Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
July 18th, 1988
ADRIAN ADONIS BIO
"Although Kelly, 40, had wrestled on several smaller promotions in the U.S., Adonis was the only one of the three wrestlers who had carved out a major name in the U.S. Originally from upstate New York, Adonis, whose real name was Keith Franke, started wrestling in 1974 in British Columbia as Keith Franks, and later, "Gorgeous" Keith Franks. He wrestled mainly in Canada and the Pacific Northwest with a few stops in California under that name, before becoming Adrian Adonis in West Texas in 1978. Renowned as a tough guy, Adonis used to take challenges from the fans while in Texas, offering $100 to anyone in the audience who could last 10 minutes in the ring with him. I heard Adonis used to wrestle against several fans per night in real situations, and none lasted more than around two minutes as Adonis had a good amateur background in wrestling. He made his first national name in the early 1980s in the AWA holding the tag team title with Jesse Ventura. Adonis was always plagued by weight fluctuation throughout his career, even in the early days. The weight problems took him out of main events by 1985, although he reclaimed some of his lost main event status by the middle of 1986 taking the gay act as 'Adorable' Adrian Adonis, the role he was best known for. He feuded with Roddy Piper in late 1986 through Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome, in which he lost his hair. He was fired shortly after that match, reportedly for dress code violations. The previous fall Adonis was fired a first time, but rehired about seven weeks later. He came back to wrestling with the AWA later in 1987 doing the gay act, but that association was severed when Adonis broke his ankle in January of 1988 in Minot, ND. The injury kept Adonis out of action until late May, when he began a five-week Japan tour. Adonis slimmed down to around 300-325 (he probably was perilously close to 400 pounds at his heaviest in the AWA) and went back to his black leather jacket gimmick in Japan, and reformed his tag team combination with Dick Murdoch. He wasn't the old Adonis, who was one of the best workers in the business, but even at 325 he took amazing bumps and put on a solid show, even if several publications noted his stamina problems. He had just returned a week earlier from the Japan tour and went to work with McKigney for some independent spots. Adonis was born September 15, 1953, was married with two daughters and lived in Bakersfield, California."
-- Owen Hart debuted wearing a mask as The Blue Angel. Dave is told Owen's matches are mostly stalling with none of the spectacular moves he is known for, which is what people expected.
-- 7/8 in Redding, CA drew a sellout 2,500 fans headlined by One Man Gang vs. Koko B. Ware. 7/9 in Chico, CA drew a sellout 1,200 fans for the same lineup. 7/7 in Toledo drew 3,500 fans headliend by Savage vs DiBiase. 7/3 in Warwick, RI drew 620 fans headlined by Powers of Pain (which everyone thought was the Road Warriors) vs The Bolsheviks. 6/26 in Toronto drew 10,000 headlined by Savage vs. DiBiase. 7/1 in Niagara Falls drew a near sellout 5,500 fans headlined by Rick Rude vs Jake Roberts.
-- "I finally got to see Brother Love after all the commotion. This is probably the most talked about gimmick of the past few months with most people hating everything about it and a few thinking Bruce Prichard does a good job but still hating the idea. I've only seen one, with Rick Rude. Prichard is real good, but it reminded me of a bad Saturday Night Live sketch. They've got one good idea and created a sketch from it, but don't have enough materialt o keep the sketch from getting boring after their one good idea is shown. I could see this getting very tiresome in the long run. The one with Rude was good by WWF standards, which means bad but simplistic enough to get the gimmicks over to fast-food mentality fans --- in other words it seemed effective. As for those who take offense to it because of the way it parodies religion, just remember that entertainment is a parody of life and the WWF is a parody of entertainment. Besides, that's exactly the reaction they want you to have."
-- Savage is booked to headline against Andre the Giant in August.
-- Dave thought the Great American Bash was a good show, but not a great show. Of the six big shows presented by Crockett of late, Dave would rank this third, behind Clash I and the second night of the Crockett Cup, but ahead of Clash II, Starrcade, and the Bunkhouse Stampede. "It's too early to tell how much they may have helped or hurt their cause with the show. I've heard no complaints about anybody's work rate, and if I had, those complaints wouldn't be valid. Even forgetting the fact these guys had worked Chicago the night before, Pittsburgh the night before that, Tampa, Miami, etc., from the top to the bottom, everyone worked well above their normal level. The heat from the live crowd, which was a legit sellout of 14,000 fans (sold out several days early) and $208,000 gate, was exceptional. The card did peak too soon. It seemed the most heat was in the first match, due mainly to Sting. Anyone watching the show with even casual attentiveness could see that Sting is the hottest act in the promotion, but for some reason he's not getting pushed as the 'hottest act'. I won't complain about his positioning on this card, because since they had never done Flair vs. Luger, it meant a lot more than Flair vs. Sting would have in the same spot, and Rhodes vs. Windham is a natural match-up because of their long-time association. And Sting would have been buried in that triple cage monstrosity, but still, the heat never hit the level later in the card that it had in the opening tag match."
-- Dave doesn't really know what to make of the Flair/Luger finish. He has been told the live crowd hated it, to a point where it went far beyond any screwjob the NWA has done in the past. The ending was a Roy Shires booking trademark and when this finish was used in the old days, fans would get mad at the athletic commission, not the promotion, "... but I don't think fans differentiate between the two, and at a show like this where fans travel from around the country, a very high percentage knows it is the promotion that is responsible for all outcomes. They accomplished what they set out to do, keep Flair as champion and make it like Luger should have won, theoretically building up rematches for the fall with the idea that 'in your hometown the commission doesn't stop matches for blood and if the match was held in any other city than Luger would be champion today.' Dave says what made it so strange was that Luger wasn't really bleeding much when they stopped the match, and that there is more blood in the Memphis studio every week.
-- The card:
Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson vs Sting & Nikita Koloff: "You know what would be a tremendous finish, is if, just once, they would work a match exactly like this and call 10 seconds left, etc., and have the guy actually submit with one or two seconds left. Whoops, sorry for that hallucination, I forgot completely that wrestlers don't submit nowadays. I was having flashbacks to my childhood." Dave says overall, the match told a story better than any match on the card. ***1/4
Midnight Express vs Fantastics: Dave says Cornette deserves an Emmy for his performance getting put into the cage. (My note: I love him upping the amount of his bribe offer when the referees won't accept it.) Dave adds that as great as Paul E. Dangerously is, he's not anywhere in Cornette's league as an overall performer, and says not even Jimmy Hart in Memphis was as good as Cornette is now. They worked all new spots for the most part, which mostly looked good, but a few looked like they could have used another run through. Unlike Flair, Dave says, the Midnights and Fantastics worked hard to do a completely different type of match than they had been doing around the horn, a lot of which was Japanese and Mexican style. There was less heat than for the opener, probably because the highspots were so unfamiliar according to Dave. Best match on the card at ****. (My note: Anyone who wants to watch this should not watch the commercial version. It's edited down and doesn't do the match justice.)
Triple Tower of Doom: Dave is told this is better than the World Class match, and the wrestlers deserve credit because they were all working hard to get the gimmick over. Fans at ringside couldn't see most of the match. The cameramen were having tons of problems because it was so hard to cover. Nobody was clear on the rules, and the match went too long. Dave loved the finish, but thinks Jimmy Garvin should have made his own save instead of Hawk doing it. **3/4
Barry Windham vs Dusty Rhodes: The crowd was less into this match than any match on the show according to Dave. Too much stalling and no heat, and Ron Garvin's heel turn got cheered. Dave credits Windham for taking some incredible bumps. Dave is told Al Perez, Ron Garvin, and Larry Zbyszko are going to become a three-man team managed by Gary Hart. *1/4 (My note: I think Dave is underselling this match, as it's one of my favorite Dusty matches and a really good Windham performance.)
Ric Flair vs Lex Luger: "I think the best way to put this match is that if anyone but Flair had done this match, I'd say it was a very good match. However, it was the same collection of predictable spots and Flair's offense is predictable and so are his bumps. Luger, on the other hand, had his offense limited to just a few moves (hip toss, bearhug, press-slam and clothesline) and he screwed up some of the spots. To his credit, Luger went 23 minutes of decent-to-good pacing and never blew up so he's gotten in a lot better shape. He showed some leaping ability once or twice that we'd never seen from him before. But he is still a long way from being even an average quality wrestler and his timing and moves in several spots were that of a green wrestler. At one point, at the 19 minute mark, Flair went on the top rope for his predictable bump, but Luger didn't get up, and Flair had to stand there and look like an idiot for 30 seconds waiting for Luger to toss him. The whole thing looked sad. In other spots it looked like two independent guys who were trying to imitate a Flair match but just not getting the moves down right. Still, there was good heat, good pacing although not great. Individually, Flair was his usual great self that we all take for granted (but don't you wish he'd do a different match every once in a while?). The finish saw J.J. post Luger, who bled. A few moments later Luger had Flair up in the human torture rack when the commission stopped the match, even though Luger was actually bleeding very little. The crowd did think the title changed hands and several of the face wrestlers (Sting, Nikita, Williams) ran to the ring for the celebration before the official announcement was made." **1/2
Overall thoughts: "Good points of the show were the workrate of the wrestlers, as stated before. The camera work was better than in previous big shows, although in the Triple Tower match the camera work was distracting, although one person who understands TV a lot better than I do said that would have been virtually impossible to do justice to no matter what. With the exception of the first match, they didn't use their pat predictable endings and the fans had to be surprised at each finish, so the booking was well thought out at least in theory. I'm still wondering if the finish to the last match wasn't a negative in the eyes of the general fan. As I write this, the reaction to the show was generally positive although nobody was raving about it being the best card of the year or anything of the type. I hope they nuke that triple tower, and ironically they are bringing it back on 7/30 at the Capital Centre for Road Warriors-Sting-Luger-Dusty vs. Horseman-Sullivan which is a horrible idea because you can't work a good match in that thing, and putting all the big names in it ruins the undercard and you've got your best heel workers and hottest faces in a match in which they can't do much anything in. From what I was told, in the Philadelphia area, they had a PPV malfunction so fans in that area didn't get to see the show. I think they should have used Bob Caudle for backstage interviews between matches, particularly while they were building up and taking down the tower. Actually the tower wasn't supposed to take that long to put up, but their was some malfunction with the door to the top cage. They also should have had a film clip building up the 'history' of the Flair-Luger thing and interviewed both while they were lacing up their boots in the dressing room to build up the heat for the main event. The tag title change called for a Cornette post-match interview and they should have done a lot better job with Ronnie Garvin in the heel dressing room and that should have had an interview as well. I really think it would be nice if the guys had a day or two off before a big show like this to freshen up, although nobody was complaining about anyone's workrate. Since I haven't researched any PPV figures yet, I do think they did a good job on TV these past few weeks of building up the show. The Sunday bit on TBS acting like it was a telethon and showing all those members of cable companies nationwide was such an ingenious idea that it couldn't have come from the Crocketts. Unfortunately for the Crocketts, the Braves baseball game went 13 innings and 45 minutes of their last minute hype was pre-empted. The time limit announcements were a negative (several have already called on this one, it's not something I came up with to nit-pick). All the matches had adequate time, none were rushed and the show was certainly long enough to where nobody felt ripped off (the five matches had almost exactly the same amount of total wrestling time as the 12 matches combined at Wrestlemania III for example). However they could have announced 45 minute time limits for the early matches because 20 minutes seemed too short (of course that would have necessitated coming up with a new finish for the opener). In the Flair-Luger match they should have announced a 60 minute time limit since the time limit was a moot point in reality since they weren't going broadway with it. Saying TV time limit made this sound like a TV taping rather than the biggest show of the year. If they felt they couldn't do that because everyone knew the second showing was beginning at 9:30, they could have just announced that if the match goes past 9:30 that they'd have to delay the second showing a few minutes. Since they weren't going to do it anyway, they had no problems with satellite time, etc. For those watching who were wondering, yes, Tommy Young was scared to death on top of that third cage. I liked the analysis provided by the announcers booth both in the last-minute hype and also on the card, although it seemed to me that at times Jim Ross was trying too hard to sell every match as a legendary classic (particularly the triple tower match). And finally, they have got to make a change in World champion. Ric Flair is the greatest of our time (although right now I'd rank him No. 3 in the world behind Owen Hart and Ted DiBiase) and nobody will deny he's been a tremendous champion for most of the past seven years. He is still the best worker in the NWA, however unless he makes a major change (babyface turn) he is so stale in his current role against the same contenders working the same match and always getting beat but keeping the title on screw-jobs that the title simply doesn't mean what it could. I had thoughts that Luger wouldn't have been a bad replacement short-term, but he's not ready. He's improved to where he's passable and apparently his stamina is no longer a problem, but even against the best wrestler in the world, in a single, he's not capable of producing the great match needed from a World champion. I'm not sure Sting is the great worker that a lot of fans think he is (still needs to add moves to his repertoire, but he does great work when he's in with good people), but he is a lot better than Luger and he should be the guy thrust into the championship spotlight unless a Flair turn is made which at least would enable Flair to have fresh matches with Windham, Tully, Arn and Ron Garvin. So the overall verdict is it was a good show on TV and an excellent show live. At the same time, I don't see any 'coattail' effect from the show (any positive momentum other than help in alleviating their cash flow problems) and I do think that for a big PPV show, fans deserve a real ending to the main event."
-- 7/5 in Miami drew 4,800 for a Bash show headlined by the Road Warriors vs Ivan Koloff & Russian Assassin in a scaffold match. 7/6 for the Tampa Bash drew a disappointing 5,500 fans. 7/8 in Pittsburgh drew an $80,000 gate
-- Correction: Charlotte crowd was 12,300, which is a good crowd, but still down from years before.
-- Early reports based on Southern numbers only indicate a five percent buyrate for the Bash.
-- Paul Ellering is training for a triathlon in September.
-- Former Dallas Cowboys star Harvey Martin is doing color commentary with Marc Lowrance.
-- Buddy Roberts is claiming on TV he owns the name Freebird and wrote "Badstreet USA" and that Hayes owes him money, and that if he or Gordy try to call themselves Freebirds he will sue. Dave loves it!
-- 7/8 in Westlock, Alberta drew 300 fans and a $2,000 gate headlined by Chris Benoit vs Johnny Smith in a ****1/2 match. "By the way, this is the most underrated feud in North America as everyone talks about Savage vs. DiBiase and Midnights vs. Fantastics but these guys are in the same league. The bout went 25 minutes and would have been a five-star match except the first four minutes were pretty slow."
-- 7/10 in Edmonton drew 350 fans and a $3,000 gate.
-- Brian Pillman re-injured his tricep within his first few days back and is now limited in what he can do.
-- "After watching the latest tape from here I've got to make one comment about the announcing and producing by Ed Whalen. Now you've got to understand the background and there is a letter in the letters page which touches on this subject as well. Whalen, as a legitimate broadcast figure in the market, in some ways has a problem with doing wrestling for the obvious reasons as how can anyone have 'credibility' doing editorials or whatever when they are shilling selling wrestling tickets. So Whalen doesn't heavily hype, in fact he doesn't hype at all to protect his credibility in the legit media. He doesn't build heat or really get into the matches, although at rare times, such as during Owen Hart's matches, he would occasionally make perceptive comments when comparing Hart with old-timers like Earl McCready and Edouardo Carpentier. However, this promotion is in a position where it has to build up its characters, build heat into its matches, etc. The WWF show in Calgary last week had tons more heat than a normal Stampede card, even though a Stampede card features much better matches. The reason is the WWF's characters are over and by and large have more defined personalities and give better interviews even though as a rule the workers here are better. But part of the problem with the heat is Whalen, who won't 'sell' any gimmicks or angles because it would hurt his personal credibility. It's a position I can sympathize with, but it is hurting the promotion. Several times Whalen's interviews with the heels come off as bad because he'll pull the mic from them in the middle of their spiel when he doesn't like what they are saying or if they get carried away. He's kind of a censor to keep things from getting ridiculous, but it's that ridiculousness that often gets characters noticed. Anyway, why I'm bringing this up is Owen Hart's last match in Calgary a couple of months back, after the bout I believe Makhan Singh and Gary Allbright held Owen (Allbright came in wearing a Jason outfit but Owen unmasked him) and Gama (wearing a hockey mask) showed up and was about to throw fire in Owen's eyes, but instead of showing us the angle, the cameras cut away to Ed at ringside and we later saw interviews with Bruce Hart & Pillman yelling about throwing fire and all that but the viewing audience never saw it. Several times I've seen angles simply not aired on television, so how can you get the promotion fired up when you aren't showing your angles on TV? With Owen Hart gone, this group needed something to heat it up, and I'm not saying it was a great angle or it would have tripled attendance, but whomever the book is literally has his hands tied when an angle that leads to future main events doesn't air on the TV show."
-- 7/15 began a new series at Korauken Hall.
-- Hiroshi Hase injured his right leg while training to return, so he'll be out a little while longer.
-- The latest on Inoki's 8/8 return is a tag match teaming with Backlund against Choshu and Fujinami. "I'm often critical of Inoki and let's face it, he's like too many who won't step down when it would be better for the promotion to build up younger talent, however he does deserve credit for at least keeping himself in condition." Dave goes on to say Inoki has a blood disease which makes his stamina awful, but he keeps himself looking good.
-- Lots of heat on Tatsumi Fujinami. He keeps getting put over because he keeps threatening to leave. He hasn't renewed his contract with New Japan and is a free agent. Baba and Inoki have a deal not to raid each other, so Fujinami couldn't go to Japan even if he wanted to, and while the initial Maeda match would draw a huge gate in the UWF, his prospects would be limited after that. There are thoughts that Vader was beaten too soon since they want him to be the next Hansen or Brody, and also that Choshu needs a big win and Fujinami keeps winning instead.
-- 7/2 began a new series at Korauken Hall
-- Dave is told Kenta Kobashi is All Japan's best candidate for Rookie of the Year
-- Meltzer is told Akira Maeda is hotter in Japan right now than Hulk Hogan could ever dream of being. Tickets went on sale for the 8/13 show in Tokyo priced at $80.00, $56.00, $40.00, and $24.00, and all advanced tickets sold out in less than six hours. The gate is somewhere in the $500,000 range, putting it in the top seven live gates in the history of pro wrestling. Even Hogan vs. Andre at the Silverdome didn't do $500,000 that quickly. "The most amazing part of this is the UWF is a group with no television, no showmanship involved in its matches, a two-man front office and only six full-time wrestlers. They have violated every given rule for promoting wrestling, and yet have succeeded beyond what anyone thought was possible for them. I saw the second UWF card from Sapporo on tape, and I guarantee that the vast majority of readers would be bored to death by it. The kicks aren't nearly as vicious as the 84-85 UWF, there was no playing to the crowd, the crowd behaved more like it was watching a tennis match than pro wrestling and in a sense it was almost like watching amateur wrestling but with submission holds. My first reaction watching the Maeda vs. Takada main event was that there was no heat at all for the match. The only sounds in the entire building were the heavy breathing of the two competitors except for an occasional 'ooh' and 'ah'. My first reaction was that there was no heat, but it was actually that silent intense heat which is so rarely ever achieved. Ironically, the reason for their success is this is the only promotion in the world in which the general public, and I mean close to 100% of the public, believes it is totally legitimate, and because of that, Maeda comes off as the 'best' legitimate wrestler around. Ironically, that image is as much a manipulative work as anything else in the business. But even with this amazing success, it's hard to see how they can sustain interest without television to build up their wrestlers to where the general public would know them by sight and with their inability to make new match-ups because of only having a few opponents for Maeda. But until the time comes when their match-ups get stale and when they no longer are the hottest ticket in Tokyo, they will be making a ton of money. What may keep them alive for a long time is their concept of just running one big show per month rather than lots of spot shows. From what I'm told, they wouldn't be able to draw as well in the smaller towns as All Japan and New Japan because the magazines and newspapers which cover wrestling heavily don't filter down to the smaller towns in Japan that well."
-- Dave calls a recent Crush Girls vs Jumping Bomb Angels match ***3/4, and still a disappointment, as the JBAs still haven't recovered from their WWF stint and are carrying too much weight.
-- Talk of Chigusa Nagayo retiring seems to be fading away. Dave says she's still the best worker they have. Lioness Asuka has lost some popularity, but is still the second best female wrestler in the world. Bull Nakano is a strong third and number four is a distance fourth, whoever that would be.
-- Dave says Ken Timbs is the lead heel in Mexico right now, doing a USA bit with the flag and the fans hate it.