Today In History 8/31: First "MVP" Gimmick, Doink, Terry Funk's 1st Retirement, WWF Returns, More

* 32 years ago in 1983, AJPW promoted the first ever Terry Funk retirement show at the old Kuramae Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Terry "retired" for the first time after teaming with his brother Dory to defeat Stan Hansen and Terry Gordy. On one hand, it's one of the most amazing and emotional scenes in wrestling history. Terry was the most beloved foreigner in Japanese wrestling history up to that point, thanks to he and Dory wrestling as babyfaces on the "Japanese" side before those lines got blurred. The great match combined with the aftermath of Terry screaming "FOREVER!" over and over while bloodied under a spotlight are unforgettable.


On the other hand, Terry returned a little over a year later, just in time for the annual tag team tournament. It was far from the last time he'd retire, but hey, that's part of his charm.

* 30 years ago in 1985, the WWF made its debut at what has become arguably its best building for hot crowds, the Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. A major market with a vibrant local indie scene, it's home to some of the most passionate fans around. Even better, the arena itself has great acoustics, making a hot crowd sound even hotter than they actually are. The arena went on to hold the first wrestling card marketed specifically for pay-per-view (The Wrestling Classic a few months later), three WrestleManias (each about a decade apart), as well as other memorable pay-per-views, most notably Money in the Bank 2011.


While Chicago crowds have always been great, that 2011 show, with a main event of CM Punk defeating John Cena for the WWE Championship and "leaving the company with the title," was a turning point. Before, the perception was usually that New York, WWE's long-time home city, was home to the best crowds (especially since they rarely tape TV in Toronto anymore). After,Chicago might have unseated it, though New York made a case with the SummerSlam 2015 weekend.

* 28 years ago in 1987, one of the greatest feuds in wrestling history, Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Genichiro Tenryu, had its first singles match on a AJPW card at Budokan Hall in Tokyo. They had wrestled each other a handful of times in the early '80s, but this was their first match after being a top tag team for years. In March, they lost the NWA International Tag Team Titles to the Road Warriors and Tenryu turned heel. breaking up their tag team while starting a new stable, "Revolution." The Jumbo-Tenryu feud was the state of the art when it came to heavyweight wrestling at the time. Before, AJPW had much more of an American style the NJPW did, but Tsuruta and Tenryu laid the blueprint for the new direction that the company's style went in the '90s with Mitsuharu Misawa as top star.


* 22 years ago in 1993, the WWF held a Superstars taping in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The key angle shot at the taping was that Doink the Clown cemented his babyface turn, dumping a bucket of confetti on Bam Bam Bigelow and then another one filled with water on Luna Vachon. Later in the tapings, Bigelow swore revenge, kicking off a feud that lasted, on and off, for an improbably long stretch of seven months. Doink, who had been a highlight of 1993 WWF with the gimmick of an evil, creepy clown who happened to be a technical wrestling genius, was completely neutered, defanged, or whatever other euphemism you prefer.

In addition, Matt Borne was let go early in the feud, and he was the reason the Doink gimmick worked in the first place. On top of that, Gary Fall replaced him and didn't do anything close to as good a job, though the face turn limited him badly on top of being an inferior performer to Borne. On top of that, a few months later, Claude "Tiger Jackson" Giroux joined the act as Dink, Doink's little buddy, further changing Doink's persona. Meanwhile Bigelow, who looked to be gearing up for a run as a main event heel, was ruined for the rest of his stint as a heel in the WWF. Babyface Doink was poisonous for any heel who he worked with.


Also on the tapings, Steve Lombardi debuted his MVP gimmick, which evolved into Abe "Knuckleball" Schwartz. His face was painted like a baseball and it just didn't work, if just because it was so obviously the Brooklyn Brawler with makeup. Only the 1994 baseball players strike kept the gimmick alive as a way to make fun of Major League Baseball.

* 21 years ago in 1994, the WWF held a Superstars taping in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Of note:

"British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith made his in-ring return after almost two years away, having just come back as an ally of Bret Hart at SummerSlam. While he played his role well and was an important part of the Hart family feud, he didn't really click in this run until he turned heel a year later. It was then that he found himself as a personality, his in-ring work improved, and his upped his standing to being in rotation as a main event heel capable of challenging the WWF Champion. Oh, and he finally cut his hair when he turned, abandoning a look that never worked for him.

King Kong Bundy returned after close to seven years away with vignettes and a quick squash match win. Nothing against Bundy, as he was still relatively young (he's four months younger than Bret Hart), could do solid interviews, and was not a bad wrestler for his size, but his hiring shows the kind of state of flux the WWF was in at the time. He just did not fit in the way he did when he left, and he didn't get the push that a returning top heel deserved.


Samu made his last appearance as one half of The Headshrinkers with Fatu. He left the company and was replaced by The Barbarian as Sionne (his real first name)... in an angle that had already aired when Samu's last match aired. Remember, the taping schedule was a bit jumbled that Summer. Samu's presence was explained on TV as there being three Headshrinkers, and any two could team in a match they were signed for, a la Demolition, The Fabulous Freebirds, New Day, and so on. In this case, since it was a trick to hide the shows out of order, Samu never returned.

Doink the Clown and Jerry Lawler started their feud, Lawler destroyed Dink's tricycle, while Dink retaliated by putting a pie on Lawler's seat at the commentary as Doink distracted him on the proto-TitanTron. This was the nadir of Lawler in the WWF. Even though he was less than three months removed from main eventing a major pay-per-view event (King of the Ring '94 vs. Roddy Piper), he was put in a weird comedy feud with the black hole that was the babyface version of Doink (portrayed by Gary "Ray Apollo" Fall, not to be confused with fellow New England indie mainstay "Playboy" Phil/Vince Apollo). It was not exactly a dignified role for one of the best all-around talents in the history of the pro wrestling business.