Wrestling Observer Flashback – 03.27.95
Did you think that Best of ECW Volumes 1 and 2 was as EXTREME as the blog was getting this week? Then prepare yourself, because it’s time for WCW UNCENSORED!
But first, another death…
– John Minton, aka Big John Studd, succumbed to liver cancer on 03/20 after living for 17 months with Hodgkin’s Disease. Studd discovered the disease when he filled in for a match at the last minute in 11/93 and was instantly blown up and off his game, even considering how long he had been off. He was taking a shower later on and felt a hard lump in his chest, which was revealed to be a tumor when he went to the doctor.
– Studd had been downplaying the severity of the disease because he didn’t want to overshadow the potential success of his trainee, Ron Reis, but after months of chemotherapy and 20 weeks in the hospital, his lungs collapsed and then he suffered a 108 degree fever on 03/10. He lived through it, but was given a death sentence at that point and got heavily into religion before passing away 10 days later.
– Minton started in early 1972 after training with Killer Kowalski, working as a prelim guy for the WWWF named Chuck O’Connor and sometimes The Mighty Minton. He would frequently team with fellow trainee Superstar Billy Graham and they used to torture the Tolos brothers by potatoing them to death with clumsy punches. Minton left for a bit and returned in 1976 as a team with Kowalski as the Executioners, winning the WWWF tag team titles for his first big push.
– He moved to Texas a year later and became Big John Studd, after first debuting as Captain USA to oppose Fritz Von Erich as a monster heel. (What a weird dynamic.) After changing his name to Studd, he went to Mid-Atlantic and drew monster numbers against Blackjack Mulligan, to the point where he used to tell his kids to thank Mulligan for the nice house that they lived in.
– Of course, once Vince went national, he brought Studd in for a feud with Andre, and Studd’s billed height suddenly grew 4 inches, and he wore lifts in his boots so he could be billed as 6’10”. (Too bad steroids don’t make you taller, too.)
– After a few years of big money in the WWF, Studd was basically set for life and decided to be a Hollywood star instead. He had a part in the movie “Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man” and fell off a motorcycle during the shoot, which he later blamed for causing his cancer. Because, you know, he didn’t do steroids, so they couldn’t be the cause.
(And now, your Ron Howard narration payoff…)
– Of course, he totally did do steroids and lied about it constantly to everyone, even to the end. He was also a pioneer in the new and exciting field of Human Growth Hormone, which caused him to balloon to 400 pounds at the end of his career and destroyed his knees and mobility.
– Studd actually told people that HGH was safer than steroids, but a wrestling magazine published before and after photos of some wrestlers who had gotten “bigger” over the years, and Studd’s forehead bones actually grew in the 10 years between photos, moving his eyes further apart. (Ew, creepy.)
– Finally, at the very end of his life, Studd admitted to close friend Billy Graham that he wasn’t saying HGH necessarily caused the cancer that killed him, but it certainly could have accelerated it.
– In fact, Studd was so protective of the business that it wasn’t until the Vince McMahon trial in 1994, where he was sworn in under oath from his hospital bed, that he finally admitted to taking steroids after 20 years of denying it. Vince, meanwhile, hadn’t actually heard about Studd’s condition because it was such a closely guarded secret, and actually accused the prosecution of lying about it and demanded the name of the doctor so he could have confirmation. Even after all that, Studd still testified that he believed Zahorian to be doing a “great service” to the wrestling community because steroids were an important part of the training regiment of a wrestler and they needed to maintain their performance level.
– Vince had actually brought Studd back for a final run in 1989 against heel Andre. But by this time, Andre was shot physically and so was Studd, and also Andre was much crankier due to his physical problems. One night he actually fell asleep in the ring and Studd had to hold him in a headlock while trying to wake him up. This sort of thing, combined a measly $3500 per week payoff for a top role and a lousy Wrestlemania payoff, led him to walk away from the company again and he basically never returned to the ring.
– OK, over to WCW, who changed promotional heads yet again. Bill Shaw was replaced by Harvey Schiller, the head of TBS Sports, as the head of WCW. The actual decisions and power are still wielded by Eric Bischoff, as Schiller’s role is said to be largely a figure-head one. Schiller’s mandate, if you can believe it, is to focus even more on Hulk Hogan than we already have seen. The idea is that with Schiller running both TBS and WCW, there will be more crossover and synergy between the sports and fake sports divisions of the company.
– In a weird power shift in Mexico, the corporation owned by Televisa that technically owned AAA has folded due to bankruptcy, so Antonio Pena took all the AAA wrestlers and formed a new corporation called PRODEAR, which now owns a technically different wrestling promotion that is now also called AAA and features all of the same people, and still airs on Televisa. (I guess it’s like if TBS had folded the Universal Wrestling Corporation, which was the legal entity that owned WCW, and then Eric Bischoff took all the talent and trademarks and started a new and legally distinct wrestling company on his own which was also called WCW, and kept airing it on TBS.)
– We’ll get to Uncensored soon enough (or as Dave titled the poll, “WCW Should Have Been Censored”) but coming out of the show, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Darsow and Mike Graham were all fired because of the “King of the Road” match that aired as a part of it. There was blood, you see, and blood is against the rules this week. This also looks to put the future of Dusty Rhodes in jeopardy, although he’s reportedly pissed off and thinks it’s certain people setting him up to fail and he might just quit anyway. However, Dusty returning for Slamboree is a major selling point, and booker Ric Flair (Dave strongly notes that he’s booker “in name only” because we all know who’s running the show) wants to have Dusty do one more run to draw some money.
– Anyway, the match was pre-taped in Atlanta on 3/14 despite being advertised as live, and agent Mike Graham not only told both guys to bleed despite the strenuously maintained WCW rule about blood, but in fact brought blades with him for them to use. (And yet if you give them out at Halloween people think you’re some kind of MONSTER.) Dustin and Bully had what was described as an “excellent” 20:00 match in the back of the truck by people who were actually there…which was then edited into a 13:00 travesty on the PPV due to awful camera work and cutting around the blood.
– Rhodes and Darsow were both fired because they were supposed to know about the policy, despite being told by their supervisor to do it and actually given blades to do so, and despite the fact that they were on a show called UNCENSORED, and despite the fact that HULK HOGAN had just done the same thing in a heavily promoted match against Vader. None of this was apparently a convincing defense and the firings stood, which by a staggering coincidence come at a time when TBS is under intense pressure to cut the budget drastically. (Gosh, I hope they don’t fire anyone else unjustly, perhaps by courier.)
– Darsow’s contract was nearly up anyway and he was going to be cut loose, but Dustin was more a case of the political winds blowing the wrong way and those above him wanting to go into a different direction with the babyface side of the company. Dave thinks Dustin will probably pop up in the WWF because he’s young and can work.
– Speaking of former members of Demolition (quality segue from Dave there!), Brian Adams was arrested on drug and gun charges and immediately fired by the WWF as a result. (Whoa, he was still working for the WWF in March of 95?) He was arrested on 3/13 in Hawaii while on an extended hiatus from the company and running a gym, and police found 500 units of steroids in his home and several unregistered handguns. The WWF immediately issued a press release saying that his contract was terminated. (These days, Jeff Hardy is arrested for literally being found drunk and/or pilled up in an alley and WWE is like “Eh, their personal life isn’t our business” because god forbid anyone goes to AEW.)
– OK, time for WCW UNCENSORED. Dave is kind of amazed that despite coming just a few weeks after another show, this one did pretty good. Tupelo drew 5782 fans in a 7000 seat building, which is close enough to a sellout for WCW.
– While the poll results were slightly negative, they don’t really communicate just HOW negative the reaction to the show was. Dave actually kind of liked it as far as overwhelmingly terrible shows go, but most people HATED it. Clearly Flair is only coming back so that Hogan can have a “punching bag” to take the pins for him because no one else wants to. In fact, the main event of the show featured Flair returning to take the pinfall in a match he wasn’t even scheduled in.
– Also phased down was Sting, who got replaced at the top of the card by THE RENEGADE, who is as close to a clone of the Ultimate Warrior as Hogan could get without technically infringing on WWF’s copyrights. In fact, he was originally to be called “The Renegade Warrior” and given Warrior’s face paint, but they had to back down severely from that plan for legal reasons. (I can’t imagine why.)
– The show was a complete disaster, with all the heels playing buffoons who were there for comedic reasons only in an effort to appeal to kids.
A. Alex Wright pinned Mark Starr with a crossbody at 2:44 on the Main Event. *
B. Steve Austin pinned Tim Horner with a superplex at 1:27, and then left the ring with Robert Parker afterwards. ¼*
C. Marcus Bagwell & The Patriot beat Dick Slater & Bunkhouse Buck in 9:34 when Bagwell pinned Slater. During the match, Hogan did a pre-taped interview where he revealed that “The Ultimate Surprise” was in fact the Renegade, and was not Ultimate Warrior, just in case there was claims that they were advertising Warrior on the PPV. ½*
1. Blacktop Bully beat Dustin Rhodes in the King of the Road match by honking the horn. Absolutely horrible. -**
2. Meng pinned Jim Duggan in a martial arts match in 7:04. (The closest we’d ever come to WCW’s version of the UFC. Sigh.) It was a karate match, but Dave never realized there was pinfalls in karate. Also, this was among the WORST MATCHES EVER. Duggan looked worse than usual, which shouldn’t even be possible. Meng no-sold the three point stance and then hit Duggan with the thrust kick for the win while he was beating up Parker. -**
3. Johnny B. Badd beat Arn Anderson in a boxing v. wrestling match. This was basically copied from the Hogan/Stallone match in Rocky III. Badd’s trainer put a bucket on Arn’s head and Johnny punched it, then delivered the KO punch at 0:22 of round 3. Dave notes that it was hardly an MMA match, but it was entertaining enough. **1/2 (I also really enjoyed this match! It was a definite highlight on an otherwise dire show.)
4. Randy Savage beat Avalanche by DQ in 11:44 when Ric Flair interfered in drag. Avalanche dominated the match and looked terrible. No heat for the match. *1/4
5. Big Bubba Rogers pinned Sting in 13:43. Solid, basic, well-worked match. Sting blew out his knee on a leap frog and Rogers worked it over before reversing a slam attempt for the win. **1/2
6. The Nasty Boys beat Harlem Heat in a tornado match in 8:43. The crowd was really burned out by this point. They brawled into a fake concession stand with no employees or fans (Sounds like a real WCW concession stand to me) and proceeded to have the worst concession stand brawl in history, which still makes it pretty good. There was an inside rib during the match, as Bobby said “The inmates are running the asylum” as a wink to the letter sent by Vince to Ted Turner trying to get him to shut down the company.
(I’ve been waiting to work that one in for AGES.)
Anyway, Knobs pinned Booker with a powerslam on the remains of a stand. **1/2
7. Hulk Hogan beat Vader in a strap match by dragging Ric Flair to all four corners. (And Dave doesn’t understand why people hate this show so much?!?) Michael Buffer announced that the match was sanctioned by WCW, even though the entire gimmick of the show is that none of the matches are sanctioned by WCW. (Yeah, well, the Savage match ended in a DQ on a show with all no-DQ matches, and Dave didn’t complain about THAT one.) Renegade came out to his Ultimate Warrior music and beat up Ric Flair for the entire match as well. Hogan and Vader had a good 18:00 match, although they would cut away during the violent parts. Note for those trying to navigate TV standards in 1995: It’s OK if Hogan hits people with chairs, but it’s not OK if people are hitting Hogan with chairs. Vader missed a moonsault and Hulk somehow put the strap on Flair, and then dragged him to all four corners to win. Hogan, Renegade, and Randy Savage in a Black Scorpion outfit stolen from a bound-and-gagged Arn Anderson all posed together to end the show, which was 20 minutes short. (Well at least there’s THAT.) ***1/2 (Overall Dave was WAAAAAAAAY nicer to this show than myself or anyone else.)
– To Japan, where Jushin Liger’s injury woes continue and in fact they are said to be so severe that his career may be over. (This was written 25 years ago, keep in mind)
– FMW did another sellout with a Onita v. Pogo match on 3/15 in Sapporo, drawing 6800 people as they keep getting mileage out of this feud. This time, Onita worked as The Great Nita, and promised that when he retires on 5/5, so will the Great Nita. The finish saw them fighting over an axe and a barbed wire baseball bat that was lit on fire, at which point Pogo loaded up his mouth with kerosene and was going to spit fire at Nita. Nita blocked it by shooting his green mist at Pogo, causing him to swallow the kerosene, and then hit him in the face with the flaming baseball bat and pinned him. (See, why does WWE have to overthink their finishes so much? Just keep it SIMPLE!)
– Crowds in Memphis continue to be strong for PG-13 v. Tommy Rich & Doug Gilbert.
– In a historic first at the ECW Arena, Tommy Dreamer finally got a match with newcomer Raven after going through a gauntlet featuring Tony Stetson, Johnny Hot Body and Stevie Richards, but then got easily pinned by Raven after the three jobbers brutalized him with help from Terry Funk. (Well, I’m sure he’ll get his win back soon enough. Also, I was amused at Dave making sure to put “Johnny Polo” in brackets after Raven’s name, in case we weren’t sure who it was.)
– The show also saw a weird situation where Marty Jannetty missed his flight, so Paul E. and Sabu came out and threw out an open challenge to anyone. At this point a 400 pound guy in the crowd tried to come out for the fight while the crowd chanted “212” for him as some kind of support, and 911 and Taz both ran down and nearly got into it with him before security got everyone back to the dressing room and calmed the situation down. (I don’t want to start connecting dots where there aren’t any, but could that 400 pound fan have been Erich “Mass Transit” Kulas, I wonder?)
– Update on the Ultimate Warrior student loan debacle: Jim Hellwig actually did an interview on the TV station that broke the news about his deadbeat ways, and he stated he was “tired of being harassed” about the whole thing and would in fact pay back the $128,000 that he owed. (Yeah! I’m sick of my mortgage company always harassing me as well and making me pay for the house I live in every month. What is this, communist Germany?) Anyway, Warrior joked that he could afford the loan now because he was appearing on WCW’s PPV that was airing on the weekend. (At least he had a sense of humor about the situation. Maybe he should have stuck Renegade with the bill as well.)
– Update on the Jacques Rougeau retirement reneging from last week as well: In fact, as of press time Rougeau is still safely retired, because the guy working the indy show that Dave talked about last issue was a totally unrelated wrestler who called himself “The Mountie” but in fact is just a trainee of Killer Kowalski. (I was hoping I could find some mindblowing link that showed the guy became, like, Chris Nowinski or something, but I guess it was just some guy.)
– John McCain still won’t fucking let it go with UFC, as he sent tapes of his Dateline NBC appearance to North Carolina governor Jim Hunt trying to get him to stop the shows from continuing in that state. The government, however, apparently doesn’t even have jurisdiction to do so because it’s under the purview of the Boxing Commission, and they don’t want to do anything because it’s not boxing. For the record, the commissioner supports UFC and said “It’s not like they just pick every Bubba who drinks Blue Ribbon beer” and further noted that he sees “more brutality at a hockey game”. Meanwhile, UFC was going to do a show in Kansas, but McCain’s efforts DID manage to get the show banned in that state, so the planned 6/23 show in Wichita is off. (Frankly it’s a shock that they ever made it past UFC 10 or so!)
– John Hawk, who as noted is getting ready for a big push in WAR as Death Mask, dropped his North American title to Greg Valentine before a crowd of “less than 300” at the Sportatorium on 3/18 and is gone from the promotion.
– In your heel turn of the week, Billy Jack Haynes was working a crappy indy show in Portland for a dying promotion, and in their final show on 3/11 he turned on the fans, claiming that the white fans didn’t support him when he was “down and out” and that he was actually a Modoc Indian who was returning to seek revenge on the people who massacred his tribe years ago. (And you thought Tatanka was an angry heel.)
– To WCW, where the only thing of note is that they’re still trying to hammer out who the new Four Horsemen will end up being in June. The most common names are Flair, Arn, Steve Austin, Vader and maybe Curt Hennig. Dave admits that the last one is “a longshot”.
– Turns out the reason for 1-2-3 Kid missing TV tapings lately is that he suffered a concussion against Hakushi at MSG, his second in the span of 10 days. (How is this guy still able to function normally? I mean, “normal” aside from the stupid little dog he carries around with him.)
– And finally, the latest rumor is that Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch will be repackaged into obnoxious fitness gurus who yell at the fans for being fat and out of shape. (So much for Vince’s dreams of Mighty Mouse.)
Whew! This was quite the issue!
Next time: WRESTLEMANIA! The most successful and lucrative one of all time, if Dave’s predictions are to be believed.