Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.19.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.19.96

Vince McMahon has had all he can stands, and he can’t stands no more!

– Can you BELIEVE the shit that Ted Turner has been pulling in his neverending attempt to destroy the WWF? Just this week alone, Vince had to file a complaint with the FTC because of TBS having a “systematic plan to destroy the WWF so it can achieve a monopoly over the wrestling industry”. (Bastards. What kind of a monster would want to wipe out all of the competition and own everything themselves?) Vince also took out full page ads in the New York Times complaining about his harsh treatment at the hands of Turner’s monstrous empire, and then had Jerry McDevitt send a letter to Eric Bischoff demanding an apology for insinuating that Vince was behind the power outage on Nitro on 2/5. (To be fair, THAT was a batshit crazy thing for Bischoff to say.) Finally, he finished off the week with a letter to Ted Turner complaining about WCW promising a bloodbath on the Superbrawl PPV show after all of his hard work to eliminate it from his own shows.

– Now, to some, this is coming off as desperation on the part of Vince. He’s worried about the future of his company, even though business has been looking up as of late and the Royal Rumble buyrate will likely surpass anything done by WCW in 1996, (Unless they suddenly come up with the hottest angle in wrestling history but HOW LIKELY IS THAT LOL?)

– Vince is making claims that his issue isn’t the promotional war, which he of course welcomes because he loves to be challenged, but rather that Ted Turner is bringing the might of his entire empire against him to destroy the WWF. He also claims, despite the CRAZY allegations of people who are CRAZY, that the situation today is totally different from a decade earlier when Vince himself was swallowing up all the other regional promotions and killing them off. See, when Vince did it, he used his own money and had to run a profitable enterprise to survive, and all the two-bit regional promotions were too dumb to survive and tried to expand too fast and thus it was their own fault. (Vince McMahon, ladies and gentlemen. If he hadn’t been born someone would have had to invent him for a comic book.)

– Vince’s complaint with the FTC, seeking to block the Time-Warner merger with TBS, doesn’t allege any one horrible practice from Turner, but rather a series of questionable behavior like putting Nitro against his show and starting it earlier (“Unprecedented in television” according to Vince’s complaint ads) plus contract tampering with his stars, outbidding him on syndication deals, undercutting ad rates, and lying about him on the WCW hotline. (Oh snap, now he’s bringing Scheme Gene into it!)

– Dave would like to note, in case it wasn’t entirely self-evident already, that Vince literally did everything alleged himself, years before WCW even existed. Also, WCW responded by pointing out that Vince is actually undercutting THEM on ad rates.

– Furthermore, Vince claims that the Billionaire Ted skits are part of his master plan to expose the evils of the Turner empire, and if he just aired his grievances in a straightforward manner on TV, then people would change the channel. When it was pointed out that the most recent skit didn’t actually involve anything parodying WCW and was just a mean-spirited attack on Ted Turner personally, Vince defended it by saying he just wanted to inform the public about what a terrible person that Turner really is. (Vince is, as always, the true hero of the people.)

– Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff was forced to apologize on the 2/12 Nitro for his insinuations of sabotaging Nitro’s power, and is now under a gag order from head office, told not to respond to any of Titan’s barbs until after the merger has gone through. (Ironically, although not for the reasons he would have wanted, it probably would have been better for the wrestling business had the merger not gone through and had Turner been left alone with TBS. It basically destroyed his empire and left him powerless and unable to save WCW one last time when they needed it.)

– Oh, and there was also this letter sent to Turner via Fed-Ex:

“Dear Ted: Since there has been no response to my repeated request and you and your pro-wrasslin’ company stop the practice of self mutilation, I can only assume based upon the last two weeks of Nitro that the practice of self mutilation (slicing oneself with a razor blade) is not only condoned but encouraged. As you know, Hulk Hogan has been bleeding all over the place the past two weeks. There have been numerous references on your wrasslin programming that this weekend’s double cage match will be so violent that one opponent will be “bleeding to the point of no recognition.” This encouraged practice of self mutilation is disgusting, violent, potentially infectious and completely contradictory in everyway to your testimony before Congress in June of 1993 and contrary to your 1995 participation of “Voices against Violence.” Notwithstanding numerous unprecedented predatory practices against the World Wrestling Federation, if you continue to promote self mutilation, I hope your stockholders hold you accountable for this unethically, guttural, potentially unhealthy practice.”

(Hold on, I feel like I’m missing some kind of irony here. Well, it’ll come to me, I’m sure.)

– Also, before everyone brings up the December IYH match where Bret Hart bled all over the ring in the most incredibly fortuitous supposed accidental cut in wrestling history, everyone involved swears that it was hardway, so there’s nothing there. Honest. The fact that Vince also aired the full match on RAW, promoted the hell out of it, and did a big rating while not editing out any of the blood is also statistically meaningless noise.

– Of course, the true reason for all this vitriol from Vince is that years ago, Ted Turner offered to buy the WWF, and Vince was pretty offended by the notion. In fact, only a few years previously, Bill Shaw offered to do a co-promotional PPV show with the WWF and gave Vince the chance to book all the finishes himself if he’d agree to splitting the revenues. (BASTARDS. Hanging’s too good for them.)

– Meanwhile, Vince has actually talked with the USA Network about the possibility of moving RAW to a different timeslot, wanting to air later in the evening, but USA has refused because going an hour later would kill the younger audience. Also, WCW would probably move Nitro to two hours in response. (God forbid.) Vince apparently thinks that would benefit him in the long run because they would burn out their audience and use up all their best stuff, leaving him to win in the long run.

– Also, if you can believe this, Diesel has apparently been offered a three year deal by someone associated with WCW for $750,000 per year of guaranteed money, because Hulk Hogan wants to bring him in as a heel and work a program with him. Dave thinks Nash would be foolish not to take that kind of money at his age. But to avoid contract tampering charges, the deal was brokered through an intermediary and not by anyone actually associated with WCW. What almost WAS contract tampering, however, was when WCW offered the Bushwackers $120,000 per year, and then it turned out that WWF had kept them under contract for years and just never used them. And Vince refused to release them when they went looking to jump to WCW. Finally, there’s the case of Jean Pierre LaFitte, who is still under contract until 7/7 but is basically telling everyone that he’s going to WCW when he’s free thanks to a deal brokered through Jacques Rougeau. That one could definitely be viewed as contract tampering.

– Also, Razor Ramon is pretty unhappy with his spot at the moment and might be trying to jump ship when his contract is up, too.

– Finally, Vince maintains that Lex Luger was always under contract to the WWF when he showed up on Nitro, but Luger denies it, and you’d think that with Vince hurling out accusations like a madman he’d throw that one in there if he had any legal standing to do so. So you can probably assume Luger has been telling the truth all along.

(Keep in mind that all of this is only SIX MONTHS into the wrestling war and we’ve got years to go!)

– Davey Boy Smith was acquitted on 2/7 after his eight day trial in Calgary for aggravated assault, which made headlines throughout Canada after Smith had to admit wrestling is FAKE. The judge sympathized with the injuries suffered by Kody Light, but didn’t feel that Smith had caused them, and emphasized that Davey had the same rights as anyone else, despite his profession.

– The trial almost took a bad turn when Karl Moffat, the former Jason the Terrible who suffered a career-ending injury in a van accident with Smith, did a shocking run-in and turned on Davey, trying to contradict his testimony. Thankfully, it didn’t work, thanks to the hard work of Smith’s defense team, who pointed out that Moffat was once fired from New Japan for slashing the tires of the company bus and thus wasn’t credible.

– Oh, and there’s also SuperBrawl VI that happened this week. You know, the show where Brian Pillman might have been fired from WCW on live PPV? No biggie.

– Dave notes that it was “either the most highly calculated and hard to logically explain ruse in the recent history of pro wrestling, or the end of Pillman in WCW.” (The first one, as it turned out.) Pillman wrestled Kevin Sullivan in a “respect match”, basically an “I Quit” strap match, where they briefly exchanged a few shots before Pillman grabbed the mic and quipped “I respect you, Bookerman!” and walked out, leaving a panicked backstage group to send Arn Anderson out there and work a half-assed match with Sullivan before Ric Flair just told them to stop at 3:45. Although Pillman hasn’t officially been fired as of yet, Bischoff went on Nitro the next night and said there were only three Horsemen now, basically writing him out of the company.

– For those keeping track, Disco Inferno was telling people backstage that Pillman and Bischoff were “working the boys”. (Is this what we’ve come to? DISCO INFERNO BEING RIGHT ABOUT SOMETHING?) Dave is pretty sure this is not the case, since the strap match was planned to run 12 minutes and only went one minute, leaving them to do stuff like having Lex Luger stretch out his entrance to kill time later. Perhaps, Dave wonders, the supposed work will be so ridiculously elaborate that they’ll actually fire Pillman as part of the angle. Or maybe they’ll just fire him. (As it turns out, it was kind of both.)

– Despite all the craziness with Pillman and the main event, Dave didn’t think it was a good show. (Really? I quite enjoyed it.) Although Flair and Savage nearly saved the show with their cage match, complete with Elizabeth doing a shocking turn, Hogan and Giant nearly killed it again. Plus Hulk beating nine guys on his own was ridiculous, and he’s likely going to get more of heat back by beating four guys at Uncensored. (To be fair, it was more like 12.)

The show drew a sellout of 7200 to Lakeland FL, with 1000 people turned away at the door for a gate of $90,000.

– In the dark matches, Road Warriors beat Buck & Slater in 2:07 in a terrible match, Hugh Morrus pinned Chris Kanyon in 2:28 with the moonsault, Bubba Rogers & VK Wallstreet beat Craig Pittman & Joey Maggs in 2:14, and Jim Duggan beat Kevin Sullivan by DQ in 30 seconds when Loch Ness waddled to the ring and destroyed Duggan, nearly having a coronary on the way to the ring.

1. The Nasty Boys beat Public Enemy in a street fight in 7:49. No selling and no psychology at all. The crowd was into it because they were hitting each other so hard, though. They brawled to the back where they destroyed a fake concession stand. **3/4

2. Johnny B. Badd beat DDP in 14:59 to retain the TV title and win the $6.6 million in bingo winnings from Page. It was their typical good match and blew away everything else on the show. ***1/4

3. Sting & Lex Luger beat Harlem Heat to retain the tag titles in 11:49. The announcers kept selling that the Warriors would be fresher later because they didn’t wrestle already, but they did in fact wrestle already on the pre-show. Dave does concede that what they did could only be loosely called wrestling, at least. Below average but not that bad. Warriors ran in and Animal hit Stevie Ray with a metal object, and Luger got the pin. *1/2

4. Konnan beat One Man Gang in 7:27 in a worst match of the year candidate. Dave is pretty sure this won’t get Konnan over. –**

5. Kevin Sullivan beat Brian Pillman in :59 in the respect match. “Strange” he notes. DUD

6. Kevin Sullivan went to a no-decision with Arn Anderson in another respect match at 3:45, with Ric Flair randomly coming out and telling them to stop because they needed to be united against the Megapowers.

7. Sting & Luger went to a double countout with the Road Warriors in 13:56, with Luger stalling forever and acting like he didn’t want the match. The Warriors tried to wrestle scientifically, which is not their forte, although in fairness Dave can’t figure out what their forte actually is at this point. –*

8. Ric Flair pinned Randy Savage to win the WCW title in 18:52 of a cage match. Flair juiced, although not big, but they did promise blood so they had to deliver. Woman tried to throw powder at Savage and missed, but then Elizabeth turned on Savage and gave Flair her shoe, allowing Flair to hit him with it and get the pin. ***1/2 (Dave is WAY underselling that Liz turn. It revitalized her career and juiced the rematches bigtime).

9. Hulk Hogan beat the Giant in another cage match at 15:04. Kind of boring. Hogan bladed Giant after running him into the cage, but did a lousy job and couldn’t draw blood, so the announcers just pretended that Giant was busted open anyway. Hogan climbed out for the win, and then the whole Dungeon of Doom ran in and Hogan ran them all off. *

– Antonio Inoki’s World Wrestling Peace Festival has been moved from 5/18 to 6/1 due to scheduling conflicts with other shows going on that weekend.

– Ranger Ross, former WCW midcarder, was arrested on 2/11 on suspicions of being the point man in five major robberies, plus arson and embezzlement. He admitted to everything and was placed in a halfway house immediately. Police allege that Ross, who had already been caught on suspicion of being the infamous “Motorcycle Bandit” that used Amy counter-surveillance tactics to avoid capture, actually burned down the City Clerk’s office in Acworth GA to destroy the evidence of him embezzling money while working as fee collector for the city. (And people thought he was BORING!?)

– We gotta get this issue moving because it’s pretty long already, but I would like to point out that in the New Japan section, Dave notes that “Rick Steiner is planning on going to law school.” (Well that sounds like a Rodney Dangerfield movie waiting to happen.)

– So as noted, Onita showed up at a 2/5 show at Korakuen Hall, basically starting the build to his latest un-retirement, but this one has developed a ton of bad feelings from fans, as the crowd in attendance apparently chanted the equivalent of “Go Away” at him until he left the ringside area. Apparently Onita was shocked that doing a year-long retirement tour and milking fans for every last cent would then lead to resentment when he returned less than a year later. (Go figure. Wrestling fans just can’t be reasoned with.) The rumors are stronger because Hayabusa is still in the hospital from injuries suffered due to trying to be Rey Mysterio and carrying the FMW promotion, and neither thing is working out for him. They want to run another 50,000 seat stadium show and Hayabusa is not the guy to headline something like that.

– ECW has opened up a school called “The House of Hardcore”, run by Taz and Perry Saturn.

– Dan Spivey, who had to retire last year due to knee injuries that left him immobile, had his knee replaced in January and needs a hip replacement as well now. Dave wants to stress he’s not saying it’s steroid related, but there’s a lot of people linked with Zahorian who are needing hip replacements and/or dying and he’s pretty sure the worst is yet to come. (And he would be correct.)

– To WCW, where Bischoff had a company meeting with all the wrestlers prior to the Universal tapings on 2/7, and bragged about the tiny profit made by WCW for the first time. He also hinted at moving the HQ from Atlanta to Orlando, and that they’d be getting medical insurance for everyone through AETNA. Also they drug tested a bunch of people because Bischoff figures that’s the next thread WWF is going to pull at on TV. He also admitted that they were way behind the WWF in merchandising, but “that was an area they were working on in 1996”. (You know, if they could come up with a really cool t-shirt, they might make some money!)

– Sherri was fired on 2/5 after showing up in no condition to do an angle where she smashed up Parker’s car with a baseball bat. (You have to be pretty messed up to be too drunk to do an angle where you drunkenly smash up a car.)

– Amazingly, Johnny Grunge might actually get suspended for six weeks for stealing the production truck last week. Although as they’ve investigated the incident, it turns out that it wasn’t a WCW truck at all, but rather a hotel van used by WCW production where the hotel gave Grunge the keys because they figured he worked for WCW so it was OK. (Even the hotels are getting dragged down by this company.)

– Scott Norton and Ice Train are being put together as a new team called “Fire & Ice”, which Norton is not terribly thrilled about. (Oh man, they don’t get along in real life either, kind of like FIRE AND ICE. DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?!? That was rhetorical, of course I did.)

– At the Universal tapings, Brian Pillman freaked everyone out when he kicked Dave Sullivan’s rabbit cage high in the air, complete with rabbit in it, while teaming with Chris Benoit against Sullivan and Renegade. The rabbit was pretty freaked out as well. (And yet the guy who literally punted a bunny into the air is still not the worst person on his team.)

– Speaking of Benoit, he has signed a long term deal with WCW as expected and will be moving from Edmonton to Atlanta as a part of the deal. (Hopefully he can meet someone there and settle down.)

– To the WWF, where Wrestlemania 13 is a lock for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. (Or not.)

– Gene Okerlund claimed on his hotline that Curtis Iaukea would be coming to the WWF to form a heel group called the Tunnel of Doom.

– And finally, Dave thinks that the Clarence Mason character is hilarious. (Sorry, there’s not much in the WWF section this week so I didn’t really have a big joke to end on. That’s 2020 for ya.)