Wrestling Observer Flashback – 05.13.96
Home with a sick kid and hiding out from the heat this morning, so let’s do a Flashback while I’ve got some time.
– In the top story of the week, Ray Stevens passed away at the age of 60. Dave offers up a great quote from Ray, who was insanely talented but hated being in the main events because it “cut into his beer drinking and woman chasing time”. (Can’t follow that. RIP!)
– FMW drew 33,000 to the baseball stadium in Kawasaki on 5/5, using Terry Funk and his impending retirement as the main drawing card. Terry Funk’s participation actually made the show something of a tradition as well, since Funk had his famous explosive barbed wire death match with Onita in 1993 and drew 41,000 for that.
– Onita was also at this show, but since he’s totally retired for real now, he was wearing a suit and got to watch the first every women’s no rope electrified explosive barbed wire death match. (Just wait until AEW steals THAT one.) That match featured another retirement, with “Combat” Toyoda calling it a day at the advanced age of 28 against Megumi Kudo, as Toyoda got blowed up real good twice and then jobbed away her WWA World women’s title.
– The main event saw Funk & Mr. Pogo winning a no ropes electrified explosive barbed wire time bomb land mind double hell death match over Masato Tanaka & Hayabusa. The match had all the expected huge explosions, plus both Funk and Pogo blowing fireballs out of their mouths. Afterwards, Funk called out Onita, calling him a chicken and a cheap imitation of himself, although Onita later stressed that he’s never coming out of retirement, for real. Privately he’s been telling people that he MIGHT ponder coming out of retirement, but not for another two or three years. (He was back in October.) Dave points out that if Onita is truly back in two or three years like he says, that’s too late to work a feud with Funk, because Funk is totally retiring this year.
– Cactus Jack was also scheduled to face Mitsuhiro Matsunaga in a (deep breath) barbed wire barricade spider net broken glass death match, but there was a rumor going around that Matsunaga was carrying Hep B and the WWF didn’t want Jack doing a double juice match if true. (I’m amused that he’s scheduled to work a match where he’s bumping in barbed wire and broken glass and the concern is “But what about infectious disease?”) Anyway, W*ING Kanemura was subbed in instead. (Apparently the Hep B was a real thing, though.)
– To the UFC, where the judge who believes pro wrestling is real finally issued a ruling and denied the attempts by the state of Michigan to stop the UFC from running on 5/17 in Detroit, with a Severn-Shamrock superfight main event. (He had told the lawyers to come up with a compromise, but they just circled each other for 22 minutes and neither guy would go for a takedown.)
– Basically the judge ruled that the state’s objections to the show were based on so-called “blue laws” still on the books in Michigan from 100 years ago, like businesses not being allowed to open on Sundays or not being allowed to drive a car without having someone 20 yards ahead to warn the horses. (Well that second one is just good sense!) The specific law about “prizefighting” that was being called upon was apparently instituted by clergy in the state more than 100 years ago, because they felt that boxing incited the lower classes. (Probably lower classes of a particular color if I had to guess.)
– To New Japan, where Weekly Pro Wrestling is still banned from covering New Japan shows as a result of a bitter war with newly created New Japan Magazine, so they did an issue about the Tokyo Dome show without photos in an “Observer style” 50 page newsletter. Dave is amazed that anyone could find enough to write about one show to fill 50 pages. (Yes, DAVE MELTZER is astonished that someone could write 50 pages about a Tokyo Dome show!)
– The magazine war is actually getting nasty, with New Japan using its influence to “convince” other wrestling promotions to ban Weekly Pro Wrestling, including UWFI, WAR, Fujinami Promotions and Kitao Dojo. They’re also trying to pressure Michinoku Pro to join the ban, but that company is the biggest beneficiary of the ban, getting nearly the entire magazine to themselves now, so they’re wisely staying out of the fight.
– Consensus from the show was generally very positive, although the magazines hated Lex Luger, calling him “the model of everything that doesn’t get over in Japan”, and also they bashed Randy Savage’s performance, noting that the once-great Savage is “no good anymore” and all he’s got left is his music and costume and saying “Oh yeah!” (Sounds like they’d be right into Twitter.)
– The day after the FMW stadium show, W*ING Kanemura did a press conference announcing that he’s leaving FMW, again, to form a new promotion with the imaginative name of “New W*ING”. Apparently the goal is to take “death matches to a new level”, although Dave notes that at this point the only level left is actual death. Also the whole thing is a storyline anyway.
– To Memphis, where Jeff Jarrett is putting off returning to the WWF by booking himself to be the top heel of the promotion, and soon to be top babyface. Although everyone is denying that he’s actually the booker.
– The Big Flea Market is still trying court Jerry Lawler into moving the weekly shows there, but the territory is still profitable thanks to spot shows and so he has no desire to move quite yet. (Time and history were not on their side, however.)
– To ECW, where the most recent show didn’t air on MSG due to concerns over content, namely the lesbian angle and Sandman licking beer off Missy Hyatt’s boobs. The lesbian kiss was edited out of the show that aired elsewhere, but that was mostly so they could sell videotapes of the show with the kiss included.
– Dave notes that the Mad Dog Vachon leg angle is very similar to a deal done in ECW where 2 Cold Scorpio stole a fan’s artificial arm and used it as a weapon. In fact, Dave notes that (GASP!) a lot of what the WWF is doing these days seems directly ripped off from ECW. (THIS IS TOTALLY NEW INFORMATION!)
– Billy Jack Haynes announced his retirement, again, on his radio show in Portland. Dave is skeptical. (In this case, Dave was incorrect, as Haynes did not in fact work another match)
– In your indie sleaze update of the week, Dennis Coraluzzo is running a show at the Walt Whitman Truck Stop in Philly, with Ian Rotten v. Mad Man Pondo on top and a gimmick where they’re going to be using barbed wire baseball bats, thumb tacks, broken glass, barbed wire and a “loaded mouse trap”. (Like, what, they’re going to build the board game gimmick and then play it?)
– In an attempt to get a TV deal, the Sportatorium group has changed their name from “Confederate Wrestling Alliance” to “Continental Wrestling Alliance”.
– A promoter in Vancouver BC is running a UFC style show on 5/11, getting around prize fighting regulations by noting that he’s not paying any of the fighters and thus it’s not a professional show. (This man should be a pro wrestling promoter!) That legal loophole will be closed by the city right quick, but not in time to stop this particular show.
– To WCW, where the FTC is looking into holding up the Turner/Time-Warner merger because of concerns that it would negatively affect the cable industry. Some people in the wrestling business, who apparently think that the world turns on the word of Vince McMahon, are speculating that this is due to his efforts, but this literally has nothing to do with pro wrestling in any way.
– Dean Malenko won the WCW Cruiserweight title from Shinjiro Ohtani at the Disney tapings on 5/2, to be aired on Worldwide on 5/18, in what was supposedly Ohtani’s first title defense after winning the belt in Japan. (That one’s actually a Hidden Gem on the WWE Network, although I don’t know if it survived the move to the ‘cock)
– The WWF won the ratings war on 5/6, drawing their second-highest rating in history with a 4.1 for the Shawn-Bulldog scandal episode. Important to note that the shows aren’t running head to head at the moment, with Nitro moved due to basketball.
– Dave is guessing that “Blood Runs Cold” is referring to the impending debuts of Kevin Nash and/or Scott Hall. (Swing and a miss!)
– Diamond Dallas Page was back at the Disney tapings with a new push, after losing a retirement match to the Booty Man, and no one even bothered to come up with an explanation.
– Mike Enos debuted as part of a team called Rough & Ready with Dick Slater, although Dave notes that he’s already dead in the water in that position. (Maybe he’ll get some kind of important angle to participate in at least?)
– Big Bubba has changed gimmicks again and now he’s a biker managed by Jimmy Hart.
– CORRECTION from last week: Peter Gruner, the former Kid Flash, is going to be Billy Kidmann, not Billy Cannon.
– WCW is running tiny spot shows in Georgia to give their Power Plant guys more experience, and the first show was 4/27 in Canton, featuring young guys like Bunkhouse Buck, Steve Regal, Ken Timbs and Pez Whatley.
– Eric Bischoff continued burying Johnny B. Badd in an interview this past week, calling him “lazy and spoiled”, and accusing him of not wanting to do the same things that the top talent did to promote the business. And sure, he would do a lot of talks at churches and school groups, “and that’s cool”, and he was very supportive of that, but it just didn’t translate to public relations opportunities for WCW.
– After writing last week about Oliver Humperdink being out of the business and having no interest in returning, Oliver is now talking about coming back to the business.
– To the WWF, where Jos LeDuc’s son Carl got a tryout as Carl the Lumberjack. (I heard he was OK.)
– Apparently Owen Hart is now carrying around Bret Hart’s Slammy Award and making it his new gimmick.
– Harvey Wippleman was doing a deal at the Superstars tapings where he’s taking notes on the officiating, which is going to lead to him becoming a referee.
– Razor Ramon was going to do TV jobs to Bulldog and Mankind on the way out, but he showed up at the Omaha PPV with a note from his doctor stating that he had a groin injury and couldn’t do that. (That’s a shame.)
– The WWF also signed a couple of guys to developmental deals, including Ben Buchanan and Dwayne Johnson, who is the son of Rocky Johnson and grandson of Peter Maivia. They’re be making $300 per week to augment their income while they work USWA and gain experience. (Hopefully this Johnson kid saves his money.)
– Jim Neidhart will be returning for some shots in exchange for doing testimony on WWF’s behalf in the Jimmy Del Rey trial in California. (Hopefully we can recognize him.)
– Sunny’s early departure from Europe was actually not her own decision, but rather a company one, because Human Resources is incredibly protective of sexual harassment situations and wanted to get her out of there.
– 1-2-3 Kid showed up “in no condition to work” and he’ll be out of action for a while. (Yeah, two years.) There’s serious concern about his future in the business after yet another concussion on the tour.
– House show business for the company is way up at this point.
– And finally, the WWF is developing a new business partnership with Warrior where they promote his gym and comic book, in addition to other merchandise. In return, Warrior hasn’t left yet.
(That one was originally way earlier but I had to close with it.)