Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
Jan 25th, 1988
-- Opening line in this WON read "February 5, 1988 -- Is it the end of the beginning or is it the beginning of the end? This prime time network stuff is tricky business." Dave said that the suggestion that the show will not be a success is ridiculous. Dave said Titan's syndicated package is in overdrive, and we can expect to see Hogan and Andre all over the talk show circuit over the next few weeks. Dave says Hogan/Andre may end up as the most watched wrestling match in the history of not just the US, but also the world when it's all said and done, and will crack the top 25 in the overall weekly ratings, and maybe even the top 15. But where it's tricky is that if it's a success, it will be done again, and that this likely will not be the last prime time special. The advantage is also that wrestling is cheap programming for the networks. "If it can deliver competitive numbers in prime time for this 'pilot,' which I'm certain it can do, what will come next? A weekly prime time television spot on the network? Don't scoff." Dave says think of how unlikely it was just four years ago at this point that wrestling would ever be on network television at all. Dave said every big thing the WWF has done in the previous year -- TV ratings for Saturday Night's Main Event, Wrestlemania III, Survivor Series, the Slammys -- has been a tremendous success from a business standpoint, and that a track record like that does appeal to networks, and not just NBC. Dave says the chance of a competitor like Crockett getting a similar shot is unlikely, but he suspects if the WWF continues to grow that someone will initiate some talks. "But Crockett's group, at least in its present form, can't get on the air. I don't believe the two sides could ever agree on the format of the show, Crockett ultimately wouldn't agree to give up enough creative control to make it work, and lastly, no network would ever put on a show when the showcased star would be you-know-who. Not on a network, folks." Dave says he could see in fall of 1989, a desperate network offering a weekly prime time series to the WWF. Dave doesn't think the WWF can put on interesting enough shows on a weekly basis and keep strong numbers for the long haul, and questions if Vince will be smart enough to NOT pursue a weekly series if he gets the opportunity. Meltzer says they benefit from only airing once every two months on NBC, and if problems surfaced in terms of falling ratings, wrestling would be dropped pretty quickly. Dave does admit, however, that within just one season, there is potential to make so much money "that would make today's standards look infantile." But he also wonders if Vince could pass that up, or if he even should pass that up. "Why worry about the future anyway, wrestling could collapse with a huge scandal on a moments notice (highly unlikely, but possible at any time)? Just some questions to ponder when you watch the show on 2/5.
-- The pressure is on Hogan and Andre. They can't have a good match because of Andre's condition, so they need a good finish. Dave again states Hogan can't win cleanly because it would kill Wrestlemania, and it would take at least another year to build someone up as strong as they've built up Andre. Andre going into WM as champion has been talked about, but concern is there about it hurting Hogan, since the public is fickle, and why take the belt off Hogan at all if the public is into it?
-- The Iron Sheik is returning after all.
-- It's unknown where Wrestlemania will be, but definitely not at the Superdome, as the arena is already booked for 03/27, as is the Silverdome. Dave is told they will be in a 20,000-seat arena, although the people who know won't tell him where it's going to be.
-- Joel Watts quit his job working in TV production for the WWF (My note: WHAT?) and is looking to get out of wrestling
-- There is a Saturday Night's Main Event scheduled for early March
-- 1/16 in Chicago drew 10,700 headlined by Hogan vs DiBiase; 1/14 in Waterloo, IA drew 2,500 and a $27,000 house headlined by One Man Gang vs Bigelow; 1/16 in Sacramento drew 10,000 headlined by Savage vs Honky Tonk Man; 1/9 in Boston drew 13,903 headlined by Hart Foundation vs Strike Force
-- Circulation of WWF Magazine has increased from 135,000 to 213,000 in the past year
-- Hercules and the Ultimate Warrior ("Anabolic Warrior") are scheduled to feud. "The could have fun with stipulations here," Dave added.
-- Dave pretty simply says that the Bunkhouse Stampede PPV is going to fail. He says doing a strong pay-per-view should have been their first priority, but the hype and the card itself are pretty subpar. Dave says they had to show they could be successful, because it's inevitable that the cable companies will compare them to the WWF. Dave says this failure will make it harder for him to get the Crockett Cup on PPV in April, especially if Vince puts the pressure on and is coming off of a strong Wrestlemania IV. He says the low number of clearances they've made is more of a statement about the marketplace than it is Crockett. "Nobody seems to care about the Stampede, and the hottest match in the promotion right now would be Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger, and that's what you go with on your big PPV show, whatever is the hottest at the time. I know they want to save Flair vs. Luger for later, but the long-run potential of PPV is more than important enough to sacrifice a little in short-run house income."
-- Dave is surprised Dick Murdoch is now the highlight of the promotion. Not only did he have a great match with Nikita Koloff (not good or decent, but great), but is doing hilarious interviews. Dave jokes that someone told Murdoch before the match that he was actually wrestling in Tokyo and that Inoki shaved his head, so Murdoch did his usual New Japan carry job and it looked great. Dave says he doesn't expect their barbed wire match on 2/6 in Charlotte to be that good.
-- Dusty, JJ Dillon and Crockett are all moving to Dallas, and their wives are houseshopping.
-- 1/15 in Richmond drew 6,500 for a TV taping to air on 1/23. Dave was told a really disappointing Windham vs Tully Blanchard maatch was taped, and that fans lost their interest, because it was slow paced and too long at 27 minutes, and Barry spent the whole match selling a leg injury. For the finish, Tommy counted 1-2 and then stopped, before looking at the replay and calling for the match to be restarted. Flair and Arn did a run-in and Luger made the save. They attack Luger 3-on-1 and try to get Windham to help them, and fans are jumping into the ring and trying to attack the Horsemen, but are being dragged out. Luger and Windham shook hands at the end, so Dave says this should end talk of Windham as a Horseman. Dave thinks they are going to use this angle to kill time to figure out who the fourth Horseman should be because they have no candidates. Meltzer thinks it should be Steve Williams, but he's being downplayed, and his next choice would be Ron Garvin.
-- Flair and Dusty were in Chicago on 1/12 for the Bulls/Celtics game. Both did halftime interviews on TBS talking about how much they hated each other, but were sitting next to each other in the stands with Jim Crockett. Dave says he admires their efforts to try to get their stars over, but Tuesday night basketball isn't Letterman or the Grammys. He said, still, it was a move in the right direction, but next time, don't sit next to each other.
-- 1/16 in Philadelphia drew 7,500. It was a bad show, and Dave thinks all the wrestlers are starting to look run down all the time because of the hard travel schedule.
-- Starting this coming weekend, the TBS Saturday morning show is supposed to start airing arena main events
-- 1/1 in Columbus, OH drew 2,300
-- Mike Rotunda is now wearing a singlet that says Syracuse on it and playing a geeky and preppy jock, which Dave thinks has been entertaining
-- Nassau had 7,000 tickets to the Bunkhouse Stampede sold 10 days before the show - not a sellout, but respectable
-- The Midnight Rockers are now the tag champions. The storyline, which they were forced to do after the fact, was that the 12/27 match against Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose ended with a double pin, but when Stanley Blackburn reviewed the tape, he overruled the referee and made the Rockers the champions. The actual story is that the Original Midnight Express have quit the AWA. Announcer Larry Nelson said on TV, "We have heard a rumor they got hurt." Rose wasn't making any money and wanted a guarantee to make it worth his time to commute from Georgia. Condrey had a guarantee, but it was cut by Verne Gagne, so Condrey quit on the spot. There was talk of them coming back and jobbing the belts in the ring, but Verne simply decided he wanted nothing to do with them anymore. Dave says he has heard varying stories on Paul E. Dangerously -- both that he's still with them and that he's not with them -- but that Paul E. was not at the last TV taping. The Rockers are still wrestling instead of Memphis and not in the AWA, but everyone expects that to change soon.
-- Tom Zenk is in and will probably get a good push, but Dave worries that Verne will bank on him too much. Zenk coming in is why Verne has been hesitant to really push Nord the Barbarian all that hard, although he's probably the most over wrestler in the Twin Cities at this point, aside from Hogan. They are afraid to push him too much because they don't think he will stick around.
-- The Freebirds (Gordy, Roberts & Parsons) won the 6-man titles from Kevin Von Erich, Steve Simpson and Chris Adams on 1/4 in Fort Worth. Prior to the match, the Birds attacked Kevin his dressing room, so Matt Borne subbed. Kevin did interfered, which caused a DQ, and in WCCW, a title can change hands on a DQ.
-- "It was funny on TV during the match where Kevin & Adams & Simpson won the titles on 12/25 when Mark Lowrance said how this match was the final of a tournament that had been taking place all over the country for the past several months. Now I realize that deceit is oftentimes so ingrained into the fabric of wrestling promotions, and certainly moreso this one than most others, but will somebody explain to me what purpose it serves to lie when even the stupidest fans know you are lying? I mean, everyone knew that Simpson had been out of action for months with surgery to repair the torn retina in his eye. It had been mentioned regularly on TV, so how could he have been competing in a tournament? Moreso, Roberts & Iceman were working for Wild West these past months while Gordy had first been in the NWA, then Japan, and none of the three had worked in the same promotion for five months or so and none had been in World Class until the Mantell takeover."
-- They are now plugging Mantell's wrestling school as the World Class Academy of Wrestling. It was formerly called the UWF Training Center. Right now, they are pushing Jason Sterling as a recent grad although he has been wrestling for about a year.
-- Dave thinks Eric Embry does one of the best piledrivers in wrestling
-- They are phasing out Steve & Shaun Simpson in favor of The Fantastics
-- Angel of Death is around on interviews, but not wrestling, still recovering from a knee injury
-- Dave says while most of what Ken Mantell is doing is a repeat of 1983-1984 WCCW or 1986-1987 UWF, he did come up with a new good gimmick called Thunderdome, which will happen on 1/22 in Dallas. It's a 10-man tornado match with Kevin Von Erich, Kerry Von Erich, The Fantastics & Chris Adams vs The Freebirds, John Tatum & Jack Victory. There are five handcuffs in each corner. The match is in a cage and is under elimination rules. When a man gets pinned, he gets handcuffed to the ring ropes. When all members of one team are beaten and handcuffed, the other team gets the key to the cuffs and can remove the cuffs on all the members of its team that lost falls earlier. Then the ref leaves the ring and the winners have five minutes with the losers. Dave says it's a great idea that he thinks will draw a sellout.
-- Fritz update: he's taken a turn for the better and will start doing interviews on TV over the next week
-- Ownership percentages! (My note: Come ON, Dave, stop reporting on this) Mantell owns 30% of the company, but the company has restructured. In the new contract, he is the Managing General Partner which means he calls all the shots. "All I know is Fritz has called at least one shot," Meltzer adds.
-- Steve Corey helped WCCW revive spot show business for WCCW. The national touring idea, which Dave says was ridiculous, has been scrapped, but Corey wants to do a show in combination with a Martina Navratilova vs Chris Evert-Lloyd tennis exhibition. "Can you think of a dumber idea than trying to combine a women's tennis exhibition with pro wrestling matches on a single promotion?" The tennis players balked at the idea, and the show, scheduled for 1/9 at the Superdome, was cancelled.
-- Another week and STILL no heel turn by Lawler or Dundee (My note: This is starting to become a running gag.) Their 1/1 match, which drew less than 3,000, ended with a ref bump. Dundee had Lawler pinned after the ref bump for several seconds when a debuting Terry Taylor did a run-in and gave Dundee a DDT. He also started beating up Lawler. When the ref recovered, neither guy could answer the bell so the match was a no contest.
-- Gary Young and Rick Nelson are new in the area. Nelson was one of Crockett's TV jobbers until the past week. "The Gilberts" are also being announced as coming in, but Dave doesn't know if that's Doug and Tommy, Doug and Eddie, or Eddie and Tommy, but should know soon. He says it may also be Eddie and Missy Hyatt.
-- Dave says Memphis has a ton of talent right now, but the chemistry isn't there
-- Hector Guerrero has left
-- The Nasty Boys are still working spot shows, but not major cards, and are rumored to be AWA-bound
-- Taylor is doing a great job as a heel, which doesn't surprise Dave at all
-- "Tijo Khan now has a green tongue like George Steele. Fortunately he doesn't wrestle like Steele."
-- Mark Guleen, manager of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, has already been let go, because he was pretty bad. The only manager in the territory is Nate The Rat, who is all comedy and manages jobbers.
-- They announced the Rockers as AWA tag champs on TV, so apparently the Southern tag titles will be put up in a tournament shortly
-- Rumors are that Lawler is going to win the AWA title from Curt Hennig and drop it back at the AWA TV taping in Vegas in February. Later in the issue, Dave updated this, stating that it just isn't going to happen.
-- The 1/8 card in Calgary drew 1,300, another good crowd for this group
-- Because the Olympics are coming to Calgary in February, Stampede will move from the 2000-seat Pavillion. They will run shows on 2/12, 2/19 and 2/26 in a 1000-seat building
-- Phil LaFleur has left the territory, with the storyline reason being that Garfield Portz injured him with a piledriver on the arena floor
-- Moondog Spot returned and won the Alabama title from Tom Pritchard on 1/3 in Montgomery, AL. This was a surprise because the Moondogs were set to start in Oregon this week.
-- The 1/17 show in Renton, WA drew 500
-- Fabulous Lance no-showed the recent tour.
-- The UWF itself folded and will be closing its office. In December of '85 and '86, Akira Maeda, Nobuhiko Takada, Kazuo Yamazaki, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Osamu Kido negotiated as a group and had their own business office. With Maeda out, they were just absorbed into New Japan. Yamazaki will end up being kept after all, and Maeda may return as well, although Dave has heard varying stories there. The UWF guys are no longer allowed to wrestle a different style or sell their own merchandise at the matches.
-- Dave can't believe Takada is going to do a job for LEON WHITE (My note: HA!)
-- Dave says it's pretty unsatisfactory for Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami to feud but never meet in a singles match, but reunite without the feud ever getting resolved. He says whatever success NJPW has is not because of its booking, but in spite of it.
-- AJW is about to face some major challenges, as both Dump Matsumoto and Yukari Omori are set to retire in spring. The rule of thumb is that the Japanese girls have to retire when they reach 26, and Omori just passed the limit. Dump is 27, but had the rule waived because she was such a strong draw and no one was there to take her place as the top heel. They have been working on phasing her out in favor of Bull Nakano and Condor Saito and will phase her out completely within the next two months. Dump wants to continue wrestling and tour North America. Dave says that used correctly, Dump would not only make women's wrestling in the US, but also be one of the five most over personalities in the country, especially if she was let loose and given a huge push. Because of her gimmick, Dave actually thinks her chances of getting over strong in the US are even stronger than they were in Japan, and that among Americans in Japan, Dump seems to be the star that resonates the most. "Literally, she would have the impact of a Road Warrior, or at least a female version." Dave says with the Jumping Bomb Angels being so successful in the WWF, that could open up a spot for her, but it would phase out all the American women except Leilani Kai, because the Japanese women are so much better in the ring. Dave points out that of the 8 top draws in AJW, five (Devil Masami, Omori, Dump and the Jumping Bomb Angels) are no longer working there, and that Chigusa Nagayo can't carry the box office alone, no matter how over she is. Dave says the pressure on Chigusa, Bull Nakano and Lioness Asuka is really strong, and they know they need to create new main eventers. On the 1/15 card in Tokyo, Chigusa defended the WWWA title against Omori. The match went 31 minutes to a double countout, and Omori announced after the match that she would be retiring. Dump's retirement announcement has not been made, but will be in a few weeks.
-- WWC now has television airing in New York on Ch. 41 out of Paterson, NJ. TNT was the standout star of the show, getting a huge pop and looking great in the ring. Dave says he understands why everyone raves about him, but he's still not totally convinced he's great, although he admits he's the best native wrestler in the territory. They also showed a clip of a Samoan Swat Team vs Invaders match, with Samu looking awesome, which shouldn't surprise anyone
-- Some good news is that the NWA's TV ratings slide seems to be over and they are rebounding. For the week of 12/20, The Wrestling Network was in the top 15 of syndicated programming with a 5.6 national rating. The rating peaked at 7.9 only five months prior, but dropped to the low 4's in the build to Starrcade. The All-Star Wrestling Network (AWA, Pro Wrestling This Week, CWA and POWW), has 119 stations compared to The Wrestling Network's 184 stations, but has a 6.3 national rating, which put them at number 12 on the list. Dave says the fact that the ASW network has more viewers with so many fewer stations points out that improvements need to be made to Crockett's syndication, although they appear to be moving in the right direction. The WWF was number 4 on the same list with a 9.9 rating on 222 stations.
-- Dave will be on KCBS radio (740 AM) with Ted Robinson on "Sportsbeat" on Tuesday, February 9. The WON Yearbook is also completed. "Its actual title is 'The Best of the Wrestling Observer, Volume I: 1983-1987', which is kind of a misnomer since the 'best of' pages really only contain material from 1983-85, although there is a long feature on the wrestling scene year-by-year throughout the past five years." (My note: I had no idea this existed.)
-- Jerry Blackwell's Southern Championship Wrestling TV taping on 1/13 drew 400 in Marietta. Dick Slater said on an interview that when he was through in the territory, he would be more hated than Bill Watts. Brody accidentally called heel Grizzly Boone Grizzly Smith in a promo as well. Bill Dromo, the figurehead president, suspended Austin Idol, who actually no-showed, for his attack on Tommy Rich at the previous taping. Bill Mulkey worked the card and got squashed by Nick Busick. Randy Mulkey wasn't there, but the Mulkeys are expected to work full-time here once they're up and running. Randy "Don't Call Me Pee Wee" Anderson is also working here. Dave is told the production values increased greatly since the first taping, and that clips aired on Pro Wrestling This Week. In the Idol/Rich angle, Rich cut an artery in his head and bled all over the ring, to a point where they could barely air it. There is talk of Stan Hansen and Jerry Lawler coming in soon. The next taping is 1/24. They'll have TV in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Tallahassee, Greensboro and parts of Georgia.
-- Global now has Gordon Solie doing the TV and is billing itself as Florida's only wrestling promotion. The Malenkos are the best workers, and Solie talks about them as heels and discusses how much fans are booing them, but they're actually getting major cheers and are the most popular stars in the territory. Adrian Street and Cousin Junior are coming in.