This week we look back at an issue of PWI that went to press October 7, 1988 and sold for $2.25 in the U.S, $2.95 in Canada, and £1.50 in the U.K. And we get bonus coverage from The Wrestling Observer Newsletter! But first, let’s get right to Ratings, where Mama Cornette’s favorites have finally snagged the top tag team spot, and The Rock ranks #8 in Florida, despite being only 16 years old and not yet in wrestling. (Cause he’s just that awesome.)
Let’s jump right to Uncle Dave’s coverage from this period in The Wrestling Observer to get a Smark perspective:
– So yes, the Midnight Express has won the NWA World tag team titles from Tully & Arn in Philly! This was an unplanned emergency title switch with no professional cameras present because the Horsemen finally gave notice after weeks of threats, and they’ll officially start with the WWF in October. Arn Anderson and Vince McMahon had bumped into each other a TV convention earlier in the summer and went to lunch for several hours, talking about working together and what that would look like. The feeling was that the WWF wanted Arn and took Tully as a part of the deal, but Tully wasn’t going to make or break the deal because he didn’t fit their style anyway. Arn & Tully had both been threatening Crockett with quitting for weeks because Crockett had missed some payments and they didn’t like Dusty’s booking. This is a major blow to the JCP leading up to the sale to Turner, mostly because there were big plans for Flair’s babyface turn and the split of the Horsemen, and now the whole gimmick is dead.
– Speaking of the sale, it’s almost done, for real this time, honest, says Dave. TBS will be purchasing all the assets of Jim Crockett Promotions, including the contracts of the wrestlers and TV syndication deals.
– Early estimates from TV Guide put the buyrate of Summerslam at one million. Dave doesn’t agree. Actual scientific estimates and not Titan’s PR put the number closer to 400,000 – 500,000. With no closed circuit on this one and a realistic take of $3m for the WWF, that actually makes their profit margin kind of precarious for the upcoming boxing match. Dave goes on to note that most boxing matches which don’t involve Mike Tyson do about 200,000 buys, which would mean that the WWF would make about $1m on the fight, nowhere near enough to justify the $9m they paid for the rights.
– Clash of Champions III did decent ratings, but the show wasn’t great. Dave has issues with Dusty’s booking and presentation of himself, and also that they never actually mentioned where the show was from. To the rundown!
Brad Armstrong drew with Mike Rotunda in a TV title match (20:00) **3/4
Steve Williams & Nikita Koloff beat the Sheepherders in 17:07 in a really good match. ***1/4
Dusty Rhodes pinned Gary Hart to beat Kevin Sullivan in 6:59. This was supposed to be Dusty & Dick Murdoch reuniting against Sullivan & Al Perez, but Murdoch was on a fishing trip. *1/2
Ricky Morton beat Ivan Koloff in a chain match at 9:52. The match was nothing, as Ivan was recovering from knee surgery, but the post-match angle and babyface turn for Uncle Ivan was effective, with the Russian Assassins (and Jack Victory debuting as #2) doing the beatdown until Nikita makes the save. ** for the whole thing from Dave.
Sting beat Barry Windham by DQ at 21:12, so Windham retains the US title. One clever spot saw Sting punch JJ Dillon, who spit out a white Life Saver or Tic Tac to make fans think it was a tooth. ***1/2
– Down to Memphis, and indeed the rumors are true: Verne Gagne had ceded control of the ESPN TV tapings to Jerry Jarrett, and they’re doing some crazy stuff with cross-promotional matches featuring three different territories. Jarrett even agreed to pay Sgt. Slaughter’s insane asking price to get him for TV. More “unification” matches scheduled on top of the cards, but Dave thinks that if they don’t actually unify that thing soon it’ll kill the gimmick forever.
– World Class got an extension on fixing the Sportatorium, so they’re OK for the moment.
– Kevin Von Erich no-showed a World Class taping due to being hospitalized, but apparently they’ve lied to people about that so many times that fans didn’t believe it and got angry about it.
– Eddie Gilbert was hospitalized with a broken neck and severely ruptured vertebrae. Originally he was scheduled for career-ending surgery to fix it, but that somehow got reassessed to being out for two months.
– Another major jump to report this week! Ron Trongard has moved to the WWF.
– Tickets for Hogan v. Bossman in Edmonton went on sale this week and already hit 7000, because it’s Hogan’s debut there.
– Dave notes that One Man Gang is back on the house show circuit and growing his hair in for some reason.
– The Owen Hart confusion continues, as the official name is now “Blue Blazer,” but at a house show he was introduced as “Blue Angel” on the way in and then “Blue Lazer” after the win.
– Finally, back in the NWA, Jim Crockett is trying to get rid of his millions of dollars in debts before the Turner sale by offering creditors 40 cents on the dollar.
Moving on to Pro Wrestling Illustrated, we begin with Between Falls, the mailbag column, where Laura from Talbott, Tennessee and Andi from St. Paul, Minnesota praise the cover of the December, 1988 issue featuring the Four Horsemen. (Blog of Doomers James Fabiano and Darryl Stewart praised it as well when I covered the issue some months back.)
Andi calls it “the ultimate final portrait of the Horsemen: Barry Windham, the newcomer, surly as ever; Tully and Arn, viciously contemplating their next move; ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, bedecked in his elaborate robe,; and J.J. Dillon, white hair and obvious erudition shining under the photographer’s lights.”
Meanwhile, Lisa from Chicago is thrilled that she got to see Bam Bam Bigelow wrestle for both the NWA and Windy City Wrestling. “I hope that wrestling is moving toward the day when the big stars are independent of federations.” Then there’s Andy from Kenosha, WI—which is where I’m typing this at this very moment—who says he doesn’t understand why Andre the Giant is booed when he hasn’t been defeated in 24 years.
Regarding Sting, Kevin from Cayce, South Carolina says Doug from Atlanta was off-base when Doug claimed the youngster was just was a flash-in-the-pan. “I know Sting is young, but he is the greatest wrestler today.” Regarding Jerry Lawler, Philip from New York says that while “The King” says he’s the best because he’s beaten Ric Flair and Randy Savage, fans shouldn’t buy it. “I have a suggestion,” Philip says. “Let’s have a steel cage, title vs. title tournament among Flair, Savage, and Lawler.”
Steve from Saybrook, Illinois writes in to say he was surprised when Paul Jones turned on Ivan Koloff at the Clash of the Champions card in Albany, Georgia. Steve says Jones is a two-bit twerp, and while Ivan has had a checkered past, the Russian doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone. “And Jones, if you’re reading this, you better keep one eye looking over your shoulder because Ivan Koloff will be gaining on you.”
Then there’s Debbie from Paris, Kentucky who says she’s noticing some dissension within the Varsity Club and hopes it won’t lead to a break-up because Mike Rotundo and Rick Steiner are two of the best wrestlers in the NWA.
And finally, Bill from Bristol, Connecticut says it’s ridiculous that Ric Flair is constantly rated number one or number two in the PWI top ten. “As Craig Peters pointed out in your December 1988 issue, Flair is number one in ‘cowardly self-disqualification in order to save his title.’ Until he proves he can hold his title fairly, I’ll continue to root for Randy Savage and Jerry Lawler—wrestling’s real champions.”
Next, it’s Ringside with Bill Apter, where Bill tells us Tom Prichard defeated Tony Anthony in the final round of a tournament for the vacant CWF heavyweight title. Prichard defeated Samoan Kokina and Jerry Stubbs to advance to the finals. (Hopefully this Samoan Kokina has more opportunities at a heavyweight title in the future.) Meanwhile, Tony Anthony, a.k.a. Dirty White Boy, defeated The Bullet and Dutch Mantel. When Prichard and Anthony went at it, the tournament degenerated into an all-out brawl when Jerry Stubbs ran into the ring and knocked out Prichard with brass knuckles. Then Dan Davis charged the ring, attacked Stubbs, and hit Anthony. Eventually, Prichard took control and scored the pin at the six minute mark.
Interestingly, Eddie Gilbert, who pulled out of the tournament, is expected to sign with the NWA. It’s also possible the NWA could land for WWF Intercontinental champion Rick Steamboat. The “Dragon” is currently in negotiations, but no further details are available. Brad Armstrong, however, has decided to leave, presumably to wrestle in Continental.
In other news, Chavo Guerrero won the All-California Championship Wrestling title from Jack Armstrong. (Oo, Chavo.) And Peter Maivia Jr. and Mando Guerrero defeated the Lords of Discipline for the ACCW tag team belts. (The latter team will now be rebranded the Esquires of Discipline.) And Learning the Ropes, the syndicated sitcom starring Lyle Alzado and featuring stars from the NWA, premiered nationally on October 8.
Speaking of the NWA, rumors have been circulating that Kevin Sullivan is looking for new members for The Varsity Club and has been scouting Dick Murdoch, Steve Williams, and Ron Simmons. (Dick Murdoch? Does Sullivan not understand the theme of his group? I can’t picture Dick Murdoch wearing a letter jacket, and I’m not sure he even graduated high school.) Meanwhile, current members Mike Rotundo and Rick Steiner don’t seem to be getting along, and there appears to be a feud brewing between the two.
Meanwhile, the WWC Universal title, vacated when champion Hercules Ayala hit Carlos Colon’s wife (that’s not cool) will be filled in a three-night tournament set to take place October 15, November 23, and December 17. Scheduled to compete are Chris Adams, Abdullah the Butcher, Ron Garvin, TNG, Eddie Gilbert, the Iron Sheik, and Colon himself. Ayala has been banned from the tournament.
In AWA news, the organization has taken over World Class’s daily 4-5pm slot on ESPN. And IWGP champion Tatsumi Fujinami is scheduled for a tour of the AWA, CWA, and World Class areas and might appear at SuperClash III, which will also feature a super heavyweight battle royal in which all competitors will be over 300 pounds. (Spoiler alert: the heavyweight battle royal was scratched from the card)
In World Class, word is that Super Black Ninja has learned the secrets of the Von Erichs’ iron claw and plans to use it against them. Kevin, it should be noted, recently returned to the ring after suffering from post-concussion syndrome. (I’m surprised that was even acknowledged as a thing back then!)
In the WWF, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson surprised everyone by signing Bobby Heenan as their manager. It had initially been rumored that Tully and Arn wanted to go it alone, but Heenan’s track record of obtaining title matches for his men probably weighed in his favor. Tully and Arn have been rebranded “The Brainbusters.”
In Chicago, Bam Bam Bigelow wrestled Terry “Bamm Bamm” Gordy in the battle of the Bam Bams. (Was Pebbles the referee?) The bout ended in a double disqualification. Meanwhile, Ondi Austin won the Windy Cities women’s title from Candi Devine.
In Stampede, Chris Benoit and Lance Idol are after the Stampede International tag belts held by Jerry Morrow and the Cuban Assassins, a.k.a. the Cuban Commandos.
And finally, in the NWA, the Road Warriors are chasing the Midnight Express for the World tag team titles! That’s all for now. See you at the matches!
Next, From the Desk of Stuart M. Saks by Stuart M. Saks where Stuart M. Saks says, “Remember a few months back when Dusty proclaimed, “I’m forming my own Four Horsemen!”?
“In stating his intentions, Dusty neglected one important factor. He made the announcement before he recruited the three men he needed to join his crusade. When questioned about the failed plan, ‘The American Dream’ just shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘Well, I guess I kind of spoke before I should’ve. I had a little trouble gathering forces.’ You mean Dusty, that among Sting, Lex Luger, Steve Williams, Nikita Koloff, Jimmy Garvin, and the Fantastics, you couldn’t recruit three men for such a worthy cause? Rhodes stammers: ‘Well, uh, ya know, all the boys kinda had commitments at that time. But, uh, I’m sure that if I gave them a little more notice, uh, they woulda been right there with me.'” Stu says that what Rhodes learned was that each of the younger generation NWA superstars sees himself as the top fan favorite in the territory, and there is no unity among them.
“Rhodes began his career at a different time. In the late 1960s when he got his start, it was a time of social consciousness spurred by racial unrest and the Vietnam war. In general, people cared about what was happening to others. But in 1988, they only care about things that are happening to them.” (Thank goodness our culture has moved past that phase.) “Lex Luger, Sting, and Nikita Koloff—and others—all give the appearance of being supportive of one another. After Luger’s apparent title win over NWA champion Ric Flair at the Baltimore Bash, Sting, Williams, and Koloff rushed into the ring for a victory celebration. It was a front. They were there because it would have looked bad for them if they weren’t. Sure, they hugged Luger and shook his hand. But when the decision was turned and Luger was ruled to have lost on cuts, there wasn’t a disappointed face among Lex’s friends.” Stu then reminiscences about Dusty’s title win in 1979 when there were no TV cameras in the dressing room, but guys like Don Serrano, Steve Keirn, Manny Fernandez, Jack Brisco, and Buzz Sawyer were legitimately happy and threw a spontaneous celebration for their buddy. “The NWA favorites should consider themselves lucky The Four Horsemen appear to have self-destructed. As a group, they did little to force the situation. That is, except for Dusty Rhodes. He is from another generation. A generation that has, I’m sad to say, gone the way of the dinosaurs.”
Next, it’s In Focus with Craig Peters, were he reveals the mystery wrestler from December’s guess the wrestler in the photo contest and tells us that nine-year-old Kimberly from Westernport, Maryland won the contest. (Also, Congrats to “Dino Bravo Sucks” for guessing it in the comment section when I covered the December issue.)
Craig then moves on to talk about Ronnie Garvin’s AWA TV title win. “I think it stinks. It stinks because Garvin’s mere presence in the AWA is the ultimate degradation of a man who, until six months ago, was one of the most honorable individuals the sport has ever had the privilege to host.” (To recap: Ronnie Garvin turned on Dusty Rhodes in the NWA before bolting to the AWA and defeating fan favorite Greg Gagne for the TV title. And isn’t that a strange sequence of events? Has there ever been another wrestler who has turned on a top babyface just before leaving for another promotion so he can be a top heel elsewhere? I feel like the NWA did the AWA’s dirty work for them, setting up Ronnie Garvin to be relevant again and giving him a new direction… even if the new direction didn’t last long.)
Lastly, Craig talks about how the Ultimate Warrior reminds him of Hulk Hogan. “Hogan built his worldwide reputation on pure charisma and the forceful execution of a few key wrestling maneuvers: the legdrop and the clothesline. It didn’t matter—not to the legions of Hulkamaniacs anyway—that Hogan could barely execute a spinning toehold if he wanted, or that he probably didn’t even know what a double-underhook suplex was. Hogan was Hogan, and that was all that mattered. Muscle, drive, forcefullness, enthusiasm—those are the bricks in the foundation of Hogan’s legend. The Ultimate Warrior has studied that legend well. He’s as one-dimensional a wrestler as Hogan is, favoring muscle, clotheslines, and a big splash in place of the legdrop. His best move is the same as Hogan’s: his ring entrance. It is undeniably electric. Like Hogan, Warrior strikes a fearsome presence in the ring. Indeed, the Warrior may be just the first of an entire generation of grapplers, a portent of massively muscular things to come.” (Or perhaps the WWF will end up in a steroid investigation and move toward smaller wrestlers.) “Will fans accept Ultimate’s one-dimensionality wholesale, or will they tire of the second coming of Hogan as quickly as the Warrior rose to the I-C throne?”
Next, it’s No Holds Barred with David Rosenbaum where David says it’s great that the AWA, CWA, World Class, and POWW are working together to put on a Supercard (SuperClash III), but it’s too bad the NWA and the WWF won’t join in. “I don’t have to ask why. I know why. Jim Crockett and Vince McMahon continue to operate under the notion that they’re stronger on their own, that operating a business means never working with the competition, even if it could strengthen both sides involved.” Dave then goes on to muse what matches might benefit both companies. “You could have Savage vs. Flair, or how about Hogan vs. Flair? Either one could easily fill a baseball or football stadium in any major wrestling area. Or how about a one-day, non-title tournament involving Savage, Flair, Hogan, Lawler, Lex Luger, Sting, and Kerry Von Erich? The potential is staggering.”
Dave says the WWF and NWA have become stagnant, with the same matches over and over. “I’m sick of watching Flair versus Luger. If I never saw Savage-Andre once, I wouldn’t have missed it. Hogan-Andre? Neither man can wrestle.” Dave says everyone wants to see something new, and that could happen if the WWF and NWA would work together and with everyone else.
“The WWF and NWA’s hunger for money and national attention would be satiated, and they could go right on ignoring one another. The NWA wouldn’t have to acknowledge that Bam Bam Bigelow was formerly in the WWF, and the WWF wouldn’t have to acknowledge The Midnight Rockers, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, and so many others were big stars before they came to the World Wrestling Federation. (To be fair, WWF Magazine and WWF television announcers would occasionally acknowledge that the Rockers and the Brain Busters were ring veterans who had teamed together for a while. Heck, at Survivor Series 1988, Jesse Ventura went out of his way to call Arn Anderson savvy ring veteran!) Moreover, the WWF and NWA could return to the status quo with money in their pockets and smiles on the fans’ faces.” (Woah there, Dave. We’re still a couple decades away from the smiles on faces thing. Don’t make WWE retroactively sue you.) “Instead, we’ll get Survivor Series on Thanksgiving, SuperClash III on December 13, and Starrcade on December 26. Three different shows, three different sites, and a total waste of time when one show could eclipse all three. What a pair of pigheads McMahon and Crockett are. If I had to pick one of three pay-per-view cards to watch, it would be SuperClash III. The other two are just repeats.”
Next, Matt Brock Looks at… Ivan Koloff. He says fans don’t understand what he’s gone through. “I’ve known Ivan for decades. I’ve been to his home in the capital of Russia. And I’ve watched fans deride him for the simple reason that he’s Soviet-born. But just because his country is an ideological adversary of ours doesn’t mean for one second that its people deserve our scorn. Like I said, I’ve been to Moscow. I spent two of the most uncomfortable weeks in my entire life there. The food is cold, the beverages are warm, and the humidity is unbearable. People stand in line for everything from cucumbers to vodka. There is no air conditioning, no cable television, no abundance of fresh food. Yet, through it all, the human spirit triumphs. And Ivan Koloff is a prime example of uncrushable human spirit. Sure, a lot of people never see anything but the ‘cold war’ side of Ivan, but I wish they’d dig deeper. Ivan Koloff has a heart, he just hides it because he doesn’t want to appear weak. Perhaps this column will help illuminate things. I remember once leaving Madison Square Garden with Ivan after a characteristically brutal match. As we left, the fans immediately began throwing programs and other debris at him. The trash bounced off Ivan, his face emotionless, hardened by years of such treatment. As we got farther from the Garden, the number of pedestrians who recognized the mat warrior decreased. By the time we arrived at the hotel some 40 blocks away, Ivan was just like any tourist in New York. Suddenly, two cars collided in front of the hotel. There were minor injuries to the drivers, but a young child had become pinned between the cars. Seeing that the child was seriously wounded, Ivan rushed to curbside to lend assistance. He was the first man to offer help. First, summoning strength I had not believed possible, Ivan pushed aside one of the cars. Then he scooped up the child, asked on onlooker where the nearest hospital was, and took off. The next time I saw Ivan, he was again being berated by fans. He treated them coldly, but I saw him differently. I knew that even ‘The Russian Bear,’ one of the most hated wrestlers of all time, has a heart as big as his homeland.”
Next, Off the Top Rope with Eddie Ellner, where Eddie begins by saying the torch, and possibly the maple syrup, have been passed. Dustin Rhodes, the offspring of Dusty, is starting his career. Eddie says that if Dustin is half the man is father is, Dustin should go on a diet. Onto the mailbag. Thomas Wander from Warren, Ohio wonders if Terry Taylor’s move to the WWF was the worst mistake of his career. “He lacks the skill to unseat Randy Savage. With rulebreaking Intercontinental and tag team champions, there is little chance of him winning those titles. I would suggest a move back to World Class, or perhaps the AWA.” Eddie says, “I would suggest Taylor move to my elementary school in Cedarhurst, New York. There, Taylor would find the competition challenging, especially in the primary grades.” Pete from Charlotte writes in to say he’s sorry to burst Eddie’s bubble, but the Road Warriors are a couple of spineless, soft-bellied wimps who don’t seem interested in titles. Eddie says the Warriors are interested, but greedy promoters would rather have the Warriors seeking the belts rather than defending them, and their efforts in title matches are usually thwarted by seemingly incompetent officiating and outright cheating by their opponents. It’s different in Japan, where they captured the All-Japan International tag title in near-record time. “Not to fear. Now that the Warriors’ favorite whipping boys, The Midnight Express, hold the crown, I see the Legion of Doom capturing the belts in the very near future.”
Kevin from Caloca from Half Moon Bay, California asks Eddie, “Do you think the Megapowers could defeat Sting and Lex Luger? How do you think the Ultimate Warrior would fare against Sting?” (Well, thank goodness all the guys ended up in the came company in the 90s… only for the company to ignore these dream matchups.) Eddie says Sting would be on the winning side of both matches. “Sting has complemented his weightroom training with an exacting repertoire of scientific maneuvers. Ultimate Warrior has remained a lump of muscle, the thickest being the one between his ears. Sting would simply outsmart and outclass his former tag team partner. Though Savage would match up well against Sting or Luger, Hulk hogan would be unable to keep pace with either challenger. Both are stronger, fast, and smarter than the ex-champion. Hogan’s ego (read: his fear of embarassment) might make the match worth watching, but in the end, look for the NWA boys to prevail.”
Next, an article about Col. DeBeers, who is back in the U.S. and, specifically, back in the AWA after an absence of more than a year. What do you think about the presidential election, Colonel? “Bush and Dukakis are lying despots. Both are perfect candidates for the highest office in this lowly nation.” Are you happy to be back wrestling here? “How could I possibly be happy to be back in a polluted, decadent country populated by ignorant, downtrodden people?” Why did you attack Sgt. Slaughter? “Sgt. Slaughter is the perfect symbol of everything that is wrong about America. Slaughter and the U.S. used to be world powers, but now Slaughter is all washed up, just like the infernal nation whose virtues he misguidedly extolls! Slaughter is nothing but a paunchy, tired symbol of a flabby, tired country I demand to meet Slaughter so I can prove to these misguided fans that their hero is past his prime.” Yet despite these words, DeBeers has been oddly hesitant to actually wrestle Slaughter one on one. Recently, the two participated in a six man tag team match where Slaughter teamed up with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express to face DeBeers, Soldat Ustinov and Teijho Khan. Yet DeBeers refused to tag in to wrestle Slaughter, and eventually he walked out of the match, leaving Khan and Ustinov to fend for themselves. After the match, Slaughter, Morton, and Gibson were being interviewed when Ustinov and Khan challenged them to get back into the ring. Gibson and Morton took them up on the dare, but this unscheduled fracas gave DeBeers the opening he needed to blindside Slaughter, and he delivered a brutal face-first piledriver on the concrete floor outside the ring.
“This proved that Slaughter and the U.S. are phony and false,” said DeBeers afterward. “A veteran wrestler should be prepared for such an attack. Now there is one less wrestler clogging up the path to the title.” The day after the attack, Slaughter telephoned AWA President Stanley Blackburn. He demanded that he meet DeBeers in a boot camp match at SuperClash III on December 13 in Chicago. DeBeers, amazingly, agreed to face Slaughter under these terms. Slaughter says he can’t wait. “I’m all washed up? The Colonel is sadly mistaken. I’ll make him sorry he ever took this country’s name in vain. Look at it this way. It’s South Africa against the United States of America now. Which side would you put your money on?”
Next, a Press Conference with Sting, who more or less stole Lex Luger’s thunder in 1988. (In fact, the reason it was Sting vs. Flair at the first Clash was JCP didn’t want to give away Luger vs. Flair for free. Yet the match arguably elevated Sting above Luger.) Craig Peters points out Sting went from wrestling for the World title to wrestling for the U.S. Title. “Do you consider this a demotion?” Sting says, “Naw, not at all, Craig. I’m lookin’ at things as a natural progression. Lex Luger is the number one contender to Flair while I’m busy wrestling that big drink of dirty water, Barry Windham. That’s fine with me. Nobody has paid back Windham for turning against Lex Luger a few months ago, but Barry’s going to learn a very valuable lesson. You never turn away from your friends and fans. He may think he’s a big-time champion now, but I think I’ve figured him out.” Dave Rosenbaum points out that whether Sting’s wrestling Flair or Windham, it’s J.J. Dillon who seems to keep costing Sting the match. Sting says he’s got a secret plan to combat Dillon and that he’ll fight fire with fire. “I’ve got a lot of friends around here who hate Dillon as much as I do. One of these days one of these guys will be able to get to J.J. and I can cleanly defeat Windham, end all of this so-called controversy, and get the belt I truly deserve.” Andy Rodriguez asked Sting if he’s excited to wrestle in Japan for the first time, and Sting says yes. “I figure if I give myself a taste of international competition, I’ll know I’m truly part of wrestling’s elite circle, so to speak.” Craig asks if Sting’s disappointed he hasn’t won any titles in the U.S. yet, and Sting says, “Not really. I consider 1988 a very significant year in my development. I’m very proud of what I’ve done so far. One thing that has ruined the careers of a lot of young wrestlers is the lack of patience. Look at Tommy Rich. He won the NWA title in 1981, yet he only held it for a few days and burned out. When I win the title, I’ll keep it a long time.” The PWI guys thank Sting for the interview, and he says, “No sweat, boys. Just remember what I told you: my day is coming soon. If I can’t beat Windham, I’m going to be Flair. That’s a personal guarantee. Owwwww!” (Presumably, Sting just stubbed his toe.)
Next, beware of a Lex-plosion as Lex Luger tries to wrestle away the NWA World title from champion Ric Flair. Lex made a promise to himself to be World champion by the end of 1988, but time is running out. His frustration, bottled up inside a man with incredible power and determination, is about to be expressed in the most dangerous way possible. Beware, Ric Flair! Lex is about to blow! “It’s no longer enough to beat him,” Luger says. “He’s pushed my patience to the limit with all his underhanded tricks. Now I’m gonna tear his guts out piece b piece and eat ’em for dinner! I’ll take Flair’s title and leave him for dead!” Lex then goes into detail. “Let me explain what I’m going to do. I’m going to wrap his skull in a sleeperhold and not let go. I’m going to keep that hold on until the blood vessels in his forehead burst open and blood spills out his head. Then I’m going to get some of it on my hands and make Flair taste his own blood. Then I’m gonna have a little feast. I’m gonna slam him into the mat and plant a clawhold on his guts, except I’m gonna get a good grip and I’m gonna tear him open. I’ll make a sandwich out of Flair’s intestines and jam it down his throat so far he’ll have to cross he legs to belch.” At this point, Luger smashed a wooden stool with his bare hands and punched a hole through the wall. “Calm down, Lex,” urged Sting. “Save some energy for the ring.” But Luger didn’t calm down. “This is a message for you, Ric Flair!” he said. Your days are numbered. I’m sick of your face. I’m sick of your suits. I’m sick of your manager. The next time you meet me in the ring, you’re gonna wish you and Dillon never got me out of Florida.”
Luger says he’s begged the NWA to let him wrestle Flair in a steel cage, but the NWA says they can only do that as a last resort. But is it time for the last resort? On August 12 in Norfolk, Flair was disqualified for tossing Luger over the top rope. On August 26 at the Omni in Atlanta, Luger beat Flair by disqualification. On September 16 in Richmond, Flair and Luger battled to a double-countout. In their September 25 Omni rematch, even referee John Ayres, the former football lineman, couldn’t keep Dillon from interfering with his shoe, causing Flair’s disqualification. Indeed, statistics reveal that an incredible 85% of the Flair/Luger matches end with Flair getting disqualified. The remaining 15% are split between Luger getting disqualified, double-countouts, and double-disqualifications. There has yet to be a clean pinfall. “Maybe I’m overreacting,” Luger says upon reflection. “But it’s just getting to be too much. I’m sick of these worthless victories. Just give me a chance to wrestle Flair where he can’t get away, and I’ll beat him. And then I’ll cripple him just for good measure so he can’t ever wrestle again!”
Next, it’s Close-up with Jake Roberts!
Next, the magazine asks, “Has Hulk Hogan become Randy Savage’s Bodyguard?” Yes, it’s a new motion picture with Whitney Houston as Randy Savage and Kevin Costner as Hulk Hogan. Savage has everything. Perfect health, a lovely manager, and the WWF World championship belt. But does Savage need a bodyguard? And is Hulk Hogan serving as just such? A close examination reveals the answer is yes. After a lengthy vacation, Hogan has begun wrestling Savage’s challengers and watching Macho’s back. “First you face Hogan,” said Bam Bam Bigelow, who recently departed the WWF. “That’s tough enough. If you survive that, you might get a shot at Savage, but by that time you’ve got nothing left.” Eddie Ellner likens it to the way Ric Flair holds on to his title and fears what it will do to Savage. “Flair used to be a great champion. But when he joined the Four Horsemen, he immediately got soft. He has a group of people sheltering him from viable challengers and interfering in his matches. That’s why I now reject his greatness.” Could Savage end up the same way? Granting challengers a fair shot at the title is the legacy of great champions like Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, and even Hulk Hogan. Will fans reject Savage if they feel he’s not doing the same? Only time will tell.
We move on to Media Review, where PWI reports that Ted DiBiase was on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. “The entire segment did nothing to dispel the DiBiase myth of wealth, ego, and hostility.” Host Robin Leach refused to divulge the exact location of DiBiase’s impressive estate, but said it was somewhere in New England. The crew of the show is scheduled to pay a visit to Hulk Hogan’s home sometime in spring.
On another subject, there are three wrestling pay-per-views on the horizon: Survivor Series, SuperClash III, and Starrcade ’88. They will all happen within a 32 day period and will provide some illuminating numbers. Will fans be willing to shell out $14.95 for these shows? Will they choose one or two, or will they splurge on all three? Since individual cable companies usually promote one event at a time, the WWF should have a huge edge over the other two events, especially since the federation is more experienced at pay-per-view and has their event scheduled first. Meanwhile, SuperClash III will be the first pay-per-view for the AWA, World Class, and CWA and will likely be available in only select cities. PWI speculates that being stuck in the middle of two other pay-per-views won’t do the event any favors either. “Look for SuperClash III to tread water.” As for Starrcade, it PWI says it probably won’t do as well as The Great American Bash, but since it will air a month after Survivor Series, many fans should be ready to pay for a PPV once again.
Next, the fans tell Kevin Von Erich “We love you” before trying to superkick him into retirement. Kevin is recovering from post-concussion syndrome. (Doesn’t sound too serious. Maybe he just needs some Advil and another match.) Doctors now believe he probably suffered many small undiagnosed concussions during his football and wrestling careers. Meanwhile, fans are concerned. They know the Von Erichs don’t have the best history when it comes to mental or physical health and want Kevin to take care of himself. “I’ve been following the Von Erichs since they started out,” says 64-year-old Marge Grant. “I’ve stood by them through all their troubles. Now Kevin is injured, and they shouldn’t allow him to come back if he’s not at full strength. From what I understand, post-concussion syndrome is nothing to mess with.” In fact, fans are nearly unanimous that Kevin, at 30 years old, retire if there is any chance that he could suffer further damage. While it would be a shame if a Von Erich were to quit, it would be a tragedy if he stayed and did himself more harm. “All Texas loves the Von Erichs,” says Jean Simpkins, a regular ringside fan. “But we don’t want any more tragedies. I’d rather have happy memories of Kevin than more sad ones about the Von Erich family.” (Hopefully, this concussion stuff goes away and doesn’t become a big deal in sports.)
Next, Ron Bass started it, now Beefcake says he’s going to finish it. “It” is a violent feud that began when Bass brutally attacked Beefcake with a set of spurs in early August. So much blood poured from Beefcake’s forehead that WWF producers chose to place a red “X” over the screen when the confrontation was broadcast. Beefcake’s injury was so severe, he forced to back out of his Intercontinental title match against the Honky Tonk Man at Summerslam 88. Now Beefcake has forgotten about Honky, who no longer has the IC title, and is completely focused on his new problem: Bass. Formerly a star in the Mid-Atlantic and Florida areas, Bass was becoming disgusted with his status in the WWF. His past meant nothing as he was continually passed over for title shots and relegated to prelim bouts. The big outlaw had to make a career move, and fast. He decided to go after Beefcake because, in the words of a close friend, “he hates pretty boys, and Beefcake is the ultimate pretty boy.” (My memory is Beefcake started it.) Now Bass has propelled himself into a major feud. But where has this left Beefcake? Six months ago, he looked like a cinch to win Honky Tonk’s belt. But now he’s caught in a feud with nothing at stake and no foreseeable end. “It’s really unfortunate for Beefcake,” says Assistant Editor Bob Smith. “A once-promising wrestler is headed straight to the bottom of the ratings.” But it takes two to feud, and Bass’s career is also endangered by the confrontation. “Ron is finding out quickly Beefcake isn’t as soft as he thought he would be,” said an anonymous friend. “Believe me, though he’d never admit it in public, Bass has a new respect for ‘The Barber.'” If Bass comes out on the short end of the stick, his carefully conceived plan will backfire, and he’ll slip off the ladder of contention as fast as he climbed it. In this war, there may be no winners or losers, only survivors. But in professional wrestling, mere survival isn’t good enough.
Poor Smash still doesn’t get a figure.
Next, ArenaReports, where we learn Tito Santana actually defeated King Haku! Also, Barry Horowitz wins while D.J. Peterson’s WWF career sputters before it starts.
Next, Breaking News!
The Road Warriors say no more Mr. Nice Guys, as they vow to destroy Dusty Rhodes, the Midnight Express, or whoever tries to get in their way. Ronnie Garvin says Jerry Lawler should be suspended for throwing fire. (Lawler says Garvin is just a whiner.) Tito Santana recently substituted for Jake Roberts in a match against Rick Rude, and a feud between Santana and Rude appears to be imminent. Ivan Koloff has been reprimanded by Soviet sports officials following his decision to reunite with Soviet defector Nikita Koloff. In a written statement, Ivan was told, “If your actions continue, you risk permanent exile from the Soviet Union.” Hercules Ayala, who was banned from a three-night tournament for WWC’s vacant Universal championship is considering a lawsuit against WWC officials. Dan Spivey and Johnny Ace are among the teams entered for All-Japans upcoming tag team tournament. And finally, following confirmed reports that manager Paul E. Dangerously is negotiating to come to the WWF, Dangerously and Hulk Hogan had a meeting at the Radisson Suite Hotel in Chicago, presumably to talk about working together. However, Dangerously and Hogan were unable to come to terms, and the meeting ended without an agreement.
And finally, here’s your monthly PWI poll!
That’s all 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!