Historically Speaking: The Triple Crown

“History is interim reports issued periodically.” – Anonymous

The Opening Chapter
Sometimes as wrestling fans, we (myself wholly included) slip into the mentality that wrestling is real, true sport. We talk and debate about win/loss records, whether someone is worthy of a Title shot and the sanctimony of someone’s Championship reign. Some of us can reel off stats like we are reciting a baseball player’s ERA from years gone by or list of Title lineages like AFC Championship games from each of the past twenty years. A wrestler’s work or merit is often judged by us fans by the Championships he “won” and the impact those reigns had.

And back in the “old days” the World Wrestling Federation held their Championships in high regard. With only Heavyweight, Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships each one was given proper respect and attention, insomuch that when the WWF used to run three house shows per day each Title was regarded high enough that each Champion could be counted on to headline their own show. Whereas in the same time period the NWA had titles labeled Heavyweight, United States, Television, National, six-man, tag team and whatever a Western States Heritage belt is. The point is the WWF “triple crown” as it became to be known was built up to be an elusive and worthy goal to attain.

Since the “attitude” era the triple crown has become less of an ideal as the now-defunct European, Hardcore and Light Heavyweight championships have been added and then taken away. Plus with the advent of the brand expansion, ECW, United States, Cruiserweight another World, and another set of Tag belts have all been added to the attainable championship goals available, thus making it easier to amass Championship reigns and some sort of trifecta of Heavyweight, mid-card and tag gold. But even with all the hardware available currently in WWE, only thirteen men have become true triple crown winners by winning the WWE Championship, the Intercontinental Title and the World Tag Titles that are currently featured on RAW. As of this past Sunday at No Mercy, Randy Orton became that lucky number thirteen.

Pedro Morales
Morales became the first man to ever complete the Triple Crown, which was truly a remarkable feat considering the longevity of title reigns back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Morales was the WWWF Champion for the majority of 1971 – 1973. When he returned to the WWWF in 1980 he quickly won the WWF Tag belts with then WWWF Champion Bob Backlund. Back then the stipulations said that no man could hold two championships at one time and thus they were stripped of the belts. With a fellow babyface as Heavyweight Champion, Morales was forced to go for the Intercontinental belt, which he won in late 1980 from Ken Patera. He spent most of 1981 – 1983 feuding with Magnificent Muraco over the I-C belt, trading the belt back and forth. His second reign with the Intercontinental belt was then a record-long 14-month reign.

Bret Hart
No one would stake claim to the Triple Crown again until 1992 when Bret Hart would win the WWF Championship. Hart started out in the tag ranks, winning WWF Tag gold twice before going solo and working his way through the singles ranks to win two Intercontinental Championships. Within three months of losing his second I-C belt, Hart pulled what was considered an upset and beat Ric Flair for the WWF Championship. Hart’s model of winning the gold, starting as a tag guy and then working as a mid-carder before going up to the main event was a logical progression to earn the championships. It felt like a real sports model as Bret as an athlete seemingly improved as he worked his way through the various championship divisions until he finally became the best in his profession.

Diesel
Diesel was a case of the WWF sticking a rocket to someone’s ass and absolutely pushing him straight to the moon. He debuted in the WWF in June of ’93 as a bodyguard. By Royal Rumble ’94 he eliminated seven men in a feat that has since now been dubbed “the Diesel push” and by the summer of ’94 he was a dual Intercontinental and Tag Champion. Apparently that old rule that was in effect for Backlund and Morales had been abolished by this point. He soon dropped the I-C belt, and within days of him and Shawn vacating the Tag belts Diesel beat Backlund for the WWF Championship. Diesel had done the unthinkable, by winning all three major championships in the same calendar year.

Shawn Michaels
It would be Diesel’s old partner Shawn Michaels that would next reach that elusive pinnacle. Michaels won the Intercontinental Championship in 1992 and 1993 and then got the Tag belts with Diesel in 1994. It wouldn’t be until 1996 when Michaels beat Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania XII that he too joined his long-time rival as a Triple Crown winner. He has since been WWE Champion three times, Intercontinental Champion three times and Tag Champion four times. He is also the first man to capture the WWF Grand Slam, as he won the European Championship shortly after it was introduced as the WWF’s fourth Championship in 1997.

Steve Austin
By the time Steve Austin became the prominent figure in the WWF, the “attitude” ea was in full swing. This meant that storylines and championships moved at a more frequent pace. From 1997 until 2002 Austin racked up some serious hardware, winning six WWF Championships, two Intercontinental Championships and four Tag Championships, all with different partners.

The Rock
Rocky Maivia came from a strong wrestling pedigree, a grandson of High Chief Peter Maivia and son of Rocky Johnson and part of the famed Anoi’a Samoan wrestling family. He too got the proverbial rocket up the ass, winning the Intercontinental Championship within a few short months of his debut. He followed the Bret Hart formula, starting at the bottom and working his way up the ranks slowly before he earned his way to the main event and WWF Championship. It wasn’t until he was a main event player that he won Tag gold, picking up reigns with fellow main eventers Mick Foley, Undertaker and Chris Jericho throughout the years.

Triple H
Much like The Rock, Triple H started at the bottom and worked his way up through the ranks to earn his Triple Crown. In fact, many of his Intercontinental and Heavyweight Title battles were against The Rock. He also didn’t gain Tag gold until well into his storied career, as he and another hated rival, Steve Austin, picked up Tag gold together in 2001. Triple H is also the second man to get the Grand Slam, as he beat then-partner Shawn Michaels to gain European gold.

Kane
Kane was never been a performer that has had his career based on Championship reigns. His sole WWF Championship reign was only 24 hours long. His two Intercontinental Title reigns only lasted a month apiece and despite having nine tag title reigns, none of them were really noteworthy save for his six-month monster team reign with Big Show. He is probably the least likely and least deserving performer on this list.

Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho was already a fairly established star when he arrived in the WWF in 1999. He won Intercontinental gold fairly shortly upon his arrival in the Federation and became a footnote in history due not only losing his Intercontinental belt to the only female Intercontinental Champion in history, Chyna, but then also being named co-Intercontinental champion alongside Chyna, another historical tidbit. Jericho has been Intercontinental Champion a record seven times. He soon picked up short Tag Title reigns with Chris Benoit, The Rock and Christian. But his true historical place is as the first ever Undisputed Heavyweight Champion, a combined championship of the WWF Championship and the old WCW Heavyweight Championship, which was renamed simply the World Heavyweight Title. His 24 hour reign as European Champion also puts him in the Grand Slam club, and his minutes long reign as Hardcore Champion puts him in a special five-title club.

Ric Flair
The Nature Boy, often considered the best and most prolific wrestler in modern history, is more known for his NWA/WCW exploits than his WWE runs, but Flair has managed to also pick up WWE’s triple crown, thanks to two WWF Championship reigns in 1992, a 2005 Intercontinental Title reign and a trio of Tag Title reign. His Intercontinental and Tag reigns are often looked at afterthoughts in Flair’s career. The Intercontinental Championship reign can be seen as a step down for the former Heavyweight Champion great, and his 2006 Tag Title reign with fellow “old guy” Roddy Piper was also viewed poorly. Flair is better known as the “sixteen time World Champion” but his accomplishments in WWE only add to his prolific career.

Edge
Edge, like his Canadian brethren Bret Hart, started out as a low-card tag wrestler that moved up to being a Tag Champion, then working his way through the mid-card to become Intercontinental Champion and then finally earned the WWE Championship in what can be considered another out-of-nowhere upset. His two WWE Title reigns have been fairly short and his World Championship reign was cut short due to injury so his mettle as a true main event-level Champion has really yet to be tested but he’s bound to pick up more Heavyweight gold before his time comes to an end. On a side note Edge can be considered a true tag team specialist, picking up a record 11 Titles, with five different tag partners.

Rob Van Dam
RVD has always seemed like he was destined to be just a mid-card and upper mid-card player so it was a nice refreshing change in June 2006 when he finally earned the WWE Championship to go with his six Intercontinental Titles and two World Tag Titles. Unfortunately his pot smoking habit got him in trouble and he lost his WWE Title within a month and will probably never get the chance again to prove that he deserved to be at that main event level. He also joins Chris Jericho in that even more elusive five Titles club as he was the one responsible for unifying and retiring the European and Hardcore Championships.

Randy Orton
On Sunday, October 7, 2007, Randy Orton officially became the thirteenth man to join the Triple Crown club when he won the WWE Championship not once, but twice, on the same evening. He is now the current and reigning WWE Champion. His other credentials include a near eight-month Intercontinental Title reign through 2004 and a brief WWE Tag Title reign with Edge in early 2007. He is still under thirty years old and barring any more “behavior” problems Orton should see more Titles rack up in his future.

The Perspective
Other men like Booker T, Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Kurt Angle, JBL, John Cena and even now Johnny Nitro have all held some sort of three Championship trifecta, but none have held the original true Triple Crown described above. It’ll be interesting to watch in the months and years to come to see who will join this exclusive club. After all Kenny Dykstra and Mike Mondo are already a third of the way there

For this week the vault is closed

Linked to the Pulse
Blatt gets EXTREME!!!

Big Andy Mac looks back at Colt Cabana’s ROH farewell

David B. talks about Stephy and Hunter’s big night

Recent History
This is a new section I have devised where I can ramble through my thoughts on this past week in wrestling, whether it be the television shows, pay per views, or any news that came out. Kinda like Vh1’s “Best Week Ever,” but this should be less annoying hopefully.

I liked the first two-hour Impact. They still managed to cram all forty of their roster members into the show but at least they had twice the time to do it. Plus I’m a mark for crappy Dungeon of Doom-esque stables like James Mitchell is putting together.

It sounds like No Mercy was pretty awful, and only the (final) main event match was able to save it from King of the Ring ’95 levels of bad. And I had such hope and promise that this show would be a surprise hit.

I just read that Tony Atlas made a fool of himself in front of the Ohio Valley developmental talent, most notably calling out CM Punk and claiming he would never make it to TV with his look and attitude. Out of touch old people make me smile.

RAW was completely forgettable except for a fairly decent Jeff Hardy-Mr. Kennedy match and the return of Skinner to RAW. Oh that was Shawn Michaels? Could’ve fooled me

I watched ECW when I got home from the bars on Tuesday night so I don’t remember much, but apparently Kevin Thorne (or is it Thorn) dropped a jobber in a botched move, Kelly’s boobs looked bigger and CM Punk took a bad face bump. But props for Punk for actually taping his “ribs,” as opposed to taping up his stomach/kidneys and calling it his ribs like Hogan and DDP did for years.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1980 – Bobby Jaggers defeated Bugsy McGraw for the Florida State Heavyweight title
1984 – Ronnie Garvin defeated Ted DiBiase for the Georgia National Heavyweight title
1987 – Bill Dundee & Jerry Lawler defeated Doug Somers & Soldat Ustinov for the AWA Tag Team title
1993 – Randy Savage defeated Jerry Lawler for the USWA Unified Heavyweight title

1964 – Sam Houston was born
1966 – Rikishi was born
1969 – Tazz was born

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

Rowdy Roddy Piper’s book In the Pit with Piper was an interesting read for the old road stories and tales of the old territories. But it’s really entertaining just to read some of Piper’s tall tales. He is all over the place in the book and at the end just kind of trails off, saying virtually nothing about the ‘90s or 2000s. His take on Vince’s national expansion is quite interesting however, as he details a meeting where 20 of the country’s best territorial workers (like himself, Andre, Muraco, Orndorff, Dave Schulz, JYD, Mr. Fuji and many others) were all brought together and realize that Vince told them all they would be “the one” to lead the new expansion when it was really going to Hogan after all. It’s a fun read for the stories, but keep in mind that many are in fact just that, stories.

Everybody Likes to See Their Name in Print
Hey check out this link for Wrestling Noticias, a Portugese wrestling fan site that asked to translate my Historically Speaking column in Portugese and repost on their website. They seem like good guys so check out what my column and other wrestling news looks like in another language.

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