Wrestling Observer Flashback–April 1984 Part 2

OK, so picking up where we left off on page 13 this morning, it’s off to the mysterious Orient…

– The big news from Japania is that Jumbo Tsuruta beat Nick Bockwinkel on 2/23 to win the AWA World title with a “Lou Thesz style back suplex” in a match where retired ex-wrestler Terry Funk was the special referee.  Dave is pretty sure he’s dropping it back to Bockwinkel by March, but OH NO, the AWA had a much wackier lineage in mind for that title. 

– With the death of David Von Erich (which you may have heard a thing or two about already), All Japan flew in Ricky Steamboat as an emergency replacement to defend the United National title against Tenryu, and that was promptly booked as a title change.  This is just the latest in dubious distinctions for the title, as previous champion Michael Hayes won the title in an imaginary match against Ted Dibiase in the mysterious land of Georgia where the Freebirds get all the breaks.  It was an oddly specific one, too, apparently happening on 01/28 and ending with Hayes pinning Dibiase at 15:07 with a middle rope elbowdrop.  I admire the commitment to the bit, as usually they just say someone won a tournament in Rio and move on. 

–  So the new Universal Wrestling Federation in Japan is rapidly falling apart already, as owner Hisashi Shinma has had a major falling-out with proposed top star Satoru Sayama before the promotion even launches, and thus they’re looking at other options.  Apparently Sayama’s management has ties to the Yakuza, and Shinma doesn’t want to get mixed up with that. 

– People within New Japan are already jumping ship to the new UWF, and even rumors of it happening are enough to trigger big stuff.  For example, Riki Choshu (who would be no stranger to epic invasion angles later) was rumored to be making the jump, and got so offended that he actually sued the paper that printed the rumor.  However, he was suddenly off TV for weeks, and when he returned for a title match against Tatsumi Fujinami, he was attacked at random out of the crowd by prelim job guy Yoshiaki Fujiwara, who proceeded to do what Dave describes as “bashing Choshu’s head in with a lead pipe.”  Geez, and here I thought Fujiwara would just armbar him.  And then babyface Fujinami actually continued to deliver a vicious beating to the already near-dead Choshu as well.  NJPW fans were basically weirded out by the whole thing.  Now, I’m way out of my comfort zone on this one, but I believe this was the inciting incident for the war between Choshu’s Ishingun and Inoki’s Seikigun, aka the feud that printed money for Inoki for years and inspired Bischoff to create the nWo. 

– Although Hogan might be ripping it up in the US, his Japanese debut as WWF champion was less impressive, as he teamed up with Iron Mike Sharpe for a few matches and then with Bret Hart, mostly doing jobs to set up singles matches with natives later on. 

– In the Pacific Northwest promotion, champion Rip Oliver has added longtime midcarder and semi-retired manager Ed Wiskoski as an enforcer.  In fact, a year later Wiskoski would move to the AWA as a full-time wrestler again, calling himself Col. DeBeers. 

– In Stampede, Killer Khan won the North American title from the Mongolian Stomper in a loser-leaves-town match, and sure enough the Masked Bounty Hunter showed up the next week.  The Hunter used his cowboy boot to interfere in Khan’s title defense and draw a DQ, prompting Dave to lament that “Heaven forbid, now they’ve got cowboys coming from Mongolia!” 

– Speaking of weird cultural stuff, young Japanese worker Junji Hirata is working as Sonny Two Rivers, because I guess that Japanese and Native Americans look the same? At any rate, Hirata would gain the most fame a few years later as Super Strong Machine, the gimmick that spun off the Machines.

– In the Southwest promotion, the bloodbaths continue unabated, which would actually bite them in the ass in a BIG way a few years later.  This time, Butch Miller did a bloody bladejob so gory that he was taken to the hospital and actually lost so much blood that he contracted pneumonia due to his weakened immune system.

– In a typical Bruiser Brody move, he won a loser-leaves-town against Voodoo Mulumba and then left town himself.

– Over to World Class, where poor Mike Von Erich is being turned into the surrogate for David, a role that he was NOT ready for, to say the least.  Although Kerry and Kevin and David mostly reaped what they sowed, Mike was a kid thrust into something way bigger than him when he never even wanted to be a wrestler, way before he should have been, and it destroyed him.  

–  In the other big news out of World Class, they’re already planning a David Von Erich memorial show with Ric Flair defending the title against either Kevin or Kerry, and Dave notes that if that’s not a title change then they better come up with the greatest finish in history to let Flair get out alive with the title.  The current plan is Reunion Arena in Dallas, but Dave thinks that’s too small because conservative estimates would be 30,000 people and you really need to run the stadium or risk turning away hundreds of thousands of dollars in gate receipts.  The show will likely take place in May.

– Big changes in Mid-South as a result of the Memphis trade, as new booker Bill Dundee is basically turning the territory into Memphis.  The Midnight Express are getting a huge push, and this new team known as the Rock N Roll Express are coming in to feud with them. 

– In the AWA, lines of communication aren’t exactly open between Verne and Japan, as they allowed Tsuruta to get the belt in Japan thinking that he would then be available to tour for them against Bockwinkel in San Francisco, but in fact he was due back in Japan well before that.  Whoops.

– In running down injuries for the AWA, Dave notes that Billy Graham is out of action, and he’s been that way for years, despite the fact that he’s occasionally in the ring. 

– Verne is negotiating with Larry Zbyszko to come in and feud with Bruno Sammartino Jr. (David Sammartino) in an effort to juice up the territory and take the fight back to Vince. 

– Dave runs down the results of the St. Louis card and describes it as terrible and atrocious at various points, but then makes sure to note “although the card wasn’t that great, it was still on paper superior to the WWF show.” 

– Down to Memphis, where Dave is astonished that there’s been no title changes for an entire MONTH. 

– The Fabulous Ones got fired for starting to believe in real life that they were the Fabulous Ones, and with the departure of the Rock N Roll Express the territory is looking for a new babyface team to replace them.  The current candidates are Norvell Austin & Koko B. Ware, the Pretty Young Things.  With the Fabs gone, they held a tag team tournament to crown new tag champs, and a first round match of Jerry Lawler & Austin Idol v. The Road Warriors was the big draw on the night.  They actually showed clips of it on Atlanta TV, but cut out all the good parts, “which is about what you’d expect from Ole Anderson” notes Dave. 

– Among newcomers to Memphis is Harley Davidson, who wrestled as Jim Morris in Calgary and is pretty bad.  He would of course soon move onto bigger things as Hillbilly Jim.

– In Toronto, which uses wrestlers borrowed from Mid-Atlantic, Mark Youngblood won the TV title from Don Kernodle in a phantom title change.  The really strange thing?  Youngblood had never even been to Toronto at that point.

– In Montreal, Dino Bravo is feuding in the top spot with Rick Martel.  However, Verne Gagne is in the territory managing Martel, because the Montreal territory is very WWF-affiliated as of late and Verne is looking to keep an eye on all his potential talent so they don’t get poached from under him. 

– Onto WCW/Georgia, aka “Dave really fucking hates Ole Anderson and whatever he books”. 

– For example, Dave actually recaps the relatively-famous Mr. R angle and pretty much blows it off, as what it takes from it is that a year ago seeing Brad Armstrong get a major win over Ted Dibiase would have made him sick, but Brad is almost of that caliber now.  Ted, meanwhile, has gotten flabby and disinterested in his work.  For those who don’t know or remember, Tommy Rich lost his title in a loser-leaves-town match to Dibiase and of course the mysterious Mr. R showed up the next week to challenge Dibiase and mess with him.  This built to a title match, where Dibiase unmasked Mr. R during the match, only to discover it was Brad Armstrong under the mask, while Tommy Rich came out and distracted him long enough for Brad to get the pin and win the National title.  For the time it was quite the angle. 

– Dave slags the Ron Garvin v. Jake Roberts feud, calling it a “nightmare match” instead of the supposed Dream match that fans voted for.  Get this:  Ron Garvin has suddenly developed “hands of stone”, which is a JOKE.  Like, come on, as if anyone is gonna buy that stupid gimmick!

– Ole Anderson managed to make more friends in the TV industry, as he got into a fight with the TV station that aired his show in Cincinnati.  He wanted it aired head-to-head against Vince’s local TV show in the city, but the station was hesitant about doing something stupid like that and told Ole where to go, then moved his show as requested.  Unfortunately, they moved it right off the station.  ZING!

– OK, so remember about the Sawyers beating the Road Warriors in all those phantom title switches last time?  Turns out the reason is that Ole Anderson, for reasons that make no sense, let Buzz Sawyer book his own matches on the road.  So Buzz decided that he would book himself to beat the Road Warriors all over the circuit, despite the fact that the Warriors were tag champions, the matches were signed as title matches, and Ole didn’t want the titles to change.  Finally after two weeks of the Sawyers winning the tag team titles EVERY NIGHT, Ole just up and fired Buzz and gave the titles back to the Warriors. 

– In Mid-Atlantic, Jim Crockett managed to coax Ricky Steamboat out of retirement for a World title match against Flair, which is noticeably sooner than Starrcade 84 as Dave predicted.  Dave basically said that Crockett drove a dump truck full of money to Steamboat’s gym to get him to sign, so it’s hard to fault the man for compromising his principles in that case.

– Apparently both Crockett and Ole are planning to march North in opposition to the Vince Machine, with Crockett planning to run New York with Ric Flair v. Carlos Colon on top and Ole planning on running Baltimore with something undoubtedly stupid.  Dave thinks that the Colon match is a good bet because of the ethnic makeup of New York, whereas Ole will fail to draw for all the same reasons he fails to draw everywhere else he goes.

– In the late notes section, Dave reveals that the Fabs are in fact going to the AWA, which means that Verne is moving his promotion from 1964 to 1984.  I wouldn’t speak so fast, but it was still a good pickup for him.

– Also, Verne asked Jesse Ventura to turn babyface with Hogan’s departure, but Jesse wisely refused because the WWF will soon be calling for him as well and he wants to keep the Hogan match alive in case he jumps.

– Verne Gagne is also in talks to produce a new TV show that will come from Las Vegas, and more on that next time since we’re running out of time here.

– In the late late late notes before deadline, Dave confirms that Flair will defend against Kerry at Texas Stadium, and also that Rick Martel will probably end up as AWA World champion.  More next month!