Wrestling Observer Flashback–01.11.88 (Part 1)

For those who bought the archives (and those interested in doing so), I’ve copied the Flashbacks to date into a Word file and put it in the main directory on Onedrive, so you can peruse to your heart’s content.  As a reminder, I started in 1988 and did everything weekly from May 88 – December 89 already, and those are all available to read there and also via the big link at the top of the page up yonder. Just in case you want to catch up before we finish off 88 and jump into the 90s!

And we start this week with a god blessed miracle!

– That’s right, Fritz Von Erich, ailing in the hospital after suffering from a deadly combination of heart attack, stroke, emphysema, and failing gate receipts, has SURVIVED. Although, as Mark Lowrance pointed out on the TV show, “there is some paralysis.”  (Mostly in the brains of the people that came up with this shit.) 

– Dave notes that no one on TV ever uttered the words “heart attack”, I guess for some legal reason.  Either way, it’s still an awful angle.

– The exact role and power of Ken Mantell continues to be disputed, with people now insisting that he only has 30% of the company, rather than the 50% that he portrays himself as having.  Either way, the Von Erichs almost certainly have controlling interest at this point, and Fritz isn’t actually out of the business.  (As noted previously, at the point when Jerry Jarrett bought the company, Mantell was revealed to have 30% of the company and almost no real power without Von Erich say-so.) 

– Dave thinks it’s time to phase out the Von Erichs, because Kevin is a flake and Kerry is “working on one leg.”  (Man, truer words have never been spoken!) 

– The plan for the Reunion Arena show was actually changed at the last minute as well, as Kerry was supposed to go to the hospital with Fritz and do the press conference, and Chris Adams would get the title shot at Al Perez instead and do the job, but for whatever reason it was decided to have Kerry come back from the hospital, work the main event, and lose.

– There’s three weeks to go until the Bunkhouse Stampede, and they’re doing a really crap job of promoting it.  We know the Stampede finals, plus Flair v. Hawk, and Windham v. Zbyszko for the Western States title, but nothing else so far.  And not only that, but they’re not even advertising the PPV aspect on TV!  Also, as a minor note, Vince will be running a Royal Rumble show on USA at the same time.

– Although Crockett is fixing the TV shows and eliminating stuff like the matches ending in progress, now the problem is that Lex Luger is getting 50/50’d into the midcard and doing stuff like saving Ronnie Garvin from beatdowns instead of being treated like a bigger star.  (Oh, don’t worry, there’s LOTS of time for THAT.)  Crockett likes to brag about not having all their eggs in one basket, but the problem is that whenever they say that, all their eggs are in Dusty’s basket.

–  SNME aired on 1/2 (taped 12/7) and Dave thinks it’s a bad sign when the Bolsheviks are in the best match on the show. Plus they made the odd decision to have Hogan later on instead of opening the show.  Dave is really starting to like Andre as a heel, but that will end the moment he has to watch him wrestle again.

– The Penthouse issue featuring Jack “The Heart Attack” Adkisson and his family has been delayed until April.

– So it’s a bad week to be be Antonio Inoki.  First up, they did a show at Sumo Hall on 12/27 and he did a clean pinfall loss to goofy Leon White, who has a new gimmick as (quoting Dave here) “Big Ben Bader”.  Apparently the goal was to boost ratings with a shocking twist for Inoki, by creating a new American monster that they can build up for Inoki to eventually slay.  The only problem is that the main event was SUPPOSED to be Inoki v. Riki Choshu, which is why ratings were so high and why the show sold out in the first place.  And during the show, which was supposed to feature Ben Bader in a tag match, new heel Mr. Takeshi came out and challenged Inoki to fight his monster Bader.  At this point the crowd starts FREAKING OUT, because they all paid to see Choshu against Inoki and there was clearly some Russo-level bullshit about to go down and Japanese crowds are not into that, not one bit.  So the crowd is screaming to stop, and throwing garbage in the ring, So Choshu takes Bader’s place in the tag match and the crowd just shits all over the match (a Japanese crowd, mind you!) on the same level as that Cena-Orton match at Royal Rumble.  After Choshu wins the match for his team, he agrees to fight Inoki right away, but they only go a couple of minutes and Hiro Hase runs in for a DQ finish to save Choshu, and now the crowd breaks into a full scale riot, only calming down long enough for Inoki to do a 3 minute squash loss to Big Ben Bader, at which point the crowd riots AGAIN and does thousands of dollars of damage to Sumo Hall.  But at least it’s a Japanese riot, so they’re polite, I’d assume.

unruly mob

– Right, like that.  Anyway, after that whole fiasco, two immediate pieces of bad news crush Inoki.  First, Sumo Hall has banned wrestling from the building, period.  Baba had already pissed them off by stealing all the sumo champions, and this was the last straw.  Second, TV-Asahi, sick of declining ratings, moved them from prime time to midnight, which pretty much crushes New Japan’s TV revenues for the time being.

– Furthermore, because now they’re broke and can’t afford loose cannons who play by their own roles any longer, Akira Maeda and his crew have been wished well on their future endeavors as cost-cutting measure.  And also as punishment for kicking Choshu in the goddamn eye.  This includes Maeda, Kazuo Yamazaki (currently half of the tag champions!) and Osamu Kido.  Dave thinks that although Inoki seems to take a beatdown and then hulk up again on a regular basis, this might be pretty much it for Inoki as top guy and untouchable promotional leader.

– Back to World Class, as Dave admits that despite the Fritz nonsense, Mantell has made the show a lot more interesting in the short term, if nothing else.

– Al Perez and Gary Hart actually did interviews and called the Fritz attack “the worst thing they’ve ever seen in wrestling.”  Talk about a comment that works on multiple levels.

– FRITZ VON ERICH UPDATE:  It appears he may not live through Christmas.  (Well, this issue was written AFTER Christmas, so clearly he did.)  Even if he makes it past the holidays, he’s not out of the woods yet!

– BONUS FRITZ VON ERICH STUPIDITY:  Not only did they sucker local media into thinking the hospital stay was legit, but they’re actually using Mike Von Erich’s doctor as the gimmick doctor tending to Fritz on TV.

– Wild West is done.  The TV shows have been repeats, and the group is basically merged into World Class for good.

– Apparently Kerry’s ankle is back to giving him trouble again.  He WAS walking around on it OK for a while, but now he’s limping heavily again.  (For those who asked, Kerry’s real foot was long gone by this time.  Cheeseburger story aside, the incident that cost him his foot came months earlier, when he did the ill-advised comeback match with Brian Adias while he could barely move the foot.  The cover story of him having his ankle “fused into walking position” appears to be where he got the prosthetic put on.) 

– And finally, Shaun Simpson did a scaffold match with newly-blond Eric Embry, but was so terrified of heights that he refused to even stand up on the scaffold, so Embry worked the entire match alone and hurled himself off for the loss.

– And with only two pages down and six to go packed with news, we’ll divide this up into 2 parts and return with WWF and NWA news tomorrow.