Wrestling Observer Flashback – 06.03.96
OH BABY. Some stuff is going down this week!
– In the lead story, the power went out on the WWF’s Beware of Dog PPV show on 5/26, leading to one of the strangest PPV shows ever.
– After a pre-show match where the Smoking Gunns won the tag team titles from the Godwinns and then Marc Mero beating Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the PPV opener, the power went out in the building due to major storms, for more than an hour.
– Dave wishes to dispel rumors that it was an act of God in response to the Warrior commercials where he tells people “not to take shortcuts and always do the right thing”.
– After 25 minutes of blank screen, Vince and Jerry re-appeared on the screen and told viewers that the missing matches were being taped and would be shown on the replay on 5/28, which oddly enough was only added because it was Memorial Day weekend and Vince assumed people would be out of town for the initial airing. Finally, after power was restored with only 20 minutes left in the show, Shawn Michaels and British Bulldog had a disappointing main event that ended things on a bad note. (Later it came out that they were under the impression that the show was still off the air.)
– So on 5/28, two days after the initial airing, the WWF presented “Beware of Dog II”, which featured the usable footage from the initial airing, plus re-shot versions of the ruined matches aired live from North Charleston, SC, with some booking changes thrown in. First up, the Steve Austin v. Savio Vega match was given an added stip where Ted Dibiase would have to leave the promotion if Austin lost, which is what happened. Dibiase had actually given notice a few days prior and this was a way to write him off TV. Dibiase is on the way to WCW with a three-year deal to be a manager and announcer, although he’s collecting a Lloyd’s of London policy that is about to pay off a huge lump sum and he won’t be able to take any bumps until then. (He never really did afterwards, either.)
– Goldust beat Undertaker to retain the IC title in casket matches on both shows, but they switched the finish of the Vader-Yokozuna matches to put Vader over on the second show.
– The walk-up business for the show was actually OK despite the horrible storm and bad advance, although it was nowhere near a sellout like Vince claiming, ending up with about 6000 people in the building.
– In the dark match, Bob Holly pinned Isaac Yankem.
1. The Smoking Gunns beat the Godwinns in 4:57 to win the WWF tag team titles, thanks to Sunny turning on the Godwinns and joining with the Gunns the next night on RAW. No heat at all because fans had no idea what to do with this match. ¼*
2. Marc Mero pinned Hunter Hearst Helmsley in 16:23. Most of the match was Hunter working the arm and going for a cross-armbreaker, which neither Vince nor Jerry had any idea how to call. Sable turned her back on Helmsley to distract him, and Mero catapulted him into the post and pinned him. ***
2a. In a literal dark match, Savio Vega beat Steve Austin in a strap match in around 15:00. Said to be the best match on the show.
2b. Yokozuna pinned Vader in 3:00 with a banzai drop in another blackout match. Not good.
2c. Goldust beat Undertaker in a casket match to retain the IC title in 8:00 when a bunch of heels ran in put Taker in the casket. Said to be awful.
2d. Jake Roberts pinned Justin Bradshaw with the DDT in 30 seconds in a match where they were supposed to kill time until the lights went on, which turned out to be immediately after their entrances.
3. Shawn Michaels went to a double pinfall draw with Davey Boy Smith in 17:21. Shawn bumped into Mr. Perfect on the way to the ring, which is teasing a program that will happen later in the year. (No it won’t.) Clarence Mason also announced that the Smith family was filing a lawsuit against Shawn Michaels for attempting to break up the marriage. Dave’s theory is that when all is said and done, the payoff of the story will be that Billionaire Ted conspired to set the whole thing up because Shawn wouldn’t jump to WCW. Dave notes that “let’s just say that this wasn’t Shawn’s day” because a fan got under his skin and he was so annoyed about it that it hurt the match. Apparently Shawn can be pretty unprofessional.
– Dave notes that it wasn’t a BAD match, but very below the level you’d expect. Anyway, after a ref bump they did a double pin off a german suplex and two referees counted the pin, with both refs awarding the win to one of the guys. So Gorilla ruled it was a draw. And then Shawn had a temper tantrum off-air and yelled at the guy who does the music cues. **1/2
– In a dark match that was at least lighted, Ahmed Johnson pinned Jerry Lawler in 7:00 with a spinebuster. Lawler called a black woman in the audience “Sambo”…
– BUT WAIT! It wasn’t a racist joke, because he actually meant that she looked like Oleg Taktarov. (Still questionable, even if true.) However, he did tell Ahmed that if the lights hadn’t turned back on, he would have had to smile so that Lawler could see him. (…and there we go.)
– And Ultimate Warrior pinned Owen Hart in about 4:00 with the usual.
And then the 5/28 show in North Charleston happened…
1. Savio Vega beat Steve Austin in a strap match in 21:27, and it was excellent. They traded hard straps back and forth. They did the same finish as every other strap match in history. ****
2. Vader pinned Yokozuna in 8:53 after Yoko missed a banzai drop on Cornette and hit the mat. Vader then took out his knee and pinned him with a Vader bomb. **1/2
3. Goldust beat Undertaker in a casket match to retain the IC title in 12:36. Goldust was more aggressive than usual. Undertaker hit the tombstone and went to put him in the casket, but Mankind popped out of the casket and put Taker out with the mandible claw to give Goldust the win. A bunch of smoke filled the casket and Undertaker disappeared. And then Dave shatters kayfabe by noting that Undertaker hadn’t really disappeared, but just escaped through a false bottom. **1/2 (Dammit, first the stunt granny illusion gets shattered for me, and now THIS?)
– To WCW, where the two hour debut of Nitro on 5/27 was a complete dud. Well, except that Scott Hall debuted and it was pretty good. Otherwise, it was like a “bad WCW Saturday Night show”, complete with bad announcing, bad angles, and little hype or excitement. However, Dave is pretty sure that Hall’s debut is “certain to be one of the biggest money angles of the year.” (Even THAT prediction ended up being a gross understatement of a huge magnitude.)
– Hall came out dressed in jeans but acting otherwise similar to Razor Ramon, interrupting a dead match between Mike Enos and Steve Doll, doing a promo where he acted like a WWF contracted wrestler who was trying to avenge his company, talking about “Billionaire Ted, Scheme Gene and Nacho Man”. The crowd mostly was in shock and didn’t know how to react.
– Dave notes that this is the biggest shot fired in the Monday Night Wars to date, using Vince’s own parody nonsense against him to draw money with a Japanese shoot-style angle built around the very real promotional war. Bischoff never named Hall on TV but noted “you all know who he is”.
– Hall came out again at the end of the show, hyping an impending three-on-three match and challenging WCW wrestlers to a “war” while calling Bischoff a “Ken Doll weatherman wannabe”.
– So the plan is that this will lead to Hall and Nash and a third person challenging WCW to a six-man at Bash at the Beach, with the third person likely being Lex Luger, with the implication being that he was sent by the WWF as a mole the whole time. (Interesting angle! Never thought of that one, actually.) They’re expected to be managed by Ted Dibiase, but that might have been dropped because the WWF freaked out and wrote Dibiase out of the storyline so emphatically to ensure that he was 100% not associated with the WWF as an active participant any longer.
– So the “invaders” will face a threesome of Sting & Randy Savage and a third person, probably either Giant or Ric Flair, which will build to Hulk Hogan making his big return and facing Hall in August.
– Dave notes that the longer that WCW can maintain the illusion of these guys being not part of WCW, the more money they can make. (How about a couple of years?) Dave notes that this is exactly the angle that the WWF should have done when they had Ric Flair in 1991, before egos got in the way and prevented it from happening.
– Dave isn’t sure how the WWF is going to react to this. (Spoiler: Badly and litigiously.) The WWF had already been talking at length about suing to protect the trademark on their Razor Ramon character, which in their eyes WCW has already violated by using the fake accent. The other parts of the character were all part of the Diamond Studd in WCW before he was ever in the WWF, so it leaves legal observers wondering how one can enforce “not allowing someone to talk with an accent” in a court of law. (As it turned out…)
(I’ve been waiting FOREVER to find the right place to work that one in.)
– But back to Nitro and what a disaster that going two hours turned into. The show pretty much confirmed WCW’s inability to produce a two hour show on a weekly basis. All the matches were awful except for the Sting v. Scott Steiner main event, which was pretty good but had a terrible finish with Lex Luger and Rick Steiner ending up in a pullapart brawl.
– Everyone looked awful. Shark was supposed to be a babyface but no one cared and they cheered when Giant beat him. The crowd was dead for everything. They have a new format where Tony and Larry do the first half of the show and then Bobby and Eric doing the second half. Dave thinks that Tony Schiavone is already the most “overexposed announcer in the business” and putting him out there for another hour just makes it seem an episode of WCW Saturday Night. (Man, Dave hasn’t SEEN overexposed until he gets Michael Cole’s 500 year run to come!) Heenan in particular seemed super checked out and didn’t seem to pay any attention to the product, saying that Sting and Steiner had never met despite calling a match between them on Worldwide just a week earlier. Also the announcers further killed the cruiserweight division by calling the jobber match between Bobby Walker and Brad Armstrong a match between “top contenders” for the title. (If I’m reading between the lines here, I don’t think Dave cared for this episode of Monday Nitro.)
– Meanwhile in Japan, Akira Taue beat Misawa on 5/24 in Sapporo to win the Triple Crown title, which was his first World title. Taue blocked a superplex attempt by Misawa and chokeslammed him off the top to win the belt in 16:05.
– Over to Memphis, where it’s looking more likely by the day that Lawler will move the USWA shows from the Mid-South Coliseum to the Big Flea Market, probably by early July. The shows have become such money losers that they’re not even running Memphis again until 6/10.
– Also, Rocky Johnson’s son Dwayne debuted as “Flex Kabana”, teaming with Brian Christopher as a babyface against Lawler and Bill Dundee. Apparently, despite only having six matches under his belt, Johnson “was said to have shown a lot of potential.” (Dave is just on fire with these glimpses of the future.)
– Paul Heyman is trying to find a UFC fighter who can come into ECW and put over Taz, in order to make Taz into a legit badass. The most popular name is Paul Varelans. (And that’s just what happened.)
– Dan Severn is now confirmed for the Inoki Peace Festival show in Los Angeles, which is not doing well at the moment. Five days out, the advance is only $30,000 and there’s no local television to build up the show so there’s no buzz. WCW has made no mention whatsoever of the show, either. The hope is that Inoki doing press in the area with Konnan will lead to a lot of tickets being sold to Mexican-Americans the week of the show.
– The IPWA in Virginia ran into a real life belt-stealing angle on 4/13. During their show that night, a fan named Danielle Evans was sitting at ringside, and grabbed the championship belt from the timekeeper’s table, stashing it under her coat and leaving the show with it. Champion Johnny Gunn had to be given a copy of a tag title belt to use in the main event, but luckily the show was being videotaped and the promotion sent a copy of the tape to “Crime Solvers” on a local TV station. Danielle’s parents happened to be watching the show and talked their daughter into turning herself in and returning the belt, which was mostly unharmed but apparently “some of the diamonds were missing”.
– In the UFC, after all the legal threats from Detroit over UFC IX and the broken rules, SHOCKINGLY, nothing happened and no one actually followed through.
– To WCW, where Slamboree was a major bomb to the tune of a 0.40 buyrate, which is horrible news for everyone in the company except Hulk Hogan, who now stands to make even more money because he’s clearly the one who pops numbers for the company.
– The Road Warriors officially quit on 5/28 over the ongoing dispute about what they’re making and what Hall & Nash are making and who should be making more. (Man, did THEY ever bail at exactly the wrong time.)
– Brian Pillman had a meeting with Vince McMahon on 5/23, and it’s expected he’ll decide where he’s going shortly. The WWF seems to be the favorite, as they were offering more money and agreed to him working some ECW shows in the meantime.
– New Japan is no longer sending Great Muta to the US for a match with DDP, since Page is viewed by the Japanese as a prelim guy and they don’t want Muta losing. (OUCH.)
– Part of a reason why the first two hour Nitro was so poorly promoted was that WCW felt it was more important to air an old Kevin Sullivan v. Cactus Jack “loser leaves town” match on WCW Saturday Night for much of the runtime, in order to take cheapshots at Jack because of the ongoing lawsuit between Foley and WCW (over the Germany ear incident). Dave thinks they should have maybe hyped up Nitro, or advertised their upcoming house shows in WWF territory in the northeast, or maybe even put on some matches with this Rey Mysterio Jr. kid from When Worlds Collide so that people would know who he is and maybe get excited about seeing him. (This poor Rey guy is so buried now. No one knows who he is, AND he’s part of the cruiserweight division, which was completely killed off by Brad Armstrong already!)
– For those wondering what the payoff was for the match taped where Flair had the WCW World title against Brad Armstrong, the answer is “nothing”. They edited out the entrances and never showed the belt, so the whole thing was utterly pointless.
– Shark is changing his name and gimmick again, going back to John Tenta.
– Jacques Rougeau and Carl Oulette did a talk show in Montreal recently where Jacques talked about running the 46,000 seat Olympic Stadium with WCW, featuring a six-man main event of the Quebecers and Hulk Hogan teaming up. WCW is actually denying the idea, since the stadium would be too large to run, but there is definitely something to the idea because the WWF has locked up an exclusive deal with the Molson Center and there’s tremendous political heat amongst promoters in the city as a result.
– King Curtis will be returning to head up the Dungeon of Doom and will be continuing his feud with Hulk Hogan in August when he returns. (Well that one wasn’t as accurate as the rest of Dave’s predictions this issue.)
– A team called “High Voltage” are headed in for a tryout. (That’s FUTURE WCW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPION…well, half of them.)
– To the WWF, where “The Hardy Brothers” got a tryout in Fayetteville NC and looked green, losing to the Overlords. (I don’t actually think this counts as an understated Observer debut, sorry. They had been in there here and there beforehand.)
– Steve Austin worked the King of the Ring qualifying match against Bob Holly without Ted Dibiase or the Million Dollar Belt. (He sure dropped that gimmick stone cold!) In other news completely unrelated to his gimmick change, he’s now using a variation on the Ace Crusher as a finisher.
– Also on the RAW show, HHH did a job for Jake Roberts, eliminating him from the King of the Ring tournament, which Dave thinks is “almost certainly” punishment for the curtain call incident. Ramon and Diesel are obviously gone and can’t be punished, and Shawn can’t be punished, so that leaves Hunter as the whipping boy. (Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll get over it soon.)
– Also getting a tryout were Marty Garner and James Arndt, and they looked really good. (Not like those green Hardy Brothers! Hopefully Vince sinks his money into Arndt instead.)
– The supposed heel turn of the Smoking Gunns was completely undermined by the fans at the show, who didn’t understand that Sunny was a heel for managing them and instead cheered them against the Bodydonnas. (Maybe the Bodydonnas need a new manager to really cement that babyface turn! Kind of like someone who’s the OPPOSITE of Sunny in every way!)
– So also on the RAW tapings, they filmed an angle were Jerry Lawler interviewed Ultimate Warrior and tried to present him with an oil painting as a peace offering, but ended up smashing it on Warrior’s head, although Warrior just shook it off. (For the love of god, PLEASE TELL ME that Warrior wasn’t wearing a baseball cap when this went down!)
– Moving onto the Superstars taping, Dave completely buries these poor Hardy Brothers, as they did another tryout match against the Overlords and Dave calls them “Matt and Chip Hardy” this time. (They might as well just go to WCW and compete for that cruiserweight title at this rate.)
– They did another brawl with Shawn and Bulldog, but they’re already toning down the lawsuit angle from the PPV and now it’s just about the title. Apparently it was supposed to end with the revelation that Diana was trying to seduce Shawn and he turned her down, but the Smith family objected and they got rid of the whole thing.
– There is now some question about whether 1-2-3 Kid will return at all.
– WWF is back to helping themselves and not hurting the other guy by attempting to once again lock up all the major arenas with exclusive agreements that will shut out WCW. In particular, WCW is running one of the biggest house shows in their history in Buffalo, and the WWF is COINCIDENTALLY trying to get the arena to sign an exclusive deal with them that will prevent WCW from ever running there again after that show on 6/7. WCW is talking about filing suit but Dave notes we’ve heard that story all the way back into the Crockett days and nothing ever happens.
– Vader is currently the favorite to win King of the Ring, but there’s a feeling that he’s not actually getting over very well due to his weight. Dave thinks that perhaps pushing him better might be a more effective solution than blaming his weight issues. Doing long competitive matches with midcarders doesn’t exactly lend itself to making him into a killer heel, Dave notes.
– And finally, more main event talent is supposedly talking about jumping to WCW, and in fact there’s talk that Vince actually offered both Mero and Pillman (GASP) guaranteed contracts! So this naturally makes the current crop of top guys in the WWF feel like they also deserve guaranteed contracts, which WCW is offering. Dave notes that Shawn Michaels is no longer money motivated due to the inheritance he received, and Undertaker can’t take the gimmick with him so he wouldn’t go, and Bret Hart hates Hogan and Flair, so don’t expect any of them to be one of the people trying to jump. But other than that, all bets are off when contracts expire. (Truer words have never been spoken.)