Wrestling Observer Flashback – 06.24.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 06.24.96

(Dangit, I was 90% done this one and realized that I missed 6.17.96. Oh well, this one has the stuff everyone wants to get to anyway.)

Heard that WCW put on a pretty good PPV this week.

But first, another death…

– In the top story, Dick Murdoch passed away suddenly on 6/16 of a massive heart attack. He was 49 years old. He had actually wrestled the previous night in Amarillo, also promoting the show. He died after competing in a rodeo and then going out for beers, after which he told his wife that he wasn’t feeling well and went home. She found him dead on the couch the next morning. (Where’s the investigation of the Coors Light industry after that tragic death, I wonder?)

– Dave notes that although he was one of the all-time great workers in the ring when he wanted to be, he was also one of the all-time stinkers in the ring when he didn’t want to be great, and you couldn’t do much of anything in the ring with him if he didn’t want to.

– In one interesting note, it turns out that his entire football background was a complete work, as he happened to be friends with guys like Dusty and Stan Hansen who were stars at West Texas State and so he just bullshitted his way into alumni games despite never even playing football in high school.

– He was, however, uniquely gifted with the ability to hit a road sign with a beer bottle while driving at 75MPH.

– WCW presented the Great American Bash PPV on 6/16, which Dave actually calls the best PPV show ever in terms of angles. (I feel like All Out might rival it now.)

– The show drew a disappointing 9000 to Baltimore and had the misfortune of going against Bulls playoff games, which probably killed the buyrate.

– Dusty Rhodes was missing up until the moment the show started, likely due to the death of Dick Murdoch the night before.

– The only injury from the show of note was Spanish announcer Pedro Morales, who accidentally stepped on a backup table from the Outsiders angle, falling through it and messing up his elbow and several other body parts. He did, however, refuse to go to the hospital.

– In the dark matches, Rocco Rock pinned Jerry Sags in 1:46, VK Wallstreet pinned Jim Powers in 3:07, and Jim Duggan pinned Disco Inferno in 2:09 in a complete squash.

– Also at the end of the Main Event show, Ric Flair did a notable interview where he gave his usual “bright lights, big cities” line, but made sure to look down Liz’s top while talking about “big cities”, nearly causing everyone to crack up on the spot. (Wait, he said big CITIES, right…?)

1. Rick & Scott Steiner beat Ice Train & Scott Norton in 10:29. The crowd was really into the Steiners, and Scott and Norton traded dangerous suplexes for fun. Scott hit Norton with the Frankensteiner for the pin after several good near falls. ***

2. Konnan retained the US title over El Gato in 6:03 after a powerbomb. Last week on Nitro, Gato was from “South America” but here he was from Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, so Dave is thinking it doesn’t matter where they’re from once they cross the border. **

3. DDP pinned Marcus Bagwell in 9:39 to retain the Lord of the Rings ring. Dave laments that people are ignoring what a great worker Bagwell is becoming, because his gimmick is so lame. (Hmm, maybe if he had a better gimmick…?) Dave is impressed with the layout of Page’s matches, but notes that sometimes he tries to sell like Terry Funk and it doesn’t always work very well. Crowd popped big for the Diamond Cutter, as the move is getting over. **1/2

4. Dean Malenko beat Rey Mysterio Jr. to retain the Cruiserweight title in 17:50. (Dave actually gets Rey’s name wrong here, calling him “Oscar Gonzales” instead of “Gutierrez”. Wasn’t he just the one snarking on mixing up people south of the border?) Dave calls this the best wrestling match on the show and an excellent technical match. However, he thinks it wasn’t the right match to get Rey over, and also he shouldn’t have done the job in his debut. “Anyway,” Dave notes, “his Tiger Mask potential is already done to casual fans because they saw him in his debut against what fans perceive as a mid-level guy and he lost twice. After this match and Nitro […] leaves one with the impression he’s a kid with a few cute moves but no threat to anyone important.” ****

[Insert infographic of Rey’s mask sales and future World title reigns here.]

5. John Tenta pinned Big Bubba in 5:24. Bubba worked harder than Dave’s seen from him in a long time, but no one cared. *

6. Chris Benoit pinned Kevin Sullivan in a falls count anywhere match in 9:58. Dave notes that they finally made Benoit into a star with this one, and Dusty was hilarious on commentary. Sullivan slamming Benoit’s head in the bathroom stall door was great, but they missed out on having Benoit flush Kevin’s head in the toilet. (Well Austin and Pillman would take care of that one later on.) Benoit put Sullivan on a table on the top rope and superplexed him for the pin, and then continued beating on him until Arn Anderson came down to break it up. This looked to set up Arn turning on Benoit, but then they united and put the boots to Sullivan and the crowd went crazy. ****

7. Sting beat Steve Regal with the Scorpion deathlock in 16:30. The match was a one man show from Regal, as Dave calls him the most complete performer in the company. Sting sold the entire match and then made the big comeback for the win. ***1/2

8. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson beat Steve McMichael & Kevin Greene in 20:51. The match sounded like a recipe for disaster on paper, but ended up great with all credit going to Terry Taylor for training the football players with help from the Horsemen. They laid out a tremendous match and no one went off script. The football players used football player skills to do their stuff against the pro wrestlers, but didn’t make them look incompetent. And of course the match built to the big angle where Debra McMichael came out in an expensive dress with a suitcase full of money and convinced Steve to turn on his partner and join the Horsemen. Dave notes that as long as they keep him in tags with Anderson and Benoit, Mongo won’t have to do much in the ring to get by. ***1/2 (Oh Dave, if only they had listened to you.)

Then came the dreaded “We know who they are”, as the men with no name came out to a big babyface pop. In order to avert a lawsuit, both of them clearly stated that they didn’t work for the World Wrestling Federation. And then of course Bischoff accepted their challenge for Bash at the Beach, and they powerbombed him through a table, stunning everyone. The fans still cheered Hall and Nash anyway.

9. The Giant pinned Lex Luger to retain the WCW title in 9:21. They had no chance to follow that angle, and it was a dead match. Luger tried the rack, but collapsed and got pinned with the chokeslam. *1/4

– To Japan, where Eddie Guerrero, as Black Tiger, won the annual Best of the Super Junior tournament and then worked in the main event of the Skydiving J show against Great Sasuke in a losing challenge for the IWGP Junior title. The tournament was said to be a disappointment due to numerous injuries. Black Tiger pinned Jushin Liger in the finals before a sellout crowd in Osaka.

– In a what I believe might be an Understated Observer Debut, Dave talks about UWFi prelim guy Kazushi Sakuraba, who got beaten by Shinjiro Otani while substituting for injured UWA light heavyweight champion Koji Kanemoto.

– Also of note after the Skydiving J show, Liger did a promo where he told the crowd that they need to determine who the REAL junior heavyweight champion is, and is going to book a tournament of champions with 8 people sometime in August. (That could work.)

– To Memphis, where the final show at the Mid-South Coliseum took place on 6/17, titled “The Last Blast at the Coliseum”, as they’ll be permanently moving to the Big Flea Market on 7/1. (Much like going into hospice care, the USWA unfortunately didn’t come back from that one.)

– Jerry Lawler had gone to the papers, complaining that crowds were down due to increased security measures like metal detectors, and having to work shows with left-over ice from hockey games still around.

– Wrestling had actually been running non-stop at the Coliseum since 1971, with the top year for the company drawing more than 350,000 fans over the 52 weeks. Lawler and Jarrett had been loudly threatening to move for months over rent increases and parking fee increases. Dave attributes the massive drops in attendance to the Monday Night Wars.

– In what I’m sure is a massive shock, AAA and EMLL are sniping at each other over stupid stuff from the World Peace Festival, as apparently irony doesn’t translate into Spanish very well.

– To Japan again, where apparently Jun Akiyama will be getting a big push for the rest of the year.

– There’s serious talk of WCW doing Starrcade 96 from Tokyo. (Can you even imagine how that main event would have gotten over in Japan?)

– Big Japan wants to bring in Terrible Ted, the Wrestling Bear, for their next tour, and of course animal rights groups are all upset about it. (Probably worried about the pic-a-nic baskets.)

– Tokyo Pro Wrestling had booked a loser-leaves-the-promotion match between Abdullah the Butcher and Mr. Pogo, but had to cancel the match when Pogo got fired beforehand. (Thick with irony this week all over.)

– Dave still doesn’t know who UWFI’s “200% Machine” is. (Spoiler: It’s Tom Burton.)

– To ECW, where the Paul Varelans “shoot fights” don’t look realistic at all. Meanwhile Taz is choking out everyone in sight.

– A promotion is using the AWA name in Minnesota in July and August, and lists Verne Gagne as the president, but they’re just using the names and giving Verne a cut. (Probably more money than Verne was making in the last years of the promotion anyway.)

– To WCW, where apparently there was some kind of, I dunno, let’s call it a “PPV bump” and Nitro destroyed RAW 3.2 to 2.3 as a result. It was Nitro’s largest margin of victory ever. The show was also excellent before they ran out of steam 90 minutes in. Dave credits most of the rating to Ric Flair and Randy Savage, however, as they had a great match.

– Kevin Sullivan had actually been on the verge of getting fired and retired as an active performer after Kevin Nash’s debut only drew a 2.6 rating, and then after this week he’s the hero of the company again. (Man wrestling is a fickle business.)

– Scott Hall is trying to get Hogan’s attorney Henry Holmes to help him out with legal threats from the WWF by challenging the claims that the WWF came up with the Razor Ramon mannerisms, and also to get back a bunch of money owed to him.

– Dave wants to clarify that Prince Iaukea is of no relation to the Iaukea family.

– They’re looking to sign Rey Mysterio to a deal now.

– Jeff Jarrett’s contract with the WWF expires on 10/7 and he’ll start immediately after that.

– To the WWF, where Brian Pillman is coming in as a heel after debuting as a babyface, although he had been hospitalized with an infected ankle and a high fever, which delayed his debut somewhat.

– The Bodydonnas will be managed by a guy named Cloudy, who is a close friend of Chris Candido and used to work as Jimmy Shoulders.

– Dave suspects that the Shawn Michaels-Bulldog match at King of the Ring will be a great match.

– And it’s another UNDERSTATED OBSERVER DEBUT, as Kevin Kelly has been hired by the WWF as an announcer. Dave clarifies that it’s not Nailz.

– Dirty White Boy will be TL Hopper, a wrestling plumber, which is also his day job. Meanwhile Tracy Smothers will be “something to the effect of Toby Joe Royal”.

– Barry Windham had knee surgery and is supposedly in good shape now, so he’s calling the WWF looking for work. He already burned bridges with them in 1989 when he walked out on the Widow Maker gimmick without notice, and he’s basically been retired for the past few years.

– And finally, at a Chicago show on 6/9, Vader (suffering from a bad hip) was scheduled to do a 20 second job to the Warrior, but he was feeling unappreciated and worried about the quick pinfalls hurting his rep in Japan. So he took the clotheslines and walked out of the match, at which point agents told him to keep walking all the way back to Colorado. So he went back to the ring, took the clotheslines again, but this time got counted out rather than taking the pin. So he’s on the back burner until the fall, and the WWF wants him to lose weight before they push him again. However, when they did a show in Denver on 6/14, they kindly allowed him to do a double countout against Warrior because it’s his home town. (Secure in their ability to back the winning horse in Vader’s fight with Warrior, the agents went out after the show and put $100 on the Washington Generals.)

And that’s all the news and Nicholas Cage memes fit to print, and I’M OUTTA HERE!