WWE Championship. Triple H was the special referee.
- Alberto Del Rio defeated CM Punk to win the undisputed WWE Championship. Del Rio used his Money in the Bank cash-in for the title match.
4 years ago today in Austin, Texas, WWE taped the first ever episode of Saturday Morning Slam. In the featured bout, Kofi Kingston defeated Heath Slater.
It’s a happy 35th birthday to Kofi Nahaje Sarkodie-Mensah, best known to wrestling fans as Kofi Kingston.
Born in Kumasi, Ghana, he and his family immigrated to the United States less than two years after he was born and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. Shortly after graduating from Boston College, he trained to become a professional wrestler.
Since debuting for the WWE version of ECW in 2007, Kingston has won every championship to win in WWE but the big one: Kingston is a four-time Intercontinental Champion, a three-time United States Champion, and a five-time tag team champion; his most recent runs came as 1/3 of The New Day with Xavier Woods and Big E. His second run is the longest in the history of the WWE Tag Team Championship.
It’s a happy 54th birthday to Jeff Farmer.
Born in New York City, he began his career as “Lightning” Jeff Farmer in the early 1990s, even feuding with Harlem Heat for a brief period in 1993 for WCW as one half of Thunder and Lightning. He returned to WCW in 1995 as Cobra, a military officer who was abandoned, then reported as AWOL by Sgt. Craig Pittman. The two traded victories in their short feud.
His big break came as nWo Sting in 1996 and was even a part of the War Games match at Fall Brawl pitting the nWo versus the Horsemen and the real Sting. He gained popularity as a member of nWo Japan and later TEAM 2000 as Super J. He used the nWo Sting gimmick until well into the 2000s, even winning the Ultimate Pro Wrestling heavyweight championship in 2005 as nWo Sting.
Farmer is now a project manager for a research group at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Today would have been the 55th birthday of Thomas Edward Gilbert, Jr. Wrestling fans know him best as “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert.
Born in Lexington, Tennessee, Gilbert always had a love for wrestling. He began his career in 1979 as Tommy Gilbert Jr. in honor of his father. He would make up booking sheets and matches like his idol Jerry Lawler while Gilbert was in school. He had a cup of coffee in the WWF in the early 1980s, but a serious car accident derailed his push in 1983. He would return to the company with the inspiration of then-WWF Champion Bob Backlund.
After leaving the WWF in 1984, he would wrestle for Mid-South and CWA Wrestling as Eddie Gilbert. Gilbert and Tommy Rich as “Fargo’s Fabulous Ones” would win the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship. After splitting up, the duo had a brief but intense feud before Gilbert left for the Universal Wrestling Federation in 1986, where Gilbert arguably had his greatest successes. “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert, he formed Hot Stuff International, Inc., which included a young Sting, Rick Steiner, Ultimate Warrior, Dick Murdoch, and Missy Hyatt all before they were big names. In fact, Gilbert married Missy in 1988.
As a booker, Gilbert was the brains behind the infamous “Battle of New Orleans” in 1987, a post-match brawl that would spill into the stands and involve everything from trash cans and tables to popcorn machines and beer kegs. Gilbert won best booker for Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 1988. He would remain with UWF until Jim Crockett Promotions bought UWF in 1989.
During his brief time with JCP, he would feud with the Varsity Club and the Horsemen while teaming with Rick Steiner, Ricky Steamboat, and Lex Luger. After leaving WCW, he divorced Missy and returned to the independent circuit, most notably the USWA where he feuded with his idol Jerry Lawler and in the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, a precursor to ECW. He also briefly married Madusa in 1990. He and Doug Gilbert also worked for the Global Wrestling Federation, but left in 1992 as their North American Heavyweight Champion due to a contract dispute.
His final wrestling and booking days came in 1995 for Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council. Gilbert is also credited with pioneering the wrestling shoot video when he sat down with Bob Barnett after leaving ECW in 1993. The video, Looking for Mr. Gilbert, is highly sought after among wrestling collectors.
Gilbert died of a heart attack in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico on February 18, 1995. He was just 33. Eddie’s father Tommy stated that injures he had suffered in a serious auto accident in 1993 could have been a factor. Eddie’s addiction to painkillers following the accident may have played a role in his death. For a few years following Eddie’s death, The Eddie Gilbert Memorial Brawl would be held in the Philadelphia area promoted primarily by NWA New Jersey and promoter Dennis Coraluzzo.
It’s a happy 67th birthday today to Robert Lee Backlund, or simply Bob Backlund.
Born in Princeton, Minnesota, Backlund was a phenomenal athlete in high school and college. He was a state finalist in wrestling, and a two-sport All-American as a college freshman. Wrestling for Waldorf Junior College in Forest City, Iowa, he finished in the top three in his freshman and sophomore years at 190 pounds before winning the Division II national championship at the same weight for North Dakota State in 1971. He finished 5th in the Division II Nationals in 1972.
He debuted for the AWA in 1973 under the training of Eddie Sharkey, and Backlund’s clean cut demeanor and superior technique quickly made him a fan favorite. He would work various territories for the NWA from 1974 to 1976, winning tag team championships in Georgia and Florida, and defeating Harley Race for the NWA Missouri Heavyweight title in 1976. Backlund joined the WWWF in 1977 and under the management of Arnold Skaaland, he quickly found himself in contention for the WWWF Championship against Superstar Billy Graham. He chased Graham throughout the year, but finally won the title in February 1978.
Just days after winning the title, he fought NWA world champion Harley Race to a one-hour draw. He would take on world champions of other promotions including AWA’s Nick Bockwinkel, Race, Ric Flair, NWF’s Antonio Inoki, and NWA Florida Champion Don Muraco. Backlund also won the WWF tag team championship with Pedro Morales, but under the WWF’s “one person, one belt” rule at the time, the titles were vacated. Bob would also find success overseas, as he and Inoki won the MSG Tag Team League tournament in 1980, defeating Hulk Hogan and Stan Hansen in the final (Backlund and Inoki never lost a match, winning seven of nine matches; the other two went to double countout).
Backlund’s schitck was wearing thin with fans late in his run, especially after cutting his hair and losing his muscle mass. Vince McMahon looked to get the title on new acquisition Hulk Hogan, but when Backlund decided against turning heel (and dropping the title outright to Hogan), he had dropped the title to The Iron Sheik in December 1983. Bob would never again get another shot at the WWF title in his initial run, leaving the company in August 1984. After a brief run in Pro Wrestling USA, he went into semi-retirement, coaching amateur wrestling in Connecticut.
Backlund returned to a very different WWF in 1992. He toiled in the midcard, but had a standout performance in the 1993 Royal Rumble match, going an hour and 70 seconds before being eliminated by the eventual winner, Yokozuna. A little over two months later, Backlund made his Wrestlemania debut against Razor Ramon. Ramon would defeat him in just over three minutes, giving Backlund his first television pinfall defeat.
He would turn heel following a match on WWF Superstars in 1994 against then world champion Bret Hart. He slapped Hart and applied the crossface chickenwing submission hold, only to snap back to normal horrified at what he’d done. The eccentric gimmick would lead him to the WWF Championship at Survivor Series that November. He’d lose it just three days later in Madison Square Garden to Diesel in a record eight seconds. To date, it’s the last time the WWF Championship changed hands at a house show. The eight-second record still stands as the fastest world title match in WWE history (the record has since been tied, most recently by Randy Orton’s win over Daniel Bryan at Summerslam 2013). Backlund never again reached main event status for the WWF, notably submitting in an “I Quit” match at Wrestlemania XI to his own submission hold against Bret Hart. After teasing a Presidential campaign angle, Backlund managed The Sultan (a masked Solofa Fatu, Jr.) briefly before leaving the company in 1997.
He would make sporadic appearances for the company in 2000, late in 2007 (after spending the first half of that year in TNA), and in 2012 and 2013. Earlier this year, Backlund returned to the company as the on-screen manager/life coach for Darren Young.
Backlund was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 2004, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2008, and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.