Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
April 2nd, 1988
-- The WWF returned to sellout crowds: 4/21 in New Haven drew 12,000 and 4/22 in Springfield, MA drew 9,000.
-- Brutus Beefcake vs Honky Tonk Man was advertised for SNME, and the program listed it, but Honky Tonk Man didn't wrestle the match. He did appear on three weeks' worth of TV tapings with the belt, so he won't be losing it anytime soon.
-- Everyone expected to be cut is still around.
-- Hulk Hogan is still not booked on any shows through the end of May.
-- Harley Race was hospitalized and had a foot of his intestine removed.
-- There was recently a Savage/Andre dark match where every time Savage was in peril, the fans chanted "We Want Hogan" immediately.
-- Bubba Rogers debuts at the next TV taping. Dave has no idea what they're going to do with him, only that Jimmy Hart said that he's looking for a bounty hunter to get rid of Brutus Beefcake, so maybe that will be his role.
-- The Rougeaus are turning heel soon.
-- Advance ticket sales for shows headlined by Savage vs DiBiase have been surprisingly good, but Andre vs Duggan is struggling to draw.
-- The plan is for Owen Hart to come in July and model him after Tiger Mask, where he's a masked high flyer marketed toward kids. Dave thinks that will go over great, except that there's so much they won't let Owen do in the ring that he's capable of, and there's no one he can work with.
-- The WWF wants to do a TV special of a Randy Savage and Elizabeth wedding. Dave says it wouldn't shock him to see it go head to head with the Great American Bash pay-per-view.
-- The biggest story of the week is Barry Windham turning on Lex Luger and joining the Four Horsemen. The turn took place in Jacksonville, FL, at a TBS taping on 04/20. Windham and Luger were defending the tag titles against Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard when they posted Luger and he juiced, which Dave notes is the first time Luger has juiced in seven months. When Windham tried to make the tag to Luger, he wasn't there on two occasions, and JJ Dillon egged Windham on and finally lariated Luger and Arn pinned Luger to win back the tag titles. "Oh my God, Luger and Brody and did jobs during the same week -- next thing you know the Road Warriors will lose clean." Windham then left for the heel dressing room and the Midnight Rider went into the dressing room after him. He was jumped by "72 heels", who unmasked him before a few of the babyfaces did a save before we could see the Rider's face. The show went off the air with Windham in the limo holding the Rider's mask. "I haven't seen this myself, but from every account, the thing was tremendous, especially when one considers that it obviously was a spur of the moment decision since they had cards set up around the country with Barry & Lex vs. Flair & Arn Anderson or Flair & Tully Blanchard on top throughout the month of May." The turn was done because houses have been disappointing lately.
-- Regarding Crockett Cup, Dave says there are a lot of negative things he should say. The event was very disorganized, especially the first thing. But the wrestling was first rate. The second night in Greensboro was an excellent show by any standards, except those of Jim Crockett, as they only drew 8,500 fans in a 16,000 seat building. "The upper deck was almost as vacant as a Verne Gagne brain wave."
-- "The Greenville Memorial Auditorium is not exactly the sort of building one would expect to house one of your showcase cards of the year. It's not exactly Trump Plaza, actually it's made out of red bricks and looks so old that if the Three Little Pigs built a house made out of them, the Wolf would have easily blown it down. The place has character, though. It's the kind of building and the kind of fans that were the backbone of wrestling before it became 'respectable' and sterile. We had nearly four hours of rabid fans, disorganized action, and not one chant of boring -- almost a complete 180 degree difference from McMahon's glitzy action-lacking tournament of a few weeks back."
-- Dave says the fans had no idea what was going on. Tony Schiavone announced that Barry Windham had pulled out of the tournament and that Lex Luger would still be in and pick a partner. Everyone figured it would be the Midnight Rider and they would go all the way. No explanation was given of what happened in Jacksonville two nights earlier. Everyone also realized early the brackets would be meaningless.
-- The tickets said the show started at 8PM, but all local publicity said 7PM.
-- Ratings for first round matches as follows:
Kendall Windham & Italian Stallion beat The Terminator & Bugsy McGraw by forfeit when Bugsy no-showed
Ivan Koloff & Mighty Wilbur DUD
The Jive Tones vs Rocky King & Nelson Royal *
"At this point, all the way from Mexico were to come the famed Twin Devils, presumably of Los Angeles wrestling fame. Instead we had Curtis Thompson & Gene Ligon in red outfits, identical to the Cruel Connection's outfits (except those were green) that we were to see later in the show. The program said their foes would be the New New Breed, however the theme song for the Lightning Express started playing. Almost the whole song played, with no sign of Brad & Tim. We waited patiently for several minutes until "Fight For Your Right To Party" by the Beastie Boys started playing and the crowd popped pretty big for Chris Champion and disinterested brother Mark Starr."
Chris Champion & Mark Starr vs Twin Devils *1/2
"It was time for the Japanese team to arrive, and looking very Japanese on this night was Johnny Ace, who as far as everyone in the crowd knew was still the Sheepherders' flag boy, and John Savage."
Lightning Express vs Johnny Ace & John Savage *3/4
The Sheepherders vs Cruel Connection 1/4*
Larry Zbyszko & Al Perez vs Ricky Santana & Joe Cruz DUD
"According to our program, the first round was now history and it was time for the Prince of Darkness Death match, or intermission, both of which contained approximately the same level of activity. But wait, out trots Steve Williams & Ron Simmons to take on Rick 'The Dog-Faced Gremlin' Steiner and Mike 'Preppie Murderer' Rotunda. This was supposed to be the last match of the second round since each of these teams received byes (but wait, since Doc & Simmons weren't seeded so why do they have a bye?)" Dave calls the match the first good one of the show.
Rick Steiner & Mike Rotunda vs Steve Williams & Ron Simmons **3/4
Kevin Sullivan vs Jimmy Garvin Prince of Darkness Blindfold match DUD
"Those of you who enjoy Kamala vs George Steele would love this one. Both guys did a good job within the framework of this match, but this tops my most hated gimmick match list." After the match, Sullivan took of the hood and he and Steiner attacked Garvin and Precious took a spill. Ron Garvin comes out for the save, but is followed by Rotunda. Sullivan is using the spike when "the intimidating threesome of Kendall Windham, Ricky Santana and Johnny Ace (out of the babyface dressing room -- wasn't he just a heel in match #4?)" made the save.
"It was time for round two, and this is where it gets confusing. But before round two starts, Tony has another announcement to make, the one we all knew was coming, poor Ronnie was taken to the hospital and now Sting has nobody to team with. The place cheered like mad when they announced Ronnie was injured, which was the first surprising reaction of the weekend. Well, the quick-thinking Jim Crockett Jr. ruled that since Garvin was in the hospital, Sting could continue if he'd pick a partner. And geez, Lex Luger is looking for a partner and put one-and-one together and you got an announcement that made me put my hands over my ears the shrieks were so deafening."
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs Kendall Windham & Italian Stallion ***
"Out come Kendall 'Gumby' Windham & Italian Stallion, amidst virtually all boos. Their foes, the NWA's leading babyface tag team, Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson, come out to chants of 'Four Horsemen, Four Horsemen." Good match with tons of heat.
Sting & Lex Luger vs Dick Murdoch & Ivan Koloff ***1/4
"Major heat throughout. Sting and Luger are so over it isn't funny. Lex was so elated out of his mind he threw a dropkick on Ivan (not a good one, but at least he tried)."
Road Warriors vs Jive Tones **
"According to the program, it was time for the Midnight Express to face the New New Breed, but for some unexplained reason the New Breed wound up facing the Powers of Pain in the longest 8:04 of the tournament."
Chris Champion & Mark Starr vs Powers of Pain DUD
"According to the program, it was time for Lightning Express against Powers of Pain, but since we just saw the Powers, maybe it would be the Midnight Express, which on paper is a hot match. But instead, the Sheepherders show up. This wasn't as good as some of their matches were in their invisible feud of about two months back, but still a good well-paced 9:32 with Lightning doing lots of hot moves."
Sheepherders vs Lightning Express ***
"The program now said it was time for The Fantastics to face Perez & Zbyszko, and by sheer coincidence, that's who came out."
Fantastics vs Al Perez & Larry Zbyszko **3/4
"The Fantastics aren't over nearly as well as I expected because too many little girls see them as Rock & Roll Express replacements and I fear that while they are popular and they may be the best tag team in wrestling right now, they may never break the imitation stigma completely."
"Finally it was time for the final match of the evening and out comes Jim Cornette and the Midnight Express, presumably to wrestle Kevin Sullivan's Varsity Club since these were the only two teams still alive that hadn't had second round matches. But wait, here comes Rip Morgan and the Sheepherders, who already won their second round match. There is no explaining this."
Midnight Express vs Sheepherders **
"To cap off the evening, Tony Schiavone announces that the eight remaining teams will wrestle the final three rounds tomorrow night in Greensboro, procedes to announce them and the teams still alive (there are seven of them), and then after the announcement mentions about the 'final eight teams' in Greensboro. I should mention that midway through the card Ric Flair came out to do an interview with Schiavone telling us how great Jim Crockett, the NWA and the tournament were and the winner of Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Most Hated Wrestler Award got a standing ovation and more cheers than anyone on the card save for Sting & Luger. I think I was the only one sitting (gagging myself with my finger when Ric got to the part about how great Nikita was -- at least now we know why his nose is so big) by the time this menacing heel was through."
-- "Before getting to Greensboro, we make a quick detour to Ricky Steamboat's Gym in Charlotte. Taking my secret disguise as a wrestling mark, myself and three other out-of-towners were there to purchase T-shirts and the like for various friends whose ideas of a neato gift are T-shirts of either WWF wrestlers or out-of-town gyms and I figured this way I could kill two birds with one stone. However, the microcephalic guy at the desk refuses to sell me or any of my friends any merchandise. At first I thought he was kidding, but he explained he already had logged everything and besides, look at the clock, it's 5:01 PM, and the gym is closed. Hey I don't work out on vacation anyway, I just want a bunch of T-shirts so some of my friends can improve their summer wardrobe. But no, even after telling him I came all the way from California simply to buy T-shirts he wouldn't budge. Now I may be sarcastic, but I love the Crockett Cup. I get to meet fans from all over the country and see great matches and hang out with friends all at the same weekend. But those Crockett Cup T-shirts are hideous, folks. After looking at the souvenir stand in Greensboro, I realized we should have DDT'd that guy working the desk at Steamboat's on a nautilus machine or something."
By the beginning of night two, most of the audience knew Barry had turned heel through word of mouth and they were buzzing about it, but it didn't air on TBS until everyone had left their home for the Coliseum. Again, everyone cheered when it was announced Ron Garvin was injured. "Then the announcement about Barry Windham withdrawing from the tournament and that the newest member of the Four Horsemen is Barry Windham. People are jumping up and down and hugging each other. This is sick. Fans are chanting for the Horsemen. Don't they boo heels anywhere anymore? Then comes the part about Lex & Sting as a team and it's those eardrum shattering shrieks again of all the women who packed the place. I sure don't miss WWF cards back home."
"The Fantastics are opening with The Varsity Club, which ironically makes sense in the original bracketing."
The Fantastics vs Varsity Club ****
Dave says the heat was through the roof for this one, and Bobby Fulton wants to get over in the worst way, and you can't help but admire him for it. Match went 27:20 and Dave called it the best opening match he had seen in years.
Sting & Lex Luger vs Midnight Express ***3/4
"Having the dubious distinction of following this exceptional action were the Midnight Express and Jim Cornette against the handicap tag team named Sting (with Lex Luger sweating profusely in the corner yelling 'come on Stinger'). Sting isn't one of the elite workers in the world yet (Dave emphasizes yet) but when he's in with a veteran, he can light up a crowd as well as anyone. He does lots of good spots based around his exceptional leaping ability." Cornette took a bump of Magnum TA, who got an incredible reaction, and Dave says Cornette was incredible here. Luger was in 20 seconds in the first round and 31 seconds this time.
Road Warriors vs Powers of Pain ***
They did the Dusty Finish here again, which Dave can't believe. "In fairness to Dusty, I'd bet 70% of the fans fell for it, but you know this has to piss fans off to no end -- witness the empty upper deck. They just did the finish last month in the Fantastics-Midnight match in this same half-empty building."
Midnight Rider vs JJ Dillon
Dave says considering every wrestler has to sell this angle, it should have more heat than anything on the show, but there was just no heat at all. Dusty got a nice reaction, but less than Sting, Luger, the Road Warriors, or the Fantastics. 1/2*
Sting & Lex Luger vs Powers of Pain 1/4*
Lex was in for a full minute this time.
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs The Fantastics ***1/2
Ric Flair vs Nikita Koloff **3/4
"What can you say about Nikita Koloff that hasn't been said? He can't wrestle. He's not over very big. NOBODY cared about this match. He's not a drawing card. There's a joke among certain wrestlers of certain federations (none of whom work here) that whenever J.J. goes to kiss Dusty's ass late in the afternoon for the fourth or fifth time that day, he can't do it. Nikita's feet are in the way. Ric Flair carried this bum for 30:08 and the fans were into it even though it was a collection of all the same predictable spots."
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs Sting & Lex Luger ***1/2
"Now sit down. Luger did a great dropkick on Anderson to open the match. Even the fans cheering the Horsemen had to clap for that one. It was past 11 PM and these fans had basically seen one great match after another yet the heat was the hottest for this match."
"So why the half house for the finale? Flair's match meant nothing. This $1 million b.s. isn't believed by anyone but the densest marks and unless you have a strong tournament and the fans know who is in it, tournaments aren't a big draw. This whole Midlife Rider bit has been a flop. They spent too much valuable TV time getting a guy who should be a legend already over and not pushing the guys who theoretically need time to get over. After three years, without one sellout to their credit, Crockett has to re-evaluate this tournament." Dave suggests limiting to 16 teams in the future, and doing 8 matches the first night, with accurate brackets announced in advance.
-- 4/16 in Chicago drew 3,500 fans and a $42,000 house headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting. 4/17 in Charlotte drew a really small turnout. 4/24 at the Omni only drew 1,400 fans. 4/9 in Baltimore drew 9,000 headlined by Flair vs Sting. 4/18 in West Palm Beach drew 2,000 headlined by Flair/Sting/Midnight Rider vs Flair/Arn/Tully. 4/19 in Miami drew 4,000 headlined by Flair vs Sting.
-- Luger got chopped really hard by Flair on the Omni show on 4/24 to a point where he started bleeding, and got very angry, and tagged out immediately.
-- The Great American Bash PPV is scheduled for July 10 and will be headlined by Ric Flair vs Lex Luger.
-- Adrian Adonis has either filed suit or threatened to file suit over breaking his ankle due to the hole in the ring, which ended up costing him a tour of Japan.
-- WCCW is trying to get the Rock & Roll Express and some Mexican wrestlers to come in for the Texas Stadium show on 5/8.
-- CWA is doing a talent trade with World Class. Terry Taylor, Chris Adams, Iceman Parsons, the Von Erichs, and the Freebirds are expected in shortly. The new taping schedule in WCCW frees up their talent to work Monday nights at Mid South Coliseum, and all the WCCW guys desperately need more dates, because WCCW is running less shows because they're not drawing. When the names were announced on TV, there was no real reaction.
-- Downtown Bruno came out on TV dressed liked Ric Flair and called out Jerry Lawler. Robert Fuller jumped Lawler from behind and dragged him around the studio while putting a noose on him.
-- Eddie Gilbert's first angle in Continental was pretty hot. It started with the Dirty White Girl coming out with a black eye and begging and pleading Tom Prichard to come out. Through two matches, she begged him to come out and he refused. She was begging Prichard to help her when Anthony came from behind with handcuffs and a noose and dragged Prichard 60 feet to the ring and hung him with blood coming out of Prichard's mouth. During the brawl, they destroyed the Continental set. They are renaming this the CWF and building a new set.
-- Paul E. Dangerously starts on 5/7, which means Downtown Bruno's days here are numbered.
-- Missy Hyatt will be getting a new talk show segment.
-- Jimmy Golden walked out on the promotion mid-match and is now working for USA Pro for Ron Fuller.
-- Curt Hennig and Jerry Lawler will be doing dates here soon.
-- Dave expects Shane Douglas to come in.
-- Austin Idol is wanting to work full-time in Continental.
-- Strongman Bill Kazamier is also wanting to come in, but is currently injured.
-- Roddy Piper will make a guest appearance for Don Owen on 04/30. He has turned down offers from both the WWF and the NWA in the past year where he would have been paid very well. Dave notes that even when Piper was a WWF headliner, he refused to work the Oregon and Washington shows until the end, when he'd work Seattle and Tacoma, and only after Owen had completely pulled out of those cities.
-- Jesse Barr returned on 4/9.
-- Skip Luther, a blond muscular guy working a fake Lex Luger gimmick, no-showed his debut here, and is expected to be going to the AWA.
-- 4/15 in Calgary drew 1,100 fans. 4/16 in Edmonton drew 950 and $8,800 headlined by another 8-man tag given ****1/2.
-- The long matches wrestled at such a frenetic pace on top are wearing down the main eventers, to a point where most of them are starting to drop weight. Pillman has been doing Snuka splashes off the top of the cage at some of the shows.
-- The Edmonton commission has told everyone there will be no spitting, swearing, or brawling allowed on their shows.
-- Owen Hart is having second thoughts about going to Japan. He is leaning toward doing three Japanese tours per year and wrestling at home the rest of the time.
-- Bruiser Brody dropped the International title to Jumbo Tsuruta on 04/19, doing his first clean job in Japan since 1980.
-- The Road Warriors are coming in early June.
-- 4/12 in Kitakyushu drew 2,100 fans.
-- Because the show has been moved from prime time to Saturday nights, the ratings have dropped into the sevens.
-- Adrian Adonis has lost approximately 80 pounds in preparation for a big comeback and the upcoming New Japan tour.
-- Crowds for the series which started on 4/11 have been horrible.
-- 4/15 in Kamata drew 1,300. 4/12 in Suwa drew 1,540. 4/19 in Gamagori drew 1,470.
-- Antonio Inoki was recently doing a lecture at a school and was asked if he could beat Baba. Inoki responded that if they met and he didn't beat Baba, he would commit suicide.
-- The debut show sold out in 15 minutes. The night before, thousands of fans lined up and slept in front of the box office at Korauken Hall to get the 2,000 tickets priced at $40. More than 6,000 fans were turned away that were standing in line when the ticket office opened. This is believed to be the fastest sellout in wrestling history. Dave says Akira Maeda is the hottest wrestler in Japan due to his shoot kick on Choshu in November. "It was a selfish act and a cheap shot, and one which ironically ended Choshu's long reign as the hottest wrestler in Japan." Dave thinks while this will have a cult following, that the general public won't get into it because there are no high spots or showmanship. However, a Japanese reporter told Dave that won't matter if Maeda is seen as cool. Dave says if the UWF gets over big, it will hurt Baba and Inoki because they will look fake by comparison, and also will kill any chances of the WWF ever becoming competitive in Japan.
-- Kazue Nagahori and Condor Saito both wrestled their retirement matches on 4/2 in Yokohama.
-- Former long-time Atlanta promoter Paul Jones, who promoted in the days of Ed "Strangler" Lewis passed away on 4/17 at the age of 86. When it was announced at Jerry Blackwell's TV taping in Marietta, fans cheered, because they thought it was the Paul Jones manager from the NWA.
-- Bull Nakano has camera time, but no lines in a new movie called "Tokyo Pop".
-- Umanosuke Ueda is planning on running an independent group in Japan this summer, only running towns that are too small for Baba and Inoki, and only using wrestlers with no work right now, like Ryuma Go, Nuboyashi Sugawara, Masahiko Takasugi.