Wrestling Observer Flashback–08.01.94

And now, one national nightmare ends, and another one is just beginning.

– Dave notes that the entire trial was like a wrestling storyline, something out of a soap opera, with twists and turns and highspots right out out of a Misawa v. Kawada match.  By 7/13 at the end of the day of testimony, many in the court were predicting conviction for Vince.  But by the next day, things had turned completely around.  On 7/18, two of the three charges for distribution were dropped, because there wasn’t actually any evidence tying the alleged crimes to the Eastern district of New York.  Former limo driver Jim Stuart was supposed to testify about a specific handoff at the Nassau Coliseum, but he no-showed the trial and thus the prosecution didn’t actually have any way to tie Vince or Hulk to that venue at the time they were alleged to be distributing steroids. 

– In the end, there just wasn’t any evidence, and it’s unlikely they’d try again with crimes committed later.  The key witness was supposed to be Hulk Hogan, and he completely denied getting steroids from Vince at Nassau Coliseum, leaving the prosecution like…

– In fact, the supposed “smoking gun” house at the Nassau Coliseum happened four days before the date the government alleged that Emily Feinberg took delivery of the drugs there.  On the actual date presented by the prosecution, WWF was running a house show in Madison Square Garden, which was not under the jurisdiction of that court. 

– By 7/21, people at home had seen most of the charges dropped and were pretty sure it was all over but the tapout by the prosecution, but inside the courtroom it was a different story.  The feeling was that the judge’s wording of instructions to the jury might decide the case.  Dave’s opinion is that the magic word is PERFORMED.  As in, the prosecution could not prove that Vince performed the acts accused.  The drugs were order by Hulk from Zahorian, delivered by Feinberg to Vince’s office, and Hulk picked them up there, likely with Vince knowing full well it was happening.  But did Vince actually order the drugs for him with company money and give them to Hulk?  According to the evidence, no.  Knowing about a crime being committed and not actually doing anything about it makes you a bad person, but not a criminal.  (Unless it’s the series finale of Seinfeld.) 

– In the end, George Zahorian was never again an employee of the WWF after they found out about the government investigation, so he had no financial stake in the company and thus it wasn’t a conspiracy. 

– Although the jury returned a verdict of not guilty for both charges, legal fees for Vince personally totaled more than $3 million, which is a big chunk of money for a company that netted $6 in its biggest ever year.  (Maybe they should go public.  Might bring in some cash.) 

– In a famous bit of testimony, Rick Rude took the stand, making it clear he didn’t want to be there, and talked about how he got off steroids because his wife wanted to have a baby and Vince looked at him and said “You don’t look so good” and insinuated that he needed to get back on the juice. 

– Next up, Kevin “Nailz” Wacholz, who turned his testimony into a complete farce.  He claimed that Vince directly told him to get on the gas in January of 1992, when the heat from the government was at a fever pitch by the way, and that’s a completely ludicrous claim on the face of it.  McDevitt destroyed him on cross-examination, pointing out that Wacholz was currently suing McMahon and that his testimony completely contradicted what he told the grand jury.  Laura Brevetti asked him if he had any animosity towards Vince, and he said “No.”  Brevetti later joked that he gave that answer because he didn’t understand what “animosity” meant. (Yeah…joked…)

– Pat Patterson was up next, and, quote, “was carved up on the witness stand like a Thanksgiving turkey”.  First up, he claimed to have been employed by the WWF continuously since 1979, which means that the period when he supposedly quit after the whole ringboy scandal was in fact a complete fabrication.  Patterson told lie after lie on the stand, claiming to have never seen the famous memo from Linda McMahon, claiming to have never heard about steroids until the late 80s, claiming to not know what Zahorian was doing and that he thought the boys were lining up for blood pressure tests, he said that he wasn’t aware that steroids were illegal, that Vince created the Hulk Hogan character, he never talked to Vince about steroids, never hired Zahorian as a doctor for the company…and on and on.

– Ultimate Warrior was super-honest, but came off as someone who was completely out of touch with reality and could barely remember what week it was, let alone details of things that happened 5 years ago. 

–  Big John Studd testified as well, but wasn’t able to fly to the courtroom due to treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so did his testimony by phone.  Vince basically accused him of lying about the treatments and demanded to know who the doctor was.  (Studd died of the disease less than a year later.  Pretty convincing lie.) 

– Vince never bothered to take the stand in his own defense, and the defense team nearly had the charges thrown out before it even got to the jury, but a final impassioned closing argument from Sean O’Shea saved the government’s case and made it closer than it had any right to be. 

– In the end, had the government’s case been “Did Vince McMahon distribute steroids to Hulk Hogan?” then they might have got their conviction, but they were aiming too wide and too far and couldn’t prove it. 

– And now, time for Bash at the Beach!

– Although it certainly wasn’t the best WCW PPV ever, it was a complete success.  The show did a 1.02 buyrate, which is double Slamboree and the biggest number since 1991, grossing $2.58 million.  Hogan would have made $680,000 from the one show.  If Hogan can maintain these numbers for his next two shows, then the signing was a success.  (He didn’t, but WCW apparently felt he was a success regardless.) 

– This was, by the way, the first time ever that WCW’s PPV outdrew WWF’s PPV, and it wasn’t even close in this case. 

0.  Brian & Brad Armstrong beat Steve Keirn & Bobby Eaton in the dark match.  *1/4

1.  Steve Regal beat Johnny B. Badd to retain the TV title in 10:40, reversing a sunset flip.  Sting was originally in the slot, then pulled for a fake injury because Antonio Inoki was there and they wanted to put Regal over someone clean as a favor to Inoki.  **1/2  Inoki will be facing Regal on the Clash and wanted someone notable to beat, you see.  The whole Inoki thing is a favor to Hogan.

2.  Vader beat Guardian Angel by DQ in 7:58.  Pretty stiff work with a terrible finish.  They didn’t want to beat Angel in his first match in the new gimmick but didn’t want to beat Vader again, so this is what you got.  **1/2

3.  Terry Funk & Bunkhouse Buck beat Dustin Rhodes & Arn Anderson in 11:15 when Arn turned on him and put Funk on top for the pin.  ***

4. Steve Austin pinned Ricky Steamboat in 20:10 to retain the US title.  Started slow and got great.  Sadly, it was lacking in heat because everyone was there for Hogan.  The ref was going to DQ Austin, but Steamboat begged for the match to continue, at which point Austin reversed a bodypress and held the tights for the pin.  ***3/4

5.  Roma & Orndorff won the tag titles from Jack & Sullivan in 20:11.  Match wasn’t good, and the ban on violence killed the whole Jack/Sullivan team gimmick.  Jack had heat over an ECW interview where he spit on the belt and threw it on the ground (Hopefully ECW learned their lesson about throwing down belts.) and WCW actually flew in Brian Pillman because they were going to fire Jack and put Brian in instead.  However, they changed their mind at the last minute and let Jack do the job in this dull, boring match.  1/2*

6. Hulk Hogan pinned Ric Flair to win the WCW title in 21:50, in the first ever clean finish between them.  George Foreman was a no-show, but sadly Mr. T was not.  People were there to see the Hogan show, and Flair gave it to them.  Sherri was the hardest worker in the match, and Hogan made the big comeback and got the legdrop and pin.  ***1/4

– The next Clash on 8/24 will be from Cedar Rapids, IA, because WCW is paranoid about Hogan’s reactions and wants him as far away from the south as they can get him for big shows.  Why Cedar Rapids?  Dave has no idea.  On paper it’s a strong show, headlined by a Flair v. Hogan rematch.

– The Halloween Havoc show in October is being advertised as Flair putting his career on the line in a cage match, although Dave is pretty sure he’s winning the title back at the Clash after loads of interference.  Flair is currently talking about (Say it with me!) retiring at the end of the year and opening up a gym.  (That one is up there with “I’m going to retire in two years and become a motivational speaker” for bullshit wrestler rhetoric.) 

– AAA ran shows in Chicago and New York, and in fact drew INSANELY large crowds for markets where they shouldn’t be particularly well known.  They drew 5200 in Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon and then 3300 to the Paramount theater in New York.  Due to the high cost of the shows, neither one made money, but given the low penetration of the company in those markets, DAMN, sez Dave.  Heat was so big at the Chicago show for Eddy & Love Machine winning the AAA tag titles that a riot nearly broke out and police had to be called in.

– Also, there’s talk about some kind of AAA-WCW co-promoted PPV in November.  (Which, you know, changed the entire wrestling business and all.  But we’ll get there later.) 

– So Dave talks about the ECW show on 7/16, which ended up with fans throwing 80 chairs in the ring after Terry Funk was bloodied and wrapped up with barbed wire and a garbage can stuck to his chest.  The fans in attendance were so happy with the show that they gave the promotion itself a standing ovation and chanted “ECW, ECW” to close the show.  (20 years later and they still won’t shut the hell up about it.) 

– The fans there don’t care about faces or heels and just cheer and boo whoever and whatever they want, and the result is that the promotion feels like the hottest and most innovative thing in the country right now. 

– Terry Gordy returned to All Japan as a surprise on 7/16, but he’s being kept so low on the card that there’s no way to tell how well he can perform right now.

– To show that even terrible ideas get ripped off, FMW is running a storyline with the original Jason the Terrible getting challenged by a fake Jason the Terrible (Tracy Smothers).

– Sid Vicious returned to USWA and won the title from Jerry Lawler via default on 7/16. 

– Sid chokeslammed Lawler in a pre-match altercation, so Lawler was unable to defend his title and had to give it up.  On 7/18, Sid was supposed to defend against the winner of a Battle Royal in the main event.  It came down to Jeff Gaylord, Lawler and Tommy Rich, and saw Rich and Lawler eliminate each other while Gaylord was out cold in the ring, leaving Jeff as the winner.  Sid immediately came down, chokeslammed him, and retained the title in 20 seconds.  People in the territory are in fact, Dave notes, thrilled with Sid’s attitude, and DAVE IS NOT BEING SARCASTIC. 

– As a note from SMW, Jake Roberts’ wife did indeed have a baby, so that excuse was legit, but the question is moreso why he didn’t tell Cornette in advance.

– ECW will be hosting a tournament to determine the new NWA World champion on 8/27 in Woodbridge, NJ.  (Like anyone is gonna care about that.) 

– Sandy Barr’s big show with Tonya Harding was such a financial disaster for him that he was actually forced to fold his Championship Wrestling USA promotion as a result of losses from it. 

– Back to WCW, where the Hogan/Jimmy Hart influence is already growing.  Jim Duggan has been hired, and Brutus Beefcake showed up for the post-match celebration at the PPV.  No indication that Beefcake has actually been hired, however.  (I mean, they couldn’t be THAT stupid as to waste money on him, could they?) 

– Jimmy Hart is also trying to get Honky Tonk Man hired.  (I mean, they couldn’t be THAT stupid as to waste money on him, could they?) 

– Those in charge seemingly realize how terrible Michael Buffer is at this job, and although they’ll use him for dates already contracted, don’t expect him to be permanent or anything.  (I mean, they couldn’t be THAT…well, you know.) 

– Over to the WWF, as Bob Backlund’s heel turn will indeed air next weekend, as he snapped against Bret Hart and put him in the chickenwing.

– Vince is trying hard to steal Konnan from AAA, since those AAA shows did so well in their markets, but it didn’t work. 

– And finally, the company is going to acknowledge the death of Joey Marella in a couple of weeks, but currently can’t say anything about it because matches where he’s refereeing are still airing in syndication this weekend.