Documenting Paul Roma’s win over Bret Hart, Steve Blackman beating The Rock and Maven pinning Batista amongst others, we now look at the flipside as we see shock wins across the rest of the wrestling world that have been long forgotten but nonetheless staggering. I’ve covered elsewhere forgotten wrestling upset victories in the WWF/E.
Santana Rattles “Mr AWA”
Having seen success in the World Wrestling Federation as a World Tag Team champion alongside Ivan Putski, Tito Santana would leave the company in 1980 to pursue a run in the American Wrestling Association.
During his stint there, Santana would win a 3-day tournament, winning $50,000. After Tito won, he was a certified star in the promotion; his family jumping in the ring to celebrate the victory.
Before and after this, Santana would have various bouts with AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel. Santana would generally win in non-title matches and be victorious via DQ, lose due to nefarious means or the match would end in a time limit draw when the belt was on the line. Credible victories from the Mexican-American over Bockwinkel include May 17th 1981 but the biggest was on November 20th.
Santana defended his gold trophy against champion Bockwinkel. Even though Nick scored the first fall in this 2-Out-Of-3-Falls match at the 23-minute mark, Santana fought back and got the second with a forceful crossbody rebound off the ropes. Santana would score the final fall when performing an apron slingshot crossbody and pinning. This surprise win saw the crowd go electric and help the upcoming, youthful Santana hold onto his possessions.
Soon enough, the future “El Matador” would return to the WWF where he would claim many accolades such as King Of The Ring, Intercontinental champion and the first person to pin The Undertaker amongst other achievements.
Too Much To Bear
As a more traditional wrestling organisation, the National Wrestling Alliance tended to see fewer staggering shock wins with the majority of matches being enhancement talent bouts.
When the UWF, being folded when brought out by Jim Crockett, Brad Armstrong lost out on his pretty comfortable positioning as an important tag act – as a former UWF World Tag Team champion. Whilst not exactly a jobber in JCP, he shifted between tag and solo leagues and would only often beat those below him, losing to those further up the food chain such as Barry Windham, Mike Rotunda and Lex Luger. Despite his loss in bigger matches, he would get some wins over more established stars such as Rick Steiner and Big Bubba Rogers but perhaps the most surprising is numerous wins over former WWWF champion: “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff.
Koloff is historically important as the person to end Bruno Sammartino’s 8-year run on top in 1971. This would allow successful entry to the likes of Smoky Mountain and ECW in the future. His run in the NWA would see him presented strongly as a 3-time NWA Television champion, multi-time World Tag Team champion and multi-time United States Tag Team champion.
Despite a lack of any real push, Armstrong would garner various wins over the ex-Russian Team member, beating the former WWWF champion on January 10th 1986, March 16th 1987 and August 18th 1987 amongst other occasions.
Regarded as one of the most underutilised workers of all time, Armstrong would fail to find worthy success – often given some of the most egregious gimmicks ever created such as The Candyman, Arachnaman and B.A. Buzzkill.
Subduing The “Superfly”
Considering Jimmy Snuka is seen as one of the WWF’s biggest draws of the early 1980s, it does seem strange he never picked up any title belts despite high-profile challenges to Don Muraco’s IC and Bob Backlund’s WWF title. However, a claim to a significant belt “Superfly” does have is being the first-ever holder of the ECW strap. Then a subsidiary to the NWA, Snuka was the inaugural holder of independent promotion Easter Championship Wrestling’s world title belt, beating Salvatore Bellomo.
However, he dropped it to the practically unknown Johnny Hotbody, who had managed to pin the ex-WWE top star after only 24 hours as champion. A staggering upset, the now long-forgotten Hotbody managed to defeat the former NWA United States champion in front of about 320 surprised onlookers on April 26th although strangely enough, it was placed solidly in the mid-card.
After 3 months as the titleholder, Hotbody dropped the belt back to Snuka. For someone so obscure, it seems bizarre but Hotbody was ECW’s first Triple Crown champion having been the first TV champion and a 3-time World Tag Team champion with members of The Suicide Blondes: Chris Candido, Chris Michaels and Tony Stetson (all given the title of ‘Sir’ and more ostentatious versions of their ring names).
Nonetheless, Hotbody’s win over Snuka for the ECW belt has to be the biggest of his career as the Fijian star likely even had bigger success in ECW than Johnny himself as well as having the name value from his time in the World Wrestling Federation, All Japan Pro Wrestling and the National Wrestling Alliance.
A Wonderful Smothering
Jim Cornette departed WCW in the early 90s, quickly setting up his own wrestling promotion Smoky Mountain Wrestling. One of the stars Cornette was clearly most inclined to push early on was former WCW tag star “The Wild-Eyed Southern Boy” Tracy Smothers.
In December 1992, the future Fully Blooded Italian became the first holder of the SMW Beat The Champ title belt. Aired a month later on TV, he did this by winning a four-way elimination tournament consisting of himself, Dirty White Boy (Tony Anthony), Jimmy Golden (Buckhouse Buck) and Killer Kyle. Defenses of the belt include against Brad Batten and Shawn Power with the biggest upset coming in a win against Paul Orndorff.
Despite not having any accolades to his name in the promotion, “Mr Wonderful” was a big player in SMW. Adding some fame to the roster, he was the runner-up to being the first world champion but lost out in the final round to “Prime Time” Brian Lee (having beaten Tim Horner and Ricky Morton to get there).
After a feud with Ronnie Garvin, he challenged Smothers for the Beat The Champ strap on the 55th episode of SMW TV in January 1993. Paul would put over Smothers – legitimizing Tracy further. Although talented, the Tennessean was often a lower-card act whilst “Mr Wonderful” Orndorff main evented the first WrestleMania which makes this win all the more of a surprise win, likely bigger than his WWF upset where he pinned Justin Hawk Bradshaw.
Inside Cradle Miracle
Other than being the only holder of the short-lived ECW Maryland Heavyweight championship, JT Smith accomplished little in ECW in its first few years. A former competitor in ECW precursor Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, he challenged for pretty much every ECW title but to no success.
After a few months absence following a tag loss at Holiday Hell, Smith went on a winning streak in tag and singles action. At The Night The Line Was Crossed, the lower-card Smith was set to face the 6’4, 306lbs Mike Awesome – who at this point was best-known for working as The Gladiator in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling.
On February 5th in front of 1,000 fans, Smith wrestled Awesome. Despite getting the jump on Mike pre-match, Awesome soon dominated. A particularly gnarly spot saw Awesome hit Smith with an outside dive that folded JT’s back on the railing in a moment that is credited with creating Joey Styles’s raspily shouted “Oh my God!” catchphrase. In what Styles would later describe as “the upset of the year”, Smith reversed an Awesome Bomb into an inside cradle for a staggering 3-count. Although Awesome had not yet been ECW champion, it was still a huge David and Goliath win that came out of nowhere.
Awesome would hit the referee with an Awesome Bomb after the match and attempt a top rope splash. However, the rope snapped as he propelled himself and Awesome landed on his face, selling it for a short period and then finally awkwardly walking off.
Smith would ride this momentum and win the Television title off of The Tazmaniac shortly after, getting a bigger push off the back of these upset victories.
Hulkamania’s Detour In Montreal
The Quebecers were a solid heel tag team in the mid-90s, being one of the talents most synonymous with early Monday Night Raw. However, had you told people they were in WCW as The Amazing French Canadians, it may take them by surprise as they did little of note. Except for a bizarre pinfall victory Jacques Rougeau got over Hulk Hogan.
This came in an April 1997 house show in the main event. Hogan was actually the WCW champion at the time but this was a non-title bout. In a card also seeing Pierre Oullette beat The Giant via DQ, the respected hometown hero Rougeau got a feel-good win over Hogan when “The Hulkster” attempted to lift Jacques to be countered into a small package for the 3-count. A 100% clean win.
Other than his victorious Intercontinental title challenge to Bret Hart, it is the French Canadian’s biggest win on a show he helped organise.
The reasons why Hogan allowed this to take place when he is commonly very politically-influencing over his character vary. Rougeau claims it was out of respect for the Rougeau family name in the location and their ability to keep a clean image. Elsewhere, Kevin Owens claims it cost $10,000 for Hogan to agree to get pinned by Jacques. Hogan would actually lay down for a fair few surprising people during his time in WCW such as Mike Awesome, Billy Kidman and Vampiro in singles matches.
The Boss Humbles “The Bad Guy”
The first episode of WCW Thunder took place on January 8th 1998. The night originally saw the first match have an upset as “Gentleman” Chris Adams defeated Randy Savage however this was overturned by President J.J. Dillon due to interference from Lex Luger. A surprise win that stuck however was Ray Traylor pinning Scott Hall.
Always a threat but never a top-level star, Ray Traylor had a hard time of it in WCW. Having to alter from his Big Boss Man character, he became The Boss but had to become The Guardian Angel due to legal reasons but this did not still so he became Big Bubba Rogers and then reverted to his birth name.
Scott Hall elsewhere was the first 4-time Intercontinental champion in the WWF and a constant presence on WCW TV as a founding member of the NWO. A former NWO member himself, Traylor was kicked out and went about gaining retribution on those who abandoned him.
Despite being hit with a title belt, Traylor managed to kick-out. The Cobb County native would eventually get the win with his swinging sideslam, taking advantage of the former Razor Ramon who was distracted by his rival Larry Zbyszko.
Lenny Lane Is In My Ears And In My Eyes
Before ever getting a push in WCW, Lenny Lane was mostly an enhancement talent to the likes of Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and Billy Kidman.
Inspired by the Ambiguously Gay Duo Saturday Night Live sketch, he and Lodi united to form a close male friendship. Lane would win the Cruiserweight title in 1999 on an episode of Thunder. In a startling result, he defeated Mexican icon and popular WCW star Rey Mysterio. This was far from a clean win as Lane used help from Lodi and grabbed the masked luchador’s tights when rolling him up.
At this point, Lane was still used the majority of the time to put over other stars whilst Rey was already established and a renowned name across the globe. His Cruiserweight title run saw him taking on promising and talented names on its own.
Elsewhere, Lane’s career was less noteworthy with his most significant contribution being a feud with the Insane Clown Posse before losing the Cruiserweight belt to Psicosis. Mysterio is still a much sought-after athlete to this day, with a storied career in the wrestling industry.
The through-line of TNA’s No Surrender PPV in 2007 was that of Triple Crown champion Kurt Angle defending all 3 of his title belts.
In the first match, Angle turned on tag partner Sting to allow them to lose the TNA World Tag Team titles to Ron Killings and Adam “Pacman” Jones whilst in the main event, the Olympian kept ahold of his world title by submitting Abyss. Yet it was in Kurt’s mid-card title defense a truly astonishing result occurred.
In Angle’s defense of the X-Division title, he took on Black Machismo – Jay Lethal’s gimmick where he impersonated “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The gold medalist managed to survive Machismo’s top rope elbow drop but Lethal would eventually win by reversing the Ankle Lock into a pinning combination, letting the youngest wrestler on the roster win the X-Division title, triumphing over one of the toughest and most respected wrestlers in the world. Despite having such a comedic gimmick, the win still felt earned. Ever since then, Lethal’s career has come on leaps and bounds.
Bucking A Trend
Working in House Of Glory and Combat Zone Wrestling, Private Party were not unknown but certainly not a top name when arriving in AEW.
When AEW announced the tournament bracket for the inaugural World Tag Team champions, many assumed EVPs The Young Bucks would win the tournament as arguably the biggest names and having a hand in the booking committee.
What likely was not expected was that they would be eliminated in the first round. On the second edition of AEW Dynamite in the opening match, Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy beat Matt and Nick Jackson in a moment described on AEW’s YouTube channel as Private Party “shock the world” with the win.
Marq Quen would pin Matt with a victory roll after Kassidy thwarted Nick’s attempt at pulling off The Bucks’s Meltzer Driver tag finisher. The shocked & staggered duo would celebrate in the crowd over the win, in a big win for the debuting twosome of Quen and Kassidy.
This booking decision was not only made to push the young and upcoming Party but also to show the fans there was no bias and personal favouritism from those in charge towards themselves.