Today In Wrestling History 6/20: WWE Rehires Vince Russo, Battle Of Pro Wrestlers In MMA, & More

* 23 years ago in 1992, WCW aired the first Beach Blast event live on pay-per-view from the Mobile Civic Center in Mobile, Alabama. The card was a strange mixed bag with some excellent wrestling and really odd booking.

On the positive side: Almost every match was good or better. WCW's upper midcard to main event scene was absolutely loaded at this point with great talent. The heel side was anchored by the Dangerous Alliance of Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, and Bobby Eaton, who were complemented by the likes of Cactus Jack, Steve Williams, and Terry Gordy.The babyface side had Sting, The Steiner Brothers, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, and Nikita Koloff, plus Ron Simmons and Brian Pillman the next tier down. It was hard to have an outright bad show.

The three top matches on the card were the Steiners defending their tag titles against Williams and Gordy and two non-title matches: WCW Champion Sting vs. Cactus Jack in a match where falls count "anywhere on the Gulf Coast" and United States Champion Rick Rude vs. Ricky Steamboat in a 30 minute Iron Man Match. The non-title matches were fantastic, and two of the best American matches of the year. Steamboat beating Rude in a match that established the Iron Man gimmick to a national audience, while Sting defeated Cactus in a tremendous brawl that Mick Foley considered the best of his career up to that point. It was subsequently usurped in his mind by his PPV matches with Shawn Michaels and then Randy Orton.

The tag title match went to a 30 minute time limit draw. While it was well-worked, the pacing was just a tad too slow and it was a terrible finish to close the PPV. It was logical to close the show since the other matches were non-title and Watts was trying to strengthen the tag titles, but it just didn't click the way it should have. Their Clash of the Champions match that was taped before and aired after was much better.

The worst result was Scotty Flamingo (a.k.a. Raven) defeating Brian Pillman to win the Light Heavyweight Championship. The match was actually very solidly worked, but this was the beginning of the end of the division, which Pillman and Jushin Liger had been anchoring. Flamingo was not bad at all, but he had none of the dynamism expected from the division.

* 21 years ago in 1994 at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York the WWF shot three episodes of Monday Night Raw, including a live show. With Vince McMahon's trial about to start and SummerSlam still a ways away, the booking was in kind of a holding pattern. The only real notable happenings were that Luna Vachon made her last appearance for several years and the 1-2-3 Kid got a renewed push. On the live show, Kid beat Nikolai Volkoff to win one of the strangest number one contender matches in WWE history. The rest of the taping was used to build up his match with Bret Hart. which would be taped on July 1st and aired on July 11th, as for whatever reason that taping featured no live shows.

* 13 years ago in 2002, Vince Russo was rehired by WWE as head creative writer, supervising Raw head writer Brian Gewirtz and SmackDown head writer Paul Heyman. Within the next 48 hours, he was demoted to a consultant position, and shortly after that, he was gone.

There have never been a lot of details on what happened other than that he clearly did not endear himself to anyone with his ideas, which he insisted he wouldn't share until after he was hired. Why? He was afraid they'd steal the ideas and not hire him as revenge for leaving so suddenly in 1999.

Russo had been barred from working in wrestling by Time Warner as part of a deal where they'd pay his legal fees in Hulk Hogan's lawsuit over Russo's weird shoot promo at WCW's Bash at the Beach 2000 PPV. When the WWE offer came up, he was able to get Time Warner to waive that restriction, which opened the door for him to be able to go to TNA when he quickly got fired.

* 11 years ago in 2004, the Pride Fighting Championship ran their home building, Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan with a card dubbed Pride Critical Countdown 2004. The card was built around the quarterfinals to the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix and one of those fights was a battle of pro wrestlers: Naoya Ogawa (Olympic silver medal judoka turned NJPW and Zero-One star) vs. Giant Silva of WWF, CMLL, and NJPW fame.

While there were always suspicions about fights with pro wrestlers in Pride (and rightfully so), this one isn't especially suspicious. Ogawa was at least legit enough to beat Silva, who didn't have much going for him besides being tall. He was a really good athlete, but getting old, so Ogawa getting him to the ground and pounding him out made all the sense in the world.


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