Big stuff in the news this week, and the start of the biggest shift in coverage in the history of the Observer. So you picked a great time to start reading!
– In the top story, Jerry Lawler was accused of being a very, very bad boy. He was indicted on 11/12 on counts of rape, sodomy and harassing a witness, and he’ll be arraigned in Louisville on 11/22. Apparently, and this is going to be shocking to everyone so I’m just warning you in advance, he is accused of having sex with a much younger woman, specifically a 13 year old in Louisville. He’s also under investigation for a similar case in Indiana.
– The WWF of course immediately suspended him without pay, which really sucks for everyone because the Bret-Lawler feud was the biggest drawing house show feud they have at the moment. They actually announced the indictment on Radio WWF and further announced that Shawn Michaels will be taking his place in the Survivor Series match against Bret Hart’s team, as well as on the road. This of course raises the further issue of Michaels being suspended as well, but they pretty much just hand-waved it away and said he’s back now. (Oh man, they pretty much took the one match I was looking forward to the most and killed it dead days before the PPV.)
– Lawler was all over shows that were taped leading up to Survivor Series, and in fact there’s talk that they’ll have to tape an emergency house show as a new Survivor Series preview show to eliminate Lawler completely.
– Meanwhile, Lawler will be replaced on commentary for Superstars by Bruce Pritchard, who will be doing a spoof of Dusty Rhodes called “Rio Rogers”. (Oh FUCK ME, I had forgotten about that one. Let’s go to the YouTubes: https://youtu.be/2I4VkXzXxNU)
– The girl in question was a “front row groupie” in Louisville, and had actually been banned from the building by management in the weeks leading up to the accusations. However, due to negative publicity, USWA is pulling out of the city for a few weeks until everything blows over. (Clearly at the time everyone thought Lawler was guilty as hell, but you can see right away how the girl was obviously a nut who was trying to get back at Lawler for ignoring her or whatever. I may not have much useful advice to give about women, but I do know that if you ban one from a wrestling arena because she’s stalking you, it’s probably not going to lead anywhere good.)
– All this is leading to speculation about what it means for the future of the USWA, as Jerry Jarrett is getting more heavily involved in booking the WWF, and in fact offered his 50% share of the USWA to a real estate broker broker named Jeffrey Cohen. Cohen turned it down flat. (OK, so this kind of thing is actually what led to the legal morass that is the USWA video footage situation as it stands today. Jarrett basically made that same offer multiple times to multiple people, and lawyers today are still trying to piece together how many people he actually sold his 50% to, which is why WWE is unable to legally purchase all the footage and make DVDs from it.)
– In another twist, WMC-TV is under new ownership, and they’re not really thrilled about paying a fee to Lawler and Jarrett for airing the TV show. (And THIS is what eventually killed off Memphis wrestling, unfortunately.)
– Lawler, by the way, is facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Also, the “witness harassment” charge is unrelated to the main charge, and deals with another girl involved in the situation who had gone to the police. On the bright side, police say that the rape charge is of the statutory variety and it’s not a forced rape situation. According to the girls’ testimony, they went to Lawler’s hotel room in Louisville and he told them “Let’s get naked” and then they had sex while watching cartoons, then went to Taco Bell for supper. (What a monster. You’d think he would at least spring for Popeye’s chicken or something.)
– Lawler, meanwhile, is insistent to the media that the girls are lying, and that he has a taped converation that will clear his name. He claims that this was merely the girls bragging to their friends about all of the wrestler sex that they’ve supposedly had, and Lawler’s name got dropped in there. Then someone else heard the girls telling the stories, and heard Lawler’s name, and went to the authorities to pursue rape charges.
– So in general, Dave is not terribly optimistic about the future of the major wrestling promotions at the moment. In fact, his feeling is mostly that the industry would probably be better off if everyone got swept away Old Testament-style and replaced with a new group of people who didn’t make decisions based on “We’ve always done it that way before.” (Well, at least one person didn’t have that attitude, but he doesn’t come along until 1997. But then that’s a case of “be careful what you wish for”, I guess.)
– And now, Dave goes on a bit of a rant.
– Yup, wrestling has long been no stranger to fraudulent advertising and outright lying, but the new Mean Gene 900 line scam takes the cake. Since he gets a large percentage of the money brought in, it’s to Gene’s advantage to use any methods available to get people to call in. However, nothing he says really equals outright fraud. Unlike, say, the WWF line, where people pay money to vote on questions like “Should Shawn Michaels be reinstated?” with the results supposedly being binding. Which of course came after he had already been reinstated. Even worse, they spent the show giving live results of voting and then announced the decision at the end…but then aired the show on the West Coast and solicited the same votes from people watching who didn’t know that the “voting” had already closed and the decision had been announced on the East coast! Then they did it AGAIN with the “Who should Pierre’s opponent next week be?” vote two weeks later, where not only had the decision been announced on the East feed by the time that the West one started, but in fact the Luger v. Pierre match that was being “voted” on for “next week” was already taped before the show even started on the West coast. To the WWF’s credit, they responded by refunding all the money paid by people in the Pacific and Mountain time zones.
– Over to WCW, where they did another round of Disney tapings and Starrcade’s card is now completely different without Arn Anderson and Sid involved. The main event is now Flair challenging Vader for the WCW World title, with his career on the line if he loses. Official word from the company is that both Sid and Arn are still with the company pending investigation, but Mean Gene’s hotline said that both have been fired. This actually comes as news to both men. However, on WCW Saturday Night, they aired an angle where Vicious was attacked by the Kongs and Jesse Ventura remarked that it was a “career ending injury”, which is apparently how Sid is going to be written out of the company. (And indeed it was.)
– Minor notes from the tapings: Main event of Superbrawl IV is going to be Vader v. Flair in a rematch from Starrcade, so obviously Flair is winning the title and not retiring, and also Maxx Payne and Cactus Jack end up as WCW tag team champions sometime in January. (Not sure what happened with that one.)
– OK, time for the debut of something that will completely alter the Wrestling Observer Newsletter from this point onwards: The Ultimate Fighting Championship! They held their first PPV on 11/12, and it was an amazing demonstration of how a little guy can actually beat a big guy in a fight. The show was clearly a complete shoot, although wrestling fans could be forgiving for thinking otherwise given that the winner was the promoter’s brother. Really, the biggest stars of the show were Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock, who should have met in the finals but instead we got Gracie v. Gordeau in the finals as a complete squash. It’s still unknown if they’ll try UFC 2 in April. Talk is that they’ll do another tournament, but remove Gracie from it this time, or at least ban the chokehold. There was a big downside to the show, in that shoot matches don’t last long (none of the fights exceeded 5:00, which made for a lot of downtime) and “the brutality made UWFI look like a pillow fight”. Dave still wonders how Gracie is going to deal with a 350 pound wrestler with street fighting experience and MMA skills. (Pretty easily, as it turned out, since he beat quite of few of those later on, as well.)
– And after all of THAT, there’s still a Clash to review! It was another rush job, with seven matches crammed into two hours and screwjob finishes all over the place. Also, the ratings were a complete bomb, with everyone switching off as the show progressed. (What is this, 2017 RAW? Did Dusty book Roman Reigns and Enzo in the main event here, too?)
1. Rick Rude went to a double countout with Hawk to retain the “WCW International World title” in 5:41. One of the worst World title matches on a major show in history, as Hawk was working on a blown knee and literally couldn’t do anything. -**
2. Shockmaster pinned Equalizer in 2:28 with the bearhug slam. At least it was short. -*
3. Steve Regal pinned Johnny B. Badd in 6:33 to retain the TV title. Regal pinned him with a rollup while Badd was distracted by the manager. Where have we seen that before, Dave wonders? (Every episode of RAW for the past 10 years?) *
4. Steve Austin pinned Brian Pillman in 9:11. An awesome match. But too short and with the same finish as the last match. Pillman got buried here, with no entrance music and basically looking like a geek. (And he’d stay buried for the next two years, realistically.) The finish was “Japanese style” with big moves and hot near-falls one after another. Robert Parker tripped up Pillman on the top, and Austin pinned him using the tights. ***3/4 (I love this match. Love love love it and I’m not sure if it’s on any of Austin’s numerous DVD collections but it should be. It’s great.)
5. Dustin Rhodes pinned Paul Orndorff to retain the US title in 12:09. Jesse’s cheapshots at the Assassin were the highlight of the show. The match was basically intentionally tanked to keep the focus on Dusty and Assassin on the floor, leading to Rhodes getting a cradle on Orndorff for the win and the managers running in for the big brawl and Dusty comeback afterwards. **1/4
6. The Nasty Boys beat Sting & Bulldog to retain the tag titles in 8:30. Rude attacked Smith before the match to begin their program. Sags got the cheap elbow on Smith for the pin. **
7. Ric Flair beat WCW champion Vader by DQ in 9:32. Fifi was with Flair so Missy’s reports of her “firing” were dead wrong. The match was rushed due to time constraints. They did the stupid finish where the ref is bumped and Flair is seemingly pinning the champion, but it turns out that the ref was just slapping the mat to attempt to revive himself. ***1/4 Flair got beat up by Vader and Steve Austin, but the Rhodes family (Dustin and Shockmaster) made the save. Flair did a promo talking about wanting Sid Vicious as his partner, which had people in the business being like….
– There’s a lot of talk in Japan that Pancrase will render the other “shoot style” groups obsolete, due to the lack of worked finishes. (I think the UFC pretty much did that for them.)
– Your wacky Memphis gimmick of the week is Florida wrestlers Brett Blair & Billy Brooks doing a frat boy gimmick as “Phi Delta Slamma”. They were said to be “not bad.” (I’m actually shocked we haven’t seen a resurrection of that one yet, mostly because Vince would probably find it hilarious. I think the Spirit Squad were about the closest, but I feel like a wrestling version of Tucker Max might be something that would work.)
– ECW’s “November to Remember” show on 11/13 drew their biggest crowd in history, 1500 people, with Terry Funk’s surprise partner turning out to be King Kong Bundy. And of course he turned on Funk and Sabu pinned him to win. As a result, Sabu is now both ECW and TV champions because both titles were on the line in the match.
– Shawn Michaels returned at the most recent TV tapings, carrying the old IC title belt, which sets up a belt v. belt feud with Razor Ramon that will likely be blown off at Royal Rumble.
– Jack Tunney made a ruling that there can only be one Doink from now on, so apparently Phil Apollo has the gig full-time now. They also gave him his own midget, who is Tiger Jackson dressed as a clown and dubbed “Dink”.
– Announcer Joe Fowler and Well Dunn have both apparently been fired, which is due to budget cutbacks. (Should have saved my Well Dunn joke for here, I guess.)
– Bobby Heenan’s contract is up in December.
– And finally, they’re seemingly starting an Owen v. Bret feud based on matches taped to build up Survivor Series, which will now never air because Jerry Lawler is involved in them.