Wrestling Observer Flashback–02.26.90

Man, after last week’s issue, this one is gonna feel like a letdown by comparison.

– The top story this week is the WWF’s Quest for Referee, as Mike Tyson dropped out of the Main Event gig at the last minute.  It was actually too late to make changes on the syndicated shows for the advertising of Tyson (or so the WWF claimed) but Don King’s office issued a categorical “He’s not going to be there” and that’s that.  The WWF had already done emergency tapings where they re-recorded commentary and interviews to talk about “former World champion” Mike Tyson, but by the time that Tyson pulled out, it was too late to fix it any further.  So instead, the special referee will be Buster Douglas.  He’ll be making $100,000 for the job, which is actually what Tyson would have made in the real world rather than the imaginary millions promoted by Don King.  They actually talked to George Foreman and Evander Holyfield as well before going with Douglas.

– One funny note is that Douglas is a legit 6’3” and will tower over Savage, so he’ll probably have to work in tennis shoes while Savage gets lifts in his boots.  The beauty of Tyson is that he’s already smaller than the WWF guys, so it would have made them look like GIANTS by comparison.

– The only WWF show to acknowledge the change so far is Prime Time, while all the other advertising out there still focuses on Tyson being there.  Meanwhile, various newspapers were reporting that Tyson was going to get into a shoving match with Hogan, leading to a match between them at Wrestlemania.  Dave notes that this one is already debunked, and in fact the finish was going to be Savage shoving Tyson and getting knocked out and pinned, which is the finish that every boxer-wrestler angle in the history of the business has used.  (And in fact that’s what it was.)  Dave is pretty sure the Hogan-Tyson “finish” was leaked by Don King, because Vince had already invested too much money into promoting Hogan-Warrior to change it, even for Tyson.

– Sting, meanwhile, went for his knee surgery this week, and Dr. James Andrews (aka “Tape it up and work through it.”) is recommending he stay out of the ring until August.  (So you KNOW it’s serious!)  So the NWA is pretty much boned.  However, Sting is claiming he’ll be back by July, using his weightlifting background to heal faster with magic or something.  For some strange and unknown reason, the promotion is being totally honest with fans on TV about this, listing his recovery time as six months to one year, which is exactly what Sting was told.  (On the bright side, Sting really did come back WAY ahead of schedule, so at least fans got a nice surprise.) 

– WrestleWar is coming up next week, and Dave has no earthly idea how it’ll do with Luger in the main event now.  There’s just too many factors, although TBS did record ratings for the past two weeks, so maybe they can sell some people on the show.  In fact, although they’re not historical highs or anything (the numbers are roughly on par with what the show used to average in 1984 for example) they’re still up double from the normal levels of 87-89, and that’s a really good sign.

– Following up on departures from last week, Steve Williams was offered a severely reduced contract with the NWA, so he’s going to make history as the first foreigner to work for both All Japan and New Japan at the same time and rake in the cash in the process.  Muta and Dragon Master both quit after the Clash, although Dave notes Dragon Master never should have been hired in the first place.  The Muta issue is largely being blamed on the bad influence of Gary Hart, who got into Muta’s head from day one and convinced him that audiences would never cheer a Japanese babyface.  The bookers tried repeatedly, over and over, to turn Muta, and Muta kept turning them down because he was scared of losing his spot or not being over.  This despite NWA audiences, literally from day one, often cheering the supposed heel Muta louder than anyone but maybe Sting.  With Hart fired in December it was hoped that Muta would come to his senses and agree to turn, but his attitude got worse and worse and after Starrcade he felt like he was being jobbed out and basically checked out at that point.

– Danny Spivey vanished this past week and missed all the shows for unknown reasons, so it sure seems like Mean Mark will be getting another partner already or working as a single.

– It’s raining pink slips in the NWA this week!


– Say goodbye to the Dynamic Dudes, Rip Morgan & Jack Victory, everyone who is Samoan, the Midnight Express, Jim Cornette and probably a few more.  Dave hastens to clarify that this doesn’t mean they’re FIRED, but it does mean that their contracts will not be renewed at the same rate when they expire in May, and constitutes 90 days notice that they CAN be fired if they don’t sign a new one at that point.  (This is why Iron Sheik got paid for a year without working, because his contract was set to renew and no one gave him 90 days notice, so he just collected another $100,000 from Crockett for a year when it automatically rolled over.)  The Royal Family weren’t actually under contract, so they’re fired legit.  The company really wants to keep Cornette around and get rid of Eaton & Lane, but they insist on negotiating as a trio and thus annoying those in the front office.  (I’m giddy with anticipation to get to Cornette v. Ole in these things.)  Basically the feeling is that the Midnight Express has run their course in the company and it’s time to scale back the talent a lot.  (I don’t even know how to process this one.  Can you even imagine going through and trying to cut the dead weight, and coming to the conclusion that the goddamn MIDNIGHT F------ EXPRESS should be the first ones cut?!?  Holy s---, why didn’t Vince call up Cornette that night and throw money at them?) 

– The lineup for the joint WWF/AJ/NJ show has been announced, with Hulk Hogan v. Terry Gordy on top, plus Tenryu v. Savage, Warrior v. Dibiase, Andre & Baba v. Demolition, Tsuruta & Yatsu v. Hennig & Martel, Choshu v. Bossman, Tiger Mask v. Bret Hart and a bunch more to be announced.  (This changed around a bit, but ended up mostly as advertised here.) 

– Dave went to his very first lucha libre show this week in Tijuana (you can always tell a wrestling fan because he goes to Tijuana for the wrestling show.)  and he thought it was pretty cool, even though he normally thought of lucha as “a bunch of bad wrestling where you sit and wait for all the dives to start.”

– To the USWA, where the Southern Rockers won the tag titles from Stud Stable on 2/12 in Memphis, and then proceeded to win them every night that week over and over again.  (Ah, Memphis.  This was actually a very common thing all the way up until the 90s, when people suddenly had internet access and could find out about title changes in other towns.) 

– Also, Junkyard Dog made an impromptu challenge to Jerry Lawler on the 2/12 show and pinned him in seconds, which Dave notes sets up this year’s version of Flair v. Steamboat.

– Jerry Lawler, on the roll of a lifetime as a heel, actually referenced “the title of two cities” slam about the USWA belt (Dave’s like “Hmm, I wonder where he got that from?”) and started bringing out Apter magazines and Japanese magazines that ranked him in the top 10 in the world and again called out Flair and Hogan as chicken champions while he was the only true World champion.

– Kevin Von Erich, who had missed a bunch of shows for the usual Von Erich reasons, suddenly returned and claimed that he had been on a world tour.  (Yeah, of his couch.) 

– Giant Baba actually appeared on a WWF TV taping in Phoenix to shoot an angle with Andre for the Demolition match, but it won’t air in the US and was done for Japan.  Meanwhile, Baba brought Terry Gordy with him to the show, but chances of that one happening are at about 50/50 right now.

– Steve DiSalvo worked a pair of dark matches with Red Rooster and looked terrible, plus terrified everyone because he worked so stiff.  Dave thinks that the lack of wrestling skill might be the formula for success as a top guy in the promotion.

– The Rockers showed up at the tapings with their faces beaten black and blue, as they apparently got into a very violent fistfight with each other in Denver a few nights before, with Shawn getting the worst of it.  Most sane wrestling promotions would put them on TV and blame their current enemies on the beating.  The WWF sent them home until further notice.  Shawn wants out of the team, and Vince has asked Marty to turn heel and go single.  (Aha!  I KNEW I had heard that one somewhere before!) 

– Greg Valentine has now dyed his hair jet black and is teaming with Honky Tonk Man as Rhythm and Blues, and they’ll be singing a song at Wrestlemania.  Dave is just so excited for THAT.  It’s gonna be a LONG day come Wrestlemania, he notes.

– New twist on the main event:  It’ll be a title v. title match, so now there’s all kinds of new speculation.

– The Powers of Pain have broken up, with Barbarian going with Bobby Heenan, although there’s no word on what Warlord is going to be doing.  Dave doesn’t particularly think anyone will miss him if he’s gone.

– Paul Roma & Hercules have formed a new tag team, which will be called “The Tag Team of the 90s”.  Dave already can’t wait for the decade to end if that’s true.

– Dave’s bringing the HOT FIRE this time around, baby!

– Buddy Rose came to the tapings for his jobber role and his weight is even more out of control than feared, as he’s at 355 pounds and Vince was FURIOUS.

– No Holds Barred will be released in Japan as “Golden Bomber”.  (Not like it’s any WORSE.) 

– The WWF is really pushing for the new attendance record with Wrestlemania VII at the LA Coliseum, and they’ll begin selling tickets the week after WM6, hoping to hit 101,000 people, which means a year straight of hype and ticket sales.

– Ron Garvin is now basically a jobber, losing in total squashes to Earthquake every night.

– To Oregon, where Art “Beetlejuice” Barr introduced new partner Jeff Warner as “The Big Juicer”, and Dave is just LOL at that one.

– Also, Dave is pretty sure that Scotty the Body is about to hit the bigtime.

– And now, it’s time for another edition of everyone’s favorite segment with another…


– Let us take you now to George Scott’s TV tapings for some indy promotion in the northeast, using guys like Rick Steamboat, John Studd and Bob Orton.  However, the guy they’re currently pushing most is newcomer Vince Terrelli, a former amateur wrestling star who is green but really talented, with lots of potential.  His real name is “Ken Shamrock”.

– The new CNWA promotion in Calgary is just death, with crowds dropping to 130 for the last shows, and a product so sanitized that everyone acts like babyfaces out of the 1940s, even the heels.  It’s just terrible.

– In the “Irony can be so ironic” department, Damian the snake has been suspended by the WWF for biting Jake twice in the past week, so for the moment his part will be played by a rubber hose in the bag.  (Wrestling:  Can’t make this s--- up if you tried.) 

– To the AWA (who don’t even warrant their own section any longer), as the Trooper was advertised as working a tag title match with Paul Diamond against the Destruction Crew, but he told them he wouldn’t there due to prior commitments.  So to explain his absence to the crowd of 100 or whatever, they announced that Trooper’s parents were in a car wreck the night before and DIED.

– Actually there’s some resemblance there.

– Also on the show, John Nord worked against a big stiff named The Night Stalker.  (I’d count this as an understated debut, but does anyone care about Bryan Clark?) 

– In Puerto Rico, Hercules Ayala got indicted on two counts of dealing cocaine out of his store, and the trail starts in April.  (Glad to hear some ex-wrestlers find a career after the business!) 

– To the NWA, where Flair and Pillman did a ****1/2 match on TV, and then Flair & Anderson did a ****1/2 match with the Rock N Roll Express the next night.  (I think this Flair guy has potential.) 

– Update on the Tully contract:  Tully now claims that he got his 176 dates, but they actually cut the money offer to $100,000.  Either way, not worth it for him.

– The El Gigante experiment begins anew, as they’re training him again and want him ready to debut in May.

– They were also trying to sign Buster Douglas to be referee for the Flair-Luger match, but as Dave notes, you know how that goes.

– The Pegasus Kid was indeed Chris Benoit.  I know a lot of people were losing sleep over that one.

– Dave with a bold prediction:  Saito will drop the AWA title back to Larry within a few months.

– And finally, Dave goes on a lengthy rant about the current problems in the NWA:  Too many people in charge who don’t know anything about wrestling, plus only Luger and Flair able to draw as top babyfaces, no long term planning, blah blah blah.  (I give them 11 years.  Maybe a bit more.) 

Well that was quite the issue!