Wrestling Observer Flashback–12.18.89

Getting closer to Starrcade!  Maybe Dave will rebook it.

– Dave talks about the upcoming Starrcade, but notes that the issue is being written before the show even though it’s out after the show.  SLOW DOWN THERE, DOC BROWN!

– Dave thinks that the way they’ve handled the Sid Vicious injury, which is to say completely ignoring it and continuing to advertise him for the show, is a “real Verne Gagne way to handle things”.  That’s just hurtful.

– So the WWF is doing a major power play with the cable companies that absolutely came back to bite them in the ass and was very ill-advised.  Basically they have decided to cut Viewer’s Choice and Request, the two biggest PPV distributors, out of the picture completely and handle their own PPV distribution.  This is basically stemming from bad blood with Wrestlemania, when the WWF wanted to do a similar deal and the cable companies backed Viewer’s Choice and got Turner to schedule WrestleWar in direct opposition before everyone backed down.  I will say that this one does NOT end up in Vince’s favor, either.

– No Holds Barred: The Movie: The PPV is on 12/27, and Dave notes that it’s kind of cynical for Vince to offer a movie that anyone can “rent for $2 at the local video store” for $11.95 by sticking the cage match with it on PPV.  That being said, there’s too much hype on TV for it not to succeed. 

– The WrestleWar ‘89 show is actually scheduled to be Flair defending against Lex Luger, although that would be changed to Flair v. Sting after Starrcade and then ironically back to Flair v. Luger again after the injury.

– Over in Japanland, Riki Choshu won the first G1 tournament, beating Hashimoto in the finals with Fujinami’s sleeper hold.  I’m assuming Dave is referring to the dragon sleeper there.

– Dave goes over the numbers for the UWF show at the Tokyo Dome, and the short version is that it destroyed all previous records for money drawn and ended up as the third-highest attendance in modern history, behind WM3 and the Big Event. 

– Dave goes over the state of the union in wrestling, and in his opinion the business is going towards being a big show only atmosphere, with promotions building from PPV to PPV with house shows being mainly a secondary concern.  Bingo.  Dave also notes that Hogan’s value as a house show is cooling off considerably this year, as the Mr. Perfect angle that should have ignited the circuit again is actually failing to draw.  He also discusses some of the territories and we get the sad roll call of dying promotions.  The AWA is basically dead if ESPN drops them in February as rumored, and Stampede is having a problem between the producers and the promoters that means they can’t get any traction.  In fact, the day that this issue came out (12/18) those problems resulted in Bruce Hart shutting the doors of the promotion for good.  Basically Ed Whalen and his loyalists were cutting out anything on the shows that would draw heat or controversy and essentially wasting hours and hours of tapings on the cutting room floor, and Bruce Hart finally just gave up and shut it down. 

– The house shows in December for the NWA will be headlined by Flair v. Luger, a year after Luger lost his match for the last title shot ever, and Dave is pretty sure that if this doesn’t turn it around, Flair is dead to Jim Herd. 

– Although the Moscow show for New Japan is still going to happen, the PPV/closed circuit deal is dead and it’ll be broadcast on Japan’s TV-Asahi instead. 

– An Orlando newspaper did a story on Ed “The Bull” Gantner, who trained at the same time as Lex Luger and should have been a big star as well before childhood kidney problems forced him into early retirement in 1987.  He was of course also a heavy steroid user, which caused his kidneys to shut down completely in August of 88, at which point doctors gave him two months to live and then his sister donated a kidney to save his life.  Unfortunately there’s no happy ending in the future, as Gantner died of that same kidney problem in December of 1990.

– Jerry Lawler’s stint as a heel didn’t last long, as Master of Pain turned on Dutch Mantell and teamed up with Soul Taker to beat on Lawler and Dutch and thus turn the King babyface again.

– Steve Williams (You know, the rookie in Dallas, not Dr. Death) update:  He did a job for Chris Youngblood’s new gimmick of The Medicine Man. 

– This week in Eric Embry Stupidity:  Embry split up with Chris Adams and turned heel on him, but NOW fans are cheering for him and booing Adams.  MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MINDS, DALLAS!

– Wendi Richter’s lengthy reign as AWA Women’s champion came to an anticlimactic end when she quit the promotion amidst claims that her back was too injured to compete any longer and she’s now retired.  So they did a phantom title change and Candi Devine is now champion.  I think that actually was it for Richter’s career, in fact. 

– The next Main Event special on NBC will air Feb 23, which is two days before WrestleWar.  Dave notes that this is entirely coincidental and is just because that’s the date that NBC gave them. 

– Barry Windham is back to missing all his dates for the WWF.  Everyone within the promotion insists that he’ll be back after Christmas, but others insist that he’s gone and not going back to the NWA. And they were BOTH wrong!

– Haystacks Calhoun died on 12/7.  Probably more on that next week.

– Samu was fired from the NWA, so now the SST has just become the Wild Samoans, with the Fatu brothers as the new team. 

– Dave’s not feeling the Horsemen v. J-Tex feud because the heels aren’t strong enough, particularly Dragon Master.

– They did a TV taping and Cactus Jack did the famous angle where he turned on his own partner after losing a squash and dropped the elbow off the apron. 

– Interestingly, Dave confirms in the letters section that the original Brother Love guest at Summerslam 88 was supposed to be Ric Flair, but Vince wouldn’t give him a guaranteed contract and so he stayed with the NWA instead. 

– And finally, Tommy Young was living the gimmick at a TV taping and accidentally took a real ref bump during a match between Tommy Rich and Mike Rotundo, whiplashing his neck and putting him out of action, eventually ending his career as a top referee.