Wrestling Observer Flashback – 10.15.90
It’s my birthday and what better way to celebrate than with a Wrestling Observer Flashback!
And not only that, but it’s a Wrestling Observer Flashback…FLASHBACK. So yeah, a reader with too much time on his hands pointed out that I had skipped the 10/15 issue from 1990 for whatever reason. So let’s head back to 1990 and see what was going on that week!
– In the top story, Dave points out that although most of the talk of 1990 has been WCW turning into a complete dumpster fire, the WWF has also been slipping in ratings and everything else. Dave points out that normally, you get the big show with the new champion and that juices ratings for a bit as the new champion does big business around the horn. However, in the case of Ultimate Warrior, that hasn’t happened. Two years ago, Randy Savage and Ted Dibiase did shockingly good business on their first go-around, for example. But then they dragged it out a month too long. But in the case of Warrior, even the first go didn’t do anywhere close to the business that Savage did.
– So what are the reasons, ie, excuses? The first problem is that there doesn’t appear to be any sensational new draw on the horizon to turn things around. Dave of course would also like to blame pay-per-view, which has killed off house show business and itself no longer feels like the “once in a lifetime spectacular” that it was originally promoted to be.
– Problem number two is that Hulk Hogan is busy doing other stuff and can’t draw business to the house shows when he’s off in Hollywood or whatever. It’s also a catch-22 because if he takes off in Hollywood, then he’ll get pulled away from the wrestling business forever. And should his first movie flop, then it’ll tarnish his star power as a wrestling draw and the “bloom will be off the rose”. (Not sure I agree 100% with Dave’s detective work there, but I guess at that point we didn’t know how his career was going to work out.)
– For their part, the WWF says that it’s not just them failing to draw right now, it’s also their main competitors like Ice Capades and Sesame Street that are down in arena business. (OSCAR THE GROUCH SCREWED OSCAR THE GROUCH!) Also, the usual nonsense about “wrestling is cyclical”.
– Overexposure on TV is also becoming a problem, even though there’s actually less wrestling on the new-fangled TV boxes today than there were a few years ago when wrestling was at its hottest. Plus the sources of new talent are drying up, and jaded fans have seen everything now thanks to all that TV overexposure so it’s increasingly difficult to find something to hook them that hasn’t already been done a million times before.
– The WWF is trying to do blood on a more regular basis, for example, like with the Dusty/Dibiase angle currently going on. But if they keep relying on that, they’ll go the way of all the other promotions that went down that same road. (Just a bit dramatic there, Dave.)
– Dave thinks that the current situation in the WWF reminds him of the NWA in 87, when they were still doing decent crowds but were clearly moving in a bad direction. But these days, as long as NWA and WWF have enough TV shows to satisfy their audience, they’ll be around for the long haul. Regardless, the signs are there, like house shows becoming increasingly unimportant, featuring the same guys getting recycled on top and no heels ever winning, which leads to no one having any “heat”. (Dunno why Dave decided to put that one in quotes.) And then the NWA started doing “turn-mania” with people switching back and forth until fans were just confused. Thankfully, the WWF hasn’t got there yet. (Yet.)
– Dave notes that they are taking some good steps to help the problem, like eliminating the C-show circuit that was being headlined by Dusty v. Dibiase. Dibiase isn’t taken seriously anymore and “Dusty is too old and far too fat to be taken seriously as a headlining babyface”. He does also note that going to fewer shows won’t help talent depth because when you’re pushing guys like Dino Bravo, Earthquake and Tugboat, then talent depth is already in question. (Hey now, what did Tenta do?)
– Also, they’re bringing back Roddy Piper, which should help. But if the overall problem is viewer apathy, then it won’t help. (Bingo.) But don’t look for a return to a regional promotion system, unless the WWF’s syndication deal falls apart and a bunch of smaller promoters suddenly get the money to buy up those timeslots. (Plus Billy Corgan was still in high school at that point.)
– Jesse Ventura will reportedly be running for the position of mayor of Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis. (Maybe he’ll have a future in politics!)
– To Oregon (been a while since I had to type that in a Flashback) where Scotty the Body is going a gimmick where he wears a loaded boot for a feud against the Grappler, although he’s apparently wearing it only for the matches with Grappler. Also, Steve Sawyer is always wearing a t-shirt with Bart Simpson’s picture on it, and so now he’s going by “Bart Sawyer” and trying to look like Bart Simpson. (Keeping in mind that this was the height of pop culture edginess in 1990.)
– Also, they’re doing a deal where they’re hinting very strongly that Roddy Piper is going to show up at the next show to deal with Grappler, but doing it in such a way that they can draw a house off it without actually advertising him, so that people can’t be mad if he doesn’t actually show up.
– To World Class, where things are getting bleak there backstage, what with Chris Adams giving notice after being the top draw along with his wife and ex-wife. On the bright side, they’re down to 200 people per show and no TV, so at least things can’t get any worse! (If only that were true.)
– As an example of how bad things are getting, Kevin Von Erich eliminated security to save money, and also shut off all the electricity in the building until the show actually was scheduled to start on Friday night so that they wouldn’t have to pay for it!
– The Simpson brothers are running a mattress company in Dallas and have left the business completely.
– The rumor is that Jerry Jarrett will be moving back into running shows in Texas by November to bail out the promotion.
– One quick note from All Japan, as the main event of the Korakuen Hall show on 9/30, which saw a lot of fans delayed by a typhoon, featured Andre the Giant and Stan Hansen beating Baba and Abdullah the Butcher when Andre pinned the Butcher. Afterwards, fans in the building were so happy that they changed “All Japan! All Japan!”. (How lame do you have to be to chant the name of the promotion? Dummies.)
– To Memphis, as George Weingeroff debuted playing “Sheik Abdul Hassan”, while copying all of Randy Savage’s mannerisms and moves. This is an inside joke because Savage and Weingeroff both worked for Poffo’s ICW in the 70s for years.
– In a notable angle, Eddie Marlin came out with a new USWA championship belt, burying the Snowman and doing an irate rant about how Snowman “tried to take the old title and hock it to pay off a drug dealer”. (So this promo actually became something of an urban legend, with the interpretation being that this is what actually happened in real life, although it should be noted that there was never any proof that this was actually the case.)
– To the Herb Abrams UWF, as apparently jobber Adam Michaels will no longer be using the ring name of “Davey Meltzer” because Bruno Sammartino was pissed about it and told Herb to knock it off. So he did.
– To the NAWA in the Carolinas, where there was reportedly a brutal real life brawl between the Nasty Boys and Vince Tirelli. Nobody knows how or why the fight started because all the accounts contradict each other, but Tirelli was a legit amateur wrestling champion and toughman winner, and he ended up “beaten half to death” by the Nasties, complete with jaw wired shut and black eyes. They brought him on TV afterwards and tried to make it into an angle where he was jumped by Robert Fuller. (And of course Tirelli is better known as Ken Shamrock, and this is where the longtime bad blood between himself and the Nasties stemmed from.)
– Dennis Corraluzzo is running a special show in Philly on 11/9 and 11/10, featuring a one-time appearance by the Midnight Express, facing the team of Cactus Jack and Terry Funk.
– Dave is wondering about the future of the AWA, considering that they last taped TV five months ago and don’t have any more scheduled. And in fact, on the most recent show aired on ESPN, they didn’t even bother updating the commentary. (Indeed we were basically at the end of the line for Verne at that point.)
– Brian Lee and Don Harris both quit the USWA after their last payday this week, which is hilarious because they were on a guarantee and Jarrett still couldn’t pay them what was promised. And not only that, even with the reduced payday they were still making more than anyone else on the show!
– Former Stampede wrestler Ben Bassarab was in court this week, appearing on charges of possession of steroids for the purposes of trafficking. Police actually caught him when he showed up at the station complaining of being assaulted by his drug dealer. (Almost the perfect crime!)
– Lethal Larry Cameron was removed from an IWA tour of the Northeast this week, due to problems with an EKG resulting in him not getting licensed to wrestle. (Unfortunately those heart problems would catch up to him three years later.)
– WWF officials are in a bit of a panic because filming of “Suburban Commando” is taking longer than expected, which means Hogan is missing house shows against Earthquake and attendance is going into the toilet.
– Kerry Von Erich is increasingly getting pushed under his own name instead of “Texas Tornado” for whatever reason. (Probably because he kept forgetting who “Texas Tornado” was when he saw the booking sheets and had to be reminded by the agents.)
– Also the attempts to rebrand the Road Warriors as “The Legion of Doom” aren’t working at all and fans are still calling them by their former name. (I think it’ll eventually stick.)
– Demolition Ax has been missing shows because of an undefined sickness, so they had to call in Randy Savage to substitute at one show and ended up stalling out the undercard for extended amounts of time while waiting for him to arrive.
– The next WWF Magazine will have a photo spread on Brutus Beefcake because of criticism that the company is ignoring his injuries. However, most within the WWF are confident that he’ll never wrestle again anyway. (Who says the wrestling business is heartless and cold?)
– In an “everything that is old is new again” letter to the editor, an unnamed dirt-sheet writer sends Dave a letter complaining that Ole Anderson had him thrown out of NWA TV tapings for sitting there and taking notes in the corner of the building after buying his ticket like everyone else. (For you kids out there, before Twitter people used to communicate by writing on this stuff called “Paper” with a stylus device called a “pen”.)
– Another letter would win whatever internet was around at the time, as Dave had been asking for suggestions for new gimmicks for Ric Flair and one guy gave a laundry list of potentials, finishing with Ric going on a tirade against people of every color and changing his ring name to “Harley Racist”.
– To the NWA, where Thunderbolt Patterson quit the promotion after two weeks of buildup as a mentor for the Steiner Brothers. Basically they refused to work with him and so he quit. (I don’t even remember that at all.)
– Zeus was in talks with the NWA but they couldn’t come to an agreement. (Now THERE’S your Black Scorpion!)
– The Samoans have quit. Again.
– Jim Herd has banned certain magazines from shooting photos at ringside, because they run advertisements that are not suitable for children and Sting is going to featured in them. Dave notes that it’s one thing to have the moral high ground, but when you take that stance and then hire Art Barr as a children’s character….
– They’re going to start charging $4 per person for Center Stage tapings instead of the current free admission, hoping to stop people from wandering in and out like they currently do. (Only in WCW would “charging admission” be considered a new strategy.)
– And finally, a 400 pound jobber named “Death Row” got into a legit brawl with Mike Rotunda backstage at the most recent TV tapings, turning into a backstage clearing fight and ending with Rotunda getting bitten in the shoulder. (I’m hoping that years later they bury the hatchet and team up as “Death and Taxes.”)
And that’s 1990 again and I’m OUTTA HERE!