Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
May 9th, 1988
Note: There is a transcript of the Bruno radio interview mentioned a few weeks back in this issue, along with Dave's thoughts on it, which is a fun read and covers a variety of topics, but there's no way I'm going through all of that. I have my limits.
-- The WWF ran its last SNME of the season on 4/30, which was taped 4/22 in Springfield, MA. Savage is very much the star of the WWF right now, and Dave observed that the name Hulk Hogan was never even mentioned during the show. Dave also thinks it's amazing the difference in match quality on top between Hogan and Savage. Dave also noted that Duggan was really trying against Hercules, as was Hercules, but Duggan has fallen hard. Savage vs Gang was an okay match, but Savage was moving great and doing some awesome stuff in the ring. DiBiase sold big for all of Muraco's offense, but Muraco didn't do much. Bulldogs vs Demolition was terrible as they seemed to be on different pages. Rude vs Ware was the only match where both guys are about equally talented and it was pretty good, with neither guy really carrying the other.
-- The WWF is cost cutting by no longer having managers travel to house shows, only TV tapings. They may make an exception for Liz since she's such a key part of Savage's act. They have also cut back greatly on dates. A year ago, they were running 20-25 shows per week, now they are doing 10-12 shows per week. This is probably good in the short term, because Dave keeps hearing that the live shows are much better lately, although Dave credits the Savage/DiBiase feud and Bret/Bad News for most of that.
-- 4/24 at the Capital Centre drew 4,500 fans headlined by Savage vs DiBiase. 4/25 in MSG drew 17,000 headlined by Savage vs DiBiase.
-- Harley Race will be out of action for several months. He had 18 inches of his intestine removed after a ruptured intestine and at one point was on the critical list.
-- Bubba Rogers will debut with a prison guard gimmick and feud with Hulk Hogan this coming fall.
-- Owen Hart is still undecided about coming in.
-- Ricky Steamboat has quit, but Dave doesn't know more than that yet.
-- JCP has pretty much given up any claim to the New York market, as Nassau Coliseum officials have given in to the WWF's ultimatum. Crockett ran four shows there. The first show in late November was a major success, but that was expected. The second card was the Bunkhouse Stampede, which was a disaster, although the gate was still more than Titan was averaging, so they were okay. However, the ill will from the lack of organization behind the show resulted in a poor gate for the third show, which drew $48,000, about what the WWF would average on non-Hogan shows. The 6/24 date has been lost, and they have also lost their time slot on WPIX in New York, so they are now without local television in New York and Los Angeles, which they sorely need. Dave thinks the loss of television may have actually been a deliberate decision by Crockett, because they were paying upwards of $6,000 per week for their time, but that it's really going to hurt ad revenue and potential exposure.
-- The Fantastics captured the US tag team titles from the Midnight Express on 4/26 in Chattanooga in a match that went more than 40 minutes. (My note: It's one of the best matches of the year. Find it.) Jim Cornette was on TV saying he was planning a party because he expected his close personal friend Jim Crockett to return the belts to him. Dave expects Cornette to not get the belts back, and get a face full of cake.
-- Ric Flair missed several dates over the last weekend, and there are several stories floating around. In one, he had a severe fever, and the other, he had a staph infection. Refunds were offered in the cities he missed.
-- 4/29 in Miami drew 4,000 headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting. 4/30 in Detroit drew 4,000 headlined by Ric Flair vs Sting in a ***1/2 match where they totally broke formula and did all highspots.
-- The next Clash is expected to be on 6/15 from the Knight Center in Miami. The Great American Bash PPV is on 7/10 in Baltimore.
-- Dave says the NWA should be happy that WCCW is doing the Triple Tower of Doom first, so they can see any bugs in the gimmick. It was the idea of Kevin Sullivan, not Dusty Rhodes.
-- "I finally saw the Barry Windham turn and it was tremendous. Every, and in every, I mean 100% of the phone calls I received this week on the turn, agreed that it was a great turn. Some didn't like Dusty getting involved since it really was a Windham vs. Luger issue, but I didn't mind as much because Rhodes has been a significant part of Windham's career almost from its onset back around 1979 in Florida, so it made sense for him to get involved when Windham turned. I can see the point of those who thought he was stealing the spotlight once again."
-- The 1988 Bash tour will be from 6/26 to 8/7, and will include 40 or 41 shows all over the country. Many shows will have War Games. Only two of the shows will be outdoors -- one at Tampa Stadium, and the other will be at Charlotte baseball stadium on 7/2. They also have a show booked at Reunion Arena in Dallas on 7/3. The wrestlers will be working six weeks without a day off, so they'll be given a one week vacation after the tour. They have to do TV on those days as well, and there will be plenty of double shots due to TBS tapings. After that, the plan is to rotate all wrestlers on a three weeks on, one week off schedule.
-- The NWA took WCCW's TV in Jackson, MS "... and celebrated by sending a tape that aired this past weekend totally void of any commentary."
-- They are plugging the US title tournament in Houston on 5/13 pretty hard. Barry Windham or Lex Luger is considered the favorite. They are also saying the Midnight Rider will wrestle, and be accompanied to the ring by Dusty Rhodes. Dave suspects they'll put Adrian Adonis or Joe Pedicino in the outfit, or maybe stuff both members of the Rock & Roll Express in the outfit, since they want back in so badly.
-- "That NWA Main Event show (which is back on Sundays on WTBS) sure isn't turning out as many of us had hoped. This past Sunday's show still had poor lighting, and truthfully, lackluster matches. Originally the main event was announced as Barry Windham & Luger against Flair & Arn Anderson, but with the Windham turn, it was changed to Luger & Sting as announced on TV. With Flair being ill, it became Arn vs. Luger in a single, which was okay because of Arn, but Luger's weaknesses were all too evident once again." Dave says he ran to the ring and was breathing heavy five minutes in, but it got better at the end when Windham ran in for the DQ, but wasn't much better than most of the SNME matches which aired the night before. "This is what they wanted to be their showcase show, with showcase production and showcase matches and they are falling way short in both categories."
-- They are cutting back to one show per night, which means several wrestlers are likely to be cut.
-- WCCW has finally announced a lineup for the Texas Stadium show on 5/8. Michael Hayes and Ken Mantell are really trying to downplay the fact that it's called the David and Mike Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions. They kept the name to appease Fritz, but realize it's in bad taste. The main event will be a pair of matches inside the Triple Tower of Doom. There will be three rings, built one on top fo the other, with a fireman's pole going through the center of the rings allowing wrestlers to climb up or down. Wrestlers can also switch levels by climbing up the cage itself. They will also hold an 18-man Texas Roundup (the WWF has now trademarked the term "Royal Rumble", so they can't use it) inside the three rings. The idea is that the winner is the first wrestler who gets to the top of the third ring, then from there climbs up the cage to the top and grabs the envelope which contains money and five prizes to fans whose names the wrestler will pick out, including a brand new motorcycle and a trip to Las Vegas. Also on the show is Michael Hayes vs Terry Gordy in a Badstreet match, Iceman Parsons vs Kerry Von Erich, Kevin Von Erich & Bruiser Brody vs Buddy Roberts and a partner, Chris Adams vs Terry Taylor in a No DQ match, the Simpsons against Tatum and Victory to unify the Wild West and Texas tag team titles, Bill Irwin vs Black Bart, Eric Embry vs Steve Casey, Mike George vs Jeff Raitz and Missing Link & Jason Sterling vs Angel of Death & Vince Apollo.
-- 4/24 in Fort Worth drew 500 fans.
-- Skandor Akbar made an offer to Terry Taylor to manage him.
-- Fans are heavily cheering Terry Gordy in interviews, even though they do boo him when he's against Hayes.
-- WCCW is negotiation to have its syndication package be part of the All Star Wrestling TV network ad package.
-- Curt Hennig vs Jerry Lawler will be the most talked about show of 5/7, with Lawler announcing that if he doesn't win the title, he will retire from wrestling. Eddie Gilbert, Bill Dundee, Pat Tanaka, and Paul Diamond will be brought in for the undercard. The match itself will not air on the FNN show, but will instead be released quickly as a videotape by Independent Media Marketing based in New Jersey.
-- They are announcing that Larry Hennig is ahead of Jackie Fargo in referee voting on the 900 line in an attempt to drive up calls.
-- Robert Fuller recently lost a match to Jerry Lawler where the stipulation was that Missy Hyatt would have to be Lawler's maid for a day if Fuller lost. They aired the segment on TV this weekend, which Dave says was better than the UWF version with Dark Journey, but nowhere near Jimmy Garvin and Sunshine as David Von Erich's valet for a day in WCCW in '83.
-- They are now calling Gary Young an adopted member of the Gilbert family. Tommy Gilbert called him his new adopted son, and in Young's first interview, he said, "I'll be watching Missy's behind all the time ... um, I mean her back." This reminds Dave of a joke on Blackwell's Southern Championship Wrestling. Paul E. Dangerously co-hosts the show with Rhubarb Jones. They have this ongoing joke where Paul E. always messes up his name and Rhubarb corrects him. Finally, Paul E. says, "How come whenever I call you Rubhard, you say it's Rhubarb, but when Missy Hyatt calls you Rhubarb, you tell her it's Rub Hard?"
-- Curt Hennig did a promo where he said he's the only world champion because Ric Flair and Randy Savage only wrestle in one promotion and he goes everywhere.
-- FNN is negotiating with Continental and Dave thinks there's a strong possibility they'll be on FNN eventually.
-- "Speaking of Continental, the angle with Tom Prichard and Dirty White Boy Tony Anthony was one of the best I've seen ina long time. Part of the reason is that Gordon Solie gave his best performance in several years."
-- On 5/7, Don Owen and Billy Jack Haynes will be running competing shows. Haynes' roster includes himself, Ray Candy, Big Bubba/Fred Ottman from Memphis, Rip Oliver, Mike Miller, Tom Magee, Tiger Chung Lee, Brian Adams, Cpl. Kirchner, Cocoa Samoa, Steven Gator Wolf, Joey Jackson, Kevin Kelly, JT Southern, Chavo Guerrero, and Dewey Forte. Haynes is planning on paying decent guarantees at $600-$800 a week, but his crew is unimpressive. Dave thinks it will be a bitter battle just because Oregon and Washington just don't have enough fans to support two local promotions running full time, much less occasional big shows from the WWF and the NWA, which has a stop in Seattle during the Great American Bash tour.
-- Crowds are falling, due to a combination of standard summer fall-off, and many local fans feel the shows are less family friendly because of all the blood.
-- Jonathan Holiday is now a heel referee.
-- Les Thornton is planning on running opposition in Alberta in May.
-- The most recent series ended on 4/22 in Kanagawa before 3,100 fans at the Kawasaki City Gym, in which Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara retained the PWF tag titles by beating Bruiser Brody and Tommy Rich. Rich subbed for Jimmy Snuka who suffered three legit broken ribs the night before when John Tenta accidentally crushed him.
-- 4/21 in Tokyo drew 1,850.
-- The Road Warriors will appear on 6/9 and 6/10. The 6/10 show is in Budokan Hall.
-- Antonio Inoki is out of action with a broken foot, which will hurt them at the box office, since they've already lost Nobuhiko Takada and Kazuo Yamazaki to the UWF, and houses are down in general anyway. The 5/7 show will now be headlined by Choshu vs Vader, and Dave says it will be interested to see what type of drawing power Choshu has left.
-- Joe Pedicino and WATL-TV in Atlanta are putting together a wrestling marathon for 6/17 and 6/18, which will be about 30 consecutive hours of wrestling, 6 1/2 of which will be live, in studio. It will start at 9PM on 6/17 and go non-stop until 3AM on 6/19. They will also show Henry Winkler's "The One and Only", in which Winkler plays a wrestler, a movie Dave calls his favorite wrestling movie. In addition, they'll play the movie "Mad Bull", and do a History of Pro Wrestling In Atlanta segment. It's being used to raise money for the Atlanta police force to purchase bullet proof vests, and wrestlers from several promotions are scheduled to appear. Dave has even been told two WWF wrestlers will be there.
-- Big John Studd has sent a country music demo to several record companies. "He's trying to b.s. about his fame as a pro wrestler which would sell all these records. One person in the industry told me he wrestles better than he sings. I'm not sure he realized what he was saying (actually, I'm sure he did). At any rate, don't buy it if there are any cats living near your neighborhood if it is ever released."
-- The Sheik is putting together a TV show which is on satellite for some called Big Time Wrestling, a combination of clips from Pro Wrestling This Week and old Sheik footage from the 70s.
-- In the letters page, a reader felt Dave wasn't being a good journalist because he mixed his fact and opinion together too much, and he needed to keep them separate. He also accused him of being biased against the WWF and toward the NWA, and said he thinks he sometimes pretends to have opinions that he can't possibly believe. Dave's response? Since you asked ...
"You are right about one thing. I was insulted by this letter. I wasn't insulted because you didn't agree with my opinions regarding the 3/27 shows, because anyone who agrees with all of my opinions is obviously letting me do their thinking for them. No two people are fans of this business for the exact same reasons and there has never been a major wrestling show that everyone disliked or everyone liked. Ironically, in the five-year history of this publication, Clash of the Champions came closest to being universally enjoyed. When I said Crockett kicked McMahon's ass I made it quite clear that it was in terms of presenting the better show and not making the most money. Every newsletter I've seen, more than 90 percent of the readers who responded to the poll, almost everyone that called in on the three phone-in talk shows I did the week after the show, and of more than 100 letters I had responding to my comments in the 4/4 issue, only 11 disagreed with that assessment. But even if the percentages were on the other side, this newsletter's popularity is in part because the readers know that whatever opinion I give is my honest opinion on a subject. Read back to the issue after Thanksgiving and you'll see how afraid I am to criticize the Crockett promotion, whether it be wrestlers, the booker, the front office organization or the announcers. Read my comments on Survivor Series. Where is the anti-McMahon bias you are talking about? Re-read the issue after Wrestlemania III--I said it was the greatest wrestling production of all-time. I was basically complimentary of the NBC special, which I received tons of flack over, which is fine. There is not one promoter in this business, not Fritz Von Erich, Ken Mantell, Jim Crockett, Dusty Rhodes, Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson, Verne Gagne, or even Baba and Inoki that doesn't believe I'm biased against their promotion in comparison to the others. There are mistakes, probably in each and every issue. I don't feel good about that, but the nature of this business makes that impossible to avoid. My opinions are often wrong, but they're often right. But I've never, not once given a less than honest opinion of anything in this business to protect anyone. Only once have I withheld a portion of a news story that I felt was major enough to report (I reported the actual story, but left out names of wrestlers I have no connection with -- because the climate at that time would have necessitated being fired because the media at large certainly would have picked up on one of those stars being suspended for cocaine abuse that shortly after the Duggan-Sheik incident -- most readers know the wrestler I'm referring to, and the incident). Because they are in charge of the most visible promotions, Vince McMahon, Jim Crockett, and Dusty Rhodes become open to the most criticism, and I would bet of the three, I've been the most critical of Rhodes, not McMahon. Also, the majority of readers live in either the New York City area, or either the San Francisco or Chicago areas. I could be wrong, but I believe the majority to be WWF fans, but even if that's not the case, on both Thanksgiving and Jan. 24, while I didn't take a poll, the majority of readers felt the WWF show was better on those days. That wasn't the case on March 27th. I admit to being biased toward the Crockett style of working matches compared to the WWF style, although neither is my favorite nor is either of them my least favorite. I'm also biased in favor of the way Titan handles its publicity, its organization, the way it rotates its talent and the overall professional looking atmosphere of its TV product in comparison to Crockett."