Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.15.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.15.96

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

– After 15 years of being the world’s biggest babyface, Hulk Hogan turned heel in the main event of WCW’s Bash at the Beach PPV in an angle that Dave thinks will be “remembered for years”. (We’d remember it for even longer if it happened in the Tokyo Dome.)

– Hogan legdropped Randy Savage after showing up for the match 16:00 in, turning on WCW in the process and drawing a “literal flood of debris” from the crowd with a level of heat not seen in North America for years. And then Hulk topped it off with one of his best ever interviews, talking about building the WWF by himself and then coming to WCW for millions of dollars and doing charity work, while WCW fans wouldn’t give him the time of day. He told fans to STICK IT and the reaction was so visceral that many fans were actually tearing up their Hogan merchandise and some were even crying. (It was probably still real to them, DAMMIT).

– So WCW’s next big storyline appears to a promotion v. promotion battle with the “New World Order of Wrestling” against WCW, and offers out for any available Titan talent like Jeff Jarrett and soon Davey Boy Smith.

– Meanwhile the Hogan turn managed to overshadow the opener on the show, a Rey Mysterio v. Psicosis match that was described as “the first great match of the 21st century”. (I think we should wait for Rebel v. Shelly Martinez before we rush to any snap judgements. Also, the 21st century was still 4 years away at that point, so it’s little early anyway.)

– The opener and main event were so strong that the show ended up very well received despite the decidedly mediocre nature of everything in between.

– Hogan finally agreed to do the heel turn 11 days before the show, pretty much because there was no spot for him had he decided not to do so. With WCW’s revenue stream becoming more focused on Monday night ratings and less on PPV, Hogan’s massive contract was suddenly expendable and Hulk needed a way to make himself into a ratings draw again. In fact, in a rare case where Hogan did not have amazing timing for once, he left the company to make a movie just as NBA playoffs would normally tank ratings so he could return triumphantly in the summer, but the two hour expansion in fact increased ratings dramatically without Hulk. He was left without his usual leverage and actually had to do what someone else wanted for once. But as usual, Hulk is stupid like a fox and managed to maneuver himself into the hottest angle in WCW’s history, suddenly becoming the focal point for the entire promotion yet again.

– However, Dave would like to remind us that there are risks involved here. Although the turn seems like it was long overdue, Hulk was still a major factor in PPV buyrates and revenue, especially from young children who might not be apt to have their parents buy them stuff now. (Oh, I think the 80 million nWo shirts still in circulation would disagree with that).

– There was legit fear from WCW officials that Hogan would refuse at the last minute, all the way up until he actually went out and did the turn. Plan B was Sting turning to join the Outsiders if Hogan balked at the last minute. The deal itself was reportedly done on 6/26 while Hogan was on the set of “The Overlords” with Roddy Piper, and Eric left the meeting and told Hall and Nash “not to worry about the third man” because they had someone. Bischoff was still working on the deal all the way up until the start of the PPV and so he wasn’t there on TV and WCW made a last-minute angle where he wasn’t there and “may have been kidnapped”, but Bischoff blew it off on TV the next day and it was forgotten. (AU CONTRAIRE, as this was one of the few cases where WCW actually remembered something later and it actually paid off months later!)

– To the review!

– The show drew an 8300 sellout to the Daytona Beach Ocean Center with 2000 turned away.

– In the dark match, Jim Powers pinned Hugh Morrus.

– The Steiners beat Harlem Heat by DQ in the Main Event match in 5:01. OK but rushed. *

– Bobby Walker pinned Billy Kidman in 2:00 with a top rope headbutt. *

– The Rock N Roll Express beat Fire & Ice in 2:08 when Norton & Train had miscommunication and teased another split. DUD

– Eddie Guerrero pinned Steven Regal with a rollup in 3:39. Very disappointing. ½*

– Rey Mysterio Jr. pinned Psicosis in the PPV opener in 15:18. They were crazy and crashed and burned all over the place but it never affected the work and Rey somehow avoided smashing his head open on the floor. Psi went for a top rope Splash Mountain but Rey turned it into a rana for the pin. ****3/4

– John Tenta pinned Big Bubba Rogers in a “Carson City Silver Dollar match”, which featured a sock of coins on top of a pole. Bubba was a good enough worker to keep it interesting, even though Tenta was clearly unable to climb the pole. At one point Bubba teased cutting more of Tenta’s hair, but a low blow saved the day. So 55 year old Jimmy Hart climbed the pole and got the sock, at which point Tenta stole it and pinned Bubba to win at 9:00. *1/4 (Look, we know I’ve been watching wrestling for a long time, so I think I see the issue here, and I can say without any fear of contradiction or counter-example that there is NO CHANCE either guy would ever become a main event star again because the world would never accept a top star who used a sock as an offensive weapon. Glad that’s settled.)

– DDP pinned Jim Duggan in a taped fist match to retain his Battlebowl ring in 5:39. DDP was looking better than usual pretending to be Terry Funk, and Duggan was slightly less terrible than usual, so the match wasn’t bad. *3/4

– The Nasty Boys beat the Public Enemy in a double dog collar match in 11:25. Their typical match with lots of foreign objects and no selling. “Your basic bad ECW brawl match sans juice.” (Get ready for a lot more of those over the next few decades). The match was too long and got sloppy at the end, especially when they ran into PE’s arch-enemy, the “industrial strength table that kept not breaking”. Finally Rock was clotheslined with a chain and pinned by Sags. *1/4

– Dean Malenko beat Disco Inferno in 12:04 with the cloverleaf to retain the Cruiserweight title. SHOCKINGLY, this was the second best match on the show. (Poor Glenn. I mean, not really, he deserves most of the abuse he gets, but still, ouch.) Dave notes that Disco actually looked like a promising good wrestler in there thanks to Dean carrying him! The match was focused on making Disco look like a serious wrestler instead of a dancing clown, and thus he almost won. (Well don’t get used to any of that.) ***1/4

– Steve McMichael pinned Joe Gomez with a tombstone in 6:44. It was “painful putting two guys who are both so green out there and having them go this long”. -1/2* (Yeah, well, to be fair, Gomez had been in the business for about 7 years by that point! SO THERE!)

– Ric Flair pinned Konnan to win the US title in 15:39. Basic Flair match with all the Flair spots. Woman gave Konnan a low blow so great it should have been the finish, but he recovered and they traded figure-fours. Finally Liz distracted the ref and Woman hit Konnan with a shoe for the pin, which looked really bad. Flair has carried a whole lot worse in his career. **1/2

– The Giant & Kevin Sullivan beat Arn Anderson & Chris Benoit in 7:59 when Giant pinned Arn after a chokeslam. The idea was supposed to be Kevin Sullivan as the face in peril, but that didn’t work out very well. Mongo hit Giant with the briefcase early to chase him away, but he returned later and immediately pinned Arn. **

– Sting & Randy Savage & Lex Luger went to a no contest against Kevin Nash & Scott Hall. Luger did a stretcher job early to even up the sides, and the match was so-so but was saved by the legendary finish. A fan hit the ring during the post-match and Nash knocked him out with one punch and put the boots to him before security hauled him off. ***

– To the WWF, where Jim Hellwig was officially suspended on 7/8 due to missing shows. Sid will be taking all of his bookings starting on 7/11, including the International Incident PPV. The suspension was announced on TV by Gorilla Monsoon, who declared that no wrestler was above missing their scheduled appearances. So he’ll be welcome back if he posts an appearance bond, which is actually true. The exact amount is unknown but it’s believed to be in excess of $100,000. Hellwig has yet to actually agree to this arrangement. (Hopefully they got him to pay that bond in 2015 when he finally came back for the Hall of Fame.)

– The big blowup between Vince and Warrior reportedly came on 6/28, when Jim saw the WWF using his slogan “Always Believe” for a marketing event. (THOSE FUCKERS. GODDAMN THEM FOR PUTTING TOGETHER TWO WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE THAT WARRIOR USED AT ONE POINT!) Also, there was bitterness because Warrior claimed that the time off was for the death of his father on 6/30, but he was missing shows on 6/28 and 6/29, plus he hadn’t spoken to his father since he was three years old, so the timeline doesn’t match up in the eyes of WWF brass.

– A bad week for the Hart family, as Matthew Annis, son of Georgia Hart (and brother of Teddy!) contracted a very serious virus that has left him in critical condition. He’s currently in the ICU and in out of consciousness, although his lower body was left “ravaged”. (Sadly there was no happy ending to this one, as Matt passed away from the deadly flesh eating bacteria, which is exactly as nasty as it sounds.)

– WCW is going to be trying another outdoor PPV in August, with Hog Wild coming from Sturgis, SD on 8/10. The last time they tried it, Bash at the Beach 95, they produced a complete fiasco that was among the worst PPV shows in history. Dave notes this one will also be tough. (Especially if you’re black.)

– Meanwhile, Summerslam is already at 7500 tickets and a huge advance with Shawn Michaels v. Vader scheduled to headline, which will end up as the second largest gross in the US for the year.

– To Memphis, where Lawler’s group debuted at The Big Flea Market on 7/1 and drew a good crowd of 1300 with Jeff Jarrett & Goldust beating Brian Christopher & Doug Gilbert in the main event. Also, Lawler & Dundee won the USWA tag titles from Bart Sawyer and Flex Kabana. (Man, Flex is putting people over like crazy even in his rookie year!)

– To ECW, where two July shows in Salisbury Beach MA were canceled due to a problem with the arena. (That problem being that they wanted to be paid, I assume. No wait, Tod Gordon was still writing the cheques at this point, never mind.)

– Dave thinks that Sandman’s son Tyler is basically stealing the show on this tour. (Shocked that he never really ended up getting into the business, actually.)

-To WCW, where Rey Mysterio won the Cruiserweight title from Dean Malenko on Nitro in the best match since Nitro debuted, a ****1/4 match.

– Dave clarifies that Blood Runs Cold will be several wrestlers, one of whom is named Ray Lloyd.

– WCW has made a three year offer to Davey Boy Smith at $400,000, while the WWF has countered with $250,000 guaranteed for five years. (And we know how important contractual obligations are to Vince McMahon!)

– Ted Dibiase will be added as a TV announcer in the fall as a part of Nitro.

– There’s lots of discussion of bringing in Chris Jericho.

– Also Muto, Kensuke Sasaki and Masa Saito will likely be on WCW TV in some form coming up in August. (Hopefully they can find a spot for them)

– To the WWF, where Barry Windham has been offered a contract so he’s very likely on the way in.

– Bret Hart is not currently under contract. (Hopefully he signs a new one soon, like a nice new long-term deal.)

– 1-2-3 Kid met with Vince about returning this past week, although nothing has been decided yet. (I’d bet on “no”.)

– Jesse Ventura wants to return, with the end of his radio show in Minnesota, although it doesn’t seem like there would be a good place for him in the promotion at the moment. (Maybe he can try politics again instead?)

– And now it’s another edition of the…

– The LA Times had a lengthy article about Olympic weightlifter Mark Henry, who will probably join the WWF after the Olympics. He’s not expected to medal. Henry was quoted as saying that the WWF is a “more honest competition” than the Olympics because of their superior steroid policy. (WHAAAAAT?)

– And finally, Dale Torborg, the son of former Cleveland Indians manager Jeff Torborg, wants to wrestle in the WWF. (Hey, he should pursue that dream! What’s the worst that could happen?)

(Oh. Yeah. That. Never mind then.)