Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.22.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 04.22.96

Well this should do better than NWA Powerrr at least.

– In our top story, Brian Pillman was driving an “open-air military vehicle” (is that a Jeep-like structure by any chance?) and was thrown 40 feet during an accident on 4/15. Apparently he was driving 70mph in a 45 zone. (That’s a metaphor for Brian’s life right there.) He’s currently listed in critical condition in a Cincinnati hospital and his current status with regards to returning to wrestling is unknown.

– Dave notes that from the standpoint of his career, the timing here couldn’t have been worse. His WCW contract just expired and he was negotiating for a new deal, but this would seem to throw a wrench into those plans. Not to mention he was also trying to make a deal with ECW to work with Shane Douglas.

– Wrestlemania 12 appears to have done the same buyrate as Wrestlemania 11, although there’s still some dispute over what that number actually is. However, they did shatter their ratings record for the unopposed RAW show on 4/8, which drew a 4.7 rating without Nitro on the other channel. The show was loaded up with the return of the Ultimate Warrior to TV, plus Vader v. Yokozuna.

– This would make the show the second-highest audience to ever watch a wrestling show on cable TV, second only to the original Royal Rumble in 1988 on USA. It also “destroyed” the previous record of 3.9, which was achieved twice in 1995. WCW, meanwhile, has had some Clash of Champions shows that hit more viewers at various points, but never start-to-finish like this.

(Yeah we’ll get to you sooner or later, don’t worry.)

– The momentum carried through to 4/15, where another strong RAW episode beat Nitro 3.1 to 2.8, even with Nitro starting 4 minutes before the hour with Hulk Hogan in a “pathetic handicap match”. Meanwhile WWF started at THREE minutes before the hour, and both shows were neck and neck throughout until a Randy Savage v. Bobby Eaton tanked the ratings for Nitro and gave RAW the win in the end.

– Back to Wrestlemania, as the WWF is claiming 430,000 buys, which would be very good. But that’s exactly the same as last year’s 425,000 buys, which was considered a huge disappointment at the time. Furthermore, the actual numbers thrown around by industry appear to be closer to 300,000 buys. Either way, it’s a drop in revenue because they lowered the price from $35 to $30 this year, so they’re likely down a million dollars overall. However, last year’s show had bigger expectations with Lawrence Taylor and his salary and didn’t meet them, whereas this year’s show is pretty much in the “anything is gravy” category.

– Dave talks about Pancrase for 18 paragraphs. Next.

– Onto the World Wrestling Peace Festival from your friend and mine Antonio Inoki, which will now officially take place on 6/1 at the LA Sports Arena. Original plans were to be holding the show at the LA Coliseum, but cooler heads prevailed. (Hopefully there wasn’t a security issue that forced them to change venues!)

– Dave still thinks the show will be difficult to market despite the very eclectic mixture of wrestling styles and matches. There’s also rumors of Terry Funk appearing for his US retirement match, possibly against Sabu. (Still buying that line from Terry, I see.) Inoki has been lobbying hard for a meeting with Vince McMahon to get WWF talent on the show, but Vince has said outright that he’s not interested in participating, and they already have a house show scheduled for the same night in Tampa.

– USWA celebrated its 1,000 episode on WMC-TV in Memphis on 4/13, although there were no special guests and just a lot of clips dating back to 1977. The show was, for years and years and possibly still today, the highest rated wrestling show in the country. In fact during the high point for the promotion, they would draw a 20 rating and 70 share. Dave thinks those numbers are so ridiculous that if you weren’t around for them, you probably wouldn’t believe them. (Meanwhile RAW does 2 million viewers for the post-WM show this year and they’re doing backflips in Stamford.)

– Highlights of the show included Jerry Lawler winning the AWA title from Curt Hennig, and a clip from the Bill Dundee v. Jimmy Valiant feud “which I believe occurred just after the peace treaty was signed between Lee and Grant” as Dave notes.

– To AAA, where Pentagon ended up in the hospital with total respiratory failure after mixing booze and drugs on 3/6 and ended up clinically dead for three minutes, only surviving because the hospital was so close to the arena where he overdosed. He suffered partial paralysis and it certainly appears his wrestling career is over. However, more troubling is the coverage in the Box y Lucha magazine, which have taken the horrible situation and turned it into another chapter in their long-running war of words with AAA, claiming that the promotion owes the hospital over $5000 in unpaid bills and they basically abandoned Pentagon to die and went on with business as usual. (Well at least they didn’t cut him during a pandemic.) Also Antonio Pena is particularly furious at the coverage of the situation, even though the magazine already calls him “Das Fuhrer of wrestling” and compares him to Hitler on a regular basis. In fact, the magazine is even blaming Konnan for causing the injury in quite the stretch, somehow tying it to a slam that Konnan delivered earlier in the evening. Pena has banned the magazine from covering AAA shows, and the magazine sniped back in the next issue with an editorial noting that “in our quest to tell readers the truth about Pentagon, AAA won’t let us in the arenas.” (CANCEL CULTURE!)

– To Memphis, where the big feud is Bill Dundee putting his van up against the mask of Cyberpunk Fire (Wolfie D). Yup. Amazingly, the shows still aren’t doing very well.

– To ECW, where Dave complains that with the addition of Damien Stone (Little Guido) to Damien Kane and Damian from AAA, there’s too many Damians for one promotion.

– And now, it’s time for….

– Buh Buh Ray Dudley and Big Dick Dudley actually lost to this new Damien and JT Smith by DQ due to interference by a brand new black Dudley, named Devon, who is the first graduate of the ECW training school.

– Dave is also annoyed at the lack of weight gain in Beulah, who is supposed to be pretty far along in her “pregnancy” as a part of the wacky storyline with Kimona and Tommy Dreamer, and he’s pretty sure they need to pay off wherever they’re going quick because she’s only about 90 pounds.

– To WCW, where the 4/15 Nitro did what have to be considered phenomenal numbers for attendance considering West Virginia was under a tornado watch.

– Anyway, speaking of disasters, the current trend of Hogan getting booed out of the building has people on top once again trying to talk Hogan into turning heel. This resulted in Hogan and Booty Man throwing a snit and no-showing the WCW Saturday Night tapings on 4/3, after which he gave word that he was going to go shoot a movie until August and wanted to be written out of the show on 4/15 with a serious injury angle. This also would have the benefit of making his return feel a lot more special after a few months off. Well, of course, Hogan changed his mind at the last minute and not only didn’t suffer a serious injury on the show, but in fact won a handicap match and then no-sold the Giant’s chokeslam and slammed him as well. Turns out the movie deal wasn’t quite the sure thing Hogan was advertising.

– Of course, later in the evening Sting and Luger had to take the chokeslam from Giant and sell it like they were dead.

– Flair has been hitting on Steve McMichael’s wife Debra on TV, which would lead one to believe that he’ll be opposing the football team of Mongo and Kevin Greene on the June PPV.

– Oh also, there’s talk of Nitro going to TWO HOURS every Monday night. See, apparently this would double the rights fee from TNT and make WCW even more profitable. (Hey, this TV rights free thing is a pretty good scam! Maybe someone else will try it. Still, two whole hours of wrestling? I don’t think they can pull it off.)

– And now it’s time for a feature we haven’t seen in a while…

– Get your betting money ready RIGHT NOW, because Dave declares that “Lanny Poffo is pretty much a sure thing to come in with a Gorgeous George gimmick”. (Man he managed to be wrong about just about every word in that sentence.)

– It’s also “99% sure” according to Dave that WCW will be moving its base of operations from Atlanta to Orlando and becoming a regular part of the theme park there, with a regular wrestling exhibition that will serve as a way to train new wrestlers. (I think he’s mixing that up with something else 20 years later.)

– It appears that Chris Benoit will be taking over Brian Pillman’s role in the Kevin Sullivan feud now. (Man there’s a sentence that you wouldn’t think would result in earth-shaking changes to the wrestling industry years later, but here we are.)

– While taping a match for the (fake) cruiserweight tournament at the WCW Saturday Night tapings, they had Brad Armstrong beat Dean Malenko but then had to edit the commentary in post-production because Malenko had already lost a match in the supposed tournament earlier on. So the explanation? The tournament is DOUBLE ELIMINATION.

– Eric Bischoff did an interview with the Miami Herald in the past week where he was working some kind of wacky storyline on everyone. For example, he buried Kevin Nash, denying that there was any deal and claiming that reports of a $700,000 contract aren’t true, and that Nash has a “big mouth” and talks before he thinks. (Oh yeah, what’s he trying to do, make it seem like Nash is some kind of, I dunno, OUTSIDER? Good luck there.)

– To the WWF, where Bret Hart did an interview on the 4/15 RAW which was a weird deal where he buried the guys leaving the company for WCW, saying it was for GREED. Dave thinks it’s a weird situation because he was legit mad about dropping the title to Shawn, but reported stuff like him refusing to shake hands and storming out of the building where all a work. Everyone thinks that he’ll be back sooner or later and end up with the belt again, and maybe trade it with Michaels.

– Razor and Diesel both finish up on 5/19 and will work the MSG show on their way out. (Kind of a “curtain call” for them, you might say.) However, even though Ramon is on the way out and losing every match, he still beat 1-2-3 Kid in Germany after Goldust blew out his knee and missed the show. Dave notes that this shows how little they think of Sean Waltman at this point. (Ha, what’s he gonna, do, LEAVE?)

– Dave would like to clarify that Sable is in face Rena Mero, wife of Marc.

– Mr. Perfect is coming back later in the year to feud with Shawn Michaels.

– Expect British Bulldog to get a big push after escaping the trial unscathed, probably involving Diana Smith somehow.

– The Warrior-Hunter match at WM was supposed to be more competitive, but Warrior apparently “vehemently refused” to do anything to help Helmsley get over.

– And finally, the latest WWF RAW Magazine had an article ripping on WCW, written by Vince Russo, which Dave calls “basic childish writing with nothing of substance.”

(Nothing like going out on a Vince Russo burn.  And a callback to boot!  That’s why they pay me the big bucks.)