Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.10.95 (Part 1)
So after Dave takes a week off, it’s a DOUBLE ISSUE featuring Wrestlemania XI, the show that drew so much money that Dave needed a second issue to contain it all!
– The two biggest shows of the year took place on the same weekend, as we saw Wrestlemania XI, and the Weekly Pro Wrestling show at the Tokyo Dome. No numbers for PPV are available at the moment, but it’s expected to be the biggest grossing show on PPV since the glory days of Wrestlemania 5 and Hulkamania. In fact, predictions of a 2.0 buyrate are probably conservative, and Dave’s gut tells him that this show is going to be a monster success that grosses $7 million or more and becomes one of the biggest money shows in the history of the business!
(So yeah, in reality the show did a 1.3 buyrate, or about 350,000 buys, which was significantly down from 1993 and 1994’s numbers. It was still the biggest WWF show of the year, at least.)
– The show actually was a sellout to the tune of 15,000 people and $750,000 gate, although they had lied on TV a couple of weeks before and claimed a sellout well before it actually happened.
– Dave hasn’t seen the show, but there’s a wide variety of opinions on the show to say the least. One of the majority opinions is that without the involvement of the LT match, it would have been a thumbs down show. However, LT’s involvement has also helped boost ratings for both companies significantly, so there’s also that.
– Despite all the hype of “First time / last time / only time” leading up to the show, all three claims appear to be bullshit. Taylor basically said he was open to working more matches in the aftermath. (Thankfully they left it at the one match.)
– In a surprising twist on the RAW after Wrestlemania, Shawn Michaels was turned babyface in a major turn, despite clear plans to build the company around Diesel. Dave finds the turn pretty perplexing since they’re already turning Backlund on the way to phasing him out of the company, and of course Bam Bam Bigelow. Granted the crowds had already started Shawn because he’s awesome, but if they’re going to be pushing that kind of super-athletic style on top, crowds are going to be cheering a lot of guys and they can’t just turn everyone on a whim. (Oh yeah? HOLD VINCE’S BEER.)
– Meanwhile, in Japan, Weekly Pro Wrestling sold out the Tokyo Dome with 13 promotions and all the top stars in the country on one show. Basically the magazines are so powerful that none of the promotions want to offend them by passing on the invitation to appear. And then once they’re there, everyone wants to have the best match and steal the show. (It’s like 13 promotions full of Dolph Zigglers! Except they actually drew money!) The only exception was WAR, which had already burned their bridges with Weekly Pro Wrestling and gave zero fucks about offending them. So they ran in opposition at Korakuen Hall at the same time, and New Japan tried to play peacemaker by sending Riki Choshu to the WAR show so they could get along with everyone. Apparently the Japanese culture is avoidance of confrontation if at all possible. (Yeah, getting an atomic bomb dropped on you will really mess you up, I’d imagine.)
– The WAR show not only sold out the Hall, but also a closed circuit site on the grounds. In fact, since the WAR show started later than the Dome show, about 500 fans rushed from the Dome after that show and filled up the closed circuit hall so they could catch the last few matches on the WAR show.
– Oddly enough, despite the massive media hype of the show by Weekly Pro Wrestling and historic nature of the show, it was literally ignored by all the other media in Japan because no one wanted to give their competition any press. In fact, many papers in the country covered the WAR show in great detail, and then listed results for the Dome show at the very bottom of the page, under all the little indie promotions, with no further coverage. (And you thought the AEW-WWE feud was vicious.)
– And now, WHOA-OH WHOA-OH, IT’S WRESTLEMANIA!
(Note: Dave didn’t see the show because he was in Japan doing Japan stuff, so the star ratings are from minion Tim Whitehead.)
– The opening video featured previous Wrestlemania history, as you’d expect, but focused entirely on the celebrities, because otherwise they’d have to acknowledge Hogan and Savage.
1. Davey Boy Smith & Lex Luger beat the Blu Twins in 6:34. A routine opener, clumsy in spots. ½*
2. Razor Ramon beat Jeff Jarrett by DQ in 13:32. 1-2-3 Kid was at ringside for Razor and interfered a bunch. Ramon “injured” his knee and Jarrett got the figure-four, but Razor reversed and Kid helped him get leverage on the ropes, but the ref caught them and forced the break. Roadie ran in for the DQ and Kid saved with spin kicks, one of which legit bloodied JJ’s nose. Good match, bad finish. **3/4
3. Undertaker pinned King Kong Bundy in 6:36. A poor match with enough gaga at ringside to save it. Paul Bearer got the urn back, but Kama came out and stole it for himself, which is leading to a program that sadly disrupts the real life friendship between Kama and Undertaker. Match was slow motion and Undertaker won with a clothesline. ½*
4. Owen Hart & Yokozuna won the WWF tag titles from the Smoking Gunns in 9:42. Yokozuna actually looks fatter than ever. Hart was good but not great here. Owen mostly sold until Yokozuna turned the tide with the legdrop, leading to Billy taking the Banzai Drop and Owen stealing the pin for himself to win the titles. **
5. Bret Hart beat Bob Backlund in the I Quit match in 9:34. Guest ref Roddy Piper got the best reaction on the show. The stips helped because rest holds were now submission holds, and Bret eventually reversed the chicken wing and made Bob grunt in submission for the win. *1/4 (That’s…exceedingly generous.)
6. Diesel pinned Shawn Michaels to retain the WWF title in 20:35. A good match, but all Michaels. The heat for the match was off the charts compared to the rest of the show. Shawn took crazy bumps for Diesel, but the finish was messed. Sid cut off a turnbuckle pad and Diesel was supposed to slingshot Shawn into the exposed steel for the win, but Shawn took a bump into a padded one instead, so Diesel gave him the big boot and powerbomb and pinned him off that. And then Shawn popped up immediately afterwards to no-sell the finisher. ****
7. Lawrence Taylor pinned Bam Bam Bigelow in 11:42. Pat Patterson was special ref to ensure that LT didn’t get lost during the match. Not a technically good match, but Taylor was better than just about any non-wrestler ever before. Bam Bam did a tremendous job of selling for him, and LT’s psychology and selling were great. LT blew up at the end, but came back with a forearm off the middle rope for the pin. Match was entertaining. **3/4
OK, back to Japan!
(As Mike Tenay might say, Dave was on tour of the ORIENT while Wrestlemania was going on, and he apparently made the right choice.)
– The Tokyo Dome super-show taught some important lessons about the difference between “over” and “draw”, because the All Japan guys all stole the show, with giant reactions for Misawa in particular, but they couldn’t be said to have drawn the money and Misawa is nowhere near the draw that Onita is. But Onita’s reaction from the crowd on this show was way down the list of the top guys, even though his retirement match has already sold 52,000 tickets to a stadium without a single match announced. But despite all the big pops, All Japan is struggling at the box office. Here’s Dave’s awards for the show:
– Best performer was tough to pick with 52 people on the show, but Kenta Kobashi is pretty much the best.
– The worst performer was easier: Don Arakawa of PWFG. A so-called shoot wrestler doing Baba chops in a comedy match was pretty embarrassing.
– The classiest performer was Akira Maeda. After beating Chris Dolman, he quietly left the ring to let Dolman have his moment from the fans in his retirement match.
– Greatest move was Terry Funk’s moonsault to the floor at age 50. In fact, he not only did the move, but then did such an amazing job of selling his knee that everyone in the building thought that his career was over. (Written 25 years ago, mind you.)
– In fact, that match featured a massive botch, as Cactus Jack tried to light a giant board on fire, but couldn’t ignite the lighter fluid and everyone was left standing around in confusion until Funk decided to do the moonsault to save things. However, afterwards it turned out that had Jack been successful in lighting the board on fire, the show would have been stopped immediately by building officials. (STOP THE DAMN SHOW! THAT BOARD’S GOT A FAMILY!)
– Big winners: JWP, who opened the show and tore the house down to the point where no one could follow them. Also, that Minoru Suzuki kid from Pancrase, who dispatched Christopher DeWeaver and got over huge with the crowd.
– Big losers: Onita barely got any kind of reaction and it was even worse for him since he couldn’t do his fireball gimmick. Also, FMW got totally upstaged by the IWA in the battle of “outrageous bloody gimmick promotions”. New Japan got their heat scooped by All Japan, and in fact got upstaged by pretty much everyone, with Hashimoto and Chono putting on a stinker of a main event after a historic night of crazy action.
Overall, it has to rank as one of the best shows Dave has ever seen and was easily the best ever card at the Tokyo Dome. (Boy, THAT distinction would sure get eclipsed later on!)
To the recap!
1. Dynamite Kansai & Hikari Fukuoka & Candy Okutsu & Fusayo Nouchi defeated Devil Masami & Mayumi Ozaki & Cutie Suzuki & Hiroumi Yagi in 17:29 (JWP). Dave thinks they might have drugged the women with something awesome because they worked off the charts. All action from start to finish. Giant swings everywhere! Kansai finished Masami with a Niagara Driver off the top rope after tons of craziness. Best opener ever. ****3/4
2. Shinobi Kandori defeated Harley Saito in a UFC rules match in 1:12 (LLPW). It was worked as if it was a UFC and Kandori took her down and bashed her brains in with strikes for the win.
3. Aja Kong & Kyoko Inoue beat Manami Toyota & Blizzard Yuki (Sakie Hasegawa under a mask) in 17:40 (All Japan Women). Kong looked like “Jackie Gleason” during her entrance, Dave notes. More craziness here and all kinds of near-falls before Kong finally pinned Toyota with a Northern Lights suplex to get revenge for losing the WWWA title a few nights previous. ****1/2
So at this point, wrestling god Lou Thesz came out to talk about how great it is to be involved with the “athletic version of pro wrestling”, which naturally set up…
4. Ryuma Go pinned Uchu Majin Silver X in what was billed as an Alien death match for the Interplanetary title in 15:11 (Go Gundan). (Sounds like it was ahead of its time, actually. If only it was for the Heavymetalweight title!) There were other aliens at ringside, a Jewish alien and two farm boy aliens, although Dave is now wondering if they were illegal aliens. (Dad joke alert.) The crowd was all in on the joke and spent the match doing crazy chants like an ECW show to cover up how awful everything was, although it was so bad that it had everyone laughing hysterically. (No Orange Cassidy run-in, though.) Go won with a clothesline. *
5. In a barbed wire barricade barbed wire baseball bat tornado death match, Terry Funk & Shoji Nakamaki & Leatherface (Rick Patterson) beat Cactus Jack & The Head Hunters in 18:28 (IWA). Dave describes this as “the most amazing clusterfuck of incredible moves that you’ll ever see.” It’ll apparently look like one of the best matches of all time with the right editing. Blood everywhere and absolutely no focus, just guys beating on each with baseball bats and chairs. Oh, and Jack got a chainsaw to the arm. (Of course he did.) The notable botched fire spot killed off the crowd, but then Terry Funk was just like “Fuck it” and started doing more crazy shit to cover it up, including the moonsault to the floor, and Nakamaki whipped a Headhunter into the board and pinned him. ****
6. Minoru Suzuki made Christopher DeWeaver submit to an anklelock in 1:50 (Pancrase).
7. Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Yuki Ishikawa beat Carl Greco & Don Arakawa in 16:30 (PWFG). Total comedy when Arakawa was in, and it wrecked the match. ½*
8. Super Delfin & Taka Michinoku & Gran Naniwa beat Great Sasuke & Sato & Shiryu in 22:25 (Michinoku Pro). Very smooth and entertaining, with a lot of comedy in the middle and then hot moves and near falls at the end. (Pretty much the promotion in a nutshell.) Delfin pinned Shiryu with a swinging DDT. ****1/4
9. Akira Maeda beat Chris Dolman in 5:29 (Rings). Maeda got the biggest crowd reaction thus far coming out. Nothing match but the crowd was into it. DUD
10. Nobuhiko Takada & Billy Scott & Masahito Kakihara beat Gary Albright & Jean Lydick & Kazuo Yamazaki in 15:17 (UWFI). Takada looked like a huge star and so did Albright. Match was excellent, with lots of realistic strikes from Kakihara, but was almost too short and left you wanting more. Takada got the submission on Lydick with the armbreaker. ***3/4
11. Great Nita/Atsushi Onita pinned King Pogo/Mr. Pogo in 13:59 (FMW). This was an explosive barbed wire match. They actually needed their own ring off in left field for this one because it was all gimmicked. But because it was so far away for most of the crowd, it really hurt reactions. Nita got blown up multiple times for near falls. Like, literally blown up with explosives. After a while, Pogo went into the barbed wire and Nita pinned him in a weird finish. Onita waited afterwards for the big ovation from the fans, but it never came. **
12. Mitsuhara Misawa & Kenta Kobashi & Stan Hansen drew Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue & Johnny Ace in 30:00 (All Japan). Johnny Ace replaced Steve Williams, and Dave has more to say about that later. Super stiff with incredible heat. In fact, neither Ace nor Taue looked out of place at any point in the match, which is amazing considering who they were in there against. Only negative is that it should have had a longer time limit given the position, but it would easily rank as the best men’s match ever at the Tokyo Dome. ****3/4
13. Shinya Hashimoto pinned Masa Chono in 15:57 (New Japan). Hot opening but then REALLY slow afterwards, as they were working body parts and grabbing holds. Didn’t get going until 15:00 in, but they went right to the finish with Hash getting the brainbuster for the win. Hard to figure what they were thinking here. *1/4
(I know the show’s like 7 hours long, but man I’d like to watch it! Wonder if it’s on NJPW World?)
And with that, we’re at 2600 words with TONS still to come including a massive WCW shakeup and pages and pages of news, so we’ll do a Seth Rollins dive to the outside and take a break until next time, when THE WRESTLING OBSERVER FLASHBACK ROLLS ON!