Wrestling Observer Flashback–06.17.91

Previously on the Flashback… http://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2016/12/20/wrestling-observer-flashback-06-10-91/

Vince was probably feeling pretty good at this point.  Sid was signed and debuted to a big pop, WCW was self-destructing before his eyes, and the Hogan-Slaughter program was doing pretty good business.  Yup, things were pretty good and 1991 was shaping up to be a fine year for wrestling and the WWF in particular.

Oh, except for one, little, teensy tiny legal matter.  I don’t think it’ll have any direct affect on the promotion, because why would it?  Besides, he’s a DOCTOR.  He writes prescriptions and everything.  You may have heard of him.

Get used to it, because we’re going to be hearing a LOT about Dr. George Zahorian for the next year or so.

– In a story that would nearly take down the entire WWF, the trial of George Zahorian is set to begin in about two weeks.  Zahorian was a doctor who worked ringside at the old Allentown TV tapings and sometimes participated in angles.  Zahorian was arrested and charged with 17 counts of drug trafficking relating to steroids and other substances, but mostly steroids.  Each count relating to the steroids has a maximum sentence of three years and a $250,000 fine, plus another five years each for the non-steroid drug charges.

– The specific charges are for distributing illegal steroids to wrestlers between 1988 and 1990, and the trial begins on the 24th.  Currently scheduled to testify are Roddy Piper, Billy Graham, Brian Blair, Dan Spivey and Rick Martel.  There’s also suspicion that Hulk Hogan might be called to testify, but Titan is pulling strings to keep him out of the news.

– The prosecuting attorney insists that it’s not a witch hunt for wrestlers, but rather an attempt to convict Zahorian.  In fact, they don’t expect any major revelations about steroid use among wrestlers!  Dave, however, thinks that this whole issue is a giant powder keg waiting to explode, especially since the 80s kept producing bigger and bigger wrestlers as Vince pretty much only pushed guys who were on the juice.  The actual use and possession of steroids were not technically illegal until this year, but it’s now a code three federally controlled substance (pot is code four, coke is code two, for sake of comparison.)  Basically the guys testifying should be safe, since the time period they’re being called upon to testify about falls under the period where steroids were not SPECIFICALLY prohibited.

– Dave points out that most people know the deal with wrestling and steroids already, and the trial probably won’t have any significant or lasting impact on the state of the business.  The business is built on the big lie that the steroid physiques are somehow “healthier” than a thinner frame, and the bodybuilding industry perpetrates the same lie as the foundation of its business as well.  Dave brings up the case of Ben Johnson, who was caught using steroids at the 1988 Olympics and basically brought shame on the entire nation of Canada (HOO BOY did he ever!  People up here took that one HARD!) but wrestlers aren’t counted as “real athletes” anyway so the perception of being steroid abusers isn’t exactly going to lower their stature in the eyes of the public any further.  Dave doesn’t think this will cause any kind of significant scandal.  (And boy would he be wrong!) 

– Finally, Dave points out that wrestling was around for decades without any significant steroid usage, and really it was Vince McMahon in the 80s that brought that particular mindset to the forefront.  Should the drugs be washed out of the business, it’ll adapt and survive like it always has, but with smaller bodies.  And really, the only people arguing FOR the steroid lifestyle are the ones aiming for a short-term mindset, pretending that a problem doesn’t exist.

– Yeah, like those guys.

– Onto another topic completely, speculation is running rampant that Joe Pedicino will take over the ESPN timeslot from the USWA next month.  People are naturally skeptical based on all the wild promises and “secret funding” that Joe was throwing around at the same time in 1990, but he’s contacted numerous wrestlers about coming to work for him when the deal happens.  The first taping is supposedly 06/28 at the Sportatorium, with five hours of programming per week being produced.  The problem with this theory is that Jarrett signed a new one-year contract with ESPN in February, although the channel is very unhappy with the content of the shows to date and could theoretically ax the deal at any time.

– Jim Herd and the other mucky-mucks at TBS have decided to downplay the TV role of Dusty Rhodes, removing him from the color commentator position and dropping his “Bull Drop Inn”.  Apparently, and this is probably a viewpoint that will cause some controversy, people think that Dusty MIGHT be pushing himself too much.

– Certainly Dusty’s results as a booker have been less than stellar thus far, but whether or not this reduction in airtime means anything for his position as bookerman remains to be seen.

– And now, in the story bigger than the steroid trials…


– The least successful PPV in pro wrestling history (until TNA!) is now history and disappointingly, poll results are…not that bad, actually.  (Herb can’t even do a terrible PPV properly.)  The distribution was supposed to be 2.3 million homes, but to rub salt in the wound a whole bunch of cable systems cancelled their broadcast of the show at the last minute, which puts the number of potential homes at well below 2 million.

– The show drew 550 people to the Manatee Civic Center in Florida, although only 70 tickets were actually sold and the rest were giveaways.

– Dave won’t be seeing the show until next week, but he’s compiled star ratings from trusted minions:

1. Boris Zhukov pinned Paul Samson in a dark match.  -**

2. The Black Hearts (Tom Nash & David Heath) beat Jim Cooper & Fire Cat (Brady Boone) in 7:45.  Cooper & Boone were a substitute for SD Jones & Tyree Pride, which would have been far worse.  **

3.  Johnny Ace & Terry Gordy went to a double countout in a supposed No-DQ street fight in 6:08, with Ace subbing for Don Muraco at the last minute after he no-showed.  Ace just wore regular gear because he didn’t know it was a street fight.  The match wasn’t that good, but the brawl was.  ***

4. Mass Confusion (The Killer Bees) beat the Power Twins in 12:23 with double sunset flips.  3/4*

5. Rockin’ Robin won the prestigious new UWF Women’s title over Candi Divine in 6:05.  -3/4*

6. Paul Orndorff pinned Col. DeBeers in 4:15 in a strap match with a piledriver.  *1/4

7. Bob Backlund pinned Ivan Koloff in 2:23.  1/4*

8. Steve Ray & Sonny Beach beat Cactus Jack & Bob Orton (managed by John Tolos, who amazingly showed up!) in 4:00 via heel miscommunication. Orton turned on Jack afterwards and they brawled to the back.  *3/4

9. Steve Williams pinned Bam Bam Bigelow in 7:11 to win the first UWF championship with the Oklahoma Stampede.  Very stiff, Japanese style match with tons of blood.  Doc and Abrams challenged the champions from “any other federation” after the match, which Dave notes is an easy challenge to throw out when you know no one is going to answer and Steve Williams is your champion.  ***1/4

The first half of the show went long and they had to rush the last three matches greatly.  The show only ran two hours, which caused LOTS of complaints.

– Story time!  Years back, as detailed RIGHT HERE in the Observer recaps from the time, a group of smart fans from Nebraska got into a small amount of trouble with the WWF for sitting front row with NWA shirts during a TV taping, which caused the people running the show to freak out and hold up the taping while they sent out agents to make them wear WWF shirts over top. From there this became a game among Observer subscribers, who learned that you can get free WWF merchandise by sitting camera-side and wearing shirts showing the competition.  So anyway, this past week, the guys in question went to a house show (not a TV taping) and wore Ric Flair shirts.  They were yelling at Jim Duggan and Col Mustafa during their terrible match and basically heckling them for not being a real champion like Flair, at which point Dave Hebner got the police and had them all arrested and banned from the building.  The official reason from the WWF is that they were being “abusive” to the wrestlers and using foul language.  Dave points out that businesses all reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, and if someone wants you out of the building that badly, maybe it’s time to find your entertainment elsewhere since obviously the WWF product is not to your liking.

– Konan is leaving Mexico for the WWF as of 6/16, and newspapers in Mexico had publicity photos of him standing next to Undertaker & Warlord to build up his big debut.

– To Japan, where the UWFi shocked everyone by selling out Korakuen Hall with 2400 people standing room only with a main event of Takada v. JT Southern.  Everyone has been predicting doom and gloom for this group from the start.

– Tokyo Sports is reporting that Olympic wrestlers Alexis Karelin and David Gobedshivili (the guy who was a running gag years ago when Dave couldn’t figure out how to spell his name) will be starting as pro wrestlers with New Japan on 8/8.  Dave is decidedly skeptical about this.  In fact, Karelin is supposed to be competing for Russia in the 92 Olympics.

– Brian Adams is back in Portland, working as Demolition Crush, so this seems to be the end of Demolition as a team in the WWF.  They were told not to acknowledge him as Brian Adams, but the TV announcer did so anyway.

– Jeff Jarrett has been tapped as a part of the “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign against littering, which is weird because he’s not a Texan and not really a celebrity of any stature.

– Monday night Memphis shows dipped to 340 fans without Jerry Lawler, so he finally returned to save the day.

– The WWF has a very unlikely working partnership with IWCCW, with guys like Tito Santana and the Bushwackers getting shipped out there because they’re carrying too many people but don’t want to fire a bunch of people have them jump to WCW.  So between this territory and SWS in Japan, the WWF is hopeful that they keep guys working enough not to quit and go to WCW.

– In a very minor note that actually became kind of a thing later, wrestler Derrick Dukes threw a boxing match to football player Mark Gastineau, taking a bump in 12 seconds off a punch that “showed more light than a Hulk Hogan punch”.  Dukes admitted taking a dive on ESPN afterwards, and now there’s CONTROVERSY.

– To WCW, where Steve Austin actually won the TV title from Bobby Eaton twice.  They taped it originally on 6/3 in Birmingham, but the finish was screwed up, so they taped a new version on 6/4 in Montgomery with Lady Blossom making sure to scratch Eaton’s eyes BEHIND the ref’s back this time.  As a trivia note, Veronica only lasted two shows as Austin’s valet.

– Talk that Jason Hervey will wrestle Paul E. Dangerously on the Bash tour.

– Bruno Sammartino is telling people that he was willing to come out of retirement to face Larry Zbyszko at the Meadowlands, but he wanted 100% creative control over the program and WCW won’t budge.

– WCW co-promoted a show in Roswell NM with the local Boy Scouts, and EVERYONE no-showed, leaving them with a 6-match show and a main event of Gigante v. One Man Gang.  Fans were “screaming for refunds” at the end of the very short show.

– The advance for the WCW show in St. Louis (you know that battleground between the promotions) is sitting at less than 500 tickets at the moment.

– Dusty Rhodes went on the Jim Ross radio show and made all kinds of Hogan-like claims, such as Muhammad Ali learning his interview style from watching him, although Dave notes that could be explained by Ali having access to a time machine where he saw 7 years into the future when Dusty started doing those interviews.

– To the WWF, where Steve Keirn’s “Gator Man” gimmick is considered to be too close to the other two “lizard related” gimmicks that are already there, so he’ll be coming in as something else.  (Yeah, because THAT was the big problem with the idea.) 

– USA Today basically ran a press release from the WBF under the guise of a “story”, where it was claimed that they would be tested for steroids and suspended for a first offense.  Dave thinks that’s hilarious, but notes that the Weider people are getting pretty panicked because no one even thought that they’d get to the point of putting on a show and yet the debut contest is this weekend.

– Dory Funk is the latest person to decline involvement with the “Legends of Wrestling” show in St. Louis at the stadium.

– And finally, promotional materials for Summerslam promise a “match made in heaven and a match made in hell”, whatever that means.