Re: 20 years Ago: Wrestling Observer
May 30th, 1988
-- The WWF is trying hard to make Randy Savage and Elizabeth their new media darlings with Hogan out and it just isn't working. They tried to get TV stations to do things with them and have been sending them out for interviews. In the first interview, Elizabeth was called an airhead. All other interviews were cancelled at that point. "From what I'm told by those who know her, even though Liz is absolutely nothing like she is portrayed and certainly she is no great actress, calling her an airhead is an unfair charge." (My note: This is one of my favorite stories so far ...)
-- Big Bubba Rogers debuted as the Big Boss Man, with a crewcut and shaved moustache. He still has sunglasses and is being billed as a Georgia prison guard. He's been told to sell nothing until he gets to the big guys. Dave says it's obvious he's being set up for a feud with Hogan this fall.
-- Managers aren't traveling now except on TV nights. Mr. Fuji and Bobby Heenan will make some of the shows where they're scheduled to wrestle, and Jimmy Hart will appear on shows where he's banned from the building (funny ...), but Slick and Humperdink will only make TV, and Humperdink's position is in jeopardy anyway with Bam Bam Bigelow being pushed down the card. Elizabeth is considered a hugely important part of Savage's act and will not be taken off the road.
-- 5/21 at the Spectrum drew 8,028 and $101,852 headlined by Andre vs Duggan. They return on 6/18 going head to head with an NWA show in Philly. Andre and Duggan also drew a $100,000 gate in Portland, Maine. 5/20 in St. Louis drew 3,700 and a $40,000 gate headlined by Savage vs DiBiase. Several wrestlers had trouble there because of the altitude. 5/8 in Gander, New Foundland drew 2,200 fans and the equivalent of a $67,000 US gate. The Wrestling Challenge TV taping on 5/11 in Rochester, MN, drew 6,000 fans. The show was being filmed by Entertainment Tonight, as they are going to air a three-part pro wrestling special from 5/23-5/25. 5/14 in Hartford, CT drew 5,000 headlined by Demolition vs Strike Force. 5/13 in Omaha drew 7,280 fans headlined by Savage vs DiBiase. 5/12 in Winnipeg drew 4,000 fans headlined by Savage vs DiBiase.
-- "... There is a possibility that the NWA could be under new ownership. As has been widely rumored for weeks, a deal was proposed by the Crockett organization which would sell the majority of the company to Turner Entertainment. The deal is as of this writing before the Acquisitions Committee of the Turner company and the word on whether or not it is approved is expected within a week." Dave has been told that Turner would be buying the stock of David, Frances, and Jackie Crockett, but not Jim Crockett. Jim would remain as the general manager of the company and run day-to-day operations. Turner would handle the promotions and public relations and other business activities. Dave says if it doesn't go through, the NWA is going to face a major crossroads this summer. "Business-wise, things simply cannot continue to be run as they have been run for this group to stay solvent. That is no longer speculation. That is fact. Things must change. The other members of the Crockett family trying to sell their stock tells that story. There are wrestlers who are owed large sums of money. This promotion is really at the same crossroads in many cases as the old UWF was just a few months before it was sold to Crockett."
-- 8.5 million homes have been cleared for the Great American Bash PPV on July 10, nicknamed "The Price For Freedom". Vince's attempt to keep a pay-per-view monopoly appear to be failing, as only Wrestlemania IV, at 10 million homes, had larger clearance. The WWF still has Summerslam on August 29 from Madison Square Garden (still not referred to by name), which means the cable companies are just ignoring Vince's 60 days before/21 days after ultimatum. Viewers Choice, which was a key service for Wrestlemania IV, will also be handling this pay-per-view. The show will cost $15.95 and the card is headlined by Ric Flair vs Lex Luger for the title. Other matches are Barry Windham vs Dusty Rhodes for the U.S. title, the Triple Doom of Terror will have the Road Warriors, Garvins & Steve Williams vs Kevin Sullivan, Al Perez, Mike Rotunda & Powers of Pain, Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard vs Sting & Nikita Koloff, and the Midnight Express vs the Fantastics for the US tag titles with Jim Cornette in a straitjacket hung above the ring. "Once again, there is tremendous income potential for this show. A three percent buy rate, which they will certainly achieve since they did around 3.5 percent for the Bunkhouse Stampede and 3.3 percent for Starrcade (with head-to-head competition both times, this show may be unopposed although we'll have to wait to see McMahon's counter move and you know there will be one), would mean 255,000 homes at $16 a pop or nearly $4.1 million (which would be cut in several different directions, but the NWA will still take in more than $1 million). And that is a conservative estimate. If for some reason this thing pops big, although I don't see any indication that will happen, that figure could be as high as $6.5 million based on a five percent buy rate."
-- The FCC ruled in favor of Syndicated Exclusivity the previous Thursday in a very hotly debated topic, which means any program carried in your local market cannot be duplicated by an out of the market station that is brought in on cable. "For WTBS, this ruling could be a disaster since so much of its programming is these types of old network reruns which are duplicated by local stations in most markets. With so much having to be blacked out, either WTBS would have to run all different programming, or be blacked out so much that most cable systems would probably drop them. This ruling is scheduled to go into effective in one year, although it is presumed that there will be several court appeals which will hold it up from taking place probably for a few years. This is the main reason Ted Turner is starting his TNT network, and why inevitably, the NWA wrestling will get on this new station which will mainly carry sports and movies and won't carry reruns of the old network sitcoms. WTBS itself may turn back into simply a top-flight UHF station for the Atlanta market."
-- The NWA hyped the 5/22 Omni show really hard on television, which was strange, because there was nothing special about the card. But the press boxes, which are usually empty on wrestling nights, were filled this time. Speculation was that VIPs were there trying to look at what exactly it is they are purchasing. The hard sell worked, as 7,300 fans turned out at the Omni, which tripled the attendance of last month's show with a run of the mill lineup. "Somebody was certainly trying to impress somebody."
-- "Like I alluded to earlier, there is lots of unrest around here. The wrestlers were due the balloon payments on their contracts on 5/1 and have yet to receive them and there are a lot of disgruntled guys around. Also, the payments for the Sunday Main Event show (remember the main eventers were to split $7,500, middle match $2,500, etc.) haven't come in and the guys made their standard TV money for the show (something like $100)."
-- Lots of rumors about lots of guys jumping to the WWF. Dave has only heard of one NWA wrestler the WWF is interested in having come in.
-- The Great American Bash is going to be heavily promoted. It starts 6/26 in Orlando and ends 8/7 in Kansas City with a major show almost every single night in between. There are 15 War Games matches, 19 scaffold matches, and the Triple Doom of Terror will probably only be used once. The only outdoor shows are 7/2 in Charlotte and 7/6 in Tampa. They will be in Dallas on 7/4 running head-to-head with World Class, who plans to run a big show that night.
-- In a recent Arn Anderson vs Steve Williams match taped for Houston, Doc looked into the camera and said, "How did you like that, Vince" ...
-- Kevin Sullivan has been coming out to watch Ron Simmons matches, but Dave has heard nothing about Simmons joining the Varsity Club.
-- "While I'm on my list of complaints, they have yet to announce one match for the 6/8 Miami Mayhem Clash card and we're now just 2 1/2 weeks away. Not that the show is anything to brag about, but wrestling in a new time slot needs to have something that gives the fans a reason to remember it."
-- 5/21 in Richmond, VA drew 7,000 fans in a hailstorm headlined by Dusty/Luger/Nikita vs Arn/Tully/Barry. 5/22 at the Omni drew 7,300 fans headlined by the same match.
-- 5/16 headlined by Lawler vs Dundee drew 2,200 fans. Lawler used a chain to get the pin. "After seeing the TV the week before the title change card, I'm amazed they didn't sell the place out. They did such a good job of hyping the thing, but Memphis is obviously on a major future downturn."
-- Missy Hyatt is gone and there is behind the scenes heat between Memphis and Continental over it, but Dave doesn't know the reasons. Part of it may be that Fuller has twice used angles in Memphis that Gilbert has crafted in Continental just days later, and also there is almost always bad blood between old and new bookers. Lawler was supposed to defend against Gilbert on 05/29 in Birmingham, but that match is off.
-- Booking is now being handled by a committee of Bill Irwin, Eric Embry, Skandor Akbar, Michael Hayes, and Ken Mantell. Dave says committees never work because too many people have too many ideas going in too many directions.
-- There are huge problems here, as they have been drawing crowds of 400.
-- Terry Taylor is set to feud with Kevin Von Erich.
-- Chris Adams is planning on running opposition shows in Dallas, which isn't earning him any friends. Bruiser Brody is going to work the shows.
-- Jerry Lawler wants to do title vs title matches against Kerry Von Erich in Dallas, Memphis, and Kansas City.
-- Dave says WCCW is learning from the WWF, as they were saying on TV there were 20,000 people at Texas Stadium.
-- Michael Hayes is doing the best interviews in wrestling right now, and that includes Jim Cornette.
-- Missy Hyatt is in as a TV heel commentator.
-- They are setting up a feud between Eddie Gilbert and Austin Idol.
-- Mr. Olympia and Pez Whatley, as Willie B. Hurt, are in.
-- Dutch Mantel is definitely gone.
-- Dave corrects himself from last week. Haynes' group is called the Oregon Wrestling Federation. Owen's group has been taking shots at Haynes' group on TV, calling the Portland Sports Arena "the house of action" and that their show is the one where you see today's matches today, as they air matches from 8:00 later that evening at 11:30. Haynes' group is emphasizing size, talking about how big the wrestlers are. The battle is shaping up to be one of action versus size. On 5/7, they went head-to-head for the first time. "There were more bumps and moves in the first five minutes of the opening tag match with Art Barr & Billy Two Eagles against Moondog Moretti & Steve Austin than on Haynes' entire one hour TV show." (My note: Curious who this Steve Austin is ...)
-- 5/13 in Calgary drew 1,000 fans
-- Dave says Chris Benoit has been the best worker in the promotion with Owen Hart gone, and that his matches have been "dynamite" lately.
-- Scott McGhee's health is improving and he will be wrestling soon for Gordon Solie in Florida.
-- Former pro wrestler and long-time referee Fred Atkins passed away on 05/13 at the age of 77. Atkins was from New Zealand and was best known as the referee for Frank Tunney in Toronto. He was also Giant Baba's manager when Baba was a heel in the U.S. in the early 60s. He reffed the Terry Funk vs Harley Race title change in early 1977 at Mapleleaf Gardens.
-- FNN announced that in addition to debuting Continental on 05/29, they will be broadcasting the annual WWC big show from Puerto Rico. The show drew 42,000 from three locations the previous year. Gordon Solie will be brought in as a special announcer. The Rock & Roll Express, Road Warriors, Bruiser Brody, Iron Sheik, Abdullah the Butcher, Jimmy Valiant and others will be working the show.
-- Regarding Roddy Piper in Hollywood, "Buy and Cell" is said to be pretty horrible, but "They Live" is actually getting pretty good reviews. If "They Live" is successful, Piper will keep his three movie deal with John Carpenter. If it fails, Piper will probably end up back in wrestling.
-- Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty are working independent shows and being billed as the AWA World Tag Team Champions, and the AWA is furious. "In fact, there is so much heat between the AWA and Rockers that Verne, who owns the trademark to the name of the Midnight Rockers (which is why they were the Midnight Rock & Rollers when wrestling in Continental) wants to create a new Midnight Rocker tag team with two new wrestlers. Hope he doesn't go through with it."
-- "Award for the lowest class act of the month goes to the Deep South promotion. One of the segments they have on the show is a viewer mailbag, and we've assumed lots of the letters were somewhat fictitious. Anyway, one of our readers from the Atlanta area sent in a letter, actually highly critical of the Deep South group, especially the continued cheap shots they take at Joe Pedicino on TV. They read the letter on the air, but it wasn't the letter the guy wrote. Everything was changed to make it a complimentary letter to Deep South."
-- "Carrie Leigh, the model who later lived with Hugh Hefner in the Playboy mansion and has made news of late by suing Hefner, in her earlier life was one of Buddy Rose's 'Playgirls' when Rose was in the WWF around 1983."
-- Abdullah the Butcher had gall bladder surgery and also had surgery to treat an ulcer and was released from the hospital on 5/19. He won't be back in the ring until late July. His illness hurt the new tour, because he and Tiger Jeet Singh were going to be the top heel team.
-- Instead of Jumbo vs Tenryu headlining on 6/10 in Budokan Hall, they will instead unify the tag titles, with Tenryu & Hara vs the Road Warriors on top. Most expect a title change on 6/6 when Tenryu & Hara face Jumbo & Yatsu, and that the match will end up being Jumbo & Yatsu vs Road Warriors.
-- The new series opened on 5/14 in Tsuchiuri before 2,250 fans. 5/15 was a night show which drew 2,300 fans to Korauken Hall.
-- The Rock & Roll Express are said to be "so so" in their Japanese debut. Baba is really high on Dan Spivey, but he's not being pushed on this tour.
-- It is expected if Futuhaguro does wrestle, it will be for Baba. Inoki doesn't sign sumo wrestlers because TV-Asahi has a cozy relationship with sumo and doesn't want expelled sumo wrestlers given a spot on their television station.
-- "The feud with Riki Choshu and the Japanese press has greatly heated up. Just before Choshu's tour of the United States, his company, Riki Productions, banned Weekly Fight and Weekly Pro Wrestling from interviews and posed photos with Choshu and all the wrestlers under the Choshu banner (Strong Machine, Hase, Kobayashi, etc.). Tokyo Sports can still interview and shoot photos of Choshu and apparently Gong Magazine wasn't excluded as well. Weekly Pro h as gotten very heavily behind the UWF and has gotten anti-New Japan saying things like New Japan doesn't have any top heavyweights and there have been lots of knocks directed at Choshu with many blaming him for the hard times the business is going through because the public didn't like the way he jumped back and forth from New to All Japan back to New Japan. Choshu was really upset, and he's hard to deal with generally anyway from most accounts, by the inference that he hurt the business in Japan or that he's past his prime in the ring, even though in truth both points have validity."
-- The UWF ran its first show on 05/12 and fans flooded in. Billed "Starting Over", it set an all-time wrestling record by selling out Korauken Hall just 15 minutes after tickets went on sell. Fans were in line the night before the show waiting for tickets and there were more than 400 fans in line the next morning. Dave is told the heat for the main event of Akira Maeda vs Kazuo Yamazaki was incredible. The show drew 2,300 fans and a $92,000 gate. The second card is scheduled for 06/11 in Sapporo in a 7,000 seat gym. Tickets went on sale 05/13 and 5,000 tickets were sold in the first weekend. "While everyone is enthusiastic about the success this group is enjoying, the real test is if they can sustain interest with only three major stars and no major foreign talent." The Sapporo card is set to have three foreigners. They have one show booked every month through the end of the year, and will be producing videotapes of the shows. The biggest show is in August at the 10,300-seat Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, and will celebrate Akira Maeda's 10th year as a pro wrestler.
-- JWP will close its doors after the 5/29 show at Korauken Hall. The women haven't been getting paid lately since the business isn't drawing. Dave says they never had the TV they needed to survive. WWWA is doing so-so, as ratings have been cut in half since Dump Matsumoto and Yukari Omori retired. There are rumors Chigusa Nagayo may be next to retire, as her pride was hurt that business fell off so much when Dump retired, and her presence didn't maintain business. Some of the owners are trying to sell their stock as well since the Jumping Bomb Angels returning as WWF tag champs hasn't really amounted to anything. Dave says if Chigusa leaves, business will collapse. There was a new series started on 5/12 in Kubunji. 5/14 in Tokorozawa drew 1,640 fans, 5/15 at Korauken drew a sellout 2,100 fans. Madusa is headed in, which Dave says could be really good for her, because she has the charisma to be a star, and if she can learn to wrestle, she could be special.
-- ITV announced that it would be dropping pro wrestling by the end of the year. The wrestling audience had fallen from 7 million viewers weekly to 2.5 million. The show was costing the network $1.9 million annually in production costs, so they decided it was too expensive. Lots of the blame for the ratings drop has been blamed on the death of Mal Kirk from a heart attack, and the public reveal that Big Daddy was really the promoter's brother. Daddy was the wrestler who splashed on Kirk when he died of the heart attack. "Then it was revealed just how little the wrestlers earned in England, how old and out of shape several of them were, and lots of public bitter after taste resulted in loss of popularity."