Today In Wrestling History 5/22: John Cena's First Great Match, Babyface HBK Debut, More

* 21 years ago in 1994, WCW Held the second annual Slamboree pay-per-view in Philadelphia, which is available on WWE Network. Launched the previous year in Atlanta with a "Legends' Reunion" theme and full weekend of events, the idea was toned down for the second year: No extra weekend events instead of a meet and greet, a diner with the legends, etc, and one legends' match (instead of three. They did, however, keep the In WCW Hall of Fame ceremony intact as part of the PPV. In addition, with ECW starting to pick up more buzz, the two companies began a brief working agreement to help promote the show locally.

While there was also a bit of chaos surrounding the show that we'll get into, it turned out as one of WCW's greatest PPV shows, and the product was clicking well for the first time in a while. Some notes on the notable matches:

The legends' match of Terry Funk vs. Tully Blanchard went to a double disqualification. Unlike the previous year's legends' matches, which were worked '70s style by a group of largely broken down guys, this was an ECW-style brawl that would've stolen the show on most PPVs. Funk was an ECW regular at the time and this set him up as a player for the angle he shot later.

WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair defeated Barry Windham to retain his title. Manager Col. Robert Parker had been promising a 6'6" tall, 300 lb. blonde former world champion as Flair's mystery opponent, obviously teasing Hulk Hogan since it was clear he was WCW-bound at this point. Instead, it was an out of shape Barry Windham and the match was by far the worst these two ever had (most of their matches together were classics, though).

Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan defeated WCW World Tag Team Champions The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) to win the titles in a Broad Street Bully match (in other words, a Philadelphia Street Fight). Cactus was replacing Dave "Evad" Sullivan, who blew out his knee. This was a brilliant Foley-style brawl all over the arena that the Philly crowd obviously loved. Excellent booking, too, as Evad chips in to help get revenge, as does Cactus's usual partner, Maxx Payne, is his last WCW appearance, more or less blowing off both teams' feuds with the Nasty Boys.

Sting defeated Vader to win the vacant WCW International World Heavyweight Title. Originally, this was going to be Rick Rude as champion defending against Vader. Sting had won the title the month before at Spring Stampede when Vader and manager Harley Race's interference backfired, but Rude regained the title at NJPW Wrestling Dontaku at the Fukuoka Dome on May 3rd...but he suffered a career ending back injury in the process.

Here, WCW Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel stripped Rude of the title due to the circumstances of the change: Valet Lady Love, who only appeared in Japan, had interfered, plus Rude won the match with a Bombs Away knee drop, which had been established as illegal in WCW in 1992. Sting refused to take the belt back without winning it in the ring, so he faced Vader. Like all of their matches, it's well worth your time, though not quite as good as their '92-'93 outings.

* 20 years ago on a live episode of Monday Night Raw (which is available on WWE Network), Shawn Michaels had his first match as a singles babyface, defeating King Kong Bundy. He had been turned in an injury angle the night after WrestleMania XI, where his bodyguard, Sycho Sid, turned on him and gave him three power bombs, only for Diesel to make the save and renew his friendship with Shawn.

* 10 years ago, WWE held the 2005 edition of Judgment Day in Minneapolis, A SmackDown-branded show (which, of course, is on...WWE Network), it was headlined by John Cena retaining the WWE Championship over John Bradshaw Layfield in an I Quit Match. It's largely forgotten now that coming out of WrestleMania 21, Cena was considered the B-level champion behind Batista, being on SmackDown, winning the title from JBL in an abrupt finish to a lackluster match, and so on. He also hadn't shown the improvement that Batista was showing in the ring.

So it came as a surprise when the WrestleMania rematch was an incredible bloodbath as a brawl that served as Cena's first real great match and, once and for all, put JBL on the map as a great main event style wrestler. It's maybe not quite as good as JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero on one year earlier, but it's a fantastic match in its own right.

Before they softened Cena's character, the finish to this match was the moment that established exactly what made him tick as a babyface: Knowing he was about to lose anyway, JBL quit right before Cena could smash his face in with a car's bumper. JBL thought he proved how smart he was, but Cena nailed him after the bell anyway.