Wrestling Observer Flashback – 08.28.95
We’re almost there! One week left!
– It’s almost time for the new fall season of wrestling, and it’s a big one. Dave thinks that the competition will be mostly for the better, with faster-moving storylines and better wrestling on TV. And since “long term thinking” these days is “three weeks down the road” there’s no telling how things will end up. (I can pretty safely guarantee NO ONE would have predicted how things ended up five years later.)
– Overall, the strategy is going to be more and more cable TV, and less and less syndication. Although they can manipulate the numbers on both sides to make their cable shows look good, the reality is that the syndicated numbers are in the toilet and dying faster every day. Wrestling Challenge is dead and gone now, and Superstars will inevitably become the B-Show behind RAW. (Nailed it.)
– Meanwhile, WCW’s strategy for Worldwide Wrestling is to shift the focus of the show to children 12 and under. You know, the show that airs after MIDNIGHT in major markets?
– Nitro will be live every week, while RAW will only be live once every four weeks. It won’t affect ratings, but it might allow WCW to counterprogram one of their big matches if they get taping info. (But I mean, how likely is THAT?)
– As for WCW, everyone will be thrilled if they can even get close to RAW’s numbers in the ratings. However, the most predicted scenario is the WWF “blitzing them” in the ratings. But hey, Dave notes, maybe they can play some games by combining the total viewers from both feeds of Nitro and make it look like they’re competitive?
– As for the hard numbers, WCW originally thought that TNT was going to be paying them $100,000 per week for Nitro, but it now looks closer to $38,000 per week, which is nowhere near enough to cover things like talent expenses and running the show. And even though the real money comes from PPV, it will no doubt become a hyper-focused battle on the Monday night ratings, which will lead everyone to hotshot all the big angles and four-star matches onto those shows instead.
– The idea of doing WCW Saturday Night at the same taping as Nitro has been dropped, by the way. They’ll just continue to tape WCWSN way in advance at Center Stage as before.
And now, it’s time for the first ever…
Lex Luger: Lex has been the talk of the town all week, with Sting making a play to WCW to bring him back. Dave sums up Lex as someone who has made the most money from the business while drawing the least. Lex was actually making $350,000 a year under his WBF contract for literally doing nothing, AND managed to get out of his WCW contract as a result of a technicality. So he’s pretty smart. However, now he clearly thinks he can draw bigger with Hogan and Savage and Sting again and wants to go where that action is. The problem now is that WCW is only offering him a per night deal of $1000 and no guarantee. In fact, Bischoff only seems interested in having Lex put over Hogan and show that WCW is superior to the WWF. Dave thinks that Lex will ultimately re-sign with the WWF and make the business decision and not the ego one.
Too Cold Scorpio: WCW is interested and made contact, but Paul Heyman wants to give him a big push. The problem now is that he doesn’t want to push someone who might turn around and leave right away.
Sabu: Sabu starts with WCW right away to film vignettes for his Nitro debut on 9/11. At this point he hasn’t agreed to anything but that Wright match and maybe working Halloween Havoc so Sheik can get a payday as his manager. Otherwise he doesn’t have a deal with WCW. Heyman is already saying that he’s got a deal with Sabu to make a surprise return to ECW, which was made before Sabu even signed with WCW in the first place.
Chris Benoit / Eddie Guerrero / Dean Malenko: All of them are signed to 90 day contracts with WCW, but no word on how they’ll be used. All three wanted to stick together and are basically negotiating as a group. But WCW should forget about launching a junior heavyweight title of any sort, because there’s no one in their offices who understands how to get it over on Monday nights. (But what if they called it something different…?)
Adam Bomb: Adam officially quit on 8/17 after meeting with Vince, despite Vince trying to get him to change his mind. Bomb already believes his career is going nowhere and doing the 30 second job to HOG at the Garden didn’t help change his mind.
– The lawsuit between Chuck Austin and the WWF was quietly settled out of court sometime last month. Originally Austin was awarded $26 million, although Titan and their team of lawyers immediately appealed the decision. Reportedly the settlement reached was for $10 million to be paid to Austin now, all of which is covered by Titan’s insurance company despite their earlier overconfident bluster, which is probably why this is going away so quietly. After legal fees, Austin will walk away with $7 million. In fact, Titan Sports originally wanted to settle before it ever got to court, but the insurance company insisted on taking it to trial because they were so sure that they’d crush Austin in a legal squash match (No doubt winning in about 5:00 with a Rocker Dropper!) So as a stipulation for going to trial, the insurance company agreed to finance all of the risk should they lose. (And thus Vince McMahon walks away from another one unscathed. He’s a crafty bastard, you have to give him that!)
– Over to Japan, where Cactus Jack beat Terry Funk to claim the title of King of the Death Matches in the finals of a tournament at Kawasaki Baseball Stadium before 28,000 fans. He pinned Funk in 13:21 of a no rope barbed wire explosive time bomb death match after an eight man tournament. (Only EIGHT men? Pussies.) The match saw Jack take a bump off a ladder and nearly rip his other ear off, as well as Funk suffering serious burns after an explosion caught his arm on fire. The finish was actually botched, however, with the ring scheduled to explode at the 10:00 mark, but it was a complete dud and caused the crowd to start booing. (Good thing Vince wasn’t running the show. That ring would never work again!)
– Despite crippling back injuries that were supposed to end his career previously and this match being the perfect time to bow out after putting over the new King of Hardcore, Terry Funk will of course be touring Japan multiple times over the next year.
– UWFI is in bad financial condition, with the last show drawing 6000 people to a 7000 seat arena, with their hail mary pass being a match between Takada & Kiyoshi Tamura. If it doesn’t draw, the end is likely near.
– To Memphis, where Billy Jack Haynes terrified everyone in attendance by taking a scary bump outside the ring on 8/20 and looking like he broke his neck and suffered paralysis. Luckily, it was “only” a severe concussion and he wanted to work the next night. The promotion talked him out of it, thankfully.
– It looks like the USWA v. SMW feud has run out of the gas and is being blown off right away. (Well the real war was about to begin anyway…) The USWA guys in Memphis all won clean over the SMW guys, and the matches were in the midcard, indicating that it’s run its course.
– The Downtown Bruno v. Local DJ angle was continued on television, but no one has any idea where it’s supposed to be going. The only thing known is that Jerry Lawler is booking it.
– ECW ON SUNSHINE NETWORK UPDATE: No news this week.
– Besides the Japanese tourists, the other reason why ECW is running a show on 8/28 (Summerslam weekend) is that whoever wins the TV title match between Guerrero and Malenko on 8/26 is going to have to drop it before going to WCW. So that title will likely change hands there.
– Sam Muchnick had a 90th birthday party celebration over the weekend that was largely old-timers griping about how terrible the current product was and how embarrassed they were to even be associated with the sport any more. One tidbit from the party is that Thesz is no longer affiliated with the UWFI because they stopped paying him and stopped bringing him in, so he took back his special title belt that Takada had been carrying around for a long time. Of course, this situation is ignored in Japan.
– Incredibly Strange Wrestling was cut from the 8/18 Lollapalooza show. Turns out that reports of them performing for 30,000 people in Seattle were SLIGHTLY exaggerated, as it turns out that only about 500 people were watching them during their performance. (Everyone was probably occupied with Homer’s cannonball act)
– To WCW, where Bubba Rogers and Jim Duggan continue having the worst feud of the year. Dave Sullivan was at ringside, and Duggan threw Bubba into Ralph the Rabbit while they were brawling on the floor, causing Bubba to break into unbearable itching while Duggan wrapped his fists “in what seemed like 30 feet of tape” and the ref then stopped the match in a mercy killing. (I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t watching WCW TV during this period!)
– Correction from last week: Disco Inferno isn’t changing his name to Johnny Swinger, but rather Swinger is the name of a totally different wrestler. Disco’s new gimmick is that he’s always late to the ring because he’s busy fixing his hair.
– DDP is using something called “The Diamond Death Drop”, aka an Ace Crusher, as his finish.
– Randy Savage was mad about the Nasty Boys using such a shitty flying elbow as a finisher, so they switched to Knobs doing a splash instead. (That’s AWESOME.)
– Later in the tapings, Dave Sullivan wrestled Bubba with Ralph the Rabbit barred from ringside, but Jim Duggan ran in and brought the rabbit with him for a DQ. (Wait, WHAT? Isn’t the rabbit imaginary?)
– Flair and Anderson are doing all time classic promos on each other leading up to their feud, with Flair cutting another great one where he talked about how their playboy rep was all a lie and how Arn has a wife and four kids. Later on, Flair begged Sting to be his partner against Brian Pillman and Arn, but Sting refused. Dave is pretty sure he knows where this one is going.
– Nick Bockwinkel is out as WCW commish, and Jack Tunney apparently called looking for the spot to replace him. (How did that not happen?!?)
– Lanny Poffo is coming in as a favor to Savage, and he’ll be doing a Gorgeous George gimmick. (And thus begins the longest running joke in WCW history!)
– The Missy Hyatt sexual harassment suit is moving into investigation phase now.
– Dave continues tracking the dated Bobby Heenan references, this time with Bobby referring to Ralph Malph and Potsie Weber. (The irony of course is that anyone who listens to Observer Radio knows that one of the running jokes is Bryan’s exasperation with Dave’s hopelessly dated references to old TV and sports that are years before Bryan’s time.)
– Meng was added to the Dungeon of Doom, and is now wearing Ricky Steamboat’s dragon head.
– Mike Rotunda and Bubba Rogers will apparently be called the CPAs, or Certified Public Assassins.
– Over to the WWF, where the originally scheduled Wrestlemania special that supposed to air on NBC will now air on FOX. It probably will end up on a Friday night. (WWF on a Friday night on FOX? Like anyone would watch that.)
– The Eliminators got a tryout match on 8/17 with mixed reports of how they did.
– Tony Norris will for sure get brought in. (YA THINK?!?)
– The house shows have all seen Davey Boy walking out on Lex Luger, leaving him to get pinned by Yokozuna.
– It looks like Goldust will be programmed against Shawn Michaels, so apparently he’s getting the mega-push. (So, NOT the career killing disaster predicted by Dave last week, then?)
And finally, here’s Rob Feinstein vs. Paul Heyman in the letters pages!
“Here are the facts regarding my situation with Extreme Championship Wrestling. I was the exclusive videotape distributor for ECW. I not only dubbed the tapes for them but I was also responsible for sending out the tapes to their customers. During May of 1995, I was told that Tod Gordon was going to be leaving the company and that all back bills would be paid by HHG or Global Distributions (Richard Freeburg, who handles ECW merchandising). At that point in time I was giving them 60 days to pay me on invoices and I also gave them a $5,000 credit limit, which they went over. Paul Heyman called me up and told me that if I were to give them a payment plan over the next six months on the balance that they owed me, which was $5,022 at the time, that all future bills would be paid within 30 days instead of 60 days. I told Paul if he could pay me $837 on the first of every month until November that I would stay, plus any new bills he would have to pay me within 30 days. It was agreed and we started with a clean slate.
In late July, I called the company that supplies me with envelopes that I use to send out ECW tapes. I was told I was unable to order new envelopes for ECW because they hadn’t paid their balance of $280.81. I informed Paul of the situation and was told by someone else who runs the merchandise department to just pay the money and I would get reimbursed for it. I paid for their envelopes and then when I asked to get paid back, I was told to put it on a 30 day invoice. That was never how it was done in the past. In the past when I ordered envelopes for ECW, the bill went to the ECW office and it was paid by them. I never had to pay their bills. I was also told that money was tight at the time and I was getting worried.
On July 29, I sent Paul Heyman and Global Distributions a fax telling them that on August 1, a payment of $837 was due and also that a regular bill was due for $245.70. I let them both know that I could no longer fund their business and I wanted the money on time. On August 1, I called them and asked them where my money was and was told that the $245.70 was in the mail and that if I wanted the $837, I would now have to go directly to Heyman because Global Distributions was no longer going to pay me the remaining four payments of $837 and that Heyman would have to pay me because Global Distributions was tired of paying for Heyman’s back bills. I called Heyman and Paul told me that I would get the $837 but I should be patient, which at this point I had heard too many times. There were a lot of games going on between Global Distributions and Heyman and I was put in the middle of it by both sides.
On August 3, Paul and I spoke on the phone and he told me that he heard I was going to get paid at the shows over the weekend. On August 4, I was in Jim Thorpe, PA and I never got a penny. The next night I was at the ECW Arena and I never got a penny. knew that I was getting worked by someone and I didn’t complain because I didn’t want to quit that weekend because I was working those shows. On August 6, I spoke with Paul and I told him that there was no checks in the mail and I was mad and he told me the same story, that he would take care of it. On August 7, I called Global Distributions and told them I quit. Paul called me back and was furious at me for quitting when I was being more than patient. I had done so much for that company and I cut them so many breaks that I felt it was time for them to treat me with the respect I deserved.
As far as the comments in last week’s Observer from Heyman saying there was such a high percentage of tapes that had to be re-dubbed for free due to poor quality and that was the reason I shouldn’t get my money was a joke. My address was on every package that I sent out. If people returned tapes, they sent them back to my office. If someone called the ECW office to complain about a tape, they would tell the person to send the tape back to me. Once in a while someone would send a tape back to the ECW office but I would get it from them, and then send them out a new tape. On August 14, I had a meeting with Global Distributions to try and work out our problems and I asked them about that problem and was told that Heyman was just going to say that so he didn’t have to pay me and that they only had four tapes returned at that time in the office. It’s even funnier, because when I got a tape sent back to me and I had to correct the problem, I never ever charged ECW for it. If it was my fault, I paid for both the tape and the postage. I never went to ECW and had them pay me for my mistakes. We had like four returns a month out of 300 videotapes. I never charged them a penny when I had to redub tapes so they don’t have that as an excuse. Why was I never informed there were all those bad tapes being sent back that Paul claims they had to re-dub and where did all those tapes go? The office never got them. I never got them. If Paul had them re-dubbed elsewhere, who did it since I always had the master tapes? It’s a lie.
The other main issue he brought up were the tapes being sent out late. Here are the facts. One week after a house show at the Arena, Paul puts an ad on television for a videotape of that show. The ad usually says for immediate delivery, which causes all of our problems. People see the ad, order the tape through the 800 number and then expect the tape within six weeks. I have told Paul over and over again that he can’t put on TV “for immediate delivery” because he doesn’t hand over the master tapes to me until six or seven weeks after the ad hits the air. For example, “Enter the Sandman” was the 5/13 arena show. I didn’t get the master until 8/4. Hoodies, Chokeslams and Barbed Wire was the 6/17 house show and I didn’t get the master until 8/4. So when people order videotapes through ECW, it gets sent to Global Distributions and they give me a printout, which sometimes doesn’t happen until three weeks after the order is made. Sometimes I get the order but I don’t have the master tape that they went, so I have to sit on their order. As soon as I get the master tape from Paul, I can get everything out within a week. I also just bought new equipment for ECW two weeks before I quit which would have really sped up the process as long as I had the master tapes. Recently Paul had stopped telling people that they were going to get their tapes shipped out immediately so it looked like that problem had been fixed. The Three Way Dance is another example of this problem. It took more than eight weeks for me to get the tape and ECW was taking orders for that show before it ever took place, so people were really pissed when they didn’t get the tapes for more than ten weeks.
I wish Paul would have listened to me when I would try to tell him the way things should have been done. He is a very busy man and I wish him all the luck in the world with ECW. I’d be willing to come back at anytime after this problem is resolved, but things have to be done the right way and I could make the videotape business run very smooth.
DM: Paul Heyman’s response to this letter, which looks like it’ll become a legal battle, is that everything in the first paragraph is correct but it was contingent upon Feinstein upgrading his equipment and on Feinstein agreeing to lower his own charge of $4.50 per tape down to $3.90. Heyman said they agreed the upgrading was supposed to be by early June, which didn’t happen. Heyman said he or nobody would have told Feinstein that money was tight at any time. Heyman said he never told Feinstein the $245.70 was in the mail and that the $837 wasn’t sent because there was significant back dubbing double charges that needed to be straightened out. Heyman said he told Feinstein in the 8/3 conversation that he’d get paid over the weekend if he upgraded his equipment. Heyman also said that Feinstein made $2,000 over the two shows in selling videotapes and didn’t pay ECW its share of that money. Heyman said he never called Feinstein on 8/6, but told Gabe Sapolsky to tell Feinstein that Feinstein needed to tell him that he quit and that he didn’t owe him the money unless the equipment was upgraded. Heyman said Feinstein left out in the letter was that on 8/11, the two sides reached a deal that they would agree to drop legal claims and claims of monies owed against one another–Feinstein’s for the money owed and Heyman’s for money he said was owed for being double charged for re-dubs of bad tapes and would work together again. Heyman said people often called the ECW 800 number to complain about bad tapes. He said the statement about his 8/14 meeting with Global Distributions was not true and said he has documentation that Feinstein charged ECW for re-dubs and in at least one case, four times for the same re-dub. Heyman said he has all tapes ready within ten days of the house show and has fed-ex records to prove it and said Feinstein had “Three Way Dance” within days of the show but sold the original to a fan and that’s why it took so long for orders to be filled.