Wrestling Observer Flashback – 11.18.96
Apparently Bret Hart’s negotiations with WCW were so potentially fruitful that someone else is wanting to give it a try.
– In our top story, Curt Hennig has apparently reached an agreement to jump from the WWF to WCW, as an active wrestler. However, they didn’t count on the legal superpowers of Jerry McDevitt, who is contesting the agreement.
– Yes, it seems that the WWF is accusing WCW of tampering with their contracts (Perish the thought!) and they were also under the impression that Hennig would make a surprise appearance on the 11/1 Nitro and wanted to put a stop to it. For their part, WCW countered that they weren’t planning on using him until at least early February anyway.
– As of this writing, Hennig is still being advertised for Survivor Series in a managerial role for Hunter Hearst Helmsley, although Hennig has been dropped from all appearances previous to that.
– Hennig at 38 years old, is only one year older than Hall and Nash, but has spent the last few years collecting disability insurance, much like Barry Windham. Windham’s comeback in the WWF has been a giant flop thus far, although Hennig has been better protected as a big name than Windham ever was. It’s also surprising that he would be coming back to wrestle, since he was already considered to be far past his prime the last time he tried a comeback and has openly talked about how wrecked his back was and how he didn’t want to come back again. (Truckloads of money heal lots of injuries.).
– So in the aftermath of the gun angle on Monday Night Raw last week, not only did it not juice the ratings like USA wanted and expected, but USA took so much blowback from it that they have publicly distanced themselves from the whole thing. Even though they were in on the thing from the start and everyone approved of it, the network is now issuing apologies. So then Vince himself had to go on the Live Wire show and apologize deeply and sincerely for the whole thing personally, trying to draw the heat away from USA and take it on himself instead. (I can only imagine Vince trying to play peacemaker like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life.). Vince even took all the blame for the language used by the wrestlers, and they also tried to downplay the breaking and entering and called it all a publicity stunt by Austin.
– Of course, they weren’t so sorry about doing the angle that they stopped SHOWING it on all their TV shows and media, over and over. It’s still a business. Dave compares the situation to the Sandman crucifixion from ECW, where ECW only “apologized” half-heartedly because famous Olympian Kurt Angle was so offended by it. (Hopefully this Angle guy never ends up in the WWF, he probably wouldn’t be able to deal with all the stuff they do on a regular basis.). Also Dave talks about going to death matches in Japan where they used literally every other weapon imaginable, just not guns, and how those matches were far more offensive and yet wrestling somehow continues on.
– Overall, he thought that Austin is becoming a superstar and Pillman does a great job of being a “bonafide nutso” but ultimately it was just another stupid wrestling angle and wreaked of desperation more than anything.
– Moving back to another topic that has been dormant for a while, the WWF sent out a new memo regarding drug testing:
“This memo is to advise of certain changes in our drug collection and testing efforts, and to reiterate our position on the use of illegal and performance enhancing drugs. As each of you know, the Company instituted systematic drug testing years ago on a group basis. Additionally, the standard talent contracts contain provisions strictly prohibiting the use of illegal and performance enhancing drugs which subject any offender to termination of their contract.
As a result of our drug testing program, the incidence of use of illegal and performance enhancing drugs is so slight that group testing is no longer cost effective or necessary. Thus, we are, effective immediately, suspending drug collection and testing on a group basis. In doing so, we wish to reiterate that the strict prohibition against use of such drugs remains our policy and that any person caught violating our policy will be dealt with strictly. Additionally, we reserve the right to test any individual, at any time, for the use of illegal substances. If any individual tests positive for any prohibited substance, appropriate sanctions up to and including termination may be imposed.”
– Dave is understandably skeptical about the WWF suddenly being “drug free” and not having any further need for testing, but he’s hopeful that the letter can be taken at face value and things are getting better in the “post-cocaine” era of the sport. (Well if there’s one thing we know about the 90s, it’s that it was famous for the complete lack of drug-related deaths in the wrestling industry. Yup.).
– To AAA, where it appears that Antonio Pena’s plan to get back at Konnan involves making a working agreement with the WWF and getting his talent on their shows. The current rumor is top AAA star La Parka appearing in the Royal Rumble in January to kick off the talent exchange.
– The real big news for the week is that Warlord is making an appearance for AAA soon.
– BREAKING NEWS out of Japan, and you’d better be sitting down for this: ATSUSHI ONITA is COMING OUT OF RETIREMENT! He’s going to be facing Mr. Pogo on the 12/11 FMW show in what will be Pogo’s final match before he goes into retirement because of career-ending injuries suffered against Terry Funk in August. (I feel like this goes without saying, but spoiler alert, Pogo continued wrestling for another 20 years after this. So did Funk, but you knew that already.). Dave is pretty sure that Pogo’s retirement is just to set up another un-retirement match in May where he’ll team with the un-retired Onita for a stadium show.
– We get a bit of an understated Observer debut in the Japan section, although not enough to warrant the graphic I think, as Koji Kanemoto has challenged Big Japan wrestler Yoshihiro Tajiri to a match on the next Tokyo Dome show after being out of action for months with an injury.
– Back to Terry Funk, as Dave notes that his appearance for ECW on 11/16 wasn’t just a one-off and he’ll probably be sticking around and working a lot more shows for them coming up.
– Also, Paul Heyman is still trying to find the right time and place for ECW’s first PPV, with the current date believed to be 02/28. If that’s going to be it, Paul has to decide by the end of the week in order to get the three months’ lead time required and find a date without either WWF or WCW doing a show that same week.
– For everyone wondering about the status of the AWF World title after it was held up on TV recently, Cowboy Bob Orton beat Tito Santana to settle the issue and claim the title for himself. (Shit, I had $20 bucks on Tito.).
– To WCW, where apparently Sting is going to be using the slop drop as his new finisher whenever he’s back in the ring again. (Yeah as if that’ll get over!). Dave notes that the new gimmick is going to be lasting for a while, at least through December according to the Worldwide tapings.
– In a very WCW move, they taped the second round of the Women’s tournament before Nitro to air at a later date, with Madusa beating Chigusa Nagayo (as “Zero”) to advance. After the match, Zero and manager Sonny Onoo had a falling out and split. The problem is that on the actual live show that followed, Zero worked a FIRST round match, beating Malia Hosaka, where she was back with Onoo again to the confusion of the live crowd. (Let’s face it, if that’s the dumbest thing that you see at a WCW TV taping, you’re way ahead of the game.).
– Gene Okerlund was back from his “extended vacation” doing interviews, by the way.
– Dave notes that the segment with DDP getting wooed by Hall and Nash because of their previous relationship in WCW, and Page living two doors down from Bischoff, was total insider stuff and 99% of the audience wouldn’t get it. However, he notes, at least he understood it, which is more than he could say for the rest of the show.
– Dave on the newly-renamed Ciclope: “I guess they thought coming out with a mask shaped like a pumpkin would be silly. So they gave him a mask with one eye instead.”
– Piper v. Hogan is basically set in stone for Starrcade 96 now.
– Public Enemy tried to do an indie show in Wisconsin while WCW was in the area, and that didn’t go well for them with WCW and gave them major heat. As it turned out, Rocco couldn’t have done the show anyway due to elbow surgery, but Grunge wanted to do the show as a solo, and WCW threatened to fire him if he did it. So instead lucky ticketholders got to see local guys Frankie DeFalco and Billy Wild as “Public Enemy” in their place.
– Dave, the practical joker that he is, notes that “Santa With Muscles” is great reviews, and then reveals the punchline, that it’s actually getting murdered by reviewers and died in the opening weekend. (A classic Meltzer mess-around!).
– To the WWF, where the new edgy show is going to debut on 1/4 and be called “Shotgun Saturday Night”, which Dave finds ironic given the recent issues with USA. Current plan is to only air it in New York and then move into syndication later.
– No word on who the mystery partner at Survivor Series is going to be, with rumors flying that it might be Ultimate Warrior! (The answer was far more banal, I assure you.).
– In today’s installment of “People Who Should Probably Keep Their Mouth Shut”, Jeff Katz went on the WCW Hotline and claimed that the RAW timeslot change was due to an ultimatum by USA that either ratings increased immediately or they’d move the show to midnight. Unsurprisingly, the WWF added that one to their ongoing lawsuit against WCW because there was never any communication of the sort. (Although we DID find out later that in fact USA actually came close to cancelling the show outright, so maybe there was a bit of truth to it?).
– WWF officials deny any dealings with Hulk Hogan or any numbers and/or stipulations of contracts that supposedly came up in negotiations with him.
– And finally, Jim Cornette was almost fired after his first show as color commentator on WWF Superstars, as he quipped that a burglar broke into Sable’s house and she screamed “Rape!” and he screamed “No!”. He then had to immediately apologize because apparently the WWF doesn’t make light of domestic violence. (You know, except for, like, ALL OF THE TIMES they do just that.).
And that’s the news and I’m OUTTA HERE.