Wrestling Observer Flashback–07.04.94

And now, the beginning of the worst few months in the life of Vincent Kennedy McMahon!

– Although there’s a saying that the only bad publicity is no publicity, that is definitely not the case for the Vince McMahon steroid trials.  Even worse, there’s a very big problem with most people in the media not actually understanding what the trial is about.  Although it’s not specifically illegal to USE steroids, it is illegal to buy steroids without a prescription, and even more illegal to distribute steroids, which is what Vince is accused of doing.  We already know that everyone in the WWF uses them, because it’s a matter of public record that 50% of people tested in November of 1991 failed the baseline test.

– The specific accusations from the government are that Vince (as Titan Sports) conspired with Dr. George Zahorian to make wrestlers use steroids in an effort to sell more tickets.  Dave agrees that this is almost certainly 100% true.  However, it’s not a conspiracy in the legal sense of the word, which is where the problem lies.  There’s no argument that Zahorian did in fact distribute steroids himself, but the evidence needs to specifically tie him to Titan Sports, and that’s whole other kettle of fish.

– Dave doesn’t even know about the distribution charges.  Hulk Hogan will probably testify, and the most damning witness appears to be limo driver Jim Stuart, who supposedly took the drugs from Titan Towers to the Nassau Coliseum, the alleged scene of the alleged crime.  And of course, George Zahorian, although one has to question the reliability of a drug dealer giving testimony while in prison.  (Just ask Roman Reigns!) 

– The trial should last five weeks, although the big bombs will be dropped in the first two weeks.  The company fully expects Vince to be back on TV by September, so replacement Jim Ross was only given a two month contract.

– In the long run, Dave thinks that further scrutiny of steroids might help the business, since the Zahorian trial changed the top of the card from 300 pounders flexing in terrible matches to 230 pounders fighting for the World title in athletic matches.  On the flip side, business went into the toilet and never recovered, so there’s good and bad.

– Speaking of bad news, it was a shit week for the pro wrestling business all around!

– First up, King of the Ring was a major flop, doing the lowest buyrate in the history of the company with a 0.73.  It was expected due to the World title challenger being a guy that clearly wasn’t ready for the spot, and Hulk Hogan’s WCW run overshadowing Piper’s WWF return.  (Well clearly they just need to push that Nash guy even HARDER then.) 

– Clash of the Champions on 6/23 did a 3.0 rating, the fourth lowest ever.  That’s gotta hurt.  This comes on the heels of Hogan’s debut on WCW Saturday Night doing a 1.8 rating, itself a complete disaster given all the money spent on him thus far.  On the bright side, the audience grew through the show, which indicates that they were at least interested to see where the Hogan thing was going.

– Tonya Harding’s big pro wrestling debut for Sandy Barr’s promotion in Washington was a complete bomb, drawing 530 people to a 12,000 seat outdoor stadium.  Barr had actually spent a ton of money on the show, including live bands and special effects before the matches.  And local TV broadcasts actually broke into programming live to cover the Harding appearance.  Harding did nothing during the show but sit on a chair and blow kisses at Konnan.  (When friggin’ WCW can cash in on the Harding deal better than Harding herself, you know you missed the boat.) 

– The “ultimate hardcore match” at the ECW Arena on 6/24 failed to sell out, as Sabu beat Cactus Jack and Tod Gordon offered up the usual plethora of wrestling promoter excuses for why the show didn’t sell.  Paul Heyman, however, just admitted that people didn’t want to see the match as badly as they thought.

Low blow, Tony.

– Over to the Clash itself, which Dave didn’t really like, but he admits to being in the minority.  He thinks the show served its purpose by focusing solely on Hogan v. Flair and not muddying the waters with other stuff, but the matches just weren’t very good.  Also, the reaction to Hogan from the crowd was a disaster.  They also acknowledged the accidental reveal of the main event finish on TV last week, with Sting accusing Flair and Heenan of “switching tapes” to play mind games with him.  Of course, in typical WCW fashion, they never explained the significance of that explanation to anyone hadn’t seen the snafu previously.

1.  Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan beat the Nasty Boys to retain the tag titles in 10:35.  All brawling, but way toned down for TV.  Jack took his usual great bumps, and pinned Knobs with his double arm DDT.  *3/4

2. Guardian Angel squashed Tex Slazenger with the Bubba Slam in 1:44 in a nothing match. DUD

3. Steven Regal regained the TV title from Larry Zbyszko in 9:25.  Lots of stalling to start.  Larry put Regal in a Boston crab, but Sir William broke it up and Regal got the pin with the ropes.  *1/4

4.  Steve Austin retained the US title against Johnny B. Badd in 10:25 via DQ, although the decision wasn’t even announced until TV the following Saturday.  Jesse also buried the US and TV titles on commentary, noting that Austin pretty much lost the TV title on purpose so he could win the US title, which cheapens both belts.  Dave agrees with the idea that the titles are worthless props, but points out you shouldn’t SAY it on TV.  Austin got the pin with a gimmick that he hid under arm, but then it was revealed and Badd cradled him for the second pin instead.  They announced that the decision would come later, but it never did.  *3/4

At this point, Hogan did an interview and the place was drowning him out with boos, until Flair showed up on the big screen and got cheered.

5.  Ric Flair pinned Sting in 17:17 to unify the World titles.  Flair was working hard to turn himself heel, but it hurt the match a lot.  Sherri took a great bump from Sting’s missed plancha, and then Sting got distracted by her and Flair pinned him to win the belts.  And then Hulk saved the day, of course.  ***1/2

– Due to threats of increased government regulation of violence on TV, the WWF is going PG.  From now on, the TV shows will have no more crotch shots, choking, eye gouging, chairs, tables, flagpoles, tennis rackets, or anything else “overly aggressive”.  (They just described the first five minutes of any episode of RAW from 1997 onwards.)  This explains why Jerry Lawler was forced to apologize on the 6/27 episode of RAW, as he came up with the angle himself and didn’t clear it with the front office beforehand.  Had the show not been live, they would have just edited it off, but c’est la vie.

– The WWF teamed up with Jacques Rougeau to run a house show in Montreal that drew 12,000 people to the arena.  It was sold with a main event of the Quebecers promising to regain the tag titles from the Headshrinkers, who worked heel for the show.  However, as Jacques had the titles won, Pierre turned on him and cost them the belts, leading to the Shrinkers retaining the titles and then Jacques getting brutally beaten down by Pierre and Johnny Polo.  It’s believed that Jacques is done as a wrestler and will be opening a gym in Montreal.  (That’s what EVERY wrestler says, Dave!)  They had to put the match on third from the top so Pierre could get out of the arena alive.

– Over in Japan, ticket sales for the massive All Japan Women’s show at the Tokyo Dome started out strong, with 1400 ringside seats selling out at $300 a pop immediately.  However, there’s already promotional distress, with FMW and LLPW “copping an attitude” over their gals having to do jobs to another promotion’s stars.  So they’ve deliberately booked title changes with lesser women winning the main titles, so that if their champions have to lose in the tournament, it’s no one of note.  (Don’t you just LOVE pro wrestling politics?)  And with both of THOSE groups acting like that, now Bull Nakano doesn’t want to do the job for LLPW’s paper champion at THEIR show, which was supposed to be the deal.

– New Japan is planning to phase Fujinami and Choshu down and out once and for all, with Chono, Muto and Hashimoto replacing them at the top of the card permanently.

– To clarify from last issue, no one in Japan is taking Sasuke’s claims of imminent retirement seriously, and everyone knows that his father isn’t the actual President of Michinoku Pro.

– Dave is becoming more convinced that Pancrase might not be a work after all, since Ken Shamrock wrecked the knee of fighter and put him out for a year, and another fighter suffered a broken leg and will be out for a year as well.  Masakatsu Funaki put out a statement about the promotion, saying “Pancrase is not a kill struggle like the Ultimate Fight where the participant is willing to destroy his opponent to win. Pancrase is a sport, like wrestling.”

– It’s got a certain ring to it, I have to admit.

– USWA drew a pretty massive 1200 person gate this week, with Brian Christopher promising a mystery partner against Doug Gilbert & Tommy Rich and delivering Moondog Spot.  So next week, they apparently figure that if one mystery draws 1200 people, TWO mysteries will draw double, as Lawler & Christopher team up with a mystery manager in their corner, and Spot faces a mystery heel opponent.

– IWA wrestlers Nobutaka Araya and Takashi Okano are in Memphis as the W*ING tag team champions, although Dave does note that W*ING doesn’t exist any longer and they were never tag team champions when it did exist.  (Geez, Dave and his “facts”.) 

– On the 6/20 TV show, Koko B. Ware returned and beat Reggie B. Fine to win his mink coat.  So Fine stole Frankie, and Lance Russell demanded he return the bird immediately.  So later in the show, Fine brought out a platter of fried chicken and ate it, claiming it was the remains of Frankie and it was “finger lickin’ good.”  (Why am I not surprised that a “pet being cooked and eaten” angle originated in Memphis?) 

– The historic first tag teaming of Doink & Doink occurred on 6/25 in Melrose, MA, as Matt Borne & Steve Keirn joined forces under the gimmicks, but only drew 55 people.

– To the WWF, where Superstars tapings on 6/21 saw most of the shows revolve around Ted Dibiase trying to sign Lex Luger, who was cheered in the dark match main event anyway.  Ricky Santana & Dave Sierra worked as The Cubans, managed by Bill Alfonso, who is actually Sierra’s brother.  (Actually his cousin.  And it turned out to be a dark tryout match, as they didn’t get signed.) 

– On the Challenge tapings, a newcomer called Monster Man debuted, who was basically a big fat guy.  (I’m assuming that’s either Mantaur or Man Mountain Rock.  Probably Mantaur.) 

– The WWF actually had to issue a statement after the 6/20 episode of RAW that featured Jim Powers looking like a bodybuilder, noting that legally he’s not a contracted performer (ie, he’s a jobber) so they can’t actually drug test him, but their jobbers do have to sign a piece of paper where they promise that they’re drug-free.  (Oh well, there you go then.  He PROMISED that he’s drug free!  When has a wrestler ever lied before?) 

– Rumor killer:  Davey Boy is on a three month tour of England and is not available to work for the WWF at the moment, although he might be coming in for September, but only for the European tour.  Sid Vicious never actually called the office, despite Kevin Nash urging him to do so, and he’s busy with softball anyway.

– Bret Hart is a major investor in the new Western Hockey League franchise that was awarded to Calgary.

– To WCW, where Bischoff called a meeting on 6/20 and tore everyone a new one over the leaked results of the Clash main event.

– WCW will be spending more on the Hogan-Flair PPV advertising than on any other show in their history.

– Brian Pillman and Johnny B. Badd faced Terry Funk & Bunkhouse Buck in a match taped for TV which was completely overshadowed by a fan in the audience getting so riled up by Terry that he tried to hit the ring with a gun before security stopped him.  (Probably not the first time it happened to Terry.) 

– And finally, the New York Daily News is reporting that Shaq (who was announced by WCW as presenting the title belt to the winner of the match) said he will be presenting the World title to Hulk Hogan.  Although Dave still isn’t 100% sure Hogan is getting the belt there, one would presume that Shaq would not be there to present the belt to Flair, but as Dave says, “we shall see.”  (Wise words to end on, indeed.)