Wrestling Observer Flashback–03.06.95

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 03.06.95

OK, let’s try this one more time. Maybe if I skim over the Eddie Gilbert stuff it’ll get done easier.

– Eddie Gilbert was found dead in his apartment in Puerto Rico on 2/18, at age 33. Ken Wayne found the body after spending all day knocking on his door to discuss booking ideas. Eddie had actually asked him to come out at the last minute, needing help with booking the upcoming show, and Wayne finally broke in through a window when Eddie wouldn’t answer the door.

– Oddly, Gilbert’s last match on 2/17 in Humacao was against a wrestling bear.

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(No, like an actual one…)

– Gilbert had worked for pretty much every major office during his 17 year career, although he was constantly told that he wasn’t big enough to headline and that led to issues with steroid abuse. He eventually moved into an erratic role as a booker, turning around Alabama for a brief time in 1988 for example, but burned bridges everywhere he went at the end of his career. He ran the gamut from shoot interviews on live TV to winning titles and then leaving the territory with the belt.

– Eddie actually had the talent to be a professional journalist if he had chosen to go that way, but the wrestling was too much in his blood.

– Eddie was brought into the WWF in 1982 in a glorified jobber role, but suffered a broken neck in a car accident in 1983 and became the focal point of an angle between Bob Backlund and Masked Superstar, when Superstar “re-injured” Eddie’s neck while Gilbert was the protégé of Backlund. Ironically, his neck really was causing him continued troubles, which he medicated with painkillers and steroids provided by on-screen doctor George Zahorian.

– Eddie’s first big break came in 1984, when he teamed up in Memphis with Tommy Rich as “The New Fabulous Ones”, which was Jackie Fargo’s stupid and impulsive retaliation against the real Fabulous Ones leaving the territory. When fan backlash hit hard and fast, Gilbert turned on Rich and suddenly became a headliner and singles star in his home territory for the first time. That run was blown off by Gilbert losing to Jerry Lawler in a match where Jimmy Hart had to leave Memphis as a result.

– In 1985, Eddie moved to Mid-South, but Bill Watts wasn’t ready to buy someone 200 pounds as a top heel and made Eddie into a jobber and then a manager instead. But in 1986, with Bill trying to get out of the wrestling business, he finally let Gilbert achieve a lifelong dream, and made him the booker of the UWF. Eddie immediately pushed this blond kid named Sting a year before anyone else did, and also gave Shane Douglas his name and first push in hopes of making him into the next superstar. (Well, he was batting .500 there.)

– Gilbert moved to Alabama after the Crockett buyout of the UWF, and had a successful run booking the CWF with best friend Paul Heyman before inevitably having a breakup with owner David Woods. Gilbert claimed to have a neck injury, but worked a show in Kansas City behind Woods’ back, and then lied about it afterwards.

– After getting brought back to WCW and then fired from booking committee again, Gilbert’s marriage to Missy Hyatt fell apart and he fell into a vicious circle consisting of:

1. Talk his way into a booking job with a gullible promoter.

2. Pop the territory for a few weeks by recycling Jerry Lawler angles from the 70s.

3. Negotiate with other promoters while lying to the “mark” promoter he was currently working for.

4. Walk out on the territory with a ridiculous explanation and return to step 1.

– Eventually, he lied about his injuries and retirements so many times that people stepped believing he was even injured, even as he was wracked with pain and addicted to Percocet. He wanted to be Jerry Lawler and Terry Funk at the same time and just couldn’t live up to either one.

– Most sadly, neither WWF or WCW even acknowledged his death on their TV shows. ECW will probably mention him.

– Eddie asked to be buried in his wrestling boots, and the issue of PWI where he was named Rookie of the Year will be in there with him.

– OK, now it’s over to SUPERBRAWL!

– For years, WCW would put on great shows plagued by poor promotion and production, and now things are 180 degrees in the other direction.

– The show in Baltimore drew a legit sellout of 13,900 people (10,000 paid), and Dave suspects a strong buyrate as well. It was actually the third biggest gate in WCW history, at $165,000. (Kind of mind-blowing considering how Nitro would start blowing those records out of the water in 1997 on a regular basis!)

– On the flip side, the show was bad. The finishes where unbelievably bad. Not one got over. Also, a four hour show (counting the Main Event pre-show) only works when you’ve got strong talent depth. However, the pre-show did have the amazing highlight of Vader punching through his limo window to scare off Tony Schiavone.

The Main Event results:

1. Paul Orndorff pinned Brad Armstrong in 3:45 in a complete squash. Eric spent the match hyping up Brad’s involvement in the upcoming cruiserweight tournament, which shows you how well THAT is gonna get over. ¼*

2. Marcus Bagwell & The Patriot beat Romeo Valentino & Dino Cassnova in 1:10, which was just a backdrop for Vader to come out and destroy all four. ½*

3. Arn Anderson beat Johnny B. Badd in a lumberjack match to retain the TV title in 4:29. Surprisingly bad! DUD

To the main show!

1. Alex Wright pinned Paul Roma in 13:21. Wright got no pop at all. Match wasn’t good because Roma called the match and wouldn’t give Wright any offense since he was pouting about doing the job. Roma did an incredible top rope elbow, but picked up Wright at two, and then Alex dropkicked him into Orndorff and got the pin. *

2. Jim Duggan pinned Bunkhouse Buck in 11:58. Very clumsy and Duggan is slow enough to make everything look bad. Duggan speared Buck for the pin. -1/2*

3. Kevin Sullivan pinned Dave Sullivan in 7:18. Dave notes that Evad makes Jim Duggan look like Kawada in the ring. The finish was cute, with Kevin smashing Dave’s face into Brutus Beefcake’s metal-enhanced face for the pin and to set up Brutus’s babyface turn. The match would be a landslide for Worst Match of the Year in any other year, but not in the year with Sting v. Tony Palmore from the Tokyo Dome. -**

4. Harlem Heat retained the WCW tag titles over the Nasty Boys via Dusty Finish in 17:07. People were really into the match and seemed to want to go nuts for something but had to sit through the crap in the first three matches instead. Booker T keeps getting better, notes Dave. Sags got thrown over the top behind the ref’s back, leading to Stevie Ray getting pinned by Knobs to apparently win the tag titles. But then Randy Anderson came out and told Nick Patrick about the DQ, and the decision was reversed. **

5. Blacktop Bully pinned Dustin Rhodes in 16:10. No heat for this, and the Bully gimmick isn’t working. (I was never even 100% clear on what the gimmick WAS, to be honest). Dustin went for a suplex into the ring, but Parker tripped him and held the foot for the pin. *1/4

6. Sting & Randy Savage beat Avalanche & Big Bubba Rogers in 10:18. Avalanche is now from “Mt. Everest, Washington”. Savage worked shirtless so you know he was fired up, and they had a strong match. Avalanche is now 516 pounds because Mabel is 505, you see. Sting did a bodypress on Avalanche, who tripped over Bubba and got pinned. ***

7. Hulk Hogan beat Vader by DQ in 15:10 to retain the WCW title. Flair got involved and got destroyed by Hogan, but the ref DQ’d Vader anyway. Flair and Vader double-teamed Hulk afterwards, but Sting and Savage made the save. ***1/4

– There was of course no mention of Gilbert’s death on the show. (Probably because Mean Gene couldn’t figure out a way to make money off it like Jerry Blackwell’s death.)

– Original finish of Hogan-Vader was going to be the Bash 88 blood stoppage, which is why Michael Buffer introduced the athletic commissioner, but there was some kind of political stuff behind the scenes and it was changed to a DQ instead. Neither guy was going to do a clean job regardless.

– Dave thinks it’s pretty telling that WCW finally packs a house with a match that people want to see, and then immediately runs shitty finishes up and down the show. Almost like people don’t learn from history or something!

– New Japan will be holding a press conference on 2/26 to announce the lineup of the North Korea show in April. Main event is rumored to be Inoki v. Flair for the first time ever.

– BREAKING HOTLINE SHOCKING NEWS: The cruiserweight tournament has been delayed yet again and Sabu won’t be coming to WCW after all. The tournament was supposed to happen on 2/21 and then got moved to 3/4 and then got moved again to 4/4 and now it’s tentatively scheduled for June. Also in June, WCW plans to run their own version of UFC on PPV. (OH MY GOD why could that not have happened? We’d still be talking about it today!)

– All Japan actually RAN AN ANGLE on 2/17 at Budokan, with Kawada & Taue facing Stan Hansen & Dan Kroffat in the main event. Kawada was “knocked out” by a lariat on the floor, although Taue still pinned Kroffat to win.

– To New Japan, where this Tenzan kid continues to get a megapush, pinning Kensuke Sasaki to win a six-man match. Also, young Koji Kanemoto upset Norio Honaga to win the IWGP junior title.

– Dan Severn is going to come in for the 2/24 SMW show in Erlanger KY so he can win the NWA title from Chris Candido before Candido starts with the WWF.

– Ric Flair was doing an autograph session in Durham to promote a gym opening, and someone asked him about Shane Douglas. Ric diplomatically noted that Shane is a school teacher first, and that you do whatever you need to make a name for yourself in wrestling.

– Douglas was also offered an audition as color commentator for RAW. (I can’t even imagine how annoying that would get.)

– Jim Crockett is back on the good side of the NWA again. (Whew.) The main event of the 2/25 show at the Sportatorium will be “WWF Superstar Virgil” against Dick Murdoch. (Um…that might be awkward. Hopefully Virgil has some backup if Dick invites him over to see his ranch afterwards. Look, Virgil, if Dick wants to workshop a new masked character, just get out of there, buddy!)

– WCW did some aggressive marketing at the Toy Fair, spending big money on advertising with full color ads in all the journals. The WWF was just an afterthought in Hasbro’s displays, by contrast. WCW reps were really hitting the foreign market hard, claiming that “everyone knows the WWF has gone down and WCW is #1” because foreign buyers wouldn’t know any better. Plus Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were there for WCW, so there you go. Lines for the Megapowers were long, while there was minimal interest in Diesel and Bret on the WWF side. (You know who they SHOULD have sent…?)

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(Oh, yeah, I guess not.)

– WCW is REALLY interested in this Paul Wight kid, who is 7’2” and 440 pounds, but they still can’t quite decide what gimmick to give him.

– To the WWF, where “Jeff Barber” (Lightning from WCW’s Thunder and Lightning, which would be Jeff FARMER) and Jungle Jim Steele got a tryout at the 2/20 RAW tapings and looked better than their WCW work. (Farmer went on to be Craig Pittman’s nemesis Cobra and then the Fake Sting later on, which means we nearly got a Sting ripoff and an Ultimate Warrior ripoff teaming up in the WWF! Glad that Vince would never stoop to THAT kind of thing.)

– Also getting a tryout, SMW’s Unabom, as “Mike Unabom”. Dave notes that based on who was getting tryouts, what message does this send to young wrestlers looking for a job with Titan? (I dunno, study libertarianism?)

– And then Dave recaps the RAW show on 2/27 and just off-handedly buries the biggest story, ending with “Shawn Michaels introduced Sid Vicious as his bodyguard.”

– Dave also buries the internet, noting that despite rumors here and everywhere, Jesse Ventura was never coming in as a color commentator on RAW. It appears to be “something started on computer bulletin boards which people who should have known better reported as a news item and it has become a news item.” (So there you go, Dave’s longtime Twitter problems traced back to their source!)

– And finally, in a minor note that ended up bigger, they changed the house show policy so that everything is clean finishes to keep people strong. This has resulted in Shawn Michaels beating top babyfaces Lex Luger and Davey Boy Smith in short matches with the superkick because he’s headlining Wrestlemania. (And that’s exactly what turned him into a legit main eventer once and for all!)

And with that, this one is finally in the books after weeks of trying!