Wrestling Observer Flashback–12.26.94

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 12.26.94

Finally, time to put 1994 to bed.

But first, it’s a slow week for wrestling, so Dave leads off with UFC 4…

– UFC 4 made it clear who the best fighter in the world is, but now there’s a bunch of other questions coming out of it. Clearly the Gracie jiu jitsu system can beat boxers, kickboxers, street fighters or karate fighters…

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Yeah, he could probably himself in that situation, too.

– Anyway, the show answered the main question remaining about Gracie’s style, which was whether he could take a top level heavyweight wrestler. And of course, the answer was DUH. Basically Severn took him down and appeared to be smothering him for the entire match, before Gracie choked him out in a move that martial arts enthusiasts refer to as a “triangle” for the win in 15:49.

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– Despite Dave’s observation that Severn was obviously dominating Royce for the entire match before the fluke loss, the group that he dismissively calls “jiu jitsu marks” insist that Royce was just suckering him in and was completely in control of the entire match, despite being on the bottom for 15:00. (That’s just CRAZY talk!)

– But while the show was a success for Royce, there were other problems outside of the matches, as Senator John McCain from Arizona campaigned to get the show shut down, and in fact officials in Tulsa spent the week trying to cancel it before they were finally stopped by the pesky contract signed between the UFC and the city. The boxing commission tried to step in and shut it down, but they don’t actually take power until 1/1, and thus were powerless to stop the show.

– When legal means failed, McCain pressured PPV companies to drop the show, but lots of people ordered the show in advance and they refused. As a compromise of sorts, everyone involved in the show was instructed to tone down the horrific violence aspect of the concept.

– In a shocking twist that no one could have possibly seen coming, all the ridiculous controversy caused a massive walkup and led to the arena selling out to the tune of 5800 people drawing $140,000.

– And then, if one disaster wasn’t enough, the people running show forgot to take into account that you can’t time out a live shoot-fighting even in the same way you can a wrestling show, and the lengthy main event caused a large number of cable companies to shut off the signal at 10:00pm EST sharp, while promoter Campbell McClaren was desperately calling other systems and begging them to let the show continue. (These days we call that one “Pulling a WCW.”) It turned into a complete debacle, with furious fans demanding refunds from the cable systems.

– Now, the alternative would have been to simply stop the match and award it to Severn, but McClaren noted he would have killed by “a hoard of angry Brazilians” since the Gracies claim to have been undefeated in fights for 60 years. (I imagine Sakuraba isn’t welcome in South America, then)

– After the fight, Severn noted that a pure wrestler probably can’t beat someone like Gracie. You need, I dunno, a mix of martial arts.

– Oddly enough, Severn works nights as a caterer, since being a top level wrestler and UFC fighter only pays a downside of $1000 for the show.

– Financially, the show was a huge success on PPV as well, drawing 196,000 buys for a 0.85 buyrate (about double what WCW was typically doing at that point) although that will likely be adjusted downwards after refunds and whatnot. There’s now talk as well that they need to retire the tournament format and maybe just promote a fight between Gracie and Severn for UFC 5.

– Over to wrestling, although everyone is pretty much shut down for the holidays. The main event of Royal Rumble was announced as Diesel defending against Bret Hart. They’ll probably make Bret a subtle heel because otherwise people will probably cheer him over Diesel and they’ll just look SILLY then. Also, Razor Ramon will defend the IC title against Jeff Jarrett, which has Dave mystified. (Not really that surprising. Once they debuted Roadie, JJ was suddenly pretty hot.)

– Also, the tag team tournament finals will be held, with Bam Bam Bigelow & Tatanka v. 1-2-3 Kid & Bob Holly according to the TV tapings in the can. The Smoking Gunns actually showed up at the 12/14 tapings thinking they were going to the finals, but then left halfway through the show “looking unhappy” and were replaced at the last minute by Kid & Holly. Also, the Rumble itself will be cut down to 60 second intervals to speed things up.

– New Japan finally announced a main event for the Tokyo Dome on 1/4 after negotiations with Kimo fell through. The deal fell apart because Kimo didn’t “get pro wrestling” (which is kind of hilarious considering his act is 100% pro wrestling) and now it’s a 4-man tournament with Sting v. kickboxer Tony Palmora and Inoki v. Gerard Gordeau from UFC 1. (They still sold 52,000 tickets for the show, so even a trainwreck can draw for them at that point.)

– Toxicology is back from Art Barr’s autopsy, and we still don’t know how he died. To the shock of no one, he did have a combination of prescription drugs and alcohol in his system, but nothing that would kill him. A newspaper report, however, noted that police are covering up the fact that they found Valium, Halcyons, and “Mexican Percodans” in Art’s home. And since Barr had been in a coma for hours before his death, drugs could have metabolized in his body.

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(Sorry, sore spot, I know.)

– Next up, Dave goes over PPV reports from Multi-Channel News, which has some surprising results for 1994’s shows. First up, the 11/11 UWFI show apparently did 0.65 instead of the 0.1 reported everywhere else. While Dave acknowledges they’re usually a solid source of buyrate info, in this case he’s dubious of that result.

– They also are reporting that Survivor Series did a 1.2 – 1.4 buyrate, which would mean that (and you can practically feel the bile coming up from Dave’s stomach just typing this) maybe Bob Backlund was actually a draw after all.

– However, what all the numbers for the year really stress is that WCW still can’t draw on PPV.

– At this point, Dave recaps the UFC show and notes that interest level was high enough that he’ll keep doing polls for future shows as well. (Maybe one day we’ll even get a UFC section in the Observer!)

– Lots of heat on New Japan right now because Inoki wouldn’t let Eddie Guerrero leave the tour to attend Art Barr’s funeral. Dave notes that this is not the classiest move the promotion has ever made.

– Also, Inoki watched the Kimo v. Pat Smith match and then told the press that he doesn’t consider the UFC a sport.

– Ken Shamrock won the first Pancrase World title at Sumo Hall on 12/17, beating Manabu Yamada in the finals of the tournament. Yamada making it there was a surprise, since he beat favored Minoru Suzuki with a short arm scissors in the semi-finals. Also on the show, it’s…

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– Yes, in a shocking first round upset, Bas Rutten lost via decision to rookie fighter Frank Juarez, who Dave thinks might actually be Ken Shamrock’s brother.

– All Japan Women did a tour of the island of Bali, looking to recruit new wrestlers for the promotion. So they did a try-out there that attracted 20 applicants, and took them to a house show to watch at ringside. Then they worked their usual brutally stiff style and all 20 people immediately dropped out in terror.

– For those who think Cactus Jack does too much stupid shit, witness the IWA show on 12/13, which featured Shoji Nakamaki getting put on a bed of nails with a barbed-wire board on top of him, and then Leatherface splashing the board until Nakamaki was turned into “lunch meat”.

– To Memphis, where Dave is amused because Sid Vicious keeps calling Jerry Lawler’s finish a “powerdriver” on TV. Dave thinks we should cut him some slack because at no point has he ever been encouraged to learn any wrestling moves at all, let alone the NAMES of them.

– The ECW show on 12/17 was kind of a disaster, to the point where Paul Heyman came out at the end and chastised fans for chanting “ECW” because the company hadn’t anything to earn it that night. The main event saw Shane Douglas beating Ron Simmons in 5:00 due to Ron’s injured arm in a crappy match. Also, 911 chokeslammed Santa Claus.

– Chris Benoit is now doing a “crippler” gimmick because of the Sabu injury.

– Meanwhile, Stevie Richards is going to have a Shawn Michaels gimmick and will be there to keep the women away from Johnny Polo when he debuts. (Man, that whole deal went in a TOTALLY different direction!)

– 911 was named PWI Rookie of the Year for 1994, although Heyman was pushing heavily for Public Enemy to win tag team of the year but WCW had already made a deal with the magazine to win everything due to PWI getting access at Starrcade. (Hold on, Bill Apter personally e-mailed me to claim that this kind of thing NEVER HAPPENED, so now I’m confused and scared.)

– In a related note, people in WCW were kind of freaked out about PWI getting so much pub at Starrcade, since the company is trying to start their own magazine. So they were going to do their own fan poll for Wrestler of the Year at the show, but then certain people got all freaked out because if you do a 900 number poll, by law you have to reveal the real results and those certain people didn’t want Ric Flair winning that poll.

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– Matt Borne was dropped from ECW because he got a Germany tour with another group after they came up with the Bourne Again gimmick and missed a bunch of ECW shows. So he’s gone. (And if there’s one person whose word is his bond, it’s Paul Heyman.)

– After seeing Rey Mysterio Jr. taking a bump onto his knees on the 12/2 AAA show, Dave thinks Rey won’t make it to superstar status unless he stops destroying his body. (Turns out that it can be both things.)

– To WCW, where the Clash of Champions on 1/25 will reportedly feature a Vader promo that sets up the Hogan program, unless Hogan changes his mind again and turns down the program.

– WCW was touring Germany this week, and both Vader and Steve Austin are injured, so the 1000 fans in the 2500 seat arenas were treated to main events of Sting v. Paul Roma.

– Dave called the WCW Saturday Night show on 12/17 “totally unwatchable”, based on a ridiculous angle where Robert Parker was bailing Blacktop Bully out of jail with some abysmal acting, not to mention terrible camera work, like for example where they did a closeup on the supposed briefcase of money and revealed that they were all fake. (Good thing we weren’t watching on our 55” 4K TVs back then! Of course, WCW really WAS cheap and lazy.)

– To the WWF, where the tapings were pretty notable, including a program getting set up between the Tatanka/Bigelow team and the Allied Powers, which will likely go around the horn after the heels win the tag team title tournament at the Rumble.

– Debuting at the tapings were the Minotaur, managed by Ted Dibiase, who showed up for his tryout wearing his buffalo head backstage and had everyone make fun of him for it. But then Vince hired him anyway. Also debuting the “The Blacksmith”, the former Maxx Payne, who did a guitar playing gimmick that didn’t get over at all. (And it’s not like the repackaged version was much better.)

– Also at the tapings, the Diesel appearance on the King’s Court was all kinds of messed up and had to be re-done, with Diesel remembering to sit on the throne the second time.

– Rockin’ Rebel got a tryout in Newark, DE, but then pissed people off backstage by using a bunch of Razor Ramon’s mannerisms in the ring.

– Tammy Sytch debuted as an on-air personality, doing Event Centers under the name Tamara Murphy, which is a good indication that Chris Candido is also coming in soon.

– Ron & Don Harris are coming in, maybe.

– Luna was fired for unknown reasons.

– Charlie Minn was fired and replaced with LA radio DJ Stephanie Wiand, with the idea being to hire younger people as a part of the whole New Generation gimmick.

– And finally, the child-like petty war between WCW and WWF has gotten to the point where the WWF Magazine did a special on the Undertaker and made sure to reference the Hogan-Flair feud of 1991, pointing out that this was during a time when “Hogan and Flair still meant something in pro wrestling.”

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(Of course, 1995 would prove that this was NOTHING compared to the childish sniping yet to come…)