Wrestling Observer Flashback – 10.17.94
Let’s take a break from being nostalgic for 1998 and be nostalgic for 1994 again for a bit!
– It’s been quiet in the wrestling world leading up to Halloween Havoc, Dave notes. So let’s take a look at what’s going on in the international scene!
All Japan: How can Dave sum up their year so far…?
That sounds about right. In actuality, the booking strategy is just taken from the St. Louis promotion of years past, which makes them not only one of the most successful, but also one of the least creative. Everyone alternates winning and losing on top and no one loses any steam in doing so, and there’s never any DQ or countout or screwjob finishes in general. They really only have two titles that mean anything: The Triple Crown and the tag titles, which means everyone is highly focused on them only.
– The biggest blow to the company should have been the disaster that was moving their TV timeslot to a rotating 30 minute spot on Saturday nights between 2 and 4 AM, but in Japan the need for TV isn’t as great and they’ve managed to thrive despite being in a death slot.
– One thing that might hurt them in the long run is their consistency. While they sell out all their regular shows at Budokan, they don’t do big “blowaway” stadium shows like New Japan or FMW does. So they’re betting on the steady $1 million gate rather than gambling on the bigger gate that would be more memorable. (In the long run, New Japan won that battle for sure.)
– As a result of their style, their biggest drawback is being overly predictable. Kobashi always loses the big one. The shows open with comedy matches that always suck. House shows are main evented by six-man matches that are normally good, but tend to be the same show after show. But unlike other promotions that have ups and downs, All Japan is steady and makes money all the time.
– Unlike AJPW, New Japan is the #1 promotion in Japan and probably the world at the moment. Ironically, this surge in popularity comes despite match quality being pretty low compared to the glory years. However, they shine in the junior heavyweight division, with Jushin Liger of course one of the greatest of all time. Plus they have an incoming stream of outsiders like the Michinoku Pro guys to bolster them.
– Compared to All Japan, their booking is certainly unpredictable. They do use DQs on occasion (like when an American star doesn’t want to do the job) but their foreign talent is weaker than any point in history right now. Unlike All Japan, however, they are willing to make deals with AAA and WCW to trade talent, and they’re looking at doing a PPV of the 01.04.95 Tokyo Dome show, which is rumored to be Hogan v. Inoki on top. (Yeah, RIGHT.)
– Still very popular in Japan, based on “we’re real / they’re fake” promotional tactics and using three top guys in the form of Albright, Takada and Vader. And they’re the best drawing company in the world on a per-show average. However, they’ve made no mark in the US as of yet.
– Dave calls them “the ultimate success of garbage wrestling”, with Onita becoming a major story in the history of pro wrestling who took a complete lack of talent but buckets of charisma and somehow became one of the biggest drawing cards in wrestling history. “But several groups following in Onita’s footsteps have taken what he does – to the Extreme – and have gone nowhere.” (Now, I don’t THINK that was supposed to be a sick burn on Paul Heyman because he uses W*ING as an example, but still, SICK BURN, bro!)
– Dave doesn’t think this style would work in the US, although ECW is the closest example of someone trying, and they have better workers as well. (OK, so sick burn rescinded.) Still, the chances of getting that kind of product on PPV are slim and none.
(Wait, haven’t they changed their name to CMLL by this point? Or is Dave just being that way?)
– While they’re declining greatly as of late, they’ve made a minor comeback, but it’s still nothing to brag about. The people running the company were smart enough to predict that television overexposure would destroy the American regional promotions, but they weren’t smart enough to avoid the same thing happening to themselves when TV got big in Mexico. (AKA the story of every wrestling promoter in history except Vince.)
– Ironically, despite TV business killing them in Mexico, they’re gaining a following in the US because of the TV show in Los Angeles.
– They’re just a few weeks away from their biggest show of all time, the 11/6 LA PPV show with Octagon & Santo v. Guerrero & Love Machine double mask v. double hair main event on top. But how is anyone in the US supposed to know about it?
– Dave relates AAA to the old Jim Crockett promotion in the US. Loaded with talent, but with a booker who runs so many angles and with logically-inconsistent twists and turns that he burns out the audience. (Dave would have a much better booking comparison he could use in approximately 4 years from now.)
– Oddly, there’s no problem with anyone doing jobs when asked, but titles are meaningless and only masks and hair mean anything as a top prize to fight over.
To the regular news!
– Tony Norris stole the show on 10/2 at an EMLL show in Houston, brawling with Pirata Morgan all over the building to set up a singles match between them at the end of the month. (This Norris guy seems to be building up some buzz…)
– New Japan has started the hype machine for Inoki v. Hogan by announcing on TV that they’ve met 10 times in singles matches, with Inoki going 6-3-1 thus far. Their last match was 06.13.85.
– John Tenta worked the 10/8 UWFi show as himself, teaming with Vader in a tag match where Vader did the job to Albright.
– UWFi was actually claiming that they’d announce a new person for the 11/30 Budokan show, and it would result in a sellout in ONE DAY. So as it turns out, the plan was Takada facing Royce Gracie, and they set up a cage match between them for 11/30, and then Gracie pulled out. So they did an angle where the company called a press conference and accused Royce of “chickening out” and thus proving that UWFi had the stronger fighting style than UFC. It’ll probably end up with Koji Kitao in the spot instead.
– Kimo, who became an instant star in Japan after facing Royce Gracie at UFC 3 and knocking him out of the tournament, begins trying to cash in by facing Pat Smith in the main event of a martial arts promotion in Nagoya on 12/10. (Kimo totally should have become a pro wrestler.)
– To Memphis, where Tommy Rich won the USWA Title tournament over Buddy Landel on 10/3, and then five more times for the other cities in the circuit leading up to the 10/8 show in Nashville where Buddy no-showed. So that night Tommy beat Moondog Rex to win the tournament. Dave thinks using either guy in a position where you have to tape stuff in advance is a dangerous proposition.
– The 10/17 main event in Memphis looks to be Sid Vicious v. Undertaker for the Unified World title. The WWF is lending them Undertaker to help the sagging houses.
– They did a big angle on the 10/10 TV show where Jerry Lawler (who can’t get any more title shots at Sid) instead brought out his replacement: Lord Humongous, a 6’6” 300 pound green monster. (My quick and dirty research indicates that this may have been the rookie Bull Buchanan’s debut!)
– Speaking of Buddy Landel, his new gimmick as a babyface is that the Bible says you reap what you sow, and he’s sowed a lot of stuff over the years and now he’s trying to make it right. (Well, good luck there.)
– Dave finally solves the mystery of the new Mephisto & Dante tag team, just as they leave the territory for good: Romeo Rodriguez and Tommy Heggie. So in other words, no one.
– To SMW, where the mystery commissioner decided that fighting the Gangstas legal challenge would be too costly to the company, so they just awarded them the tag titles rather than pursue the accusations of racism in court. (Hopefully they also made Ricky Morton apologize to the dressing room afterwards and do charity work.)
– To ECW, where the Sandman angle didn’t air on Sunshine Network due to a problem with the taping, which resulted in a flood of calls to the network, showing the level of interest that it’s generating.
– Rockin’ Rebel was fired after the 10/4 tapings because he refused to do a clean job.
– Papa Shango and Brutus Beefcake were married in Las Vegas this past weekend.
– No, not to each other, Dave clarifies.
– Bruno Sammartino will be invited to the White House on 10/29 and honored by President Clinton.
– Jim Crockett is still trying to get the deal done for the Sportatorium, with the rumored contract being 5 years and a 5 year extension.
– Grey Pierson, meanwhile, is still claiming to have foreign money coming in that will bring him back soon! (He should go to Saudi Arabia and promise them Ultimate Warrior and Yokozuna!)
– Where are they now? Don Kernodle is working as a gas man for NASCAR racer Geoff Bodine.
– To WCW, where John Tenta will be coming in to face Hogan after the Halloween Havoc cage match retires Flair.
– Also in the post-Flair world, Sherri will be managing Steve Austin.
– Steve Regal is actually staying now after signing a new deal.
– Rick Steamboat is probably not coming back from that back injury after all.
– Rick Rude has filed a $630,000 lawsuit against WCW, claiming his injury ended his career. He’d go to the WWF, but he’s collecting a Lloyd’s of London insurance policy at the moment.
– The mysterious masked attacker returned on the Main Event show in a disappointing tag match, played by Bunkhouse Buck this time, and Brutus Beefcake made the save. Due to WWF legal issues, he was referred to only as “the brother” (…Brother!) although of course Hulk slipped up and called him “Brutus” on TV. (They’re sure doing a lot of angles where Brutus and the masked man are in the same place.)
– Mark Madden continues to take potshots at Gene Okerlund on his hotline, noting that Gene never lives up to the hype he presents on TV because he has the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and thus just forgets what he was talking about in his teases. Madden was able to get away with this due to having friends in high places (initials “EB”) but was told to knock it off by the front office. However, this directive didn’t go both ways, because Gene immediately laid into Madden in his own hotlines and promised Madden would be fired from his job soon.
– Turns out that Curt Hennig is not coming in after all.
– WCW is selling $500 for front row VIP tickets for the PPV, with the lucky fans getting their photo taken with Hogan and Muhammad Ali and all money donated to Ali’s charity. Total tickets sold thus far: Three.
– Over to the WWF, where Vince McMahon went on a talk show in Chicago and laid into Hulk Hogan, talking about he felt personally betrayed that his friend would sign with “the minor leagues”. Vince wanted to use Hogan as the Babe Ruth of wrestling, but Hogan wanted to continue on with Vince creating monster heels for him to slay week after week. (Rinse and repeat that same argument for the next decade.)
– The new Action Zone show, which is replacing All-American on USA, will be headlined by Bret Hart v. Owen Hart on 10/23 for the debut.
– Hartford is looking inevitable for WM because Vince REALLY wants to run Connecticut for some reason.
And finally, I’d like to finish with this reader letter…
I agree with reader Ron Daignault on the ECW fans. They are more interested in seeing someone seriously injured than in seeing a good wrestling match. I believe they’d encourage 911 to choke slam a five-year-old.
Gloucester, New Jersey
DM: Based on what I’ve seen, I think ECW fans probably enjoy seeing good wrestling matches more than fans of any other U.S. promotion, but you’re right that they would encourage 911 to choke slam a five-year-old.”
(Or maybe just cane Dewey Foley.)