Wrestling Observer Flashback – 01.09.95
Just like in the old days, it’s a NEWSFLASH to start the issue!
Well, a results flash, actually, as the Tokyo Dome show came in too late for a proper review.
FLASH REPORT FROM THE TOKYO DOME SHOW ON 1/4!
1. Shinjiro Otani retained the UWA junior heavyweight title pinning El Samurai with a dragon suplex (full nelson into german suplex) in 15:17;
2. Norio Honaga retained the IWGP junior heavyweight title pinning Great Sasuke in 14:39 with la magistral (Dandy or Heavy Metal cradle);
3. Akitoshi Saito & Kuniaki Kobayashi & Great Kabuki over Akira Nogami & Takayuki Iizuka & Osamu Kido in 13:12 when Kabuki pinned Nogami with a clothesline;
4. Koji Kanemoto returned from the United States and pinned Yuji Nagata in 14:43 with a senton (back splash) off the top rope;
5. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (Hiroyoshi Yamamoto) returned after a lengthy stay in Europe and pinned Manabu Nakanishi with his finishing maneuver called a mountain bomb (airplane spin dropped into a power bomb) in 7:40;
6. Tiger Jeet Singh Sr. & Jr. defeated Shiro Koshinaka & Michiyoshi Ohara in 11:23 when Singh Sr. used the cobra claw on Ohara;
7. In the first round of the BVD martial arts tournament, Sting made American kick boxer Tony Palmore submit to the scorpion in 4:29;
8. In the other tournament semifinal, Antonio Inoki defeated Gerard Gordeau (UFC I finalist), the famous karate/savate master from Holland with a choke sleeper in 6:37;
9. Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu over Kengo Kimura & Tatsutoshi Goto in 12:32 when Choshu pinned Kimura after a lariat;
10. Sabu & Masa Chono over Junji Hirata & Tatsumi Fujinami in 11:18. Sabu hit Hirata with a chair and Chono scored the pin after a Yakuza kick;
11. Road Warrior Hawk, with Animal in his corner, pinned Scott Norton in 7:41 when Animal tripped up Norton from the outside and Hawk came off the top rope with a clothesline to the back for the pin;
12. In the BVD final, Inoki defeated Sting with a choke sleeper after getting behind him when Sting picked him up for a suplex in 10:26;
13. Hiroshi Hase & Keiji Muto retained the IWGP tag team titles beating Rick & Scott Steiner in 25:12 when Hase pinned Scott after a Northern Lights suplex;
14. Shinya Hashimoto retained the IWGP heavyweight title pinning Kensuke Sasaki in 19:36 with a fisherman’s buster (fisherman suplex dropped straight down).
– The show was dubbed “Battle 7” because it was the seventh Tokyo Dome show (I feel like they need a catchier name for it…) and drew a legit sellout of 62,000. (Or 90,000 if WWE was promoting it.)
– The sellout is somewhat surprising because it was raining heavily, and the show was nothing special on paper. And nothing special in the ring, as it turned out, with only the Steiners match being talked about as a great match. Sting basically carried Inoki the entire way, and people are talking about it like it was Inoki’s last match. (Not even close.)
MORE DETAILS NEXT WEEK! BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED NEWSLETTER!
– And now, Dave recaps 1994.
– Over to Memp…oh, wait, I guess there’s more to say.
– The big stories of the year were Vince McMahon escaping steroid distribution and conspiracy charges after 3 weeks on trial, and of course Hulk Hogan going to WCW. This resulted in Ric Flair getting forced in “retirement” to an anemic buyrate and likely return in 1995. Also, pay-per-view seemingly died again for wrestling, never to return.
– Also, Dave is still stunned that the year ended with Kevin Nash as WWF champion and Brutus Beefcake challenging for the WCW title at Starrcade. Both are almost as unlikely as Pat Patterson swearing under oath that he’d never heard of “steroids” until the late 80s.
– More surprising happenings: WCW would book a career v. career match between Hogan and Flair, and the AAA show two weeks later would do a bigger house. Shane Douglas becomes a leading contender for Best Interview. Or that Hulk Hogan would come to WCW and refuse to put Ric Flair over.
– OK, Dave is pretty sure we would have all guessed that last one. Still, it was quite the year. But clearly, 1995 will bring even more major changes in the industry. (Now that’s an understatement.)
– UFC news, which is becoming a regular thing. (Hope it doesn’t take over the newsletter or radio shows or anything.) UFC V will officially happen on 4/7 in Wichita, with a main event of Royce Gracie against someone and a tournament underneath. Best bet for the match is pro wrestler and sometime fighter Ken Shamrock, who is currently the Pancrase heavyweight champion and thus a longshot.
– Turns out that total refunds for the debacle that was UFC IV will amount to about 10% of total gross revenue, which is actually something of a relief for the promoters who were banking on half a million dollars. But will people continue buying UFC PPVs in the future after that? (Spoiler: Fuck yes.)
– Another problem is that the next show is running five days after Wrestlemania, and that’s the one show that pretty much no matter what is a sure thing to emerge totally unscathed from any competition, no matter what card is presented on either show. (You bet! Not like they could drop another 100,000 buys over 1994 or anything…)
– Back to WCW, as they’re setting up Hogan v. Vader for SuperBrawl and it’s already a virtual lock that it won’t be a clean finish, not because of Hogan this time. Instead, Vader’s status as UWFI champion means that he’s not doing jobs, so either Hogan has to do the first job to set up rematches, or it’s going to be a DQ. Vader is scheduled to defend against Gary Albright on 1/16, and Dave wouldn’t put it past them to switch the title so that WCW can’t be tempted to put Hogan over their champion cleanly.
– Back to UFC, which is scaring the shit out of the wrestling industry at this point. As they get more popular, wrestling people get more paranoid about the “real” fighting exposing the “fake” fighting they’re putting on. Even worse, it’s legitimately something new and different at a time when wrestling is desperately trying to find their own new and different…
…and coming up with the same stuff that already failed in the past.
– There is also the group that is preaching calm, because the UFC fad will burn itself out soon and the government will soon ban it anyway. And still others are just pretending like it’s not a thing, although with Vince debuting his own UFC ripoff character and WCW desperately trying to get Haku into UFC, it’s hard to believe they don’t see the writing on the wall.
– On the other hand, if wrestling people are paranoid about UFC, people running martial arts businesses should be shitting their pants in fear. Sure, UFC “exposes” wrestling as fake, which everyone in the world knows anyway, but more importantly it exposes karate and tae kwon do as complete bullshit in real fighting situations. (Especially kenpo karate!) In fact, many people in that world hate the Gracies for revealing that Brazillian jiu jitsu might be pretty damn effective against a variety of styles. (It sure helped the Gracies make some bank off their schools.)
– There are still a lot of differences between UFC and the “shootfighting” craze in Japan in the 80s that nearly destroyed the pro wrestling business. There’s no famous wrestlers in UFC stealing wrestling fans away for UFC. (Yet.) The UWF was predetermined, with Maeda in particular booking himself to look like the god of fighting in Japan, whereas UFC is up to the whims of chance. Also, UFC is built on boxing and kickboxing in a lot of ways, which Japanese fans don’t like.
– Another pair of groups possibly ready to change the business are AAA and ECW, although if they don’t get PPV, ECW is unlikely to make much of a splash on the national scene.
– Dave’s gut feeling is that WWF is going to be the group that’s the most likely to change with the times, because all the money being lost comes right out of Vince’s pocket, and he hates to lose. There’s even rumors of the company going to a Japanese system of all clean finishes and parity on top.
(Yeah right, they couldn’t even make to the NEXT DAMN PPV without a screwjob finish in the main event!)
– Meanwhile, WCW is so desperate to create new stars that they’re pushing guys like Jean Paul Levesque way before he’s ready. (How fucking desperate do you need to be to push this Paul Levesque kid? What a jobber.)
– One thing we do know for sure: WCW won’t change in 1995 with Hogan on top.
– Over to Japan, where the Yoji Anjyo v. Rickson Gracie story refuses to die. Anjyo is now claiming that he wasn’t at 100% when he lost the fight and wants another shot at him. At a neutral site this time. This was such a line of bullshit that even the non-confrontational Japanese reporters immediately called him out on it. Dave thinks it’s just a grandstand challenge to save face after getting humiliated.
– In Memphis, business is up slightly with Jimmy Valiant back in the territory even as Sid Vicious continues to kill it.
– WWF is apparently bringing in not only the Harris twins for another shot, but also Spellbinder and Miss Texas.
– Eddie Gilbert showed up in SMW doing a gimmick where he’s all paranoid and twitchy. (Yeah, “gimmick”.)
– They did a funny skit on SMW, spoofing the Hogan-Evad stuff, where Cactus Jack gave Boo Bradley the tights he wore when Vader tore his ear off and knocked his teeth out, with the hopes that it will give Boo similar luck.
– Eddie Gilbert promised a mystery partner against the Rock N Roll Express, and produced UNABOMB, who is his friend Glen Jacobs from Puerto Rico. (That’s not an understated Observer debut, by the way, he was around as the Christmas Creature a couple of years ago.)
– ECW is bringing Tully Blanchard for Shane’s challenger of the week on 1/7. (Should be an awesome match!)
– Stevie Richards continues to switch up his gimmick, going to Stevie the Body this week on TV. Dave suspects he’ll be Stevie Polo next week. (That’s why they pay Dave the big bucks.)
– Correction to a previous correction: It’s been finally established that the UWFI PPV did a 0.12 buyrate and not actually the ridiculous 0.65 reported a couple of weeks back, which would make it the fourth lowest bought show of all time instead of a rousing success.
– Abdullah the Butcher has opened up a restaurant in Atlanta called “Abdullah’s House of Ribs and Chinese Food”. (For the love of god, bring your own forks!)
– Jim Crockett ran every night from Christmas to New Year’s Eve in Dallas, with most of the shows drawing between 50-60 people. Expect John Hawk to get a big push for the group as they want younger guys on top.
– Volver a Empezar, the #1 soap opera in Mexico that features Konnan as a featured guy, was listed by a Mexican magazine as the worst one on TV for 1994.
– To WCW again, where Hogan continues to draw at house shows, doing 4000 people in Minneapolis and 440 in Chicago on 12/28 and 12/29 respectively, with main events of Hogan & Sting v. Avalanche & Butcher. The irony is that it’s coming off WCW Saturday Night doing its lowest rated show in history with a 1.6. This will only hasten the return of Ric Flair, who if nothing else moves ratings.
– WCW is still looking to do some kind of a “cruiserweight” tournament, but it’s delayed for the moment because no one can get their shit together enough to figure out who’s in the tournament. Eric Bischoff is trying to get Chris Benoit and Shinjiro Otani from New Japan and Antonio Pena wants to send in Eddie Guerrero, but apparently Bischoff doesn’t want him.
– Hulk is already trying to reboot “Thunder in Paradise” with himself, Sting, Mr. T and a female martial artist as the team.
– Congratulations to WCW, who have lowered losses from $6 million per year down to $3.5 million for 1994, but even that’s misleading because Hogan’s salary come out of a different bank account. So in reality, they lost more money than ever for the year, and now have to cut $500,000 a year in salary to make the TBS execs happy.
– Speaking of cuts, the deal with Honky is that he refused to do a job for Johnny B. Badd because he didn’t want to lose without a contract. WCW was willing to offer him one, but they were about $50,000 apart and the deal fell apart at the last minute.
– Jean Paul Levesque is apparently favoring the WWF at this point, with promises of creating a somebody out of nobody, whereas WCW was offering him a tag title reign with Regal. (Why is everyone losing their shit over this Levesque jobber? He’s never going to be anything in THIS BUSINESS!)
– Over to the WWF, where the holiday tour was a complete flop and now the finger-pointing begins! Dave points out that it really wasn’t THAT much of a disaster and can be explained by communication issues more than anything.
– Vince McMahon moved Pat Patterson out of the booker position and has hired Jim Ross to be his new assistant, with rumors being that he wants a more Japanese style with clear winners and losers. Unfortunately this would require the audience to be trained to like that sort of thing, instead of “the ice capades” like is currently being presented. (That’s pretty insulting to the ice capades.) You’d also need a Ric Flair on top.
– There’s already talk within the company that maybe Diesel isn’t the answer. (YOU THINK!?!) However, the “fiasco” of Bob Backlund on top is also being buried by the top brass and blamed on Pat Patterson. However, they likely won’t make any major changes until April, so expect Wrestlemania to proceed as planned. Dave thinks they’ll probably just go back to Bret Hart again eventually and he’ll end up a 10 time champion like Flair because no one else can draw on top.
– Diesel v. Shawn Michaels headlines a bunch of house shows in February, which Dave finds weird since that’s supposed to be the Wrestlemania main event and you’d think they’d save it for there.
– And finally, expect Kama to get a big push because they want to create a black superstar. (Luckily the biggest one ever would be coming a couple of years later.)