Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.24.95
Previously, in the Flashback… https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2019/08/05/wrestling-observer-flashback-04-17-95/
So UFC V did a giant buyrate, and people are starting to take notice…
– Preliminary estimates of the UFC V buyrate look to be a 1.05, or 240K buys. This is actually ahead of the numbers that WCW has been doing for their shows lately, and in the same vicinity as WWF’s numbers. Although UFC is priced cheaper at $19.95, so it’s worth less money. In fact, if UFC keeps growing at this rate, they might even pass Wrestlemania soon! And this is without any TV exposure and limited mainstream publicity.
– Even crazier, the Japanese are eating this up with a spoon. Dan Severn is becoming a giant star in the magazines, with UFC even taking over the first pages of the magazine, marking the first time in ages that a US promotion has done so. By comparison, Wrestlemania was confined to page 75 of Weekly Pro Wrestling.
– Dan Severn is already signed for the next UFC, with Oleg Taktarov also invited back. However, the Shamrock v. Gracie draw is proving divisive, so Art Davie is showing tapes to focus groups and going online for reactions from sources like America Online and Prodigy. (I’d steer clear of those if I was him. There’s a reason why RSPW always called it “AOHell” once the service was given access. Granted, we were generally a bunch of snobs, but still…)
– Severn is fielding all kinds of offers from Japan now he’s a huge star, and it’s putting the NWA title back on the map over there. On the subject of pressure to perform in a supposedly dangerous spot like UFC, Severn noted that the only thing that made him nervous was signing the contract. Noted Severn, “It makes you concerned every time you have to sign when you read the clause in the contract that says `In the event of death, your family will be paid $25,000.'” (I would hope that it’s at least more money these days.)
– In another bonus for Severn, the US Judo Association watched UFC V and decided to promote him from first degree black belt to third degree black belt.
– Speaking of violent crap, ECW was also in the headlines again this week. Shane Douglas dropped the ECW title to Sandman on 4/15 at the ECW Arena, when Woman turned on Douglas a week after turning on Sandman. Afterwards, Shane put on a “Monday Night Raw” shirt and said he’s going where they do “real wrestling” and walked out the front door. ECW is still under the impression that the whole thing is just an angle, but Douglas really is talking with the WWF, so who knows. (Shane Douglas would never sell out! Well, I mean, he would never sell out an arena because he was a career midcarder. Obviously he was going to the WWF.)
– Sabu, meanwhile, is recovering from getting fired from ECW by talking with Dennis Coraluzzo and Eric Bischoff about employment. Ultimately his goal is to emulate the Sheik and run his own promotion out of Detroit, with himself as the top star. The WWF actually made him offers, but they want him to change his name and gimmick and wrestling style and not work Japan anymore. (Seems reasonable. I’m assuming they’d at least let him keep the puffy pants?)
– Sabu kind of mended fences with Heyman a bit, as they talked on 4/11 and agreed to call off the trash talk, and they might even work together again assuming Sabu doesn’t go to WCW. (But how likely is THAT?) To summarize the heat, Sabu was mad at Heyman’s burial of him at the show, while Heyman was mad at Sabu for bitching about only wanting clean finishes when he himself had refused to put over Benoit in Japan, plus ECW wrestlers were mad at Sabu for his comments about the company to various media, plus ECW fans were mad at him for slagging their promotion, and some ECW fans were mad at other ECW fans for chanting “Fuck Sabu” at the shows.
(It’s been a very Simpsons-meme type of issue thus far!)
– OK, time for Dave to weigh in: Sabu was kind of a dick for taking both bookings, but Japan was offering $3500 and ECW was offering $500, so that’s kind of a no-brainer. ECW does deserve credit for being honest with the fans instead of doing what the other three promotions would do (lie about it), but they probably went a little overboard in provoking the fan reactions that night. Certainly, however, it’s not out of character for someone like Bill Watts to have done in the past, so there’s at least precedent. But he thinks perhaps that fans should have cut Sabu some slack after everything he’d done for them in the past.
– Next up, steroid troubles might be rearing their ugly head again thanks to the steroid-linked deaths of Eddie Gilbert and Big John Studd, both of whom were linked to George Zahorian as customers in the steroid trials. It appears that at least two TV networks are considering doing stories and looking into this further. Specifically, it appears that Sports Illustrated is going to air a 5:00 piece on Wide World of Sports about it, which has people on both sides of the promotional war kind of panicking again. As for the facts, that’s foggier. Gilbert died of a heart attack, which may or may not have been caused by steroids, but really there’s no way to know for sure. Studd died of liver cancer, which again may or may not have been caused by steroids, but again there’s no way to know for sure. And for a TV story to make that kind of blanket accusation when even medical science doesn’t know is pretty shady. (You’re telling me that TV news would NOT be held to the highest standards of journalism? I am SHOCKED AND APPALLED.)
– In the end, the industry only reacts when it becomes a problem, and the solution has always been to devise a policy for testing that actually works. Also, don’t market to children while pushing drugged-up freaks, because that’s what really triggers the people who get mad about this stuff.
– New Japan announced the card for their Fukuoka Dome show on 5/3, now that WCW has already gone and spoiled the main event by basically giving away that Keiji Muto is winning the IWGP title from Hashimoto. WCW has sent out advertising listing Great Muta defending the title against Paul Orndorff at Slamboree on 5/21, and the WCW hotline also announced the match. (Seriously, why would you even bother? Is that really a match that’s going to draw so many eyeballs that they had to be dicks about it and give away the results?)
– Road Warrior Animal was supposed to return for the show and reunite with Hawk, but he’s about to be paid a giant balloon payment from his insurance company and has once again developed a crippling back injury that prevents him from working. (And then these brain surgeons were like “Duh, why would Lloyd’s of London stop insuring wrestlers?” Frankly I’m shocked none of them were ever prosecuted for insurance fraud.) In a totally unrelated bit of information, Animal was the one who would have done the job in the match with the Steiners.
– Mitsuhara Misawa beat Akira Taue at Budokan Hall on 4/15 to win the Champion’s Carnival, despite terrorist threats to smuggle in poison gas at the show. This will lead to Misawa challenging Stan Hansen for the Triple Crown on 6/9. Despite the sellout of the finals, crowds were down for the entire tournament and tour, much of it stemming from Steve Williams missing the tour.
– To Mexico, where Konnan continues his acting career by scoring a role in the popular “Jack and the Beanstalk” show, playing the giant. Dave notes that only in Mexico can a 5’10” guy be cast as “a giant”.
– The WCW relationship with Jerry Jarrett is already off to a strong start, with WCW sending out top talent to work Memphis: Kenny Kendall and The Gambler. Both debuted on 4/15 with a push. This is a bit of a political minefield because Jerry Lawler has a separate deal with Vince McMahon to bring in WWF guys. Vince is said to be unhappy about Jarrett dealing with WCW, but he’ll continue dealing with Lawler…for now.
– Oh hey, New Jack is in trouble, again. So on 4/14, SMW was supposed to run a house show in Erlanger, KY, at a night club that everyone hates working. Cornette was wanting to pull out because they weren’t making money there, which made everyone happy. So someone from SMW called the building to cancel, but since 200 tickets had been sold, the local promoters decided to run a show anyway using trainees and local guys billed as “Northern Wrestling Federation” with disclaimers that SMW wasn’t involved. So for whatever reason, New Jack and D-Lo Brown decided to show up and agreed to work that show for free because they were there anyway. So New Jack hung out in the audience during the show, heckling the poor trainees who were so green that they shouldn’t even have been in the ring that night, and then ran into the ring during the main event and punched one kid in the face so hard that he opened up a 12-stitch cut on him. At this point, security finally wised and tackled New Jack, at which point police showed up and calmed everything down again.
– Speaking of New Jack, the Jerry Springer show was supposed be an examination of the Gangstas controversy, but done as a work with the Gangstas staying in character as racist heels and Jim Cornette as the babyface. The deal actually fell apart because Vince McMahon stepped in and pointed out that in 49 other states, Cornette is viewed as a WWF personality, and nixed the whole idea. (Damn, you know it’s a stupid idea when VINCE MCMAHON has to be the voice of reason.)
– Over to ECW, where Guerrero and Malenko tore down the house with a 30:00 draw at the 4/15 show that many are calling the best match in the history of the promotion. (Well, until that Sabu-Sandman ladder match years later, obviously).
– PWFG wrestler Tsubo Genjin was at the Arena to work with Tony Stetson in a terrible match, solely because he’s doing a movie in Japan and the crew wanted footage of him as a wrestler. Later in the show, Paul Heyman brought him out for an interview and basically said he was a surrogate for Sabu, at which point 911 and Taz destroyed him.
– Apparently ECW has looked into moving into a bigger building in Philly, namely the 4000 seat Penn Hall, but besides the higher rent it also costs $5000 to get videotape rights for shows held there. (I suppose one could say…)
– The long history of the Sportatorium appears to be ending, as Jim Crockett will be pulling out after 4/25 and running Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth instead thanks to various trouble with the rent agreement. (I suppose one could also say…)
– Mean Gene’s health is worsening after a kidney transplant, after his body started rejecting it and he suffered blood clots in his legs. (I can’t give you any more information on his kidneys here, but call the Blog of Doom Hotline for the punchline!)
– CONTRACT UPDATE! Steve Austin’s job is safe after all. (I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Steve Austin will have a long and prosperous WCW career ahead of him in 1995.)
– The Steiner Brothers are now on-again for the 6/18 Bash PPV and will be facing the Nasty Boys.
– The 7/16 PPV has been moved to Huntington Beach and will be a free show on the beach.
– It appears Angelo Poffo will be inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame at Slamboree as a favor to Randy Savage, along with Dory Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Antonio Inoki and Wahoo McDaniel. Dave thinks that Wahoo is a controversial choice, since he played in all those pro football games where “they don’t even predetermine the results” and thus tarnished his pro wrestling career.
– With word that Vader is dropping the UWFI title on 4/20 to Takada, GUESS WHO is already chomping at the bit to have him do jobs in WCW?
– Avalanche will be going on hiatus and returning with a new name and gimmick. Dave is skeptical that they can fool anyone into thinking someone that size is someone new. (But…what if he becomes a SHARK?)
– Dave nails down the impending US title tournament already, noting that one side of the bracket is Sting v. Meng in the semi-finals, and the other side is Savage v. Flair, but they’ve already announced Savage v. Flair for the PPV so they’ll probably both get DQ’d and Sting v. Meng will end up as the finals. (Bingo!)
– Ric Flair is now managing Arn Anderson in place of Col. Parker with no explanation, but Dave is pretty sure that no one will notice or even care anyway.
– Dave would like to note that no models were hired to play fans at the latest Center Stage tapings.
– To the WWF, where Monday Night RAW did its biggest rating ever for the 4/10 show, despite Wrestlemania doing the lowest buyrate in that show’s history.
– Michael Hayes debuted as a new announcer called “Doc Hendricks” and he’s now shaved and with shorter hair. Apparently Jerry Lawler will be doing RAW as permanent color commentator because Cornette hated commuting to Connecticut every week.
– Danny Spivey is coming in soon, with rumors being that he’ll Sid’s tag team partner in a top spot. Dave notes that obviously no one has been watching him for the past 10 years if so.
– Paul Levesque debuted in vignettes doing a Steven Regal ripoff gimmick called “Hunter Helmsley”. This is the first time Dave can remember WWF actually ripping off a current WCW gimmick.
– And finally, Unabom from SMW is also coming in and talking with Titan’s character development people. (Hopefully they can pull out something good for him, that he can really sink his teeth into! You know, drill down and find the root of a great character.)