Wrestling Observer Flashback – 10.07.96
This week, a big name goes to the rival promotion in the thick of the Monday Night Wars! Call my hotline now to find out the answer!
– Hiroshi Hase made a surprising jump from New Japan to All Japan this week, announcing on 9/29 that he’s starting with AJPW in January. Baba had actually been asked about it the day before the announcement, and laughed it off, claiming that he had never even spoken to Hase before.
– Hase is actually still a Japanese senator in the midst of a six year term (Or as we call it nowadays, an “AEW contract”) and he’ll be serving double duty as an active wrestling while helping to govern the country.
– Hase had actually had a private falling out with New Japan over the past year, stemming from the death of one of his proteges, named Gompei, in the New Japan dojo after months of recruiting him from college. He allegedly took a bump on his head in his second day of training, and passed out and died. There was never even a straight answer given by the company to Gompei’s family about the circumstances that led to his death and what exactly was going on in that school. Hase himself pressed the company for information on what led to the incident but was continually shut down and told to move on. (Sounds like an AEW investigation!)
– Hase has freely admitted to being in the worst shape of his life after a year of being a politician (aka better shape than any of us will ever be in our entire lives) and he’ll be training at the All Japan dojo to get ready for his comeback in a few months.
– WWF is getting ready to present Buried Alive on 10/20, with the main event featuring some kind of weird match between Undertaker and Mankind involving a cemetery being constructed on set and the object of the match is to literally bury your opponent. (Sounds like something CM Punk would book! Thank you, I’m here until Thursday, try the veal.)
– Shawn Michaels is skipping this show, with the thinking being that he’s been on everything lately and it’s time to try headlining with someone else.
– Meanwhile the Mind Games PPV is being internally reported at a 0.7 buyrate, which would be a tremendous success given that all the hype on TV leading up to it was for fake Razor and Diesel in desperate attempts to draw ratings. However, outside sources (aka the truth) put the number at 100,000 buys or a 0.45 buyrate. Which would not be so good.
– Speaking of money issues, the 9/29 MSG show managed to do one of the worst paid attendances for the WWF in that arena in more than 40 years, and maybe ever! Dave is skeptical of the numbers being reported by the WWF themselves in this case, because they have it at 3900 paying $147,000 and the math doesn’t work for that. Plus they already had a paid advance of 4000 people a week ago and that would make the show more realistically 5500 with comps. Still really low and embarrassing, but not the worst of all time at least.
– Dave blames this squarely on the recent loss of syndication in the market, the first time it’s happened since 1968. (Back then, Bobby Fish had to read the newspaper to get the results of the show!) It’s also kind of weird because they had just done huge numbers in MSG for previous shows, including a legit overflow sellout for Michaels & Diesel v. Bret Hart & Undertaker on 3/17. Even the last MSG show, with a lame Michaels v. Goldust main event, did 11314 people.
– Dave’s other theory is that the card SUCKED and putting on a show filled with TV jobbers like Sal Sincere and Bob Holly isn’t gonna fly with the New York crowd, who considers themselves to be better than “B Show” material. (Yeah! It doesn’t matter if Barry Bonds has the actual home run record, our guy is the best despite hitting 10 less!)
– One notable result on the show was Steve Austin beating Savio Vega cleanly with his stunner move, which is interesting because they heavily protect Savio on MSG shows in an effort to keep him strong as an ethnic babyface star for the market.
– Also the next show in MSG is Survivor Series, which should be an easy sellout anyway. The main event is going to be Shawn defending against either Vader or Sid, with Vader the favorite to get the shot based on Vince telling him that he’s getting the title shot soon. Plus it would make the most logical sense. But, ha ha, Dave says, you know wrestling and logic these days…
– One note from AAA this week, as the lineups for the shows are getting weaker and weaker because the worst payday from WCW is better than the best payday from Antonio Pena and Konnan, so guys are all just leaving and spending time with Uncle Eric. Meanwhile, Pena has this weird vision of an entire promotion of “pretty boys who dress like strippers” and Konnan doesn’t even know what to do with him anymore. So things are a bit dicey in Mexico at the moment.
– To New Japan, where Keiji Muto did a worked match with BJJ guy Pedro Ortarvio on 9/23 in Yokohama that was said to be among the worst of all time. Even worse, now all the jiu jitsu people are making fun of Ortarvio for being a sleazy sellout who would spit on their sport by doing a job for a lowly pro wrestler. (I know, right? Can you even imagine?). So this raises a question in Dave’s mind: How come everyone thinks that these fighting shows like UFC and Vale Tudo are all works filled with convincing finishes, but then when one of the fighters does an actual worked match it looks like complete garbage and everyone immediately figures it out? Apparently the answer is that it’s not so easy to do a worked shoot after all.
– The WCW/New Japan co-mingling lately on the New Japan shows has led to some tricky political issues. Most recently, Eric Bischoff sent messages via Sonny Onoo saying that he didn’t want anyone from WCW interacting or touching Road Warrior Animal in any way because of whatever heat is between the Warriors and WCW at the moment. So a planned Animal & Sasaki v. Rick Steiner & Muto feud (itself replacing Road Warriors v. Steiners) was scrapped at the last minute and Animal was put into his own little universe instead and worked with Tadao Yasuda.
– I know we have the “Nightmare matches” feature on the blog all the time, but here’s one for you: The main event of the 10/8 Tokyo Pro Wrestling show in Osaka is reportedly going to be Nobuhiko Takada against Abdullah the Butcher?!? Dave has a lot of questions about that one, the big one being “How do you even work out a finish?”
– And it’s time for…
– Yes, so one of the guys on the recent Japan tours is “The Natural”, who is apparently a Winnipeg wrestler named Don Callis. Dave describes him as “Looking like a young Howard Stern and he does awesome interviews”, although he notes concede that neither of those things matters for Japan.
– In an incident that Dave is pretty sure is not an angle, FMW’s Victor Quinones got into an argument with Weekly Pro Wrestling reporter Fumi Saito after the final show of the tour in the hotel. Words were exchanged and Quinones punched him out, with FMW immediately apologizing for Quinones’ behavior and legal actions now a possibility.
– Big Japan ran another chandelier broken glass drum cabinet barbed wire baseball bat no rope barbed wire street fight double hell death match on 9/30. (ANOTHER one? Man, we’ve seen those a MILLION TIMES already!)
– To Memphis, where Randy Hales has now quit the promotion completely over all the recent problems, leaving Jerry Lawler theoretically in charge again despite him never being around and touring with WWF all the time. (Yes, that is the sound of the drain being circled, for those keeping track.)
– This week we debut a new feature in the Flashback, which I call…
– I just have to copy this one verbatim because it’s so awesomely Dave: The rock band “Wheezer” has a song getting some radio air play with an ECW reference to Grunge legdropping New Jack through a table.
(I mean, I know there’s a lot to unpack here with Dave suddenly dropping references to “El Scorcho” and all, but “Wheezer” was already a pretty damn big rock band via MTV by that point, especially with “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” being huge mainstream hits. I imagine Dave was feeling like AEW nerds when Tony Khan puts these random rappers on TV that are completely outside of our bubble and then just expects everyone to Google who “Trina” is.)
– To WCW, where the 9/30 show was one of the worst in history and ended with fans pelting the ring with garbage when the show was over. (What’d they do, put Sammy Guevara over in the main event?) Everyone from the nWo was at a hotel doing a party, and Eric Bischoff left before the second hour and never returned.
– Dave also notes that young Chris Jericho, who has potential to be a star, is being booked into oblivion to the point where they’re almost trying to make sure he never makes it into the upper echelon. (Don’t worry, I’m sure someday he’ll find a promotion where he can go over everyone all the time until we’re sick of seeing him.)
– The Sting storyline is actually to write him off for a while he does a Jim Carrey movie called “Liar, Liar”. Dave notes that he can think of a lot of wrestling personalities who could star in that movie.
– Speaking of liars, JJ Dillon started working in the office on Tuesday, and Bischoff gave the wrestlers a pep talk before Nitro where he apologized to Kevin Sullivan for making Dillon his new assistant because this was the first chance he had to talk to Sullivan about it. Dave notes that in fact the Dillon deal was known about months in advance, and in fact JJ’s house in CT was on the market for months and he was literally just waiting for the sale to close so he could quit WWF and move to WCW.
– To the WWF, where the Roadie will be coming in as Jessee Jammess as a rib on Jeff Jarrett, which leads Dave to think that the Buried Alive PPV is a very appropriate title for this promotion right now.
– Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas are going to be leaving All Japan and coming in to work with Bulldog & Owen for the tag team titles in November. WCW actually had the chance to match the WWF offer, but Kevin Sullivan forgot about it and allowed them to go to the WWF instead. Dave notes that “a measure of complacency may be beginning to set in with the group that is perceived to be on top”. (Well there’s the understatement of the century.)
– Terry Gordy got a tryout match on the Superstars tapings and put over Savio, looking so-so. (Frankly even that was a miracle for him by that point.)
– Sunny and Faarooq are being split up, since Sunny is doing the TV show interviewer thing at the moment and she’s got backstage heat anyway. Dave notes that without her, Faarooq is going to need all the help he can get.
– Jim Ross and Vince McMahon are doing this weird quasi-shoot “feud” thing on various outlets but playing it straight on TV, and it’s very confusing. On Live Wire, the portrayal is that JR is kind of like the “postal worker who went bananas one day”, but then on Superstars and RAW he mainly calls things down the middle. Although he did take some jabs at Vince on RAW by calling a photo of Vince “his America’s Most Wanted photo” and then on Superstars when he asked if Vince will show up in a sleeveless shirt on Live Wire so that everyone can ask how he got his arms to be so big.
– The WWF had actually worked out a talent exchange deal with Dennis Coraluzzo, primarily so that guys like “Duane Johnson” can get some in-ring time to develop before TV, but that’s already fallen apart due to the ECW deal. (Well now we’ll never know how good that Johnson kid could have been!)
– And finally, Dave thinks that Hunter Hearst Helmsley needs a lot of work on carrying his accent and delivering lines that are more than one sentence. (Well then good thing he’s only got TWO WORDS FOR YA…)
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE!