Wrestling Observer Flashback–07.01.91

Previously on the Flashback… http://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2016/12/23/wrestling-observer-flashback-06-24-91/

It’s the two biggest issues of the Observer of the year!  Maybe two of the biggest ever!  My Christmas gift to you all.

– ”The real world sucks” says Dave to start the issue, and if there ever was a quote to encapsulate the year, that’s it.  The steroid story that Dave didn’t think would be a big deal is about to break in the media, and you know what?  IT’S A BIG FUCKING DEAL.  In an attempt to deflect attention from Zahorian, his lawyer has decided to “leak” the “secret names” of the people that Zahorian is accused of selling to, and wouldn’t you know that tops on the list is Hulk Hogan.  And when Hogan was suddenly linked to the case, it made the front page of USA Today and all kinds of mainstream media outlets that the WWF would have likely preferred that they not get. It was complete panic mode at Titan Towers as a result of the announcement, as they suddenly feel like the WWF is on trial instead of Zahorian. In fact, Basil DeVito released a terse statement to the media as they went on total lockdown and wouldn’t return any calls:

The WWF feels victimized by the tactics and statements of defense attorney William C. Costopoulos in utilizing the media in a “bait and switch” defense.

Dr. George T. Zahorian III, the former Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission appointed doctor, is on trial; not the WWF, or any WWF wrestlers. Neither the WWF, nor any of its wrestlers or associates has been charged with any illegality. We stand by our philosophy of wholesome family entertainment and the positive example we set for the youth of America.

To insure the safety and well-being of our performers, fans and employees, in June 1987, the WWF adopted a drug policy prohibiting the use of controlled substances in connection with any of its professional activities.

– Zahorian’s convoluted defense is that wrestlers were going to be taking drugs anyway, and pretty much had to take drugs to keep their jobs, so they might as well have been prescribed those drugs by a doctor.  Basically the defense is pointing the MR. TITO FINGER OF SHAME squarely at the WWF for putting their client in the position where he had little choice but to distribute illegal steroids to the wrestlers.  Although, Dave points out, the WWF basically unloading a line of bullshit on the media in their desperate attempt to spin the situation is no better.  Especially since the drug policy is for COCAINE, not steroids.

– Hulk Hogan suffered a legit neck injury and was immediately pulled from all his dates on the road until further notice.  He had been working through that injury up until today, oddly enough.  Dave thinks it’s going to get really bad for Hogan, especially since he’s in such a public position as someone who’s supposed to be the superhero face of the company and hero to kids everywhere.  Really, though, Hogan isn’t the bad guy, it’s the system that created him.  Thankfully for him, the judge ruled that he didn’t have to testify and would be exempt from the proceedings because it would negatively impact his personal life.  In exchange, the prosecution had to drop one of the charges against Zahorian.

– So back to the original quote, as everything about this sucks.  Because the motions excusing Hogan were sealed, we’ll never know what the reason for allowing it was.  Probably the real reason is that Hogan is a celebrity, and they get special treatment because they’re celebrities.  There was supposed to be a Hulk Hogan cereal released soon, but now Ralston-Purina is all “We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a Hogan cereal” since the story broke.

– So then the WWF called Dave to clarify the previous press release, which basically meant beating around the bush and avoiding the steroid issue.

– The first day of the trial had nothing to do with pro wrestlers.  Zahorian is facing 42 years in prison and $3.5 million in fines.  The first person called was a powerlifter named William Dunn who apparently bought a shitload of drugs from Zahorian.  On day two, Dan Spivey, Roddy Piper, Brian Blair, and Rick Martel all testified that they purchased steroids from Zahorian between 1988 and 1990.  Spivey would call the office and place his order, and Zahorian would Fed-Ex the drugs back, without ever doing a medical examination or checking his history.  Roddy Piper’s lawyers spent hours trying to play the same card as Hogan, but to no avail.  He testified that he purchased steroids like deca and stanazol from Zahorian before 1988, and prosecution had evidence that he purchased from the doctor in March of 1990 (once they were illegal).  He said that he received medical treatment for his stomach from Zahorian, but when asked if the doctor pushed illegal drugs on him, he admitted that it was true.

– Dave notes that when the trial is over, change will depend on how the media treats the story.  Really, the best thing for the health of pro wrestling overall would have been for Hogan to testify and turn the trial into a media circus, because then everything would come to light.

– Wahoo McDaniel was quoted in a Miami Herald story talking about meeting Zahorian in 1977.  Bruno Sammartino talked about going backstage and seeing hundreds of needles around, with 95% of the wrestlers using.  Wahoo also said that all the WCW guys are on steroids, which immediately had Jim Herd taking the offensive and claiming that his company didn’t have a steroid problem.

– The tabloid media is jumping all over Hogan already, digging up old photos and stories to show the difference between his public and private image, and another tabloid paper is trying to link the death of Rick McGraw to steroids.

– Finally, Dave thinks it’s time to just get everyone off steroids in the WWF and re-educate the audience once and for all.

Amazingly, there’s other news this week as well.

– To Japan, where W*ING held a press conference in Tokyo.  The president is going to be Kazuyoshi Osako, who used to be the president of FMW.  Victor Quinones of WWC in Puerto Rico was also introduced as heading up the office, which has led to speculation that WWC is financing the group.  For the moment it’s basically just Pogo and a bunch of former prelim guys being used as talent.

– Dave watched some more SWS and it’s getting better!

– The deal where Pedicino will launch the GWF and take over the ESPN slot is a done deal, really, for sure, honest, no doubt about it.  Well, on paper at least, but the money required to close the deal isn’t scheduled to arrive until the end of the week, so there may yet be a snag.  So Friday came and there was no money, despite Joe claiming that it had been wired, and by Saturday the Jarrett side was calling Pedicino a fraud again.  But thankfully, Monday morning, Joe showed up with the money and the deal was done.  Joe was trying to talk Bill Watts into coming as figurehead commissioner, but Watts turned him down.

– Jerry Jarrett ran one last show in the Sportatorium on 6/21, which featured Eric Embry going into business for himself in the main event and turning himself babyface, so that he could hang out at the souvenir stand and sell $20 worth of pictures on the way out of town.

– Oh yeah, in Memphis there’s a rookie named Rob Zakowski who is said to be excellent for someone at his level.  (That would of course be young RVD.) 

– And now, the OTHER part of everything going to hell this week, as the future of Ric Flair in WCW is very much in doubt.  Jim Herd told Flair’s attorney that the company was giving Flair 30 days notice, which would make the Bash PPV his final date.  Jim Herd denied all rumors involved and claims that they’re simply involved in contract negotiations.  However, it would require Flair to take a HUGE pay cut.  Either side can cancel the contract with 30 days notice, but WCW would have to pay out Flair’s entire contract if they give notice.  I bet we’ll have more on this story next time!

– Dan Spivey refused to do a job for PN News on the road and got fired as a result.  Dave thinks that it’s INCREDIBLY coincidental that Spivey testified at the Zahorian trial and then this happened.

– Scott Steiner will be out 3-4 months with a badly torn bicep, and Jim Ross is reporting that the titles are being vacated and put up in a tournament.

– PN News accidentally splashed Angel of Death’s knees at a house show and tore ligaments as a result, so Angel will be out six months.  (That pretty much ended Dave Sheldon’s career, in fact, and he only wrestled sporadically until his retirement from then on.) 

– The Flair thing is actually part of a larger payroll cutting edict from head office, as the plan is to cut out the higher-priced guys and get new guys to sign a deal for $300 per show worked, with a guarantee of 60 shows per year.  That is of course a far cry from the giant contracts being thrown around in years previous.  Technically this also means that WCW could book someone for two months and then bench them without pay, while preventing them from working anywhere else.  Dave doubts that this would happen, but it COULD.

– WCW will be bringing in a SUPERGROUP called the American Patriots, complete with a cross-promotional cartoon on TBS.  The team will be comprised of The Fireman (played by Curtis Thompson), The Police Man (Bill Kazmaier), The Private (Todd Champion), and the Garbage Man (Pez Whatley).  (Frankly I’m shocked and disappointed that we only got the watered-down version of this in the form of the Patriots instead of the full-on batshit crazy Jim Herd madness that it could have been!) 

– London Publishing, the parent company of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, is working on a WCW magazine, with the same quality of paper as the WWF magazine.  (But do THEY have Linda McMahon writing fluff pieces under an alias?  I think NOT.) 

– In something of an understated Observer debut, Dave notes that former AWA announcer Eric Bischoff will be replacing Lance Russell on WCW Pro.  Jim Herd will be overhauling all of the TV shows due to bad ratings.

– Correction from last week:  The mother of the Sting lookalike kid wasn’t actually Ben Sullivan’s mom, but rather Big Josh’s wife Cathy Osborne.

-Dave thinks it’s just WONDERFUL that they’re spending all the TV time hyping up the Desperados and completely ignoring the Flair-Luger match at the PPV.  (Well, that would be a moot point next week anyway.) 

– To the WWF, where they had a really bad week at the houses, but compared to WCW they were practically all sellouts.

– Bob Bradley got a tryout at the 6/18 TV tapings and lost to Louie Spicoli.

– Steve Keirn will now be coming in as “Skinner”.

– WWF is claiming that the WBF debut drew “15,000 people” (in reality 4200, mostly freebies) but just having the show happen was a big success for them anyway.

– And finally, Warrior v. Undertaker in casket matches will headline at the end of August, so that program will continue past Summerslam at least.  (Or not.) 

NEXT TIME:  The unthinkable finally happens!  Not a dream, not an imaginary story!