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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jun. 3, 2002
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
We start with more on the death of Davey Boy Smith, including a full-length super long obituary, because apparently 2002 is nothing but people dying. I feel like I've done nothing but recap obituaries since starting back with 2002. Anyway. in the wake of Smith's death, the reaction has sadly not been one of surprise. Anyone who saw Smith in the last 4-5 years pretty much saw it coming. The cause of death, pending toxicology results, was ruled a heart attack caused from prolonged steroid use. But until the toxicology results are back, the belief among his friends and family is that there was probably more to it. Dave talks about the staggering number of wrestlers who have died under age 40 in recent years, with upwards of 20 of them being due to drug issues.
Smith died while on vacation with his girlfriend Andrea Hart, estranged wife of Bruce Hart. Despite that, Smith was actually on good terms with most of the Hart family, although Andrea is not. The Hart family believes Andrea knows more than she's letting on about the circumstances of his death, but she's not talking to anybody. Andrea's children (that she had with Bruce) were also there and they each apparently have different accounts of how he died (he was sleeping! he was in the pool! he was eating!) but they all pretty much agree he collapsed doing whatever he was doing. Andrea told the press that she believed Smith had overdosed, but Smith's dad did his own interviews and denied it, saying his son had stopped using drugs and was clean when he died. Needless to say, most people aren't buying that given his track record. Smith's father decided against having the body cremated and instead ordered it sent back to England for examination to make sure he wasn't murdered. "I cannot believe his death was natural," he said. "If they find drugs in his body, then he didn't put them there. Davey was clean." (Eeeeeeehhhhh....) Shit got even messier when Andrea and Smith's ex-wife Diana Hart each tried to claim the body. Despite her book (in which she accused Smith of drugging, abusing, and raping her), Diana played grieving widow in the media even though they're divorced. It may not have been an act though. Some in the family believe Smith and Diana were trying to reconcile, and they were on good terms at the time of his death. Andrea claimed to be his common-law wife, even though she's still legally married to Bruce. She later claimed Smith had proposed to her 2 weeks before his death and said they were engaged, which was the first anyone had heard about that. Smith's father claims in their last conversation, Davey Boy had told him he was planning to break up with Andrea after their vacation. So who knows. Anyway, both Diana and Andrea planned their own separate memorial services, while Smith's dad is planning his own 3rd service. Smith's body wasn't at either of the Hart family memorial services because, as mentioned, it was sent back to England where authorities are launching an investigation at the behest of Smith's father.
Andrea's service was said to be small and simple, just a few dozen people, and she seemed sincere in her sorrow. Diana's service was larger and more public, with hundreds of attendees and press, along with several WWE names. Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart (who attended both services), Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Jim Ross, and others all attended and several of them spoke. Diana's eulogy featured a professionally produced video featuring Davey Boy footage from WWE that had never aired on television before. She thanked Vince for trying to help Davey with his addiction issues. She never acknowledged everything she wrote about him in her book last year. Smith's children as well as Stampede wrestler TJ Wilson gave speeches as well. 16-year-old Harry Smith was composed and gave a great speech about teaming with his father in his last matches. And then Ellie Hart got up there and....it went about how you'd expect. She started ranting about Andrea and blaming her for not giving the family the answers they wanted and it started to turn into some drama, but the minister gently interrupted her and got things back on track. And finally, Bret Hart gave a speech, directly addressing Smith's children and saying that Davey Boy and Owen would want the children of all these Hart family members to get along with each other better than the adults have. From here, Dave gets into the actual meat of the obituary, recapping Smith's life and career. As always, an excellent read but very long to recap.
WWE Confidential, the new show the company is producing, aired its debut episode this week, focusing on the Montreal Screwjob. Dave once again talks about how Vince McMahon tried to downplay the incident recently, giving an interview just a couple of months ago calling the Screwjob a minor incident that almost no one cares about. Vince went so far as to say he could count on one hand the number of people who even still care about that old news. Turns out one of those must be Vince because this week, they dedicated the premiere of this new show to the story and highlighted it as the most controversial night in the history of wrestling. The hook of the show was Shawn Michaels revealing publicly, for the first time, that yes, he was in on the screwjob and knew about it in advance. Dave says this isn't really a secret. Shawn denied having any knowledge of it that night but as soon as the day after Survivor Series 97, he was bragging to friends about it. Vince McMahon also later confided in Undertaker that Shawn knew ahead of time. So it was kind of an open "secret" that Shawn knew but this is the first time he's admitted it publicly. Triple H still denies knowing about it ahead of time, but Dave is pretty skeptical there too (and indeed, it's later revealed that yes indeed, Triple H also knew). Dave thinks lots of people had to know. Even the guy who cued the music had to know, because Shawn's music was queued up and ready to play the second Vince ordered the bell to be rung. Pat Patterson always claimed not to know and Bret has said he wants to believe it, because he likes Pat, but the way Pat interrupted the match-planning conversation and specifically suggested the sharpshooter spot to them makes Bret question it (I think Patterson still denies it to this day, but I have my doubts there too). Anyway, the show recapped the history of the Screwjob and if you know Dave, you know he's about to poke a whole bunch of holes in WWE's revisionist bullshit. Here we go...
The story of the episode was WWF was close to going out of business due to the WCW war and couldn't afford Bret anymore, so Vince nobly allowed Hart out of his contract so he could negotiate a better deal with WCW. Actually, Dave says, Vince first talked to Bret about deferring some of his contract to later on but that was a couple months earlier. At the time, WWF really was having some financial struggles, but it's an exaggeration to say they were almost driven out of business. They were never even close. But regardless, that's irrelevant because in Sept. 97, they raised the price of PPVs by $10. That added revenue, which was nearly $1 million per month in pure profit, was easily enough to get them out of financial trouble. By the time Survivor Series 97 rolled around, WWF was doing just fine, money-wise, and were only a couple months away from catching fire and getting nuclear hot. So no, they did not need to get rid of Bret's contract. And in fact, in October, a couple weeks before Survivor Series, Vince changed his mind and asked Bret to stay, saying that the financial situation had turned around. But by this point, Hart's negotiations with WCW were full speed ahead and Vince allowed Hart to continue negotiating. But after talking to both sides, it was clear Vince had no real plan for Bret and he didn't really seem like he wanted to keep him, so Bret took the WCW deal and the rest is history. But of course, none of that is mentioned in this show. The episode also claimed Hart refused to drop the title to anyone (again, not true. Only Shawn. Bret even offered to lose it to Brooklyn Brawler if they wanted. In fact, Dave breaks down all the different scenarios that were presented here, and Bret was willing to lose the title to anyone other than Shawn, anywhere other than that show in Montreal, at any date before or after the PPV. They had actually presented Bret with dozens of different scenarios, all of which he agreed to, only for Vince to keep coming back around to Shawn at Survivor Series, which was the one and only thing Bret wouldn't budge on). They also tried to paint the picture that Bret could have taken the title to WCW the night after Survivor Series. In fact, Bret's WWF contract didn't end until Dec. 1st, and he was booked on more than a dozen house shows after Survivor Series and had even agreed to work the early December PPV because Bischoff had given his blessing. There was zero chance Bret was going to show up with the belt on Nitro. There was concern that Bischoff would go on Nitro the next day and announce he had signed Bret, and Dave says it's true that Bischoff certainly was planning to do that. But Bret had also asked Bischoff to hold off on the announcement and Bischoff had agreed. Vince knew about that too, but in recorded conversations with Bret (from the Wrestling With Shadows documentary), Vince didn't seem concerned since the word was already out and everyone knew Bret was leaving already. This just goes on and on. We all know the story already. Anyway, TL;DR - interesting show, but WWE's version of the story is bullshit. But we all knew that.
At the latest NJPW show, Antonio Inoki came out and cut a promo. He talked about being in attendance recently at the World Cup and said wrestling needs something like that. Inoki claimed he had put together a deal with WWE for a joint NJPW/WWE show to take place later in the year. Dave doesn't know if there's any truth to that story, but this is the first he's heard of it and he doesn't think it makes any sense for WWE so he's skeptical.
Usually in Japan, TV-Asahi airs the finals of NJPW's G1 Climax tournament live. But this year that may not happen, as they're looking at airing one of Inoki's MMA shows instead. This is a direct result of the terrible rating the recent Tokyo Dome show drew when it aired live. This company is struggling mightily lately.
Random news and notes: Inoki recently recruited a 23-year old Brazillian MMA fighter named Lyoto Machida to come to NJPW (he never really does anything in NJPW other than train at the dojo, but he had a long career in UFC and still fights for Bellator to this day). Dusty Rhodes is the new co-host of Turner South's Atlanta Braves pre-game show called "Hey The Braves Are Next!" Scott Hall will be working Insane Clown Posse's upcoming Gathering of the Juggalos event. Former WCW wrestler Evan Karagis recently filmed a role on the soap opera "Passions."
In the main event of FOX's Celebrity Boxing show, Chyna lost by decision to Joey Buttafuoco. Chyna's mystique of being a woman who only wants to compete with men got pretty much obliterated here, as the larger Buttafuoco manhandled her with ease for much of the match, which probably makes all those big tough wrestlers who sold for her feel kinda silly. But Buttafuoco came in as a hated heel to the audience and despite how she got pummeled, many people felt Buttafuoco was fighting dirty and cheating, so Chyna wasn't too hurt by it. She talked about wanting a rematch and Dave says if PRIDE really wants to break into the U.S. market, they could throw it onto one of their cards. Hey, this show did a really strong TV rating, maybe a rematch would be just the kind of freak-show attraction needed for PRIDE to get attention in the U.S. Nothing else they've tried has worked. Dave also suggests NWA-TNA could book it, but a worked wrestling match between the two probably wouldn't get as much media attention.
Big Dick Dudley's ex-wife, former ECW valet Elektra, did an interview talking about his death. She said he'd had stomach pains all week and couldn't urinate. But didn't go to the doctor because he didn't think it was a big deal. Then at one point he got up to go to the bathroom but collapsed on the floor and died there on the spot. Jeez. At the time of his death, he had lost over 100 pounds from his peak weight of 320 in ECW several years ago.
Vince Russo is going to be writing a book about his time in WWF. Due to legal reasons and the ongoing lawsuit, it won't include much about his WCW tenure (I think he's written a book or two, but I've never read them, so if anyone has any insight, feel free to share).
Shaun Assael's book "Sex, Lies, & Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation" will be published next month and is getting strong early reviews. Dave has talked to several of the people who spoke with Assael for the book and some of them expect it to be good while others feel that Assael fell victim to the cons and charms of wrestlers who were working him. We shall see, says Dave.
The debut NWA-TNA PPV will feature some sort of tournament to crown a new NWA champion. Dan Severn is no longer the champion after not agreeing to work the show (he already had a prior MMA booking for that date in New Mexico). As a result, the NWA (which is now working with TNA) just stripped him of the belt, which is convenient because they didn't really want to use Severn anyway, so now they can do whatever they originally planned to do with the belt without having to book an excuse to get it off him. The Jarretts and this new promotion now have full control over both the NWA world and tag team titles.
Mike Tenay has been named the lead announcer for the new NWA-TNA promotion. They're also trying to get Lex Luger to appear for the debut show, but Dave thinks its unlikely since Luger is financially set for life and has shown no interest in doing any wrestling since WCW folded.
Jeff Jarrett had talks with Bret Hart about coming in to do a Team Canada gimmick. Latest Dave heard is that Hart isn't interested, but they may bring in some of the new generation of Harts for it. There's been talk of bringing in TJ Wilson, Harry Smith, and Teddy Hart as a new version of the group. Smith is still only 16 and it's way too early to put him on the national stage yet and in a lot of states, he wouldn't even legally be allowed to perform. Wilson is also a teenager, from a bad home who pretty much grew up as an honorary Hart member in the Hart household. And Teddy Hart is a natural in-ring performer who would already be in WWE if not for the fact that during his two training camp tryouts, he had behavioral incidents both times. But they're all talented and will likely be big stars in the future. Last time WWE was in Calgary, Vince McMahon personally requested to meet with all 3 of them for a private tryout, but it didn't amount to anything.
Little bit of a change in the WWF writing teams. Brian Gewertz is now the official head writer for Raw, while Paul Heyman is the lead writer for Smackdown. Stephanie McMahon will continue to oversee creative for both shows and, of course, Vince still has final say on everything. Dave expects this to result in Raw being a more comedic show while Smackdown will be the more serious in-ring product (pretty much, yeah. And thus, we have the official beginning of Heyman-era Smackdown and soon we'll see the birth of the Smackdown Six).
Notes from Raw: show opened with Chris Benoit making his unannounced return to a huge pop. Dave still expects Benoit to eventually be managed by Arn Anderson, which has been the plan for months (and never happens). That was actually the original plan before the NWO was brought in. If Benoit was healthy in time (which, turned out he wasn't so it didn't matter anyway), the original idea was Benoit vs. Austin at Wrestlemania 18 with Anderson managing Benoit. But that obviously all changed. Anyway, what else? Dave once again mentions that Jeff Hardy looks physically awful. He seems to know about Hardy's drug issues and seems to be hinting about it without saying it. Tommy Dreamer continued his gross gimmick by drinking Undertaker's tobacco spit. Lesnar beat Bubba Ray Dudley but had to sell a ton in the match and Dave doesn't get it. For a guy that they so clearly want to turn into a Goldberg-like star, selling for midcarders every week isn't how Goldberg got over. Jim Ross went on and on about how Lesnar has never been pinned, which Dave says is an insult to all the fans who have seen Lesnar do jobs at house shows. RVD beat Eddie Guerrero in a 20+ minute ladder match and Dave says it's the longest match on Raw in at least a year. Dave gives it 4 stars and considering how messy and sloppy it was, that shows you how good it was. Lots of dangerous spots, some botched moves, and most notably a moment when a fan ran into the ring and knocked over the ladder while Eddie was climbing up. Eddie and Earl Hebner started stomping the fan until security dragged him out. Still an awesome match though. And finally, Benoit returned at the end of the show and turned heel on Austin. Dave says Benoit actually isn't ready yet and isn't supposed to be back in the ring until July, but the company is so desperate for anything to give them a shot in the arm that they may have pulled the trigger on this angle early.
Notes from Smackdown: the only thing Dave talks about is the Hulk Hogan retirement angle they did and he's got mixed feelings on it. First the positive: he gives Hogan credit for being an absolutely incredible performer when the heat is on. And Hogan gave a tremendous performance in this and Dave doesn't let it go unrecognized. But then the negative: in the promo, Hogan talked at length about when his dad was dying, he was basically expressionless except for Monday and Thursday nights when he'd watch WWF and his face would light up. So Hogan said his dad's last words were he wanted to see his son return to the WWF. So that's all sweet and nice, right? Weeeeeell....Hogan has told a different version of this story in the past. In previous interviews, Hogan said his dad was disgusted by what wrestling had become and he wanted Hogan to "clean it up." The idea that he was laying in the hospital and only coming to life when his beloved WWF was on doesn't exactly jibe with what Hogan has said before. And no matter what the truth is, Dave is uncomfortable Hogan using his dead dad as a way to get this storyline over, but hey, he ain't the first and won't be the last.
WWE's first show in Hawaii in probably 15 years is scheduled for later this month. Rock is scheduled to work the show and tickets sold out 2 hours after they went on sale. While we're at it, the Australia show in August also sold out the 47,000-seat Colonial Stadium in Melbourne in only 4 days. Once they scale the stadium for production, they plan to open up more seats.
It's "basically a sure thing" that Hogan vs. Vince McMahon will be one of the top matches at Summerslam. How they get there seems to change weekly. There's been talks of having Hogan take time off after King of the Ring and return for the Vince match at Summerslam. There's also been talk of him sticking around through the entire summer. So who knows? (Ended up being a mixture of both: Hogan stuck around the entire summer, but then he did an angle to get written off TV right before Summerslam. And he didn't come back until early 2003. And, of course, we got the Hogan/Vince match at Wrestlemania)
More info on the incident from a couple weeks ago where Kevin Nash and X-Pac reportedly threw a fit and got the script changed. They were told by writer Ed Koskey what the plans were for them on the show. Nash and X-Pac didn't like it, especially X-Pac since it involved him doing 2 jobs during the same show. X-Pac said he was quitting and told Nash he'd meet him in the car. Nash told Shane McMahon he'd go calm X-Pac down and straighten everything out. Nash and X-Pac came back, had meetings with Shane and Jim Ross, and then later with Koskey and Brian Gewertz (who wrote the show). They managed to convince the writers to change it more to their liking. Nash was also upset about how Ric Flair went on TV and said he'd fired Scott Hall. Nash didn't like the idea of Flair on TV being able to hire and fire people from their NWO, because that kinda takes away from the idea of the NWO as an autonomous, outsider group that doesn't play by WWE's rules. So that's why Nash was able to go out on TV on this night and cut the promo about how Flair doesn't control the NWO. Of course, Hall is still gone, so I guess he still does. Anyway, both Nash and X-Pac were pissed over all this and caused a scene, especially X-Pac, to the point others in the locker room wondered why they weren't disciplined instead of being given their way. But if you wonder that, you clearly ain't been paying attention to Nash over the years. Anyway, X-Pac still did the job in the Hardyz match, but not in the second match.
Random news: house shows in Alexandria and Baton Rouge, LA were both canceled this weekend due to low ticket sales. Shit's selling out in record time in Australia and Hawaii, but they can't give tickets away in Louisiana apparently. Undertakers hips were both banged up after the Hogan match at the PPV but he continued working, although he was limited (and years later, he'd have to get major surgery on both those hips). At Raw in Edmonton, Ric Flair was getting huge pops and "woo!" chants for him before the show started, so they filmed a backstage segment where he told Arn Anderson how much he hates Edmonton so they would boo him when he came out live. Lance Cade won the HWA title from Johnny the Bull down in developmental. WWF was pushing the city of Edmonton to present Benoit with the key to the city on Raw, but Edmonton wasn't so keen on the idea. And finally, during a bikini contest at the house show in Winnipeg, Ivory's top got pulled down, exposing her boob, much to the delight of many in the crowd.
Remember how MTV's The Osbournes was the only show routinely beating Raw in the cable ratings? That's changing. The Osbournes is over for the season, but this week, Raw fell to #4 behind the Lakers/Spurs NBA playoff game and 2 different episodes of SpongeBob. Patrick's a draw, brother.
Raven has been doing commentary on Sunday Night Heat, but he recently asked to be removed from it because he feels like it hurts his wrestling character. Dave thinks this is pretty risky. Raven as a wrestler is probably nearing the end of his shelf-life and lord knows WWE hasn't shown any desire to push him. And he was actually pretty fantastic at commentary. So giving up a safe job that he was excelling at for one that WWE doesn't really seem to see any value in him for seems like a good way to find yourself on the chopping block next time they decide to get rid of some people (yup, he'll be gone from the company in another 7 months or so). For what it's worth though, this isn't the first time Raven has been in this situation. Back in the 90s, he was a manager and commentator in WWF then too, under the name Johnny Polo. But when they weren't interested in using him as a wrestler, he quit the company and reinvented himself in ECW as Raven. Sometimes you gotta bet on yourself.
Jim Ross has a weekly WWE.com article where he usually just shares all the latest injuries everyone has. This leads Dave on a bit of a tangent when Ross wrote about how Triple H has a fractured patella. The injury was diagnosed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham and Andrews told Triple H to be careful with it, but he could continue wrestling as long as he can take the pain. Basically one of the world's top sports doctors saying, "Yeah you've got a broken knee, but throw some dirt on it, you'll be fine." It's no wonder so many of these guys end up on pain pills rather than getting the medical treatment they need.
Also in his article, Jim Ross admitted that the WWE is not doing a good job lately of providing a product the fans want to see. Dave thinks that's just about as strong a statement he's heard on the current state of WWE from someone so high up within the company. Ross admitted they need to create new rivalries, elevate new young talent, and effectively introduce new stars. However, Ross also blamed the economy and the abnormally high number of injuries everyone is dealing with right now for part of the problems too. Dave says the economy may play a small role in the declining live event and PPV numbers, but usually when the economy is in the toilet, TV ratings go up because people are staying home more. Not the case here. Injuries, yes that's a problem for sure. But the core of all WWE's problems right now comes down to the simple fact that the show pretty much sucks. And at least someone high up in the office seems to finally be publicly admitting it.
Tough Enough 2 is down to the final four. Dave talks about how Jackie Gayda is now the sentimental favorite because she tore her ACL during the show but has still refused to quit, which opened a lot of eyes on her. Speaking of Tough Enough, in a WCW-like comedy of errors, they aired a promo for next week's episode before the current episode was finished, thus spoiling who the final 4 were going to be, before it was revealed on the show people were watching.
The WWF Forceable Entry album has sold around 364,000 copies total since its release. But it's actually considered a pretty huge failure because WWF had to pay so much money in fees and up front advances to the various artists on the album, and they're nowhere close to recouping that cost. (The album eventually sells over 500,000 and goes gold but still a flop).
NEXT WEDNESDAY:A look at the dismal state of WWE in 2002, Tough Enough II finale, Riki Choshu's departure from NJPW, Dave reviews several new wrestling books, and more...
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUSLY:
Okay, look, here's the deal. The obituaries, as sad as they are, contain some of Dave's best work. But good lord, they are looooooooooong. And they never contain anything newsworthy that is relevant to 2002 or anything. But they're always super interesting from a historical perspective. But last week, Dave wrote a brief obit for Lou Thesz (only 5,000 words, ahem) and promised to go into more detail this week. So this week, we open with a 16,000+ word obituary for Lou Thesz and I just can't. Sorry. It's really good though, you should all go read it. But I've got, like, a family and a job and responsibilities and stuff. I can't recap this. It's an incredible piece of work though.
The World Wrestling Federation is no more. On May 5th, the company unveiled its new name, World Wrestling Entertainment. Dave recaps the history of the company briefly (was originally called "World Wide Wrestling Federation, or WWWF, until 1979 when it was shortened to WWF, which is has remained for the past 23 years). But as of this week, the company has been rebranded to WWE. The website domain was changed to WWE.com and all references to "WWF" were changed to "WWE." The scratch logo was also changed, with the F being removed, so now it simply looks like "WW" (which, honestly, never really did make much sense to me. Even though the logo has changed, it's still "WW" to this day). Anyway, this all stems from the World Wildlife Fund lawsuit over in the UK, in which the WWE lost every court case and appeal. They were planning to appeal the ruling in the UK's highest court, their final last-ditch effort to save their name, but the reality is, they weren't going to win that case. Vince McMahon and the company blatantly and repeatedly violated the agreement they signed in 1994. It was 1000% obvious they were in the wrong here and they had gotten spanked by every single court before, often losing their appeals by unanimous decisions. So they weren't going to win this final appeal either and they knew it. So they dropped the appeal and threw in the towel and finally agreed to just change the name. The WWE has until May 15th to remove all references to "WWF" from their shows and merchandise. Any merch with "WWF" on it can no longer be sold after that date. All video packages and posters will have to be changed and any "WWF" mention or logos after that time on television or in past footage will have to be censored. Last year, during the court case, the WWE claimed it would cost them more than $50 million to change their name and to deal with all the legal and rebranding headaches that come with it. But this week, they backtacked on that and said it wouldn't be that expensive after all. Who knows if that's true, but the idea of this costing $50 million was enough to make the shareholders shit themselves, so Dave says they claimed it won't cost that much in order to keep the stock from plummeting. Anyway, none of this had to happen. In 1994, Vince McMahon and the Wildlife Fund signed an agreement that the wrestling company would not use the "WWF" name for promoting itself outside of the U.S. (since the Wildlife group is based overseas) and that worked well for a year or two. But then Vince McMahon apparently decided, "Meh, who cares about agreements?" and began repeatedly and blatantly violating it, constantly, for years, at which point the Wildlife group finally got upset enough to file a lawsuit. Anyway, on the first Raw since the name change, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler repeatedly stumbled over the new initials, accidentally saying "WWF" multiple times. Gonna take time for everyone to get used to calling it the new name.
The buyrates for Wrestlemania 18 are in and it appears the event will have to settle for being the #2 biggest money show in wrestling history after it came up short and failed to surpass Wrestlemania 17. Final numbers aren't in yet, but latest estimates put it somewhere around the 800,000 buys range (ended up being about 880,000) which is quite a bit down from WM17. It was also #2 in total revenue from live gate and merch. Internally, it's actually being seen as something of a disappointment because with the power of the Hogan/Rock dream match, they were hopeful this show would top 1 million buys but unless something drastic changes with these buyrate numbers, it looks like the final total will be a good bit short of that.
NJPW's latest Tokyo Dome show is in the books. The show drew a sellout crowd of 57,000 fans, there to see the Masahiro Chono vs. Mitsuharu Misawa dream main event (which ended up going to a 30-minute draw). It was the biggest non-Jan. 4 crowd NJPW has drawn to the Dome in 2 years. So that's the good news. The bad news is that the show flopped in the ratings on TV. A big part of that is because the Chono/Misawa match didn't air as part of the show (due to the Asahi-TV/Nippon TV network issues discussed in past issues) so the televised show was built around the Shinya Hashimoto/Naoya Ogawa vs. Scott Norton/Hiroyoshi Tenzan match and man, the fans sure didn't seem to give a fuck about that. In fact, the rating was so bad that there's concern that this will be the end of pro wrestling on prime time TV in Japan for the foreseeable future. But there are justifiable reasons for the rating. The show went head-to-head with the Kirin Cup soccer tournament, which was a huge deal and did more than double the rating the NJPW show did. Unlike the U.S., wrestling and "real" sports in Japan have a major crossover audience, so having real sports competition severely hurt NJPW's show. Also, while Ogawa is a draw as a singles star, putting him in a tag match against Norton and Tenzan isn't exactly setting the world on fire. The show lasted 6 hours, which was way too long and the crowd was burned out before Misawa vs. Chono even started.
Other notes from the NJPW show: it opened with an hour long 30th anniversary ceremony. They had a 10-bell salute for Lou Thesz and brought out a bunch of legendary NJPW names from the 70s and 80s. Then they did an angle where Antonio Inoki came out to give a speech, but he was attacked by Tiger Jeet Singh. But then Chyna made the save, attacking Singh, running him out of the ring, and challenging him to a match. Inoki's ex-wife, famous Japanese actress Mitsuko Baisho then made an appearance, getting a huge pop, and she and Inoki did his famous catch phrase to kick off the show. Minoru Suzuki of Pancrase (who started with NJPW as a pro wrestler) was also there. Jushin Ligher and Minoru Tanaka won the IWGP Jr. tag titles and then Liger challenged several NOAH wrestlers who were at ringside (most notably KENTA) and they all jumped in the ring and it ended with a staredown. The Steiner Brothers reunited to face Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kensuke Sasaki, with Chyna as the special referee. Tanahashi was working hurt, but he still worked. They did a spot where Tanahashi ran into Chyna and he went down off the bump instead of her and Dave seems annoyed by this since Tanahashi is a guy they really need to be pushing who can be a huge star for this company. Dave doesn't like him selling bumps for Chyna. Anyway, decent match but the Steiners basically steamrolled them and Tanahashi was pinned by Scott Steiner. Chyna then challenged several All Japan Women at ringside as well as Scott Steiner, Tanahashi, Sasaki, and even IWGP champion Yuji Nagata, saying she wanted a title match. Dave thinks this company has lost its damn mind. Speaking of Nagata, he retained his title in the next match. And then, of course, the main event. Usually during interpromotional matches, the crowd is always super pro-NJPW but this time, they went insane for Misawa and it was clear there were a ton of NOAH fans in the building. Chono did some Inoki moves and Misawa did some Great Baba moves, to kinda have a spiritual "Baba vs. Inoki" tribute in the match I guess. Ended in a draw and by the time it was over, no matter how big the dream match was, the crowd was burned out and weren't as hype for the match as you might expect once the entrances were done.
Goldberg has received a full buy-out of his WCW contract from Time Warner and as of this week, he is now an unsigned free agent. Goldberg did not request the buy-out, the decision was made by the Time Warner side after the most unprofitable quarter in their history. The company was looking to cut expenses, even at a loss, just so the books can look better in future quarters. Goldberg reportedly received almost all of his remaining salary (more than 90% of the nearly $3 million he was still owed) in order to get him off their books. When Goldberg realized he's going to be a free agent a year earlier than expected, talks with WWE started up. But as usual, they went nowhere. WWE (I feel like I'm having to get used to typing that all over again. Really does feel like 2002 again) has interest in him, especially given the way ratings continue to plummet lately. But Goldberg has always wanted more than WWE is willing to pay. Plus, they're feeling burned right now after signing Hall and Nash to big money, long-term contracts for part-time work, only to have Nash get injured and Hall likely to get himself fired at any moment (that moment is coming sooner than you think), and neither of them really getting over in any meaningful way. Even Hogan, who is also making big money for a reduced schedule, was hot for a minute and boosted ratings and buyrates. But after only a few months, that train already seems to be out of steam and TV ratings are back to floundering with Hogan as champion leading the shows. So WWE is kinda gun-shy on opening the checkbook and paying out the ass for these big stars, futilely hoping that one of them is the quick-fix that can stop the bleeding.
There's also the question of how Goldberg would fit within the WWE locker room. He hasn't been shy about his dislike for Triple H, dating back to WCW when Triple H trashed Goldberg in a radio interview and saying that even if Goldberg was available, they wouldn't want him (which, at the time, when WCW was still alive and Goldberg was the biggest star in the company, is just about the dumbest thing he could have said. In 1998, WWF would have gladly traded 10 Triple H's for Goldberg). Anyway, Goldberg took the comment personally and even confronted Triple H face-to-face at the Toy Fair convention in New York a couple of years ago, in a bit of an ugly scene where Goldberg was yelling at him and Triple H and Stephanie kept their heads down and said nothing. Goldberg also has a lot of dislike for Scott Hall, which is another of Triple H's good friends, so ya know. The latest on Goldberg is that he's considering working some in Japan but he's just fielding offers right now. Word is he's interested in working with PRIDE as well as NJPW. Of course, if he's looking to maximize his money potential, WWE is still the place to go if you want to make big bucks. If promoted right, matches against Rock, Austin, Triple H, and others could do huge buyrates. And if they keep Goldberg and Austin apart for a year and build to a match with them at Wrestlemania, well, needless to say, that show would set records. Dave talks about how Goldberg got nuclear hot in 1998 and even in 1999, he was the biggest drawing wrestler in the business. But by 2000, the company was dying, Goldberg was injured, and "Jesus Chris with an Etch-a-Sketch" couldn't have drawn in WCW. Dave again does the math and talks about how WWE should have brought Goldberg in for the Invasion angle. Yes, it would have cost them a lot of money and upset the salary structure, but he would have more than made up for it with the kind of buyrates he could have drawn with those dream matches and the Invasion angle might have had a chance. But alas.
And of course, who's to say how WWE would use Goldberg? They already have Brock Lesnar and they're currently giving him the unstoppable monster push. Lesnar is bigger, younger, and a more legitimate athlete (for whatever that's worth). And WWE probably isn't going to give Goldberg an endless string of jobbers to beat. In WWE, he's going to be expected to work longer matches, sell for people, etc. They won't book him the way WCW did so who knows how he'd get over in WWE? If they wanted to build to an Austin/Goldberg match, it would make sense that Goldberg first has to plow through guys like Triple H, Undertaker, etc. And politically, that just ain't gonna happen. Dave doubts NJPW can afford him for anything more than one or two big shows. As for PRIDE, he could probably make a lot of money there, but the problem is.....PRIDE is a shoot. They haven't had "worked" matches in a couple of years and doing so now would kill their credibility. Which means Goldberg would have to go into a legit shoot and one embarrassing loss there would severely hurt his future earning potential. In the end, Dave thinks it's inevitable that Goldberg will end up in WWE, but probably not any time soon. But he's certain it will eventually happen. There's too much money on the line for both sides and WWE's ratings woes are making them desperate, so it'll happen some day (yup, less than a year from this).
And the moment is here! For those of you who had "under 3 months" in the "How long will Scott Hall last?" pool, come collect your prize. Scott Hall was released by the WWE this week due to misbehavior on the European tour. Firstly, he went on a drunken binge during the entire tour and was even worse on the plane ride home (much more on that in a bit). Dave says this was inevitable. WCW fired him. Even ECW stopped using him when he got arrested at one point. And even though he was seemingly behaving during his Japan tours, even NJPW cut ties with him shortly before he went back to WWE because they were fed up with some of his antics. And now WWE has fired him. Dave talks about how Hall made a drunken spectacle of himself in the locker room on his very first day back in WWE, before the NWO even debuted on TV, then he showed up in Toronto for Wrestlemania in no condition to perform (later came out that he was hungover from the night before), which caused Austin to insist on ending their feud at WM (which was the plan, but Dave says Austin has continued working with Hall afterwards simply because they don't really seem to have any other credible opponents for him). Hall's match with Bradshaw at Backlash was an embarrassment and the night before that show, agents had to help him back to his hotel. Just endless incidents like this. In Europe, Hall was such a blatant drunken mess that even the other wrestlers were calling for him to be fired. Hall was 45 minutes late for the bus they all took to London and then passed out in the locker room during the show. On the plane ride back, he was starting fights with people and eventually passed out and it got to the point that people were worried about his health. When they got back to the U.S. for Raw, they literally had to wake him up from a drunken stupor backstage to send him to the ring to do his segment (and yes, he wrestled). After the show, they fired him. No one came to his defense, and even Hall's closest friends are now admitting that he simply can't handle the pressures of being on the road and being released is the best thing for him right now. Dave talks about how a lot of wrestlers have been fired in the last couple of years for drug and alcohol issues and that's all well and good, but the big problem is why hire them in the first place? Scott Hall's issues were not a secret. It wasn't like he cleaned himself up before he came to WWE. He was getting in trouble and collecting arrests like Pokemon all the way up until the day they brought him back. Anyway, Hall had a 2-year deal, believed to be worth $600,000-per-year downside for only 10 dates per month. So a really sweet deal, but it's gone now.
Hey, speaking of that European tour, turns out there was a bit of trouble on the flight back to the U.S. Perhaps you've heard of it. Most of the trouble wasn't even due to Scott Hall. Turns out Vince McMahon didn't make the trip and lots of people decided that was a good reason to cut loose and have fun. Plus, since everyone has seen Hall get away with being drunk 24/7 for the last few months, they figured nobody would get in trouble. So....folks got DRUNK. Among the various incidents on this flight: Goldust got on the speaker system and began drunkenly serenading his ex-wife Terri with love songs. Terri was extremely uncomfortable and begged him to stop and then Jim Ross had to go sit him down. Ric Flair also "started to get wild" but Jim Ross calmed him down as well (Dave doesn't seem to know just yet exactly what Flair "getting wild" entailed, but if you don't know, it involved getting totally naked except for his robe and started helicoptering his dick at flight attendants. And it gets worse if you feel like researching it. The flight attendants later filed a lawsuit against Flair and accused him of sexual assault). Curt Hennig was spraying people with shaving cream and he kept trying to get Brock Lesnar to fight him. Lesnar, being a newcomer, didn't know how to handle it and didn't want to get in trouble, but he ain't gonna let Hennig talk shit to him either. So anyway, Lesnar got up and basically annihilated Hennig, repeatedly taking him to the ground and embarrassing him because, well, of course he did. It's Brock Lesnar. At one point, Lesnar slammed Hennig up against the side of the plane, right into the emergency exit door, which freaked everybody out for obvious reasons. Michael Hayes got into a scuffle with Bradshaw and then tried to pick a fight with Hall (although everyone on the plane said Hall had it coming). Anyway, Hayes was apparently obnoxious as hell and annoyed everyone. But then he made the mistake of falling asleep and someone (believed to be X-Pac) cut his hair off. When Hayes woke up, he was furious and tried to fight several people. The next day at the Raw tapings, his entire mullet was in a plastic bag, pinned to the wall of the locker room for everyone to see. Gerald Brisco, Arn Anderson, and Hayes all caught a ton of heat from Vince afterward since they were the people who were supposed to be in charge. Anderson and Hayes especially, since their jobs are to keep the boys under control, but they were apparently having just as much fun as everyone else. Everyone's waiting to see how Vince is going to handle this situation. As noted, Hall was already fired and Hayes got an earful from Vince, Stephanie, and JR at Raw the next day, but there will likely be more fallout. Undertaker was also said to be furious over how out of hand everything got (I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this).
Anyway, while they were in Europe, WWE presented its latest UK PPV, Insurexxtion. As usual with the UK PPVs, this was little more than a glorified house show. They announced the show as sold out, but there were empty seats everywhere. RVD vs. Eddie Guerrero for the IC title was the show-stealer according to every report Dave heard, and was said to be far better than their Backlash match. Brock Lesnar teamed with Shawn Stasiak (lol wut) and lost to the Hardyz. Brock beat up everybody after the match. Triple H beat Undertaker in the main event and Dave doesn't know why since Undertaker is the one challenging Hogan for the title at the next PPV. The top rope broke during the match when they did an Irish whip into the corner and when the rope snapped, a metal piece broke off from the corner and flew into the crowd and barely missed hitting a small child in the face.
Smackdown on 5/2 drew the all-time lowest rating in the history of the show. Dave says that's the scariest thing to happen to WWF in the past 5 years. It was also the 3rd lowest rating for any Smackdown or Raw dating back to 1998. The rating was a full 18% drop from the week before, which was already scary. The rating was even lower than previous holiday episodes. So what was the problem? Well, it was headlined by Hogan defending the WWF title against Chris Jericho (as it turns out, the final time the "WWF" title was ever defended). Dave says the title has been meaningless for years now and Hogan's steam is running out. And Jericho hasn't recovered from spending the first part of the year being emasculated and playing second fiddle to Stephanie McMahon in the Wrestlemania feud. Add all that together and you've got a recipe for a shit ratings night. Among other things. Dave isn't blaming this all on Hogan and Jericho by any means, there's a lot of problems with the company as of late, from bad storylines to failing to make new stars, and it's all starting to come home to roost.
Keiji Muto wrestled a match in AJPW under his alternate gimmick of Kokushi Muso. Turns out "Great Muta" isn't his only other persona. The Kokushi Muso gimmick is basically like Hakushi in WWF, where he's covered his entire body in Japanese writing. He originally debuted the gimmick in Michinoku Pro last year, when teaming with....Hakushi (Jinsei Shinzaki, who occasionally brought back the old Hakushi gimmick in Japan). Anyway, same thing here. He teamed with Hakushi for this match, while using that gimmick (Muto would use that gimmick a handful of times throughout the years, always when teaming with Hakushi. It's like that was only his gimmick for that team. The last time he used it was in 2009, also in a tag match with Hakushi).
Former NOAH Jr. champion Naomichi Marufuji underwent knee surgery this week and should be out around 6 months (ends up being 9 months).
NJPW is doing an angle (according to Dave) similar to the Vince/Flair angle last year where Antonio Inoki and Masahiro Chono are battling over control of the company. Although it's more realistic. Inoki is in the press talking about how many of NJPW's shows aren't doing well and is pushing for them to use Naoya Ogawa more, while Chono doesn't want to. Inoki is also saying Chono needs to retire from wrestling and focus his energies on managing the day-to-day business of the promotion full-time. Dave says this is an angle, but it doesn't sound like much of one to me, and I think later years have kinda proven there was a lot of blurring between fiction and reality here, because there was a ton of behind the scenes turmoil in NJPW during this period.
Will Smith appeared alongside Antonio Inoki at the Japanese movie premiere for the film "Ali" based on Muhammad Ali's life. Crowd went absolutely insane for Inoki (I've tried like hell and can't even find a picture of them together. But then again, I can't find a single pic from the premiere at all).
When reviewing the recent Dos Caras Jr. shoot fight in Japan, Dave talks about the guy's potential as a wrestler. He has a strong amateur background, legit shoot skills, and a famous name. Dave thinks, if he's even halfway a decent worker, he can almost be a guaranteed star in Mexico (based on his name alone) and probably Japan too, if he decides to pursue that career (indeed he did, and indeed, he was fairly decent at it. Of course, he later became Alberto Del Rio, accused rapist and pretty much confirmed all-around piece of shit).
Former long-time WCW referee Randy Anderson passed away this week after a long battle with testicular cancer. Back when WCW was still around and he first got diagnosed, they did an angle out of it where Eric Bischoff fired him and then laughed at his wife and kids when they begged him to give Anderson his back. Of course, he was later re-hired when Flair became on-screen commissioner and continued to referee until 1999 when the cancer forced him to retire.
Random news and notes: Bobby Heenan is said to be in good spirits and is especially excited because WWE recently contacted him about doing a WWE Magazine feature on him. Verne Gagne's wife Mary passed away from cancer this week. Goldberg will be appearing on this week's Wrestling Observer Live show to be interviewed. Mil Mascaras is releasing an autobiography (in Spanish of course) and man, I'd love to find an English translation of that because I bet it'd be interesting. Chyna appeared on "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" this past week.
Bruno Sammartino turned down an invitation to attend the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame ceremony in New York (yes, that HOF existed and still does, in a different city now). Bruno did an interview with the local paper and said "Wrestling is how I made my living and supported my family, but it's over. I don't want anything to do with it anymore." Bruno managed to turn the discussion to the WWE, despite them not having any affiliation with this HOF and grumbled about how Vince McMahon blocked him from being inducted into the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame. However, the new MSG owners have apparently promised Bruno he'll be inducted this year, since he sold the place out 200 times (Dave jumps in here to correct it and says the real number of sellouts is closer to 45. Bruno only main evented the Garden 127 times and by no means were they all sell-outs. But it's one of those myths that has been perpetuated for so long that Dave begrudgingly recognizes that people are always going to believe the 200 number is true, but it's not even close. He compares it to the claim that Andre The Giant was 7'4, which also wasn't true but people repeated the lie so often that it became accepted as fact).
Afa Anoa'i Jr., the son of the legendary Wild Samoan, is a star football player at his high school and is being recruited for Penn State. He also sometimes wrestles on his father's indie shows (that would be Manu, who was very briefly part of Legacy with Orton, Dibiase Jr., and Cody).
Former WCW announcer Scott Hudson will be doing commentary for Jerry Jarrett's new promotion, and Bob Ryder is said to be in a major front office position.
Jarrett has put out a press release saying that his new promotion has had talks with Randy Savage and Ultimate Warrior. Word is Warrior wanted a 15% ownership stake in the new company, which pretty much ended those talks right there. They're also apparently interested in Scott Hall now too, with the idea that since they're only doing 1 show per week, he won't be a screw-up here. Dave is skeptical. Anyway, currently Road Dogg and Brian Christopher expected to be some of the company's top stars and Dave's not optimistic.
XWF wrestlers were told last week that a television deal should hopefully be finalized this week. But Dave has been told no chance it's happening that soon. The rumors are that the deal is either with the FX or Fox Kids networks. Ted Turner had inquired about buying this promotion a few months ago, but when he learned how much it would cost to get them off the ground and make them competitive, he lost interest (TV deal never materializes, company is already dead, etc. etc.).
The Scorpion King slipped to 2nd place this week, falling to the new Spider Man movie which did a record breaking $114 million opening weekend. Randy Savage has a small role in that movie.
Speaking of, The Rock worked his first match in about a month at a Fort Lauderdale house show, teaming with Hogan to beat Jericho and Angle. After the match, Hogan tried to get Rock to pose with him, but Rock wouldn't do it. Rock thanked the fans for the success of Scorpion King and said it would likely be his last match for awhile. There was a ton of local media there, but Rock didn't talk to any of them. Basically, the house show was in his neck of the woods and he simply decided to show up and work it just so he could see his friends and hang out with the locker room, he had no interest in doing interviews. He was just there because he wanted to be. Backstage, Rock was telling people that Hollywood higher-ups have told him he has to leave the wrestling business if he wants to be taken seriously as an actor. Those in the company feel it's a certainty that Rock really is leaving and he's likely going to break out of wrestling into Hollywood and actually become a rare success story (yeah, you could say that).
Look how long this is already. Imagine if I had covered that Lou Thesz obituary in full. JUST IMAGINE!
Notes from Raw: Dave compares it to an episode of Thunder, with the crowd half-dead for everything. Also, the roster was exhausted after just returning from the Europe trip (and the plane ride shenanigans) and that was apparent too. Brock Lesnar won his match via pinfall instead of the usual ref stoppage and Dave says that word is Triple H got in Vince's ear and convinced him to end the ref stoppage gimmick for Brock. Sure, why not? Hogan was supposed to ride off on Undertaker's bike at one point, but then the motorcycle wouldn't start. It was one of those awkward live-TV moments where time stood still and nobody knew what to do. Flair finally turned heel on Austin, to a shocking lack of heat from the crowd. Nash returned, etc. Dave recaps the rest of this show and it sounds like a lot of bad WCW stuff, coincidentally enough with a lot of the same people.
The man who played the effeminate gay guy applying to be Vince McMahon's secretary on Smackdown a few weeks ago was new creative team member David Lagana. He recently joined the company and has written for several other TV shows, including "Friends" and has a strong knowledge of the industry (Dave says if you've been reading the Observer closely for the last few years, you're probably familiar with him, he's written in to Dave a lot over the years).
Dave goes on a brief rant about how to use older stars. In the past, everyone, even Vince McMahon, talked about how you should use guys like Hogan and Flair in small doses and how WCW's reliance on older stars like that is what made them less special. Dave talks about back in the day in Memphis, Jackie Fargo would come back once or twice a year and he was always the biggest star in the company when he did. Because he was used sparingly. But WWE has pretty much built its company around Hogan and Flair (and to a lesser extent, Vince and Undertaker) over the last few months and they've been totally overexposed because of it. Just 6 weeks ago, Hulk Hogan was getting some of the largest crowd reactions in the history of the business. Now, he and Undertaker are practically hearing crickets during their on-screen interactions.
Lita underwent neck surgery this week and isn't allowed to do anything physical for 9 months. Scotty 2 Hotty also had neck surgery and is expected to be out for about a year. Both are expected to make full recoveries though.
Jesse Ventura admitted this week that he received WWF stock options as partial payment for some work he did with them. Dave doesn't know if it's related to the Summerslam appearance a few years ago or the XFL announcing gig. Ventura says he has 10 years to exercise those stock options but wouldn't give any further details.
Scott Steiner told WWA he will work their next UK tour but after that, he's going to WWE. Dave is skeptical. Reports are that Steiner was in horrible pain after every match he worked on the last WWA tour and there's significant doubt that his body will hold up to a WWE schedule.
The new Steve Austin "What!" DVD has a lot of WCW footage, including the full Austin vs. Steamboat match from WCW Bash at the Beach 94. Dave doesn't say so, but I believe this is the first time WWE used any of the WCW library for commercial release after they purchased it the year before.
Someone writes in and asks Dave to stop spending so much time writing about steroid use in wrestling and instead says he should write a story about racism in the business. This person writes about the allegations from years back of Dusty Rhodes using the N-work with impunity, or the time DX parodied the Nation by wearing blackface. The WCW discrimination lawsuit, the embarrassing angles they've done with Mark Henry such as Sexual Chocolate, etc. This guy is asking why is it white wrestlers outnumber black wrestlers by 35-to-1 ratio in the U.S. (70-to-1 in Mexico and 80-to-1 in Japan). He wants to know why Dave isn't writing about that stuff. Dave responds and agrees that the blackface DX promo was racist, and it was racist when Buff Bagwell did it in WCW and when Roddy Piper did it in the 80s. Dave says wrestling, especially from the 70s through the 90s, had a horrible history of exploiting stereotypes and/or saying and doing racist things. You can argue it's gotten better, but no doubt the problem still exists. Dave lists some examples but he also pushes back on some others. For example, he's heard people complain that Booker T isn't being used properly due to his race and Dave disagrees. It's true that Booker T probably deserves a bigger push, but you can make the same case for guys like RVD and Jericho and Raven or DDP (when he first debuted, at least) and that didn't happen either, so Dave doesn't necessarily think Booker's lack of top-star push can be blamed on his race (we're less than a year away from Triple H definitively proving otherwise).
There's also 2 letters about the Rock/Hogan match at Wrestlemania and they couldn't be more different. One guy writes in and he can't understand why people are praising that match because if you put aside the hot crowd, it was awful, everyone's moves looked bad, it was embarrassing, etc. and says Hogan should have retired afterward. Then someone else writes in and says he was there live and, taken as a whole, Rock vs. Hogan was the greatest match he's ever seen. Basically the same "love it or hate it" opinion people have about that match to this day. Also, someone else writes in about the recent Low-Ki vs. American Dragon match from an ROH show and puts it up there among some of the greatest matches of all time (listing off several classic WWF matches like Shawn/Razor and Owen/Bret at WM10 for example). So there ya go.
NEXT WEDNESDAY:more fallout from the Plane Ride from Hell, more on the beginning of Jarrett's new NWA-TNA promotion, more on the NJPW Tokyo Dome show, and more...
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE: 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000
Frustration is building in the WWF due to the collapse of business. Wrestlers are paid based on event gates and PPV buyrates and needless to say, with those numbers dropping significantly this year, everyone's paychecks are also dropping significantly. It's especially worse for the lowemidcard guys. There's also the issue that WWF brought in so many new wrestlers this year that they picked up from WCW, which divided up the pie even more and led to more competition for spots on the card. Lots of lower card guys have found themselves not even being booked on house shows. As you'd expect, this has led to a lot of resentment from other WWF stars towards all the newcomers and is part of the reason why the whole Invasion angle failed: established WWF stars had no interest in making the angle succeed because their spots were on the line in real life and everyone's income depends on not losing their spot. This is the fastest and most severe decline in the history of professional wrestling (even WCW's decline didn't happen so suddenly) and the worst part is, there's no sign that it's stopping anytime soon. The numbers continue to fall week after week with no sign of plateauing yet. There's a ton of bickering within the writing staff over all sorts of things. Everyone's frustrated that there's no long-term planning and that everything is changed on the fly from week to week. Everyone realizes the Austin heel turn was a massive failure. There's no consistency because Vince overrides or vetoes or changes things constantly on a whim (oh shit, I think I accidentally posted a 2019 Observer....)
It's said that Bruce Prichard, Michael Hayes, and Brian Gerwertz are all on the same page and they run smoothly, but it's said Paul Heyman has a separate agenda and that Vince listens to Heyman's input too much, which causes him to change plans that everyone else already started working on. They say Heyman is always trying to protect "his ECW guys" and others say Gerwirtz is too focused on comedy and doesn't have enough wrestling knowledge. Then there's those on the other side who say Heyman is the only one who realizes how bad the problems are and that widespread change is needed. So just a bunch of typical backbiting and bickering bullshit. There's also a feeling backstage that they need to "swerve" the fans because the internet spoils so much stuff for people now. Everyone knows Chris Jericho is turning heel soon and it was expected to happen on Raw last week and fans were waiting for it. But instead, they abruptly turned Angle heel instead. It swerved the fans, sure, but it also didn't make any sense and had no logical reason to happen other than to "surprise" people. Dave reminds us that trying to work the internet audience is one of the big things that Russo was obsessed with and which helped drive WCW even further into the ground. Instead of swerving the audience, they simply made the audience stop caring because nothing made sense or mattered, and in the end, WCW swerved itself right out of business.
With the upcoming Survivor Series PPV featuring WWF vs. the Alliance with the losing team disbanding, it's also created a lot of paranoia among the wrestlers about their jobs. The Invasion angle is a bust and everyone agrees it's time to end it, but if/when the Alliance loses, there's a lot of former WCW wrestlers who are concerned about what happens to them after that. There's still talk of splitting the rosters and running 2 separate brands sometime next year but there's been no movement on that lately and with the roster as inflated as it is now, it's entirely likely that cuts could be made. Not to mention all the talent they're hoarding down in OVW and HWA. Dave figures most of those guys are safe, particularly the OVW guys like Prototype, Leviathan, Randy Orton, and Brock Lesnar. Some of the former WCW cruiserweights might oughta be concerned though. WWF is also keeping an eye on Jimmy Hart's XWF promotion. If they end up striking a deal with any real exposure, WWF will be less likely to get rid of anyone they might be able to use. There's also been rumors that the WWF team may lose since it's looking like the company may have to change its name soon anyway due to the World Wildlife Fund lawsuit, but WWF has spent more than a million dollars so far appealing that ruling and that doesn't even go to court until the spring, so it's a little premature for them to give up the WWF name just yet.
Oh yeah, speaking of the XWF. It's the first attempt since the death of WCW and ECW to start a new national product. The XFW is expected to hold a press conference this week to announce details of the promotion, including the TV situation. Hulk Hogan officially announced on Bubba The Love Sponge's radio show that he will be part of the promotion, but Hogan has said a lot of stuff on Bubba's show that turned out to not be true, so wait and see. For example, Hogan claimed to be a majority owner in the new company. Not true. He actually has no ownership interest in the company at all, but on their TV show, he will play the role of owner (ala Vince McMahon). Hogan is not planning to wrestle much and will mostly be an authority figure although he will do a few matches a year at least on major shows. The actual owners of the company are a couple of Texas infomercial millionaires who have earmarked $30 million for this venture. Hogan is working with Kevin Sullivan on booking while the business side is largely being run by Jimmy Hart and Brian Knobs. Dave lists a bunch of people who are going to be working there (Hennig, Vampiro, Harris Brothers, AJ Styles, Konnan, Rena Mero, Psicosis, Christopher Daniels, Road Warriors, Juventud Guerrera, etc.). Sting is still collecting his WCW contract until the end of the year but they've had discussions with him and it's believed he will be joining the promotion when he's free to do so. The promotion has a deal with Universal to run regular television tapings from their studios as well as 3 events there per week as a theme park attraction. The plan is also to eventually run house shows in other markets. There is also talk of using Memphis as a farm system, with Lawler running shows there as something of a developmental territory for XWF.
Keiji Muto now holds 6 major belts in Japan after he and AJPW star Taiyo Kea won the IWGP tag team titles this week. Muto and Kea already hold 2 different sets of tag titles in AJPW so now they're triple tag champions to go along with Muto currently holding the AJPW Triple Crown title (which is 3 belts in and of itself). That being said, Muto's knees are in horrible shape and he almost couldn't work the show. He's scheduled to come to the U.S. this week to get his knees worked on (he's been getting special shots in his knees and things like that which he can apparently only get in the U.S.). The tag title victory essentially unified the AJPW and NJPW tag team titles and Dave says Muto has pretty much solidified that he's going to win just about every Wrestler of the Year award that exists in Japan for the year 2001.
Dave has a lot more details of the WWA promotion that debuted in Australia and aired on PPV there last week and there are some positives. The U.S. market is burned out and tough right now, but Australia is still under-served and rabid for wrestling, which led to hot crowds. But there's also a lot of negatives. The 2 biggest stars in the eyes of the fans were Jerry Lawler (who can really only do comedy matches because of his age and because that's what most people know him from after spending the last 10 years being a comic heel in WWF) and Bret Hart (who was there but obviously can't wrestle at all). Not having real top stars will hurt this promotion's chances of succeeding long-term. Dave also says the curse of Vince Russo hangs over them, with the PPV featuring the worst of Russo-style booking that helped tank WCW, as clearly the people involved have learned nothing from what doomed that company. Reactions from the PPV were overwhelmingly negative, with complaints about wacky booking, gimmick matches that served no purpose, and crowning Jeff Jarrett as the promotion's first champion. They could have had a major superstar. Australian native Nathan Jones has all the tools needed to be a star and should have been pushed hard and protected. Instead, they booked a tournament and he lost to Jeff Jarrett in the first round. It's easy to dismiss one loss as no big deal, but one loss in the wrong way can be deadly. One loss to Kevin Nash pretty much killed Goldberg's drawing power, for example. Jones came into the show with a lot of hype and a mystique around him and they jobbed him out in his PPV debut in front of his home country. Jeremy Borash, who was in some ways mentored by Russo in WCW, was in charge of the show (after Russo pulled out a couple weeks ago) and he also did commentary alongside Lawler. Like they did on the house shows, the commentary for the PPV was also broadcast over the speakers in the arena so the live crowd could hear it, which led to awkward moments with wrestlers and referees who, for example, weren't supposed to know someone was sneaking up behind them, despite the fact that they could obviously hear the commentators talking about it.
Other notes from the PPV: Bret Hart opened the show as the WWA commissioner and talked about being there in September to promote the tour and how he got stuck there after the events of 9/11 grounded or disrupted flights all over the world. He also talked about never cleanly losing the WWF title and insulted Vince McMahon which got a huge pop from the crowd, which was very anti-WWF. He claimed no one ever beat him for either the WWF or WCW titles and talked about how WCW fired him while he was injured, called Vince McMahon "a piece of shit" (again, a big pop but it also led to a lot of people saying Bret came off too bitter). As for never losing the titles, Hart said he'd pass the torch to whoever won the tournament tonight to create a legitimate world champion and that he would recognize the winner as the new best there is, was, ever will be, etc. Juventud Guerrera fought Psicosis in a meandering ladder match. The announcers referenced Guerrera's arrest from the last time they were in Australia and, of course, the announcers were mic'd so the crowd popped for the mention of it (it was pretty big mainstream news at the time, so everyone knew). Road Dogg vs. Konnan in a dog collar match for no reason and the collar kept slipping off Konnan's neck somehow. The announcers also repeatedly referenced their WWF and WCW pasts, and the whole thing came off as minor league. Then a hardcore match. Then a battle royal. Then a guitar on a pole match. We've all seen Russo-style booking, you get the idea. Jeff Jarrett then beat Buff Bagwell in a "Tits, Whips, and Buff" match which was basically just a lumberjack match with a bunch of dancing girls around the ring hitting the guys with cat-o-nine tails whips. Vampire Warrior (formerly Gangrel in WWF) had a match against Luna Vachon (his real-life wife). A 4-way women's match where the only way to win was to strip the other 3's tops off. Bare breasts were promised but in the end, the women were wearing tape over their nipples, which the crowd booed the fuck out of and one of the women was a guy in drag who won. The implied (but never outright said) Scott Steiner would be there next month for the next tour but Dave says it's expected to be Rick Steiner instead, since Scott is still injured and collecting that Time Warner money. Some guys in banana suits beat up Disco Inferno. And Jeff Jarrett beat Road Dogg in the tournament finals (in a cage match, because why not) to win the title and of course, they changed the rules midway through the match (after both guys climbed out of the cage at the same time) saying it can only end by pinfall or submission. They ended up doing a play off the Montreal Screwjob, with Bret refusing to ring the bell to screw Road Dogg over. Then Bret Hart apparently turned heel or something and ended up helping Jarrett win anyway. Then he turned face again and laid our Jarrett after the match and put him in a sharpshooter. This show makes no fucking sense. Dave says building heat for a Jarrett/Hart match would be great if Hart was capable of wrestling, but he's not so this accomplished nothing except making the fans want something they can't give them. Anyway, long story short, if you miss the complete clusterfuck that WCW used to be, this new WWA promotion is right up your alley. Because it's a hot fucking mess.
And on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, APW in California held a 2-day King of the Indies tournament with at least four legitimate 4+ star matches and then some. The crowd both nights was small but rabid and every match delivered. Many called it the best shows they ever saw live. American Dragon (real name Bryan Danielson), a former WWF developmental wrestler trained by Shawn Michaels, defeated Low-Ki in the finals to win the tournament in a 30 minute match (the 4th match in two days for both men). Dragon pretty much tore the house down all weekend, delivering awesome matches every time. Christoper Daniels vs. AJ Styles garnered a standing ovation after their match as well (the star power in this tournament is crazy: Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Low-Ki, Christopher Daniels, Doug Williams, Brian Kendrick, etc.) Dave says that regardless of how great all these guys are, unfortunately, most of them have little-to-no chance of ever making it in the WWF (lol. I mean, to be fair, in 2001, that was true. But still....lol) but thinks several of them would be welcomed with open arms in Japan
Pending regulatory approval, DirecTV will be sold to rival satellite provider EchoStar (parent company of Dish Network). The story has potential ramifications for wrestling. As covered, WWF and DirecTV are currently in a contract dispute that resulted in No Mercy not airing on PPV on DirecTV, which cost both sides an estimated $800,000. WWF has their own deal with EchoStar so this should put an end to the DirecTV issues, but WWF's deal with EchoStar is worse for them than the deal DirecTV offered last week, which WWF turned down. And with EchoStar now poised to have a monopoly on the satellite market, WWF doesn't have a lot of leverage in trying to negotiate a better deal. Long story short, WWF lost $800,000 last week and they're probably going to end up with a worse deal than they would have had if they just accepted DirecTV's offer. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and most people expected NewsCorp to buy DirecTV, not EchoStar, so it's not like they really could have known. EchoStar's monopoly on the satellite industry will represent around 35% of the total available PPV audience (the rest is through cable) so WWF definitely can't afford to withhold anymore PPVs because doing so would cost literally millions of dollars each month. That being said, the "pending regulatory approval" part is crucial. This purchase will truly create a monopoly in the American satellite industry and it's by no means a sure thing that this sale will even be approved (indeed, it was not approved. They spend a good year fighting with the FCC and DOJ over it before EchoStar ultimately pulls out of the deal and the sale never happens).
Hayabusa has been able to move his fingers and has a little bit of feeling and movement in his feet but that's all as of press time. He has been moved to a rehab center in Tokyo for now. He was able to eat small amounts of food for the first time last week. Dave saw a tape of the match and describes how Hayabusa slipped off the rope and landed right on his head. People in the crowd screamed immediately. The referee checked on him and even cradled his head, which is probably the worst thing you can do in a situation where someone has a severe neck injury. His opponent then stomped on him and started choking him, without moving his head, mostly just stalling for time, but it was clear something was wrong. The referee pulled him away and called for the bell and there was a panic in the ring after that, with a bunch of people and doctors rushing in to surround him. They took his mask off in the ring and began working on him and brought a stretcher to the ring. The show, which was airing on PPV in Japan, went off the air with Hayabusa still motionless in the ring (I haven't been able to find a full video of this. The spot where Hayabusa lands is easy to find, but those videos end immediately after the bump. All the stuff afterwards, I can't find video of).
In an interview he did in Australia, Bret Hart had some interesting stuff to say:
In regards to Bill Goldberg: "As long as Goldberg looked good, which he always did, he couldn't really care less what his fellow wrestlers looked like when they came out of the ring." Hart also admitted that he still has severe problems with his balance due to his concussion issues. In regards to the use of painkillers in wrestling: "I don't know if a lot of guys could have done it otherwise. When you get hurt, you are a liability. What happens is you got an entire dressing room filled with drug addicts--and they died one after another. More wrestlers have died from pills than any other sport." In regards to his own steroid use: "I did take steroids periodically. I never deny that. I don't know if they did any good. I didn't take enough to affect me either way."
Bret was also asked, of course, about the Montreal Screwjob and particularly about recent comments that Jack Brisco made saying that he sided with Vince McMahon. Hart said his refusal to lose at Survivor Series had more to do with Shawn Michaels' behavior than it did with the show being in Canada. When Shawn flat out told Bret that he would never put him over, Bret in turn decided that he wouldn't put over Shawn either. Hart claimed he had never refused to put anyone over before that and had lost matches in Canada countless times in the past. In regards to Brisco's comments, Hart called Jack's brother Gerald Brisco "deceptive" because he believes Gerald played a part in the Screwjob. Hart also recounted an old story about Ernie Ladd beating up both the Brisco brothers in a parking lot and stuffing them in the trunk of his car and dropping them off at a promoter's house. Dave says he's also heard that story, although to be fair, Ladd reportedly beat both men with a tire iron. Bret called both of the Briscos drunks and said "Jack Brisco can kiss my ass." He also added that when he knocked out Vince in the locker room after Montreal, more than 10 different former world champions called him to tell him they were proud of him for doing it. Dave is just kinda exasperated that neither side can seem to ever let go of the Screwjob 4 years later.
In wrestler parent news: Helen Hart is still hospitalized this week in bad shape. Stu Hart has been at her bedside around-the-clock. Hulk Hogan's father Peter Bollea took a turn for the worse this week and it's looking dire for him.
Diana Hart is doing the media rounds for her autobiography that is being released this week. According to previews, it's a behind the scenes look at the Hart family and is said to be extremely negative about her brother Bret and especially her ex-husband Davey Boy Smith, who she alleges drugged and raped her. The book also goes after Bruce Hart's ex-wife Andrea (who is now dating Davey Boy) as well as Owen Hart's widow Martha Hart. People who have read the book, including people who have known the family for years, are said to be stunned by much of what Diana has written.
Kurt Angle did an interview with the Observer website and talked about a few things. He seems very serious about training for the 2004 Olympics. He will be in his mid-30s by then and would need to take about a year off from WWF to properly train. He talked about missing the competition. He said there's competition in WWF because everyone wants to be the top star but it's not true athletic competition. He said the WWF has already given him the approval to take the time off to train when necessary and that Vince and Jim Ross have been supportive of his decision. He hasn't made a firm decision yet on whether or not to do it, because it mostly depends on how the next year of his WWF career goes. He has to stay healthy doing pro wrestling before he can consider trying for the Olympics again (spoiler: he does not stay healthy). Angle also talked about the current product and admitted that it was stale and there is nothing interesting about the Alliance feud. He blamed the declining ratings on the product sucking and admitted he's frustrated with his current character and said playing the nerdy babyface gimmick and still being over with the crowd is difficult. But he said he doesn't think things will get any worse and expects business to turn around soon (spoiler: they do and it doesn't).
Angle, Lita, Trish Stratus, Big Show, Booker T, William Regal, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon taped an episode of "The Weakest Link" last week which will air in 2 weeks on NBC. Triple H and Stephanie ended up being the last two remaining, with Triple H winning in the end (and if I know anything about marriage, I bet anything Triple H still jokingly rubs that in Stephanie's face to this day). During a commercial break, someone asked Regal about the match on Nitro where he embarrassed Goldberg, which led Triple H to chime in that embarrassing Goldberg isn't hard to do. Dave thinks Goldberg made a good choice by sitting home and collecting on his WCW contract rather than going to WWF. Given the shape of this company lately and the way they've botched the Invasion angle, plus all the resentment WWF stars seem to have against him, if Goldberg showed up in WWF's shark infested waters right now, he's pretty sure everyone would be fighting over who gets to beat him first rather than worrying about how they can all make money together.
WWF issued full refunds to customers that complained about the webcast for No Mercy. If you recall, WWF tried to stream the PPV over the internet and a little under 1,000 people paid for that option, only to have a terrible experience because, well, this is internet streaming in 2001.
In a dark match before Raw in Louisville, Brock Lesnar & Shelton Benjamin defeated Prototype and Rico Constantino to win the OVW tag titles. On the same show, in another dark match, Kanyon tore his ACL in a match with Randy Orton.
Dave mentions the names of a few people who were chosen for the Tough Enough season 2 tryouts and one of them is a model and actress named Shelly Martinez (she doesn't make the cut and isn't on the show, but she eventually makes it to WWE anyway).
Rhyno has 2 herniated discs in his neck and may need surgery. If he does, it will be similar to Austin and Benoit, where he will be out for an extended length of time (yeah, he ends up getting the surgery and is out for well over a year).
Negotiations with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are still ongoing and they seem to have hit an impasse over the schedule. Nash has made it clear he doesn't want to work a full schedule and only wants to do 12 dates per month, at most. WWF doesn't want to sign anyone for less than 15 dates per month at minimum. There's some posturing from Nash about going to NJPW instead if WWF won't agree to his terms, but there's nothing to it because NJPW doesn't have any interest in paying Nash the big money he's asking for.
Eddie Guerrero will be returning to work house shows this week. He did an interview on WWF.com about his issues and strongly hinted that his marriage is over because of his substance issues and talked about not having a family anymore. He said his daughters still love him unconditionally but made it sound as though he and his wife would be divorcing (yeah, he and Vickie were separated for about 2 years. Eddie ends up fathering a daughter with another woman during this time but then ends up reconciling with Vickie and they remained together until his death). Eddie said he'll be starting back slowly in wrestling and admitted he made a mistake in WCW by rushing back too soon after his car accident and tried to resume working at the same pace he did before his injuries. The pain led to his substance abuse issues, which led him to where he is today.
Former WCW and short-time WWF referee Billy Silverman is threatening legal action against the WWF over being hazed, harassed, ribbed, whatever. Silverman made the mistake of paying to have his plane ticket upgraded to first class. Apparently there's an unspoken rule in the WWF that only the top stars fly first class and Silverman had the audacity to use his own money to pay for his own upgrade, and as a result, he was bullied relentlessly (by JBL) until he quit the company. Dave says it sounds petty, but petty bullshit like this is pretty much why the whole Invasion angle failed in the first place, with all the established WWF people doing everything they could to bury the WCW names who didn't adhere to every little stupid unspoken bullshit rule in the WWF locker room.
Kurt Angle's wife Karen wrote on her personal website trashing RVD for injuring Kurt: "My personal opinion is that RVD is not ready yet. I feel he is very careless. When these men step into the ring, they are trusting the other person with their body. Even though RVD has been in the business for many years, I don't feel he can be trusted. Out of five matches with RVD, there was only one match Kurt didn't have to have stitches or was able to walk out without bleeding."
WEDNESDAY:more on WWF's plummeting business, Helen Hart passes away, wrestlers not faring well in MMA, WWF Rebellion PPV fallout, Diana Hart controversy, and more...
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE: 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000
PROGRAMMING NOTE:I am most likely going to be out of town for work for much of next week, so there won't be any Rewinds posted on Monday or Wednesday. Should be back to normal next Friday though.
The WWF signed Justin Credible this week, which leads to a lot more questions about the state of ECW. Credible has been in an extremely tight financial bind due to being behind on pay from ECW, plus medical bills from his wife recently giving birth and was close to quitting the wrestling business entirely before the WWF deal came along. There's also word that WWF has been negotiating with Tajiri and Rhino. For months, WWF has said they wouldn't take any of ECW's talent until the company's fate was decided one way or another, so WWF signing ECW guys seems like a sign that they know something. WWF has also offered Paul Heyman himself a job to help write television but as of now, Heyman hasn't accepted it. The head booker of WWF is, was, and always will be Vince McMahon, so Heyman would only be one member of a team. As for rumors of WWF buying ECW, word is they aren't interested because they don't want to take on the massive debt that ECW has. Others have pointed out that WWF almost bought WCW a few months ago and they have way more debt. That's true, but they also have 2 prime-time TV shows on strong national networks and a lot of major stars under contract, none of which ECW has. If WWF wants any of ECW's stars, they can get them easily without buying the company. Heyman has made no secret that he's attempting to sell the company and apparently there were preliminary discussions with WWF about it, but they never went anywhere. ECW is said to be anywhere from $4-to-$7 million in debt, much of which is from Heyman himself and his friends and family that he has borrowed from to keep the company afloat. As of now, ECW isn't producing anymore television and it has lost nearly all of its syndicated TV deals it had around the country and there doesn't appear to be anyone interested in acquiring the company.
While WWF is now poaching ECW talent, they have promised to keep all ECW signings confidential in order to keep it from looking like ECW is losing all their stars while Heyman continues negotiating with TV networks. But of course, this is the wrestling business and almost nothing stays secret for long (Justin Credible's signing was all over the internet the day after it happened). ECW still has a PPV penciled in for March 11th but there's no building booked yet and it's looking less and less likely that it will really happen. Even if the PPV happens, ECW is pretty much dead. If Heyman can, he may still run sporadic spot shows here and there using the ECW name, but as a real promotion, they're all but finished. If the PPV happens, WWF has agreed to allow any new signees to still work the show, and even allow former ECW stars like the Dudleyz and Tazz to work the show if they want. As long as Heyman owns the ECW name, he'll always be able to round up enough indie stars to put on a live show or a PPV under the ECW banner. But without television, that's not a very profitable business.
WCW is known to be interested in several of ECW's stars and obviously WWF's decision to start signing them instead is at least partly to keep WCW from getting them. Both Tajiri and Super Crazy were offered tryout matches at the latest Nitro tapings, but the offer actually pissed both men off, particularly Tajiri who felt insulted at being asked to try out, considering everyone who pays any attention already knows how good he is. Tajiri is almost certainly going to WWF, though Super Crazy may not, since Vince is said to not be interested in him and he's never cared for Lucha Libre style wrestlers before. WCW is also interested in Kid Kash. Meanwhile, Steve Corino, Simon Diamond, and Dawn Marie were all at Nitro looking for work, and it's believed Corino has a good chance of getting signed. WCW is still hesitant to sign anyone without rock solid evidence that they aren't under an ECW contract, because they got burned in the past with Candido, Awesome, and Sabu. WWF doesn't have the same concerns, figuring that with everyone 10 weeks behind on pay, it'd be pretty difficult for Heyman to enforce anyone's contract. Plus, they're at least trying to work with Heyman to make things as easy as possible for him. As for other guys like Sandman, C.W. Anderson, Spike Dudley, etc.....there doesn't appear to be any interest in them from either WWF or WCW. It's believed Tommy Dreamer could always get a job in WWF if he wants it, as a writer or office worker. Jerry Lynn was expected to wind up in WWF, but apparently they low-balled him on their contract offer and negotiations have stalled. But much like Justin Credible, Lynn is in a financial crunch and can't afford to not sign with somebody sooner or later, so he may be forced to take the deal (and now you see why WWE having a monopoly for the last nearly 20 years has been bad for the wrestlers). And finally, there's Rob Van Dam. Nothing new with him right now. WWF doesn't appear to be interested, so WCW may be his best option.
Eric Bischoff has reportedly finalized plans for a temporary shutdown of WCW, expected to take place immediately after the SuperBrawl PPV later this month. It's expected that some sort of major angle will take place at the end of the show (rumors are that it may involve Goldberg and/or even Hogan), resulting in some announcement that Nitro and Thunder have been cancelled for a few weeks. As for shows that were already booked and have been advertised and have sold tickets for, they're all expected to be cancelled, or at the very least, they may still run them as house shows. Regarding the time frame of the shutdown, that's uncertain. It's believed to be about 3-4 weeks, likely with Nitro returning to TV on Mar. 12th in Knoxville. All the major stars will be on the show when it relaunches and it would act as sort of a reboot for WCW. While Goldberg will likely be there, he won't be doing much, as he just had shoulder surgery this week, which is why they wrote him off TV at the Sin PPV. WCW also doesn't plan to have a PPV in April, and will start back with monthly PPVs again with an event on May 6th in Las Vegas (that was the WCW Big Bang PPV that never ended up happening, but WWE.com wrote a big story on it awhile back and what the plans were. It's an interesting article for a few reasons. The big reason being that it proves how dead-on accurate Dave was about this stuff. I know nowadays, Bischoff is all about his podcast and doing his I-hate-Dave-Meltzer, he's-wrong-about-everything gimmick. But this article, from WWE and featuring quotes from Bischoff himself, confirms every single thing Dave was writing back in 2000 and early 2001. They were shutting down, they were going to be headquartered out of Los Angeles, run shows in Las Vegas, the FX negotiations, Turner wanting to keep them on their network, Joey Styles doing commentary, etc. Dave was reporting all of this, down to the tiniest detail, back when everybody was trying to keep it secret. Just keep that in mind next time Bischoff is talking shit about how Dave Meltzer is a quack who makes up rumors).
AJPW held its big Tokyo Dome show, drawing about 32,000 fans, but the crowd was heavily papered. They announced the crowd as 58,700 but it was really nowhere close. The crowd was mostly drawn by the nostalgia of the show. It was built around honoring Giant Baba, the retirement of Stan Hansen, and the return of names like Mil Mascaras, Terry Funk, Atsushi Onita and Abdullah the Butcher, who were all huge stars for AJPW in years (and decades) past. Hansen's retirement ceremony was the highlight of the show, with a lot of legends appearing and Hansen giving a speech that brought many to tears. Hansen currently has the best selling autobiography out in Japan. Mascaras got a huge pop when he came out. Atsushi Onita coming out to his old early-80s AJPW theme song was a huge moment. The Funk/Abdullah stuff was a bloodbath straight out of the old 1970s-era AJPW. They sold a ton of Baba and Hansen merch. But all of this was a reminder than it's 2001, not 1977 and the disappointing ticket sales and complete lack of any future vision for AJPW is troubling (here's a Youtube playlist with a few of the matches and highlights from this show but there's not much).
Remember awhile back when there was news about a Dr. Hackett in Indianapolis who was known to have prescribed drugs to several wrestlers, including some who died like Brian Pillman and Louie Spicolli? Well anyway, ol' Dr. Hackett got indicted this week on 48 different charges related to over-prescribing drugs and making false statements and a bunch of other shit. Hackett was the most well-known doctor in wrestling since Dr. Zahorian, who's downfall led to the WWF's early-90s steroid scandal. Dave doubts this case will be as big a deal, but given the fact that multiple wrestling deaths can be traced back to him, you never know. The pills Spicolli overdosed on were prescribed by Hackett. After Pillman's death in 1997, WWF banned Hackett and other well-known drug pushing doctors from its locker rooms. Many of the doctors were upset, none more than Hackett. He claimed he was pushed out due to racism (he's black) and made a big stink of it. Despite being told not to see him, several wrestlers in both WWF and WCW continued going to him because, well, he's easy to get drugs from. Anyway, Hackett is facing a bunch of charges, revoked medical license, prison time, and nearly half a million in fines.
Chyna is the latest WWF star to release an autobiography (ghostwritten, of course) and Dave's here to give it a not-so-glowing review. Chyna doesn't come across as very likable in the book, and we learn that she basically hates 90% of the people who have been a part of her life, including her parents and various surrogate parents from her childhood. She wrote about being upset when her dad came to see her wrestle and she refused to see him and got mad when other WWF wrestlers met with him. She described her trainer, Killer Kowalski, as a stereotypical out of touch old man and made fun of his looks, personality, and hairpiece to the point that she was just being cruel. There's no depth to the book at all, even shallower than Golderg's book. She talked about working a 1-900 phone sex job before wrestling. She trashed ex-boyfriends, co-workers, and especially ripped on every woman she's ever wrestled against. Flat out denied ever using steroids which, c'mon. In the publicity run-up for the book, a big selling point was that she would come clean about her various cosmetic surgeries. But aside from talking about her breast implants, not a word was written about the obvious amount of work she had done on her face. She talked about recently breaking up with Triple H (although they have since gotten back together), and talked about how pro wrestling is Triple H's real wife and she could never be more than his mistress (that's some poetic shit). Basically, a big chunk of the book was just Chyna talking about how much she hated everyone who has allegedly wronged her throughout her life. It did have a couple of good moments though, like the story of how Triple H and Shawn Michaels pushed Vince to hire her. And especially the story of what happened the night Jeff Jarrett held up Vince for more than $200,000 in order to put over Chyna during his last night in the company for the IC title. But otherwise, Dave ain't feeling this book.
We have an obituary for Rito Romero, a famous Lucha Libre wrestler from the 40s and 50s, who died at age 73. Romero is most famously remembered today for being the wrestler who invented the surfboard move. He was also a big star in Texas and the southern U.S. during that time, starred in movies in Mexico, and so on and so forth. Pour one out.
Nitro this week featured the return of Dusty Rhodes which was particularly interesting because of how it did in the ratings. Dusty's return happened at the start of the second hour, right when WWF's Raw was starting. And yet, Nitro only lost 78,000 homes when Raw started. The usual number is anywhere from 600,000 to one million that switch over when Raw starts. So needless to say, the return of Dusty Rhodes was a HUGE draw for Nitro. And in fact, the segment (which featured Dusty giving bionic elbows to Road Warrior Animal and Ric Flair) did the highest quarter hour rating that Nitro has done in ages, and was within about 1 point of Raw during the same quarter hour, which is the closest the two shows have been in god knows how long. Nostalgia, if done correctly and in small doses, is a hell of a draw. But of course, Dave warns WCW not to take this as a sign that they need to build the show around Dusty now. He can pop a rating if used correctly, but don't get crazy.
AJPW has announced Sabu and Rob Van Dam for the upcoming tour later this month. Dave thinks it's not a sure bet that RVD will be on the tour, "based on certain things." (in other words, he could still sign with WWF or WCW at any moment).
Somewhat good news for Kenta Kobashi following his recent surgeries. Turns out his right knee wasn't as bad as they expected. They still did surgery, transplanting cartilage from his right elbow to his right knee, but there wasn't as much ligament damage as they feared. Kobashi is now talking about returning to the ring in 6 months, but that's just not enough time and Dave wishes Kobashi would stop being so stubborn and take off all the time he actually needs to properly recover. He's notorious for coming back way too soon from injuries because he has the mentality that the company needs him, and Dave says he's already shortened his career by doing this too many times and he's going to pay dearly for it later in life. Dave recounts a story from WCW just last year, when Keiji Muto was working there. A WCW doctor was examining wrestlers and asking them about their injuries and where they hurt. It led to Muto telling the doctor, simply, "my entire body hurts, all the time."
Speaking of Keiji Muto, he signed a new contract with NJPW this week and it's a unique deal. Muto signed on to work a maximum of only 50 dates, due to all his knee injuries, and he's the first wrestler in NJPW history who will be paid a percentage of the gates for shows he works rather than getting a guaranteed salary like everyone else. Masa Chono is hoping to get a similar deal, since his body is destroyed and he's not wanting to work as much. And Hashimoto is seemingly gone from the company right now. All of this explains why NJPW has gotten behind Kensuke Sasaki so much, making him the focal point of the company, because they don't really have any other believable full-time top stars.
Shinya Hashimoto is starting up his own Zero-One promotion, running his first show at Sumo Hall next month using himself and talent on loan from NOAH and Inoki.
Superstars of Wrestling, the promotion that ran shows in Australia last year with Dennis Rodman, announced another tour next month that will be headlined by Ultimate Warrior. It will be Warrior's first time back in the ring since his 1998 run in WCW. That being said, this is Warrior so who knows if this will even happen. He's notoriously flaky, so Dave ain't holding his breath that he'll even show up for this (nope, it doesn't happen).
The murder trial of 13-year-old Lionel Tate was decided this week when Tate was found guilty of first degree murder. The case stemmed from Tate beating a 6-year-old girl to death back in 1999. The case made national headlines when Tate's lawyer argued that Tate has been influenced by watching wrestling and attempted to subpoena Sting, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and others to testify. The PTC latched onto this case, using it as an example of how WWF is responsible for children's deaths, which has been a big part of their campaign to get sponsors to pull out of Smackdown. The judge didn't allow the wrestling defense, with the prosecution arguing that the girl's injuries that killed her went far beyond just a wrestling move gone wrong, saying she was severely beaten for a lengthy amount of time and her injuries didn't lineup with Tate's version of "wrestling moves gone wrong." As for the lawyer who tried to bring wrestling into it, as part of their lawsuit against the PTC, the WWF also sued him. Anyway, following the guilty verdict, Tate now faces life in prison without parole.
There's talk of making Steve Corino the next NWA champion if he ends up not signing with WWF or WCW and commits to working NWA shows (he does end up signing with WCW but never debuts, they go out of business, and indeed, he becomes NWA champ soon after).
A bunch of ECW wrestlers worked an indie show in Queens this week at Elk's Lodge, which is the same building that hosted so many big ECW events over the years. Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch were there too, which surprised a lot of people because Sytch was just recently hospitalized the other day. No word why she was in the hospital, although there's a bunch of rumors going around that you can probably guess. But Dave can't verify anything other than the fact that she was in the hospital for a few days in bad shape.
The last few syndicated networks that still have ECW on the schedule ended up airing old re-run episodes from back in September, since the company has stopped producing TV. With the lack of shows and TV and everyone looking for work elsewhere, it's becoming more and more apparent that ECW is almost certainly dead.
Regarding the WCW sale, although it was officially announced last month by all parties involved, the sale won't actually be finalized for another month or two. There's a lot of red tape and details that have to be worked out on a sale of this magnitude so for now, Turner still owns WCW and is trying to run it as low-budgeted as they can while all the nit-picky stuff is settled. So while some creative changes may happen, until the sale is finalized, don't expect anything that costs money to change. So for now, WCW is just treading water until everything is finalized (turns out this is a pretty big deal...).
Eric Bischoff held a meeting before Nitro with the wrestlers and basically said that Johnny Ace is in charge for now. He said himself, Ed Ferrara, or Terry Taylor would be glad to listen to any ideas people have for angles or whatever, but the final yes or no on all those decisions is going to be Johnny Ace. He also talked about some of the wrestlers being out of shape, getting blown up in the ring, etc. and after the meeting, he met privately with a few guys to tell them to lose weight. Some wrestlers argued that it's hard to stay in ring shape when the company is only running one show a week and a lot of times, these guys only work one 2-3 minute match each week. Dave agrees. You can jog and exercise all you want, but it's not the same. Ring rust is real and being in ring-shape requires actually being in the ring. And that makes it especially difficult for young stars who are trying to improve so they can become bigger stars, but they barely get more than 2 or 3 minutes a week experience in the ring. The average WWF wrestler works 200 matches a year, give or take, and at WCW's current schedule, it'll take a WCW star 4 years to get that same amount of experience under their belt. In a company that desperately needs to create new stars, that's a big problem. But hey....the state of the company is what it is, so not much they can do about it. Anyway, Bischoff also asked everyone to start dressing and presenting themselves more professionally.
Bischoff desperately wants to split the Nitro/Thunder tapings. Having to tape Thunder every Monday night after Nitro is killing the crowds, which also kills the show. Dave also hints at the possibility of dropping Thunder altogether, which Bischoff would love, since he was against doing the show from day one.
Notes from Nitro: aside from the return of Dusty Rhodes, Dave calls it a depressing show. In a dark match, AJ Styles and Air Paris had a tryout against each other that was said to be really good. Even the Dusty return was depressing because it shows the current audience cares more about the mid-80s stars than anyone in WCW today. They did some fake DDP autograph signing skit, with Air Paris and AJ Styles playing the role of unruly fans. The show was in Baltimore so Buff Bagwell made some comments about Ray Lewis' murder arrest in order to get heat, which some found in bad taste (and now he's in the Hall of Fame. Lewis, not Bagwell). And Kevin Nash cut a promo saying, "Hey yo" to a big pop, because of course he did. Speaking of Scott Hall, he's been telling friends that Bischoff has told him to get ready to come back, so it looks like he'll be returning to Eric Bischoff's new WCW.
One last, weirdly hilarious note from Nitro and I'll just let Dave tell it: "Schiavone was waiting all day for the line talking about Misterio Jr. wrestling in Mexico, and then said, 'Mexico is bordered to the South by Guatemala, not Nicaragua, as everybody knows.' For the other three million viewers who don't have any idea why he said this, it's because about 11 years ago, there was this guy who did a wrestling newsletter named Steve Beverly who had the ear of a guy at TBS named Jeff Carr. Carr made the call that WCW Saturday Night, or whatever the show was called in those days which had Ross and Schiavone as co-hosts, should only have one host, and it was Ross. Schiavone was so mad he went to the WWF for several years, and has never forgiven Ross for the feeling he manipulated Schiavone out of the Saturday night job. He's hated Beverly ever since, and Beverly was always saying that Schiavone never stood up to the heels like Gordon Solie or Lance Russell. Anyway, last week on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," a contestant was asked what country bordered Mexico to the South and called Beverly, one of the world's most noted game show aficionados, for a lifeline and Beverly said Nicaragua and his friend hesitated, but went with Beverly's pick, and was wrong." Okay then.
It's widely believed that WCW will hire Road Dogg now that WWF has released him. Oh yeah, by the way....WWF released Road Dogg. Dave says it wasn't a surprise after he showed up to work a few weeks ago in no shape to perform.
Bryan Alvarez does a monthly article for Penthouse Magazine (I....didn't know that) and this month, the article was on women in wrestling. Anyway, remember that woman Marie (or Maria) who WCW brought in a few weeks back to play the role of Vito's sister? She appeared on TV a few times in an angle that seemingly went nowhere. Well, Alvarez couldn't find a picture of her to use in the article, so he contacted WCW, and they claimed to have never heard of her. Classic WCW.
Stacy Keibler is still under WCW contract but isn't being used and hasn't heard anything from them. So she's just sitting home getting paychecks mailed to her every week to do nothing. Last weekend, she was at the Super Bowl working for a Baltimore radio station because she used to be a Ravens cheerleader before joining WCW. Speaking of the Super Bowl, Hulk Hogan was there also and he made the local news when he tried to park in the VIP parking lot and was denied by security.
Notes from Raw: Dave talks about the Hardyz and says Jeff in particular seems to be in a lot of pain these days. He adds that the Hardyz have a reputation for not taking pain pills so they feel the injuries a lot more than most guys (well that policy certainly changed over the years). They aired a risque commercial for the XFL featuring model and new XFL announcer Carol Grow taking her clothes off, which TSN in Canada actually censored. And Big Show worked the main event, sold nothing and looked possibly worse than he ever has in the ring and nearly ruined the match by being so bad.
Shawn Michaels' contract expires in June and he's negotiating an extension. The plan is still to bring him back for a match at Wrestlemania, but WWF is hesitant to push him on TV unless he signs an extension. They don't want to make a big deal out of his return, have him work a high profile match, and then show up in WCW two months later. Michaels is planning to shut down his wrestling school and his TWA promotion has already stopped running shows, so he's attempting to get 100% back into being an on-screen performer, either as a wrestler or something else.
Bruce Prichard is taking more of a role on the writing staff, which is headed by Stephanie McMahon. Right now, there's 2 other writers on the team who are fans but don't quite understand the wrestling business the way Prichard does so they want him involved, plus there's a feeling that the writing in WWF has become stagnant so they hope to freshen things up with new people and new ideas on the team.
Smackdown is being pushed hard as the "A" show right now because it faces such strong competition on Thursday nights from shows like "Friends" and "Survivor." Raw this week was mostly just a 2 hour commercial to promote Smackdown on Thursday.
Bobby Eaton has been signed by WWF to be the head trainer in the Memphis developmental territory.
Val Venis and Edge both missed the latest TV tapings to attend the funeral of Venis' mother. Edge is married to (or engaged to, Dave isn't sure which) Venis' sister, so it was basically Edge's mother-in-law also.
On Smackdown, Rock cut a promo making fun of Big Show's weight and Lawler even joked about it on commentary. It was basically calling out the fact that Show didn't even remotely come close to losing the weight WWF wanted him to lose. Backstage, he's said to have the same bad attitude as when he first was sent to OVW, particularly when it comes to not taking advice given to him by the agents on ring-work and character suggestions. As you'd expect, there's a lot of resentment against Show from other wrestlers, feeling like he walked back into the company and was pushed right back into the main event ahead of more deserving guys who aren't lazy and work hard to stay in shape. Show claims to have lost 66 pounds, which absolutely nobody believes, and word is they still want him to lose another 40. It's believed Shane McMahon is the one who pushed for his return at the Rumble even though others were against it, but Shane convinced his father to do it.
There's talk of making Bradshaw a top singles heel as well as talks of splitting up the Hardyz. Dave thinks the Hardyz thing is a bad idea. A lot of people feel like Jeff Hardy could be the next Shawn Michaels after the Rockers split, which doesn't bode well for Matt Hardy, although Dave thinks Matt is light years better than Marty Jannetty and doesn't have all the personal problems either (and of course, a few years after this, JBL did indeed get the top heel singles push).
There's rumors that some more people might be let go by WWF soon. Mideon was released this week, which upset some people because he's popular backstage and reportedly really funny to hang out with, but they just didn't have anything for him. He also had sort of a Big Show situation, where they asked him to get into better shape and he didn't. And, well, one of them has a 10-year guaranteed big money contract and the other one doesn't, so one still has a job while the other doesn't.
Kurt Angle will be the next wrestler with an autobiography released. He's lived a really interesting life so Dave is looking forward to it, but it's expected to be ghostwritten like the others, so Dave just hopes it's better than Chyna's book (I've read it. It's pretty good).
Bob Orton Jr.'s son Randy is said to be showing a lot of improvement in a short period of time wrestling in OVW.
In an interview with Media Week promoting the XFL, Vince McMahon had this lovely little comment about female football announcers: "Football is a man's game. Don't put a woman on the sidelines to tell me about football. It's offensive. She might know more about the game than I do. But quite frankly, when she tells me she does, I resent her all the more. She's never played the game. When a woman tells me about football, I just think it's bad programming." Well then.
PTC head L. Brent Bozell sent out a fundraising letter that reeked of desperation, trying to raise money for a legal defense to fight the WWF. He claimed the WWF has hired a 600-man law firm which is, umm, decidedly false. He said the harassment from WWF fans has been brutal (Dave believes that) and that they have gotten emails with viruses sent to them that have destroyed their computers and the letter basically made it sound like this was all coordinated by WWF themselves, which of course is not true. Bozell said if WWF wins this battle, no one else will ever stand up to them again and that the legal costs could be in the hundreds of thousands so please send them money!
NEXT FRIDAY:the XFL debuts, Paul Heyman still trying to save ECW, lots of WCW news, Stan Hansen's retirement, and more...
Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives. PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE:1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998
As the year 2000 approaches, publications all over the world keep putting out their "Best of the century" lists for different things so hey, why not wrestling? Of course, that's problematic because as times change, so does the business. Basketball in 1999 is fundamentally the same as it was in 1949, but there's still been a lot of changes, so it's not really fair to compare Michael Jordan to Bob Cousy or whatever because things are just so different. Wrestling has re-invented itself even more throughout the years. So comparing Steve Austin to Strangler Lewis is basically impossible to do fairly. It's not even comparing apples to oranges. It's like comparing apples to pizza or oranges to Ford trucks. So anyway, Dave decides the only fair way to do it would be to pick the best performer for each decade. So that's what he does, giving each wrestler a paragraph to explain why he picked them. Also, Dave notes that this article isn't just for the Observer, he wrote it for Gannett News Service, which is a company that publishes major newspapers around the country and so you can find this story in newspapers throughout the country this week. Anyway, TL;DR...
1900s - Frank Gotch 1910s - Frank Gotch again. Even though he retired by 1913 and died a few years later, no one else for the remainder of the decade even came close to matching his drawing power and star-power that he still had during the first 3 years of the decade. 1920s - Ed "Strangler" Lewis 1930s - Jim Londos 1940s - Dave doesn't seem to have a pick here, saying the 40s were one of the weakest decades ever for the business. Lou Thesz is in the discussion, along with Bronko Nagurski, French Angel, and Bert Assirati but Dave doesn't really settle on any of them. But he seems to be leaning towards Thesz. 1950s - Lou Thesz gets this decade again, but Dave also notes that this was the biggest decade ever for El Santo as well. 1960s - Bruno Sammartino was the biggest star in America. Giant Baba was the biggest in Japan. Ray Stevens was the best in-ring performer. Gene Kiniski is in the discussion also. 1970s - Andre The Giant was the biggest drawing star of the era. Sammartino ruled again in America. Inoki becomes a huge name in Japan. 1980s - This obviously comes down to 2 people: Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. As far as overall star power and being a top draw, Hogan is the obvious choice. As far as best in-ring performer, it's Flair no question. Basically, the answer here simply depends on what your criteria is. 1990s - Mitsuharu Misawa was by far the best in-ring performer of the decade. Shawn Michaels was the best in America. Steve Austin became the biggest star in the world but that only happened within the last 2 years. Prior to 1998, he was just another guy. But his 2 years on top have been the most successful of basically anyone ever, so it's hard to argue against Austin.
Brian Hildebrand's battle with stomach cancer has become nearly fatal. He suffered 2 stomach blockages last week and the surgeon has ruled the condition inoperable. He remains hospitalized at press time. Hildebrand was referenced on both Nitro and Raw this week. On Nitro, Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan both talked about him using his referee stage name "Mark Curtis" and wished him well and talked about how they hoped to have him return to Nitro as a referee soon. On Raw, Mick Foley talked about "Brian" without mentioning that he's a WCW referee and told him to keep fighting and that everyone in WWF is praying for him. Following a house show on Sunday in New York, Foley caught an overnight flight to Tennessee where Hildebrand lives to visit him the next morning, before flying back to Hartford that night for Raw. Shane Douglas also visited Hildebrand this week. Foley, Douglas, and Hildebrand all broke into the business together, training at Dominic DeNucci's wrestling school and are longtime friends.
In a follow-up to the story about Dr. Joel Hackett who is under investigation for illegally distributing drugs to wrestlers, it has been confirmed that the Somas that Louie Spicolli died from were prescribed by Hackett. Hackett also provided drugs to Brian Pillman. When Pillman was found dead in 1997, police found 8 different prescription bottles in his possession, though his death was not ruled an overdose. Pillman heavily used HGH (prescribed by a different doctor) but quit taking it when he could no longer afford it. There's also a 3rd dead wrestler who reportedly received drugs from Hackett, though it's still unknown who that was. At the scene of Spicolli's death, they found Somas as well as steroids prescribed by Hackett.
While WWF has publicly talked about how they banned Dr. Hackett from their shows and warned wrestlers to stay away from him, the fact remains that the company still indirectly encourages this sort of thing and the culture that causes these issues still exists. To continue being pushed and to make money, wrestlers are expected to look a certain way, often unattainable through natural means, and they're encouraged to work through minor and often not-so-minor injuries, which inevitably leads to pain pill use. In Pillman's case, he should have never been allowed back in the ring to begin with after his ankle injury. And Spicolli was repeatedly told in the WWF that he wasn't big enough and didn't have the right physique to be a top star. Spicolli had been often used as a paid-per-appearance jobber, but then he started heavily using steroids and added a ton of extra muscle mass and immediately after, WWF signed him to a full contract. At the time, Spicolli was specifically told that he got the job because he had improved his physique. But at the time, WWF was stringently testing for steroids (McMahon had just recently been acquitted and they were still feeling the heat) and naturally, Spicolli was unable to maintain his physique without steroids after he signed and got out of shape again. His serious pain pill addiction began around this same time, because he was afraid to take time off to rest his numerous injuries for fear of losing his spot. Anyway, Dave says just a quick glance at the TV will show you that in both WWF and WCW, steroid usage is back up to probably the same level it was before Dr. Zahorian in 1991. Neither company tests anymore and the bodybuilding drugs have quietly made a comeback.
This week's episode of WWF Smackdown saw the ratings drop half a point from last week's debut. It's interesting because Raw is always the #1 rated show every week on cable. But on network TV, Smackdown was ranked 73 out of 122 shows in prime time. It goes to show that despite the surging popularity, among the masses, wrestling is still somewhat of a fringe thing for casual viewers but it's also worth noting that UPN isn't on the same level as NBC, ABC, FOX or CBS so there's that too. WWF had planned to keep Steve Austin off TV until after the next PPV but the ratings drop was enough of a concern that they brought him back for the 3rd Smackdown taping and heavily advertised his appearance on Raw which Dave thinks was a bit of an overreaction to a relatively minor ratings drop. They still destroyed WCW Thunder, which set an all-time record low rating. On the flip side, the 2nd episode of ECW on TNN did a slightly higher rating than the debut which is good but still only half of what TNN was expecting it to do, so not anything to celebrate yet. Heyman is aware that the ratings can't stay this low, but says he expects them to slowly rise over the next few months. And hey, for what it's worth, even though the ratings are lower than what TNN wants, having 700,000 people watching ECW on TV is far more viewers than they've ever had before in company history.
Things aren't looking good for Jerry Lawler's mayoral campaign. A poll conducted by the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper showed Lawler in a distant 3rd place out of 15 candidates, with only 6% of the likely votes. Incumbent mayor Willie Herenton is in the lead (he won). For what it's worth, leading up to his election, Jesse Ventura was also trailing in the polls and made a big come from behind win. But Ventura was usually in the 15-20% range and slowly closed the gap. That doesn't appear to be the case for Lawler, as most Memphians don't appear to be taking him seriously as a candidate. The Rock came to Memphis to campaign for him, first at a lunch fundraiser, which went fine, and later at an appearance at the University of Memphis, which didn't go so well. At the U of M speech, Rock talked about the newspaper's poll putting Lawler in 3rd and decided to cut a promo about it, saying, "You can take the newspaper, the Sunday edition, and roll it up. Keep rolling it, turn it sideways, put some of that famous Memphis barbecue sauce on top and stick it straight up their candy asses!" Many of the students who saw it loved it, but others who are involved in politics and aren't wrestling fans found it silly and crass and criticized him for it. Rock also had this to say about Lawler: "If it weren't for Jerry Lawler and the USWA that he ran, that really gave me my start, I wouldn't be where I am today. If he runs this city like he ran his company, he'll do a pretty damn good job." Dave finds that line absolutely hilarious, considering, well, USWA is dead and even when it was alive and thriving, the business side was handled by Jerry Jarrett because Lawler is notoriously a terrible businessman. There's also been a lot of criticism over the demise of USWA, in regards to Larry Burton (the guy who basically defrauded everyone and killed USWA, who was a well-known snake with a history of defrauding people) and saying that even if Lawler was innocent in all that, if he's foolish enough to get tangled up with guys like that, why should he be mayor?
There's a section in every issue where Dave lists results for all the random indie shows in the world. I mean, every show. Every little podunk, no name indie company that holds a show at a VFW hall in front of 30 people usually has their results listed. Anyway, on Sept. 1, 1999 in Du Quoin, IL there was a wrestling show at the local fairgrounds. The opening bout saw Haystacks Ross win a handicapped match by defeating Adrian Lynch and some kid who goes by the name CM Punk.
Dave reviews the recent Great Muta vs. Great Nita (Atsushi Onita) exploding ring barbed wire match from NJPW and calls it unbelievably bad, a strong candidate for worst match of the year, and up there with Hogan vs. Warrior from last year. Negative 2 stars! This was linked in the last issue, but here it is again.
Dave got to see some tapes of Ohio Valley Wrestling, the WWF developmental promotion that Jim Cornette is now running in Louisville. It's every bit a Jim Cornette show, full of early-80s southern angles and structure, but using a bunch of young wrestlers who have probably never seen any of that stuff. The promotion's top star is a guy named Flash Flanagan, who's a really good worker. His gimmick is that he's pissed off because he knows he's good but he hasn't gotten a contract offer from WWF or WCW. Dave says the guy may have a point because he's light years better than a lot of the people signed to both companies but he doesn't have a good look which is likely why he's still slumming it in OVW. The top babyface is a guy named The Damaja (later became one of the Basham Brothers in WWE). Nick Dinsmore (later Eugene) is also there. Cornette does commentary and is great at it. Cornette has also brought in some of the old Smoky Mountain guys like Rock & Roll Express and Buddy Landel to work shows. It's really similar to Cornette's old SMW promotion.
The future of UFC looks bleaker than ever due to even more financial cutbacks and no signs that PPV providers are going to take them back any time soon. UFC owner Bob Meyrowitz seems more focused on his new internet radio startup (eyada.com) than he does on UFC these days. There are people who are interested in buying the company and even the WWF has made inquiries about it, but nothing even remotely serious. WCW has shown interest in MMA in the past, with Bischoff attempting to co-promote K-1 and PRIDE events from Japan without success. Dave recaps how bad, often unfair publicity has crippled UFC.
ECW's upcoming Anarchy Rulz PPV will likely end up being the first ever $200,000 gate the company has ever drawn. As of press time, over 5,000 tickets have already been sold which is also a company record.
WCW recently released several wrestlers and Paul Heyman is said to be interested in a few of them, especially Super Calo. He's also willing to use Mikey Whipwreck again on a part-time basis but said he doesn't want to bring him back as a main star again because he doesn't want to send a message that people can just leave ECW, go to WCW or WWF, flop, and then come crawling back and have a guaranteed spot. Sandman is also interested in coming back to ECW but Heyman has flat out said he doesn't want him back because he was upset that Sandman basically quit ECW without notice and didn't even have the courtesy to give Heyman a phone call to let him know he was gone. They also had some legal issues over money after Sandman left so there's some bad blood there. Heyman says he has to set a precedent that you can't just walk out on ECW and then come back like nothing happened (spoiler: Sandman returns very soon). Heyman also said he was done with Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch. Candido is no longer under contract anyway, but Sytch still is, though Heyman said he would gladly release her if she can get a job anywhere else and he doesn't intend to stop her from working elsewhere.
Next week's ECW show on TNN will air footage of a match from Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn that happened last week. The TNN people were upset about it because the match wasn't filmed with the TNN crew and doesn't have the production values that they want from ECW. But Heyman argued with them that the match should air and TNN finally relented and let him have his way. Many people who saw it live are saying it's one of the best matches in company history.
Shane Douglas recently claimed that ECW owes him $140,000. Heyman says that's exaggerated and says the real number is actually less than $40,000 and that ECW is making payments to Douglas on a payment schedule that both sides agreed to. He said Douglas claiming $140,000 is false and slanderous.
Despite being the new tag team champions, neither Raven or Tommy Dreamer are in any shape to be wrestling right now and are mostly just doing quick spots with DDT finishes at house shows. Dreamer still has back issues but decided against surgery and Raven, during the late 90s, was pretty much always just one big walking injury.
ECW and AJPW are still negotiating on working together. Heyman is trying to bring in Mike Awesome and Maunukea Mossman. He's also interested in bringing in Kenta Kobashi, but AJPW said they couldn't do it in the next month or so because Kobashi's schedule is so busy but it still may happen in the future (never did).
Raven's 1-year contract with ECW is for $150,000 which is about half of what he made in WCW. But there are upsides because the contract also gives him full medical coverage and cuts of other revenue like merch sales. Plus he's only booked to work 12 shows per month, so it's less demanding than the WCW schedule.
WWF is planning to send developmental signee Vic Grimes to ECW for more experience and Heyman thinks Grimes can probably do well in ECW. But on the same hand, now that ECW has their own national TV show, he's hesitant to make deals like this with WWF, for fear of being portrayed as just another developmental promotion of WWF.
Notes from WCW Nitro: the show only drew 3,818 paid fans, which shows you just how far and how quickly this company has fallen. There were another 4,600+ fans who got free tickets. Add it up and it's a little over 8,000 fans, but it was an arena that holds more than 16,000. Sooooo....not good. It was also the 4th anniversary episode of Nitro and it was one of the worst episodes ever, and Dave says watching it felt like 4 years. They did a cage match with Hogan/Sting/Goldberg vs. Sid/DDP/Steiner. Late in the week before the show, they had decided to make this a War Games match, given away for free on Nitro. But they had already sold tickets for the show based on a one-ring setup and deciding to do a War Games match just isn't something you can do at the last minute because the arena has to be configured for it and available tickets have to be planned accordingly. "Some day this company will get someone in charge who can plan things out in advance," Dave says. In the lone good spot of the show, Goldberg came out to his old music again. You see, for some reason, for the last 3 or 4 weeks, someone in WCW decided Goldberg should have new, very bad music and it killed him. So he finally got his old music back and the crowd popped huge for it. And that's the only good thing Dave has to say, and I'm leaving out a lot of the bad stuff. Because he rips this episode of Nitro apart.
Scott Putski, 4x4, Swoll, Chase Tatum, Damian, Ciclope, Mikey Whipwreck and Super Calo were all released by WCW this week.
Jimmy Hart is now in charge of running WCW Saturday Night and is hoping to make it more of a Memphis-wrestling style show. He has a lot of changes in mind, but given how all this stuff is filmed weeks in advance and because WCW has no long-term planning, and titles change constantly, it's going to be hard to make any real changes. Hart is hoping to make the show its own separate thing, apart from Nitro or Thunder and possibly even with its own titles, with all the young guys who aren't being used on the main shows (basically the WCW version of NXT. Never worked out of course).
WCW is still planning to do a PPV on New Year's Eve co-promoting it as a full KISS concert. WCW already has a PPV 11 days before that, and Dave thinks this is the dumbest idea ever. A few years ago, Howard Stern hosted a PPV on New Year's Eve that did a big buyrate, but it also got months of hype and tons of mainstream publicity. WCW isn't going to get that, nor is KISS, neither of which are exactly lighting the world on fire these days.
Rey Mysterio Jr. missed Nitro because something happened backstage leading to him accidentally getting poked in the eye.
On Thunder, Sid Vicious lost a match to Perry Saturn by DQ. When Eric Bischoff found out (he wasn't there and didn't book the show), he blew a gasket, because they've been doing the whole Sid Vicious undefeated streak angle and someone apparently didn't get the memo. Mike Graham ended up taking the blame, since he was basically the agent for the show and came up with the finish. Dave says even by WCW standards, this was jaw-droppingly stupid. Anyway, on Nitro the following week, they just didn't acknowledge it and are pretending that Sid is still undefeated (which, as previously reported, is already total bullshit anyway but whatever).
Now that he's in WCW, Shane Douglas is pushing for he and Ric Flair to finally have a match. Douglas also said he'd be willing to bet his entire yearly salary that if he and Flair were both given interview time to build up to a match against each other on Nitro, their match would beat Raw in the ratings. Dave hopes nobody takes that bet for Shane's sake.
ICP member Violent J is no longer doing a moonsault after being confronted by Hugh Morrus about using his move (I think Violent J wrote about this in his book. Said he came backstage after doing it and Hugh Morrus was throwing a fit, kicking over trashcans and stuff, and Bischoff came up to them and said "don't do the moonsault anymore, Hugh Morrus is the only big guy that does moonsaults.")
Notes from Raw: Tori vs. Ivory in the first women's hardcore match was basically just an excuse to get the two women soaking wet in their underwear. Dave doesn't mention it, but that match has a great moment with Ivory burning Tori on the back with an iron. The match with Jeff Jarrett against Jacqueline was brutal because Jarrett was extremely stiff with her. The two go back a long ways to their Memphis years and she probably wanted him to lay it in on her and there's no doubt she can take it, but if you're not into men beating up women, it might be hard to watch. The Dudleys were recognized as former 8-time tag team champions. Dave says if WWF had been willing to recognize what happened in other companies back in 1991, they could have made a lot more money with Hogan and Flair. In reviewing other parts of the show, Dave says the WWF writers clearly faced a lot of female rejection growing up and are trying to get back at the whole gender. Yeah, that pretty much sounds like Russo's writing. Triple H is working hard but just isn't over as a top star like they want him to be. And Lillian Garcia is still the worst ring announcer ever.
Undertaker's pulled groin injury is so bad that he's having trouble walking and even putting clothes on, so he was given the weekend off house shows.
Bulldog is scheduled to re-debut in WWF at the October UK PPV. Still no word on whether or not WWF will air the footage of the interview they filmed after re-hiring him. There's been concern over the stuff he said in the interview due to the ongoing Hart lawsuit (I've seen a few people say that they eventually aired some of the footage from this on a 2003 episode of Confidential but it never aired at the time in 1999. I'm sure the full footage is still sitting in the WWE vault somewhere).
X-Pac is being sued for $500,000 by a man in Wisconsin who claimed he was attacked by X-Pac for asking for an autograph.
WWF tried to get Shawn Michaels to renegotiate his contract with them but it didn't work. Michaels is still collecting his $750,000 per year guarantee, despite not wrestling in a year and a half and only appearing on TV periodically since then. But Michaels feeling is that he was injured in their ring, thus he didn't feel he should have to renegotiate new terms, so he refused and WWF is stuck paying him (to be fair, he was injured in mid-air, technically outside of the ring).
Follow up to the prank Al Snow pulled on Val Venis a couple weeks ago, where he put Venis' number on the missing dog posters that were shown on TV. As you can imagine, Venis got a billion prank calls and has since had to change his phone number.
Really funny letter written by comedy writer Desmond Devlin that I'm just going to copy and paste in full:
I must turn to you for answers. They say that if you made 10,000 monkeys type at 10,000 typewriters for 10,000 years, one of them would eventually come up with "Hamlet." If WCW let 10,000 wrestlers compete in 10,000 matches on 10,000 Nitros, would one of them eventually end with a clean pinfall? How can Hulk Hogan be considered the wrestler of the century when he didn't get started until at least 1930? Is it true that Hogan went back to the yellow trunks because he's getting to that age where embarrassing yellow stains sometimes pop up? If 56-year old Harley Race changed his last name to Davidson, would Eric Bischoff get all giggly and give him a big push? In order to be eliminated from the WWF Royal Rumble, you have to have both feet touch the floor. So looking back, how was Kerry Von Erich ever eliminated? Would you agree that Marc Mero is having a BAAAAD career? What terrifying image haunted your nightmares the longest, seeing Vince McMahon's teddy bear on fire, the ghostly image of Warrior in Hogan's mirror, or hearing Madusa with a live mic? When Mean Gene is in bed with his wife, does she have to press 4 for other options? Do you think the coast is clear for David Flair to stop watching over his shoulder for Chuck Zito? Has Goldberg read the FDA's medical report on inhaling second hand pyro smoke? Is it true that the members of KISS met the Nitro Girls and said, "Whoa, that's a lot of makeup?" Considering all the guest singers on Mondays and WWF Week on MTV, wouldn't it be a good idea for the following rock-and-wrestling connections to happen? David Flair and White Zombie. Ken Shamrock and Primal Scream. Jerry Lawler and the Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Blink 182 and any Sid interview. The Nitro Girls and the Barenaked Ladies. Pat Patterson and Boyz II Men. Whoever keeps track of WCW's storylines and Erasure. Spike Dudley and Too $hort. Scott Steiner's diction coach and Chumbawamba. Dusty Rhodes and Cake. Were you surprised last week when Hurricane Bret didn't swing North to viciously attack San Antonio? Isn't is risky for DJ Ran to instruct Nitro crowds to "throw their hands in the air and wave 'em like they don't care," when in fact, most of the fans really don't care? Now that pro wrestling's on The Nashville Network, do you think it'll turn out that it was George Jones who drove the hummer? Do you remember way, way back when bookers would actually let a character appear on television more than one time before "shocking the fans" by "turning them heel?" You now he's out there somewhere. The same people who film him are the ones who hate and fear him most. His personality hovers over everything, but they never let you see him. The Flair Witch Project? Since Rey Misterio Jr. stole X-Pac's bronco buster, do you think Hunter Hearst Helmsley should retaliate by using Chris Benoit's snot blowing spot? And if HHH does empty his nose on an opponent, do you think that wrestler might drown? If Mr. Bob Backlund was locked in a bare room with Jim Hellwig, and they started having an excogitative conversation imbued with contemplative apperception, cogency of percipience, and lambent sagacity, who do you think would reach for the gun first? Hulk Hogan currently owns the WCW belt. But to be the man, you've got to beat the man. So doesn't this mean Jay Leno (1-0 record) is the true uncrowned heavyweight champion? Now that WWF stock is available to purchase, does that mean "selling short" won't mean tapping out to Taz? Isn't it nice that Hulk Hogan tells fans to "say prayers" before starting his matches? After all, the audience should always pray just before falling asleep. Scientists have used a supercollider to develop a subatomic neutrino that exists for just 0.000143 seconds before disappearing forever. Do you think they should name this discovery a "Malenko push?" Desmond Devlin Northwest Dudleyville
WEDNESDAY:Eric Bischoff fired, major changes in the works for WCW, Brian Hildebrand passes away, Fall Brawl fallout, Taz heading to WWF, and more...
The Undertaker's WWE 'brother' Kane, aka wrestler Glenn Jacob (Image: LatinContent Editorial) "Jacobs was perfectly fine with, for many years, surrounding himself with steroid users plus illicit ... SEScoops is a wrestling news website. Founded in 2004, SEScoops is an industry-leading source for news, interviews and results and more for WWE, AEW & more. If steroids were less useful, like nutritional supplements today, they would probably be legal, widely used, and just another part of the game, like spitting sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, because of the pressure on athletes who will do anything to succeed, steroids are only going to get more powerful and hard to detect, rather than more ... The sports betting business has been booming on a global scale. Bookmakers are continually outgrowing themselves. In 2018, the total amount of betting was more than $500 billion. The WWE Chairman who has won championships while wrestling for his own. The use of steroids is probably responsible for some of the hardships that. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., d/b/a WWE, is an American integrated media and entertainment company. In the 18 to 34 age group, about 1 percent had ever used steroids. School-Age Children.
DRUGS N STUFF PODCAST 52 - "LEGAL STEROID" SCAMS, SELANK PEPTIDE , WWE COVER UP & QA
American teenager Bignattydaddy gained online notoriety from his use open use of anabolic steroids on his social media channels, a controlled substance which... Randy Orton Fires Shots at Brock Lesnar, Alberto Del Rio Leaving WWE? - Wrestling Report - Duration: 2:00. Wrestling Hub 43,432 views Grim goes out to eat at the restaurant with his friends for chicken Parm pancakes and shows how to get a waitress phone number wilding out in the restaurant acting cringe in our version of wwe ... Steroids in the News: 3:00 “Legal Steroid” Scam 15:55 WWE Steroid Cover Up Then Listener Questions: 25:00 Selank - A Peptide that may benefit anxiety and drug withdrawal 10 Fired WWE Wrestlers You WON'T Recognize After Shocking Body Transformations Since Leaving WWE - Duration: 4:50. TheSportsEntertainer Recommended for you 4:50