Wrestling Observer Flashback – 05.27.96
Time for a CURTAIN CALL, and a UFC main event that was famous for the wrong reasons.
– UFC IX never had a dull moment leading up to it, at least until the main event started. After court fights to make sure the show happened in the first place, Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn capped off the evening with “the worst match in the history of the UFC”. They fought to a 30:00 double overtime draw that Severn was awarded by split decision to become UFC Superfight champion, with no body contact made until 6:00 before the end of the fight. And so pro wrestling fans finally learned what legendary five hour matches between Stranger Lewis and Joe Stecher would have been like, and why they didn’t do them anymore.
– Basically both men spent the fight waiting for the other one to make a move, and neither one did. Even the referee was screaming at them to do something. And the crowd completely turned on the match and the show as a result.
– However, it wasn’t all bad, as Severn’s protégé Don Frye emerged as the new superstar of fighting by destroying BJJ golden boy Amoury Bitetti, who had won the World Jiu-Jitsu championships just three months ago. Showing that the sport is evolving past Gracie style domination, Frye was able to destroy Bitteti with punches, knees, forearms and elbows. And it finally exposed the weakness of BJJ: A fighter who can combine wrestling with boxing and avoid takedowns will destroy a pure jiu-jitsu practitioner. (Yup. In fact, that quickly became the entire basis for what we would consider the modern MMA fighter. Don Frye was a bad motherfucker.)
– The real drama came earlier in the day, as the show was nearly shut down hours before the live PPV thanks to yet another attempt from local government to take things to court. And this time it nearly worked. Although the court had previously struck down the state’s argument that the UFC show violated the obscure 1869 law against “prize-fighting”, the judge then sent case back to state court for a final hearing on the day of the show. The hearing was scheduled for 1:00pm on the day of the show, and lawyers and representatives from SEG were all behind closed doors in the judge’s chamber until 2:30pm.
– So as it turned out, the judge had rented a UFC tape the previous night from Blockbuster and watched it so he could render his decision, which was that UFC seemed to be a combination of boxing, wrestling and martial arts.
– Further, since boxing is only allowed via a series of regulated procedures like licenses and such, he didn’t want to allow any boxing at the show. And the 1869 prizefighting law didn’t apply because then it WOULD be boxing, and state prosecutors didn’t want the law applied to boxing because they’re all in bed with boxing promoters. (Even though they were the ones arguing that the ridiculous law should have been used against UFC!) But in the end, the judge decided to allow the event to happen, but without boxing, so all closed fist punches and head-butting would be banned in order for it to happen.
– Not surprisingly, although Bob Meyrowitiz agreed to the ridiculous settlement because the show was happening in TWO HOURS, he also stated that there would never be another UFC in Wayne County as a result of this nonsense. (I wonder how much money these corrupt politicians would throw at UFC to get them into their buildings these days?)
– Unsurprisingly, once the show actually started, none of the fighters paid any particular attention to the rule changes, and the police captain on site to maintain law and order stormed off in disgust at the end of the show.
– To the WWF, where Diesel and Razor Ramon bid farewell to the WWF with a strange “curtain call” at the MSG show on 5/19, which was the first non-PPV indoor show in WWF history to top $300,000. The big news on the show was supposed to be the Godwinns winning the tag titles from the Bodydonnas, they ended up getting overshadowed by the Clique. Also the belts are going to end up with Owen Hart & British Bulldog, but probably bounce through the Smoking Gunns first.
– A decent percentage of the crowd seemed to know that it was the final show for Diesel & Ramon, chanting “You Sold Out” and “Please Don’t Go” at them. After losing to Hunter on the way out, Razor grabbed the mic (which panicked officials, who didn’t know it was going to happen) and they immediately cut the power on him. However, all he said was “Say goodbye to the Bad Guy”. (And then a week later he had a little bit more to say…)
– And then at the end of the night, Shawn Michaels beat Diesel to retain the WWF title in a cage match, and then Diesel miraculously popped up for a hug with Shawn, at which point Ramon and Helmsley joined them in the ring and they all hugged and gave the clique sign. The display wasn’t approved by WWF officials, notes Dave, but it got over huge “so little will probably result from it.”
– It should be noted that 1-2-3 Kid was absent from this lovefest because he showed up at a Superstars taping “in no condition to perform” on 4/30 and his future with the company is “somewhat in question”. (It’s kind of crazy how perfectly everything is about to line up, isn’t it? And no one even suspected!)
– Over to WCW, as they put on another dud of a PPV with Slamboree on 5/19, which Dave gave a slight thumbs down and got called out by fans for being too charitable. The show was announced on TV the night before and on PPV as a sellout, but it absolutely wasn’t, drawing 6300 paid to Baton Rouge, LA.
– The American Males beat Shark & Maxx Muscle in the dark match in 2:37, and Shark turned on Maxx afterwards, before Giant came down and chokeslammed Shark.
1. Animal & Booker T went to a double countout with Hawk & Lex Luger in 6:54 to eliminate all four from BattleBowl. Hawk had a broken foot and couldn’t work here, and never tagged in. Everyone eventually broke up and brawled for the non-finish. ¼*
2. Public Enemy beat Chris Benoit & Kevin Sullivan in 4:44. Sullivan walked away from Benoit instead of making the save, and Benoit was put through the table and pinned. Not bad. *3/4
3. Rick Steiner & Booty Man beat Craig Pittman & Scott Steiner in 8:21 when Rick pinned Pittman. Rick and Scott actually did work together for a bit and got good heat. **1/4
4. VK Wallstreet & Jim Dugan beat Steven Regal & David Taylor in 3:46 when Duggan taped his fist and pinned Taylor. Duggan is awful. DUD
5. Dick Slater & Bobby Eaton beat Disco Inferno & Alex Wright in 2:56 when Slater hit disco with his boot and pinned him. No heat. -1/4*
6. DDP & Barbarian beat Meng & Hugh Morrus in 5:15 when Barbarian booted Morrus for the pin. Better than you’d think. *1/2
7. Scott Norton & Ice Train beat Big Bubba & Stevie Ray in 3:32. Ray looked bad. -1/4*
8. Ric Flair & Randy Savage beat Eddie Guerrero & Arn Anderson in 4:04 of a wild brawl. Mostly Flair and Anderson working together, leading to Arn turning on his partner and Flair pinning Guerrero. Flair and Anderson double-teamed Savage afterwards as well. ***1/4
9. Dean Malenko pinned Brad Armstrong to retain the Cruiserweight title. No heat, but it was good technically. They’ve already killed off the belt by treating Armstrong as a top contender to the title and fans treated the match like an intermission. **1/2
10. Slater & Eaton beat Duggan & Wallstreet in 4:08 after Duggan turned on Wallstreet. -*
11. Public Enemy got a forfeit win over Savage & Flair because they were brawling.
12. Page & Barbarian beat Booty Man & Rick Steiner when Barbarian pinned Booty in 5:05. ½*
13. Konnan pinned Jushin Liger to retain the US title in 9:30. Good mat work and big moves leading to near falls, and it was the best match on the show easily. ***1/2
14. DDP won the 8 man battle royale, with the first part being among the worst Dave has ever seen. Nobody except Page had any idea what they were doing out there. Page finally pinned Barbarian with the Diamond Cutter to earn a title shot, which was immediately taken away the next night on Nitro because reasons. *1/2
15. The Giant pinned Sting to retain the WCW title in 10:41. It had great heat and psychology, with Lex Luger interfering and “accidentally” hitting Sting with the megaphone to allow Giant to hit the chokeslam. ***1/4
– To Memphis, where Jerry Lawler has started using the same personality from WWF TV because fans were getting insulted at him being a babyface on TV in Memphis and then acting like a heel on TV elsewhere.
– One of Dennis Condrey’s students, named J.R. Mulligan, debuted and was said to be “super awful”. (I looked him up and couldn’t find anything about him. I was hoping the Mulligan connection would have been legit.)
– To ECW, where their Allentown show on 5/18 drew 1200, which would make it the largest crowd outside of New York and Philly in the history of the promotion. And of course it wouldn’t be ECW without troubles, as the brawling was so crazy that they were trying to shut the show down after the third match, which featured the Bruise Brothers and Pit Bulls fighting in the audience.
– Also of note, Stevie Richards came out as “Stevie Alexander Bagwell” with partner Blue Meanie Riggs, as they “jumped around like fruitcakes” while singing the American Males theme. They also introduced Super Nova as their new flunky, and he came out dressed as Leif Cassidy. (Amazingly, this shit would not only go somewhere, but would pretty much revive Stevie’s career and get him jobs with WCW and the WWF!)
– Also on the undercard, Big Titan from FMW came out playing a Razor Ramon ripoff called Slice & Dice Ramirez, complete with slicked hair and toothpick. (Boy that one would get a lot less funny in about three months.)
– Paul Heyman is still promising an ECW PPV, with the target this time being November to Remember 1996.
– Nitro was a 90 minute show with a great match between Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero, which Dave gives ***3/4. Also DDP was stripped of his World title match because “his foot was on the floor” while pinning Barbarian, which makes about as much sense as anything else WCW does these days.
– Renegade was fired due to apparent drug test failure. Dave notes that the policy is fool-proof, as in it only catches the fools.
– Bryan Clark is denying that he’s going to WCW as a part of Blood Runs Cold. The only name Dave knows for sure is David Ashford-Smith, aka Chris “Yoshi Kwan” Champion. (So there you go, it could have been WAY worse.)
– Rumors that they’re teaching Mongo a moonsault as a part of his training were just a practical joke started by Disco Inferno.
– Chavo Guerrero Jr. got a tryout but Dave didn’t hear how he did. (Hopefully he cheated to win.)
– Slamboree was so bad that even WCW officials were talking about how it was terrible.
– Chris Jericho might be coming into WCW later in the year.
– To the WWF, where the advance for the 5/26 PPV is less than 1800 tickets in a 9600 seat arena. (Man, the power’s really going out on that show, you could say.)
– Apparently Warrior has been easier to work with than in previous years, although he did show up two hours later for an autograph session at the MSG show.
– Yokozuna returned again, claiming to have lost 33 pounds. Dave thinks it’s pretty hard to tell if true. He’s supposed to return to the weight loss clinic after the PPV.
– And finally, Shawn Michaels will be in the October issue of Playgirl magazine. (Well we know Bret Hart bought a copy…for research purposes of course.)