Wrestling Observer Flashback – 07.08.96
Day off from work today, so I’ve got some time to craft another Flashback! Your Spotify soundtrack for this one is Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime”, an album that it took me many years to get into, which is weird because I was a big fan of “Empire”. But goddamn is “Eyes of a Stranger” a great song.
So look, the world may be a crazy place, but at least we can all rest easy knowing that, much like his relationship with Bret Hart, things will always be good between Vince McMahon and the Ultimate Warrior. Now let’s just open up the Observer and see what the top story this week is…
– In the top story this week, the relationship between the WWF and Ultimate Warrior has completely fallen apart again. Tom Hellwig, Jim’s father (who would be the Penultimate Warrior, I guess) passed away on 6/30, although Warrior had been missing house shows for a week before that point. Rumors were swirling that he had already quit or been fired in fact, although no one knew for sure what the real story was. Dave thinks that WCW would be insane to make him an offer outside of a one-time appearance.
– So with an emergency replacement needed, Vince reached out to Bret Hart, with tears no doubt in his eyes, and asked him to fly into Detroit as a replacement. And Bret turned him down. So with his first choice unavailable, Vince reached out to Sid, probably with less tears in his eyes, and brought him in to Detroit instead. The ring announcer made sure to completely bury Warrior on the way out, telling the house show crowd that “Warrior refuses to wrestle in a city like this”. And then they closed the shows with Sid making a surprise appearance and powerbombing Owen to win in 40 seconds.
– The specific details of Warrior’s beef with Vince this time aren’t known yet, although the word is that it’s due to issues with the marketing of his character. Basically Warrior discovered that Vince was using his likeness elsewhere to make money without cutting him in, so Warrior wanted to renegotiate. And you know how much Vince loves to negotiate.
(Yeah that much.)
– Also Warrior was unhappy with his Wrestlemania payoff. (I know, you’re shocked.)
– And then the story gets crazier, as Warrior called the office on Sunday looking to come back again after no-showing a week’s worth of house shows, and at no point did he mention that his father died. But then he did an interview on 7/1 where he claimed that his father’s death was the reason for missing the shows and he didn’t understand why they fired him and then buried him and did a hotline tease telling you to call and hear about why he was fired. Warrior said that he’s returning on 7/11 and there’s no further problems.
– Apparently a decision on Warrior’s future will be made this week and we’ll know based on the 7/8 RAW what’s going to happen, since an angle was taped where Warrior gets laid out by Camp Cornette that week, and then he makes a comeback on 7/15 and gets revenge. If he’s really gone, then they’ll probably do something to insert Sid into the PPV main event.
– Warrior’s imminent departure has also fueled rumors of him being the mysterious Third Man for Hall and Nash, but reportedly WCW has already decided on the Third Man and it’s not Warrior. It would pretty much be a legal impossibility anyway.
– Moving to WCW, they did a “Northeastern Invasion” tour with a mixed bag of crowds that was something of a disappointment given how hot they’ve been recently. They even brought in Bruno and Pedro Morales to try to boost gates. Most of the reactions to the shows were that the first half was good and the second half was like a “bad Nitro”. In particular the New York’s Paramount theater show was a bit of a disaster, with fans turning on Konnan, who responded with an outburst on the crowd that led to ECW fans heckling him while he swore at them until Kevin Sullivan get the microphone away from him and apologized to the crowd.
– Surprisingly, the Philly show went off without much nonsense from ECW fans, who were largely well-behaved and even cheered Jim Duggan! (Are we sure they were in the right city? Maybe there’s another Philadelphia and WCW went there by mistake.)
– Dave thinks what’s REALLY weird is that ECW was running a show in Deer Park at the same time as the WCW New York show, and it only drew 400 people, so you basically had a situation were ECW fans would rather pay money to attend a WCW show and boo the performers, rather than going slightly out of their way to actually attend a real ECW show where they could presumably enjoy themselves. (Sounds like ECW fans to me.) Dave thinks ECW fans would rather chant “ECW” at another show to get themselves noticed, rather than actually support the product they supposedly love. (Again, sounds like ECW fans to me.)
– Although the WCW shows in the area were all nearly sold out, with about 5000 each night, it has to be considered a disappointment that they couldn’t sell out completely in a small arena when they’re seemingly so hot on television.
– In a major story in Japanese journalism, Weekly Pro Wrestling editor Tarzan Yamamoto, who had run the magazine since it launched in 1994, was forced to resign after finally losing the war with New Japan Pro Wrestling. New Japan had banned the magazine from covering their shows for the past few months, which effectively locked them out of UWFI and WAR as well, and sales declined to the point where Yamamoto had to step down to end the standoff. Yamamoto had taken the magazine from “Apter-mag coverage of wrestling to Observer level” with a circulation of 300,000 per week, and he had become one of the most influential names in Japanese wrestling. In 1995, he was instrumental in putting together the multiple promotion supershow that sold out the Tokyo Dome, at which point he had become too powerful and outspoken for New Japan’s liking, and they decided to cut him off to prevent (unfounded as it turned out) rumors of him starting his own promotion to compete with them. Yamamoto even attended Wrestlemania in the US and bragged there that he had never lost a war with a promotion yet. But this time, he did. New Japan is expected to being allowing the magazine to cover their shows again with the departure of Yamamoto.
– Toshiaki Kawada reportedly has heat with All Japan at the moment, stemming from him criticizing them in the media for their isolationist policy while New Japan rakes in cash thanks to cooperating with other promotions. (He wasn’t wrong.) He’ll likely be doing some jobs to teach him a lesson.
– Rookie Brian Dyette continues getting rave reviews after being introduced to All Japan by mentor Steve Williams, reportedly working like a “five year pro” and already getting put into Korakuen Hall main events. (And again I’m really interested to know what happened with him, because he was only in the business for a month and then never returned.)
– To ECW, where in a shocking twist of events, Taz is complaining about something. In this case, the target of his ire is Paul Varelans, who of course claimed not to have been told that he was doing the job to Taz until the night of the show. Taz said that it was nonsense and Varelans knew for weeks beforehand, and in fact they had to train him from scratch at the ECW school, including how to properly apply a side headlock. Fellow trainer Perry Saturn quipped that “trapfighting must mean that if you’re ever in a fight, you’re trapped”.
– Meanwhile, Sandman’s nine year old son Tyler Fullington was the star of the show at Deer Park, getting involved in an angle between Raven and Sandman and turning on his father to allow Raven to retain the ECW title. Sandman is badly hurt right now, so it was mostly smoke and mirrors brawling to disguise his knee injury, which is Raven’s specialty. Also on the show, Tommy Dreamer and Brian Lee did their version of the Sullivan-Benoit bathroom brawl spot, except “there was a woman in the bathroom this time and they did more damage to the bathroom.” Dave is also pretty sure that although we haven’t yet had someone get their head flushed in the toilet, it’s coming. (Surprisingly enough, it was the WWF that innovated that one in 1997!)
– Meanwhile, Terry Gordy did some shows for ECW, working with Raven for the TV show, but Gordy is in such bad shape right now that he’s nowhere near the old Gordy. But fans still went crazy for him anyway and they seem to be trying for a Jake Roberts-type comeback for him. (It actually got him an unlikely WWF run by the end of the year, too.)
– To WCW, where the mysterious Third Man won’t be announced until the night of the Bash at the Beach PPV, and no one knows who it is but the deal has been finalized.
Spoilers ahead in case you don’t want to know who it might be…
Dave thinks it’s probably Hulk Hogan because a reader was working on a movie that Hogan was doing with Roddy Piper, and he heard Hulk tell Piper that they offered him the spot and he was going to take it.
– Dave thinks this will definitely not be a disappointment like some other mystery partners have been, but it’s definitely risky to turn your #1 babyface when he’s getting 25% of the PPV revenue.
– In another hot take, Dave notes that although Nitro hasn’t been particularly good lately, they have tremendous ratings momentum right now and the two hour format is a huge success. Also Hall and Nash are huge ratings draws at the moment.
– Glacier made an appearance for WCW at a licensing fair and apparently the costume doesn’t look particularly good in person. Some people thought it was Chris Champion but apparently it’s someone else who has never wrestled before and is getting trained at the WCW school. The reps from WCW who were there had no idea who Glacier was, but introduced him as “one of WCW’s biggest and most popular stars” when asked. Dave doesn’t have high hopes for the gimmick either way and likens it to Van Hammer. (At least Van Hammer didn’t take a year to debut on TV.)
– To the WWF, where Tom Brandi debuted on the 6/25 Superstars tapings as Salvatore Sincerely, playing an Italian guy who tells the fans how much he loves them, but he’s INSINCERE. So you know, it’s ironic. (He’s no Tony D’Angelo I bet.)
– Also debuting was Tracy Smothers as Freddy Joe Floyd from Bowlegs, OK, doing a feud with Bradshaw. The story behind the gimmick is that Bowlegs is a real place where the Brisco brothers grew up, and Jack Brisco is actually Fred Brisco and Gerry is Floyd Brisco, so Freddy Joe Floyd. (I can just see Bruce pitching this one to Vince while he laughs uproariously.)
– Next up, Tony Anthony debuted as TL Hopper, beating Duke Droese, playing a hick plumber who is in love with his plunger and kisses it before and after matches. Also, Alex Porteau debuted as The Pug, playing an amateur wrestler, and Bill Irwin debuted as The Goon, a hockey player.
– Who also debuted? Yes. Who lost to Savio Vega? Yes.
– Brian Pillman also sort of debuted, marching to the ring with the Bushwhackers and then turning on them and hitting Luke with his crutch.
– Also, Steve Austin appears to be getting a megapush now that he’s dropped Ted Dibiase. (Now there’s an understatement.)
– At the same licensing fair where WCW sent Glacier, the WWF sent Undertaker and Sunny, in a cowgirl outfit, and needless to say, the executives were following her around all day.
– Skip and Sunny were officially engaged after six years of being together, by the way.
– Due to travel issues, fans in Louisville were treated to a 45 minute Duke Droese v. Aldo Montoya opener while the rest of crew arrived from Madison. And even then Warrior no-showed.
– Barry Windham met with Vince McMahon looking to make a comeback at age 36. Dave thinks that maybe they can team him with Dustin Rhodes as Silverdust. (Couldn’t be much worse than what we really got.)
– Ron Simmons should be debuting at the next set of tapings as Sunny’s big star.
– Bart Gunn had to miss shows due to a family emergency, so Billy Gunn has been working as a single against Phineas. (Oh great, just what the world wanted, a Billy Gunn singles push! Hopefully that won’t last long.)
– Steve Austin is missing a bunch of shows due to his lip being mangled, doing the gimmick where he refuses to work with jobbers and then destroys them after they win via forfeit.
– And finally, Bret Hart will be working the South African tour for the WWF, but still no word on when or if he’ll be returning to the company in the US. (Hopefully Vince can entice him back with a big contract!)