Today In Wrestling History 7/3: Rob Van Dam & Sabu Arrested For Possession, Bob Backlund Turn, More

* 24 years ago in 1991, WCW held a house show at the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey as part of the Great American Bash Tour. The big story was that the card opened with ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta making the first public announcement that Ric Flair had been stripped of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Not that this would have gone over well anywhere, but you can imagine just how badly it went over in the New York market in a building full of fans from New York and Philadelphia, where Flair was beloved. Well, you don't have to imagine because there's a video, but you get the idea.

The main event saw one of the worst and weirdest iterations of Wargames, as Sting, Lex Luger, The Yellow Dog (Brian Pillman), and El Gigante defeated Barry Windham, Nikita Koloff, Kevin Sullivan, and One Man Gang. That's not too bad on paper, but in practice, Luger was on a downslide, El Gigante was hopeless, and the non-Windham heels had all seen much better deals. It's probably better than the famously bad Fall Brawl pay-per-view editions of Wargames (namely 1993, 1995, and 1998), but it wasn't in the same universe as the match the previous February at Wrestle War.

* 21 years ago in 1994, the WWF held a Superstars taping at the Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. The big news was that in the second of three shows, Bob Backlund turned heel after a match with Bret Hart. This show was just a month short of the 10th anniversary of the end of Backlund's original WWF run, which ended because he refused to turn heel. He floated around for the next year on Pro Wrestling USA shows before pretty much going into retirement. Until he went back to the WWF in 1992, he was only working very occasional independent and Japanese dates, and "Whatever happened to Bob Backlund?" was a common question from older fans.

His role in his second WWF run had been a guy with credibility that rising stars could beat. When there were only 15 former WWF Champions, beating a former champion who held the title for almost six years meant a lot. With Bret Hart needing a new challenger after he finished his house show run with his brother Owen, somehow Backlund got the not and by this point, he realized it was his last chance to make big money.

The match itself was excellent, one of the last high level matches of Backlund's career. It was largely a '70s style world title match worked clean, and it built up to Backlund getting a near fall off a small package that looked like it should have been a three count. Hart ended up getting the win with his own small package shortly thereafter. They shook hands...only for Backlund to slap Bret and procure the crossface chickenwing, his favorite submission hold from his days as champion. He was pulled off Bret, and the last image we saw of him on that show was for clean-cut former all-American boy staring at his hands in disbelief.

The heel turn and birth of Mr. Bob Backlund extended his career as a wrestling personality much, much longer than anyone could have expected. That said, based on behavior like his outburst at Verne Gagne's funeral, it's a bit worrisome that he doesn't appear to have a good idea of where the character ends and he begins.

* 15 years ago in 2000, WCW held a live Monday Nitro from the Civic Center in Charleston, West Virginia. The show is best remembered for featuring a fairly gruesome (well, gruesome-sounding, it wasn't especially gross on TV) injury during the Johnny the Bull vs. Terry Funk hardcore match.

Johnny the Bull was, at least theoretically, one of WCW's best prospects to have come out of the Power Plant wrestling school. He had a great look, was plus athlete, and was more driven than some of the other bodybuilder types who they trained. He had shown a lot of potential in his Mamalukes tag team with Big Vito, as well. So it was kind of supposed to be a big deal that he was supposed to go over Terry Funk cleanly here. And if Vince Russo took it lightly, Funk certainly didn't.

They were having a solid match, especially by the standards of both of the big two companies' "hardcore divisions" at the time. It was time for a key spot, as Johnny went in the ring to do one of his trademark moves, the springboard legdrop...but this time he was going to do it all the way to the floor. He went up, went back down (it was unclear if he slipped or had second thoughts), but then went back up and hit the move. It didn't look good. It wasn't good. Not only did he break his pelvis, but he also tore his urethra. If you don't know what that is, you might be better off not looking it up.

Terry Funk being Terry Funk, he made a point of physically carrying Johnny to the point they could do a cradle finish and Johnny could still win the match. While not necessarily the wisest thing from a medical perspective, it says a lot about who Terry Funk is that he was so set on trying to make Johnny the Bull a star. While the injury only kept him out a few months, he never lived up to the potential some people saw in him. His last big American run, as Rellik in TNA, is best remembered for the announcers telling us that "Rellik is killer spelled backwards!"

* 9 years ago in 2006, Sabu and WWE/ECW Champion Rob Van Dam were arrested by the Ohio State Highway Patrol when they caught were smoking marijuana after getting stopped in a well-known speed trap. In addition to the pot, Sabu had tablets of testolactone (an anti-estrogen drug that men use to prevent breast growth when coming off steroid cycles). The legal issues were resolved pretty easily, but this led to suspensions and the end of the biggest push of RVD's career, including dropping both titles on the next episodes of Raw and ECW.

If you've never seen the video of the arrest, make sure to watch it, if just for lines like "You always drive with your shirt off?" and the clip ending on the dramatic moment of the cop asking why the car "smells like dope." Regardless of your feelings on marijuana, it's a strangely compelling and amusing video.


Back To Top