February 4, 1991
The thoughts in this issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter are dedicated to the following:
Frank Goodish, who if he were alive today, would have a big smile on his face in about 15 minutes.
Wade Keller, for making me realize the true value of what I do and to realize that when all hard decisions are made, what the real factors are involved in making those decisions.
My girlfriend, Erin Andrews, for forcing me to stand up for myself.
Two other people in the pro wrestling business, who know who they are and know their contributions.
And to the one person that taught me the most important lesson I learned this week. When all is said and done, the most important things in life really are:
● What you think of yourself every night as you lie down to sleep
● What you see in the mirror every morning when you wake up, and
● What your friends and loved ones, in their heart, think of you.
Let me start by giving everyone a background of this time frame. The World Wrestling Federation was riding high, having just promoted what in many ways is still the most successful wrestling show ever--Wrestlemania III. A few weeks afterward, Jim Duggan and the Iron Sheik, who were feuding at the time, were arrested together by highway patrolmen in New Jersey. A small amount of cocaine was found on Sheik. Some marijuana was found on Duggan. But the kind of humorous situation where two wrestlers, who allegedly hated each others' guts, were not only driving together, but the implication was, doing drugs together as well, made newspapers all over the country. It made page two of one of the major New York dailies, and was covered on the local television newscasts throughout the area. Duggan and Sheik were promptly fired by the WWF. I felt at the time, and expressed those thoughts in this publication, that Duggan should not have been fired. Marijuana was a minor offense, and during this same time frame, another WWF wrestler, Bam Bam Bigelow, was arrested on a similar charge. The only difference is Bigelow's case got very little press, because there wasn't the humor involved of the two guys feuding being in the same car together. Bigelow wasn't fired, or even suspended for the incident, just as Bobby Heenan wasn't this year for a similar arrest, which did make national publicity. So, ultimately, what Duggan was fired over, was being in a car with the Iron Sheik, or more precisely, having that fact make some newscasts. That was basically confirmed several months later in a conversation with Pat Patterson. At the time, I thought it was a poor reason to fire a guy. It should be pointed out that Duggan was brought back about six months later and has been a fixture ever since. But the time frame of the incident I'm about to describe was during the interim period, when Duggan was out of work. Titan Sports may claim that Duggan was actually suspended, and while I don't know this, there is a possibility that Duggan and/or Sheik were still being sent a check during their absence, however the Titan brass told all the boys, as was confirmed to me by many, that Duggan and Sheik were "fired."
Because of the publicity surrounding the Duggan-Sheik incident, the WWF began testing its wrestlers sporadically for cocaine. One wrestler who failed tests, on more than one occasion, was Jake Roberts. Roberts was even a bigger star then than now. And the WWF suspended him for 30 days, as they did about a half-dozen other wrestlers. I already knew this when I called Terry Garvin of the World Wrestling Federation, who at the time I spoke with almost on a daily basis, as designated by Vince McMahon himself. Garvin, at first, denied it, but called me back a few minutes later and confirmed it. At that point it really didn't matter, because I had already received confirmation of it many other places. In fact, Roberts and the rest were already missing shows. The story was already in the typed edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, that was being printed but wouldn't be mailed until the next day. After he confirmed the story, Garvin asked if I could keep it out of the Observer. I later spoke with someone else in the company about the situation, and the company asked for a favor. Basically, I was told, was that if the Roberts story makes the Observer, with all the media types who read the Observer, eventually it might make the general news media. Coming so close to the situation with Duggan and Sheik, it could cause a major scandal in which people would examine if there was a cocaine problem within pro wrestling. Since several other wrestlers were suspended as well, any serious examination would come out with an obvious negative result. And since the company had just started testing for cocaine, they were making an attempt to get an admitted problem under control. But most of all, I was told that if the mainstream media picked up that Roberts was suspended for failing a drug test, that the company would have no choice but to fire Roberts. Remember, the person who told this to me often discussed items in the Observer with me, and surely must have known my feelings about the Duggan situation. It was my weakness. Anyway, I felt that if the company informed fans at its upcoming venues that Roberts, who was a headliner, wasn't going to be there, then they were playing fair with their audience. And they were. So I went and re-wrote the front page of the Observer, mentioned on the inside that Roberts and the rest were pulled from upcoming dates without giving a reason. On the front page I changed the story that several WWF wrestlers were suspended for cocaine use to a story listing that wrestlers were suspended for failing drug tests, but eliminating the names of those suspended. It wouldn't have been hard for any reader to make the connection, but it wasn't clear enough for a mainstream reporter to pick up on the subject, since the story never broke. I was told they would pay for any additional printing costs. In my mind, I believed I was doing the right thing, because I didn't want to be the reason Jake Roberts, like Jim Duggan before him, would lose his job. I told them I didn't want any money, and I'd take care of the costs because it was simply the right thing to do in that situation.
When Bruiser Brody found out, he was none too happy with my behavior. He said that my only job in this business is to tell the truth. He said that I didn't work for the World Wrestling Federation. What the general media would eventually do and what the WWF would do in case a scandal did break should not have been a factor in my decision. At the time, I thought that it was a pretty heartless attitude.
An incident such as the one described above couldn't happen today. First off, there are too many newsletters. Sometimes that's bad, because some are irresponsible. But there are enough good ones that it's very difficult to "cover up" a major story today.
Was I right in 1987? It's not cut and dried. At the time I did what I thought was the right thing. But today, I realize that Bruiser Brody was correct. Whatever responsibility I have, and others in a similar position have, is only to report what happens. The obligation is to the readers, not to wrestling promoters. If a major football star gets suspended for using cocaine or steroids, or any other reason, a newspaper details the story. Whether I may personally not wish to harm the career of Teddy Long, he failed a drug test this past week and is suspended for 30 days. The bigger the star, the bigger the story. Any sort of an argument that reporting the story isn't in the best interest of the football business is not a valid argument. Any argument that a guy may lose, say commercial endorsements in the future, or that if he's got free agency upcoming, his value in the market will go down and it will cost him significant amounts of money, as a reason to not report the story is not a valid argument, either.
In 1991, Bobby Heenan passed out on an airplane. When airport police were instructed by doctors to check his baggage to try and find out why he was unconscious, they found 48 grams of marijuana. A Titan employee asked that I keep the story out of The National. It was a guy that I owed a favor to. Let me point out that this was friend-to-friend, not Titan Sports to Dave Meltzer, a major distinction. Titan Sports officially never asked. I am virtually certain Vince McMahon never knew of the request. I really didn't want to print it, I guess because deep down it seemed like the nice thing to do. But being a nice guy is something I've learned is an emotion for the hours in a day when I'm not either writing The National, or printing the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. During those hours, the only emotion should be to be honest. There was no question Heenan's arrest had to be reported in The National. And to the credit of Titan Sports, a few days later, when speaking with J.J. Dillon, he didn't complain about the report.
This is a very different issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I'd like to apologize in advance because there will be no wrestling news this week. Everything will be back to normal next week in the Observer.
But mostly, I'd like to share with you about some things that have taken place in the past week.
From the World Wrestling Federation to Frank Deford, carbon copy to Mr. Dave Meltzer:
Today's "Grunt and Grin" article contained many statements that Mr. Meltzer reasonably should have known were false.
The most glaring and malicious inaccuracy concerns the USO Tour referred to in your last paragraph. the WWF did not seek to send Hulk Hogan to Saudi Arabia. The USO initiated the idea and requested Hulk Hogan to be among the group of celebrities selected to visit our troops. The USO never turned down anything, they wanted Hulk in Saudi Arabia; the Defense Department nixed the trip.
Furthermore, Hulk Hogan's current tour is not "to strengthen his image." It too, comes at the request of the USO. The original trip was entirely planned by the USO who along with AIG, Anheuser-Bush (sic), Coca-Cola Company and AT&T are the sponsors of the current tour.
Had Mr. Meltzer even read the press release prepared by the USO, he would have known that his statements were completely erroneous.
Mr. Meltzer is equally inaccurate in his portrayal of the discussions within the WWF offices. Not only was the content of those meetings inaccurately reported, but the feelings and actions of the participants were inaccurate as well.
Mr. Meltzer's reporting of the re-hiring of Sergeant Slaughter and the development of Slaughter's current position within the WWF are also totally inaccurate. Not only that, but the Ultimate Warrior versus Sergeant Slaughter match was set before the United Nation's resolution setting the January 15 deadline was passed.
Sadly, we are not surprised by Mr. Meltzer's inaccurate, innuendo-filled report. We are shocked that you and your editors have permitted such wanton and reckless reporting with such obvious bias, distortion, falsity and malice.
Frank, we've warned you repeatedly that this would happen. We even supplied Mr. Meltzer with a knowledgeable contact in our office, J.J. Dillon, to verify his facts and information. He did not even make a reasonable effort to check the facts. The WWF insists that you print a complete retraction and apology of equal length and prominence as next week's column. We, of course, reserve all our rights to seek any remedy at law or otherwise.
Richard K. Glover
Senior Vice President
Business Affairs and Development
There is a term that I live by, as every person within the wrestling business that has had any contact with me knows. It's called never violating a source. Anyone who reads the Observer knows that virtually never will anyone be quoted. When the Observer started, pro wrestling was a completely closed business and naming someone as a source for even the most insignificant story would risk a person's job, and even health in some cases. Things have changed to an extent, but it is understood by every member of the wrestling business that speaks with me that they will never be attributed. While that, in a sense, in theory would allow them to lie or distort stories, on most major story nowadays, I generally get both sides and every middle. Whatever names have been labeled to me by anyone, nobody has ever accused me of breaching a source.
Confidence works both ways, however. I speak, probably spoke is a better word, with J.J. Dillon on a regular basis since shortly after the last Wrestlemania. Of course that name was in the strictest of confidence. My girlfriend didn't even know. There were times that I had problems with WWF policy, such as continuing to advertise talent for matches that had left the promotion weeks earlier as in the case of Rick Rude. But I'd never violate a trust because I was didn't like something Titan Sports had done. The same goes with WCW, or any other promotion. I've been unhappy with things WCW has done at times, but I would never take it out on the company by violating a trust. Titan Sports violated a trust, in going public with J.J. Dillon's name, because somebody didn't like a column I wrote. Even if you disagree with the points made in last week's National column, as a columnist, good opinion pieces are not only allowable, but, in point of fact, encouraged.
While there are many times I haven't agreed with WWF policy, that never gave me an excuse to violate a journalistic trust. Because they didn't like a column I wrote, it gave them no excuse either. But let's not get sidetracked from the letter.
First off, as stated in the letter, the USO didn't turn down Hulk Hogan's tour as stated in the Observer and The National. It was the defense department. The correction is being made here, as it will be in my next column in The National.
If Hulk's tour wasn't being used to strengthen his image, how come, three days before the letter was written, Gorilla Monsoon on the Royal Rumble broadcast was trumpeting how Hulk wanted to go to Saudi Arabia and visit the troops? How come the same Gorilla Monsoon mentioned that starting Monday Hulk would start visiting military bases to be with families of those overseas. And if this was just a miscue that wasn't supposed to have been said, how come two days after this letter was sent, when the WWF tried to defend itself from the comments made in The National in a story in USA Today where they publicly announced Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter as the main event at Wrestlemania, the story once again pushed Hulk Hogan as a patriot and brought up the military bases he was visiting all week long to meet family members of those overseas? How come, many weeks back, after the U.N. Resolution was passed listing the Jan. 15 date for Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, I was told by someone within the World Wrestling Federation that this would be the biggest Wrestlemania ever because Slaughter was going to win the title, he was going to burn the flag, and Hogan would then go to Saudi Arabia and visit the troops?
At the time, there certainly was nothing wrong with Slaughter winning the title. You may disagree, but I don't think there is anything wrong with it today. Burning the flag is a very emotionally powerful way to get tremendous heat with a lot of people. I thought it wouldn't be in Titan Sports' best interest in the long run, and this was before shooting broke out. It was a feeling that I had discussed with many people in the company before the war started. But personally, I had no problem with it. I was worried it might backfire on them with the mainstream media, but I would not have made a case about the issue in the Observer unless and until that happened. I only had a small problem with Hogan going to Saudi Arabia. Yes, it's exploiting those overseas, and it is in this context because I was originally told of Hogan's trip as one of the major Wrestlemania angles. But there was no shooting going on. The DiBiase/Virgil angle was in worse taste. I want everyone to realize that all these things were planned well before shooting broke out. Vince McMahon didn't count on a war. Just tension. However in the last two weeks before the Jan. 15 deadline, war became an extremely likely possibility. Watch the tapes of the shows on television. If anything, things were made even stronger. Some things were toned down on Jan. 19 to where, in house, the WWF employees can say and at least try to believe that they toned things down. But the essence of the message sent to the marks wasn't . They did use the emotion and backdrop from the war, not only on Jan. 19, but repeated once again on syndication television on Jan. 26. They used people's very sincere emotions coming to the building as a way to set the stage for the heat they were building on Sgt. Slaughter and Hulk Hogan.
Had Mr. Meltzer read the press release by the USO? How could I have read the press release when Titan Sports has NEVER sent me a press release on anything. That's something Mr. Glover should have checked on before making his charge. As far as discussions within the WWF offices, on the days from when the war began until the Royal Rumble, I was speaking to different WWF employees several times per day. The constant theme was that most everyone was against still hammering down the Iraqi angle once the war began because of the poor taste. However Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson were behind it and refused to budge. I'm not saying they were the only two with that feeling. I heard details of very strong discussions trying to convince McMahon to change his mind. As for feelings being portrayed inaccurately, on Friday, I had discussions with two different WWF employees who were considering quitting the company because they were against the idea. One was a short discussion, another a very long one of someone wanting advice on the subject. Yet another source said that others had similar feelings. As it turns out, in the heat of tension, people reflect and consider quitting things. But when the tension dies down, it's easy to fall back into the normal pattern. Even though I was told, up to just about the last minute, that the title change was a go, I really believed McMahon wouldn't do it once he thought about it. But it's his right and changing the title wasn't a big deal to me. The outright exploitation of the war that went with it was more of a problem. The using people in this world in their time of need and exploiting them to create a stronger hero is the thing that personally made me outraged. But that was all covered last week.
Regarding the re-hiring of Sgt. Slaughter, many weeks before it was ever printed in the Wrestling Observer, I was told that Slaughter would be coming back, as a heel, and starting as Brother Love's guest at Summer Slam by an employee of Titan Sports. He asked me not to write anything about it at least until I heard it elsewhere. A short time later I was told the deal was off, because Slaughter wanted to be a face and Vince and Pat only wanted him as a heel. About a week or two later, I was told Slaughter agreed. If any of this information is incorrect, it would mean that it was a falsehood spread within the company. Since the basics of what was written above was already reported in the Observer, and as Titan Sports revealed, a Mr. J.J. Dillon was there to make sure in case of error, I corrected items in either the Observer or The National. He never brought it up, and on a regular basis myself and J.J. Dillon would go over mistakes.
Yes, Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter was originally booked before the U.N. deadline resolution passed. I never said it wasn't. My remark, that Glover misinterpreted and then claimed was false, was that the proximity of Jan. 15 to Jan. 19 was more a coincidence in regards to the hyping of the match then the original booking of the match. Please check tapes of interviews with Sgt. Slaughter and the Ultimate Warrior, particularly the last two weekends and tell me the deadline wasn't part of the hype for the match.
Now let's get to my credibility problem. I did not even make a reasonable effort to check the facts.
This was my "not even a reasonable effort." The Royal Rumble was Saturday night. By the way, and even though I made this clear last week, let me say again that I felt it was from start-to-finish the best WWF pay-per-view show ever. Sunday morning, I spoke with two different WWF employees about the show. Sunday afternoon, I wrote a rough draft of Tuesday's column. I contacted one WWF employee who is a good friend of mine, and read him, word-for-word, the column. His remark was, "it's 100 percent correct but Vince is going to hate you this time." I then contacted another employee, and while not reading it word-for-word, basically went over it again. His remark was, "I know you are sincere in your feelings so I'm not even going to ask you not to send it." I then sent the column, but it was still subject to last minute corrections if need be. I specifically wanted to talk with Vince McMahon before the column actually ran. On Sunday night, I called what I was given as a home phone number for Vince McMahon. Nobody answered. No answering machine. I then phoned Howard Finkel's home phone number and got his answering machine. Since I have never once phoned Finkel up at home (or at the office for that matter), he should have realized this was for no trivial matter. I told him it was very important that he called back. I wanted to discuss the column with McMahon as soon as possible. He never called back. As soon as I woke up Monday morning, I phoned J.J. Dillon's office number. Since it was Martin Luther King's birthday, he wasn't in. I don't know his home phone number. I told the secretary that it was urgent that he get back to me as soon as possible. At about 1 p.m., I called again to reiterate the message with the answering secretary. As I write this, Dillon has yet to return my phone call. If Mr. Glover, who wrote this letter, had researched what he had written as much as this reckless reporter, he certainly should have known my efforts to reach Mr. Dillon. If he had discussed this situation with Vince McMahon, as I'm sure he did, he should have known of my attempts to reach Howard Finkel as well. If Vince McMahon had good open communication with his employees, he also would have known about the other two conversations I did have with WWF employees to verify its accuracy. The phone bills, when they arrive, are available upon request (don't worry, every phone call will be white-outed except those specifically specified here with the names of the individuals).
Sadly, I am not surprised by this inaccurate, innuendo-filled letter. I am shocked that Titan Sports permits its Senior Vice Presidents to get away with such wanton and reckless letter writing of such a malicious nature. I'm writing this letter to express my extreme concern regarding Mr. Meltzer's "Grunt and Grin" column from Tuesday, January 22, 1991.
TitanSports has tolerated Mr. Meltzer's inaccurate, bias (sic) writing since the launching of your paper. However, yesterday's column has included the libeling of our outside business associates. I find this display of irresponsible journalism to be inexcusable.
Please be aware that I do not speak on behalf of TitanSports. But as far as the WORLD BODYBUILDING FEDERATION (WBF) is concerned, I must again say that I am deeply concerned. If this is the type of coverage the WBF can also expect, I must withdraw from participating in your article.
As a former purchaser of your paper, I am sorry to see a publication with such potential, allow this type of reporting.
Jonathan W. Flora
Manager of Corporate Marketing
World Bodybuilding Federation
Dear Mr. Flora:
Let me clear up what constitutes libel. 1) Reckless disregard for the truth. In other words, one knows the truth, then with that knowledge, lies in print. If I did that even once, I would be committing professional suicide. 2) Statements provably false. Mr. Flora, call J.J. Dillon. Ask him if, whenever he corrected me on a mistake, in the next Observer or The National, whatever the case may be, it wasn't clarified. 3) Malice. That column was not written to "hurt" Titan Sports. If I wanted to hurt Titan Sports, I would do a column interviewing an acquaintance of mine who sells steroids and get specific volumes of purchase for some of his clients. That story has been one phone call away for three years. But I would never do it because it would mainly hurt the victims, rather than the perpetrators. Tuesday's column was written because on that specific day there was absolutely nothing I could do better, in the long run, to benefit the professional wrestling industry. I admit, I didn't know it at the time I wrote it, but I do today. I would, however, be interested to have an impartial third-party with knowledge of both the pro wrestling and bodybuilding world to compare the quality of responsible journalism between my column in The National or the contents of the weekly Wrestling Observer Newsletter and the magazine "Bodybuilding Lifestyles." Even so, I truly hope for bodybuilding fans, like myself, that the WBF receives the same coverage in the National as the WWF. Honest reporting by one of the most qualified people capable of doing the job (but unwilling to do a job).
I just want to write and let you know that I thought your National column on the WWF was the best wrestling column I've seen. I'm just glad that nobody at The National is censoring your column. The WWF has it coming.
With all the heat stemming from Titan Sports this morning, immediately I thought it would be a politically wise move to not mail out last week's Observer. After all, the lead story was a humorous piece with some jokes in reference to Vince McMahon. There was a very stinging editorial that was very anti-Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan personally. There was even a reference to McMahon in the Dusty Rhodes first week as booker parody (the piece was written before the Royal Rumble, I might add). But I was proud of the issue. The last time I did a comedy piece, it was on Ric Flair, the same Ric Flair that Jesse Ventura referred to as "your hero Ric Flair." That Observer had digs at nearly everyone in WCW, even at newsletter writers, myself, The National and Brad Muster. Politically, the timing of this issue could have been trouble. But it was my favorite issue of the year.
I went to the WCW show at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium tonight. Wrestling can be a good release from a tension-filled day. The last two matches (Ric Flair vs. Sting and Barry Windham & Arn Anderson vs. Doom) were pretty good, although the latter only lasted 4:43. The Flair-Sting match was a lot better than their title change match in the Meadowlands, or even the title change in Baltimore, but not as good as their August match in the Meadowlands. It was also advertised on television and in the program as a tag team title street fight match. Everyone wore their wrestling trunks and it was a non-title match, won by the Horsemen. Unlike in New York, this time it was made specifically clear by the ring announcer that it was a non-title match. The crowd didn't seem as upset about it as in New York. But a lot of people were upset with the show, and with good reason. WCW charged $25, $17 and $10 for tickets and had eight no-shows. As originally reported here, and then denied to me by several in WCW (in this case more due to a lack of communication as anything else), then corrected here last week, but ultimately the original story was true, to save on transportation costs, they decided to leave the undercard guys at home and replace them with locals. Instead of Tom Zenk vs. Bobby Eaton, Terry Taylor vs. Michael Wall Street, Brad Armstrong vs. Moondog and Tim Horner vs. Bill Irwin, we got Jim Gorman vs. Matt Moon, Big Mike Huff vs. Earthquake Ferris, Bill "Superfoot" Monroe vs. Johnny Sawyer and Paul Brown vs. "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer (who got the best crowd pop of the entire card).
The replacement matches were all pretty bad, although Buzz Sawyer did a few outstanding things and Johnny Sawyer (a Buzz trainee, big guy, 280-ish who showed legit potential) and Superfoot was unintentionally hilarious because of Superfoot doing a martial arts gimmick and throwing such slow and weak kicks. He even once fell down trying to throw a kick. Steiners beat Freebirds in a match with good comedy and only a little wrestling. Luger beat Vicious via count out in a negative-one-star match. Nothing happened for 12 minutes. Flair pinned Sting in 22:38 with his feet on the ropes. Crowd was roughly 2,200 and the gate was about $38,000. The same crew was in Los Angeles at the Forum the night before and drew about 2,800 paid and $43,000. No return date was announced for either city. My gut feeling is, because of the eight no-shows, the crowds and gates will be a lot smaller next time.
To Titan Sports:
I reached Dave Meltzer after we spoke yesterday. He stands by every word of his story except the last paragraph, relating to the USO. As I assured you before I spoke with Dave, it is our policy to correct errors, and Dave will print a full correction in his next column.
While Dave much regrets the error, it is worth noting a couple of points. First of all, he never got any USO press release. Second, much of Dave's misinterpretation was caused by remarks made by Gorilla Monsoon on the air the other day. Dave took references to "they" won't let Hulk go to mean the USO, while, in fact, it was the Defense Department. As incorrect as this one item was, this hardly seems like an error of massive proportions. The WWF wanted Hogan to go to Saudi Arabia, and an agency of the government wouldn't allow it. The substance of Meltzer's reporting is correct.
Nevertheless, as you have suggested, he dutifully called Mr. Dillon twice on Monday to check these facts. Mr. Dillon has yet to return these calls.
The rest of the column concerns:
1) The circumstances regarding Sgt. Slaughter's return to the WWF
2) A report that there was a disagreement within the WWF about the portrayal of the Slaughter character vis a vis Iraq
3) Meltzer's own opinion of the matter
The last point needs no discussion here. Dave took a valid stand, one held by many, if not most principals at the WWF. The first two points were reported to him by several sources within the WWF itself. He also advises me that what he wrote was hardly a scoop within the wrestling community, that it has been a widely and passionately discussed item for some time now.
Ironically, it might interest you to know that Dave even pulled his punches. He had more detailed information about the arguments within the WWF, but demurely referred only to "underlings" trying to convince McMahon to change his mind.
Was the story favorable to the WWF? No. Does it represent a responsible alternative view? Absolutely. Does it represent a majority view, held within and without the WWF? Almost surely. Is the substance of the story accurate? Yes. Will the one error be corrected? Promptly, by Dave himself.
But, if you will forgive me, once again the larger issue here is that the WWF seems to think that it deserves a different standard of journalistic treatment than do other sports/entertainment entities. This is insane. THE NATIONAL, and Dave Meltzer in particular, are wrestling fans. So are many of our readers. We like you--lots--but you deserve to be treated just as other sports, as other entertainment productions. Newspapers cover teams, TV shows and theatrical productions, and wrestling should be handled no differently.
We would love to print Hulk Hogan's own views on the subject. We would love to hear Sgt. Slaughter's discussion of his return to the WWF. Does Mr. McMahon really believe, that contrary to Dave's article, the WWF was against the "turncoat" scheme? Fine, we'd love to hear that. But, of course, almost alone in the public world, WWF public personalities are unavailable to the press. This is our fault?
I have an idea that this story is not going to go away. Indeed, it is my intention to ask Dave to write a reaction story from other parts of the wrestling world for his next column. We'd love to have the principals at the WWF respond on the record.
The long-standing offer to do a major piece on Vince McMahon and the WWF in advance of Wrestlemania also remains on the table.
With all good wishes,
One thing is kind of sad. I really like J.J. Dillon. The first time he contacted me, it was simply to correct me on an item that was in The National. It was not that major of a thing, and there really was no way to correct it in The National, so I corrected it in the next Wrestling Observer. Anyway, he was specific with me from the beginning. This is not J.J. Dillon of the World Wrestling Federation to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer. This was J.J. to Dave. He wasn't a spokesman for the company. He couldn't be quoted (like I ever would quote anyone in the Observer to begin with). He was very helpful and the relationship was the best for both sides. I had a place to check information. He could correct false information. But this was all to be in the strictest of confidence.
There was one problem. One charge, and a valid one, was the WWF claim that I often printed things without checking them with Dillon. True. It was mainly results of matches or opinion matter. I tried to check all personnel moves with him. I always asked him for updates on various injured wrestlers, how serious the condition is and how long they would be out. In the entire time I dealt with Dillon, he was never dishonest with me, at least as far as I could tell. Well, at least when it came to wrestling matters. Once, and this was in the Observer, I listed the reason for Rick Rude leaving as being because he was unhappy with a Summer-Slam payoff. I'd heard it from many people in wrestling, but again, part of the problem both with my own work and also with some within's wrestling's honest negative reaction to the work stems from the beast itself. Covering wrestling is like covering nothing else, because there really is so much false information passed around. The Rude story was completely false, by the way, but worse, from my own perspective, is that I should have known. As it was pointed out, PPV payoffs don't come for three months after the event. I was aware of that, but forgot it. If you check back to my correction, I took double blame for that one.
My dealings were all cordial with Dillon, with maybe one exception that comes to mind. This was several weeks after Rick Rude had quit the WWF. They were not only continuing to advertise him on television weeks after he was gone, but they were even still announcing his name for semi-main event matches at arenas for upcoming shows many weeks after he was no longer with the company. That was dishonest advertising and it went on for weeks, so I mentioned it in The National. He was mad and started with the notion that I was picking on the WWF and that he knew I was biased toward the NWA. I told him that if The National was around last December, I would have crucified the NWA for its dishonesty in continuing to advertise Sid Vicious for Starrcade when they knew he wouldn't be there for nearly one month prior to the event. And I did crucify them in the Observer for that. A few weeks back, I believe it was just prior to the WCW Meadowlands show, we talked for more than an hour. We talked about a lot of subjects, including a lengthy discussion on the role of newsletters. He tried to convince me to hold off on printing title changes in The National until the Tuesday before the event aired on television. They were kind of embarrassed because when Kerry Von Erich lost the title to Curt Hennig, it was in The National (and in every other daily newspaper wrestling column as well). The WWF, however, was continuing to have Von Erich defending the title. Well, about two weeks after the title change, and a few days after the mention in the National column about the title change, the WWF had shows at Madison Square Garden and the Rosemont Horizon--in two of the National's largest circulation cities. The National offices got several calls, and I got many calls as well, asking if Hennig had won the title, why did Von Erich wear the belt, and if Von Erich wore the belt and won, then why didn't I print the following Tuesday that the title had changed back. There was enough of a response that I had to talk about the title change philosophy. Dillon said that I was making a joke out of the titles, and ultimately hurting wrestling by printing about title changes before they aired on television. I said I was simply reporting, and they were the ones who had to take responsibility for not exposing their own product. Remember, the Madison Square Garden card, with Von Erich as champ, was on cable and satellite and available around the country either live or on a very slight taped delay. It was also available in Rochester, N.Y. with a dish, and thus would expose the business to anyone in Rochester who had seen live or read in the paper about the title change. This was a cordial discussion I might add. Ultimately, I told him the problem the WWF had to realize is that it wasn't dealing with one person. It's not me. Every wrestling radio show in the country reported on the title change. Every newsletter, and every wrestling column in a daily paper. The WWF policy is to make it appear that the television show is happening live, but for trying to perpetuate that when it isn't the case, it is the promotion, by its own choice, that has opened itself up to the embarrassment. That's why I tried to warn WCW, which is adopting the same policy because of what Dusty Rhodes learned with the WWF, that it is making a mistake. With WCW the mistake is larger, because it is mainly a more well-informed and harder core crowd. It's already been reported in many daily newspaper wrestling columns and all the newsletters that Arn Anderson beat Tom Zenk for the TV title. On Wednesday night, at the Clash, in front of an audience of millions, if Zenk shows up with the belt, column readers of mine and all the others will write and ask what gives. The only answer is--WCW doesn't recognize title changes that occur on television tapings until the match airs on television. If that exposes the business, you can't blame the reporter, because WCW, like the WWF, is in control of this situation. We can only report. And I told Dillon, and I meant it completely, that it genuinely pained me to have to write about the Von Erich-Hennig situation in November, just as it will pain me next week to have to write about the Zenk-Anderson situation if Zenk is announced as champ on Wednesday's Clash.
Anyway, Dillon understood, or at least he said he did, that I really loved the wrestling business and didn't want to embarrass the WWF with Hennig-Von Erich situation. But I could only report on the news, which in this case, they were in complete control of.
But when the you-know-what hit the fan this week, the WWF violated our trust, a two-way trust at that. But in reality, there was no trust to begin with, because he misrepresented himself from the start. It was not J.J. Dillon, representing Titan Sports, it was just J.J. Dillon. But as Glover's letter said, "we even supplied Mr. Meltzer with a knowledgeable contact in our office, J.J. Dillon." Either Dillon lied about my attempts to contact him on Monday, the earliest possible time I could, which admittedly, was after the article was sent but well before time I could submit last-minute edits on it. Or Dillon told the truth and Mr. Glover, or an intermediary between the two, trumped up the charge. Later I was to learn that the WWF had been constantly trying to get my column out of The National from the very beginning of the paper. Ironically, this was at the same time J.J. Dillon was being my friend.
To Vince McMahon:
This letter is being written for a dual purpose. The first is regarding the January 28 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which you may or may not have had the opportunity to read. I made some very strong comments concerning the current situation within the World Wrestling Federation, in particular what I see as a hypocritical action concerning the character of Hulk Hogan's current USO tour and his being part of a wrestling angle that uses war hysteria as its backdrop. The comments were directed at both yourself and at Mr. Terry Bollea. I want both yourself and Mr. Bollea to know that I am inviting either of you to have an open forum if you wish to make any comments concerning the matter. You are more than welcome to have as much space you would feel is appropriate in an upcoming issue if you wish to comment on the matter.
The second concerns the column in the January 22 edition of The National. As you no doubt know by now, I was instructed by Mr. Frank Deford to do a follow-up article, tentatively slated for January 29. Obviously I would like comments for either yourself or a company representative as part of the story. Because of the nature of deadlines, it would be most helpful for this discussion to take place today, but please feel free for yourself or a representative of yourself to contact me at any time. I will make an attempt to contact Mr. Dillon concerning this matter later this afternoon.
There are many other items that I would like to discuss with you concerning future coverage of the World Wrestling Federation. I would certainly hope we can both set aside time in the near future to discuss these matters.
One of the single biggest complaints, at least based on what got back to me, within the WWF offices on myself was basically that I had no right to write about the World Wrestling Federation. As silly as this sounds, that was actually among the most vociferous arguments. The other complaint from within the promotion is how could I write about wrestling when I've never worked in wrestling. That complaint really doesn't even dignify a response, but it does dignify a story.
Until this week, I doubt there were six people in the world who knew this. Pat Patterson does. Vince McMahon does. Terry Garvin does. I do. So does the IRS. I used to work in pro wrestling. For the World Wrestling Federation, as a matter of fact. It was many years ago. It was strictly in confidence, though, just like the strict confidence between myself and J.J. Dillon. In no way did it involve or in any way affect the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. In no way did it involve anything underhanded. I was simply to keep the office abreast of all happenings in Japan, such as dates of tours, who is booked on the tours, how various wrestlers on those look and what was going on in general. This was a deal between myself as Lou Dondero. He insisted the whole deal would be off the record. Dondero told me, and whether it's true or not, I sure don't know, that he, who wasn't working for Titan Sports (although he had in the past, and in fact, he Pat Patterson and Terry Garvin go back to the 1960s with Roy Shire), came up with the idea, and took it to Vince McMahon, to get Dave Meltzer to work for the World Wrestling Federation. He told me Vince hired him for that specific job. I had received, before that time, two other offers to work within wrestling but couldn't accept either because both would have involved actually promoting, or helping promote shows, and under those circumstances I would be damaging the credibility of this newsletter. Dondero didn't know the specifics of those two offers, but did know about them. It was very clear nothing would be done that in any way affected the newsletter. Whatever speculation you might have, or that I might have had, that there is more to this than that, was never even hinted to me. Dondero did say that eventually, they wanted me to do their "WWF Magazine." He seemed genuinely surprised when I was disinterested, since the circulation of "WWF Magazine" was much larger than the Wrestling Observer, particularly at that time. At that point I realized that whomever, and he represented himself that all this was coming straight from McMahon, didn't understand me at all. It was similar to last year, when one of the tabloid mags wrote a wrestling column, I think it was called Bernie Basher, and several people in the WWF office, a few who I thought would have known me personally well enough to know better, had me near the top of the listed of "suspects." After all these years, I would write tabloid magazine garbage? Anyway, several months after the meeting with Dondero, I guess whomever was in charge of the WWF Magazine must have left or been let go. I was contacted by someone else in the WWF. Technically speaking, I was asked if I was offered the spot, would I be interested in the spot. There was no actual offer. Technically more of an offer to see if they should consider making an offer. I think summer was coming up and my primary thought to myself was how much money it would take to keep me away from Santa Cruz. So I never answered the question, just changed the subject and brought up other names to that individual who might be interested.
The relationship didn't last long. There was no bitterness or real parting of the ways. Everyone that I dealt with at the time was always friendly with me. And I was always enthusiastic when dealing with them. I wouldn't do such a thing now. If I thought it was wrong then, I wouldn't have done it, but I have to admit to some misgivings.
This sounds corny. Just on the premise that some of you may think I have done something wrong, I'd like to alleviate your conscience. I really don't need the money. I've rationalized this in a way that people that I care about have accepted. I'd like to propose a trade to Vince McMahon. I helped your company with Japan information several years ago. In exchange, in 1991, you provide me with an on-the-record interview, not for The National, but for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I'll send a check back for the total amount I received while working for Titan Sports. There are two stipulations. One is, the readers of the Observer have to verify, with a ballot after the interview is printed, by a 50 percent or better margin, that they believe the answers are completely honest. If the readers fail to vote 50 percent or better, but I believe the interview is honest, I'll also send the check back. Based on actions this past week, it seems you may need the money worse than I do. But I think we would all feel better in the morning if you did the interview, I wrote the check, and you forwarded it to the charity of your choice. The second is, it has to be by May 1.
Thursday night, I started calling various people within the pro wrestling community for comments. Many were far more vehement than I was concerning the war exploitation in the Royal Rumble and leading to Wrestlemania. While I haven't spoken with one person from within pro wrestling, and this includes several World Wrestling Federation employees who didn't think the scenario was in poor taste, some felt that it was within the bounds of allowable poor taste in pro wrestling. But there was a lot of discussion. Anyway, I had my theme for the story, and that is, just what constitutes allowable poor taste in regards to wrestling and using the current situation as a backdrop for that discussion. Many angles would be brought up, and to bend over backwards to be fair, every other angle in the story was going to involve a promotion other than the World Wrestling Federation. While the subject has been discussed in these pages many times, there has never been a discussion of it within the mainstream media. We'll use this current angle as just an example. But maybe we should examine racial and xenophobic angles as well. Just because something has been done in the past, even many times, doesn't make it right. Just because something has never been done in wrestling doesn't make it wrong. I guess, ultimately in most cases, the public should decide. That's the true litmus test of an angle. But are there exceptions? But even if it makes money, is the exploitation of a death going too far? Is the exploitation of racism or xenophobia going too far? Just because it has been done in the past doesn't make it right. As Bruce Mitchell has said and written, maybe it's time the entire pro wrestling business grows up.
I spoke with one representative of the WWF on Tuesday and with Jim Herd on Thursday and brought up this scenario to both. What if we were to link Missy Hyatt with a top baby face, let's say Lex Luger for example. Spend time building the angle and the alliance of a beauty and beast. Anyway, let's say, to build up a pay-per-view match with a hotshot angle since Ric Flair vs. Luger has been done so many times, you have Ric Flair forcibly rape Missy Hyatt. No, obviously you don't really do it. You just say that it happened. It happens on soap operas all the time. And if someone complains that you've gone too far, you can say, "Well, it could have been worse. We could have shown the attack on television." My gut feeling is Luger out to get revenge for that circumstance would be about as heated an issue as possible. It's never been done, though. As Wade Keller wrote in the Torch, while wrestling isn't real, it doesn't portray itself as fake enough be able to pull an angle like that off.
A funny thing happened on Friday. I spoke with Frank Deford about the quotes I had received. He was impressed enough to suggest we change it from the regular wrestling column to a major story in the paper for next week.
A few hours later, I was pulled from the story. The first reaction. Total relief. Then reality set in. My girlfriend called me a spineless wimp for accepting it calmly. Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh paper, who is ironically doing a major story on the same subject, was outraged, telling me there was no legitimate rationale for the decision. Here's the situation. To do the story right, I would need to talk with Vince McMahon and get his side of it. There was absolutely no way Vince McMahon will talk with Dave Meltzer. He would, however, talk to The National. I had several hours worth of mail to go through. Tons of letters from readers.
Afterwards, I went to the post office and while in line, I don't know why, but I thought of Bruiser Brody. I got home and wrote this letter.
I've been thinking about what we talked about earlier today, and after a lot of very careful thought, feel there are several things we need to talk about.
Initially, I didn't mind being taken off the story. Actually, I was somewhat relieved. But I think you have to understand some things about my own background and position within the pro wrestling world.
I started doing the Wrestling Observer in 1983 when there was no such thing as legitimate wrestling journalism. At the time, it wasn't either. Since that time, my example has created a major underground industry. I don't know how many wrestling newsletters there are now, but there are dozens and dozens. Some aren't very good. A few are excellent. The National column is very much incidental to me. It is something not done for money, but for a purpose. The main reasons I agreed to do the column were twofold. First, it was a challenge. Second, and most important was to prove something. For years I had been told that pro wrestling fans can't read. The media has always insulted them. To a degree, the stereotype has fit. But as with all stereotypes, it was generally an unfair portrayal. In 1985, I wrote a book on pro wrestling. Several publishers loved it, but said that since wrestling fans can't read, it would never sell. My success of doing a mainly word-of-mouth publication that is graphically hideous, has typos, no art at all, microscopic print and writing that is good only sporadically speaks for itself. The reason is because there is a large segment of wrestling fans who want to read about wrestling in the same way baseball fans, football fans, soap opera fans and movie fans want to read about their stars. As both the Observer and the column in The National evolved, both have become more and more serious journalism. What has happened this past week should be more than enough proof of that.
At the very beginning, I was completely intimidated being on The National staff. I've written for several newspapers before, including The Oakland Tribune all through college with a staff that includes several people who are now with Sports Illustrated. but this was different. This wasn't one or two hot-shot writers, this was an entire newspaper of hot-shot writers like Scott Ostler and yourself. It was very important to me, that as the "wrestling" writer, because of the very perception of wrestling itself, that my work be at least of the calibre that it belonged in the same newspaper as yourself and Scott Ostler and the like.
My impression after one year has been that I absolutely belong. I've always recognized the problem with space limitations because wrestling has to be kept in its proper perspective in the real sports world. This year, a local newspaper gave me an award from its editorial staff as the best sportswriter in the area for my work in the Wrestling Observer.
I recognize my own limitations, but within my business, there is nobody that does or can do a better job. Some can write better. But none have the business background, the contacts or the understanding of the wrestling business and mentality.
Anyway, what this long-winded thing is leading up to is this. There is nobody who can do the story we are talking about, as in more qualified, understanding the entire situation and with more contacts throughout this business than myself. Personally, I would be perfectly happy having John McGrath do the story. I would rather go to the beach tomorrow. But professionally, I have a problem. I've spent eight years becoming the very best in my field. This is a unique story and it's on my turf. It would be a better story and more complete with comments from Vince McMahon. That is something I can't deliver. However, and I feel very strongly about this, Vince McMahon should not dictate to Frank Deford who covers Vince McMahon. In fact, what he wants, especially considering what has taken place over the past week, should be the least of your concerns. Whatever reason he has for not wanting to deal with me are his. Basically, I've decided to do the story. If you understand my situation, you would understand that I have no choice. Luckily, I have a venue. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I can do it in The National if you wish. Since that was the original idea, I would much prefer to do it for The National. And I would greatly like to discuss this matter with you as soon as possible.
I'd also like to have the name of the wrestling column changed from Grunt'n'Grin. It is demeaning to the many people who buy the paper each Tuesday specifically for that column. While pro wrestling is often humorous and tongue-in-cheek, the column has mainly been very serious. I think simply "Pro Wrestling" would be best for all concerned. It's not really that big of a deal, but I think that it's only fair.
I very much appreciated your letter. It was very thoughtful and even moving.
Some responses and one clarification, and then we'll talk on the phone:
First, I'm delighted to learn how successful you have been. That is really a wonderful success story.
Next, no, you don't have to be intimidated in National company. You're a fine writer and an outstanding reporter. Whatever you're doing, don't change. You belong in the paper.
I think you're being too sensitive on the title. Wrestling is fun and the play off Grunt and Groan seems apt, but if you don't like it, let's get a new one. Pro Wrestling, though, is too drab. How about No Holds Barred? Think about it while you loll on the beach.
Finally, and the one note that left me uneasy. Vince McMahon is not dictating anything to us. Just as he can't stop you from writing about him, I can't stop him from not talking to you. If he won't talk to you because you are allegedly anti-McMahon, let's see if he'll talk to a totally impartial journalist who has never even heard of Vince McMahon. This is not an insider story. Getting the fresh look is common with us and others. It is the way to go here. We are not shunting you aside or denying you. You work on the story will be credited. I think this story can possibly be a big one, with national implications and there will be more to it after this.
I would like to see you write your column next Tuesday on the wrestling press. The newsletters. How the various organizations deal with these periodicals. Why the organizations don't want them around. I could make a good quote here. It's a good column idea.
And keep one last thing in mind. Only one person on The National wanted a wrestling column. Luckily for you, that was me. But I never have to defend Dave Meltzer anymore. Your work and the popularity of your column have surprised a lot of people who dealt in stereotypes.
Saturday afternoon in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, General Adnon came to the building. He was told not to come out of the dressing room. He wasn't going to be part of the show tonight. The same thing happened that night in Des Moines.
I guess I should have some wrestling news in here.
Okay, here goes. Michael Wall Street walked out last Monday on WCW before a TV taping at Center Stage. Basically, he didn't like the terms of his new contract. I heard the problem was more the length of the contract (it was a short-term thing, like six months) rather than the dollar amount. Those in the company believe there is still a chance he'll reconsider. Alexandra York will be kept around. Probably at the Clash on Wednesday, they'll do an angle that will lead to eventually transferring her to Terry Taylor. Seems, despite popular belief, Dusty Rhodes isn't going to bury Taylor.
Jumbo Tsuruta won the Triple Crown title from Stan Hansen on Jan. 19 in Matsumoto.
Famous wrestling promoter Nick Gulas passed away Monday at the age of 76 at a Nashville, TN hospital. No cause of death was given. Gulas promoted wrestling from 1947 through 1980, before selling his territory, basically after losing a promotional war with Jerry Jarrett.
FMW's tag team tournament final on 1/15 in Sendai drew a sellout crowd of 4,351 with The Gladiator (Mike Awesome) & Mr. Pogo winning the tournament beating Atsushi Onita & Sambo Asako.
Bill Dundee won the Texas title in the 1/25 tournament in Dallas beating Gary Young in the finals before 406 fans.
Max Andrews Syndication was unable to confirm any plans to syndicate Joe Pedicino's GWF in the future.
Indeed, Jerry Jarrett was using Andrews' name in kind of a baby face administrator spot at the Friday night card at the Sportatorium.
The World Bodybuilding Federation has a press conference 1/30 at the Plaza Hotel in New York to announce the signing of the various bodybuilders they have under contract and probably to announce its first bodybuilding show. According to one participant, the show will be in June. Names that are expected to be at the press conference are Samir Bannout (a former Mr. Olympia for Joe Weider), Aaron Baker, David Dearth, Barry DeMey, Mike Christian (who placed fourth at the past Olympia), Mike Quinn, Vince Commerford, Gary Styrdom, Jim Quinn, Danny Padilla and Tony Pearson. Sources within the bodybuilding world are saying that the WBF is claiming to have Shawn Ray (third at the Olympia) and Richard Gaspari (fifth), but others are saying Weider still has them so we'll know on Tuesday. The big rumor in bodybuilding is that Lee Haney (Mr. O the past seven years) will make a surprise appearance and announcement he's with the WBF. If Haney and Ray are with the WBF, combined with the other names that are basically confirmed, then McMahon has basically stripped Weider of almost every key player. The March 1991 issue of "Iron Man" has a story that on Nov. 28, Ben Weider (Joe's brother) talked with Ted Turner and the two came to a verbal agreement that Weider is going to take over publishing Turner's Wrestling Wrap-up magazine and turn it into a first-rate and more impressive newsstand magazine than the current WWF magazine. If the WWF uses bodybuilders as part of its wrestling shows (to guest pose, not wrestle or be in angles), Turner will have access to Weider's bodybuilders to guest pose at wrestling shows (even if he has access to them, why would he want to use them? There's no purpose to be gained except copying McMahon). In addition, Weider, who has many European contacts and has promoted many huge bodybuilding shows in Europe, may help get the ball rolling for WCW wrestlers to tour Europe.
This is not a complete rundown of the 3/21 Tokyo Dome card, but here are all the matches that involve WCW talent as made official last week: Ric Flair vs. Tatsumi Fujinami for the WCW title, Sting vs. Keiji Muto, Lex Luger vs. Riki Choshu, Doom vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & Big Van Vader, Barry Windham & Arn Anderson vs. Masa Saito & Masa Chono, Steiners vs. Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki, Tom Zenk & Brian Pillman & Tim Horner vs. Takayuki Iizuka & Shiro Koshinaka & Osamu Matsuda and El Gigante vs. Black Cat.
The Blue Blazer (Owen Hart) returns to the UWA in Mexico on 2/17 to resume his feud with Villano III over the WWF light-heavyweight title.
Kokina & Samu & Fatu won the big main event on 1/20 at El Toreo in Naucalpan beating Dos Caras & Canek & Mil Mascaras when Kokina pinned Caras in the third fall. Because of that, the 1/21 Canek vs. Dos Caras match in Puebla for the UWA title was changed to a six-man with The Hawaiian Beasts (as Kokina-Samu-Fatu are referred to in Mexico) vs. Caras & Villano III & Canek. They had a rematch of the 1/20 main event on 1/27 at El Toreo in the UWA's 16th anniversary card.
WCW was considering adding a Mexican match to the 2/24 Wrestle War card.
Fritz Von Erich agreed to work a WWF show on 2/11, being in Kerry's corner to offset interference of Adnon at Reunion Arena in a flag vs. flag match. I believe these matches end with Slaughter walking out via COR and the American flag being waved.
Lots of problems regarding Herb Abrams UWF group. Many of Abrams' checks for the New York City tour bounced. Abrams has made good in cash, as of Sunday, for most, but not all of the money stemming from the bad checks. The check for Bill Anderson had a stop payment on it rather than an insufficient funds, with Abrams claiming he did so because Anderson and Louie Spicoli visited the Titan Sports offices during their week in New York. The latter item was confirmed from the other side. Apparently Anderson and Spicoli's contention was they did visit the Titan office, but it was during their free time during the week. Anderson has always worked as a ring announcer for the WWF cards in Southern California even when helping book the shows and working under a mask for Abrams. Anyway, depending upon which side you choose to believe, both wrestlers have either quit or been fired by the UWF. Those close to Anderson and Spicoli said Abrams is all tied up in legal problems with Vince McMahon as well and spending much of his money fighting legal fights which may be why money is so tight right now. Plus, there still is no real source of income coming in. The check to the Royce Hotel also bounced, so the 2/8 show there is off, although Abrams was going to cancel anyway. John Arezzi, who helped promote the shows on the last tour, was offered the chance to stay on, but only on a commission rather than salary deal and declined, so he won't be promoting the shows. The Penta Hotel show for TV tapings was moved to 2/15. All appearances of Rick Rude, Honkeytonk Man and Greg Valentine were edited out of the Sports Channel TV show that aired this weekend. Any mentions in commentary of any of the three names were also erased from the show. In addition, all mentions of the term "sports entertainment" on TV was erased out (and Abrams loved to use that term) because McMahon claims he has that term trademarked as well.
Apparently there are major problems within the UWF in Japan as well. Apparently Akira Maeda failed to get sponsorship to start a new group. Shinji Jin worked a deal with SWS to get both himself and Yoshiaki Fujiwara in, and most expect Masaharu Funaki to join up as well. Nobuhiko Takada, Kazuo Yamazaki and Yoji Anjyo are wanting to form a new group, but apparently without Maeda. So Chris Dolman, who agreed to a big money deal with New Japan, then didn't sign, but went with Maeda instead, seems to have been totally out of the Japan wrestling scene.
It's been speculated that Mike Rotunda will become a New Japan regular and form a tag team with Brad Rheingans.
Chris Chavis is apparently going to come in to the WWF under the name "War Eagle." .
Dusty Rhodes is not going to host World Wide Wrestling after all. Gordon Solie will be brought in to do color for Tony Schiavone.
Billy Jack Haynes has been negotiating with WCW.
Jesse Ventura is negotiating to work for Joe Pedicino's GWF as a television announcer.
Eddie Gilbert won't be working for Pedicino after all.
Pedicino's group is now said to be getting off the ground in April. Most of his original core of talent, however, won't be sitting tight and aside from Bill Eadie and Jim Cornette, it doesn't appear that any of the originally mentioned major names are a lock right now.
Royal Rumble appears to have done better than a three percent buy rate, which is by far the highest of any previous RR show. That would mean a PPV gross of approximately $8.9 million
FROM THE MIAMI HERALD
By Alex Marvez
With its perpetuation of racial and gender stereotypes, the World Wrestling Federation has never been known for its high moral standards.
But WWF owner Vince McMahon has hit a low by attempting to correlate the group's happenings in the ring with the Persian Gulf War.
The WWF is planning to make Hulk Hogan vs. Sergeant Slaughter the main event of Wrestlemania VII, the WWF's annual mega-card, March 24. The main issue won't be the WWF title, which Slaughter took from The Ultimate Warrior Jan. 19 at the Royal Rumble.
McMahon is centering the issue around "patriotism." Slaughter has hired an Iraqi manager (Sheik Adnon), received a pair of boots he claims are from Saddam Hussein and has denounced the United States.
Hogan will visit families of soldiers in the Middle East at the request of the USO. He probably will have an altercation with Slaughter Friday on a WWF telecast on NBC. While Hogan's motives might be good, they are being exploited by the WWF. McMahon wants to present war as a laughing matter.
Worse, wrestling fans might forget the tasteless promotion of this feud because they desperately want to see Hogan begin his third WWF title reign. Maybe McMahon will reconsider his angle and present a Wrestlemania match with more class.
Make your thoughts on the issue known by writing to McMahon at the WWF headquarters, P.O. Box 3857, Stamford, Conn., 06095 or call 203-352-8600.
Actually, my own opinion is McMahon doesn't want to present the war as a laughing matter. Just as a matter to use to build heat for his top heel.
There is a message and a lesson to all of this. The lesson is very valuable, which is why I'm writing this for people like Wade Keller, Paul MacArthur and others who will all be in this position some day. What really happened this week was this.
The World Wrestling Federation attempted to exploit the Persian Gulf war to create an emotionally charged backdrop for the main angle at Wrestlemania. Whether that is right or wrong is up to all of you to decide for yourself. But it is a subject worth discussing. It will be the major focus for all wrestling newsletters for several more weeks. I wrote about it because it was major news.
The war itself, having nothing to do with professional wrestling, is a strong emotional issue right now. Ultimately, if the World Wrestling Federation was taken to task for and accused of exploiting the war, the WWF would have no defense for except that they have no limits to what they will do to make money. However, that defense, valid as it really may be and as honest as it may be, can't be used publicly in the real world during an emotionally high-charged time. The real world I'm speaking of are people like television station managers, advertisers and building managers, all of whom are in a panic about tension because of the war already, having nothing to do with pro wrestling. This latter reason was the very danger expressed to me by WWF employees between Jan. 15 and Jan. 19 about why, for as much business as human reasons, for Vince McMahon to change the story-line. The odds of a major media backlash were small. But they weren't that small and the results of that backlash would give the WWF, and even more unfortunately, professional wrestling in general because so many equate the WWF with pro wrestling, a terrible black eye. The WWF is already a very successful company. They shouldn't have needed the money that bad to risk the very reputation of the promotion for a short-term angle, when another angle could be nearly as successful and have no risks attached.
My column in The National, which should have forced the WWF to examine the situation, was designed more as a warning signal. My real thoughts were saved for last week's Observer.
Since the World Wrestling Federation had no defense it could use, it tried to take the focus off the real issue, and put all the focus on a side issue. Dave Meltzer is a biased reporter. A reckless reporter. An outright libelous reporter.
The extreme panic-like reaction by Titan Sports to the column caused Frank Deford to realize there was a much bigger and more significant story here. That's why, for the first time since I've written for The National, Deford gave me the topic for a story.
What happened next I can only conjecture. I do know the reaction from those with Titan Sports to Deford was strong. But they managed to succeed in changing the main focus of the issue. They attempted to portray this as Dave Meltzer vs. Vince McMahon. Obviously, if that's the case, Dave Meltzer can't do the story. It also hides the real issue. The real issue is that Titan Sports' entire promotional theme for this year's Wrestlemania is based on exploiting the Persian Gulf war. The original idea was just to exploit the Persian Gulf tension. After the plan was in effect, a war broke out. A last minute change would have been difficult, because of all the long range plans going into Wrestlemania. But the change was possible. WCW was forced to change its main event for a pay-per-view show in February three weeks before the show, and did it successfully enough that it was one of its most successful (in terms of buy rate) PPV shows ever. Wrestlemania was 11 weeks away when shooting broke out. It was months away when the U.N. deadline was passed. If Vince McMahon wants to use real world events and correlate them into his wrestling angles, and after all, reality often does make the best angles, then he has to realize he has absolutely no control of real world events. Sometimes things will happen in the real world, the one he doesn't control, that affects his wrestling world, which he does. But after watching the Royal Rumble, here is a question. Did McMahon pretend those events weren't taking place, which would be saying that the WWF lives in its own world, a surrealistic cartoon world? Or did McMahon admit the events were taking place, and then used them to build heat for his two main characters.
A change wasn't made between Jan. 15 and Jan. 19 because either the war situation was too good not to exploit, and from an emotional standpoint which would turn into a financial one, it was the best possible backdrop, or simply it was stubbornness. There are few people in this world, outside of the wrestling business, who understood the situation better. The WWF absolutely has the right to do it. I, and others, absolutely have the right to report on it. And just as the WWF will, undeniably, reap in a fortune at Wrestlemania by doing it, it also has to accept any critical judgement for its actions as entertainment producers. The company also has to accept any repercussions or judgement from the outside world stemming from its decisions. Dave Meltzer vs. Vince McMahon was a work. But it wasn't until Saturday night that I realized it. Exactly like Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter. Titan Sports tried to work an angle to camouflage what is a shoot--not a wrestling angle. On Friday, Titan Sports successfully pulled off the angle, short-term. Dave Meltzer isn't writing the story in The National. He's not even writing it for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. He's been sidetracked into writing this newsletter instead.
Ultimately, Frank Deford was right, however. Any criticism in a story written by myself would result in more of a response that would sidetrack the real issue. What of the possibility that I would go overboard to prove just how unbiased I was? I think I could do the best story possible. But with another author's name on the story, even the suggestion that it was being written by somebody anti-Vince McMahon can't be brought up.
Vince McMahon doesn't know Dave Meltzer. He, when reading this, will try to figure how much of this week's issue is a work and how much is a shoot. So will many others in the wrestling business. However, when Frank Goodish reads this, he knows. So does Wade Keller. So does my girlfriend. So do the two other people who know exactly who they are. And so does J.J. Dillon. Maybe not right at this moment, but he will tonight, when he lays down to sleep, and he will again, tomorrow morning, when he looks in the mirror.