Wrestling Observer Flashback – 10.28.96
And now it’s time for the issue that kicks off one of the biggest stories in the history of wrestling, although we didn’t realize it at the time.
– In the top story of the week, which would become one of the top stories ever, Bret Hart officially signed a 20 year contract with the WWF and announced it during his return to TV on 10/21. Vince had actually asked Bret to dramatically tear up his WCW contract offer on live TV, as a form of revenge for the Madusa belt angle on Nitro, but Bret refused to do it. Dave also calls it one of the best promos of Bret’s career, and one of the great ones of all time, where Bret praised the professionalism of WCW and then put over Steve Austin, leading up to their match at Survivor Series.
– Terms of the new contract aren’t known (YET!) but it’s for gigantic money at the beginning and then about $11-$14 million over the remainder of the length of the deal as a non-performing office employee. (Sounds like a lot of money. Hopefully Vince can afford to pay out the entire contract!)
– Bret had mostly agreed in principle to the deal after meeting with Vince on 10/10 in Calgary, but hadn’t committed fully until Sunday night, after Vince and Eric had thrown competing pitches at him all the way up until the deadline. Even the Outsiders called up Bret trying to convince him to come to WCW!
– The WCW deal which Bret turned down ended up being $2.8 million over three years, split up over $800,000 per year for wrestling and $2 million per year for movie deals with Turner. This not only would have allowed them to keep a huge chunk of Bret’s deal off the WCW books, but also circumvented the “favored nations” clauses of Hogan and the Outsiders, which meant they got raises if anyone else ever signed for more money than them. (I believe Bischoff is still denying that this was a thing, while Nash continues to flaunt it.)
– In one more interesting twist, Bret has complained in the past about having to work with Hogan if he went to WCW, which was said to be a stumbling block. Yet Vince actually brought up the subject of bringing both Hogan and Savage back to the WWF since their contracts were coming due, and may have promised that if it happened, Bret could finally get his elusive win over Hulk in the WWF as a sweetener. Three’s actually a lot of concern right now about Hogan and Savage both leaving WCW and taking all their friends with them back to the WWF, and this probably won’t help ease that feeling. (So we’re at November of 1996 now and Vince is still openly entertaining the notion of working with Randy Savage again.)
– Due to a nasty political situation with Konnan and Antonio Pena in Mexico, it’s believed that all the current AAA wrestlers working for WCW will be giving their notice this week. This list includes Konnan, Super Calo, Rey Mysterio Jr., Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, Super Crazy, Halloween, Damian, and many others. (Well that one ended up backfiring on Pena bigtime.)
– The big “return” of Mr. Perfect to RAW ended up being a swerve, with Hunter Hearst Helmsley instead winning the IC title from Marc Mero when Perfect turned heel and revealed himself to be Hunter’s advisor all along. As it turned out, it meant nothing for ratings, with RAW getting spanked by Nitro yet again.
– The WWF presented what was a pretty ordinary PPV show with Buried Alive on 10/20, thanks to the absence of show-saver Shawn Michaels. The show drew 9649 fans for a gate of $135,605, the biggest show in Indianapolis since Wrestlemania VIII.
– In the dark match, Barry Windham pinned Justin Bradshaw in 20:00 (!!!!) in a match filled with tons of missed spots. They didn’t acknowledge or show the match on the pre-show at all.
– In the opener, Steve Austin pinned Hunter Hearst Helmsley in 15:30. “Austin seems to be getting over as a face as the swearing and flipping off character” notes Dave.
(This and other revelations in Dave’s new book…)
Mr. Perfect got involved and led to some momentary distraction for Helmsley, but Austin appeared to crotch himself before shrugging it off, flipping off the fans, and then pinning Hunter with the stunner. ***1/4
– Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith beat the Smoking Gunns to retain the WWF tag team titles in 9:17. The story was that Billy still had the hots for Sunny, while Bart didn’t care. Another average match from two teams who should be having great matches. Owen pinned Billy after a leg lariat. **
– Marc Mero pinned Goldust (subbing for Faarooq) to retain the IC title in 11:38, as they didn’t work together as well as you’d think. Mero actually hurt his knee on a flip dive and spent the rest of the match noticeably limping around. Perfect left the commentary desk to apparently take over as official after a ref bump, but Hunter prevented that and Mero finished with a shooting star press.
– Sid pinned Vader to earn the WWF title shot at Survivor Series. Sid was awful, although the match was better than you’d expect according to Dave. Sid blocked the powerbomb and got the pin with a chokeslam. ¾*
– Undertaker beat Mankind in the Buried Alive match in 18:25. The ending was goofy but the match was a really good effort. Mick took lots of crazy bumps, but Undertaker chokeslammed him into the grave for the win. But then he got attacked by the debuting Terry Gordy and a bunch of heels all buried Undertaker, until thunder and lightning happened in the arena and Undertaker’s glove emerged from the grave.
– To Memphis, where Randy Hales returned as booker and on-screen manager for Jerry Lawler as they desperately try to stay alive in the Flea Market era. Hales had quit the promotion a month earlier and seemed to signal the death-knell for the group, before working out his issues with Jerry Jarrett and making his return. He’s largely playing the bitter Jim Ross on TV now.
– Meanwhile, Jerry Lawler is still on TV bitching about the WCW Nitro show in Memphis from a couple of weeks prior, claiming that Tony Schiavone lied about the size of the crowd (Something Lawler has NEVER done, I assure you!) and that WCW confiscated all the Lawler signs that fans brought with them, and everyone left disappointed. He offered anyone with a ticket stub from the show free admission to the Flea Market on 10/21.
– Speaking of ripoffs, Sid Vicious introduced underneath guy Johnny Rotten as his “younger brother” and basically positioned him as the guy to take care of Sid’s business while he’s doing WWF shows. (For those who are too young to get the reference, Sid took his name from famous Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, and the singer was Johnny Rotten. Hopefully there’s no one named Nancy to end up…um, never mind.)
– And now it’s time for another…
– One of the teams going to All Japan for their upcoming tag team tournament are Rex King & Shawn Morley out of Puerto Rico. (I’m pretty sure we haven’t met Morley yet in these.)
– To WCW, as Dave thought the 10/21 Nitro was pretty boring. Also Hogan appeared on TV looking his own grandfather and Dave is pretty shocked that he allowed himself to be filmed looking like that.
– Somewhat notable on the show was the debut of Jimmy “Del Ray” Richland as Jimmy Graffiti, who did a job to Dean Malenko and looked nothing like himself with short hair and flabby physique. Fans just thought he was a new jobber. And Dave notes that judging by the result, they were probably right. Richland had been fired from the WWF over a “potentially damaging lawsuit”, which has since been settled.
– Dave also tells the story of Roadblock’s original “debut” in the WWF years before, when he decided to hit the ring during a TV taping in Rochester and took One Man Gang down in a shoot wrestling move while a panicked Slick beat on him with a cane. This leads Dave to discuss the debuts of the Wild Samoans years before, as they would sit in the front row and threaten to kill Pat Patterson until Roy Shire finally got them into the business to smarten them up and keep them from murdering his top heels.
– They seem to be starting a heel turn angle for Marcus Bagwell.
– TNT has started airing a new commercial built around Sting as the top babyface again, although Dave thinks that “it might be time to give someone new a shot” since it has never worked in the past.
– The Nasty Boys apparently weren’t happy with the nWo attack angle because it made them look like geeks. (You don’t say?)
– Buddy Lee Parker’s Leprechaun gimmick came to an end because a group of activists complained to WCW that it was a “negative portrayal of Leprechuans”, so they dropped the gimmick. (Hopefully they never saw Hornswoggle.)
– Hulk Hogan filed a lawsuit for extortion against former Pastamania employee Kathleen Kennedy, who claimed that Hogan forced her to perform oral sex on him in 1995, during the first Nitro show. She further claimed to have talked to other woman who had been victims of “sexual misconduct” from Hogan. Hogan’s suit alleges that getting served with the original allegations by Kennedy have been damaging to his reputation. (He was good enough at damaging his own reputation, as it turned out.)
– To the WWF, where 2 Cold Scorpio debuted at the RAW tapings as Flash Funk, “the black sheep of the Funk family”.
– Dave is beginning to have doubts about the seriousness of the WWF’s drug policy, based on recent arrivals.
– And finally, Achim Albrecht hates taking bumps in camp, so they put an additional mattress down in the ring for him to learn on.
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE.