Jan 18th, 1988 MY BIRTHDAY
-- It's official. The WWF's first primetime special will be on 2/5/1988 from 8pm to 9pm and Dave is told it will be shot live, from the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. Top matches announced are Hulk Hogan vs Andre the Giant, Honky Tonk Man vs Randy Savage, and Hart Foundation vs Strike Force. Dave says it's almost scary what the TV ratings will be, as they've got a main event that will do more to interest the general public than any other potential main event. Dave says without a doubt, this will be the most watched wrestling show in the history of the United States, and he gives the WWF tons of credit for doing a live show with a weak Andre in the ring. Since the show will only be one hour, at this point, those three matches are the only ones schedule to air. The plan is to set up the big angles for Wrestlemania, which means Hogan probably won't pin Andre. But Dave says the challenge is still to do a good and memorable finish, but that also the ending has to be a major fluke, as Hogan matches usually have less interest the second time around. Meltzer says Hogan vs Ted DiBiase at WM is certainly a possibility, but he thinks holding up the title is a stronger possibility, because they have to end the show with Hogan posing, and Hogan can't pose if he loses the belt. Meltzer also says Andre beating Hogan won't mean much, and that regardless of the finish, Andre will look strong, Hogan will find Andre's weakness, and then they'll go right to the finish. This will be the first time Andre has been in the ring since Wrestlemania III for longer than 70 seconds.
-- Additional matches announced for the Royal Rumble special on USA are Ricky Steamboat vs Rick Rude, Don Muraco vs Butch Reed and Dino Bravo attempting to bench press 700 pounds ("and I'm next in line for pope," Meltzer jokes.) Meltzer doesn't understand why the WWF is even doing this show, considering that they go out of their way to always say they aren't in competition with any other wrestling promotions, and says the date being the same as their PPV and the bench press attempt from Bravo right before the bench press challenge with the Road Warriors in the NWA isn't just coincidence, and Animal and Hawk can't bench anywhere near 700 lbs. There's also Titan running Bunkhouse Stampedes.
-- The WWF has signed Big Bubba Rogers, feeling that Hogan needs fresh challengers. The rumor is that Bubba will not be able to take the name and gimmick with him, but he doesn't believe the NWA ever trademarked it. He is scheduled to start on 1/26 in Hershey, PA, but for legal reasons, it may be pushed back.
-- The lawsuit regarding Ricky Steamboat "attacking" a fan during the throat injury angle with Randy Savage has been settled. In legal papers, Patricia Thurston of the Broome Volunteer Emergency Squad stated that she was seriously hurt when Steamboat "violently struck" her. The squad was standing by on authorization from the WWF and was only to be called if someone was seriously hurt. Apparently, David Furgoli, an employee of the WWF, informed the squad that Steamboat was "seriously injured" after they shot the angle and the incident happened when they went to help Steamboat. The lawsuit stated that Steamboat struck her so hard that she had injuries to her chest, ribs, sternum and back. The WWF was also sued because Bruno Sammartino said "Incompetency on the part of those paramedics, there, don't you agree," on commentary during the angle. The squad's position was that the wrestling world was broadcasting to their audience that they were unfit to do their jobs. They also claimed that the WWF violated New York state Civil Rights Law by televising Thurston. They demanded $400,000 in damages, plus $750,000 more in punitive damages. The claim was settled out of court, and neither side will reveal the amount of the settlement. Dave says when he looked back at the tape, he didn't see anything, and was told it was actually Jesse Ventura who made the comment about the paramedics, not Bruno.
-- Tom Zenk's legal problems with the WWF were also settled out of court, as the WWF sued Zenk for $70,000 for breach of contract. He'll have to give Titan a percentage of his earnings in 1988, but it will be a much smaller percentage than the WWF originally wanted. The whole deal was that the WWF wanted to make an example out of him.
-- The 1/5 TV tapings in Huntsville, AL, drew 8,500 fans, a near sellout. Angles of note were The Islanders and Bobby Heenan coming out with a leash with no dog attached, petting an invisible dog, and Ted DiBiase buying the contract of Andre the Giant from Bobby Heenan.
-- Hogan and Savage apparently work far better together than Hogan and Piper did, because Savage and Elizabeth have no problems whatsoever staying in the background and letting Hogan take center stage. Hogan and Piper had a tougher time working together because both wanted to be center of attention.
-- Paul Orndorff left and had lots of no-shows, leaving Rick Rude to carry the Ultimate Warrior on a few dozen house shows.
-- King Kong Bundy is gone. He's doing PR
work for Head Start Computers, and they want him full time for personal appearances.
-- The Iron Sheik is apparently telling everyone he's returning to the WWF when he's not.
-- 1/9 in Philly drew 10,083 and a $127,620 gate headlined by Savage vs Honky Tonk Man, 12/27 in Toronto drew 17,500 headlined by Hogan & Bigelow vs Bundy & DiBiase; 1/3 in Springfield, MA drew 1,900 headlined by DiBiase vs Bigelow; 12/28 in Richfield, OH drew 8,000 headlined by Hogan & Bigelow vs Andre & Bundy, 12/29 in Hamilton, Ontario drew 18,000 headlined by Hogan vs Butch Reed, 12/27 in London, Ontario drew 5,000 headlined by Duggan vs Harley Race.
-- "The line-up for Crockett's Nassau Coliseum card which will be broadcast nationally on pay-per-view head-to-head is one of wrestling's best-kept secrets of the year." In addition to the Bunkhouse final and Flair vs Hawk, they have Windham vs Zbyszko, Rock & Roll Express vs Sheepherders, Jimmy Garvin vs Stan Lane, Nikita Koloff vs Bobby Eaton and Sting vs Mike Rotunda. "Maybe that's why they're trying to keep it a secret," Dave says. "Seriously, putting a half-ass undercard together for the first PPV attempt makes no sense." Meltzer suspects they will have trouble even selling tickets to the live show, and there's still no word on how many potential homes they've cleared. He's heard 6 million, but just based on phone calls from readers, he doesn't think it's anywhere nearly as widely available as Survivor Series was. They've also only reserved 1 hour, 50 minutes of time for the show, and Dave says it's silly that Titan has the better line-up on paper for their card, and it's also free.
-- Dave can't believe Crockett and Dusty let Bubba Rogers get away. Bubba was under contract to JCP, but his contract was different in that it didn't guarantee a set salary, and the WWF wasn't afraid to go after him anyway because they would have no problems nullifying it if there was a legal battle. It was apparently just an oversight. Dave says if Bubba's contract would have been just like everyone else's and he was still able to leave, it would have set off a multitude of problems.
-- Dusty did a promo on the Saturday TBS show with Bill Apter where he went crazy and started making vague bashes toward the WWF for stealing Bubba and copying the Bunkhouse Stampede. He was said to be very upset.
-- They did an angle on TV hinting at Barry Windham being the fourth Horseman. Dave has no idea how that will turn out, although since a Windham vs Steve Williams feud is being teased, and Williams is rumored to be turning heel and joining the Varsity Club, it wouldn't make sense to turn them both.
-- Jim Cornette is managing Dick Murdoch. Dave says Murdoch has been great on interviews and squashes. Cornette had an early candidate for line of the year when he told David Crockett he was the reason nepotism should be a capital offense. Dave has decided David Crockett should always be on TBS, because he is the source of so many laughs. He said to just keep him far away from play-by-play, which would cease to be funny in a hurry.
-- More to the story about Joel Deaton. After he was given his notice by Crockett on 12/25 in Greenville, while driving home to Charlotte, he ran a red light and hit a card broadside, and the 23-year old woman who was driving the car died. He was arrested on 1/3 and charged with vehicular manslaughter, two counts of passing bad checks and possession of drug paraphenalia. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
-- Killer Khan is working the NWA card on 1/20 in Honolulu, but Dave is unsure if it's a one-time thing or if he has signed long term. The only hint on TV of someone new coming in has been Eddie Gilbert saying he has a big surprise, which Dave thinks will end up just being Missy Hyatt being his valet again.
-- The NWA has a 2/2 show in Miami at the Knight Center, which is the nicest arena in the city. The WWF had an exclusive on the building for years. They're running a full show, which Dave thinks will do really well. The WWF lost their exclusive because they weren't drawing well there anymore. Another newer and larger arena will be opening in Miami soon.
-- They are holding a full card on 1/24 in Orlando, which is why so many wrestlers won't be at the PPV
-- There are rumors that Mark Starr will be coming in to team with Chris Champion. The two are brothers. Champion still has a job, but is being kept off the cards until they figure out what to do with him since Sean Royal is gone. The New Breed gimmick is history. The plan was originally for them to turn heel and feud with Brad Armstrong and Tim Horner.
-- 12/29 in Albuquerque drew 3,984 headlined by Dusty Rhodes vs Dick Murdoch and a Bunkhouse Stampede won by Lex Luger; 12/27 in Norfolk was headlined by Flair vs Hayes. Correction to previous gate report, as the 12/26 show in Philly actually had a $93,064 house instead of a $75,000 one.
-- Sting and Barry Windham are starting to be pushed as a tag team.
-- There is an article about the Von Erichs that will be in an upcoming Penthouse Magazine that Dave thinks will send shockwaves through the wrestling community, and he suspects Fritz will sue, although he doesn't think Fritz has any credibility.
-- Marc Lowrance on TV: "Things aren't going well with Fritz and he may have to be readmitted to the hospital. He's not out of the woods yet." Dave says the unwritten moral code in wrestling is that you can't maim, but not kill, and they are trying to move to the right side of the line by telling fans Fritz isn't going to die, while also continually worsening his condition.
-- Now Dave is hearing Ken Mantell owns 50% of the company, Kevin owns 25% and Kerry owns 25%. Fritz still has a lot of power also.
-- The 1/2 show at the Sportatorium, with all seats $5.00 and beer just 50 cents not only sold out at 4,000, but turned another 1,000 away, which shocked everyone. But on 1/4 in Fort Worth, they were back down to 350 fans. 1/8 in Dallas was supposed to be headlined by Terry Gordy vs Al Perez, but had to be cancelled due to bad weather.
-- For the second week in a row, nobody turned heel in the Lawler/Dundee feud, although Dave thinks Dundee will turn soon. The story will go that regarding their match on 1/4, where Lawler put his ring up against Dundee's $5,000, Lawler would lose and then Dundee would put a stop payment on the check. They would then be rematched again, this time with Dundee putting up the money in cash, and Lawler again putting up the ring. The matches have been total brawls, but neither has turned officially and on TV interviews, both are subtle heels but are both cheered, although Lawler gets cheered more. The 1/4 show drew 3,500 fans.
-- The biggest surprise as of late is the announcement on TV of Terry Taylor returning as a heel and feuding with Billy Joe Travis. Meltzer says that was a surprise to him, and would also be to Crockett if it's true, since they just put him over on TV the previous Sunday. Dave says they could do great things with a heel Taylor if it is true. Taylor/Travis is a first-round match in the $250,000, 6-month tournament. Meltzer updated this later in the issue, stating it won't be challenged by Crockett, since it was pretty well-understood Taylor didn't fit into their plans, and "let's just say they probably weren't all that heartbroken he quit before the contract came due". Taylor was also introduced on Memphis TV as the UWF TV Champion.
-- Manny Fernandez turned babyface on the 1/9 TV. He did a huge patriotic interview about serving in Vietnam, despite that he would have still been in high school at the time the war ended.
-- Shawn Michaels is apparently an awesome heel, but the problem is that it is not an act.
-- Several of Dundee's trainees have debuted on TV, the best of which has been Todd Morton, who is even smaller than Dundee and resembles Ricky Morton. Dave says they will be billed as cousins, and they might even be cousins.
-- Scott Hall is getting over well. His wrestling has improved, but he's still not really where he should be. The problem is that he's too big to work this territory.
-- They still drew 1,400 on the 1/1 show, even with Owen Hart, Bruce Hart and Brian Pillman all missing the show.
-- Bad News Allen is leaving for the WWF, and will work as Bad News Brown.
-- Bruce Hart is out of action with a legit broken shoulder, Pillman is on holiday vacation and Owen is in Japan until the second week of February. Instead of doing the typical injury angle with Owen, they are just announcing his tour of Japan and playing it up as a big deal. When Pillman & Bruce Hart return, they will feud with Great Gama & Garfield Portz.
-- The WWF returns to Calgary on 1/19 in what should be a great card, headlined by British Bulldogs vs Islanders.
-- Kerry Brown no-showed the 1/1 card and is probably done.
-- Johnny Smith returned to England for Christmas, but should be back soon.
-- 12/26 in Edmonton drew 1,150, 1/2 in Edmonton drew 1,225 in a building that holds 1,300 completely packed
-- First round pairings for the WWA World title tournament have been announced. The tournament will be on 1/23 in Kansas City. First round is Mike George vs Sweet Daddy Siki, Tommy Rich vs Masa Chono, Bob Brown vs Dave Peterson, Jerry Blackwell vs Dick Slater, Steve Ray vs David Schultz and Sgt Slaughter vs Cuban Assassin. Talk of all the independents working together for just this tournament ended up being just talk. The entire tournament is mostly made up of local guys, when the original plan was to bring in guys from Europe, Oregon and Continental for the show.
-- Crockett cancelled the January show scheduled in Kansas City
-- The Global Wrestling Alliance, a group that sold over-the-counter stock, had syndication start over the weekend. The show that aired was taped in Hollywood, FL, more than six months ago. Cyclone Negro, billed as their world champion, is no longer with them, nor is Bugsy McGraw. The best guys on the taping were said to be Joe & Dean Malenko, and Raul Mata. Dave says Mata was a big deal in California about 15 years prior. Dave is told production values are better than any independent in the country, and basically on par with WCCW, but the match quality is pretty bad. Bob Roop is the booker and Dr. Red Roberts is the general manager of the group. The two do Siskel & Ebert-style debates, with Roop acting as the babyface, discussing the storylines on each show. Roop is now over 300 lbs and doesn't wrestle anymore. They have a show scheduled on 1/22 just outside of Ft. Lauderdale with Iron Sheik vs Colonel Kirchner, Ox Baker vs Cousin Junior, Joe & Dean Malenko vs Rusty Brooks & Jumbo Barretta, and Ivan Putski and Adrian Street are scheduled to appear. Soulman Alex G, Bobby Wales & Black Magic are also getting pushes.
-- The 1/4 Birmingham card drew 750, headlined by Dutch Mantell vs Wendell Cooley, in a match where if Cooley lost, he would have to leave town, and if Mantell lost, Cooley would get his contract back. The storyline was that from a previous match, Mantell won Cooley's contract and all of his wrestling money went to Dutch, so he had no money for Christmas. They did an angle where they showed his daughters on TV with no presents to open, sitting beside an empty Christmas tree.
-- 12/26 Portland show drew a sellout, in excess of 3,000
-- The Moondogs will be in on 1/16
-- Tom Zenk agreed to start working for the AWA. Zenk signed on the advice of Giant Baba, who wants to push him, but feels he has to make a name for himself in the US first.
-- Terry Gordy, Stan Hansen and the Malenkos will headline the next tour in February.
-- More talk of Hennig as a disappointment in All Japan. Weekly Pro Wrestling wrote that Hennig's match on 1/2 against Tiger Mask on opening night of the tour was the worst AWA title match ever in Japan. The next night, Hennig had to settle for a double countout with John Tenta, a mid-level guy, and on 1/4, he pinned Toshiaki Kawada. In his debut as champion, Hennig lost to Tiger Mask via countout. Dave is confused by all of this, and doesn't understand why Hennig wasn't pushed since he's the only "world champion" touring Japan at this point. Flair won't be returning because Crockett wants to work with New Japan, and even then, Flair probably won't be wrestling in Japan anymore. Hogan hasn't been to Japan since early '85, and Steve Williams' UWF title isn't recognized when he tours. Dave says he can't comment on the Hennig/TM match because he hasn't seen it, but those comments are pretty strong and will make it hard for Hennig to get over as a star in Japan now.
-- More on the riot: It took an hour for police to stop it, and not only did the tear the building up, but almost sat it on fire. Dave says there was a similar riot when Hogan and Inoki had a fluke ending back in '84 at the old Sumo Hall, and also on March 26, 1987, at Castle Hall in Osaka, when Inoki vs Saito ended with a fluke.
-- NJ has set up a "Best of 1988 Junior Heavyweight Tournament". It's round-robin, and the lineup is great with Norio Honaga, Keichi Yamada, Masakatsu Funaki, Tony St. Clair, Nobuhiko Takada, Shiro Koshinaka, Kuniaki Kobayashi, Kazuo Yamazaki, Hiroshi Hase, Hiro Saito and Owen Hart.
-- Steve Williams was planned to arrive on 1/9 and leave on 1/20 so he would be back in the US in time for the Bunkhouse Stampede.
-- AJW is now the most popular wrestling group in Japan, as the last two shows received 11.3 ratings on Saturday afternoons. All Japan's ratings are usually around the same level on Saturday nights in primetime, but in the afternoons, it's usually only between 6 and 7. New Japan's ratings have been around 8.0 or so. The feeling is that the most recent show probably did even better since it was Devil Masami's retirement show.
-- The grand jury in Tennessee found there wasn't enough evidence for an indictment in the rape accusations against Rocky Johnson. The girl who charged Johnson changed her story multiple times, and the grand jury felt it didn't hold up and cleared him on Monday.
-- Correction to previous story: the new head of the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission is Frances Walker, a former deputy of JJ Bins, not James Walker.
-- There was a backstage fight on 12/29 in Miami at an independent show, between Blackjack Mulligan and Bob Roop. Mulligan is said to have beaten up Roop so badly that he needed medical help. There were problems dating back to when Roop booked Florida.