Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.06.95
It’s time for the CLASH OF CHAMPIONS, a flying elbow to the wrestling business that should have revived it!
But first, a pretty major death to kick off the issue.
No, I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not that one yet.
– Crusher Jerry Blackwell passed away on 1/22, due to complications from pneumonia at the age of 45. He had been in poor health since ending his career early due to obesity. His career ended in 1988, and he was out of the business completely and estranged from his family, living in Georgia and suffering from a variety of illnesses related to his weight, including gout, gangrene and diabetes. He was not only bedridden for the past year leading up to his death, but he had suffered a series of auto accidents which worsened his condition. “Some would say not all coincidental” notes Dave. (What does THAT mean? Blackwell was deliberately trying to crash his own car and kill himself? Geez, that’s pretty dark.)
– During his prime, he was probably the best 400 pound worker in the business, being able to pull off dropkicks and athletic moves that other people his size couldn’t touch. There was actually some debate about his real age, since he looked very old even in the mid-80s and could easily pass for 60 with his grey hair and out-of-shape physique. However, after some claims of being as old as 52, it was discovered that his passport actually listed his birth year as 1949.
– Blackwell’s biggest run was in the AWA from 1979 until the end of his career. He initially feuded with the Crusher over the nickname and quickly became the top heel in the territory. In fact, he helped to get Hogan over as a monster slayer by going up for Hulk’s slams. He also tried to get Brad Rheingans over by going up for his suplexes, but that didn’t work out quite as well.
– Blackwell’s best known run during that period was teaming with Adnan El-Kaissey as Sheik Ayatollah Blackwell, feuding with the High Flyers in a storyline where Blackwell was swayed to the heel side by promises of a harem of dancing girls in Baghdad when he won the titles. Although that team never won the belts, Blackwell’s interviews were a highlight, as he was playing a “sheik” but still spoke with his normal southern hick accent. Eventually he did win the tag titles from the High Flyers, although with Ken Patera.
– Speaking of Patera, Blackwell was actually pranked by Patera years earlier in a famous incident. Patera was invited to participate on a CBS show called The World’s Strongest Man where various bodybuilders and wrestlers did feats of strength…
…and Patera was actually on the show for two years straight but then lost about 60 pounds and thus couldn’t compete at that level any longer. So as a joke, he suggested Blackwell take his spot, and the producers actually took him up on it. Verne Gagne was delighted because he was a mark for “real sports” and it was mainstream exposure, but Blackwell was hopefully overmatched on the show and looked ridiculous.
– In another weird story, Blackwell was one of the first wrestlers raided by Vince McMahon in 1984 during the expansion. He showed up at the St. Louis TV tapings in early 1984 to make his debut, but then panicked and left before the show, claiming that he was loyal to Verne for making him a lot of money in his career, and never returned. (You know who would have made him a lot of money, too? VINCE MCMAHON. But I guess no one could have guessed how big things would get at that time.)
– Dave’s review of the Clash: Better than Starrcade, but that’s not saying much. Arn v. Badd was good. Sting v. Avalanche was at least better than Starrcade, but again that’s not saying much. The main event wasn’t atrocious because Savage was pretty good, but the reviving elbow spot was “interesting”. Dave thinks the combination of that and no-selling Vader’s powerbomb really puts Hogan’s ego front and center. Instead of Hogan being Superman and Savage being Batman, it’s clear that Hogan is Batman and Savage is Robin, to the point where it was Hogan who had to score the winning pin in Savage’s big debut match and Hogan who got the hot tag while Savage got beat up the whole match. (But, I mean, it couldn’t get any WORSE, could it?)
– From a gate standpoint, the Vegas show was the biggest Clash ever, even though they only drew 3500 people. Ticket prices were ridiculously high, ranging from $15 to $50. (Ah, for the days when $50 was considered HIGH.) More importantly, the show did a 3.5 rating, or about 2.16 million viewers. Given this was the debut for Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan was also in the main event, that has to be a disappointing number.
– Dave was actually at the show live, and thought it was an OK experience. It was more like a game show than a wrestling show. On the bright side, the Vegas crowd was mostly super-casual fans who wore WWF merchandise and cheered Hogan.
A. Brad & Scott Armstrong beat Slater & Buck in 8:32 in the dark match. Slater hit Buck with his cowboy boot by mistake for the pin. *
1. Arn Anderson beat Johnny B. Badd to retain the TV title in 7:38. Bet match they’ve had thus far. The WWF-ized crowd were yelling “Haku” at Meng. (Maybe they were all just sneezing?) As Badd chased Col. Parker around the ring, Arn hit him with a DDT for the pin, drawing a big babyface reaction. ***
2. Alex Wright pinned Bobby Eaton in 7:28. Nobody cares about Wright. (Except the one guy on the blog.) Wright has a good look and can draw in the ladies, but by shoving him down our throats, it works in reverse. Wright kicked out of the Alabama Jam and won with a crossbody. **
3. Harlem Heat (That’s WWE Hall of Famers Harlem Heat!) retained the WCW tag titles over Marcus Bagwell & The Patriot in 9:45. Everyone worked hard but the finish was messed up, with Sherri way out of position for a high heel shoe spot. Bagwell was pinning Booker, but Stevie kicked him in the face and put Booker on top for the pin. **1/4
4. Sting beat Avalanche via ref stoppage in 5:22. This was weird. Sting put him in the Scorpion and Avalanche was tapping like crazy, but special ref Guardian Angel wouldn’t call it, so Nick Patrick came out and said he submitted. But then Angel attacked him and started to beat on Sting as well, going heel as Gene Okerlund came out for an interview and basically said Angel was going to be Big Bubba Rogers again. Easily the worst thing on the show. (Really? Has he SEEN the main event?) *1/4
5. Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage beat Butcher & Kevin Sullivan in 11:04. This was of course the match that gave us the famous spot where Butcher put Hogan out with the sleeper and Savage dropped the REVIVING ELBOW to wake him up. Hogan got the pin with the big boot and legdrop on Butcher, and then Vader jumped into the ring and powerbombed Hulk. Which he immediately no-sold. And then Vader managed to rip his pants as well. (Oh man, I can’t even BEGIN to communicate how much this pissed off the entire internet in 1995. Not the pants, the powerbomb.) Ric Flair was also there in the audience, although his purpose in being there was never explained or followed up. *1/2
– In an embarrassing story for WCW, Frank Anderson plead guilty to drug possession charges in Sweden, specifically a form of HGH. He had been working for WCW, mainly doing taped matches at the Worldwide shows which would be sent to Europe for WCW TV shows airing there. The drug is popular with many in the business because there’s not currently any test to detect it. Two days later he was in Vegas cutting promos for future shows in Europe, so clearly WCW isn’t concerned about the conviction. Oddly enough, he never failed any drug tests, even in the stringent WCW drug testing system.
– Back to the Clash, as it was moved to Vegas to coincide with the NATPE convention so the company could network with the networks. While it didn’t result in any major TV deals, they at least got one over on the WWF for once. Vince had actually flown in on a late flight after the RAW tapings along with Diesel and Undertaker, hoping to schmooze. According to those in attendance, although Kevin Nash was an impressive presence due to this size and costume, nobody knew who he was. WCW in fact got the bigger crowds at their booth by using Hogan and Savage. In fact, Bischoff gave a speech talking about how WCW is the place to be and WWF is using their castoff garbage like Diesel as their World champion! In fact, by Thursday the WWF booth was manned by openly depressed Jim Ross and Shane McMahon, with names like The Bushwhackers and Mr. Fuji as guests while people flocked to an ice skating booth a few feet away instead. (Oh man, if only they had brought Virgil! It would have been MEME-CEPTION!)
– Speaking of petty promotional wars, the biggest one in Japan appears to be between feuding wrestling magazines. Weekly Pro Wrestling is going to run a mega-show at the Tokyo Dome, as noted last week, featuring 11 different promotions in Japan with 15,000 tickets already sold for 4/2. However, WAR pulled out last week, now partnering with Gong Weekly for a competing show at Korakuen at the same time that is being called “Fan Appreciation Night”. They’re looking to bring in major US talent for the show, but Dave thinks perhaps they might not realize there’s a thing called Wrestlemania that night. And WCW would only run the Dome show. So not a great battle plan thus far.
– As for matches, there’s been talk of interpromotional dream matches like Savage v. Sabu or Terry Funk v. Sabu, but that’s not really very likely. And probably top top guys like Misawa and Kobashi won’t be there, but Onita and Maeda will be the top drawing names.
– To All Japan, where after a decade without doing any one hour draws, they did two of them in the same week. Both featuring a tag team match with Kobashi & Misawa defending the tag titles against Kawada & Taue. (Well there’s a pretty famous foursome.)
– There’s heat on DAVE this week, as he made a joke about Hiroyoshi Tenzan being on steroids a couple of weeks ago, and word got to Tenzan’s mentor Tokyo Joe about Tenzan possibly being on roids as reported in the Observer. And since he’s strictly anti-steroid, he freaked out and it turned into a big thing. (Good thing they didn’t have Twitter in 1995 or Dave would have been ROASTED.)
– For those keeping track, Onita is retiring again on 5/5, now claiming that after the Kawasaki Stadium show he will not only retire from FMW, but all of pro wrestling, and indeed give up control of the company as well. Just to show he’s really, really serious this time.
– The new version of W*ING starts at the end of March, having already announced that they’ll be using Tazmaniac and Shane Douglas from ECW as headliners. This is problematic because Taz is already booked with another company that week, and Shane Douglas works full-time as a teacher in Pittsburgh and isn’t likely to be going on trips to Japan during the school year. Apparently owner Ibaragi had a single meeting with Paul Heyman and got a little too excited.
– To SMW, where Eddie Gilbert no-showed the Knoxville “Super Saturday Night Fever” show he promised to work on 1/28. During the week, he left a message on Jim Cornette’s answering machine promising to be there if Cornette asked, because he didn’t want to burn another bridge. So Cornette called him at the Puerto Rican number that was left, but the phone had been disconnected. So Jim called Eddie’s parents and left a message that he wanted Eddie at the show, but everyone backstage was taking bets on whether or not he’d actually show up. He didn’t. So Unabom faced Ricky Morton in a singles match instead. (This amusing anecdote about Eddie being Eddie was about to get much darker a week later. Eddie never did return to the US.)
– Cornette is continuing to advertise Gilbert for the next two weeks, because the TV is already taped, so they’ll just say he was “suspended for something or other” on the TV show to explain why he’s not there and then change the house show matches to Morton v. Unabom.
– In ECW, Shane v. Tully II is going forward for some reason. The storyline is that Tully tried to be a wrestler in the first match, which is why it was so boring, but the rematch is going to be EVIL TULLY who comes in as a brawler. The plan is for Douglas to cut promos burying Blanchard as someone who used to work matches drunk and high on coke. (Sounds like a Twitter beef. Was Ronda Rousey writing them?)
– Ric Flair’s first match back will probably be Slamboree on 5/21, probably in a tag match with Vader against the Megapowers. Also, the Hogan-Vader program will likely not have any clean finishes, in order to avoid political problems, so Flair will be brought into it so that he can do any required jobs.
– Eric Bischoff has kind of turned WCW Worldwide into his own soapbox, going on a whole rant during a Tom Burton squash loss where he buried “supposed tough wrestling groups” like UWFI. And then he went onto a whole thing about how this guy Ken Shamrock is supposed to be such a badass, but he met up with Jerry Sags in a bar and got the shit beat out of him. In reality, the “fight” was a brutal two-on-one beating from both Nasty Boys when all three were working for the same promotion.
– Van Hammer, who “hadn’t worked for WCW in two years” in the wake of his drug bust, was on WCW Pro on 1/21.
– WCW is enforcing Paul Levesque’s non-compete clause, so he won’t be able to start with the WWF until at least 5/21. So he’s on ice for four months. Dave is kind of amazed at the contractual hardball being played here. (Just wait…)
– Tickets for WCW’s Uncensored PPV went on sale with no matches announced, although it’s believed there’s going to be some kind of gimmick matches on the show.
– To the WWF, where Diesel was at the NATPE convention, so Shawn Michaels interviewed a cardboard cutout on his segment, calling Diesel a “paper champion”. (I remember that one, it was pretty funny.) Shawn is still hinting at a new bodyguard, although Brian Lee appears to be out because his tryout match was so epically terrible that he lost his deal. Dave is impressed how badly he managed to screw up a guaranteed deal with one bad match.
– Roddy Piper did an interview for the live crowd at the TV tapings on crutches, claiming that he hurt his leg due to a shark attack while spear fishing. The more likely reason is hip replacement surgery, although unsurprisingly everyone is denying it.
– Stephanie Wiand’s performance at the Royal Rumble didn’t go unnoticed, as all her mistakes on live TV have pretty much sealed her fate.
– RAW was supposed to be in Marietta GA on 2/20, but it’s being moved to Macon GA because that was a bit too close to Atlanta. (Hopefully 1995 will be remembered as the year when they put the petty fussin’ and feudin’ between WCW and WWF aside.)
– And finally, kicking off two decades of bitching, we get our first reader writing in to complain about UFC getting the lead story in the Observer a couple of weeks ago. It’s the WRESTLING Observer, not the glorified Tough Man contest Observer! (Fear not, I’m sure that UFC fad will end soon enough…)