Wrestling Observer Flashback – 11.25.96
It’s a pretty packed week for both promotions! In fact it’s so big that we have to split this one into TWO PARTS just like Wrestlemania!
– In the top story, “Sycle” Sid won the WWF title in the main event of the Survivor Series. (This is why Dave needs an editor.). The match was “much better than anyone had the right to expect”, which is high praise indeed. This sets up a Sid v. Bret title match on the next PPV, which Dave calls “It’s About Time”, and the current plan has Bret winning the belt at that show and leading to a Shawn Michaels rematch at Wrestlemania.
– Originally, the plan had been for Shawn to lose the title to Vader at Survivor Series, but then plans changed sometime leading up to the show, although it’s not known if the title changing was part of the plan that changed. Dave notes that there’s a lot of moving parts, but it might all just be part of the wacky new 90s trend of keeping everything secret from everyone, thereby screwing up the advance promos for everyone.
– Of note, Dave thinks that it seems like kind of a rush to put the belt on Bret, but the trend of the promotion dating back to the 60s has always been to build up a superhero babyface by just putting the belt on him immediately rather than doing a lengthy tease leading to up to the title switch. (BUT WHAT ABOUT THE STRUGGLE?!?).
– Speaking of plans changing, Curt Hennig no-showed a bunch of WWF shows this past week, which had the WWF legal team thinking that WCW jumped the gun on contract negotiations, and Jerry McDevitt sent out his usual run of legal threats. But then Vince had a phone conversation with Hennig where everything was apparently worked out and he agreed to return to Superstars as commentator again, and then would sign a new contract as an active wrestler. But then Hennig swerved them AGAIN, and no-showed Survivor Series, and they finally realized that they had been swindled.
– The story making the rounds at the moment is that Hennig had a lifetime disability settlement from Lloyd’s of London about to pay out, a lump sum of $300,000. But then something happened, which may or may not have been Vince stooging him out to the insurance company, and suddenly the payment disappeared. And in fact Lloyd’s is no longer offering insurance to wrestlers because they had been swindled by “retirement” claims so many times in the past. To be fair, Dave notes, Rick Rude, Ted Dibiase and Nikita Koloff all collected lump sums for permanent disability and then indeed never returned to the ring again. At any rate, if Vince really did cost Hennig his insurance payment, then the heat between them is much more understandable and it seems likely that Hennig was the one who contacted WCW, rather than the other way around.
– And speaking of Eric Bischoff, he turned heel as the newest member of the NWO on the 11/18 Nitro, which is an idea that had been rumored for a long time. The theory behind the switch, in typical WCW fashion, is that they don’t think people watch WCW shows for WCW talent anymore and now just watch for the NWO. And with the new “NWO Nitro” concept, Eric wants to be on TV at the same time as Vince McMahon, and that’s that. (The dumbest explanation is usually the correct one with WCW.).
– The Bischoff turn came as a part of Roddy Piper’s Nitro debut, which Bischoff spent the entire show hyping up as not happening and only a rumor. Not surprisingly, this was a ratings disaster for them. (Maybe Bischoff was playing 4D chess with the idea that if you promise someone won’t be on a wrestling show, they actually will?). The whole thing looked kind of silly on TV because Piper forgot his lines and the announcers didn’t actually spell out the angle for anyone who missed the subtext of Bischoff supposedly trying to sign the match with Hogan but not actually trying to sign it. But then this leads us to wonder why Bischoff would team with them if he was the one who was attacked to start the angle in the first place. Or, Dave notes, maybe it’s just a work of a work, of a work, of a work.
– Back to the Survivor Series, which was a strong show in front of a packed MSG. It was 900 tickets short of a legit sellout, with the second largest North American gate of 1996. Part of the show was the Hall of Fame ceremony, although there were complaints that at $125 per seat, tickets were a bit pricey. (That’s what I pay for house show tickets now.).
– Dave notes that Austin should be a top star for years based on the work he did in the Bret Hart match. Also they positioned Rocky Maivia as “what hopefully will be a long run as the group’s upcoming superstar”. (This is why they pay Dave the big bucks for his analysis!). And they also created Furnas and LaFon as immediate top contenders for the tag team titles. (Well you can’t win ‘em all.).
– In the dark match, Jesse James & Aldo Montoya & Bob Holly & Bart Gunn beat Sultan & Justin Bradshaw & Sal Sincere & Billy Gunn. Nothing wrong with the match, just came off as rushed and positioning everyone in the match as not be taken seriously. (Maybe they should repackage Billy Gunn again, that might work.). *1/4.
– Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon & The Godwinns beat Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith & The New Rockers in 20:41. The match was mostly constructed to get Furnas & LaFon over as the next contenders, and they ended up taking out the tag champs in straight falls to win the match to accomplish that. ***1/4.
– Undertaker pinned Mankind in 14:52 after a tombstone. This was the debut of Undertaker’s new outfit and haircut, meant to show that he’ll be doing more wrestling from now on. (Well that one sure failed.). Dave notes that after doing all the crazy gimmick matches they’ve done in the past, it’s hard to stick them in a normal match and have people care about it. **1/4
– Marc Mero & Rocky Maivia & Barry Windham & Jake Roberts v. Crush & Jerry Lawler & Hunter Hearst Helmsley & Goldust in 23:44. Maivia, who is only 24, showed a ton of potential and looks like he could be one of the top guys in the company. But, Dave notes, they should be careful not to shove him down the throats of the fans too fast or it could backfire. (Nah, what’s the worst that could happen?). Dave’s sick burn of the week is that Barry is starting to not only look his father with the moustache, but resemble his wrestling ability as well. Dave notes that although Rocky looked spectacular when working with a magician like Jerry Lawler, he looked a lot more human once he was in there with Crush and Goldust. **
– Bret Hart pinned Steve Austin in 28:36. Dave calls it a textbook example of building a MOTYC without suicidal moves. Tremendous matwork and Bret became the first person to kick out of a Stone Cold Stunner (Yeah you won’t be seeing much more of THAT) and then reversed the Million Dollar Dream in the corner and got the pin. ****1/2.
– Faarooq & Razor Ramon & Diesel & Vader battled to a double DQ with Flash Funk & Jimmy Snuka & Yokozuna & Savio Vega in 9:48. Snuka was the mystery partner. Also Faarooq has new gear that looks much better, as well as PG-13 from USWA as his rapping sidekicks in something called The Nation of Domination. Dave, hip to the lingo of the youth of today, calls it “a 90s version of the LOD.” (I’m not aware that the Legion of Doom was a group of black power advocates. Fun and educational!). Crowd was totally dead for Razor & Diesel, and Yokozuna looked to weigh about 720 pounds and could barely move. Show was running long at this point so they just had everyone run in and swing chairs so they could move on. *.
– “Sycle Sid” won the WWF title from Shawn Michaels in 20:02, as Shawn carried him to the best match of his entire career. (He spelled Sycho wrong again there and….OH. Never mind, now I get it.). Dave gives Shawn a lot of credit because he’s seen a lot of guys who were asked to drop the title go out and be crybabies about it, but Shawn was a true pro here. (Indeed, we can say without contradiction that Shawn Michaels would NEVER EVER be a big crybaby in order to get out of dropping a title to someone. Especially not Sid.). The other story of the match was how viciously the MSG crowd turned on Shawn any time he went on offense. (I’m sure that won’t lead to anything, probably just the New York crowd being themselves.). Finish was of course Jose Lothario apparently suffering a heat attack, and Sid using the camera on Shawn before powerbombing him to win the title. ***3/4.
– Antonio Pena was at the show.
NEXT TIME! ECW November to Remember! Japan stuff! And more!