Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
July 11th, 1988
-- The 7/31 show at the 55,000-seat Milwaukee County Stadium will be headlined by Hogan vs Andre in a cage. Dave thinks they're doing this match as a dry run for a possible house show series in the fall, which if it happens, will probably be the biggest money house show program they've done since Hogan/Orndorff.
-- Owen Hart is starting with the WWF. He will be under a mask as a C Team performer. He will probably debut on 7/13 in Lacrosse, WI, at the same taping as Terry Taylor. Dave also suspects Hogan will appear at either that taping or 7/14 in Cedar Rapids, IA. Regarding Owen's WWF run, Dave says the following: "There are a couple of ways at looking at this. First, it is simply impossible for Hart to have the calibre of matches with Titan that he did on his most recent Japan tour against the likes of Koshinaka, Hase and Yamada. The opponents aren't good enough, and he wouldn't be allowed to do the moves. Still, if marketed correctly, and Titan generally does a good job in this regard (and certainly a better job than any other promotion), a flying wrestler with the right gimmick, the right kind of push, and the right opponent can be a major thing for Titan. They don't have anyone like him. Jimmy Snuka was only 5-10 and was one of the three or four hottest babyfaces of the last decade in the Northeast simply for one move. Satoru Sayama, who weighed 60 pounds less than Hart, was one of the two or three biggest names in this entire business in the early part of the decade. At the same time, Sayama never would have been as big a star as he was if he didn't have the Dynamite Kid, Bret Hart, Black Tiger, Kobayashi and others of nearly the same size and of good calibre to feud with. Still, with all the big guys in Titan, Hart is a comparative midget (though in talent, the midgets are the big guys in most cases) and if the size difference is accentuated by putting him in with the wrong foe and having him sell size and fake strength moves, it will be very easy for Titan fans to simply see him as 'too small'."
-- All of the WWF's pay-per-view records were shattered by the Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks boxing match drawing a 15 percent national PPV buy rate. It grossed $30 million in the PPV market. Dave says it will never happen, but Hogan vs Tyson on pay-per-view would draw more than Mike Tyson against any boxer, simply because there is little mystery to Tyson matches until a new contender is groomed. While Hogan is seen as a fake, his size might make people think he has a chance.
-- No Holds Barred finishes taping on 7/30, so 7/31 will be Hogan's first match back. Dave doesn't see anyone in a hurry to put the belt back on him, and there is no reason to if he can draw without it, at least until Wrestlemania.
-- "The Ted DiBiase vs. Randy Savage cage match from the last MSG show was the best match at MSG in years -- the last ****1/2 bout at the Garden I can recall was the Sgt. Slaughter vs. Iron Sheik boot camp match in the summer of 1984. This match wasn't quite up to that level, but was the best WWF match I've seen at least since the Savage vs. Steamboat match at the Silverdome. I'm not a big fan of WWF cage matches and they spent too much time trying to escape (and four times with Savage about to get out, Virgil punched him back in), however you can't deny that both guys went all out for 12 minutes climbing up and down, taking bumps and working at a pace about 10 times normal for WWF main eventers. You know, some of the matches these two have had of late have been so good that people are talking like the WWF is going to get back to traditional wrestling, whatever that may be since the style of wrestling in the 70s was difference in each circuit and they go nationwide. But people fail to watch the prelim matches on these MSG cards, which are awful from top-to-bottom, or forget that Titan's top matches besides Savage vs. DiBiase are Andre vs. Duggan and Honkeytonk vs. Beefcake, two of the poorest match-ups for wrestling and action of this decade."
-- Except for the cage match with Andre, Hogan's next series of matches will be with mid-level heels like Haku and Bad News Brown. His big feud in fall will probably be with Big Boss Man. Dave thought Boss Man was doing well until he saw a horrible match he had with Scott Casey.
-- 6/24 in Providence drew 3,000 headlined by Roberts/Duggan vs Rude/Andre. 6/25 in Baltimore drew 7,000 for Savage vs DiBiase on top. 6/19 in Elizabeth, NJ drew 1,157 and a $12,600 gate headlined by Honkeytonk Man vs. Brutus Beefcake. 7/1 in Calgary drew 12,500 and $160,000 Canadian headlined by Savage vs DiBiase in a *** match.
-- USA is planning a three-hour special on 07/18.
-- WWF has booked a second date in Greensboro on 10/28. They debut at the Greensboro Coliseum on 8/7 with Andre vs. Hogan on top.
-- The latest in the neverending Vince/Bruno Sammartino feud is that announcers have been instructed going forward to always call Superstar Billy Graham "The Living Legend".
-- The Great American Bash is on 07/10 and would have occurred by the time WON readers received this issue. Dave anticipates it being the biggest money non-WWF show in history and probably fourth of all time when it comes to dollars grossed for the show. "While the NWA has done a very good job of hyping this show, they've still got a long ways to go before they are polished at putting together a megashow. First off, this Price For Freedom tag is goofy, although that's such a minor point it probably wasn't worth bringing up. The fact they've never really announced the 10 participants in the triple tower and really have never simply gone over the card from top-to-bottom isn't a minor point. My own feeling is that even though I expect this to be a good show, and Clash of the Champions I proved that five matches are enough for a hot show provided they are hot matches, my own feeling is that fans do often look to quantity and want to see a 'complete' card for these specials and I think an eight match show with three hours to get it in would satisfy people that they are seeing 'all the stars' and since the NWA needs more time per match than a WWF show would because of the difference in product, I'd hate to see a repeat of Starrcade where it was evident that they were rushing the Flair match because they were coming against the clock."
-- Dave also points out that in the local cable guides, there is almost always a full page ads with photos and a full card rundown before a WWF PPV. For the Bash, he had to "scour" the guide to find a small ad on Page 30. All it said was "Each year, the National Wrestling Alliance streaks across the country holding grudge matches, settling old rivalries and initiating new ones. This year, you're invited to watch as the Bash presents for the first time ever the triple-cage 'Tower of Doom' matching Ric Flair and Lex Luger." On page 164, there was another paragraph that said this: "Gill Cable presents The Great American Bash from Baltimore on Sunday July 10 at 4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. See Ric Flair, Lex Luger, The Midnight Rider, Tully Blanchard, 'Gorgeous' Jimmy Garvin and Precious, The Midnight Express, and other top stars from the NWA." Dave's response? "Jeez, we've known the line-up for months, and the NWA pretty well had planned a Flair vs. Luger main event for the Bash PPV dating back to January so couldn't we have some sort of hype for the match itself, something like the Old Master vs. Young Lion confrontation pitting the greatest wrestler of all-time against the man many expect to take his place (so much for truth in advertising, but let's face it, if Andre vs. Hogan can be the match of the century, Luger can be billed as a future wrestling great). Instead we get no mention of the title, and in fact, in one ad we get the two main matches confused and for those who don't know better, they actually won't be seeing what is advertised. The second ad lists seven names, one of whom (Midnight Rider) has long since rode into the sunset and the other names mean nothing except in the context of a great match situation. Seeing Tully Blanchard or Midnight Express or Garvin & Precious or even Ric Flair is not going to make anyone think twice about shelling out money. You've got to have specific matches. Besides, if you are just listing names, to the general public, while most NWA wrestlers are not particularly well-known (and in fact, aside from Hogan, no wrestlers have what I'd call cross-over popularity to the non-fan audience), Crockett's best-known guys are Flair and the Road Warriors, who weren't mentioned in either ad, and in fact, it's never been made all that clear except for those who listen attentively to the NWA interviews that the Warriors are even on this card."
-- There was speculation that since the Tyson PPV only went 91 seconds and cost $15.00 that people might not be willing to turn around and spend additional money on the NWA show. Dave calls whatever damage might happen "extremely minimal".
-- The Bash series is drawing well so far, as expected, but no $250,000 gates like in years past. The tour opened 6/26 in Orlando drawing 6,000 fans and an $87,000 gate, a record in Orlando. 6/27 in Greenville, SC drew 4,700 fans -- just shy of capacity. 6/28 in Columbia, SC, drew a turnaway house, 7/1 in Norfolk drew a $100,000 gate, 7/2 at the Charlotte baseball stadium drew 10,000 fans and a $98,000 gate, way down from previous Bash shows in Charlotte which have done over 20,000. 7/3 in Amarillo drew a near sellout of more than 6,000 fans. Baltimore is expected to do a live gate of $180,000.
-- "A lot has changed in the past week regarding the possible sale of the NWA to the Turner broadcasting empire. I really don't want to get into details because I'm not totally clear of all of them, other than the JCP stockholders (basically the Crockett family) are not united in wanting to sell the company right now. I'm not certain of who stands where other than Jim Crockett is behind the sale and David isn't, and Ole Anderson is trying to become a key player in this deal as well and is trying to sway the wrestlers into breaking away and either forming a new company (which could conceivably be headed by David Crockett provided Jim Crockett makes a deal with Turner) or actually manuevering a deal with Turner himself, which if Anderson could provide the wrestlers, in theory, then Turner wouldn't have to pay however many millions to the Crocketts to actually buy a company. Of course none of this takes into account that any new company would have to start from scratch when it comes to putting together a national syndication network so it could promote, and this network would have to be started at a time when TV programmers are no longer hot on wrestling not to mention all the disadvantages when it comes to booking the major arenas and building up an audience during these times when the wrestling economy is far from its healthiest point. It is expected that several more major breakthroughs will be taking place before this month is out in what inevitably will wind up being the most important news story in pro wrestling this year."
-- PPV clearances for the Bash is 10 million homes, roughly the same as Wrestlemania IV. Dave anticipates the Bash getting about half the number of PPV buys as WM IV.
-- There is unhappiness among the crew since word was given that payoffs for the Baltimore Bash won't be given until October 1.
-- George Michael Sports Machine is doing a lengthy piece on Ric Flair.
-- The Road Warriors in Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine in Japan: "That's right. We're going to work for the WWF. But we can't say when for sure. New York wants the Road Warriors really bad. It's not that we don't like their style. We don't give a damn about what they do in the ring or how they promote the card. The bottom line is what they can offer. Sure we can't come back to Japan, we won't go to the WWF. Nobody can tell us what to do. Nobody and we can nobody can boss us around. Right now, we are under contract with the NWA. This is the official commitment and we are not about to break it. Then again, anything is a gamble to a certain degree. You have to leave all your options open." (My note: This is really bizarre ...) The interview was done before the Powers of Pain jumped.
-- 7/4 in Dallas at Reunion Arena drew 5,000 fans headlined by Ric Flair & Barry Windham vs Lex Luger & Dusty Rhodes. WCCW drew 3,000 at the Sportatorium on the same night at $5.00 per ticket. 7/1 in Norfolk, VA drew 9,000 fans headlined by Luger/Sting/Road Warriors vs Flair/Windham/Arn/JJ in a cage match described as excellent.
-- Crockett had been plugging for weeks that tickets for the Seattle Bash show on 8/3 would go on sale on 7/5. Tons of fans showed up to buy tickets and there were none available. In fact, the date had not even been approved by the commission and no wrestlers had applied for licenses.
-- 7/1 at the Sportatorium drew 1,100 fans headlined by Kevin & Kerry Von Erich vs Terry Taylor & Iceman Parsons.
-- The Von Erich story is definitely set for the October issue of Penthouse. The Dallas Times Herald had a preview the previous Wednesday.
-- Since WCCW started appearing in Kansas City, crowds have improved to between 350 and 500 per show.
-- "Seems the thought that Ken Mantell wasn't going to run the promotion to preserve the Von Erich legacy has gone out the window. Kevin holds the Texas title, Kerry the World title, Kevin & Kerry hold the tag titles, and Kevin, Kerry & Hayes hold the six-man belts."
-- The CWA title changed hands on 6/27 in Memphis when Max Pain beat Brickhouse Brown in a cage match. Pain lost the title on 7/3 to Phil Hickerson. Scott Steiner & Billy Travis regained the Southern tag titles on 6/27 from Don Bass & Gary Young, also in a cage match.
-- 6/27, with the two title changes and Lawler vs Kerry Von Erich on top, drew 4,000 fans. The Lawler/Kerry match went 10 minutes before Robert Fuller & Jimmy Golden interfered and attacked Lawler. Kerry helped fight them off, but then said he didn't come all the way from Texas to end the match like that, so they re-started the match and it went 12 more minutes, and finally ended with a double countout finish. The match aired on FNN, was said to be really good, and both juiced. Antonio Inoki was in the crowd watching the match.
-- "Jeff Jarrett is over a tremendous amount now as a face, which is an unbelievable difference from his pre-broken arm days when lots of fans were booing him. The thing they did the week before on TV with his father was a really good and very effective skit."
-- 7/3 drew an impressive 5,000 fans mainly to see Jimmy Valiant return. "Valiant has always been a big drawing card in Memphis on a short-term basis and will be around for about a month I'm told, but I guess this means he's finally through with Crockett, which has seemed inevitable for a long time. Actually the only reason Valiant stuck around for as long as he did was because he was under contract and was waiting for the balloon payment on his contract and I guess he got tired of waiting."
-- Billy Jack Haynes' group appears to be on its last legs. Many shows have been canceled and several wrestlers have left. They held a card on 6/24 in Gresham, OR, that drew 60 fans. Coco Samoa is a referee.
-- Windy City has announced a card for 7/9 in Rockford with a tag team battle royal and Steve Regal vs Eddie Gilbert.
-- They have signed an exclusive deal with the Ampitheatre and will be running shows there every six weeks. Paul E. Dangerously, who is doing booking, will manage Condrey, Rose, Gilbert and Col. DeBeers.
-- Lawler vs. Idol on 7/2 in Dothan, AL, drew a $10,000 gate and "... had a very unique twist. Before the match started (and I understand this match was taped for television), Paul E. Dangerously showed up with an 'injunction' which stated that he could be at ringside for this match because of supposed terms in his previous contract with Austin Idol that if Idol ever got a World title match than Dangerously would be his manager. However Dangerously basically was working on behalf of Lawler in this match, although Lawler was acting like he didn't want him around either. The finish saw Idol catch Lawler in the figure four leglock when Dangerously pulled the referee out of the ring and Ko'd him with his phone. Eddie Gilbert then interfered and threw fire in Idol's face although the fire actually missed. Earlier in the show, Lawler had a non-title match against Ken Wayne and Gilbert tried to throw fire at Lawler once again, however Lawler ducked and the fire went into the eyes of referee John Keaton."
-- 6/24 in Calgary drew just 350 fans, which is the lowest crowd for a double TV taping in a really long time. This was the last Calgary card until 7/22, so they had to get more matches in so they could air TV. They also filmed a supplementary card on 6/22 in Red Deer, put together at the last minute.
-- Jason The Terrible is coming back to feud with Steve DiSalvo.
-- Brian Pillman is announced for the 7/9 card in Edmonton, which is good for Stampede because they had lost Owen Hart and Jason The Terrible. Pillman was sidelined with a tricep injury.
-- The group is touring British Columbia and drawing decent.
-- Mika Komatsu and Yumi Ogura are in for three weeks, but won't be seen on television because they are in during the time TV isn't being taped.
-- Kerry Brown has been turned face because of the lack of babyfaces, and is being geared to feud with Makhan Singh.
-- Steve Blackman was awarded the TV title in a tournament to crown a first champion that took place on 6/17 and 6/24.
-- Tokyo Sports reported a rumor that Antonio Inoki will be selling New Japan to Ted Turner to be part of an international NWA. "I certainly don't think there is anything to this story, but the funny thing is, it would make sense for someone to own a promotion in Japan and the U.S. because he could arrange injuries and tours for stale talent back and forth and fans wouldn't have a chance to see the departed wrestlers on another promotions' TV. Actually, there are numerous advantages to this, but it won't happen."
-- "I guess Inoki's trying to start rumors of his own. There is still talk of Inoki vs. Hulk Hogan on 8/8 in Yokohama but again I think they are just stirring up ink, since it is virtually impossible that this match will take place."
-- Tatsumi Fujinami is receiving a big push. He pinned Riki Choshu on 6/24 in Osaka to regain the held up IWGP title and handed Big Van Vader his first pinfall loss on 6/26 in Nagoya.
-- Shiro Koshinaka captured the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title on 6/24 in Osaka, pinning Owen Hart. Owen is scheduled to come back in October, but that probably won't happen since he's with the WWF now.
-- The highest crowd of the last series was 10,760 paid in Nagoya for Vader vs Fujinami on 06/26.
-- 6/22 in Omiya drew 2,110 fans. 6/19 TV taping at Korauken Hall drew 2,250 fans. 6/24 in Osaka drew 6,088. 6/23 in Yokohama drew 3,940.
-- Riki Choshu vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara at the last TV taping was a match Dave called "interesting". Choshu got the clean win, which wasn't surprising since Fujiwara is UWF bound when his contract expires. But the crowd was solidly behind Fujiwara and reacted huge to the submission holds, to a point where it made it obvious this was the match that sold out Korauken Hall. "Choshu was forced to wrestle and he's actually very good with the matwork when he's forced to actually do the stuff. While some would find the matwork boring, since it was moving matwork and the two are both solid and quick with their trading moves and sold for each other realistically, I thought it was a good match. However, when Choshu gained the pinfall with the lariat, the place went totally silent because the fans who were there 'believed' that Choshu couldn't legitimately beat Fujiwara and thus the pinfall was for the political reasons we spoke of earlier and the good match became a sham in their eyes."
-- "Adrian Adonis weighs more than Vader, which tells you how his diet is going, however he sold all the size and power moves and took excellent bumps, especially when you consider he looked to be in the 325 pound range. Vader has improved a lot and is probably a better all-around worker than Big Bubba Rogers at this point although he still has to be carried."
-- Hiroshi Hase should be back in by the end of the month. He suffered broken ribs in a match with Keichi Yamada in early June.
-- Bob Backlund was interviewed in a Japanese magazine and left his options open for returning to wrestling. He said he won't go to the NWA because he can't make the same level of money as the top guys. New Japan and the UWF both really want him to come in.
-- All the magazines in Japan have been articles and photos on Mitsuharu Misawa out of the mask. His identity has become public knowledge because of his recent wedding.
-- Shinichi Nakano, Shunji Takano, Tiger Mask, Akira Taue, and Isao Takagi have formed their own group in All Japan to feud with Tenryu's Revolution group.
-- 6/26 at Korauken Hall saw Bull Nakano earn a shot at Chigusa Nagayo's World title before a sellout 1,800 fans.
-- JWP is building up a match on 7/14 between Devil Masami and Shinobu Kandori. Masami has gained 40 pounds since she retired, "... and has the biggest thighs on any wrestler, male or female, that I think I've ever seen including Doug Furnas."
-- Yumiko Hotta and Mitsuko Nishiwaki are being groomed to be the next big tag team for AJW, and have been nicknamed The Fire Jets.
-- Scott Hall is wrestling in Austria.
LAST MINUTE NEWS FLASH
-- "Just as we were going to press we received the tragic news about the death of pro wrestlers Adrian Adonis, David McKigney and Pat Kelly in what was described as a gruesome van wreck in New Foundland on the night of 7/4. According to Canadian wire service reports, the three wrestlers along with Mike Kelly, another wrestler, were traveling in a mini-van en route to a match in Lewisporte, New Foundland (an island on Canada's Eastern coast) when the van crashed and went into a brook. Pat Kelly, whose real name was Victor Arko and McKigney, best known as The Bearman or Canadian Wildman, were pronounced dead at the scene while Adonis died hours later in a hospital in Gander, NF, about 60 miles from the scene of the accident. Mike Kelly, real name William Arko, was at last report listed in serious but stable condition in the Gander hospital. Adonis, 34, was one of the most talented wrestlers in the world in the early part of the decade and had been a tag team champion in the AWA (with Jesse Ventura) and WWF (with Dick Murdoch) and had just started back this past month in Japan where he had been a major star before his recent WWF stint. McKigney, who was the main character in the recently-published book 'Drawing Heat' by Jim Freedman, was a long-time promoter and wrestler mainly in the northern reaches of Ontario, Canada. He was known in the 60s as The Bearman because he trained several wrestling bears. The book 'Drawing Heat' brought out that McKigney had lived a tragic life, with the most publicized part of his life occurring many years back when one of the bears he trained escaped and killed his wife and ripped him up pretty good as well. We will have a lot more details on this next week as they become available."