Today In History 9/5: Chris Benoit Brain Damage Announcement, Sting Sets Cable TV Record, & More

* 25 years ago in 1990, WCW ran Clash of the Champions XII: Fall Brawl/Mountain Madness live on Superstation TBS from the Asheville Civic Center in Asheville, North Carolina. The show was, seemingly out of nowhere, a smash hit in terms of TV ratings, as it was the most watched wrestling special up to that point in TBS history (the first Royal Rumble, which ared on USA, held the mark for cable as a whole). The two and a half hour show as a whole drew a 5.0 rating and 8.4 share, being watched in an average of 2.8 million homes throughout the show. That beat the 2.61 million home mark set by the first Clash of the Champions in 1988 (Ric Flair vs. Sting main event opposite WrestleMania IV).

Even better was the viewership of the double main event: From 10:00 to 10:35 p.m. ET, they set a record for a pro wrestling match on cable with 3.3 million homes.(6.8 rating/11,4 share) watching United States Champion Lex Luger defending vs. Ric Flair and NWA Champion Sting vs. The Black Scorpion (Al Perez). The record wouldn't be beaten until Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions 28 in 1994, and that number was beaten by Steve McMichael vs. Eddie Guerrero on Nitro in 1997 (the match following Arn Anderson's retirement speech).

Sting pinned The Black Scorpion in the main event, only for the "real" (and much taller) Scorpion (Dave "Angel of Death" Sheldon) to appear on the entrance ramp after the match. This was pretty nothing as a match, but with Flair-Luger as support and the intrigue over who the Scorpion was (WCW had dropped hints that led magazine-reading fans to believe he was The Ultimate Warrior) led to a huge rating. It was all terrible from a critical point of view and arena business didn't really pick up, but the awful Scorpion storyline did pop an improbably huge audience for the time.

Luger vs. Flair was excellent and had a new energy thanks to the role reversal with Luger as champion, but after three years, Luger was still denied a win over Flair. Stan Hansen, who was brought in from AJPW as Luger's new rival for the U.S. Title, interviewed to draw a disqualification for Flair. They had their own series of really good matches, but they had an opportunity to give Luger a big moment here and didn't take it.

The rest of the card was, in a word, random. They had two and a half hours (including commercials) to get through a ten match card and several bouts had no business being on the show. The Master Blasters (Kevin Nash and some guy who was was quickly replaced by Al Green) ran through Tim Horner and "Candyman" Brad Armstrong in their debut, looking barely competent in the process. LPWA Champion (or "Champiom," as her belt said) Susan Sexton defended her title against Bambi for no reason. The Steiner Brothers squashed jacked up Minnesota indie team Maximum Overdrive. The Nasty Boys beat Terry Taylor and Jackie Fulton even though Fulton was part of the new Fantastics with his brother Bobby. There was little rhyme or reason to any of it other than, in some cases, getting inexpensive wrestlers TV time at a point where the company had to make cuts.

* Eight years ago in 2007, the Sports Legacy Institute announced that they had examined the brain of Chris Benoit and found evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) stemming from a long career filled with head trauma. Up to that point, it was the most significantly damaged brain that SLI had examined.

To get it out of the way: The statement that Benoit had the brain of an 85 year-old with Alzheimer's disease has been widely misinterpreted under the years. The statement was not to suggest that Benoit had Alzheimer's or even significant Alzheimer's-esque symptoms. It was, strictly, a description of the physical damage that was found when the tissue samples were examined under a microscope. The damage was in all four lobes of the brain and deep into the brain stem.

In SLI's press release Benoit's father, Michael Benoit, made these comments:

When Chris Nowinski contacted me about conducting tests on Chris' brain, I was extremely hesitant given the circumstances surrounding my son's death. I agreed to the testing after he explained their desire to expand knowledge about the potential brain damage that athletes can suffer from repetitive head injuries in contact sports. When the results were explained to me by the SLI doctors, I was shocked to learn the extent of damage and saddened that he could have been suffering from this without anyone's knowledge. I hope the examination of Chris' brain leads to greater understanding and ultimately helps protect athletes of all ages.

Later that week, then-WWE spokeswoman Jennifer Mcintosh told the L.A. Times that they had "dug around" but were unable to find "no medical records of [Benoit] suffering a concussion." Your mileage may vary if that kind of statement helped or hurt WWE. Later, medical records surfaced that showed Benoit suffering two concussions, .though friends like Chris Jericho recall him telling them about suffering more.The only other wrestler's brain to be examined by SLI since then was that of Andrew "Test" Martin, who also had CTE.


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