Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
December 5th, 1988
-- Survivor Series was easily the best PPV event of the year, although the buyrate will probably be lower than any PPV since Wrestling Classic. Dave will have legit figures in about a week, but he's prediciting around a 4.0 buyrate. Because there was not a hot angle to sell the show, it probably won't be as high as Summerslam, but it's on the best night of the year for wrestling, so the difference should be minimal. The show drew 13,500 in a 21,000-seat arena, which Dave credits to tournaments and novelty shows not capturing the imagination of wrestling fans the same way singles main events that are heavily hyped do. Dave says the show was good enough, and the WWF seemed to really want to put forward a good show, that it should help next year's show as a gimmick.
* Brutus Beefcake & Blue Blazer & Sam Houston & Anabolic Warrior & Jim Brunzell vs Honky Tonk Man & Bad News Brown & Greg Valentine & Ron Bass & Dann Davis: All action with lots of heat, except for Blazer's submission to a figure four, which puzzled the crowd. Everyone worked hard, but the timing was off. **
* Battle of the tag teams: Really fast paced, 33-minutes of Japanese-style action followed by about 10 minutes of rest holds and power moves. The Bulldogs went out with a bang. The reason for the Powers of Pain turn was actually because the Road Warriors just turned heel in the NWA and the WWF was trying to further the perception that they were the Road Warriors. They decided to do the double turn since they feel the Powers of Pain can't stay over because they can't do interviews, while Demolition does fine interviews and doesn't need a manager so much. ***1/2, would have been ****, but the crowd didn't react to the double turn at the end.
* Andre/Bravo/Rude/Race/Hennig vs Duggan/Roberts/Casey/Patera/Santana: The only bad match on the show since everyone but Jake, Rude, and Hennig are not in ring shape. Patera's farewell, but he had a good career and was great in the early 80s. Hennig is still really, really not over, but the WWF is determined to keep pushing him until he does get over. Dave can't figure out why Bravo is so protected. *1/4
* Hogan/Savage/Koko/Hillbilly Jim/Hercules vs Haku/DiBiase/Akeem/Rooster/Boss Man: Crowd was pretty silent when Hogan and Savage weren't in. Action was good once Hillbilly got out and the booking was fantastic. They are clearly teasing Hogan vs Savage for Wrestlemania. ***
-- Overall, this was the best booked major card in years and the announcing was excellent.
-- Ron Garvin will take Don Muraco's old spot and feud with Greg Valentine.
-- 11/25 in Hartford, CT crew 9,800 fans headlined by Hogan vs Boss Man. 11/23 in Cincinnati drew 6,500 headlined by Hogan vs Boss Man. 11/20 in Grand Rapids, MI drew 4,300 fans headlined by Rude vs Roberts. 11/20 at the Capital Centre drew 2,500 fans headlined by Savage vs Bad News Brown.
-- "The daily soap opera, 'The Young and the Wrestless,' continued this week involving the National Wrestling Alliance. After missing the entire weekend with what is now known in wrestling terminology as the 'Dusty flu,' we got the word that the Dream was in hot water. In fact, Jim Crockett was ordered to replace Dusty Rhodes as NWA booker. Since Crockett knows that with the exception of Rhodes himself, there is only one person in this entire universe capable of booking the NWA, he was in a panic when he made the call to Colorado, but Crockett's panic was relieved a bit when the party on the other end of the phone said he'd drop all plans and arrive in Sumter, SC to take over the booking chores the next day. You could imagine the shock among the wrestlers Tuesday night when the new booker walked in. Yes, it was the Midnight Rider, in public if you will.
"Unfortunately, the Dusty flu is a contagious disease and spread all around the NWA this past week and Battlestar Week was marred by several no-shows once again, including wrestlers in key matches most every night."
-- Dave thinks Starrcade will be okay, but can't see it having the impact or buy rate of the Bash. Also, that show stood on its own while this one is right in the middle of some major oversaturation.
-- They are planning a PPV for 2/19 in Chicago, which was originally called Chi-Town Heat II: Freddy's FInal Revenge (???) headlined by Flair vs Steamboat, or at least that's what they're hoping for. Dave says Chicago is not the city to do Flair/Steamboat because no one knows the rivalry outside of the Carolinas and Toronto. In the ring, it should be excellent, but they will have to really deliver some special hype for it to draw.
-- They ran an angle with Dusty and the Road Warriors on Thanksgiving afternoon that aired on TBS on Saturday where the Road Warriors spiked Dusty's eye. This was planned for months from now, but Dusty needs an angle in a big way or he's going to find himself out the door. Dusty will work with a patch over his eye.
-- 11/12 in Columbus, OH drew between 2,500 and 3,000 headlined by Flair vs Dusty with Flair actually winning by pinfall. 11/23 in Baltimore drew 9,000 and a $106,000 gate headlined by Sting & Luger vs Road Warriors in a ***1/2 match and Flair vs Rick Steiner. Thanksgiving at the Omni drew 8,000 and a $96,000 gate. 11/25 in Charlotte drew 5,000 fans and a $57,000 gate. 11/26 in Greensboro drew 7,500 fans headlined by Road Warriors vs Sting & Luger, with a notable Steve Williams vs Rick Steiner match that was **** underneath, and couldn't be followed. The ans were going crazy and Steiner did an incredible dive over the top rope out of the ring. Super heat and intensity. 11/27 in Richmond drew 3,500 fans headlined by Sting & Luger vs Road Warriors.
-- The deal with managers is that only the managers associated with the top two matches on the show get to travel to the cities.
-- The current plan is to bring back Gordon Solie to host the Sunday show with JJ Dillon, and Dave has no idea why Dillon. "The current plan is also to drop several managers early next year and they are trying to make sure Dillon stays. That seems like part of the reason they are holding Dangerously and Cornette from going to the arenas, in order to make it seem like Dillon is the No. 1 manager and assure his spot. It may work, and it may backfire completely."
-- 11/26 in the Twin Cities drew 1,500 fans and was headlined by Jerry Lawler vs Wahoo McDaniel. Kerry Von Erich and Ricky Morton, who were key in building up the show, both no-showed. Morton had flight issues.
-- Thanksgiving on 11/25 in Dallas drew an $11,200 gate, the largest in a long time, and everyone was happy. The show was headlined by Lawler vs Kerry in a cage and Kerry won clean.
-- "Lee Marshall was at the Sportatorium helping Marc Lowrance do the commentary and you know he needs the help."
-- In what Dave says is "probably the first, last and only time that Portland Wrestling will be the lead story in the Observer", the Oregon State Athletic Commission closed down Don Owen's Big Time Wrestling Promotions for violating state regulations. Owen had his promoters' license pulled and had to close shop.
-- This started on 11/5. Matt Borne was doing an interview to plug a match with Steve Doll on 11/12. Borne guaranteed blood, but the commission was adamantly against this, because Billy Jack Haynes had clued them in on how wrestling works. Not only did he guarantee blood for the first time in months, but also said the commission better be there, because there will be blood all over the place. Another wrestler, Abbuda Dein (Rocky Iaukea) said the same thing.
-- At the 11/12 show Borne was posted by Steve Doll and gigged himself, and the referee immediately stopped the match.
-- On 11/15, the commission issued a complaint about the blood and the guard rails, which failed to meet safety standards. Owen's lawyer claimed the blood was accidental and that since they stopped the match, they were compliant with the commission rules. They also argued that the guard rails were within guidelines. Owen said wrestlers are independent contractors and he can't control what they do in a match. The judge ruled in favor of the commission and said Owen's promoters license should be rescinded. Owen appealed, but the judge again ruled in favor of the commission, so he had to cancel his 11/26 Thanksgiving card, which was expected to sell out.
-- The story made Portland newspapers for four days and also made the national AP and UPI wires.
-- It is expected in the next week that Owen and the commission will reach a compromise because they need each other. Owen obviously needs to be reinstated, but tax revenue from wrestling is what funds the commission. This happened one week prior to local businessman Mel Saraceno and Moondog Moretti opening a rival promotion on 12/3.
DAVE AND WADE KELLER ON THE LETTERS PAGE
"All of this controversy about smart fans, what they are, what they think, what their responsibilities are is getting very old, very fast.
First of all, since smart fan is a slang term, there is no definite definition. A lot of people feel a smart fan is one who reads the Observer, Torch, Forum or other insider sheet. Others think a smart fan has to know everything about the business to be truly smart. Some think it's anyone who doesn't think wrestling is real is smart. And so on.
Maybe Trent Walters was correct in saying Bill Kunkel and Ed Garea are the only true smart fans he knows of, but that is simply because they fit his definition of smart fans.
When Jon Gallagher wrote the article, "Dealing With Wrestlers" in the Pro Wrestling Torch Annual, he said, '...Perhaps the easiest way to end your meeting quickly is to call the wrestler by his real name. Though this will let the wrestler know that you are smart, that is the only purpose it serves. The wrestler already knows his own real name and chances are that he will not stick around for the conversation.' Jon did not mean the wrestler will assume that the fan knows the complex business of wrestling inside and out. I interpreted that he meant that the wrestler will think this fan has been smartened up to the point he knows angles are predetermined and personalities are contrived. Generally, most wrestlers feel uncomfortable talking to that type of fan.
The point is, Trent Walters doesn't seem to realize his definition of a smart fan isn't everyone's.
As far as good matches go, it is okay for him to like a match with good ring psychology, but since match endings are predetermined, a lot of fans like exciting matches and rate wrestlers who execute good moves often higher than those who don't. Those fans aren't wrong. They just don't agree with you.
Owen Hart hurts the business? I don't think so. An Owen Hart match doesn't expose the business, at least not compared to anything else in the business. The cartoon image of the WWF and things others portray does hurt a whole lot worse. The general media treating pro wrestling with laughter and contempt is what hurts the business. When a fan watches a wrestler sit there and not move out of the way when Randy Savage comes off the top rope or when the referee pretends not to see a foreign object that the heel doesn't try to hide might expose the business. Owen Hart shows tremendous athletic ability and durability. Absorbing tremendous punishment and coming back from this punishment may be unrealistic, but exposing the business, it does not.
Trent also says, 'Please don't hurt the business. I have never tried to smarten anyone up. I don't talk smart.' Is he telling me to lie to my friends? Should I tell them it's real? When I got my first copy of the Wrestling Observer, it didn't hurt the business. If anyone reads the Wrestling Observer, it doesn't hurt the business. If every single wrestling fan read the Observer, it probably would hurt the business, but since that isn't conceivable, it is nothing to worry about. The business of wrestling has to be run with the assumption that its fans are pretending that it's real, even if it is common knowledge that this isn't the case."
"There are those who believe the knowledge that pro wrestling is worked hurts the business. But think about this. Of the several million fans who watch pro wrestling on TV each week, what percentage do you think truly believe it is a legitimate sport? I'll bet 10 percent would be overestimating the mark. What percentage of those at house shows truly believe? I don't mean they suspend disbelief or fool themselves or pretend while they are at the show, but truly believe in their heart of hearts it is true sport? That varies by the promotion, but at the WWF it is less than 20 percent. At some of the smaller promotions the percentage would be higher since they have no general public appeal. I've had several wrestlers tell me the last promotion where the fans really believed was Bill Watts' Mid South, and they didn't believe for the most part by 1986. If tomorrow, all wrestling fans who believe wrestling is a work were to all give up watching and following wrestling and leave it to the marks, so to speak, what would happen. TV ratings would drop 90 percent. Virtually every wrestling TV show would disappear from the airwaves within six months. House show gates would drop more than 80 percent because not only would those who don't believe be gone, but those who do would lose interest without the television to keep them interested. Every promotion would be obliterated, except the WWF, which would be badly wounded. Most wrestlers would be unemployed, and those who would be employed wouldn't make anywhere near what they earn today. So saying that pro wrestling is for the marks is gaga. Wrestling is for all wrestling fans, all of whom have different tastes. A promoter either has to figure out what the public wants and give it to them, or be such a good promoter that he can convince the public to like what he wants to give them, and most wrestling promoters fall into the latter category of thought. The problem is, with the exception of Vince McMahon, none are good enough promoters to turn a profit doing it. Jerry Jarrett turns a profit, but his company tries to give the public what it wants, while Titan tries to lead the public into wanting what it feels like giving. But saying that unless you pretend in public that wrestling is real you will destroy the business is ridiculous. Nobody exposes the business more than the promoters in the first place. And it takes no great knowledge or incisiveness to be able to figure out whether wrestling is real for yourself in the first place. I do believe most all fans want the wrestlers themselves to pretend it's real, tho.
If Andy Rooney were commenting on the latest raging controversy within wrestling fandom, he'd probably say: "Didja ever notice how obsessed some people are with how smart they are? Didja ever wonder why?"