Wrestling Observer Flashback – 09.30.96
This week: The WWF finally unleashes their trump card on WCW Monday Nitro, changing the narrative forever and ending the Monday Night War! Ha, but seriously…
– The day after the Mindgames PPV, RAW was supposed to be the biggest show of the year, their “new fall season”, featuring the finals of the Intercontinental title tournament that was moved off the PPV in order to help the rating. Plus they were finally debuting the much-ballyhooed payoff the Razor & Diesel, which Dave now notes will go down as “the biggest flop since the Edsel”. (Using “ballyhoo” and referencing the Ford Edsel in the same paragraph, showing that Dave really has his finger on the pulse of the youth of 1996.)
– Over on Nitro, most of the talent was in Japan doing Japanese stuff with New Japan, so WCW literally took out an ad in USA Today promising that the nWo would invade the show and take over, and the result was a hellacious ass-beating for Turner’s side, crushing RAW 3.4 to 2.0.
– WWF in particular has been reeking of desperation ever since debuting the ridiculous Razor angle. The TV show is “constantly begging the viewers in every commercial break not to tune away” and teases that go nowhere. Even though it’s been the talk of the wrestling industry and the internet, it’s not translating to any kind of ratings whatsoever, and in fact pathetically pandering to the internet and teenagers is killing off the adult audience, which is exactly the audience they need to win on Mondays. (Interestingly, once those teenagers got hooked on the product, they in turn became diehard fans for life and now are the remaining lifeblood of aging Gen X viewers keeping the wresting business going.)
– As expected, the payoff for the horrible Razor/Diesel nonsense made Jim Ross into the scapegoat for the whole thing, since the reaction for it had been so bad and they needed someone to take the fall. The reveal made them look even dumber because the real Hall and Nash had already been featured heavily on the live Nitro. In fact, Nitro even made its own inside joke on the show, introducing the former Virgil as “Vincent”, the head of security for the nWo.
– Dave concedes that JR put on a tremendous one-man performance in his “shoot” speech introducing the fakes, complaining about leaving a good paying job to wear a toga while being the best play by play man in wrestling. And then he got fired for having Bell’s Palsy and was stuck living in the “overpriced hellhole” that is Connecticut. Then he came back in a front office position and insinuated that all the wrestlers coming and going were because he was leaking info to WCW, which was also intended to take the heat off the company and put it on good ol’ JR. And after introducing “Razor Ramon”, the crowd immediately deflated, and then they decided against introducing “Diesel” until next week, just one more cheap tease tactic to try to pop a desperation rating.
– For the show taped for next week, Diesel did indeed debut and attacked Savio Vega, but the whole thing didn’t draw boos as much as it drew groans, resulting in the audience emptying out to the point where they’re already talking about cutting their losses and dropping the angle. (I’m just astonished that it took THAT LONG for Vince to finally concede that maybe the whole thing was a bad idea.)
– Dave thinks that it might be leading to a big angle where the fakes lead Team WCW with guys like Brian Pillman and Steve Austin and Vader against a Team WWF? (Kind of like…an INVASION?)
– BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! In another desperation move, Vince McMahon called up Paul Heyman a few weeks back, looking to work with ECW against their mutual enemy down south, and worked out a “worked shoot” deal for the Philly PPV that almost no one knew about. In fact, they could barely acknowledge what was happening on TV because then the hardcore fans that they were trying to work would recognize it as an angle instantly. (Insert Raven quote here.) Dave thinks it’s a bad idea, although not for ECW because it’s a no-lose for them anyway. Rather it’s a bad idea because they’re so wrapped up in crafting a carny angle to fool the fans rather than actually drawing money. Like really, it came off as this Sandman guy, who no one knows, hitting himself with a beer can. (But what if it was the BUTCHER or THE BLADE?) In fact, the fools who fooled themselves the most were the WWF execs, who saw the big reaction on the internet and fooled themselves into thinking that it would translate into ratings the next night on TV. SPOILER: It did not.
– Really the one who’s going to do business off this is Paul Heyman, who gets free publicity for his bingo hall crew and looks like the badass renegade group living rent-free in Vince’s head. They even got to hype Sabu v. Taz on RAW the next night, with Heyman insisting that the show cut to commercial when the brawl was happening, so as to make it seem like it “wasn’t supposed to happen”.
– Really there’s no endgame for this, as the plan only extended as far as “ECW shows up, fool the marks, draw ratings”. The problem being that only 100,000 people are watching the PPV, as opposed to the millions watching Monday night TV. Trying to pop a rating based on a surprise PPV angle is madness.
– Further, Heyman is against doing any kind of interpromotional stuff, because it would expose to his hardcore fans that his renegade indie badass group has actually been working with the big bad WWF all this time and there aren’t actually enemies. (INSERT RAVEN QUOTE HERE, DAMMIT!)
– Moving onto the PPV, Dave once again notes that while WCW gives you a great undercard and weak main event, the WWF is the exact opposite, and this was no exception to the rule.
– The show drew 15,000 to the new 22,000 seat arena, with a gate of $210290 for an all time record for an In Your House show. To be fair, Dave notes, the Vancouver show drew more money, but it was Canadian money so it doesn’t count. (I feel like once we get the Queen off our money and replace her with the rumored trio of Gord Downie, Gordie Howe and Gordon Lightfoot our money will bounce back like the WWF in 1998.)
– Notably, Mankind did a promo before the PPV where he talked about how he was glad to get away from wrestling in a Bingo Hall, in order to make sure he got booed.
– In the dark match, Savio Vega pinned Marty Jannetty in 5:22 when he rolled through a crossbody. This was done to set up a Vega match on the PPV with Bradshaw. ½*
- Savio Vega beat Bradshaw in a strap match in 7:09 with the same finish as every strap and chain match ever. The match was mostly just a backdrop for the ECW nonsense. Notably Heyman kept flipping off Vince at ringside while the camera wasn’t on them, and Vince kept shooting dirty looks back at him to make it seem like a “shoot”. After the match they had a super faraway shot of “Razor and Diesel” attacking Vega in the back, although it was so far away that you couldn’t even tell who it was supposed to be anyway. *1/4 Also Vince made sure to take the position that he thought the whole thing was just a stunt for ratings, making sure to come off as the babyface and put ALL of the heat on Jim Ross.
- Jose Lothario pinned Jim Cornette with one punch in 0:57. Cornette’s had a bad knee lately so it was even worse than you’d think. Afterwards, Clarence Mason tricked the unconscious Cornette into signing away the contracts of Owen Hart and British Bulldog. -*
- Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith won the WWF tag team titles from the Smoking Gunns in 10:59. Billy Gunn has been looking really skinny due to his inability to work out lately, Dave notes. (Well hopefully he finds a way to put on some muscle. Maybe he’d get a push!) Finish saw the Gunns collide, with Davey hitting the powerslam on Bart for the pin. Huge disappointment. **1/4 Afterwards Sunny fired them and stormed off.
- Mark Henry beat Jerry Lawler with the backbreaker in 5:13. Dave thinks that Henry is a lot closer to Bill Kazmaier than Ken Patera. (OUCH!) Henry showed nothing here. DUD
- Undertaker pinned Goldust in 10:23, with the only heat spot being Goldust throwing gold dust in Taker’s eyes for some offense. Taker won with the tombstone, of course. *1/2
- Shawn Michaels beat Mankind by DQ to retain the WWF title in 26:25. Dave notes that it pretty much started as a Japanese psychology match and then turned into a crazy brawl. Dave hopes that Mankind still has all his brain cells after all the stuff he did to himself in this one. Vader ran in for the DQ, and Shawn had to stop his pinfall attempt and go after him, which leads Dave to think that Vader was late on his run-in and Shawn had to improvise. Dave thought the match was super, but the ending keeps it from being a match of the year. ****3/4
– In post-show dark matches, Jake Roberts beat HHH, Faarooq pinned Mero with a spinebuster, and Sid pinned Vader in a horrible match that was all stalling.
– UFC XI was something of a disaster, as the fortunes of wrestling and UFC continue to go in opposite directions, with UFC now feeling like a fad that is about to burn itself out. The tournament “ended” with Mark Coleman winning by default because the semi-finalist and alternate were both injured, leaving an hour of dead airtime at the end. And thanks to the continued efforts of people like John McCain, interest in the UFC seems to be hitting an all-time low, with numerous clones diluting the marketplace and causing their popularity to wane. And mainstream media won’t touch them because of the political pressures, while underground fighting media won’t touch them because the Gracies completely exposed what a bunch of bullshit stuff like kung fu and all the self-made “martial artists” promoted in those magazines turned out to be in real fights. (In fact, the UFC was about to be pulled from all PPV systems and go WAY underground for a long time, and it’s still amazing to me that it made the Hulk Hogan-like comeback that it did years later.)
– To Japan, where as noted WCW was all over the G1 Climax series this year, although Scott Norton was the only WCW guy to make it to the final four, with Kensuke Sasaki winning the whole thing. And plans to tape a Regal TV title defense in Japan so as to establish it as an “international title” again when down the tubes when Ric Flair got injured and Regal had to take his place in a tag match instead.
– To Memphis, where the 9/19 show drew 450 fans, one of the lowest figures in their history. Meanwhile, Lawler did an interview on Memphis TV on 9/21 talking about how Nitro will be in Memphis on 10/14, and how fans shouldn’t waste their time buying tickets because WCW will just be giving them all away for free anyway. As a note, the advance is already 1200 paid tickets for the show, which blows away anything that the USWA has done in months. Lawler is also booking the territory again, even though he barely leaves Memphis and doesn’t even show up for every Memphis show as it is.
– Luna Vachon and Vampire Warrior are apparently working on whatever their WWF gimmick is going to be while they’re in Memphis.
– Terry Gordy will be passing through ECW in October, on his way to the WWF as some sort of masked wrestler.
– The “revived” AWF promotion is already canceled in New York before their first episode even aired on the CBS station there, so that’s probably not good.
– To WCW, where Nitro was pretty bad for the first hour. Public Enemy won the tag titles from Harlem Heat in a bad match, although the Heat will probably get the belts back in time to drop them to the Outsiders at Halloween Havoc. The second hour had no wrestling, but Kevin Nash was hilarious so it was better at least. Dave notes that the nWo are hugely over, but who WOULDN’T be over with that kind of booking? (Well maybe Roman Reigns in 2015.)
– Negotiations with Mean Gene continue on.
– Randy Savage’s contract apparently expires in October 96, although he’ll be sticking around through Halloween Havoc because of the Slim Jims deal. There is definitely interest from the WWF in bringing him back, and Savage is not terribly happy at the moment and would definitely go back. (Unless of course there was some mysterious blow up between Savage and Vince that soured their relationship until after one of them was dead, but HOW LIKELY IS THAT, LOL?)
– JJ Dillon starts with WCW on 10/1, although likely not in front of the camera.
– Hulk Hogan wanted to piledrive Miss Elizabeth at Fall Brawl, but Bischoff overruled him because they’d all get in trouble with Ted Turner. (Yeah, I’ve heard he wanted to “piledrive” her..)
– To the WWF, where the RAW show in Hershey featured Sal Sincere beating indie wrestler Steve Corino in a dark match. As a rib, Corino worked as “Tom Cosati”, referencing a local promoter of the same name who has a lot of enemies.
– Mr. Perfect seems to be turning babyface against HHH, but Dave thinks that they’re doing the old fake turn and it’s going to lead to Perfect helping Hunter win the IC title from Mero as the payoff.
– There were problems with the Mero-Faarooq match on RAW, as Sable accidentally stiffed Sunny while slapping her. This was supposed to lead to Sunny beating up Sable backstage, but Mero wouldn’t allow it and there was a bunch of heat backstage between Sunny and Mero as a result.
– And finally, the “exposing” of Jeff Jarrett’s fake concert from 1995 is leading to Roadie Jesse Jammes coming in as “The Real Double J” after signing a five year contract. Dave thinks it’s mind-blowing that anyone would sign him long term given his flaky track record. (Well it’s not like they’re making him a vice president of the company or anything, that would just be STUPID!)
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE.