Wrestling Observer Flashback–11.21.88

I think once I wrap up 88 I’ll continue into 1989, and then when we reach the end of THAT year, we’ll go back to 1985 again.  The 85 issues are quite a trip, since it’s a very different writing style than even these ones. 

On with the week that was and one of the most famous stories in wrestling history!

– Not really a lead story this week, as Dave ruminates about the upcoming year and thinks it’ll be a three-horse race for top promotion between the WWF, NWA and newly merged World Class.  He thinks that unless Jerry Jarrett avoids all the mistakes that Fritz made with the territory, it’ll probably end up as a two-promotion race for the next decade.  Good call.

– Piper’s movie “They Live” did OK at the box office, grossing $3 million over the weekend.  Piper was doing the rounds and making all kinds of outrageous lies about his age and weight, which Dave easily shoots down.  He’ll probably stay away from wrestling for a while.

– Speaking of staying away from wrestling, Vince announced the first figures for the Sugar Ray fight, which were MIRACULOUSLY the highest ever in the history of boxing on PPV, with 700,000 buys and grossing $30 million.  Everyone in boxing and cable industry immediately called shenanigans and most impartial observers have the numbers closer to 200,000 buys (if that), but Vince is preventing anyone from actually releasing numbers that aren’t from the WWF, so there’s currently no way to verify his magical story.  Yet.  He was, however, quoted as saying that he’s now in the boxing business for good.  So I mean, he CAN’T be lying, can he? 

– In a weird story, Russia is selling the rights to its Olympic wrestlers to Antonio Inoki so that he can once again prove to everyone that he’s the best in the world by beating Russians this time.  Among the talents being exported is (and I quote here) “the guy who beat Bruce Baumgartner for the gold medal (David whatever)”.  Crack journalism there, Dave.  Unfortunately, although the Russians were impressive amateur athletes, in reality they all looked closer to Miguel Perez than Nikita Koloff, and none of them particularly made an impact.  Dave thinks it’s hilarious that Russia is so desperate that they would literally sell out their athletic program like this.  Although the fall of the Soviet Union was still a year or so away, so no one knew just how bad things were.

– The WWF ran a weird card from France in place of Prime Time Wrestling, kind of like the TV special version of the Royal Rumble in 88.  Unfortunately, the show was taped in PAL format and aired in NTSC, and looked like crap because the production team had no experience with video conversion at that point.  Maybe they should have asked someone like John McAdam?  The only notable thing was Rockin’ Robin winning the Women’s title from Sherri Martell. 

–  Down in Hawaii, a story I hadn’t heard before as Lia Maivia (Rock’s grandmother) and Lars Anderson are arrested and held without bail on charges of extortion, for threatening a rival promoter with violence unless he paid them $5000 and included two of their wrestlers on his show.  This is why wrestling is regarded as such a scummy business.  Wikipedia has nothing on this happening, so I guess we’ll find out what happens as we progress.

– Dave is still very troubled by the Jose Gonzales case, especially that the Youngbloods for example were there and know what happened, but mysteriously decided not to testify or return to the island. 

– Dave officially merges the Memphis and World Class sections into one, for those keeping track.  Jerry Jarrett has already begun cutting costs, closing the Dallas offices and making Eric Embry work out of his home as booker.  Payoffs are immediately dropped down to nothing (because Jerry Jarrett), and Dave actually details them.  Get this:  $15 per TV taping for losing jobbers, no pay for winning jobbers (because being on TV increases their payoff potential on bigger shows), and $30 guarantee for everyone who works house shows.  No wonder everyone abandoned ship.

– Also down in Memphis is a big new rookie named Brian Lee who is getting a big push.

– Japanese photographers showed up to take pictures of Sid Vicious at the latest show (since Inoki wants him to be VICIOUS WARRIOR overseas as the new Brody) and so he made sure to peacock for them, squashing a jobber with all kinds of power stuff and a stiff powerbomb.  My heart aches thinking about what could have been if Sid had ended up going to Japan.  They might had to unify the Triple Crown and IWGP titles just to find a big enough World title for his awesomeness.

– The AWA did a TV taping in Vegas that did pretty good due to the debut of Kerry Von Erich, and OH MAN we’ll get to him in a minute.  But first, they were using a guy with the “Jay Strongbow Junior” gimmick, and the WWF immediately sent them a cease-and-desist order, so they changed it to Superchief Jay Strongbow instead.  The guy was no relation to Joe Scarpa, of course.  Del Wilkes debuted as a jobber here as well. 

– Madusa gave notice, along with everyone else in the AWA, but she’ll work through Superclash. 

– And now, for a famous urban legend that actually happened.  This was the show with the legendary match between Kerry Von Erich and Col. DeBeers, and if you’ve never heard the story before, prepare for awesome.  OK, so up until this point, Kerry’s amputated foot was one of those incredibly-guarded secrets that NO ONE outside of the family knew.  Dave himself kind of knew, but was basically sworn to secrecy.  Kerry is wrestling DeBeers on this taping in a dark match, and they do a double countout finish while fighting on the apron to get back in.  The actual finish sees them brawling, and then Kerry dives into the ring, but DeBeers grabs his leg to stop him from getting back in.  The finish was supposed to be Kerry beating the count at the last second, Kerry was completely wasted and then DeBeers forgets to let go of the boot!  I think you can see where this is going.  So indeed, Kerry dives in with DeBeers still holding onto his leg…and DeBeers is left holding onto his leg.  Kerry FREAKS OUT and grabs the boot back so people can’t see, but it’s too late and everyone at ringside can clearly see his stump and people are STUNNED.  Kerry hides under the ring and puts his boot back on, and then everyone spent the next several years denying the whole thing.  Even on RSPW, up until Kerry’s death, this was regarded as an urban legend and it was never 100% believed that Kerry had the fake foot until his death, at which point obviously there was no denying it.  But there you go, actual documentation of the incident.  It was the only time Kerry ever took his boot off in public as far as I know.  Thank god it didn’t happen in Texas or people might have passed out in shocked. 

–  As I noted last week, Teijo Khan and Soldat Ustinov are quitting the business completely, but they were supposed to be headed for Stampede.

– The British Bulldogs are leaving for Stampede and Dynamite will be booking the territory.  JYD will also be coming in there, although that didn’t happen.  I can say that Don Muraco came in instead of JYD. 

– Coming into the WWF to replace the Bulldogs is a team called “The Bushwackers”.  Dave doesn’t know anything about this mystery team, but he thinks maybe Ron Garvin will be part of it.

– The WWF will be coming out with their own perfume sometime next year.  And Dave just left that one there!  That’s like putting a beach ball on a T-ball stand!

– GRAPPLER UPDATE!  Dave is gobsmacked because Don Owen is actually sending the Grappler over to Japan to face Fujinami for the PNW title instead of just lying about it on TV.  No wonder he lost all that money. 

– Inoki is sending young Keichi Yamada and former shooter Masaharu Funaki to England for some international seasoning, because he sees Funaki as a future superstar.  Unfortunately Funaki screwed him over and left for Maeda’s UWF soon after, on the way to becoming a legendary MMA fighter and founder of Pancrase.  Yamada did OK for himself too.

– All Japan wants to have a relationship with the new NWA promotion, sending Tenryu to the US in exchange for Ric Flair and Barry Windham.  Nothing ever came of that, sadly.

– Rick Steiner finally turned babyface to set up the Starrcade match with Mike Rotundo.  Also, Dave calls the Cornette interview after he was attacked one of the best that he’s ever seen.  Yup.

– Dave thinks that things will get a lot worse in the NWA before they get better.  Dusty is probably on the way out, but he’s probably going to try and screw Flair over at Starrcade before he goes.  That’s an understatement. 

– Finally, the Portland group is trying to buy Al Tomko’s All Star Wrestling promotion in Vancouver (mildly famous only for producing John Tenta and a 16 year old Mauro Renallo as a heel commentator) but Tomko won’t give up his plum TV spot despite a total lack of business.  No kidding, around this time I went to see a Tomko house show at in my junior high school gymnasium for about 50 people. Even Vince tried to buy them to get their TV slot, but couldn’t wrest it away.  As with every other territory story, however, Tomko’s ended with the show getting cancelled soon after and his promotion dying. 

And on that note, we wrap it up for another week.