11-27-2012, 09:01 PM
Been there, done that, and got the T-shirt, son, and you're just doing reruns.
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Washington D.C.
Insider Timeline: 1995 (rather long read)
Not sure if anybody is familiar with this or the authenticity of this but I came across a bit of information that pretty much highlights the year 1995 as a whole for the entire wrestling industry. Figured it might make for an interesting read. Bare with me, as it's rather long.
EDIT: Just realize there are more for different years so I'll try to post it ASAP.
Actually, if it's okay with the mods, I'll be double posting and splitting it into 2 installments, from January to mid June first and the remainder of the year second.
January 2-8 -- The WWF heralds in the new year by restructuring the hierarchy of its booking committee. Vince McMahon re-hires Jim Ross to serve as his right-hand man in overseeing the promotion’s creative direction, and Ross immediately makes his influence known by placing a greater emphasis on clean finishes, athleticism, and internal storyline logic. New arrivals like Henry O. Godwinn, Mantaur, and Man Mountain Rock (formerly “Maxx Payne” in WCW), however, indicate that the McMahon gimmick-oriented philosophy remains indomitable.
Immediately below Ross on the Titan creative totem poll are Bruce Pritchard and Pat Patterson.
- Titular WCW head booker Ric Flair, who lost a “retirement match” to WCW Hvt. champion Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc ‘94 two months earlier, continues to grow disillusioned with his own front office position -- particularly because his rival, Hogan, is hoarding increasingly greater power. Feeling his oats in the wake of disappointing business in the two months subsequent to his retirement, Flair proposes an idea to return to the ring as Hogan’s babyface tag team partner, only for it to be jettisoned by the Hulkster and WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff.
- New Japan’s annual January 4 Tokyo Dome spectacular draws 60,000 for a then-record gate of $4.8 million and an incredible $2 million in merchandise concessions.
- Northeastern cult promotion ECW conducts its second-ever tour of Florida, drawing crowds in the hundreds.
Jan. 9-15 -- As part of its continued effort to establish a younger, hipper veneer (slogan: “The New Generation), the WWF gives try-outs to professional powerlifter Mark Henry, independent stand-out Chris Candido, stout Memphis-area mainstay the Spellbinder, and Texas- and Memphis-based wrestler-valet Miss Texas (now known as “Jackie”). None of them are immediately hired.
- The WWF lures WCW rookie mid-carder Jean Paul Levesque (aka Hunter Heart Helmsley) into its camp with promises of a sizable push and the opportunity for greater career advancement. Eric Bischoff’s standing offer is a one-year, $78,000 contract, which is fair for someone of Levesque’s stature at the time, but the wrestler cites the Fed’s recent track record of turning ex-WCW mid-carders like Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and Diesel (Kevin Nash) into headliners as the main rationale for his jump. Vince McMahon is said to be a fan of his look and presence.
- The WWF draws an abysmal 5,500 to a Madison Square Garden card -- the Fed’s second smallest crowd in the history of the facility -- for a show headlined by Diesel over Jeff Jarrett in a Hvt. title match.
Jan. 16-22 -- The WWF’s January 22 “Royal Rumble” is a strong show anchored by a very good Diesel vs. Bret Hart World Title match, a staged ringside confrontation between Bam Bam Bigelow and ex-New York Giant Lawrence Taylor (who had already signed to wrestle at WrestleMania, in April), and the first of two consecutive Shawn Michaels victories in the Rumble match itself. This time around, Michaels -- the Federation’s recognized top heel at the time -- last eliminates Davey Boy Smith. The cards draws a relatively strong 1.0 buy rate.
- Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion, based in Tennessee, is in the throes of a rocky period. Now, the company’s lowlight du jour is Nu Jack’s being arrested for punching a teenage boy and shoving a police officer in a parking lot. Jack is a member of Cornette’s top tag team, the Gangstas, and has been a glutton for controversy ever since arriving in the company about a year prior to the incident.
- Barry Windham files a lawsuit against WCW on grounds of Negligence, for forcing him to wrestle with a severe knee injury at the “Slamboree” PPV in 1994.
- “Kama: The Supreme Fighting Machine” (a/k/a the Godfather, a/k/a the Goodfather, a/k/a Papa Shango, a/k/a Charles Wright) makes his (re-)debut in the WWF.
Jan. 23-29 -- Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell passes away in Dawsonville, GA, from complications from injuries sustained in a car accident. The 400-pound-plus Blackwell had been best known for his extended main event run with the AWA from 1979 until the promotion’s demise in 1990.
- The legendary Harley Race is involved in a near-fatal car crash in his hometown of Kansas City, just prior to WCW’s “Clash of the Champions” special on TBS. Race suffers a broken hip, breaks both hands, and sustains various other bumps and bruises after his car careens into a guardrail at high-speed. Eric Bischoff initially opts to fire the widely-respected “seven-time” World champion, so as to get his guaranteed contract off the books. Ultimately, though, Bischoff’s familiars within the company help him recognize the error of his ways, and WCW pays Race -- who has spent the past three and-a-half years in a manger role -- in full for the five months remaining on the contract.
- Scrawny long-time NWA jobber Randy Hogan -- so named by Dusty Rhodes for his resemblance to coetaneous WWF champ Hulk Hogan -- passes away after suffering a heart attack at his home in Florida. Next to the redoubtable Mulkey Brothers, Hogan was arguably the most well-known jobber in the business during the mid-late-‘80s.
- Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage defeat the Butcher & Kevin Sullivan in the main event of WCW’s Clash of the Champions card in Las Vegas. In an angle following the match, Vader -- who the company is building up as Hogan’s next WCW World Title challenger -- attacks Hogan from behind and drops him with a power bomb. Hogan no-sells the move, though, and quickly disposes with the 400-pounder, much to the chagrin of smart fans high and low. Elsewhere, Ric Flair makes his first on-camera appearance in three months, and Big Bubba Rogers turns heel and attacks Sting. The show draws a moderately-successful 3.5 rating.
- WCW-contracted (but rarely-used) Swedish grappler Frank Anderson pleads guilty in his home country on charges of purchasing and using the steroid Geretropin, a form of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). In a decision that raises more than a few eyebrows within the industry, management neglects to discipline Anderson.
January 30-February 5 -- After taking extended time off to nurse an injury, the late “Flyin’” Brian Pillman returns to WCW TV in squash matches at the Saturday Night tapings at Center Stage Theater.
- Steven “William” Regal and Bobby Eaton form a new tag team in WCW, called the “Blue Bloods.”
February 6-12 -- In a controversial decision, WCW announces plans to expand from 9 PPVs in 1995 to 11 in 1996.
Feb. 13-19 -- The volatile life of precocious industry legend “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert meets with a premature end in Puerto Rico at the age of 33. Gilbert’s resume included various stints in the WWF, Memphis, the UWF/Mid-South, the NWA/WCW, the GWF, Smoky Mountain, Japan, and ECW, as well as critically-acclaimed booking stints in the UWF (1985-1986), the NWA (1988-1989), the GWF (1992), Memphis (multiple times), Puerto Rico (multiple times) and ECW (1993). He was noted dually for his erratic personality, having walked out on nearly every promoter he ever worked for, and his booking ingenuity, strong workrate, and strong mic skills.
- Sid Vicious wrestles his final match for the USWA in Memphis -- where he has been plying his wares for the better part of the past year -- teaming with Jerry Lawler to beat Crusher Bones and Big Daddy Cyrus. The match draws 1,800, which is slightly above the average during Vicious’ very successful run in the area. Following his departure, the Jarrett-Lawler promotion’s attendance drops markedly.
Feb. 20-26 -- WCW holds its annual Superbrawl PPV, drawing an extremely strong 0.95 buy rate -- the fourth-highest such figure in wrestling all year, trailing only WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, and Uncensored. The card is headlined by the first-ever meeting between Hulk Hogan and Vader, with an appearance by Ric Flair also advertised and delivered. Hogan wins the main event by disqualification, setting up numerous rematches between the two men. The best match on an otherwise-poor show is a Randy Savage & Sting vs. Big Bubba Rogers & Avalanche tag bout in the semi-main-event slot.
- Hogan makes a rare house show appearance the weekend of Superbrawl, in Chicago. He beats Vader in the match and, much to the surprise of those watching, does his first blade job in nearly four years.
- On Monday Night RAW, Sid Vicious -- being labeled simply as “Sid” -- re-debuts for the WWF, as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard. Also notable on the show is that Jim Ross’ influence is felt more profoundly than ever over the booking: The announcing team of Vince McMahon and Jim Cornette stresses athletic elements and realistic themes, such as Diesel’s history of knee trouble. This approach is a drastic departure from the philosophy McMahon has demonstrated over the previous 10 years.
- ECW champ Shane Douglas makes waves by trying out for a color commentary slot in the WWF. Michael Hayes of Fabulous Freebirds fame also receives a tryout; he’s eventually hired on as the natty “Doc Hendrix.”
- Former NWA front-man Jim Crockett, Jr. -- now with a new lease on his wrestling life, as the head of a regional promotion in Dallas -- lands a TV timeslot in the market of his adopted home. However, the venture ultimately fails miserably, and, by year’s end, Crockett is once again out of the business.
Feb. 27- March 5 -- The deluge of media publicity surrounding Lawrence Taylor’s appearance at WrestleMania peaks, with attendant stories running in newspapers and on newscasts nationwide. The WWF holds a press conference revealing that Taylor will wrestle Bam Bam Bigelow at the show and also hypes the already-announced Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels Hvt. title bout.
- The WWF inks to a contract Louie Spicolli of the still-hot AAA promotion in Mexico.
March 6-12 -- On the heels of WCW’s similar announcement a month prior, the WWF reveals that it will hold 12 PPVs in 1996, up from 9 in 1995. Seven of these will be “In Your House” specials, a novel concept on wrestling on PPV. Each IYH is to be two hours long -- as opposed to the conventional three hours -- and priced at $14.95 -- as opposed to the more conventional $29.95. The first such event is to occur in May.
March 13-19 -- “Big” John Studd -- a one-time main-event-level star in the WWF, Mid-Atlantic, Houston, and the AWA -- passes away at age 46, after a long battle with Hodgkin’s Disease. He is buried near his home in Falls Church, Virginia.
- WCW presents its inaugural Uncensored PPV, a night marked by awful production, disobedient wrestlers, reams of negative-stars matches, and widely incomprehensible booking. Among the many highlights: Meng beats Jim Duggan in a “martial arts match” in which no martial arts are used until the very last move; Randy Savage wins a no-DQ match via DQ over John “Avalanche” Tenta when Ric Flair, dressed in drag, interferes; and Hulk Hogan beats Vader in a strap match by beating Ric Flair (no typo), during which Ultimate-Warrior-inspired greenhorn Renegade makes his debut. Appropriately, the show draws a 0.96 buy rate, making it WCW’s biggest financial success of the year.
- Dustin Rhodes and the Blacktop Bully (Barry Darsow) are fired for blading in their “King of the Road” match to open Uncensored, prompting quite an internal stir. The match was pre-taped, so very little blood makes in to the air, despite the fact that the advanced advertising for the show promised copious violence. Road agent Mike Graham, who contributed to the devising of the bout, is also released, though Eric Bischoff re-hires him back shortly hereafter.
- Vince McMahon faxes a letter to WCW owner Ted Turner concerning the gratuitous violence WCW advertised for Uncensored and WCW announcer Gene Okerlund’s deceiving inducements for his Saturday WCW Hotline reports. McMahon cites Okerlund’s promising to reveal details on the “death of a 46-year-old former World champion” -- which is in reference to Jerry Blackwell, who never actually held a World title, but is clearly worded to insinuate the death of Ric Flair -- as the most egregious of “Mean” Gene’s sleazy come-ons. McMahon exhorts Turner that the negative publicity that resulted from the incident meant that it was detrimental to the industry as a whole, before cautioning that “the inmates are running the asylum” in WCW. Notably, Okerlund’s stunt brings in $40,000 worth of calls in one sitting, making it the most lucrative single-day report in the history of the Hotline.
The last time McMahon had written Turner was in regard to the bloody violence that characterized the Nasty Boys vs. Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan “Spring Stampede ‘94” match, which led to the WCW owner’s handing down sweeping curbs on violence that stood for the next couple of years.
- Brian Adams (aka “Crush”), 31, is arrested in his native Kona, Hawaii, on illegal drug possession and illegal handgun possession charges. A search of his home had turned up several illegal handguns, as well as large quantities of marijuana and anabolic steroids.
March 20-26 -- Lawrence Taylor’s WrestleMania participation garners publicity in USA Today, Newsweek, and virtually every other news magazine and newspaper in the country.
- Behind the scenes, Ric Flair --still clinging to his roll as WCW head booker -- engages in a series of verbal spats with Randy Savage regarding Savage’s insistence on having Hogan-esque total creative control over his character.
March 27-April 2 -- WrestleMania XI, though it draws a highly-disappointing-for-a-WM 1.5 buy rate, is largely an aesthetic success: Taylor defeats Bam Bam Bigelow in a shockingly good finale, while Diesel successfully defends the Hvt. title against Shawn Michaels in a very good match. A big group of celebrities appear at the show, including TLC, who close the show with their hit single “Whatta’ Man.”
- The same day as WrestleMania, New Japan runs the Tokyo Dome and draws a crowd of 60,000, paying $5.6 million. Even without the benefit of PPV receipts, NJ’s spectacular grosses more than its WWF counterpart, before video sales.
- Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan have a series of loud disagreements in the offices of WCW. By this point, Hogan has gained almost total autonomy over the creative direction of the company, while Flair has been almost entirely stripped of any creative power. Ironically, Flair expresses remonstrance over how WCW’s most promising younger wrestlers (Steve Austin, Brian Pillman, Johnny B. Badd, etc.) have been marginalized in favor of Hogan’s friends (Butcher, Jim Duggan, Avalanche, etc.) on the roster depth charts. Flair also complains about how WCW’s entire creative crew has to fly all the way to Hogan’s house in Florida to conduct booking meetings, instead of Hogan’s making the trek to WCW headquarters at CNN Tower in Atlanta.
April 3-9 -- On the Raw the day after WrestleMania, Sid turns on Shawn Michaels, powerbombing him three times, after Michaels had ordered Sid to “take a day off” when an inevitable ‘Mania World Title rematch takes place. Despite the flimsy storyline explanation, it’s a highly-effective angle, highlighted by Diesel’s making the save for his fallen former partner -- thereby signaling the popular-for-a-heel Michaels’ long-awaited babyface turn. Elsewhere, Alundra Blayze recaptures the Womens Title from Bull Nakano in a great match, Lex Luger & Davey Boy Smith (the “Allied Powers”) beat Well Dunn, Hakushi beats Bob Holly, and Men on a Mission win a squash. The show is lauded in some quarters as the best hour of WWF programming since the May 17, 1993, Raw, which featured Marty Jannetty’s Intercontinental Title win over Shawn Michaels (which received “Match of the Year” honors from Pro Wrestling Illustrated) and the 1-2-3 Kid’s shocking upset win over Razor Ramon.
- Paul Heyman fires Sabu, ECW’s top star at the time, for no-showing an ECW Arena card to appear instead on a card in Japan. Heyman promptly buries Sabu over the house mic at the Arena show and delivers Rick Steiner as a surprise replacement.
- Tabloid The Star runs a story regarding a confrontation that allegedly occurred between “Motley Crue” drummer Tommy Lee and Shawn Michaels backstage at WrestleMania. According to the report, Michaels shot Lee a dirty look, prompting Lee to challenge, “Hey, pal, do you have a problem with me?” Michaels’ response: “No, but you know your girl (Pamela Anderson Lee) was mine before she was yours?!” According to the account, the two men then had to be separated. Anderson Lee’s take on the matter: “Tommy does this all the time. It’s so sweet!”
April 10-16 -- USWA half-owner Jerry Jarrett agrees to a working relationship with Eric Bischoff. Jarrett is to act as a paid “consultant” to WCW, while the Turner-owned company is allowed the inducement of claiming the USWA’s 36 syndicated outlets as part of its own syndicated package.
- As a cost-cutting measure, WCW fires veteran front office member Jim Barnett, one of the most important management figures in the history of the business.
- Sandman retains the ECW Hvt. Title against Shane Douglas, 911 bests Ron Simmons (Faarooq), and Cactus Jack downs Terry Funk at ECW Arena on April 15.
April 17-23 -- Brian Pillman is arrested on drug possession charges after police spot him engaging in suspicious behavior in a seedy part of town while searching for his estranged girlfriend, but he’s eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
- Legendary Japanese garbage wrestler Atsushi Onita “retires” for the first time.
April 24-30-- The 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman), 23, suffers a serious neck injury at the WWF’s TV tapings in Omaha, Nebraska, including disc damage and a pinched nerve, thereby inducing numbness in his arm. Doctors advise the Kid to retire, but he makes a remarkable recovery and returns to action later in the year.
- ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” magazine-style program airs an expose on steroid and drug abuse in wrestling, focusing in particular on the passing of Eddie Gilbert. The piece ruffles quite a few feathers amongst members of WWF and WCW management.
- WCW devises early plans for a new “cruiserweight” division, with Brian Pillman and Sabu (with whom the company has begun negotiations) as the prospective showpieces. According to rumors, Hulk Hogan pushes for ex-WWF star Koko B. Ware to be hired as the division’s central figure.
- ECW tours Florida again, drawing crowds of 1,200 and 800 in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, respectively. Sandman battles Cactus Jack in the main events.
July 1-7 -- Sting openly expresses his displeasure with management over being shunted down into a role as the number-four babyface in WCW, behind Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Renegade. The company pacifies him by promising him a victory in its forthcoming tournament to crown a new US champion.
- Both Hunter Heart Helmsley and Skip (Chris Candido) & Sunny (Tammy Fytch), the Body Donnas, make their debuts on WWF programming.
May 8-14 -- The WWF holds its first-ever “In Your House” PPV on May 15. The card is a disappointment on all fronts, featuring main events of Jerry Lawler over Bret Hart and Diesel over Pscyho Sid via DQ, an awful Hvt. Title match. By far the best match on the show is the opener, Bret (pulling double-duty) over Hakushi. The event draws a 0.83 buy rate, making it only marginally profitable with the $14.95 price tag.
- “Stunning” Steve Austin walks out on WCW after being asked to job on TV to the notoriously-awful Renegade. Booking committee members Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Arn Anderson all attempt to coax Austin into returning and cooperating with the plan as detailed, but to no avail. Eric Bischoff resolves the saga by calling an emergency meeting with “Stunning” Steve and promising to book a reformation of the critically-acclaimed Hollywood Blondes tag team of Austin and Brian Pillman. As a result, Austin ultimately agrees not only to do the honors for Renegade (in under 30 seconds, no less), but also for Randy Savage, in a separate match.
- Legendary wrestler/manager/management figure “Classy” Freddie Blassie, 77, suffers a massive heart attack at his home in New York. He undergoes successful triple bypass surgery at Queens Hospital several days later, extending his life well, well into the future.
- Jim Ross unsuccessfully attempts to ink All Japan’s Johnny Ace, formerly of WCW, to a WWF (wrestling) contract.
- WCW publicizes its firing of the small-but-expendable Brad Armstrong for failing a steroid test.
- Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), a wildly successful garbage promotion in Japan and an early inspiration to ECW, holds a “retirement show” for its number-one draw, Atsushi Onita. The show draws nearly 50,000 to Kawasaki Baseball Stadium in Japan, marking what proves to be the company’s zenith.
May 15-21 -- On the heels of its abominable “Uncensored” card in March, WCW makes only modest strides with its “Slamboree” PPV on May 21. In the top two matches, Sting beats Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman) and Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage best Vader & Ric Flair (in the latter’s first match since October 1994). The Great Muta wrestles his first match in WCW in several years, defeating Paul Orndorff, and, operating on orders from company management, neglects to showcase many of his signature spectacular moves. The show draws a mediocre 0.65 buy rate.
May 22-28 -- Vince McMahon leads the entire WWF roster on a guided tour of Titan Towers, the WWF’s headquarters in Stamford, CT, before sitting them down for a five-hour meeting. The highlight of the conference is an hour-long speech from Vince, who makes the then-shocking disclosure that the company is currently running a money-losing operation: It was $3.8 million in the red in 1994 and $5 million in the red in 1993. Federation Head of Talent Relations J.J. Dillon (Jim Ross’ predecessor in that position), Linda McMahon, and Ross also make extended speeches, discussing booking, hiring policies, and other administrative matters. In an effort to facilitate harmony between the office and the wrestlers, Linda airs a lengthy video detailing the day-to-day operations of all the separate departments at Titan Towers, which seems to serve it purpose. Many of those good feelings are negated, though, when management introduces a new, more stringent drug testing policy. However, several months later, with public interest in wrestling scandals at a several-year low, the policy is almost entirely abandoned.
- Japanese wrestling superstars Kensuki Sasaki and Akira Hokuto announce their engagement.
May 29-June 4 -- The WWF reaches an agreement to begin airing periodic prime time specials on NBC. However, Dick Ebersol, who heads up the network’s sports department, cancels the agreement only days later.
- The May 29 Raw, featuring an Undertaker vs. Jeff Jarrett main event, ties its all-time high (set on April 24). Many onlookers, including the Turner organization’s top brass, take note of the program’s cable dominance on Mondays.
June 5-11 -- WCW shocks the wrestling industry by announcing that it will begin broadcasting a Monday night program on TNT that will go head-to-head with the WWF’s established RAW broadcasts, starting September 4. The show is to air live every week -- at the cost of $4 million in annual production fees -- and, according to Eric Bischoff, will usher in a new, revolutionary era in wrestling. Observers immediately deem the decision suicidal. Bischoff ignores the criticisms -- something he would grow too accustomed to doing in subsequent years.
WCW debuts a series of skits in which Kevin Sullivan makes treks to meet with a decrepit, hoary ‘60s wrestlers Curtis Iaukea -- covered with a mesh of spiderwebs, seated in a throne, and known only as “Master” -- in his glacial lair, which is replete with several icicles, a nearby pool of water, and various vermin prowling about. There, “Master” informs Sullivan that he “must destroy the man who goes by the name of ‘Hulk Hogan’” at all costs. In subsequent weeks, Sullivan uses similar scenes to introduce his “Dungeon of Doom” stable, whose members include The Shark (John Tenta, a/k/a Avalanche), The Zodiac (Ed Lesliee, a/k/a The Butcher), the One Man gang, and Kamala.
June 12-18 -- WCW’s Great American Bash PPV is a great improvement over the company’s first three efforts this year but still leaves much to be desired. In a four-star main event, Ric Flair beats Randy Savage, who are locked in arguably the company’s best feud of the year. Elsewhere, Sting beats Meng in the finals of a U.S. title tournament, and in a notorious match on the under-card, Hulk Hogan pet project Renegade beats Arn Anderson to win the WCW TV title, setting up a controversial three-month reign with said belt. Hogan doesn’t appear on the show, and, consequently, its lowest buy rate of the year to this point, a 0.51.
Last edited by Elipses Corter : 11-27-2012 at 09:04 PM.
11-27-2012, 09:11 PM
Been there, done that, and got the T-shirt, son, and you're just doing reruns.
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Washington D.C.
Re: Insider Timeline: 1995 (rather long read)
Here's the second half:
June 19-25 -- The WWF presents one of its worst PPVs of all-time, King of the Ring ‘95. The main event of Diesel & Bam Bam Bigelow over Sid & Tatanka falls flat, while Mabel’s victory in the KOTR tournament falls even flatter -- to crepe-like levels, in fact. Shawn Michaels, the favorite to win the tournament and arguably the company’s best worker, is inexplicably eliminated in the first round. The show draws a rather poor 0.65 buy rate.
June 26-July 2 -- WCW announces the resignation of Ric Flair as head booker. His successor is named as Kevin Sullivan, who has already been acting as a creative contributor for the past several months and also served with Flair on the company’s booking committee in 1989.
July 3-9 -- Long-time WWF front office staffer and figurehead “president” Jack Tunney resigns from the company.
July 10-16 -- WCW continues its streak of critical disasters with the “Bash at the Beach,” which draws a strong buy rate of 0.82, along with a freebie crowd of 6,000 to a beach in Hunington Beach, California. The announcers claim an attendance figure of “100,000” numerous times during and after the show. In the main event, Hulk Hogan downs Vader in a steel cage match, with assistance from Dennis Rodman, while Randy Savage beats Ric Flair in a “Lifeguard Match.”
- On WCW “Main Event” on TBS prior to the PPV, a hulking man who has been caught on camera in the crowd at a handful of prior events confronts Hulk Hogan during an interview segment. The unnamed man hands Hogan a poofy white shirt, then walks off, causing a stunned Hulkster to stammer, “Oh my God, Jimmy, this was Andre’s!”
July 17-23 -- Though largely unsuccessful, the second “In Your House” PPV boasts a near-five-star match: Shawn Michaels beats Jeff Jarrett to win the Intercontinental title for the third time, after a miscommunication spot between Jarrett and his second, Brian “The Roadie” Armstrong. In a poorly-received main event, Diesel pins Sid cleanly to retain the WWF Hvt. title.
- Jarrett and the Roadie (a/k/a Road Dogg) walk out on the WWF during In Your House after a disagreement with Vince McMahon regarding character direction. The two had been scheduled to film an on-air break-up at the PPV, to which they strongly object, feeling that it’s too soon for such a denouement to their on-air relationship. Among their grievances also include low payoffs and a drug test the Roadie was forced to take prior to the card.
July 24-30 -- Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the WWF fire Ricky Morton of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express for a pattern of unprofessional conduct, including tardiness and showing up “in no condition to perform.”
- The Giant -- Andre’s “son” and the man who presented Hulk Hogan with the pirate shirt before Bash at the Beach -- debuts on WCW Saturday Night in a Dungeon of Doom segment, choking out Hogan.
July 31-August 6 -- Using Jim Ross as an intermediary, Vince McMahon shockingly hires on former UWF/Mid-South and WCW front-man “Cowboy” Bill Watts to assume the reigns of the WWF’s booking. Remarkably, Watts is promised full autonomy over the Fed’s creative direction, a clear indication of McMahon’s wavering confidence in his own creative acumen. Management does not immediately acknowledge “Cowboy” Bill’s arrival to the wrestlers, although it is tacitly recognized by everyone in the promotion.
Ross, a former Watts understudy, and Bruce Britchard remain on the booking staff as assistants.
August 7-13 -- In a decision he would live to regret, Eric Bischoff releases the injured “Stunning” Steve Austin from his WCW contract. Bischoff’s rationale is that Austin has been injury-prone and uncooperative for the better part of the past year. - On the last -- and, arguably, one of the poorest -- “Clash of the Champions” special before Nitro debuts, the newly-babyface Vader beats Ric Flair and Arn Anderson in a handicap match.
- Gorilla Monsoon is named the new figurehead “president” of the WWF, replacing Jack Tunney.
Aug. 14-20 -- Following several weeks of negotiations, ECW wrestlers Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko finally commit to entering WCW, to coincide with the debut of the next month’s “Monday Nitro.” The trio had initially been reticent to accept Eric Bischoff’s offers due to his poor track record for handling wrestlers whose appeal is workrate-based; they agree to sign, though, after New Japan’s Masa Saito intimated to them that NJ -- their primary source of income at the time -- would release them should they not sign with its Western business partner. The main behind-the-scenes proponent of hiring the three is Kevin Sullivan, whose latest concept is for WCW to differentiate itself from the WWF by featuring a flank of world-class workers.
- At the Raw tapings, “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith turns heel for the first time in his WWF career, betraying Diesel in a tag match.
Aug. 21-27 -- The WWF earns at least some critical marks for its Summer Slam PPV, largely due to the classic Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match, during which Michaels retains the Intercontinental title. In the main event, Diesel beats Mabel to retain the WWF title, which is largely blamed for its disappointing-for-a-Summer-Slam 0.9 buy rate.
- Despite concerns over how his character will be portrayed in the company, Sabu comes to terms with WCW, setting him up to join Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko in Nitro’s nucleus of innovative workers. The ex-ECW star’s debut match against Alex Wright is set for the September 11 Nitro.
- Meanwhile, WCW makes a play for ECW’s Taz, but he refuses Bischoff and company’s offer.
Aug. 28-September 3 Friction between Shawn Michaels and Lex Luger comes to a head stemming from Michaels’ commentary to the effect that Luger “punches like a girl.” Meanwhile, Luger continues to wrestle for the WWF without a contract, which came due several weeks earlier.
Sept. 4-10 -- The unopposed debut of Monday Nitro caps off one of the most eventful weeks in the modern history of pro wrestling. On the show, Brian Pillman defeats Jushin Liger in a fast-paced match, Sting beats Ric Flair by DQ, and Hogan pins Big Bubba Rogers. In one of the most memorable moments of the decade, Lex Luger makes a shocking, unadvertised appearance during the Sting-Flair match, watching from the aisle for several moments before returning to the back, setting the unpredictable tone that would characterize the show for years to come. At the end of the broadcast, Luger helps Hogan fend off an attack from the Dungeon of Doom, before the two have a confrontation setting up a singles match the next week. The show is a veritable success on all fronts, drawing a 2.9 -- slightly below Raw’s recent average. Meanwhile, during Raw’s timeslot on the USA Network, Andre Agassi is en route to his first U.S. Open championship.
- Over the previous two weeks, Luger had convinced Vince McMahon that he had no intention of signing with WCW even though, which convinced Vince to allow him to work without a contract. However, Luger had been secretly negotiating with Eric Bischoff -- with Sting as the intermediary between the two -- the entire time; in fact, Luger had come to terms on a contract just three days before his appearance in Minneapolis. “The Total Package” actually wrestled on all of the WWF’s house shows the previous weekend, then flew to Minneapolis, where he was spotted at a backstage party by sidelined Federation wrestler Sean Waltman (aka the 1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac). Only one hour before Nitro was set to take the air, Waltman phoned a consternated Vince McMahon to inform him of Luger’s impending appearance for the competition that night.
- Luger’s debut is made possible for WCW by the payroll space created by Eric Bischoff’s firing Vader in connection with a backstage tussle between the 400-pound and wrestler/agent/booker Paul Orndorff. One well-sourced version of what transpired is as follows: Just days before the first Nitro, at a WCW Saturday Night taping at Atlanta’s Center Stage Theater, Vader was putting on his ring gear in the dressing room. Orndorff approached him and got on his case about taking too much time to get ready to go tape promos in the facility’s interview area. The words between the two men were especially harsh, due to some sort of pre-existing tension from one or more incidents over the previous few months. Orndorff’s attempts to hasten Vader along only prompted the wrestler to become even more deliberate in his preparations, which in turn prompted “Mr. Wonderful” to hurl insults at him, like “fat prima-donna” and “fat ass.” Vader took exception, natch, and shoved Orndorff with enough force to send him to the ground. In response, Orndorff rose to his feet and floored Vader with a punch, mounted the prostate Vader, punched him some more, laid in a series of kicks for good measure, and left his opposition bruised and bloodied, before some other wrestlers stepped in to break up the fray. Several minutes later, Vader went into a flight of rage and scoured the halls of Center Stage looking for Orndorff. When the two met up again, Orndorff didn’t fare nearly as well as the first go-round but, by all accounts, still held his own until it was broken up. Because Vader commanded such a hefty salary (reportedly upwards of $600,000 a year through 1998) and Orndorff was in a position of power, Eric Bischoff fired Vader shortly before the first Nitro.
One of the most notable aspects of the fracas is that Orndorff had had only limited use of his right arm since 1986, due to a nerve injury exacerbated by a botched suplex from Hulk Hogan that year.
- Shawn Michaels grants an interview to Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette -- who, incidentally, is also a member of the WCW Hotline troupe by this point -- and delves into a number of behind-the-scenes topics. He claims that Vince McMahon has requested that he “tone down his act” on a number of different occasions, so as not to upstage all the other wrestlers. He further says that Ric Flair was overrated in his prime; ‘Naitch did almost the exact same match every week, so sayeth, Michaels, which is why he, HBK, is better than Flair ever was.
- According to rumors, Hulk Hogan kvetches to WCW management that the “new guys” (Sabu, Chris Benoit, Dean malenko, Eddie Guerrero) are “too small.”
- Monday Night Wars, Sept. 4: Nitro - 2.9 (Flair vs. Sting)
September 11-17 -- The WWF’s established RAW goes head-to-head with WCW’s upstart “Monday Nitro” for the first time, and Nitro ekes out a surprise win, 2.6-2.5. Nitro offers a first-time Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger “dream match” for the WCW Hvt. title, while the Federation counters with a taped Shawn Michaels vs. Sid main event. Perhaps the most notable aspect of either program is that Eric Bischoff uses his broadcast booth bully pulpit to heap pejorative statements on the WWF. Not only does he claim on two different occasions that Lex Luger walked out on the WWF (even mentioning the company by name) to wrestle “where the big boys play,” but he also attempts to sabotage Raw by reminding viewers that it’s a taped show: “About the competition -- don’t bother watching. It’s three weeks old. Shawn Michaels beat the big guy with a superkick.”
Elsewhere on the show, Sabu makes his long-awaited debut, beating Alex Wright and putting him through a table -- a first in WCW.
- WCW holds a decent “Fall Brawl” PPV, drawing a poor 0.48 buy rate for Hulk Hogan & Sting & Randy Savage & Lex Luger beat the Dungeon of Doom in WarGames when Hogan makes The Zodiac submit, Arn Anderson beats Ric Flair (****), and Johnny B. Badd beats Brian Pillman (****).
- MNW, Sept. 11: Nitro - 2.6 (Luger vs. Hogan), Raw - 2.5 (Shawn Michaels vs. Sid)
September 18-24 -- - The WWF’s September 24 “In Your House” PPV is a strong show headlined by Bret Hart over Jean Pierre LaFitte and Shawn Michaels & Diesel over Davey Boy Smith & Yokozuna. Bill Watts’ booking fingerprints (heels gaining relatively clean wins, matches telling a story with one wrestler honing his focus on a single part of another’s body, numerous ref. bumps, and logical booking) mark the booking of the card. It draws a 0.7 buy rate, the exact same as the previous IYH two months prior.
- Former member of the tag team “Quebecers” tag team Jean Pierre LaFitte (aka “Pierre Ouelette,” among other aliases), the WWF’s top ethnic French-Canadian draw in Quebec, puts up a stink over doing a job to WWF champion Diesel at a card in Montreal. In a phone conversation with a road agent prompted by LaFitte’s complaints, Vince McMahon agrees to change the finish to a double-countout, which raises the ire of both Diesel and fellow Shawn Michaels. As a result, LaFitte develops heat with the two Clique members. Naturally, during a rematch the following night in Quebec City, LaFitte catches Diesel with a “potato shot,” and the champ retaliates with two hard shoot punches to the head. Remarkably, the two men cooperate for the remainder of the match without further incident. LaFitte is de-pushed in the wake of these histrionics.
MNW, Sept. 18: Raw - 2.5 (Razor Ramon vs. Sean "1-2-3 Kid" Waltman), Nitro - 2.4 (Ric Flair vs. Brian Pillman)
September 25-October 1 -- The WWF releases Womens champion Alundra Blayze, without first having the foresight to have her return the physical championship belt.
- Now a free agent, Steve Austin debuts in ECW, making an unannounced appearance at a card in Middletown, New York. He vows to win Mikey Whipwreck’s ECW Hvt. Title. In his first television interview, he does a raucous parody of Hulk Hogan which eventually makes it onto his first WWF home video release.
- The WWF airs a “WrestleMania” special on FOX, featuring the Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel and Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow matches in their entirety, drawing a strong 3.8 rating. The Fed attempts to parlay this success into a greater presence on the network but is unsuccessful.
- MNW, Sept. 25: Raw - 2.7 (British Bulldog vs. Undertaker), Nitro - 1.8 (Randy Savage vs. Kevin Sullivan)
October 2-8 -- Vince McMahon conducts a meeting with all WWF personnel to announce his resignation as head booker -- ostensibly to focus more on his role as a corporate executive -- and officially usher in Bill Watts, whom he describes as “the brightest mind in wrestling.” Watts, who was ousted as WCW Executive Vice President in 1992, broadcasts several of his booking philosophies at the meeting. He decries the WWF’s lack of a top African-American babyface and announces that recent Texas independent signee Tony Norris (a/k/a “Ahmed Johnson”) will be enjoying a big push; he hints that Bret Hart is a strong candidate to become the next Hvt. champion; he asserts that the company will be toning down its excessive gimmickry; and he announces his new brainchild of each Raw’s featuring clips of the following week’s (taped) edition, to facilitate a “soap-opera-type atmosphere.”
In other moments, both Watts and McMahon have harsh words for WCW’s promotional methods and roster, though McMahon professes that he would like to work with Sting, Brian Pillman, Johnny B. Badd (Marc Mero), and Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) in the future.
- New Japan reaffirms its status as the unrivaled top promotion in the world, drawing 67,000 fans, a $6.2 million gate, and $2 million in merchandising sales (the latter two figures being all-time wrestling records which stand until the company breaks them again) for an “inter-promotional” at the Tokyo Dome. In the main event, IWGP champ Keiji Mutoh downs Nobuhiko Takada, champion of the UWFI shootfighting group. UWFI had achieved a great deal of success the previous year and very briefly challenged NJ’s hold as the top promotion in the world, before on hard times prior to this event. Hence, most of its wrestlers do jobs to NJ’s performers on the show.
- MNW, Oct. 2: Nitro - 2.5 (Luger vs. Savage), Raw - 2.5
October 9-15 -- -- Not two weeks after Vince McMahon officially announces the arrival of Bill Watts as his head booker, “Cowboy” Bill is already gone. Watts quits the promotion in a huff, feeling that McMahon had gone back on his promise to cede full booking authority. Watts’ beef stems from several run-ins, but the main one surrounds the future course of the WWF Hvt. title: Watts feels strongly that Bret Hart should be the long-term champion, while McMahon overrules him and deems that Shawn Michaels will emerge as the Federation’s newest front-man come WrestleMania. In addition, Watts is dead-set on pushing “Psycho” Sid as the promotion’s new top heel; establishing several monster heels, as opposed to letting the babyface dominate virtually every encounter, as per McMahon’s convention; and instituting several archaic policies governing out-of-the-ring activities (babyfaces and heels shouldn’t associate with one another away from the ring; tardy wrestlers should be fined steeply; etc.). McMahon, though, chafes at all of these notions.
- A bar altercation between a gaggle of Marines and Shawn Michaels, the 1-2-3 Kid, and Davey Boy Smith in Syracuse, NY, devolves into violence. Several conflicting versions of the story exist, but this one appears to follow the most plausibly: Following a quarrel within the bar’s confines, the wrestlers decamp and attempt to leave in a car. The Marines follow them, heckle them, and prompt Michaels to get out of the car and confront them. A few of the Marines brutally attack him, slam his head into the hood of the car, rip his earrings from his ears, and kick and punch him numerous times as he lies on the ground. Meanwhile, the other Marines try to hold the car’s doors shut to prevent the Kid and Smith from coming to Michaels’ aid. Once the two wrestlers finally pry a door open, the Kid bests one of the Marines in a brawl, while Smith batters several others. At this point, a police officer hits the scene with his gun drawn, sending the Marines limping away from the scene. Michaels winds up with both eyes swollen shut, his eyelid and ears partially torn, and his eardrum ruptured. A few months later, a Douglas Griffith, 23, is arrested and convicted on Assault charges in connection with the incident.
- The beating outside of the bar isn’t the only lowlight of Michaels’ week. A day prior, the ever-controversial HBK is assaulted backstage by Jacob and Eli Blu (a/k/a Ron and Don Harris) during a house show at Madison Square Garden. The twin brothers corner him when the dressing room is empty, give him a mild roughing up, and throw him face-first into a wall, before locking the door so that no nearby wrestlers can rush the scene. No actual blows are exchanged, and the Blus eventually allow Michaels free without inflicting much further physical harm. The team had given notice to Vince McMahon only days before, so the WWF is not in a position to discipline them for the incident. It’s not the last time they will work for the company, either.
- Mabel legitimately breaks the Undertaker’s orbital bone during a match, so the ‘Taker takes to wearing a protective mask for several months.
- The Ultimate Warrior rips off Las Vegas independent promoter T.C. Martin.
- MNW, Oct. 9: Nitro - 2.6 (AA vs. Ric Flair), Raw - 2.6 (Diesel, Michaels, Undertaker vs. Bulldog, Owen, Yokozuna)
Oct. 16-22 -- The WWF holds its October “In Your House,” which draws an abysmal 0.4 buy rate and is the least profitable PPV in the history of the company up to this point. A disgusted Vince McMahon, who announces the show with Jim Ross, throws down his headset immediately after the show goes off the air and complained that it was “terrible.” He also expresses confusion over how the crowd so readily turned on Diesel in favor of Hart; the card emanated from Canada, but McMahon had spent the last year building up Diesel as his top ‘face.
- Hulk Hogan teases a heel turn on Nitro, wearing all black during a vignette and drawing on themes from the OJ Simpson double-murder case: "My concerns this week have been a lot of things -- about what to do with the black gloves, the black bandanna, about what to do with the Giant's carcass... Everyone knows what a man with a pair of black gloves on and a black rag on his head is capable of doing, dude!"
- MNW, Oct. 16: Nitro - 2.2 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Harlem Heat), Raw - 2.5 (Owen Hart eliminates Marty Jannetty to win battle royal)
Oct. 23-29 -- WCW holds its ludicrous-but-morbidly-entertaining Halloween Havoc PPV, which draws a tepid 0.6. The show is best characterized by the proceedings involving Hulk Hogan and The Giant: The two men first do battle in a monster truck showdown on the top of Cobo Hall in Detroit, where the PPV is held. After Hogan emerges victorious, they enter into a brawl, whereupon Hogan pushes his foe off of the roof of the ten-story building, presumably causing him to plunge to his death. Moments later, a dismayed Hogan makes his way to the ring and starts to apologize for what happened when, much to everyone’s bewilderment, none other than The Giant inexplicably follows him to the squared circle, somehow entirely unscathed. The two men once again battle, this time in a surprisingly acceptable match, with Hogan on the verge of winning when Jimmy Hart turns heel by beating up the referee and pickling his charge with the World title belt. Next, Lex Luger and Randy Savage do a run-in, and Luger turns heel on both Savage and Hogan. Finally, The Yeti -- a “mummy” who appears to be wrapped head-to-toe in toilet paper -- then emerges from the back and helps the Dungeon of Doom put the boots to Hogan and Savage. The match is ruled a DQ win for The Giant, since Hogan’s manager, Hart, had assaulted the referee, though it is revealed the next night on Nitro that the contract for the match stipulated that the title would change hands on a DQ, thanks to Hart’s clandestine tactics.
- The infamous “fire incident” occurs at ECW Arena in Philadelphia, as Cactus Jack attempts to hit Terry Funk with a chair contain a burning towel on it. The towel flies off and lands on Funk, and the flames engulf his entire body for several seconds. Jack immediately breaks kayfabe and tries to extinguish the flame but is unable to corral the frenzied Funk, who eventually averts further disaster by disrobing himself of the towel. To make the incident even more bizarre, the lights go out in the building during the height of the panic so that Raven can “crucify” Tommy Dreamer at the “Eagle’s Nest” above the Arena. Ultimately, Funk and two fans are hospitalized and treated for second-degree burns, while ECW earns itself a new antagonist in the form of the local fire marshall.
- MNW, Oct. 23: Nitro, 2.2, Raw 2.6
Oct. 30-Nov. 5 -- The WWF turfs its “B” shows, consolidating its heretofore-two-tiered house show touring troupe into 18 monthly A-shows.
- Chris Benoit joins the Four Horsemen, joining Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Brian Pillman in the stable.
- The WWF announces its plans to sponsor Olympic power lifter Mark Henry in the 1996 games.
- MNW, Oct. 30: Nitro 2.5 (Havoc fall-out, Luger & Meng vs. American Males), Raw 2.2 (Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon)
Nov. 6-12 -- Amid nightmarish locker room morale in the WWF, Vince McMahon conducts no less than three emergency meetings with his crew at house shows, in New Jersey, Columbus (Ohio), and Cincinnati, respectively. The primary reason for the poor esprit de corps is McMahon’s decision to do away with “B” shows, which the crew figures will lead to a drop in the amount of house show-generated income to go around. Another source of friction is the group of wrestlers that has come to be known as the “Clique” -- Shawn Michaels, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Sean “1-2-3 Kid” Waltman, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The Clique is unpopular due to their inordinate level of political influence and for their general behavior, which many of their peers consider childish.
- Lex Luger complains loudly to WCW management about having turned heel and expresses general dissatisfaction with his current push. He’s also upset about being passed over in favor of Chris Benoit for a position in the Four Horsemen. As an outgrowth of his discontent, Luger intentionally ignores a cue to do a run-in during a live Nitro, leaving Eric Bischoff dangling and making spurious claims like “Here comes Luger!” for the next several moments.
- Similar to Luger, Sid gripes to WWF management.
- The WCW Hvt. title is held up due to the controversial Halloween Havoc finish.
- Kensuke Sasaki beats Sting to capture the US Title as part of a combined New Japan-WCW card at Sumo Hall in Japan. The show draws only 7,500, the smallest crowd for an NJ show in that building since 1980 -- a clear indication that WCW’s wrestlers lack drawing power in the Orient. The most notable aspect of the tour is that The Giant displays incredible agility when allowed to wrestle an unfettered style against the NJ contingent, prompting rumblings that the company will groom him to be Hulk Hogan’s successor as its top star.
- Sabu makes a dramatic return to ECW as part of the November 18 ECW Arena card. Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk beat Cactus Jack and Raven in the main event.
- On Raw, the WWF does its first-ever ECW-style “shoot angle,” as Shawn Michaels “collapses” after receiving an enziguiri from Owen Hart, with the announcers speculating that his career might be over. In storyline, Michaels has been experiencing “concussion problems” in connection with the nightclub beating in New York. Notably, the angle had been suggested by WWF Magazine editor and ECW fan Vince Russo. It is arguably the most successful storyline run by either of the Big Two in 1995, as it effectively establishes Michaels as a mega-star upon his return to the ring two months later.
- MNW, Nov. 6: Nitro - 2.3 (Sting vs. Ric Flair), Raw - 2.1 (Bret Hart & Hakushi vs. Jerry Lawler & Isaac Yankem)
Nov. 13-19 -- The WWF’s Clique-related internal squabbles continue. This time, the source of said tension is that Vince McMahon charters a flight for the five men to meet with him privately at Titan Towers in Stamford. In addition to granting them free reign to use the facility’s gym, he caves into their demands that they receive higher payoffs for the frequent public appearances they make on off days.
- On a related note, Bret Hart and Diesel develop heat with one another. Diesel accuses Bret, who invariably receives bigger pops than the more-heavily-pushed Hvt. champ, of trying to undermine his babyface heat in their feud.
- MNW, Nov. 13: Raw - 2.6, Nitro - 2.0
Nov. 20-26 -- The WWF’s “Survivor Series” PPV in Washington, DC, draws a record-low 0.57 buy rate, grossing less than $1.5 million. In the main event, Bret Hart regains the WWF Hvt. title from Diesel, after which the latter turns heel and powerbombs Bret multiple times. Remarkably, the announcing team (Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Mr. Perfect) fail to acknowledge the title change one single time, instead focusing on Diesel’s sudden change of heart.
- Prior to Survivor Series, McMahon has yet another personnel meeting and announces that the group will be gearing its product more toward adults, with more raunchy storylines and a greater level of violence. This direction had originally been encouraged by Bill Watts during his brief booking tenure with the company. McMahon also consents to give all contracted wrestlers a $400-a-week base salary on weeks they aren’t working, to quell the concerns of those performers most affected by the company’s cut-back in house shows.
- WCW hot-shots a Sting vs. Hulk Hogan main event on Nitro, which wins them the day in the ratings war but fails to pop its numbers as hoped. The live crowd roundly boos Hogan throughout the bout, which is not an uncommon occurrence at this point.
- MNW, Nov. 20: Nitro - 2.5 (Sting vs. Hogan), Raw - 2.3
Nov. 27-Dec. 3 -- Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling folds up shop after four years of existence. Cornette founded the promotion in October 1991 to fulfill his lifelong dream of running a traditional-style Southern wrestling territory, and it quickly garnered a devoted following in its Tennessee-Kentucky homebase -- which allowed it to draw crowds ranging from 1,000-5,000 in its top two monthly towns, Knoxville and Johnson City. However, it failed to attract enough interest to emerge as a viable entity, drawing average crowds of 200-300 in its dying days. The latest and most critical of the group’s recent string of hardships came when its main financial backer, Rick Rubin of Def American Records, pulled his funding from the promotion in August, after losing over $40,000 on the venture.
Ultimately, Smoky Mountain’s most enduring legacy has been for breaking Chris Candido, Tammy Fytch (Sunny), Brian Lee (Chainz), Unabom (Kane), the Gangstas, and the Heavenly Bodies into the wrestling mainstream and providing Al Snow, Chris Jericho, and Lance Storm with their greatest U.S. exposure to this point in their careers. Cornette’s savvy booking also revitalized the long-dormant careers of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, who were arguably the top drawing tag team in the business at one point but were almost completely burnt out at the the time SMW formed.
In hindsight, one of Cornette’s greatest miscalculations was inking a talent exchange agreement with the WWF, which made his promotion seem comparatively inferior and lost him the loyalty of a large portion of his patronage.
- Randy Savage wins the “World War III” PPV battle royal to capture the vacated WCW Hvt. championship in controversial fashion. The originally-planned finish was for Sting to win the belt, but immediately prior to the match, Hulk Hogan exercised his booking autonomy within the company and changed the outcome. What’s more, Hogan personally calls out the order of elimination of the final ten wrestlers in the ring while the match is in progress. It draws a very poor 0.43 buy rate.
- MNW, Nov. 27: Raw - 2.5, Nitro - 2.3
Dec. 4-10 -- The WWF signs Steve Austin and opens court with Cactus Jack, nee Mick Foley.
- Bam Bam Bigelow gives notice to the WWF and starts accepting regular bookings in Japan once again.
- ECW/AAA’s Konnan agrees to terms with WCW and is set to start wrestling there in January.
- MNW, Dec. 4: Nitro - 2.6, Raw - 2.4
Dec. 11-17 -- The WWF holds its December “In Your House” PPV, which draws the lowest buy rate in company history -- a 0.33. In the main event, Bret Hart successfully defends the WWF Hvt. title against Davey Boy Smith in a match given ****3/4 by the Wrestling Observer. Hart goes against standard Federation protocol during the match and blades a gusher; later, when confronted by management, he avows that the juice resulted from a Smith “potato shot.”
Also noteworthy on the show: Vince McMahon makes the ground-breaking decree that security not confiscate any signs, unless their content is too crude for television, as a way to facilitate fan loyalty and “freedom of expression.” Controversial signs that read “ECW,” “Diesel Sucks,” “Hogan,” “Hello ECW Fans,” “Mikey Rules,” “We’re Hardcore,” and “911” make the air, among others. In keeping with the theme established by the arrestingly large ECW contingent on hand, several different “E-C-Dub’” chants are audible during the course of the show.
Elsewhere, Jeff Jarrett makes his unannounced return to the company on the card via an in-ring interview conducted by Jerry Lawler.
- Alundra Blayze jumps ship to WCW, under her former sobriquet of Madusa Micelli, and throws the WWF Womens title in the trashcan live on Nitro. The incident will stick in Vince McMahon's craw for at least the next seven years.
- The WWF attempts to woo the Ultimate Warrior in time for the “Royal Rumble.” This news meets with the disapproval of the Federation locker room, the morale of which is still at an ebb.
- On the heels of Bill Watts’ abrupt departure from the promotion, Vince McMahon offers Jim Cornette a position as the WWF’s head booker. Cornette accepts the post, leading to a large influx of former Smoky Mountain wrestlers into the promotion, including Buddy Landel, Tom Pritchard, the Headbangers, and Boo Bradley (a/k/a Ballz Mahoney).
- ECW holds its first-ever card at Lost Battalion Hall in Queens, New York, and draws a sell-out crowd of 1,100, paying a then-company-record of $28,000. The critically-acclaimed card is highlighted by the ECW debut of Missy Hyatt and a wild Sabu vs. Cactus Jack main event. Early in the card, Paul Heyman gets on the house microphone and runs down Steve Austin and Tom Pritchard for no-showing the card because of their recent signings with the WWF.
- MNW, Dec. 11: Nitro - 2.6, Raw - 2.5
Dec. 18-24 -- MNW, Dec. 18: Nitro - 2.7, Raw - 2.3
Dec. 25-31 -- “Starrcade” takes a novel approach to PPV supercards, providing a best-of-seven series between WCW’s top wrestlers and an insurgent group of New Japan stars, but fails to generate much interest (0.36 buy rate). The WCW flank wins 4-3, naturally, after Sting downs Kensuki Sasaki.
11-27-2012, 11:31 PM
Learning to break kayfabe
Join Date: Oct 2004
Re: Insider Timeline: 1995 (rather long read)
Is there a full timeline for 1996, and 1997?
I found the 1st half of 1996.
11-28-2012, 06:46 PM
Join Date: Jul 2012
Re: Insider Timeline: 1995 (rather long read)
As part of its continued effort to establish a younger, hipper veneer (slogan: “The New Generation")
I would adore it if they tried this again.
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