Wrestling Observer Flashback – 05.29.95
Things are looking up for the WWF, and Vince wants everyone to know! Because, you know, 1995 is well remembered for being the year that they made their big comeback.
– Vince held a “team meeting” at Titan Towers on 5/18 to give the wrestlers a peptalk and a frank discussion of the financial state of the company. Oh, and also, a far more restrictive drug testing policy. But far more importantly, Vince just wants everyone to be happy, and to remove the barriers that had previously separated “the office” from “the talent”.
– Meanwhile, in his frank discussion of the financial state of the company, he threw out multiple numbers for the previous year, including a supposed $3.8 million loss in 1994 despite grossing $83 million. This contradicts many past interviews Vince had done with financial magazines where he claimed that the company grossed well over $100 million a year. In fact, Hulk Hogan used to claim that the company grossed $1.7 billion per year. (Of course, the idea that the WWF could ever be worth billions of dollars is completely ludicrous.)
– People are still skeptical, especially when a professional fibber like Vince suddenly says “OK, I lied about all those other numbers, including the ones given under oath at trial, but now I’m 100% telling you the truth.” Regardless, Vince was upbeat about all the losses that the company was currently incurring and noted that as the PPV universe expands, so will the number of people buying their PPVs.
– He also noted that In Your House did a 1.0 buyrate, which he was very happy with. Outside sources put the actual buyrate at 180,000 buys, or a 0.83, which would be the lowest buyrate in the history of the company. And with the lower price, revenue is by far the lowest ever. Still, Dave notes, it was a bonus show, so hey, money is money.
– Meanwhile, JJ Dillon introduced a new drug policy that reclassified pot into the same position as steroids and cocaine. Also, the company has drastically cracked down on prescription drugs, now requiring a prescription to be shown at the time of testing. And if you test positive and don’t have a prescription, it’s the same penalties as steroids. (Well, at least we know that they’ve successfully headed off the potential nightmare of wrestlers dropping dead from drug overdoses at a young age once and for all.)
– Over to WCW, which gave us Slamboree, another in a string of shitty WCW PPVs.
– First up, Dave would like to at least acknowledge that the Hall of Fame segment was pretty cool.
– The show drew 7000 with 4700 paid and a $94,000 house. Buyrate looks to be between 0.60 and 0.77, or about the same as Starrcade. But the show demonstrated once again that Ric Flair is done as a main eventer and should be relegated to a once a year attraction. (Sharp prognosticating there, Dave.)
A. Steven Regal & Earl Robert Eaton beat Ricky Santana & Fidel Sierra on the Main Event pre-show in 1:22. The Barrio Brothers were subbing for Marcus Bagwell & The Patriot, since the Patriot was in Japan and no one in the company realized it. Bagwell showed up and no one could find the Patriot. (Maybe he was walking around unmasked and no one knew who he was?)
B. Steve Austin pinned Eddie Jackie in 1:00 with a suplex. No hint of the reformation of the Hollywood Blonds that is supposed to happen any minute now.
C. Craig Pittman submitted Mark Starr with an armbreaker in 2:02.
D. Meng beat Brian Pillman in a US title tournament match in 4:40. Meng didn’t sell much and Pillman took a great bump on the guard rail, setting up Meng hitting a backbreaker for the pin. *1/2 Road Warrior Hawk saved Pillman from further beating, which set up a match on the PPV.
1. The Nasty Boys regained the tag titles from Harlem Heat in 10:52. Match had a good story but was sloppy brawling in other places. Knobs had been injured earlier in the Main Event show, so Sags worked a lot of the match by himself, until Knobs came out all taped up to make the hot tag. He powerslammed Sherri and threw her out of the ring, and then powerslammed Booker and Sags got the pin with the flying elbow. **1/4
2. Kevin Sullivan pinned the Man With No Name in 5:24 with the double stomp. No heat at all. Apparently Hogan saved Ed Leslie’s job and the new plan is that he’ll turn babyface and rejoin Hogan after a few weeks of being confused. Afterwards, King Curtis appeared on the screen and told Sullivan to “come forth, my son” while Kevin wandered around the building. Apparently they taped “weeks and weeks” of vignettes to launch this new “Dungeon of Doom” group. (Well that sounds encouragingly well planned!)
3. Wahoo McDaniel pinned Dick Murdoch in the legends match with the chop in 6:18. The match was aired in black and white to be more authentic. (We know which color Murdoch was.) Murdoch got a bloody nose and Wahoo looked ancient, while Gordon Solie made ancient references to Chicago football players on commentary. DUD
4. The Great Muta pinned Paul Orndorff to retain the IWGP title in 14:11 in a really dull match. It was a huge style clash but Muta in particular did not give a crap here. ½*
5. Arn Anderson pinned Alex Wright to retain the WCW TV Title in 11:36 after a DDT. Started slow but built into a good match. ***
6. Meng went to a double countout with Hawk in 4:41. Hawk’s entrance got the first real big reaction of the show. And then the match had no heat once the bell rang. Hawk’s offense looked really bad. ¼*
Next up was the Hall of Fame ceremony, which had controversy right away because Bobby Heenan was campaigning to be inducted since they were in Florida and he lives in Tampa. So they promised him an induction next year. Angelo Poffo was inducted only as an angle for later in the show, and Gordon Solie made the dated reference to Poffo holding the record for most situps in a row with 6033, which “has never been broken”. In fact, Dave notes, it was broken more than 30 years ago and the current record is 65,000.
7. Sting beat Big Bubba Rogers with the Scorpion Deathlock in 9:29. Started slow but then they brawled on the floor and Sting slammed him on a table and it picked up. Sting put a table on him in the ring, gave him a double foot stomp on the table, and then finished him off with the Scorpion. Dave credits Bubba for being a pro about the finish. **3/4
8. Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage beating Vader & Ric Flair in 18:57 when Hogan dropped the leg on Flair, brother. During the match, they showed this Paul Wight kid in the audience to build up their eventual feud for Starrcade. A lot of people thought it was Diesel. (Please, Diesel showing up in WCW? That’ll be the day.) There’s talk of billing him as the son of Andre the Giant, but Dave thinks that’s so stupid that even WCW wouldn’t do it. It was the only match with heat, but it wasn’t a good match. Everyone but Vader looked old and past their prime. After the match, Angelo Poffo jumped the railing and got beat up by the heels before Savage made the save. *3/4
In a sad note, Jimmy Hart’s mother Sadie was killed in an automobile accident right before the show, but amazingly he came out and played his part in the main event like a true pro even though he was a complete wreck backstage.
– Over to the WWF, where the King of the Ring main event has been revealed at the TV tapings and will feature Diesel & Bam Bam Bigelow (who will be dubbed “The Beasty Brothers”) against Tatanka & Sid. Dave thinks this will be a real test to sell Tatanka as a main eventer. (Oh, there’s gonna be more issues with the show besides THAT…)
– Shawn Michaels looks to be the favorite to win the tournament, by the way.
– Meanwhile, Razor Ramon won a surprise third IC title from Jeff Jarrett at a house show in Quebec on 5/19 and then dropped it back on 5/21. This makes Razor the first ever three-time champion. (Meanwhile, Miz and Dolph Ziggler have, what, 150 reigns between them?)
– The American Wrestling Federation debuted their new “Warriors of Wrestling” show over the past few weeks, including on the MSG Network. They actually appear to have some money behind them, as evidence by the $3000 / week paid to the MSG Network to air their show. The theory is that you buy all the TV time to start, and then recoup the money by selling commercial time later. Of course, despite this theory being put forth by wrestling promoters for decades, no one has ever drawn a dime actually trying it.
– Lots of people are jumping to the AWF “like bears to honey” because a rich money mark throwing around cash is like catnip to wrestlers, even though the product reminds Dave of old AWA mixed with current Savoldi ICW. And the wrestlers involved are the same old, and THE ROCK MEANS OLD, wrestlers that have been hanging around for years. The top star is 47 year old Sgt. Slaughter, as an example.
– Another problem is that the show is shot like an old movie, which is appropriate given the average age of their stars. (Smackdown currently has the same problem, with Fox producing the show at 24 frames per second instead of the 60 that everyone else on TV uses.) The other big innovation is having matches done in 4:00 rounds. Only one match on the show actually went past the first round, rendering it pretty useless.
– Meanwhile, wrestling fans aren’t talking about the show because the shows don’t have wrestling fans at the tapings. They don’t want them and don’t need them. Instead, they pay extras $50 each to cheer and boo who they want. (This financial plan is becoming more and more dubious with every paragraph. Also goes to show that someone finally decided to put fans who say “You couldn’t pay me to watch that crap” to the test.)
– They taped 10 hours of television in Tampa over the weekend, with the “highlight” being Greg Valentine & Tommy Rich going to a 50:00 draw with Koko B. Ware & Tony Atlas in the tag team title tournament and getting awarded the titles by decision of the esteemed judging panel of Curt Hennig, Tito Santana and Virgil.
– Dave notes that the attendance was 600 people, which means they had a record shattering gate of negative $30,000.
– Dave then had the pleasure of watching the first show on MSG. 2 Cold Scorpio beat Bob Bradley Jr. in the best match on the show, which was better than anything at Slamboree. Michael Hayes did an interview promising a big surprise for later. Dave spoils the surprise: He’s going to cut his hair, change his name, and jump to the WWF. Warlord & Jeff Gaylord teamed up as The Lords. (I couldn’t tell if Dave was joking about that one.) Also they had Scott “Konnan 2000” Putski, who the announcers called “a household name in certain parts of the world.” Dave, in rare form, notes that Putski isn’t even a household name in his own household. Dave notes that if someone with this much money was willing to spend it on new talent with a new concept, then they’d make tons of money. But this group tried to run a house show with this lineup and drew 180 people.
– Over to All Japan, where the Patriot was working instead of Slamboree. He was put over Kenta Kobashi in hopes of making him a big star for the company. Also on the tour, young Rob Van Dam teamed up with Johnny Ace to beat Doug Furnas & Dan Kroffat and will be getting a junior title shot at Kroffat as a result, since they also think Van Dam can be a big star.
– New Japan has clarified that Great Muta was not actually defending the IWGP title against Paul Orndorff at Slamboree, because Keiji Muto is the champion and not Muta. (At least they’re consistent with their logic.)
– UWFI finally decided to make a new star on their 5/17 show, with 23 year old Masahito Kakihara upsetting Gary Albright via submission in 11:09. This is the first time that any of the Albright/Vader/Takada trio has lost to anyone other than the trio. This sets up Kakihara for a title match with Takada, although interest in the promotion is falling fast with Rings getting hotter.
– The new FMW debuted on 5/17 with Gladiator and Horace Boulder beating Hayabusa & Niiyama in the main event, drawing 1800. But then crowds fell rapidly for the rest of the week, showing that Onita really was the draw for the promotion.
– Smoky Mountain continues to struggle at the box office, with Volunteer Slam in Knoxville drawing 1500 fans. This was actually a huge disappointment, since Cornette was doing the “money back guarantee” gimmick where he’d refund everyone’s money if he and Terry Funk turned on Bob Armstrong during their tag team match against the Gangstas. Of course, Funk and Cornette turned on Bob, but did so AFTER the match. At least the match was excellent, as the Gangstas are improving and Funk is himself.
– One other highlight of the show was PG-13 debuting as USWA tag team champions and defending against Tracy Smothers & Dirty White Boy, which ended with a supposed pinfall win by the challengers after they survived weapons shots from PG-13 with the ref bumped. Randy Hales, acting as USWA commissioner,told referee Mark Curtis about PG-13 cheating, thus resulting in a DQ and saving the titles for PG-13. This sets up a promotion v. promotion feud with SMW against USWA. (Which was FUCKING AWESOME.)
– More rumors swirling about ECW’s ownership, with Tod Gordon absent from all the shows over the weekend and Paul Heyman’s mysterious HHG company appearing to be in charge now.
– Hulk Hogan appeared on the Orlando Magic playoff game on 5/17 after Shaq publicly complained about getting fouled and asked for Hulk to come and watch his back. This led to announcer Doug Collins complaining on air about basketball turning into “The World Wrestling Federation”, which then led to producers correcting him about which company Hogan actually worked for (you know, the one that the TV station owns) and he wasn’t thrilled about having to be corrected about wrestling.
– Van Hammer continues to bring good publicity for WCW, as Atlanta police raided sex shops in Buckhead, GA, including some owned by Hammer’s family. Hammer was all over TV named as a “WCW wrestler” while dogging the police for wasting time and money on busting sex shops. (Suddenly his gear with the Flock makes more sense…)
– WCW will be airing “Klash in Korea” on 8/4 as a PPV, with the Flair v. Inoki match as the main event. It’ll cost $12.95. ($12.94 of that will go to the glorious benevolent government of North Korea, of course.)
– Apparently Jim Powers and Hercules worked the AWF tapings in Tampa and then showed up at Slamboree looking for a job with WCW.
– Although Pillman and Austin getting back together as a team is a thing that is totally still happening, it won’t happen until July at the earliest because of Japan touring commitments for both guys.
– Back to the WWF, as they’re taking the “Backlund for President” gimmick as far as they can, and are even trying to get him on the ballot in New Hampshire.
– Techno Team 2000, who are Erik Watts & Chad Fortune now repackaged as “Troy & Travis” while dressed like they came out of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, debuted at the Superstars taping and didn’t look good.
– You know who IS looking good and having great matches with everyone from King Kong Bundy to Tom Pritchard? Shawn Michaels.
– And finally, more on the IC title switch in Montreal, as it was a result of the WWF backing Joanne Rougeau in a political war with Jacques over the city and they wanted to give a big title change for the first show promoted by her. It drew 8500 people.