Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.05.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.05.96

Sounds like Inoki might just pull off his crazy multi-promotional show after all!

– Antonio Inoki has seemingly managed to line up talent from every major wrestling promotion in the US, plus Mexico and Japan, for his “World Wrestling Festival”, scheduled to take place on 5/18 at either the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or Los Angeles Sports Arena. (Hopefully there’s no bomb threats for this one.)

– At the moment, there are agreements to participate from the WWF, WCW, AAA, EMLL and New Japan. Reportedly Steve Nakada, who is the executive director of the Japan-US Sports Federation, is helping Inoki to organize the show and met with Linda McMahon on 1/25 in Las Vegas, and got her to agree to participate. (Spoiler: That tune sure changed in a hurry.)

– In addition, All Japan has been invited, and UWFi is expected to take part because they’re basically a subset of New Japan at this point anyway. There might even be a match between Bull Nakano and Akira Hokuto added. And the main event will be a rematch between Inoki and Vader. (Spoiler: Nope.)

– All Japan participating in something like this would be a major surprise since they got burned so badly working with the WWF in 1990.

– Inoki is already talking about SEQUELS, first up a show at the 130,000 seat Azteca Stadium in Mexico and then another one in Cuba in 1998. The Cuba show was such a big deal to Fidel Castro that he reportedly named a small island “Inoki Island” in gratitude. (I don’t know how long that name stuck but it’s certainly not there now.)

– Apparently all profits from the Festival show will be used to open a wrestling school in Los Angeles, which is what swayed Linda McMahon to agree to participate. (Noted humanitarian Linda McMahon! Also considering the show only drew 6000 people, I don’t think there were many profits to use.)

– Much like the giant Weekly Pro Wrestling show at the Tokyo Dome last year, each promotion will send one match and book their own finish. (Yeah that also ended up not being the case.) There is currently no word on PPV or video release, which would be tricky from a political standpoint anyway. (The show IS available on YouTube in an edited form without the WCW matches)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edpa0xeQ7Hw&ab_channel=RareWrestlingFootage

– But while peace and cooperation were being negotiated by Inoki, WCW and the WWF hit all-time lows of cheapshots in their promotional war. First up, Eric Bischoff’s letter to Vince McMahon threatening legal action for the Billionaire Ted skits was brought up on the 1/29 RAW show multiple times, although Bischoff’s name was never mentioned. Interestingly, although Vince is positioning himself as not backing down from Turner’s legal threats, he IS backing down from putting Nacho Man v. Huckster on PPV, because Turner owns their merchandising and marketing rights and thus Turner would have a legitimate case against them for trying to make money off their intellectual property. So instead the “match” will be presented on the free TV pre-game show as “satire”, which is protected.

– So this week’s Ted skit was a press conference, with Nacho Man and Huckster posing in the background while Ted protested that he’s not “a hillbilly” and “doesn’t wear cheap suits”. So the WWF had “reporters” asking hard-hitting questions like “how come if he owned a network he could put wrestling on any night and basically he was trying to put the WWF out of business and doesn’t care about wresting fans” (Yeah, if you’re a wrestling company that owns its own network and could put your show on at any time of the week but choose to put it directly against another show just to hurt their ratings…good thing that’s not applicable to anything these days.)

– They also had Huckster state “It’s in my contract with Billionaire Ted that I never lose”, which is actually a real thing in Hogan’s contract and the WWF knows it, which is why they can say it. They actually obtained a copy of his contract for legal purposes during the steroid trials.

– In a swerve more shocking than anything seen on the Monday Night Wars to date, Hogan apparently took the barbs to heart and actually PUT OVER RIC FLAIR on the 1/29 Nitro, losing via high heel shoe to the eye. This result likely stemmed mainly from Flair complaining loudly for the past few weeks about wanting to quit, since Hogan probably wouldn’t have knowledge of what the Billionaire Ted skit was going to say beforehand. Of course the show still ended with Hogan taking out 5 guys with a chair on his own.

– In other news, the “Bandits v. Bodyguards” show from Dallas will apparently air in a 2-hour form on PPV on 2/2 with a price of $19.95. The show is billed as coming from “Alcatraz Prison”.

– WCW has changed their SuperBrawl VI lineup in response to the WWF booking a cage match for their February show, now making both the Hogan/Giant and Savage/Flair matches into cage matches, likely with heavy blood in both. Originally Hogan/Giant was going to be falls count anywhere. (I can’t even imagine how horrific that would have been, but I kinda want to see them try.)

– WWF has also changed up their PPV, with Razor Ramon’s IC title rematch with Goldust now changed to a match with 1-2-3 Kid where the loser has to wear a diaper. Both guys are said to be against the idea, moreso the Kid because he’s probably losing. In fact Kid was so pissed about the idea that he missed a bunch of shows and spent the ones he did show up for putting over Duke Droese in squash matches. (What’s he gonna do, LEAVE?)

– The WWF is also claiming a 1.2 buyrate for Royal Rumble, or 265K buys, which in a shocking swerve is actually the TRUTH for once. Dave is crediting the hardcore direction and the Shawn Michaels angle being so effective for this one. Oddly, ratings have been terrible lately, but apparently they did an effective of making that audience want to buy the show.

– Speaking of ratings, the most recent Clash did the biggest viewing audience for wrestling on TBS ever, because TBS is now available in more homes than ever. However, to fact-check Tony Schiavone’s claim on WCW Saturday Night, it was not the biggest audience to ever watch wrestling on TV because literally every Saturday Night’s Main Event had a bigger audience, to name one. (I am SHOCKED and APPALLED that Tony Schiavone would ever engage in baseless hyperbole for WCW. Hopefully he cleans up his act.)

– The actual reason for the ratings appears to be Bill Clinton, since all the networks were carrying the State of the Union address and thus cable TV had the night to itself.

– In Pancrase news, 23 year old Frank Shamrock, the adopted brother of Ken, won the King of Pancrase title from Minoru Suzuki with a knee cross. Dave is a big fan of this Shamrock kid and thinks he’s gonna go far.

– Dave also got his hands on a videotape of the 1995 Super J Cup and thought it was pretty great as well. He hadn’t really seen this “Chris Jericho” kid before and feels like if he can combine his athleticism with better timing, he’ll be really dangerous. (Yeah, he might have some staying power.)

– Vampiro has quit EMLL to concentrate on his career as a rock star. (Farewell and good luck!)

– Victor Quinones replacement in IWA as booker will be Akio Sato, who is leaving the WAR group for that job. Quinones apparently has a “major announcement” about his role in Japan coming up in April. Dave doesn’t know what they are, but Victor met with Titan Sports while he was in Las Vegas, apparently discussing those plans. (Narrator: There were no plans.)

– The 1/24 show in Memphis drew another modern low, with only 410 fans paying $2900, although the Louisville and Nashville stops on the circuit are still doing strong numbers.

– To ECW, where Raven beat Sandman to win the ECW title on the 1/27 arena show. Woman dumped Sandman after the loss, setting up her departure for WCW, but offered him and Scorpio a spot in WCW so they can make more money and not have to bleed or take chairshots anymore. (Good thing we know they’ve got too much loyalty and professionalism to ever…)

(Never mind, I stand corrected)

– Raven had a new valet named “Kimona Wanalea”, and Dave helpfully explains the joke for us.

– The fire marshal was in attendance for the show, so they had to limit attendance to 1000 people. 911 chokeslammed something like 10 different people over the course of the evening, so Dave suspects that Paul is buttering him up to do a job to someone soon.

– Cactus Jack wore a “WW F’N F” shirt for his match, cutting a promo about the fans here will be “cheering him when he does rest holds against Mabel”. (I’m nearly 100% sure that there was a Mankind v. Viscera match sometime in 1999 and people would have certainly been cheering him on.)

– Stevie Richards and Blue Meanie are doing a new deal where they do geeky imitations of great tag teams. (And shockingly that ended up going somewhere pretty big for them.)

– The 1/26 show in Jim Thorpe PA drew a record crowd of 666 people, but they had a 45 minute delay due to technical issues with the ring.

– Rocco Rock was at the show, but Dave notes that once he got his first WCW payday, that killed any notion of ever returning to ECW.

– To WCW, where Konnan won the US title from One Man Gang on 1/29 in Canton, OH at the Nitro taping, which then airs on the 2/4 Main Event.

– The Barbarian and Meng are now teaming as “The Faces of Fear”, and Dave wonders how many times WCW can re-use that name. (Just this last time, as it turned out.)

– During the Canton show, the fire alarm went off at one point because of pyro, and everyone immediately assumed it was due to a sabotage from the WWF. Dave does point out that if the same thing happened in the WWF, the reaction would likely be the same, though.

– The Main Event was cancelled this past week because it would have destroyed against the Super Bowl anyway, but oddly Andy Griffith aired in its place and did big numbers, which it always does in that spot. (Someone tell AEW that there’s their answer for winning the 50 plus demo over!)

– There’s talk of bringing Giant Haystacks over from England to be the latest giant for Hogan to squash. Dave thinks this is a bad idea. (Well we know who won THAT argument.)

– Bobby Heenan was briefly in trouble for swearing on the Clash, but now the heat is squarely focused on Brian Pillman instead.

– Bischoff signed a new three year deal as head of WCW, for $500,000 per year.

– The main event of Uncensored is going to revive the dreaded Triple Tower of Doom somehow, as apparently cage matches are all the rage on PPV this year so far. (Oh, I feel like this one will be particularly special somehow.)

– Jacques Rougeau and Carl Oulette will be coming in starting 7/7, with Jacques somehow negotiating a deal for himself where he gets 25% of all the PPV revenue in Quebec as a result. They’ll be billed as “The French Connection” but WCW has to wait for legal clearance before they can use that one. (Man I wish they could have because that’s 1000 times better than what we got. Also we might have gotten a really awesome car chase out of it.)

– The original deal was supposed to be for $200,000 per year, but Bischoff talked Jacques down to $150 because “that’s what Lex Luger is making”. Dave is, shall we say, extremely dubious of that particular claim.

– They might be bringing Mike Enos in at some point. (What a waste of time. Like he’s ever gonna be involved in anything that people would possibly care about and talk about for decades afterwards. Like, what’s their next big signing gonna be…Steve Doll? Maybe they should put those two losers together in a match on Nitro and see if it draws ratings! Losers.)

– To the WWF, where business is BOOMING thanks to Shawn Michaels. (Now there’s a sentence you won’t read much in the next year.)

– Razor Ramon missed all the house shows due to his son Cody being in the hospital. (Understated Observer Debut for Cody Hall!)

– The working idea for Cactus Jack’s new name is The Mutilator.

– Tatanka has been telling people that he’s only in for three months and then he’s quitting wrestling to start another business. (Must…not…say…casino…)

– Shockingly, WWF officials are denying that anyone offered the Sheik $3000 to accompany Sabu at the Rumble.

– They’re doing the old mailing list gimmick where they want everyone to send get well cards to Gorilla Monsoon, and then use the addresses to beef up their marketing information.

– Stan Lane quietly quit the company a while ago and someone found him selling cars in Charlotte and trying to get into the radio business. He’s saying that he wants nothing more to do with pro wrestling. (Well unless someone offers him a quick payday for a nostalgia PPV, but how likely is that?)

– Jim Cornette will be moving to Connecticut and booking for the WWF full time.

– Jake Roberts is coming in as a babyface and will work “as much as he wants”.

– And finally, WWF’s lawyers fired back at Bischoff’s letter to Vince with their own strongly worded letter, saying they’re going to the FTC to complain about having their freedom of speech threatened by WCW’s legal threats, and claiming copyright violations because of Renegade and Madusa basically claiming to be WWF characters. (Well, I can speak for everyone when I say that WCW has clearly learned their lesson about bringing in WWF people and trying to make money by pretending they’re still WWF characters, and we certainly have heard the last of that particular argument, no doubt.)