Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
June 20th, 1988
-- "A new heel manager is headed in called Brother Love or something like that, patterned after Brother Ernest Angel. I've got a feeling I know who this masked manager is but will wait until he actually arrives." (My note: Interesting. I suspect he thought it was Jim Cornette based on a note later in this issue.) Dave later in the issue says it's Bruce Prichard, and he doesn't think he'll be managing, but rather just doing an interview segment.
-- Rick Martel is going to be taking time off to help his wife recover from surgery.
-- Dave raved about the 5/27 Savage vs DiBiase match from MSG, saying DiBiase is singlehandedly trying to change the workrate in the WWF. He said the match only went 12 minutes, but was as hard and fast-paced as anything you'll see in the U.S. aside from maybe Midnight Express vs Fantastics.
-- 6/6 at the Meadowlands drew 3,000 fans headlined by Andre & Rude vs Duggan & Roberts.
-- Hulk Hogan's movie is being filmed in Atlanta. Vince is trying to get a non-WWF wrestler to do the job to Hogan in the movie. Last word is that Stan Hansen has agreed to do it. "You'd think with all the wrestlers Vince has in his stable he wouldn't need to get outside help for a wrestling or fight scene in a movie."
-- The WWF is planning a big outdoor show in Milwaukee at County Stadium in late July.
-- Jim Duggan has reinjured his hamstring.
-- Jim Wilson, who exposed wrestling with Eddy Mansfield on 20/20, is going to be on the Morton Downey Jr. show. The show reached out to the WWF to have someone on to defend their side of the story, but they don't want to be involved since they don't have complete control.
-- The 8/29 PPV has officially been named Summerslam and will be headlined by Hogan & Savage vs Andre & DiBiase with Jesse Ventura as the ref.
-- Vince McMahon will be producing Bob Costas' new late night talk show, which is Vince's first non-wrestling production job. The WWF may get another prime time special from NBC if the writer's strike isn't settled soon.
-- Bam Bam Bigelow's wife gave birth to a baby boy.
-- 6/10 in Pittsburgh drew 4,734 headlined by Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase. 6/12 in Springfield, MA drew 2,500 fans headlined by Andre & Rude vs Duggan & Roberts. 6/10 in Manchester, NH drew 1,100 fans headlined by Junkyard Dog vs Ron Bass. 6/18 in Philadelphia drew 4,188 fans and a $53,349 gate headlined by Andre vs Duggan.
-- It is rumored that Gene Okerlund has been fired and will be replaced by Sean Mooney.
-- "As you can see by the advertisement at the right, the NWA really publicized the match-ups well." -- Dave on the Miami Mayhem Clash (Special request: If someone who has these could post a copy of it, that would be awesome, because it makes this quote a little funnier.)
-- The only match announced nationally was Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson defending the tag titles against Sting and Dusty Rhodes. "I realize that the NWA is trying to promote as if seeing the NWA live is the big thing, and the match-ups themselves are unimportant and interchangeable, but fans go to see match-ups, and this card drew just 2,400 fans in the 6,000 seat arena." Dave suspects the ratings will be disappointing and not touch those of the first Clash, the highest rated show on cable TV in the month of March. Later in the issue, Dave reports the show drew a 4.7 rating and 8.2 share, which translates into 2,128,000 homes, which is a good number.
-- Dave says the show was nothing compared to the first Clash, but it wasn't intended to be either. Most of the complaints Dave has received have been about out-of-the-ring activities. Those who saw it live left upset about the long delays between matches, and the crowd was also not really into anything except the main event. Dave says it seemed normal on TV, but the fans weren't nearly as enthusiastic as they were for the first Clash.
-- Dave also said the show didn't take advantage of the NWA's best resources. Jim Ross, the best announcer, was in the parking lot all evening. Steve Williams was doing color commentary in a white tuxedo, which didn't fit his image at all. Dave says for Doc to reach his potential, he has to be pushed as a Brody-like wildman. Jim Cornette, their best interview, wasn't even there in taped capacity, which started all these huge rumors about him jumping to the WWF. "It also seems like every time the NWA tries to do something to make them look major league, like the limos, the yacht, etc., they come off looking even more minor league than had they never even tried to look major league. Entrances of celebrities in limos is a good idea for an open, but not when you don't have any celebrities, and Gary Juster and Frances Crockett don't even qualify as celebrities to wrestling fans."
-- The show started off with Jim Ross in the parking lot and a limo pulling up with Lyle Alzado there to plug his new TV show, Gary Juster, Elliot Murnick, Frances Crockett, "... and the vice president of a company which is part owner of the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL and also owned a yacht which we'll get to later. Pretty tacky."
-- Barry Windham vs Brad Armstrong saw Brad looking unhappy from the start at having to do a clean job on national TV. Lots of stalling early on, and Windham applied the figure four for three minutes. Dave says this was stupid, because all it does is devalue the hold if you can have it on someone that long without beating them. Brad stopped selling to make his comeback, and the last four minutes were good, but not spectacular. "The finish itself [Armstrong coming off the top for a flying bodypress and two count, trying again, and Windham blocking the second attempt with a clawhold into a pin] was pretty good, but very disappointing considering the talent involved. Windham appeared to be going through the motions here." Dave gave the match *3/4
-- Lyle Alzado then came out to plug Learning The Ropes. He said wrestlers were better athletes than football players. "The show starts in the fall and has already cleared two-thirds of the country so odds are you'll be able to see it. From the clips, I'm not sure you would want to, but I don't want to make a snap judgment about it." Dave talks about how Steve Williams is donning the mask, and they did a Flair match where Flair did his flip into the turnbuckle, and people don't like that because the sequence is choreographed, and it's not supposed to appear that way when Flair does it nightly. "Personally I could care less and don't think it's an issue."
-- The Rock & Roll Express came out to announce that they're back. They got a lukewarm surprise, which Dave says should have popped the place huge. Robert Gibson nearly tripped walking out and Ricky Morton gave a horrible interview. "I don't dislike the guy as much as it seems most readers do, but a few more interviews like that and I'll jump right on the bandwagon. If they turn them heel this summer and feud them with the Fantastics then bringing them back is at least a minor benefit. If they are babyfaces, they are wasting their time, because the era of the Rock & Roll Express ended last summer, if not earlier. As one wrestling promoter from another organization told me, Ricky & Robert in the NWA those last six months were like a tooth that had gone bad. They weren't drawing anymore and their work had gone downhill as well and Morton's cockiness made them pretty unpopular as babyfaces go. Well, in January, the NWA removed the bad tooth. The only problem is, removing a bad tooth hurts a lot more for a short period of time then keeping the bad tooth does, although keeping it hurts less for a long period of time, if you get my drift. But after removing the bad tooth, do you want to ever, five months later, put it back in your mouth?"
-- Next we saw the contract signing for what was called "The Match of The Century" between Ric Flair and Lex Luger in Baltimore on July 10. The signing was on a yacht in the Atlantic ocean. Dave was hoping they would throw Luger overboard on the yacht, because it would have been original and we wouldn't have to watch the next scene.
-- Next, the Horsemen arrived fashionably late, even having missed Barry Windham's match. In the background, you can see Luger sitting and waiting to come on camera. They went to commercial to hype Fantastics vs Sheepherders next, but when they came back, they had a major news bulletin that Luger had arrived. "Aren't you glad you don't invite these guys to your parties? Well, forget what promises to be the best match on the card, we've got to hear those pearls of wisdom only Lex can give us." But before he could speak, the Horsemen ("including Barry who by this time had already had time for a shower it seemed") jumped Luger and basically mugged him. "The least they could have done was make it look realistic and steal his wallet instead of his shoes." They ripped up his white tuxedo. Dave says the execution by all involved was great, but it looked too staged and unbelievable because of the TV cameras. (My note: How times change ...) Dave says they could have at least had Luger get DDTd on the pavement by Arn Anderson, because the move is over enough that people might think he was going to the hospital. Dave says most people hated this, but it wasn't meant to be entertaining, but rather build heat for the Bash. Dave thinks it will be "marginal at best" in fulfilling that goal. At this point, we were one hour into the show and have had one disappointing match and a bunch of bad skits. "I decided to do something more pleasant, and fought rush hour traffic, which in truth was no more entertaining even if the DJ's made more sense than Dr. Death."
-- "Jeff Steele once wrote in the Pro Wrestling Digest that the NWA was like the Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde of wrestling promotions and that was probably the best analogy of them I've ever read. He was writing about the Crockett Cup and saying that the first night was so bad, and sometimes the promotion is so bad that you wonder how they are still even in business. But then came the second night. And the promotion was so good that you wonder why they haven't wiped out all their competition. The next morning I decided to watch a tape of the last 90 minutes--and much to my surprise--the rest of the show was damn good."
-- Fantastics vs Sheepherders was the best match on the show at ***3/4.
-- The Garvins vs Mike Rotunda & Kevin Sullivan was next. Kevin Sullivan was in a cage at ringside and Precious was holding the key. Fans booed Ron Garvin during introductions. Most of the time was spent on Sullivan and Precious, with Sullivan having a piece of paper he said he would show Precious if she would let him out of the cage. The match was a backdrop for the angle. Precious finally gave in, but instead of letting her see the paper, Sullivan started choking her and Dr. Death ran from the announce booth to make the save. Precious started kicking Dr. Death and got mad at the Garvins and walked out alone.
-- Nikita Koloff vs Al Perez was next. Dave says he is starting to change his opinion on Perez, as he was very good in this match, but he lacks color, and this feud is going nowhere. Dave has figured out a formula for having good matches with Nikita Koloff -- treat him like a jobber, and let him have four moves as comebacks, which Eddie Gilbert and Dick Murdoch have done in the past. The problem is that because they are always trying to sell his strength, they give him too much offense which makes for bad matches. **1/2
-- Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs Sting & Dusty Rhodes was next. Dusty is over huge in Florida. "The announced him at 268 1/2 pounds. That last half-pound takes up an amazing circumference." Dave says this was good except for a spot where Dusty had to sell. Sting worked the entire way and Arn and Tully are a great team. Dusty did his routine and stayed out the rest of the time, and Dave admits Dusty deserves to be the star of the show in Florida because he's a legend there. Arn gave Sting a DDT on the floor and Sting made a comeback 30 seconds later. "Stupid. The WWF ran Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts for six months off that move and these guys treat it as a transition. They are going to need a shotgun to get over an angle if guys treat DDT's on concrete as a 30 second stunning move." Barry Windham ran in and put the claw on Dusty, while Tully, Arn and "this blond-haired guy who was never mentioned" beat upon Sting. ***1/4
-- 5/28 in Charleston, WV drew 2,500 fans headlined by Ric Flair vs Steve Williams. 6/2 in Bluefield, WV drew 1,500 fans headlined by Midnight Express vs Fantastics. 6/12 in Albany, GA was a triple TV taping. A really good 20 minute draw with Sting & Steve Williams against the Midnight Express was taped for Main Event. 6/11 in Baltimore drew 5,500 fans headlined by Luger & Dusty vs Flair & Windham. 6/10 in Houston drew 2,000 fans headlined by Luger, Nikita & Doc vs Flair, Arn & Windham and Tully Blanchard vs Dusty Rhodes in a barbed wire match.
-- The Bash now has 9.4 million homes cleared. The word is that the wrestlers will get their money when the money comes in for the show. Dave thinks it will do well because there is no opposition and they're hyping Flair/Luger really well, and that if the show is successful, it will go a long way in fixing so many of the financial problems they're having.
-- Don't expect a deal with Ted Turner until after this show at the earliest, because Turner wants to see how successful this show is before making any decisions.
-- The Sheik will be teaming with Dusty Rhodes on 7/31 in Detroit for a Bash show against Kevin Sullivan and Dick Murdoch. Dave says this is ridiculous, as he hasn't drawn a house since the early 70s in Detroit.
-- When Jim Ross started interrogating Precious about her strange behavior in the feud with Kevin Sullivan, she started choking him.
-- 6/18 in Philadelphia drew 5,900 fans (compared to the WWF drawing 4,188 for a side-by-side comparison) headlined by Flair & Windham vs Luger & Dusty.
-- Dusty Rhodes has filmed a Mello Yello commercial billed as the U.S. champion.
-- 6/6 in Memphis drew 3,500 fans. Scott Steiner won the Renegade Rampage. The main event was Lawler vs Hennig in a wild brawl all over the building. The Lawler/Hennig match will air on the 6/17 FNN show. Dave says the crowd was disappointing considering how much hype went into the Renegade Rampage, and also Hennig/Lawler having their rematch.
-- Downtown Bruno is now being called Superstar Bruno to build to a feud with Bill Dundee.
-- "I know this group is limited in its options right now, but building around this Stud Stable thing isn't going to work. They've only been in for two weeks and are already stale."
-- Dave still doesn't know specifics, but World Class has lost TV in Houston, Miami, and Minneapolis in the past week.
-- "Kevin Von Erich will be doing a publicity benefit wrestling match with Jessica McClure (the baby who was trapped and was the leading new story a few months back)" (My note: Kevin Von Erich is going to wrestle Baby Jessica? Does anyone have tapes?)
-- Wild West is running shows again. Their first taping on 6/12 in Houston drew only 75 fans, and because of this, the bi-weekly shows in Houston have already been scrapped.
-- On 6/18, Ken Mantell, Verne Gagne, Don Owen, Jerry Lawler and maybe other promoters will be meeting in Dallas to discuss working together for big shows in the future
-- Chris Adams plans to run most of his shows in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas instead of Texas.
-- Johnny Ace and The Terminator, both younger brothers of Road Warrior Animal, are being pushed as a tag team called The Junior Road Warriors.
-- Don Owen drew 450 to Hoaquim, WA on 6/6 with the best match being The Southern Rockers vs The Grappler & Al Madril in a ***1/2 match.
-- "Buddy Rose looks even worse in person than on television, which is pretty bad."
-- Brad and Bart Batten are in as heels.
-- Houses have gone up since Buck Robley started booking.
-- Rufus R. Jones is headed in.
-- Robert Gibson is saying he and Morton are only working the Bashes, so he can still work here.
-- 6/3 in Calgary drew 500 fans.
-- 6/3 in Kagoshima drew 2,370 headlined by Fujinami & Kimura retaining the tag titles against Fujiwara and Sakaguchi. 6/4 in Kushima drew 1,640.
-- New Japan is going to start devaluing Yoshiaki Fujiwara, as he is expected to be going to the UWF as soon as his contract will allow him to jump.
-- The ban on using Sumo Hall ends with a big card on 8/8.
-- Jumbo & Yatsu won the PWF tag titles on 6/4 in Sapporo before 4,400 fans, beating Tenryu & Hara in 22:53. This sets up Jumbo & Yatsu vs the Road Warriors on 6/10 at Budokan Hall in Tokyo. Dave is told the match is a candidate for match of the year. On the same show, Masa Fuchi beat Rip Rogers (My note: Sounds fun ...)
-- Dave saw Bodyslam, with Roddy Piper and Tama. "Overall the movie was awful. The wrestling scenes were bad. The plot was stupid. The acting wasn't much, but the best thing about the movie was Piper."
-- The Destroyer's daughter placed fifth in the Miss New York pageant.
-- There is this letter on the readers page pointing out many times Dave Meltzer has been wrong, and also saying that he thinks Observer readers tend to take Dave's opinions as their own, while also acknowledging that it's wrong to blame Dave for exposing the business because the wrestling promotions are doing a fine job on their own. Dave's response?