Wrestling Observer Flashback – 01.23.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 01.23.96

(Note to those following along with the Observer archives on the F4W site: The Jan 22 issue is just a summary of the year-end awards and review of 1995’s major shows without any actual news in it, so we’re skipping to this one.)

Kicking off a grand tradition in the Monday Night Wars, it’s LAWSUIT TIME!

– WCW is threatening a lawsuit against the WWF after the latest Billionaire Ted skit, in which it’s implied that top stars Hogan and Savage are actively doing steroids in WCW. Dave thinks this has little chance of succeeding since it’s pretty clearly labeled as “satire” and also because both guys have already admitted publicly to doing steroids in the past. Regardless, Bischoff’s childish on-air responses to the WWF’s barbs have abruptly stopped as of the 1/15 episode of Nitro, as per the WCW legal department. (Like that will put butts in the seats.)

– Dave is also glad that Uncle Eric is shutting up about the steroid deal, since he doesn’t have a real answer to it, and the last guy who spent months denying that there was a steroid problem ended up on trial from the federal government.

– Meanwhile, the WWF aired a new Ted skit on the 1/15 RAW show, which was lacking the punch of the original ones, where the joke was that Ted wanted to buy Shawn Michaels but couldn’t, and could only get “a con man, someone who’s disloyal and a has-been from the 80s”. This is of course referring to the trio of Mean Gene, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan respectively, and although you can’t really argue the first and third too much, saying that Savage is “disloyal” after taking a better offer while Vince was putting him out to pasture shows some incredible gall on Vince’s part. (Interestingly, it continues building the backstory behind Vince’s later attitude towards Savage, as maybe he built up that narrative in his own head about how Savage betrayed him by going to WCW?)

– You should probably also be looking out for some major title changes right away, as WCW seems to want to go back to Randy Savage as World champion right away. But then they change their mind hourly anyway, so who knows. Also Dave is amused at how the booking has shifted from making money to placating egos, with Savage putting over Luger to keep Luger happy and then getting the World title to keep him happy.

– The WWF announced their lineup for the 2/18 In Your House show, and it’s pretty strong. The main event is scheduled to be Bret defending the title against Diesel in a cage match, Razor defending the IC title against Goldust, and Shawn Michaels v. Owen Hart. Plus the Smoking Gunns defending the tag team titles against the Bodydonnas, which pretty much signals the end of the Sid & Kid team, who were originally supposed to be tag team champions by now. (They actually would have been a pretty awesome babyface team if they had stuck around and turned.)

– Hey, remember how Sabu was supposed to be in the Royal Rumble and then wasn’t? Well it got stranger this week. So a deal had apparently been brokered through JJ Dillon and Paul Heyman, with JJ offering Sabu the standard $5000 that outsiders get, plus he would be able to bring his own table and break it. (I’d love to be a fly on the wall in THOSE negotiations!) So then the deal kind of died and Heyman did a skit at the next ECW show where he exposed the deal, just in case Sabu changed his mind and did the show after all. That way Heyman could portray him as a traitor and justify getting rid of him. So then Dennis Coraluzzo got into Sabu’s ear and told him he should do the show anyway if Heyman was going to treat him like that, and apparently Sabu thought this would be a good person to listen to and agreed to do it. But instead of calling them back himself, Sabu got the Sheik to negotiate on his behalf (with Sheik securing himself another $3000 as a part of the deal) and the WWF announced on their hotline that Sabu was going to be in the match. In exchange, Bruce Prichard offered a bunch of WWF guys to ECW for a future show, but Heyman declined because he still wants to do the PPV and doesn’t want to be viewed as a feeder system for the bigger promotion. (Well I got news for you there, buddy…)

– Also considered for the Rumble show was famous Tyson victim Peter McNeely, who was apparently enjoying fifteen minutes of fame at that point for being in a commercial where he knocked himself out trying to eat a piece of pizza. (That sounds awesome. Let’s check the YouTubes…)

– Anyway, the joke is that he would last exactly 89 seconds in the Rumble and then get eliminated when his manager interfered as a spoof on the Tyson fight. (We can safely say that would not have aged particularly well had they gone through with it.)

– In a story that might have big ramifications for wrestling (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…no), Don King and Bob Arum are working together again to promote a Oscar de le Hoya v. Julio Caesar Chavez fight, but they’re not putting it on PPV and instead are claiming that it will exclusively be shown on closed circuit to head off all the piracy that happens with PPV shows these days. And if it’s a success, then Don King will also pull all of Tyson’s future fights from PPV too and probably kill the entire market. Dave suspects, however, that this is all just a grandstand ploy to get a better percentage of the grosses from the PPV companies. Dave also notes that the WWF tried exactly the same ploy in 1989 and fell flat on their face. (And of course this one also amounted to nothing and PPV companies are still taking the same cut today.)

– Dave does a quick review of the Tokyo Dome show and agrees that the Vader-Inoki match was the best thing on there, rating it ****1/4, and the main event of Takada winning the IWGP title from Muto at ***3/4.

– We get a bit of backstory from Mexico that I didn’t know this week, as Dave notes that Televisa played an ancient Santo movie on the weekend called “Santo vs. Los Villanos del Ring”. In the movie, the main bad guy who leads the Villanos is played by Rey Mendoza, and in real life all his sons play the various Villanos, so that’s likely where the name came from!

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– Apparently some of the Michinoku Pro guys will be changing their gimmicks on the next tour, with Sato changing his name to “Dick Togo” and Terry Boy changing to “Men’s Teoih”. (I don’t see those ones sticking.)

– The former Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi shoot group has been reborn as Battlarts, and debuted with a sellout of Korakuen Hall, using a combination of shoot wrestling and FMW freakshow wrestling.

– To Memphis, where the switch to Wednesdays only helped for a couple of weeks and now they’re back to shitty attendance, so they’re trying all kinds of turns and title changes. Lawler won and lost the USWA title within a couple of days, Tex Slazenger turned babyface, and the Tommy Rich/Doug Gilbert team turned heel, which will lead to them facing the team of Lawler and Slazenger at the next Mid-South Coliseum show as they move back to Monday night again.

– Dave does note that all the wackiness did lead to the TV show being the best one in a long time.

– It’s time for a game of “parse Dave’s syntax” with this explanation of an angle from the show:

Lawler said the problem is that the promoter of the show is Dennis Coraluzzo, who he called a shyster who came to Memphis claiming that Lawler had two illegitimate children in Philadelphia (one of whom was Fred the Elephant Boy from Howard Stern in an angle several years back).

– So is Dave saying that in the angle, the supposed illegitimate child was played by an actor who went on to portray Fred the Elephant Boy on Stern’s show later? Or that Lawler actually had an illegitimate child who went on to be Fred the Elephant Boy? I’m 99% sure it’s the former but it’s such an oddly worded sentence that I can’t tell for sure.

– Paul Heyman is apparently planning to sue WCW over a Terry Taylor hotline report about the ECW champion being a drug addict. (Good luck with THAT one!)

– Antonio Inoki called the press conference and announced that, shockingly, the proposed mutli-promotional super-show at the LA Coliseum will be moving from 3/3 to 5/18. The press conference ran one hour and forty minutes and mainly consisted of playing tapes of Inoki to get him over. And the only media at the event were some Japanese and Spanish speaking press.

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– And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for, as the Sportatorium group taped what was supposedly a PPV show with 2600 people in attendance (literally all free tickets) and a one hour main event with “football rules”. Jake Roberts was a no-show, so Ivan Putski took his place as manager for the babyface side. The match was Bo Vegas, Devon Michaels, Scott Putski, Mark Valiant, Steve Cox and Dom Minaldi (a friend of the guys doing the PPV end) against Chip the Firebreaker, Rod Price, John Hawk, Shawn Summers, Alex Porteau and Guido Falcone. Minaldi had no wrestling experience and was billed as the “world’s toughest bodyguard”, so the heels spent the match potatoing him as an introduction to pro wrestling. And of course he scored the winning pinfall in overtime, with only about 400 people left in the building after a 40 minute “halftime” intermission. Dave is pretty sure this isn’t actually going to air on PPV.

– Also everyone who was supposedly showing up on the celebrity side no-showed.

– To WCW, where they’re already planning on breaking up the Horsemen, with dissention between Benoit and Arn Anderson being teased over Brian Pillman.

– Public Enemy finally debuted on Nitro, and beat the American Males in a horrendous match where everything was mistimed. (And just like that Heyman’s years of protecting them goes down the drain.)

– Back to the Hulk Hogan extortion case from last week, as apparently all the publicity was courtesy of Hogan’s lawyers as a pre-emptive strike to make sure their version of the story was the one that went public first. Peter Johnson, the lawyer of the woman on the other side of the suit, notes that going public with this story is a strange way for Hogan to protect his public image from this sort of accusation, since that’s one of the things that he was counter-suing for.

– When confronted in a newspaper interview in Dayton OH about firing Dustin Rhodes and Blacktop Bully for bleeding while Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan can do it at will, Eric Bischoff defended it by saying that they were fired for doing what they were told specifically not to do, whereas in the case of Flair “from time to time, stuff happens”. (Well that clears it right up.)

– WCW is now paranoid about wrestlers potentially pulling a Madusa in retaliation from the WWF, so they now have to leave their belts with WCW officials after shows. (Can’t argue with that logic.)

– Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage are promising a “secret weapon” at the Clash of Champions, but Dave has no idea who it is. He does know that Roddy Piper was called about appearing a few weeks ago, though.

– David Finlay ran in during a Steven Regal match on the WCW Saturday Night tapings and beat the hell out of him, while wearing a “Northern Ireland” jacket, to set up an England v. Northern Ireland feud where he immediately got over big as a babyface. Of course the crowd chanted “USA” while this was going on.

– The Gang v. Sasaki US title match did air as expected on 1/13, with the tape cutting off after Gang pinned him and grabbed the title. So he’s the champion, apparently.

– WCW has cut way back on jobber expenses, so at the next Orlando tapings, they’re gonna use a smaller group of guys and just stick them under masks to play different characters.

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– WCW officials were in a panic because Konnan is facing Psicosis at the Clash, and they wanted Konnan to provide videotapes of both guys in action to promote the match. Dave helpfully points out that WCW did a PPV with AAA just last year, featuring a match that had both Konnan and Psicosis in it, and they own the rights to that show and can use whatever footage from it that they’d like.

– Over to the WWF, where RAW came off like desperation on Vince’s part, including having to read a legal statement that Goldust doesn’t represent “the gay community”.

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– 1-2-3 Kid suffered a hip injury but he’ll be back for the Royal Rumble. Also his partner Sid suffered a neck injury that’s been getting progressively worse, so that explains why their team has suddenly disappeared.

– To clear up a rumor going around backstage, Sid suffered the injury and needed to take a few weeks off, so they asked him to put over his driving buddy Bob Holly at a house show on the way out and he agreed. After he left to take time off, this became a telephone game among the boys, where the deal was suddenly that he was faking the injury due to having to put over Holly, which is in fact not true at all.

– Raymond Rougeau did an angle with Owen and Bulldog at the Montreal house show, setting up a return to the ring on 8/2 against Owen. Predictably, Jacques Rougeau immediately began throwing shade at his brother in the press for choosing the wrong side in the promotional war and said it was desperation on the part of sister Joanne and the WWF. Meanwhile Raymond pointed out that he never said he was “retired” and never had a retirement match in the first place.

– Also on the Montreal show, a hockey player for the Montreal Canadians who Dave doesn’t know but is a “goon type”, spent the show hitting on Sunny backstage until Diesel told him to get lost unless he wanted to spend even more time on the disabled list. (That’s gotta be Donald Brashear, doesn’t it?)

– And finally, they’re doing a match on the pre-game show for the Royal Rumble, where the winner gets #30 and the loser gets #1. Dave thinks this is pretty clever and thinks they should use two guys “who can really go” to set the stage for an upbeat show. (Or they can just stick the garbageman in there, whatever.)