Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
March 21st, 1988
-- Dave starts by making his predictions for Wrestlemania IV, first giving the disclaimer that he doesn't know any of the results, and if he did, he wouldn't make any predictions. Hogan, Savage, and DiBiase are the only ones Dave gives any chance of winning, and no one else in the tournament is strong enough to carry the title, "or have problems from their past that Titan is afraid of coming out should they be placed in the public spotlight." Dave is able to make some eliminations based on the fact that they have already done their first post-WM TV taping, and Andre the Giant, Hacksaw Duggan, Butch Reed, Don Muraco, and Bam Bam Bigelow were all there, with none of them wearing the belt. Jake Roberts, Greg Valentine, One Man Gang, and Dino Bravo can be ruled out because they aren't really pushed that hard and he suspects they won't make it past the first round. Rude and Steamboat are guys who he sees having more than one match, but obviously not winning. The brackets were changed to ensure Savage in the finals recently. Also, the latest issue of WWF Magazine, weeks before the show mind you, has a photo of Elizabeth, accompanied by the caption: "Elizabeth, manager of the World Wrestling Federation Champion Randy 'Macho Man' Savage." Dave wonders if this is a red herring, a misprint, bad proofreading, or a clue. Dave also got a letter from a reader who insists at the previous Wednesday's TV taping that he looked through the curtain and saw Savage doing a promo while carrying the belt. "So much for the honor of kay-fabing the public. His final prediction is Savage, because he says if he's wrong, so are a lot of other people.
-- Regarding HTM/Beefcake, Dave guarantees this match won't win any MOTY honors. "Honkeytonk has bizarre talents, but none of them have anything to do with wrestling (that sometimes forgotten art form of putting together exciting pro style matches)." Dave says Beefcake has no talent he has ever been able to find, and he's been watching him for years. Dave thinks he's a teacher's pet, but also says that the Barber gimmick is one that has gotten him more over than anyone would have expected. Dave says the main clue of a title change is that the scheduled Honky Tonk Man Coliseum Video release has been replaced with a Beefcake video, and that it's well known that HTM is in the doghouse for refusing to job at the NBC taping on 2/5. Dave predicts HTM "will no longer be the worst Intercontinental champion of all time. Then again, I remember Pedro Morales ..."
-- Regarding the Islanders & Bobby Heenan vs Koko B Ware & the Bulldogs, Dave says it's amazing that Dynamite Kid made the comeback he did when his career was ruled over a year earlier. He says the WWF acknowledging it would have resulted in the Bulldogs being over as a team again, but that the WWF didn't seem to want them to get over again, but rather want to get Matilda over, which they have. The drawing point of this match is Matilda's return, and a likely spot where Bobby Heenan gets chased around the ring. Dave predicts the Bulldogs will win in the end.
-- Regarding Demolition vs Strike Force, Dave thinks it will be a "semi-fun" match. Dave mentions Strike Force being booed recently at the Cow Palace. "Is the matinee idol look out? Is ugly in? Is being a good tag team out? Is wrestling skill out? Demolition isn't a great team. I don't even think they are all that good of a team, but they are certainly not a bad team. Dave's prediction is that "Every time the tag team title has been on the line at WM, it has changed hands. This will make it a hat trick."
-- Regarding "Anabolic Warrior" vs Hercules, Dave says it's the stuff nightmares are made of. "Is this what pro wrestling will be like in the 1990s?" Dave says Hercules has had two good matches in two straight Wrestlemanias, which puts him in company of only Ricky Steamboat, who has two top-notch WM performances coming into this year. Dave says "If Harley Race, one of the greatest performers this business has ever seen, is unable to carry this amazingly popular blend of chemicals, face paint, and a lifetime of praying to the God Arnold in Gold's Gyms across the country, past the one star level, then Hercules will have to put on the match of his life to make this one good." Dave's final prediction? "Neither man will live to see 50." (OUCH! He was half right, I guess.)
-- Regarding the battle royal, Dave ponders if Bret Hart can single-handedly make a bad concept work. Dave thinks anyone can win, but will likely be a babyface. "George Steele won't get in the ring. Paul Roma and Jim Powers will smile a lot. Junkfood Dog won't do anything. If Sam Houston doesn't win, he'll take the best bump going out. Harley Race's bump will be the second best."
-- Hulk Hogan is scheduled to take time off following Wrestlemania to do a movie and spend time with his wife, as they are expecting their first child.
-- WM IV sold out over the past week. Dave says one could make the point that last year's show sold more than 90,000 tickets and sold out roughly as far as in advance of this show in which the paid attendance will probably be around 13,500 fans. However, Michigan was blacked out of both cable and PPV for WM III, so either you went to the show live or you had to drive all the way to Toledo, OH, to watch it. This year, they have 8 closed circuits in NYC alone, 8 more in New Jersey, another closed circuit at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, and PPV everywhere. Tickets were also much more expensive this time. For WM 3, the average paid ticket price was $16.50. The top price was $100, but the place was flooded with $9 seats. This year, the best tickets go for $150 and there are 55 rows priced at $100. They're still expected to do a $1 million gate.
-- The big post-WM feud will be Duggan vs Andre. The angle was shot on 3/9 in Winston-Salem, NC before a sellout of 9,000 fans. During an interview, Duggan tries to interrupt Andre and DiBiase. Andre beats up Duggan, headbutts him off the stage, and Duggan has to be held back from charging. The next week, Andre has a match with Brian Costello, and Duggan runs in. Andre gets the advantage and starts choking Duggan, who bleeds heavily from the mouth, but he gets the 2 x 4 and knocks Andre out with it. They bring out a stretcher to carry Andre away, and he revives, goes berzerk, and chases Pat Patterson all the way to the dressing room.
-- The biggest surprise at the TV taping was the appearance of Owen Hart. He appeared using his real name as a jobber. Later in the taping, he wrestled Hercules and got some offense, which the crowd loved, but submitted in the end. Dave doesn't understand the rationale behind bringing Owen Hart in only to do jobs.
-- Vince was embarrassed by the Hogan/Andre NBC rating, as he had claimed publicly beforehand that it would be the highest rated prime time television show not only of the week, but of the entire television season.
-- Bruno Sammartino has quit to work for Lou Albano's new 900-line. Bruno hated the modern version of the WWF, claiming wrestling should treat its fans as intelligent people and try to maintain credibility, and he was also bitter about David never being given a push. When he left, Linda McMahon called him and told him he was not allowed to use his name in any outside business ventures, because the WWF had trademarked the name, which Bruno didn't exactly react to all that well. (My note: I never realized Bruno was a gimmick name.) On 3/9, David was wrestling in Watertown, NY. He allegedly went after a fan who was heckling him and threw him out of his chair. The WWF then fired David. Later in the issue, Dave says all charges have been dropped.
-- In Nashville, before the 3/12 SNME, they did a ticket giveaway to ensure a full house where anyone who could name two WWF wrestlers who receive two free tickets. Reader Jeff Bowdren gave the Savage/DiBiase match ****1/2 and called it the best match of the year so far.
-- 3/6 in San Diego drew 3,500 headlined by Duggan vs DiBiase. 3/12 in Philly drew 10,731 headlined by Hogan vs DiBiase in a "terrible lumberjack match".
-- Mark Young, son of Chief Jay Strongbow, appeared at the last TV taping.
-- The WWF plans on raiding the NWA's roster in May because they're mad about them running the Clash.
-- Dave says Ric Flair wins the line for best overstatement in terms of hype, calling the Clash the biggest sporting spectacular in the history of television. Dave compares this to the WWF and their "What The World Is Watching" and laughs, saying their "world" is 37 states and 7 Canadian provinces. Regarding Flair/Sting, Dave predicts a 20+ minute match with lots of nearfalls. "Ric somehow will get caught before he can jump off the top rope. In other words, this match will be exactly as expected. I'm not complaining, it still could be the best match of either card. But do you know of anybody who is really excited about seeing this match? Prediction: Flair will get destroyed. He won't lose the title. The finish will be something we've all seen dozens of times. Whooo."
-- Regarding the battle of the barbed wire, Dave expects lots of blood, otherwise, why are Dusty Rhodes and Ivan Koloff there. Dave thinks the babyfaces will win, with Ivan Koloff doing the job, and most fans except the juice freaks will be disappointed.
-- Regarding the tag title match, Dave thinks it will be ***1/2 or better. "You've got three of the best workers in the NWA and a fourth who has improved to the point it would be no problem to at least hold up his end of things. Prediction: Luger will have the best physique on the card. A title change wouldn't surprise me here. But if not, the heels will get DQ'd. The latter is the more likely prospect."
-- Regarding the Midnight Express/Fantastics match, Dave thinks there will be tons of highspots and lots of effort from everyone involved. Dave thinks Jim Cornette has done too many interviews talking about the length of time the MX have had the belts to not do a title change, and he also thinks the Fans need to be put over big and fast, because of the tough road ahead of them. "Lots of fans don't like little guys, especially cocky little guys. The Rock & Roll Express fans will be divided. Some will like them anyway, but some will view them as replacements so they'll get cheered, but won't be 'over'. Of course The Fantastics really are a good team, so maybe they'll overcome all that. "A title change here seems the most logical thing they could do. Even so, I'm picking a title change."
-- Regarding Garvin/Rotunda, Dave has no prediction other than that Rotunda will break the rules and Kevin Sullivan will do something dastardy. Dave expects a hot angle.
-- Regarding Larry Zbyszko vs Shane Douglas, Dave calls the match "two guys on the road to nowhere".
-- The lineup for the Crockett Cup will be announced at the Clash. Dave has heard they will be as follows:
1. Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson
2. Dusty Rhodes & Nikita Koloff
3. Road Warriors
4. Midnight Express
5. Powers of Pain
6. Lex Luger & Barry Windham
7. The Fantastics
8. Rick Steiner & Mike Rotunda
9. Sting & Ron Garvin (Managed by Magnum TA)
10. Ivan Koloff & Dick Murdoch
-- No big name outside team is scheduled to be part of the tournament, because the Von Erichs and Inoki won't allow them to come, do the job, and be unseeded on top of that. They are dropping hints about teams from Puerto Rico and Japan, but Dave has heard nothing. But he does expect the Lighting Express, Sheepherders, Shane Douglas & Ricky Santana, Kevin Sullivan & Larry Zbyszko, and Ron Simmons & Jimmy Garvin as teams. Because of all the jobber teams, Dave expects the first round to be squashes. With Steve Williams returning, Dave is hoping we can finally get that NWA/UWF unification match on the second night, although Dave has heard one of the babyfaces will pull out of the tournament to get the title shot.
-- Dave got lots of calls wondering how Jim Cornette got away with saying "beating meat" on TV
-- Ted Turner will be starting a new network in October called TNT with lots of sports and MGM movies. Wrestling may switch to TNT.
-- 3/5 TV tapings drew a sellout 4,600 fans. 3/12 in Baltimore drew 8,000 fans and a $91,000 gate headlined by Flair vs Sting.
-- Dave is told a Norfolk match between the Midnight Express and Fantastics on 3/12 was an MOTYC and will air on TV soon
-- Memphis is using the Observer for an angle, as Jerry Jarrett appeared on TV giving Lance Russell an announcer of the year plaque "for the fourth straight year." Eddie Gilbert and Missy Hyatt came out and started arguing with Jarrett. Jerry Lawler was doing an interview by phone explaining that he still doesn't have a doctor's release. They started building up the upcoming Gilbert/Steve Keirn main event, an argument broke out, and Eddie Gilbert ended up throwing a fireball at Jerry Jarrett.
-- Brother Ernest Angel is now doing an interview segment called "Quiet Time", asking people to send their money to help him build Wrestling Village USA. He is also using "the good book" as a weapon at ringside.
-- Brickhouse Brown is back, but is not scheduled to get any type of push.
-- There is great heat in the Lawler & Jarrett family vs Gilbert family wars, but the rest of the program doesn't have all that much heat. (My note: I don't really know what that means.)
-- Stan Kowalski is headed in as a heel manager. He'll be given an interview segment and a big push, which means Paul E. Dangerously isn't coming back. "Leave it to the AWA to have a choice between a hot new manager and a guy who has been out of the business for 15 years and choose the older guy. I couldn't make up comedy this funny."
-- Expect to see more of Madusa Miceli.
-- Kerry Von Erich regained the WCCW title on 3/6 in Fort Worth. He wrestled a 20-minute scientific match against Al Perez, won clean, and they hugged afterward, in an effort to turn Perez babyface. Perez and Gary Hart will be joining the NWA soon, which is important, since Perez was originally going to regain the WCCW title on 3/25.
-- Fabulous Lance is coming back, which Dave has no clue how they're going to handle. Dave thinks it signals that Dave Manning no longer has interest in running opposition to WCCW. Later in the issue, Dave says he might not be coming in after all. Fritz wanted to use him as a heel partner of the Freebirds, but Manning didn't want him wrestling unless he was a babyface.
-- Kerry doesn't want to work full-time and defend the WCCW title. Two wrestlers have been offered the title. Terry Gordy is likely the frontrunner, although Dave thinks Terry Taylor would also be a good choice.
-- 3/4 in Calgary drew 1,100 fans.
-- Garfield Portz has returned home to Florida to recuperate from his stroke.
-- Ross Hart is saying the 8-man Bunkhouse Brawl on 2/27 was one of the best matches in the history of Stampede Wrestling.
-- Carl Styles may be headed in.
-- Okay, I have to transcribe this: "This group taped about six weeks worth of television on 3/5 in Pompano Beach at a TV studio. Most of the hot angles revolved around the babyface duo of G.I. Joe Palardy & Colonel Kirchner feuding with Dr. Red Roberts & V.C. Minh (Masami Soronaka). At the previous taping, Minh came out with a photo of U.S. soldiers in body bags being carried home from Vietnam which caused Palardy & Kirchner to freak out. Roberts, whose gimmick is he plays a psychologist (which he is in real life as Dr. Michael Brannon) then made some funny interviews calling Kirchner a nut case with 'Patriophobia'. Anyway, a match between the two teams was scheduled, however Roberts invoked the Baker Act and somehow got Kirchner declared a psycho so he couldn't wrestle, which if you've ever seen Kirchner's interviews, is certainly consistent with his character. Later on TV, Roberts and Minh won a squash with the sleeper hold and Medics came out, under masks, and attacked the heels. Of course Palardy & Kirchner were the Medics. Roberts was beaten up so badly he later announced his retirement from wrestling and said he was going to use his psychiatric skills to help young men combat drug abuse."
-- Lou Perez is wrestling in Global, and is being billed as Al Perez.
-- Death Row is "a heel team supposedly on a work furlough from prison yet everyone cheers them which I'm not sure what that means"
-- Gordon Solie and Ron Fuller are doing announcing for the Knoxville-based USA Championship Wrestling, which is taped in a hotel ballroom.
-- 3/9 in Yokohama drew 6,000 in a 6,500 seat building headlined by Hansen vs Tenryu
-- Outlet Communications, which owns Pro Wrestling This Week, is for sale. PWTW is going to do an angle based on this, and it will be played like someone is attempting a hostile takeover of the show.
-- Fred Blassie, Roddy Piper, Buddy Rogers, Fabulous Moolah, and Clara Mortenson were honored at the Cauliflower Alley Club banquet. John Tolos was in attendance, said to look 20 years younger than his real age of 58. Piper was very polite and subdued, totally out of character. He did appear to have bitterness about wrestling and anger toward several promoters. Dave honestly believes he has no intention of ever wrestling again. He has moved his family to Burbank and has lost about 30 lbs from his wrestling days.
-- The New York Athletic commission is claiming that Misty Blue's ring attire is too revealing.
-- John McAdam would like to hear from everyone he owes tapes.