Wrestling Observer Flashback – 12.09.96
Well it’s been two months. Guess it’s time for another one of these.
– The big story this week is Dave’s preview of the Ultimate Ultimate 96!
– Anyway, moving on…
– Over in Japan, the first ever 24 hour wrestling and martial arts network, called “Fighting TV Samurai”, launched with a live show from Antonio Inoki. Dave notes that the debut is a tad inauspicious, with only 3000 homes signed up in all of Japan. (Sounds like an episode of Collision, AM I RIGHT GUYS?) Dave notes that this is a disaster for the channel, but in the US channels like CNN lost “zillions of dollars” for years before becoming part of the cultural fabric. Cable TV in Japan is not a big deal to begin with because of zoning laws, so the backers of the new channel don’t think anything will pay off until at least 2005. (Apparently it’s still around, though!).
– TV Guide did a hit piece on the Monday Night Wars in the 11/30 issue, with columnist Joe Queenan watching the gun episode of RAW and calling it the “creepiest, most unnerving, least scientifically explainable, most downright bizarre (television) programming of all.” (Keep in mind this was written in November of 1996, before anyone even knew who Vince Russo was.).
– To Mexico, where EMLL is actually kind of on fire right now thanks to El Hijo del Santo turning heel, and they’re going to attempt a tour of Japan from 2/2 to 2/6 at Korakuen Hall, and doing so without partnering with a local office. The only other company to try that was the WWF in 1994, and it was a disaster.
– The other factor in the rise of EMLL right now is the current exodus of all of AAA’s top workers to WCW, leaving EMLL as the big workrate promotion for Mexico at the moment.
– In a shocker, Vampiro has announced that he won’t be working with Konnan’s new Promo Azteca group because, and I swear I’m not making this up, Konnan got a new tattoo on his arm and Vampiro believes that’s his gimmick. (And you thought CM Punk was fun to deal with.).
– Antonio Pena is leveraging his big deal with the WWF to get more wrestlers into AAA, promising that he can get them into the WWF as well if they only sign with him! He’s already promised Lizmark Jr and Vampiro that they’ll get them into the Fed. Presumably more wheeling and dealing to come! In fact, Pena’s own magazine, Super Luchas, has basically promised that every major name in AAA will be working the Royal Rumble.
– To Japan, where Hiro Hase is all in with All Japan after quietly jumping from New Japan. Dave notes that there is something to this, as Hase was initially recruited by Riki Choshu to work for All Japan before he debuted, but Choshu and his crew jumped back to New Japan before Hase ever had a chance to work in an All Japan ring. So Hase seems to be legitimately excited by the chance. Also Hase is not mentioning New Japan in his interviews and New Japan won’t even acknowledge that he even left, so apparently it wasn’t an amicable parting.
– Sabu is regarded as a pretty big disappointment in his All Japan tour thus far, mostly just doing the jobs in tag matches with Gary Albright. Baba is actually letting him do his chair spots, even though it’s against the All Japan style, because otherwise you’re just paying big money for a below average worker who doesn’t talk.
– Atsushi Onita made his return on 11/26 to build up to his return from retirement…again…saving Mr. Pogo from being hung by the Headhunters. In order to justify the return after burning fans with fake retirements multiple times, Onita noted that he might have lied about the retirement this one time, but who in the crowd hasn’t ever lied about something once? Yeah, well, it didn’t work and they still booed him for lying. Oh and also Onita had vowed never to team with Pogo again, but that was also a lie, because he’s teaming with Pogo on 12/11 as the payoff for his return. (OK but other than THOSE TWO THINGS, he was 100% telling the truth, guys.).
– CORRECTION FROM LAST TIME: Dave had reported that a match between Matsunaga v. Nakamaki was a “lumberjack match with live scorpions as lumberjacks” but instead it was actually a “snake box match but with live scorpions instead of snakes in the box.” (This is exactly the kind of shoddy reporting that the people on Twitter are always confronting him about! How can we even believe anything he has to say now? I bet Onita isn’t even coming out of retirement!).
– To Memphis, where it’s another new record for low attendance, with a count of 150 people for the latest show at the Flea Market. (Sounds like an episode of Co…oh wait I already did the AEW joke this week, never mind). Thankfully they did another show on Thanksgiving and got the gate up to a 600 people for Jerry Lawler’s return as a babyface, so the promotion is probably fine now.
– Speaking of which, Lawler’s latest idea to save the promotion from inevitable collapse and death is to move their shows to Wednesdays and run guaranteed shows in the casinos. This is why he had to do the deal last week admitting that wrestling was fake and then walk it back on TV. With Nashville and Louisville no longer doing well enough to carry the territory, most of the wrestlers are making the minimum $40 per show and working day jobs to get by.
– To ECW, where they had the misfortune of having the Mass Transit incident occur on one of the slowest news weeks in history, so it took off in the mainstream media. New Jack is essentially laughing off the controversy, which may or may not be him being in character. (Spoiler: Nope, that was pure New Jack.) Everyone thinks that Jack should be fired, for real this time, but Heyman generally keeps him around with “one more chance” so we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.
– In a note that I’m not sure we got to last time, it turns out that Kulas told Heyman that he was 19 and trained by Killer Kowalski, both of which were bigger lies than anything told by Onita, but it turned out that that he was only 17 and trained by “a couple of midgets”, who brought him to the show looking to work a match with him and then ghosted him. (Man if I had a nickel…).
– Apparently they’re going to be marketing Blue World Order t-shirts soon.
– Big Dick Dudley was brought in to do a show despite being on probation, because his lawyer assured Paul Heyman that he “probably” wasn’t going back to jail. But whoops, he totally was going back and that’s where he is now. (Was his lawyer Lionel Hutz or something? Did he try making a motion for a bad trial…thingie?)
– Paul is still trying to nail down the date for his first PPV, with 3/30 being the favorite.
– D-Von Dudley is currently undefeated on the tour, because whenever he loses the match Joel Gertner just runs into the ring and announces him as the winner anyway. (That’s actually pretty clever.).
– Former WWF prelim guy Steve Travis, who I’ve mentioned before on the All Star Wrestling shows from the early 80s, did an expose story for a newspaper called Grip, about George Zahorian. Turns out that Travis was the guy who introduced Zahorian to Bill Dunn, who ended up being the key witness in the trial against the “doctor”. Unfortunately Travis ended up paralyzed due to what he claims was his drug addiction caused by Zahorian, and also blames Zahorian for killing his best friend Rick McGraw. Travis also alleges that McGraw would room with Hulk Hogan and the two of them would do a ritual every morning where they’d “pop speed or do a line and the Hulkster would pop a syringe into each tricep”. (Huge if true.).
– To WCW, where Nitro has now moved to a 7:55 start time to counter RAW’s 7:57 start time.
– Dave watched Nitro and between the Sullivan-Benoit feud and whatever the hell the Outsiders are talking about in their promos, there’s a ton of inside baseball stuff that’s just there to amuse the boys.
– The official start date for NWO Nitro is supposed to be 12/2, with the last episode of Nitro being a pilot episode of sorts, but there’s still no word from Turner about it actually happening yet. (Maybe they should sign CM Punk and let him book it.).
– Harlem Heat is apparently negotiating with the WWF.
– Scheme Gene talked about Raven coming into WCW, but that’s 100% a lie to sell Hotline calls because the old “wrestler jumping ship” deal sells hotlines, but there’s zero chance of Raven going to WCW.
– Marcus Bagwell made his acting debut in “The Day of Warrior”, which apparently made Hogan’s films look like “Masterpiece Theater”.
– Eric Bischoff did an interview in the 11/24 Charleston Post-Courier, saying that he did a tryout with the WWF in 1990 and met Vince McMahon for half an hour, but Vince denies it ever happening because he was high on drugs at the time and doesn’t remember. Bischoff went on to accuse Vince of using steroids to beef himself up over the years to compensate for being the skinny “bird-faced kid” that no one wanted to play with. Dave’s take: “As if the lawyers aren’t busy enough as it is.”
– Speaking of steroids, Achim Albrecht debuted for the WWF on the latest tour, wrestling under a variety of names from “Argo” to “Barracus” and working exclusively with Tom Prichard, who was playing “Dr. X”. Apparently, the guy is huge and the matches were very limited. Huge if true.
– And finally, due to him leaving the promotion, Curt Hennig’s match in the Karate Fighters tournament has been erased. No word yet on a replacement but as always we’ll keep you updated the next time I actually get around to doing one of these.
AND THAT’S THE NEWS AND I’M OUTTA HERE!