Today In Wrestling History 8/23: Triple H Wins His First World Title, The Birth Of Akeem, & More

* 27 years ago in 1988, the WWF taped three weeks of Superstars of Wrestling shows in front of a sold-out crowd of 13,800 at the Civic Center in Providence, Rhode island. Of note:

With the first annual SummerSlam pay-per-view taking place at Madison Square Garden just days later, they did the usual fake title switch to explain why someone other than the champion was wearing a belt later in the taping. In an angle, at the previous taping set to air the weekend of SummerSlam, Ron Bass injured Brutus Beefcake, busting him open with spurs and keeping him from being able to wrestle Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam. Here, The Ultimate Warrior did what he would do at the PPV, and squashed HTM in an early dark match. The decision was overturned and the title returned at the end of the taping.

Also on these shows, the One Man Gang was repackaged in one of the most bizarre segments ever to air on WWF programming. Gene Okerlund arranged to meet Slick, who would then escort him to "Deepest, Darkest, Africa" for an assignment. Instead, they met in what was clearly supposed to be a black ghetto of some kind, with Slick (carrying a boom box) saying he would bring Africa to Gene. Then "African tribal dancers" started dancing around a flaming oil drum, out of which emerged Akeem, the African Dream. It was the One Man Gang wearing a dashiki with his hair grown out and "talking jive."

In other words, he was a white guy who "thought he was black," a parody of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. Akeem and Slick danced out of the skit while "Jive Soul Bro" played on their boom box. As Okerlund tried to wrap up the segment, the "Africans" descended on him and he ran away, trying to hail a cab. The whole thing is wrong and ridiculous in many ways, yet somehow still strangely entertaining.

The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers continued their heel turn by announcing that they had hired a new manager: "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart. Hart had been dumped by the Hart Foundation when they turned babyface, but he still owned their contracts, which is why he was allowed at ringside in Demolition's corner at SummerSlam. As a gift to his new proteges, he gave them the rights to the Harts' contracts, which meant they'd be paid extra each ight and started the feud between the two teams.

* 16 years ago in 1999, the WWF aired a live Raw is War on USA Network from Hilton Cliseum in Ames, Iowa. The big story of the show was the ascension of Triple H coming off of Mankind's surprise WWF Championship win the night before at SummerSlam.

Triple H ambushed Jim Ross, threatening to break his arm if Mankind didn't give him a title shot in the main event. Mankind agreed, and then Triple H broke Ross's arm anyway. As a result, Michael Cole sat in for the rest of the show. In the main event, with Shane McMahon as referee and The Rock at ringside doing guest color commentary, the match built up to one big spot. They were on the floor when Triple H nailed Mankind with a chair shot to the head. He paused for a beat, only to spin around and nail The Rock in the head as well in one smooth motion. Not something you'd ever see today, and for good reason, but it was a tremendous moment. From there, the Pedigree and title change were academic.

Early on, Triple H wasn't clicking as top heel. Something seemed off. Maybe it was because Chyna didn't really work as part of his act being that she was a total babyface in her own programs. Whatever it was, it took a few months. When Stephanie McMahon turned heel as his wife and he retired Mick Foley, that put him over the top, and he was on fire from there.

They also aired the first in what was scheduled to be a series of segments about "The Blonde Bytch Project." In a parody of The Blair Witch Project, Stevie Richards and The Blue Meanie would go out researching the legend of the "Blonde Bytch," who was apparently Sable/Rena Mero/Rena Lesnar. Her lawsuit against the WWF for sexual harassment amongst other things had been settled less than two weeks earlier. Someone must've realized that this was a bad idea, because there was never a second Blonde Bytch Project segment.

Chris Jericho continued his journey from an amazing, seemingly star making debut, to the the midcard. With Howard Finkel as his new lackey a la Ralphus in WCW, he continued his program with Road Dogg that started the night before at SummerSlam. A comedy sidekick running out to The Ultimate Warrior's music was not what Jericho needed at this point, and it definitely hurt him for a while. It took him turning babyface to really start to get where he needed to be.


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