Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.13.95
I love that the teaser for this one on the site is “Hotline sleaze award winner” because really it could be ANYTHING coming out of Mean Gene’s mouth. But I think it’s a pretty famous case of hotline sleaze related to Blackwell’s death. Let’s see, shall we?
– But first, WCW did another round of TV tapings at the Disney Studios in Orlando, covering another three months into the future. They’re actually a lot more careful about giving away results and future storylines now, but there were still some doozies.
– First up, Hogan did interviews talking about beating Vader at SuperBrawl, although it likely won’t be pinfall unless WCW is really breaking the bank for Vader.
– Ed the Butcher Barber Brother Bruti Leslie will be turned babyface and feud with Kevin Sullivan as “The Man With No Name”.
– The whole turn was, and this is going to shock some people so hopefully everyone is sitting down, handled pretty stupidly by WCW. Basically they taped stuff out of order and so he switched between the babyface “Man with No Name” role and the heel Butcher over the course of the four day tapings.
– For those wondering, the turn is being done because Hogan hangs out with the Butcher in real life and he didn’t want fans to be confused by the shattering of kayfabe.
– Also, the name comes from Paul Heyman, who told them about his idea to use it on the guy who eventually became 911.
– The main event of the Uncensored PPV seems to be either Hogan & Savage v. Vader & Avalanche, or more likely Hogan v. Vader and Avalanche v. Savage in singles matches, Dave isn’t sure.
– More defined is the lineup for Slamboree off these tapings, which will feature Hogan & Savage v. Vader & Flair, Sting v. Big Bubba Rogers and Sullivan v. The Man With No Name.
– Frank Anderson, who you’ll recall from last week was convicted in Sweden for buying HGH, was punished and buried with wins in “about 12 squash matches”. To be fair, none of them will air in the US, only Europe. (Tough but fair!)
– Debuting at the tapings was Sgt. Craig Pittman, the former Marine who Bischoff had tried to get into UFC IV previously.
– Steve Austin returned as a heel, but immediately hurt his knee again after surgery. He’s expected back shortly, but the feeling is that his push in WCW is over for good. He was actually released earlier in the week, but returned for the tapings. (Oh, there’s about to be WAY more to that story!)
– The original Fantastics, Bobby Fulton & Tommy Rogers, worked the tapings and looked awesome, so of course they did jobs for every tag team in the promotion in squash losses.
– The hot new team is The Blue Bloods, consisting of Steven Regal & Earl Robert Eaton, taking the place of the departed Jean Paul Levesque. At the very least, they’re not pretending it’s a new person.
– Brian Pillman has already dropped the California Brian name and it’s just Flyin Brian again.
– Although Flair is heavily rumored to be taking Harley Race’s spot as Vader’s manager, that wasn’t evident at the tapings.
– The Steiners were supposed to debut on the 2/3 show, but they were in Japan and missed the tapings entirely.
– They actually marketed these tapings to wrestling fans, so it should come across as an actual wrestling crowd. (What a concept.)
– OK, over to the HOTLINE SLEAZE teased above, as Mean Gene sets new lows for the business. Gene had announced the “death of a 45 year old former World champion” to shill his hotline on Saturday, which would lead you to believe it was Ric Flair, instead of the real answer, Jerry Blackwell. And the hotline of course did all-time record business. So just to show that WCW knows exactly how to take the complete wrong lesson from anything, they’re using that as justification to push Flair even harder when he returns, because obviously there’s tons of interest in him.
– Dave thinks trying to use the teased death of their biggest star to sell hotline calls is on the level of Fritz Von Erich. In related news, Fritz Von Erich will be inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame at Slamboree. (Unless he dies first! Call the hotline to find out if he does!)
– The WWF drew a monster house show number in Montreal this week, doing nearly 12,000 people for Ray Rougeau’s first show as local promoter for the WWF. It was originally Jacques acting as promoter after his “retirement”, but he had a very public and ugly falling out with Vince and his brother took his place. The main event was Shawn Michaels (drawing monster babyface reaction even though he’s still a heel) facing Pierre Ouelette and beating him as a last minute replacement for the injured Undertaker. Pierre is going to be repackaged as a pirate right away (How does a pirate order a cheeseburger? “Aaaaaaar, I’ll have a cheeseburger.” I mean, duh. #DadJokes) but in a uniquely Vince McMahon bit of justification, they had him lose cleanly and then get destroyed by Shawn afterwards on the off-chance that he decided to screw them over and join with Jacques again in the future. (They’d be stupid not to!) Rick Martel jumped in from the crowd and made the save to a huge reaction.
– Dave talks a bit about ECW and how they’re getting under the skin of the Big Two despite never drawing more than 1000 people to a show ever. Bischoff made sure to note on TV that when they run Balitmore for their PPV, it’s an arena and not a Bingo Hall, for example. Dave notes “Its followers, remarkably similar in some ways and in other ways completely different to the mid-80s WWF fans and FMW Korakuen Hall fans, some of whom will defend it to no end, ignore its shortcomings, overstate its strengths and go crazy at even the hint any other wrestling or wrestlers could be better.” (Yeah, just ask anyone on RSPW at the time.) This leads into Dave’s live review of their house show on 2/4, which he really enjoyed.
1. The Pit Bulls & Jason the Terrible defeated Hack Myers & The Young Dragons in 11:20. Jason the Terrible, as opposed to Jason the Manager, was impressive. Hack Myers beat up both of his partners and chased off the heels with a chair, then attacked Jason the Manager. And then he caught Angel the Virgin Princess (Jason’s valet) and spanked her, but she liked it, so he kicked her in the stomach and piledrove her for a stretcher job. And this was the OPENER! **
2. Tommy Dreamer pinned Stevie Richards in 7:38. Dreamer was wearing the t-shirt of “an internet group” to suck up to them. (I’m assuming that was an RSPW thing? Dave clearly had no connection at the time. I forget what the deal was at that point, although I remember Blue Meanie wearing stuff to troll the newsgroup occasionally. Richards was active on there under different names as well.) Dreamer is over with one portion of the audience, but still not like a top babyface or anything. Raven interfered to help Richards hit a superkick, which offended Dave because it was right in front of the ref and wasn’t even a DQ! (I feel like we need a “get off my lawn!” here.) Dreamer won with a cradle and then challenged “Johnny Polo” to tell his WWF friends to kiss his ass. *1/2 (Hopefully that Raven-Dreamer feud goes somewhere.)
3. Mikey Whipwreck pinned Paul Lauria in 9:17. They’re actually BFFs from high school. The match was really choreographed but had a million cool spot attempts, some of which hit. Wasn’t as good as their previous match. *1/4
4. Ian Rotten pinned Axl Rotten in a bloodbath in 6:41. Axl destroyed him for the entire match and then Ian pinned him in the corner out of nowhere. ***1/4 (That’s exceedingly generous for their shitty matches.)
5. Chris Benoit pinned Al Snow in 14:36. Big babyface reactions for both guys. Apparently “Benoit’s execution is flawless”…
…and he’s doing a “crippler” gimmick, with Snow going out on a stretcher…
…and anyway, the match was great. ****
6. Shane Douglas beat Tully Blanchard to retain the ECW title in 10:11. The fans still haven’t forgiven Blanchard yet for the last match. Mainly brawling, crowd wasn’t into it. They’re trying to make Douglas, Benoit and Malenko into a “Three Horsemen” deal. Tully got to get some heat on Shane afterwards in exchange for doing the clean job. **
7. Cactus Jack beat Sandman in a Texas Death Match in 16:09. Jack was banged up from Japan and flew 19 hours straight to make the show anyway. Jack beat on him with chairshots and gave Sandman a severe concussion (But I thought WWE said we didn’t even know what they were until 2002!) and everything was a blur for Sandman for the rest of the match. Jack kept beating on him with weapons and going for pins, hoping Sandman would take the hint and stay down, but he was so discombobulated that he kept getting up again on instinct and completely forgot the death match rules. Finally, after nine double arm DDT pinfalls, Sandman finally remembered the finish and stayed down. ***
8. Sabu & Taz won the ECW tag titles from the Public Enemy in 9:46 of a “tables match”. Another wild brawl. Benoit got involved because they’re building to some kind of “triangular match” with all three teams in March. ****1/4
– Over to the “NWA”, as Chris Candido was supposed to drop the title to Dan Severn on his way to the WWF on 2/4, but the show in Shenandoah PA was canceled due to bad weather. The idea is to get the belt on Severn so that he’ll appear on UFC PPV wearing it and hopefully give them some free pub. (Which he did.) Unfortunately, thus far his performance in the UFC hasn’t translated into anyone paying to see him at his indy appearances. Dave is confident they’ll be able to get the belt off Candido before he leaves, at any rate.
BREAKING NEWS FROM ALL JAPAN!
– Abdullah the Butcher’s pants are “higher than ever”, says Dave.
THIS HAS BEEN BREAKING NEWS FROM ALL JAPAN! WE NOW RETURN TO YOU TO THE OBSERVER!
– In the Mexico section, Dave makes a couple of references to CMLL being “an EMLL satellite group”, marking the first mention in the Observer of the new EMLL name and something like another decade before he finally gives in and acknowledges the name change for good. And people thought I was being stubborn with John Cena’s finisher.
– The main event of WAR’s 3/26 Sumo Hall show will be a rather surprising Tenryu v. Yokozuna match.
– IWA ran a big show on 2/3 in Korakuen Hall, with a wacky main event of Cactus Jack v. Nakamaki where the buildup consisted of Jack doing vignettes around Tokyo where he bought as many thumbtacks as humanly possible. The final total was supposedly 3000, and of course Nakamaki took a sick bump on them on got pinned. The rematch will feature 25,000 of them around ringside.
– To Memphis, where Sid Vicious finally dropped the Unified title back to Jerry Lawler on 2/6. Sid is gone back to the WWF shortly. This was the only job he did in Memphis. He was attacked by a new tag team called Crusher Bones & Big Daddy Cyrus (Hell of a team name!) to turn babyface on the way out. (I was like “Damn, I wonder if that team is anyone notable or awesome, but NO, it was just shitty old Larry “Cousin Junior” Kean repackaged yet again and some other 300 pound scrub)
– To SMW, where Billy Black debuted and won the TV title to take Buddy Landel’s spot, and Al Snow took Eddie Gilbert’s spot as Unabomb’s partner at the TV tapings. The 2/18 show will feature Gilbert being “fired” to write him off TV.
– Speaking of Snow, he had to redo his win over George South at the TV tapings because it had been so long since he had worked a squash match where he was WINNING that he forgot how to time it properly. (Insert Mick Foley joke here.) So they did a rematch and they’ll splice the two matches together. The gimmick for the Snow/Unabomb team is that Snow does color commentary while Unabomb destroys both jobbers by himself, at which point he runs over from the desk and tags himself in for the pin. (From watching those shows at the time, I can testify that it was funny as hell.)
– Amazingly, Herb Abrams might have ANOTHER TV deal, an apparent weekly TV slot on ESPN 2 for two months. “ESPN continues to get the worst possible wrestling on the market” notes Dave. Dave also thinks smart promoters will wait for Herb’s deal to explode in his face and then pounce on the timeslot. (Well, it didn’t happen anyway.)
– Jim Crockett got up to 600 fans again at the Sportatorium with a John Hawk v. Tony Norris match that was said to be “the best in many years at the Sportatorium”. (Yeah, it ruled and got both guys jobs with the WWF, I’m pretty sure. It was instantly a sensation on the tape trading scene, with Norris doing an Undertaker dive that had the crowd in hysterics.)
– To WCW, where Randy Savage did an interview on TV burying the WWF and saying that he didn’t really need to win the WWF title a third time because the WCW title was the important one to him anyway.
– Vader is trying to get his contract extended for another three years in exchange for doing a job to Hulk Hogan.
– Bischoff buried Jean Paul Levesque on TV this week, saying that a lot of people thought he was going to be a big deal, but he was just another guy who couldn’t cut the mustard, like Maxx Payne. (Well he was right about one of them.)
– The production guys actually edited out the spot at the Clash where Hogan pops up from the powerbomb in their recap videos, because it was such a bad idea, but then Hogan did promos where he specifically mentioned doing it.
– Hogan is pushing hard for Ultimate Warrior to come in, specifically doing an interview with Gong Magazine where he put Warrior over as his only real competition several times. Oh, and he also knew WWF was going down and decided to leave on his own because he needed a change. However, he made the fatal error of claiming to be undefeated in Japan (which was Hogan being Hogan) but the Japanese keep track of that stuff and it made him look really bad.
– So this new guy Paul White, who is something like 7’2” and 440 pounds, will be coming into WCW as “Paul Bunyan” because Hogan wants to create a “new Andre” to act as a permanent heel foil for him.
– Jim Neidhart is done with the WWF and might be coming in to work with Hogan as well.
– Over to the WWF, where as noted Sid is coming in for the TV tapings at the end of the month to play Shawn’s new bodyguard. Oddly, with Shawn stepping down as color commentator for RAW, Jesse Ventura may be coming back to replace him now that the lawsuit is settled.
– Returning possibly at the next tapings will be Yokozuna & Fuji, Nikolai Volkoff and probably Pierre the Pirate.
– Even the kayfabed Japanese wrestling magazines are calling Diesel a box office failure, so you know it’s bad.
– In Dave’s continued investigation of WWF’s claims of “148 countries” airing WWF PPVs live, he found one country in Europe that airs them, as well as the US and Canada, “which does seem to be something less than 148 nations”. (Hopefully he’ll continue to update us on this hard hitting story.)
– And finally, Vince McMahon claimed that “only a few tickets” were left for Wrestlemania at this point, so Dave called the Hartford Civic Center box office and was offered fourth row ringside. (To be fair, maybe it was ONLY the ringside seats that were left and all the stands were sold out.)