Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
July 4th, 1988
-- The WWF has a date in the Greensboro Coliseum on Sunday, August 7. The show will be headlined by Hogan vs Andre. Dave says this should sell out the Coliseum, something the NWA hasn't done since a Flair/Barry Windham match early in '87. The WWF also just ran a successful show in Richmond, VA, and will be able to promote in the new 20,000-seat Charlotte Coliseum. "And these are cities which over the long haul don't have the population base to support two promotions if they each run monthly cards. It is going to be an uphill battle for the NWA from this point on."
-- Early reports are that Vince McMahon's own Road Warriors creations in the Powers of Pain have been a success. There may end up being more to this, as Crockett claims to own the team name, and Paul Jones was still using the term on TBS after they jumped. They've been putting Tito Santana with them at ringside as a cue to fans that it's okay to cheer them, but only in arenas and not on TV. Dave says what's scary is that so many fans believe they are the real Road Warriors and that is part of why they are being cheered so much, which he calls a reaction nobody anticipated.
-- At the last TV taping, Haku was repackaged as "King Haku", so the Islanders tag team is done. Dave is told it's not getting over live at all, and wthe whole coronation and gimmick doesn't sound good on paper either.
-- Stan Hansen and Jeep Swenson are in Atlanta filming Hulk Hogan's movie and Dave wonders if fans take those jobs that they'll do on the big screen seriously. The WWF has rented the 8,000 seat Alexander Coliseum where Georgia Tech plays for an eight hour film date on 7/16 to tape all the wrestling scenes for the whole movie. Dave suspects that Hansen and Swenson are hoping that if they do a good job on screen that it will result in a job with Titan. "You know, with Hansen, Hogan might have his best 'match' of the year, especially since they can edit it in so many different ways before we'll ever see the finished product."
-- There may be a Ken Patera/Iron Sheik feud to tie into the summer Olympics since both have been in the Olympics in the past.
-- 6/24 in MSG drew 18,300 for the Savage/DiBiase cage match, which Dave says everyone is raving about. 6/23 in Utica, NY, drew 3,453 fans headlined by Bulldogs vs Islanders. 6/20 in Syracuse, NY drew 3,000 fans headlined by Rude vs Roberts. 6/24 in Richmond, VA drew 7,000 fans headlined by Savage vs DiBiase. 6/26 in Pontiac, MI drew less than 2,000 in the Silverdome. They have been running shows there that have been drawing embarrassing numbers (under 2,000) so they are moving to The Palace starting on 8/15. Hogan and Savage will both be on that show, because the WWF is trying really hard to get fan interest back up in Detroit.
-- Dave starts off the issue by saying the biggest news of the past week is that the much-discussed sale of the NWA to Turner has become a distinct possibility. However, despite rumors otherwise, nothing has been finalized. A legitimate offer was made by Turner to Crockett within the week. The deal was not approved, but has been reached in principle and both sides are down to discussing small points, like when payments would be made. The Crockett side is hopeful to have the deal done by the end of July. Dave is being told it's an eight-figure deal.
-- "So what does this mean? First off, I don't count on the deal as being reality until it happens. From my perspective, this is the first time I've actually been more than 50 percent sure that a deal would be made, even with the rumors and negotiations that have been going around for two months. The reports I've got indicate that meetings between the two sides will be continuing this week, and that Ted Turner has been personally involved in these meetings." There was a hang-up with David and Frances Crockett, both of whom were having reservations about actually making the sale, but that has been smoothed over and the whole Crockett family is now on board.
-- "The big question, of course, is what changes will be made within the business structure and what changes, if any, will be made to the product, if a new company should take over? Nobody really knows the answers to these questions right now." Dave says there are a lot of people within wrestling who believe the NWA is done and can't be revitalized at this point, but Dave disagrees strongly with that. "As long as a wrestling company has sizable national television exposure (which the NWA has in TBS and a syndicated network which blankets 90 percent of the country), marketable stars (which the NWA has at least a base of, although they desperately need reshuffling some of the faces at the top), access to pay-per-view (which is the sport's future and with the Turner tie-in, the NWA would certainly have that), solid booking, a professional looking television product (both of which need improvement right now, but such improvements wouldn't be that difficult) and present wrestling in a way that appeals to a large enough market, then that company is potentially very profitable. One of the big problems right now is the concepts to promoting wrestling profitably have changed enormously. Due to the realities of pay-per-view, the realities of viewers having far more product on free television, and realities of an audience which more than ever, goes for the purpose of being entertained rather than actually believing they are watching something 'legitimate', plus the realities of having a competition promotion (WWF), promoting in the manner that was successful in the 1970s won't work anymore. The only proven method of success is McMahon's method, which doesn't mean it's the only method, only the only proven method. In truth, they may have to experiment with several different concepts before they find a winning hand. And if you look at McMahon's product today as compared with two or three years ago, you will see that he's had to do the same thing. Probably the biggest problem that hampered Crockett is their inability to make changes when something wasn't working. Anyway, if such a sale does take place, I expect a rough early time because of uncertainty, but it could be the best thing possible for the industry in the long run."
-- The Great American Bash is next weekend, and should easily be the biggest non-WWF wrestling card in history. Dave credits the NWA for doing a great job with the buildup and that they really have fans convinced this is the end for Ric Flair, which Dave says is exactly how this should be promoted. Baltimore is going to make big money, but the rest of the Bash tour is still a question mark.
-- Dusty Rhodes has moved to Dallas and now works out of the office there instead of in Charlotte.
-- "The NWA has yet to get its act together. For the 7/7 Bash in Raleigh, on the Worldwide show Tony Schiavone is plugging one line-up while on the NWA Pro show, Jim Ross is plugging a completely different line-up. This has happened now two weeks in a row so fans aren't sure if they are getting a War Games or an eight man cage match as the main event.. The only match both cards agree on is Doc vs. Rotunda, which isn't exactly a major ticket seller."
-- 6/20 in Montgomery, AL, drew 1,315 fans and a $15,000 gate headlined by Lex Luger vs Barry Windham. 6/17 in Charleston, WV drew 1,000 fans headlined by Road Warriors vs Rick Steiner & Mike Rotunda. 6/16 in Harrisonburg, VA drew 1,300 fans headlined by Road Warriors vs Rick Steiner & Mike Rotunda.
-- Dave was impressed with Russian Assassin from TV physically, especially considering he has a knee problem. His work is fine, but his mask hurts. Dave goes on to say wrestlers with masks now are seen as lacking charisma.
-- "I think I've figured out the finish to the triple cage match from Kevin Sullivan's interview, but I'm not telling. Watch the interview back on tape and listen for a few key phrases and it should become obvious, unless they shoot a big angle beforehand."
-- Scott Putski will be working the Texas Bash shows. "His biggest problem is he was trained by Ivan and wrestles like Ivan, who in 18 years on the circuit only learned one move -- a side headlock."
-- Business has picked up with Eric Embry and Skandor Akbar booking, but we'll see if it's long-term or just a short-term boost. They are doing a very risky promoting tactic next week, running four shows in the Metroplex in eight days to counter Crockett's Bash show on July 4. They aren't really plugging any of the lineups that much, thinking they will confuse fans. Terry Taylor is expected to drop the title on the 7/4 show to Chris Adams since he's scheduled to start with the WWF on July 7. They are only charging $5.00 for tickets, $0.50 for all concessions, souvenirs are marked down, and they're doing a two-hour autograph session with all the wrestlers prior to the show starting. Dave says this is an effective strategy to combat Crockett, but he thinks they would be better off just letting Crockett run the show because they are in danger of burning out the territory by having too many shows in the same city.
-- 6/17 at the Sportatorium drew 2,000 fans. 6/19 afternoon in Mesquite drew a $12,000 house. They debuted in Oklahoma City on 6/18 drawing an $8,500 gate, and they plan on running more shows in the old UWF territory. 6/19 evening in San Antonio drew 3,000 fans. 6/24 in Dallas drew 1,000.
-- There are tentative plans to work with other promotions based on the meeting just held with some of the other promoters.
-- Jeff Jarrett is returning. They did an angle with Jarrett coming out with a broken arm to do an interview. The Stud Stable came out to bully him. Jerry Jarrett said he normally stays out of Jeff's business, but will interject this time since he can't defend himself. The Stable jumped Jerry, and Jeff had to save using his cast. Jerry then did an interview about how he knew Robert Fuller's father well and that for Robert to turn out the way he has, he must have been a bastard child and Jerry said he wondered who the milkman was. They brawled again and Fuller gave Jarrett a piledriver.
-- Pat Rose & Bob Holly are teaming. "I don't want to sound too overenthusiastic about Rose & Holly, but they are a solid team for this area. Rose is a good worker and has been around for a while. Holly is still green in a lot of ways, but takes a good bump and they work hard in every match I've seen of them and can carry bad wrestlers to decent matches because of their work habits."
-- Jerry Lawler will be coming in as AWA champ to face Eddie Gilbert. Curt Hennig is coming in as well. "One has to give Lawler a lot of credit because he's in a sense, upped the so-called prestige of the AWA title by defending it in several different circuits against a wider variety of wrestlers than any of the other champions. In his interviews, he's even brought out that fact that even though Randy Savage and Ric Flair are called World champions (and he uses their name), that he's the only real World champion."
-- Dave says recent TV was the first Dave has seen that looks like they're turning things around. In fact, 6/19 in Montgomery drew more fans than Crockett did in the same town the same night, and they had all the NWA stars there. They've actually gotten Willie B. Hurt and Lord Humongous over as babyfaces to a point where they get huge reactions when they come out.
-- "By the way, for those of you who haven't seen this Humongous, he's VERY green, but is around 6-foot-8 and has one of those Hercules Hernandez bodies. I expect he'll be with Titan someday, but hopefully not for two years until he learns something (but he is better than the Anabolic Warrior already)."
-- "Ken Wayne is now an associate of The Dangerous Alliance. They were scheduled to have a TV match with Eddie Gilbert against Danny Davis and as Davis came to the ring, a 'lady in a dress' was in the aisle with a popcorn box covering 'her' face and as Davis walked by before the match started, she dropped her popcorn, Davis bent over to help her pick it up and she KO'd Davis with an object and along with Gilbert and Dangerously they beat up on Davis for a while. Of course the 'girl' was Ken Wayne in drag. Where do they come up with these ideas? The scary thing is, I think I know. Anyway, Gilbert claims he's won the match via forfeit but all of a sudden out comes Mr. Olympia, with his arm in a cast courtesy of their match at the Montgomery tapings, to take up the challenge. They have a 16 minute brawl all over the place, said to be a great match ending with a DQ on Gilbert when Dangerously runs in and they double on Olympia and go to 're-break' the arm until Austin Idol comes out with a broom handle to make the save."
-- The Battens, Bob Holly, Shawn Baxter, and Pat Rose are all in Memphis now because Umanosuke Ueda's Pensacola-based World Organization Wrestling has closed. The Battens are better than most of the regulars.
-- On a recent TV episode, Paul E. Dangerously (who had about 15 interviews on the tape Dave got) and Missy Hyatt tied up Rhubarb Jones and taped his mouth shut, and Dave says he welcomed them gagging him, since he's pretty bad.
-- "... Tommy Rich is an embarrassment. He's bad nostalgia and even though he's only 32, he physically looks 10 years older and is out of character as a babyface. I realize that Southern really doesn't have a lot and doesn't really have the ability to get a new younger babyface over who lives locally and can be the top guy, so I don't question them pushing Rich because of the lack of alternatives. But it's bad news. It's like promoting the 1988 Fabian tour or something. I don't want to go on about this, but he's really out of shape (which looks worse in today's muscled-up needle environment) and his interviews are babbling incoherence. Slater also wrestles nothing like the Dick Slater many of you will remember, although he does look exactly the same."
-- As part of their recent telethon, they showed a 2 1/2 hour history of Atlanta wrestling that was hosted by Joe Pedicino that Dave says is fantastic, and that he'd like to see the wrestling companies do more of that sort of thing.
-- 6/24 in Knoxville drew 2,000 fans with a 20-minute Buddy Landell/Wendell Cooley match being the best match on the show.
-- Hector Guerrero and Ricky Morton are feuding after Guerrero threw hot sauce in Ricky Morton's face.
-- To clarify something previously reported, when Billy Jack Haynes bled on a recent show, it was hardaway. "I don't want to accuse the commission of playing favorites here since the commission had banned blade cuts. I'm still wondering how all these guys that work for both promotions here and the entire WWF crew passed a drug test."
-- Chris Benoit regained the Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Title on 6/17 in Calgary by beating Johnny Smith. "It was a very strange finish because, at least according to two reports, it wasn't 'supposed' to end this way. This requires lots of explanation because for those who don't regularly watch this group's TV, they've generally got two refs, Jurgen Hermann, who plays more of an incompetent ref rather than a true heel ref, and a Hart brother, usually Wayne Hart, but lately Dean Hart since Wayne's had some problems with his leg, who isn't so much a babyface ref as a competent ref. Apparently Hermann was supposed to ref and for reasons I'm not completely familiar with which have absolutely nothing to do with wrestling or the wrestling business, he wasn't there that night and Dean Hart had to ref. The finish saw a foreign object thrown in (I believe by manager Abdul Wizal, but not sure on that either) and Benoit got it and used it, and the ref was 'supposed' to find out and reverse the decision but none of this took place." They are having a rematch on 6/24 in Calgary.
-- The next series opens on 7/2 at Korauken Hall with Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu vs Terry Gordy & Leo Burke.
-- "I got to see the TV shows from the last series. Even though Rip Rogers did nothing but jobs, he definitely got over very well with the crowd for his showmanship. He did the gay act, which I don't think has ever been done in Japan to begin with, but added some unique twists like hiding a mirror in his trunks and always wanting to comb his hair. His work in the ring was good as well."
-- Dave says the Rock & Roll Express had a TV match against Foot Loose that was probably **1/2, and that the Tenryu/Hara vs Tsuruta/Yatsu match on 6/4 was good, but nothing close to MOTY level. He called the 6/10 Tokyo match with Tsuruta/Yatsu vs Road Warriors ***1/4 and said Hawk impressed him because he slipped off the top rope and fans started laughing, so Hawk immediately just started pounding on Yatsu outside until the crowd was fearing them again. "I've seen other wrestlers when they miss a move that bad in Japan almost get mentally psyched out the rest of the match and not recover from it."
-- Business is still weak as the current series is drawing to a close.
-- Antonio Inoki will have a comeback match on 8/8. He still wants Hogan or Backlund to be his opponent. Dave says Hogan is impossible, and Backlund wants nothing to do with pro wrestling right now. Dave thinks his opponent will be whoever the IWGP champ is -- Choshu or Fujinami. The show will be in Yokohama instead of at the Sumo Hall. The Sumo Association was so mad that it leaked out that they were allowing wrestling there again that they cancelled the show. New Japan stands to lose several hundred thousand dollars in the gate because Yokohama doesn't have the same capacity.
-- Shinya Hashimoto (currently in Stampede), Keiji Muto (currently in Puerto Rico), and Masa Chono (currently in Nova Scotia) are all scheduled to return in fall as a three-man team to feud with everyone. Hashimoto stayed with Inoki in Los Angeles the previous week.
-- 6/17 in Gosen drew 1,670 fans. Dave is told Owen Hart vs Kuniaki Kobayashi was the best match ont he show. 6/16 in Nagaoka drew 2,240. TV-Asahi drew a 6.1 rating on 6/11 for the tag title change, the same that Baba drew on Nippon TV. Dave calls Vader vs Fujinami that aired on 5/27 **** and says it was even better than their Osaka match on 4/27. "Even though Vader has improved quite a bit since coming to Japan, Fujinami literally worked a miracle in this match and they worked about as perfect a match as they could have." Dave says everything shown in that hour (Owen vs Koshinaka, Choshu vs Fujinami) was really strong.
-- A card has been announced for 8/13 at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo. The main event will have Akira Maeda against a yet-to-be-announced karate champion. Also, Nobuhiko Takada will wrestle Kazuo Yamazaki, and the winner will face Maeda on 9/24 in Fukuoka.
-- Steve Williams sent a letter to Gong Magazine in the 6/30 issue to challenge Maeda. Dave says he is still with New Japan, so the chances of a match are "microscopic at best" ... It said: "Dear all my Japanese fans: I am looking forward to go to Japan again. However, I have a very important thing to do right now and that is to prove myself against the best World champion nowadays -- Ric Flair. I think he is good enough to spend my time on. Also, I promise to all of you that I'll go to Japan as soon as possible. I want to wrestle Choshu, Fujinami and Inoki again. However, I heard that Maeda left New Japan. I wonder why he never came after me like he did to Choshu. I think it's because he's a smart man. I enjoy teasing him in the ring all the time. Please tell Maeda about it. I am ready anytime, and I think most smart fans know that I am tougher. But let me show all of the people." Dave says the same types of fans who are UWF's base also know about Doc's reputation and that a match between them would be a tremendous draw, but it's not going to happen.
-- Jim Wilson, David Schultz, Lou Albano, Thunderbolt Patterson, Larry Sharpe, and Ted Arcidi were on the Morton Downey Jr. show. Dave is told it was one of Downey's better shows, "... which is like saying a match was one of Junkfood Dog's best of the year -- it doesn't get that good." Thunderbolt and Wilson were negative toward wrestling before being ganged up on 30 seconds in and torn apart so badly that anyone would be sympathetic. At one point, Shultz threw a cup of water in Wilson's face.+
-- On an independent show on 6/16 in Louisville, Dave is told that even with Lawler, Hennig, Wahoo, Pat Tanaka, Ricky Morton, and Curt Hennig on the show, the standout was The Cheetah Kid (Ted Petty). "Cactus Jack, who others have called the best independent no-name worker in the country, was also said to be pretty good."