Wrestling Observer Flashback–02.06.89

Even though you’re reading this on Monday morning, it’s being written on Sunday night, so we’re looking back on the past by looking back on the past.  IT’S SO META.

To the Observer!


– The top story this week involves the biggest grudge match of the year and perhaps of all time:  Bigger than Hogan v. Savage, Flair v. Steamboat, and Andre v. Studd all put together:  Vince McMahon’s Titan Sports (the real life Big Bossman) v. Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (the real life Million Dollar Man)!  Currently the advantage sits with Vince McMahon due to popularity and longevity as a company, but if TBS intends to be in this for the long haul then Titan could be in serious trouble because TBS has unlimited resources.

– The big battle is going to be April 2, with Wrestlemania fighting on PPV against Wrestle War ‘89: The Ultimate Gamble.  Dave notes that it’s not really a fair fight given Turner’s broadcast connections, but then Vince deserves whatever he gets for screwing with the NWA’s other PPV shows anyway.  Currently there are 11 million PPV homes, but only 2 million of them have the ability to offer both shows, and the other 9 million or so are mostly on Turner’s side and will only carry WrestleWar, leaving Vince to make his money from closed circuit.  I think it goes without saying that the wrestling landscape might have been DRASTICALLY different for a few years after this, had this insanity gone through.

– Vince’s immediate retaliation to this:  A loaded up Chicago show just two days before Chi-Town Rumble, and then signing away JJ Dillon. Although it’s no loss as talent, the problem is that Dillon handled the money and contracts for all the guys, so now they have a walking Rolodex who knows where all the bodies are buried in the NWA and who can they sign away.

– CORRECTION:  Mil Mascaras has not retired, and in fact it was Blue Demon who retired.

– Also, there’s weird shit going on with the World Class title, which is either with Jerry Lawler or Kerry Von Erich at this point but no one’s really sure.  Either way, the Unified Title is very much non-unified now.

– The AWA World title, as noted last week, will be decided by a battle royale and won by “Larry Zbyszko-Gagne”, which Dave thinks is a combination of things that will basically flush the title down the toilet for good.  All the prestige left with Lawler and a battle royale is the worst way possible to crown a new champion, not that there’s anyone left watching anyway.

– Dave thinks that there’s going to be a major name jumping soon as the logical escalation of the war, and Vince desperately wants it to be Sting but his contract doesn’t expire until May.  Turner desperately wants Hulk Hogan but that would be out of the financial realm of possibility for even WCW.  FOR NOW.  Both sides are talking to Piper, and the wild card is Barry Windham.  There was of course one other NWA name who no one thought would make it to the WWF…

– But the BIGGEST NEWS OF THE WEEK is that Dave finally figured out how to spell the Russian’s name:  David Gobedzhishvili.  OK, he’s got a point there.

– Dusty Rhodes continues his talent raid on the NWA for his new Florida promotion, grabbing the hottest free agent out there:  BABY DOLL.  Also, Hogan and the Road Warriors are welcome to come in, but they’re all too chicken.  Dave notes that people in the business are hoping this succeeds because it’s more jobs for everyone, but doesn’t think that Rhodes v. US Steele or Rhodes v. Dick Slater is going to draw any money when the NWA couldn’t draw there with Rhodes v. Flair on top.  And he was correct.

– Up in Stampede, young Steve Blackman is rapidly improving.  With the Bulldogs in Japan, Bulldog Bob Brown has come in to book on the road, and that’s one of the death knells of the promotion for those keeping track.

– The AWA finally tapes TV again on 2/7 with the World title match, and apparently Tanaka & Diamond v. Bruce Hart & Brian Pillman!  Badd Company v. Bad Company!  But then Verne told the Canadian faction that they’d have to pay their own airfare and it fell apart.  Boo.

– So here’s one of the most randomly awesome Observer debuts for a future megastar ever:  Dave is offhandedly talking about an upcoming shitty World Class show with $1 tickets, and notes one of the featured attractions is Kerry Von Erich vs. Master Of Pain, who Dave snidely notes is “some big guy under a hood.”  He sure did turn out to be some big guy.  So my challenge to you, without using Wikipedia or other online resources, is to name that future star!

– Another sad slowly dying promotion, as Dave’s recap of the CWF (Continental) is basically just a list of everyone leaving, including Bob and Brad Armstrong and a bunch of others.

– Dave is back on the horse about PPV oversaturation, since the Royal Rumble did a horribly disappointing 1.5% buyrate, or around 150,000 buys based on a 10M home “universe”.  As we have since seen time and again since then, oversaturation is not the problem.  Shitty PPV cards are the problem.  UFC oversaturated the market like crazy, but Conor still draws a million people per show.

– Dave and Bruce Mitchell have a delightfully snarky tete-a-tete in the letters section, with Bruce asking if the NWA is going to sign Outback Jack, Corporal Kirschner, Wendi Richter and Captain Lou in their desperate attempt to get all the ex-WWF names they can?  Dave then responds “If they want to become the AWA, all those would be welcome additions.”

– Apparently the Rockers and Brainbusters are tearing down the house all around the horn.  You don’t say?

– The legal war between the WWF and athletic commissions continues, with the Pennsylvania state commission being the latest target.  In this case, the WWF is refusing to pay their taxes on the grounds that they no longer recognize the commission’s authority, and that in fact the commission is negatively affecting safety by setting up tables inside the barricade so that friends and family can sit ringside to watch the matches.  That’s indeed pretty shifty.  We’re still a ways away from Titan coming right out in various legal forums and declaring that wrestling is a work in order to get regulatory bodies off their jock once and for all, but it’s coming.

– With Turner having locked up three of the major PPV companies for WrestleWar opposite Wrestlemania, the WWF is looking to take the nuclear option by abandoning PPV completely for the show and just airing it for free on NBC instead.  Should this happen, it’ll personally cost Vince McMahon about $11 million in revenue out of pocket. I feel like I’m seeing some crazy world behind the scenes here that I didn’t even realize was going on at the time.  This was like the friggin’ Cuban Missile Crisis of wrestling PPV!

– David Crockett is finally done as an announcer, replaced by Jim Ross for good.

– Final buyrate on Starrcade was 2.1%, or 150,000 buys.  So it did worse than the Bash, but fine considering the circus going on at the time.

And that’s the news!  Time to go check if 11.22.63 is up on Hulu yet this week…