Only Stone Cold Steve Austin and a ring in Fresno could bring Vince McMahon to his knees.
Perhaps getting caught up in #MeToo, McMahon is reported to have made millions in payoffs to female office employees and wrestlers in sexual harassment settlements. Problems with how this was reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t help.
Always portrayed as the alpha male, it was an event in Fresno that McMahon tore both his quadriceps. McMahon didn’t even sell.
McMahon talked about the injury in an interview earlier this year with Pat McAfee.
“Actually I’ve blown the left one out twice. But that was very unique – not too many people can sever quad tendons at the same time. That takes talent. You have no use of your legs at all. When you sever your quad tendons – and again both at the same time – you can’t walk, you can’t stand, you can’t anything. So you have to learn how to walk all over again. Rehab is so important. If you go too fast, then that’s not good either. I like to push myself as hard as I can, but you can’t go too fast,” Wrestletalk reported.
A Royal Rumble Tie?
The Royal Rumble pay-per-view came to the Save Mart Center in 2005, the second time the event emanated from Fresno — the other was in 1996 at Selland Arena.
The 30-man battle — where entrants come to the ring every two minutes and are eliminated by being over the top rope and both feet hitting the floor — came down to John Cena and Batista.
“This is a dream matchup,” broadcaster Jim Ross said.
Both men were the future faces of WWE. The winner of this event would be guaranteed super duper stardom. Cena was the babyface; Batista was still a member of the Evolution heel faction, along with Triple H, Randy Orton and Ric Flair, but had his legions of fans.
The Fresno fans were in stunned silence, not sure which of their favorites to cheer.
Batista attempted his “Batista Bomb” to finish off Cena. He lost his balance and both men tumbled over the top rope, incredibly hitting their feet at the same time.
Was this a planned finish or an accident? Even though it is pro wrestling, unplanned events still happen. And, nothing had more dire consequences than a mistake at the Royal Rumble.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, wrote that the “finish was botched.”
The referees were confused. One raised Batista’s hand. Another referee raised Cena’s hand. Fans cheered with each declaration.
“The referees had no idea what to do and Vince McMahon was in the back on the headsets, basically directing everything that happened,” Meltzer wrote.
Bruce Prichard, McMahon’s longtime right-hand man, confirmed that Cena was supposed to be the one eliminated.
“Well, (expletive deleted),” Prichard — on his “Something to Wrestle” podcast — recounted the reaction backstage.
How would this be settled? There was precedent. In 1994, Bret Hart and Lex Luger fell out of the ring at the same time. Both men were declared the winner.
Not this time.
McMahon Hurts Himself
McMahon power walked to the ring, with no music — perhaps a tell this was not how things were supposed to go. Another sign: no replays were shown. McMahon looked angry, not all that unusual.
His strut turned into a sprint. McMahon slid into the ring. His thighs bumped into the side of the ring, nothing unusual. When McMahon tried to stand, he tumbled on his backside.
Sitting on his tush, back against the ropes, McMahon did not register any pain on his face.
“Vince just bolted out and went to the ring. And then when he slid in the ring, nobody could figure out why the hell he didn’t get up. He just sat on the damn mat,” Prichard said on his podcast.
McMahon ruled that the match continue. Batista overpowered Cena to win and earn a World title shot at WrestleMania 21.
Afterward, McMahon walked to the back, keeping the extent of the injury to himself. Prichard said staff thought McMahon just banged his knee.
The WWE was scheduled to travel to Japan the next day. McMahon didn’t make it.
Flair’s “Final” Match
Ric Flair is scheduled to have his “final” match this Sunday in Nashville, an event promoted by wrestling entrepreneur and podcaster Conrad Thompson.
Flair will be teaming with his son-in-law Andrade El Idolo (married to Charlotte Flair), taking on Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett.
Thompson is married to Flair’s other daughter, Megan.
The hype and preview videos online have been calling it the best buildup for a wrestling match in a long time. True old-school storytelling.
The premise — Flair announced his last match against an unnamed opponent. He had been training with veteran Jay Lethal.
At a news conference, Lethal was not invited. He showed up anyway, offended he wasn’t asked. He attacked Flair in the parking lot.
Jarrett, a Hall of Famer, WWE executive, and Nashville native, was there. He tried to break things up and help Flair to his feet. An irate Flair said something offensive to Jarrett, leading to “Double J” to attack the “Nature Boy.”
This is wrestling, and Flair already wrestled his “last” match at WrestleMania in 2008. Take this “last” match with a grain of salt.
Nonetheless, here is a look at Flair’s matches in Fresno. It is not believed he wrestled locally until 1991. He never regularly wrestled in a West Coast territory. While Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW came to California starting in 1985, the first Fresno card was in 1989. Flair wasn’t there.
Flair’s first match in Fresno was a dream bout versus Hulk Hogan. “The Hulkster” won by countout.
He had three more matches scheduled in his first WWF run, 1991-93, but they were canceled for one reason or another.
A look at Flair’s local record:
|11/17/1991||Selland Arena||WWF championship: Hulk Hogan [ch.] d. Ric Flair by CO|
|5/01/1992||Selland Arena||Card canceled because of Rodney King riots in other parts of California. Flair was scheduled to face Randy Savage.|
|11/15/1992||Selland Arena||Match vs. Ultimate Warrior canceled because of a Flair injury and Warrior getting fired.|
|1/26/1993||Selland Arena||Scheduled match vs. Bret Hart did not take place. Flair lost a loser-leaves-town match to Mr. Perfect a week earlier.|
|6/27/1997||Selland Arena||Ric Flair d. Syxx, in his only WCW match in Fresno.|
|2/08/2003||Selland Arena||Flair is the corner of Batista, who lost to Scott Steiner in the main event.|
|5/09/2004||Save Mart Center||Shawn Michaels & Shelton Benjamin d. Ric Flair & Batista|
|1/30/2005||Save Mart Center||Royal Rumble PPV: Flair draws #30; eliminates Jonathan Coachman; eliminated by Edge|
|10/24/2005||Save Mart Center||Live Raw TV: attacks Triple H during a Triple H vs. Viscera match.|
|2/26/2007||Save Mart Center||Live Raw TV: makes an appearance after the Carlito vs. Kenny Dykstra match.|
|7/24/2007||Save Mart Center||Smackdown taping (aired 7/27/2007): Ric Flair & Matt Hardy d. MVP & Chris Masters|
|2/15/2008||Save Mart Center||Flair retires if he loses: Ric Flair d. Mr. Kennedy|
Watch a 2007 Ric Flair match from Fresno