Wrestling Observer Flashback – 10.21.96
You know who’s about to have a REALLY good Christmas? Bret Hart. Man, you should about the deal he just signed with the WWF!
– After a bidding war, “the likes of which have never been in this profession” according to Dave, Bret Hart has finally chosen the WWF for his final destination, with a deal that will pay him more over four years than any other wrestler in history with the exception of Hulk Hogan.
– Bret was said to have made his decision after meeting with Vince on 10/10, and will returning to the WWF on the 10/21 RAW, leading to a match with Steve Austin at Survivor Series and inevitably a rematch with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania. Apparently Bret had a bunch of stipulations that needed to be filled before he would sign. (I’ve heard that there might have been one in there about “reasonable creative control” but that’s probably just a rumor.)
– No one really knows the money involved because it’s wrestling and promoters always like to keep things close to the vest in order to keep the boys in line, but it’s apparently a LOT of money. The competing offer from WCW was known to be $2.2 million per year over three guaranteed years. Bret was said to have been uninterested in working for WCW because then he’d have to deal with Flair and Hogan and he didn’t really want to get into that. However, WCW was using the Time Warner merger to leverage connections in the acting industry for Bret and had made a compelling offer to him with those. (Hopefully the offer wasn’t to make a Black Adam movie because that sure didn’t end well for the other guy.)
– Two weeks ago, WCW actually upped the offer to $3 million per year with a maximum of 180 dates per year, which had Bret strongly considering accepting. So Vince heard about that and called Bret, asking for the chance to match the offer. Apparently Vince made what is being termed an “amazing” offer, although WCW was confident they’d still get Bret because there wouldn’t be any chance that Vince could actually afford to match that kind of money. (Unless, and follow along with me here, he just lied about being able to match it, and immediately breached the contract after he changed his mind.)
– Those within Titan are saying that Vince didn’t actually match WCW’s cash offer, but rather offered undisclosed “perks” and “goodies” that would add up to $4 million per year if liquidated.
– Surprisingly, there was no mention of any of this on the 10/14 RAW or mention that Bret would be appearing on the next week’s show. The company policy reasoning is that they don’t want to start hyping something if it’s not finalized. (Yeah because they’ve never before or never will again do THAT. Insert eye rolling emoji here.)
– Interestingly, Bret’s current WWF contract is structured differently than everyone else’s is, in that he is free to give notice at any point and leave after 90 days. Everyone else can only give their 90 day notice within a certain window of availability, which Bret famously discovered when he tried to jump to WCW in 1992 upon the expiration of his previous contract and learned that he hadn’t given his notice at the proper time, resulting in his contract rolling over. So the new deal he signed contained a clause that allowed him to give notice whenever he wanted.
– To Japan, where there’s a battle of major shows between companies with very different levels of success right now, in the form of Tokyo Pro Wrestling v. WAR. The Tokyo Pro show was a complete fiasco, drawing a miserable 1200 people that they lied and announced as 3700. And it was headlined by Takada v. Abdullah the Butcher in a horrible match, with Takada clearly not wanting to be there for it. In fact, reporters were waiting around for him while Takada’s PR team told them that he was just going to take a shower and then join them for a press conference after the show, and then it turned out that he snuck out the bathroom window instead and left. (Maybe CM Punk should have gone that route.)
– Over on the WAR show, which drew a much more respectable 6200 people at the same arena as TPW, Ultimo Dragon captured the J Crown from Great Sasuke, a match that was originally supposed to lead to a title defense against Jushin Liger at WCW’s Halloween Havoc.
– To UFC, where New York governor Pataki signed a bill into law that would put Ultimate Fighting under the auspices of the State Athletic Commission, and thus GUARANTEE a UFC show in New York by the end of 1997. (Yeah about that…)
– In a shocking twist that no one saw coming, Sabu screwed over another promotion that had been paying him a ridiculous amount of money to work for them. In this case, it was Tokyo Pro Wrestling in Japan, which is already the punchline of several notes in this issue, paying him $6000 a week before Sabu changed his mind because they asked him to DO A JOB. (A wrestler? Asked to LOSE A MATCH? Can you even believe it?) Also they wanted him to work with Abdullah the Butcher and Sabu refused, so the office immediately booked him against Abdullah anyway and started advertising it. So Sabu packed up his stuff and decided to just go home to the US, and in turn TPW told him that they were cutting his pay for not working the last week he agreed to. But then after telling the company that he was leaving, Sabu then took his own taxi to the arena while the show was going on, without telling them, and showed up in costume while they were announcing to the fans that he was injured and wouldn’t be appearing. So then TPW had to book him on the show because he was literally running around talking with fans and was clearly fine, so they put together a match at the last minute where he put over Scorpio instead and paid him after all.
– Oh and while this was all happening, Sabu was also secretly negotiating a deal with All Japan to work for THEM instead, taking over the spot left by Kroffat & Furnas as the regular mid-card team with RVD. There are those close to Baba who are skeptical that this deal will even happen, either.
– To Memphis, where the 10/10 drew another pathetic house of less than 400 people and a $1900 gate. (Sounds like an AEW TV taping with a women’s match as the main event, AM I RIGHT? High five! That guy knows what I’m talking about!) This now shoots down the main excuses they had all year, such as “Monday nights are no good because of RAW and Nitro” and “The Mid-South Coliseum was no good because of security issues”, which leaves only the complete lack of marketable talent as the problem.
– Also, WCW got a big crowd for the 10/14 Nitro in Memphis even with Jerry Lawler actively trying to sabotage the show. Lawler did an interview segment on Memphis TV where he actually read from the 10/4 issue of the Observer, mentioned Meltzer by name, and talked about Nitro advertises people and matches and then never deliver them, so people should watch RAW instead. (You know, where THAT sort of thing NEVER happens.)
– To ECW, where Paul Heyman’s new goal is to get the Gangstas to work a match “longer than the length of their song”, and longer than the garbage can full of weapons last for. He tried to bring in the Rock N Roll Express to pull it off with them last week, but they no-showed and did a Tennessee indie instead because apparently Heyman waited until the last minute to send them plane tickets and it was too late for them to cancel by that point.
– To the AWF, which set a dubious record by hiring 500 people at $50 a piece to play their audience for TV, resulting in the first ever -$25,000 gate for a show. They remain hopeful of getting this trainwreck onto a real TV station by the end of the year.
– To WCW, where they managed to draw one of the biggest gates for wrestling in the Mid-South Coliseum in history, for the 10/14 Nitro that Lawler tried to sabotage. In fact, Lawler’s on-air tantrums about Nitro backfired on him so spectacularly that Tony Schiavone actually thanked him on the show for helping draw such a huge number.
– Also on the show, Scott Hall shattered kayfabe by claiming Harlem Heat aren’t even from Harlem!
– After all the drama with Mean Gene’s contract running out and him supposedly leaving the company, they’ve already negotiated a new deal where he’ll return as a reduced rate.
– The “NWO Saturday Night” segment was taped on 10/7 with no one in the building, featuring Ted Dibiase on commentary with all kind of fake crowd noise as Hall & Nash wrestled “The Starbuck Brothers”. They were a “fat black guy and skinny white guy”, billed as being from Stamford and the stars of Madison Square Garden. The match was edited down from 12:00 to 5:00 and even that was “two minutes too long”, so of course they’re going to do it again next week.
– Apparently Randy Savage’s contact expires in mid-November, although if he wins the title at Halloween Havoc, then those reports were probably planted by WCW. He seems unlikely to leave because WCW has too much invested in him via Slim Jims and they need that sweet money to keep snapping into their PPVs.
– The merger with Time Warner might result in Clashes moving from TBS to HBO, although Warner isn’t said to be thrilled with the idea of wrestling on HBO. (See, that’s why Tony Khan couldn’t get the ROH deal on HBO Max, duh.)
– To the WWF, where it’s not really clear what exactly the deal is with Mr. Perfect right now. Supposedly the plan is that Vince is going to buy out his disability claim and allow him to wrestle again, but people don’t think he actually wants to return, and it’s more like that he just wants to continue collecting his pension while playing both sides against each other. (I’m sure Lloyds of London will be totally understanding and sympathetic.)
– Ken Shamrock was supposed to come in around this time but his demands were so high that the deal just kind of fell apart.
– Dave notes that Live Wire is getting worse, with the show now dumping all of the hosts except for Sunny and Todd, and Sunny just playing a bimbo role for laughs. Dave notes that she’s really hurting her own longevity in the business by doing that route, since that act has a shelf life, whereas by being a manager she can be around forever. (Well we know which way she ended up.)
– Dave watched Steve Austin on Superstars and notes that his new gimmick appears to be seeing how many times per minute he can say “ass”. (Billy Gunn says “Hold my beer”)
– And finally, Dave is a big fan of the new “inside baseball” version of Jim Ross doing commentary with Vince, and thinks all the inside jokes from Jim about his experiences with Vince are hilarious. (Less funny when he’s still complaining about being called “Pronoun boy” on Rampage 25 years later, though.)
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE, so stop reading this and go open presents and have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!