Wrestling Observer Flashback – 05.06.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 05.06.96

It’s a big week in Tokyo! Plus the WWF is in YOUR house again!

– In the top story of the week, Shinya Hashimoto won the IWGP title from Takada in the main event of the 4/29 Tokyo Dome show, beating him with a cross armbreaker before the second-largest crowd in the history of Japanese wrestling and the second-largest gate in the history of wrestling, period. They drew 65,000 people and somewhere around $6 million, with Great Sasuke also winning the junior heavyweight title from Jushin Liger on the undercard.

– The attendance figure is JUST short of the 67,000 that saw Takada challenging Muto for the title in October, and also just short of the $6.1 million that show drew. This gives Takada two of the biggest gates in the history of wrestling under his belt in the span of less than a year, which makes Dave wonder why they would take the title off him only three months into his reign. However, New Japan’s feeling appears to be that he’s not a “New Japan guy” and could retire at any time, so they don’t want to put their eggs into that basket.

– As a note, the win for Sasuke was likely New Japan throwing Michinoku Pro a bone, since they had another interpromotional match between Muta and Hakushi on the show and Muta went over there.

– Also on the show, the Road Warriors returned to Japan as a team for the first time in many years, teaming up with Kensuke Sasaki to take on the Steiner Brothers and Scott Norton. (This actually sounds like a hell of a show. Makes me want to re-sub to New Japan World again and check it out.)

– To the WWF, where Shawn and Diesel turned an average show into a strong one with a memorable performance in the main event of In Your House: Good Friends Better Enemies on 4/28. The show drew a sellout 9563 paying $120,000, the largest ever gate in Omaha. It probably wasn’t the largest crowd in the city, however.

– Oddly, Razor Ramon and Diesel were both put over strongly in losing, which Dave thinks is Vince trying to do the opposite of Bischoff would do.

(Exactly.)

– Dave thinks it’s a tad scummy that Goldust clearly couldn’t work the show and they put him out there anyway because they just can’t help themselves. However, he would classify it as no better or worse than WCW advertising Brian Pillman for the Uncensored show and then never having him show up. However, they had lots of time to tell people on the pre-show that Goldust was injured and couldn’t work the show, and chose not to. So they managed to achieve the impossible: Putting together a match that was WORSE than the Doomsday cage match. (Hey, hey, let’s not say anything we can’t take back here.)

– Overall Dave thought it was the best overall PPV of the year thus far, even though there was only one great match, although he does acknowledge he’s in the minority on that one.

– In the dark match, Marc Mero beat 1-2-3 Kid in 7:17, as Kid was looking rough and his work was sloppy. Mero was having trouble working in the looser ring ropes of the WWF ring. Hunter Hearst Helmsley ran out for the DQ to set up the next PPV. *3/4

– Also on the pre-show, Diesel did a promo where he acted like he was going to “shoot” on the PPV and take the WWF title to WCW with him, although without saying that explicitly.

1. Owen Hart & British Bulldog beat Jake Roberts & Ahmed Johnson in 13:47, as it got turned into a tag team match due to Bulldog’s knee being all messed up. Ahmed’s work was pretty bad but he’s got good fire and potential to get over “like a big dog.” (There’s only ONE Big Dog and don’t you forget it, Dave!) Really the whole match was Owen Hart, and it was surprising that Bulldog didn’t go over stronger leading up to his PPV main event. *3/4

2. Ultimate Warrior beat Goldust via countout in 7:47 to retain the IC title. “This was horrible”, notes Dave in the understatement of the century. It would have been OK for two minutes but it never ended. They never touched outside of one spot, and Dave thinks it’s a “worst match of the decade candidate”. -***1/2

3. Vader pinned Razor Ramon in 14:49. Vader was looking bigger and Ramon got a ton of offense and a lot of near falls. ***1/4

4. The Bodydonnas beat the Godwinns to retain the WWF tag team titles in 7:17. Slightly better than the Wrestlemania match but not much. *3/4

5. Shawn Michaels retained the WWF title over Diesel in 17:53. Diesel used Hugo Savinovich’s boot and Shawn got beat up all over the ring and had tremendous selling. Shawn got powerbombed through the announce table and monitors went flying, leaving Vine and King to be standing up and watching the match for the remainder of the show. And of course, Diesel stole Mad Dog Vachon’s artificial leg and Shawn got it away from him and used it for the memorable finish. ****1/2

– Afterwards, there were a pair of so-so dark matches, with Hunter pinning Mero with his feet on the ropes and then Undertaker tombstoning Mankind.

– The UFC had a bizarre legal detour through Michigan, with US Federal District court judge Avern Cohn deciding the fate of the 5/17 UFC in Detroit in a notably wacky court case. He actually backed out of making a ruling either way, but seemed to be siding with the UFC in his comments about the case, where he noted that the tapes he watched were nothing more a normal mixed martial arts competition. Prosecution were trying to get the event stopped based on an obscure 1800s law that outlaws “fighting events” in the state unless they’re boxing, which would actually making judo and kickboxing illegal if they ever enforced it. Which they don’t.

– And then, as if the case couldn’t get weirder, the judge argued that UFC was basically the same thing as pro wrestling, which has been around forever with no one trying to shut it down. The DA argued that pro wrestling is fake, and judge responded “You mean to tell me when they smash their heads into the turnbuckle they aren’t trying to hurt the other guy?”

– The judge asked both sides to come up with a compromise by 5/6 or he’d rule on the case and make a decision, so now the prosecution is looking for a pro wrestling to testify that wrestling is fake before the next hearing. (Don’t ask Dr. D!)

– And now, it’s time for your…

– So yes, FMW drew a crowd of 3525 to Osaka on 4/29 with Terry Funk returning to the promotion, beating Hisakatsu Oya in the semi-main event. Funk is only doing this week for FMW, and then another week in July, and then he’s absolutely going to finish his career up in FMW at the end of the year. (And of course we’re currently at six months past the point when he was originally supposed to be retiring. But I’m sure he means it this time!)

– To Memphis, where Vader showed up for a spot show in Troy, TN, and popped a pretty big crowd of 2100 people for a tag team match against Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett has now added Tony Falk as a chauffeur and is playing a heel character like his old WWF country music character.

– Antonio Inoki did another press conference in Japan talking about the upcoming World Peace Festival, announcing a main event of himself and Dan Severn against Fujiwara and a mystery partner. WCW, meanwhile, won’t allow any of their performers or talent to appear on the show’s TV or video broadcasts, which eliminates Mike Tenay from being able to announce the show. Also, they had to redo the card so that WCW talent is only working with each other and thus can be edited out.

– Bruno Sammartino was promoted for an indie show in Wheeling, WV, signing autographs beforehand, and it drew 900 people as a result. The bad news is that a rival promoter paid off the transport company who was delivering the ring and it never showed up, so the promoter had to refund everyone’s money and paid all the talent. Dave does note that this kind of thing isn’t as rare as you’d think. (What, a promoter actually paying people?)

– Where are they now: Sir Oliver Humperdink is now working in a t-shirt shop in Key West, FL, and claims to have no interest in getting back into the business.

– To WCW, where Hulk Hogan has put his foot down and told management “No more jobs”. (Man if they book him against Mil Mascaras they’re gonna be SCREWED!)

– Nitro was taped on 4/29 and was the best show they’ve done in a long while. Dave Finlay had a crazy parking lot brawl with Steven Regal that was the most brutal match in WCW since their last match. Dave notes that Finlay appears to be nuts, and Regal appears to be sane, but only when he’s not around Finlay.

– The company appears to be losing the battle with standards & practices, as WWF can now say “ass” and show blood on USA if they want, although they choose not to show blood. Meanwhile, WCW talent feels like they’re forced to be Brady Bunch all the time while WWF can be Silk Stalkings.

– Also the Giant title win over Flair was pretty bad for a World title match, with Dave giving it *1/2.

– Billy Cannon (the former Kid Flash) debuted at the WCW Saturday Night tapings on 4/24 and did a job to Alex Wright, but he looked great and apparently does a really impressive shooting star press.

– Public Enemy has been accidentally hurting opponents through no fault of their own on the table-breaking deal, because whoever is in charge of buying the tables for WCW keep buying the wrong kind, which don’t break properly when people go through them. (That’s about the most WCW news item I can think of this week.)

– The main event of the Saturday Night show is going to be Michael Wallstreet beating Craig Pittman in a submission match, which Wallstreet won after interference from the Shark, which Dave has heard to be a candidate for worst match of the year. However, after Uncensored and the Goldust-Warrior match, he’s skeptical that it’s even the worst match of the month.

– Injun Joe Gomez got a tryout in a tag match against Kenny Kaos & Rob Ruckus, and was said to have looked a lot better than the last time he was in the company. (I think the greatness of Joe Gomez goes without saying.)

– Col. Rob Parker has started dying his hair black and wearing wrestling trunks to house shows, claiming that he’s getting ready to return to the ring again soon.

– More wackiness with the cruiserweight tournament brackets, as Bischoff was doing commentary for a Chris Benoit match on WCW Saturday Night and claimed that Benoit had been eliminated from the tournament via a loss to Ohtani in Japan on the 4/22 Nitro, due to jet lag and late night phone calls keeping him awake the night before. But then on WCW Saturday Night five days later, they showed a Benoit v. Alex Wright match, claiming that the winner will go to Japan and compete in the finals of the tournament, and of course Benoit won that match. Despite the fact that he was already announced as coming back from Japan just days earlier and was apparently eliminated from the tournament already.

– WCW is moving Nitro to the Disney studios for the entirety of the Olympics, because Turner has their trucks and production crews dedicated to that and wanted to shut down WCW for those weeks. So as a compromise, WCW is running Disney and using their production facilities to air the shows, so that Turner doesn’t have to. (Pretty clever, actually.)

– WCW will be doing Giant v. Nash and Hogan v. Hall matches, before moving to the inevitable rematch of Giant v. Hogan for the WCW title in the summer. (Well he was one-third right.)

– To the WWF, where Dave thought that the angle to set up Michaels v. Bulldog was tremendous, and if Bulldog can’t draw on top, it’s not for lack of trying.

– Apparently the RAW taping saw a pretty extreme angle to set up Goldust v. Undertaker, with Mankind laying out Undertaker with “the mouth hold” and then Goldust essentially pretending to give Taker a blowjob before the zombie situp foiled him. Fans were said to be literally stunned that they would go that far. (Well that definitely didn’t make TV, which is probably why I was so confused at the time about why Goldust was defending against Undertaker out of nowhere.)

– Dave is betting on a Mr. Perfect v. Shawn Michaels program for the fall based on Perfect scouting him at ringside during a defense against Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

– Since Diesel and Ramon apparently are not doing any TV jobs on the way out of the promotion now, Vader instead got to lose to Shawn Michaels in the RAW match taped for a few weeks from now, jobbing to the superkick in a 4:00 match where he bitched at people about the loss before the match, and then made sure to get his shoulders up while being pinned. (This ended up not making TV as it turned out.)

– For those wondering what the payoff to the hotline riddle about Davey Boy Smith and Magic Johnson, the answer is that both men had altercations with referees during that week.

– Where are they now: Stephanie Wiand is doing commercials for a sandwich chain in Boston. Dave thinks WCW should let Steve McMichael go do the same.

– And finally, here’s a shocker: Wrestlers all acting like petulant children when going on international tours and getting packed together in a bus for 17 days. In this case, the Kliq was said to be unbearable to deal with and people wanted to punch Shawn Michaels in the face but couldn’t stand up for themselves due to his position. Also, Sunny left the tour early because someone literally took a dump in her food at one point. There’s also some kind of “romantic triangle” going on that would normally be no one’s business but it’s affecting business due to Sunny having to leave. In completely unrelated news, Bret Hart was really pissed off at everything happening to Sunny.