Wrestling Observer Flashback–05.23.88

Someone had asked about the infamous “I Survived An AWA TV Taping” issue, so let’s skip ahead two months to May of 1988 and see what’s in the news.

– In typical understated Meltzer fashion for the time, he starts out saying “It’s a bit of a slow news week” and then leads off with Jerry Lawler winning the AWA World title in the move that pretty much kicked off the final death of the promotion.  Not that we knew it at the time, but Hennig leaving and Lawler becoming the touring champion was the first nail in the coffin of many. 

– World Class, featuring teams like “The Simpson sisters” (does JBL know that Dave is talking that way about his favorite team?), is in even more dire straits than previously indicated by their business.  This of course would be very accurate.

– The WWF took out a butt-hurt ad in entertainment papers bitching about Nielsen changing the ratings system, basically preventing them from combining all the syndicated shows into one big rating.  Shockingly, it now turns out that WWF Superstars is NOT the #3 rated show for the week and is more like #15 if you actually compare it fairly to other competition.

– Barry Windham wins the US title tournament to the surprise of no one, and it’s total horseshit on top of that.  Finals are supposed to be Windham vs. Larry Zbyszko, but with Windham’s heel turn they suddenly rejiggered everything for the worse (including Italian Stallion playing the Midnight Rider for the night) and just took Zbyszko out to avoid any heel-heel combinations.  I don’t even remember them showing highlights on TV, so it must have been pretty bad.

– Onto the main event!  Dave attends an AWA TV taping in Vegas on a whim, wanting to see Riki Choshu, and ends up at “The Night of Wrestling Hell”.  Tons of no-shows including the Rockers, Nasties, Wahoo and Raging Bull already puts him in a bad mood.  The Rockers have quit and are bound for Titan at this point, and the Nasties are fired.  Dave calls it the worst collection of wrestlers he’s seen for a taping, and the night starts out with a Baron Von Raschke squash where “at least he only collapsed once doing a move so it only gets one-half negative stars”.  Rocky Mountain Thunder made another appearance and at least he didn’t nearly kill the jobber, so that was an improvement.  Then he hits rock bottom with a match between jobber Handsome Harry and Iron Mike Miller, who was apparently part of Powerteam USA with Sting and Warrior.  However, Dave notes that Miller has not gotten any better since then, and is now as far behind Warrior as Warrior is behind Sting at this point. The “highlight” of the match was the guys somehow managing to blow a bearhug spot.  And then jobber Biff Anderson gets roughed up in an apparent shoot by Soldat Ustinov and then absolutely smacked silly going back to the dressing room by Ustinov and Teijho Khan, resulting in a bloody nose, but is unable to fight back because of reasons.  And then Dave has to sit through TWO matches with GLOW workers before the main event of Curt Hennig v. the Baron.  This gives a smart-ass fan the line of the night as Hennig yells to the crowd “Give me some competition!” and the fan yells back “Then go to the NWA!” Just a horrific night and a mere hint of the downhill slide that was ahead for Verne.

– Bret Hart did his official babyface turn at the Superstars tapings.

– Linda Hogan gave birth to a daughter named “Brooke” this week.

– Ricky Steamboat is totally retired, yo.  For real.  He’s got a gym now and everything. 

– Owen Hart is apparently coming into the WWF as The Cheetah Kid (?).  Wonder if Dave got his wires crossed there.

– The Original Sheik’s young nephew Terry Essar worked matches as “Terry Snuka” on indy shows, and of course he would end up as Sabu years later.  I’m assuming “Essar” was a worked “real” name?

– Reader Bruce Mitchell of North Carolina writes in to complain about smart fans heckling wrestlers and trying to make the show too much about themselves.  I wonder what Mr. Mitchell would think if he was around today watching RAW.

– And then, bookending a week where Dave complains about no news and then drops two of the eventual biggest stories in the history of wrestling:  There are RUMORS, and nothing but unfounded speculation at this point really, that Ted Turner might POSSIBLY be thinking of buying out Jim Crockett.  But Dave feels like he has to address them, unlikely as they are. If Dave has to guess, it probably won’t end well for Dusty Rhodes.  But that’s all just guesswork. 

Pretty crazy week for a “slow news week”.