Cena, Ryback for the title
Fifty years ago this past Friday, Bruno Sammartino defeated Nature Boy Buddy Rogers in a scant 48 seconds to win the World Wide Wrestling Federation title via submission with an overhead backbreaker.
It began an unprecedented near eight-year reign as champion of the fledgling organization that would eventually evolve into what we know today as World Wrestling Entertainment.
Tonight at the Extreme Rules pay per view in St. Louis, the title that can have its lineage traced back to the one the Living Legend captured in '63 will be defended by John Cena in a Last Man Standing match against Ryback. Triple H, who played a key role in bringing the long-estranged Sammartino back to WWE for his HOF induction on the eve of WM 29, faces Brock Lesnar in a steel cage bout in the rubber match of their best-of-three series.
The Shield's Rollins and Reigns challenge Daniel Bryan and Kane for the tag team titles in a Tornado Tag Team bout. Big Show dukes it out with Randy Orton in an Extreme Rules event, and Fandango continues a feud started at WrestleMania with Chris Jericho. Sheamus and Mark Henry square off in a strap match. Kofi Kingston faces Dean Ambrose, and the returning Miz wrestles Cody Rhodes in the pre-show opener.
With world heavyweight champ Dolph Ziggler sidelined with a concussion, the three-way previously scheduled has been changed to just Alberto Del Rio against Jack Swagger in an "I Quit" match to determine the number one contender to face Ziggler when he is cleared to return to action.
There was actually quite the back story to the Sammartino-Rogers encounter fifty years ago. Vince McMahon Sr. was an influential promoter and member of the National Wrestling Alliance, an organized group of individuals who promoted professional wrestling in various territories, regions and, in the case of St. Louis, cities across the United States. Like any other promoter, he wanted as many dates as possible from the touring world champion to increase his chances of box office success.
With only one champion being shared by many promoters, it was not easy to get the number of dates desired by promoters. The NWA kingpin at the time was Lou Thesz, an accomplished and respected shooter who didn't seem to be all that much of an attraction in the Northeast region where McMahon's endeavors were centered. Forming his own federation and choosing the flamboyant, aging Buddy Rogers as its first champ by claiming he won the title in a (fictional) tournament held in Rio De Janeiro, McMahon and partner Toots Mondt decided to roll the dice with a young Italian strongman named Sammartino. The youngster had proven himself to be a box office attraction in Toronto for promoter Frank Tunney, with a whole other fascinating story behind that reality.
Sammartino went into the ring and took the title with the greatest of ease in record time, which led to Rogers claiming he had suffered a heart attack shortly before the stunning loss in an effort to protect his considerable reputation. Bruno has always pointed out that the strict state athletic commission would never have permitted such a thing at the time as they had doctors giving physicals and blood pressure screenings before bouts.
Rogers and Sammartino didn't seem to care much for one another at the time and that animosity continued over the years. Rogers wrestling career did go on a steep decline after the loss in '63, though he did wrestle Ric Flair in a battle of the Nature Boys several years later and was supposed to work a match with Nature Boy Buddy Landel a few years after before suddenly passing away. In between, he had a revitalization of sorts in WWF as a manager of Jimmy Snuka.
TNA announced it will be returning Impact to its old starting time of 9 p.m. on Thursdays at the end of this month. The ratings apparently dictated the move, as people are not watching as much television while it is still light out at this time of year with the change to daylight savings time. Seems it is a general television-viewing decline that hits most everybody across the board at this time of year.
With Sting challenging Bully Ray for the title at the next ppv and indications looking like it could be a Hulk Hogan-Bully Ray feud coming next, maybe it is a disconnect with the product as much as the effect of daylight savings that is causing the drop off in viewers.
(Shamokin's Bill Gilger "arranges" the interview each week with The Insider)