Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
November 28th, 1988
WELL OKAY THEN
-- "There's some major news from the NWA that should open up the issue, but I'm more in the mood to start off talking about the WWF and covering a few other subjects first."
-- "The Titan steamroller came into town for television tapings Tuesday and Wednesday night. I almost feel like entitling this page, 'My Week with the Fed', (as a takeoff on an excellent article a few issues back in Wrestling Forum by a Titan jobber), but actually it was only one five hour show that felt like a week. Well, it really didn't, but it was a loooong show, and that's with skipping the first two matches and leaving before the main event. They held the 'Superstars' taping at the San Francisco Cow Palace on 11/15, which drew a slightly padded legitimate sellout crowd of 14,600 fans (12,200 paying and $142,000 and 2,400 freebies) and they did turn away about 100 fans, although they weren't turning anyone away until after 8 p.m. for a 7:30 p.m. start. For reasons I'm unable to ascertain, the building was a good 2,000 shy of capacity, however as roughly 1,900 people who held tickets never arrived and there were plenty of empty seats noticable throughout the building, particularly up high, even though it was a turnaway event. One thing you have to give Titan credit for is the way they promote major events within the market. There was tons of local radio stations and even local television over the last two days. In reality, there was a lot of worrying about an empty arena because they had only 6,000 tickets sold the day before the event but had a huge walk-up, which on a Tuesday night is doubly impressive. My theory o this, which may not be worth much, is that doing tons of local publicity does work twice a year (which is all they do TV here) when ..... is on the show because there were tons of casual fans, and that's really not what they were as I saw friends from high school and such the one time I wandered around the place and they wouldn't even be classified at wrestling fans in the least. It was simply a much-publicized thing to do and ..... has name recognition with non-fans and can draw them once or twice, even if they don't care much about wrestling. Nobody else in wrestling has any pull anything near that with the non-fans. As one reader said, it was probably the highest IQ group ever to attend wrestling at the Cow Palace, but they also had the lowest wrestling IQ. We saw two turns, and fans didn't react to either of them. The only crowd reactions were the instinctive popping when music blared out and genuine heat during Ted DiBiase's match. The two most obvious lessons are that Titan can't run subtle turns here, because it was an audience that needed to be banged over the head to understand anything that occurred, and that for an organization that runs things so well, they really should be able to get a whole lot better quality of jobbers because even though the jobbers simply go into the ring and get squashed in two minutes, they at least have to know how to take bumps to sell the moves right and we had some outright disasters, particularly late in the show. The best thing about the show was the ring announcing by Howard Finkel. I've never really paid close attention to that before because I usually concentrate on the matches, but decided to concentrate on everything but the matches here. The guy belongs in the ring announcers hall of fame with Jimmy Lennon, and even Lennon wasn't so meticulously perfect."
-- Demolition vs Rockers: Dave missed it, but was told it was a **1/2 match and was the second best match on the show.
-- Ron Bass vs Ken Patera: DUD
-- Superstars taping summary: Fans didn't understand how the tapings worked and chanted "refund" during Big Boss Man's squash, because hey thought he was .....'s replacement, and didn't realize the match was later in the show. Barry Horowitz is the best jobber in North America. Akeem is amusing as a novelty act, but has no chance of drawing money with that gimmick. ....... Love is really over. Rude has lost some heat compared to six months ago with the Cheryl Roberts angle. Bad News Brown would have made a great heel in the 70s. Dave enjoys Andre as an actor, but not as a wrestler. Duggan's popularity and heat has suffered greatly because of his feud with Dino Bravo, who is not over at all.
-- "Mean Gene came out to cheerlead for the intros to open the hours. They did two big opening cheers which did real good. Then Gene tried to lead fans in a chant of "Jesse, Jesse," but it was a real half-hearted response by the crowd which died almost immediately. When Gene previously announced Vince and Jesse's names, he paused for a big reaction to Jesse's name and it was surprisingly lukewarm with a few boos. Before I go on, there's one anecdote I've got to put in here. You know that Gene does those interviews with fans in the crowd (and yes, unlike anything else with Titan, these aren't plants). Anyway, Gene went up to this guy who looked like he was on furlough from a Massachusetts prison and started asking him all those stupid questions and the guy screamed on the mic, 'Mean Gene, you're a faggot.' Gene sprinted away from him lik ehe was Ben Johnson."
-- Ted DiBiase vs Tito Santana was **3/4 and the best match on the show.
-- Koko B. Ware & Blue Blazer vs Conquistadores was "okay if you don't mind watching Owen Hart wrestling while wearing an invisible straight-jacket."
-- Paul Roma had "the best physique in the WWF and maybe in all of pro wrestling."
-- "We went back to Superstars taping midway through hour #2 after an unplanned 10 minute intermission due to a wild brawl in the corner of the cheap seats. It took a long time to separate, had the best actual heat of the night (the punches looked real, probably because they were) and the participants kept breaking away from security to start pounding on one another. I haven't seen a crowd brawl like this one in a long time. It was ironic that what was planned next was, you got it, a brawl all over the arena."
-- More random taping thoughts: Sam Houston is taller and heavier than both Rougeaus, but has the rep of being skinny while they don't, so they get pushed and he doesn't. During the Rogueaus vs Houston & Stefan De Leon match, the building headed out for the concessions stands "like ants who had been given the message that Buddy Rose is unloading his picnic basket" ... "Rude's trunks now have a drawing of Rick Rude on them. Does that mean he wants to--wait, I better not even speculate."
-- Curt Hennig vs Lee Hansen: Hennig had less heat than anyone on the show, including some of the jobbers. This got "boring" chants, but Dave says Hennig beat the shit out of the guy, and it was like watching Ashura Hara in the WWF and was incredibly violent.
-- "It was off to Sacramento on 11/16 for a Wrestling Challenge and Saturday Night Main Event taping (for 11/26 air date). Sacramento had an awesome advance so freebies were limited, but they came just shy of a sellout with 15,900 (sellout would be 16,500) paying $170,000. "It totally mystifies me the crowd reaction for Hennig because they've given him such a big push but nobody cares. The theory among those who know more than I is that the problem is twofold: 1) Even though his character is not the same as DiBiase, his entrance to the fed is exactly the same and fans see it as nothing new. 2) Even though Hennig is a great worker and appeared to have a strong personality in the AWA, his interviews and personality which stood out amongst Kevin Kelly and Soldat Ustinov mean nothing when he's out there with guys with strong personalities who have their act down pat. Who really knows, all I know is it isn't working."
-- Even though there were 13,000 fans in attendance for Leonard-Lalonde, the paid attendance was only 5,000. The WWF also reduced their buyrate claims to 5.8 percent and 630,000 homes, but Dave says these figures bear no relation with reality, because clearance was only 9.4 million. Dave is hearing a lot of interesting information from cable companies despite the WWF's gag order.
-- "They Live" has already surpassed the $20 million mark. The move is expected to be a huge success internationally, especially in Europe because of Carpenter's reputation as a director. Observer reader and film critic Paul Sherman of the Boston Herald interviewed Piper. Here is a summary:
* Piper would return to wrestling again if this failed, although it would hurt a lot to have to do so
* Piper explained that he is loyal to Don Owen because Georgia tried to blackball him after they fired him, and Owen was the only promoter in the country that would hire him. So he never went against him, even though there was pressure to do so in the WWF.
* He talked about being stabbed three times, being shot at, and living on the streets from the time he was 13 to 15 years old. He was a golden gloves boxer at 14 years old when he weighed 157 lbs and got picked on a lot because he didn't look like he could fight.
* "It's a time when you really got to test your morals. It would be really easy to snatch some old lady's purse or something like that. With Carpenter, he would ask me and I'd tell him some things and some things I wouldn't. In that particular scene it was pretty hard for me because of what I was fighting. I'm a pretty shy guy, and when I wrestled I just kept everything closed and I was extra mean. It was a way of hiding everything that happened to me. Nobody asked me no questions because they didn't want to. When it came time to do this movie, it was just the opposite. They wanted you to open up. And I'm still afraid people will laugh at me for it. It just my feelings, and that hurts more than anything. So it's really a touchy thing, so I'm not sure where to go with it. I used to stay mean so they couldn't hurt me, now I'm opening up, and if they hurt me what do I do? Do I get mean and hit them? Do I take the heat and get my feelings hurt? Especially in the 'daddy scene,' it was just coming from Roderick Piper."
* He retired from wrestling because his oldest daughter would cry when he would leave from the airport to wrestle. "Believe it or not, I have a heart way down there. It tore my heart out. I never had no family on my side. I worked my whole life to build a family, to have a little ranch up on the mountain. All of a sudden I was throwing it away for I wasn't sure what. How much glamour wa sI gonna get out of pro wrestling? Or how much more anything? It was a hard decision to make."
* He was not a natural actor, and had to work hard.
* Ric Flair is a stand-up guy and a credit to wrestling.
"I printed these comments here but want to mention you should take most of them with a grain of salt. To clarify, on the Don Owen question, while it is true that the Georgia office fired Piper at the height of his popularity in 1981, the tour he worked with Owen the following week had been advertised for a long time previously, and it was a one-week tour, and after that, he went to work full-time for the Crocketts in the Carolinas (for much of '81 he was splitting time between the Crockett Carolina office and Ole Anderson's Georgia office). His story about meeting John Carpenter at WM3 seems strange as if the acting career was a fluke as many months before his retirement it was well-known he was trying to market himself as a movie actor and had three film offers before he ever retired from wrestling or even thought of retiring for that matter."
-- Brian Blair was brought to California to do a TV job, but refused, so he was fired again.
-- 11/17 in Los Angeles drew 10,000 and a $128,000 gate headlined by ..... vs Boss Man. 11/18 in St. Louis drew a sellout 9,600 and an $89,000 gate headlined by ..... vs Boss Man in the biggest turnout in over two years. 11/15 in Champaign, IL drew 14,000 fans headlined by ..... vs Boss Man. 11/11 at Nassau drew 12,149 fans headlined by .... ..... vs ....... Love (!!!) with ..... stripping him down to polka dot underwear, a gate that Dave says throws every rule of promoting wrestling out the window. 11/11 in Albuquerque drew $43,000 headlined by Roberts vs Rude.
-- Vince is keeping the Rougeaus and Bulldogs apart, but they are both part of Survivor Series, which is the last show for Davey Boy & Dynamite.
-- The Fantastics vs Sheepherders match for the Clash has to be cancelled since the Sheepherders are headed to the WWF to fill the spot on the card made vacant by the departure of the British Bulldogs.
-- Dusty Rhodes is trying to get Ric Flair vs Rick Steiner on top for Starrcade, along with Roadies vs Sting & Luger and Barry Windham vs Dusty Rhodes. "I have to carefully tread on this story, but this past Monday afternoon, Ric Flair had a meeting at TBS and was informed of his match and of the finish. Flair stormed out of the meeting, missed the TBS TV tapings that night, and for a 24-hour period it was tough-and-go whether he'd finally go to Titan since he's been talking of late about the matches he could have with Randy Savage (although he doesn't realize what he'd have to give up to have them, basically his wrestling dignity, and those matches would never live up to expectations because they wouldn't be given the time). Well, Jack Petrik of TBS has learned more about the wrestling business over the past seven days then most learn in a year and by Tuesday talked Flair into staying. At that point the main event was Flair vs. Luger with the two matches underneath uncertain, but that was the deal made between Petrik and Flair, with Rhodes not involved in the decision-making. Rhodes was furious, as you can imagine and he and Jim Crockett tried to explain to Petrik various reasons why the scenario he had wouldn't work (I can't go into details because it would give away a possible finish) and tried to talk Petrik back into seeing things their way, and then failing, tried to talk him into switching the main event to Flair vs. 'that Jap' (Genichiro Tenryu, who Flair himself wanted to wrestle despite the fact it would have no box office impact because he wanted a great, stiff, realistic match and also wanted to get himself and the NWA title 'over' as the real World title in Japan and wanted to open up Japanese style more to U.S. fans). Later Crockett dispatched Jim Barnett to convince Flair to see things Dusty's way on Thursday, but the last word I have is that it will be Flair vs. Luger on top. The story doesn't end here, because this weekend has been full of turmoil and disaster for the NWA. There have been several no-shows each night, finishing off with a near-record 12 no-shows tonight in Chicago (if you include managers). Most importantly, Dusty Rhodes missed all three major cards this weekend and it isn't clear to anyone as to why, whether the pressure of being accountable and not having 100 percent carte blanche when it comes to booking is taking its toll or whether its a protest for being overruled or whether it is something else. However on Friday night at the DC Armory in Washington, Rhodes was scheduled to wrestle Flair for the title on top and no-showed without leaving any word. They waited until 8 p.m., the show's starting time, for his arrival and since he gives finishes, had nothing worked out for the card. When he didn't arrive, Kevin Sullivan and Gary Juster had to frantically put together a replacement card and work out match finishes and actually completed the show with very few mishaps. Road Warrior Hawk missed Thursday and Friday with a bad back, but was back to work on Saturday and the injury was legit. He was in town to work Friday but was in so much pain and with Rhodes not there they decided to turn the main event into Flair & Road Warrior Animal vs. Sting & Luger with Sting pinning Flair for the finish. Bobby Eaton missed the weekend as well but the absence was excused. Then came Sunday night in Chicago and check out the list of no-shows: Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton and manager Jim Cornette (Cornette was advertised but wasn't scheduled to go there because of the decision not to send the managers on the road in many situations to save travel costs); Dusty himself; Bam Bam Bigelow (who got fed up with the way the organization was being run the previous night in Philadelphia but is still with the group and only missed the show); Fantastics and Sheepherders (since Sheeps quit and Fantastics had nobody to work with), Paul E. Dangerously (although his team was there, same story about managers), Paul Jones (ditto) and J. J. Dillon and Oliver Humperdink. Even at this Wednesday's kick-off to Battlestar Week in Baltimore, the promotion's hottest city, they don't have Cornette and Dangerously on the show. The story I got is that when TBS heard about all this about managers advertised in promos not showing up that they were 'very upset' because they want to run a first-class operation and just for practical business reasons, no-shows hurt the town's future gates worse than almost anything you can think of.
That isn't the only problem. Another major problem on the scene is that since the wrestlers were ordered to move to Atlanta by 11/1, all air reservations were bought from the Atlanta airport. This mean those who hadn't relocated to Atlanta, like those who stayed in Charlotte (many of them did) would have to drive to Atlanta to catch their plane to wherever (something like a six hour drive) and drive home from Atlanta. Some did the drive and others paid out-of-pocket to purchase their own plane tickets out of Charlotte. Apparently Steve Williams has a similar problem living in Shreveport and his deal when he joined the NWA was they would fly his leg from Shreveport to Dallas and then Dallas to wherever. Some tickets come out of Dallas since many of the wrestlers still live there including Crockett, Dusty and J.J. Dillon, however those on the East Coast's tickets are all out of Atlanta. Anyway, Williams' promise was reniged upon and he's been driving from Shreveport to Dallas to catch his plane flights. This should help some of you understand why in certain circumstances that some of the matches may be below par. The wrestlers were told that TBS ordered them all to move, but I'm wondering. Why would TBS, in its first month of owning the company, do something like this which is certain to destroy morale, which is already at below zero?"
-- The Dusty situation remains up in the air, but Dave thinks he's "already cooked his goose" (My note: I am Southern and have NEVER heard that expression) and knows it. There has still been no explanation for his missing the shows. "The real story behind this in my mind is that there has been a major power play going on behind the scenes ... between Rhodes and Ric Flair. One time Flair woke up and realized how much he had allowed himself and the title to be abused and also realized just how little the title meant to the casual fans because of the cheap way the champion had been portrayed, particularly over the past year with all the ref bump DQ finishes. Flair refused to do those finishes, particularly wth Lex Luger, and Rhodes and Crockett tried to paint Flair as a prima donna and not a team player to Petrik. Part of the reason also is that Flair had received a very lucrative offer from TBS and TBS is working on marketing Flair as the focal point of their promotion in 1989 as a babyface and are working on a Flair book, Flair videotape, etc. to come out next year after the turn. There was also a clause in the deal that gave Flair unprecedented power for a World champion and Rhodes and Crockett were upset Flair was given that type of power and Rhodes felt Flair went 'behind his back' in negotiating the contract and getting that certain power. In response, Rhodes only booked Flair for five shows the entire month of December and attempted to get the title from him at Starrcade, but it appears the entire situation backfired on him. As far as I know, Rhodes is still the booker but I assume Kevin Sullivan is in reality the booker and that the promotion is in a shambles temporarily due to a lack of leadership and guidance which has to be addressed quickly and my own opinion is that it will be very difficult to salvage anything from Starrcade because valuable build-up time has been lost in the in-fighting and petty-burying. Rhodes also had planned to bring his son Dustin (18-years-old) in along with Kendall Windham as the Texas Broncos tag team and give them a decent babyface push, and his timing in doing so couldn't have been worse."
-- Jimmy Garvin has quit, and is expected to end up in Texas teaming with Michael Hayes.
-- 11/16 in Raleigh drew $8,000 headlined by Midnight Express vs Road Warriors in a cage match. 11/19 in Philadelphia drew 5,000 fans headlined by Road Warriors vs Sting & Luger in a **** brawl.
-- "They also announced that they would be doing a live 'Straight Talk with the Boss' (Magnum T.A.) segment at Starrcade and in this week's update showed a three minute video of Magnum running on the beach with his mom that was taped many years ago to build up a Flair vs. Magnum match in Norfolk (a 60 minute draw which sold out the place). What is the purpose? Last year they had to rush certain matches to fit in a 2 1/2 hour show and hold the card to seven matches--this year they've got three hours bu probably will have more matches and they don't have time for a live Magnum's Pit-- it's just not the show to do it in. The video was great, but it should have been a new video done on whomever was wrestling Flair for the title or on Sting & Luger as a team or whatever. I personally enjoyed it but it was another waste of a Starrcade update on something and someone who isn't going to be selling tickets to a PPV event."
-- 11/18 in DC drew 3,000 headlined by Flair & Animal vs Sting & Luger. 11/20 drew 4,500 and a $52,000 house headlined by Sting & Luger vs Road Warriors. 11/13 in Huntington, WV drew 5,000 headlined by Sting vs Flair. 11/10 in Johnstown, PA drew 1,549 and a $15,661 gate headlined by Sting & Luger vs Flair & Windham. 11/11 in Pittsburgh drew 3,400 and a $35,000 house headlined by Flair vs Luger.
-- Later in the issue, Dave says Rhodes claimed he was ill and that's why he missed the weekend shows, but he is probably out as booker but may stay temporarily as a wrestler.
-- The NWA wrestlers received their balloon payments from Crockett, but only at 40 cents on the dollar. The best estimate is that one major NWA star will wind up with around $120,000.
-- Correction from last week: The Dallas office has not closed, but most of the major decisions are coming from Tennessee. Only Eric Embry and Bronco Lubich are working from Dallas now.
-- Jerry Jarrett may be looking to replace Marc Lowrance because he has no credibility in World Class and it reflects badly on the product and hype.
-- "Eric Embry pulled a Robert Fuller and ran the whole show around himself. Scandor Akbar now has a $50,000 bounty on Embry. During an interview, Iceman King Parsons and Botswana Beast beat up Embry who juiced and was stretchered out and it was announced to the crowd he was taken to the hospital. Later in the show Embry came back and attacked Iceman and Beast and they said that he refused to get in the ambulance to take him to the hospital and stayed in the building for revenge."
-- Lawler did an interview to cover for his no-show on 11/11 at the Sportatorium, saying he was in town and WCCW personnel drove him all over Dallas. He claims Fritz Von Erich paid them off so he wouldn't hurt Kerry before Superclash.
-- The British Bulldogs will be in full-time starting 11/25. Don Muraco and Junkyard Dog will be in the first week of December. Dave expects crowds to pick up since they're all major league stars, but they all need heels to face, although Dave thinks Muraco teaming with Steve DiSalvo against the Bulldogs would draw. Dave can't see JYD staying over very long here because the fans are used to great matches.
-- 11/11 in Calgary drew 1,000+ headlined by Benoit/Wellington/Bruce Hart vs Smith/Cuban Commandos
-- The WWF is running Calgary on 12/9, so Stampede will run a day earlier that week.
-- They ran an angle where Abdul Wizal threw ammonia in Steve DiSalvo's eyes, and they actually used real ammonia and some got in DiSalvo's eyes, so he had to wear a protective face mask.
-- Ashura Hara has been fired. This is a huge loss for All Japan which Dave compares to Arn & Tully leaving for the WWF. He can't see anyone filling Hara's spot except maybe Toshiaki Kawada, but that would break up the popular Foot Loose tag team. Also, Kawada is too small to work on top. The story was that Hara kept piling up outside debt, and Baba kept helping him out, but Hara refused to help himself, and Baba got tired of doing so and got rid of him.
-- Weekly Pro Wrestling, which Dave compares in some ways to the WON, just that they are more subtle and have more read-between-the-lines reporting, said that Tenryu vs Jumbo on 10/28 was fantastic, but had a weak finish that some are complaining was too revealing.
-- Weekly Gong will have a 10-part interview with Barbara Goodish starting in a few weeks.
-- 11/11 in Tokyo started the tag tournament.
-- 11/12 in Matsumoto drew 2,230 fans.
-- Lance Idol no-showed the tour, so Kendo Nagasaki is replacing him and will team with Buzz Sawyer & Manny Fernandez.
-- Hiroshi Hase will be out several months with a staph infection, which could be career-threatening.
-- 11/10 in Tsuyuhashi drew 5,000 fans and a $175,00 gate headlined by Maeda vs Takada.
-- The plan is to air the 1/10 show which will probably be Maeda vs Backlund in closed circuit, the first show of its kind in Japan.
-- They had their first TV exposure ever over the past week, airing the main events on Ch. 6 in Tokyo, an independent station. It drew a national 12 rating, which makes it the third highest rated show of the year after ..... vs Andre and Dump's retirement. Ch. 6 pushed the show hard, saying they would be airing real wrestling, with Maeda saying "All Japan and New Japan are fake and our fights are real fights."
-- Hisashi Shinma is starting JWP in large part due to his anger over Maeda's comments about other promotions. Devil Masami and Shinobu Kandori will have a big main event in January.
-- "There is a rumor floating around that Merv Griffin was going to start a wrestling promotion that word I get is it was just a passing thought."
-- Vader is running an indy show called "Superclash '88" on 12/2 in Boulder, CO.
-- Lia Maivia and Lars Anderson were released on $20,000 bail. Maivia, Anderson and Ati So'o were required to surrender their passports, not leave Hawaii, and have no contact with any witnesses.
-- Manny Fernandez was arrested for assaulting a fan in Hickory, NC where he wrestled Hector Guerrero.