Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.26.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 02.26.96

Time to welcome in 2021 with everyone’s favorite blog column! And to celebrate, I’m currently three drinks in with “Best Rock of 1988” on Spotify in the background, so hopefully I’ve got lots to snark on tonight.

– In our top story, UFC IX almost got banned in Puerto Rico, but then didn’t. But then in a far bigger blow to the company, Cablevision canceled their scheduled airing of the PPV show and issued a statement that they won’t ever be airing them again, due to “religious pressure” from consumers in their home base of Connecticut.

– Interestingly, one of UFC’s biggest supporters is Howard Stern, who used his radio show to accuse Cablevision of “Gestapo Tactics” and threatened to cancel his cable service and switch to satellite if they didn’t bring the shows back.

– Specifically, the complaints and pressure mostly came from CT attorney general Richard Blumenthal and an organized group of religious protesters, with support from Senator Joseph Lieberman.

(Now these are the same idiots clogging up Twitter with prayers for Donald Trump and declaring Sidney Powell to be a “national hero”)

– Most other cable companies in the area are taking the high road and issuing statements that “Responsible viewers will make the decision as to what they want to watch”.

– Meanwhile, boxer Tommy Morrison tested positive for HIV, and there might be some big repercussions for wrestling and UFC. Although odds of anything being passed on in the ring are minimal, that still didn’t stop the public from panicking. With commissions now racing to see who can implement mandatory testing the fastest, it becomes a question of whether blading in wrestling will be around for much longer in this kind of environment. (Narrator: It was.)

– Paul Heyman was the first to react, making it clear that blading “will no longer exist in his promotion” and celebrated with a blood-free show on 2/17 in Philly, where blading is technically illegal but never enforced. (But unprotected chairshots to the head and people getting crucified were presumably still allowed.)

(Also, YEAH FUCKING RIGHT, Paul E. Two words: MASS TRANSIT.)

– Neither WWF nor WCW currently test for HIV, although WWF is strongly hinting that they might now! (Narrator: They didn’t.)

– Dave would like to have a talk with us now about blading, which he feels is a tad barbaric, sure, but hardly more dangerous than “an errant Rocker Dropper” or sharing needles backstage. There has never been any documented case of transmission of HIV in wrestling or any other sport for that matter. He would still get rid of the blade permanently if he could, but it’s more the idea of people cutting up their foreheads still being a thing in 1996 rather than any serious fear of disease transmission.

– Also Dave is pretty sure that Paul Heyman’s sudden change of philosophy is not about health concerns, but rather about concerns for the health of his business.

– The WWF’s latest In Your House wasn’t really a standalone show, but rather a show designed to build to Wrestlemania, and although the show was well received overall, Dave hated it. It was a one-match show with a terrible main event and left Bret Hart completely devalued as a champion once again.

In the dark match, Jake Roberts pinned Tatanka with a DDT in 5:36. Jake got a big pop, but he was pretty fat and blew up fast. DUD

In an interview segment on the pre-game show, Jim Cornette and Vader basically promised that Vader would get involved in the show and probably be added in a last minute match, which Dave thinks is pretty sleazy and exactly the kind of thing that Vince criticizes WCW of doing in strongly worded letters to Ted Turner.

1. Razor Ramon pinned 1-2-3 Kid in a baby bottle match in 12:01. Kid was looking smaller than usual, but they had a good match. ***

2. Hunter Hearst Helmsley pinned Duke Droese in 9:38. Droese was looking even leaner than Kid was, and it wasn’t even that he was more cut, he was just like his own smaller and shorter haired brother. He was showing some fire, but looked like a geek because he was posing with his new skinny body. (OK there bodybuilder snob!) Also he isn’t a very good wrestler. (Fair enough.) Hunter is improving, though. *1/2

3. Yokozuna beat Davey Boy Smith via DQ in 5:05 when Jim Cornette interfered. Smith did about as well as he could with Yoko given that Yoko “has no conditioning and can’t do a singles match.” (SAVAGE verbal beatdowns from Meltzer this week!) Mr. Fuji has seemingly disappeared, which opens up the field for someone else to win Worst Manager of the Year now. (STOP THE DAMN MATCH! THE MAN HAS A FAMILY!) George Steele debuted as an agent here as well. *

4. Shawn Michaels pinned Owen Hart in 15:57. The match was excellent but nowhere near the Bret v. Davey match from December. They were doing well-timed excellent spots, with the big one being Owen hitting the enzuigiri to put Shawn on the floor. And then Shawn missed the superkick, Owen missed the enzuigiri, and Shawn got a second superkick for the pin. ****

5. Bret Hart beat Diesel in a cage match to retain the WWF title in 19:13. Live reaction was about 70% for Diesel, but some are attributing it to Bret Hart playing heel on Memphis TV. Dave thinks that the other major factor is Bret being portrayed on his own TV show as a guy who doesn’t deserve the title and is lucky to still be champion. The first 15:00 were boring because the match is all about climbing and DIESEL AIN’T CLIMBING, JACK. It picked up in the last few minutes and had a great finish, though, with Undertaker coming up from under the ring and pulling Diesel down with him. *1/2

In another dark match, Ahmed Johnson pinned Isaac Yankem with the Pearl River Plunge in a bad match. Jeff Jarrett’s back had locked up on him and he was in the hospital, so Yankem took his place. (I bet the “doctor” advised him not to be lying down on his back, if you know what I’m saying.)

In another dark match, the Godwinns beat the Bodydonnas in a good match.

And finally, Undertaker beat Goldust by countout in a bad match.

Also, Jake Roberts taped a segment after the PPV portion end, talking about how he now wrestles to glorify the Lord after years of battling alcohol and cocaine. (I’m sure the Lord is flattered.)

– For those with February in the pool for when the WWF would try to bring back Ultimate Warrior again, congratulations! They had originally been negotiating in December, but money and Warrior’s desire to use a testosterone patch held up a deal. Dave notes that bringing in Warrior is a tad hypocritical considering all the shit that Vince has been giving WCW over their steroid policies.

– Brian Pillman showed up at the 2/17 ECW Arena show in a continuing effort to make everyone think he’s completely lost his damn mind. He snuck in by wearing a La Parka mask and pretended to only speak Japanese backstage. (How can you not love this crazy fucker?) Pillman got over as a big surprise babyface and called out “Eric Jerkoff” but then immediately turned on the fans and mocked them as “smart marks” and then threatened to “whip out Johnson and piss all over the front row”. Dave notes that this got most, but not all, of the audience to turn against him. (Remind me not to stand next to those other people at a urinal. Also that promo was fucking awesome.)

– After a “lengthy pause”, Paul Heyman and Shane Douglas came out to try to put a stop to Pillman’s antics, but Pillman called him “Booker Man” and then attacked a fan while pulling out a fork before security hauled him off. Pillman made sure to spend the rest of the night in character, actually swearing at fans in the hotel as well. (Good, they deserve it.)

– Pillman was also officially, and very publicly, fired by WCW on Thursday, although there’s claims that he’s still on the payroll despite WCW’s comical efforts to make everyone believe it’s a shoot. On the WCW Hotline, it was claimed that Pillman is hiring the same lawyer as Pete Rose in order to get back into WCW. Dave’s still not sure how all of this translates into anyone making any money from it. (Narrator: It didn’t.)

– WCW’s Superbrawl VI is being estimated at doing a 0.70 buyrate, which is slightly higher than Halloween Havoc and way bigger than World War III. It would work out to around 148,000 buys if going by the conservative number of 0.63.

– Also, with Pillman and Sherri gone and Loch Ness “turning into the biggest joke in wrestling”, the card for Uncensored on 3/24 is going through some changes. Lex Luger is taking Loch Ness’s place in the DOOMSDAY CAGE MATCH, where Hulk Hogan faces four men in four cages, along with Arn Anderson, Kevin Sullivan and Ric Flair. This means that Booker T will replace Lex as Sting’s tag team partner against the Road Warriors, although Booker is booked with New Japan on that date, so it may not happen either. Also Madusa replaces Sherri against Col. Parker in a Man v. Woman match. “On paper it looks like a mixed bag” notes Dave.

(Oh, but of course we’ll get THERE soon enough!)

– To Memphis, where Bret Hart came to town playing heel against Jerry Lawler and defended the WWF title against him in a cage match at the Mid-South Coliseum on 2/17, drawing a record gate of 8000 paying $90,000. This might have been beaten by a Hogan v. Piper match during their WWF heyday in 1985, but other than that, it’s the biggest money crowd ever there.

– WWF guys including Ahmed Johnson and Tatanka were all over the Memphis TV show on the weekend to build up the match, although ironically USWA is now part of the WCW syndication deal for advertising.

– To ECW, where Sabu and Scorpio stole the show on 2/17 with a 30:00 draw for the ECW TV title, with reports of **** to ****1/2 from fans. Leon Spinks was in the audience after taping promos at the show, but he fell asleep watching the match.

– The Bruise Brothers also debuted on the show, with Ron Harris getting into a fight with a fan and punching him out due to the building being so ridiculously packed with people that they could barely move while trying to brawl in the crowd. The Bruise Brothers were subbing for the Gangstas, since New Jack was in prison in Cobb County and couldn’t make it. (Hell of an excuse, you have to give him that. Also I assume he took a trip down there and accidentally ran afoul of the Big Bossman)

– Bam Bigelow starts with ECW next week, as he waits for his WWF deal to run out in October so he can go to WCW and work New Japan as a part of their deal.

– Oleg Taktarov is trying to springboard his fighting rep into a movie career and has a role in “Total Force”, a direct-to-video movie. (Oleg actually has had a long and successful career in Hollywood since then and he’s still getting steady work because “Big tough Russian heavy” is always in demand!)

– To WCW, where demand for the Ric Flair v. Randy Savage feud is so hot that they’ve restarted their house show business as a result. A show in Baltimore on 2/17 drew 11,000 fans, which ended up as the biggest non-PPV gate in the history of the company. Then they drew 9800 in Norfolk the next night, with both shows including a TV title change as Lex Luger won it from Johnny B. Badd and then dropped it back again. The numbers are even more impressive because there was no Hulk Hogan or Road Warriors, and WWF had just run the market and only did 5900.

– Arn Anderson beat Hulk Hogan for the second week in a row on Nitro, this time by DQ in a terrible match. “Hogan’s blows were missing by a mile and [Arn] was selling them anyway. I guess he has no choice.” Also Loch Ness beat Alex Wright in 2:22 with an elbow, with Wright doing about as good as he could in the situation. (This pretty much sealed the fate of Loch Ness, apparently.)

– Ed Leslie has been repackaged again, this time into The Booty Man, with the announcers never even acknowledging that he was on the show just last week as the Zodiac, and acting like he was another newcomer.

– Eric Bischoff also tried to get over the idea of a Cruiserweight tournament again, using Brad Armstrong as an example of a big star that will be part of it. Brad jobbed to Dave Finlay in a squash on the same show. The TV title switches over the weekend were never mentioned, which must make the people who were the shows feel special.

– Lawyers from TBS, and not just from WCW, sent down a complete ban on talking about anything related to the WWF on the WCW Hotline until after the merger has gone through. They can’t even say “WWF” at the moment. (Getting a head start on 2002, I guess.)

– All of Brian Pillman’s matches on syndicated shows were erased and replaced with other squashes this week.

– Center Stage was sold to new owners, and reportedly the word is NO MORE WRESTLING, so it’s uncertain what the fate of WCW Saturday Night will be.

– The Bash at the Beach PPV in July has been moved from Lake Tahoe to Daytona Beach. (Like anything will happen on THAT show.)

– To the WWF, where they announced a tag team title tournament since Billy Gunn is injured and unable to defend the belts. The finals will be on the pre-game show of Wrestlemania, which certainly cheapens the titles. (To be fair, the tournament final they booked did a good job of that on its own.)

– Apparently the Goldust v. Razor match at Wrestlemania could be a loser leaves town match, with Razor a strong possibility to go to WCW after the show.

– Dave also notes that Ringmaster now has a shaved head “and shaved of his charisma as well.” (Bet he’ll do OK with the new look.)

– A newcomer called “Herman the German” got a tryout at the RAW tapings. (That was of course Ulf Herman)

– Al Snow debuted another gimmick at the tapings, wrestling as “Shinobi the Ninja” in a squash loss to Ahmed Johnson. It’s not supposed to be a regular deal for Snow, but they needed a good worker to have a good match with Ahmed. It didn’t work.

– Johnny Ace sent in a tape of his March 95 match at Budokan Hall with himself and Steve Williams against Kobashi & Misawa in one of the best matches of the year, looking to get hired in a Texas gunslinger gimmick. He was turned down.

– Warrior’s stock appears to be rising with the WWF again due to the imminent departures of many top babyfaces, and not just Diesel and Ramon.

– And finally, Bret Hart wrote a column in the Calgary Sun about the Davey Boy trial, saying that he doesn’t think Davey has ever been a bully, but when people are being assholes in a bar around HIM, he just alerts management and lets them handle the situation, which is what Davey should have done. (Why can’t we all just listen to Bret?)

Happy New Year!