Wrestling Observer Flashback–05.02.88

After last week’s rather dull news issue, we’ve got STUFF going ON.

And only a couple of issues left before it’s 1990 time!

Hey Scott, I don’t think you did the 5/30 or the 06/06 issues either. ’88’s not done with you yet!

Hey man, I don’t go to the street corner where your mom is working and tell her how to do HER job.

Wait, that sounded a bit mean.

Oh well, what are you gonna do?

 

– The big news of the week is of course that Barry Windham was the guy they picked as the fourth Horsemen, and he turned on Lex Luger in Jacksonville on 4/20, giving the tag titles back to Tully & Arn.  Dave is just about in heart attack territory with BOTH Luger and Brody doing jobs in the same week.  After the match, the new Horsemen beat on Luger until the Midlife Rider made the save, at which point “72 heels” jumped him and unmasked him, and the segment ended with Windham taking the mask back to the limo while the babyfaces covered the mysterious Rider’s face.  Dave didn’t see it, but heard it was tremendous.  (FUCK YEAH it was tremendous.  Have I told the story before about my friend, who was a huge Windham fan, literally getting so upset about the turn that he was crying about it?  Wrestling is AWESOME.)  Also, this wasn’t planned out in the least and was basically a spur of the moment decision when they got to the taping, because they immediately had to rebook all the house shows for May once they did the turn.

(Also, tournaments are awesome.  Speaking of tournaments…)

– Let’s talk about the Crockett Cup!  Dave has a lot of negatives about the show, but the wrestling itself was great and the right team won.  Greensboro drew maybe 8500 people, with the upper deck “as vacant as a Verne Gagne brain wave”.  Greenville was sold out with 5000 people, but Greenville isn’t exactly the sort of arena you want to put your top tier shows into.

– So at the start of the show, Tony Schiavone announced to the confused crowd that Barry Windham had pulled out and Luger would be picking a new partner, with no explanation given, at which point everyone assumed it would be Midnight Rider and they’d win.  The tournament bracketing announced and shown to the crowd bore no relation to what actually transpired on the two evenings, which had everyone even more confused.  So you can tell what kind of a show it was going to be.

To the review!

0.  Kendall Windham & The Italian Stallion began the long road to $1 million via forfeit, when The Terminator came out alone and it was discovered that Bugsy McGraw had no-showed.  So after some confused discussions among the referees, the babyfaces were given the win.  (Sounds like it improved the quality of the match that way.) 

1.  Ivan Koloff & Dick Murdoch beat Jimmy Valiant & Mighty Wilbur in 6:14 when Murdoch cut off Valiant’s comeback and Koloff sickled him for the win.  DUD  Valiant did appear happy to be able to kiss Tony again after months of being banished from NWA TV.

2.  Shaska Whatley & Tiger Conway Jr. defeated Rocky King & Nelson Royal in 6:05.  Double team finish on King for the win here.  *

3.  The famed TWIN DEVILS of Mexican wrestling fame, played this evening by Gene Ligon & Curtis Thompson in red bodysuits, were defeated by the New New Breed (Chris Champion & Mark Starr) after a very long 7:46.  The match began with the Lightning Express’s music playing for several minutes with no appearance from the team, only for the New Breed’s music to eventually replace it so that the Breed could make their entrance.  Champion looked motivated and Starr looked bored.  *1/2

4. The Lightning Express made their actual appearance here, beating the famed Japanese team of Johnny Ace & John Savage.  Savage is apparently the younger brother of the Barbarian.  (That can’t be right.)  Brad pinned Savage with the double team legdrop at 6:43.  The crowd was told that the actual “Japanese entrant” missed their plane and Ace & Savage were the replacements.  *3/4

5.  The Sheepherders beat the Cruel Connection at 7:20 with the double-stomachbreaker.  The bored crowd started a “Parts Unknown” chant for the Cruel Connection.  1/2*  (Step up your game, post-WM crowds!) 

6.  Larry Zbyszko & Al Perez beat Ricky Santana & Joe Cruze in 4:57, as Shane Douglas quit the promotion a week earlier.  (And Dave was complaining that the Wrestlemania tournament was dull?)  Everyone was rotten here and Perez beat the jobber with a spinning toehold.  DUD

7.  Now things get confusing, as the scheduled match was Kevin Sullivan v. Jimmy Garvin, but instead out come Ron Simmons & Steve Williams to take on Rick Steiner & Mike Rotunda in the first match of the second round, since both teams had byes despite Simmons & Doc not actually being seeded.  Kevin Sullivan spiked Simmons on the floor for the countout at 9:20 to send the Varsity Club onwards and upwards.  **3/4

8.  Now it was time for the Prince of Darkness match, as Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Garvin did 7:20 of comedy in a blindfold match before Garvin won with a small package.  DUD

9.  Now it’s time for round two, Dave thought, but it gets confusing again.  Ronnie Garvin got injured saving Jimmy from the Varsity Club in the previous match, so Tony announces that he’s injured and Sting needs a new partner, and the place cheers Ronnie’s serious injury.  (No wonder he turned heel.)  So they announced Sting & Luger as the new team and Dave had to put his hands over his ears to shield himself from the shrieking girls.  This leads to the first match of the second round, as Tully & Arn squash the ever-loving shit out of the Stallion & Kendall Windham in 6:43 and finish with an Arn DDT to the delight of the crowd.  Dave loved it.  ***

10.  Sting & Luger debuted as a team and beat the Evil Superpowers in 9:41 with huge heat throughout.  Lex was so excited that he even threw a dropkick on Murdoch!  It sucked, but at least he tried.  Sting sold forever and then small packaged Murdoch for the win.  ***1/4

11.  The Road Warriors destroyed the Job Tones in 5:26 with the Doomsday Device.  **

12.  Another tournament change as The Powers of Pain replaced the Midnight Express against the New New Breed, and it was the longest 8:00 of Dave’s life.  Warlord looked like he was going to die from a heart attack just from doing a wristlock on champion.

Barbarian powerslammed Starr off the second round for the pin.  DUD

13.  Next up, the Lightning Express are supposed to take on the Powers of Pain.  But since they switched the last match, Dave figures it’ll be the Midnights instead.  But instead, it’s the Sheepherders because reasons.  They had a good match, but not up to the level of their usual UWF stuff, and Luke Williams hit Brad Armstrong with Rip Morgan’s pole for the pin at 9:32.  ***  Also, Rip Morgan’s presence at ringside was never explained to the crowd.

14.  By sheer coincidence, the Fantastics v. Perez & Zbyszko that happened next was the one actually scheduled to occur.  Went 5:03 but was the best action of the show thus far, although the Fans aren’t over to the RNR level like Dave expected.  Rogers pinned Larry with a cradle.  **3/4

15. And finally the last match of the night was supposed to be the Midnight Express against the Varsity Club, but then the Sheepherders come out with no explanation given as to why they’re doing another second round match, and the Express beats them in 4:44 while trying desperately to not be cheered.  (They should watch tapes of Roman Reigns.)  Bobby hit Miller with the tennis racket and Lane pinned him to advance.  **

Ric Flair did a promo to accept his award for PWI’s Most Hated Wrestler of the Year for 1987, and got the loudest babyface reaction of the night to cap off the evening.

Night #2!

– First up, the ring announcer tells everyone that Barry Windham joined the Four Horsemen, and that Ron Garvin is injured, and this time the injury gets an even LOUDER babyface reaction.  Dave is SICKENED by the crowd jumping up and down and hugging each other in glee for the heels.

1.  The Fantastics beat the Varsity Club to kick off the quarterfinals, which shockingly lines up with the original brackets by some miracle.  Bobby Fulton sold like crazy and got himself over here, including Kevin Sullivan spiking him in THE GROIN.  (Dave’s emphasis there, not mine. If it was me, I’d go with…)

(But I guess Simpsons memes weren’t really a thing back then.  Although we were only a year away from the Simpsons debuting!  MIND BLOWN.) 

Anyway, Bobby gets beat up in oblivion outside the ring, while Rogers comes off with the top rope with a sunset flip on Steiner at 27:00 to advance.  Best opening match in years.  ****

2.  The Midnight Express had the “dubious distinction” of having to follow that against Sting & Luger.  Wisely, Luger chose to stand in the corner yelling “Come on Stinger!” while Sting did all the work and sold the whole way.  Cornette even took a bump from Magnum TA here, which was kind of sad.  Luger improved his showing, wrestling for 31 seconds instead of 20 like in the first match.  Sting pinned Lane with a Thesz Press to break up a double-team attempt at 13:40 and this was great.  ***3/4

3.  The Powers of Pain upset the Road Warriors via DQ with the ol’ Dusty Finish in 9:10.  Hawk was trying desperately to upstage the heat from the Sting & Luger match, but failed miserably.  Most of the match was bearhugs (which falls into the strategy of any good Paul Jones team, Dave notes) but Hawk was working his ass off trying to get something out of it.  Animal pinned Barbarian after a ref bump and clothesline, but WAIT, Randy Anderson revives and informs the second ref that he had been knocked out by the Warriors earlier and thus it’s a DQ.  The Warriors were much calmer about losing this year, and the fans didn’t seem that bothered, either.  ***

4.  In the Midlife Rider show starring Dusty Rhodes, he beat JJ Dillon in a bullrope match and pinned after 4:15 of a massacre.  Dave was disappointed that they’ve spent weeks having every wrestler in the promotion put Dusty’s angle over and yet still no one gives a crap.  DUD

5.  Sting & Luger beat the Powers of Pain in 6:50.  Lex was really extending himself, wrestling for a full minute of the match.  Sting took great punishment, but Warlord was a lumbering lummox who screwed up all his spots, including the finish where he was supposed to fall back while trying to slam Luger, and somehow couldn’t even do that right.  *1/4

6.  Tully & Arn beat the Fantastics in 14:35, with tons of heat and Fulton getting the shit kicked out of him the whole way.  Tommy Rogers hit the rocket launcher on Arn, but Tully saved at the last possible second with timing so precise that Dave was in awe.  Arn used the SHOE OF DEATH to pin Rogers.  ***1/2

7.  Ric Flair carried Nikita Koloff for 30:00 by some miracle, but Nikita is now terrible in the ring and has nothing going for him.  No one cared about the match and he’s no longer a draw in this role.  Dave relates a joke that is going around the Titan locker room about how when JJ goes to kiss Dusty’s ass, he has to maneuver around Nikita’s feet.  (See, because Nikita’s so far up Dusty’s ass…)  Standard Flair match and over the top rope DQ finish.  **3/4

8.  And finally, Sting & Luger beat the brand new tag champs Tully & Arn to win the $1 million in a fun, adequate match with Arn going after Magnum and getting rolled up for the pin at 16:05 by Luger.  ***1/2  (For me, putting all the heat on the Horsemen and then beating them in the finals here literally three days later makes no sense. Luger already has his revenge! And he gets $500,000 out of it!) 

– Overall, Dave thinks it’s time to retire the Crockett Cup concept, because it’s never sold out and only idiots believe the million dollar nonsense.

– To Japan, where Akira Maeda’s debut show of the new UWF sold out in 15 minutes, a new record.  (In the days before online ticket sales, this was a BIG deal).  Now all of a sudden certain people are re-evaluating the way things went down, and TV stations want to be a part of the Maeda business.  In fact, if Maeda’s “shoot wrestling” style gets popular, then it could hurt Inoki & Baba both, because Japan is a country of followers and they might not want to watch the “fake” New Japan or All Japan wrestling if UWF becomes the cool thing again.

– Bruiser Brody did a very rare pinfall job, losing the International title to Jumbo Tsuruta on 4/19.  (That may have been his last one, in fact.  Did he lose again after that?) 

– Although the advertising for the WWF SNME taping in Springfield MA listed Beefcake v. Honky for weeks, with an assumed title change, the match ended up with Beefcake squashing Danny Davis and shaving his head, while Honky worked the whole Challenge taping with the IC title, so plans changed.

– The original Paul Jones, longtime Georgia promoter, passed away at 86 this week.  When it was announced at one of Jerry Blackwell’s shows, the crowd cheered because they thought it was the manager who had died.

– Owen Hart has changed his mind about going to the WWF, and is now thinking that working some Japan dates while carrying the load in Stampede might be good for him.

– With World Class down to only a few shows a month, Jerry Jarrett is bringing in a majority of the top names to work Memphis in a “talent exchange” program, including Iceman Parsons, the Von Erichs, and the Freebirds.

– The main event of a recent Memphis show saw Jerry Lawler getting a match against Max Pain for the CWA title, where Lawler would get five minutes with Ernest Angel & Missy Hyatt if he won.  The finish was, Dave swears to god, Missy unbuttoning her blouse to distract Lawler, resulting in Pain getting the pin to retain.  (That’s a ridiculous finish.  Missy would be far too old for Lawler at that point!) 

– Back to Japan, where the unification match between Tenryu and Brody went to a double countout, so they’ll try it again on 6/10 with new International champion Jumbo Tsuruta against Tenryu instead.  (Spoiler alert:  It takes another YEAR for them to finally pull the trigger on it.) 

– Adrian Adonis is filing suit against the AWA for his ankle injury.

– Buck Robley came in to book Jerry Blackwell’s Southern Championship Wrestling promotion, replacing Joe Pedicino as TV announcer in the process, and half the promotion immediately quit and decided to start a new promotion in opposition.  (It’s good to be loved.) 

– The WWF is continuing to press charges against David Sammartino for the bullshit fan assault incident a few weeks back, and now a warrant is out for David’s arrest after he missed a hearing last week.

– Dave was slightly incorrect on the list of guys who left the WWF last week, in that all of them are still around.  Outback Jack, Mike Sharpe and Terry Gibbs all worked as jobbers for the last TV tapings, and Craig DeGeorge was doing interviews. However, Butch Reed WAS fired, and Dave’s pretty sure about that one.

– Sivi Afi made his debut as the third member of the Islanders as High Chief Afi, with lots of new tattoos.  (This would prove to be right up there with the most ill-advised career moves in the history of the business, as mere weeks after doing that he was fired and stuck with ridiculous body tattoos.  Who would want a Samoan covered in tribal tats as a top guy?) 

 

(Wait, sorry, that’s not what I was going for there.)

 

 

(That’s the punchline I wanted!) 

– The Killer Bees heel turn appears to have been transferred to the Rougeaus instead.

– Advance ticket sales for the Savage v. Dibiase matches have been surprisingly good!

– The new WWF TV announcer is named Shawn Mooney, former product of This Week In Baseball.

– And finally, word is that the main event of the Great American Bash PPV show in July will be Ric Flair v. Lex Luger, which is what Dave expected all along.