Wrestling Observer Flashback – 09.25.95
WEEK TWO of the Monday Night Wars. Oh, also a very minor WCW note that will be forgotten in a couple of weeks, I’m sure. Some guy got fired, apparently.
– So this week of the war ended up as a draw, but Dave liked the Nitro show better. RAW actually scored slightly higher with a 2.5 to a 2.4. But Dave considers it something of a victory for Nitro because the main event was Flair v. Pillman, which was barely advertised and then didn’t happen anyway, so clearly hanging in that strongly is something of a victory in itself. (Well, I guess everyone on that side will be happy forever now.)
– The first live version of the war takes place on 9/25, although Dave thinks it’s overrated because RAW’s ratings are actually slightly higher when the show is taped anyway.
– Bischoff was toned down on the third episode, and even Mongo was saying slightly less stupid things. It was better with only three matches, too. The show opened with the American Males upsetting Harlem Heat to win the tag team titles in an impromptu match, although Nick Bockwinkel might overturn it on WCW Saturday Night based on the storyline pushed by the announcers.
– Also, Dave notes that Brian Pillman is doing a really good job playing a cocky heel. (Go figure.)
– RUMOR KILLER: There is no serious discussion of RAW going live every week to counteract Nitro’s sudden ratings win with live shows. I mean, production costs alone would be ridiculous. Can you even imagine Monday Night RAW being the main money-drawing vehicle for the WWF? PSHAW! FOOFERAW! NEVER HAPPEN! HARRUMPH! I mean, even if they somehow draw a 4.0 rating EVERY WEEK, which is impossible, the money from advertising would never offset production costs. (Can you even imagine a world where RAW drew a 4.0 rating every week? It might trigger some kind of new golden age of wrestling!)
– Back to Lex Luger…
…as the WWF is now claiming that Luger still has a valid contract through January. Luger, meanwhile, has been claiming all along that he was working without a contract for months and could have left whenever he wanted. Luger’s claim is that the WWF put “white-out on his original contract” and changed the date. (Sounds legit to me!)
– No lawsuit has yet been filed by the WWF, although official word from the WWF is that Luger never actually told Vince he was going to WCW and Vince only found out when he watched Nitro.
– Dave goes over how WWF contracts worked at that point, with the only “guaranteed” money being a $1000 per year downside and a $150 per appearance bonus on top of that. Basically, the contracts are written so heavily on the side of the WWF that Vince can literally pay the guys whenever and whatever he wants based on numbers from live gates that aren’t shared with anyone but himself. To get out of a contract, you have to give notice within 13 weeks of the expiration or else have it roll over for another year, which is what screwed Bret Hart over in 1992.
– Back in August, Vince and Lex had a meeting, in fact, where Lex informed him about a potential WCW deal, and Vince even gave him permission to negotiate a deal. (Did he sign him to a 20 year deal first and then claim he couldn’t pay it, I wonder? Asking for a friend.) Without that permission, WCW would have been engaging in contract tampering. Dave’s not even sure why Vince would give Lex that permission in the first place, though. But apparently after Bischoff lowballed Lex in initial negotiations, Luger went back to the WWF and informed them, which resulted in a renewed push at Summerslam and big plans moving forward. And then Luger signed a deal with WCW on 8/31 but apparently never called Vince and told him about it.
– Meanwhile, Vader is still not fired by WCW yet, and in fact they sent a letter to the WWF informing them that should anyone speak to him before he’s officially fired, it’s contract tampering.
– Oh, and in a minor note that barely warrants mention, I’m pretty sure, Steve Austin was fired on 9/15 after being in the doghouse for the past year for talking back to his bosses too much. The company saw his $200,000 a year contract as a good way to cut costs, especially when he had suffered a triceps injury in Japan and was still six weeks away from being able to come back anyway. Basically, like many others in WCW, Austin was caught between two cliques and didn’t fit in with the Hogan Clique or the Flair Clique. Dave’s not sure if Austin can go anywhere and make similar money, but the WWF is the most logical place for him to end up. (Whatever happened to him, I wonder?)
– Also, Gene Okerlund did in fact sign a new deal with WCW, getting a raise from his original $250,000 per year deal. (See, who says WCW was lousy with finances? They fired Steve Austin to save money, so it’s practically like getting Mean Gene for $50,000 per year.)
– WCW had Fall Brawl on 9/17 with a sellout crowd of 6600 in Asheville, with a buyrate that’s already trending way down. That’s not great, since Hulk was on the show and he gets 25% of the gross off the top.
– Dave thought it was an average show, but at least it was better than it seemed on paper because DDP v. Renegade ended up being better than they figured to be.
– The show opened up with a poorly-acted angle where Hogan showed up on his motorcycle with a dozen paid actors playing his fans. And then Giant showed up and crushed his bike with a monster truck, which sets up a monster truck battle at Halloween Havoc. (Dave way undersold the masterpiece of awful that was Giant running over the bike, man.)
A. Big Bubba pinned Mark Minh with the Bubba Slam in 1:04. DUD
B. Disco Inferno pinned Joey Maggs in 2:33 with a neckbreaker. Disco has a great gimmick but he’s disappointing in the ring, even though he takes better bumps than Honky Tonk Man. DUD
C. Alex Wright went to a no decision with Eddie Guerrero in 6:36. Dave notes that this is proof that none of the New Japan Three have any prayer of making it. Bischoff actually did take criticism of his announcing to heart, talking with Guerrero before the match to make sure he knew all the names, although he still mixed some of them up. The finish was Guerrero blowing out his knee on the outside, with Wright refusing the victory. “And WCW let everyone know in Guerrero’s first TV appearance that he was nothing more than opening match calbre.” (BERRIED!) *3/4
- The American Males beat the Nasty Boys in 4:15. Dave thinks that the Males act is doomed from the start. The Nasties were actually telling people before the match that if they had to do a job here, they were quitting the promotion, but then they did the job and grumbled about it afterwards but didn’t quit. But it was a goofy finish anyway, with Dick Slater interfering to screw over the Nasties so they didn’t “really” do the job. *1/4
- Johnny B. Badd pinned Brian Pillman in 29:14 to earn a US title match with Sting, although that match is supposed to happen on the 9/30 WCW Saturday Night and Badd no-shows it in the storyline. (Because WCW.) So the idea here behind the insanely long match was that people in charge wanted to expose both guys as being unable to work, so they could justify cutting their expensive contracts, but it ended up backfiring because they had the best match on the show. (Because WCW.) They originally went 20:00 and then had a 10:00 overtime, with Pillman trying a bodypress that Badd reversed for the pin. ****
- Craig Pittman beat Cobra in 1:22 with the code red submission. DUD (Surprised that Cobra didn’t parachute out at the last second.) Dave sums up Cobra’s gimmick: “he was a member of the CIA who Pittman left stranded in either a desert or a jungle in either Viet Nam or Desert Storm or maybe Korea or maybe even in the Civil War”.
– Next up was a video with Paul Orndorff all depressed after losing a match, until Gary Spivey showed up and convinced him that he was still Mr. Wonderful.
4. DDP pinned Renegade to win the TV title in 8:07, with Page actually making it watchable by doing a “Terry Funk v. broom” match. Max Muscle grabbed Renegade’s leg and Page hit the Diamond Cutter for the pin. **
5. Harlem Heat beat Dick Slater & Bunkhouse Buck to win the WCW tag team titles in 16:49. Match started slow and didn’t get better. The Nasty Boys screwed over Slater in revenge for earlier and Booker T pinned him. -*
6. Arn Anderson pinned Ric Flair in 22:37. The psychology was excellent, with each doing a lot of their normal routine but knowing the counters. Turned into a very good match with neither guy being a face or heel, until Brian Pillman came out and hit Flair with an enzugiri to set up a DDT from Arn for the pin. ***1/2
7. Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage & Sting & Lex Luger beat Zodiac & Shark & Kamala & Meng in 18:47 in the WarGames. Shark was blown up before the first 5:00 period was even over. Mot of the intrigue in the match was whether Savage and Luger would turn on each other, rather than anything between Hogan and the Dungeon. Hogan submitted Zodiac with a camel clutch and then Kevin Sullivan had to come in for 5 minutes. Which then had no heat because no one cares about Sullivan. Giant maimed Hogan with the neck twist afterwards and we were left wondering if he would ever wrestle again. *1/4
– Ticket sales were off to a slow start for In Your House 4, so they did a press conference in Winnipeg where they announced the top matches for the October show, including Diesel v. Davey Boy for the WWF title and Shawn Michaels defending the IC title against Dean Douglas. They sent Shawn, Paul Bearer and Ted Dibiase to the press conference, and basically no one showed up outside of one TV station, which was the French one. In fact the station that carries WWF Superstars in the market didn’t even show up. (I’m assuming Vince threw down his headset in disgust after the press conference.)
– Buyrate roundup: The WWF is reporting Summerslam 95 at 1.0 (or 235,000 buys), which would be 30% down from 1994 and not particularly a success. The WWF is attributing the falling numbers to “too many PPVs”. WCW’s Korea show did about 30,000, of which any money made is gravy for the weeks-old taped show. WCW is talking about doing a similar budget show with New Japan guys based on the 11/13 New Japan show at Sumo Hall. Or backup plan would be making it a free TV show as a special edition of WCW Saturday Night, in order to get casual fans accustomed to the Japanese guys before just throwing them out there at Starrcade 95 and hoping everyone buys it without any backstory. (Or, the third option, or “Because WCW option”, where they do nothing and make no effort to make anyone care about anyone. Guess which one they chose.)
– Gary Albright starts with All Japan on the next tour, although UWFI is claiming that they still have him under contract for another year.
– More details on the fight between Bill Dundee and Wolfie D in Memphis, was Bill was selling photos of himself and PG-13 and Wolfie wanted a cut. It quickly turned into a fight, as these discussions often do, and Bill pulled a knife on him.
(Come on, I’m not following that quality dad joke, but we’ll soldier on.)
– Tekno Team 2000 returned to Memphis this week, pretending that the WWF stint never happened.
– Nobody can figure out why the SMW feud was dropped abruptly, since it was doing big business and now they’re not.
– In regards to SMW joining the NWA, Jim Cornette is saying that was asked by Howard Brody but “politely declined”. There were rumors that he wouldn’t join unless Brad Armstrong was made NWA champion, but Cornette denies that is the case and thinks Dan Severn is just fine and dandy as champ. However, he did tell Brody that Severn is limited by the number of opponents who can work his style and that in the past, champions had a bit more versatility, which Cornette MIGHT have used Brad Armstrong as an example for. But that 100% didn’t mean that he was pitching Brad as NWA champion or that he refused to join unless Brad was champion. Nope. Absolutely not. (Funny how these Observers always have the viewpoint of Cornette and Heyman well represented.)
– The Pitbulls won the ECW tag team titles from Stevie Richards & Raven on the 9/16 arena show, plus Rey Mysterio and Psicosis debuted against each other and had what was somewhere between and a **** and ***** match. (Hopefully we get more detail on those matches once Dave actually watches them.)
– The Eliminators did in fact debut, with a returning Jason as their manager, and had the same gimmick.
– They’ve added new Dudleys to the family, including a guy doing an Indian gimmick named Dances with Dudley and Chubby Dudley.
– Dave actually did watch the tag title and Rey matches but didn’t give a rating for either one himself.
– Meanwhile, Dave continues to cover Incredibly Strange Wrestling (and GOD BLESS HIM for it) as the latest show in San Francisco featured The Abortionist teaming up with Cletus the Fetus as Pro Life & Pro Choice. Their big heat angle was attempting to give female wrestler Jenny X an abortion with a coat hanger, even though she isn’t pregnant. (Well she sure won’t be after that.) Meanwhile, The Klu Klux Klown, managed by Harley Racist, debuted against Yom Ripper. The showed ended with JR Benson getting knocked out by the Rapist, and when his valet was unable to successfully revive him by rubbing her panties in his face, she peed on him instead.
– Dave would like to clarify that he wouldn’t believe this stuff was real, but they actually do send him the tapes afterwards.
– Off to WCW, as Ric Flair is having eye surgery and won’t be able to do the match with AA scheduled for Nitro.
– The deal to get 2 Cold Scorpio from ECW is now dead, so Sabu will be working with Jerry Lynn instead at Halloween Havoc.
– Jimmy Hart was telling a story about running into Ted Turner in the elevator, where Ted proudly told him “We really kicked Vince’s ass”, so clearly Turner does care about beating Vince.
– WCW’s November show is supposed to have some bizarre three-ring triangle match with Ron Reis and the Giant and El Gigante involved, with the show billed as “War of the Worlds” and Doom reuniting for it. (Well, there was definitely three rings.)
– Over to the WWF, where Adam Bomb has a meeting with the office but he’s not coming back.
– Turns out that the $200,000 figure for the RAW opening was greatly exaggerated and it cost maybe half that.
– Tony Norris did in fact sign a contract with the WWF. No word on his new gimmick yet.
– Tatanka’s mysterious suspension is now a mysterious firing. There’s rumors that it’s related to something that happened in December that resulted in a lawsuit from a woman but no one knows.
– Jean Pierre Lafitte’s eye patch is actually a shoot, as he revealed in an interview that he was shot in the eye with a pellet gun at age 12 and lost sight in the one eye. (You see? Why wouldn’t anyone listen to A Christmas Story?)
– And finally, the biggest show of the week was Montreal on 9/15. Diesel v. Jean Pierre the Pirate was the main event, and JP refused to do the job, despite the show only drawing 5800 people after Jacques Rougeau was basically promising a 10,000 person sellout. LaFitte was so upset at being told he was taking the powerbomb that he basically quit on the spot and said he’d rather lose his job than kill his drawing power in the city. In fact, LaFitte said he’d be happy to do the job for Diesel anywhere else in the world, but not Montreal. The situation got so bad that Vince was called at home to personally negotiate with LaFitte, which resulted in a double countout finish instead, although things weren’t helped by Shawn Michaels getting in Diesel’s ear and getting him all riled up the whole time. And after all that, Diesel was cheered by about half of the crowd anyway. (And that went down in history as the most controversial WWF title match in Montreal that there is, was, or ever will be.)