Wrestling Observer Flashback – 05.01.95
Previously in the Flashback… https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2019/08/20/wrestling-observer-flashback-04-24-95/
And now, it’s time for Dave to talk about retirements.
– Most retirements in wrestling are complete farces, such as Ric Flair’s recent one where the company was already planning his comeback before the “retirement” match even happened. Not to mention Verne, Fritz, Terry Funk, Randy Savage, Akira Hokuto, Tommy Rich, Konnan, Ricky Steamboat, and a host of others. Fritz only technically returned once, but he was all over TV for years afterwards. But who would have thought that the biggest comeback of them all would be a junior heavyweight with bad knees who had to retire in 1984 and then came back to be one of the biggest draws in wrestling? And now he’s retiring again. (Not to be confused with his ACTUAL retirement, just last year. I think.)
– But even bigger than the challenge of facing a fireball throwing madman in a garbage match, will be the challenge of keeping FMW alive after he leaves when the promotion was built around him. The retirement show itself is already a bizarre anomaly, selling out to the tune of 41,000 tickets sold for a show on 5/5 where no one even knows the card yet.
– Despite the big advance, people are already fleeing the promotion, with Tarzan Goto and Mr. Gannosuke giving notice after the 4/21 Korakuen Hall show and announcing their departure a press conference a couple of days later. Apparently, and this is going shock you, people are having trouble dealing with Onita’s massive ego. Not only that, but people like Terry Funk are now throwing Onita’s business practices under the bus, publicly shaming him for not living up to promises made that lured him away from Baba for the first and only time in his career.
– Goto had been scheduled to face Onita in the main event of the retirement show, but that appears to be out the window now, with less than a week to go before the show. Talk is now Onita putting over Hayabusa in his last match so the company can build around the younger star instead. (Well, they SORT OF went that way…)
– Dave recaps the career of Onita here just in case it’s really a retirement match, although no one takes that seriously.
– Moving on, Rickson Gracie won the second annual Vale Tudo tournament on 4/20 at Budokan Hall, winning $50,000 in the process. The show was held inside a wrestling ring instead of a cage and the fighters all wore boxing gloves. The results were described as “less brutal than UFC, but duller”. (Sounds like UFC itself these days.) WCW actually sent Craig Pittman to the show, looking for an invite from UFC to compete in a tournament back in the US. Also, many people in WCW predicting that Pittman would defeat Gracie and make a name for himself and the company in the process.
– Pittman actually did make it past the first round, but seemingly submitted to an armlock from unknown “pro shooter” Yuki Nakai when the referee interpreted a groan of pain from Pittman as a verbal submission. Nakai then got destroyed by Gracie in the finals. Pittman actually did get a lot of respect from the Japanese offices in attendance, with New Japan now interested in having him come in and train at the dojo.
– UWFI is suddenly falling on hard times, with their 4/20 show in Nagoya failing to sell out, which is the first time in a long while that it’s happened. Vader v. Takada as the main event only drew 8100 people to the 12,000 seat arena, after their first meeting in 1993 sold out a baseball stadium. (Much like AEW, who will of course be dead by Memorial Day, this failure to sell out was actually the start of the company’s downturn and eventual death in 1996.)
– Vader did the job to Takada at the show, dropping the UWFI title in the process, which now opens the door for Hulk Hogan to finally drop the big leg on him, brother.
– The sudden fall of the company seems to stem from the ridiculous circus that was the Yoji Anjyo grandstand challenge to Rickson Gracie, with fans believing that Takada should have called out Gracie for the honor of the company. Instead, Takada ignored the situation and fans perceived UWFI as weak. And now there’s no big matches left for them to run since they’re gone through Takada, Vader and Gary Albright in all combinations.
– Sports Illustrated is prepping a hard-hitting piece about wrestlers dying young, with Warrior, Missy Hyatt and even Dave himself interviewed for it. The subjects are said to be Art Barr, John Studd and Eddie Gilbert, with the hot take being “DRUGS ARE BAD.” All the major promotions turned down requests for interviews on the subject. (Clearly we’ve got this one nipped in the bud.)
– In what sounds like the only terrible Kawada match in recorded history, he beat Dan Spivey on the 4/8 All Japan TV show with a stretch plum in a match featuring nothing but horrible blown spots and no heat. Dave gives it MINUS ONE STAR. (Sounds like Spivey is ready for that WWF push!)
– In your “Mexico is weird” department, El Santo’s family filed suit against El Santo Negro (the evil Santo character in AAA) for using the Santo name, apparently not understanding that pro wrestling is a work. Furthermore, the gimmick had been absolutely on fire, one of the quickest to get over in the history of Mexico and would have made more money for Santo’s family than a lawsuit will. So Santo Negro is now going to be repackaged as the evil twin of Octagon instead, and will be given a new gimmick name…Pentagon. (Huh, how about that. Although this Pentagon is not the one who would be more famous with that gimmick, and in fact he was forced into retirement at the end of the year.)
– Antonio Inoki is claiming that winner of his match with Ric Flair in North Korea will get a shot at Hulk Hogan’s WCW title back in the US, which leads Dave to believe Flair is going over. All things considered, Inoki would prefer to do a job for Hogan in the US and then get his win back at the Tokyo Dome in January, but Dave feels like that’s not happening.
– Manabu Nakanishi will be going to WCW in June. (As the dreaded KUROSAWA, because apparently someone watched Seven Samurai and thought the director sounded like a great wrestling gimmick.)
– Over to Memphis, where apparently the WCW and WWF undercard geeks are working shows together without Armageddon breaking out. WCW has Kenny Kendall and the Gambler down there working shows, while the WWF has sent the prestigious team of Erik Watts & Chad Fortune as heels. (Too bad they were five years before their time.)
– There’s plans for Brian Christopher to go to the WWF, although Dave thinks it’ll be a while before that ever happens.
– Back to Watts & Fortune, who debuted as former football players for Louisville, trying to play up a rivalry with Memphis State. However, those schools aren’t football rivals, so the whole thing was a complete flop.
– Over to SMW, where Bobby Fulton did a promo building up a title match with Buddy Landel, and he brought up an incident from 15 years earlier where Buddy pulled a gun on him in the dressing room. Apparently this wasn’t an angle but something that actually happened.
– Dave is pretty sure that the Shane Douglas thing from ECW was a work and he’s not going to the WWF after all. (Good call. Can you imagine Shane there?)
– Roland Alexander is running shows in Northern California using students from his school and producing shockingly good TV shows. (Alexander’s promotion would later gain national attention when it was featured in “Beyond the Mat”)
– Over to WCW, where Mean Gene returned and he was pretty much fine after his health problems recently.
– CRUISERWEIGHT DIVISION UPDATE! The division is back on again, with Bischoff negotiating with Sabu to be Brian Pillman’s main opponent, but Sabu wants to be US champion instead because that’s the title that his uncle held. Dave rightly points out that it’s not actually the same title, but it’s wrestling, what can ya do?
– Despite Bischoff’s claims to talent that Harvey Schiller is behind all the cost-cutting decisions, it’s actually all on Eric, and he was given a year from the higher-ups to get the company into the black or else. (DEAD BY MEMORIAL DAY. Wait, did anything happen on Memorial Day in 1996? I forget.)
– STEINER UPDATE! They’re back on again with WCW, and will debut on the 6/18 PPV and do three shows in 1995.
– DDP has a new angle where he supposedly won $13 million in the lottery, which will be building to a feud with Dave Sullivan. (Man, that one went into a completely different direction for the character!)
– Brian Pillman and Bunkhouse Buck did a match on TV that went 5 seconds, which Dave thinks is for the best because asking Buck to learn lucha libre spots would probably be a bad idea.
– The tour of Germany has been a huge success for the WWF, with full houses every night and hot crowds despite lackluster wrestling action. 1-2-3 Kid and Hakushi have been stealing the show. (Which once again proves Norm’s theory…)
– Latest rumor is that Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch will be dubbed “Skip and Sonny” and be packaged as evil fitness gurus.
– RAW continues tearing up the ratings, with a 3.4 for the 4/17 show.
– Dave notes that he watched the episode where Rhonda Singh got repackaged into Bertha Faye, noting that her costume is designed to “show as much flab as possible” and it’ll kill Alundra Blayze as a serious wrestler for the next six months. (Longer than that, I’d say.)
– And finally, Hunter Hearst Helmsley debuted in a dark match because he’s still not allowed on TV due to his WCW contract. He got no reaction. (FIRED BY MEMORIAL DAY.)