Wrestling Observer Flashback–12.21.87 (Part 1)

Too much stuff to cover in one installment!  Dave took a few days off and the business went TOPSY-TURVY when he was away, so let’s get to it.

– Dave thought he’d seen everything in the business, but in fact he’d seen NOTHING.  Basically he went to Japan for a few days and saw Dump Matsumoto v. Chigusa Nagayo and lost his damn mind.  Basically the entire crowd was living and dying with every move from Chigusa and Dave is now voting for her as Best Wrestler in the year-end awards.  Her popularity is really on par with Madonna or Springsteen at their peak and people were shrieking and crying during a 50 minute match with nothing but highspots.  (Amateurs compared to Eva Marie!) 

– So, down in Texas, Fritz Von Erich has apparently sold World Class to Ken Mantell, with reports putting Ken’s percentage at anywhere from 30 to 51 percent.  Either way, Fritz is out completely and Ken is the one signing the checks now.  (As it turned out, Mantell’s percentage was in fact 30, and Fritz was not out of the business at all, and in fact Mantell had to damn near give up his first born to gain any kind of control from Fritz.)  Since Mantell already owns Wild West, expect the two promotions to merge any day now.  The fingerprints of Mantell are already evident, with the return of the Freebirds and Iceman Parsons to World Class.  Apparently the dismal failure of the “Von Erichs Across America” tour prompted Fritz to sell, given that most of the tour end up getting cancelled after only a few shows.  In addition, there’s going to be a story in the Feb. 88 issue of Penthouse that doesn’t really paint Fritz in a good light, so he knew he was going to be dead in Texas soon.  Dave goes give Mantell credit for booking the territory during the heyday, but then he went to the UWF and booked all the same stuff, to the point where it killed the territory.  (Gary Hart is even more pointed in his criticism of Mantell in his book, pointing out that it was HIM who booked the rise of the Von Erichs until the Freebird turn, and then he left and Mantell’s run was a slow decline for years afterwards.)  Dave notes that if Mantell can change his game plan this time and book fresh stuff with new talent, then he can make it a success.  (Or, you know, more Von Erichs and Eric Embry until the promotion dies a year later.  Either way.) 

– Speaking of World Class, former midcard heel The Magic Dragon died in a plane crash this week, real name Kazaharu Sonoda, at the age of 31.  For those who don’t know the story with him, he was basically a body double for the Great Kabuki, to the point where typically the only way you could tell who the real Kabuki was, was by seeing if Gary Hart was there.  Otherwise Sonoda would work dates as Kabuki interchangeably and did very well with the gimmick.  Ironically, Sonoda was flying to South Africa on his honeymoon, for a tour that was booked to the real Kabuki, before Kabuki gave it to Sonoda so he could have the vacation there.  AJPW hopeful Raja Lion was also booked on the same plane, but cancelled at the last minute.  (Hopefully it wasn’t like that documentary, Final Destination, where Death then chased him around for the next year doling out ironic punishments with increasingly convoluted continuity.)

– Starrcade was more like FLOPcade, am I right?  While Chicago did sell out, closed circuit receipts were disappointing, and overall Dave wagers a guess of $1 million or less.  Survivor Series, meanwhile, did something like $4 million total revenue, and was a resounding success.  Although Williams v. Windham is getting the bulk of the hatred from readers, Dave has learned that something happened and Dusty had to change his original booking, so that at least makes him feel better about it.  He also wants to clarify that he thought the show was disappointing, but not terrible by any means.

– The next problem for the WWF is that Ted Dibiase v. Hulk Hogan is not doing business at the house shows right now, even with the big push for Dibiase on TV.  And the Bunkhouse Stampede series is doing even worse, to the point where Crockett needs to re-examine his whole business model, or else.  Apparently the Hogan v. Bundy edition of SNME did a whopping big 11.3 rating (or second highest ever) so clearly Titan has little to worry about at the moment.  Basically it means that the audience is still there, but they’re not connecting with a feud that makes them spend money to go out and watch the house shows.  Crockett, meanwhile, is way down in both areas, and especially during sweeps it’s a brutal time for bad ratings.

– Dusty’s first plan to break the downward trend:  Turn Lex Luger.  Dave notes this is the SECOND best thing they could have done, whereas the WWF usually does the best one.  (Very true.  You can bet if Vince was running the show, it would be Flair turning babyface, not Luger.)  But hey, desperate times and all that.  The next thing is building up this new team of the Varsity Club, with Kevin Sullivan, Rick Steiner, Mike Rotunda and Steve Williams.  (Plans changed there, obviously.) 

– Paul Boesch is already out of retirement and will be working with Jim Crockett to try and rebuild the Houston market.

– Fujinami & Kimura scored the upset win in the Japan Cup tag team tournament, beating heavily favored Inoki & Murdoch in the finals, but interest and attendance were way down because of the absence of both Akira Maeda and Riki Choshu.  Why were they absent, you might ask?  Well…

– So on 11/19, earlier in the tournament, there was a six-man with Choshu & Masa Saito & Hiro Saito v. Maeda & Takada & Kido, and for some reason Maeda was in a really pissed off mood the whole time and wouldn’t sell for Choshu at all.  Riki was confused and kept working the match anyway, until Maeda hit him in the face with a high kick that knocked him on his ass and shook him up.  Later, Choshu put Kido in the scorpion deathlock, at which point Maeda came in and kicked him even HARDER, right in the eye, blackening Choshu’s eye and breaking his nose in the process.  Amazingly, the ref let the match continue while everyone rushed in to get Maeda the hell out of there, and super-pro Choshu just went to the finish and pinned Takada with a lariat.  Nobody knows why Maeda did it at this point (Spoiler:  Because he’s kind of a dick.) but the mutant “shooting” fans in the audience gave him a huge babyface reaction and started chanting his name.  Choshu suffered two broken bones in his face and he’ll be out of it for a while, while Maeda was immediately suspended, and the end result was the entire tournament basically falling apart.

– To the YouTubes!


– Yikes.

– Dave notes that although the match was taped, it’ll never air.  Now, the other problem is that how do you get around kayfabe by suspending someone for a kick to the face, when guys kick each other in the face all the time in wrestling?  At any rate, Choshu has decided to work an angle off it, demanding that he get a piece of Maeda at the next big show.  Inoki will let him return, MAYBE, but he’ll probably get shunted down the card when he returns and at the very least do jobs for Choshu and Inoki himself to pay his dues for this one.  For the moment, it appears that Maeda’s weird “mixed martial arts” style is not something that the Japanese fanbase is really interested in seeing on TV or at house shows, so he’ll likely be phased out now.

– Holy cow, we’re only 4 pages into this monster news issue, with 16 more to go!  Back tomorrow with NWA and WWF news, plus the territories!

– Well, I mean, you’ll be back. I’m typing up the rest right now and posting it in advance.  Just so we’re clear.