December 7, 1941. November 22, 1963. January 28, 1986. September 11, 2001. These are dates that have become famous as key events in history to the point you just have to mention them and people know what they mean. Anyone alive then can clearly remember where they were and what they were doing when huge events occur and how they shape the world we know. It’s like that in sport as a true fan can list the dates of not only games but major trades or drafts that affected their teams. It’s the same in wrestling as there are a lot of major dates that shift the business up majorly and still worth remembering.
WCW would make a habit of saying practically every other Nitro was “the biggest night in wrestling history” but there really are some dates that have changed things. It’s not just major title bouts or a guy leaving a company but events that really do shift the entire industry so much. Sometimes it’s a title bout but others, it’s a change of ownership, a new business model coming along and something else that can transform the entire industry. Some are bigger than others as TNA’s formation isn’t as huge a deal as time has gone by while the death of some territories have shifted things up. There have been so many such days that changed so much in wrestling but a few stand out more than others. Here are 15 of the most important days in wrestling that changed so much and how the business was never the same afterward.
15 November 7, 1988: JCP to WCW
For all his faults, Jim Crockett understood wrestling and how to make it work but his reliance on Dusty Rhodes’ booking and trying to break out North worked against him. Despite having a fantastic talent base, Crockett just couldn’t balance overspending for poor product and killing off towns with bad booking. So in November, he was forced to sell to Turner, transforming his NWA section into WCW and a major change for the wrestling world.
14 February 10, 1984: The Texas Tragedy
In 1982, World Class Championship Wrestling began taking off into one of the must-see promotions of the time. It boasted then cutting-edge TV graphics and production values, a terrific selection of talent and the epic Von Erich/Freebird feud that sold out arenas over Texas. The international fame was great to the point that if he wanted to, Fritz Von Erich could easily have expanded with his sons as stars. The best of them was David, the full package of a great worker, good on the mic and charisma that could not be touched. The NWA was backing him with plans for David to win the title off of Flair in 1984. But during a tour of Japan, David was found dead in his hotel room.
13 November 24, 1983: The Granddaddy Of Them All
12 July 6, 1996: A New World Order
11 June 24, 2007: Benoit
It still makes so many fans bitter. The man that stood for all that was right about wrestling ended up giving the business its biggest black eye ever. Today, the signs are obvious; Benoit’s temper, his multiple head shots and insistence on taking wrestling for real. It was a recipe for disaster. But still, no one could have dreamed that on this day, Benoit would murder his wife Nancy, their 8-year-old son and then himself.
10 August 27, 1994: The Birth of Extreme
It’s one of the most famous shoots in history that turned so much around. Eastern Championship Wrestling was winning over fans with a new style but Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon knew they needed something big to get major attention. On this day, the NWA held a tournament to crown a new champion, won by Shane Douglas. Douglas launched into a tearful promo of the legacy of the company and all its past champions and then declared “They can all…kiss…my…ass!”
9 November 9, 1997: Montreal
It’s the double cross that transformed the War forever. Bret Hart was determined to leave the Survivor Series still WWE champion and give up the belt before going to WCW. Vince McMahon was determined for Bret not do that, but Bret refused to lose to Shawn Michaels in Canada. So the stage was set for a drama greater than anything scripted. Shawn got Bret into the sharpshooter, Vince demanded to “ring the bell” and Shawn was awarded the title despite Bret never giving up.
8 March 26, 2001: The End of WCW
Despite all their troubles, WCW felt as long as Ted Turner had their back, they had a home. Sadly, when Turner lost control of his own company in 2000, WCW’s days were numbered as all their bad business came back to bite them. In 2001, the final blow came as Nitro was canceled without warning and thus WCW was forced to sell to Vince McMahon for the pittance of $5 million. So, what was to be the Spring Break episode of Nitro instead was the end of an era as Vince showed up to boast of buying his competition and we had a “Night of Champions” with Booker T beating Scott Steiner for the WCW title and Flair and Sting having the final Nitro match.
7 March 31, 1985: WrestleMania
6 May 17, 1963: The Rise of WWWF
In 1963, after several bitter arguments, Vince McMahon Sr. finally had the clout to break away from the rest of the NWA and form World Wide Wrestling Federation. Declared their first champion, Buddy Rogers faced Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden and was beaten in less than a minute.
5 March 6, 1972: A New Era For Japan
4 January 23, 1984: Hulkamania Is Born
3 September 4, 1995: The Monday Night War Begins
When WCW announced they were going head-to-head with RAW on Monday nights, people thought they were crazy and it would never work. Eric Bischoff stunned everyone by getting Lex Luger to jump ship from the WWE with no warning for a surprise appearance. He then followed it by giving away pre-taped RAW results and pushed WWE to a new limit.
2 July 15, 1948, NWA forms
1 February 21, 1980: Vince Takes Over
While technically, Vince McMahon Sr. didn’t cede power until 1982, most agree that Vince Jr. truly took over on this day when he formally found
ed World Wrestling Federation. He dropped the “Wide” from the older name and set up shop in Stamford. From there, Vince would soon build the company up and once he took over from his dad, began the massive expansion over the territories and set the WWE on the rise to become the major force of wrestling. The seeds for the transformation of the business were laid on this day as well as Vince’s rise to power. Wrestling would never be the same.
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