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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Dec. 9, 1996
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
Fighting TV Samurai, the first ever 24-hour pro wrestling and martial arts TV network, debuted in Japan this week with a live show put together by Antonio Inoki. It's a premium channel that customers pay for as part of their satellite package. Only 3,000 homes had signed up for it by launch time which is disastrous for the new network, but Dave points out that ESPN and CNN lost millions of dollars for years before they really took off to where they are today. Whether Samurai has the financial backing to lose money like that for the first years is the big question. But they seem to be aware that it will be an uphill climb, as financial backers have been saying they expect it to be around 2005 or so before the channel starts to pay off. Among the content on the channel are old episodes of AJPW and NJPW, live events from WAR, Tokyo Pro, Big Japan, WCW's international shows, Promo Azteca, and some old golden age of American wrestling shows. Plus a weekly sports talk show hosted by Inoki, a SportsCenter-type nightly show covering all the wrestling news in Japan, and more. Plus they have the entire 300-episode run of Tiger Mask cartoons. Plus lots of karate, kickboxing, and martial arts events. They plan to have 8 hours of programming per day that will repeat 3x daily. The only notable note from the live Inoki show that aired at the debut is that Willie Williams indeed challenged Inoki to a match for the Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome show (as covered in the last issue) so that match will happen (turns out that channel still exists today, so they did indeed survive. I have no idea if it's still a wrestling/MMA channel or not though).
There's been a lot of random media coverage about pro wrestling this week. An article in TV Guide was critical of Milton Bradley and Nintendo for their sponsorship of Raw and Nitro. The article called both shows "the creepiest, most unnerving, least scientifically explainable, most downright bizarre (television) programming of all." The author wrote negatively about the Pillman/Austin gun angle and took some shots at Nitro as well. The article concluded by saying the 2 shows "supply the most sadistic, stomach-turning, gross, psychologically discombobulating programming on television today." The Feb. 97 issue of Muscle Mag has an article about bodybuilder Achim Albrecht and weightlifter Mark Henry joining the WWF and talks about others in that industry who have joined pro wrestling.
EMLL announced they will be doing a tour of Japan in February. They'll be only the 2nd foreign promotion to try and run a tour of Japan on its own (WWF did one in 1994 that flopped). Due to the El Hijo del Santo heel turn, EMLL is currently the hottest promotion in Mexico. AAA was left in shambles by all of its best workers jumping to Promo Azteca and they're surviving on big names from the past to carry them right now. As for Promo Azteca, they have great workers, but the few shows they've held so far have been lackluster.
Speaking of the Santo heel turn, the heat for it has been so insane that police have been having to keep fans from rushing the ring to attack him. In an interesting note, Santo is only working heel at the major arena in Mexico City right now, but is still working babyface at other shows throughout the country.
La Parka debuted for Promo Azteca and did an interview saying he left AAA because they didn't take care of the wrestlers as human beings and said he had to miss shows due to personal reasons and AAA didn't work with him on those issues. He said he didn't leave over money. Dave disagrees, saying the "personal reasons" he missed AAA shows was because he chose to work WCW shows on those dates instead because they paid more, so when it comes down to it, he definitely left over money.
Vampiro will no longer be going to Promo Azteca to team with Konnan, saying that he is afraid it will damage his reputation in Mexico after all the things Antonio Pena has said about him. Also, Vampiro is apparently mad at Konnan for getting tattoos on his arm because Vampiro feels that is copying his gimmick or something. Umm, sure.
Antonio Pena is using his WWF deal to try to get big stars to sign deals with AAA, promising them he can get them work in WWF if they join him. He's gone after El Hijo del Santo, Vampiro, and Lizmark, among others. The magazine Super Luchas, which Pena puts out, has listed almost every major name in AAA as working the Royal Rumble PPV.
Hiroshi Hase debuted in All Japan this week, cutting a promo. He said he'd always wanted to work in AJPW (having spent his entire career up until now in NJPW). He made no mention of New Japan and NJPW has never publicly acknowledged that he's left the company.
Sabu has been working in All Japan and to the surprise of many, he has been allowed to do all of his usual crazy table and chair spots. That style goes completely against the usually serious AJPW style and some of the other wrestlers have complained about it. But Giant Baba's opinion is basically that Sabu is a small, below average worker otherwise, so if you're going to use Sabu, you may as well let him do his gimmick because otherwise, what use is he?
Atsushi Onita cut a promo at an FMW show, saying that he had only told one lie in his life and that was that he would never wrestle again. He asked the fans to forgive him and asked if they had ever lied before too. It didn't work. The crowd booed him and chanted that he was a liar. Japan takes their retirement stipulations seriously and they're upset that Onita is going back on his word. Onita is scheduled to make his return to the ring next week after retiring over a year ago. The arena holds 4,000 and is already sold out.
Nude photos of Japanese women wrestlers Manami Toyota and Chikako Shiratori have been released in the past few days. No word if Brad Maddox or Xavier Woods was involved.
Last week's USWA show drew another record-low crowd, with some saying it was as low as 150 people. But this week's show was back up to around 600 with Jerry Lawler's first match back as a babyface. Memphis shows have been losing money for awhile but the Louisville and Nashville shows were carrying the company. But business in those cities is down now too. They're trying to start running more shows at the casinos in Tunica, MS since they get paid a guaranteed amount no matter the attendance. They're also considering moving the weekly Memphis shows back to Wednesday nights, so that Lawler can be there every week. Right now, most of the wrestlers in USWA are making the minimum $40 per show and work other jobs outside of wrestling to pay their bills.
There was more this week on the story of the 17-year-old kid who got bladed by New Jack at an ECW show last week. People there live were saying it was the most blood they'd ever seen in a wrestling match. It has become a major story since the kid was underage. After the incident, New Jack got on the mic and said he "didn't care if the motherfucker bled to death." Most people thought it was in character, but backstage, with no fans around, New Jack was said to be laughing about it which led a lot of people to saying he should be fired. New Jack was fired once before, for attacking another wrestler backstage, but Heyman eventually brought him back, saying that if he made one mistake, he'd be gone. A few weeks later, New Jack ended up going to jail for awhile, which seems like it should be the "one mistake" but Heyman didn't fire him. Then he had a fight with Brian Pillman, which also didn't lead to him being fired. A few weeks ago, New Jack got into a fight with a fan, but Heyman said the fan hit him first and called him the N-word, but others have disputed that and Heyman seems to have buried any footage of the incident. Point being, The Gangstas are one of ECW's most popular acts and Heyman has found a million excuses to avoid firing New Jack when he obviously has deserved it. As for this incident, there have been accusations that New Jack cut the kid that bad on purpose but Dave hasn't seen the video of it yet. Heyman says the kid told him he was 19 and that he was trained by Killer Kowalski (neither of which is true) but the kid's father says everyone knew he was 17. Also, the police nearly arrested the kid's father for child abuse later that night because they didn't believe a cut that deep could come from a wrestling match and thought the father had abused him. For now, the family has no plans to take any legal action and they actually seem to be enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.
Here's the only known footage of the Mass Transit Incident. It's shit quality but still pretty graphic, so....be warned. The cutting is at about 3:08.
ECW is planning to release Blue World Order t-shirts because the group has gotten over so big.
ECW is also planning to come out with those foam hand merch gimmicks that say EC F'n W on it and has a middle finger pointing up. Expect those to get confiscated at every WWF and WCW show that people will inevitably bring them to.
Big Dick Dudley is currently in jail for probation violation. No word why exactly.
Paul Heyman is looking at either March 2nd or March 30th as possible dates for the first ECW PPV. The 30th would be Easter Sunday but Dave doesn't think it will hurt the buyrate any for them to run a show on that date.
On Nitro, Chris Benoit and Steve Regal had an insanely stiff match against each other, which led to Regal getting busted open early in the match. The camera pulled away so as not to show the blood. So the entire match was only shown from one stationary camera a mile away from the ring.
Japanese wrestler Yuji Nagata is scheduled to work all of 1997 in WCW and Dave says he's an incredible worker, which means WCW won't push him at all.
Harlem Heat is reportedly negotiating with the WWF.
The WCW hotline talked about former ECW valet Kimona Wanalaya possibly coming in to WCW soon. They also mentioned Raven coming in, but Dave says that was a 100% work. He says Gene Okerlund needed a name to use because the lie about wrestlers jumping promotions usually does good business on the hotline and they needed a boost since the hotline numbers have been down lately. So he made up the story and someone suggested he use Raven (considering Raven would indeed be in WCW about 6 months later, I think Dave was probably wrong about this one).
Marcus Bagwell has a role in a movie called Day of the Warrior and apparently it's so bad that it makes Hogan's movies look like Masterpiece Theater. Bagwell plays "The Supreme Warrior" in a loin cloth and face paint and he has a fight scene with a Penthouse Pet who he headbutts in the breast and get knocked out by it. (Here's the movie. Enjoy. Heads up if you're watching at work though, lots of nudity throughout, even in the opening credits. And Bagwell basically looks like Tatanka. It's so laughably, terribly low-budget bad.)
Eric Bischoff was interviewed in a South Carolina newspaper and talked about the time Vince McMahon interviewed him for an announcing job in 1990 and being told McMahon didn't remember him. "In June of 1990 I was down there for an interview and audition and talked to Vince for probably half an hour. If he doesn't remember it, perhaps he was engaged in some of his admitted chemical activity during that time. But I was there. He was there....The nonsense and perception of reality that Vince McMahon, a guy who has admitted using steroids to try to beef up what was otherwise a scrawny, frail little individual, I think when he wakes up in the morning, he looks in the mirror and still sees that 80-pound birdface punk that nobody wanted to play with, and he has to deal with that every day. And the way he's trying to deal with is trying to create this perception. And I just hope people are smart enough to see through this nonsense and deal with reality."
WWF is taping shows from London this week and told a story about Sid and Bret Hart having a brawl at the hotel after one of the shows, which is obviously playing off the real life story of the Sid/Arn Anderson brawl in England a couple of years ago.
When Ahmed Johnson returns, they plan to put him against Goldust so Ahmed can get a few wins under his belt. They're pretty much phasing out the Goldust character now (21 years later, Goldust is still killing it on Raw and no one has seen Ahmed Johnson since he played Suge Knight in an MC Hammer movie for VH1 16 years ago).
Achim Albrecht made his debut on the latest house show tour, using the name Brakus. He wrestled against Tom Prichard (his trainer) 3 nights in a row and reports are that he was absolutely huge. Prichard sold well for him but the crowd didn't get into it and he didn't seem to get over.
There's a good chance Mil Mascaras will be in the Royal Rumble match, because apparently this show is being held in 1972 instead of 1997. Dave says Mascaras was one of the biggest draws in the world at one point, especially in that San Antonio region. But by the 80s, he meant nothing there, and means even less now.
TOMORROW:UFC Ultimate Ultimate 2 fallout (it takes up a big chunk of the issue so I had to give it a paragraph), Royal Rumble news, tons of ECW happenings, and more...
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