JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #1: Crippling

For our entire (and now complete) countdown click here.

#1: Crippling
What: Chris Benoit murders his wife, Nancy, son, Daniel, and then commits suicide
Where: Fayetteville, GA
When: June 22-24, 2007

I will never forget the day I heard the news. I received a text message from one of the top wrestlers in the industry who I befriended on a movie set earlier in the year. The message read:

“Dear Ariel,
Chris Benoit and his family are dead. God Bless them all. Call you later.”

My body went numb. I was in total shock. I ran to my computer to confirm the tragedy and he was right: Chris, Nancy and Daniel were all dead. A few hours later, Monday Night Raw aired and, well, you know the rest.

In a year filled with so many great MMA and boxing moments we, unfortunately, end on another tragic wrestling death. Once again, 2007 saw the industry forced to deal with its general slew of deaths but this one was, sadly, on a whole other level.

There’s nothing more I can add to this story. I have been sitting here for an hour thinking of a nice way to wrap it up but I can’t. I hate thinking about it. I hate to think of all the gruesome details. I’m ashamed to admit I ever admired Benoit and, for a time, I was ashamed of the business.

Some say good will come out of this. Congress will investigate the industry and clean it up for good. Maybe so (I doubt it) but it will never be worth it. A little boy and his mother died AS A RESULT of the industry. And If you think this murder-suicide had nothing to do with wrestling well, then, there’s really nothing more I can say.

Further Enlightenment:
Chris Benoit, Family Found Dead [Slam! Sports]
Police Paint Grisly Picture Of Benoit Home [ABC News]
Doping Still An Issue In Wrestling [USA Today]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #2: Box Office Boxing

We’re not ready for 2008 just yet. We continue our countdown of the Top 15 Combat Sports Moments of 2007. The list can be found here.

#2: Box Office Boxing
What: Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather rewrite the pay-per-view record books
Where: MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, NV
When: May 5, 2007

Let it be known that the reason De La Hoya vs. Mayweather is so high on our list is not for the fight itself. That one might make our most over-hyped list. Basically, we have a rule around these parts: If a fight breaks several records it deserves some kind of a spot at the top of our countdown lists (and if this were a normal year it probably would have been #1). We’ve already made it known that HBO’s 24/7 was largely responsible for its success but allow me to fully break down the numbers for everyone:

* Its 2.4 million pay-per-view buys shattered the 1.99 million buys for Holyfield vs. Tyson in 1997 and really shattered the non-heavyweight record of 1.4 million buys for De La Hoya vs. Trinidad in 1999.

* The total revenue of the bout was $165 million beating the previous record of $112 million by Lewis vs. Tyson in 2002.

* As a result of all the millions generated, Oscar De La Hoya passed Evander Holyfield as the all-time leader in pay-per-view sales with 12.8 million buys.

* The $134.4 million in PPV revenue helped further establish DLH as the PPV king as his fights have generated $626.4 million. Mike Tyson sits in second place with $545 million.

So, the next time you’re at a bar and some drunk sitting next to you waxes idiotic on how boxing is dead just pull out this cheat sheet and stuff it in his face. Then give him a shot right in the kidneys and tell him we sent you.

Further Enlightenment:
Cinco De Mayweather [HBO]
HBO Numbers Prove Superfight Was Super Big At Box Office [ESPN]
De La Hoya-Mayweather Was Richest Fight Ever [MSNBC]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #3: The Death Of WCW, er, Pride

2008 is upon us but we’re still stuck in 2007. For our complete list of the Top 15 Combat Sports Moments of 2007 click here.

#3: The Death Of WCW, er, Pride
What: The UFC purchases Pride and then quietly puts it to sleep
Where: Las Vegas & Japan
When: Spring 2007

The similarities between the fall of World Championship Wrestling and Pride Fighting Championships are eerie. Let us count the ways:

* WCW was purchased by its top competitor – World Wrestling Federation. Pride was purchased by its top competitor – the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

* When the WWF acquired WCW they vowed to rebuild the brand into a better and stronger promotion. When the UFC acquired Pride they vowed to rebuild the brand into a better and stronger promotion (ha).

* WWF signed some of WCW’s biggest stars only to have them fail in their ring. UFC signed some of Pride’s biggest stars only to have them fail in their Octagon.

* WWF planned to run WCW as a seperate entity but quickly scrapped those plans. UFC planned to run Pride as…well, you get the picture.

Oh, and both purchases went down in the month of March (I know the Pride deal took a while to get finalized but it was pretty much official in March).

The jury is still out on who will now become the top MMA promotion in Japan. Will it be K1 Hero’s? Yarennoka? World Victory Road? Will the sport suffer the same hardships as Japanese pro wrestling? Who knows. But one thing is for sure in spite of all it’s political issues outside the ring (and there were many) Pride will be missed. On the other hand, I can’t say the same for WCW anymore since it’s pretty much back in the form of TNA.

Further Enlightenment:
Zuffa-Controlled: DSE Cedes Pride To UFC Bosses [Sherdog]
UFC Buys Pride – How It Can Avoid WWE’s Mistakes [Associated Content]
Did Dana White Blow it in 2007? [Sam Caplan]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #5 & #4: Superman Returns…Then Departs

Everyone loves a countdown list so here’s ours: The top 15 combat sports moments of 2007. For the entire list click here.

#5 & #4 : Superman Returns…Then Departs
What: Randy Couture returns to the UFC and captures their Heavyweight title. Seven months later, he resigns from the company vowing to never fight for them again.
Where: Columbus, Ohio and Las Vegas, Nevada
When: March 3, 2007 – October 11, 2007

There was no way we could divide these two stories apart. For the record, we have slotted Couture’s title victory of Tim Sylvia as the fifth biggest moment and his resignation from the UFC as the fourth. The reason for this is that most believed Couture would eventually return to fight at least one more time following his first retirement in February 2006 (at least I did). There were rumors that he would even challenge Tito Ortiz if he would have beaten Chuck Liddell for the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 66. Obviously that never happened but once an opportunity materialized to challenge Sylvia at UFC 68 for his Heavyweight crown, Couture jumped all over it. While it probably won’t be remembered as the greatest technical MMA fight of all-time no other bout has ever possessed the kind of emotion Couture-Sylvia had. There’s just something about Randy, I guess. After defeating Sylvia, Couture knocked off Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74. Another inspiring victory and this time he finished off his opponent with a broken arm. At 44-years-old, Randy Couture was sitting firmly atop the MMA world.

However, less than two months later, the honeymoon would end for the UFC and Couture. Whether it had anything to do with the UFC’s inability to sign Fedor Emalianenko, Couture’s contract or something else – we will never know. But, regardless the reason, you would be hard-pressed to find one soul who actually believed that by the end of 2007 Randy Couture and the UFC would be on the outs.

I am always surprised at how many similarities exist between the UFC and WWE not to mention Dana White and Vince McMahon. And, if you think about it, this spat is very reminisicnent of the Hogan-McMahon breakup of the early 90s. Much like most wrestling divorces McMahon and Hogan would make up and agree to work together again (too much money to be made, brother). But I have a feeling that this saga will end differently. In fact, why do I get the feeling that August 25, 2007 may have been the last time we ever see Couture compete in an MMA match again?

Further Enlightenment:
He’s Back- Couture Returns To Face Sylvia at UFC 68 [UFC]
Not Bad For An Old Man”…Couture Wins! [MMA Weekly]
‘Disenchanted’ Couture Resigns From UFC [ESPN]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #6: The Game Changes

As if you already didn’t know, we’re counting down the top 15 combat sports moments of 2007. The entire list can be found here.

#6: The Game Changes
What: HBO Sports introduces 24/7 – a new (and very much improved) way of promoting fights
Where: Home Box Office
When: April 2007

Prior to this year, there had pretty much been a standard way of hyping a big fight: Produce a 30-to-60 minute special highlighting the strengths, the trials and the tribulations of the participants involved and – voila – you’ve got yourself a cookie cutter “Countdown to (enter two fighters names here)” show. But HBO Sports (full disclosure: I used to work for them but left the network almost three years ago) officially blew that formula up and, boy, do they deserve a whole lot of credit for their efforts.

Simply put, HBO Sports’ introduction of De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 may have been the most revolutionary promotional tool to hit the combat sports world since the invention of pay-per-view. No one had EVER rolled out anything like this before. A four-part reality series following both fighters as they prepare for their bout? Tremendous television. And this wasn’t a show shot six months prior to the showdown. Oh no, the content of each episode (save for the main interviews involving the fighters and trainers) was shot in the week leading up to the airing of that particular episode. Revolutionary, indeed. And if anyone is wondering why or how DLH-PBF generated 2.4 million pay-per-view buys (a record), the main reason has to be the impact of 24/7.

HBO followed De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7 with Mayweather-Hatton 24/7. While the sequel didn’t generate the same kind of PPV buys as the original (850,000 domestically) here’s hoping more 24/7‘s are green light next year and that the UFC and Spike decide to produce the same kind of shows. However, something tells me that the UFC will never be able to fully duplicate the magic of HBO Sports’ 24/7. There’s a reason why they’re the undisputed king of combat sports and just in case anyone began to doubt their top spot on the totem poll, 24/7 once again cemented it.

Further Enlightenment:
HBO Sports Presents An Exclusive Four-Episode Countdown Series [Pound4Pound]
The Best Damn Sports Show, Period [Slate]
Hatton Joins Mayweather For HBO Sports’ ’24/7′ Sequel [USA Today]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #7: Terra Rising

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7? from ‘07 and the “8? from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#8: Terra Rising
What: Matt Serra defeats Georges St. Pierre and captures the UFC Welterweight title
Where: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
When: April 7, 2007

Excuse me but this one really hits close to home. You see, I was fortunate enough to witness Georges St. Pierre’s UFC 65 victory over Matt Hughes in a sports bar in my hometown (as well as his) of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I kid you not – the roar at that sports bar was akin to anything I heard following a huge Montreal Canadiens victory. Later that night, I dreamed of the UFC making its debut at the Bell Centre with GSP defending his belt in front of his people. But a funny thing happened on the way to La Belle Province…

That’s all I got. Let us never speak of this again.

Further Enlightenment:
UFC 69 Review: Matt Serra Shocks The World [MMA Weekly]
LIer Serra Grabs Title, Shocks UFC [Newsday]
Matt Serra Wins UFC Title, Sportscenter Covers it [AOL Fanhouse]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #8: Rampage Cameth

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7″ from ‘07 and the “8″ from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#8: Rampage Cometh
What: Quentin “Rampage” Jackson knocks out Chuck Liddell and captures the UFC Light Heavyweight title
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV
When: May 26, 2007

Just a few days before UFC 79, it’s interesting to look back on the night Quentin Jackson knocked out the once-dominant Chuck Liddell for several reasons. Liddell hasn’t won since that fight (he lost another bout to Keith Jardine at UFC 76) but is looking to get back in the win column this Saturday night against Wanderlei Silva. A loss to the Axe Murderer would finally cement the fact that 2007 will forever be known as the year the Iceman melted.

The first time these two Light Heavyweights met was at Pride Final Conflict 2003 in the Tokyo Dome. Rampage dominated Liddell then and did the same in May. While their first bout ended at 3:15 in round 2, Jackson only needed a quick minute and 53 seconds to dispose the UFC’s golden boy. Some (including myself) predicted a Rampage victory but no one really thought it would end that quickly and, most importantly, no one believed the loss would change Liddell’s career forever. Five months later, Liddell enters the cage on Saturday desperately seeking a victory while Rampage gets ready to be a coach on TUF 7 and to officially become the most popular fighter in the world. A year ago the UFC quietly purchased Jackson’s contract from the WFA. Now, with Couture gone, Liddell slipping and Hughes’ impending retirement they look to Rampage to lead the way come 2008. Stay tuned.

Further Enlightenment:
Rampage TKOs Liddell At UFC 71 [Newsday]
Rampage Doesn’t Just Have Liddell’s Number – He Has His Belt [CBS Sports]
Sportsman Of The Year: Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson [Memphis Commercial Appeal]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #9: Back From The Dead

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7? from ‘07 and the “8? from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#9: Back From The Dead
What: The sport of boxing enjoys one of its best years ever
Where: Squared circles across the world
When: The year 2007

One of the most hysterical subplots of ’07 was how every non-boxing sports writer under the sun had declared the sweet science officially dead. I suppose most of these folks don’t care to do research because if they did they would realize that the sport’s PPV numbers and HBO ratings were as strong as ever. I guess it just made for a good story or something. Consider this short list of tremendous fights 2007 gave us:

* Mayweather-De La Hoya
* Cotto-Judah
* Calzaghe-Kessler
* Pavlik-Taylor
* Vazquez-Marquez I and II
* Pavlik-Miranda
* Mayweather-Hatton
* Mosley-Cotto

And the best part? 2008 is shaping up to be potentially better. So keep talking about how boxing is dead. I’ll gladly take another dead year all over again.

Further Enlightenment:
Plenty Of Good Candidates For Fight Of The Year [Yahoo! Sports]
2007 Ends With Hope For The Future [HBO]
The Sports Guy Now Does Not Think Boxing Is Dead [No Mas]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #10: UFC Goes Mainstream (For A Week)

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7″ from ‘07 and the “8″ from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#10: UFC Goes Mainstream (For A Week)
What: UFC lands on the covers of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated on the same week. ESPN also covers UFC 71 as a major sporting event.
Where: ESPN and Sports Illustrated
When: May 2007

Am I the only one who feels that the week leading up to UFC 71 now was all just a dream? Did the UFC actually land on the cover of SI and ESPN The Magazine on the same week? Were they really the lead-in story on the 6 p.m. Sportscenter the Friday before Memorial Day? Was that really Joe Rogan debating Lou Dibella? And, if so, where has all that coverage gone?

I remember witnessing all this mainstream press and thinking “wow, MMA is going to start getting covered everywhere: Box scores, highlights, magazines etc.” Then I realized that my first mistake was thinking that MMA was the popular term of the day when it was actually UFC. Most casual sports I know have no idea what MMA is or means but can definitely tell you about the UFC. My next mistake was thinking the UFC was really going to receive a consistent stream of media coverage. It has certainly increased since this time last year but, sadly, that week in May has since proved to be the exception more so than the rule.

Further enlightenment:
Chuck Liddell Graces ESPN Magazine Cover [AOL Fanhouse]
The New Main Event [Sports Illustrated]
Sports Illustrated on MMA [Prophet Fighting]

JarryPark’s 15 Moments Of ’07 – #11: Cro Cropped

For the next couple of weeks, JarryPark.com will countdown the 15 most memorable combat sports moments of 2007. Some will be positive while others will be negative. Some will have happened in a ring or cage while others on the outside. Every day, we’ll feature a single moment as we bid adieu to ‘07. As we present each moment, feel free to agree or disagree with any of our selections in the comments section below.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why we chose fifteen the answer is quite simple: You take the “7? from ‘07 and the “8? from ‘08, add them together and you get 15. Duh. To see the rest of the countdown click here.

#11: Cro Cropped
What: Gabriel Gonzaga stuns the MMA world by almost knocking Mirko Cro Cop’s head off
Where: Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England
When: April 21, 2007

To fully appreciate the shocking sight of little-known Gabriel Gonzaga knocking out Mirko Cro Cop one must fully understand the kind of vicious fighter Cro Cop was in Pride FC. At one point in time, the former Croatian law enforcement officer was the most feared fighter in the world. Something about his stone cold demeanor and his deadly head kick KOs (ironically, the same maneuver Gonzaga used to finish him off) made some of the baddest men on the planet quiver in their shorts when he stepped in the ring. For whatever reason, that aura failed to travel with him across the globe when he signed with the UFC earlier this year. His Octagon debut was an unimpressive victory over Eddie Sanchez – a fighter most pundits believed Cro Cop would defeat in less than a minute.

Then came the bout against Gonzaga. From the moment both men entered the cage you had the sense something weird was about to happen. Cro Cop didn’t have that same killer look in his eye and Gonzaga, well, he looked unimpressed. At 4:51 of the first round MMA fans witnessed the official end of the Mirko Cro Cop era. Most would never had imagined it would go down like this. Not against Gonzaga. Not this soon. Not with a head kick. The shot heard ’round Croatia, indeed.

Further enlightenment:
Gonzaga Knocks Out Cro Cop In First Round At UFC 70 [CBS Sport]
‘Napao’ Stuns Cro Cop, Earns Shot At Couture [UFC]
Cro Cop And The “R” Word [Houston Chronicle]