In these rankings, there are so many factors to consider about what makes something outstanding (or outlandish) in wrestling history. Outlandish is easier: just look whatever TNA, WCW (“Chamber of Horrors” match stands out), and WWE booked in October serving as Halloween “entertainment.” Outstanding is more difficult to define with historical industry impact setting a high, if appropriate, standard. With a hundred plus years of history of in the big three markets of US, Mexico and Japan, it is no easy task. The most important moments (often) must go beyond one match or one man, October shows us why even if the month is loaded with those magnificent matches and important debuts.
For one man, it seems that three of the biggest stars of all time in their retrospective markets all debuted in October. In Japan, 1951, Rikidozan wrestled his first match, while eight years later in October 1959 Bruno Sammartino stepped into the ring for the first time in White Plains. New York. Without a doubt, the wrestling industry in Japan would be totally different, perhaps not even exist without the influence of Rikidozan. While wrestling in the US would have carried on without Bruno, his impact on New York / the McMahon family can’t be underestimated. When the first wrestling war started in 1983, the WWE’s coffers were stuffed with money made on the back of the charismatic Italian strongman. To a lesser extent, the official debut of El Hijo del Santo in October 1982 helped carry on the tradition of Mexico’s larger than life cultural figure. The Son of the Saint headlined Luca Libra main events for decades, including the groundbreaking 1994 When World Collide pay per view.
For matches, simply search any database of five star matches, then control F ‘October.’ That’s a dream card filled with Angle, Beniot, Bryan, Flair, Steamboats, and other elite modern North American workers. Add in Japan and Mexico, and it’s head spinning the amount of matches which were scary great. Yet, even with those awesome entrances of performers and five star classics, these are the October moment which rise to the top each fall that wrestling fans should / will never forget.
15 Katie Vick Angle
Katie Vick, one name – two words, that strike horror into the heart of every wrestling fan. This terrible, terrible, terrible (it deserves more terrible's, so add your own number) angle from October 2002 belongs on this list for what it represents. While other promotions have done worse angles, to have the number one promotion, one that at this time was a publicly held company, have a storyline involving necrophilia, well, that’s newsworthy. It also showed that without WCW chasing them how lazy (crazy?) WWE creative had become, how the same guys filled main events, but mostly how even people with stroke (and who has more than HHH) will roll on their backs and do their best with terrible material handed them, even when it stinks. Stinks and needs to be buried, like Katie Vick. Google it and prepare to gag.
14 WWE No Mercy 1999
Like another WWE pay per view to be named later, this is noteworthy for the news aspect, in particular regarding women in wrestling. On this card, Chyna became the first woman to hold a major men’s title (this before the hardcore title changed hands every ten minutes) when she defeated Jeff Jarrett in a stupid “Good Housekeeping” gimmick match. Interestingly Jarrett’s contract had expired, so he held up McMahon for more money to do the job. This stunt ensured he’d never be welcome back into the WWE fold, leading to him starting TNA. On the same night, The Fabulous Moolah won the women’s title, which normally wouldn’t be news as Moolah had been the woman’s champion forever since 1956, but her last title win here came at age 76. One other match: four young wrestlers (Edge, Christian, Matt and Jeff Hardy) battled in a tag team ladder match, putting the four of them – and the gimmick – on the map.
13 Riki Choshu turns on partners Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami
Back in the day turns meant something, in particular in Japan when one Japanese wrestler rarely turned on another, thus the landmark nature of this turn. Choshu, fresh off a trip to Mexico in 1982, came back to Japan into the welcome arms of the established main eventers. Whom he promptly shat on, declaring “I am not a dog that lets you bite me” lighting the fuse. Adding allies, including long time main eventer (and one time US felon Massa Saito), Choshu’s Army (often called the new wolves) was off and running for a multi-year house filling storyline. Injuries, US trips, and politics got in the way and like all inter-promotional feuds lasted too long adding weight. This angle’s the grandfather, serving as the blueprint for the New Japan vs UWFI (see #2) which spawned the industry shattering NWO angle.
12 Shane McMahon leaves WWE
The heir apparent that wasn’t, as his younger sister and jacked up brother in law stepped in front. The real reason, well, that’s an issue for a family therapist, but the loss of Shane in October 2011 mattered. First, he was a heel performer: not a worker or wrestler, but his stunts and bumps had huge entertainment value. Second, he could have served as a surrogate for his father as a non-wrestling persona rather than the “Authority” or Vince performing far past his prime and shelf life. Finally, his departure showed being born into the biz in the modern era was not the key to the throne, but rather marrying the boss’s daughter (see#3) trumped birthright. No doubt the male children of ambitious (and smart) WWE performers are being groomed by their dads to be the groom of a one of the McMahon-Helmsley daughters.
11 Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara leave WWE
When Piper and Hogan booted booker George Scott out the door in 1986, some thought that was the end of WWF. Not so. When Russo and Ferrara bolted WWE for WCW in 1999, soon after the start of Smackdown, that was the end of a wrestling promotion: not the one they left, but the one they joined. While Russo’s book (although how serious can you take a memoir by an author who writes “I hate reading?”) justifies the move and his failure in WCW, this was an important moment, not only because it tipped the War in the favor of WWE, but demonstrated that, flaws and all, Vince and et al. responded best to a challenge. More than anything the deadly duo provided shoot interview fodder for decades with their bad booking, personal storylines (Oklahoma), and great choice of enemies (Jim Cornette for example).
10 Magnum T.A. crashes his Porsche
Wrestling, like any sport or entertainment genre, is filled with “what if” questions often involving talent. What if Shelly Long would have stayed on Cheers? What if John Belushi, James Dean, or Jim Morrison hadn’t died young? What if wrestler Magnum T.A. hadn’t crashed his car on rainy October night in 1986? Magnum was being groomed to become NWA champion: he had a good work-rate, excellent looks but still liked by male fans, but mostly he looked the part of a champion and then in a few seconds it was gone. Would have NWA / Crockett defeated WWE if Magnum wouldn’t have retired early and been the main event baby face rather than Dusty Rhodes? What if, two more intriguing words that Katie Vick.
9 Plane crash with Ric Flair, David Crockett, Tim Woods, and Johnny Valentine
The 1975 plane crash that changed the business in ways good, bad, and ugly, also loaded with a huge what if. Ugly: the loss of Valentine as an active performer while he was still hot with years of main events left. Bad: Flair, not Valentine was supposed to sit in the front seat, so what if it would have been Flair crippled for life not Valentine? How would that have changed wrestling history? Good: Many credit Woods, who was feuding with Flair and Valentine, for “saving the business” of not getting “caught” being in the same plane and breaking kayfabe. A while Flair was over in the Carolinas, the crash seemed to catapult him to new heights, both in terms of performance and popularity. Rather than what if, here’s another question about these two events: what is it about North Carolina playing with wrestling fate?
8 WWE debuts WWE 24/7
Before there was the WWE Network, there was Classics on Demand aka WWE 24/7 as a pay channel. The title was a misnomer as content was not on demand, but only what was pushed out each month by the WWE beginning in October 2004. Each month normally had a theme, mostly old tapes but some new shows, such as The Legends of Wrestling (now available on the WWE network, which might cost $9.99 per month, it is unclear from watching WWE TV however). While not a “flop” the station never really took off showing the WWE that even ardent fans would not pay for just access to old content, in particular if they couldn’t control when and what they watched. This was the necessary baby step before the big network launch.
7 NWA Bloodfests
At the time, in October 1993, it probably didn’t seem like much more than two nights of independent show featuring “fly-in” stars with local talent held at a sometime bingo hall located at 2300 South Swanson in Philadelphia. But night number one saw the pieces of ECW jigsaw puzzle begin to come together. It would be the first show booked by Paul Heyman, and would also feature the debut of ECW mainstays Tazz and Sabu, pitted against each other as they would be for the first big ECW PPV. There were legends (Terry Funk, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Snuka and Don Muraco) and local guys repackage by Heyman from silly to serious, such as The Sandman, and a team called The Public Enemy. Combined the shows drew less than a thousand fans, but launched thousands of hours of innovate sports entertainment (aka pro wrestling) that informed the attitude era and launched huge stars in the sky.
6 WWE Badd Blood 1997
While it was a B show, it was A in historical important one. The night began with Vince McMahon announcing the death of Brian Pillman and ended with the first-ever Hell in a Cell match AND the debut of Kane. If that wasn’t enough, it was the last PPV with Vince McMahon as the WWF's lead commentator as within a few months he’d become Mr. McMahon. In Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day, he notes this show served as much as Austin 3:16 was the start of “attitude era” with McMahon encouraging talent to bring more of themselves to their characters. The result? DX fired up while others, like Bret Hart, fizzled. This caused more bad blood between the two which reached a boiling point the next month in Montreal.
5 All Japan Pro Wrestling debut show
Japanese legend Rikidozan trained two wrestlers to take over his company, but within a few years after his death, both of them – Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki – would break away from the establishment promotion and go out on their own. For years, Baba’s All Japan which debuted in October 1972 was the “wrestling” promotion featuring the biggest American stars, the hardest hitting action, and exclusive rights to the NWA title, which Baba bought a few times. While New Japan often drew more money, All Japan’s work-rate combined with Baba’s steady gimmick free booking philosophy made All Japan the “St Louis” of Japan that could convince the skeptical that pro wrestling just might be real after all. All Japan provided so much US talent (Hansen, Gordy, and Brody in particular) with a canvas to paint bloody masterpieces, while years later featuring the mind-blowing Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi main events.
4 Rikidozan sixty-minute draw with Lou Thesz draw 87.0 rating
While it is difficult to justify a single match to have historical import, the argument can be made that when Rikidozan battled Thesz on 6 October 1957, it changed wrestling in Japan forever. It moved it from a popular sideline to a cultural centerpiece. In the pre-cable day, that type of rating might be achieved in a small market for an important sports championship, but this rating will never, ever, be seen again for a wrestling match. It would like everyone watching all the networks at one time for one wrestling match. Given the modern attention span of the current WWE viewer, an hour long match might see 87% of viewers turn off their televisions rather than tune them in as the Japanese did that fateful day in 1957.
3 Paul Levesque marries Stephanie McMahon
A small ceremony on 25 October 2003 with world-wide wrestling ramifications. Like many story line romances, this one turned real resulting in three children (so far) and HHH the male heir apparent to the McMahon wrestling kingdom. Despite a long history demonstrating when promoters push family first that if often fails (Gulas promotion any one? Greg Gagne? Mike Graham? Captain Don George for fans of Michigan based Big Time Wrestling?) lots of good things – the network, NXT, and an emphasis on WrestleMania as worldwide event – have come from the ultimate power couple’s leadership. Two last “what if” questions. What if it would have been Test at Stephanie’s side in life as in storyline? Cringe. What if Stephanie knew about HHH climbing into the coffin with Katie Vick? Cringe squared.
2 1995 Tokyo Dome show filled with New Japan vs UWFI matches
This was THE turning point in the wrestling war both in Japan and the United States. In the US, this staged promotion vs promotion feud served as the blueprint (in ways bad and good) for the WCW / NWO storyline. In Japan, the success of this card – and the subsequent UWFI vs New Japan shows – would thrust New Japan into the lead in the wrestling war, which ended a few years later with the death of Giant Baba and the delusion of All Japan. The feud demonstrated both the drawing power of New Japan’s three musketeers (Muto, Hashimoto, and Chono) but also UWFI antagonists (Takada, in particular). While UWFI’s worked shoot style had died earlier because of Pride and UFC, this super show marked the official beginning of the end of that unique genre which changed the industry. Except for the Inoki retirement show a few years earlier, this second show New Japan at the Tokyo Dome demonstrated their promotional muscle putting over 76,000 fans in the building which has yet to be topped.
1 WWE goes public on NASDAQ / one year later on NYSE
The single most important business moment in the history of the industry giving the McMahon family not only a monopoly on the business in the short term, but almost guaranteeing one in the very near future pending some natural disaster (no, not the return of Typhoon / Shockmaster). While the McMahon’s gained an oversight board of directors and a million partners / stockholders, the bottom line is going public in October 1999 made Vince a billionaire. While this decision lead to colossal business missteps, most notably the XFL, it provided McMahon unparalleled resources in the history of the industry. Any new wrestling war will see the WW side funded by hedge mangers and pension plans. Despite some downsides, it could be argued that the WWE on the big board is the biggest story ever, not in October, but any month of any year.