Previously, on Friends: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2016/05/15/wrestling-observer-flashback-09-19-85/
Oh man, I finally finished Gary Hart’s book (it basically turns into a series of depressing deaths at the end before he’s had enough of wrestling and retires to run an arena) and now I have a gaping hole in my heart during my lunch at work. It was not only great because of the quality of the content, but also because the chapter breaks were the PERFECT length for the amount of time I had to devote to it. It also made me very sad that I didn’t appreciate Gary as a talent more when he was alive, although really by the time I knew anything about wrestling, he was essentially out of the sport anyway.
Anyway, back to 1985 again…
– The big news is that the war in St. Louis is finally over, and the WWF has won. Not by putting on a better product or drawing more money, but by signing one of their soon-to-be-ubiquitous exclusivity contracts with the Kiel Auditorium and thus preventing the NWA-affiliated St. Louis Wrestling Club from running there ever again. The other option is the larger arena, but with the financial state of the Geigel/Race promotion, there’s no way they can afford to run there, and thus the promotion has been shut down for good. The final card saw Ric Flair retain the World title over Harley Race via blood stoppage, and Rick Martel actually GET TO PIN SOMEONE for once! The Arena will be taken over by Jim Crockett as part of the Carolinas loop, and he’s going to have to charge fairly high prices to recoup money in the short-term.
– And now, in other news, the beginning of an entirely new era in pro wrestling, although Dave of course didn’t realize it at the time. So the WWF has partnered with a New York video distribution company to start airing a series of their shows on this new “pay per view” thing, starting with the Wrestling Classic on 11/7. The current plan is to do five shows between now and August of 86, although of course that ended up only being one more: Wrestlemania 2. The suggested home price is $12 and Harry Caray (!!) will supposedly handle play-by-play. I feel like we were robbed of a glorious trainwreck when that didn’t happen.
– Dave goes into a very interesting analysis of what pay-per-view might mean for the business, noting that “the only way these shows will make money on a nationwide basis is through a tremendous hype job”. Further, Wrestlemania killed off the business of everyone not WWF for a month before and after the show, and if Vince is promoting these “pay-per-view” specials every two months and continuing to shift focus away from the smaller territories in the minds of wrestling fans, then it’s inevitable that the business is going to change and there’s going to be a lot more dominoes starting to fall right away. In fact, now it’s becoming obvious that cable TV and pay-per-view were going to change the business with or without Vince McMahon, and in fact the WWF happened to be the ones to adapt fastest and thus crush all the competition who weren’t ready for change. Clearly, Dave notes, the WWF’s business model has to be a considered a smashing success in the short-term, but whether it’ll work in the long-term is the question.
– Moving on, Dave finally had a chance to review Battle of the Belts, the syndicated supercard from Crockett that was held in Florida. To the review!
1. The Guerreros beat Rip Oliver & The Grappler in 15:40. Mostly really good, and the finish was excellent. Grappler accidentally hit Oliver with the loaded mask and Hector pinned him. ***1/4
2. Cocoa Samoa pinned Rip Rogers in 11:00. Better than Dave expected. Finish saw Lady Maxine pull Rip by the hair and Samoa fall on top for the pin. ***1/4
3. Kendall Windham pinned Jack Hart (Barry Horowitz) to win the Florida title in 12:00. Dave was surprised by Hart’s ability to “carry a green and worthless wrestler for that long and the bout wasn’t boring in the least”. High praise indeed. Kendall ducked a loaded elbow pad and pinned him with a bodyblock to get the title. Although why Barry Horowitz was Florida champion at that point, I have no idea. **1/2
4. Rick Rude pinned Billy Jack Haynes to retain the Southern title in 14:00. This was OK. Finish saw Haynes press-slam Rude, but Percy Pringle tripped him with the cane and Rude hit him with it when Haynes was dealing with Pringle. **1/2
5. The Road Warriors went to a double countout with Stan Hansen & Harley Race in 10:00. Race was the only one selling anything. It got to the point where Race hit Hawk in the head with a cowbell and he wouldn’t sell, and later Hansen did a spot where he accidentally punched the ringpost and he wouldn’t sell that either. It was a good, wild brawl overall. ***
6. Nick Bockwinkel pinned Rick Martel stand-in Frankie Lane in 4:00 with a punch to counter a cross-body attempt. Only bad match of the show. *1/2
7. Flair won a 2/3 falls match over Wahoo to retain the NWA title in about 45:00 total, with the Bret Hart sleeper reverse finish. A very good match, especially for something involving Wahoo, but they never really turned up the heat and Dave can’t see new fans getting into this style of wrestling. ***1/2
The show was syndicated to 15 markets at a cheap price to get the concept and Crockett name out there on the market, and attendance was announced at 10,000 to make sure they were able to one-up the WWF’s previous Florida show of 9,000. The real number was closer to 7500, but anything they drew was impressive due to the storms that wrecked Florida.
– Dave also attended a WWF show in Fresno, where he finally got to see Randy Savage live for the first time, against George Welles. It was a so-so match and Dave just can’t rate Savage as highly as guys like Flair and Dibiase and Choshu given all the bad matches he’s seen from him.
– Later in the week they actually broke a long-standing record for gate and attendance in LA previously held by a Blassie-Tolos show. The was actually exactly the same as a San Fran show held the night before, except this one had a Hogan-Studd match on top, which means that Hulk sold 8000 tickets all by himself. Well, he’s no Shane McMahon, but that’s still pretty impressive.
– Dave hears tell that Terry Taylor, who won the National title from Black Bart on 9/22, is more popular than Magnum TA at the moment, but TA gets the push because he’s Dusty’s buddy. Plus Magnum is now getting an ego problem like his mentor as well.
– Apparently the Midnight Express is going to be feuding with Jimmy Valiant and Rocky King, with Big Momma, for the time being, which Dave calls “something right out of Titan”.
– The preliminary Starrcade main event is Flair v. Magnum, and to get there they’ve started billing Magnum as the number one box office star in the world, which is one of the biggest lies in the history of the sport. When I was reviewing the TBS shows from around this time, I don’t recall them making any kind of allusions to Flair v. Magnum for Starrcade. It was pretty heavily focused on Magnum v. Tully at that point.
– Crockett did a TV taping on 9/23 in Greenville that only drew 800 people (since he’s running multiple shows per night now) and it was headlined by Valiant v. Blanchard in “the battle of two of the most overrated draws in wrestling”. Man, Dave is pretty hard on Tully at this point.
– A bunch of heel fans showed up to the Techwood tapings on 9/15 wearing Jim Cornette outfits and heckling Dusty non-stop, so he had them kicked out of the building.
– Dave thinks that the Andersons are really great promos, but disappointing in the ring. OK then.
– Down to World Class, where John Tatum is getting ready to introduce a new, unnamed female to counter-act Sunshine. And that would actually be the debut of one Missy Hyatt, in fact.
– Mike Von Erich is apparently doing a lot better, and he suffered no brain damage or kidney damage as a result of his ordeal. Au contraire, mon frere. Someone was lying their ass off to Dave there. However, as Dave feared, Mike will be ringside for the Cotton Bowl show on 10/16, and he just can’t comprehend who would stoop so low as to sell tickets like that. Fritz Von Erich, that’s who!
– Still talk of bringing back Waldo Von Erich and his mysterious son Lance now that Mike is out of action for a while.
– The deal to bring Stan Hansen to the AWA was set up by Baba, as many figured. The plan appears to be bringing Brody back as well to set up a Brody/Hansen v. Road Warriors feud for the tag titles, but Dave figures that Verne could easily mess that one up by not bringing Brody in.
– Dave still thinks that SuperClash is going to flop, especially since he’s in Chicago right now writing this and it’s freezing there.
– Fritz is also exploiting the desperation of Inoki right now, renting out Kerry and Kevin for a one-time fee of $25000.
– The WWF ran in Tulsa again and got killed by Bill Watts, drawing only 1200 people, even with Mr. Wrestling II headlining against Randy Savage. Meanwhile, Mid-South drew 7000 the next night.
– The Dallas papers continue to spin the Mike Von Erich story, as now he’s been released from the hospital and will resume his wrestling career soon! Man, that YouTube video of his press conference will haunt my NIGHTMARES.
– Dave has watched some Texas All Star Wrestling out of curiosity, and man, this Sean Michaels kid should be Rookie of the Year, even over Jack Victory! That’s some high praise.
– And finally, Dave finally did watch the Mike Von Erich press conference, and he didn’t find it offensive in the least. SAY WHAT? He does note, however, that his scale for bad taste has been skewed by late 1984 Florida.