Flashback Friday: Inside Wrestling September 1988
By J.W. Braun on 28th October 2022
This week we look back at a special deluxe issue of Inside Wrestling that went to press on June 2, 1988 that sold for $2.50 in the U.S. and $2.95 in Canada. Let’s go straight to the Ratings so we can orient ourselves, with Hulk Hogan tumbling in the WWF rankings and falling out of the top 15 overall.
We begin proper with Sincerely Yours, the letters forum, where Bruce from Memphis is having an existential crisis. He says he can no longer tell the rulebreakers from the fan favorites. “I’m talking about something so shocking, it makes me question the values I try to uphold. I’m talking about when good and evil are no longer opposites. I don’t mind rulebreakers; their very existence provides me with the venom necessary to enjoy the exploits of my favorite stars. But there’s a problem when I can’t tell who are my favorites and who are the rulebreaking scourge I detest.” Bruce then points out that Jerry Lawler and Randy Savage both cheated to win the world titles, yet each is cheered. “I’m not asking for much. I just want to believe in my heroes.” Meanwhile, Lisa from Houston says Barry Windham made a good choice by joining the Four Horsemen because they know how to use teamwork to game the system. “The Horsemen exemplify teamwork at its very best, and now that they have almost every significant NWA belt, there is no question that they also have the talent to make it last.” Then there’s James from Edison which says WCCW dodged a bullet when they pulled out of the NWA. “Had they not, they may have suffered a similar fate as the UWF.” James goes on to say, “I guess World Class has had the last laugh over the NWA.” (Poor James. Who wants to tell him?) And Lori from Marietta, Georgia writes in to say she’s excited former world champion Tommy Rich is back, as he recently returned to Southern Championship Wrestling. “Tommy is a fine wrestler who always gives the fans their money’s worth. Good luck in the future, Tommy!” On a more negative note, Deb from York Haven, Pennsylvania says she’s through with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express because it’s clear they don’t care about the NWA fans, and she thinks Inside Wrestling’s petition to bring them back is a silly. “I can’t believe people had the nerve to ask me to practically beg them to return. They turned their backs on the people!” She goes on to say, “Some people may beg or shed tears over the Express’s departure. I refuse. It’s quite simple: if they really loved his fans, they would have never left. For two years I was blind. I virtually worshipped the ground Ricky Morton walked on. Now I realize he used the fans. It will be hard to forgive him for that. Maybe I will someday, but for now, I’ve decided it’s not worth thinking about. Besides, I’ve become quite a Fantastics supporter!” And finally, Chris from Monroe, Georgia says Vince McMahon has done more to destroy the wrestling business than any other person. “McMahon doesn’t even regard what he peddles as professional wrestling, eschewing that title for the rubric of ‘sports entertainment,’ whatever that means.”
Next, in Behind the Dressing Room Door by David Rosenbaum, Dave celebrates the one year anniversary of the Honky Tonk Man’s Intercontinental title reign. Dave points out that on August 2, if Honky still has the title, he’ll pass up Pedro Morales to become the longest reigning IC champ of all time. Highlights from the reign include:
- Scoring a clean pinfall over Rick Steamboat to win the title (clean?!)
- Holding off the challenge of Randy Savage, who is now the WWF world champion
- Not backing down to any challenger, including Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake
- Displaying more ring intelligence than any other wrestler in the WWF, such as in Survivor Series when he took a walk rather than risk injury when it got down to 3 on 1
- Wowing the crowd in Atlantic City and on national TV with his brilliant rendition of “The Honky Tonk Man” song at the Slammy Awards
With all that, Dave says that from now on, Honky’s legacy is secure.
Moving to another topic, Dave condemns the Dirty White Boy and the Dirty White Girl (Tony and Kim Anthony) for their despicable actions on a recent broadcast of Continental Championship Wrestling. The Dirty White Girl pretended her man had struck her to win the sympathy of Tom Pritchard, only for it all to be a set up so White Boy could attack Pritchard from behind. Dave says, “Domestic violence is one of the greatest problems facing our country, and there are thousands of abused wives and girlfriends in this country. The fact that White Boy and White Girl made light of this problem shows their insensitivity to an issue far more disgraceful than a wrestling feud.”
Next, On the Road with Craig Peters, where Craig says wrestling is becoming boring to him. He says it’s because it’s changing and no longer the wrestling he grew up with. In fact, as of June of 1988, wrestling is an especially sorry state. The Road Warriors aren’t being given top matches in the U.S. and Hulk Hogan is no longer a champion. (Just wait a while, Craig. They aren’t going away quite yet.) Craig opines that no matter what Randy Savage does, he’ll never be Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair is no longer the traveling champion, going from territory to territory, that he once was. “These days, the challengers have to come to Flair if they want a shot at the gold.” Craig says he misses the Road Warriors of old, the Savage of yesteryear, and the Flair of the early 80s.
Somewhere out there, a young Michael Cole read this magazine and took notes.
“I don’t like where wrestling is going in general. Bam Bam Bigelow seemed like he would be the sport’s savior, but that hasn’t happened. Kerry Von Erich’s injuries and his family’s tragedies have taken too much momentum out of the Texas mat wars. Demolition and the Honky Tonk Man? Don’t make me laugh.” Craig concedes that Sting vs. Flair at the Clash was interesting and that Sting might have a future in the sport. “And Owen Hart could set new standards of excellence for everyone in the sport. Like Sting, though, he’s still in need of grooming. In fact, I give him until 1992 before he really gets going.” (Woah… nailed that one.) “Okay, that’s two. But I pose a question: where are tomorrow’s champions coming from? I don’t see a whole hell of a lot of talent out there. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I should give Bigelow and Ultimate Warrior and everyone else more of a chance than I’m giving them. Maybe I’m just unwilling to let go of the past.”
Next, Names Makin’ News with Bill Apter: Big Bubba Rogers has resurfaced in the WWF as Big Boss Man. “Rogers, who also served as Jim Cornette’s bodyguard in the NWA, apparently worked as a prison guard before becoming a wrestler. Rogers and WWF officials refused to elaborate on this aspect of his past, but Inside Wrestling contacted Cornette to gain some insight. ‘When I hired Bubba, I had Mama’s gumshoes do some investigating into his past,’ Cornette told us. ‘There’s a lot of skeletons in his closet, and I prefer to leave them there. But there were a lot of gaps in his past, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was a prison guard; probably got promoted from being a prisoner, if you ask me.'” We also learn that something odd has been going on with Precious. She recently came to ringside with Kevin Sullivan before getting ushered away by Jimmy Garvin. “Precious seems rather confused right now,” Bill says. Elsewhere, Bobo Brazil recently made a return to the ring and won an 18-man battle royal on a benefit card for under-privileged children in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Also on the card were Al Costello and Don Kent, reuniting as The Fabulous Kangeroos. In other news, Hulk and Linda Hogan celebrated the birth of their first child May 5, a 10-pound, one ounce girl named Brooke. (My uncle would go on to sing karaoke with her when she was a teen.) In the NWA, the Fantastics won a “losers gets 10 lashes each” match against the Midnight Express, but Jim Cornette ran away after taking only two lashes. In the CWA, champion Max Pain was injured after getting attacked by Brickhouse Brown and the Cuban Assassins in a match against youngster Scott Steiner. Pain, who was scheduled to defend his title against Brown later in the evening, was unable to wrestle again, giving Brown the victory and the title by default. In World Class, officials have ruled that while Terry Gordy has left the Freebirds to join Michael Hayes (who was not a Freebird at this time, for those keeping score at home), the Freebirds—Gordy, Iceman Parsons, and Buddy Roberts—will continue to be recognized as the six-man tag team champions, with Parsons and Roberts permitted to use a substitute partner. Meanwhile, the Triple Dome of Terror steel cage setup has become a fixture in the World Class area. Another Texas Roundup match was held in Fort Worth, Texas, and this time Samu, Eric Embry, and Steve Casey were the winners. In a special one-on-one Triple Dome match, Shawn Simpson defeated John Tatum. The NWA has several matches similar to the Triple Dome scheduled for its Great American Bash tour this summer. (Y’know what would be cool? If they had a bunch of cages and the Megapowers were trapped inside and had to fight their way out against a bunch of random heels. Not sure what the rules would actually be, but they could make something up as they went along.) In Stampede, Brian Pillman, one half of the Stampede International tag team champions along with Bruce Hart, was sidelined for three weeks when he injured his right bicep. (They just love that photo of Pillman and keep using it.) And in a sad note, former Australian and British Empire champion Fred Atkins died on May 14 at the age of 77. That’s all for now, fans! See you at the matches!
Next, On Assignment with Liz Hunter, where Liz checks her answering machine. Beep: “Lizzie? Lizzie, are you there? Why don’t you answer me?” It’s her mom, who doesn’t understand modern technology like answering machines and remote controls. Beep: “Hello, Liz baby. This is Al Perez. Call me back as soon as you get home.” There’s Perez again trying to get some publicity, but he’s not worth Liz’s time. Beep: “Liz? This is Barry Windham. Call me back if you want a scoop.” Barry Windham? “This is interesting,” Liz thought. “Barry rarely does interviews anymore.” A short time later, Liz was on the phone with Windham, and Barry started telling her about the Horsemen’s plans. “We’re going to start our own wrestling federation,” he said. “Again, please,” Liz responded. “The Four Horsemen are going to secede from the NWA and start their own wrestling federation,” Windham replied. “There is nothing left for us to achieve here. We want a fresh start and attract the world’s greatest talent.” Liz wasn’t buying. Their endorsements, which tripled their ring income, were all tied to the NWA. She knew what was going on: horseplay. Nonetheless, she played along. “So what’s this new federation going to be called?” After a pause, Windham responded, “UAW, like the United Auto Workers union. It’s the… United Alliance of Wrestling. Only wrestlers who have won or shared a title belt will be signed. It will be a Superstars circuit. What do you think?” “Will you be going after everyone?” Liz asked. “Hogan? Savage? Hennig? Who is putting up the big money attract big names? Will arenas be likely to book a fledgling organization and break their agreements with the older federations?” Another voice broke in on the line. “Easy does it, honey. We’re still working on the logo.” But try as he might, Ric Flair couldn’t conceal his voice. “Y’know Ric,” Liz said, “when you dropped the belt back in ’84, the wrestling press said you were finished. I didn’t. I supported you throughout the years. And you can tell Arn Anderson I’ve killed many a story about how he’s nothing but a hack grappler, made better by the talent he surrounds himself with. And tell Blanchard not to mention the time that pressure from two of my columns got him the Georgia National title shot he was begging for.” The Horsemen, knowing the game was up, had no response. So Liz ended things herself, saying “Now I have to return a call from Al Perez. Goodbye.”
We move to The Insider with the Scott Keith of Inside Wrestling, Eddie Ellner. Eddie says it was tragic, yet not unexpected that Al Perez lost his World Class title to Kerry Von Erich. He says Perez lost despite being the better wrestler that night, but that’s how it is in Texas. “Somehow, matters in the ring magically and suspiciously seem to fall the Von Erichs’ way.” Nonetheless, Eddie thinks it was a good idea in theory that Perez, flanked by his manager, Gary Hart, left for the NWA. “Their decision made sense, considering Perez’s long-range ambition to wear the NWA belt.” However, their timing could not have been worse, and Hart knows it. “How was I supposed to know Windham would win the U.S title?” Hart later said. “Who the hell thought Windham would be man enough to join the Four Horsemen?” Perez came north seeking Ric Flair’s crown, or, at the very least, the title held by U.S. champion Dusty Rhodes. When Rhodes was stripped of his title, a tournament was held to crown a new champion. Windham, the Horsemen’s newest recruit, shocked the wrestling world by winning. With the area’s rulebreakers in possession of all the major titles, it left Perez, a confirmed violator of the rules, without a belt to pursue. Perez himself says, “It’s damned frustrating to be a pro wrestler right now. Just get me in a ring, put a man in the other corner, and leave me alone.”
Shifting gears, Eddie says he’s disappointed in the NWA’s decision to reinstate Dusty Rhodes. “The NWA is not alone in their lack of conviction. Hockey officials have been accused of insulating Wayne Gretsky. In basketball, it’s Michael Jordan who’s protected at the expense of others. Allow them to perform, the unwritten law goes, and we all prosper. But does the NWA believe they would really perish without Dusty? As the saying goes, it’s time to kill the umps.” (I agree with Eddie that major sports leagues favor their stars. I would even go further and say they favor their marquee teams. I say this as a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan who grew up when the Packers were never in the playoffs and never seemed to catch a break with the calls on the field. Later, when they became a marquee team with Favre and Rodgers, they received much more favorable calls. The Detroit Lions, on the other hand, are perpetually screwed, though they rarely help themselves.)
Next, Where Are They Now?
And here’s this month’s Capsule Profile with Mike Rotundo, complete in his letter jacket…
Then we’ve got News from the Wrestling Capitals from a time when Hulk Hogan was away…
Next, Matt Brock’s Plain Speaking, where Matt reports from around the country. We begin in Houston at the Sam Houston Coliseum, where a one night tournament was held to crown a new United States champion. “To nobody’s surprise,” Matt says, “Barry Windham won.” How he won, however, was the real story of the night. Fellow Horsemen Tully Blanchard basically took out Nikita Koloff by working on the Russian’s leg in the second round of the tournament before Blanchard took the L and a wounded Koloff went on to the finals as the proverbial one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. Onto Duluth, Minnesota where Koko B. Ware defeated Bobby Heenan. “I can understand why Koko might be upset about Heenan’s comments about his bird, but if I’m Koko, I’m embarrassed to be wrestling Heenan under any circumstances.” Matt then says he tried to track Koko down after the match to see how the Birdman celebrated his hard-earned victory, but Matt couldn’t find him. “I wanted to find out if he thought beating Heenan brought him closer to winning the world title, and if not, what purpose it served. The truth is wrestlers like Koko B. Ware have lost all direction because they’re incapable of winning a major title. So they content themselves with these little meaningless feuds.” We then zip on over to Memphis where Matt says he’s happy Jerry Lawler finally won a world title (the AWA championship). Matt says Jerry is every bit as good as Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Bruno Sammartino, but he doesn’t like to travel, so it limits his title opportunities. But a world title match in Memphis on “Jerry Lawler Day”? Matt knew Jerry wouldn’t lose. Matt says, “A moment like this is why I’ve stayed in the sport so long.” And finally, Matt reports from Chicago where he says he ran into a bunch of old card-playing friends who tried to set him up with a woman. “Took her to dinner and a movie, blew a week’s worth of meal money, and ended up talking about her married sisters all night. Then when I tried to kiss her at the end of the evening, she reacted like I was Abdullah the Butcher with body odor. I’m going back on the road. This dating life isn’t for me.”
Next, an article by Jim Cornette: “The Fantastics Begged Me to Manage Them!” Cornette says that the Fantastics aren’t everything their fans think they are. In fact, Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton begged Jim Cornette to manage them! “They did. I stake my reputation on it,” Cornette says. “When I refused, they decided to get even with Bobby, Stan, and me by plotting to take the U.S. belts. I always knew not to trust those guys, and now I know I was right. They ended up costing us our title, but I’ll get my revenge!” Cornette then breaks it all down. The Fantastics called his Mama’s house in February of 1988 while he was lounging by her pool. After Mama’s favorite servant called him to the house to take the call, Cornette grabbed hold of the phone and heard Tommy Rogers tell him the Fantastics were thinking of jumping to the NWA. Rogers said, “Please manage us, Jimmy. We need you if we’re ever gonna approach respectability as a tag team.” Meanwhile, Cornette heard Bobby Fulton in the background badgering Rogers to find out what the response was. Cornette said he’d talk it over with Mama, but he knew he wanted nothing to do with the tag team. “I still couldn’t forgive them from stealing the World Class title a few years ago, and Mama agreed.” Fulton called back a few days later and openly wept on the phone line, but Cornette simply called him a pantywaisted scumbucket and hung up on him. The next day, Cornette was out in front of the house berating the gardener when a limousine pulled up and someone threw a brick through the house’s plate-glass window. A note attached to the brick said, “Cornete a dead manager. You’re belts are ours.” The gardener was immediately fired for starting this whole mess, but Cornette says he’s still plotting revenge against the Fantastics. “When I’m through, the Midnight Express will once again be U.S. champions, and as for the Fantastics, well, I’m still looking for gardening help.”
Meanwhile, in Editor’s Notebook with Stu Saks, Stu says he ran Cornette’s article by the Fantastics and they said, “Best laugh we’ve had in a long time. That he would go so far out of his way to discredit us in this manner speaks volumes about his personality. If we thought for a second that anybody would believe this, we might object to such lies being printed, but all this story does is show Cornette up for the jerk that he is.”
Next up, a special section dedicated to 45 Days of Guts and Glory, dedicated to the WrestleMania IV, the 1988 Crockett Cup, and the Parade of Champions IV. “Although WrestleMania IV certainly cannot live up to the greatest cards of all time, it will long be remembered for one reason: the world title tournament. Fourteen of the finest wrestlers in the WWF gathered for once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the WWF World championship was up for grabs! There were also disappointing aspects. After drawing 93,000 fans for WrestleMania III at the Pontiac Silverdome, the WWF decided to hold WrestleMania IV in a much smaller venue, thanks to multimillionaire real estate developer Donald Trump. The owner of Trump’s Castle co-hosted the event, but actually used WrestleMania IV to draw people to his casino, thereby making gambling, not wrestling, the attraction. The card itself featured only one truly memorable match—the Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase final—and even that was tainted by Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan’s interference. And while the WWF put less emphasis on celebrities, the presence of Robin Leach, Vanna White, and Bob Uecker took away from the seriousness of the event. On the positive side, WrestleMania IV put more emphasis on the sport of wrestling. Every major WWF star was on the card. And once again, WrestleMania displayed the incredible drawing power of pro wrestling. When promoted properly, wrestling ranks with the most popular sports in the world. Perhaps that’s the lesson that can be learned by comparing WrestleMania IV to the Crockett Cup. Although the Crockett Cup undeniably had the better matches and arguably the better wrestlers, not too many people saw it. The Cup, one of the most important NWA events of the year, was not available on pay-per-view, closed circuit, or free TV. If you wanted to see it, you had to be there. And the combined attendance for the two nights was less than 15,000. The Crockett Cup deserves better. Certainly more people deserved to see Sting and Lex Luger defeat Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson in an incredible final. More people deserved to see The Fantastics beat Rick Steiner and Mike Rotundo in a 27-minute thriller, the Powers of Pain defeat the Road Warriors in a brutal brawl, and Nikita Koloff take Ric Flair to the limit for 30 minutes. But fans also deserve to see one or more non-NWA teams in this prestigious tournament. They also deserve to see a tournament bracket that makes sense. Why did the Sheepherders wrestle twice in the second round? As for the Parade of Champions, there were only 7,000 fans in cavernous Texas Stadium, but attendance was actually up from a year ago when only 5,000 attended. The quality of talent in World Class continues to improve, and first ever Texas Roundup held in the Triple Dome of Terror, with three cages stacked on top of each other with a fireman’s pole through the middle, was an exciting match sure to be copied in the future. Taken together, WrestleMania IV, the Crockett Cup, and the Parade of Champions demonstrated the diversity of professional wrestling. Truly, each federation appeals to a different type of fan, proving there’s something for everyone. The guts and glory. It’s what wrestling’s 1988 spring season was all about!”
Next, we touch upon Jerry Lawler’s AWA world title victory over Curt Hennig in Memphis. Lawler said he would win or retire. The city proclaimed the day of the match, May 9, “Jerry Lawler Day,” and Lawler came through for his hometown, scoring a four-count to win the title.
Next up, Bad News for the Hart Foundation: Bret Defects! Following the double-cross at WrestleMania IV, where old rival Bad News Brown sneak-attacked Hart and tossed him over the top rope to win a battle royal, Hart has been getting cheers. And recently, when Hart and Brown prepared to battle each other in a singles match, Hart chased his manager, Jimmy Hart, away from the ring, saying he wants to go it alone. Is the Hitman falling prey to one of wrestling’s oldest syndromes? “Hart gives every indication of falling hypnotically under the fans’ spell,” says noted sports psychologist Dr. Sidney M Basil. “He has been booed soundly for years. Though he feigns indifference to the catcalls and death threats, the effect subconsciously is quite dramatic. It becomes a heavy weight, a burden in and of itself. To suddenly be cheered is to lift that weight off. You can see it by watching films. Hart is moving faster. His execution is quicker. It’s my feeling that Bret Hart is finished as a member of the Hart Foundation. And it won’t be long before physical violence escalates between him and Jim Neidhart.” (Wow! I can’t wait to see Hart and Neidhart wrestle each other at the next pay-per-view!) Neither Bret Hart nor Jim Neidhart will comment on the matter. But Bret’s brother Owen Hart, Canadian star, says Bret’s ready for a change. “He was home recently and he was more belligerent than he usually is. My parents asked me to speak to him to see what was wrong. I said if Bret has something to say, he’ll bring it up. Sure enough, he told me to keep my schedule open. He said something may be happening pretty soon. He said he may need my help. I’d like to think he’s tempted by my offer to form a tag team if he left the Hart Foundation. Bret’s always been a bad boy ever since we were children. I think it would do him good to spend time on the right side of the tracks. And I think together we coudl take on any team in the world. We’d be the real Hart Foundation.”
We move on to Hotseat with Kerry Von Erich. The Texan begins by graciously accepting Inside Wrestling’s congratulations on his World Class title win at the Parade of Champions. “This time was the most satisfying of all my title victories—even more so than when I beat Flair in ’84. I had to put up with so much not only from Iceman Parsons, but from Roberts and Gordy, who were responsible for my losing the title in that ‘lights out’ match. It tested my faith, but I came out on top.” Kerry says he is now concerned about Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy being friends again. He trusts Michael to a point, but he doesn’t trust Gordy. But he says, “The Bible tells us not to live with hatred in your heart, and that’s something I try to remember.”
Asked about his injury from the motorcycle accident, he says, “Right now it’s more a psychological thing than it is physical. I get a little bit tentative in the ring, and that gets me in trouble. But I’ve seen reports that I’ve been favoring my ankle. I just don’t see it. If anything, I’ve been paying so much attention to the ankle in training, it’s stronger than it was.” Asked about the tag team championship he holds with his brother Kevin, and whether that’s been lost in the shuffle, he says, “We never meant to lose sight of our tag team. It’s just that we’ve both been so busy with our singles pursuits. The World Class officials realize we are champions, and we’re very proud to hold those belts.” Asked what he’s hoping for in the future, he says, “I’d like to put an end to all these feuds and get back to good, hard wrestling.”
And finally, One on One, where Barry Windham and Lex Luger argue over the phone. Windham says he doesn’t even know why he’s talking to Luger because Luger’s probably too busy staring into a mirror. (Ouch!) Luger says he’s speechless, and that he and Windham had something special as a tag team. “Look at you! The minute you think the team is beginning to hinder your chance for individual glory, you abandon it. Well let’s see you be an individualist with the Horsemen!” In response, Windham says, “You’re the one that joined the Horsemen in the first place. You’re the one who turned his back on me when you came up here from Florida. Then, after you left the Horsemen, I figured everything would be back to normal. But that couldn’t be the case. Your ego had gotten too big. That’s why you had to blame J.J. Dillion for losing the U.S. title to Dusty Rhodes, something that will never happen to me.” (Truth!) Luger says that might be true, but only because the Horsemen will interfere and prevent him from losing the title. “Be a man!” Luger says. “Stand on your own.” Windham responds asking, “If it simply takes the Horsemen to hang on to the title, why aren’t you still U.S. champion?” (Sick burn!) Luger then goes into Steiner math, saying Windham was once one-half of the tag team champions of the world. Now as a member of the Four Horsemen, he’s just one-fourth a champion. Windham says he’s glad he got out of that tag team because Luger doesn’t know the meaning of competitive fury. Luger says he’s glad he got to talk to Windham because now he can hate him with a clear conscious.
That’s it for this week! Tune in next week, same time, same channel. And if you’re new here, be sure to leave a comment and check out the archive. Also, check out my website to see what books I’ve written!