Wrestling Observer Flashback – 06.10.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 06.10.96

OK, let’s get back into these again.

– In the top story, the UFC has decided to drop the superfight concept after the debacle that was Shamrock v. Severn. Instead, in the wake of a disappointing buyrate, the decision was made to concentrate on doing better tournaments. The low buyrate is being attributed to a combination of the show being pulled from major PPV providers, plus fans not knowing if the show would even happen. (Yeah I can see how that might affect people spending $30 for the show.)

– Vince McMahon STRIKES BACK. In a prepared statement from his laywer, Vince announced on the 6/3 RAW show that Razor Ramon and Diesel are no longer part of the WWF, and are currently participating in a ruse for the competition, pretending to portray the former stars they once were. And then of course he encouraged fans to call the WWF Superstar Line to find out more. (There’s a certain elegant beauty to that punchline.)

– In addition, Scott Hall got served with a legal letter informing him that he’s infringing on Titan’s intellectual property by portraying “Razor Ramon” on WCW television, and all future merchandise and PPV payoffs will be withheld as a result, until things are settled.

– And of course, Dave has a copy of the letter:

Dear Mr. Hall:

This letter will serve to put you on notice of your deliberate infringement of Titan’s intellectual property rights in connection with your appearance this past Monday on the WCW’s Nitro show. Having reviewed the tape of your appearance the text of the various statements made by you during your appearance and the explicit references to past and ongoing story lines of Titan Sports, it is obvious that you were attempting by your appearance to suggest to the consuming public that you and others from the WWF were now going to be appearing on Turner networks in WCW programming as part of some interpromotional matches. The entire theme of the program, buttressed by WCW personnel afterwards, was that WWF wrestlers were going to be wrestling WCW performers, and that you were leading a group of WWF talent in that effort. This is, of course, completely false and was intended to confuse the viewing public.

To further this attempt to mislead and confuse the public, you stayed completely within the character portrayal of Razor Ramon, a registered trademark of Titan Sports, during your appearance on Nitro. Indeed, both you and WCW personnel never even mentioned the name you intend to wrestle under at WCW, choosing instead to tell the audience they knew who you were. You dressed like Razor Ramon and utilized the Hispanic accent given to you by Titan as part of the character portrayal.

Titan, of course, has no objections whatsoever to you portraying a new or different character devised either by you or the WCW but will vigorously exercise its rights in connection with your attempt to pawn off or suggest to the consuming public that your WCW appearances are in the character of Razor Ramon, in the capacity as a WWF wrestler, or as part of some interpromotional matches involving WWF participation. Accordingly, this is to advise you that Titan has exercised its rights under the contract it had with you and will be withholding future payments from you until this matter is further clarified. Titan further reserves all rights it has to take any and all further action as may be appropriate.

(I find it hilarious that the person who thinks it’s TOTALLY FINE to false advertise whoever and whatever he wants is, and that contracts only work in one direction, is suddenly concerned about poor wrestling fans being confused by Scott Hall with a toothpick in his mouth.)

– Of course, the scary legal letter made no difference to WCW, which is moving full steam ahead with the Hall “invasion” angle.

– Meanwhile on RAW, the entire Diana Smith storyline was quietly dropped, with the heat switched instead to a potential lawsuit between Clarence Mason and Gorilla Monsoon. And then before the show, Davey Boy Smith gave his 90 day notice to the WWF, allowing him to leave the company when his contract expires at the end of August. However, unlike everyone else leaving the WWF as of late, this isn’t a prelude to him going to WCW. (Yet.) In reality, it was a cry for attention for Smith, who has been having issues with creative lately and didn’t feel like he was being heard by Vince. Davey met with Vince after giving notice and appeared to be receptive to staying after all, with Vince offering him a top spot as a heel through Summerslam and beyond.

– Although Smith giving notice didn’t have anything to do with the Diana storyline, Davey was definitely unhappy with how it was proceeding. The family was given the impression that the storyline was going to be paid off with the reveal that Diana was coming onto Shawn and he rebuffed her, with footage from the Omaha PPV revealing that Shawn was indeed innocent. However, no such footage was ever taped in Omaha and no one ever told Shawn or Davey this information at the time that the angle started.

– There’s also talk that Owen Hart wanted out to try his luck in WCW, but he was also promised a big push over the summer in exchange for staying and negotiations were underway to give him a new contract. (Man, given a time machine, I’d go back and tell both guys to tear up whatever offer they got and run to WCW as fast as they could. Also I’d put $100 on the Marlins because you might as well make some spending money while you’re there.)

– As it turned out, the double-pin finish they did at the original Beware of Dog was the planned finish, but neither guy knew that the match was airing because they assumed the PPV was off the air due to the storm. They just thought they’d do the “real” match on the make-good show (Beware of Dog II) and thus took it easy like a house show match. And then during the match, Earl Hebner let them know that WE’RE LIVE PAL and this was the match. In addition, Shawn was already in a bad mood from smart-ass fans and felt like the match was beyond saving. And then for an encore, he threw a temper tantrum on the guy who played the music at the end of the match, although that was edited out of the Beware of Dog II version.

– As it turned out, the “make good” show was a bad move on Vince’s part, as there was little interest in paying another $20 when you could just get a refund for the original show. But even then, some companies like DirectTV only offered $10 refunds, and generally the entire thing left a bad taste in the mouths of wrestling fans. And the result is one of the lowest buyrates in history.

– Antonio Inoki’s World Wrestling Peace Festival, the first one planned of many, was intended to introduce Inoki as the “the ultimate political leader in the pro wrestling world.” And it certainly did not, because the US isn’t Japan. After downsizing from the Los Angeles Coliseum to the Los Angeles Sports Arena…

…the show got even more humiliating, drawing a mere 2500 fans paying $65000 for a show that had astronomical expenses from payroll and promotion.

– However, in the end the show ended up being a success in the ring. People who were there said it was better than Wrestlemania (Not exactly a high bar to clear) and might have been better than the Big Two’s PPV shows for the past two years.

1. Craig Pittman beat KGB in 6:11 with the Code Red armbar. Both guys got booed for various reasons and they didn’t work well together. DUD

2. Jim Neidhart pinned Bobby Bradley Jr. in 5:00 with a powerslam. Lots of big-little stuff and the crowd wasn’t into it. ¼*

3. Akira Hokuto & Lady Apache beat Bull Nakano & Neftaly in 8:24 when Hokuto pinned Neftaly with a Nothern Lights Bomb. Crowd was dead early and Nakano’s knee is torn up badly and she looked rough. A good match but nowhere near the WCW ones in 1995. ***

4. Chris Benoit pinned Alex Wright in 9:54 by blocking a sunset flip. Benoit got a big reaction from all the segments of fans (American, Latino and Japanese). Even the people booing all the WCW guys cheered Benoit because he was an ECW guy or New Japan guy, whichever. Benoit was already in the Top of the Super Junior tournament in Japan, so he flew in for this one match and then flew back immediately afterwards. Meanwhile, fans heckled Wright as “Bischoff’s butt buddy” despite him being pretty damn good for 20 years old. ***1/4

5. Rey Mysterio Jr. & Ultimo Dragon beat Heavy Metal & Psicosis in 11:40 when Dragon pinned Metal after a Tiger suplex. This was the show stealer with crazy moves on top of crazy moves. Rey appeared to completely destroy his knee doing a moonsault to the floor, but of course he was back doing all the same crazy stuff the next night in Mexico. ****1/4

6. Lex Luger pinned Masa Saito in 5:53 with an inside cradle. Saito kicked out of the loaded forearm and then got pinned with the cradle, and fans booed the finish out of the building. ¾*

7. Negro Casas pinned El Hijo del Santo in 5:54 with La Majastral cradle in a major surprise finish. Due to political problems, the ring introductions were done in English because the only Spanish speaking ring announcer was from AAA and the match is from EMLL. (Good lord.) Eric Bischoff left the show at this point and never returned.

8. Atlantis & Dos Caras & Hector Garza beat Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr. & Gran Markus Jr. in 10:35. Another dead crowd because the fans there are AAA fans and these are EMLL wrestlers. At one point they took a bump and the ring broke, and two guys had to go under the ring and hold it up for the rest of the show. (I heard that will be HHH’s new position when NXT is relaunched.) ***1/4

9. Tatsumi Fujinami beat Black Cat with a cross armbreaker in 5:15. No reaction from the crowd to this one either. *1/4

10. Perro Aguayo & La Parka beat Pierroth Jr & Cibernetico in 9:38 when Perro pinned Pierroth after a senton. Because they’re all AAA guys, this had the biggest heat on the show, but the match sucked. They worked hard but everything was one step slow. Afterwards they all got a huge ovation and did a curtain call deal for the crowd, but then Pierroth turned on Aguayo and ran off. *

11. Konnan beat Chris Jericho & Bam Bam Bigelow in 7:41. Bigelow surprisingly got a bigger pop than Konnan coming out, with the Japanese fans going crazy for Bam Bam. (I’m sure Konnan tells it differently.) It was surprisingly great given the colossal style clash involved, and Bigelow went out first via a “both shoulders down and one guy lifts his first” finish to Chris Jericho at 4:51. Dave thinks that Bigelow might be sour about doing the job to a “mid-card junior heavyweight small promotion guy in Japan” given his own reputation there. (BURIED by Dave. Hope Jericho has some salve for that sick burn.) And then Konnan pinned Jericho with Splash Mountain after some big moves. ***1/4

12. Jushin Liger pinned Great Sasuke in 12:47 with the Liger Bomb. Sasuke was announced as 235 pounds, which makes Dave LAUGH. It was a similar match to the Tokyo Dome match between them, which was a classic, but this wasn’t. After the match, Ultimo Dragon challenged Liger to a match. ****

13. The Giant pinned Sting in 5:09 with the chokeslam in a non-title match, which made no sense given that Giant is the champion and he’s winning anyway. The Japanese loved Sting and the Americans booed him, so it was a mixed bag. Giant got no reaction from anyone. * (Insert snarky remark about them still being around 25 years later here…)

14. Antonio Inoki & Dan Severn beat Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Oleg Taktarov in 9:15 when Severn made Fujiwara submit to an armbar. Nobody really knew how to take Severn and Taktarov. So fans mostly just gave them polite applause. They had worked out the “match” in advance a few times so it wasn’t all bad, even when Oleg was in. Apparently the funniest spot of the match was Oleg waving his arm at Fujiwara for a tag, “like a first-grader trying to get the teacher’s attention”. Oleg’s stuff was the most intriguing to the fans because it all looked like a shoot, even though it wasn’t. (Isn’t that the WHOLE POINT of wrestling?) Dave can’t rate it because it was more like UFC than wrestling, but people liked it. Luckily the match was scheduled to run 20:00 but they cut it down by half.

– WCW made a couple of changes to the upcoming Great American Bash show, as the DDP v. Great Muta match is OFF due to New Japan not wanting Muta to put over DDP. And then the match was changed to DDP v. Booty Man, but then “those we can only speculate about” apparently didn’t want Booty Man putting over DDP either, so we’re left with DDP v. Bagwell instead.

– Meanwhile, we don’t know anything about the July Bash at the Beach PPV other than the main event that will feature Hall and Nash and a mysterious third man against Sting & Randy Savage and someone else. Dave doesn’t know who the third guy for Hall & Nash is, but rumors of Ted Dibiase or Jeff Jarrett can’t be true because Ted can’t wrestle and JJ is still under contract to the WWF for a while longer.

– In news completely unrelated to the last news item about a mysterious third man, Hulk Hogan is scheduled to return for the Sturgis show in August, probably against the Giant.

– Dave talks about a newcomer in Japan named Brian Dyette who they have big hopes for, a protégé of Steve Williams who is bigger than the Patriot and good looking, with the idea being that he could be Kobashi’s new long term tag team partner as a heart-throb character. (So yeah, he was out of the business by the end of the year. I just find it interesting that sometimes jobbers become major players and then other can’t miss guys end up footnotes in history that no one ever hears from again.)

– For those wondering what happened to Rocky Mountain Thunder after that AWA taping in 1988, he showed up in Memphis this week, along with Bart Sawyer from Portland.

– To ECW, where Brian Pillman showed up in a wheelchair, with his face all swollen from the car accident, and accidentally cut a horribly racist promo on the Gangstas, talking about how they were “N-words with attitude” in reference to the rap group, but of course New Jack took it completely the wrong way and went off on Pillman backstage, going nuts to the point where he threatened to quit and told Mustafa to quit with him. Mustafa meanwhile apparently understood the actual meaning of Pillman’s promo and tried to apologize on New Jack’s behalf while Paul Heyman told New Jack that if he walked out on the main event he wouldn’t get another chance. (We all know he totally would get another chance.) Anyway, eventually everyone calmed down and Jack agreed to work the main event after all in exchange for being able to cut a promo on Pillman later in the show. And, in news that I know will shock you, THAT was a complete disaster as well, as New Jack was “shooting” as Jerome Young and “outed” Pillman as having homosexual encounters with Tom Zenk in the showers in WCW. (I can’t imagine why PPV companies wouldn’t jump at the chance to support this product!)

– Later in the show, Stevie Richards introduced semi-famous prostitute Divine Brown to be a potential suitor for Raven, but Raven rejected her because she wasn’t slutty enough for him and hadn’t slept with enough men. Rumor is that Raven will keep turning down women until he winds up with Sandman’s ex-wife Peaches. (Oh, that storyline sure went some places, all right.)

– Later in the show again, Paul Heyman came out and said the remaining 90 minutes of the show will be so wild that if fans aren’t happy, then Divine Brown will personally give them all blowjobs in the parking lot after the match. Dave notes that the product has gotten so sleazy that he can’t even report on it without offending people. (And we’re not even to the Attitude Era yet!)

– Unsurprisingly, New Jack’s bizarre promo killed the crowd for the main event, and the crowd chanted “Where’s our blow jobs?” during the disappointing Gangstas v. Eliminators match.

– To WCW, where the second two hour Nitro still sucked in the ring but was at least better paced. Dave was really disappointed in the returning Rock N Roll Express, as they both look super-old now. (Just wait for their WWF run in 97!)

– Kevin Greene appeared on Jay Leno with a new haircut, and Dave notes that he lost all his charisma along with his hair.

– Chris Jericho’s appearance at the Inoki show actually earned him a WCW job, as Bischoff made him an offer at the show and wants to bring him in full-time.

– Ted Dibiase might be called Zillionaire Ted when he debuts.

– To the WWF, where Jim Neidhart is probably getting a new gimmick when he debuts on 6/23.

(Go ahead, get it out of your systems. I’ll wait.)

(OK? Feel better now? Let’s carry on.)

– Shawn Michael apologized to people backstage for the whole curtain call deal, saying that he didn’t have his priorities straight.

– Ultimate Warrior missed some weekend shows with a shoulder injury, so they replaced him with Ahmed Johnson and Ahmed got over huge beating Vader in 5:00 every night. He’s now being groomed to take Warrior’s spot as the company’s #2 babyface behind Michaels. (Well both parts of that equation ended up going off the rails right away, unfortunately.)

– The 5/27 RAW taping in Fayetteville drew the biggest gross ever for wrestling in that city, which is saying something considering it was a staple of the Crockett days.

– The Gangstas in Paradise are already gone, with Samu being fired for violating some kind of company policy and Mattie Smalls following him out the door in solidarity. (Did Mattie at least give Vince a THREE MINUTE WARNING?)

– Steve Austin did an interview on Superstars where he said he intentionally lost the strap match to Savio Vega because he wanted to get rid of Ted Dibiase as his manager. (Ouch, that’s STONE COLD of him!)

– For all real purposes, the clique is now done. (Oh Dave. How wrong you are.)

– And finally, the Bodydonnas need a new manager and are soliciting ideas from the fans, with whoever gets picked as the winner doing a tryout on an indie show on 6/14. (I mean, I’m sure whoever they pick will be fine, right?)

And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE.