Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.01.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.01.96

I like how even the editors of the Observer site are scoring off Dave with the headline on this one.

– In the top story, Titan Sports filed a lawsuit against World Championship Wrestling on 6/20, stemming from the invasion angle with Hall and Nash. The suit alleges unfair competition, trademark infringement, a second count of unfair competition in Connecticut, plus a defamation suit for WCW’s 2/5 Nitro episode where the lights went out and they alleged that WWF had something to do with it. (To be fair, that was pretty ridiculous.)

– Titan is asking for all of the profits from 6/16 and 7/7 PPV shows because WCW used deceptive advertising to make people think that WWF talent would be at those shows. (Because GOD FORBID anyone would ever buy a WCW show if there wasn’t WWF talent on it!)

– In addition to all the money that they’re looking for, Titan filed for a restraining order demanding that WCW not make any statements or visual representations that might indicate the WWF’s involvement in anything they ever do ever. Also they can’t call Scott Hall “the Bad Guy” or “Razor Ramon” or give him a Hispanic accent or insinuate that he might have Hispanic members of his family or might enjoy using toothpicks. Also he can’t have slicked back black hair with a single curl in the front. (Not even making this stuff up in the least.) Also they can’t present Kevin Nash as “Big Daddy Cool” or “Diesel” and he can’t have a goatee or a black tank top or black pants or black boots or a black glove or anything else that Nash might have worn at any time as a part of WWF sports entertainment programming. Also they can no longer play any videotapes of their appearances leading up to this point in time to promote their 7/7 PPV because those videotapes might contain deceptive images of Hall and Nash that will lead stupid consumers to buy the show thinking the WWF will be involved, so that’s just right out.

– OH YOU THOUGHT WE WERE DONE?

– Also, the WWF demands that they specifically state NOT ONCE, NOT TWICE, BUT THRICE during every Nitro broadcast and on the preview show for the PPV that “Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are both under contract to the WCW and all their actions since May 27 have been at the direction of WCW. Any statements made by us, or suggestion made by us, that Hall or Nash were affiliated with the WWF were false and misleading. The WWF was not, and has not been in any way affiliated with the portrayal of Hall and Nash since May 27 and there will not be any matches between WWF wrestlers and WCW wrestlers on Nitro, on any of our shows, or on any of our pay-per-views. Any statement or suggestion to that effect by WCW and TBS personnel was false. If you wish to view WWF wrestlers, you should watch the WWF’s programs, including Monday Night Raw, which airs on the USA Network Monday nights at 9pm EST”. (I don’t know where people get the idea that Vince McMahon has no chill.)

– When this went before the judge on 6/24, he basically blew off the case, saying that he doesn’t know wrestling and he’s far too busy with actual cases involving real crimes committed and will look at the case sometime at the end of July. Importantly, this would be two weeks after the Bash at the Beach PPV show, so it’s basically a victory for WCW.

– At the actual hearing, WCW’s lawyer points out that 41 wrestlers have changed companies in the past few years, and of those 28 of them went to the other company and were the same basic character from the previous promotion and no one ever filed a lawsuit before. And in fact he also pointed out that all of the stuff that Titan claims to “own” about the Razor Ramon character were in fact created by WCW for the Diamond Studd character that he portrayed first and it was actually the WWF who copied. (That’s ridiculous, why would the WWF ever need to make a fake Razor Ramon character? That makes no sense!) To counter, Jerry McDevitt said that if WCW called them “Diamond Studd” and “Vinnie Vegas” when they debuted, there would be no issue (SURE THERE WOULDN’T!) but since they debuted without a name, the public was deceived into thinking it was Razor and Diesel.

(Fucking lawyers, man.)

– Vince McMahon of course issued a press release saying that he “regretted filing the suit” but he had been pushed up against a wall with no other options to protect his company. Further he noted “My wife and I have committed our adult lives to building the World Wrestling Federation. This company competes very well, and I dare say, stays ahead in a marketplace where quality of programming, creativity, start development and consumer interest reflects success. However, when a giant competitor uses your very creations to dupe and confuse the public, then the playing field isn’t level, and you are forced to fight in a different arena.”

(And then Tommy Dreamer appeared on Dark Side of the Ring and defended Vince.)

– WCW claimed in the hearing that they’re researching new names for Hall and Nash, and if they can’t come up with anything by 7/7 then they’re just going to go with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.

– Meanwhile Dave points out that this whole bullshit lawsuit is in fact almost an exact opposite copy of the one that WCW filed against the WWF in 1991 when Vince McMahon blatantly put Ric Flair on his TV program and tried to trick fans into thinking that the opposition’s World champion now worked for his company, complete with the actual belt that was the property of the other company.

– Back to the lawsuit, as it further alleges that Nitro was basically a vehicle for WCW to “disparage, defame and libel” the WWF and its talent rather than actually trying to promote their own product, including phony rumors of Titan’s impending bankruptcy that they circulated in order to trick WWF talent into signing guaranteed contracts. Then the WWF had to develop the Billionaire Ted skits, featuring characters that were clearly parody and not at all ripping off WCW intellectual property, and when Hall referenced those characters on WCW TV then WWF fans were fooled EVEN MORE into thinking that he represented the WWF. (They’re really throwing their own fanbase under the bus here, aren’t they?)

– Unfortunately, WCW didn’t help their own case when Mark Madden did a hotline report on 6/12 where he put forth a conspiracy theory that even though Hall and Nash had stated on TV that they were not working for the WWF, that’s exactly what people who were secretly working for the WWF would say! And in fact, most of the libel evidence in the lawsuit ended up being shit said on the hotline by Mark Madden and Mean Gene, rather than anything WCW actually said or did on the TV shows.

– While all this was going on, the WWF presented the 1996 King of the Ring show from Milwaukee, which was another thumbs up show in a string of them this year thus far. The show was sold out with 8762 paying $140,000 to see Shawn Michaels retaining the World title over British Bulldog in an excellent main event.

A. The Bodydonnas defeated the New Rockers in 8:06, with the Donnas introducing their new manager “Cloudy”, who looked like a Russian bodybuilder for the women’s team. Didn’t have much heat but Dave thinks it’s odd that two matches on the same show had finishes that involved transvestites kissing another man. *1/2

1. Steve Austin pinned Marc Mero in 16:49 to advance to the King of the Ring finals. Owen had a funny line on commentary about Mero “bringing a hose bag” to the ring, which Dave never thought he’d hear on a WWF show. (Just wait until a year from now.) They had a really good match and Austin got the win with a move called “The Stone Cold Stunner”, which Dave describes as “basically the same move as the Diamond Cutter or Ace Crusher”. (NERD RAGE INCOMING!) ***3/4

2. Jake Roberts beat Vader by DQ in 3:34 to advance to the King of the Ring finals. Vader beat on Jake most of the way until Jake got the DDT out of nowhere and Vader hit the ref on the way down for the DQ. Vader then destroyed Jake’s ribs after the loss. ¼*

3. Smoking Gunns beat the Godwinns to retain the tag titles in 10:10. No heat except for Sunny. (Does Phineas subscribe to her OnlyFans I wonder?) *1/4

4. Ultimate Warrior pinned Jerry Lawler after some clotheslines in 3:50. Warrior was legit hurt so they didn’t want him doing the press slam. DUD

5. Mankind beat Undertaker in 18:21 with the mandible claw. A wild and stiff match that went a bit too long. Bearer tried to hit Mankind with the urn but missed and hit Undertaker, and Mankind won with the claw. Fans were shocked by the finish, but it should draw some big rematch money at the houses. ***1/4

6. Ahmed Johnson won the IC title from Goldust in 15:34. Goldust was good in putting him over here, although the match was slow in the middle. And then Goldust kissed him and Ahmed fired up and won the title. **

7. Austin beat Roberts to win the King of the Ring in 4:28. Although Jake was selling his ribs, it was Austin who was legit injured with 15 stitches in his mouth after the opening match. Austin had him beat and Gorilla stopped the match, but Jake begged for it to continue. So they did, and Austin put him away with the stunner. ½* Oh, and in a minor moment that will no doubt not be consequential for the future history of the business in any significant way, Austin “did a strong post-match interview knocking Roberts’ religion and drinking problems”.

(I mean, it doesn’t QUITE roll off the tongue the same way, ya know?)

8. Shawn Michaels beat British Bulldog in 26:25 to retain the WWF title. All the highspots were done at a fast pace and perfectly executed. They did one near fall after another leading to the ref bump, so outside ref Mr. Perfect came in to count the final pinfall after Shawn’s superkick, although he stopped at two while Hebner revived and counted three. And then Cornette’s guys all attacked Shawn before Warrior and Ahmed made the save, which sets up next month’s six-man tag at International Incident. ****1/4

– Over to ECW now, as they presented Hardcore Heaven 96 at the ECW arena and packed it with 1500 fans for the longest show they ever did at five hours, and one of their best. The ring actually broke, which Paul Heyman later blamed on 911 giving them a bad ring.

– Onto the more famous story from the show, as they brought in UFC fighter Paul Vareleans to do a job to Taz on the show, but Varelans refused to do that job in the days leading up to it. So they worked out a finish where Saturn interfered instead leading to the chokeout. Varelans had huge heat with the company off the whole deal, missing sessions to practice the match, leading to Heyman telling of Varelans and claiming that Taz would take him out easily in a real shoot and then putting other wrestlers at ringside for the eventual 2 minute match in case Varelans thought that he’d try anything funny.

– For his part, Varelans claimed that Heyman and ECW conned him when they brought him in, giving him no indication where the angle or storyline was going, and it was only when he was “smartened up” that he discovered that (GASP!) he was just being brought in to make Taz look good! Paul Heyman of course said that Varelans was lying and that he was told all along what the plan would be. Varelans later said that he liked Taz, but it was laughable that “a guy who comes up to [his] waist” would be able to beat him in a real shoot. As a compromise of sorts, Heyman promised that the match would never air on TV and would only be on home video instead.

– Also on the show, Stevie Richards presented Raven with a new valet in the form of Sandman’s ex-wife Peaches, which led to Raven also introducing Sandman’s son Tyler as his new ward. The angle is apparently that Tyler has disowned his father and now worships Raven. (Probably read reports on the internet about his dad’s workrate and it broke up the family.)

– Also, Tommy Dreamer took a bump off the balcony and went through a pile of three tables on the floor in one of the most dangerous bumps of the year.

– Oh, and I don’t know if we’ll ever hear about this again, but the Dreamer bump damaged the ring and they had a long delay, at which point Kimona came out and dancing atop the ECW arena. Perhaps they’ll mention it again sometime.

– In a random note from the show results section, apparently the BUSHWHACKERS did a job to the New Rockers in Salt Lake City, I guess getting a payday due to WCW wanting to sign them that one time.

– To Japan, where Hayabusa was at the Skydiving J show on 6/17 and Dave thinks he might be jumping to New Japan. (Probably would have lived longer had he done so.)

– Also, the Road Warriors reunited on 6/23 and did a six-man with Hawk’s former partner Kensuke Sasaki, who went back to the Power Warrior gimmick for the tour. The three men had never teamed up before this.

– Apparently all the junior heavyweight champions in Japan will be doing a tournament to determine the unified champion in August.

– Steve Williams did an interview with Weekly Pro Wrestling in Japan where he said that he wanted to compete in the UFC with Baba’s permission, stemming from him beating Dan Severn in the NCAA tournament 15 years before. Williams has long been considered the “legit toughest” of all pro wrestlers. (Man, they should come up with a tournament that he can win and prove he’s the toughest! And they can put Shamrock in there! And, I dunno, maybe Bart Gunn or something. THEY’LL MAKE MILLIONS!)

– The final show at the Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, on 6/17, drew a disappointing 1000 people. The big draw was the USWA tag title tournament, won by rookie Flex Kavana and Bart Sawyer. And the main event and final match was Jerry Lawler beating Cyberpunk Fire in a mask where Fire had to unmask if he lost. And he unmasked to reveal a second mask. (Well there’s Memphis in a nutshell for you.)

– To clarify the “new AWA” story from last week, Verne has disavowed all knowledge of anyone doing AWA shows, and it turns out that the shows are being promoted by Dale GAGNER, who despite having a different last name claims to be the nephew of Verne in press releases. He’ll be removing Verne’s name from all future promotional materials. (Well that could only help draw bigger anyway.)

– To WCW, and everyone is completely in the dark about the secret third man on the 7/7 PPV. Luger was the original plan but Dave thinks that’s out now. Mabel and Crush were also considered top candidates. Everyone thinks Bret Hart would be the best choice and WCW even floated the idea on the hotline, which Dave is DUMBFOUNDED by considering their current legal troubles. Oh, and Dave says it could also be another WCW wrestler turning on the company, but everyone thinks that anyone but Bret would be a huge letdown. (Well obviously.)

– Dave calls the 6/24 Nitro a waste of time, but it still killed RAW in the ratings anyway. (Get used to THAT for a long time.)

– To the WWF, where Undertaker v. Goldust has been added to that International Incident show so that Taker can get his win back.

– The RAW taping on 6/24 saw Don Callis of Winnipeg getting a tryout, and he looked OK doing a job to Barry Horowitz. He was said to look like “a cross between Bob Holly and Raven”. (I heard there’s a kid in Winnipeg that he’s grooming for big things! Wait, that came out wrong.)

– The Bodydonnas keep doing babyface interviews to try and make the fans realize that they’re supposed to be babyfaces, but it’s still not taking and crowds keep booing them.

– Sunny announced that she’s bringing in a singles wrestler to counter Cloudy, which Dave assumes will be Ron Simmons because of the old wrestling trope of a white woman with a black man supposedly drawing big heat from racist old white fans. And then it never works. (Well he was correct on both counts on that one.)

– Also Tony Anthony debuted as wrestling plumber JL Hopper and put over Mero.

– Todd Pettengill had a kidney stone attack while doing his radio show, and ended up doing the PPV hype from his hospital bed via the phone. (I can sympathize. Almost makes me feel bad for him.)

– Brian Pillman is working an angle where WWF international reps want to nullify his contract because they’re afraid his behavior will give the company a bed rep worldwide.

– And finally, Bill Irwin will be coming in as the Goon, who will be a hockey player. (Wow, big finish for that one.)