Wrestling Observer Flashback – 08.19.96

And NOW the main event!  Hog Wild 96 and the introduction of the Observer Hall of Fame awaits!

This one took me a little bit longer to write than last night’s quickie, obviously.

Wrestling Observer Flashback – 08.19.96

OK, after yesterday’s super-abbreviated edition (well the one I wrote at least, Dave was still 100,000 words into it) we’re back with a full double issue this time to recap all the stateside news!

– In the top story, Jushin Liger was thought to have suffered a cancerous tumor in his brain (which explains the 2 minute job he did to Ultimo Dragon in the J Crown tournament) but the outlook is now much better for him after the biopsy came back negative. Liger is set to undergo surgery on 8/23 to remove the growth. As it turns out, Liger had been deaf in one ear for the past three years, which he attributed to all the punishment he had taken over the years, but turned out to be cause by the 2cm tumor on his brain.

– The news was less encouraging for Ahmed Johnson, who had to have emergency kidney surgery on 8/6 and spent several hours in intensive care. He had to vacate the Intercontinental title, and a tournament will begin on RAW on 8/19. (Of course this was only the beginning of Ahmed’s chronic injury issues, which derailed him as a main eventer from then on.)

– Additionally, Chris Candido suffered a freak neck injury on the 8/9 MSG show, taking the Sidewinder from the Smoking Gunns and breaking his neck. The injury was never acknowledged on TV and it’s unknown whether it’ll affect the Summerslam tag team title match, since it’s four teams anyway and his involvement can be disguised. (Well the Bodydonnas were certainly there for that match so I guess we know what they decided to do.)

– At this point, old man Dave goes on a rant that sadly is even more applicable today than it was back in 1996: This business is a work. And it’s really getting out of hand. There is inherent danger in every contact sport. Most of these wrestlers when it comes to injuries work numerous dates per year and last longer than, for example, pro football players. But when you see the risk the guys are taking, and the sad part is the risks are largely to please the audience because the guys who take the risks genuinely love performing, a lot of these guys are going to have a very painful second half of their lives. Hurting is part of wrestling and that has to be accepted. But being crippled at a young age is something that is really sad. It’s a lot worse in Japan than the United States because of the work ethic, but experience has shown that whatever is going on and getting over in Japan will eventually spread to the United States (and visa versa).  (There goes CRAZY OLD DAVE talking CRAZY again!  Like what, he thinks people are gonna be rappelling from the ceiling for ratings, or diving off the top of a giant cage and landing on a table or something?) 

– Speaking of enduring pain, Hog Wild made its debut for WCW as a new yearly PPV concept, and Dave thought it was a largely mediocre show. The early part of the show had some very good wrestling, but the two big matches at the end were a big letdown in heat and storyline. And the booking and announcing for the show were atrocious. Bobby Heenan in particular appeared to be completely out to lunch for most of the PPV. (Shocking I know.) And the show ended with five consecutive screwjob finishes due to outside interference. (Are we sure he wasn’t watching RAW from the past 5 years?) Also, the setting sucked, with the ridiculous dirt floor and elevated ring, which meant little to no high-flying could be done. Also, the crowd size was estimated to be 5000 by those there, which quickly became 300,000 according to the announcers.

(Actually he probably held a rally there at some point this past year, come to think of it.)

– The fourth member of the New World Order was supposed to be debut, and was scheduled to be 1-2-3 Kid. However, and you’d better sit down for this one because it’s pretty shocking, he was unable to get his release from the WWF as agreed upon, because Vince McMahon decided to withhold it to screw with WCW.

– Also missing from the show was Randy Savage, who had been advertised to be there but then “traded in” his interview time for a shot at Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc instead. The feeling was that if Savage was on the show and attacked Hogan, it would risk turning Hulk babyface, which ended up not mattering because the biker crowd all cheered Hogan like crazy and he was the biggest babyface on the show anyway.

– In the first dark match on WCW Saturday Night, Public Enemy beat Dick Slater & Mike Enos in 3:47. ¼*

– Konnan pinned Chavo Guerrero Jr. in 4:24 with a Splash Mountain, with Konnan playing heel. Dave thinks that Konnan is a better fit as a heel anyway. Afterwards Konnan did an interview saying that he’s patterned his career after Hulk Hogan and will continue doing so. (The biker crowd sure patterned themselves after Hogan in one aspect.)

– The Nasty Boys beat High Voltage in 3:22 with Knobs pinning Kenny Kaos. (That’s future WCW tag team champion Kenny Kaos! Put some respect on the man’s name!)

– Alex Wright pinned Bobby Eaton with a missile dropkick in 0:30.

– Kevin Sullivan & The Faces of Fear beat Jim Powers & Mark Starr & Joe Gomez in 3:06.

– Dave Taylor pinned Mr. JL in 2:37 using the tights.

– DDP pinned Renegade in 0:53 with the Diamond Cutter.

– Arn Anderson pinned Hugh Morrus in 0:40 with a DDT.

1. Rey Mysterio Jr. (who is still being called “Oscar Gonzalez” by Dave at this point) pinned Ultimo Dragon in 11:35 to retain the Cruiserweight title. Dave snarks on the fans chanting “USA” to support Mysterio because he’s MEXICAN, you see. Joke’s on Dave there. Hopefully he calls up Rey at his 619 number and apologizes. Rey got the pin after a top rope rana on the second try. ***3/4

2. Scott Norton beat Ice Train with the armbar submission in 5:05 after working the arm for the entire match. *

3. Madusa pinned Bull Nakano in 5:00 and thus got to bash up Nakano’s bike as a prize. Crowd had no idea who they were but were into the bike v. bike stipulation at least. The crowd was chanting “Harley” for Madusa, although Dave doesn’t know bikes so he’s not sure if they were confusing her with Harley Race. (And you snobs bitch about MY dad jokes!) It was a decent match with a completely screwed up finish, as they did the “suplex with one person getting a shoulder up” finish, but the ref wouldn’t count for some reason and they had to redo it twice to get him to count for Madusa finally. *1/2

4. Chris Benoit pinned Dean Malenko in 1:55 of a second overtime after 20:00 of a draw. This was as good a match as you’ll ever see in the US from a technical standpoint, but the crowd didn’t care and the announcers didn’t know how to call it. In fact when they went into “overtime” the crowd booed. A fantastic match marred by a terrible crowd and a screwjob finish with interference from Woman. ****1/4

5. Harlem Heat beat the Steiners to retain the WCW tag team titles in 17:53. The Heat got all the heat on the show, but only because “the bikers don’t like the colored folks” according to Dave. (Huge if true.) Dave could live without ever seeing this match again, but it was one of their better ones at least. Parker and Sherri combined with powder and a cane shot on Scott to give Booker the pin. **3/4

6. Ric Flair pinned Eddie Guerrero in 14:14 to retain the US title, with Flair actually getting a reaction because he’s one of the few people the crowd knew. Typical Flair match. Eddie “hurt his knee” on the frog splash and Flair put him in the figure-four and made him pass out from the pain, with Woman holding his arms for additional leverage. ***1/2

7. Kevin Nash & Scott Hall beat Lex Luger & Sting in 14:36. After all the hype, the match didn’t have any heat and wasn’t very intense and it just didn’t seem important. Sting took the beating most of the way but the match just wasn’t any good. Nick Patrick “accidentally” fell down and clipped Luger’s knee while he had Hall in the rack, putting Hall on top for the pin for a fast count. Looked terrible. *1/2

8. Hulk Hogan pinned The Giant to regain the WCW World title in 14:55. Hogan looked about 60 years old here, but the crowd still cheered him like crazy because they don’t watch WCW TV and had no idea about the heel turn. Hogan’s offense as a heel is like something out of the 60s, and he won’t bump, which made it like watching the worst movie ever made. (Also on trend for Hulk Hogan.) Luckily for them, the Uncensored cage match already has Worst Match wrapped up for 1996. Hogan used Jimmy Hart’s megaphone to get the pin and the title, and then Booty Man “turned heel” and presented Hogan with a birthday cake. But then Hogan turned on him and kicked him out of the ring, before spray-painting “nWo” on the title belt. (Hopefully someone cleans that off soon. It’ll look ridiculous if it’s on there any longer than a day!)

– ECW ran two combined shows with the IWA in Japan, drawing the biggest crowds in their history, but the shows were a mixed bag at best. Raven still has a serious foot injury and shouldn’t be wrestling, and there was little heat for anything on the show, with no one in the Japanese crowds knowing who the ECW wrestlers are.

– The next night’s show was kind of weird in the sense that the Eliminators “defended” the ECW tag team titles against Keisuke Yamada & Takashi Okano despite having lost them to the Gangstas on 8/3, a week earlier. Paul Heyman’s defense of the booking was basically to go “Well, you know, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT OVER THERE?!” and then run away.

– Meanwhile, FMW held a terrible stadium show on 8/1, with a main event of (*DEEP BREATH*) Terry Funk facing Mr. Pogo in an explosive barbed wire no ropes boards with explosives glass and barbed wire on the floor on two sides of the ring match (*EXHALES*). Whew. Funk won. Stuff blew up. It was pretty cool from that perspective at least. *

– So moving onto another topic completely, the WWF Hall of Fame has people wondering when and if Dave will ever do an Observer Hall of Fame. This leads him to wonder what exactly you pick people based on? (I think we can all agree that Sting should NEVER be in this hypothetical Hall of Fame, AM I RIGHT? High five! Anyone?)

– Anyway, after lots of hand-wringing, Dave has decided to launch the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame! He’s picked a bunch of people to start with, with the criteria being that someone has to be 35 years old or been active for 15 years to qualify. So with that in mind, here’s Dave’s list of initial entrants, who couldn’t not be in a Hall of Fame:

PERRO AGUAYO

ANDRE THE GIANT

BERT ASSIRATI

GIANT BABA

JIM BARNETT

WILD RED BERRY

FREDDIE BLASSIE

NICK BOCKWINKEL

BOBO BRAZIL

PAUL BOESCH

JACK BRISCO

BRUISER BRODY

DICK THE BRUISER

MILDRED BURKE

ABDULLAH THE BUTCHER

CANEK

NEGRO CASAS

RIKI CHOSHU

JIM CORNETTE

THE CRUSHER

ALFONSO DANTES

BLUE DEMON

THE DESTROYER

TED DIBIASE

THE DUSEK FAMILY

JACKIE FARGO

RIC FLAIR

TATSUMI FUJINAMI

DORY FUNK SR

DORY FUNK JR

TERRY FUNK

VERNE GAGNE

CAVERNARIO GALINDO

ED DON GEORGE

GORGEOUS GEORGE

FRANK GOTCH

KARL GOTCH

SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM

EDDIE GRAHAM

RENE GUAJARDO

SALVADOR GUERRERO

GEORGE HACKENSCHMIDT

STAN HANSEN

BRET HART

STU HART

BOBBY HEENAN

DANNY HODGE

HULK HOGAN

ANTONIO INOKI

RAYO DE JALISCO

TOM JENKINS

DON LEO JONATHAN

THE FABULOUS KANGAROOS

DYNAMITE KID

GENE KINISKI

FRED KOHLER

KILLER KOWALSKI

ERNIE LADD

DICK LANE

JERRY LAWLER

STRANGLER LEWIS

JIM LONDOS

SALVADOR LUTTEROTH

AKIRA MAEDA

DEVIL MASAMI

MIL MASCARAS

TIGER MASK

DUMP MATSUMOTO

EARL MCCREADY

LEROY MCGUIRK

VINCE MCMAHON

VINCE MCMAHON SR

DANNY MCSHANE

REY MENDOZA

MITSUHARA MISAWA

TOOTS MONDT

SAM MUCHNICK

BRONKO NAGURSKI

PAT O’CONNOR

KINTARO OKI

ATSUSHI ONITA

PAT PATTERSON

ANTONIO PENA

JOHN PESEK

RODDY PIPER

HARLEY RACE

DUSTY RHODES

RIKIDOZAN

YVON ROBERT

ANTONINO ROCCA

THE ROAD WARRIORS

BILLY ROBINSON

BUDDY ROGERS

LANCE RUSSELL

BRUNO SAMMARTINO

BILLY SANDOW

EL SANTO

JACKIE SATO

RANDY SAVAGE

THE SHEIK

HISASHI SHINMA

DARA SINGH

GORDON SOLIE

EL SOLITARIO

RICKY STEAMBOAT

JOE STECHER

TONY STECHER

RAY STEELE

RAY STEVENS

NOBUHIKO TAKADA

GENICHIRO TENRYU

LOU THESZ

JUMBO TSURUTA

FRANK TUNNEY

MAD DOG VACHON

BIG VAN VADER

JOHNNY VALENTINE

FRITZ VON ERICH

KOKO B. WARE

WHIPPER BILLY WATSON

COWBOY BILL WATTS

JAGUAR YOKOTA

STANISLAUS ZBYSZKO

Ok, I’m kidding about Koko.

– To Memphis, where Jeff Jarrett is debuting for WCW soon and left the territory, so Jerry Lawler “won” the Unified title in a phantom title change.

– Lawler hyped up the 8/5 show by noting that fans shouldn’t stay home and watch RAW because it was “taped weeks ago” and all that happened was him beating up Aldo Montoya.

– To ECW, where Dave calls the KISS skit on the 8/3 show one of the funniest he’s ever seen in his life. (Hopefully Meanie and Richards have an even better spoof in them!)

– Wrestler Dirt Bike Kid made his own title belt, the “European Junior title”, as a gimmick to defend while he was in ECW, so Heyman promptly booked him to lose it to Mikey Whipwreck, who has been defending it ever since.

– Stan Stasiak’s son Shawn is said to have a lot of potential as a rookie in Oregon.

– Iron Sheik made a public appearance at a pre-Olympic meet and greet near Atlanta, now claiming to be a 1980 Olympic wrestling medalist. “That’s a stretch” notes Dave in the understatement of the issue.

– To WCW, where Nitro drew an amazing 6400 fans in Casper, WY of all places.

– The tentative main event for Fall Brawl is the nWo v. Flair/Anderson/Sting/Luger in a War Games match. (But can we be SURE that it’s Sting in that match?)

– WCW is really pulling ahead in the ratings war now, winning by their biggest margin yet on 8/12.

– Steve Regal is expected to get the TV title back from Luger soon in order to give it some prestige. Apparently the original plan was supposed to be Regal working with Eddie Guerrero for the US title, but plans changed to Flair keeping the title at Hog Wild instead and then DDP somehow got himself a featured program with Guerrero, leaving Regal the odd man out.

– Ted Dibiase is available at the end of August, Jeff Jarrett won’t be available under the first week of October, and Sean Waltman is available the moment that Vince McMahon remembers to send over the release that was promised to him weeks ago.

– DDP wants to do an deal based on the Richards/Raven relationship, where he would be Ric Flair’s flunky, but Flair isn’t keen on the idea. The payoff would be that Flair is actually DDP’s mystery benefactor, since they don’t actually have any idea of what the real payoff is supposed to be and the storyline isn’t actually going anywhere. (Because WCW.)

– In a historic moment, it’s the first mention of Lanny Poffo being added to the WCW contracted talent list, although Dave notes “there are no plans of using him”. That’s the second biggest understatement of this issue, I think.

– The local baseball team in Utica, NY, has bought a show from WCW for the early fall. (Hope they’re serving steamed hams there.)

– Dave notes that the angle on the 8/5 Nitro where Sting & Luger found an empty limo with a wreath offering condolences on the death of WCW was actually a reference to a rib played by Jim Cornette on Jim Herd years earlier, when he did the same thing.

– To the WWF, where their syndication situation will become even more dire in the fall, with most of their major markets expected to dry up. They’ll keep taping Superstars because they need footage for other shows like Action Zone anyway. Publicly the company is saying that this is a totally a thing they wanted to happen and they planned it that way, nyah nyah.

– RAW’s 2.0 rating was an even bigger disaster than normal because they spent the entire show hotshotting all kinds of ridiculous teases, like Bret Hart retiring, Sunny appearing naked on the show, Gorilla teasing an IC title tournament, plus a Shawn Michaels v. Owen Hart main event.  (We all know Sunny is far too classy for antics like those.)  

– Apparently Barry Windham’s Stalker character will be a babyface, taking on Who at the house shows.  (I feel like there’s a punchline in here somewhere…)  

– No truth to the rumors of 2 Cold Scorpio coming in.  (NONE.  All the talk is just a flash in the pan.)  

– Turns out that Mark Henry’s 10 year WWF contract is legit, which Dave thinks is a pretty big risk on their part. He should debut around September.

– The Bruise Brothers have shaved their heads for whatever their new WWF gimmick is going to be.  (Yeah, they shaved their heads for their new WWF gimmick.  Yeah, that’s the ticket…)  

– And finally, Duke Droese quit the WWF and is working indies in Florida, while working towards his law degree.  (Sadly he never got it, because he sure could have used a good lawyer by 2013.)