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Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer

March 28th, 1988

Early on, Dave starts with the cryptic: "Is no news good news? Not for those of us writing the news it isn't. Actually, there are negotiations going on to what could be the biggest story of the year, but since as best as I can tell, nothing has come from those talks yet. Anyway, there will be no shortage of news come next week, that much is for sure."

Dave also asks that everyone send him a postcard or short letter which shows each reader preferred between the Clash and WM IV, and what the best match was on either show.

RATINGS FROM EVERYWHERE
-- In weekly syndication ratings ending 2/21, the WWF package ranked 6th place with a 9.9 rating in 245 markets. Jim Crockett's Wrestling Network fell to 8th place with a 7.9 rating in 177 markets. GLOW, POWW, AWA, and Pro Wrestling This Week are all under the All Star Wrestling Network banner now, meaning they should crack the top 15 soon. The WWF's syndicated advertising was almost all renewed at prices ranging between $30,000 and $35,000 for a 30-second slot. Crockett is hoping to make $10 million off of advertisements this year. No ratings are available for the 3/12 SNME yet. Dave says it will be interesting when they come in, because they will show how the general public reacted to the Hogan/Andre prime time special. Later in the issue, Dave reports they drew a 10 rating and a 30 share, which is good, but down from the last few specials.

WWF
-- Dave says it appears interest in Wrestlemania IV is way down from previous years. Dave says it's a drop from the first year, when all the major newspapers and magazines were reporting on Wrestlemania. The second one, which wasn't a huge success, still got a lot of publicity because of the press. Dave says there wasn't the same amount of national press for Wrestlemania III, but there was an overwhelming amount of local publicity in Michigan and Ontario. Dave says before the first Wrestlemania, he couldn't take a bus or go out somewhere without someone talking about it. (My note: Seriously?) Dave thinks the show will be a success, but where he was previously calling it a $25 million show, he thinks now it's more likely to be maybe a $19 million show. Dave says interest is always down going into summer, but he really thinks this is going to be a very lifeless summer for the WWF.

-- "You want to know one of the most significant differences between the NWA and the WWF? Remember last week I reported about the angle with Andre the Giant and Jim Duggan from Winston-Salem where Andre choked Duggan who started bleeding heavily from the mouth (scheduled to air on 4/2). What apparently happened is Andre accidentally hit Duggan in the lip and the lip cut on a tooth and lots of blood resulted from it. There was lots of talk that they will actually re-shoot the angle this weekend, because McMahon didn't want that much blood on television. In the NWA, had a similar accident occurred, they would be doing cartwheels (well, that's an exaggeration but they would think it added to the angle and certainly wouldn't dream of re-shooting it). I'm not sure what decision was reached about re-shooting however but we should know next week." Later in the issue, Dave says it wasn't re-shot after all.

-- The Killer Bees have been asked to turn heel. There was an angle at the 3/12 Philadelphia card where the Bees were lumberjacks, although some swear it wasn't the real Bees, and they attacked Hulk Hogan during his match with Ted DiBiase. Hogan beat them up.

-- 3/10 in Colorado Springs, CO drew 2,000 headlined by Demolition vs Rougeaus. 3/12 at the Capital Centre drew 8,500 headlined by Hulk Hogan vs Virgil. 3/15 in Lubbock drew 800 headlined by Duggan winning a Bunkhouse battle royal. 3/13 in Hamilton, Ontario drew 15,000 headlined by Hogan & Bigelow vs DiBiase & Virgil. 3/13 in Albuquerque, NM, drew 2,151 headlined by Duggan winning a Bunkhouse battle royal. 3/18 in Houston drew 7,500 headlined by Hogan & Duggan vs DiBiase & Andre. 3/6 in Hartford, CT drew 3,900 headlined by Rick Rude winning a Royal Rumble.

-- Dave on the Royal Rumble: "This concept isn't drawing on the road shows. It only worked as a one-time gimmick."

-- Demolition has been doing pinfall jobs almost everywhere on house shows, which Dave thinks guarantees a tag title change at Wrestlemania, since the WWF booking philosophy has always been to beat the future champions every night until they win the title.

-- Dan Spivey has left and will be starting in Puerto Rico shortly.

-- "Expect a Bravo vs. Patera feud over weightlifting which is something I know you are all holding your breath in anticipation of."

-- "DING DING DING. Don't read anymore on this page if you want to be surprised at Wrestlemania." He then talks about DiBiase working two matches at the post-WM TV taping without the belt, while Savage didn't appear at all on either taping, which makes Savage winning a lock. The Savage/Liz WWF magazine thing mentioned last week was picked up by the Associated Press. Dave has been told the magazine cover was printed by mistake and Titan is furious about the results being public knowledge. Also, on the same TV taping, Beefcake was there without a belt, HTM was there with his belt, and Jimmy Hart had a bonnet to hide his hair, which means Jimmy Hart is losing his hair, but HTM is not losing his title. Both TV tapings drew $85,000 houses, which Dave says are incredible gates for cities of those sizes (Cape Girardeau, MO, and Springfield, IL)

-- Andre will be managed by Bobby Heenan again after Wrestlemania.

-- They are trying to push DiBiase as a more serious wrestler, and less as Andre's manager and a guy who buys all of his victories, as they think the reason he isn't drawing is because of how they are portraying him.

-- "Jos LeDuc is headed in managed by Frenchy Martin. He'll go nowhere. How can he get over without juice?"

-- Post WM feuds will be Junkyard Dog vs Ron Bass, Ken Patera vs Dino Bravo, and Rick Rude vs Jake Roberts.

-- "The Rude-Roberts thing is kind of cute. Rude's gimmick will be before every match he kisses a woman in the audience (a plant of course). Well on a TV show, he'll kiss Jake's wife (isn't it funny, for years promotions tried like crazy to cover up that any wrestlers were married because they were afraid they'd lose women groupies over it) which sets up the feud."

-- The WWF will do a four-day tour of Italy during the post-WM break.

-- Several closed-circuit sites for Wrestlemania have been cancelled due to poor advances. Dave says the thing he's heard when he's asked people what the show is missing this year is that no one likes the tournament idea.

-- Bruno Sammartino apparently did a very candid interview about the WWF on the radio recently, and Dave is requesting to hear it if anyone has it.

NWA
-- Learning The Ropes did well at the NATPE convention. Syndicators have already ordered 52 episodes (two seasons). The show starts in September, and Crockett is hoping to sell it as part of his syndication package. At this point, half of the country has already been cleared for the show.

-- "With one week to go, do you realize the NWA has only announced the top four matches for its TBS special?"

-- 3/16 in San Francisco drew 4,500 and a $52,000 gate (considered great business) headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting. 3/15 in Reno only drew a $15,000 house, so there is not going to be a return to that market. 3/17 in Los Angeles drew 3,700 headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting. 3/18 in Cincinnati drew 3,500 fans for a TV taping. On the 4/2 Pro episode, there will be a strong Luger/Windham vs Arn/Tully match ending with Magnum hitting Tully with a baseball bat for an apparent title change, but a second ref will reverse the decision. 3/20 in Peoria drew 1,500 headlined by Flair vs Sting. 3/12 in Norfolk drew $65,000 headlined by Sting vs Flair.

-- The NWA has a lot of high-level stuff planned for the weekend shows not including the Clash. The Fantastics and Midnight Express went 37 minutes and will be an entire episode of NWA Pro. Dave says the Fantastics are working really, really hard to get over, and thinks the series with the Midnights may turn out to be the best feud in North America.

-- Wrestlers are excited about the new NWA Main Event show because they get paid bonuses for appearing. Main event participants split a $7,500 bonus, and semi-main splits $2,500. Each show will have three matches, few interviews, and the matches will run long. It will replace the CWF and Power Pro in syndication, both of which are being dropped in April. Dave thinks the bonuses are to stop heels from complaining about doing jobs on television. Dave expects good action and lots of DQ finishes.

-- The NWA is planning a big Ric Flair vs Lex Luger match for the Great American Bash PPV in July, but the WWF has their 60 days before and 60 days after clause, which Ted Turner is trying to help them get around. Dave expects the WWF to run a free show on USA at the same time.

-- Jim Crockett had the New Haven Coliseum booked, but the WWF blocked it. The Cow Palace also wanted badly to run an NWA show, but the WWF threatened to pull out and they backed down.

-- Expect Four Horsemen vitamins soon.

-- "Al Perez and Gary Hart are in to feud with Dusty which doesn't have a prayer. Perez isn't good enough to carry Dusty -- few are. Besides Perez should be a babyface since he's got almost as much color as Casper the Friendly Ghost. Dusty was disappointed in the Zbyszko thing not getting over (hey, he destroyed it by killing the dirty picture angle) but even though Perez looks better than Larry Z, Larry Z can do an interview and has ring psychology. I don't think Gary Hart is strong enough to get Perez over nationally."

AWA
-- Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond won the AWA tag titles on 3/19 in Las Vegas, beating the Midnight Rockers before 1,500 fans.

-- "The AWA is so disorganized and messed up right now you wouldn't believe it. I could write a page on the foul-ups during the last week alone."

-- Mike Graham, Steve Keirn, Sheik Kaissey, Adrian Adonis (he's done and wants badly to go back to the WWF), Robert Gibson (Gibson wants a guarantee, Morton is much easier to deal with), and Greg Boyd all no-showed the last TV taping.

-- It's in the middle of a meaningless sentence, but " ... the new manager they were supposed to bring in from Florida called Dallas Diamond Page"

-- Curt Hennig is now managed by Madusa Miceli, since both are World champions. Kevin Kelly has left for Billy Jack Haynes' promotion in Oregon.

-- Verne actually featured a GLOW tag match on one of his shows. Dave says he "lowered himself to feature a GLOW tag match on one of his shows", actually.

-- "Madusa had cosmetic surgery a few days earlier, the results of which will be quite obvious." (Oh my ...)

-- They are trying to say Hennig injured Tom Zenk and ran him out of the AWA, even saying "As you all saw ..." when it never aired or even happened. "The AWA has this thing about burying guys who leave of course, but to have the audacity to say, 'as you all saw' for an event that nobody saw because it never took place is something I'm not even sure World Class has ever done."

-- Ricky Morton pinned Dennis Stamp (who was apparently booked) on the last TV taping, which got over well.

-- Hennig was fined by the AWA for missing a few spot shows, even though he was seriously injured.

WCCW
-- Star Wars on 3/20 in Fort Worth drew only 2,500 fans. It started 15 minutes late and didn't end until 11:00 because of long delays between matches. The show was headlined by Kerry Von Erich vs Terry Gordy.

-- Dave says the concert angle came across great, although it was stupid for the band to continue playing like nothing was wrong while Buddy Roberts and Iceman Parsons were beating up Hayes. "If you were a musician and a bunch of 250 pound wrestlers were brawling not two feet away from you, you wouldn't nonchalantly continue to play, you'd head for the hills." Dave says Buddy did probably his best interview ever two days later in Dallas, blaming the Von Erichs for what happened. The storyline is that buddy got drunk and ruined the concert and Hayes won't speak to him because of it. On 3/20, Gordy came out and asked what happened because he had heard two different sides of the story. Buddy and Iceman insisted Buddy hadn't had anything to drink.

-- Dave says they are doing so much right in terms of developing angles and putting together great TV, but the business is horrible because they are running only 3-4 shows per week and the gates aren't anything special. They skipped Fort Worth shows on 3/7 and 3/14 with the idea of creating a bigger gate on 3/20 and it didn't work, despite all the great hype.

-- No one would be surprised by Skandor Akbar coming in. The only manager is Vince Apollo, and Akbar is 8th on the totem pole for Crockett and doesn't even have anyone to manage.

-- Fabulous Lance hasn't showed up for WCCW because his agent told him it would hurt his marketability for TV commercials.

MEMPHIS
-- "Actually, this should be called the GWA (Gilbert Wrestling Association) because about the only interesting stuff revolves around the Gilberts. I've finally had a chance to watch the past few weeks TV here and Eddie Gilbert and Missy Hyatt have at least breathed some life into the group, although there is simply no support underneath. Actually the second hottest feud on the circuit involves Eddie Marlin vs. Tommy Gilbert."

-- On the 3/19 TV, Eddie Gilbert threw fire and burned Randy Hales. The incident started with Dave Brown on vacation (probably because he didn't want to do the angle since Missy has been talking every week about taking over Brown's job as color commentator) and Hales taking his place. Missy wanted to do color. Hales said he was tired of the Gilberts trying to take over everything and they started arguing while Eddie was wrestling a match. Eddie lost the match via countout because he was arguing with Hales, then he threw the fireball.

-- Lawler's return on 3/14 to face Eddie Gilbert drew 7,000 fans. Lawler lost by DQ. Missy Hyatt slapped Lawler before the match. By comparison, 3/7 drew 3,400 headlined by the Midnight Rockers against Jeff Jarrett & Billy Travis.

-- Ricky Morton was announced as coming back, but they haven't mentioned his name again.

-- There is talk that Jerry Jarrett wants to open a new promotion with Mike Graham in Florida, and that Gordon Solie has been contacted about doing television.

OREGON
-- Billy Jack Haynes is getting ready to run opposition to Down Owen in Portland. Rip Oliver and Mike Miller have both quick working for Owen and are expected to start working for Haynes in a few weeks. Kevin Kelly, the Memphis Big Bubba (Fred Ottman/Shockmaster/Tugboat/Typhoon for those who don't know), JT Southern, a heel Chavo Guerrero (who is expected to feud with Brady Boone), and also Curt Hennig and Tom Zenk have been given offers. Hennig likely will not come in, as he is content in the AWA ("well, as content as anyone can be working for Verne Gagne"), and Don Owen has already billed Zenk as appearing in his promotion. There's also talk of Brad Rheingans possibly working for Haynes, and Joey Jackson has been discussed as well since he just quit working for Owen, although it's suspected that's because he's going to the WWF as a jobber. Matt Borne is taking Miller's place working for Owen. Al Madrial and Abbuda Dein are headed in, and Brian Adams should be back from Japan soon. The promotion is going to be called the OWWF (Oregon-Washington Wrestling Federation), and they have a wrestling school set up as well.

-- Curt Hennig was in Portland on 3/5 and unable to wrestle due to back and neck injuries. The AWA title was announced as being held up in Portland with a Hennig (who's a babyface in Portland) match against The Grappler, "... but instead The Assassin represented Hennig and beat Grappler which made hennig the 'new' AWA champion and if you understand that, you're ahead of me."

STAMPEDE
-- 3/11 in Calgary drew 1,100.

-- On TV, they asked Wayne Hart if he was going to be a ref or a wrestler and Hart said after undergoing more conditioning he was going to wrestle. During the same interview, Brian Pillman mentioned "two clowns on another promotion calling themselves Bad Company", a shot at Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond.

-- Bruce Hart is out of action with a broken cheekbone, and just had eye surgery as well. "It seems fate doesn't want him to wrestle since he was out for months after knee surgery, and since that time has suffered a separated shoulder and an eye injury."

-- Cuban Assassin (Angel Acevedo) is returning from Kansas City.

-- They ran an angle recently where Steve DiSalvo attacked Jason The Terrible and got suspended, as DiSalvo is scheduled to tour Japan.

-- Makhan Singh received an offer to wrestle for Billy Jack Haynes in Oregon. No word on whether or not he'll accept.

ALL JAPAN
-- 3/9 in Yokohama drew 4,350. 3/10 in Kimizu drew 1,850 headlined by Jumbo & Yatsu vs Hansen & Gordy.

-- They are building up a big show on 3/27 at Budokan Hall to be headlined by Hansen vs Tenryu, and Jumbo vs Brody, where Dave expects a surprise ending.

-- On the next series are Austin Idol, Tommy Rich, Bubba Rogers (who is about to start with the WWF), Tom Magee, and George Skaaland

-- There is talk of having a Jumbo/Tenryu match at some undetermined point in the future with the idea of unifying all the singles titles.

-- On 3/5 in Akita, they did an angle where Tenryu and Hara gave Stan Hansen a double enzuigiri. Tenryu then grabbed his ankle like he kicked too hard. Hansen collapsed, "knocked out". Hara tried to lift him for another spot but Hansen laid there limp. Gordy came in to brawl with Tenryu & Hara to distract from the Hansen thing. Maybe 45 seconds later, Hansen comes to, goes berzerk, dives through the ropes onto Tenryu and starts going wild with chairs and we ended up with a double countout. Hansen then started roughing up people at ringside and grabbed the mic and said, "Nobody potatoes me!" Dave says even he was fooled by that one because it looked so legit and they were working the match like it was a "mistake". It was designed as a take-off on what happened with Maeda and Choshu a few months earlier, and was also designed to fool smart fans into thinking there could be legitimate violence in Hansen/Tenryu on 3/9. (My note: Someone make the Vince Russo joke.)

NEW JAPAN
-- There's a new team called the Pirates. They beat up Inoki in an angle recently. Dick Murdoch tried to make the save, and was bloodied up and carried out unconscious. Nobuhiko Takada & Kazuo Yamazaki vs Hiroshi Hase & Kuniaki Kobayashi on the same show was said to be a great match.

-- The 5/7 card has been changed from Inoki vs Chris Dolman to Inoki vs Big Van Vader.

JOSHI
-- Dump Matsumoto's final televised match, which aired on 3/6 in Japan, drew an amazing 13.2 national rating, which will probably be the most watched wrestling match anywhere in the world in 1988 after the Hogan/Andre match. What makes the rating even more impressive is that it aired on a Sunday afternoon and wasn't in prime time. The match was Dump teaming with Yukari Omori against the Crush Girls, and was a quadruple juice and ruled a no-contest. After the match, Chigusa Nagayo grabbed the mic and called for an impromptu exhibition match with Dump as her partner against Lioness Asuka and Omori. They wrestled for five minutes, there was a double pin, and then they ran out of time.

OTHER
-- The angle on Pro Wrestling This Week is that Paul E. Dangerously has purchased controlling interest in the show and completed a hostile takeover. An angle will happen on the 4/2 show where Dangerously firers Gordon Solie, Joe Pedicino, and Bonnie Blackstone. "Watching Solie get fired on the air could make the show a collectors' item."

-- Mike George regained the Central States title by beating Masa Chono on the 3/17 card in Kansas City. 3/11 in St. Joseph drew 548, and was apparently headlined by a great Masa Chono vs DJ Peterson match. They are building a babyface feud between George and Peterson, with the idea that Peterson will end up as world champion when it's said and done.

-- Blackjack Mulligan won a legal case where he was sued for punching a business partner during a 1986 argument. The jury believed the self-defense side of the story Mulligan presented, and apparently, Mulligan's lawyer was so good that they even got his accuser quoted saying he felt sorry for Mulligan. Mulligan was recently driven from wrestling due to a heart attack, and is on the verge of losing his home due to financial problems.

-- "Carolina Championship Wrestling ran three shows from 3/3 to 3/5 (one was 15 miles from Charlotte) drawing between 300 and 600 fans headlined by Tony Atlas. Atlas appeared on Charlotte radio station WCKZ on 3/4 to hype the 3/5 show in Gastonia and he asked to hear from callers who hate Dusty Rhodes. The lines were tied up for 25 minutes." Also on the interview, Atlas said Titan used fake weights during Dino Bravo's angle, while Crockett used real weights, but lied about the amount.
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