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20 Years Ago - WON 10/31/88


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WWF

-- "They Live" with Piper was scheduled to open this coming weekend, but Universal Studios also planned on releasing Halloween IV the same weekend, and the left hand didn't talk to the right hand, so now "They Live" is postponed a week because they didn't want to release two scary movies at the same time. If it can do two decent weeks of business, it will show a profit, and if it does show a profit, Piper's five-movie deal with John Carpenter will remain intact, and if that happens, he won't wrestle again. Critics are not being allowed to screen the movie, which usually means they know critics will hate it, so they look to "steal" a few weeks at the box office before word of mouth catches up.

 

-- George Steele is contemplating a comeback after colon surgery that caused him to lose 60 pounds.

 

-- 10/23 at the Omni drew 5,200 fans headlined by Hogan vs Andre. Crowd was dead for most of the show, even Hogan.

 

-- Warlord has missed several dates recently and no one knows why.

 

-- 10/14 in Oakland and 10/16 in Los Angeles both did big business, around 11,000 paid.

 

-- Terry Taylor is expected to turn babyface by the end of the year.

 

NWA

-- "The soap-opera like story of the negotiations between Turner Entertainment and Jim Crockett promotions was just about finalized Friday afternoon as the contracts between the two for the sale of the NWA were signed. Officially, the money will change hands for the purchase on 11/1 and Turner will take over the control of the NWA the next business day.

 

Right about now we'll have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude about whether or not that will bring improvement in the wrestling product of the NWA. In theory, there should be a short-term improvement for two reasons. The first is, the worries about getting paid that the wrestlers have had should be alleviated because one would think TBS didn't buy a wrestling company with the idea of letting it fall apart without a major effort at salvaging it, so therefore they should be pretty intent at holding onto the key talent they can build around, specifically Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, Barry Windham, etc. The second reason why their should be short-term improvement is the company has to peak its angles for the 12/26 PPV show from Norfolk, plus, one would think, Dusty Rhodes is somewhat on the hot seat as a booker to produce and whether his booking will be the best thing long run or not, you have to expect some major league hot-shotting over the next two months.

 

I don't foresee any immediate changes as far as how the company operates that would be visible to the fans, at least until the first of the year. Perhaps a change in the Sunday format, with tapings of new matches, would be in the works as the ratings for the Sunday show have dropped tremendously of late because of all the rerun format. I also expect eventual changes in the squash/interview/squash Saturday TBS and syndicated show format because the folks at TBS will be interested in monitoring TV ratings and the ratings aren't going to increase with the present format. Anyway, most of this is stuff that has been gone over ad infinitum of late."

 

-- Later in the issue: "IT COULDN'T HAVE COME THIS FAR WITHOUT A DENT. The official word Monday morning from both TBS and the Crockett organization is that the sale has not been completed as of yet. I don't know if that means the 'official' sale doesn't take place until the money changes hands on the 1st or if the contracts weren't actually signed on Friday. Stay tuned next week for another episode of 'One Life To Live'."

 

-- Dave finally saw Learning the Ropes. He says it wasn't as terrible as he thought it would be, but it has to be embarrassing that it was designed as a showcase for Crockett wrestlers and already, Ricky Morton and Tully Blanchard, neither of whom are in the NWA anymore, have been featured. Dave thought it was interesting that in one episode, the masked wrestler and Ivan Koloff were playing cards together in the same dressing room before their match, although they don't acknowledge wrestling as worked. The final verdict is that it's worth watching once for the sake of curiosity, but nothing beyond that.

 

-- Dave finally saw the Road Warriors heel turn and thought it was tremendous. Dave suggests letting Sting tour Japan and showing him in the hospital each week, but slightly improving, leading to a hot house show series later, but the downside to that would be that Sting would get over more, and this feud is being booked where Sting is the messenger for Dusty Rhodes. Dave thinks Dusty is pushing himself harder than ever now to make himself seem indispensable to TBS.

 

-- Negotiations with Ricky Steamboat are dead.

 

-- Paul E. Dangerously and the "Original" Midnight Express are definitely coming in to feud with Cornette and the MX. They will have a match at Starrcade, and the MX will be turning babyface.

 

-- They've started a U.S. tag title tournament, which Dave predicts will come down to the Fantastics and Sheepherders, and they'll have flag vs flag matches on house shows spinning out of it.

 

-- Lex Luger is still out with his eye injury, so Sting is filling in for him on top and winning by DQ every night against Flair.

 

-- Steve Williams will be announced as joining the Varsity Club, while Rick Steiner probably won't be turned for another two weeks or so. Dave says the Steiner turn and the Road Warriors as heels appear to be the only things working at the moment. He also says Sting is going to start losing steam soon if they don't put a title on him, as he anticipates the Luger/Sting vs Road Warriors house show series having all non-finishes.

 

-- 10/22 in Cincinnatti drew 1,800 fans headlined by Flair & Barry Windham vs Sting & Ron Simmons, subbing for Luger. 10/21 drew 1,300 fans to Cobo Arena in Detroit headlined by Flair vs Sting.

 

-- The bad houses are hurting morale, but "perhaps the sale will see a change for the better".

 

SOUTHERN

-- Dave calls Tommy Rich the best small-circuit heel in the country right now, which shows how sometimes all a person needs to get over is a personality switch, as he was a lame babyface.

 

WCCW

 

-- The Cotton Bowl card drew 3,500 and a $43,000 gate. WCCW wasn't unhappy with this, but they were hoping for a $50,000 house. Dave says it just shows how much the non-finishes in unification matches have killed business, as Lawler is the hottest heel in World Class in a long time, but they still can't draw.

 

-- Jerry Jarrett was supposed to sign paperwork to give him 30% ownership in World Class, but never showed up to sign the papers.

 

-- Percy Pringle was fired and told that Kevin and Kerry's wives would now be handling his souvenir duties. He had been told this before, but always found a way to save his job, but not this time.

 

MEMPHIS

 

-- 10/17 drew an $8,000 house and about 1,500 fans headlined by Lawler vs Fujinami, with Chigusa Nagayo on the undercard against Candi Devine.

 

-- Dave says in the Lawler/Kerry matches, they are able to get great heat through facial expressions, but there is a lot of stalling between moves since Kerry is so limited these days, and also, they've done so many unification matches without unifying anything now that they've killed the gimmick. There is an update later in the issue that Lawler beat Kerry to unify the titles on 10/23 in a cage match where Kerry asked Jeff Jarrett to open the door from ringside and Jarrett shut the door on his head. Dave said he had actually suggested this finish to people in Memphis, not realizing they had already thought of it themselves. He says they can go in a few directions from that finish and thinks it was a good move.

 

STAMPEDE

-- Chigusa Nagayo has dates coming up.

 

NEW JAPAN

-- 10/16 in Osaka drew 2,270 fans.

 

ALL JAPAN

-- Dave says Dan Kroffat looked good on the last series of All Japan tapes he just watched.

 

OTHER STUFF

-- Continental had an emergency meeting on Sunday to try to salvage something, because the crowds have been terrible since Gilbert left.

 

-- FNN is broadcasting a one-hour special on Brody on 11/2. There will be a phone-in show starting on FNN in late November, and Jesse Ventura will be on soon to discuss steroids in wrestling.

 

-- Sputnik Monroe is promoting wrestling shows in local Memphis bars weekly.

 

LETTERS

-- Jim Wilson wrote a letter to Dave to respond to some of his recent comments on Wilson's career, and this is something I'd normally transcribe, but I feel like I've already transcribed too much from this issue. The key points of the letter:

 

* Incorrect facts Dave provided:

- Wilson played with the Rams from 1968 through the 1971 Rams pre-season when he had to quit due to back surgery

- Eddie Mansfield did do a few spot shows in 1983, but could not find regular work after 1982

- The Department of Justice continued monitoring the NWA in the 1960s and 1970s, and did not stop until 1985 when the NWA's request to lift the consent decree was turned down

- Ron Pope was not a litigant, but was a witness for an NAACP investigation of pro wrestling in 1979

- Ole Anderson did not hire former Georgia governor Carl Sanders' law firm. Jim Barnett did.

- Ted Turner placed pressure on the Georgia state senate to kill the athletic commission regulating wrestling in Georgia. State senator Dick Lane told Wilson two weeks ago that Turner still lobbies the Georgia state senate about this.

- Jimmy Carter had connections to Georgia Championship Wrestling. Jim Barnett was a big donor and was repaid by being appointed to various fine arts committees, and to the National Arts Commission in 1980.

- Not even the Justice Department believes Dave's claim that there has never been a singular goal in wrestling to blacklist any wrestler. Wilson calls this laughably naive.

 

* Disagreements:

- Dave should make it clear when he's stating an opinion versus reporting a fact. Calling the possibility of forming a union in wrestling impractical is not reason to give up on the idea completely.

- The claim that wrestling is not stable enough to function a pending plan is laughable, as the boxing pensions are funded by 3% of the live gate and 3% of each boxer's purse. He accuses Dave of anti-union rhetoric that was also used in entertainment and other sports at one time

- He calls Dave a "classic conservative" for saying things like that it rings true in every form of business that some people are not paid what they are worth

 

* Black fans:

- Wilson claims Dave saying that 90% of income and 5% of payoffs comes from black fans is incorrect. Wilson funded a Georgia study that showed that 50% of paid attendance was black fans, but 5% of wrestlers are black.

 

* Brody:

- Dave's claims that Brody's predicament was a result of choices he made (My note: Dave said this??) is wrong because it ignores the conditions in wrestling that led to his death in the first place.

 

* Democrats:

- Wilson handed out pamphlets at the Democratic national convention lobbying for certain legal protections for pro wrestlers, which passed the Georgia house overwhelmingly in 1985, but died in the state senate.

 

* Drugs:

- Wilson and Mansfield were not druggies, at least no more than every other wrestler at the time, pretty much all of whom drank lots of beer and smoked lots of pot.

 

* Ted Turner:

- His involvement in wrestling has always been heavy, intense, and personal. He is going to face time in court eventually for anti-trust violations, attempting to damage Wilson's 1974 and 1981 Omni shows.

 

* Dave's response:

- The facts about Wilson's career came from the pro football encyclopedia.

- It is true that Mansfield could not find work after 1982, because he no-showed after doing an angle with Scott Casey in Southwest on his first night in, not because he complained about a payoff in Georgia.

- Whether Ron Pope was a litigant in the NAACP's investigation of pro wrestling in California or not, but still got a job in Fred Behrend's Texas All Star Wrestling in 1985, and was hired to play Zulu in WCCW in 1986, until being fired for refusing to do a job for Mike Von Erich.

- Dave won't deny that many wrestling promoters are racist, and even some that aren't engage in tokenism where you have a black star, but usually only one at a time.

- The fact that Pope testified against wrestling in many places, including the New York State Senate, and still found some work after doing so, shows that the idea of an official blacklist in wrestling is just paranoid.

- Dave would love to see a union in wrestling, but knows it won't happen. He also says most wrestlers, right or wrong, would see a pension as a con where the money wouldn't be there when they needed it. He does think there should be insurance for on-the-job injuries.

- Dave takes exception to Wilson's characterization of him that wrestling has problems but so does everything, so let's just ignore it. Dave says many of the problems of wrestling are just a result of being part of the entertainment business, and you have to realistically discuss the best way to resolve these problems.

 

STEROIDS

-- Dave opts to write about steroids since it's a slow business week.

 

"Let's take an honest look at what pro wrestling has evolved into, particularly in the last five years. Size has always been a key factor in determining whether wrestlers got a push and physiques were always taken into consideration, but what has changed in the past decade is that I would say it is exceedingly hard and getting to be near-impossible for a wrestler to get over without a steroid-created physique. The days of people looking like Harley Race or The Funks dominating the wrestling business mainly through 'working ability' are dwindling away, if they aren't completely over. You can still find a few throwbacks, particularly Ted DiBiase, as in someone whose physique is not out of the ordinary but is still a major star, yet most agree it is that lack of physique that holds DiBiase back in the eyes of many of the fans, despite having all the tools as far as working, getting over a character and doing interviews. Whether those in the business will acknowledge this publicly or pretend it isn't the case, steroids are very close to a necessity to make it as a big star in this business. I hate writing that, but it is the sad truth. Because of that, knocking wrestlers because they use steroids is like knocking weightlifters or bodybuilders, both of whom use steroids at levels as great or greater than wrestlers. They couldn't compete at the levels demanded without them. I think it is unfortunate, but true that steroids have turned pro wrestling fans from a skill to something that in many cases requires less and less skill and more and awesome physique, and that the trend is continuing in that direction.

 

What I find the most unfortunate about the steroid problem is that the drugs are dangerous, although nobody really knows if the warnings we hear are totally exaggerated, slightly exaggerated, or not the slightest bit exaggerated. There are wrestlers within the last year who have had heart attacks, strokes and major heart complications attributed to steroids. There have been cases of cancer in the past to wrestlers linked with heavy steroid use. It has often been alleged that heavy steroid usage caused the heart attack death of Rick McGraw, even though perhaps the steroids just aggravated personal depression which led to his death. There are a few wrestlers who were admitted heavy steroid users who have had children born with major birth defects. And the vast majority of wrestlers who have used steroids, at least in the short-run, have not had major health problems attributed to them. But because it doesn't happen to most, at least in the short-run, and truthfully, it is still too early in the ballgame to tell what long-term year-round heavy dosages of the stuff will do to these guys when they get older, doesn't mean that heavy usage of steroids is anything less than playing Russian Roulette with your health. But when you are talking about pro wrestling, an occupation in which injury is not a possibility but in the long-term an inevitability, and those injuries lead to usage of pain killers, what value is it so say that using steroids are anymore dangerous than wrestling itself would be over the long run? Hey, everybody today needs a dark tan as well as the muscular physique and too much time in the tanning bed can lead to cancer as well, and nobody really addresses that issue at all.

 

There is no ready-made solution to the problem. The NFL and the Olympics have their public relations solutions, testing athletes for steroids, which at least in the Olympics, has led to usage of more dangerous drugs, particularly Human Growth Hormone, which is undetectable in steroid tests. Olympic athletes before testing now switch early on from injectables, which show up in the tests for several months after being discontinued, unless a diuretic flushes them out of the system (and then you are risking that the diuretic isn't detected in the tests) to oral steroids, which are more dangerous but don't stay in the system as long, so HGH (Human Growth Hormone) which there is no test that can detect at the present time.

 

What happened with Ben Johnson was simply, if you believe the Sports Illustrated account, that his doctor believed they had a way to beat the test the same way the Bulgarian doctors believed the could beat the test. The entire Bulgarian weightlifting team wound up pulling out of the games after a few of the members were caught. Technology had caught up with their method of 'masking' the drugs and Ben Johnson, who had used the same 'masking' method, was also caught. So Ben Johnson went from a national hero in Canada to a figure of disgrace in just a few days, after setting a world record by running the 100 in 9.79. Johnson had earlier set the record with a 9.83 and passed a steroid test, and had passed several other tests for years despite allegations that he had been a heavy steroid user for the past few years. The doctors at the Olympics said the results of his test indicated Johnson had been a heavy user over a long period of time, yet Johnson was frequently tested and was never detected as positive beforehand. Drug tests do occasionally catch people at random, but mainly those who unlucky not all those who are guilty, so to speak. I don't know what percentages of track athletes, swimmers, lifters or whatever are using steroids, only that in certain sports it is very high and wrestling is right behind bodybuilding and weight sports at the top of that list.

 

Wrestling could test for steroids, although it won't happen because the testing is far too expensive to be feasible, and even if it were done, it would simply be a public relations move. The testing encourages usage of more dangerous drugs and more expensive drugs which one could use and still pass the test. Besides, unless there is a public outrage, nobody in wrestling really 'has to' address the problem and the public outrage is going to come in legitimate sports like football and never in pro wrestling which the media simply doesn't care about.

 

I wouldn't even be bringing this up, because the steroid usage isn't going to evolve into a major problem for the wrestling industry (even though it should be already) except for conversations that I have had with several wrestlers and with frequency. These have ranged from guys wanting to make it who have never worked a day in their lives to major stars who are great workers that can't get over to today's public because they can't stand next to the Anabolic Warrior, and if they could, they are afraid they may not be standing for long.

 

Now if someone wants to use steroids, and there are many wrestlers today who would be using them whether they were wrestlers, or if they were just gym rats with regular jobs, that is a matter of choice. If someone feels that the added 15 to 50 pounds of muscle and 100-150 more pounds on your bench press is worth the risks, well, it is a personal decision.

 

But here is the problem I've heard too frequently. It comes from wrestlers, ranging from want-to-be wrestlers to major wrestling stars who don't want to use steroids for whatever reason. Some are afraid of the health consequences, which is the normal fear. Some are afraid of the side effects as they relate to wrestling, the increased muscle can (but doesn't necessarily have to) decrease flexibility and decrease cardiovascular conditioning to the point that some guys are in embarrassingly bad shape. Yet just about all of these people either make one or two choices. They give up their goal to make it in the business, or they give in to what they believe is the inevitable. To make money, you have to have a physique and workrate be damned and personality be damned because there are great workers who exude a great personality that don't get anywhere near the push of some guys who have NOTHING going for them except an unnatural physique.

 

Over the long haul, steroids have been linked to heart an liver problems, but the number of old-time wrestlers and bodybuilders who used the drugs 20 years back that have dropped dead from them is miniscule. A few hate, but most are still alive and kicking. Over the short-haul, steroids do increase size and muscularity. They give you more size and added weight, gains depending upon dosage and genetics, yet at the same time actually decrease the levels of fat. So you get bigger and at the same time lose fat. They do increase strength. They do increase speed, but decrease stamina. They do increase aggression, which can be either a positive or a negative -- it can be a positive on the football field or in the gym, but it can't be turned off and is very muh a negative in real society situations. Actually, the increase in aggression appears to be mainly in individuals who are naturally aggressive to begin with. I know of one wrestler who told me he didn't want to go back on steroids because he would easily become irritated on them and hit his wife on a few occasions, which is something that he never did off the drugs. This week's Sports Illustrated gives a whole lot more graphic details of the effects. Of course steroids have no effect on 'skill level', which is still the most important factor in working a wrestling match or playing in the NFL or even tossing the discus. But they can be the difference in marginal players making the grade and in a good player becoming better and those differences add up to a lot of money. There are those who say that virtually all world-class athletes in strength or sprint sports have used steroids. Some who say 70 percent and others who claim these statistics are highly inflated. But the drugs have become far more prevalent in the past few years, and will spread even more to the general public, particularly high school kids, over the next decade who are looking at a quick way to get a good body and attract girls.

 

Are there solutions to this problem, or more plausibly, things that can be done to at least slow down the usage to where it is at least limited to those who 'want' to use the drugs to begin with? There are two factors that need to be addressed here. One is the promoters and the second is the public and the two do go hand-in-hand. The public-at-large totally goes for the trend. There are many people who believe part of the reason for wrestling's media breakthrough and newfound popularity was the new-look wrestlers and that is the young bodybuilder types replacing the older (and oftentimes more skilled and ringwise) stereotypical wrestler with the thick gut. Promoters have accentuated this trend by pushing many unskilled lifters ahead of trained wrestlers who are acknowledged as not only better workers but better personalities as well. The problem in the WWF is totally out of control, to the point that probably the best all-around performer in the history of the federation (DiBiase) really didn't get over to even the level McMahon wanted him to because the public never bought him as a threat to Hulk Hogan (and even of late as a threat to even Randy Savage, who is a lot smaller than DiBiase but more muscular.)

 

Can the public truly be educated to the point where it will accept silled but non-chemically bloated wrestlers as being top stars? Or is that era completely gone and people like Ted DiBiase or Harley Race (and I'm not saying they've never used steroids either, but obviously have never used dosages or relied on them long enough to even have the positive side effects) are the last of a dying breed? I suppose that in Japan a skilled wrestler can still make it without the unnatural physique. While I was in Japan it was insisted to me that very few of the Japanese wrestlers had ever used steroids, which may or may not be true, but the usage is nothing compared to this country as even the quickest glance at the physiques will attest to (and the Japanese wrestlers, because of the demands of the business and the way they are trained, have far more time to devote to training than their American counterparts). Or should we just forget about this subject completely and figure that the long-term health problems are just another 'inevitability' of a career in professional wrestling, just as bad backs and bad elbows are today and the cauliflower ears are to the wrestlers of another generation?"

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SOUTHERN

-- Dave calls Tommy Rich the best small-circuit heel in the country right now, which shows how sometimes all a person needs to get over is a personality switch, as he was a lame babyface.

This is the Rich as a biker aligned with Mr. Donnie period, right?
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  • 2 weeks later...

-- 10/17 drew an $8,000 house and about 1,500 fans headlined by Lawler vs Fujinami, with Chigusa Nagayo on the undercard against Candi Devine.

Now there's a show I'd like to see. Even moreso than the bizarro-world matchup of Lawler/Fujinami, I can't even imagine what a Devine/Nagayo match would look like. Candi is like the southern dollar-store version of Moolah, progessively leading the way with the laziest of hair-pulling and snapmares, while Chigusa is the prototypical Joshi superworker. Did this make tape?

 

EDIT: also, thanks for typing up that whole steroid essay. How many of Dave's questions were eventually answered definitively, would you guys say?

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-- They've started a U.S. tag title tournament, which Dave predicts will come down to the Fantastics and Sheepherders, and they'll have flag vs flag matches on house shows spinning out of it.

Wasn't that exactly what was going to happen until the WWF plucked the Sheepherders right before the Clash that was set to have the tournament final? That was always my favorite "Vince fucks the NWA" move just because of how obvious a middle finger it was to the NWA.

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-- 10/17 drew an $8,000 house and about 1,500 fans headlined by Lawler vs Fujinami, with Chigusa Nagayo on the undercard against Candi Devine.

Now there's a show I'd like to see. Even moreso than the bizarro-world matchup of Lawler/Fujinami, I can't even imagine what a Devine/Nagayo match would look like. Candi is like the southern dollar-store version of Moolah, progessively leading the way with the laziest of hair-pulling and snapmares, while Chigusa is the prototypical Joshi superworker. Did this make tape?

 

EDIT: also, thanks for typing up that whole steroid essay. How many of Dave's questions were eventually answered definitively, would you guys say?

 

Clips of Candi v. Chigusa from the Cotton Bowl on the 15th made an AJW commercial tape called Chigusa: World Revolution. A nothing match as you can imagine.

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-- Dave says in the Lawler/Kerry matches, they are able to get great heat through facial expressions, but there is a lot of stalling between moves since Kerry is so limited these days, and also, they've done so many unification matches without unifying anything now that they've killed the gimmick. There is an update later in the issue that Lawler beat Kerry to unify the titles on 10/23 in a cage match where Kerry asked Jeff Jarrett to open the door from ringside and Jarrett shut the door on his head. Dave said he had actually suggested this finish to people in Memphis, not realizing they had already thought of it themselves. He says they can go in a few directions from that finish and thinks it was a good move.

There are 1990 Lawler-Kerry matches out there?

 

EDIT: Nevermind. Didn't see it was 1988. Anyway, he is dead wrong on what makes those matches click.

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