Wrestling Observer Flashback–01.02.95

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 01.02.95

And we are off to 1995, and what a way to kick off the year with HOGAN VS. BUTCHER at Starrcade ’94!

– Dave’s summation of Starrcade: “When the biggest news coming out of a show is that the Honkytonk Man quit WCW, you know nothing much happened.” Regardless, the show was the first legit sellout in years for the company, with 7000 paid, and in fact there were actually people from the front office taking pictures of the “sold out” signs in front of the box office because it was such a novel concept to them.

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– Regardless, the buyrate needs to be over 0.9 in order to justify Hogan’s cut and make money, and early predictions are 0.6 or 0.7 at the moment. (Final number ended up at 0.6, so mostly a flop on PPV.)

– The only big news coming out of the show was, as noted, Honky quitting before the show because he was expecting to get the TV title and was told otherwise. Dave notes that Honky obviously doesn’t read spoilers because they taped weeks of Johnny B. Badd as champion to air after the show. He also wanted a guaranteed contract, since both he and Duggan are on a $1000 / night deal, but Bischoff’s hardline stance is that no one is getting big money guaranteed deals at the moment, and that’s that.

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– Besides him.

In the dark match, Arn & Buck beat the Armstrongs with a DDT on Scott.

1. Vader won the US title from Jim Duggan in 12:06 in the PPV opener. Duggan’s offense looked terrible and Vader was bothered by a bad back, and further Duggan didn’t want to take the usual Vader beating so this was mostly a disaster. *1/2

2. Alex Wright pinned Jean Paul Levesque in 14:03. Turns out that when they don’t fill the stands with paid models and actors, Alex Wright isn’t over. WCW is pushing both of these guys way too soon. Match was dull but athletic and Wright got the pin with a rolling reverse cradle. *1/4

3. Johnny B. Badd pinned Arn Anderson in 11:21 to retain the TV title. Should have been great and turned out to be terrible. Arn looked really bad in particular, although the short lead time might have had something to do with that. Arn tried to use the ropes and the ref caught him, which allowed Badd to roll him up for the pin. *

4. The Nasty Boys beat Harlem Heat by DQ in 17:49 on the best match of the show. Hold on, Dave’s reaction here deserves a dank meme.

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Booker looked good and the match was good when he was involved, but Stevie evened things out by killing the match. Dave was also driven nuts because the announcers kept referencing Stars & Stripes as tag team champions, since technically the Heat don’t win the belts until 1/7, but everyone knows about that anyway so it just makes everyone look stupid. Match would have been better if it was a lot shorter but they didn’t have enough content to fill the PPV and had to go long. Sherri finally came in for the DQ after minutes of boredom and bearhugs. **1/4

5. Mr. T pinned Kevin Sullivan in 3:50. T looked really bad after about 2:00, when he completely blew up. Dave Sullivan hit Kevin with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone and T got the pin. T was telling people backstage that he was dead if the match went any longer, although Dave’s official stance is “It could have been a lot worse.” DUD

6. Sting beat Avalanche by DQ in 15:26. Avalanche looked slow, bad and the match was too long. Kevin Sullivan interfered for the DQ and Hogan limped out with a chair to make the save. ¼*

7. Hulk Hogan pinned the Butcher to retain the WCW title in 12:07 with the big boot and legdrop. Better than Dave was expecting. (Really?!?) There was a fight in the crowd during Butcher’s climactic sleeper, so Hogan smartly held off on his superman comeback until they were watching again. At this point Sullivan and Avalanche did a “run” in, but Randy Savage came out, pretended like he was joining the heels, and then turned on them to unite the Megapowers again. ¾*

While Dave would not call it the worst PPV ever, it was certainly in the bottom 5%. (Actually, I think that it was so incredibly forgettable that calling it one of the worst of all time would be giving it more praise than it’s due.)

– And now, Dave would like to have a discussion on “drawing money” or “putting asses in the seats”. Today, the phrase means less than ever in the age of corporate sponsors, TV ad revenue, merchandise and licensing. In fact, today’s big shows draw more based on the name of the promotion or the reputation of the show, like Wrestlemania or the Tokyo Dome show. Bret Hart, Lex Luger and Yokozuna may have headlined the biggest show of the year at Wrestlemania, but put them at Survivor Series and it’s still Wrestlemania drawing the biggest buyrate. (Well that theory sure went in the toilet over the next three years!) The only wrestlers left who appear to be able to move the needle are Hulk Hogan, Atsushi Onita and perhaps Inoki.

– So now, for the first time, Dave is going to actually examine a list of people and see who was actually in the top matches in 1994 that drew over 10,000 fans. He’s not including heavily papered shows because it’s about drawing money and not about drawing paper. (That means YOU, WCW!) The higher up in the list, the more times the person was featured in the main position of a 10,000 plus show.

1. Konnan

2. Perro Aguayo

3. Shinya Hashimoto

4. Bret Hart

5. Masa Chone

6. Love Machine

7. Cien Caras

8. Keiji Muto

9. Kensuke Sasaki

10. Nobuhiko Takada

11. Vader

12. Riki Choshu

13. Genichiro Tenryu

14. Gary Albright

15. Atsushi Onita

16. Steve Williams

17. Owen Hart

18. Mitsuhara Misawa

19. Toshiaki Kawada

20. Octagon

(Dave goes into a whole analysis of what these people have in common and what makes a draw in 1994 and blah blah blah but ain’t nobody got time for that and we can all agree it’s not Diesel and move on.)

– Over to Japan, where Onita debuted his Great Nita gimmick in Tokyo, which is likely leading to the obvious Nita v. Muta interpromotional match.

– NJPW did a press conference where they did a contract signing between Shinya Hashimoto and Kensuke Sasaki for the IWGP title as the Tokyo Dome main event, which is a major departure since traditionally the Inoki match is the automatic main event. In fact, Inoki’s tournament final against Sting will run third from the top, with the Hase & Muto v. Steiners tag title match as the semi-main. Osamu Nishimura was supposed to return from his tour of North America and challenge Otani here for whatever belt he won in Mexico, but Nishimura actually felt he wasn’t good enough for Japan yet and will stick around the US for a while.

– SICK JAPANESE GIMMICK MATCH UPDATE: The latest innovation saw an IWU show on 12/25, billed as a “no rope barbed wire lumberjack cobra match”.

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Um, no, not that kind. In fact, the match featured the ring being surrounded by venomous cobra snakes, with the loser being the first person to get bitten. It was actually a bizarre arms race to see which group would use that particular gimmick first. (So, uh, congratulations?)

– Pancrase runs 1/26 in Nagoya, with Ken Shamrock v. Frank Juarez as the main event, and Dave again continues his CRAZY conspiracy theory that Juarez is actually Shamrock’s younger brother. (Look, Dave, does “Juarez” sound like an Irish name to you? Now, if his name was “Frank Shamrock”, you might be onto something.)

– Japanese wrestling mags have their panties in a bunch about UFC, making sure to downplay it as “not really a sport” (You know, as opposed to PRO WRESTLING) and pointing out that Dan Severn putting a severe beating on Royce Gracie before losing. Also, the magazines turned on Sayama for leaking the video of the Gracie-Anjyo “fight” in the Gracie dojo, basically bad-mouthing him for turning his back on wrestling and siding with the UFC people.

– Over to Memphis, where the latest reasoning for falling crowds despite Sid Vicious on top is that the arena is frisking fans because of all the fights in the stands. (Hopefully they frisked Sid for scissors.)

– Jimmy Valiant made his return to the territory with a music video where all the footage was from the late 70s. (Was that the decade or his age at the time? WHOA YEAH! UP HERE!)

– SMW had a big success with the Christmas Chaos shows in Knoxville and Johnson City, doing big houses based on the angle with Jim Cornette managing the Rock N Roll Express against the Gangstas. (And then a year later almost to the day, the company would be dead.)

– Brian Lee quit the promotion before the show, so Tracy Smothers took his place in the tag match with Cactus Jack against Chris Candido & Boo Bradley. The highlight of the **** brawl was Jack taking a bump into a full jacuzzi and then all four guys brawling in the water.

– Pro Wrestling Secret Revealed: The cat actually belongs to Tammy Sytch.

– Chris and Tammy are going to be “suspended” for “killing” the “cat” and will end up on WWF TV at that point. Eddie Gilbert is coming in on 1/2 to replace Candido full-time. (Um, about that…)

– Cornette did some interviews with the Heavenly Bodies while at the last set of WWF TV tapings for use on the SMW TV show, and the WWF people were SHOCKED AND APPALLED at the racial overtones of what he was putting out there.

– Over to ECW, where Stevie Richards has changed his name to Stevie Flamingo in tribute to Scott Levy, and will probably be in the flunky role when Scott starts on 1/7.

– ECW contacted Dan Severn about coming in to put over Dean Malenko, but he declined. (I know I’m shocked.)

– UFC news in the days before we had a UFC section all its own: They will likely have UFC 5 in March, but it’s not certain yet. Main event will be a “super fight” with Royce Gracie against someone to be determined, plus an 8 man tournament underneath with the plan being for Severn to win and then face Gracie at UFC 6. Potential opponents for Royce appear to be Kimo, Shamrock, or Pat Smith from UFC 2. (It ended up being Shamrock and HOO BOY what a “classic” that was!)

– Apparently Sid’s demands for working the indies are $1500 per night and a first class ticket, which is why he doesn’t get much work. Dave would also like to clarify that the reason is NOT because promoters have a conscience and refuse to use someone who nearly murdered another man with a pair of scissors.

– To WCW, where Sting has verbally agreed to a 3 year deal, so he is NOT going to the WWF as heavily rumored. (Was that a thing?)

– The company spent enormous amounts of money on newspaper ads for Starrcade, most of which featured Ric Flair.

– Speaking of Flair, he came up with his booking plans for 1995, most of which revolve around himself coming out of retirement as the big issue for the year. This has not pleased the group of people who worked so hard to force him into retirement in the first place. (Oh, WCW!)

– The future of this Levesque kid is up in the air right now. He’s been offered $1500 a week and the tag titles with Regal if he stays, which is probably more than he’d make with the WWF in the low card spot he’ll likely occupy there. But hey, if by some crazy miracle the WWF puts him on the road full-time, he’d likely make a little bit more. (I dunno, do you think Paul Levesque can work WWF style? Hopefully someone like 1-2-3 Kid can mentor him.)

– Since Halloween Havoc’s PPV buyrate was so much less than expected, everyone is losing their frequent flier miles as of January 1. (Gotta pay the Hulk, brother!)

– To the WWF, where Jim Ross is back as booker and TV producer, but won’t be doing announcing. (Can you even imagine Jim Ross on Monday Night RAW? Preposterous.)

– Bret Hart’s agent Carl DeMarco released a press statement claiming that Bret has never had talks with WCW or any other wrestling organization and he has no plans to leave the WWF, ever. (Forever is a long time…) Basically, the story came from Mean Gene making shit up on his hotline. (I am SHOCKED AND APPALLED that someone involved in pro wrestling would lie!)

– To further emphasize how happy everyone is right now in the WWF, officially company policy is now that anyone caught speaking with WCW will be immediately fired.

– The Smoking Gunns mysterious dismissal from the tournament last week was not because they’re in trouble, but because Vince was being Vince and wanted to do something different. (I THINK, although I could be wrong, that it came out later that this correction was in fact incorrect as well and was covering up Billy getting dinged for something.)

– The Minotaur is better known as Bruiser Mastino on the indies and is apparently the brother of PN News, aka Cannonball Grizzly. (That’s a fucking awesome wrestling name.)

– Shawn Michaels is back on the road shortly after getting two pins in his broken hand, and appears to be the favorite to win the 30-minute Royal Rumble and face Diesel at Wrestlemania.

– And finally, Papa Shango re-debuted on RAW after all, but now as a UFC knockoff called Kama, which is a very thinly veiled reference to Kimo. Dave is 100% sure it’s just a coincidence, though, just like when Max Moon looked like Jushin Liger, and Vince claimed to have never heard of Jushin Liger before, despite meeting him in Japan shortly before inventing Max Moon. You know…a coincidence.