Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
Feb 22nd, 1988
-- "As most of you already know, the biggest story of the week concerns the WWF holding a tournament for the vacated WWF title as the headline attraction at Wrestlemania IV on 3/27 eminating (sic) from Atlantic City. The announcement was made on the syndicated package over this past weekend, and from what I'm told, the entire card will be released publicly by next week. Besides the 14-man tournament, the early scuttlebutt I hear is that there will be four other matches. One will be a Bunkhouse Battle Royal, which will allow another two dozen or so wrestlers to share in the big payday, while I expect two tag team matches (British Bulldogs vs. Islanders and Strike Force vs. Demolition) and an Intercontinental title defense by Honkeytonk Man (with Brutus Beefcake seeming to be the leading contender--they'll need to shoot an angle this week to get that one 'over'.)"
-- The first round has been announced as Roberts vs Rude, Muraco vs Bravo, Steamboat vs Valentine, Reed vs Savage, Bigelow vs Gang and DiBiase vs Duggan, with Hogan vs Andre getting an automatic bye to the second round. "The brackets pretty well should tell the obvious story. There are only two possible winners, Hulk Hogan or Ted DiBiase. The bottom line is that down the road, Hulk Hogan is going to be champion once again." Dave says if Hogan's upcoming movie filming, which begins in April, won't allow him time to wrestle over summer, or if he wants to take off since his first child is due in April, then it makes no sense if he's not going to be around to defend the belt. Also, if Hogan isn't going to win the tournament, the winner has to be a heel so that person can drop the belt back to Hogan. Dave says it's obvious based on bracketing that DiBiase will make it to the finals, either to lose to Hogan or beat Muraco. Dave then goes into really, really detailed predictions on the show. The most interesting prediction is that he thinks Savage and Steamboat will be rematched and go to a draw to create a bye for DiBiase into the finals.
-- The NBC special earned a 15.1 rating and a 25 share, and was the 31st highest rated show of the week, which is an average number, but is probably a disappointment to both the WWF and NBC, because they thought it would crack the top 10. It did still win its time slot and the rating was better than the 11.6 average they have been getting from Rags To Riches.
-- Dick Ebersol was quoted in the LA Times and USA Today, saying that they weren't interested in doing weekly shows because it would hurt live gates. The truth is, however, that they won't get the chance to turn down a slot, because the feeling now is that the WWF couldn't post competitive numbers in prime time. Dave says he was surprised at the rating. He was interested in it because it would show how "over" (My note: Why does he always put "over" in quotes?) wrestling is to the general public. He says this proved that the match with the most hype and mainstream appeal can only get mediocre mainstream attention. It also showed that wrestling fans are extremely loyal and will watch no matter how inconvenient. This match on SNME Dave thinks would have gotten a 12 rating, so they picked up very few extra viewers. Dave says the WWF can still make money off of their core audience, but it does put the value of Hulk Hogan in perspective. "To a cult audience, which numbers in the millions, he is over bigger than any wrestling star has ever been in the country. But he is not a 'mainstream' star capable of making it in prime time on the networks on anything more than a one or two shot a year basis. He's not nearly as over as Antonio Inoki was in his heyday, let alone a Larry Holmes (whose title defenses always cracked the top 10 against bums like Tex Cobb when put on free TV). "Time Magazine isn't going to be banging on Titan's door this month proclaiming another wrestling resurgence. The networks aren't going to stumble onto Jim Crockett's group because nobody is looking at wrestling as a hot item, both of which could have happened had the show cracked the top five." Dave also says that even though Vince McMahon is the most successful money-making wrestling promoter in history, there isn't as much mainstream interest as there was in New Japan's 1982-1985 heyday. (My note: We get it already.) "And Hogan's TV ratings power, while again more than any wrestler of the modern era, probably isn't as strong as Chigusa Nagayo's right now. One may view the comparisons with Japan as ridiculous because of the differences in culture, but the truth is, if anything, the U.S. is the country more TV oriented. My main point out of all this is a conversation I had with a Titan employee a few months back when we got to the subject of the style of wrestling (fast food vs. hardcore) and if it was the style of wrestling which made Titan No. 1, if it was the fact it was the best run promotion that made it No. 1, or if it was the fact that they spent the most money that made them No. 1. The conclusion we came to is that it was something we couldn't answer. No promotion offering traditional wrestling has ever had the front office professionals in the hundreds behind the company, a $250,000 budget for TV taping to make them look so major league in comparison with opposition, etc. Unless opposition was equal to Titan in every way except that they had a different wrestling product (more action-oriented) and Titan was still No. 1, then we'd really know the answer."
-- The WWF is running a TV taping in Winston-Salem, NC on 3/9, which Dave thinks is peculiar since it's about 20 miles outside of Greensboro. "As you can see, Titan smells blood and is going right for the jugular."
-- The next SNME is scheduled for 3/12, and will be taped on 3/7 from Nashville.
-- "Probably the most bizarre story revolves around last Friday's NBC special. Apparently an Intercontinental title change was in the script and the match was supposed to be shorter as well, however Honkeytonk Man vetoed the script and there was lots of backstage commotion about it, but the bottom line was, he held out and refused to do the job and he's still champion today. If you wonder why they just didn't have Randy beat him anyway which is something that gets threatened from time-to-time especially in the old days of wrestling, is simply because Honkey must have realized that there was no chance whatsoever McMahon would take any chances on a bad situation occurring on live television and the last thing he ever wants is real violence. That probably explains why Honkeytonk Man, as IC champ, isn't in the tournament."
-- Billy Jack Haynes asked Vince McMahon for help to start a new promotion in Oregon and run opposition to Don Owen, but Vince turned him down. The public story is that Haynes quit because of health reasons, but it appears the real story is that he wanted a bigger push and thought Brady Boone should also get a bigger push.
-- Jesse Ventura will be doing heel commentary for some New York Yankees games for local pay-TV consumption.
-- Bam Bam Bigelow didn't have arthroscopic surgery. He's postponing until after Wrestlemania, when the WWF will take a one-month break. Speaking of Bigelow, a drug possession charge in Freehold, NJ, was dismissed when the evidence was ruled inadmissible because it was illegally obtained. The officers found a small bag of marijuana under the seat of his car and he was charged with a misdemeanor, but it was ruled the officers did not have probable cause to conduct the search. Bigelow waved to the officer, and the overzealous officer responded by pulling him over for no reason. Even though a misdemeanor, if convicted, this would have been bad for him, because he is on three years probation from a 1986 conviction after pleading guilty to threatening to kill a prostitute. Had he been convicted, he would have served a five-year prison sentence.
-- 02/04 in Muskegon, WI, drew 2,500 headlined by Islanders vs British Bulldogs. 02/07 in Toronto in front of a "small crowd" was headlined by Ricky Steamboat, Hacksaw Duggan & Randy Savage vs Hart Foundation & Honky Tonk Man. 02/08 in Los Angeles drew 3,000 headlined by Ted DiBiase vs Bam Bam Bigelow in a match reported as **** by reader Pat Hoed. 02/13 in Bloomington, MN, drew 7,000 headlined by Hogan & Bigelow vs DiBiase & Andre with Mad Dog Vachon in the babyface corner. 02/14 at the Silverdome drew 12,000 headlined by Hogan & Bigelow vs DiBiase & Andre.
-- Someone in the WWF told Dave the JYD/Reed match taped for Wrestling Challenge was a worst match of the year candidate.
-- Gene Okerlund's son Todd is on the U.S. Ice Hockey Team in the Olympics.
-- Ted DiBiase interview printed in the Chicago Sun Times on 1/15: "Because I am so versatile, the UWF used me as a utility man. I didn't get the push I deserved or the respect I deserved. I had to show a big Oklahoma football player like Steve Williams the ropes as his tag team partner, show him how to work in the ring and how to do an interview, and then the UWF tried to promote Williams over me." He also said Giant Baba's handshake is better than a signed contract from any other promoter in the wrestling business. He also said, "After the NWA bought out the UWF, I didn't want to work for Jim Crockett. He has his favorites and they get paid well and they get taken care of. But if you're not in the clique, you starve." He was very complimentary of Vince McMahon, saying "he has taken wrestling out of the closet and put it right into the entertainment mainstream."
-- On the live satellite feed of the Royal Rumble, you could hear Vince McMahon yelling "Stop looking like a fucking stone and show some interest in the matches" at Howard Finkel. Vince also didn't know the names of the Jumping Bomb Angels. He asked for someone to tell him the names, and then said, "Wow, I butchered the shit out of those names."
-- Paul Boesch is on the NWA Board of Directors. He is the only non-promoter ever on the board. It's more of a figurehead position, and they will use him for his name value in Houston. Boesch has no financial interest in the Houston shows, although he will be helping out.
-- The original plan for the Crockett Cup was to use two sites -- Greenville, SC on 4/9 and finals on 4/10 in Greensboro -- but TV ads seem to contradict this. Dave says they really need to work with New Japan, Stampede and World Class, but there are too many egos stopping that from happening.
-- Dennis Condrey wants to come in as a babyface and feud with Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane.
-- "Did you catch the balding blonde haired jobber named Randy Hogan who got destroyed on TBS this weekend? Kind of childish."
-- Shane Douglas has returned. He is using the sleeperhold as a finisher and getting a mild push. Tony Schiavone calls him the 1986 Rookie of the Year, while Jim Ross calls him the 1987 Rookie of the Year.
-- Road Warrior Animal's eye injury is legit and he'll be out for a few weeks. He broke his orbital bone and was nearly blinded in one eye. He was being billed as returning, which is why Dave thought it was a work, but it appears to be legit. Dave says the crowds haven't really been that much different, so the angle doesn't appear to have been effective. The injury actually happened on 1/29, the day before the angle,
-- "I can't emphasize enough just how quickly Lex Luger fizzled out as a babyface. Sometimes you look at something and make a snap judgment just by the looks of things without examining in detail. Luger is that way. You look at him and everyone tells everyone else just how over he is and how he's the future of wrestling and all that. The bottom line is, as good as his physique is, good physiques are a dime a dozen these days as is blond hair. His looks are nothing special. Still, he could be a big star and will be a star of some magnitude however his rapport with the audience just isn't there. It wasn't there in Florida (remember, Florida literally died with Luger as top babyface in 1986) and it still isn't there. Even though Sting needs lots of work on interviews and he may not be as muscularly defined as Luger, Sting has the rapport and has totally passed Luger by. It becomes more obvious each show as the audience reacts to everything Sting does, while seemingly acts ho-hummy when Luger and Windham talk. Sting has more of the cool GQ look of today but I've got the feeling in their infinite wisdom, the NWA will keep all three at the same level (thus inevitably ensuring none get over to the point they'll make a difference). I don't totally blame Luger for the crowd reaction because they wasted no time making him one of the boys when they should have at least given him a few months as king of all the babyfaces before ruining the impact of his turn by making him a tag team wrestler."
-- 2/2 in Miami only drew 1,900 fans headlined by Luger & Dusty vs Flair & Tully. 2/9 in Albany, GA drew 400 fans headlined by Sting & Barry Windham vs Midnight Express. "TV, newspaper and radio ads up until the day of the show continued to bill Rock & Roll and Michael Hayes for this card, but what the heck, Titan is still billing Billy Jack Haynes for future dates as well as he's been gone for basically just as long." 2/11 in Baltimore drew a $103,000 gate headlined by Flair & Tully vs Luger & Ron Garvin. 2/13 in Philadelphia drew 6,000 for a TV taping. 2/14 in Chicago drew 5,000 fans headlined by Flair vs Sting. Dave says they really killed Chicago with that Starrcade finish with the Road Warriors and have not been able to rebound. 2/11 in Raleigh, NC, drew 1,200 fans headlined by Flair & Tully vs Luger & Windham. 2/14 evening in Atlanta drew 13,000 fans headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting, and Luger & Ole vs Arn & Tully in a cage.
-- ESPN signed a new two-year contract with the AWA and the contract calls for exclusivity, so World Class will no longer be on ESPN.
-- "The big news as far as the AWA goes is that they are 'restructing the company.' I'm not sure what that exactly means, other than after the card this coming Sunday in Las Vegas, the AWA will be closing down for about a month and will re-open in late March with a new outlook on life. I believe Verne Gagne will be doing the booking once again as it seems he's tired of people making decisions that are costing him money and he'd instead like to make those same decisions." Only Curt Hennig will be paid during this time off, so he's expected to be sent to other territories and the Midnight Rockers will probably work full time in Memphis. As for the rest of the crew, Dave suspects they will either have to go elsewhere where they can make money, or take day jobs to make ends meet.
-- Stanley Blackburn is getting all the heat for the 2/4 cage match with Curt Hennig vs Greg Gagne. Greg won the match and was presented with the title, but Blackburn wouldn't allow it because the match was in a cage, and the title can't be defended in a cage.
-- They will be using Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota as the new home base. Dave worries that their alcohol ban will hurt attendance.
-- Paul E. Dangerously is set to return on 2/22 in Las Vegas to manage Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond, who will feud with Michaels and Jannetty.
-- 2/12 in Dallas drew 3,800 fans headlined by Al Perez vs Terry Taylor. On the show, there was also a Terry Gordy & Buddy Roberts vs Kevin & Kerry Von Erich match. There was a lot of interference. Chris Adams and Terry Taylor ended up brawling at ringside, and Taylor was doing lots of floor piledrivers to do a major injury angle, and Adams ended up getting his hand broken and may have to have a pin inserted.
-- Michael Hayes is back as a babyface. They're building up a 3/5 concert at the Sportatorium which will probably lead to a big angle.
-- Ken Mantell wants to re-open Wild West. He wants to feud two promotions but Dave doesn't see the logic in it, because there are already too many wrestling promotions.
-- The last Houston show only drew 42 fans, not 80 fans as previously reported.
-- Steve Williams told the Japanese press he's coming in.
-- FNN announced on Tuesday that they will be airing CWA wrestling on a weekly basis starting in April. Dave thinks the time slot is 9PM Eastern and 6PM Pacific, but isn't completely sure.
-- Bill Dundee is leaving for the new Knoxville promotion, "... and Manny Fernandez has disappeared into the same thin air which engulfed Scott Hall, Tijo Khan and several others."
-- Maxx Payne won the CWA title from Jerry Lawler in Memphis on 2/8 before less than 1,500 fans. That was also Dundee's first match as a heel, against Jeff Jarrett, which shows how little impact the heel turn had. 2/15 is expected to draw better with Dundee vs Jarrett once again, Midnight Rockers vs Rock & Roll Express and Lawler vs Tommy Rich in a grudge match.
-- Tommy Rich did a total babyface interview on TV to build to his match with Lawler, saying he was wrong for teaming with Austin Idol and Paul E. Dangerously, but that he still hated Lawler. The two have major heat which is what caused Rich to leave when he was red hot the previous year. They expect half the crowd to support Rich, based on Rich trying to appeal to fans who hate Jerry Lawler to come out and support him in his promo. "I'm told that even though Memphis simply can't draw a lick without Lawler, that there are a large group of fans who don't like Lawler since he's always on top week after week and familiarity at that level often breeds contempt."
-- Brother Earnest Angel has completely changed his gimmick because of the bad feedback and phone calls to the studio. He now manages Gary Young and Maxx Payne. He had toned his act completely down and sort of apologized for his previous behavior on TV.
-- Coming in are the Rock & Roll Express, Tommy Rich, Samoans Samu & Kokina (Yokozuna)
-- This was the last week of the territory as one circuit. The 2/12 show in Knoxville drew 7,000 headlined by Doug Furnas vs Lord Humongous in a stretcher match.
-- Knoxville is expected to get Johnny Rich, Davey Rich, Bill Dundee, Hector Guerrero, Ron Fuller, Austin Idol, Doug Furnas, the Rock & Roll RPMs, Lord Humongous, Buddy Landell, the Stomper, the Armstrongs and Tracy Smothers. Robert Fuller, Jimmy Golden, Dutch Mantell, Tom Pritchard, Jonathan Boyd, Wendell Cooley, Tony Anthony, Frankie Lancaster and Danny Davis will stay with Continental.
-- A Frank Bonema Memorial Show is planned for 2/16 in Portland, to be headlined by babyface Curt Hennig defending the AWA title against The Grappler.
-- The Moondogs never showed up. It was announced on TV that they had been suspended by the NWA.
-- Chris Colt was fired and is headed to England.
-- 01/31 in Tumwater, MA only drew 40 fans.
-- The title was held up after a match between DJ Peterson (being billed as Dave Peterson) and the Cuban Assassin. Dave is unsure when the rematch will take place. The tag titles are also held up for a tournament on 2/26 in St. Joseph.
-- Kansas City will begin running weekly cards again starting on 3/31.
-- 02/05 in St. Joseph drew 442 fans. 02/14 in Kansas City drew less than 150 fans.
-- Local wrestler Steve Estes, 37, pleaded guilty to holding up a Mexican restaurant in October. He was charged with a Class A felony, but it was reduced in exchange for his plea. He could be in prison for between 5-15 years.
-- The 2/5 card in Calgary features what Dave was told was the best Stampede match in ages, as Bruce Hart & Brian Pillman defended the International tag titles against Great Gama & Jerry Morrow.
-- Les Thornton will be running opposition in Calgary starting in Spring.
-- Takashi Ishikawa & Mighty Inoue regained the Asian tag belts from Kawada & Fuyuki on 1/29 in Tokyo before 1,860 fans at Korauken Hall.
-- 1/30 in Ishinomaki drew 1,890 fans. 2/1 in Soka drew 3,150 fans headlined by Inoki & Sakaguchi vs Saito & Vader. 2/4 in Osaka drew a sellout 6,820 fans headlined by Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki. Inoki won clean, and Dave thinks Choshu is going to be hurt by that one. 2/5 in Tokyo drew a sellout 2,000 fans. 2/7 in Sapporo drew a sellout 6,120 fans headlined by Vader vs Inoki. On this show, Shiro Koshinaka also won the juniors tournament.
-- "Choshu has been wrestling pretty bad of late, like he just doesn't want to be in the ring anymore."
-- "[Buzz] Sawyer stole the spotlight from [Owen] Hart in some tag matches. He would start barking and howling and playing to the crowd while Hart was doing his fancy moves, which detracted from Hart's moves and took the crowd's attention away from Hart."
-- They will be touring Brazil in late March and are also sending wrestlers to help fill out Crockett's March show in Honolulu.
-- Most of the shows when Inoki was gone sold out, which means Vader's huge push is catching on.
-- Steve Williams did an interview that he was tired of touring all over the U.S. and wants to spend more time at home with his wife. He also said the NWA broke promises they made to him when they did the takeover. He says he was promised a big unification match with Ric Flair that never happened, and they also stopped billing him as the UWF champion. "I don't go back to NWA Crockett promotions anymore. I'd like to wrestle for promotions which set a high value on ability. New Japan is good because they use Vader, Buzz Sawyer, Bob Orton and Owen Hart who can do hard wrestling."
-- There is a Japanese movie coming out called "The Crazy Family" where the daughter is 13 years old and spends all of her time singing and lifting weights because she wants to be like Chigusa Nagayo.
-- Crowds have been good lately. Because of high ticket prices, they're doing gates of over $100,000 on a regular basis.
-- The 01/30 show at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan drew a 32,000-fan sellout, headlined by Carlos Colon vs Iron Sheik with heel manager Chicky Starr suspended in a cage above the ring. It was Sheik's last match before going back to the WWF. The buildup had Sheik burying Colon with the Iranian flag to set up the card.
-- Dan Kroffat is in and Dave says he looks ridiculous with dyed blond hair.
-- Tempo Cable Network made a tentative deal with Angelo Savoldi's ICW.
-- Mad Dog Vachon is suing the Iowa City Hospital for several million dollars. They cared for him after a hit and run accident, but Vachon is claiming his leg would not need to be amputated had they properly treated him.
-- Florida has dropped legislation to introduce an athletic commission after pleading from Duke Keomuka and Jerry Brisco.
-- Mando Guerrero is training women in Southern California for a new startup group called the American Women's Wrestling Federation (AWWF).
-- Bruiser Brody is promoting his own show on 3/4 in St. Louis. Sam Muchnick is lending his name to it because he felt "used" by Crockett when they showed him on WTBS recently, and implied a connection that doesn't exist at all.
-- Tony Atlas placed third in the American Powerlifting Federation's World Bench Press championships with a 550 lb lift at 275 lbs.
-- Wrestlers who have done the most foreign tours:
Abdullah the Butcher 43
Stan Hansen 43
Tiger Jeet Singh 43
Dick Murdoch 40
Dory Funk Jr. 34
Terry Funk 33
Harley Race 31
Bad News Allen 28
Bruiser Brody 27
Andre the Giant 27
Billy Robinson 25
The Destroyer 22
Mil Mascaras 20
Hulk Hogan 20
Masked Superstar 20
Bobo Brazil 15
Lou Thesz 15
Ted DiBiase 14
Nick Bockwinkel 14
King Curtis Iaukea 14
Jimmy Snuka 13
Terry Gordy 12
Dynamite Kid 12
Ric Flair 12
Dusty Rhodes 12
The Sheik 12
Pete Roberts 11
Dick Slater 11
Marc Rocco 11
Killer Karl Kox 11
Killer Tim Brooks 10
Adrian Adonis 10
Dos Caras 10
El Canek 10
Tony St. Clair 10
Feb 29th, 1988
-- The Wrestlemania IV card has been finalized. In addition to the tournament, Honky Tonk Man will defend the IC title against Brutus Beefcake, and Dave expects a title change in this match, if not before then. "Even though the word I heard is that Honky isn't in line for punishment, I find it hard to believe that an example won't be made of him quickly for his refusal to drop the strap to Randy Savage on the NBC broadcast." Also, the British Bulldogs & Koko B. Ware vs The Islanders & Bobby Heenan, Demolition vs Strike Force, where Dave also expects a title change, "plus a battle royal involving all those folks like Bret Hart, Sam Houston, Harley Race and the like who simply aren't talented enough to earn a spotlight match on the card." Celebrities will include Vanna White as a guest timekeeper, and Bob Eucker as a ring announcer again. Dave says Robin Leach being hyped as presenting the winner with the championship belt seems to be a strong indication that they want people think DiBiase is winning.
-- Wrestlemania will have 18 matches, although with double eliminations, Dave thinks it will be around 16. Getting that many matches in a 2 1/2 show, complete with long-winded entrances and intermissions to sell merchandise means most matches will be around five minutes and several will be shorter than that. Dave also thinks this is a weak card for a Wrestlemania. "While I initially thought the tournament was a stroke of brilliance, after seeing how it is laid out and who was picked to be in it, I'm less excited about its market value." Dave talks about how Hulk Hogan's name value is being downplayed by making him "one of the boys" instead of putting him in a position where his match stands out from the pack. Dave talks about how Wrestlemania I and III were both major successes and had a strong main event to hype, while Wrestlemania II didn't and wasn't a successful show. He thinks it could affect impulse buys for the show. "If Hulk Hogan is taking the summer off, and the word within wrestling does indicate that, then I at least understand the tournament psychology in making Hulk one of the boys."
-- The whole idea behind the tournament is to switch the focal point of the WWF from Hulk Hogan to the belt, and they are trying to make the title the lead drawing card. "If that's the idea, forget it. It won't work. There is no belt in wrestling that can draw on its own in this day and age. Hogan is a draw. Ric Flair is a draw, although obviously not to the same degree. Curt Hennig isn't a draw, nor is Al Perez, with or without a belt around their waist." Dave notes that if you look at NWA attendance on shows where Flair is defending the title versus shows where he is in a tag match, you won't really notice a difference, although the crowds are down on shows where Flair isn't on the lineup. Dave says Hogan has traditionally shown the same patterns at the box office. "And both Ted DiBiase and Ron Garvin, in their brief reigns as champion proved to have no drawing power whatsoever."
-- "Now after writing all this, let me state unequivocably that there is no way WM4 won't be a success. There are too many factors in its favor, the main one being the excellence of last year's show as an overall production (forget about the quality of the main event, most fans came to see Andre's 'first loss' and a bodyslam, and they got what they paid for ... What will save WM4 here is, as I said, was the excellence of last year's show and the concept implanted in most fans' eyes that it's the one show during the year that they can't afford to miss, almost like wrestling's Super Bowl."
-- The WWF will probably clear 9 to 10 million homes, and with any luck, get the same 10% buyrate it achieved last year at $20, which adds up to $18 million. Of that, Titan will gross $9 million or so.
-- The 3/12 SNME will be taped on 3/7 in Nashville. Lineup will have Hogan vs Race, DiBiase vs Savage, Andre vs Bigelow, Jake vs HTM, Beefcake vs Valentine and Bulldogs vs Demolition.
-- By the time you read this, all Wrestlemania IV tickets should be gone. (My note: I would hope so.) Trump Plaza will seat 18,165 for Wrestlemania IV. Somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 tickets were being held back. As of Friday, 2/19, there were still around 1,500 tickets left and paid attendance will be in the 15,000 range, which means around 3,000 giveaways.
-- The Cuban Assassin showed up for the Wichita, KS, TV tapings. Bad News Brown saw him and started chasing him around with a chair. Something apparently happened a few months prior in Calgary where both wrestlers (and their wives) had some type of fight.
-- A security guard is suing over George Steele pushing him down at the last San Francisco show.
-- 2/18 at the Meadowlands drew 16,000 fans headlined by Hulk Hogan challenging the Honky Tonk Man for the IC title. (My note: WEIRD.) 02/21 in Tacoma, WA, drew a $104,000 house without Hogan. 2/15 in Centralia, IL, drew 1,200 fans headlined by a battle royal. 2/20 in Pittsburgy, PA drew 8,000 fans headlined by a Bunkhouse Stampede, which they're now calling a Free-For-All Brawl. 02/15 in Omaha drew 4,158 fans headlined by Junkyard Dog vs Ron Bass. 2/9 in New Haven, CT, drew 4,300 fans headlined by Randy Savage & Strike Force vs Honky Tonk Man & Hart Foundation in a cage match. 2/13 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, drew 5,000 fans headlined by DiBiase vs Bigelow. 2/13 in Springfield, MA drew 4,500 fans headlined by another Harts & HTM vs Savage & Strike Force cage match.
-- The WWF is looking for a new play-by-play announcer and also a new announcer to conduct promotional interviews.
-- The NWA announced earlier in the week that it would be running a show head-to-head with Wrestlemania IV. JCP will be running a 2 1/2 hour special on TBS on 03/27, the same time block Titan has reserved on PPV for Wrestlemania. "This time, Titan will get a taste of its own medicine, as Crockett will be cutting the card on national television, in the form of WTBS, for free." Dave says the card will take place in Greensboro, NC, and will be called Clash of the Champions or something similar, with seven main event caliber matches. He's been told the matches are Ric Flair vs Sting for the NWA World title, Dusty Rhodes & Road Warriors vs Ivan Koloff & Powers of Pain in a barbed wire match, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs Lex Luger & Barry Windham for the tag titles, the Midnight Express vs the soon-to-be-arriving Fantastics for the US tag titles, Mike Rotunda vs Jimmy Garvin for the NWA TV title under amateur rules and Larry Zbyszko vs Shane Douglas. "And in a surprise of sorts, Kevin & Kerry Von Erich are tentatively slated to work both this card and, apparently, the Crockett Cup, which means the lines of communicate are open between Crockett and Ken Mantell."
-- "I don't believe JCP, even in its most overenthusiastic moments, believes it has a chance at 'ruining' WM4, because it doesn't." However, JCP will cost the WWF tons of money on 03/27, in the same way the WWF cost them millions of dollars on Thanksgiving and a lot of money again on 01/24 also. "If we use TV ratings as a barometer, plus the fact the two groups do draw from a somewhat different audience, we can safely say that 50% of Titan's audience wouldn't care if Flair was defending against Mike Tyson, because they have little or no interest in the NWA. Of the remaining half, let's say all things being equal, most would still choose WWF over NWA. But throw in a $20 price tag for the WWF and a free show for NWA, and lots of people will change their minds."
-- With the Clash, Dave thinks the biggest impact will be the parts of the country that aren't wired for PPV. Dave predicts JCP will knock off at least 10% of Titan's closed-circuit business, which won't be enough to destroy the show, but could cost the company in the seven figures. "I may even be underestimating everything, because JCP even has an advantage over the next month as they can build grudges toward specific matches, while Titan has an undercard with minimal appeal and a tournament which is non-specific and has devalued the presence of wrestling's only guaranteed draw, Hogan." Dave also says JCP has to live down the bad reactions they've gotten from their last two big shows.
-- Regarding Road Warrior Animal, to set the story straight, he was legitimately injured on 01/29 in Pittsburgh, the day before the bench press challenge. Warlord, not Barbarian, gave Animal a Samoan drop and either executed it incorrectly, or Animal took the bump incorrectly, but it smashed the bone above Animal's eye. His injury is the same as Riki Choshu's when Akira Maeda kicked him in the face. At the time, he didn't know the extent of the injury and went to Greensboro for the angle the next day. They were originally going to use heavier weights before shooting the angle, but they were afraid of having Animal do more than 500 lbs. He typically can do 580, Barbarian can normally do 570, and Warlord can do 600+, but Hawk isn't at the level they are. The weights were legit, but the amounts Paul Jones was saying over the mic were often wrong. The original plan was for all three except Hawk to go around 550, and then have Jones call for 600 before Hawk did his lift and then the injury would happen. Animal went to the hospital with a detached retina, broken bone, and his eye knocked 1/2 inch into his forehead. He had eye surgery, and there were brief fears that he was going to lose his eyes, but that was quelled. JCP is advertising Animal returning in Greensboro over the coming week, but Dave isn't sure if that's true, because they were hyping him for Philadelphia when they knew he couldn't be there.
-- The Crockett Cup is set for 4/22 and 4/23. The first day will be in Greenville, SC, and the second day in Greensboro, NC. Dave expects the seedings to be announced on the TBS special on 03/27. Dave says for readers who want to attend, the best bet is to stay in Charlotte, which is roughly halfway between both sites and is 100-110 miles from each site.
-- The NWA may get shows into the Cow Palace in San Francisco in the future. They have a show at the Civic Auditorium on 3/16 headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting.
-- "The 1/24 Bunkhouse Stampede finals drew a 3.5 percent buy rate in nearly six million homes, which I guess means 200,000 homes signed up for the thing at $15 a crack or $3 million gross revenue, the assumption of which is that JCP gets half of that. I was told anything better than a three percent buy rate would be profitable, so to say the event was a financial bomb would be inaccurate. But it sure could have been a whole lot better."
-- TBS has extended its contract with JCP through 1994. The TV format has changed again. The Saturday morning show will now become NWA Pro Wrestling on a one-week delay. The Saturday afternoon show will almost always be done in studio. They will start doing a Sunday afternoon show in April that will always be from arenas and show main event caliber matches. They'll air only 3-4 matches in an hour, and give them plenty of time to develop. The Sunday show is being groomed specifically for TV ratings, while the Saturday show will be to build house shows. The syndicated ratings will now include the TBS package so The Wrestling Network will move up to the 8.5 level -- just 1.5 points behind Titan and they can make substantial income through TV ad sales.
-- The 3/27 TBS show will have Flair vs Sting with JJ Dillon above the ring in a cage. Three judges will be at ringside in case the match goes 60 minutes.
-- TBS has agreed to do four specials like the 3/27 one each year. TBS and JCP have signed a five-year deal to co-promote the PPV cards together. JCP is hoping to do one more PPV event in 1988. They were going to do three more, but Titan killed that idea.
-- Shane Douglas is coming in and will get a nice push as the protege of Magnum TA, and will use the belly-to-belly suplex as his finisher.
-- Magnum TA has been told by his doctor he can start jogging this summer. They are going to start using him more and more in the corner to counter JJ Dillon.
-- Crockett is behind the show "Learning The Ropes". The show is a comedy about a school teacher, played by Lyle Alzado, who doubles as a masked wrestler at night. The show features clips of NWA wrestlers in character with speaking roles. Dave says if it hits, it could be the break he has needed to get his wrestlers over as celebrities.
-- The Fantastics will start full-time with a big push and feud with the Midnight Express. Dave says they have a tough road ahead, because many fans will see them as replacements for or copycats of the Rock & Roll Express.
-- Reports of JCP's demise are exaggerated, as they did $350,000 in business over just one weekend. The Omni on 2/14 drew 13,000 headlined by Flair vs Sting, and Arn/Tully vs Luger/Ole in a cage, with Luger doing a stretcher job. (My note: Why in the world would they do this?)
-- Nikita Koloff is out for a while. Dick Murdoch is headed to Japan. The Barbarian canceled his tour of Japan so he can stick around and finish the feud with the Road Warriors.
-- 02/17 in Los Angeles drew 1,800 headlined by Ric Flair & Tully Blanchard vs Lex Luger & Barry Windham in a **** match, according to reader Pat Crocker. 02/19 in Richmond, VA drew 9,500 fans and a gate of $75,000 for a TV taping that will air the week of 3/5. They taped a TV cage match of Flair & Blanchard vs Luger & Ole Anderson, with Arn & JJ running in and attacking Luger and Ole until Dusty Rhodes made the save and singlehandedly cleaned house.
-- 02/28 at the Omni has Dusty, Luger & Ole vs Flair, Arn & Tully in a cage match, and it's being billed as the first time Dusty and Ole have ever teamed. Dave says this is ridiculous and almost an insult to the local fans, because the angle a few years previous where Dusty & Ole teamed and Ole turned is one of the most famous angles of all time.
-- 02/21 at Nassau drew 1,500 paid and 2,500 fans headlined by Dusty & Luger vs Flair & Tully. 2/16 in Albuquerque, NM, drew 3,006 fans headlined by Dusty, Luger & Windham vs Flair, Arn & Tully.
-- "The Varsity Club is one of the best ideas I've seen in a long time. I'm amazed just how effective Rotunda has become. It's mind-blowing how a creative gimmick can turn around a guy whose career seemed going nowhere."
-- "Even though just about everyone I talk with agrees that Sting has surpassed Luger (as far as potential to be this group's top young babyface), my guess is he won't be given the chances Luger will be getting. Simply put, it's like the difference between a first round draft choice and a seventh round draft choice. Even if the 7th round guy does better, you don't want to let the world know you made a mistake so you keep giving the 1st round guy chances for a long time. Simply put, there is too much money invested in Luger (reportedly his contract is only seven times more lucrative than Sting's) to not try to build him into the key guy and not make him an eventual champion. Sting's contract runs out in May and those negotiations could be quite interesting."
-- The Rock & Roll Express is scheduled to debut as babyfaces at the 02/20 tapings. Dave doesn't think this makes sense, since they were always booed on Crockett shows in the Twin Cities, and they have a natural feud with Michaels and Jannetty. Later in the issue, Dave says Morton and Gibson didn't even show up, but Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond did, and they won the tag titles.
-- Tom Zenk quit the same day he was to do an angle with Curt Hennig at a TV taping, because he wanted a guarantee. He also didn't understand the logic of doing a time limit draw with Billy Robinson before feuding with Hennig.
-- The Nasty Boys have been let go.
-- In addition to Curt Hennig, Kevin Kelly and Madusa Miceli are also on guarantees. Hennig's is $1,500 per week and Kelly and Miceli's is less than $300 per week.
-- The AWA will restart on 3/19 in Las Vegas.
-- "I believe the word in Minneapolis is that due to all the confusion from the 2/4 Hennig vs Greg Gagne match that they are saying the title is held up. So they've got the tag title held up in three cities but nowhere else, and the singles title held up in two cities with two different challengers."
-- Wally Karbo and Verne Gagne have settled their lawsuit out of court, with Verne agreeing to pay Karbo whatever he owes him. Karbo is settling for 10 cents on the dollar.
-- They shot an angle at the Las Vegas tapings with Baron Von Raschke and Sheik Adnan El-Kaissey. "Boy, they'll pack them in for those grudge matches."
-- "I'm told the recent AWA cards have drawn between 42 and 300 fans."
-- "On the Minneapolis TV show which aired on 2/21, Verne said that all the promoters in the Midwest want to recognize Greg as the champion. He later said if Stanley Blackburn doesn't like it, then maybe the AWA will have to find a new president. I wonder what Stanley Blackburn feels about being put in the position of being the top heel in the AWA. Maybe he can team with Sheik and feud with Verne and the Baron. Verne even compared the current situation to the forming of the AWA back in 1957 when Edouardo Carpentier beat Lou Thesz (one of the falls was via DQ) and the NWA wouldn't recognize the title change but the promoters in the Midwest took it upon themselves to recognize Carpentier and those promoters wound up as the AWA a few years later with Verne as champion after Verne beat Carpentier (at least when they bring up old stories, they are true stories.)"
-- There is pressure on Curt Hennig, and they appear to be covering their backsides if something happens with him. He took a hard bump on his neck and shoulder and was supposed to be in traction, but worked in Portland and Las Vegas through heavy pain. He did miss two spot shows, which the office was furious about. Dave suspects they are looking for an excuse to cut out his big guarantee. "Hey, if Curt's available, I just hope some guys looking for a Fourth Horseman wake up."
-- The Von Erichs story in Penthouse magazine won't appear as soon as expected. It will likely appear in August, "which given their past history, means one real tragedy, two fake tragedies, and one fake relative will all be introduced before the story sees the light of print."
-- "Is the world ready for this? A Von Erich comic book? Creative Ink of Tyler, Texas is scheduled to come out in March with 'The Saga of the Von Erich Warriors'. The storyline (why am I wasting space on this?) is that Kevin, Kerry and Fritz are taken from Earth to a planet called Namoria to save the planet from the attackers from an evil planet called Nefarian."
-- If the Mantell/Crockett deal actually happens, look for a Flair/Kerry match at Texas Stadium in May. The business has picked up some lately, but Dave says people suggesting it has a chance of replacing Crockett as the #2 promotion are being ridiculous.
-- Terry Gordy earned a title shot against Al Perez by beating Kerry Von Erich on 2/15 in Ft. Worth, but the match won't happen for several weeks since Gordy is about to tour Japan.
-- Michael Hayes is pretty much the assistant booker to Ken Mantell, although Bill Irwin and Eric Embry are also helping with booking at times.
-- No word yet on Steve Williams coming in, although he's expected to work spot dates between tours of Japan.
-- The split into two promotions took place over the past week. The new group will be USA Pro Wrestling and will be based in Knoxville and run Eastern Tennessee towns like Chattanooga. It will be run by Ron Fuller. They'll have the Mongolian Stomper, Ron Wright, Buddy Landell, the Rock & Roll RPMs, Hector Guerrero, Bob Armstrong, Doug Furnas, Scott Armstrong, Moondog Spot, Austin Idol, Johnny Rich and Davey Rich. Continental will continue operating in Alabama and will also start doing shows in Northwest Florida again. They will have Dutch Mantell, Wendell Cooley (who is out with a broken kneecap), Doug Furnas (who is also out from a concussion from a missed Space Flying Tiger Drop where Humongous didn't catch him properly and he suffered a 28-stitch wound across his face), Lord Humongous, Detroit Demolition, Downtown Bruno, Tom Pritchard, Tony Anthony, Dirty White Girl, Danny Davis, Frankie Lancaster, The Southern Boys, Scott Hall, Robert Fuller and Jimmy Golden.
-- Larry Hamilton is back in action. He had been out a few months after breaking his leg in a car accident, which they attributed to Scott Armstrong's figure four leglock on TV.
-- Detroit Demolition has joined Robert Fuller, Jimmy Golden and Dutch Mantell in the Stud Stable, which Dave calls a poor man's Four Horsemen.
-- 2/15 in Birmingham drew 500 fans. Crowds in Montgomery seem to be on the upswing again, as they've been averaging 200 fans per show and recently drew 1,800.
-- CWA will start on FNN/Score on Saturday, April 2.
-- The AWA tag titles are held up in Memphis only between the Rock & Roll Express and Midnight Rockers. On 2/15, which drew an $11,000 house, their match ended with a ref bump, a second ref coming in, and the two referees counted simultaneous pins on each side. They did the same finish on 2/16 in Louisville (which drew 3,000 fans - triple the norm!).
-- Missy Hyatt showed up on the 2/20 TV with Doug Gilbert. She kept avoiding the subject of Eddie Gilbert, who had not yet made an appearance, but Dave thinks will be in the territory very soon. Gilbert was fired by JCP for missing two TV tapings where he was not told he needed to be there in the first place. "Actually, it was a minor miracle he lasted as long as he did in the NWA, since somehow he made himself as the UWF booker to be the focal point of the behind-the-scenes UWF vs. NWA feud, yet Gilbert actually has outlasted every ex-UWF wrestler in staying with JCP except for Sting, Rick Steiner, and Black Bart."
-- Manny Fernandez is coming back, but will be turning heel, and then leaving for Japan in about a month.
-- Bill Dundee has decided to stay instead of working for USA Pro.
-- On 2/8 in Memphis, Max Pain defeated Jerry Lawler to win the CWA title.
-- "Also new to the area is prelim heel Scotty the Body, a name I've heard before from some independent but I can't recall where. He's getting no push whatsoever and from what I hear, doesn't deserve one."
-- The 2/15 Lawler/Rich match lasted 17:38 with both guys bleeding and the crowd split 50/50, although Rich worked really hard at turning the crowd against him. He was DQ'd for using a piledriver, and after the match they brawled in the crowd throwing chairs everywhere.
-- The Rock & Roll Express is in for at least a while.
-- The territory has some real problems when the top two babyfaces (Lawler and Jarrett) are only getting cheered by half the fans."
-- The Brother Ernest Angel gimmick was intended to be a parody of Jerry Falwell. He is now managing Max Pain & Gary Young, and the Samoans.
-- Billy Jack Haynes was granted a promoter's license last Tuesday. According to the 2/17 Oregonian, he has started a company called Oregon Wrestling Federation and plans to hold cards six nights per week in Oregon, and will also be the top babyface. He will be running opposition to Don Owen, and also Vince McMahon, who does a show at the Portland Coliseum every two months or so. A guy named Marc Caplan is working with Haynes on marketing and promotion. He plans to run with 14 to 16 wrestlers, but there are no official names released regarding who's coming in. He will supposedly get TV on the ABC affiliate in Portland. He will open the promotion with a big card at the Portland Memorial Coliseum in May or June. His promotion will concentrate on big guys instead of smaller workers, and Tom Zenk has been contacted about coming in, but Don Owen is trying to get him to come in as well. Dave says it's interesting that Haynes plans to wrestle when the whole reason the WWF claims they released him was because of his poor health. Haynes tried to get Vince McMahon's help in setting up, but was turned down.
-- Rip Oliver and Brian Adams had a loser leaves town match on 2/20 in Portland. Oliver won, as Adams is headed to Japan to work for Inoki as the Midnight Soldier.
-- Because of the Olympics, Stampede had to move to a new building which only seats 950 fans, and with so much competition in town, they'll have a tough time drawing the next few weeks, and maybe even longer, as the Olympics take a lot of money out of the local economy.
-- 2/12 did a near capacity house.
-- Rip Rogers is now being called Butch Cassidy, and Kerry Brown wants to be called The Sundance Kid.
-- There have been preliminary talks about airing NJPW on FNN/Score on Sunday nights, but the odds against it are strong.
-- Tatsumi Fujinami boycotted a show where he was supposed to team with Inoki, but it has been worked out and they are teaming again.
-- Very little of the excellent junior heavyweight matches of late are making TV because TV Asahi thinks they hurt ratings.
-- New Japan's next series is 2/29 to 3/19 with Dick Murdoch, The Samurai Warrior, Hiro Matsuda, Jerry Gray, Kareem Muhammad, Vinnie Valentino, and Brian Adams, who will be the Midnight Soldier, although magazines were hinting it would be Scott Hall. Larry Sharpe was contacted to manage Soldier, but the deal fell through.
-- Inoki will have a match against Chris Dolman on 5/7 in Tokyo.
-- Riki Choshu's popularity has really fizzled as of late.
-- Tony St. Clair came in dressed as a pirate and threw powder in Inoki's face on 2/7 after a match with Vader. However, on 2/29 a different person will be in the same gimmick, and no one knows who yet.
-- Vader is getting over like crazy because he is getting pushed so hard.
-- The Inoki/Choshu match in Osaka not only did a $250,000 sellout, but turned many fans away.
-- New Japan is still banned for good from using the Sumo Hall.
-- There were problems between Abdullah the Butcher and TNT on the last tour. TNT didn't want to team with Abdullah, because he was held back to make Abdullah the star of the team. It looks like things were resolved.
-- Killer Khan, Tiger Toguchi and Shunji Takano will be joining Genichiro Tenryu's "Revolution" group. "I wish Baba would concentrate on younger guys, because in this day and age, Khan & Toguchi won't help him out much although Takano has excellent potential as a third member of the Tenryu & Hara team."
-- John Tenta is being talked about as the most improved wrestler of 1988, and is said to throw the best dropkick in wrestling.
-- The current series is from 02/20 to 03/11 with Stan Hansen, Joel Deaton, Terry Gordy, Rocky Iaukea, Jerry Oates and Joe & Dean Malenko.
-- A fund has been set up to pay for legal fees of Al Blake (Vladimir Pietrov), who was convicted on cocaine trafficking. For more information, write to Allen Blake Fund; Box 611; Anoka, MN 55303. "If anyone has any Vladimir Pietrov memorabilia you can also write the same address." (My note: Unbelievable.)
-- The Simmons Research Bureau came out with annual statistics on the size and demographics of TV audiences for several niches, including wrestling. They may not be completely accurate, but Madison Avenue sees them as accurate, so they're important because ad buying is based on them. Wrestling has apparently had a 5% increase in viewers overall in the past year, with 30.3 million adults watching. It ranked behind pro football, baseball, college football, pro basketball, college basketball, and boxing. "The reason I don't personally take any stock into the report is that the sport showing the largest increase in viewers over the past year was Roller Derby, which the survey said increased a whooping 29.8%. This is ridiculous, because two years back both Derby promotions had national coverage from ESPN and drew good ratings, along with a very small syndication package. Last year, both Derbies weren't on ESPN and neither group even made new tapes for syndication. One group isn't even running at present and the other group, while running live dates still, hasn't made a new TV taping in more than a year. Yet they report a 29% increase in viewers when precious little televised Derby even exists.
-- "The bad news for wrestling is that the demographics of the wrestling viewership are considered not a good profile for advertisers. The sheer raw numbers of viewers can make wrestling a good buy and will help overcome some misgivings some advertisers may have about the make-up of the wrestling audience. The survey stated, in proportion to the general public, wrestling is strongest among blacks, 18-24 year old men, men in general (the wrestling audience is 61% male, 39% female), low income families, people without a high school degree and adults who are single."
-- On a local promo for Southern Championship Wrestling, Paul E. Dangerously was doing an interview with Randy Rose. Paul E. said he didn't care how much money it cost him, he was going to do away with Tommy Rich. Randy Rose then pulled out his wallet and threw a bunch of $1 bills in the air. Paul E. said, "Randy, I see you've cashed Verne's check."
-- Savannah Jack has a virus that he has caught that is apparently so serious he will need a heart transplant.
-- POWW is scheduled to run 20 dates in March. They have a few workers, but mostly wannabe models and actresses. The pay is good, but most of them don't even know what basic terms like "spot" mean.
-- Nick Gulas is running weekly cards in Nashville opposite Jerry Jarrett. He is using Tojo Yammamoto as his main draw.
-- Vic Steamboat, Steve Keirn, and Ted Arcidi are working for Angelo Savoldi's ICW. Arcidi will feud with Tony Atlas.
-- Robert Gibson hasn't come to terms on money yet, but Southern Championship Wrestling is already advertising him to appear.
-- Paul E. Dangerously and Bruiser Brody apparently had some type of altercation as the World of Wheels show in Atlanta. No one was hurt.
-- Dave answering a reader question about Boris Malenko: "I wasn't following wrestling that closely in Malenko's days, but do know Malenko did work briefly in Texas in 1972. I'm not sure the why's of everything, but blacklisting was very prevalent in those days and Malenko was apparently blacklisted from the mainstream, but I can only speculate on the reasons."
-- Dave answering a reader question about wrestlers being rude to fans or not always signing autographs: "As far as I'm concerned, Hogan has a perfect right to sign or not sign autographs as does everyone else in sports or entertainment. I've been in public places with wrestlers many times and the vast majority are very friendly about signing if approached in a friendly way. Some are mean and curt with fans even when approached in a friendly way. Some wrestlers aren't 'public' people and don't enjoy being in the spotlight when the show is over, even though many actually live for the attention. The wrestling lifestyle (travel to the point of exhaustion, oftentimes being screwed around by promoters and constant minor and major joint pains from the physical pounding along with pressure to perform and maintain an unhealthy physique -- in other words use steroids) can easily lead to irritability and moodiness."
-- Dave answering a reader question about David McLane and his coverage of GLOW vs his coverage of POWW: "Dave McLane started GLOW in time for the 1985-1986 TV season and filmed 26 episodes, then filmed a similar number for 86-87. During that time he had a falling out with the GLOW money people when it came time for actually putting on live shows. He broke away, formed POWW, and took most of the girls with him. GLOW continued showing tapes more than a year old this season with the same girls on POWW with new names and more current tapes."