Today In History 9/2: Triple H Awarded World Heavyweight Championship, Brian Pillman Heel Turn, More

* 23 years ago in 1992, WCW ran the 20th Clash of the Champions live on Superstation TBS from Center Stage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. The Show was used to commemorate the 20th anniversary of pro wrestling on TBS (formerly WTCG), going back to Georgia Championship Wrestling. With Center Stage being the spiritual successor to TBS's studios on Techwood Drive, it sort of made sense for the show to be there, though it made for a bit of an underwhelming atmosphere compared to running an arena. Various WCW and TBS executives were there in tuxedos, plus Ted Turner sent in a video message. A number of legendary wrestlers appeared as guests as well, including Bruno Sammartino and Andre the Giant. This was Andre's last American pro wrestling appearance, and apparently seeing him on a WCW show upset Vince McMahon.

There were various segments devoted to nostalgia and the best wrestlers ever on TBS, but there was a bit of a hiccup: The TBS archive only went back to about 1983, late in the GCW era. To rectify this, WCW asked for help from local fans, it paid off, with fans like future WCW announcer Scott Hudson sending the promotion footage from their tape collections. The videos were awesome, and a great bit of nostalgia that most fans hadn't seen in over a decade of stars like the Fabulous Freebirds, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Ole Anderson, Roddy Piper, and more.

The show was kind of mundane in the ring thanks to some odd matchmaking. The highlight was Ricky Steamboat defeating Steve Austin to win the WCW Television Championship in the opener. This was a non-title match with no disqualifications and Paul E. Dangerously above the ring in a cage, and the no DQ stipulation seemingly had a single purpose: Steamboat winning with the flying body press while dives off the top rope were still illegal. They would have better matches in the 1994 incarnation of their feud as well as their 1993 tag team feud, but this was an excellent bout.

The show also featured a moment that was simultaneously sad and exciting. WCW Light Heavyweight Champion Brad Armstrong was unable to defend against Brian Pillman due to a knee injury, so WCW Vice President of Wrestling Operations Bill Watts stripped him of the title. Watts said they'd soon announce the date and location of the tournament...which never happened. That was the sad part, and worse, when WCW started name dropping the cruiserweight division in late 1994, it was close to a year and a half before the title was actually created. The exciting part was that Brian Pillman turned heel for the first time in his career, cutting a great, scathing promo on Armstrong and slapping him. While he was a great babyface, he was way more into being a heel, and it showed.

* 13 years ago in 2002, WWE had a famous episode of Raw from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as Triple H was awarded the newly created and generically named World Heavyweight Championship by Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff. This was early in the brand split, when the Undisputed WWE CHampion was supposed to float between the Raw and SmackDown brands, but SmackDown GM signed Lesnar to an exclusive contract. Since the claim the Undisputed Championship was now disputed, he brought back the "Big Gold" belt used by the NWA and WCW to represent the title. Triple H had won a shot at Lesnar, so he was awarded the title to put heat on him as a heel.

With Triple H being awarded "his" belt, Ric Flair was angry and confronted him and Bischoff. This led to a match between the two for the title (THE first match for that title) later that night. They had a good match, and Flair got to look strong, but Triple H hit a low blow after a ref bump to set up the Pedigree and get the win.

That led to a main event of Triple H and Chris Jericho against Flair and Rob Van Dam. Van Dam, who was the Intercontinental Champion, had been unifying every secondary singles title to build up the IC title. Originally, that was so it could be the headlining title on Raw. That got changed...sort of. Van Dam pinned Triple H to get a title shot in a match at Unforgiven. Van Dam lost the title to Jericho the week before the PPV match (which he also lost), Jericho lost it to Kane, and Triple H defeated Kane to unify the titles. Intercontinental Title was dead for the better part of a year before being revived.

What exactly the new title was supposed to be got a bit confusing. In the month between WCW being dissolved and the title unification in late 2001, Vince McMahon renamed the WCW title the World Heavyweight Championship. They were represented by the same belt. So were they the same title? For a while, WWE acted like they were, citing WCW champions as past titleholders. That eventually stopped, which confused the issue even more. It was never entirely clear what the "official" word was.


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