With school starting, wrestling promotions kick into high gear in September to keep fan interest. With September also the start of a new TV season, shows are filled with hot-shot angles and five star matches. With ECW, WCW, and WWE all running pay per views and hours (and hours) of TV during the wrestling renaissance (1999-2001), it is mind numbing trying to number all the great matches and moments even if limiting to just those taking place in September.
With only 15 slots, there are many epic September moments which won’t make the list many taking place at Madison Square Garden. The first Dusty Rhodes versus Superstar Graham match sold out MSG and the Felt Forum in 1977. Two years later in 1979, Bob Backlund defeated Pat Patterson in bloodbath catch match. In 1980 MSG hosted a rare champion vs. champion battle as WWWF champ Bob Backlund tangled with with NWA champ Harley Race. On the same card, Hulk Hogan put over Andre at MSG, but not before body slamming him (seven years before doing it for the first time at WMIII). Bobby Heenan made his MSG manager debut in 1984, while Road Warriors made theirs in 1990. ECW, which once held shows in the nearby way smaller Manhattan Center came live from MSG in 152006, albeit as a WWE brand. Oh, there’s the first live Raw in 1997 (see #7).
In the days of regional promotions, September saw the blow off of feuds in outdoor venues or larger arenas. In Texas, the Von Erich and Freebirds battled at Labor Day big building shows. In Florida, the Battle of the Belts featured not just a climatic NWA title match, but champions from other promotions defending their straps. The WWWF ran Shea Stadium for the first time in September 1973 as champ Pedro Morales battled former champ Bruno Sammartino to a 65 minute draw. Years later on Smackdown in September 2003, Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle for the WWE title in a 60 minutes Iron Man match blowing off their rivalry.
While there are many great wrestling moments that shocked September, here are the top 15 that fans should never forget:
15 15. Stone Cold Returns Following Nine Month Absence
14 14. EMLL Promotes First Show in Mexico
13 13. Eric Bischoff Awards Triple H the “World Title”
12 12. Taz leaves ECW
11 11. “This is your life”
10 10. TNA Announces Signing of Kurt Angle
The promotional screw-ups of TNA would fill a top five hundred list, but near the top would be the use of Kurt Angle. Angle, who’d been let go from the WWE after his transfer to the ECW brand, said he was done with pro wrestling. Angle said he’d start training for MMA despite the fact he’d left the WWE due to drug and injury issues. At the 24 September 2006 No Surrender PPV, Dixie Carter announced (for the first of five hundred times) a signing that would change the face of TNA, then a video of Kurt training inside the TNA ring played. While Angle’s feud with then TNA Champ Samoa Joe caused a rating jump and a PPV bump, it wouldn’t last.
9 9. Inoki / Baba Debuts in Japan
8 8. Ric Flair Debuts in WWE
7 7. Pat Patterson Debuts The Intercontinental Title
6 6. Steve Austin Stuns Vince McMahon
In summer 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin was on fire, but his injury at SummerSlam almost meant an altered/shortened career. While kept out of the ring, Austin remained on TV stunning everyone in sight, except one person: Vince McMahon. While McMahon had yet to become a full time heel character – that would come after the Montreal screwjob – by 1997 he’d inserted himself into storylines. When Raw came live from Madison Square Garden on September 22nd 1997, the time and place was perfect.
5 5. Ric Flair Wins First NWA Title
For years in major league baseball, Reggie Jackson was dubbed “Mr. October” while in wrestling, Shawn Michaels is “Mr. WrestleMania.” There’s no doubt Ric Flair is “Mr. September.” With an unprecedented numbers of years, matches, title wins, and historic promos, this entire list could be a Flair moments. In addition to three listed, here’s a few left out: Flair loses NWA title to Ron Garvin in the beginning of the end of Jim Crockett promotions (1987), Flair appears on WWE television for the first time (1991), Flair wins WWE title from Randy Savage as transition champion for Bret Hart’s first title reign, (1992), Flair loses to HHH in Hunter’s first defense of new World Title (2002) and Flair loses (again) to Sting in Flair’s final match in TNA (2011) and what was most likely his final in-ring match for a major US promotion.
4 4. Ric Flair turns on Dusty Rhodes
3 3. Ric Flair Returns to Nitro
2 2. Smackdown 9/11 Show
1 1. The Monday Night War Begins
You can’t have a war with only one side, so WCW fired the first shot on September 4th, 1995 from the Mall of America in Bloomington MN with the airing of the first episode of Monday Nitro. With the WWE off for a dog show (yes, really, that used to happen), WCW drew a more than respectable (for the time) 2.5 rating. The next week (September 11, how weird is that?), the two shows battled head to head with Raw winning by only .01 ratings point. The ratings bounced back and forth until the super-heated 2006 NWO angle shot WCW to an almost two year run of wins and an expanding wrestling audience. That 9/11/1995 head-to-head show saw Raw pull in 2.5 share with Nitro trailing with 2.4. By 1999, both programs drew over 4.0 rating. September 1995 is one to remember as the start of the Monday Night Wars leading to the wrestling renaissance.
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