Wrestling Observer Flashback – 08.05.96

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 08.05.96

(I’m putting this one in the can a few days earlier than publication so if there’s any pop culture references that age badly, blame me.)

An industry shaking death in this issue, but first Dave does some business analysis.

– Dave is pretty shook by how 1996 is completely defying his predictions so far and making money for both companies. First up, house shows have gone from theoretical loss leaders to actual money makers, and PPV is dropping pretty fast for both sides. In fact, although the “Outsiders” angle drew huge ratings increases for WCW, people didn’t want to pay money to see the payoff on PPV.

– TV ratings are no surprise. WCW good, thanks to Nitro. WWF bad, thanks to Nitro.

– In another surprising development, the signing of Hall and Nash to giant contracts appears to be a “rising tides lift all ships” deal, with even midcard players like Brian Pillman getting huge guaranteed money that wouldn’t have been possible a few years back. Sure, they’re not the best in the ring and haven’t drawn a lot of money in the past, but life isn’t fair and wrestling is about capitalizing on opportunity when it’s presented. (Kevin Nash is DEFINITELY an expert at that and probably advised Brock Lesnar on his contract renegotiating skills as well.)

– Which brings Dave to the point, as September will see the WWF dropping compensation for their syndication package. Basically this means that they will no longer be paying TV stations to run their syndicated wrestling shows, like had been the case for decades. Basically now WWF makes their money from their national cable deal with USA and house shows, and the syndicated shows no longer drive business to house shows, so the costs of greasing TV stations are no longer justified. (And they’d be absolutely correct. Can you even imagine a TV station asking Vince to pay to air his programming these days? They’d be laughed out of the meeting by Nick Khan.)

– Basically both WWF and WCW can do huge tours and make money without syndicated TV, so the shows serve little purpose anymore.

– However, Dave notes, this leaves the door open for WCW, which has no such intention of changing their policy, and they will no doubt attempt to buy up any and all syndicated timeslots left open from the WWF pulling out. (As it turned out, the WWF was correct: Syndication meant nothing by 1997 and the only important TV was RAW and Nitro.)

– To Japan, where Kenta Kobashi FINALLY won the Triple Crown for the first time on 7/24, in a stunning upset of Akira Taue. The feeling had been that Taue was going to run through Kobashi after winning the title from Misawa two months earlier, setting up a rematch with Misawa where he’d drop the title back. Due to All Japan’s very traditional system, Kobashi was considered a “fourth” guy in line behind Misawa, Kawada, and Taue, despite breaking in at the same time and being the same age. He’s not expected to have a long reign. (Spoiler: He actually had a pretty good one.)

– And now for the news we’ve all been dreading, Herb Abrams passed away on 7/23 from an apparent drug overdose.

– Herb was in the process of being handcuffed by police in his office while going on a spree of bashing furniture with a baseball bat, on several floors of the building, and pulling fire alarms at 6am. Police had been called about “an emotionally disturbed person” and found him naked and covered in baby oil with two women in his office. (Really, that’s the way we all figured he’d go.)

– Police found coke and valium in his system, believing that he died of a cardiac arrest caused by overdose. They had previously been called to his office where he was robbing and holding a woman hostage, and found him with a mound of cocaine there. The case for attempted rape and assault was actually still pending against him at the time of his death.

– Dave of course relates the famous press conference called by Herb for his new UWF promotion years before, where he promised an appearance by Bruiser Brody (dead a year before that) and announced that Blackjack Mulligan would be booking (in prison for counterfeiting at that point.)

– To the WWF, where the PPV following Summerslam will reportedly feature Shawn Michaels & Jose Lothario v. British Bulldog & Jim Cornette in a tag team main event, plus Ahmed Johnson defending the IC title against Vader. Dave doesn’t think that sounds like a show will spike buyrates. (Can you IMAGINE if they had run that show in Philly instead of what we actually got for a main event?)

– Dave attended a WWF house show at the Cow Palace. It was OK.

– All talk of Terry Funk’s retirement appears to be dead, as he’s headlining FMW in Tokyo on 8/1, facing Mr. Pogo in an explosive barbed wire match.

– To Memphis, very briefly, as the TV show was canceled on 7/27 after originally being moved for the Olympics, and then the scheduled weekly house show was canceled because without the TV show it wasn’t going to draw anyone. (Just another nail in the inevitable coffin for Memphis.)

– Speaking of cancellations, ECW aired their final show on MSG Cable on 7/28, with the station cancelling them, although they’re expected to sign a new deal to air on channel 31 in New York to replace it.

– Sandman has moved from Utah back to Philly after working a regular job for a while.

– Vampiro is supposed to be coming in at the end of August, although he keeps getting work in Cancun and screwing up Heyman’s plans for him. (It’s always tough to book people who actually know how to draw money rather than leftovers from the other guys who no one wants.)

– Todd Pettengill was ripping on Herb Abrams on his radio show, making fun of his death and career. (Can you blame him?)

– To WCW, where the tag team titles switched twice over the weekend, with the Steiner Brothers winning them from Harlem Heat on 7/24 at a Cincinnati house show before dropping them back on 7/27 in Dayton. (I literally do not remember that at all. I don’t even know if they mentioned it on TV.)

– Nitro was certainly a show! The show was built around a crazy angle where Rey Mysterio and the American Males got destroyed by the Outsiders, with Rey notably getting torpedoed into the production trailer. Dave notes that Hogan was supposed to be involved off-screen, which makes it “the best angle Hogan has ever done and he probably wasn’t within 3000 miles of the place”. (Now there’s the Dave snark we pay $10 a month for!) Dave notes that it was flaming ratings death on the night, but this is gonna pay off bigtime in the long term with viewer interest and a better buyrate for Hog Wild. (It actually paid off a million-fold just from Rey teasing a “fourth man” for the nWo alone.)

– The Steiners are rumored to have signed a contract. (Probably why they got that tag title “reign” that week, I guess?)

– With Lee Marshall doing commentary as of late, Dave’s theory is that Tony Schiavone is assigning people based on who will make him look like the best announcer they have by comparison.

– To the WWF again, where Ahmed Johnson was injured doing the angle with Faarooq Asad, suffering from a bruised kidney and a broken nose. The presumption is that he’ll be back by Summerslam. (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAND that’s the beginning of the end for Ahmed’s career as a top guy, just like that.)

– All sorts of stories circulating about what’s up with Jake Roberts, but he’ll be back for Summerslam.

– Shawn Michaels and Jim Cornette reportedly had words backstage after a house show in Anaheim. They were supposed to do a spot where Shawn superkicked Cornette, but Cornette “tripped” and Shawn ended up superkicking air instead. Shawn interpreted this as Cornette double-crossing him, due to previous issues between the two. (I’m shocked that two people as level-headed and low maintenance as JIM CORNETTE and SHAWN MICHAELS would have issues communicating with each other. SHOCKED.)

– Clarence Mason was apparently a real life Assistant DA in Florida before getting into wrestling via his friendship with Ernie Ladd.

– Fatu was told to shave his head and lose a bunch of weight, in preparation for a new character managed by iron Sheik who is supposed to hail from the Middle East. Sheik is under the impression that this is going to be a big deal with a major push because they’re using the character to exploit the heat from recent terrorism activities. (I think we all know that the WWF would never stoop to that kind of level. Also, why haven’t they brought back the Sultan for the Saudi shows, I wonder?)

– Barry Windham’s new WWF gimmick is going to be The Stalker, like a big game hunter and not like someone who stalks celebrities. (Ha ha, can you imagine how stupid it would come off if they tried to take some big WCW star and then repackage them as a guy who stalks someone’s…um, never mind.)

– The Bruise Brothers are supposed to be coming back in again as TV jobbers like Freddie Joe Floyd and the Goon, where they can still work ECW on the side. However, Paul Heyman doesn’t really want to use anyone in that role. (Ha ha, can you imagine Freddie Joe Floyd or Aldo Montoya getting a push in ECW…um, never mind.)

– WWF is all over this Mark Henry guy, who is a lifelong wrestling fan and legit claimant to the title of World’s Strongest Man.

– Buddy Landel’s knee injury from last winter’s ice slippage will likely keep him out of the ring until January. (Man, that one really sucked for him, since he was actually going to get a decent push and everything. I can also sympathize with slipping on ice and messing up various body parts as well.)

– Rumors are flying about Scorpio coming in soon. (I’m sure they’ve got a great idea for him!)

– The Vancouver PPV was the largest crowd in the history of wrestling for that city. (Yeah, but what about Al Tomko? I’m sure there was a Frog v. Atomic Kid main event in there somewhere that drew at least 19,000 people to a high school gym.)

– Ron Simmons had been working as a warehouse manager at a Coca-Cola plant near Atlanta when WWF called him up for the new Faarooq character.

– And finally, WWF has officially severed all ties with Warrior University and Warrior The Comic Book and all things Warrior and Warrior-adjacent. (Unless they want to make a few bucks off his name for a DVD, I suppose.)

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