Wrestling Observer Flashback – 01.06.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 01.06.96

You know, for someone so washed up and done as a top guy, Ric Flair sure keeps winning World titles, doesn’t he?

– Let us take you back to 1989, as Ric Flair came off a big year with memorable matches against Rick Steamboat and Terry Funk, but the year was a failure for Turner. Of course every other year would also be a failure from a financial standpoint, but no one knew it at the time, and Flair got the blame. Flair was too old, not marketable to children, you name it. Sting was going to get the belt and then Flair would never see his seventh title because there would be no need.

– Flash forward to today, when everything is drastically different. Hulk Hogan is on top of the business! Randy Savage is waiting patiently underneath him for his shot on top! Sting and Luger are flopping on top when given a chance and have no heat together. OK, Dave, concedes, that’s actually mostly the same as it was in 1989. But the undercard of Starrcade sure did show how much the business HAS changed.

– The big story coming out of Starrcade 95 was of course Flair walking out with another WCW World title, which was apparently decided by Hulk Hogan and not even communicated to Flair until shortly before the show. And since Bret Hart bled all over the ring 10 days earlier, WCW has decided that blood is A-OKAY again.

– As a sidenote, Bret Hart still claims that the gash in his forehead was entirely accidental, caused by shards of glass left over from the Jeff Jarrett angle earlier in the show, which cut him open on the forehead at a point in the match that just happened to be coincidentally when it was the most dramatic.

– Dave’s not buying it either.

– Starrcade did a sellout of 6018 paying $83,855, with the main event seeing Flair winning his “twelfth” world title, actually at least his fourteenth, thanks to tons of interference in a terrible match with a terrible finish. But still, thanks to the undercard it was probably the best WCW PPV of the year. However, a major downside was the announcing, which saw an excited Tony Schiavone do weeks of preparations only to get his spirit broken by Dusty and Bobby early in the show and give up. (Oh, we haven’t even scratched the surface of Tony giving up yet.)

– In the dark matches, DDP pinned Dave Sullivan and the American Males beat the Blue Bloods. WCW managed to piss off the fans by starting the show at 6:00 after advertising the start time as 6:30 on TV.

– Jushin Liger pinned Chris Benoit in 10:29. An excellent opener with stiff action and great moves. Kevin Sullivan distracted Benoit, allowing Liger to hit a rana for the pin. ****

– Koji Kanemoto pinned Alex Wright in 11:44 with Snake Eyes. Dave is amused by fans chanting “USA” to support Alex Wright. This was a clinic from Kanemoto, as he worked super-fast and Wright kept up with him. ***3/4

– Lex Luger beat Masa Chono with the torture rack in 6:41. Wasn’t as bad as Dave was expecting, and fans were into the idea of Luger as a babyface. *1/2

– Johnny B. Badd beat Masa Saito via DQ in 5:52. This was a style clash, plus Saito is washed up at 53 and doesn’t really want to take any bumps. Saito also wasn’t keen on doing the job, so they did a lame over the top DQ instead. And then Badd tried to do a plancha to get some heat back, but Saito wasn’t there to catch him and he splatted on the floor instead. ½*

– Shinjiro Otani pinned Eddie Guerrero in 13:43 in the best match of the show. Otani pretty much stole the show with his springboard moves, even getting Dusty into the match as a result. They did a series of cradles and Otani ended up on top for the pin. ****1/4

– Randy Savage pinned Tenzan with the top rope elbow in 6:55. Savage is either really injured or really lazy and either way he needs to get out because needing a 24 year old guy to carry the match for him isn’t doing him any favors. Tenzan gave Savage a ton, but then missed a moonsault and Savage put him away with the elbow. ¾*

– Sting beat Kensuke Sasaski with the Scorpion Deathlock to win the Cup 4-3 in 6:52. Sasaki hit a bunch of his finishers but the announcers had no clue and just babbled over top of him. ***

– Ric Flair beat Sting & Luger in the triangle match in 28:03. A horrible match with a dead crowd and a lame finish and way too long. Sting and Flair did 10:00 and had a decent match, and then Flair and Luger did 7 minutes and had an acceptable one, and then Sting and Luger did 10:00 and put the crowd completely to sleep. The ref was bumped while Sting was in the rack, and Flair threw them both out and the ref counted them out to award Flair the win. And heel Flair got a babyface pop for the win. *1/2

– Ric Flair pinned Randy Savage in 8:41 to win the WCW title. Jimmy Hart was in Flair’s corner for reasons that Dave doesn’t understand (BECAUSE WCW!) but he suspects it was because they needed someone who could pull off a ref distraction while three guys interfered, without screwing it up. A nothing match except for the title change aspect. Flair was busted open by Savage using the megaphone on him, and then the other Horsemen ran in and Arn hit Savage with an international object and Flair got the pin and the title. And the biggest pop of the show. *1/2

– And then in the most bizarre story of the show, Kensuke Sasaki retained the US title against One Man Gang, or maybe lost it, we’re not really sure. See, the storyline was that originally the Sting-Sasaki match was originally a US title match, but Sasaki refused to defend the title in the US, so it was made non-title. And then they stuck this match at the end of the show, which is still part of the US Dave notes, and Sasaki defended it after all. Gang pinned Sasaki with the big splash and took the title, but the ref then informed him that Sasaki had kicked out and took the belt away. So they re-started the match and Sasaki won this time. But according to the SUPER SECRET plan of the match, Gang actually did win the title and they just pretended to have Sasaki win to placate the Japanese so that he didn’t have to appear to drop the title to a bum. But then no one in Japan (or the US for that matter) even cares about the title, so Dave is pretty sure they’ll just let the New Japan fans make up their own storyline about what happened and be done with it.

– Apparently WCW officials were so happy with the show that they made an agreement with Saito do another World Cup in 1996. (Yeah that didn’t happen.)

– Over to Japan, where Antonio Inoki promoted a show at Osaka Jo Hall, with super expensive ticket prices of $500 for ringside, with a weird main event of himself and Takada against Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Kazuo Yamazaki. But then Inoki decided that he didn’t want to team with Takada after all and told him to go join his former teammates and it would be a 3-on-1 match instead. But Takada refused and stayed in Inoki’s corner while Inoki worked the entire match by himself. Also the match was suddenly two out of three falls because reasons. So Inoki won the first fall with the choke sleeper on Yamazaki and then Yamazaki won the second fall with a head kick. And then Inoki beat Fujiwara with the octopus to win the match, with Takada doing virtually nothing the entire match in what was supposed to be his big comeback after losing to Muto. Also he’s got a rematch coming with Muto on 1/4, so you’d figure he might win here or whatever.

– Also Satoru Sayama put the Tiger Mask gear on again and tore the house down with Kuniaki Kobayashi in a five round draw, doing all his signature spots.

– Over to Memphis, where sure enough moving to Wednesday immediately tripled the attendance. Jerry Lawler returned and won the SMW title from Brad Armstrong (talk about Pyrrhic victory!) while Jeff Jarrett retained the Unified World title over Brian Christopher. (Oh man, was THAT why Brian was so pissed at Jeff on those early TNA shows?)

– Nashville’s 12/30 show nearly ended up in a riot after a fan took a swing at Tracy Smothers and he swung back, resulting in a mob gathering outside his dressing room waiting for him.

– ECW did their biggest gate ever, a sellout of 1140 fans at the Lost Battalion Hall in Queens that drew $30,000. Steve Austin was supposed to be in the main event against Sandman and no-showed, so Heyman went on a tirade against him and WCW and the WWF and anyone else he could think of. But afterwards he told people that he wasn’t actually mad at Austin, who had strep throat and couldn’t work, and it was just to fire up the crowd.

– Mikey Whipwreck beat Scorpio in a singles match to win both the tag team titles and the TV title, and picked Cactus Jack to be his partner. Jack is scheduled to start with the WWF soon, but until then he’s doing a gimmick where he tries to bring Mikey into Raven’s team, but Raven doesn’t want him. (Poor Mikey.)

– Also, the crowd chanted “Please don’t go” at the Public Enemy after they lost to the Gangstas in their final match in that building with the promotion, but then Johnny Grunge made the “money money” gesture with his fingers to indicate why they were leaving. And then the fans immediately turned on them and chanted “You sold out”. (I feel like they based the Springfield mobs on the ECW fanbase sometimes.)

– Also, for the guy who asked about it earlier, the main event of the show was Sabu v. Cactus Jack. Jack wanted an “NCAA rules match” with points for takedowns, but 911 came out and chokeslammed the ref, taking over duties himself and ruining the match in the process because he couldn’t get down fast enough to make counts. It also upset the fanbase because it was advertised as a death match but ended in a pinfall.

– Apparently Paul Heyman is talking about bringing in Rob Van Dam to work with Sabu. (I feel like they might have good chemistry. Just a hunch.) Shane Douglas is also coming back right away, although WCW actually tried to sign him, which Dave finds mind-boggling.

– The Sportatorium group is now called The Confederate Wrestling Association, and believe it or not they are supposedly taping a PPV on 1/5 and charging $100 for front row seats. The tournament final to crown their first Confederate champion saw Chip the Firebreaker beating Scott Putski on 12/29. Anyway, Ray Mancini and Chuck Norris “might be guest celebrities” according to them. Their supposed PPV will supposedly air on 2/22 with a wacky “football rules match” as the main event. (I know this is a real thing that happened and I probably should review it but I can’t find it ANYWHERE.)

– In your SICK BURN OF THE WEEK, Bert Prentice promoted shows around Evansville IN, and named of the jobbers Stinky Hale, as a knock on USWA booker Randy Hales. (I hope someone was able to calm him down and keep from going to war after that shot!)

– WCW Nitro on 1/1 at the Omni wasn’t notable for the wrestling, but for Brian Pillman going increasingly off the deep end in his promos. In this case, nearly getting fired for talking about how well Benoit performs with “the naked women in the limo” on live TV.

– The US title situation was never acknowledged or mentioned on TV in any way.

– The WWF fired a big shot with the debut of their Billionaire Ted’s Wrassling Warroom skits, which most people found to be hilarious, especially “Ted” asking for new ideas and “Hogan” responding by cupping his ear and flexing. Dave notes that even if you criticize it for being sour grapes on the WWF’s part, if Vince called Hogan and Savage tomorrow they’d both be there and both would be back on top of the WWF immediately. (Oh, but the skits would quickly get less hilarious and more mean-spirited…)

– Bash at the Beach has been moved to Lake Tahoe and will now be called Quake at the Lake. (Oh man, I remember vividly when Hogan turned heel at Quake at the Lake!)

– Mean Gene went on his hotline and was forced to apologize for saying that Steamboat was going to be honored at the 1/1 Nitro show in Atlanta, saying that there was no tribute and Steamboat was in no way associated with WCW, at the behest of Steamboat’s lawyer. However, Gene did not go so far as to admit that he just made up the story.

– WCW Saturday Night did a year in review show, which just highlighted how terrible the product was in 1995.

– Apparently the legal stuff with Public Enemy is worked out and they’ll be Public Enemy.

– To the WWF, where Vader was announced for the Royal Rumble, although they haven’t actually signed a contract yet. He’ll still be a regular for New Japan at the same time, though.

– Also, the Warrior deal is DEAD. Warrior never showed up for the interviews they wanted, and there were other major issues like guaranteed money and “policy problems”, wink wink.

– Rick Martel wasn’t even asked to come in for the Rumble, as it turns out.

– Dory Funk is being brought in as a liaison with All Japan to foster a relationship there. (Hell of a job they did with THAT, then.)

– Tatanka is also going to be back in, which probably means the mysterious case against him and Jimmy Del Rey in California has been closed. Dave still has no idea what the case actually involves, and has only heard rumors.

– John Rickner, who did one TV taping as Xanta Claus, has been fired already because the gimmick just wasn’t working. Dave feels like maybe someone should have thought about that before introducing a Christmas gimmick.

– And finally, Razor Ramon has been bitching loudly about doing the program with Goldust, but he and the Clique have shifted the heat onto Dustin Rhodes the person instead of just accepting that it’s a bad gimmick. Razor is trying to shift the angle to Hunter Hearst Helmsley instead. (Yeah, he could really use the career boost.)