Wrestling Observer Flashback–12.26.89

With our impending move back to 1990 in the Observer Flashbacks, I thought I’d repost the last one we left off with, back when the blog was aflutter with Starrcade ’89 rebooking excitement.

It’s the last issue of 1989, which means two things:  Starrcade review, and a new year tomorrow.  But the question remains, which year?

– It’s the end of the decade, and Dave’s initial trepidation about the PPV market back in 1988 (“Oversaturation” was his favorite word) has turned into the realization that the WWF is going to be mining the PPV goldmine for many years to come.  He even concedes that the focus of the newsletter itself is going to shift to moving from big show to big show, between PPVs and Clashes and SNME.

– Speaking of big shows, it’s time for STARRCADE ‘89: FUTURE SHOCK!  The gate was incredibly disappointing, only selling 6000 tickets in the Omni when it was configured for 10,000+.  On top of that, they made it an early start time, 7pm instead of 8pm, which meant that there was barely 2000 people in the building when the show started.  To the review!

1.  The Steiner Brothers beat Doom by countout in 12:24 when Rick beat the count during a brawl on the floor.  Lots of interference from Nitron, but they couldn’t get any crowd momentum because there was no crowd.  **1/4

2.  Lex Luger pinned Sting in 11:31.  The timekeeping was embarrassing here, as they were calling the “five minute” mark at 2:00 in an effort to make matches seem longer than they were.  Sting hurt his ankle on a suplex attempt early on, and looked completely lost as a result.  Luger ended up pinning him with the ropes for leverage in a bad finish.  **1/4

3.  The Road Warriors beat Doom in 8:31 when Hawk clotheslined Reed off the top.  No heat for the Warriors’ selling because people didn’t buy Doom as a threat to them.  **

4.  Ric Flair pinned Great Muta in 1:55.  Just a quickie, with Muta missing the moonsault and Flair rolling him for the win.  Hot action while it lasted.  **

5.  The Steiners beat the Road Warriors in 7:27.  The crowd was mostly confused about how to react to this and didn’t pop much, even though the match was good.  It was the old double-pin finish, because there was no way that the Warriors were going to do a clean job here, even with the tournament win upcoming.  ***

6.  Sting pinned Muta in 8:41 with a superplex.  No heat at all for this, but the closing sequence was good.  **3/4

7.  The Wild Samoans beat Doom in 8:22, leaving Doom with zero points for the tournament.  No heat for the entire match, especially since they never even announced that Sid was out of the tournament and people were left wondering what happened to the Skyscrapers.  Reed and Fatu collided, but Big Kahuna pushed Fatu over for the pin.  **

8.  Ric Flair went to a draw with Lex Luger in 17:01.  Started slow but got excellent at about 10:00, with the best heat on the show thus far.  ***3/4

9.  The Samoans beat the Steiners by DQ in 14:05.  Scott Steiner threw Fatu over the top rope behind the ref’s back, but the ref was supposed to be looking at him and called for the DQ anyway.  Tommy Young gets injured and the refereeing just goes to hell in this promotion.  ***

10.  Lex Luger beat Muta by DQ in 11:48, leaving Muta with zero points.  Lex was selling Flair’s figure-four from the previous match and did a great job, but Muta blew mist at him just before the “time limit” and got DQ’d for no reason.  ***1/4

11.  The Road Warriors beat the Samoans in 5:18 in a terrible match to win the tournament.  Dave goes off on a bizarre rant about 70s game shows for most of the match review in the kind of goofy comedy he doesn’t normally do.  -*

12.  Sting pinned Ric Flair to win the tournament at 15:54, reversing the figure-four into the inside cradle with time running out on the PPV.  Flair carried him to an excellent match while teasing a heel turn.  ****1/4

Overall, Dave gives it a thumbs up despite the constraints of the stupid tournament format.  Dave was actually quite surprised that Sting won the thing, since they had spent the last six weeks telling you that Luger was winning.  Well, more changes were forthcoming, so that probably had something to do with it.  Dave doesn’t sense that this show is any kind of a turning point for the NWA, and he rates it on the lower end of Starrcades overall.

– At this point he goes into a lengthy, 3-page fantasy rebook of the show, detailing what the card should have been and what finishes he would have booked.  The end result is a beautifully detailed roadmap of the promotion for years to come.  I don’t really feel like going over it, though.

– The WWF taped the Hogan/Beefcake v. Savage/Zeus cage match this week as well, with Zeus doing the job for the big boot and legdrop, brother, which pretty much ends any speculation that Big Z is getting the Wrestlemania spot.

– Dave talks about Flair’s impending ouster as booker, and notes that the biggest problem was never that Flair couldn’t do the job, but that he also had to be Ric Flair 24 hours a day at the same time. It’s basically aged him 10 years in a few months, and now he’s being pressured by the office to drop the title to Luger and move down to allow Sting to be the top babyface.  I can’t entirely disagree with the thinking there.  Dave notes that although Luger or Sting could probably do no worse than Flair in the same situation (and make no mistake, Flair is clearly not a drawing card for the promotion any longer) neither one is going to draw money if they were to take Flair’s place.  So yeah, the youth movement is terrific, he says, but to think that putting the belt on Luger or Sting is suddenly going to turn around the promotion in 1990 is a foolish notion, and they might as well just stick with Flair because he’s still the best wrestler they have for the time being.

– Onto Tully Blanchard, as Dave feels bad for the snafu he’s in, but notes that no one forced the blow up his nose when he was working in a promotion for a guy who’s noted for hating coke users.  The real reason he was fired, however, is that he was recruiting wrestlers for the NWA, and the drug test was a convenient excuse.  And now the NWA doesn’t want to be associated with him, and he’s screwed.  Dave does add that if Tully is so messed up that he actually managed to get caught on a coke test when the headliners are doing the same stuff every night, then maybe there’s more important things in his life that he needs to examine besides getting over in wrestling.

– New Japan is moving forward with their giant Tokyo Dome show in February, featuring Vader defending the IWGP title against Riki Choshu, Flair defending the NWA title against Great Muta, and Larry Zbyszko defending the AWA title against someone.  However, the Flair-Muta match is in jeopardy now due to Starrcade, because Muta finished with zero points and that’s actually a big deal in Japan because they care a LOT more about stuff like that, and now the office is afraid that people won’t take Muta seriously as a challenger.  Just checking the results and it looks like neither Flair or Muta was on the show at all.  Anyway, ringside seats are a mammoth $350, the most expensive in wrestling history to that point.  I think that’s what nosebleed seats cost for Wrestlemania this year.

– The Hogan shows where he’s losing by countout to Mr. Perfect are going beyond disappointing and into setting record lows for Hogan house show appearances.

– More major news roundups in an already mammoth issue!

– Rumors persist that ESPN is dropping the AWA after February when the contract expires and getting away from pro wrestling completely.  Dave notes that people have been writing obits for the AWA for years now, although losing ESPN would really kill them for good.  He expects that if Larry drops the title at the Tokyo Dome, it probably means they’re done.

– The CWA (Memphis) is also in dire straits, as Jerry Jarrett is openly more concerned with keeping Dallas afloat due to the lucrative syndication deals.  He was also trying to buy up the timeslots from David Woods when the CWF folded.  The more I read about Jerry, the more I picture him like Mr. Crabs.

– The TV rights to the CWF, however, actually went to Eddie Gilbert, who Dave notes is still technically under contract to the NWA despite being buried six feet under by Ric Flair’s booking.  Since they didn’t give him 90 notice of non-renewal, his contract should have rolled over for another year.  Well that definitely happened to Iron Sheik around the same time.  Gilbert will be restarting the CWF promotion as booker, and Paul Heyman is trying to get funding from New York, and for the moment they taped new wraparound bits on the older shows they booked together in 1988 and sent them to TV stations to air.  Pretty sure that whole endeavour ended up doomed to failure.

– Dave updates the death of Haystacks Calhoun, as he died from a massive heart attack at 55 soon after getting an artificial leg.  He had been trapped in a trailer for years, weighing 600 pounds and destitute, and only recently had begun moving around again.

– Tully Blanchard is now saying he’s retired from wrestling and will be working full-time for Coca Cola in a marketing position.  So, wait, he’s going to be working for Coke?  And Dave just moves on without comment, letting that friggin’ BEACH BALL hang over the plate without so much as taking a swing?

–  Jerry Lawler beat Kerry Von Erich to unify another set of titles, this time winning the Texas title to go along with his World title, and has promised to throw it down an outhouse in celebration.

– Apparently Soul Taker is coming into the USWA now.

– Jerry Lawler’s apparent babyface turn last week was something of a shoot, as Lawler hated playing a heel in Memphis and shot his own angle.  He was back to being a heel on TV, however, as Jerry Jarrett told him to turn back or be fired.

– The anticipated wrestling wedding in Pacific Northwest between Steve Doll and valet Ginger (who was Scotty the Body’s former valet) ended up being a huge disappointment, as the crazy Russo-esque booking seemed to indicate the kind of nutso payoff we have all come to know and expect from this sort of thing, and it just ended with Scotty interrupting the ceremony and insulting the couple.  Even Dave was let down after weeks of buildup to something crazy and awesome.

– Art Barr will be facing trial for the alleged rape in January.

– Paul E. Dangerously nearly managed to trigger a riot at an ICW show on 12/12, as he was doing a Danger Zone interview segment and his mic gave out.  So he threw a tantrum and tossed the broken mic down while screaming at the fans, which resulted in the owner of the building demanding $200 to fix the equipment OR ELSE.  So it turned into a standoff between the security force (a bunch of meathead boxers) and the wrestlers, before Tony Atlas managed to take on a couple of them by himself and cooler heads eventually prevailed.  I’m guessing Paul never paid that $200.

– Cactus Jack was in a car accident and had 120 stitches to close a gash in his face.  Dave notes that it was so large that Jack could stick his tongue through the hole.  And I’m betting that wasn’t just hypothetical, either.

– Bob Seger’s management complained about using “Her Strut” for Woman, so Woman will no longer be strutting to the ring to that music.

– The NWA booking committee is about to be overhauled any day now, with BIG changes coming.

– Ole & Arn Anderson are shooting angles on the TV now where they openly ask Sting to join as the fourth Horsemen.

– And finally, and I do mean FINALLY, Dave runs down the results of a Stampede show in Edmonton on 12/16, which ended up being the last one ever.  Larry Cameron beat Bob Emory to retain the North American title in the main event, and the promotion shut down two days later.

Tomorrow morning:  Do we move forward, or backwards?  Only one way to find out…