Flashback Friday: PWI June 1988

This week we look back at an issue of PWI that went to press in February of 1988 that sold for $2.25 in the U.S. and $2.95 in Canada. With the issue coming together just days after Hogan lost the WWF championship, the magazine speculates that Hulkamania might be coming to an end. Let’s get right to the Top Ten lists, with one tag team scoring a perfect 100 in the Cumulative Ratings column, indicating they’ve been on top for the last ten issues. Also, look who’s rated number one in the WWF by virtue of being the only men’s singles champion!

We begin with the mailbag, where Brian from Columbus, Indiana says Luger was right to ditch the Horsemen because J.J. Dillion was a poor manager who was giving Lex poor gameplans. Now Lex can go after Ric Flair’s world title, which Brian expects Lex to win by Starrcade. On the other hand, John from Richfield, Ohio says that without Dillion, Luger will be lost. Meanwhile, Lana from Greenville, Texas responds to a previous letter where a fan wrote in to say World Class Championship Wrestling was on the decline and might fold in 1988. She says to stop talking smack about World Class because it is actually the best. Its wrestlers go overseas and bring back titles that have never been held by American wrestlers before, and no one can get themselves disqualified to hang onto a belt like the other wrestling associations. “So next time anybody wants to say anything bad about World Class, take into consideration all the things it does that the others do not.” Then there’s Greg from Altoona, Pennsylvania who says he thinks Andre, DiBiase, and Heenan will figure out a way to get the belt off Hogan before WrestleMania IV and Hulkamania will die. Elsewhere, Phillip from Muscatine, Iowa is aghast that all-American boy Mike Rotundo has become associated with the evil Kevin Sullivan. And Tama from Bethedsa, Maryland speculates that perhaps Andre will win the belt from Hogan and then refuse to sell the belt to DiBiase, winning the approval of the fans in the process! Then we get a letter from “Dave McMahon” from “Marks, Mississippi.” (Okay, Meltzer.) He’s got a list of wrestlers who should jump to the AWA to rejuvenate their careers. From the NWA: Kendall Windham, Rocky King, Jimmy Valiant, Bugsy McGraw, and Ivan Koloff. From the WWF: Ron Bass, the Ultimate Warrior, Paul Roma, Jim Powers, Rip Oliver, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, Boris Zukhov, Sika, and Sam Houston. And finally, Steve from Kingston, New York says he’s been watching Saturday Night’s Main Event and suspects the WWF has been using canned cheers and jeers. “I would rather listen to real crowd reactions.”

Ringside with Bill Apter: Mike Rotundo scored a stunning upset on January 26 when he defeated Nikita Koloff for the NWA TV title in Raleigh. Rotundo, who is now part of a group called “The Varsity Club,” had help from fellow member Rick Steiner before referee Earl Hebner counted the pin. (Hopefully we don’t hear about that official again.) Rotundo says he doesn’t understand why fans booed the result and aren’t happy the belt is back around the waist of an American. On the same card, the Four Horsemen attacked Sting. (I know, I’m shocked!) In Regina, Saskatchewan, Brian Pillman won a 14-man Bunkhouse Royal when he eliminated Rip Rogers and Kerry Brown with a dropkick. The Philadelphia Record is reporting that Roddy Piper will appear at WrestleMania IV. Big Time Wrestling, a new California federation, has signed Alexis Smirnoff, George Wells, Gerry Monti, The Masked Assassin, and Rex Farmer. The Continental Wrestling Association and Renegade Tobacco Corp have combined to sponsor the Renegade Rampage tournament. In WCCW, Kerry Von Erich is feuding with Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy. Baron Von Raschke is back in the AWA. (What are the odds that Raschke will feud with Adnan Al-Kaissie?) Hulk Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow have been teaming up to defeat Ted DiBiase and Virgil, with Bigelow looking particularly impressive. Mike George was the surprise winner of the World Wrestling Alliance’s tournament for its first-ever heavyweight championship in Kansas City, defeating Dick Slater with a backslide in the final round. The Jumping Bomb Angels are scheduled to defend the WWF women’s tag team championship at WrestleMania IV. And moments before press time, NWA President Jim Crockett announced that the UWF has been permanently dissolved and Steve Williams will no longer be recognized as champion. “You can’t be champion if there’s no federation.” (Ouch.) That action also cancels a scheduled unification match between Williams and Flair in February.

From the Desk of Stuart M. Saks… Scott Hall was puzzled when a fan sent him a life-sized poster of Darryl Strawberry before he realized that there were some eerie parallels between Strawberry and himself. They both came into their sports with high expectations placed on them and struggled to fulfill them. Stuart says to classify someone as a future hall of famer places undo pressure on the athlete and Strawberry and Hall should never have had to deal with having to fulfill unrealistic expectations. Strawberry has turned things around and is now successful on his own terms. Hall believes he is doing likewise and says that if he ever wins the world title, he’ll take the kid who sent him the poster to Disney World.

In Focus with Craig Peters has Craig explaining why it might be best to let Ted DiBiase buy the WWF title outright. Craig says it will devalue the championship, making DiBiase a loser in the long run when nobody believes the title is worth anything. Moving on, Craig talks about The Road Warriors, who have been rated the number one tag team by PWI in 26 of the last 30 issues. He says they’ve had trouble winning tag titles in the States lately, but that’s because their Japan schedule interrupts their work in the U.S. Craig says not to worry, however. They’ll be NWA world tag team champs by the end of 1988. “Bet on it.” (And that would indeed be a good bet.) Finally, Craig suggests a rule change: wrestlers should not be saved from a pinfall by the time limit. He says, “In basketball, if a shot is in the air as the clock runs out, the basket counts. In football, if the ball is snapped before time runs out, the play counts. I contend that in wrestling, as long as the first hand slap of the referee is made during the allotted time limit, the man attempting the pin should be allowed to complete his pin attempt.”

No Holds Barred with David Rosenbaum: Dave says he thought the NWA would do well in New York with the Bunkhouse Stampede, but he was wrong. What happened? They printed several different start times on the tickets and neglected to advertise the show in daily newspapers or on FM radio. Instead, “radio ads were placed on AM stations that most fans probably never listen to.” Beyond this, the Bunkhouse Stampede is not considered a very prestigious event, certainly not on the scale of the Great American Bash, Starrcade, or the Crockett Cup. Dave suspects that with mistakes like these, the NWA will have a hard time making new fans in the Northeast.

In other news, The Original Midnight Express and their manager Paul E. Dangerously have left the AWA following a tag team title controversy. Dave says this is a disaster but par for the course. After all, the AWA also once had Hulk Hogan, Ken Patera, Ric Martel (sic), and Jesse Ventura, but lost them all too thanks to the organization’s inept management. Dangerously is now in Georgia managing Austin Idol and Randy Rose, but Dave suspects he’ll end up in the WWF, “which is where he should be.” (Well, it would take a while, but Dave was right!)

Dave then says he’s not going to spend the whole column complaining. He found that new fangled Royal Rumble idea very entertaining, and the whole show was pretty good. He was also happy with the February 5th followup which brought pro wrestling back to prime time network TV for the first time since March 9, 1959. “It says something when NBC is willing to put the WWF in prime time during sweeps week, which is when ratings determine advertising rates.” WrestleMania IV is the next big event, but it will be on pay per view, and tickets are expected to cost a lot, perhaps even $150. Dave feels this will lead to a crowd of rich people as opposed to families with kids, as it should be. (Again, Dave was right.) Dave says that Vince McMahon, however, is all about business and the event will sell out and make lots of money at the gate and in buys on pay per view, making Vince happy.

Off the Top Rope with Eddie Ellner: Eddie says that now that Hulk Hogan is teaming with Bam Bam Bigelow, Randy Savage is becoming the forgotten man. Eddie hopes Savage leaves the Federation, perhaps for the AWA, so he can win a world title. Onto letters: Joe Canhouse from Boca Raton, Florida says “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express aren’t just for young girls.” He’s a 24-year-old penny stocks broker, and he loves them. Eddie suspects “Mr. Outhouse” is really a teenage girl in disguise. Either way, the Rock ‘n’ Rolls are no longer on TV. “It couldn’t be they are the flash-in-the-pans I predicted all along, could it? God, I hope not. Think of the rash of suicides there would be among prepubescent females and 24-year-old stock swindlers.” On another subject, Matt from S. Windham, Connecticut says he used to like the British Bulldogs, but the “Matilda is missing” angle has turned them into cartoon characters like The Honky Tonk Man and Koko B. Ware. Eddie, who doesn’t like Honky, says he won’t allow Honky’s name to be mentioned in this column again until we have a new Intercontinental champion, and says we can add Brutus Beefcake and Jake Roberts to the list of hucksters pretending to be grapplers too. On the other hand, there’s Virgil, who Eddie says is actually a skilled wrestler who’s smarter than Hogan and DiBiase put together and might someday have a chance to prove it. Eddie then shares a letter from Elyse from Bensonhurst, New York, who says the Trans World Federation appears to be the hottest territory in the country right now. “Can it survive?” she asks. Eddie says, “before you get a run in your stocking, Elyse, keep in mind the champion of Trans World is Jules Strongbow.” (Too bad Goldust wasn’t around yet.) He says people are only wrestling there because they have no other options. Finally, John from Alliance says that Eddie’s wrong that nobody likes Dusty Rhodes and points out that Eddie was mistaken when he said Dusty was 300 pounds. Dusty is, in fact, listed at 290 and he’s the NWA’s best. Eddie says it’s apparent that mental institutions are now teaching people how to write into wrestling magazines.

Moving on, we go to Wrestling’s Most Underrated Feud: The Midnight Rockers vs. Kevin Kelly & Nick Kiniski. Kelly is 6’5, 271 pounds and Kiniski, is 6’3, 264 pounds. Together, they’re managed by AWA women’s champ Madusa Miceli and called The Perfect Tag Team. The Midnight Rockers are AWA tag team champions. The two teams are now going at it tooth and nail in what is called the greatest AWA tag team rivalry since Jim Garvin & Steve Regal battled the Road Warriors. “It’s not that each man is individually great,” says PWI’s Matt Brock. “It’s that both parties in the feud are balanced and neither side overwhelms the other.” The result is an incredible clash of personality and skills, a mix that only the unpredictable world of professional wrestling could provide.

Next, Press Conference with WCCW champ Al Perez. Al begins by saying he won’t answer any questions about Fritz Von Erich, who was attacked and hospitalized before Perez’s Christmas title defense against Kerry Von Erich. “But Kerry Von Erich was clearly unable to wrestle after what happened to his father,” editor Craig Peters says, “and he still came close to beating you!” Al says if the press conference continues like this, he’s leaving. Craig says, “But isn’t it true you just stood by and watched while the Freebirds attacked Fritz?” Perez says that’s true. He didn’t see it as any of his business. Writer Gian Trotta then tries to ask a question but Perez cuts him off and says Trotta disrespected him some time back, so there will be no answers to his questions. Trotta then says, “You’re a good wrestler, Perez, but you’re a cheater. You take shortcuts, and you’ve done nothing but devalue the WCCW title.” Perez doesn’t respond. Craig says it’s only a matter of time before Perez’s cheating catches up with him. Perez says everyone expected him to lose to Kerry Von Erich on Christmas, but he didn’t. Trotta says, “What about Terry Gordy?” Perez ignores him. Andy Rodriguez tells Perez he’s being unreasonable which is a shame because Perez used to be a favorite of his, and Perez could have a lot of fans if he would wrestle scientifically. “But you’re ruining it for yourself.” Perez says, “Look fellas, you’re not going to change me. I’m the champ, and people have to play by my rules.”

Next, our cover article: is the end near for Hulk Hogan?  Hogan lost the title to Andre on February 5. But worse yet for Hogan, Andre mistakenly surrendered the title, and now there will be a tournament for the championship at WrestleMania IV. That means Hogan can’t just invoke a rematch clause and win the title back from an aging Andre. He will have to defeat multiple opponents, possibly even skilled scientific grapplers he has sought to avoid, to win the belt again. And this is a man who often doesn’t wrestler more than four matches a month. PWI doubts he can do so, noting that he has historically avoided tournaments and that DiBiase might even pay to have someone take him out with a double disqualification. In addition, unlike when he was champion, he can’t save himself by being counted out. The article sums it up by saying the odds are against him and that even the Hulkamaniacs probably won’t be able to save him this time.

In an inset, we learn about the Hebner twins…

Next, we learn that Dusty Rhodes won the Bunkhouse Stampede against all odds for the third year in a row.

Onto Media ReviewSaturday Night’s Main Event has been drawing huge ratings. The March, 1987 show, for example, posted an 11.6 rating and a 33 share. That was the highest rating ever for a special in that timeslot and better than Saturday Night Live’s ratings. That led to a spin-off experiment: The Main Event on a Friday in prime time. At a February 3, 1988 press conference, McMahon and co-executive producer Dick Ebersol said they’d be looking at the February 5 Main Event ratings to determine if it was successful, and if it was, they’d do more versions. (It was successful.) PWI, however, points out that Vince can’t give people Hogan vs. Andre every month and that Hogan won’t be a draw forever. McMahon, for his part, says Hogan is just one champion and the WWF is bigger than him. “The WWF is much larger than any one individual,” he said at the press conference. “As for Hogan leaving someday, that shouldn’t be a problem. He doesn’t defend the title that much anyway.” (Damn! Look at McMahon already throwing some shade on Hogan.)

Looking back to 1987, according to Electronic Media the WWF’s inaugural Survivor Series attracted 7% of the 7.5 million households capable of receiving the event, making $7.8 million. WrestleMania III drew 10.2% and made $13.2 million. No figures were available for Starrcade 87 or the Bunkhouse Stampede, but Crockett Promotions plans to run The Crockett Cup and the Great American Bash on pay per view. Scott Kurnitt, president of Viewer’s Choice, told Electronic Media: “It’s likely Crockett’s wrestling events won’t draw in as much money as the more theatrically produced WWF events.” The WWF, meanwhile, will run three pay per views in 1988: WrestleMania, The Survivor Series, and one inbetween.

In other news, Monsoon suffered a mild hard-attack mid-January, forcing Vince McMahon to take over announcing duties at the Royal Rumble and a live broadcast from Madison Square Garden the following night. According to insiders, Monsoon was feeling better shortly after the incident and planned to return shortly. Meanwhile, three of the top 10 highest rated series on basic cable are wrestling  programs. The WWF’s All American Wrestling on the USA network finished 7th, the NWA’s 6:05pm TBS show came in 8th, and the WWF’s Prime Time Wrestling on USA came in 10th. The NWA’s Sunday show also cracked the top 20. The AWA’s show on ESPN, once in the top 20, has fallen out.

Next, we learn about the rebirth of Magnificent Muraco, with photos of young Muraco, fat Muraco, and the more recent, slimmer Muraco. He had been putting on the pounds and dropping in the PWI ratings, but now he’s whipping himself back into shape and might be a contender for a title once again. (He did quite well at WrestleMania IV, actually.)

Next, Arena Reports! (Does Grafton High School really count as arena?)

We move on to Wrestling Enquirer with the latest news: The Crockett Cup will be held in the Carolinas. Crockett is negotiating with Stampede to bring in more teams. Elsewhere, Wahoo McDaniel and the Baron have been teaming up in the AWA. In the WWF, Ex-heavyweight champ Hulk Hogan is scheduled to wrestle The Honky Tonk Man for the Intercontinental title. In WCCW, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts are trying to get Michael Hayes sign with the territory. Terry says, “There’s plenty of Jack Daniel’s, plenty of women, and plenty of butts to kick, so I think it will happen.” (And indeed it would.) Ex-UWF champ Steve Williams, North American champ Owen Hart, and AWA champ Curt Hennig have been wrestling in Japan. The Iron Sheik has been wrestling in Puerto Rico. “They tell me Puerto Ricans are Americans too,” says the Sheik, “so I make time to come down and beat them here on sunny island.”

Finally, PWI’s Poll: this month, the magazine asks questions about The Crockett Cup.

And that’s it for this week! See you next time a recap of the issue Inside Wrestling that went to press shortly after this. And if you’re a Star Trek fan, be sure to check out my book, The Trekker’s Guide to the Picard Years, which covers every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, plus every film featuring Picard and his crew.