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  July 4, 2001

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Triumph and tragedy on July 4th

By CHRIS SCHRAMM -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Apple pie, mom and the American flag are three things many think of when you say the 4th of July. It was July 4, 1776 that the United States officially signed themselves free of Britain and became a new country.

Professional wrestling has both celebration and tragedy on this day. Many promotions have used this day to put on a giant event to promote both wrestling and the birthday of the United States.

Probably the most memorable 4th of July event in recent history came when Lex Luger bodyslammed then WWF World champion Yokozuna in 1993. Numerous other wrestlers and sports athletes of different sports, including Randy Savage attempted 'The bodyslam heard around the world.' The event was held on the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City. The slam led Luger on a tour the United States on his "Lex Express" bus. The final stop saw him defeat Yokozuna by countout in Auburn Hills, MI, in August 1993.

Back about 80 years, in 1915, Joe Stecher and Charlie Cutler wrestled to see who was truly the undisputed wrestling champion. The Omaha, Neb., crowd saw Stecher become the first widely recognized World champion since Frank Gotch retired two years before.

Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling, which ran until the mid-1980s, booked frequent events on July 4. Their event in 1981 saw Paul Orndorff defeat Jake Roberts in New Orleans, LA, to win the Mid-South North American title. Both men would make their name, though, when they signed with the WWF just a few years later.

The holidays are usually celebrated in glorious tradition, but disaster struck some on this day. Davey "British Bulldog" Smith, Jason the Terrible (Karl Moffatt) and Chris Benoit were riding in a car in Jasper, Alberta, when they struck an oncoming car. Smith was thrown through the windshield and requires over 1,000 stitches, Jason the Terrible suffered a fractured left leg and Benoit injured his right knee. All three men returned to action shortly after.

Kelly Twins
The Kellys.
The year before was not as lucky for three men. Mike Kelly was driving Adrian Adonis, Dave 'The Wildman' McKigney, and his twin brother Pat Kelly in Lewisporte, Newfoundland, when Kelly lost control of the van, trying to avoid a moose. The van fell into a lake, and Mike Kelly was the only survivor.

Tragedy did not stop there. In 1990, Ed Leslie, who wrestled as Brutus Beefcake and The Disciple, suffered massive facial injuries after a parceling accident in Lutz, FL. He underwent immediate surgery that requires eight steel plates, 40 screws and hundreds of staples. He returned to action in a few years.

The third man in the ring when Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III was WWF referee Joey Marella. In 1994, Marella died in an automobile accident while driving in New Jersey. The person hit most by the death was his father, the late Gorilla Monson.

The United States celebrates the 4th of July while the wrestling world remembers the great and tragic memories of this day.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't let it be said we're Canadian all the time! Happy birthday to our friends in the good ol' U.S.A.

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