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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Aug. 17, 1998

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: 1991199219931994199519961997
1-5-1998 1-12-1998 1-19-1998 1-27-1998
2-2-1998 2-9-1998 2-16-1998 2-23-1998
3-2-1998 3-9-1998 3-16-1998 3-23-1998
3-30-1998 4-6-1998 4-13-1998 4-20-1998
4-27-1998 5-4-1998 5-11-1998 5-18-1998
5-25-1998 6-1-1998 6-8-1998 6-15-1998
6-22-1998 6-29-1998 7-6-1998 7-13-1998
7-20-1998 7-27-1998 8-3-1998 8-10-1998
  • WCW Road Wild is in the books, featuring the "wrestling" debut of Jay Leno. Well, really he did a hold, 2 punches, and a double-clothesline and that's about it. The finish was supposed to be Leno hitting the diamond cutter on Bischoff, but they didn't trust him to do it properly, so they ended up having Kevin Eubanks do it instead. DDP and Hogan worked the majority of the match and worked well together so it was better than the Rodman/Malone match, but that's a pretty low bar. Sure, they got a few weeks of mainstream publicity but it doesn't seem to have helped the ratings at all and Dave doesn't think it's going to do much for the PPV buyrate either. Leno was reportedly paid $1 million to participate, although that figure might not be accurate. But even still, there just doesn't look to be any way that this Leno experiment was a good business decision. Beyond that, this was the worst Road Wild PPV ever and that's saying something because that show is a disaster every year. If not for Jericho vs. Guerrera, it would have been the single worst PPV in history. Dave calls it part of "the speedy self-destruction" of a company that was arguably the hottest promotion on the planet just a few weeks ago. It's a free show for the Sturgis crowd, which means foregoing an easy $300,000 or more at the gate, plus another $100,000 in merch that they would do at a normal PPV. It's also a crowd of mostly non-wrestling fans, so the atmosphere sucks the life out of everything. As for this show in particular: horrible matches, horrible booking, etc.
  • Other notes from Road Wild: Steve McMichael vs. Brian Adams was originally scheduled for 17 minutes but was thankfully cut down to 7, which probably saved it from being the worst match of all time. Dave gives it negative-2 stars anyway. Disco Inferno/Alex Wright vs. Public Enemy gets negative-1 star. Stevie Ray vs. Chavo Guerrero gets negative-1 star. There was a 9-man battle royal that Goldberg won and the only interesting note from that is that Kevin Nash was in it. The heat with him is so bad right now that WCW wasn't even sure if Nash was going to show up but fortunately he did. But in the battle royal, he simply stepped over the top rope and eliminated himself so he managed to be the only person not thrown out by Goldberg. And finally, after the main event was the 30-minute Travis Tritt concert which is interesting because at the show, Tritt's management held up WCW to make sure they got their money in advance, plus they wanted a Learjet ride home and 3 motorcycles, or else Tritt wouldn't perform. For some reason, a lot of PPV outlets didn't air the Tritt concert which has caused issues because now they're offering full refunds to anyone who wants them. That means a loss of money to WCW as well. WCW is arguing that the Tritt concert wasn't the draw of the show and telling the PPV providers not to give refunds for the show and are making noises about legal threats if they do.
WATCH: WCW Road Wild 1998 highlights
  • New Japan drew its smallest crowd ever for a Dome show, drawing 35,000 to the Osaka Dome this week. Last year, they sold it out (53,000) but this year, due to stale business and the weak Japanese economy, they didn't even come close. As expected, the show was capped off with Masahiro Chono winning the IWGP title from Fujinami.
  • Rick Martel has quietly retired from wrestling due to recent knee and neck injuries. Dave recaps his career, from his early AWA days where he was one of their top stars, to the WWF as part of Can-Am Connection, his Model gimmick, and finally to WCW where he returned only to injure his knee twice and suffered a recent vertebrae injury. He ultimately decided he didn't want to end up crippled from wrestling and he has invested his money well, so he decided to retire while he still had most of his health.
  • USA Today ran a story on WWF and WCW, featuring lots of choice quotes from both sides and enough incorrect facts to drive Dave to suicide. It said the companies combined do $650 million in merchandise yearly which is such exaggerated bullshit that it's laughable. It claimed WCW began Nitro to compete with WWF a year ago (it's been 3 years). Claimed WWF has been mostly winning the ratings battle since the beginning (obviously not true). So on and so forth. It also talked about the early history of both companies, basically describing it that Vince was the only wrestling promotion in the world until Ted Turner suddenly decided to open the checkbook and steal all his top stars and start his own company which is, of course, total bullshit.
Here are some of the quotes from the USA Today story:
  • Goldberg had this to say about allegations of being a clone of Steve Austin:
    "I respect the guy for what he's done, but I don't respect him enough to copy him. Steve Austin is known as one of the best promo guys in the world. But Steve Austin doesn't do one thing that I can't do in the ring."
  • In response, Austin had this to say about Goldberg:
    "Goldberg is squashing people with his power moves, and that's great. But he doesn't know the psychology yet. I'm able to go out there and take the fans on a 30-minute roller coaster ride."
  • Vince McMahon had this to say about the Monday night wars:
    "It's the same old Hulk Hogan situation. Every time Hogan is on the air, we clobber them. It's a tired, old situation." (Dave points out that this is complete bullshit because Hogan is still one of the few people in WCW who actually does strong TV ratings, "but McMahon has never let the truth get in the way of a good quote.")
  • Hogan had this to say about retiring:
    "My wife doesn't want me to quit, my kids don't want me to quit, the promoters don't want me to quit, the fans don't want me to quit and the IRS really doesn't want me to quit."
  • The Monday night ratings trend went completely backwards this week. For once, Nitro was the much better show, Raw sucked, and in the end, Nitro actually won the ratings battle for the night. The news isn't all bad for WWF though. The 2nd episode of the new Sunday Night Heat did a monster rating almost on par with Raw. Furthermore, the episode of Pacific Blue that aired afterward (featuring Triple H) did double its normal rating, which makes USA Network plenty happy. So expect more WWF tie-ins on other USA shows. As for Sunday Night Heat, this show is being done on a 5-week trial basis right now, but given the ratings, you can almost certainly expect it to be added to the permanent Sunday schedule going forward.
  • The International Wrestling Institute and Museum will open in Newton, IA next month. It will mostly focus on amateur wrestling but will also feature a section devoted to pro wrestling, but mostly focusing on guys like Lou Thesz, Danny Hodge, Verne Gagne, etc. (this museum was later named the Dan Gable Museum and was moved to Waterloo in 2006. In 2010, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame absorbed it).
  • Speaking of Halls of Fame, the next round of the Observer Hall of Fame will be next week and Dave mentions that ballots have been sent to dozens of other major names within the business. Top wrestlers, promoters, wrestling historians, reporters, etc. All of those people will be voting on it so if you don't like who is and isn't inducted, don't bitch at Dave about it because he has no more say in it than everyone else (this is still how it operates to this day, and yet every year, people bitch Dave out as if he's personally choosing to spite their favorite wrestler by not inducting them).
  • A big news story aired on TV in Puerto Rico building up the recent 25th anniversary show for WWC. The story paid tribute to all the wrestlers who were stars in WWC who have since passed away like Eddie Gilbert, Junkyard Dog, Andre The Giant, Dick Murdoch, etc. However, there was no mention of Bruiser Brody. Considering his death was the biggest story in the history of wrestling in that part of the world and Brody was the biggest foreign star there ever aside from Andre, it's a little conspicuous. But to this day, the reputation of WWC never fully recovered from Brody's murder and the man who killed him still works for the company, so no surprise that they've essentially wiped his name from their history.
  • After a decade of rumors, it appears Stampede Wrestling will be starting back up again in September under Bruce Hart. They plan to produce a weekly TV show to air in Calgary and Edmonton. Dave assumes it will be mostly local talent.
  • UFC is planning to run low budget shows for awhile until the PPV companies come to their senses. The way wrestling is these days, they figure the PPV companies can't keep singling out UFC for too much longer without it being obvious to everyone how unfair it is. Dave says that's the logical argument, but logic has never played a part in these decisions before so he isn't holding his breath.
  • Sandman still hasn't signed a new deal with ECW. In the meantime, Paul Heyman has been having Sandman do 3-minute clean jobs to Justin Credible at every show. Heyman is openly telling people that if Sandman doesn't re-sign, he will use the money Sandman would have made and attempt to buy out Chris Benoit's contract from WCW. This has gotten a lot of people within ECW excited and now a lot of people don't really care if Sandman stays or goes if they can get Benoit in exchange. Dave says this has almost no chance of actually happening because he's pretty sure Bischoff wouldn't go for it and besides, that's not how money works in the wrestling business (which Dave goes into detail on, but I'm really sleepy right now and it's numbers But it's made Heyman the babyface among the locker room and doesn't really help Sandman's bargaining position.
  • The New Jack/Eric Kulas (Mass Transit) case is still pending and has been continued until October. The D.A. is still deciding whether to prosecute or if this whole thing is more suited for civil court rather than criminal.
  • Tammy Sytch didn't appear at the most recent ECW show because she recently had some surgery done. For the crowd, they announced that WWF wouldn't allow her to be there (in reality, she's already been fired from WWF). Lance Storm cut a promo saying that WWF may be able to keep her from being at ringside, but they couldn't stop her from coming to his hotel room later.
  • Ultimate Warrior is still scheduled to debut on Nitro this week, but it's not like you'd know it. WCW hasn't even hinted that he will be showing up which is mind-boggling because he's only going to matter to the ratings for a couple of weeks. His biggest value to the ratings would be his debut, so why wouldn't they hype it up for weeks in advance? Surprises are good at times, but often the best bet is to give something the proper hype so you can get a ratings boost out of it. Also, he will only be known as The Warrior because there's still legal issues with WWF owning the name Ultimate Warrior.
  • Still no real update on the Flair situation. Everybody expects him to return eventually but not until after the next court hearing regarding his contract. Bischoff himself has reportedly told Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko that Flair is coming back because they're part of the new 4 Horsemen plans and they weren't thrilled with the idea of doing that gimmick without Flair involved. Speaking of Benoit...
  • Chris Benoit is reportedly extremely hesitant to sign a new contract with WCW. Right now, it seems that odds are he will be leaving when his contract expires next year. If he doesn't re-sign soon, WCW likely won't use him in the Horsemen angle.
  • Rey Mysterio Jr. injured his knee in a three-way match on Nitro and rolled out of the ring off camera for a bit before getting back in to finish the match. But he's expected to miss some time, no word on how severe it is yet though. Dave thinks that knee seems to give him trouble every time he lands which is getting scary to watch.
  • Lex Luger won the US title from Bret Hart on Nitro, but Dave suspects he'll be dropping it right back to Bret on Thunder in a couple of days (yup). Dave calls Bret a miracle worker for getting a pretty good 16-minute match out of Luger.
  • On Thunder last week, Scott Hall came out holding a drink in his hand as a joke about his alcohol issues. Dave says at this stage, it's no longer funny since Hall clearly has a real problem and it's pretty classless of WCW to turn it into an angle.
  • With WWF winning the ratings battle in recent weeks, there are a lot of people within WCW who want to push the product in a more risque direction to try to compete. They have talked of having the Nitro Girls in more revealing outfits since Sable has been such a big hit for WWF.
  • The WWF is getting into real estate. WWF (well, technically Titan Sports) was part of a group that were the top bidders for the Debbie Reynolds Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. There's still a lot of legal hoops to jump through but if it all goes through, the plan is for it to be turned into a WWF-themed hotel and casino (this almost happened, and they even started construction on it before abandoning the plan and selling it in 2000). WWF also has recently bid on a restaurant location in Times Square in New York City with the plan to open some sort of WWF-themed restaurant.
  • So many random interesting notes from Raw: David Heath debuted doing some sort of vampire gimmick "called something like Gang Grill." LOD came out but Hawk was doing his drugged out gimmick again (and much like the Scott Hall drink gimmick, this is pretty shitty on WWF's part given Hawk's well-known real life issues) and then Droz came out. Dave thinks they may be doing an angle to put Animal and Droz together as a team and get rid of Hawk. Austin did an interview and threw Michael Cole in the shower. "It sucks being him," Dave adds. Val Venis came out with John Wayne Bobbitt (of getting-his-dick-chopped-off-fame) in a stupid segment with Venis revealing his dick never got chopped off last week because of cold shrinkage.
  • There will be some sort of risque Sable video being released in November. Can't find it online, at least not while I'm at work. It might be available on....other....websites. But here's a WrestleCrap entry for it.
READ: WrestleCrap - Sable Unleashed
  • It's only been 2 weeks but the commentary on Sunday Night Heat sucks because Shane McMahon is apparently just horrible at it and his whole rich kid gimmick is getting old fast.
MONDAY: Warrior debuts in WCW, Observer Hall of Fame, Eddie Guerrero cuts worked-shoot promo on Eric Bischoff, and more...
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