Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
August 8th, 1988
-- Dave says no explanation has been provided for his murder, and if anyone other than Jose Gonzales knows anything, they aren't talking. Wrestlers are starting to talk of boycotting Puerto Rico, either out of fear, or out of respect to Brody. "I'm not here to make any suggestions to anyone about how to run their business, but a few things need to be said. To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that there was any kind of conspiracy in this death. If you examine the situation, any conspiracy theory doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. I didn't want to get into this, but I'm pretty much forced to now. With the exception of the family and friends of Bruiser Brody, and I guess the family and friends of Jose Gonzales as well, nobody has suffered more from this recent tragedy than the Capital Sports promotion. They have been raked over the coals in the media. They have lost several wrestlers. They have had their image tainted terribly in their country. Fans have been turned off to wrestling in that area. And they have lost two of their biggest drawing cards. Now, please explain any conspiracy theories. If any evidence comes up to the contrary, then I think this group should become the wrestling equivalent of South Africa and be boycotted, but that doesn't seem to be the case. What the promotion is guilty of, if anything, is simply bad judgment in how it handled the night of the stabbing and the next night, particularly in allowing Gonzales to work. But it is pretty well established that there was no indication that Brody wasn't going to make it on Saturday night. Still, allowing Gonzales to work did raise a lot of questions. Let's face it they were under an incredible amount of stress, as many of us were, and plenty of us, myself included, were guilty of some bad judgment in the days after Brody's death. Running Carlos Colon out of business isn't going to bring Bruiser Brody back. Perhaps, if anything, this death should make the promotions realize that allowing things like knives and guns in a locker room is insane policy. This is not terribly unusual in a few U.S. promotions right now, and there is no reason for it, and this death should serve as a warning to promotions to ban dangerous weapons from their locker rooms I'm not telling anyone to go to Puerto Rico or not to go, but what I am saying is, if a guy does go there, let him make his own decision and don't pressure him not to by invoking the name of Bruiser Brody."
-- "First off, the line-up for the Summer Slam PPV show from 8/29 at Madison Square Garden is pretty much a dud." Dave says they are really counting on the main event to carry the show. Also, Demolition vs Hart Foundation and HTM vs Beefcake is being billed as the last time they will ever wrestle, which makes Dave smell a title change. There is also going to be a Brother Love show with a wrestler who has never appeared in MSG before. (My note: There were very strong rumors at this point in time that it would be Ric Flair jumping ship.) The WWF wants a 6.0 buyrate. Dave says it has been proven that a show with a strong main event and a weak undercard draws better than a show with bunch of good matches and no real clear main event, but that a national PPV show should be stronger top to bottom than this card.
-- Curt Hennig started as a heel.
-- Gene Okerlund is back. He and Vince apparently have huge blowups about twice a year. This year, Gene quit after the Slammys and came back the next day. His contract is too lucrative to stay away too long, but Vince wants to tone down his role to just doing PPV updates and NBC. No more on-the-road interviews, and no more hosting All American Wrestling.
-- 7/25 in MSG drew 11,500 fans headlined by Andre/Duggan in a lumberjack match with tons of heat. 7/16 at Capital Centre drew 9,000 fans headlined by Savage/Beefcake vs DiBiase/HTM.
-- 7/23 in Philly drew 9,115 fans and $116,035 headlined by Savage vs DiBiase. 7/23 in Nashville drew 10,000 headlined by Andre vs Duggan.
-- Prime Time Wrestling was the number four show on cable for the previous quarter, with a 3.0 rating in 1,328,000 homes. All American is #9.
-- No Holds Barred is scheduled for a May release. "Could it be that Hogan will win the title just before the movie's release?"
-- 7/26 in Lubbock, TX drew 350 headlined by Tito Santana vs Ron Bass. 7/16 in Santa Paula, CA drew 648 fans headlined by Ken Patera vs Hercules. 7/17 in Hershey, PA drew 3,500 fans headlined by Savage/Beefcake vs HTM/DiBiase. 7/22 in New Haven, CT drew 6,000 headlined by Andre vs Duggan in a lumberjack match. 7/22 in Las Cruces, NM drew 1,002 headlined by Santana vs Bass.
-- Things are at their shakiest point ever in the NWA. There is a major cash flow problem and they had to take out one (or two, depending on the source) loans of over $300,000 to pay some overdue bills. Balloon payments on contracts were due in May, and have not yet been paid, and none of this money will be used for that. Sources say TBS floated the loan(s), because they were about to start losing television in markets. The money will be considered a down payment if/when a TBS sell takes place. They also borrowed money from a Charlotte bank, putting up an entire month's ad revenue as collateral. "Unless this promotion suddenly hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth, they are history unless a sale is made." Dave says there is no evidence a turnaround is coming.
-- Dave says the originally reported Bash buyrate is an example of "McMath". Originally reported as 3.5-4.0, the buyrate was closer to 2.0. The show was not a money loser, but it is not enough profit to save the company, and not nearly as much as they were hoping for. Dave talks about why the buyrate was lower than expected, and says the top reason has to be that the talent is so stale, and that the matches didn't really capture the public's attention like Crockett thought they would. Dave thinks they have also cried wolf too many times with bogus finishes at house shows. But the bigger reason, Dave thinks, is that TV ratings have plummeted in the last quarter. The Saturday evening TBS show has dropped to #11 on cable, when it used to always be in the top three, and for the first time ever, they are behind the WWF's television ratings on the USA network. TV viewership dropped 23% in three months. (My note: !) "No matter how good a job the promotion does in selling the event on television, they are not going to convince those who aren't watching the show in the first place that the PPV is something they should see." Dave has heard arguments that low TV ratings are due to good weather and people not being home, but Dave says this argument doesn't hold water, because All American Wrestling on USA has been unaffected, and it airs Sunday at noon. Dave says TV ratings are the most reliable barometer of fan interest. Houses may not draw because of bad local economy or a variety of factors outside of a promoter's control. But even if you do great angles and live shows, it makes no difference if fans aren't watching TV. The Bash is doing well, as expected, but if TV ratings haven't gone up, it's just hot-shotting. Dave says later in the issue that Main Event is #18 on cable. Clash II was the fourth highest rated cable show of the quarter, trailing three NBA playoffs games on TBS.
-- Dave says several key NWA players may leave before the sale is completed, which would make it far harder to start the ball rolling back in a positive direction. He expects several main event regulars to start leaving in the next few weeks. Every NWA wrestler is now a free agent because their contracts have been violated, so anyone can jump anytime they want. The WWF's plan is to wait for wrestlers to come to them, because they may be economically forced to jump, which gives the WWF the advantage in negotiations over the wrestlers. Many wrestlers are talking about working Japan regularly, but Dave says it's tough to get over at a level in Japan where you can just work tours and not need any other dates. "A few guys have done it and maybe a few more guys could do it, but not too many can, and it doesn't seem to be a viable alternative for more than two or three of the NWA guys."
-- "A few things are necessary, but I don't expect them to take place. First, wrestlers have to be pushed by their marketability today not their marketability in 1986. An influx of three or four talented guys given a major push is needed badly. The television shows have to be completely reformatted. This business of 90 second squashes and trying to get every key guy to do one interview per show has been a failure. The idea of trying to sell a package deal to fans at live shows of "see the NWA" rather than pushing hard a few certain stars has not worked either. You need two or three guys who are pushed heads and shoulders above the rest, not 15 main eventers all of whom get the same general push. Ric Flair desperately needs a new role, as do the Road Warriors, and I'm not certain they are the right people to build around anymore."
-- Robert Gibson quit this past week after getting paid $1,100 for a week's worth of Bashes. Gibson never wanted to come back in the first place, but Ricky Morton really wanted to return. Morton is still around, but is going to have to decide soon if he wants to stay in the NWA or keep the team together.
-- 7/18 in Columbus, GA drew 4,200, the largest crowd in three years, for a 5 1/2 hour card which included a TV taping and a David Allan Coe concert. All the TV matches were squashes, but the highlight was the Midnight Express/Horsemen confrontation. The MX are going babyface and are starting to get cheered in several cities already. Dave says Jim Cornette is in a tough spot because babyface managers wear out their welcome awfully fast. Non-squash matches on the card were Sting vs Mike Rotunda in a ***1/2 match, Fantastics vs MX & Cornette in a **** bunkhouse match, Dusty/Nikita/Doc vs Flair/Windham/Tully in a double countout, and Road Warriors vs Ivan Koloff & Russian Assassin in a scaffold match. It took a half hour to put up the scaffold for what was an 8 minute match.
-- 7/21 in Cincinnati drew 4,000 headlined by a ***** War Games match with Sting/Luger/LOD/Nikita vs Horsemen & JJ.
-- 7/17 in Charleston, WV drew 6,500 headlined by Sting/Luger/Nikita/Doc vs Horsemen in a cage. Cornette missed the show due to problems with plane connections, so Stan Lane told the audience he was in Louisville getting an outstanding citizen plaque.
-- 7/23 in Philly drew 7,520 and a $167,800 gate headlined by War Games.
-- 7/22 in St. Louis drew 6,000 and an $81,000 gate headlined by Dustin/Nikita/Luger/Doc vs Horsemen in a cage.
-- 7/28 in Daytona Beach drew 5,500 headlined by War Games and Luger/Windham in a Texas Death match. It was said the guys were starting to show fatigue from all the long matches at this show.
-- 7/31 in Detroit drew 7,000 fans to see The Sheik. The main event was Dusty/Sheik vs Murdoch/Sullivan going four minutes and everyone bleeding at the very beginning of the match. Dusty pinned Sullivan for the win. After it was over, Sheik turned on Dusty by going after him with some type of object, but Murdoch turned babyface and saved Dusty. "So we've got the return of the Texas Outlaws in Dusty's never ending search of a gimmick that will get him over as the top babyface in somebody's eyes other than his own." This show charged $50 for ringside tickets that would allow you to meet the wrestlers. Only Brad Armstrong and Jimmy Garvin showed up, which left 150 very angry fans.
-- There are cards scheduled for 9/30 in Winnipeg and 10/1 in Brandon, Manitoba.
-- Learning The Ropes has been cleared in 22 of the top 25 markets and is scheduled for a 9/26 start. It will be shown on 77 stations, which is impressive for syndication.
-- 7/30 at Capital Centre drew 8,500 headlined by a Horsemen/JJ/Sullivan vs Road Warriors/Ellering/Dusty/Sting/Luger Tower of Doom. 7/29 in Houston drew around 6,000 headlined by an 8-man cage match.
-- 7/25 in Memphis drew a $20,000 gate headlined by Lawler vs Kerry Von Erich in a **** 60-minute draw.
-- They keep hinting at turning Brickhouse Brown, as Robert Fuller will make racist comments then apologize. There was a Stud Stable party on TV and Fuller gave Brown a watermelon. "They also had a cake and for the first time in the modern history of pro wrestling, a cake appeared on TV and never made it into anybody's face."
-- 8/1 has Lawler defending the AWA title against Buddy Landell
-- Curt Hennig has been "suspended for life". He actually started with the WWF.
-- Jimmy Valiant is headed in.
-- They are claiming the Rock & Roll Express will be back. They are also planning for a show at the 55,000-seat Metrodome on 11/4 or 11/5 with ZZ Top doing a concert, which Dave says not to believe until you see.
-- Willie B. Hurt had his 14-year old son come out for an interview. Paul E. Dangerously came out and started questioning his parenthood and the kid punched him. Eddie Gilbert then came out and attacked the kid to start a Gilbert/Hurt feud. (My note: I am stunned that this didn't cause more controversy. Is this on tape?)
-- Bob Orton is coming in for a few dates.
-- Bam Bam Bigelow is coming in for a few dates, and is expected to challenge Lawler for the AWA title in the main event of the Road to Birmingham show, which will also have a Ken Wayne vs Danny Davis hair vs hair match.
-- The past week had a few sellout crowds and was the most successful week since Eddie Gilbert started booking.
-- Buddy Landell and Hector Guerrero are gone from this group.
-- 7/17 was a TV taping in Knoxville. In the first hour, they announced Terry Gordy is reinstated. The RPMs came out with a cake to celebrate one year as tag champs, which Dave thought was hilarious since USA Pro started in February. The Rich cousins came out and you can guess the rest. There was also a $1,000 vs the mask match with Dundee vs The Bullet. Bullet had Dundee in the sleeper but Gumby hit Bullet with a bag of silver dollars. The ref noticed the silver dollars in the ring and awarded the match to Bullet. They announced that Dundee was fined $10,000. Later in the taping, Dundee was badmouthing Bullet in an interview. Bullet went after Dundee and Gumby, but Dundee got Bullet from behind and painted his back yellow. There was also a 45-minute draw between the RPMs and Rich cousins, and Lawler vs Wendell Cooley, with Lawler stalling and using foreign objects and playing total heel, yet still being cheered.
-- The final co-promoted with WCCW card was 7/16 in Kansas City. They actually charged $50 for ringside seats on a show where Lawler, Kamala, Embry, Jeff Jarrett, the Simpsons, Steve Cox, and Jeff Gaylord all no-showed. They advertised a Lawler-Kerry match they knew would never take place since Lawler was booked in Las Vegas that night all along. The top matches were Kerry Von Erich vs Mike George, and Michael Hayes vs Buddy Roberts in a DUD cage match.
-- Vince Apollo vs Mike George will be the big feud when they restart, since DJ Peterson left for the WWF. Peterson was already going to leave for Stampede anyway, then the WWF showed interest.
-- "Cactus Jack Foley, who is one of the top Northeastern independent workers, may show up in the Central States."
-- Billy Jack Haynes' startup appears to have folded. THey drew 65 in Gresham on 7/8.
-- A new team is headed in called The Beach Boys.
-- 7/31 in Marietta drew 450 fans headlined by Tommy, Johnny & Davey Rich vs The RPMs & Bill Dundee in what was called a phenomenal match and Buck Robley & Larry Latham vs Bob Armstrong & Mr. Wrestling II.
-- Stan Hansen is getting the megapush. He leads fans every night in a Brody chant, which has gotten him way over.
-- The 8/29 Budokan Hall show is now being billed as the Brody Memorial.
-- The next series is from 8/20 to 9/9 and has Abdullah, Tom Zenk, Jimmy Snuka, Jerry Oates, Johnny Ace, Rocky Iaukea, and a newcomer called The V.
-- 7/29 at Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo drew 5,000 fans for an outdoor show where it rained all day, headlined by Inoki vs Vader, with Vader submitting to Inoki's armbar. Inoki will now face Fujinami on 8/8 in Yokohama.
-- The next series is from 8/26 to 9/22 with Vader, Bob Orton, Karl Moffatt, Scott Hall, Ron Starr, Great Kokina, Luis Mariscal, and Black Tiger.
-- 7/15 saw a series open with a sellout 2,050 at Korauken Hall.
-- Inoki returned before a sellout 2,760 in Nagano on 7/16. The shocker of his return was that on 7/21, Choshu scored a clean pin over him. This was such a big deal that it took the entire front page of Nikkon Sports the next day. Dave says the match was really good with both guys looking much better than normal. Inoki was out to prove he isn't washed up and did a German suplex on Choshu.
-- "From recent tapes, I'd rate Fujinami No. 2 in the world behind Owen Hart. The guy is just fantastic in carrying Vader and selling for him. He also makes Choshu look fantastic as well. The Hart-Koshinaka title change was a match of the year candidate as well."
-- Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey vetoed a House bill to deregulate pro wrestling. His veto message: "While the bill does continue certain limited restrictions on wrestling promoters and contestants, the activity would become largely de-regulated. I note that this fact is contrary to the recommendations of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee auditors in their review of the Athletic Commission under the Sunset Law of 1981. The audit report found that 'continued state regulation of professional wrestling appears necessary to protect the safety and welfare of both participants and members of the audience.' Information compiled by the Department of State indicates that approximately 30 other states currently regulate wrestling and several others plan to begin regulation in the future ... Finally, I must object to the reduction of the gross receipts tax on wrestling exhibitions in the absence of some additional source of revenue to support the other duties of the Athletic Commission which would remain after deregulation of professional wrestling. The Department of State has undertaken a long overdue program to reform the Commission's operations. This includes substantial improvements in the training of the Commission's regional personnel and various other steps to improve the safety of events held under the Commission's jurisdiction. House Bill 1729 would result in a revenue shortfall of approximately $80,000 this fiscal year, seriously inhibiting the Department and the Commission in their efforts at reform."
-- The Saturday night TV wrestling block on WATL Ch. 36 in Atlanta has been dropped. Joe Pedicino is moving the block to Ch. 69 starting Labor Day Weekend and will have wrestling from 8pm to 3am every Saturday night. (My note: Interesting how weekend wrestling is now a thing of the past.) The block will include WCCW, Pro Wrestling This Week, CWA, Southern, CWF, "Learning The Ropes", USA, Carribean, and the new FLAIR women's wrestling group. Pedicino signed a one year contract and has 100% creative control of the wrestling block.
-- "Paul Orndorff is still alive. No matter how many denials get printed in the wrestling magazines and bulletins, I still average at least a half-dozen letters weekly telling me that Orndorff died from any one of a half dozen different causes ranging from getting hit with a bowling ball to AIDS."
-- Maeda's opponent for the 8/13 UWF show is Gerard Gordeau, a karate fighter from Holland. Japanese magazines are hinting that Maeda will wrestle Bob Backlund in December. The UWF is expected to sell out every single show for the remainder of the year.
-- Larry Hamilton, brother of Jody Hamilton (The Assassin) is running for Buchanan County sheriff in Missouri as a Democrat.
-- John Foley, better known as manager J.R. Foley, died of lung cancer on 7/24 in Calgary.
-- Iceman Parsons was asked to tour South Africa and turned it down.
-- Johnny Ace showed up for FCW. (My note: Ha!)
-- 7/14 JWP match between Devil Masami and Shinobu Kandori went nearly 33 minutes and both bled. Dave said from the photos of the match, it looked great.
I was at home with my wife watching TV,
When the telephone rang and the call was for me.
That very next night in Nashville, Tennessee
They wanted me to do a job on national TV.
I'd make $65, the going rate for chumps,
It was clearly understood that I'd be taking all the bumps,
So I told their stooge that I would be there,
He said "thanks very much," but I knew he didn't care.
Got all of my gear and packed my bag,
That ride the next day would be such a drag,
Left my house at four so I wouldn't be late,
Then started hauling ass up the interstate.
Stopped at a store to hear, "which one are you?"
Those idiot marks just didn't have a clue,
If I was Hogan or Savage, they wouldn't have to ask,
But I'm only a jobber, with a lowly wrestling task.
Arrived at the building and walked to the stage door,
And got cussed out by a rat, such a pitiful whore,
As I headed to the heels dressing room,
My ego felt shattered, for a faced certain doom.
Strut into the room and forced a fake smile,
"How ya been doing brother, haven't seen you in a while,"
Found me a spot and started getting ready
I was sweating like hell but my nerves held steady.
Up walked the booker to give me the finish,
As I felt my pride so painfully diminish,
He wanted us to do the "old Pearl Harbor,"
The face would make the comeback, I'd end up the jobber.
Then the bell rang, my match was up first,
I was suddenly stricken with a bad case of thirst,
"First match get out there," the bookers' voice did hiss
I was busy taking my third nervous piss.
So I stomped to the ring to the sound of jeers,
Then out waltzed the baby to a round of rousing cheers,
I'm a pretty tough dude who can kick some bass,
Too bad I don't fit in with the front office brass.
I'd take decs and D-Bol and some Winstrol V,
If only the pencil would do something with me,
My name was announced to the deafening boos,
As I envied my opponent, cause he wasn't gonna lose.
All went as planned, and well, "that was that,"
My shoulders got pinned in the middle of the mat,
TV matches are short, and this was no exception,
I stormed back to the room feeling total dejection.
Took a hot shower and washed off the seat,
I'd be back on the road, they'd be taking a jet,
Said bye to the boys and then to the booker,
I had turned my trick like a 300 pound hooker.
Oh how I wanted that booker to clobber,
But had to keep my cool, I was only a jobber,
Don't get me wrong, no apology was needed,
I made the babyface look good, so I totally succeeded.
Drove back down the interstate guzzling a beer,
Would I always be a jobber, what an agonizing fear?
But deep down I know all that really matters, you see,
Is that I play my role well, and am very proud of me.