Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.29.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.29.96

And we’re back into these again!

Time to get political with an INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT.

Well not really but you get where I’m going with this.

– Dave is still on the “PPV isn’t keeping pace with TV ratings” train this week, noting that while overall interest in both sides of the Monday Night War is rising, PPV buyrates aren’t keeping pace with them. In fact, WCW’s Bash at the Beach show did a 0.71 buyrate when most people thought it might even top a 1.0 due to the increased media interest around it.

– Which brings us to the International Incident show from Vancouver on 7/21, which set a record for attendance at an In Your House with 14804 and 11955 paid. Although Dave notes that Vince repeatedly called it a “capacity crowd” even though capacity of GM Place is 23,000 people. (That’s the Gorilla school of counting people.) As for the quality of the show, when it was over it might as well have never even happened, which is about the worst thing that a show can be. Given how PPV numbers are slipping, promotions need to make everything an unskippable experience that convinces viewers that if they ordered it, they need to order the next one, and if they missed it, they missed a big deal. (For me, this was the big lesson of the recent GCW PPV, where they didn’t do anything particularly to make want to see any more, and if I had missed it, I wouldn’t have missed anything.)

– The key match right now is Shawn Michaels v. Vader at Summerslam, which still feels flat despite a good advance for Cleveland. Vader did get the win over Shawn, but it was presented as a cheap screwjob win and not something to make him seem like a serious threat. The other stuff on the show was also equally underwhelming, and Dave’s not really into the idea of this “boiler room match” that they’re building up between Undertaker and Mankind either.

– One thing coming out of the show that wasn’t expected was the sudden disappearance of Jake Roberts, who was scheduled to face Mankind but never showed up and wasn’t mentioned until late in the show. He missed a press appearance on a radio show earlier in the week and eventually the WWF covered for his absence by noting he had a “rib injury” via King of the Ring. It doesn’t appear to be a Warrior situation, however, as Jerry Lawler continued with his regularly scheduled alcoholic jokes throughout the Mankind-HOG match.

0. In the “Free For All” match, Justin Bradshaw (real name “John Hawk” according to Dave) pinned Savio Vega in 4:44. Just a basic kick and punch match. ¾*

In the other segment on the FFA, Jim Cornette did a face-to-face with Jose Lothario, where he basically ran all over him verbally and made Jose look weak. Cornette also did an angle where he promised to refund the money of everyone watching should Camp Cornette fail to win. Which Vince basically ignored for the rest of the show.

1. The Bodydonnas beat the Smoking Gunns in a non-title match in 13:05. The Bodydonnas have already dropped the “Cloudy” character from existence due to ongoing media criticism of having “too many transvestite/lesbian/pervert characters.”

ANYWAY, they all worked hard but the match didn’t click. Sunny is the only who comes across as any kind of a star at this point. They’re already teasing spots where the Gunns look to be breaking up, too. (Just what the world needs, Billy Gunn getting a singles push.) The Donnas double-teamed Bart behind the ref’s back and Skip hit a missile dropkick for the pin. ¾*

2. Mankind beat Henry Godwinn in 6:54. Another one where they worked hard but the match never got going. *1/4

3. Steve Austin pinned Marc Mero in 10:48. They did some neat “Japanese-style” spots where they knew each other well and thus knew how to counter each other. But of course both guys are new to the WWF so it completely went over the heads of the fans. Austin, if you can believe it, got a lot of cheers in the match. (Steve Austin? A BABYFACE? Now I’ve heard everything!) Mero blocked Austin’s Ace Crusher, which is apparently now called a “stone cold stunner”, but Austin hit a second one and got the pin. Good but last month was better. ***

4. Undertaker beat Goldust via DQ in 12:07. (A DQ? What is this, AEW Rampage?) Mostly stalling at the beginning of the match. Mankind came from under the ring to draw the DQ and dragged Undertaker underneath, but Taker popped out and chased Mankind to the back, where they “theoretically continued to brawl backstage” to set up the boiler room match next month. **

5. Vader & Davey Boy Smith & Owen Hart beat Shawn Michaels & Ahmed Johnson & Sid in 24:32 in what was overall a very good main event. And Michaels carried the match. Sid got the best crowd reaction of the show just doing clotheslines by standing there with his arm out. (That’s our Sid!) At one point a fan hopped the rail and made it to the apron, but then took one look at Ahmed standing there and voluntarily jumped into the arms of the cops to take his chances with them instead. After the hot tag to Sid, Shawn came back in and Cornette provided enough distraction for Vader to catch the superkick and then pin him with a Vaderbomb. ***3/4

– Speaking of PPV decline, the last UFC dropped to about 95,000 buys or a 0.43, which is the lowest since the first two UFC shows. Apparently the loss of the Gracies is really sending the promotion into decline, after burning brightly for a while and looking like it might be a legitimate player in the PPV market along with wrestling. The issue appears to be that even though the concept looked like a phenomenon when it launched, the people who cover legitimate sports have now largely turned their backs on it due to all the controversy and not finding anyone who could replace Royce Gracie as a marketable star to build around. And this new guy, Don Frye, doesn’t appear to be the answer to that either. (Pff, send his ass to Japan. Maybe they can do something with him.)

– Dave notes that they’re pretty much at the break-even point for PPV now, and if it drops any lower, then they’re in serious financial trouble. (Well, I’m sure they’ll be fine, unless every cable company in the country suddenly drops them and they get blackballed from PPV for political reasons, but HOW LIKELY IS THAT, am I right? Hey, maybe they should hire that Joe Rogan guy, I hear he’s into MMA.)

– Clash of Champions on 8/15 will be headlined by the newly-renamed Hollywood Hogan taking on Ric Flair in the first meeting between them where Flair is the babyface. This is a rematch from the 1994 Clash that still stands as the single most-watch wrestling match ever on cable TV with a staggering 4.1 million homes and a 6.7 rating. (And then Steve Austin was like…)

– Dave doesn’t have any details, but there was apparently a fight between Hawk and Randy Savage in Japan, with Hawk coming out the better of the two.

– To Memphis, where crowds have been spotty since the move to the Big Flea Market on a permanent basis. They dropped from 1300 to 700 in the second week, but given the low overhead that’s pretty much a profitable show for them still. Sid helped pop the crowd a bit for the 7/15 show, but it dropped back down again right away with the Dundees on top.

– More conflict between Taz and 911 backstage after the latest ECW show. They were supposed to be doing an angle where Taz choked him out and 911 needed smelling salts to revive him. But, surprise surprise, 911 decided to go into business for himself and popped up too soon. So Taz had words with him backstage and Big Dick Dudley ended up getting in the middle of it. (That HAD to be it for 911, right?)

– They’re already teasing a split of the Eliminators. (Yeah, a Perry Saturn singles push, that’s what the world needs.)

– New Jack did a TV interview where he called out Jim Cornette as being a “closet racist” and claimed that Cornette owed them money. (Hopefully no one gets burned by that SCORCHING HOT TAKE from Jerome.)

– WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Ricky Steamboat is unsurprisingly opening another gym in North Carolina with wife Bonnie and he’s doing 70 hour work weeks. (Most of it is laying on the floor pretending to be hurt, though.)

– Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young will wrestle on 8/30 in Columbia SC, and Dave notes that the photo of Young looks be “taken during the Roosevelt or at the latest the Truman administration.” (Luckily we won’t have to see either of them wrestle again, I imagine.)

– To WCW, where they had the biggest show of the weekend in Greenville, SC on 7/21 with a house show that as the final one ever at the Memorial Auditorium drawing 4546. It was a pure nostalgia show that drew a really old crowd who cheered everyone the show, heels and faces alike. Everyone was very into Flair, to the shock of no one. Even Flair couldn’t make the crowd boo him. Finally they stopped trying and just did all the big spots.

– Also on the show, Eddie Guerrero substituted for Ricky Morton, teaming with Robert Gibson to face Bobby Eaton and David Taylor, and they did an 80s Midnights v. RNR match with Eddie perfectly imitating Ricky Morton. (This Eddie kid seems like he’s got a lot of potential.)

– Also Big Bubba was booked against John Tenta for all the shows on the road trip, but BECAUSE WCW, they forgot that Tenta was already in Japan for THAT tour, which WCW themselves had set up months ago, so Cobra took his place instead.

– To Nitro, where Dave inexplicably buries the video package where Joe Gomez and Renegade and Jim Powers and Alex Wright all walked on the beach, somehow ignoring all the money that it drew and just blatantly disrespecting Gomez, if we’re being honest about it. Sure, the nWo gets all the credit for people watching and people paying money for the product if you’re reading mainstream wrestling media like this newsletter and listening to the “experts” with their “legitimate sources” and “journalistic integrity” and “firm grasp on reality”, but I’ve done my research! I’ll be starting a GoFundMe for Joe Gomez shortly and making sure everyone knows that Gomez and the other three guys walking shirtless on the beach was what turned the tide in the Monday Night War. MAGA! Make America Gomez Again!

– Anyway…

– The bookers are all really impressed with Psicosis, with Terry Taylor in particular calling him “one of the greatest workers in the history of wrestling” and more potential than Rey Mysterio Jr. Of course he does nothing but jobs despite this endorsement.

– WCW is talking about cancelling some house shows in August because the schedule is getting legitimately tough and wrestlers are complaining. Dave notes that “he can just see Ole rolling his eyes talking about when they did 300 dates a year and worked double shots every weekend.” (Actually that sounds more like Hulk Hogan these days.)

– Finally we have the secret identity of this Glacier guy in the promos: Ray Lloyd, a small-time indie wrestler who also worked for UWFI in Japan. Apparently Blood Runs Cold is going to be “fix or six martial arts guy doing a martial arts style that only wrestle each other”. It doesn’t sound promising to Dave, but after seeing the Leprechaun, he can no longer call any other idea for anything “the worst”.

– Dave notes that the finish to the Hogan-Giant title match at Hog Wild will go a lot to revealing who has how much power. (Well, you know what Vic Joseph says, he who has the gold has the power!)

– Scott Hall will be depositioned soon by Jerry McDevitt. (Hopefully that’s the end of his legal troubles.)

– The Turner/Time Warner merger has been all but approved by the FTC.

– To the WWF, where Seattle’s RAW taping drew the biggest gate ever for the show.

– Amazingly, Bill Irwin’s portrayal of The Goon has kicked off some controversy behind the scenes. An Ontario-based wrestler named Scott D’Amore had originally sent in the idea of being a hockey enforcer a few weeks back, complete with sketches and the entire idea mapped out, and never got called back by Titan. D’Amore had been playing essentially the same gimmick for months and now gets to see all his hard work stolen by the big guys. Dave suggests trademarking your great idea BEFORE sending it to the biggest promotion in the world. (Sounds like this D’Amore kid at least has a future in the creative end of wrestling.)

– Also on RAW, Steve Austin did color commentary and Dave thinks he can really talk.

– They’ve started teasing the return of Crush after his legal troubles, but he’s going to be managed by Clarence Mason so that they can avoid controversy by noting that they had no choice due to Mason’s legal wranglings, and not because they WANTED to bring back someone convicted of drug and weapons charges.

– Also Ron Simmons debuted as an “Egyptian” named Farouk Asar, looking like he was 300 pounds.

– Pat Patterson keeps popping up on TV, leading to rumors that he wants to be back again full-time as a character.

– Iron Sheik will be returning on 8/19, managing someone.

– And finally, Hunter Hearst Helmsley signed a new three year contract, and he’s expected to get a renewed push now that they’ve got a “long term commitment” from him. (Hopefully he got stock options with that!)

And that’s the news and I’m outta here!