Wrestling Observer Flashback – 09.23.96
Welcome to 1996 WCW, notes our teaser for this week. This should be good.
– Fall Brawl was great undercard wrestling, bad main event, and booking filled with more holes than Swiss Cheese. Dave notes we should get used to this formula. (He wasn’t wrong.) And hey, if you want great main events and don’t care about the undercard, that’s the WWF. (He wasn’t wrong about that either.)
– Festivus must be near because it’s time for Dave to air his grievances…
– First up, no one thinks Randy Savage has any shot at beating Hulk Hogan in the main event of the next show, so what does WCW do? BEAT HIM IN A SINGLES MATCH. And then bring him out to get destroyed again in another angle to close the show.
– Next, the Horsemen need a fourth partner in the most dangerous and violent match of all time, War Games, so who do they choose? NO ONE. Sting claims that it wasn’t him who turned on Nitro last week, but did he call his supposed best friend Lex Luger to clear it up? NOPE.
– So then Sting comes out at the end to join the Horsemen team, in a match where there’s a giant cage around the ring to prevent people from leaving or entering just like that, and he leaves. And then Fake Sting makes Lex Luger submit to a Scorpion Deathlock, even though apparently Lex didn’t actually submit. “So why did the match end?” Dave rants. (I think we can rest easy knowing that there’s no chance of anyone ever again winning a pro wrestling match with a Scorpion Deathlock where the other guy didn’t actually submit).
– ALSO (and Dave’s just getting warmed up now) how bad does it make Sting look when they take some bum like Jeff Farmer and dress him up in Sting’s clothing and have him do all of Sting’s devastating moves without any trouble?
– ALSO ALSO, if the nWo aren’t actually under WCW contract, how can they win a contractually guaranteed TV segment? Does WCW make a habit of putting guys in PPV main events and advertising them for a month without signing them to contracts? (Sounds like WCW to me.)
– AND THEN, everyone on the nWo team beats up Randy Savage and no one from WCW tries to even help him, except for ELIZABETH?! WHAT EVEN IS THIS, Dave rages. Then she’s getting “symbolically raped and pillaged and spray painted” and no one saves HER. (To be fair, the spray paint was more of a literal than a symbolic.)
– AND THEN, after getting beaten down and destroyed to within an inch of his life, Savage just shows up on Nitro the next night without a scratch and does his usual “incoherent interview” where he doesn’t bring any of this up and doesn’t even mention Elizabeth.
(Man, you guys think that I used to get worked up about this stuff?!)
– On the bright side, ratings are still great and the nWo is unkillable anyway.
– Also, as noted, the undercard was great and there was a ton of people at the show.
1. Diamond Dallas Page pinned Chavo Guerrero in 13:07 with a Diamond Cutter out of a backslide attempt, in a “shockingly good” match. ***1/2
2. Ice Train beat Scott Norton in a submission match in 7:18 with a full nelson. *1/4 You know what else bugs Dave this week? FULL NELSONS. They don’t hurt very much in real life, but people are getting submissions from armbars, which don’t look nearly as impressive. (Psst, it’s a work.)
3. Konnan pinned Juventud Guerrera in 13:45 to retain the “Mexican Heavyweight title”. A great match where Guerrera was springboarding all over the ring like a kid with a new gym set. ***3/4
4. Chris Benoit pinned Chris Jericho in 14:36 with a back suplex off the top rope. Yet another excellent match, but the match was obviously designed to get Jericho over as a babyface and the crowd was 100% behind Benoit the whole time. (Man, he’s gonna have to do something REALLY bad to turn people against him, I guess.) From a technical aspect it was the best match on the show. ****
5. Rey Mysterio Jr. pinned Super Calo in 15:47 to retain the Cruiserweight title. Dave is still listing Rey’s real name as “Gonzalez” at this point, which is getting annoying. An incredible performance form Calo, but no one knew who he was and so no one reacted. (Get ready for more of that over the next few years). Rey got the pin with one of the best finishers Dave has ever seen, springboarding from one ring into the other with a rana. ****
6. Harlem Heat beat the Nasty Boys to retain the WCW tag team titles in 15:31. They surprised with a stiff match that had a lot of heat, ending when Sherri broke her cane over Knobs head and Booker got the pin. The highlight of the match was Bobby Heenan forgetting who the champions were at one point and saying that the Heat didn’t want to win by countout because the titles don’t change hands that way. ***1/2
7. The Giant pinned Randy Savage in 7:47. Match had a lot of heat but the finish was lame. Savage dropped the elbow, but Nash and Hogan beat him up while the ref was distracted by the Giant, and he got pinned. *1/2
8. Hulk Hogan & Kevin Nash & Scott Hall & Fake Sting beat Lex Luger & Arn Anderson & Ric Flair & “I Guess Sting?” in the War Games in 18:15. Nothing particularly good about the match aside from the feud itself being so over that the match had super heat. Dave laments not being able to bet on who is going to win the coin flip for these matches. (Well now he can thanks to DRAFT KINGS!) Also the entrances were all messed up because they couldn’t come out as a team, because then Fake Sting would be standing at ringside for 20 minutes and people would figure out that he was a fake. Real Sting came out for the finish and hit everyone with Stinger splashes, but then stormed out because no one trusts him, and Fake Sting beat Luger for the win. *3/4
– On another positive note, at least the nWo didn’t break any equipment during the post-match beatdown this time.
– Moving on, in a rather coincidentally timed rant from Dave, he talks about how everyone in both promotions is currently lying to each other and everyone else in the name of “working”, in a manner that has nothing to do with drawing money or building up ratings or matches. (GOOD THING WE’VE MOVED PAST THAT AS A SOCIETY, LOL) Dave notes that ratings are from hooking the casual fans, not doing insider angles for people who already watch religiously.
(Oh come on, you knew I was going to work that one in SOMEWHERE this week.)
– Dave notes that ECW is basically the opposite dynamic, in that their entire audience is ONLY hardcores, so they can go as hardcore as they want and everyone is going to get the joke. Plus they’re not basing success on the difference between a 2.5 and 3.5 rating on nationally televised cable shows.
– Dave does note that all these changes are going to be great for the internet nerds because it means that they’re going to be even more in control of what happens than ever before. (One of them might even start his own wrestling promotion! With blackjack and hookers! On second thought, forget the blackjack. And the wrestling promotion.)
– To the WWF, where it’s now definite that Rick Bogner will be Razor Ramon II, as he’s cancelled future bookings in Japan and in fact Tokyo Sports spoiled the “big secret” by publishing a story about it in Japan, despite the WWF telling him that it was “top secret” and no one knew about it. (Wait, so someone stole top secret classified documents about a huge bomb and leaked them to a foreign power…I mean, I’m just saying…)
– The twist in the storyline this week is that, as predicted, Gorilla Monsoon went on TV and threw Jim Ross under the bus, positioning the WWF as the “babyfaces” and JR as the “heel” who is actually lying to the fans about the whole thing. The angle still hasn’t done squat for ratings despite all the chatter on the internets about how stupid it is.
– This week also saw some big changes in the front office on both sides of the war. Gene Okerlund’s contract expired and he has been saying his goodbyes, with WCW employees getting a memo noting that Gene is no longer with the company. Mike Tenay will be taking his spot as TV and PPV interviewer, and doing it for “a hell of a lot less money”. Gene was making somewhere around $420,000 per year between his salary and hotline residuals, and looking for more. He’s been playing the ”Vince is calling me” card, which is complete bullshit on his part, but it will likely get him a new contract with WCW. There’s also a theory within the company that the whole thing is a work and he’ll be the “nWo announcer” when all is said and done.
– Also, JJ Dillon resigned from the WWF last week, which was a shock to everyone in the WWF, but it’s widely assumed that he’s moving back to Orlando and taking a job with WCW. He’s a valuable hand for WCW to have, because he knows where the bodies are buried in the WWF.
– And lastly, Jake Roberts finally got his wish and has been added to the WWF booking committee, joining Jim Cornette as assistants to Bruce Prichard. Dave reminds us all that no matter who is taking the heat as “booker”, the ultimate last word is always Vince McMahon. (Well unless he embezzles millions of dollars to pay off illicit sex encounters and has to retire, BUT HOW LIKELY IS THAT LOL?)
– To Japan, where New Japan is branching into more American booking, with THREE NON-FINISHES in a one week period, which as noted is about a year’s worth under normal circumstances. Dave’s theory is that New Japan is making so much money that they aren’t worried about undercard matches that aren’t essential at the moment.
– Also, Jushin Liger’s doctor has recommended that he wait a few more weeks before coming back from his surgery.
– To ECW, where a bunch of people ended up getting injured on the last show, and Stevie Richards and Meanie dressed up as “the Stamford Hillbillies” in order to spoof the Godwinns.
– Also they introduced a new Dudley named “Spike”, who is really small and gets thrown onto other wrestlers by Buh Buh.
– Kimona Wannalaya clarified her departure from ECW in an interview this week, noting that she makes more money as a dancer, and that it had nothing to do with Missy Hyatt. And now she’s with that AWF promotion anyway.
– Also, the show “American Journal” did a piece on ECW this past week, and they had the ECW wrestlers stage a street fight brawl where they hit each other with garbage cans. However, the show was going to air the brawl in slo-mo to expose the fake fighting, so Paul Heyman made sure to get them to really lay in the shots hard so it wouldn’t look fake on TV when slowed down. (No one said he wasn’t an evil genius.)
– The American Wrestling Federation held a press conference in New York on 9/12 promoting their new show, which included talent like Sgt. Slaughter, Tito Santana, Hawk, Missy Hyatt and others. They have a strong lineup of TV stations, but they have so much previous taping footage in the can that they’ll probably air stuff from those for weeks before they ever need to tape a new show.
– To WCW, where Dave was annoyed by commercials and nWo recaps interrupting the show all the time on Nitro. Sean Waltman was finally shown on TV and named “Six”.
– A woman called the WCW offices this past week and complained that her five year old had spraypainted “nWo” on her one year old. (Geez, kid’s an art prodigy it sounds like.)
– Paul Wight accidentally did too much damage to a rented Cadillac on WCW Saturday Night, exceeded the agreed total to be covered by insurance, so he took the fall for WCW and had to buy the car. (Man I hope none of the cars destroyed by Steve Austin were rentals!)
– Apparently the plan is to somehow declare the WCW World title vacant again after Halloween Havoc and put it up for grabs at World War III again, which will become an annual tradition. On the bright side, Dave notes, we can probably hope for really good matches on the undercard. Apparently they would like to get the title off of Hogan but they know he won’t do a job to anyone.
– Steven Regal took the TV title to England and Japan for defenses this past week and it was supposed to be hyped up on Nitro in order to make the belt seem like a big deal on the international scene. Unfortunately, no one mentioned it on the show, and in fact no one has even acknowledged on TV that Regal is the champion outside of the show where he won it a few weeks back.
– The current plan is that the nWo is going to get WCW Saturday Night, which Dave thinks is a “cute idea” but wonders who they could actually wrestle on their show? Either they’ll have to use the same WCW jobbers as the main shows, or do competitive matches against the “Bagwells of the world” so they can win every week. (Hate to tell you about Bagwell, Dave…)
– The original plan for Halloween Havoc was for Hall and Nash to beat Luger & Sting and declare themselves to be the “nWo tag team champions”, but now the plan appears to be the much more foregone conclusion where they beat Harlem Heat to win the WCW tag titles instead.
– To the WWF, where Bret Hart called into RAW with a promo from South Africa and said he wouldn’t be at the PPV and Owen Hart is a liar for saying he would be. Apparently Bret has been slagging Shawn Michaels in interviews all over the place, although Dave is pretty sure that it’s all just a work to build up to a return match between them. (Well that’s a bit of an understatement.)
– Dave uses his prognostication skills to guess the finish of the Mero v. Faarooq IC title tournament final on next week’s live RAW: Sunny shows some skin to distract special referee Pat Patterson, but it doesn’t work.
– A Japanese newspaper is claiming that Kurt Angle has signed with the WWF, but it is apparently FAKE NEWS and no offer has been accepted yet.
– Vince McMahon’s son Shane was married on 9/14.
– And finally, the Superstars syndication finale saw Gorilla Monsoon get some good digs at former employees, as they showed a 1986 Savage-Steamboat match and Gorilla noted that Savage was in his prime “10 years ago”, and then they showed clips of Hogan getting destroyed by Earthquake and Andre the Giant, with further burial by saying Andre had done more for the WWF than any other wrestler in history. (You will note that Vince was making offers to both guys to return at this point, in fact.)
AND THAT’S THE NEWS AND I’M OUTTA HERE!