Wrestling Observer Flashback – 09.16.96
Oh what a tangled web we weave…
– Dave declares that American pro wrestling has changed again this past weekend, as wrestling has now increasingly become about “conning the internet” and playing to newsletter readers for cheap swerves rather than long term planning. (Oh, I’ve got some bad news for Dave then about the next 30 years…) In particular, the WWF is now so incredibly desperate for any kind of ratings boost that they’re actually stooping to creating a fake story about Razor and Diesel returning, which will generate a miniscule ratings bump and 900 line revenue bump, at the expense of completely overshadowing the PPV that’s supposed to be carrying their business.
– Meanwhile, even though WCW is now running a “fake Sting” angle, they still managed to crush RAW yet again on 9/9, basically doubling the WWF’s audience. (But what about the demo?) However, the WWF actually won with kids and teens a slim margin. (Ah, well there we go. Well, what do kids matter? Here’s a quick riddle for you: What do kids and tattoos have in common? They can both be removed by lasers.)
– Basically, the WWF has Shawn Michaels and Undertaker on top, and they’re characters that appeal mainly to kids and teenagers, and in fact Shawn actively turns away adult males. (Can’t imagine why) Whereas WCW has all the characters that adult males grew up watching.
– Interestingly, although Nitro crushed the opposition in pretty much every way on the night, the fake Sting turn completely tanked the ratings in the segment it was featured. Although to be fair, Dave notes it could also be Public Enemy v. Faces of Fear or “one minute of Rey Mysterio Jr” that destroyed the rating in that quarter hour.
– The Fake Sting was played by prelim wrestler Cobra, and the announcers actually did a tremendous job of getting the angle over and making it seem like they were really convinced of Sting joining the nWo. (Well that wouldn’t last long.)
– Basically, the episode of Nitro went off the air with viewers left to think that Sting had turned heel, so that “WCW executives could read internet posts all week and congratulate themselves on being con men par excellence, getting in the way of the fact that their jobs are to draw television ratings and PPV buys.” (Good thing they didn’t have Twitter in 1996. Dave’s head would have exploded.)
– So Bischoff’s theory appears to be that leaving the PPV main event a mystery headed into the show will generate excitement and buys, which has literally never been the case in the history of wrestling. Granted it kind of worked once with the Hulk Hogan turn, but now Bischoff is going to the same well over and over, with the Giant turn and then again with Sting here. However, as Dave points out, if they had done the Hogan turn a week before the PPV and then used that heat to sell a PPV match, it would have almost certainly blown away the 0.7 buyrate that Bash at the Beach did with the “mystery partner” angle. But then they wouldn’t have been able to “get off” on swerving the hardcores on the internet. Which, by the way, mean zero for ratings. Sure, there’s lots of potential directions and payoffs for the Fake Sting angle at Fall Brawl, but none of them will have any effect on the buyrate.
– WHICH BRINGS US…to that other thing. So the WWF went crazy on the internet hyping up their “Championship Friday” episode of RAW, which featured Jim Ross promising the biggest story of his 20 year career, to be revealed on the WWF Hotline. That turned out to be a story about “Razor and Diesel” negotiating to return to the WWF, and that there would be more details on the weekend. (Maybe HHH was running the WWF in 1996 too? Actually that might have brought them back come to think of it.) Despite the hype, there was no update on the weekend shows, because they were all taped on Tuesday and Vince didn’t even come up with this “brilliant” idea until Thursday. In fact, Vince barely even told anyone about what was coming, leaving most people even inside the company stunned by what JR announced on the show.
– This led to them doubling down on the angle, with Jim “forced to apologize” for misleading people on Monday, but then saying although negotiations with Razor were in trouble, things were going strong with Diesel. Despite spending the entire show on Monday hyping up further updates by the end of the show, ratings were not affected at all. In fact, the 2.4 rating for the show was actually down.
– It should be noted that the real Kevin Nash and Scott Hall knew nothing about this, only finding out on the Friday house show in Shreveport. There is no loophole in their contracts, nor have their been any talks. (Yeah but that’s what they said about Cody Rhodes, too!)
– This was basically a way to hotshot interest in the RAW show after the US Open hiatus, which normally takes a few weeks to get back on track, and hopefully stall the runaway momentum of WCW after the switch to two hours for Nitro. Dave also notes that, amazingly, they do actually have a plan for a payoff, despite everyone in the business thinking that it’s a terrible idea. Apparently they’re going to repackage Rick Bogner as “The Bad Guy Razor Ramon” and Glen Jacobs as “Big Daddy Cool Diesel”. (Come on, they couldn’t be THAT stupid, could they?) The general belief is that this would probably backfire on them if they tried it. (What? You don’t say?)
– And hey, if the fans reject the characters, they can always turn them heel. (BRILLIANT. I’m convinced now.)
– WCW can’t really say anything or react to this nonsense in any way because of the lawsuit. See, the WWF has been very specific in only saying “Razor Ramon” and “Diesel” when hyping the returns, so if anyone from WCW went on TV and said “Nuh uh, we’ve got Hall and Nash right here!” then WWF’s lawyers would immediately pounce on them and say “See, that means you’re trying to portray your characters as Razor and Diesel”. (That is actually some diabolically evil legal trickery and one very underrated bit of brilliance about the otherwise insanely stupid fake Razor angle.)
– And, Dave notes, if all else fails then they’ll just put all the heat on Jim Ross and throw him under the bus.
– Finally, RAW on Friday was such a colossal bomb that it completely squashed any chance of the show moving there in the future. (I don’t think we’ll ever see wrestling on Friday nights, if we’re being honest.)
– To Japan, where the planned Tokyo Dome show in October has been cancelled due to the local baseball team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, needing the date for a makeup game. (Just because I had to know WTF that name was about, I checked and it’s not the “Ham Fighters” based out of Nippon, but the “Fighters” based out of Nippon-Ham. Not even the craziest thing about this news item though, so stay tuned!) As it turns out, the double top secret planned main event was supposed to be Antonio Inoki facing Royce Gracie in a worked wrestling match, with the Gracies reportedly getting $1 million from New Japan to do the match. This would have been the biggest payday in wrestling history outside of Muhammad Ali. Dave does note that Ultimate Warrior claimed in his lawsuit that Vince McMahon had agreed to pay him $1 million per match before their deal fell apart, although to be fair Jerry McDevitt dismissed everything that came out of Warrior’s mouth in the suit as complete fiction.
– Shockingly, and I know this is going to come to a big shock so I hope you’re sitting down on something soft and comfortable and don’t have high blood pressure or a weak bladder…the match fell apart because Inoki refused to lose. I KNOW, RIGHT?
– In case Tony Khan is looking for more ideas, the 9/30 IWA show will feature Shoji Nakamaki against Mitsuhiro Matsunaga in a Chandelier broken glass cabinet drum barbed wire baseball wire street fight death match.
– To Memphis, where Luna has a new gimmick where she bites people on the neck, supposedly on the carotid artery, and it acts like a sleeper and puts them out. It also gives the guys a hickey. (I mean, is it REALLY the stupidest thing ever? This is the issue with fake Razor and Diesel, so this barely even qualifies for the dumbest idea of the WEEK.)
– To ECW, where November 2 Remember on 11/16 will definitely not be a PPV because you need at least four months advance notice for the cable companies and nothing has been sent out yet. But they still plan for it to be the biggest show of the year.
– Dave thinks that Joel Gertner as a heel ring announcer is a riot, although he notes it’s a short-term payoff with Sandman caning him right after. (Yeah, that act will probably burn out in a couple of weeks.)
– Wahoo McDaniel continue work “retirement matches” all around the Carolinas.
– In the most 90s news note of the issue, the highlight of a NWA show on 9/7 was Iron Sheik doing the Macarena.
– To WCW, where Sean Waltman FINALLY got his official WWF release this week and he is now free and clear to appear whenever they want. Dave thinks the whole thing was childish. (Oh, we’re only in 1996, Dave…)
– The angle on the 9/2 Nitro where the Horsemen got massacred resulted in a lot of internal turmoil. Ric Flair’s contract expires in November and he’s making noise about taking time off as a result, and other midcarders are said to be upset because Hulk Hogan apparently won’t let anyone but his own guys get over. And they’re already over, so they don’t really need to hold other people down. (Please, what a bunch of whiners. What do they think is going to happen, everyone gets sick of it and leaves for the WWF and then the company goes out of business after losing millions of dollars and getting canceled by the network that owns it? What are the odds of THAT?) Anyway Dave is like “yeah well good luck with that LOL”.
– The former Quebecers debuted on Nitro with the terrible name of “The Amazing French Canadians” and basically looked like jobbers, with Rougeau looking like someone who was just out of retirement and Oulette gaining weight in “all the wrong places”. Gene accidentally called them “the Rougeau Brothers” and Dave thinks that Vince probably sent off a nasty legal letter over that one.
– A match between Joe Gomez young Juventud Guerrera went off the rails and Gomez got yelled at backstage for screwing it up so badly. (YOU SHUT YOUR GODDAMN HOOKER MOUTH ABOUT JOE GOMEZ, YOU SON OF A BITCH. Sorry, got all worked up there, I’ll be OK in a bit.)
– The show was notable because it was heavily focused on crazy crap happening in the backstage area and parking lot, but that severely pissed off fans watching live because all they saw was a bunch of live matches with guys walking out after a minute or so and then disappearing. So WCW is going to invest in a “video wall” of some kind for future shows so that the live crowd can follow what’s going on in the arena. (And that, by the way, was a very underrated way that WCW changed the business forever and completely altered the presentation of wrestling for decades to come, before WWF co-opted it and took credit for it shortly after.)
– In a Because WCW moment, the record rating for last week’s show would have been even higher, but the time management was so bad that the show ended 8 minutes early, thus robbing them of credit for a record-shattering quarter hour that the Giant heel turn did.
– Glacier finally debuted on TV on the Sunday show. He looked OK.
– On the 9/9 show, Bobby Heenan accidentally said “Haku” when referring to Meng and Bischoff had to immediately launch into an elaborate apology explaining that he’s in no way associated with the WWF.
– To the WWF, where Undertaker was off the house show loop with a staph infection, so they brought in COWBOY BILL WATTS of all people to work an angle with Mankind in Oklahoma.
– Mark Henry’s debut run isn’t going so well thus far, as Dave thinks they should cool it with the “World’s Strongest Man” stuff because people, like, watched the Olympics and stuff and know that he’s not. (Or they could just keep saying it for a decade until it becomes part of his character. Either way.) Also, he’s got heat with the boys because of his gigantic guaranteed contract with no experience, similar to the heat on the bodybuilders a few years ago. Also there’s some personality conflicts with Mark, although Dave notes that none of it appears to be due to Mark.
– Dave throws out a prediction: Don’t be shocked to see Vader win the WWF title at a house show before October as a big surprise twist, since the October PPV features Vader v. Sid and no Shawn. Also Undertaker and Mankind will try to bury each other or something.
– The final Superstars will air in syndication this weekend before moving to USA, and will feature 10 years of highlights from the show. (But what about the other 55 minutes?)
– All charges were dropped against the marines who attacked Shawn Michaels in Syracuse, although Dave doesn’t know why.
– Kurt Angle was at the office talking with Vince McMahon, although no deal is done yet.
– And finally, Tom Prichard is in fact training Flex Kavana, Mark Henry and Achim Albrecht in advance of their TV debuts shortly. Apparently Rocky Johnson’s kid is the most advanced in the class due to his past experience in the sport. (I’m not sold yet. Hopefully they have a really good gimmick for him to debut with.)
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE!