Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.17.95
Previously in the Flashback… https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2019/08/01/wrestling-observer-flashback-04-10-95-part-2/
The headline for this one is “Wrestlemania Tanks”, so I can only assume that Rusev was involved somehow?
– So the WWF did a post-WM press conference where they announced that they were expecting “the largest grossing wrestling event of all time”, which Dave notes was never a realistic expectation. But in the end, the buyrate was far below even their worst projections. Industry estimates put the show anywhere from a 1.3 to a 1.5 buyrate, which is down from 1994’s 1.7 buyrate. One of the most reliable sources puts the show at a 1.5, or 365,000 buys, or a $5.8 million gross. Given the money and publicity pumped into the show, that puts it squarely into the category of “FLOP”.
– Also, business in Canada was even worse because Lawrence Taylor means nothing in the land of three downs. (To be fair, that’s probably my fault, because I was watching on a grey market C-band satellite dish at that point, so my money went to whatever US satellite company was providing the show to me.)
– Within the industry, blame is being pointed squarely at increasing the price from $30 to $35 between X and XI. Although ratings were way up from all the pub, it didn’t translate to people buying the show. Dave also concedes that perhaps Taylor, who is “known” outside of the New York market but not exactly “beloved”, didn’t have the juice needed to make the show a mainstream crossover success. Especially considering how much the mainstream press was writing off the show as a “farce”. (Kevin Nash involved in a farce? WELL I NEVER.) Dave also thinks people in the business should be worried, because what if running a PPV nearly ever month has caused this crash in the PPV business? Then everyone’s screwed.
– Also, based on the show flopping, chances of Taylor getting another gig don’t look good.
– Meanwhile, Shawn Michaels is “injured” for a little bit after the Sid angle on RAW, and he’ll be returning as a top babyface thanks to getting cheered for the past few months at house shows. The only problem is that they’re REALLY weak on the heel side now, with only Sid left to carry the main event side. (Can’t see THAT going badly for them.) Of course, Sid is inevitably going to get cheered and turned into a babyface, too. Dave doesn’t object to Shawn turning babyface, but the timing just seems weird and rushed.
– UFC V took place on 4/7 in Charlotte, NC, and as usual ended with more questions and new problems. The stars of the show were wrestlers: Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. Severn brought his NWA World title belt with him, complete with Dennis Coraluzzo holding it up for him before every fight, and blitzed the tournament to win. Although Severn was the more impressive fighter, it was likely Shamrock who will end up as the bigger star thanks to his lengthy fight with Royce Gracie that ended in a draw.
– Meanwhile, the Gracie family are making more and more enemies thanks to their disdain for other forms of martial arts, which are apparently “fraudulent” in real street fighting situations. As opposed to brazillian jiu jitsu.
(There you go, just saved your life.)
– Anyway, Gracie was supposed to go in there and destroy Shamrock, a mere PRO WRESTLER, but Ken hung in there and took him to a 30 minute draw in a horribly dull fight that regardless completely exposed that Gracie Jiu Jitsu might not be the supreme martial art that they’ve been claiming since UFC 1. (Just wait until they meet Sakuraba.)
– Meanwhile, another star got made during the tournament, in the form of Russian sambo fighter Oleg Taktarov. He lost in the semi-finals to Severn, left a bloody mess, but he claimed that the stoppage was early, as a result of anti-Russian sentiments from the promoters.
– For the record, the legal forces in the government who were trying to shut the show down gave up, finally admitting that there’s not actually legal reason to do so.
– Sabu was fired by ECW after no-showing the “Three Way Dance” show on 4/8, although it was known that he was already booked for a New Japan show at the same time. Sabu’s explanation was that he was going to work the Japan show and then fly over for the ECW show, which he would magically accomplish due to time differences. Dave helpfully points out that this isn’t actually how it works.
– Sabu’s allegiance was to New Japan in this case, since he was building to a NJPW Junior title shot at the Fukuoka Dome in May and felt like if he missed the 4/8 date, he would be fired from Japan and wouldn’t be able to get his job in Japan back again. He also knew this would probably mean pissing off ECW. In fact, Heyman had come to Sabu days before the show and offered to take him out and replace him with someone else because he didn’t want to false advertise (much like how he advertised paydays to the talent that would clear?) but Sabu repeatedly assured both Heyman and Gordon that he would make both the Japan and ECW dates. It wasn’t until the morning of the show, when Gordon called Sabu and got an answering machine message that he was in Japan, that everyone realized that they had been played. Sabu’s side is that he only agreed to do the show because Heyman badgered him on the phone during their conversation on 4/2 and wouldn’t let him off the phone unless he agreed.
– Heyman did a big speech at the show burying Sabu, which led to the fans chanting “Fuck Sabu”. (Which is all ridiculous considering how easily Heyman took him back and then how fans forgot all about his transgressions.) The rest of the show was good, but not as good as previous shows, with Eddy Guerrero winning the ECW TV Title from Scorpio and Public Enemy winning the headlining Three Way Dance.
– Meanwhile, Sabu broke his ankle in the match against Gedo on 4/8 in Japan, but given his makes thousands of dollars per week in Japan, he’ll likely tape it up and work through it.
– Undertaker managed to revitalize Smoky Mountain Wrestling for a weekend, as Pikeville did a 2000 turnaway sellout for “Bluegrass Brawl”, with Undertaker teaming with Tracy Smothers & Bob Armstrong in the main event to beat the Gangstas & D-Lo Brown. Undertaker pinned D-Lo for the win, so the Gangstas had to salute the rebel flag. (The idea of black people being forced to salute the Confederate flag as a BABYFACE payoff is truly an idea unique to Jim Cornette’s world. Also, I’d post a picture of the flag, but then someone might send me an angry e-mail about encouraging racism.)
– Dave finally watched Wrestlemania himself, and he thought Shawn v. Diesel was not as good as the previous issue made it out to be. He’d also give Taylor v. Bigelow only ** and he’d put Undertaker v. Bundy at -*. He doesn’t think the LT match deserves criticism, but calling it “miracle” is a bit much. Overall, the show was a thumbs down. However, if they put the women’s title match from RAW on the show, it would have been a thumbs up.
– FMW finally announced the card for the 5/5 baseball stadium show, which is practically sold out anyway. The main event is, as expected, Atsushi Onita v. Tarzan Goto in a no rope electrified barbed wire match, but this time the bombs will be STRONGER THAN EVER BEFORE. Hayabusa will return from Florida for the show and will get pushed as the top star of the promotion once Onita retires.
– It looks like Paul Orndorff will be challenging the IWGP champion on WCW’s Slamboree PPV in May instead of Johnny B. Badd, so it’s likely that Muto will win the title from Hashimoto to set it up.
– To Memphis, where they’re trying to make Brian Lee into the next Sid as top heel, but he’s not drawing like Sid. Even with Razor Ramon as Unified champion, crowds are way down.
– Turns out that the Jerry Springer episode with the Gangstas and Jim Cornette has been scrapped. Dave thinks that’s for the best.
– Back to ECW, as Tommy Dreamer and Raven did an angle with some girl in the front row, with the story being that they were chasing the same girl in summer camp or something. (That’s a pretty reductive recap…)
– Jim Crockett switching his shows to bi-weekly on Tuesday is probably the death knell for the promotion.
– Over to WCW, where the next round of cuts look to be Brutus Beefcake, Joey Maggs, Steve Keirn…and one other we’ll get to. Beefcake was given his notice, but he’s pissed off because they already offered him a two year deal leading into Starrcade, and although he hadn’t signed it as such, it was supposedly a done deal.
– Meanwhile, the fourth guy to be cut is probably Steve Austin. He’s doing jobs like crazy and finally just lied and said he had to go home and tend to his sick son rather than continue to lose every match. Clearly there’s no future plans for him at this point.
– The Road Warriors and Steiners may or may not be coming in for a show that may or may not be the 6/18 PPV in Daytona, although that may or may not happen.
– Perry Saturn and John Kronus got a tryout on 4/5 and looked great. (So of course they didn’t get hired.)
– Back to the WWF, where Monster Ripper will be known as “Bertha Faye” and will be managed by Harvey Wippleman.
– Any rumors of Steve Williams coming in to challenge Diesel are premature at this point, to say the least.
– Jean-Paul Levesque will be starting as soon as his no-compete expires in May.
– The “All clean finishes” policy instituted by Vince McMahon a couple of weeks ago is already out the door.
– And finally, Jim Herd was offered a job as a local promoter for WWF, but turned it down. (Another wise business decision in a series of them.)