Wrestling Observer Flashback – 12.04.95
Doo, doo, doo…another one bites the dust. And another one’s gone, and another one’s gone, another one bites the dust. HEY! Gonna get you too, another one bites the dust…
RIP this week to another wrestling promotion.
Oh and say goodbye to Dave Meltzer’s career after Hulk Hogan RIPS HIM A NEW ONE, BROTHER.
– In our top story, Smoky Mountain Wrestling closed down after four years in business. The announcement was made by Jim Cornette during the house show on 11/26 in Cookville, TN. The show ended with everyone on the roster attacking Cornette and leaving him for dead in the middle of the ring, in what was a symbolic gesture. (Probably a few extra shots thrown in there by some guys, too.)
– The group had been on shaky financial ground for most of 1995 after a hot 1994. Cornette was counting on the Thanksgiving Thunder series of shows to bail them out of their latest difficulty, but they were down about $13,000 from the previous year and he finally just pulled the plug. (Interesting that the involvement of Rick Rubin isn’t mentioned at all here, since I thought it was common knowledge later on that Rubin was the one who pulled the plug on the financing for the group and pretty much killed them off instantly.)
– The day after the company was announced as shutting down, wrestlers came to him with backers willing to put in money to save it, but Cornette decided it wasn’t worth sinking any more time and money into the project and he turned down the offers. He felt like he had already used up all his best ideas, and that “the wrestling environment, which he believes to be in its worst shape in history, was only going to get worse.”
(Pictured: WCW and WWF two years later…)
– Cornette reportedly said that there was enough “money on the table” to last him for six months, but why continue fighting a losing battle when the end was inevitable? Also he was running himself ragged, even though people like Mark Curtis kept telling him to take a month off and let them run the company without him for a while. (Yeah I can tell you right now what Cornette’s answer to THAT proposal was.)
– The company started in 1991 with a secret set of TV tapings funded by Rick Rubin, but they were never able to consistently turn a profit through their history. But the company consistently showed growth, albeit very slowly. But when that trend stopped in 1994, and began reversing in 1995, Rubin decided not to put any more money into it. (Ah, there we go.) Finally Cornette got far behind on bills and couldn’t afford to run the TV taping scheduled for 12/4. He did promise the wrestlers that he would eventually pay them the money he owed them.
– Cornette admitted that four years of running a wrestling company had turned him into, in his own words, a “raving psychopath”. (Just wait until he has to work with Vince Russo.)
– Cornette ultimately blamed the change in the TV industry, which meant that smaller promotions could no longer get airtime in local markets to drive house show business. TV was just too expensive to keep pace with everyone else, and the money made by the house shows weren’t able to cover it.
– By the end, Cornette made the deal with the devil that he never wanted to, using WWF talent to pop a house a few times, before even that got cheap trick got burned out and stopped working. Basically it was never a match of styles that worked particularly well, only serving to make the SMW guys look like a bunch of local geeks compared to the WWF superstars. Plus Cornette was portrayed as an opening match buffoon on WWF TV, although the payoffs he got from those shows was funneled into keeping SMW alive, so it worked out.
– Cornette did finally make amends with Ricky Morton in the dying days of the company, using him to replace Jos LeDuc on the final shows, since they couldn’t legally use a wrestling bear. (I just love that the mystery partner pyramid went Bob Armstrong, then Jos LeDuc, then Stan Lane, then A FUCKING WRESTLING BEAR, and then finally Ricky Morton got the call when all those other options failed. Really puts things in perspective.)
– Onto the main event of this issue, as WCW held their World War III PPV, featuring Randy Savage winning the WCW title in one of the best PPV shows of the year. The building was sold out to the tune of 8,000 paid and 12,000 overall for a $113,000 house. The crowd and the show were hot from start to finish.
– But of course, we have to start by talking about the interview that opened the show, one of the weirdest in the history of wrestling. Hulk Hogan, Sting and Randy Savage all came out, and Hogan dumped his black wrestling tights into a burning garbage can (very symbolic of the flaming dumpster fire that his babyface run in 1995 was becoming) and then went on a rant about “rag sheets”. Hogan threw a tantrum about the Observer revealing that the Giant was winning the title (which wasn’t actually the case, as the last issue said Savage was winning). And then he threw a tantrum about how the Randy Savage arm injury was a “total swerve” on everyone and the supposedly injured arm was fine. This despite the fact that Savage had been wrestling for weeks with a severely taped up arm that was half the size of the other one. Also, the storyline of the Savage match LATER IN THE SHOW was that Savage’s arm was injured. And then Hogan threw the “rag sheet” in the burning garbage and quipped “OBSERVE THIS!” while calling “the internet” the real story.
(Hold on, I got more…)
(OK I think it’s out of my system now.)
– Dave’s take: “I suspect as his popularity and drawing power continues to drop, he’ll get even more bitter. Since it appeared to be directed at me, I took it as a tremendous compliment.” (He says that now, but I can hear the pain in his words.)
– And even though we can’t possibly top that, let’s soldier on with the rest of the show…
– Johnny B. Badd pinned DDP in 12:35 to retain the WCW TV title, winning the Diamond Doll in the process. Doll was holding up “10” cards for Badd’s moves and no-sold Page’s stuff. A very good opener, with Badd hitting a dive out of the ring and then finishing Page with a slingshot legdrop from the apron. ***1/2
– Gene Okerlund did a hotline plug where he hinted that the WWF steroid scandal is far from over, which Dave notes is pretty rich coming from WCW.
– Big Bubba Rogers pinned Jim Duggan in a taped fists match in 10:08. VK Wallstreet came to ringside with a chain, but Duggan stole it, then dropped it and Bubba got it and scored the win. ½*
– Bull Nakano & Akira Hokuto beat Mayumi Ozaki & Cutie Suzuki in 9:16 when Nakano pinned Ozaki with a guillotine legdrop. An excellent match with one hot move after another. Mike Tenay joined the announcers on commentary and did a great job, and even Bobby Heenan was so excited by the end that he said they were better than names like Penny Banner and Kay Noble. ****
– Kensuke Sasaki pinned Chris Benoit in 10:00 with the Northern Lights Bomb to retain the US title. That’s actually his wife’s finisher move. (What next, using women’s shoes and loaded purses for finishes? THAT’LL BE THE DAY!) Match didn’t have much heat because people didn’t know anything about Sasaki, although they did a lot of impressive stuff and it was pretty stiff. ***1/4
– Lex Luger beat Randy Savage in 5:29 with an armlock. It was booked like a submission but the announcers treated it like a ref stoppage because babyfaces aren’t supposed to submit. Luger worked on the “injured” arm and did a torture rack on the floor before throwing him back in and submitting him. *1/4
– Sting beat Ric Flair by submission to the Scorpion in 14:30. Flair was full of PISS AND VINEGAR here and the match had super heat. Same as every other Flair-Sting match, but all the pieces were there this time. ***3/4
– Savage won the WCW title and the battle royale in 29:40. Came down to Savage, Luger, Sting, Hogan, Giant and Gang, with Sting and Luger working as a team. Hogan was pulled under the ropes by the Giant, allowing Savage to dump the Gang to win the match, while Hogan bitched and moaned that he was never thrown out. Not surprisingly, the crowd booed him out of the building for this. The match was like “watching test patterns” for the first 15:00 and it was a horrible television event. *
– To the UFC, where the Ultimate Ultimate show now finds itself in the position of having to face off with a Mike Tyson fight on 12/16. Tyson’s previous fight, a squash of Peter McNeely, drew the biggest PPV gross in history with $55 million. Tyson’s next victim is Buster Mathis Jr.
– The WWF’s Survivor Series show on 11/19 did about a 0.57 buyrate, or about 130,000 buys. That’s down a pretty staggering 37% from last year’s show. (Diesel Power tanking one last PPV on his way out!)
– Meanwhile, early numbers show World War III as being down “significantly” from Halloween Havoc, whatever that ends up meaning. (Meant a 0.43 buyrate as compared to Havoc’s 0.70)
– Meanwhile again, the Extreme Fighting debacle from the last issue ended up doing about a 0.3 buyrate, or 60,000 buys, most of which were from the New York area as expected. Given that the show cost basically nothing to produce, that’s probably enough to turn a profit. (Hey, maybe there’s something to these empty arena shows after all!)
– Speaking of extreme fighting, the verbal catfight between anti-violence prudes in government and the fight promoters is heating up in New York, and everyone comes off sounding like morons as usual. The shocked and appalled senator Goodman did the usual cries of “human cockfighting” and “animalistic fighting” and other such accusations, offering no proof of any of it. (Meanwhile on PPV, CONVICTED FELON Mike Tyson beats some fucking tomato can into a bloody pulp and that’s apparently “the sweet science” and totally fine with them, probably because Don King gifted them tickets.)
– Really all of this just served to get the EFC show more buys on PPV, even though promoter Donald Zuckerman attacked the character of Senator Goodman by calling him an “out of touch, ill-informed vote seeker” before making any real points out about the legitimacy of the sport.
– Meanwhile, the top prize for journalist goes to George Will’s column, where he summed up the sport as follows: “participants in Ultimate Fighting Championships are frightening, but less so than the paying customers. They include slack-jawed children whose parents must be cretins, and raving adults whose ferocity away from the arena probably doesn’t rise above muttering epithets at meter maids.” (Clearly he must have mixed up UFC with ECW.)
– Antonio Inoki held a press conference to announce the 12/30 show at Osaka Castle Hall, and Inoki said he was inviting Big Van Vader, Akira Maeda, Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Tenryu to appear at the show. Dave doesn’t think that Vader would be ready in time for that show. (Maybe by the time of the Tokyo Dome show, though…)
– To Memphis, where Jerry Jarrett is now experimenting with running shows on Monday and then not on Monday to see how much the Monday Night Wars are killing their business. The answer: Quite a lot, as running on a Wednesday and doing significantly better than recent shows, although still not great. The shows are based on the final blowoffs for the USWA v. SMW feud, which is all rather ironic now.
– Wrapping up SMW for good, the SMW title changed hands twice in the final shows, with Brad Armstrong beating Terry Gordy on 11/23 in Knoxville. Then on 11/25, Tommy Rich beat Brad to win the title in a match was very drawn out because they were told to stall for time while Ricky Morton drove in from Virginia. Also because Rich was so drunk that he was calling Mark Curtis by his real name over the PA at one point.
– To ECW, where Public Enemy still haven’t decided where they’re going yet.
– Oh hey, remember a few paragraphs back when I joked about the politicians confusing Extreme Fighting with Extreme Championship Wrestling? Turns out that this was a REAL THING. Holy shit I’m even better than I realized. Anyway, there was some confusion with the local newspapers in Connecticut where all the human cockfighting and bloodsport death match stuff was attributed to ECW by mistake, and Paul Heyman was all over that, playing up all the controversy and trying to make his own promotion seem like the dangerous thing that New York was attempting to ban for being too extreme. Anyway, the TLDR; version is that they were supposed to run a nightclub and Heyman cancelled the booking because the place was going to be too small, but decided to play it up big in the media like the commission had forced his hand in shutting down the show because they were too violent and dangerous.
– The WWF is still very interested in Steve Austin, although All Japan still seems like his best bet.
– Terry Funk will be off to film a Bruce Willis movie in January. (No idea what that was supposed to be because Funk didn’t have any acting gigs between 94 and 97. Willis was doing Die Hard 3, Four Rooms, 12 Monkeys and Last Man Standing at the time, and the last one seems like the best bet for what Funk would have been cast in. Also, who the FUCK would think they could remake A Fistful of Dollars and get away with it? It was a colossal bomb but at least it wasn’t TERRIBLE or anything.)
– With a bunch of old guys in town for Thanksgiving, the Sportatorium drew their biggest crowd in forever, with 1600 people turning up to see Jake Roberts, Greg Valentine and Dark Journey. This show marked the first time that Jake and Sam Houston were acknowledged as brothers that Dave can remember.
– Ultimo Dragon worked an IWA Hardcore show in Winnipeg for a TV taping there, although few people knew who he was. He worked with Chris Jericho and got over big, although by the end of the show they were down to about 40 people in the building, mostly other wrestlers, because the tapings went several hours. (DEMO GOD!)
– To WCW, where Gorgeous George III got a tryout before Nitro on 11/27. He didn’t look impressive. (Maybe they should give that name to someone else?)
– Hogan and Savage were both booed heavily before the show went live, although by the time they made it onto TV, they were mostly cheered again.
– Konnan told the magazines in Mexico that he’s coming into WCW as Hogan’s tag team partner. (Well I suppose eventually, in a manner of speaking.)
– WCW gave Michael Buffer an ultimatum and told him he couldn’t do UFC shows any longer, since they view it as PPV competition. (Hopefully UFC can find a suitable replacement. Does he have any relatives?)
– Over to the WWF, where the Shawn Michaels deal was turned into 100% wrestling angle on the weekend shows, complete with “CALL THE HOTLINE FOR A MEDICAL UPDATE” sleaziness. They were actually planning this for a while, as he was doing house show matches before the angle where he’d tag in and act all disoriented. (Yeah, it was the concussion that made him stumble around the ring and act incoherent. Yeah, that’s the ticket.)
– They’re rearranging the In Your House V card again, with the Razor Ramon v. Goldust IC title match scrapped because Goldust still isn’t getting over. Instead, Ramon and Marty Jannetty will face Sid and The 1-2-3 Kid in what was originally supposed to be a tag title match (and win) against the Smoking Gunns for Sid & Kid. (Geez, Sid gets screwed out of ANOTHER title this month! No wonder he left. Also, the brief feud between Goldust and Marty has suddenly developed so many more layers these days.)
– Dave’s Bruce Prichard Senses are tingling after the MSG show, which featured skits with Ted Dibiase humiliating people for $100 a piece, Bob Backlund preaching on morality, and fans getting slopped after a Hunter v. HOG match.
– Shane Douglas is out with a back injury, but he’s already given notice and will be done after one last job to Ahmed Johnson at the PPV.
– Jeff Jarrett has actually reached a deal to come in, for real this time, although Dave doesn’t know when it’ll actually happen.
– And finally, there was a bomb scare at Titan Towers on 11/16. (Yeah, it was called “Diesel’s PPV numbers”.)