Wrestling Observer Flashback – 06.05.95
So it seems like the WWF is going to be on a major network again! Never thought we’d see the day.
– The WWF had some good news this week, making a deal with NBC to air “Wrestlemania: The Special” on 6/4, with Bam Bam/LT and Shawn/Diesel from Wrestlemania XI both airing on the one-hour show. It’s reportedly just a one-shot deal to cash in on the name value of Taylor, thanks to Dick Ebersol, with WWF getting somewhere around $200,000 for the rights. The show should air in prime time, but if the Pacers/Magic NBA playoff series goes 7 games, it could end up airing at some weird times.
– The special marks the company’s return to NBC for the first time since 1991, when Saturday Night’s Main Event was cancelled due to declining ratings after 6 years of success. In fact, the 11.6 rating for the Hogan-Andre battle royale show in 1987 will likely stand as the highest rating for any show in history in that timeslot. (I feel like there’s episode of SNL which went on to beat that number.)
– Although it’s a one shot, if they do a strong rating, the door will likely be open to more specials, and also the King of the Ring buyrate should also be bolstered by the increased star power of Diesel and Bam Bam.
(To be more specific, the answers to those questions would be “No” and “FUCK NO” respectively.)
– Over in Japan, Kensuke Sasaki and Akira Hokuto announced their engagement on the front page of the 5/30 Tokyo Sports paper, and everyone swears it’s not a publicity stunt. In fact, rumors are circulating that they’ve already signed the marriage papers and eloped despite only knowing each other for a few weeks. They actually met at the New Japan supershow in North Korea and started making surprise appearances at each others’ shows. (Awww, how cute. Kim Jong Il plays matchmaker.)
– Since this is wrestling, there is of course a sleazy underbelly to the story. Basically the really big story dominating Japan at the moment is that of sumo star Takanohana, who married TV newswoman Keiko in a $5 million media circus that was covered by every TV station and newspaper in the country to the exclusion of literally every other sports story. That is, covered by everyone EXCEPT for Tokyo Sports, which is regarded as a sleazy ragsheet by the sumo world and is not allowed access to cover any sumo events. So they had to invent their own wedding of the century to sell papers, in this case Sasaki and Hokuto. In fact, the marriage proposal was so unexpected that even two weeks ago, Hokuto was doing interviews where she was talking about moving to New York with Bull Nakano to settle down outside of wrestling. Now she’s ready to return to AJW full-time.
– Another surprise announcement in Japan saw Hiroshi Hase announcing that he’ll be running for the Japanese House of Councilors in July. If he wins, it’ll like spell the end of his career as a full-time wrestler. And apparently he’s not even being viewed as a joke candidate!
– And now, let’s talk about pay-per-view. Despite running in the red for the past three years, both WCW and the WWF are confident that they’re going to be profitable in 1995 thanks to this new-fangled PPV market. Dave does a bunch of math to figure out where both companies need to be on PPV to make money this year and how likely it is. (Spoiler: Neither one made money in 1995.)
– Speaking of PPV, the WWF is claiming a 1.0 buyrate for the first In Your House show and proclaiming it a success. Other sources are claiming a 0.83 buyrate, but either way it’s hard to figure out how reducing the price by $10 and getting less buys is somehow a “success”. (Mechanical problems? Winning the 18-49 demo?) And although hardcore fans know that In Your House is an ongoing thing and isn’t supposed to be a top-level show, the show wasn’t sold that way. It was sold as a bargain deal where you’d get a major PPV show for a reduced price.
– Meanwhile, WCW is claiming a 0.8 buyrate for Slamboree, but they’d be doing cartwheels in the office if that was real. The WWF is claiming that the show actually did a 0.5, which if true would mean that In Your House actually drew more money. And of course, assuming WCW did about 130,000 buys for a $1.46 gross, $365K of that goes to Hogan right off the top.
– So what went wrong with Slamboree? First up, the return of Flair as an event was completely botched beyond belief. Obviously no one cared about him returning from “retirement”, especially when he had already done a job to Hogan before coming out of retirement. There’s nothing left in Flair’s tank, obviously. But while you can always put Flair in a semi-final position with Arn Anderson and get good matches for a while and then average matches if nothing else, the bigger question is Hulk Hogan. (Dave’s really off the Flair train this week!)
– If Hogan can no longer draw, they’re screwed and everyone knows it. If the low number just means people are sick of seeing Hogan legdrop Flair night after night, then that’s bad but can be fixed. But if it means people are sick of seeing Hogan, then WCW has zero chance. If WCW shows keep doing this number, they’ll be back to making the same amount of money they were doing before Hogan came along. Although Dave concedes it might just be a sign of WCW putting on one shitty show after another and it finally coming back to bite them. (That’s crazy talk, Dave! Stop talking so crazy.)
– Furthermore, WCW is now stuck with a Flair-Savage program on top of their next couple of shows, which obviously has no chance of drawing whatsoever. (Due to Flair being old and washed up and only able to deliver average matches in the midcard when paired with Arn Anderson, in case you need a recap.) It’s going to be a tough sell and this one looks like a difficult climb, even with a strong issue between them. (I feel like Dave is turning into Robert Stack in Airplane, shutting down the terminal while the plane is still in the air with Ted Striker ready to take the wheel. Of course, Great American Bash didn’t do any better than Slamboree, but Flair v. Savage certainly had some juice in the long term that summer.)
– Over to Dave’s preview of the King of the Ring, which will clearly be the Shawn Michaels Show since he’s going to win the tournament and will have to put on three great matches to carry things. However, he’s also facing an uphill battle, since he’ll have to drag something out of Kama in the first round and then Mabel in the second round. So Dave figures that Owen Hart will get entered into the tournament and make a run to the finals, giving us Shawn v. Owen where the previous year’s King can put over the hot new star and give us an excellent main event. (I mean, how can they possibly screw it up? Seems pretty simple to me!)
(In fact, I’m so confident in Dave’s predictions here that I’m just gonna load up the Network and check out the King of the Ring 95 show again, because obviously it’s a forgotten classic and…
– Meanwhile, Diesel underwent surgery on 5/25 with James Andrews to remove bone spurs from his elbow, but he’ll be back in time for King of the Ring. He was injured against Sid taking a bump at In Your House. Bret Hart took his place in house show main events against Sid in Edmonton and Calgary this weekend, and went over on both shows.
– Mitsuhara Misawa regained the Triple Crown for the second time, beating Stan Hansen on 5/26, with the match airing in its entirety two nights later on the TV show. It was Hansen’s first title defense since winning the belt from Kawada on 3/4.
– Steve Austin has been touring New Japan and faced Muto for the IWGP title, losing in 19:00 to the moonsault.
– FMW crowds are dropping even faster than reported, with recent shows ending up with 250 people in the building for the main event. Hayabusa is of course going in a completely different direction as top guy than Onita did, working crazy flying matches with moonsaults and shooting star presses.
– WCW’s latest garbage dumps down to Memphis are Chip Minton as “Mr. World Class” and Max Muscle, the former bodyguard for DDP. Muscle has been looking exceptionally bad.
– WWOR News actually a lead story “exposing” pro wrestling by showing a clip of the Larry Zbyszko – Bob Backlund deal from 1985 in the Meadowlands where you can clearly hear them calling a spot. (Now available on the WWE Network!) It was billed as an investigation but ended up as little more than an interview with John Arezzi. (Hope they don’t expose the stunt grannies next!)
– Speaking of hard-hitting journalism, the Rougeau promotional war in Montreal continues, with Jacques now feeding a “story” to Le Journal about his new Jacques Rougeau Promotions. His first main event on 7/14 will see Abdullah the Butcher facing Richard Charland, and he claims to be running 40 shows coming up this summer. (And you thought Wednesday nights were a battle.)
– Apparently Ryan Parker has pulled out of UFC 6 and will be replaced by someone named Tank Abbott, who is supposedly 6 feet tall and 280 with a “pitfighting” background.
– Over to WCW, where they needed bodies to help in the pullapart brawl between Hawk and Meng at Slamboree, but wanted to keep the match a secret so they were running around backstage at the last minute paying guys like Jeff Gaylord $150 a piece to help.
– Here’s the deal with Solie and his induction into the Hall of Fame. Reports were that he was upset about Angelo Poffo going in (like most people were) but in fact he was objecting to John Studd going in, because he didn’t want to induct Studd in his home town so soon after the scathing TV piece about steroids being involved in his death. It got so heated that Solie actually quit the company at one point, before Gary Juster calmed things down and not only got Solie to emcee the show, but inducted him as well.
– Hulk Hogan is headed to the Mall of America on 6/17 to open the first PASTAMANIA restaurant! (Ha ha, maybe they should scout the mall in case they ever want to film a show there, ha ha)
– WCW ran a “Slim Jim tournament” in an outdoor ring in Charlotte to air on WCW Saturday Night, and they made sure to pre-tape some of the matches in Atlanta weeks earlier just in case, you know, it rained. So of course, it rained, and they just went ahead and did the other matches live anyway. BECAUSE WCW. It did not look good on TV.
– Eric Bischoff went on the WCW Hotline and went on a massive rant against the UFC, claiming that Jerry Sags beat up Ken Shamrock “and they have the police report to prove it”, which of course leaves out that it was a 2-on-1 attack on Shamrock years before he ever trained to be a fighter. Basically it came off as Bischoff being all defensive for kickboxing getting exposed in UFC.
– Also, Eric denied reports that Brad Armstrong is going return to WCW as “Captain Planet” and that in fact Brad had been fired for a policy violation. (We all know there’s only one Captain Planet and it’s DANIEL BRYAN!)
– The WWF has offered a spot to Steve Williams as a top heel, but he doesn’t want to go on the road and so hasn’t accepted.
– Apparently Fergie was offered $50,000 to crown the winner of the King of the Ring tournament, but turned it down.
– And finally, Dustin Rhodes has talked with Vince about coming in. The holdup appears to be that Vince wants to change his name and turn him into a heel. (Hopefully he changes the name to something that we won’t forget.)