Today In Wrestling History 8/11: Rick Rude Returns As Shawn Michaels' Bodyguard, End Of AWA, & More

* 25 years ago in 1990, the AWA ran the final TV taping of its 30 year history at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Starting around 1987, the AWA had largely ceased to be a full-time wrestling promotion, instead existing almost solely to produce TV for ESPN and some syndicated stations on top of running VERY occasional house shows (think TNA in 2016). They moved their TV tapings to Minnesota in 1989, picking a building that was relatively decent for hiding small crowds. There were two matches/angles of note at the taping:

D.J. Peterson (also known as Dave Peterson) and The Trooper (Del "The Patriot" Wilkes) defeated The Destruction Crew (Mike Enos and Wayne "The Train" Bloom) to win the AWA World Tag Team Championship, leaving them as the final title holders. Trooper and The Destruction Crew were the last real young prospects the AWA had, and were valuable enough that WCW brought in Enos and Bloom under masks earlier in the year as Minnesota Wrecking Crew II to feud with the Steiner Brothers when Ole and Arn Anderson were injured a few months earlier. They had a solid match, it was a nice moment, and most fans never heard from the AWA again.

The AWA was still running smaller shows from time to time, and they kept the syndicated show on in a handful of markets (their home market in the Twin Cities, of course, but also New York for a while) as a vehicle for older matches. In the Twin Cities, it was used to promote the local shows, which ran well into 1991. In the above video, you can see how The Destruction Crew were magically the champions again while the show was used to shoot an angle for a high school fundraiser the AWA booked.

Also on the final TV taping, they blew off the Team Challenge Series after a year. In the TCS, everyone in the promotion was divided into three teams: Larry Zbyszko captaining Larry's Legends, Baron Von Raschke captaining Baron's Blitzers, and Sgt. Slaughter captaining Sarge's Snipers. Slaughter left right before the end, so his team became Col. DeBeers leading DeBeers' Diamond Cutters. Somehow, Different matches (sometimes weird ones like the above Great American Turkey Hunt with a frozen turkey on a pole in an empty pink room) would have different point values with the winning team (or captain?) getting $100,000. It somehow ended with winner takes all battle royal, which long-time jobber Jake "The Milkman" Millman won for Larry's Legends, who immediately abandoned him.

Not the most dignified end for this promotion.

* 24 years ago in 1991, Masahiro Chono defeated Keiji Mutoh to win NJPW's first annual G1 Climax tournament at Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo. The match has become legendary for a few reasons. First, obviously it set the tone since it was the first G1. Chono becoming the winningest wrestler in G1 history became a huge part of Chono's legacy, as he was dubbed "Mr. August" en route to winning a total of five tournaments from 1991 to 2005. It's especially big when you consider that only Chono, Hiroyoshi Tenzan (three), Kensuke Sasaki (two), and Kazuchika Okada (two) have won the G1 more than once.On top of all that, the finals became famous for the fans celebrating the great match and the emotional release of the finish by throwing pillows at the ring.

Yes, pillows. See, being a sumo venue with various sumo-specific traditions, the permanent seating in Sumo Hall is made up of boxes instead of chairs. They're awful to sit in, so pillows were sold to make it easier. The fans were so excited they wanted to showed the wrestlers with something, so they just started throwing their pillows.

Well, sort of. It wasn't quite that spontaneous. The night before, Mutoh clinched his spot in the finals by defeating Vader in an even better match (similar to the later Vader vs. Sting matches), but it wasn't the big one and, for some reason, was not taped for TV or home video by NJPW. Thanks to a fan, we get to see it. Anyway, the finish here, with the excitement over the match and Mutoh winning, was the actual big spontaneous moment. The next night, for the finals, it was the fans realizing that this would be their "thing" to do at the finish, and this time it would be on TV.

The Japan Sumo Association, who owns Sumo Hall, reacted by banning the pillows from pro wrestling shows. Oops.

* 18 years ago in 1997, the WWF ran a live Raw is War from the Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. The show was built around the main event of Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind and Michaels' claim that he was bringing a new "insurance policy" with him. First, Dude Love did an interview talking about both the main event his "friend" Mankind would be having and the injury suffered by his tag team partner Steve Austin at SummerSlam. Michaels interrupted on the TitanTron, declaring that Dude Love needs to stop aiming to be like him because "You're not me. You'll never be me."

The match was a wild brawl and an excellent TV main event, though not the epic that their pay-per-view match in September 1996 was. It was one of the better matches on American TV that year, up there with Michaels and Austin vs. Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith a few months earlier. While Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Chyna walked to ringside (remember, they were feuding with Mankind), the new "insurance policy" was Rick Rude, who returned by hitting Mankind with a chair to help Michaels get the win. This was kind of the prologue to DX forming, with Chapter 1 being the Michaels and Helmsley vs. Mankind and The Undertaker match on Raw the following week.


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