Wrestling Observer Flashback – 09.26.94
Is it time for Fall Brawl already? Time flies when you don’t give a crap, I guess.
– Yes, it’s time once again for Dave to declare that pro wrestling in the US is in trouble. In this case, the new fall season has started, and syndicated ratings are in the toilet for everyone. And many stations are moving the WWF and WCW syndicated packages to death slots after midnight, which is going to hurt the WWF arena business a lot. WCW, not so much because their house shows are dead anyway.
– Specifically, falling ratings combined with advertisers desperately trying to steer clear of wrestling at the moment contributed to many stations deciding it was in their best interest to just put “Who’s the Boss” reruns in those slots instead. Really, the steroid trials and general steroid stigma killed advertiser interest in the long run.
– On the bright side, Summerslam is looking like it did between 1.0 and 1.3 buyrate, which is as close to a success as they’re gonna get right now. Apparently Domino’s does deliver…buyrates.
– Fall Brawl was Sunday, and it was…a show. No surprises, nothing particularly bad, nothing particular good, absolutely no interest in the show with no Hogan and no Flair.
– Meanwhile, UFC 3, “a supposed shoot fighting tournament” in the words of David Meltzer, did 150,000 buys. This is more than all but one of WCW’s PPVs the entire year have done. And that’s with no TV whatsoever and no stars. (I bet that UFC stuff is FAKE. I mean, Ken Shamrock is a pro wrestler! Do I have to draw you a diagram?)
– Meanwhile again, WCW is already trying to pass off the shockingly high buyrate as great news for the AAA When Worlds Collide show in November, but Dave writes that off as the old cliché of trying to use the success of selling apples to one audience to sell hot dogs to another audience. (That’s an “old cliché”? From where, a Jim Ross fever dream?)
– Dave is pretty sure this won’t have any long-term effect on the US pro wrestling scene, because this isn’t Japan and UFC doesn’t have television and is unlikely to get television. And anyway, UFC would have to get on television and then get over big with the general public, and how likely is THAT?
– Dave also wants to talk about the other big question coming out of these shows: Is it a shoot? He doesn’t know. What he DOES know is that if the product takes off, it’ll be put under greater scrutiny and we’ll find out soon enough. (Spoiler: Yes, it’s a shoot.) However, if it does turn out to be a shoot, then soon enough someone will get seriously hurt, and then PPV systems will drop it like a rock and it’ll be dead. (And that’s almost what happened!) And even if it is currently on the up-and-up, money is a big motivating factor and maybe the Gracies will be tempted to make sure that the big star v. star matchups they want occur when they want, wink wink nudge nudge say no more. (That’s kind of what Pride was, and how UFC today just sort of books big matches without much regard to rankings and such a lot of the time.) And hey, while most boxers and martial artists understand that you’re gonna get punched in the face here and there, no one really wants to be taking shots to the head like that, so the temptation is there to make sure you don’t have to.
– In fact, Wade Keller in the 9/17 issue of the Torch published an EXPOSE of the fakeness of UFC, citing slow motion replays of punches that “miss just enough to still look good.”
– Apparently Wade’s sources claim that the prelim fights are real, but they’re huge mismatches set up because promoters know “who can beat who.” (I think if there’s one thing that years of Pride and UFC have taught us, it’s that we have no fucking clue “who can beat who” on any given night, which was kind of the point of the a lot of the early shows, in fact.) This would seem to be the same formula followed by Pancrase, where the top matches are almost certainly works where it looks like real athletic competition.
– Dave also notes that the Gracies claim to be undefeated in “mixed matches” in over 65 years of fighting, so they are strongly motivated to make sure that record goes unblemished. However, Dave notes that if they’re not shooting, then how come it looks so convincing when compared to all the other known worked promotions, like “RINGS, UWFI and Mark Gastineau boxing matches”? What’s gonna happen if some 275 pound monster with wrestling skill enters one of these tournaments? (Answer: SMASHING MACHINE.) Steve Williams apparently tried to enter and was told that the Gracies aren’t letting anyone enter who they know they can’t handle. (Yup. And in fact that’s why Royce quickly transitioned out of the tournaments and into “superfights” once the true hybrid wrestling guys started taking over the sport. And then look how Matt Hughes completely WRECKED him years later when he foolishly agreed to the fight. That’s just good business.)
– Another strike against the work idea is that the last hour of the PPV was a complete disaster in terms of timing, with tons of dead airtime and ridiculous booking due to injuries. If it was a work, they’d be stupid to put on a show where the announcers had to kill an hour with talking.
– OK, onto a show we know was a work, Fall Brawl ’94. Dave gives it a thumbs down, and it drew 6500 to a 10,000 seat arena and is expected to do about half of the PPV buys that the Bash did.
– Unfortunately, it appears that Ricky Steamboat’s injury is not only legit, but legit to the degree that it might actually be career-threatening. He’s out until January at the very earliest, but of course they made sure to advertise him right up until the show aired.
1. Johnny B. Badd won the TV title from Steve Regal in 11:08. Good wrestling early, but it slowed down. Badd got the win with a backslide, and Regal is leaving for New Japan and the planned feud with Duggan has been dropped. **1/2
2. Kevin Sullivan pinned Cactus Jack in a loser-leaves-town match in 6:08. Jack was supposed to be a heel, but got a big babyface reaction from the crowd. Ending saw Jack charging at Kevin, but he missed and hit Dave, allowing Kevin to roll him up for the pin. **1/4
3. Jim Duggan won the US title from Steve Austin in 35 seconds, as Steamboat was forced to vacate the title before the match. Duggan got a big pop, but he insulted Ric Flair in his promo afterwards and the crowd turned on him. DUD (That was officially the moment where I gave up on WCW, by the way, and basically stopped watching for the next year and a bit.)
4. Pretty Wonderful beat Marcus Bagwell & The Patriot to retain the tag team titles in 12:54. Dave notes that it’s weird to follow Duggan with the Stars & Stripes gimmick, since they’re basically the same gimmick. Match was OK, with Bagwell getting worked over, and then getting piledriven on the floor and pinned by Roma back in the ring. **1/4
5. Vader pinned Guardian Angel in 7:04 to win the first part of the triangle match. Pretty slow for a Vader match. Race interfered and headbutted the Angel, setting up the Vaderbomb for the pin. *3/4
6. Vader beat Sting in 23:18 to win the triangle match and earn a title shot at Starrcade. First they did a 15:00 draw that lasted 16:43. Then they did a 5:00 overtime that lasted 4:42. Then they did a gimmick where the first man knocked off his feet would lose, but the dreaded MASKED MAN attacked Sting behind the ref’s back and Vader won the match at 1:53 of double OT. Dave suspects it was either Bill Dundee or Brad Armstrong. (Maybe it was the Black Scorpion, having waited four long years to get his revenge?) ***3/4
Flair and Hogan did a long, pre-taped interview where they literally phoned it in weeks earlier and poor Mean Gene had to hold it together in post-production. They couldn’t decide if Hogan was in Florida or California, although Flair was apparently in Las Vegas. Hogan put up his career against Flair at Halloween Havoc, although Flair was supposed to be suspended at this point, so that makes about as much sense as anything else they’ve done. (Dave completely buries the lead here, as this was the source of the Mean Gene “WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING, MAN?” quote that people mocked for years to come.)
7. Dusty & Dustin & The Nasty Boys beat Funk & Buck & Arn Anderson & Robert Parker in the WarGames in 19:05. The show was running way short so they stretched out the various segments of the match to kill time. Finish was Dusty putting Parker into the figure-four, with the Nasties dropping elbows on him until he submitted. Good but nowhere near other WarGames. ***1/4 Too much standing around and posturing. The show ended nine minutes early and the announcers had to kill the time by adlibbing.
– Over to Japan, where Michinoku Pro did an angle where Shiryu, Terry Boy and Sato turned on Great Sasuke and formed a new stable called “Heisei Kaientai”.
– In Memphis, the Sid Vicious v. Jerry Lawler program continues to run out of steam, drawing only 1,100 for their powerbomb v. piledriver rematch on 9/12, where Sid won to set up Lawler’s final chance at the title on 9/19.
– Funny angle on the Memphis TV show, where a jobber was supposed to open the show getting squashed by Sid, but when he heard Sid’s name announced, he walked out of the building in terror.
– Buddy Landel is back, by the way, blaming his last no-show on his car breaking down. (Perhaps due to someone dumping a huge bag of cocaine into the gas tank? Oldest rib in the book.)
– Jim Cornette changed his answering machine message in response to his legal troubles last week: “Hi, this is Richard Kimball (the character from the movie “The Fugitive”) and I swear it was a one-armed man with that baseball bat. If you’ve got a message about Smoky Mountain Wrestling, leave it. If you’ve got a message about my new paint, body and auto glass shop, leave that too.”
– Cornette has agreed to pay for damages to the car in exchange for KC O’Connor returning the video camera, by the way.
– Jim Cornette also got Ole Anderson fired, since Jim was going to be bringing in Ole’s son, so Ole was cutting promos for SMW in the parking lot at the training school, and Eric Bischoff just HAPPENED to drive by and saw him there, then fired him the next day. Essentially it was going to happen anyway because WCW is in cost-cutting mode anyway, but this just gave them a solid reason.
– Chris Jericho was let go from SMW after the Thrillseekers gimmick didn’t really get over like Cornette anticipated, especially since they were being paid way more than everyone else. Lance Storm is getting repackaged as a single for the moment. (Hopefully this Jericho kid lands on his feet.)
– Jim Ross and Cactus Jack are likely coming in at the next TV tapings.
– The latest plan for the NWA title tournament is for 11/19 in Cherry Hill, NJ. However, Chris Benoit is likely out due to working New Japan at that point. So that’s probably gonna make Chris Candido the favorite.
– Speaking of the NWA, Jim Crockett did a second TV taping on 9/17 and it was a complete flop, drawing 300 people to a building looked empty from all angles. There was no continuity from the first taping and it looked low-rent. Michael Hayes was one of the few stars there, although he’s only managing at this point since he’s got a bad back injury and is suing WCW over it. (And in fact he never did wrestle again.) The rest of the people were various Global castoffs like John Hawk and Moadib.
– Jeff Cohen did a very unique show in Indianapolis on 9/16. He promoted a show where he brought in 110 blind children for the audience and told the wrestlers to cut promos as if they were on radio, with the announcers being overly vocal and descriptive as well.
– Sabu is making noise to promoters about going to the WWF in January.
– Animal is also making noise about reuniting the Road Warriors, either in New Japan or WCW.
– The When Words Collide PPV show is in some legal trouble, with Paul Heyman making threats about suing over an ECW show with the same name. WCW’s plan is to just do it anyway, but Heyman did offer to settle in exchange for Flair doing a 60:00 draw with Shane Douglas. Flair shot that one down immediately. Second choice might be using Ron Simmons, who was fired but is still under contract.
– WCW was approached by UWFI about a talent exchange program, and when New Japan got wind, they offered WCW more money for the same program just to screw with UWFI. It wasn’t really a money thing, just a Japanese pride thing. Either way, WCW gets PAID.
– Kevin and Dave Sullivan will be splitting up shortly, and one guess who the heel is going to be.
– Hogan v. Vader is penciled in for Starrcade, with Vader having to assure everyone that he’ll work light with Hulk to get the match. Original plan was Hogan dropping the title to Sting there, but plans change. (And change, and change, and change…)
– Not only did Steve Austin drop the title to Jim Duggan in 30 seconds, but his house flooded the day before. (Well, at least things can’t get any worse for him!)
– Over to the WWF, where the Sunday “All American” show is getting repackaged into “The Zone” in an effort to make changes and try to save the ratings freefall. It’s supposed to be more action and less talk.
– They’re also trying to bring back Ultimate Warrior.
– Superstar Graham’s lawsuit with the pharma companies and Titan was technically settled, although the suit with Titan in particular was dropped because the statute of limitations expired. Unfortunately, all of the money he won will go to his lawyers to cover their fees.
– And finally, Sparky Plugg will change his name to Bob “Spark Plugg” Holly, for what are likely legal reasons.