Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
April 11th, 1988
-- "'What goes around comes around' -- I'm not sure what wise man first coined this phrase, but he's a whole lot wiser this week."
-- Dave felt March 27 would go down as the most important day of the year for pro wrestling. Both the WWF and the NWA presented big shows with tons of hype, intrigue, sabotage, media manipulation, and careful planning. The lesson learned was that if wrestlign doesn't fit into the equation, all the careful planning in the world doesn't really matter.
-- In the largest response the WON has ever received for a poll, 94.7% (507 readers) preferred the Clash of the Champions to Wrestlemania. 3.8% (20 readers) preferred Wrestlemania IV to Clash of the Champions. 1.5% (8 readers) enjoyed the show about the same. Of the 532 responses, only two people voted a match from Wrestlemania as the best overall match. Ric Flair vs Sting barely edged out Midnight Express vs Fantastics, which barely edged out Lex Luger & Barry Windham vs Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard.
-- The second hottest guy in wrestling coming out of the Clash is Sting, without a doubt. Dave thinks Sting has surpassed the Road Warriors and Randy Savage as the hottest act in wrestling besides Hulk Hogan. "Up until just a few months ago, he never had any kind of a national push. He's probably never scored a clean pinfall on any major star. He's never even won a singles title. While he's very good in the ring considering his experience, he's far from the most polished performer in the NWA. And his interviews leave much to be desired. Call it charisma, rapport with the fans or what have you."
-- The Flair/Sting match was the most widely-viewed match in the history of the modern NWA, and probably the most widely-viewed match in the history of cable television. It was the first time Sting had ever worked anywhere near 45 minutes. Dave says Ric Flair deserves a lot of credit for Sting's sudden surge in popularity, but if there was nothing in Sting himself, it wouldn't have worked. Dave calls it a strange case, because there's not really anywhere he can go right away. He's already worked with Flair for four straight months, and despite losing almost all the matches in their feud, has gotten hotter by the month. Dave says with Nikita getting the title shot at the Crockett Cup and Dusty Rhodes repositioning himself to be the top babyface as the Midnight Rider, it looks like they will fail to take advantage of something they really lukced into. "But Sting got over big with less of a push than any major star in the business, so he'll probably retain much of his popularity as just one of five contenders to the No. 2 babyface position."
-- It is estimated that Wrestlemania IV got 585,000 buys paying $19.95 each, which comes out to around a 6% buyrate. He then repeats a lot of the information he gave in the last issue about the money made off the show. "However, the real success or failure of a major show of this type is not whether it makes money on the night. Titan takes four weeks off after Wrestlemania, one week off before. Houses were way down the past five weeks, even in the cities Hogan appeared. Houses will no doubt be way down all summer as well, stemming from this show, and leading to the late August PPV show. For Wrestlemania IV to be a financially successful show, it has to be profitable enough to offset all these other losses of income, not just make money on the night. Last year's show certainly was. The year before it certainly wasn't. We'll have a better idea what picture this year's fits into in August."
-- Clash drew a 5.8 rating and 12.6 share, which means the average quarter hour had 2,561,000 viewers. It's a lower overall rating than the Royal Rumble, however the Rumble was in prime time and this was in the afternoon. The audience increased in every successive quarter hour, which is unusual for any 2 1/2 hour show, especially a wrestling show. Flair vs Sting had a 7.1 rating and 15 share, with 3,138,000 viewers. The last 15 minutes had 3,447,000 homes watching. Dave estimates that when you look at total number of viewers (not just households), the Clash was probably viewed by 6 million people, and Flair/Sting by around 7 million people.
-- Most unjust criticism of Wrestlemania IV? Dave says it's that the card was too long. It wasn't too long for 16-18 matches. The problem was that the atmosphere wasn't strong enough to sustain such a long card. The show went 3 hours, 40 minutes, with a 12 minute intermission. Dave says he's been to Starrcades that have run 4 1/2 hours and no one has complained or gone home early. Most WM matches were six minutes or less. Most unjust criticism of the Clash? That there were too many commercials. "Hey, you got to see one of the best cards of the year for free. Somebody has to foot the bill and it was the advertisers. The commercial breaks were longer than usual and there were a lot more commercials than normal in the first 90 minutes, but they didn't interrupt one match with a commercial, and one of the matches went 45 minutes uninterrupted. It's a whole lot better than having to deal with a great match being interrupted six or seven times by commercial breaks."
-- Most just criticism of Wrestlemania IV? That the endless Bob Eucker looking for Vanna White skit was bad, and that the live crowd was low-energy. "The mistake is you can't paper the house with non-wrestling fans. They don't know the characters. They don't know the plots. Even Titan wrestling isn't so simplistic that someone off the strip with no knowledge of the product can pick up all that is needed to be understood to have an emotional reaction at the right time." Most just criticism of the Clash? The judging of the main event, which was totally botched. It was never explained if the title could change hands on judge's decision, and having Patti Mullen in Flair's arms on TV the day before the show was an insult to the audience. Also, after being promised there would be a winner, fans were given a draw. Also, ring announcer Tom Miller screwed up by calling Ken Osmond and Jason Hervey judges. They weren't, they were just at ringside. Dave says if Flair/Sting hadn't been such a great match, the judging crap may have ruined the whole show.
-- Luckiest promoter? A tie. Crockett put on a great show, but McMahon was also lucky, because if more people had viewed such an awful show, they would be in far worse shape going into summer.
-- Best wrestler of the day? Ric Flair, the day, the month, the year, the decade, and the era. "The only question left to answer is if Flair is the greatest wrestler of all time."
-- Best swerve? Having Strike Force defend the tag titles at a post-WM TV taping. Here's how they did it. Martel and Santana came out with the belts. Slick came out and started calling them names, and they chased him back to the dressing room. Then, they came back out without the belts. The cameras didn't start filming until they came out a second time.
-- Most unexplained phenomenon? Strike Force being booed, not only at the live show, but also in all the closed circuit locations. Dave still can't figure out why fans don't like Strike Force.
-- Best case of assuming fans have memory loss? It's a tie between Earl Hebner refereeing several matches after the angle in February with DiBiase and Steve Williams coming out and not being acknowledged as UWF champ, even pretending the promotion never existed. Also, he turned heel before he quit earlier this year to feud with Barry Windham. The two are scheduled to team on the 4/17 episode of Main Event, and Dave predicts no mention will be made of their history. "Next thing you know we will see Bobby Ewing in the shower, World Class will be taken over and all the angles will pick up where they left off in May with Sting as a heel teaming with Rick Steiner, The Freebirds together, Luger as a Horseman, and Dusty will be telling us the entire last season was a dream."
-- Public relations award? The WWF, no question. Clash I was the most watched Sunday afternoon TV show in the history of cable television, and they were totally ignored, while the WWF had tons of post-Wrestlemania coverage, even if much of it was making fun of them for the Savage title win leaking in advance. The ultimate embarrassment was the Ted Turner-owned CNN giving five minutes of coverage to Wrestlemania while ignoring the Clash. The WWF lied and said they had 10 million viewers, and USA Today exaggerated it, saying Wrestlemania IV had 50 million viewers. Regarding the Clash, the only public numbers given were David Crockett actually telling the truth and saying the show had 2 1/2 million viewers, although Flair later said 5 million. "The message is simple. Unless JCP wishes to remain ignored by the media, they have to lie, and lie big, just like Titan does. And I don't blame Titan one bit -- until the media calls them out on their lie, they might as well continue to spout it."
-- Do numbers lie, or do liars release numbers? USA Today also said the show was viewed in 36 countries. "Well, 36 of those countries are the same fictitious countries that the Sheepherders have held the tag team titles in, because the only pay-per-view was the U.S., closed circuit was U.S. and Canada, and nobody watched the show live on free television in other countries ..." Dave expects it will air in the Middle East eventually. He said his brother toured there last year, and the WWF is big there. JCP is also known, but not as big, but both groups are 11 months behind on tapes. Dave says for WM to have had 50 million viewers, they would have had to had 90 guests per household.
-- Most quickly forgotten major attraction? The Rock & Roll Express.
-- Best wrestling spot? Flair flipping over the turnbuckle, going to the other corner, nailing a flying bodypress, and having Sting reverse it for a 2 3/4 count at the 43 minute mark.
-- Best smart-ass remark? Hogan was asked by a reporter after the show if not winning the title meant he was headed to the movies. His response? "Yeah, I'm going to see Fatal Attraction."
-- Best job of stealing money? George Steele. The guy never even entered the battle royal and probably still got a nice payoff.
-- Satellite owners got Wrestlemania IV descrambled, after it was originally said the show wouldn't be available on satellites for months.
-- "NEW MARKETING SCHEME: Not to be outdone by Crockett's Four Horsemen vitamins (what a joke), Vince is coming out with his own new item. For $39.95 you can get something that can calm down hyperactive children and put them to sleep, and help your own insomnia late at night. You got it, it's Wrestlemania IV: The Videotape."
-- Dave says it's funny, because Crockett would have loved to do a $16 million show considered an artistic failure, and Vince would have hated having done a show that didn't make huge money but was considered an artistic success.
-- Dave gives himself the award for worst job of analysis, for listing all the reasons the Clash wouldn't hurt Wrestlemania and saying WM would be a $25 million show.
-- There were lots of good tag teams, but the Tag Team of the Day was The Fantastics.
-- Saddest sight was Duggan not being able to have a decent match with DiBiase.
-- Top attractions devalued on Sunday were Ricky Steamboat, Bam Bam Bigelow, Road Warriors and Randy Savage. In Savage's case, Dave says it's the first time in history a wrestler has lost steam winning the world title.
-- "Is the fad over? Well, wrestling has gone down from its peak, and the nation is somewhat overexposed. The smaller promotions aren't making it. The bigger ones are drawing smaller and smaller crowds. But don't write off Titan Sports because of one bad show. I consider Wrestlemania IV like somebody stubbing their toe. It's going to hurt like hell for a week or two. But after that, everything is pretty well the same."
-- Dave says the NWA has proven that when they present something right, and have good cards, they can provide a show that the WWF's glitz can't match, and that JCP can be enormously successful whether the WWF is doing well or not. The enthusiasm of the Atlanta studio and Spartanburg TV tapings showed the Clash has breathed new life not only into the wrestlers, but also the fans. "But this Saturday night I notice that both Ric Flair and Sting are headlining matches in both Baltimore and Philadelphia at the same time. In order words, they'll work a rush match in one spot, hurry to the other, exhausted and try and do it again. This almost always results in two bad shows. As long as the NWA continues to put themselves in a position where their live shows are below par, they will never reach their potential. As shown by the TV ratings on Sunday, their potential is awesome. They are behind Titan when it comes to fans, but they aren't as far as behind as they should be, given all of Titan's advantages in organization. They are very much competition to Titan, maybe moreso now than in a long time, and ironically they were no competition whatsoever until McMahon started a fight on Thanksgiving and continued on January 24th that ended up costing him more than he cost the opposition. They put Crockett in the position of retaliating, and in that position which Crockett never would have dared try on his own if McMahon hadn't started the sabotage, he ruined McMahon's biggest show of the year. Still, the same problems they've had for the last year are still there. We are back to the Dusty Rhodes show, every babyface spends half his interview talking about Dusty and every heel spends his entire interview talking about Dusty. This is what got them into trouble last year, and just when they taste success (much of which was luck because it was nothing JCP did that got Sting over, and now that he is, they are going back to Dusty on top again) they go back to doing business the only way they know how."
-- "Remember, all that matters to Titan is imagery. They don't need substance, and if you think I'm exaggerating, look at Hulk Hogan. If Vince can convince most of his fans that Wrestlemania was a success, then ultimately it won't be a failure." They have problems in the next few months because Hogan is the only guy who is really over, and they spent a lot of time building up feuds like Bobby Heenan vs Matilda that flopped. Roberts vs Rude will be good third from the top. Savage vs DiBiase won't mean anything. It could have after SNME, but not now.
-- The moral of the story is that when Vince blocked Starrcade with Survivor Series, it was a good business move. When he ran the free Royal Rumble opposite the Bunkhouse Stampede, it was nothing more than sabotage. When Crockett ran the Clash against Wrestlemania, it was retaliation.
-- Regarding the Wrestlemania IV ads airing during the Clash, the WWF snuck them in by purchasing five ads under bogus company names. Four of the five ads were caught, but one slipped through.
-- Not much going on since they're not running shows right now.
-- NWA Main Event debuted and it was a hot show. It was taped on 3/31 in Spartanburg, SC and the crowd was very enthusiastic. Dusty vs Ivan Koloff was better than Dave would have expected, and Dusty even won with a flying bodypress. Dave says Ivan Koloff is great for a guy half his age. The hottest match that aired was the main event of Flair, Arn and Tully vs Sting, Luger, and Windham. Dave calls the match ****, and says it's the first time he's seen a US promotion try to duplicate the Japanese TV format, and he thinks it worked well. Next week has Tully Blanchard vs Barry Windham, Steve Williams vs Arn Anderson, and Powers of Pain vs Tim Horner & Italian Stallion. On 4/17, Windham and Williams will team up against Anderson and Blanchard.
-- The Dusty Rhodes suspension has been postponed. It won't be announced until 4/16 so Dusty can wrestle on the 4/15 Boston Gardens show.
-- Dave criticizes Nikita getting the title shot at Crockett Cup, saying a Sting rematch, Luger challenging, or Doc challenging would all do better business, or Windham would at least guarantee a super match.
-- 3/20 in Charleston, WV drew 3,000 headlined by Dusty Rhodes vs Bobby Eaton.
-- Charlotte Memorial Hospital has sued Magnum TA for $56,692 in back medical care. His expenses have exceeded $100,000, far beyond his $25,000 health insurance policy. A Toronto spinal cord expert has offered to do a 9 to 11 hour operation which he claims will give him full usage of his legs and may even give him a remote chance of wrestling again.
-- Brad Armstrong is out with knee surgery.
-- Verne Gagne has started airing old matches of Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, Jim Brunzell, and Tito Santana in an attempt to build ratings. He has given up on pushing house shows, and just wants to do small guaranteed shows in the area, to keep the AWA alive so they can keep sending tapes to ESPN.
-- They are having major financial problems and have cut back on TV tapings.
-- 3/20 Star Wars in Fort Worth drew 2,300 paid and $18,000.
-- The 5/8 Parade of Champions may get moved to the Cotton Bowl.
-- Michael Hayes has been doing some great interviews.
-- The Penthouse article on the Von Erichs scheduled for July has been dropped, with no date rescheduled as of yet.
-- Skandor Akbar has been dropped by Crockett and Dave expects him here soon.
-- Fabulous Lance hasn't shown up yet because he's touring South Africa as a hot babyface, still using Lance Von Erich as his name. There is legit bad blood between him and the Von Erichs because of the embarrassment he caused by leaving. Dave can only imagine how bad a match like Kevin vs Lance would be with both guys working together, much less if they are non-cooperative.
-- WCCW wants to make Houston their second home.
-- 3/18 in Calgary was headlined by Chris Benoit beating the Great Gama to win the Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Title in a ***1/4 match.
-- 3/25 in Calgary drew 1,000. Standout match was Brian Pillman vs Rip Rogers in a ***1/2 match
-- Jonathan Holiday is doing a Ric Flair gimmick, calling himself a playboy and a 60-minute man, and apparently isn't doing the gimmick very well.
-- When Brody beat Jumbo on 3/27 and won the International title, he started hugging fans in the audience, so he's hugely over as a babyface. "The guy doesn't miss a trick."
-- Baba will be running a 4/2 show at Budokan Hall, with shoot-boxing (which Dave describes as wrestling submission moves and boxing with gloves on), kick-boxing, JWP, boxing, and karate matches.
-- When Joe and Dean Malenko were last in All Japan, they met Mike Tyson. Tyson thought they were the British Bulldogs and got excited. They went along with it until he asked them if he could pet Matilda.
-- Everyone still thinks the Hansen/Tenryu thing was a shoot, and Hansen's popularity is way up.
-- 3/11 in Nagoya drew 9,150 fans and a $350,000 house.
-- Ron Simmons may be coming in in May.
-- Chigusa Nagayo and AJW toured Thailand and were all the rage, drawing crowds between 8,000 and 11,000 every night and getting lots of newspaper headlines.
-- FNN on 4/2 aired a Lawler/Eddie Gilbert match in full from 3/28 at Mid South Coliseum. Next week, they will air a Lawler/Hennig stretcher match.
-- 3/28 in Memphis drew 5,500. 4/4 ticket prices have been lowered to $1.00, so they should have a big crowd for the Lawler/Hennig stretcher match.
-- Eddie Gilbert has put a $25,000 bounty on anyone who can break Jerry Lawler's leg. He's out of the territory, but will keep the angle going by sending in promos.
-- The plan is for Memphis, Continental, and Florida to all work together.
-- Steve Keirn will be back before the end of the month.
-- Jim Shyman has a 976 wrestling number in L.A. which was recently ranked **** in an LA publication and called the best 976 number.
-- Mike Lano thinks the Clash was the way better show, but Jeff Lynch preferred Wrestlemania, saying it's hard to compare a 16-match PPV extravaganza to a five-match television special.