Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.02.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.02.96

Time for Uncensored. Hope your medical insurance is paid up because this one is gonna hurt.

– But first, Dave wants to talk about the impending Wrestlemania 12. Can’t say as anyone could blame him. The big hype job is from the WWF machine at the moment, already calling Bret Hart v. Shawn Michaels the best match in the history of the company, a week before it actually happens. On the bright side, Dave notes, if they can pull it off people will remember the match for years. But if they can’t deliver perfection then it’ll likely come off as a huge disappointment. (Unfortunately it ended up on the latter side.)

– Dave does note that the last time a major title match was booked to go an hour, with Flair v. Steamboat at Clash VI, it absolutely delivered, ironically at a time when the promotions were spending more time and money on sabotaging each other than even today. (Boy that would soon change.)

– Another bit of hype being added to the match is Bret’s teases of retirement following what is presumed to be his loss of the title to Michaels, although Dave doesn’t think it’s a serious threat because then the promotion of the match would be entirely different. Dave compares it to the Hogan “retirement” in 1992, where Hulk was teasing retirement after his match with Sid and then changed his mind at the last minute, but that was also a different situation where Hulk needed to get out of the spotlight for a while to let legal troubles cool down.

– The whole deal with Bret v. Shawn was reportedly a major reason for Bill Watts leaving the company so abruptly in 1995, with Cowboy heavily advocating for Bret Hart as a long-term champion while Vince wanted Shawn. Seems that Vince had called a “wrestlers’ meeting” backstage with Watts and all the talent and said straight out that Watts would have full control over decisions like that and Vince would abide by them 100% and wouldn’t overrule him. And Watts took him seriously.

– Needless to say, Bill quickly discovered how not serious Vince was.

– Dave’s feeling on the debate is that there is something to be said for leaving well enough alone while business is trending upwards, especially with Bret as the main advertised attraction as champion for all these shows that are selling out for the first time in forever. On the other hand, Shawn’s return from “injury” in November caused an upswing in buyrates right away, and the December PPV buyrate without him was the lowest in history.

– Just to stretch things out before having to review Uncensored, Dave does a brief history of Wrestlemania up until this point. COME ON, DAVE, MAN UP!

– OK, it’s time for WCW UNCENSORED, which shockingly has been the recipient of mostly negative reviews from people thus far. Many called it the worst show they had ever seen, although Dave can’t go that far because it had a couple of good matches, but he SURE DID agree with people calling the main event one of the worst matches in the history of wrestling. It was a fiasco on more levels than the cage itself had!

– The show drew 9000 to the Tupelo Coliseum, up a bit from the previous year’s show.

– So the main event, which was “not well thought out” leading up to the show, had people expecting the absolute worst going in, and somehow managed to be even more terrible than that. The rules were never explained because no one ever thought them up in the first place. The advertising for the show explained that it would take place in the resurrected Triple Tower of Doom from Bash 88, but by the time of the show it was up to four levels of cages being advertised. And they spent the weekend hyping up that Brian Pillman would be a part of the heel team, along with a mystery surprise member of the heel team to be announced at showtime, and in fact neither thing happened. It’s unclear if Pillman was ever told that he was going to be advertised as a part of the match in the first place.

– Then at the time of the show, the cage was back to three levels again. Hogan and Savage were supposed to be beat everyone on the heel team to win, but that changed by the time of the match. People wandered in out of the cage at will, and there was no way to take meaningful bumps in the cage anyway. Jeep Swenson changed his name again, this time to The Ultimate Solution, and had a mini-match with Hogan and Savage that somehow made the match, which was already a “never-ending nightmare”, EVEN WORSE. Unsurprisingly, there’s also backstage heat from everyone who can’t get booked on PPV about Jeep and Zeus getting a PPV payday. (I mean, did they WANT to be part of this match? Count your blessings, geeks.)

– Dave notes that if this show bombs, which seems unlikely, all the heat will go on Hogan because he’s the one who put it all together and booked it. (Yeah, it did a 0.7 buyrate. Definitely not a bomb.)

– Overall, Dave thinks the show “probably” deserves a thumbs down. (PROBABLY?!?!) But he could bump it as high as thumbs in the middle due to Regal v. Finlay.

Dark Match A: Mr. JL pinned Dean Malenko in 3:20 in a cruiserweight title tournament match, which has Dave a tad perplexed since Shinjiro Otani already won the belt. **

Dark Match B: Jim Duggan pinned Bubba Rogers in 3:20 with the taped fist gimmick. Short and bad. ¼*

Dark Match C: Dick Slater pinned Alex Wright in 1:55 by using his cowboy boot after interference from Robert Parker.

Dark Match D: The Steiners went to a no-contest with the Nasty Boys in 5:19 when the Road Warriors interfered. Dave was already sick of outside interference by this point and it was still the pre-show! **

1: Konnan pinned Eddie Guerrero to retain the US title in 18:27. A really good match killed by the announcers, who couldn’t be bothered to understand what either guy was doing or what their history was. (Yeah, well, get used to that.) The finish was weak, with Guerrero trying a leapfrog and hitting his groin on Konnan’s head, which led to the pin. This would have been fine, but they spent the rest of the show having guys do low blows constantly and none of them led to anyone getting pinned. ***1/4

2: The Belfast Bruiser beat Steven Regal by DQ in 17:33. A super stiff All Japan style match with no hot moves, no build, no psychology, and no finish. And it wasn’t entertaining. BUT, it was sure believable. (Really selling it there, Dave.) It’s not a match of the year, but it’s a must-see brawl, with Bruiser actually breaking Regal’s nose at one point, until the Bluebloods interfered for the DQ. And then Dave Taylor slapped Bruiser “incredibly hard” after the match for good measure. ***1/4

3: Col. Parker pinned Madusa in 3:47. On a show this nuts, Dave calls out Parker being announced as “197 pounds” as one of the more notably ridiculous. Entertaining for what it was although Madusa couldn’t even keep a straight face. *

4: Booty Man pinned Diamond Dallas Page at 16:00 in an “I Quit” match where they forgot about the stips after announcing them on TV. Way too long and really boring. Kimberly was actually booked to say “I want him to be my boy friend” at one point. Booty got the pin with a high knee that was more like a low knee. DUD

5: The Giant pinned Loch Ness with a legdrop in 2:34. Dave is pretty sure this is the last we’re gonna see of Loch Ness. (Don’t be so sure! Oh wait, no, he’s right. Just reflex I guess.)

6: Sting & Booker T beat the Road Warriors in a Chicago Street Fight in 29:33. Pretty wild for the first 10:00 and then it fell apart. It did elevate Booker T a lot, however, as he pinned Hawk after a chairshot, although they had used a bunch of chairs during the match already. ***1/2

7: Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage beat Meng & Barbarian & Ric Flair & Arn Anderson & Kevin Sullivan & Lex Luger & Ze Gangsta & Ultimate Solution in 25:16 in the DOOMSDAY CAGE MATCH. Tony spent the match asking when Brian Pillman would be there, taking the bait-and-switch beyond all sensible levels. At one point Meng & Barbarian were simply let out of their cage and wandered backstage and out of the match. The finish saw Luger get a loaded black glove from Jimmy Hart, and he went to hit Savage and then changed his mind and knocked Flair out instead to give the babyfaces the win. -*** (Jesus, that match only warrants negative THREE stars? Was Hogan bribing Meltzer with Pastamania coupons or something?)

– In a note that’s par for the course with this show, Ric Flair, Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund were all late because they got lost on the way from Memphis to Tupelo, although no one was worried about Flair because he does shit like that all the time and always manages to turn up for the show.

– The post-WM PPV show on 4/28 already has Shawn Michaels v. Diesel for the WWF title scheduled as the main event, plus Vader v. Razor Ramon so they can make sure he gets destroyed on the way out.

– Jesse Ventura won a third victory over the WWF in his lawsuit over royalties, as the WWF had appealed to the Supreme Court and they refused to overturn it, turning it down without comment and leaving the original decision for Ventura intact. So now the WWF has to pay Jesse’s court costs, and after two years of fighting the decision, will finally have to actually pay up the more than $1 million in royalties and accrued interest.

– To Japan, where Misawa did his first job in two years, losing to Steve Williams via a pair of backdrop drivers to kick off the Champion Carnival tournament. Since he won last year, they’re trying to build up suspense about him winning this year by having him do a job right away.

– As mentioned earlier in the issue, Shinjiro Otani won the WCW Cruiserweight “tournament” on 3/20 in Nagoya, beating Pegasus Kid in the “finals”. Apparently the match was “sensational” according to those in attendance, which Dave is not shocked by. (Apparently a show can have the worst match in history as the main event and he still gives it thumbs in the middle anyway so I don’t even know if his opinion can be trusted!)  Dave notes that there will be more on this in the WCW section of the issue later.  (Yeah well that turned out to a bait and switch as well!  Dave’s no better than WCW!)  

(Sorry, that was really mean and I take it back.)  

– The other notable result from the tour was Toshimitsu Ishikawa beating Yuji Nagata in an upset to win the Young Lions tournament. This is surprising because Dave was sure that Nagata was the future star out of the two and usually the winner of the tournament goes on to a big push right away. (As it turned out, Ishikawa was repackaged into Kendo Kashin and did in fact get a significant push, although he certainly didn’t stick around as long as Nagata has.)

– Great Sasuke won the WWF Light heavyweight title (which has actually been a Mexican title for the UWA for the past while) from Aero Falsh on a Michinoku Pro show on 3/24, giving him both that title and the British Lightweight title as he moves towards a match with Jushin Liger at the Tokyo Dome. (And yes, this was actually going somewhere, and I’m sure you can guess where.)

– To Memphis, where PG-13 “returned” after losing a loser-leaves-town match a few weeks ago, wearing masks and calling themselves “The Cyberpunks”. (Sadly the gimmick had to be recalled after one show because they kept glitching out.)

– To ECW, where Brian Pillman is already un-fired after his dramatic falling out last week, and did a hilarious vignette where he was supposedly working as a cook in a Philly restaurant and then told an older fan that the Loose Cannon deal was all the work before going “crazy” again at the end of the show. The problems between Pillman and Paul Heyman were resolved before the show, and this would also indicate that Pillman is on good terms with WCW despite all the heat on him, because he’s still contracted to them and would need their approval to do outside stuff. (Unless he, say, tricked them into giving him a real release, but that would be pretty STUPID on WCW’s part!)

– Heyman of course denies any deal with WCW, saying that the whole thing was brokered through a mutual friend.

– There’s talk in wrestling circles that Barry Blaustein is trying to put together a documentary, kind of like Pumping Iron, but about pro wrestling. (Hope he’s a catchy title for that one. Is Dennis Stamp doing anything, I wonder?)

– Dave went to see Roland Alexander’s All Pro Wrestling show on 3/22, and he was very impressed with the guys working the show, like a skinny kid named Matt Hyson, for example. The show was basically a bunch of kids who are training at Roland’s school in Hayward. (And coincidentally, that school would feature heavily in said movie.)

– Um, for some reason the WCW section is completely omitted in this issue. The header is there and then it’s blank. No idea what that’s about. I should actually drop a line to the webmaster and let them know.

– So I guess to the WWF to finish things out.

– Dave notes that Marc Mero’s real name is actually “Merowitz” and he shortened it when he started boxing, and he’s not allowed to do any flamboyant mannerisms that might be confused with WCW’s intellectual property of Johnny B. Badd.

– Sid will be returning once he’s healthy again.

– And finally, Dave thinks that the buildup to the Iron Man is “first-rate”, and Bret’s work as a very subtle heel is classic. (Well he’ll REALLY love what happens a few months from now, I bet!)