Wrestling Observer Flashback – 03.25.96
The night is cold, but we’ve got Best Rock of 1984 on Spotify to keep us warm, so it’s time for a Flashback!
In this issue, Dave wonders to himself…is Hulk Hogan a good thing, or a bad thing?
– Hulkamania is running amok in WCW in all the worst ways. Hogan books his own programs and is basically the head booker of the promotion, although he makes Kevin Sullivan do the “dirty work”. And this week, he made a rather large change to the advertised main event of Uncensored, changing it from a four-on-one match to an eight-on-two match with himself and Randy Savage against basically all the heels in the company.
– Dave notes that originally Savage was supposed to be working a falls count anywhere match against Chris Benoit, which likely would have been the only watchable match on a show that is “getting worse by the day” between the main event and Johnny B. Badd leaving the promotion. However, Benoit is working the New Japan tour that week and probably couldn’t make it back on time unless he left early.
– Oh, also Hulk added four more heels to the double-decker cage match, including “Tiny” Lister (aka Zeus), Jeep Swenson, and One Man Gang. Jeep’s combat sport bonafides include losing a boxing match via knockout to “a guy skinnier than Greg Gagne”. The final spot on the team will likely be taken by Warlord, with Brian Pillman as a ninth guy an outside possibility.
(I was going to insert a Brian Pillman meme of some kind here but I couldn’t find the right joke. I leave it as an exercise to the readership to figure out what his hilarious excuse would have been when Hulk called him up to ask him!)
– So Dave notes that Hulk is still clearly living in the steroid-fueled 80s judging by the guys he’s bringing in for the match, and that maybe the Billionaire Ted have a good point.
– The question then becomes “If the Saturday shows are doing big ratings without Hulk, and the house shows he doesn’t appear on are doing big business, then is the multi-million dollar contract for him really worth it?” Hogan is also currently threatened by the impending debuts of Hall and Nash with their own big money contracts, and as a result he re-booked the 03/18 Nitro episode to feature himself. And everyone bitched about it before the show, but then the ratings came in and it trounced RAW, so everyone stopped bitching. (And that’s how Hogan kept getting those contracts and booking power!)
– Meanwhile, Johnny B. Badd signed with the WWF on 3/14, so his place at Uncensored will be taken by the Booty Man, and the Diamond Doll will now be known as the Booty Girl, and DDP will have to quit wrestling if he loses.
– Back to Hogan, as “Zeus” is owned by the WWF, so he’ll have to be “Ze Gangsta” instead. Also, Jeep Swenson will be dubbed “The Final Solution”, but people are already complaining about that one, so they’re probably going to change it.
(You see? TOPICAL HUMOR in these!)
– Oh, also, Hulk saw Brian Pillman on the 3/11 Nitro and thought that his unhinged heel character was tremendous and something really exciting and different, and immediately ordered him to return to work so that they could work a program and Hogan could pin him with the legdrop. At this point, Dave notes that they’ve killed whatever they were trying for with “all the convoluted BS” of his recent Loose Cannon angles because now everyone backstage knows for real that it was all an act and the whole thing has been rendered pointless after months of working the boys.
– Also, Pillman quit ECW after some heated phone discussions with Paul Heyman at 4AM, after disagreements about payment for a commercial produced by ECW for Pillman’s hotline. Heyman sent him a bill for $7600 for services rendered, while Pillman claims that they had previously agreed that the costs would be part of his fees for working in ECW. (Yeah, that second one TOTALLY sounds like something Paul Heyman would agree to.)
– Pillman reportedly is obligated to work for WCW to finish up some dates through 04/17, and the two sides don’t appear to be close to working out a new contract, with Pillman asking for $500,000 per year and being offered $250,000.
– Speaking of sellouts, a Bret Hart & Undertaker v. Shawn Michaels & Diesel drew the first sellout of MSG in so long that no one can remember the last time it happened outside of a PPV. And in fact, Diesel turned on Shawn to set up a return cage match on 5/19, which goes head to head with the Slamboree PPV. The show drew 17,000 and they were actually turning people away at the door after opening up tickets at the last minute. And in fact, because of inflation and rising ticket prices, this was the largest ever gate for a WWF house show at $299,000. Earlier shows with Bruno and Pedro had sold more tickets because the arena was configured for 20,000 people or more, but ticket prices were lower.
– It appears that, with Bret Hart not appearing on the post-WM lineups, that rumors of him taking a lengthy vacation may in fact be true. Also, Razor Ramon is being “punished” on the way out by having to do jobs for Goldust, because he bitched and moaned so much about working with him.
– Speaking of doing jobs, Harlem Heat debuted for New Japan on the most recent tour, and although they’re scheduled for an IWGP tag title match on the 3/20 show, they kind of sucked in the eyes of NJPW management, so they’re basically doing jobs on the tour until their title match.
– FMW did a show on 3/15, drawing 5500 people basically on the promise that Onita would appear as a “surprise”, and in fact he did so. The idea was for Onita to back Masato Tanaka and transfer his heat to him, because Tanaka will be the guy carrying the company and Onita will be gone again, and Hayabusa isn’t back for months. Also on the show, Mr. Pogo beat Matsunaga in a no rope barbed wire spider death double hell match in his first match back. (Christ, enough with all the no rope barbed wire spider death double hell matches on every show! You can’t throw a damn rock without hitting a no rope barbed wire spider death double hell match these days!)
– Meanwhile, Jinsei Shinzaki worked the Michinoku Pro show in Tokyo, as the promotion sold out the Ota Ward gym thanks to Dynamite Kid and Satoru Sayama appearing together for the first time since the early 80s. Anyway, the fans there kind of ruined Shinzaki’s re-emergence under his real name, because he was still more well known under his WWF persona, and so they chanted “Hakushi” for him when he was introduced.
– Terry Funk was apparently pushing hard for Dory to get Sabu & Rob Van Dam into All Japan as a regular midcard tag team, but it appears that All Japan isn’t interested in them.
– To Memphis, where Mick Foley worked the 3/18 show as Mankind, challenging Jerry Lawler for the Unified title. He apparently wore “a mask somewhat similar to Vader’s strap mask” and everyone knew it was Cactus Jack, but it wasn’t acknowledged.
– Sid Vicious was gone from commentary and not mentioned on TV at all this week.
– To ECW, where they drew 666 in Jim Thorpe and fans weren’t into the wrestling but loved the mayhem. In particular, rowdy fans stole Taz’s towel on the way to the ring, and a pissed off Taz grabbed another fan later in the show after the guy was trying to start something with him. (Why would you pick TAZ to start shit with?) The fan was ejected afterwards. Poor Rob Van Dam and Damien Stone (Little Guido) had a good match but the fans changed “You both suck!” at them mercilessly and killed it before they even locked up. (Thus proving how hilariously fickle ECW fans were.)
– Antonio Inoki’s group held a press conference for their proposed super-show on 3/15, still not saying much other than they were still planning to do the show at some point. They’re still claiming that WWF and EMLL are participating, but notably neither group had any representation at the press conference. Eric Bischoff said that it MIGHT air on TBS or TNT but don’t get your hopes up. (I wish it had, because then we’d have a better version of it and it’d be on the WWE Network.) Dave notes that if Bischoff can pull that off, with WWF people on the show, that would cement Inoki as the most powerful man in wrestling. It was, however, made clear that All Japan will not be participating in the show.
– Also, Inoki of course arranged a training session with Dan Severn while he was there, so he could show Dan some submission holds that don’t require as much power to exert as Dan is used to. So that way, Inoki has the story ready-made that he helped Severn beat Shamrock in their upcoming big fight in the UFC. (Hopefully he trained him in walking in circles for extended periods of time.)
– Mid-American Wrestling held a tribute show on 3/10 in Wisconsin, in honor of former AWA jobber George “Scrap Iron” Gadaski, who died years back. George is the famous answer to a trivia question. (I assume everyone knows the question, but I won’t spoil it in case the comments sections wants to take a crack at it for fun.)
– Rad Radford, fresh off being fired from the WWF, has a bit part in Beverly Hills 90210 as a grunge rocker. (Although the subject is never really broached in these, Dave is of course a HUGE fan of 90210, as we learned years later via the radio shows.)
– To WCW, where Dave has turned the corner on Lex Luger and thinks his act with Jimmy Hart is hilarious now. Especially after the bit on Nitro where Loch Ness was counted out of the ring before Luger even started the match, and Lex celebrated like he had won the World title.
– Dave was also amazed that Arn Anderson looked giant next to Booty Man, and isn’t sure if that means Arn is expanding or Ed Leslie is shrinking.
(Well we know where Kevin Nash stands on the matter.)
– Also on Nitro, Jeep Swenson blew himself up WALKING TO THE RING, and ended up in the hospital with a high fever and so is already questionable for the cage match. (Smarter promotions would take that as a sign, but not our WCW!)
– The Nitro episode was actually WCW’s biggest win ever, with a whopping 3.6 to 2.9 drubbing. (Truly we’ll never see numbers that huge for a long time!)
– Brian Pillman had throat surgery on 3/13 at Vanderbilt University, and then Mean Gene went on the hotline and claimed that it didn’t happen and there was no record of Pillman being there. This led to Pillman’s agent making legal threats against Okerlund, complete with sending a copy of his patient discharge sheet, and demanded that Gene issue a retraction on the next episode of Nitro. Gene then missed that episode of Nitro with the flu. (I hope Pillman went on his own hotline and claimed that it didn’t happen. Also on a recent Observer Radio, Dave admitted that Pillman told him at the time that the surgery was basically bogus, in that it was elective surgery that wasn’t necessary, but he did it so that he had a valid medical reason not to take the legdrop, brother.)
– Peter Gruner, the indie wrestler known as Kid Flash, signed a WCW contract after a strong tryout match with Chris Kanyon. (We already had his understated debut last issue, but that’s Billy Kidman.)
– Lee Marshall is horrible, notes Dave. (I’ve got no followup, just wanted to make sure it was noted here.)
– They’re making sure to bury Johnny B. Badd extra hard on WCW TV because the fear is that he could be a big star in the WWF. (Maybe, maybe not. Now his WIFE…)
– To the WWF, where that Bret/Undertaker v. Shawn/Diesel is setting house show records all over the country.
– Wrestlemania 12 is officially sold out with 12,486 paid and $725,000.
– Vince appeared on the Chet Coppock show this weekend, making the same complaints he’s been making for months about all the horrible things that Ted Turner is doing to him despite Vince himself spending years doing the same things to everyone else.
– Rupert Murdoch earns the “Hypocrite of the Week” award for taking a broadside at Ted Turner, in retaliation for Turner making fun of the lack of quality on Fox’s TV lineup. Murdoch retorted that at least Fox draws the line at “brown-nosing foreign dictators and airing professional wrestling”. Of course, Fox was trying to get the Wrestlemania special last year, and there’s currently some heavy negotiations involving Vince and the Fox Network ongoing to get the WWF on there. (Never ever gonna happen in a million years.)
– Jim Hellwig is releasing a “Warrior” comic book. (Two words: Legend. Ary.)
– And finally, Dave gets the SICK BURN OF THE YEAR on the subject of Jake Roberts after watching RAW: Jake Roberts wasn’t showing his age at all on RAW, notes Dave. He was showing Nick Bockwinkel’s age.
(ROASTED! Man I wish I was roasted right now. It’s so damn cold.)