Today In Wrestling History 6/21: Dusty Rhodes Wins NWA Title, WCW "Negative" Tag Title Reign, More

* 34 years ago in 1981, Dusty Rhodes defeated Harley Race to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for the second time and start his longest (88 day) reign with the title. While still largely a transitional reign (to get the title on Ric Flair), it established Dusty as a level above someone like Tommy Rich, who only held the title for a few days. In doing the gimmick where the new champion takes over the former champion's scheduled defenses, he had some really interesting babyface matches early on, taking on challengers like Roddy Piper and Jimmy Valiant in Jim Crockett Promotions and Ted DiBiase in Georgia Championship Wrestling.

And here's a longer, alternate video of the match. It was shot from a different camera angle to air on Championship Wrestling from Florida.

* 27 years ago in 1988, the WWF held a Superstars of Wrestling taping in Glen Falls, New York at the Civic Center. Among some of the more notable happenings at the taping were:

Haku was crowned the new King of the WWF in a segment where all of the heels on the roster gathered in the ring. This led to a feud with the previous King, Harley Race, when he returned from intestinal surgery a few months later. It was also sort of the beginning of the crown being defended as a title, as Haku eventually became the first King to lose it in the ring. One of the hels present for the coronation was…

"Headbanger" Jos LeDuc, who made his TV debut at this taping, defeating Brian Cosetello. A veteran who was primarily a star in Tennessee and his native Quebec, he was on his last legs as a full-time wrestler. He was a very talented big man and a very good to great promo, but he was getting a bit too old and broken down, plus he had some personal issues to deal with. By the end of July, he was gone without ever appearing on the primary WWF TV shows in syndication, having only shown up on Prime Time Wrestling. His only other televised match was the above bout with Tito Santana from the July 14th Wrestling Challenge taping.

This taping also included the initial build to the first SummerSlam, as Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant attacked Randy Savage during a podium interview as Virgil made Elizabeth watch. This led to Savage challenging them to a tag team match against him and the partner of his choice (which would turn out to be the returning Hulk Hogan) at SummerSlam. Jesse Ventura was named as the special referee later in the taping.

* 22 years ago in 1993, the WWF shot two episodes Monday Night Raw (including a live show) at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. The live show was excellent, built largely around two matches. Marty Jannetty defeated Doink the Clown in a two out of three falls match that was a rematch of their bout on the previous week's show. This is one of the best matches in the early days of Raw and arguably the peak of both wrestlers' runs that year. It got a ton of time (going over 20 minutes) and is a must-watch if you're a fan of Jannetty or heel Doink.

The other big match on the show saw the 1-2-3 Kid and Razor Ramon go to a no contest. This was the big rematch of Kid's upset win on the famous May 17th show where Jannetty also won the Intercontinental Championship from Shawn Michaels. In the subsequent weeks, Razor would offer Kid increasing amounts of money (From $2,500 to $10,000 in $2,500 increments each week) to give him a rematch. Kid took the match when it hit $10,000. They had a quick main event where Kid took a lot of punishment, both intentional (a ridiculous chokeslam bump) and otherwise (slipping on a dive off the top turnbuckle). Eventually, he took advantage of a miscue, grabbed the money, and ducked into a running car to end the show.

* 20 years ago in 1995, WCW held a WCW Saturday Night taping at Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. It served as the culmination of a series of weird WCW Tag Team Title changes involving trickery with what was taped when. It started with WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat defeating the Nasty Boys with help from the Blue Bloods at a Worldwide Wrestling taping on May 3rd. Fans who sent in spoiler reports noticed nothing strange. Meanwhile, on May 21st, the Nasty Boys won the titles at the Slamboree pay-per-view in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Then it started to get weird. Nothing was amiss in spoiler reports for the TV tapings, so the first sign that something was amiss came on June 24th, when the May 3rd Worldwide match finally aired. Neither team came out with the belts, though the Nasty Boys' entrance was only shown in a super wide shot.

That's because on TV, it was being presented in the voiceovers as if Harlem Heat regained the titles. Ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta declared them "the World Tag Team Champions." Not "and still" or "and new," just "the champions." It was clearly the plan from the start, as on top of Cappetta's strange proclamation, Harlem Heat acted stunned by the turn of events when they got possession of the belts after the match. It was all a plan to be able to shoot the title change far in advance without tipping anyone off.

It turned out that Harlem Heat had already lost the titles to Bunkhouse Buck (Jimmy Golden) and Dick Slater at the June 20th WCW Saturday Night taping that got us here in the first place. While the Internet existed, as did 1-900 number hotlines, most fans who got insider wrestling news did so via snail mail newsletters that usually went to press on Tuesday evening. June 20th, 1995 was a Tuesday, so it was in the following week's newsletters. Then THAT match took a month to make it to air on top of everything else.

The Nasty Boys and Harlem Heat's reigns were the second and third "negative" title reigns (lost before they actually won them) title reigns in WCW's history, and all of the incidents involved the tag team titles. The first came in 1991 when the Fabulous Freebirds lost the titles to the Steiner Brothers at a TV taping a few days before winning them from Doom at Wrestle War '91.

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