Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
Jan 11th, 1988
-- SNME aired 1/2 on NBC and was taped 12/7 in Landover, MD. Dave felt Vince and Jesse did a much better job this time around than they did last time by ridiculously overacting. They've started putting Hogan's matches toward the end to build ratings for the whole show, where the previous mindset was that they put him early to ensure everyone would see him before going to sleep. Says the best match on the card was Strike Force vs The Bolsheviks, which was **1/2 and isn't saying much, and all the other matches were horrible, although the Andre run-in was really well done. Says he is starting to warm up to Andre as a heel, but it's going to end when he realizes he has to see him in a match.
-- Jumping Bomb Angels vs Glamour Girls can be added to the lineup for the Royal Rumble on USA.
-- Titan has began running Bunkhouse Stampedes on house shows
-- 12/26 in Chicago drew 12,000 and a $143,000 gate headlined by Hulk Hogan vs One Man Gang with Nick Bockwinkel as referee; 12/28 in Pittsburgh drew 5,000 headlined by Randy Savage vs Honky Tonk Man; 12/30 in Providence drew 2,500 headlined by Rick Rude vs Paul Orndorff in a cage match; 12/26 in New Haven, CT drew 6,000 fans headlined by Rick Rude vs Randy Savage in a 20-minute draw; 12/27 at the Capital Centre drew 13,000 for Hogan & Bigelow vs Andre & Bundy; 12/29 in Hershey, PA drew 6,500 headlined by Savage vs Honky Tonk Man
-- 12/26 at MSG sold out headlined by Savage vs Honky Tonk Man
-- Meltzer says Steamboat is working in slow motion on house shows and tries so hard to be graceful that he looks more like Nuryev than a wrestler
-- John Studd is scheduled to return at the Huntsville, AL TV tapings
-- King Kong Bundy is leaving on sabattical while Orndorff has given notice. Orndorff plans to open a chain on bowling allies in the South. Ironically, his right arm is so weak that he can't even lift a bowling ball.
-- Hogan will be gone from Wrestlemania IV until sometime in June to film his movie. "Since he's blading regularly, I guess he wants his forehead to look good for the part," joked Meltzer. Dave says that's not nearly as significant as you'd think since they'll be taking several weeks in April off after Wrestlemania anyway
-- The NBC special on 2/5 is a definite
-- Hogan's wife Linda is expecting their first child in April
-- Wrestlers are now being fined if they whip their opponents into the guard rail (throat drops and running heads into it is fine, but no whips), and fines are also being issued for violating the dress code and missing shows
-- Doug Somers is coming in as a jobber in March
-- Meltzer says they really need to heat up Bunkhouse Stampede within the next two weeks, and also make it more apparent to viewers that the show is available on PPV. Meltzer also can't believe they have yet to announce a complete card.
-- Meltzer does commend them for moving a lot of the TBS television into the arenas, and feels it has made for better production values and made the shows feel more lively. He strongly criticizes them for starting matches without showing the finishes on television, stating he doesn't think they understand how much that angers fans and how minor league it seems. He said he personally doesn't mind if you get a good 8-10 minutes of action before the show goes off the air, but most fans really hate it.
-- The Lex Luger babyface turn is getting over really well on house shows, drawing big in Atlanta and Greensboro. He worries that Luger has already become "one of the guys", doing saves for guys like Ron Garvin and getting saved back, and that if they keep doing that, he'll turn into a new Nikita Koloff, in that he'll be hugely over for a very short period of time and then no one will care. "Whoever has been working with him the past year certainly has earned their teaching credential."
-- In general, Dave is hearing lots of complaints about live shows. He says they need to find and push some new faces at the top of the cards in a major way. He says they need one or two guys to stand out of the pack. JCP, however, prides themselves on not putting all their eggs in one basket, and criticizes the WWF internally all the time for overly relying on Hogan. However, Meltzer feels that while the Horsemen were over great as a unit, he feels like over time, instead of the group rising to Flair's level, he sunk to theirs, and just became another face in the pack.
-- The return of Ole Anderson to the Omni on 1/1 drew 12,700 fans. The whole card was taped, and Meltzer expects it to air on TBS. Results: Sting, Jimmy Garvin & Ricky Santana beat Terry Taylor, Mike Rotunda & Kevin Sullivan in 10:14; Ron Garvin pinned Eddie Gilbert in 12:14; Sheepherders beat Robert Gibson & Ricky Santana in 10:15 (Gibson looked really bad, having just returned from injury, and botched a dropkick bad and the fans turned on him); Barry Windham drew Larry Zbyszko in 20:00; Road Warrior Animal beat Warlord in 8:00 by DQ when Barbarian interfered, but Sting made the save (match was scheduled to be a tag match, but Hawk no-showed; Animal tripped during his entrance for the third time in the past month); Luger & Ole beat Arn & Tully in 19:00; Flair pinned Hayes in 15:46 (Flair was cheered as much as Hayes and neither guy got booed); Dusty won a Bunkhouse Stampede.
-- They screwed up announcing Dusty won the 1/1 Bunkhouse by announcing it on their 12/31 TV
-- The Road Warriors vs Powers of Pain bench press contest is set for 1/30 in Greensboro
-- 12/28 in St. Louis drew 4,000 and $40,000 headlined by Flair vs Sting and a Bunkhouse Stampede won by Steve Williams. Meltzer said Dick Murdoch did the best squash match and interview he had seen in ages on that show, and said "Working for your family is like working for an unemployment agency" to David Crockett, which Dave thought was a great line. He also said even Luger did a great interview.
-- Says he's getting lots of complaints about the cameramen doing too many shots of women in the audience. "Showing the girls is okay but after 40 or 50 shots, and in the middle of high spots during the match, it serves no purpose. It's one thing if it's the valets, but not the girls in the audience."
-- Rick Steiner suffered a major bicep tear when he was horsing around in the locker room with Steve Williams and Road Warrior Hawk
-- Ricky Morton is still out with his knee injury, and also has a broken nose
-- The New Breed is supposed to be heel now and feud with Brad Armstrong and Tim Horner. At least that was the plan until Sean Royal never came back from Christmas vacation.
-- Thunderfoot #1 (Joel Deaton) got notice that he was being let go after Denny Brown never came back after Christmas also
-- 12/30 in Chicago drew 3,500 headlined by Flair vs Sting; 1/2 in Greensboro drew 12,457 headlined by Ric Flair vs Michael Hayes; 1/3 in Baltimore drew 7,000 and a $72,000 gate headlined by Flair vs Hayes and Luger vs Arn Anderson
-- Kevin Sullivan's stable will include Rick Steiner, Mike Rotunda and possibly Steve Williams, and be called The Varsity Club
-- Al Blake (Vladimir Pietrov) was sentenced to six years in prison on cocaine trafficking conviction. He will be eligible for parole in 2 years, although at that time, he will not be able to leave Minnesota so he could only wrestle for the AWA or Larry Sharkey's Pro Wrestling America
-- Rumors that Paul Boesch would be coming out of retirement to promote Houston shows for the NWA are incorrect.
-- Japanese newspapers were reporting Killer Khan had signed with the NWA but Meltzer knew nothing about it
-- Jobber Chance McQuaid blew out his knee in his match with Mike Rotunda that aired the previous Sunday
-- "I know you've been waiting all week for the good news. Fritz is alive. Yes, folks, it was touch-and-go for 48 hours, but the head of pro wrestling's immoral majority survived a heart attack, stroke, emphyzema and whatever other maladies sick minds could come up with," said Dave Meltzer. It was announced on the weekend Ft. Worth TV that Fritz didn't suffer a heart attack as was originally feared, although there was "partial paralysis". One of the local TV stations covered the angle as news. The phrase heart attack was never actually used by Marc Lowrance. Lowrance went on the air with two interruptions of the previously taped show, and stated that Fritz was in critical condition and they were worried he wouldn't make it through the night. "It's a pretty hardcore angle to be sure, but one made a lot worse since they were playing off the sympathy from the deaths of David and Mike, although no lack of taste or decency from this promotion will ever surprise me." Kerry was doing interviews claiming that Gordy tried to kill his father while Lowrance was saying that it appeared Fritz would not live out Christmas. They're doing lots of Freebirds (Gordy/Roberts/Parsons)/Von Erichs brawls on house shows, and one thing the angle has done is get Gordy over as a heel who gets booed. Meltzer says this is an accomplishment because Gordy was always cheered more than booed when working Texas shows for the UWF.
-- Everyone in wrestling is saying Ken Mantell is in charge of World Class. Dave has heard he owns a controlling interest, but two of his sources insist he only owns 30% and that the Von Erichs still control majority interest. Meltzer said regardless, Fritz is definitely not out of the business, and will not allow the angle to be his last appearance. He is expected to make a comeback at some point in '88, but probably not as a wrestler. "In the theory of promoting wrestling, running such a hardcore angle on someone makes them the lead babyface, so why would Ken Mantell, now in charge and attempting to turn the fortunes of the office around, make his lead babyface a 58-year old man?" Meltzer thinks that they should phase Kevin down, if not completely out, and that Kerry is marketable, but it's hard to bank the future of the territory on someone working on one leg.
-- The show on Christmas at Reunion went past 1AM. After the angle, Kevin, Kerry and Fritz went to Baylor Hospital, did a worked press conference and then went back to Dallas to wrestle Al Perez, a match which he lost because his head wasn't into it according tot he storyline. The original plan was for Chris Adams to replace Kerry, but that was changed at the last minute. It's not known if that was a Fritz or Mantell decision.
-- Dave feels aside from the big angle, Mantell has done a great job as booker since taking over and things have been much better.
-- John Tatum and Jack Victory won the Texas tag titles on 12/28 in Fort Worth. Tony Atlas and Skip Young were the champions, but Atlas had already left the territory. In the match, Young wrestled both heels for a while before Solomon Grundy came into help, but they wound up losing anyway.
-- 12/28 show drew at least 1,000 with new ticket prices
-- Eric Embry has bleached his hair blonde
-- Shaun Simpson and Marc Lowrance made a car commercial. Lowrance does fall-by-fall as Simpson wrestles against "price reductions". They do the invisible man gimmick in the commercial, with Simpson taking bumps and finally getting pinned by lower prices
-- Al Perez defends the World Class title (which Meltzer calls the Worth-lass title) on 1/8 in Dallas against Terry Gordy. Perez is being portrayed as the babyface.
-- Wild West is history. The last three weeks of TV have been repeats and they have no arenas booked going forward.
-- Kerry's ankle is giving him tons of trouble. Meltzer says he was walking really well before he went back to working a full schedule.
-- John Tatum is ripping off Michael Hayes mannerisms in his interviews
-- Eric Embry and Shaun Simpson had a scaffold match on 12/27 in Belton. Simpson was so scared he couldn't even stand up. Embry carried the whole match and took the bump.
-- After all the speculation, no one turned heel on 12/28. Lawler won the tournament and the show drew 5,200 fans. Lawler beat Scott Hall via DQ. Hall used a piledriver not knowing it was illegal in Memphis and they had to explain it on television. Bill Dundee beat Jeff Jarrett by countout when Hector Guerrero held Jarrett's leg from under the ring and wouldn't let him back in, but Dundee didn't see or know this was happening. Finally, Lawler and Dundee had a match, which Lawler won by pinning Dundee after a double TKO.
-- Renegade Tobacco Company is now sponsoring the promotion. They have banners on the ring and are mentioned frequently on the show, and a Renegade Tobacco Company tournament will conclude in June. Supposedly, the tournament will award $250,000 to the winner, so people like Jimmy Valiant and Koko Ware will be returning. Valiant's contract with Crockett had just expired, and Meltzer says it makes sense for him to return to Memphis since he was a big draw at one time there. Ware he said makes no sense, although he did do a clean job to Greg Valentine on television. Still, Meltzer can't see the WWF dumping Ware with the Piledriver album out.
-- 1/4 in Memphis has Lawler vs Dundee with Lawler putting up the diamond ring and Dundee putting up $5,000. You would think Dundee would be turning in the match, but probably not since it's too expected. Michaels and Jannetty will also return to defend the Southern tag titles against Scott Hall and Ken Wayne, and Jeff Jarrett will face Hector Guerrero in a lumberjack match
-- Bobby Jaggers left Memphis after dropping Loser Leaves Town matches to Hall and Billy Joe Travis
-- Manny Fernandez may have his push lessened after getting in scuffles with fans on two occasions
-- Meltzer said the TV interviews with Lawler, Dundee, Jarrett and Hall were really good, but the size difference between Hall and the others looked ridiculous
-- Things are hot here. 12/18 in Calgary drew 1,600 fans. Matches were Hashif Khan (Shinya Hashimoto) vs Jonathan Holiday; Brick Bronsky vs Goldie Rogers; Great Gama & Garfield Portz vs Mr. Hito & Beef Wellington; Rhonda Singh vs Delta Dawn; Bruce Hart & Brian Pillman vs Jerry Morrow & Kerry Brown; Steve DiSalvo vs Phil LaFleur; Owen Hart & Jason the Terrible vs Bad News Allen & Makhan Singh. In the main event, Jason did a dive into the crowd and knocked several fans out of their chairs, with one having to be taken to the hospital via ambulance. Allen elbowed a pregnant woman while brawling in the crowd as well.
-- 12/19 in Edmonton drew 1,200 headlined by Allen & Singh vs Owen & Jason
-- Johnny Smith is gone
-- Suni War Cloud and Rip Rogers are headed in
-- Mrs. Maivia ran a card on 12/16 in Honolulu headlined by Chris Adams vs Buddy Roberts that drew 400. Kevin Von Erich and Jimmy Snuka both no-showed, but Rocky Johnson did appear.
-- Len Denton is impressing and the crowds are good.
-- There is a new commission trying to run wrestling using boxing guidelines. They want to replace the wrestling referees with boxing referees, want everyone at ringside licensed, four ropes instead of three, no more blading, and testing for marijuana and cocaine. One wrestler already tested positive for marijuana. Don Owen is furious, mainly because they won't be so strict on the WWF. The commission sent out a letter saying all cuts will be inspected and if they're a result of blading, the wrestler will be suspended
-- Rip Oliver is leaving, scheduled to start back with the WWF on 1/4. Oliver was let go after Thanksgiving, but now they have an open spot for him. Oliver headlined the 12/25 show, which was a sellout of 700 and a $4,000 house, which is double the normal attendance
-- 12/26 in Portland drew a sellout with hundreds turned away; 12/28 in Hoquiam, WA drew 400 fans
-- 12/25 in St. Joseph drew 520 fans, headlined by Dave Peterson vs Bulldog Bob Brown. Abdullah the Butcher no-showed, and his announced replacement Jerry Blackwell also no-showed. Mike Stone, one half of the tag champs, wasn't there due to bad weather, and Colt Steele also wasn't there.
-- The mink coat tournament drew 1,800 fans to Birmingham on 12/28, which is about quadruple what they've been averaging. Still, only half of the advertised matches actually took place.
-- The Memphis Big Bubba never showed up here. Scott Armstrong has left the area and Larry Hamilton has not returned since breaking his ankle in a car accident
-- 12/25 in Knoxville drew a near sellout
-- Inoki did a clean pinfall job for a newcomer named "Big Ben Bader" (my note: ha!) on 12/27 at the Tokyo Dome in 2:49. New Japan felt they needed Inoki feuding with a big American start to get TV ratings up. Also, this was going to be famous comedian Takeshi Kitano's first appearance and they wanted to put some heat on him in his quest to finish Inoki off. So, the mindset was that Inoki doing a job would get Kitano over and create a new Hansen/Brody level gaijin. It was the first job Inoki had done in more than two years, and before that, over 10 years.) The card was supposed to be Inoki vs Riki Choshu in the main event, which is what drew the crowd and the high ratings. There was also a tag match advertised as "Big Ben Bader" (my note: ha again!) and Masa Saito against Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura. Before the tag was about to start, Kitano's friends grabbed the mic and challenged Inoki to a match. The fans could see where this was going and hated it, and started throwing eggs, programs, orange juice containers and beer cans at the ring. Then, Choshu came out and Saito tried to stop Choshu from starting his match with Inoki. Inoki grabbed the mic and said he would wrestle both Choshu and Bader. Fujinami and Kimura then came out for their tag match and Saito came out. Choshu didn't want to come out, but finally did. Fans were screaming "Stop! Stop this match!" when Choshu started to wrestle Kengo Kimura. He won clean with the lariat, but the fans hated it so much it didn't have a chance. Finally, Inoki/Choshu happened but only went 6:06, although it was a hot match where Choshu bled after hitting the ringpost, and Inoki kept punching his head before applying the octopus, which caused Hiroshi Hase to run in and save Choshu and give Inoki the win by DQ. The fans started rioting again and caused so much damage in the hall that a few days later, the Tokyo Sumo Association banned pro wrestling from the Sumo Hall. Baba had already been banned from the building because he signed sumo wrestlers Hiroshi Wajima and John Tenta. Inoki is now without a building in Tokyo except for Korauken Hall, which only seats 2,000. Meltzer said this is devastating for them, because they sold out all but one time in 1987.
-- Kitano was like the Johnny Carson of Japan. Something happened at some point in one of the scandal mags and Kitano and his buddies beat up the reporter, so he was suspended from television
-- The news got worse for them a few days later when TV-Asahi moved them from prime time on Monday nights to Mondays at midnight. Not only will that cut down their audience, but in Japan, the networks pay the promotions money to be able to broadcast their shows. Because they're in a weaker time slot, TV-Asahi will be paying New Japan much less money. This should be effective in April.
-- Inoki didn't offer 1988 contracts to Akira Maeda, Kazuo Yamazaki or Osamu Kido, and they have all been cut loose. Dave says Maeda was hugely popular, but really screwed himself by shootkicking Choshu. Yamazaki holds one half of the tag titles (with Fujiwara), and Kido is a veteran without a lot of charisma.
-- Meltzer says Inoki faces crises like these annually and always comes back, but this time, it may be the real thing, because he is banking everything on Inoki vs Takeshi Kitano while phasing down Choshu. Choshu was being hurt because Inoki was the moral victor in their match, and also because he would never get the chance to do a revenge match with Maeda.
-- Adrian Adonis and Bob Orton will return as a tag team from 1/25 to 2/5
-- Seji Sakaguchi really wants Sting and Bubba Rogers to come in for shows, moreso than Arn, Tully, Dusty or even Flair
-- Owen Hart will feud with Hiroshi Hase over the junior heavyweight title
-- Curt Hennig had bad matches and didn't get over on the recent tour, which really surprised him. Hennig will only be staying a week or two before returning to the AWA.
-- Timothy Flowers is putting together a few independent cards in Northwest Washington featuring Buddy Rose and Col. DeBeers
-- The bill to abolish the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission has been put on hold for six months, but with JJ Bins out of office, it appears wrestling promotions can begin using the blade again
-- Global Wrestling out of Florida is scheduled to start tapings in Miami next weekend
-- Jerry Blackwell's Southern Championship Wrestling is scheduled to tape on 1/13 at Miss Kitty's in Marietta. The second taping will be on 1/24 and will feature the Von Erichs and Terry Funk
-- Savoldi's ICW has announced they are bringing in Blackjack Mulligan, Bruiser Brody, Rocky Johnson, SD Jones, Tiger Chung Lee, the Iron Sheik, Tony Atlas, the Moondogs, Bob Backlund and Adrian Street. They held a card on 12/29 at Miami Marine Stadium with $25 tickets, and featuring a live concert from Bill Haley & The Comets (of "Rock Around The Clock" fame)