Wrestling Observer Flashback – 08.26.96
It’s time for SUMMERSLAM! But first, the WWF is messing with their PPV schedule again.
– The WWF is reportedly considering adding a weekly Saturday PPV show, according to trade journal reports. The show would air live every Saturday night, from New York, and would cater heavily to an adult audience. The PPV companies are already declining the idea, so if they want to make it happen, they’ll have to market it to individual cable companies themselves. (Or, they could make it into a TV show instead!)
– Basically the WWF has been angling for a new TV show ever since the decision was made to stop paying for syndication, since that decision cost them TV in most of the major markets in the US. They were trying to avoid putting yet another show on USA because they didn’t want to weaken their position by having all their eggs in that basket. (God, can you imagine how sad it would be if the entire WWF product was based around rights fees from USA?) They might even try to get a late night slot on the Fox Network! (God, can you imagine Fox stooping to airing a weekly WWF TV show?) But with most of those ideas going nowhere at the moment, weekly PPV was the next idea.
– Working idea is for a weekly $9.95 show. (Can you imagine a wrestling company trying to survive with a weekly $10 PPV? They’d be dead within a year!) According to the Torch, the idea is ready to launch by September or October at latest, but sources within the WWF say that it’s nothing close to actually being implemented yet. But if does happen, the show will be “pushing the envelope” much more heavily than anything airing on TV currently. (I doubt they’ll ever go heavily in that kind of direction.)
– The push for more adult TV probably stems from them getting beaten regularly in the adult demo by WCW recently, as the total viewership of Raw v. Nitro was close, but WCW smoked them 80%-20% in adults 18-49. (As if anyone cares about the demo in a wrestling war. Total viewers are what’s important! Everyone on Twitter knows that!)
– Dave notes that with business getting weak, there’s generally two solutions: Either raise prices and hope that audiences are willing pay more for the same product, or throw out tons of product at a cheap price hoping to bring up the volume.
(Yeah we know which way Vince went, don’t we?)
– Further talk after the drubbing taken by Raw recently of moving the show to Fridays, with an experimental episode with Shawn Michaels defending the title against Goldust while the US Open pre-empts the show. Vince is also talking about stepping away from announcing, with the team of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler handling duties lately while he produces backstage. (Hopefully Vince can find something else to keep him busy on the TV shows.)
– Moving onto Summerslam, which was basically just another show this year, with a dull undercard and excellent main event, which appears will be the story moving forward through the rest of 1996. Also the show was announced by Vince, Jim Ross and Mr. Perfect, who should change his name to “Mr. Perfectly Useless” based on his performance there. (Ouch.)
– In the pre-show match, Steve Austin pinned Yokozuna in 1:52 when the ring ropes broke and Yoko fell down. The replay clearly showed Yoko pulling the gimmicked turnbuckle to break the ropes. DUD
1. Owen Hart beat Savio Vega in 13:23. Slow to start but it picked up with a good final few minutes. The match teased a breakup between Owen and Jim Cornette, with Clarence Mason managing him here instead. Owen hit Vega with the cast and put him in the Sharpshooter for the ref stoppage. **1/2
2. The Smoking Gunns retained the tag team titles over the New Rockers, Bodydonnas and Godwinns in 12:18. Skip had a neck brace from his MSG injury and never touched anyone for the short time he was in the match. Match was a major disappointment, even with tons of practice on the road. Bodydonnas went out quickly at 4:00 when Zip got pinned by Billy, and then the match got worse with a dead crowd. Finish was Bart coming off the top and hitting PIG, and putting Billy on top for the pin. JR noted that Sunny has “missed a trip to the woodshed when she was younger” for her continued bad behavior. (Boy did that prove to be prophetic.) DUD
3. Sid pinned Davey Boy Smith in 6:24. Mason was again managing Bulldog while Cornette was busy elsewhere. Better than you’d think, but not good. Sid escaped a powerslam and then chokeslammed him for the win. *
4. Goldust pinned Marc Mero in 11:01. Wackiness outside with Mankind chasing Sable around ringside calling her “Mommy”, which led to Mero debuting his new finisher, a shooting star press called “The Wild Thing”. But then Goldust won with the Curtain Call anyway. Didn’t work as well as you’d think. **1/4
5. Jerry Lawler pinned Jake Roberts in 4:07. Mostly just a Lawler comedy show, with one wino joke after another. Roberts teased the DDT but Lawler hit him with a bottle and got the pin. DUD Afterwards, Lawler poured a bottle of what was supposedly whiskey all over Jake’s face. (This was apparently supposed to be gimmicked with iced tea like in Hollywood, but in fact ended up being real whiskey as a pretty horrible prank on Jake.)
6. Mankind beat Undertaker in the Boiler Room match in 26:20. The first part of the match in the boiler room was taped the previous day in case anything went south. They got to ringside and Mankind threw supposedly hot scalding coffee at Taker and then gave him a piledriver on the floor. Undertaker made his comeback, but Paul Bearer turned on him, allowing Mankind to win with the mandible claw and take possession of the urn. No rating from Dave because it was all pre-taped. (Can you imagine major PPVs featuring pre-taped “cinematic” matches on a regular basis? It would be the death of the business!)
7. Shawn Michaels pinned Vader to retain the WWF title. This was an excellent match. Shawn took all kinds of crazy bumps, and initially Vader won by countout at 13:53 after dropping Shawn on the railing. So Cornette challenged Shawn to continue, with it ending in a DQ at 2:10 this time after Shawn got the racket and hit Vader with it. So Cornette demanded another restart, with Shawn hitting the superkick finally, but it only got two. Vader tried the moonsault and missed, and Shawn moonsaulted him for the pin at 2:36. ****
– Health updates: Ahmed Johnson went back to the hospital for continued kidney bleeding, and could result in removal since the first surgery was supposed to stop that. Great Sasuke suffered a fractured skull and after landing on his head against Ultimo Dragon on 8/5 and that’s apparently pretty bad. Jushin Liger is scheduled to have a brain tumor removed on 8/23, although thankfully it’s benign and he should be back in action fairly soon.
– Legal update: Although a court hearing for a restraining order involving WWF’s claim against WCW for trademark infringement was scheduled to take place this week, they apparently came to a settlement before that happened. WCW agreed not to have anyone who works for them call Scott Hall “Razor Ramon” or “The Bad Guy” or call Kevin Nash “Diesel” or “Big Daddy Cool.” They’re also not allowed to state that either person works for the WWF. WCW wasn’t going to do any of those things anyway, so this was fine with all concerned. Titan is still moving forward with a lawsuit for damages and “unfair competitive practices”.
– Meanwhile, Sean Waltman is stuck in legal limbo, being used as a pawn between the two sides. Waltman was scheduled to debut as the fourth member of the New World Order on 8/10, but Titan’s lawyers are arguing that he needs to sign a new release covering all the look and mannerisms of the 1-2-3 Kid character before they’ll authorize it. Also both sides are monitoring the WCW Hotline closely to make sure no one is making any mention of him, since that would also be a potential lawsuit situation. This doesn’t apply to Bret Hart, who supposedly is not under WWF contract at the moment.
– WCW also had a big show, with a Clash of Champions show from Denver on 8/15, although trying to cram 8 matches into two hours made it seem like an episode of Thursday Nitro more than anything major. They did a 3.5 rating, which isn’t a bad number, but well down from the January Clash. But hey, 3.5 is a great rating for Nitro, so it’s a win.
1. Rey Mysterio Jr. pinned Dean Malenko to retain the Cruiserweight title in 12:07. Dean was replacing the injured Psychosis. Wasn’t as good as their previous matches but still the best of the show. Rey did all kinds of high flying spots, but went to the top and Dean hit him with a gutbuster to bring him down and got the pin. Rey was in the ropes, though, so the ref restarted the match and Rey hit his rana and got the real pin. ***3/4
2. VK Wallstreet pinned Jim Duggan in 3:48. Duggan went for his tape gimmick and Wallstreet rolled him up and pinned him. DUD
3. Konnan pinned Ultimo Dragon in 2:57. Dragon tried a german suplex, but Konnan reversed it and pinned him using the tights. Booking was “from planet Mars” here, with Konnan turning heel but still beating a guy who should be the babyface. A complete waste of Dragon. *1/4
Randy Savage was announced as having a match against Meng, but then he was announced as not being there due to injury, so Meng won by forfeit. Except that they had never advertised the match in the first place, so really if it hadn’t happened no one would have even known, but now fans were mad at being robbed of a match. In related news, Chris Jericho was also supposed to be there against Hugh Morrus in his WCW debut, but they cut his match for time because the show was too long already, but forgot to tell Jericho, who was waiting for a plane ticket and never got one.
4. Madusa pinned Bull Nakano in 2:42. Madusa won with a rollup after Sonny Onoo hit Bull by mistake. Dave wonders if it’s a “schoolgirl” because he’s not sure if girls do that kind of stuff to each other on the playground. (No, they just say really mean things about each other.) ½*
5. Eddie Guerrero pinned DDP in 4:20. Eddie won with the frog splash out of nowhere to win the Battle Bowl Ring. Good match, but too short. Dave notes that the diamond cutter sure gets a big pop from the crowds. **
6. The Giant pinned Chris Benoit in 0:23. Woman pulled Benoit’s vest over his head to blind him, allowing Giant to give him “probably the best chokeslam in the history of the world” for the pin. Another waste of talent. DUD
7. A three-way with Harlem Heat, the Steiners and Sting & Luger ended in a no-contest in 13:22. The Outsiders attacked Sting & Luger outside the ring while the Steiners were about to win the tag team titles from Harlem Heat in the ring. Afterwards, Nick Patrick did an interview putting over what a great referee he was, and Dave thought he was better as a promo than Hogan or Flair this night. *3/4
8. Ric Flair beat Hulk Hogan by DQ in 8:23. The crowd was cheering Hogan over Flair here because this “nWo” thing has become way more cool than WCW. (Get ready for way more of that.) This looked like an old-timers match. Flair was working hard and still couldn’t get anything out of Hogan here. Hall and Nash interfered for the DQ while Flair had him in the figure-four. (Get ready for even more of THAT.)
– The WWF has changed their “School of Hard Knocks” In Your House PPV from Philly, with a new main event featuring Shawn defending the title against Mankind now. Next show is tentatively headlined by Shawn v. Goldust, which makes no sense to Dave.
– To Japan, where Baba did an interview with Nikkan Sports on 8/15, stating that they were never going to do interpromotional matches against New Japan, Big Japan, IWA or WAR because of bad blood between the ownership and/or headliners. He did leave he door open for something with UWFI because he respects Takada.
– Meanwhile, there’s also a war of words between New Japan and some of the smaller promotions, notably Big Japan. After the Rikidozan tribute show in June, some of the New Japan talent were reportedly mad about having to share the stage with garbage indie promotions. (OUTLAW MUDSHOWS!) It might be them looking for publicity or might be starting an angle.
– To Memphis, where the imminent departure of Jeff Jarrett for WCW has left Tommy Rich as the top heel. (No wonder they went out of business.)
– The Colorado Kid appeared on TV as a babyface, billed as “North American champion” and using the claw as a finish. (That’s FUTURE NWA WORLD CHAMPION Colorado Kid to you!)
– Flex Kavana turned heel on Bart Sawyer on the 8/12 show. (That kid as a heel? As if that’ll put butts in seats.)
– To ECW, where Vampiro’s debut was again postponed due to a knee injury.
– Reggie Bennett is coming in for the 9/14 and will likely be booked against a male undercard wrestler. (I don’t think that one happened either.)
– There were two different Japanese tour groups in the country for the Clash and Summerslam, and they also hit the Staten Island ECW show and drove merch numbers way up.
– A group called Reality Combat ran a show in Atlanta which was a total fiasco, where no one got paid and the guy in charge got arrested. (Are we sure it wasn’t a Herb Abrams show?)
(I’m probably not topping that one but we’ll continue on anyway.)
– To WCW, where most of Nitro was built around Nick Patrick’s impending heel turn, although Patrick does such a great job on promos that Dave can’t fault them for going in that direction.
– The combined audience for Raw and Nitro was one of the highest ever, with Nitro doing a 3.5 and Raw doing a 2.9.
– Juventud Guerrera is expected to start for WCW in October, likely under a new name. (Or not.)
– Hog Wild did a 0.62 buyrate according to best estimates, although it was structured this time so that Hogan didn’t get his usual 25% cut.
– The 10/28 Nitro is coming from the LA Sports Arena, so expect a heavy AAA influence. (Unless there’s a bomb threat and they have to move it to the LA Coliseum instead.)
– To the WWF, where Rick Titan from WAR got a tryout against Frank Staletto. Titan didn’t look good, but Staletto actually got his own tryout match because he looked so good. (I’m sure they have a really good idea for Titan!)
– Flex Kavana also got a second tryout match, although he’s already under contract.
– Fatu debuted in a stupid gimmick as a Sultan, managed by Bob Backlund and Iron Sheik.
– Barry Windham debuted as The Stalker, looking OK but again the gimmick was stupid.
– Dave did think that the live Raw was the best one in a long time.
– Dave also thinks that the stuff with Sunny and Cornette will lead to a match, since Jim’s career ambition is to put over as many women and retired wrestlers as humanly possible.
– And finally, any thoughts of suing Luger over the jump last year were finally shut down as lawyers discovered that he did in fact have a contract loophole that allowed him to jump last year. (As Vince Russo would say, I guess they forgot to read the fine print.)
(Eh, I guess I should have closed with the Herb Abrams joke.)
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE.