20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
I found this guy on another thread that is going through old WO from 20 years ago. I thought that I would post them here and it might make for some good discussion and bring back memories. Future dates are coming up.
JAN 4th, 1988
WWF[spoiler]-- Meltzer reported that NBC would be broadcasting a prime-time wrestling special at some point in 1988. It's speculated that the show will be used to set up the big angle for Wrestlemania IV. Meltzer has been told, though unconfirmed, that the show will air on 02/05 and that the main event would be Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant. Meltzer stated this would be the most watched wrestling match of all time if Titan is as successful with the prime-time show as they had been on Saturday nights, and that it could mean enormous things for the WWF in the long-term.
-- Meltzer stated McMahon intends to counter the NWA's Bunkhouse Stampede PPV by airing a new show called the Royal Rumble on USA for free.
-- Meltzer notes that the same battle royal concept was tried once in St. Louis and was a horrible match and didn't draw at all.
-- The Slammy Awards special drew a 6.2 rating and 15 share nationally. In most markets, the show finished second in its time slot (behind SNL) and doubled the rating of usual programming in most markets where it aired. Meltzer had not yet seen the show, but had heard both that it was great and funny, and also that it was tasteless.
-- 12/26 at MSG was headlined by Randy Savage vs Honky Tonk Man in a cage, 01/25 at MSG was scheduled to be Hogan & Bam Bam Bigelow vs Ted DiBiase & Virgil headlining
-- Jumping Bomb Angels were scheduled to appear on the undercard of a 1/17 show in Oakland, CA
-- Killer Khan did retire, but he was asked to retire
-- Nick Bockwinkel was brought in as a special referee for WWF shows on 12/26 in Chicago and 12/27 in St. Paul, MN
-- 12/27 at the Capital Centre drew 13,000 headlined by Hogan and Bigelow vs Andre and King Kong Bundy
-- Actual crowd for the SNME taping on 12/07 at the Capital Centre was 13,000, not 11,000 as was previously reported. Said it will be interesting to see the card air, because they taped two Rick Rude vs Junkyard Dog matches, with each of them winning once. JYD's push was being phased out while Rude was being groomed as a headliner, and Meltzer thinks the other match was taped to show Rude they could kill his push and air the other match if they really wanted. Apparently, Rude had been complaining about a few things.[/spoiler]
NWA[spoiler]-- Figures came in late, but the total revenue of Starrcade '87, combining the live gate, closed circuit and PPV, was $1.3 million. Roughly $820,000 came from 40 closed circuit theatres, $180,000 came from the sellout at the UIC Pavillion, and another $300,000 came from the estimated 20,000 PPV buys, which at the time was around a 7.0 buyrate. Crockett didn't lose money on the show, but the profit was way down from the previous two years. Meltzer said financially, Starrcade was not a flop by any means.
-- The head-to-head battle was scheduled to continue, as Crockett would be presenting the Bunkhouse Stampede finals on pay-per-view on January 24, the first ever legitimate attempt at PPV by the NWA, since Starrcade '87 was largely sabotaged by the WWF. Meltzer states Vince will be doing everything he can to kill the show at the gate, and has doubts about the potential of a bunkhouse battle royal to do big business. Meltzer thinks the only chance of making the show a success is to load the undercard with hot angles. Meltzer strongly feels that because most people who can buy PPV also have VCRs, the WWF's attempts to sabotage the show will not make or break it, but instead, the key will be how well the show is promoted by Crockett and how strong the overall card is. Meltzer could confirm Ric Flair vs Road Warrior Hawk and Barry Windham vs Larry Zbyszko for the card. Meltzer really hopes they come up with a fresh finish for Flair/Hawk instead of ref bump, blood, count by another ref, reversal of decision, etc.
-- The NWA ran an angle in Atlanta's Omni on 12/25 where after Lex Luger won a Bunkhouse Stampede, Luger was tripleteamed by Arn, Tully and JJ Dillon until Ole Anderson returned and cleared the ring to set up Ole/Luger vs Arn/Tully on 1/1. The whole angle was aired on TBS, but the production quality was awful. The show was also headlined by a 30-minute draw between Ric Flair and Barry Windham, and drew a $40,000 gate and crowd of 8,000
-- Barry Windham returned to the ring on 12/25 after being sidelined with a broken collarbone. Rick Steiner was expected to return from his shoulder injury very soon. Mighty Wilbur broke his leg at the Omni on 12/25 taking a bad bump over the top rope. Ricky Morton suffered a knee injury in a Bunkhouse Stampede in Charlotte, and Robert Gibson was still sidelined with a back injury.
-- Steve Williams messed up his knee while filming stunts in Canada for an unnamed Lyle Alzado TV pilot. He was expected to return soon, but had January commitments in both the NWA and Japan, with both groups expecting him to fulfill his dates.
-- Suspected that Nikita Koloff is about to turn due to hints being dropped in interviews from Kevin Sullivan and Dusty Rhodes.
-- 12/25 in Charlotte drew a $37,000 gate (headlined by Flair vs Hayes and a Bunkhouse Stampede), 12/25 in Atlanta drew a $40,000 gate (headlined by a Bunkhouse Stampede), 12/26 in Richmond, VA drew a crowd of 7,000 for a TV taping, 12/26 in Philadelphia drew a crowd of 6,000 and a $75,000 gate (headlined by Flair vs Sting), 12/26 in Detroit drew a crowd of 1,500. The Detroit card was said to be a mess because the Richmond TV taping ran over and the wrestlers were exhausted. Local TV aired no promos to hype the card until the day after it actually occurred.
-- New Breed, Lightning Express, Terry Taylor, Black Bart and Skandor Akbar were employed by the company, but not being used.
-- Crockett was to begin airing shows on WPIX in New York after some changes were made to his contract with TBS that had previously prevented it. The plan was to start airing more matches from arenas and less from the studio. The tentative plan was 75% arena footage and one studio show per month.
-- Both the WWF and Japan were showing interest in Big Bubba Rogers.
-- Corrected a previous story reported that the Florida offices were closed. Said it is true for the most part, but some shows were being run from Crockett's office. As part of Eddie Graham's estate, the building where the old CWF offices were in Tampa were still owned by Mike Graham. The building where TV was taped now had Alessi Brothers boxing on the first floor, but still had a functioning wrestling studio on the second floor.[/spoiler]
AWA[spoiler]-- 12/25 in Minneapolis drew 1,800 for the return of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, facing the Original Midnight Express in a 30-minute draw, and also Curt Hennig defending the AWA title against Greg Gagne with Verne Gagne strapped to Larry Hennig at ringside. Regarding the show, there was to be no Hennigs vs Gagnes tag match between the four on the horizon because no one wanted Larry Hennig wrestling at that point, including Larry himself, although Verne really wanted him to do a comeback. Alan West subbed for DJ Peterson who had left the territory after Thanksgiving. Peterson gave notice in November that he would be leaving at the end of the month. On the Thanksgiving card, a match was scheduled where Peterson would wrestle Kevin Kelly and if Peterson lost, he'd leave town and if Kelly lost, then Peterson would get Madusa Miceli for 30 days. Oddly, they had Peterson win anyway, and then never did the follow up angle.
-- The original plans were for the Rockers to only come in for five or six dates and then return to Memphis as heels, but it appears they will be full-time in the AWA in 1988.
-- AWA had plans to run its last card at the Minneapolis Auditorium, which was being torn down. However, the WWF was planning on moving their shows from St. Paul to Bloomington, which would open up St. Paul again for Verne and keep him having a presence in the Twin Cities.
-- Billy Jack Strong, aka Steve DiSalvo, was only there short-term and would be returning to Calgary.
-- Curt Hennig would be gone most of January for an All Japan tour, and Adrian Adonis would be touring New Japan sometime early in the year as well.
-- The AWA would no longer be providing tapes for Pro Wrestling This Week. Meltzer thinks this was a mistake, because so much of Paul E. Dangerously becoming a name manager could be attributed to his Danger Zone segments on PWTW.[/spoiler]
WCCW[spoiler]-- WCCW ran a big angle on 12/25/87 at Reunion Arena, before a crowd of 5,100 fans, where Al Perez was scheduled to defend the title against Kerry Von Erich with Fritz handcuffed to Gary Hart. Before the match, a swarm of heels attacked Fritz before Kevin and Kerry made the save. On the way to the back, Fritz collapsed, and Kevin freaked out, screaming for them someone to call an ambulance. The supposed heart attack was hyped on TV the next day as yet another family tragedy, and they stated Fritz was in critical condition at Baylor hospital. Meltzer thinks booker Ken Mantell was trying to recapture the magic of the Flair/Kerry match on Christmas night of '82 that turned business around for the territory. He said he was unsure if it was a great angle or the most tasteless angle of the year. Meltzer does think with Mantel booking, things will pick up, because they really can't get worse, and the company plans on bringing in some good talent. "However, this group remains without peer in its ability and callousness at exploiting past tragedy to get an angle over," Meltzer said. The show was sent to San Antonio via PPV, but no one was told about it, and they didn't reserve enough satellite time, so they had to sign off the air at 1:00 AM with three of the top matches having not yet taken place -- right after the Fritz angle. The final three matches of the show (Kevin Von Erich, Chris Adams & Steve Simpson vs Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts & Iceman Parsons; Al Perez vs Kerry Von Erich; Eric Embry vs Shaun Simpson) were all held in cages. For some reason, Iron Sheik vs Matt Borne was announced as a cage match, but did not take place in a cage.
-- The Thing, a Boris Malenko trainee from Florida, left after losing to Kerry Von Erich in 57 seconds on Thanksgiving. On TV, they said The Thing was an imposter. Gary Hart brought Rip Morgan in, who was now being called The Real Thing.
-- Because of all the incoming talent, Vic Steamboat, Tony Falk, Frankie Lancaster, Al Madrial, Ted Arcidi and The Spoiler were all let go. Tony Atlas was probably on the way out as well, but first, he and Skip Young would need to drop the Texas tag titles to John Tatum and Jack Victory
-- 12/26 in San Antonio drew a crowd of 3,500 headlined by Kevin & Kerry Von Erich vs Frankie Lancaster & Brian Adias.
-- WCCW was giving the illusion of Wild West being a different group despite having the same booker, the same talent and running combined TV tapings. Meltzer said they were having problems with long delays on TV tapings, and that the shows in some cases weren't ending until 1:00 AM. Meltzer compared it to the UWF and NWA in some ways, although because Wild West was Ken Mantel's group, they weren't killing off the Wild West guys. Mantel had some backers who helped him get Wild West started who were unhappy about him taking over WCCW.
-- The 1/2 Dallas card would have all tickets priced at $5.00 and all drinks priced at 50 cents.
-- Jason Sterling was headed in.
-- When Kerry and Kevin Von Erich returned from their tour of Japan, they said they won the Asian tag titles, which they didn't. They also said they won the tournament they were part of, which they didn't.[/spoiler]
MEMPHIS[spoiler]-- Questions abounded over who would turn heel on 12/28. They were running a Lord of the Rings tournament, and the semifinalists were Bill Dundee, Jeff Jarrett, Jerry Lawler and Scott Hall, all of whom were babyfaces at the time. Meltzer said he couldn't see them doing three straight babyface matches (two semifinal matches, immediately followed by final match on the same card). Meltzer felt there were good reasons not to turn each of them -- Hall because he just arrived and it wouldn't mean anything, Dundee because he had turned so many times that everyone would expect it, Jarrett because he was too young and small and didn't have the right look for a heel, and Lawler because it would affect his non-wrestling gigs, such as charity work, his television show and his softball team. Meltzer felt Lawler turning heel would draw huge, but it was unlikely.
-- Meltzer stated new manager Mark Goleen talks like a theater manager and that most people don't think he comes across well.
-- The Monday night matches are now broadcast live on a Hernando, MS radio station, only 14 miles outside of Memphis, with Lance Russell doing play-by-play.
-- Manny Fernandez screwed up a promo on live television on 12/14 by swearing repeatedly on the air.
-- Lawler and Russell were working on a deal with a Memphis radio station to do a nightly sports show which would cover all sports and also wrestling shows and wrestling news.
-- 12/14 was headlined by Lawler beating Curt Hennig in a non-title match and Manny Fernandez winning a battle royal, 12/21 was headlined by Lawler beating Jimmy Jack Funk.
-- Jerry Lawler was made a colonel in Tennessee.[/spoiler]
OREGON[spoiler]-- Super Ninja (Shunji Takano) left the area after Thanksgiving. No word on where he would be popping up.
-- Matt Borne came in for a week's vacation, but had already returned to WCCW.
-- Chris Colt had been cutting people's hair. He got Art Barr, Sandy Barr and Mike Miller. Colt was calling himself "The Barber" and also had hair removal cream.
-- 12/12 and 12/19 they were in Portland, 12/25 they were in Eugene for their Christmas show, headlined by Rip Oliver vs The Assassin in a mask vs hair cage match.[/spoiler]
CONTINENTAL[spoiler]-- The Fullers sold the Alabama portion of the territory to a guy named David Woods, who previously had no connection with wrestling to the best of Meltzer's knowledge. Ron Fuller intended to restart his own promotion based in Knoxville, TN, Continental's most successful city. Alabama would run using Robert Fuller, Jimmy Golden, Tom Pritchard, Jonathan Boyd, Dutch Mantel, Wendell Cooley and Tony Anthony as top stars. Fuller's new territory in Knoxville would be called Southeastern Championship Wrestling, with Ron West as the general manager and the top stars being Ron Fuller, the Armstrong family, the Mod Squad, Doug Furnas and Buddy Landell. The split would be effective some time in mid-February.
-- Lord Humongous (Sid) won the Southeastern title on 12/25 in Knoxville, beating Danny Davis.
-- 12/28 in Birmingham, AL, had a one-night tournament for a mink coat featuring Danny Davis, Lord Humongous, Jonathan Boyd, Bob Armstrong, the Memphis Big Bubba, Robert Fuller, Steve Armstrong, Jimmy Golden, Tracy Smothers, The Assassin, Dutch Mantel, Wendell Cooley, Larry Hamilton, Bucky Siegler, Tom Pritchard, Tony Anthony, Doug Furnas and Carl Styles.
-- TV tapings in Knoxville tended to play before big crowds and have tons of heat. But for some reason, they were taping most of the shows in Birmingham, AL, an area with far less turnout and less crowd enthusiasm.[/spoiler]
STAMPEDE[spoiler]-- Keichi Yamada was expected to come in in Spring.
-- Phil LaFleur would be leaving the territory shortly.
-- Mike Kirchner (Col. Kirchner) was fired after a dressing room incident. Zodiac (Barry Orton) also had to leave to tend to legal problems in a manslaughter charge where a female passenger was killed earlier in the year. Meltzer stated the Zodiac gimmick was maybe the most shocking and innovative gimmick of the year, and Orton did some great interviews.
-- With Owen Hart leaving for NJPW, the top feuds would be Jason the Terrible vs Makhan Singh and Bruce Hart & Brian Pillman vs Garfield Portz (Scott McGhee) Great Gama
-- Portz was doing "a lawyer heel gimmick with a pompous English aristocratic veneer".[/spoiler]
NEW JAPAN[spoiler]-- The plan was to do more Memphis style booking in 1988, feeling their hardcore fans would hate it, but that they needed it to boost TV ratings. They ran an angle during their annual tag tournament where Kotetsu Yamamoto, a retired wrestler from the 60s and 70s who was now a color commentator, nearly got in a fight with manager Ichimasa Wakamatsu. They also created a story where Tatsumi Fujinami was attacked by a wrestler named The Pirate in a hotel parking lot while on vacation in Hawaii. The Pirate was a wrestler whose gimmick they had just changed to that of a Polynesian giant. Photos of the attack appeared in Tokyo Sports, a daily newspaper. The newspaper claimed they got the photos from a friend of Fujinami's who happened to be there and had a camera, and fans were not believing the story. Then, supposedly, The Pirate called Tokyo Sports and stated that his group will join forces with late night comedian Mr. Takeshi to destroy Fujinami and Antonio Inoki. The plan was to build most of 1988 around this angle, with most of the NJ regulars feuding with Takeshi Pro-Wrestling Group (TPG), which leaves Meltzer speculating where that leaves Riki Choshu.
-- Word was that Akira Maeda may be sent to the US to wrestle for several months as a punishment for shooting on Choshu. Hiro Matsuda was now the booker for foreign talent for NJ, and there was speculation Maeda would be working for Crockett.
-- NJPW would be coming out with a theme music album on January 21 for 2800 yen ($22.00).
-- Both Bob Orton and Adrian Adonis were expected to return to New Japan in 1988.
-- Keichi Yamada would likely return to Stampede in Spring.[/spoiler]
ALL JAPAN[spoiler]-- Abdullah the Butcher, Buddy Landell, Fabulous Lance, Curt Hennig, TNT and the Black Assassin were scheduled to be part of the New Years Giant Series.
-- Tokyo Sports did its 1987 pro wrestling awards. MOTY was Jumbo Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu from 8/31/87 which perplexed Meltzer because he thought their 10/06/87 match was much better. Genichiro Tenryu was named Wrestler of the Year, Tenryu & Ashura Hara were Tag Team of the Year and John Tenta was Rookie of the Year. The only NJPW awards given were Yoshiaki Fujiwara winning the Fighting Spirit award, Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura winning the Outstanding Performance award, and a special award was given to Inoki and Masa Saito for their 10/04/87 match on Ganryujima.[/spoiler]
OTHER[spoiler]-- JJ Bins, head of the Eastern Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, resigned on 12/21 after a bill passed the state House by a 155-7 margin to abolish the commission. While the bill still had not passed the State senate, Bins saw the writing on the wall and got out. Bins had a strong rep within wrestling for being anti-blood, and there was no juice on Crockett shows in Philly in 1987. Meltzer didn't understand how he could be so strict about blading, but had no problems sanctioning scaffold matches, which were far more dangerous.
-- Buzz Sawyer was opening a wrestling school where he would train his guys in Japanese style wrestling instead of American style wrestling. There was a feature on this in the 12/14 Sacramento Bee. Another article ran on the school in the 12/28 San Francisco Chronicle. In this one, Sawyer said he was going to start up his own territory in California and the Rena/Tahoe area of Nevada. He said they would emphasize the Japanese style of wrestling, which focused on athletics instead of showmanship and gimmicks. "I don't know if California, much less the world, is ready for a wrestling promotion run by Buzz Sawyer," Meltzer said.
-- Meltzer mentioned that after seeing matches live in Japan, one way he feels US wrestling does a far better job than wrestling in Japan is in micing the crowd. He explains that as a rule, Japanese crowds are softer than they would be in the US, especially in preliminary matches, and that they react with oohs and ahhs for stiff moves. However, he said for good matches, the heat rivals any US match, and when Brody and Abdullah had their match, the crowd popped as huge as any US crowd would who was looking forward to something. Meltzer mentioned how the WWF has pre-taped cheering and booing, which they sync in time with matches, and he also feels that Crockett does a great job showing people going crazy for someone like a Dusty Rhodes or Ricky Morton in a small gym. Meltzer said Japanese crowds do not react in that way, but do chant the names of wrestlers they like with more enthusiasm than a US crowd ever would. Meltzer also mentioned that editing in Japanese matches is far superior from a production standpoint, because you would never know a match aired clipped. He says he's never seen a Japanese promotion re-edit and splice matches, and that only the WWF does that in the US. He said for big shows like Saturday Night's Main Event, the WWF would have six different feeds running into their production truck, and they edit them all together to make the air tape. They can make matches much longer, much shorter, and even change the sequence of events, although he knew of no cases of them doing that.
-- Crowds were chanting "Just Say No" at the Iron Sheik at New York independent shows.
-- DJ Peterson was working as a car salesman by day and moonlight as a Central States wrestler after leaving the AWA.
-- The Top 10 events of 1987, according to Japan's Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine: (1) Inoki vs Saito in the jungle match (2) Maeda's "shoot kick" on Choshu (3) The beginning of the New vs Now feud in New Japan (4) Tenryu turning heel and teaming with Hara (5) Choshu's return to television after joining New Japan (6) Death of Kazaharu Sonada in an airplane crash (7) Retirement of Animal Hamaguchi (8) New Japan's new "comedy" TV program (9) Inoki vs Saito on 03/26 drawing a $700,000 gate in Tokyo (10) Returns of Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher
-- Chigusa Nagayo was named MVP of women's wrestling in Japan at a 12/14 awards ceremony. Yukari Omori vs Lioness Asuka from 04/15/87 was named Match of the Year. Jumping Bomb Angels were named Tag Team of the Year. Condor Saito was named Most Improved, and Devil Masami and Yumiko Hotta also received awards.[/spoiler]