Wrestling Observer Flashback – 03.04.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 03.04.96

Guys, it sounds like the Diamond Studd will soon be appearing in WCW again! We’ll see how that goes for them.

– In an understatement, Dave notes that the babyface side in the WWF is in a state of disarray, what with Scott Hall about to jump to WCW in late May once all his contractual stuff ends. (These past couple of issues of course sharply contradict Vince’s usual victim statement about Hall and Nash blindsiding him with their departure and leaving him in the lurch.) Hall officially gave his notice on 2/21 via telegram…

…and on the same day, Hall was suspended for six weeks for reasons entirely unrelated to his departure, which not only take him off the road until the end of his contractual obligations, but by a staggering coincidence means that he doesn’t get to collect a Wrestlemania payday before he leaves.

– To replace Hall at Wrestlemania, the booking suddenly went into the direction of having Roddy Piper face Goldust after an interview where Goldust wanted to “play his bagpipes”. Although in theory the suspension removes Hall until 4/3 and he could return afterwards, most feel like he’ll just sit it out until his contract is done. (Oh, I’m sure he’ll have one or two matches in him yet. Maybe one last MSG appearance. Just a hunch.)

– Dave notes that the WWF will likely claim the Razor Ramon name and mannerisms as their own intellectual property, so he won’t be able to use that character or probably even be a Latin character. (I’m sure WCW would never try to ape their intellectual property.)

– Razor had been unhappy with his situation in the WWF for a long time leading up to his resignation, including (but not limited to) annoyance that he had to drop the IC title to Goldust instead of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, not being allowed have an extended feud with 1-2-3 Kid, and then having to do the diaper match once they were allowed to finally have a match on PPV. More importantly, his yearly pay dropped from $400,000 in 1994 to $270,000 in 1995. (My god I never realized how hard life had become for him. No wonder he was driven to addiction and booze.)

– On the front office, people were upset that he waited until just after taping a match where he and Savio Vega advanced in the tag team tournament before giving his notice. Plus, you know, they had all those plans for the match at Wrestlemania and had a downtrodden street all picked out and everything.

– In other news, Diesel is also the subject of rumors as of late, and he also missed a bunch of shows, although in his case it was an injured shoulder after the match with Bret Hart at the PPV. (Probably from CARRYING the Hitman for 20 minutes, AM I RIGHT GUYS? UP HERE!) Dave notes that the arm looked fine when he was swinging an axe into Undertaker’s casket the next night on RAW, however. Diesel has also been unhappy with his booking as of late, like being put in a “Triangular match” program against Bret Hart and Undertaker at the house shows, which looks to be a big draw. Instead he was just booked to interfere in a Bret-Undertaker match and allow Bret to get the win. (The stellar booking of Bret continues I see. Good thing we know HE’D never leave!) But then he declined to even show up for THAT small bit of work, and instead they did double countout finishes with Bret and Undertaker that got booed out of the building.

– In order to try to salvage the tour, which was actually selling a lot of tickets, they sent Piper to the Meadowlands to “rebook” the show on the fly as President, including putting himself in the ring against 1-2-3 Kid to a big reaction. The strategy seemed to work well for them.

– WCW is reportedly offering Big Kev anywhere from $450,000 to $700,000 in guaranteed long term money, and that’s a tempting offer for someone with a family. The expectation is that he’d do a main event program as a heel against Hulk Hogan. However, Diesel only has until the end of the week to make a decision and give notice, or else his contract will roll over for another year automatically, so no one’s really sure where this is going to go.

– Speaking of contracts, Ultimate Warrior has signed a new deal with the WWF for a lot of money, starting with a Wrestlemania match against Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Meanwhile, Vince has been very upset with people accusing him of being a hypocrite after the whole “WCW doesn’t test for steroids but we do, nyah nyah!” thing. Vince wants to stress that Warrior will be under the same strenuous steroid testing as everyone else on the roster. (Narrator: Which was, of course, none) Vince doesn’t care what guys like Warrior and Ahmed Johnson might been doing before the WWF, but now that they’re part of his company, they’ll be held to the same standards as everyone else! Also he would like to point out that WCW doesn’t have a steroid policy at all. (Narrator: That was a lie. They did.) Also, Vince would like to point out that if he DIDN’T hire Warrior just because he happens to have a physique, then that would be like punishing him just because he HAPPENS to have a strenuous diet and excellent training that HAPPENS to make him look exactly like someone on a shitload of steroids.

– Dave notes that people are on the lookout for the dreaded Sudden Weight Gain Syndrome that people seem to get when leaving for WCW, when it comes to Diesel and Ramon.

– Anyway, Jeff Jarrett is also having injury problems and is also off Wrestlemania, although Dave doesn’t actually know what he was supposed to be doing at Wrestlemania in the first place.

– Also, the Huckster v. Nacho Man match will indeed be on the pre-show, just to avoid legal entanglements about charging people money while using WCW’s intellectual property. (Remember: It’s only OK when VINCE does it, because he’s the victim here.)

– Meanwhile, the In Your House show apparently did a 0.77 buyrate, or 185,000 buys, and WWF officials were tripping over themselves to put over the number, claiming it was the highest number since the first In Your House show. However, the irony here is that they’ve been claiming all along that even the shows in the series that flopped were doing 0.85 buyrates (in reality less than half of that). However, since WCW Superbrawl cost $8 more, it’ll still end up grossing more money despite a slightly lower buyrate. Given that it was basically a commercial for Wrestlemania, however, the show has to be viewed as a success.

– To New Japan, where the rumor is that the WCW Cruiserweight tournament will not actually be a tournament at all, but simply one match between Chris Benoit and Otani to decide the champion.

– Victor Quinones returned to FMW to book it, bringing Mr. Pogo and the Head Hunters with him for an invasion angle of sorts on the Korakuen Hall show on 2/23. It’s believed they’re going to try to book Terry Funk for their main event at the baseball stadium on 5/5. (BUT…BUT…I THOUGHT HE WAS RETIRED FOR GOOD!)

– All Japan Women is making an odd shift back to their roots from the 70s, marketing the women as “rock singers” in addition to being pro wrestlers. The 3/31 Yokohama Arena show will reportedly feature Manami Toyota doing a musical number, backed by other members of the roster. The group originally marketed this way in an effort to attract an audience of 99% teenage girls, with “real” wrestling fans shunning the promotion despite their awesome workrate. (Same thing happened to the Jonas Brothers.) However, once they started drawing a more traditional audience in the 90s, they dropped the whole “rock singer” gimmick, and now that their popularity is falling again, they’re going to go back to their roots and try to draw that original teenaged crowd back again. (Hot take: Japan is wacky.)

– To Memphis, where Bill Dundee is back again and it’s time for a sort of, I dunno, Wrestling Observer Flashback we’ll call it. Or Wrestling Observer Rewind if you’re on Reddit I guess. Anyway, Dave would like to take us back to the September 8 1995 issue, when if you’ll remember, Dundee and Wolfie D got into an argument over how much money they were getting from selling photos at the gimmick table and led to Dundee pulling a knife on him. Because of course it did. Anyway, cut to the present day, as Dundee returns to Memphis TV with his son JC Ice calling him a complete embarrassment to the family, and Dundee protested that it was all lies. So Wolfie called him out and said “Dave Meltzer will tell everyone what happened” if he continued to lie. Of course, this is leading to another Jerry Lawler v. Bill Dundee main event, this one an unsanctioned match where Dundee is supposedly not getting paid for working. (Sounds like a Jerry Jarrett main event to me.)

– Sir Mo also debuted and will be pushed immediately. (I know this will sound batshit crazy, but this is actually the origin of the Nation of Domination and I’m not even kidding.)

– Dave watched the Brian Pillman angle on the 2/20 ECW TV show, and although it was excellent for what it was, Shane Douglas nearly ruined it by saying “HE’S SHOOTING!” because it totally destroyed the suspension of disbelief that was the entire point of the thing.

– Mr. Hughes managed to get himself fired from ECW, after walking out on a match with Scorpio on 2/24. They were having problems before and during the match, and got into a screaming match backstage afterwards as well before Hughes backed down and apparently left for good.

– One week in and still no blood yet on any of the ECW shows this week.

– To WCW, where they banned all signs from the Knoxville episode of Nitro this week because they were worried about Jim Cornette having friends at the show. In fact Cornette has been living in Connecticut “incommunicado” for weeks now and would have no means to do so.

– Bischoff is already back to giving away RAW results on the air after one week of behaving, and also calling them “The World Whining Federation”. They also dropped some HINTZ when talking about how Zodiac was in the Dungeon as a spy all along, and Bischoff noted that having a spy in the opposition is a great strategy. (Of course it turned out that it was actually ECW he was referring to…)

– Ed Leslie had been suing the WWF to get the rights back to “Brutus Beefcake” but legal fees were more than he could afford. (You notice TBS wasn’t exactly jumping to cut THAT cheque for him.)

– To the WWF, where the tag team title tournament started at the Superstars tapings on 2/20. Ramon & Vega beat Kid & Tatanka in a first round match that Dave is guessing will never see the light of day. (It did in fact air on Superstars as scheduled.)

– Al Snow debuted with yet another gimmick, this time Leif Cassidy as a part of the New Rockers with Marty Jannetty. The idea is that they’re stuck in the 70s and will wind up as heels.

– Ricky Morton was hanging out backstage for the show.

– GLAAD and other gay rights groups are protesting the WWF portrayal of Goldust as a “predatory homosexual” who gets beat up by straight men after hitting on them. They’re going to continue protesting until they turn Goldust into a character “not offensive to gays”. (To be fair here, even though they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt in the slightest, it is ENTIRELY possible that the Goldust character was just a predatory scumbag who happened to be gay as well. Just because someone is an asshole doesn’t mean they represent an entire group of people, and in fact treating him as such is actually giving the character and the people behind it more power than they deserve.)

– The latest Ted skit, this one based around “Larry Fling Live” interviewing Huckster and Nacho Man, was pretty funny, with Fling brandishing a women’s shoe to calm them down when they got too riled up. (Yeah, if they had stayed in that kind of humor, they would have been fine.)

– WWF is “soft firing” lots of guys like Men on a Mission, basically acknowledging that they don’t want to use them anymore and would rather they go away, but also they don’t want to give anyone to the opposition. So they’re “fired” and they’re allowed to work wherever they want, as long as it’s not WCW.

– Turns out that some of Bret Hart’s columns in the Calgary Sun have actually been written by Bruce. Speaking of Bret, he’s been in discussions about going to WCW and getting a Starrcade main event against Ric Flair, but the odds are against it happening. (Man, it would take something REALLY extraordinary to make Bret go to WCW, I’d bet!)

– And finally, they tried to convince Mankind to debut early on the road to combat all the no-shows and injuries, but it didn’t happen. In a trivia note, the rat used for his debut vignettes is actually the trained rat owned by Jim Cornette’s girlfriend. (Well wrestlers are certainly the experts on rats.)