Wrestling Observer Flashback–03.07.88

Well, we’ve once again hit another year in my life, and what better way to celebrate a birthday than by looking back at the Observer?  It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

Uh oh, it’s a “slow news week” issue, so someone’s probably gonnna die by the end of the 10 pages.

– Not much going on at the moment, other than the official announcements of the Crockett Cup on 4/22 and 4/23, plus the annual Texas Stadium show for World Class on 5/1, which Dave hopes they don’t call the “David and Mike Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions”, but if they do, he won’t be shocked.

– So it turns out that the WWF has actually reserved a whopping four hours of PPV time for Wrestlemania, so they’ll now have some time to stretch their legs and do longer matches.  (And yet they didn’t, really.  They mostly filled it up with interviews, time filler and video packages.) 

– Hulk Hogan will indeed be off for the summer shooting his “biographical” movie, so he’s out as the tournament winner.  Dibiase is the next favorite, especially since they’re doing a new PPV show on 8/29 and he can drop the belt to Hogan there, but Dave doesn’t think that he can draw as champion.  The couple of weeks where Ted had the belt after Main Event were actually kind of a disaster, and with the traditional post-WM death period he doesn’t think they’ll take a chance on poor Ted.  Basically the gimmick might be over, but wrestling fans don’t see him as a great wrestler or even a good one.  And since the belt has no drawing power on its own and they already have one Honky Tonk Man, people coming out every night to see Savage potentially beat Dibiase just isn’t going to work. 

– So now the name that Dave is hearing is Randy Savage, but the way the tournament is set up means that Savage has to knock off Dibiase in the semis and then beat a weaker heel in the finals.  It won’t be Bravo because Bravo is the worst and doesn’t even warrant inclusion there.  It won’t be Andre because he’d have to work three times, and UH UH to that.  So that leaves Savage v. Rick Rude as the finals, unless they can figure out a way to have Andre survive two matches and then put Savage over big.

– And then, just as Dave was writing up that piece, the WWF magazine released brand new brackets that flip the tournament upside-down, which clearly makes Savage v. Dibiase the finals.  Dave does note that Savage’s title reign will have to be a quickie, “because they don’t make biographical movies about ex-champions”.  (Really?) 

– Crockett is pulling out all the celebrity stops for Clash of the Champions, as Ken Osmond (aka Eddie Haskell of Leave it to Beaver) will be one of the celebrity judges for Sting v. Flair.  Not exactly Vanna White, notes Dave.

– Dave does think that if the Clash isn’t the most watched wrestling show of the modern era (aside from Rumble or the Main Event) then Crockett should be very disappointed.  (Spoiler:  He was not disappointed.) 

– This will also be the first time that people can legitimately compare the two shows in a head-to-head battle, because significant amounts of people will have access to both (Except for Canadians, who had access to NEITHER outside of closed circuit showings) and thus a fair comparison can be made.

– So Dave has to correct the Animal injury story AGAIN, as it turns out that he wasn’t injured the night before the angle, he was injured two or three nights before the angle and no-showed the Pittsburgh show where he was supposedly injured.  (OK, Animal has a boo-boo on his orbital bone, let’s move on!) 

– The biggest wrestling news of the week is the retirement of Dump Matsumoto at age 27.  (This turned out to be one that mostly stuck, as she made occasional appearances but didn’t work full-time after that.  Had she been around even a few years later, WWE probably would have taken her as a part of the Alundra Blayze deal because they needed challengers) 

– In the “good luck” department, a new legitimate professional wrestling league called the National Wrestling League is trying to form, doing professional versions of amateur wrestling.  Dave doesn’t even entertain the notion that this will get off the ground.

– Back to the Penthouse soap opera, as a professional famewhore named Wanda Lee Nichols (back before we had a term for that particular skillset) is now claiming that Mike Von Erich was her former lover and Penthouse is delighted because it’ll sell magazines.  The Von Erich is uneasy enough about the story in the magazine, and they’re even more uneasy about this women’s nutso claims. 

– Michael Hayes is in as booker of World Class now and Dave is a BELIEVER.  Although it’s obviously going to be the Michael Hayes Show Starring Michael Hayes as Michael Hayes, the angle with the Freebirds has been top-notch stuff already and Dave is excited to see where it goes next.  Basically Hayes has a title shot with Al Perez coming up, but he only gets the shot on the stipulation that the winner of the title match has to defend against Terry Gordy on 3/27 (aka Wrestlemania/Clash Day), which has the Freebirds (Gordy/Roberts/Iceman Parsons) worried about where Michael’s loyalties lie.  (The payoff was really good, too, although they couldn’t stick the landing and the Hayes/Mantell booking team kind of faded out soon enough.) 

– Eddie Gilbert returned to Memphis for a SUPER HOT angle with Jerry Lawler where he threw fire in Lawler’s face that got over huge, as the Gilbert family is now the biggest heels in the territory. 

– The WWF is making a major shift on the technical side, dropping their former production company Video One and establishing their own in-house production crew out of Connecticut.  They’re also advertising for all kinds of new on-air people, including a new play-by-play guy and interview guy.

– For those looking for reasons why they suddenly moved away from the idea of Ted Dibiase as champion, take the 2/22 MSG show for an example.  Main event was Ted Dibiase v. Bam Bam Bigelow, and the show drew less than 10,000 people, one of the smallest since before Hogan got the title.  The show also featured one of the stupidest finishes of all-time, in a George Steele v. Sika match, where Sika tried to hit George with a chair, missed, and hit the turnbuckle instead, only to have the chair bounce back and hit him in the head to knock him out.  (Also, he’s Samoan, he should have just shrugged that one off.)  Also on the show, One Man Gang no-showed, so they called in King Kong Bundy as an emergency replacement and he was well away from wrestling shape and was a disaster in the ring.  So not a good night.

– Despite being confined to a smaller building (holding only 800 people), Stampede is still hot enough to sell it out every week.

– Akira Maeda is 100% gone from New Japan after the latest attempt to negotiate a new deal for him fell through.  NJPW insisted that he take a pay cut and do a tour of the US before they’d take him back, and neither side would budge, so they’re done for good.

– With the main events of Inoki v. Choshu and Inoki v. Vader propping it up, the TV show ratings have returned to what Dave terms as “almost acceptable” levels of a 9.5. 

– Dave thinks this Hiro Hase kid is going to be a damn good wrestler very soon.  (Hot take, Dave.) 

– Terry Gordy has been using the powerbomb as a finish in All Japan recently.  (This might be where the long-standing fallacy that he invented the move comes from, but there’s documented cases in issues before this where other guys have used the move.) 

– Dave finally got a chance to see the “much heralded” Malenko brothers work for the first time on the most recent All Japan tour, and he was blown away by how they could do a perfect 50s style match in modern times.  The Japanese crowd was in awe of them.  But they’re really small and won’t get any kind of chance in the US. 

– Back to World Class, where Hayes is running all kind of crazy gimmicks to get house show attendance up, like “all seats $5” or a Texas Roundup match, which is their version of a Royal Rumble.  Not to mention amping up the swearing and guys baring their asses for cheap heat. 

– The Midnight Rockers lost a non-title match to Paul Diamond & Pat Tanaka at the TV tapings on 2/19, but it’s not setting anything up because the next title matches are against the Rock N Roll Express.

– Earl Hebner, who got chucked over the top rope by Hulk Hogan on the Main Event, actually lucked out because he needed four stitches to close a wound on his head that he received from the bump.  It was almost a LOT worse for him.

– Big Bubba Rogers unfortunately got caught in the middle of the Crockett-Titan war, as he had previously signed with the WWF while still having a valid contract with Crockett because Vince felt it wasn’t valid.  Well, Crockett’s lawyers strongly disagreed, and now he’s without a job until it expires for real in May because neither side wants to touch him at the moment. 

– Bad News Brown changed his name from Bad News Allen when he came into the WWF because he wanted to make sure he still had ownership of the “Bad News Allen” name if he left, not because Titan forced him to change it.

– Back to Stampede, where everyone wants to work the Edmonton shows instead of the Calgary ones, because the Calgary ones air on TV and Ed Whalen cuts them down to nothing if they get too violent or bloody.  So the guys have started coasting on the Calgary ones and then letting loose on the Edmonton ones. 

– Crockett has been getting really cocky after drawing two strong shows with Ole Anderson on top at the Omni, but they suddenly died off and dropped to 7000 or so when they returned for a THIRD time in a month,  especially with most of the tickets being $5 upper deck seats and the lower bowl empty.

– And finally, Dave finishes with the news that Coliseum Video will be releasing a “Best of Brutus Beefcake” video this month.  It’ll be a very short tape.