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20 Years Ago - WON 01/02/89


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REFLECTIONS AND A LOOK AHEAD

"With 1988 now history, it's time to both look back and reflect, and at the same time, look ahead, at the state of pro wrestling. Certainly, few would categorize this year as any kind of a glory year for the sport/business of pro wrestling.

 

While there were some positives from a business standpoint, pro wrestling getting its first prime-time network coverage in more than three decades in the U.S; the TBS purchase of the NWA giving the beleagured group new hope; an attempt at cooperation among the smaller promotions in the United States; several promotions having the chance to show their wares on pay-per-view and the single biggest success story of 1988, Akira Maeda and the Universal Wrestling Federation.

 

But overall, for enough reasons that it would take a book to really go into them, pro wrestling took a marked turn for the worst this past year. Again, some of the problems were simple inevitability. In this country, the simple fact is that when all the damage is done, there really is the potential for perhaps three promotions to operate on any kind of significant level on a national or even strong regional basis. Large quantities of fans will not support what they perceive as minor league entertainment, and Titan Sports, with all its advantages, has established itself as the major league in this country. The NWA still has the potential to compete, because it has comparable talent, and probably better talent at the top, a decent syndicated television network (which is badly in need of upgrading at this point) and most importantly, weekly coverage on TBS which has the potential to be the key weekly national televised wrestling show.

 

Whether or not Nelson Royal or whomever else can make a profit in the long run presenting basically unknown talent, using 'name' headliners to draw the crowd, in small markets that the big boys stay away from, on a consistent basis, is a different story. There is no proof of recent successes using the method, although that type of attempt is at this point only being tried on a very small regional level.

 

We entered 1988 with the original 'big five' groups of 1987 (down from more than a dozen profitable promotions in 1985) already down to two. The WWF more than held its own, and remains the only promotion on these shores with little danger of collapse in the foreseeable future. The NWA was saved from bankruptcy by TBS after a year of horrible mismanagement, and is still in the ball game. Although they are starting with the position that they have to both win back fans for live shows and television viewers.

 

The rest are in real trouble. World Class was so deep into debt that the Von Erichs finally had to give it up and Jerry Jarrett, who had been easily the most successful regional promoter of the past half-decade in weathering the storm of competition from the big boys, took it over as the year came to a close. However, while on the surface, things have definitely taken a turn for the better in World Class, upon closer inspection they are hardly out of hot water. None of their 'spectacular' megashows drew crowds even at the level of last year. Thanksgiving and Christmas were moved back to the Sportatorium in Dallas from Reunion Arena. Fort Worth was given up on completely and bookings for the wrestlers became fewer and fewer with Dallas the only city even holding the circuit together.

 

As for the other half of Jarrett's empire, his own CWA, that is now at its lowest level since Jarrett started the company more than a decade ago. Crowds in all cities have declined to record lows, and for the first time, the WWF just a few weeks back was able to come into town and draw a crowd double to what the local group was able to draw. Jerry Lawler, who at one time was one fo the best regional drawing cards in the business, had his last hurrah on top with his 'retire or win the title' match with Curt Hennig, which drew 8,000 fans in Memphis. But in reality, with the job the promotion and Lawler himself did in hyping the event, it hsould have been an easy sellout. But times have changed and running weekly shows caught up with them, especially when the TV show became the weekly Robert Fuller hour and with Lawler already as World champion, 'the chase,' which was the promotion's key tool for this decade, was finally over. They tried to revive the chase with the unification gimmick with Kerry Von Erich, which worked short-term, but was bungled so badly on both ends that by the time it came to fruition, neither title belt meant anything.

 

The less said about the AWA this past year, the better. The most remarkable thing about the promotion has been its ability to stay on ESPN for another year, despite not having much in the way of product to fill air time. The relationship couldn't be on the best of terms, since ESPN continued to move the AWA's time slot around, which was a major cause of Superclash III's lack of financial success. For the final weeks before the show, the most critical time for success in PPV, the AWA's weekly new shows either aired on Monday afternoons, or some weeks, were non-existent. Part of the problem as well, is that the AWA still hasn't taped any new television shows since mid-September. They no longer run any city on a consistent basis, save Las Vegas, which they are about to lose. Their attempt to start up again in their longtime Twin Cities base was a miserable failure, and from a gate standpoint, with all the hype for Superclash III, I don't see how 1,672 fans paying can be considered any kind of success. Right now the AWA only has a few wrestlers actually in its stable, and t hey are only there because of lack of alternatives. A few have potential down the road (Derrick Dukes and Ricky Rice) but won't achieve it without steadier work and opponents who can lead them. Pat Tanaka & Paul Diamond are good workers, but they are only in the AWA because nobody else will take them. Much of their core talent are the independent troupe that are based elsewhere, your Sgt. Slaughter, Iron Sheik, Rock & Roll Express, Jimmy Valiant types who have all had their day and don't even have nostalgic value. Don Muraco, whom they expect to bring in shortly, fits into that category as well. Manny Fernandez has potential, but not with Waho McDaniel, and he's still basically an independent whose main forte is Japan. It remains to be seen, after all the PPV numbers come in, if Gagne will still even have an ally in Jarrett.

 

Continental, and that entire area, had a disastrous year. The big news early was that David Woods, a television station owner from Montgomery, AL with big plans, had purchased the weaker part of the territory from Ron Fuller, while Fuller himself was going to start his own USA promotion based out of Knoxville. Fuller never got the group going, and sold it back to Woods within four months. Woods had no success at all early, but then hired Eddie Gilbert as booker, and achieved a small cult following on FNN. Gates did pick up during the summer, some credit Gilbert, some just say it was inevitable this would happen in the summer (although the reality is, nobody else besides the NWA and WWF did significant business over the summer). By the end of the summer, the Gilbert/Woods marriage was history, with neither side totally blameless. Those who advised Woods that getting rid of Gilbert would help the territory, however, were proven wrong in a big way. The territory is now weaker than it was before Gilbert took over, and as far as that goes, even before Fuller sold it to Woods. While rumors have it that Woods is ready to sell back to Fuller, it appears they are premature, but nobody seems to have any sort of solution to saving the company, either.

 

Don Owen in Oregon continued his promotion and survived what turned out to be a very weak challenge from a mismanaged group headed by Billy Jack Haynes, formerly his top babyface and later a mid-level star with Titan. Another challenge started later in the year, and it's too early to determine how well it will do. Actually the biggest news from Oregon was when Owen was shut down for nine days by the State Athletic Commission after several issues came to a head when wrestler Matt Borne defied a commission edict by blading. But news toward the end of the year that Owen gave up, voluntarily, his television in the state of Washington, can't be considered a positive.

 

Stampede Wrestling started 988 off at its strongest point in a long time, mainly due to the late-1987 turn of Jason the Terrible. A lot has gone down in Stampede, particularly losses of several key babyfaces including Owen Hart, however, the lucky break of the return of the British Bulldogs has made the territory the hottest small one around once again. For the short-run, with the Bulldogs on top, business should stay solid-to-good, but the long-run depends upon the Bulldogs having strong heel opponents, or perhaps a turn of one against the other and going long-term with the feud. At the same time, there are many who believe that if Stampede picks up past a certain point, that the first thing McMahon will do is rehire the Bulldogs.

 

Now onto Japan. I really haven't gone into detail on the business itself there in quite a while. It appears this is going to be a pivotal year for Japanese wrestling. Of course, the UWF is the success story of the business right now. They have found a gimmick that works, running monthly shows and getting the public to believe they are real. If they get television in 1989, and you have to think if they want it, they'll certainly get it as a monthly special, things should at least stay the same. Whatever is lost by their not being a novelty should be balanced out because of the increase in exposure in getting the wrestlers over to more of a general public. If the UWF gets monthly television, and the ratings are anywhere near what their special some weeks back did, then they are going to change the style of wrestling in the country in the other groups as well. Really, they already have to a degree, with no TV exposure, which shows an amazing amount of impact.

 

New Japan is going to be more interesting to follow because they have the biggest potential news story of the year if the Soviet deal pans out. They will be the first Soviet athletes to turn professional in any sport, with the tentative schedule for matches in May. It will probably make news coverage not only big-time in Japan, but even in the U.S. there is a lot that can go wrong, however. Who is going to tell Andriev to do a job for Inoki? How are they going to get a group of amateur wrestlers who didn't even grow up watching pro wrestling ready for a major main event in just a few months, no matter how skilled they are as athletes. The public probably will buy the premise in Japan and they'll get the media hype and the television ratings, but let's face it, the most watched pro wrestling matches of the past half-decade were the Inoki vs Spinks match, which did more harm than good to the business, and the Andre vs Hogan match on NBC, which caused a lot of talk but Wrestlemania didn't do anywhere near the business projected, and Wajima's pro debut, which had a positive effect for a very short run but meant nothing in the long run. Good television ratings for two or three weeks aren't going to solve the problem, unless Inoki gets himself (or one of the younger stars is pushed to where he surprises a gold medalist and becomes an instant hero) over with a convincing winning in a thrilling match, which is more likely not going to happen.

 

All Japan has a lot of problems, also. Two key things which happened in 1988 that hurt them were the murder of Bruiser Brody and the firing of Ashura Hara, which took two of their key main eventers right out of the picture. The tag team tournament was lackluster, however they did have an exciting climax. They are hoping that the return of the British Bulldogs will pick things up in January. The big problem with All Japan is that they've got one key issue, Tsuruta vs Tenryu. While the issue still means something and they provide mainly good-to-great action, it is hardly a new feud. While Stan Hansen is still popular and Terry Gordy generally has very good matches, they also are hardly new faces in Japan. They have been unable to bring in new faces and get them over to where they have significant impact on the gate and television ratings, both of which fell off in the past year. There are few younger U.S. wrestlers who have the potential to fill the vacancy. First off, the most talented newcomers generally are with either the NWA or WWF, which makes it either difficult or impossible to be cleared for work here. Second, the style of wrestling between the two countries is probably going to get more different over the next year, as each country is evolving in different ways. Japan is getting more serious, because of the Maeda influence on the other groups, with a heavy reliance on submissions and realistic moves. The U.S. scene is getting more into gimmickry, showmanship and a heavier reliance on entertainment. Wrestlers brought up on U.S. style will have a difficult time adapting to Japan, even if they have the physical potential to make it.

 

The early prognosis for 1989 is for more of the same. There is no reason to expect any sort of a major problem for Titan. They have a Hogan vs Savage issue which is guaranteed box office. They still have Hogan, and can give him another big run coming off his movie, which they expect will prolong his popularity for the next year. They have enough marketable talent underneath to fill in gaps, and enough brains in the office to keep new ideas coming. Financially, there is obviously no imminent problem, as they survived a several million dollar loss on the Leonard vs Lalonde boxing match without any apparent major problems. It is unrealistic to believe the UWF can continue its success at its current pace for another year, but their success to this point has been totally unrealistic and there is no sign of the group losing popularity. The NWA is a major question mark, although the answers to their questions aren't apparent right now. New Japan is betting a lot on a longshot coming in. All Japan will certainly survive and do fair business, but there is no indication of anything more than that on the horizon. As for the rest of the have-not promotions, by the looks of things, they'll have even less.

 

This brings us to the second part of what I wanted to get into. The question of whether or not Vince McMahon has been good for professional wrestling.

 

Immediately, those of you reading will probably go into either of these two opinions. Opinion No. 1: How can anyone even suggest that he hasn't been the greatest thing for the business. The WWF's track record speaks for itself. Wrestlemania III was the greatest all-around wrestling event of all-time and he's yet to have a financial failure on PPV and has had a few that were multi-million dollar successes. Hulk Hogan has been turned into the most famous wrestler since Gorgeous George and the biggest drawing card the business has ever seen. The top wrestlers are making more money than ever before and have achieved a pseudo-celebrity status that wrestlers of the previous decade could never have dreamed of. Then there's the flip side of the coin. While Vince McMahon has been good for Vince McMahon's business, has he really been good for the wrestling business? This past year was the worst year in wrestling from the standpoint of the overall business of any year in recent memory. There are fewer and fewer options for prospective wrestlers. There are fewer and fewer jobs. Reliance on ability has been replaced by reliance on steroids. Television ratings are declining and stations around the country are dropping programs a lot faster than they are adding them. Live crowds have fallen tremendously over the year in every promotion, although the decline is far less in the WWF than anywhere else. PPV, which just one year ago looked to be the potential savior of the business, is still strong right now, but every single show has done less business than a similar show would have even a few months earlier. The plight of a beginning wrestler, even one with genuine talent, is worse than at any time I can remember. There is almost no work in the first place, and even if you are lucky to get in, you are talking about $150 to $350 per week work in many of the smaller promotions unless you luck into a decent spot with the NWA or WWF. The business itself as a whole is not in great shape, although one can argue that this fallout was inevitable and unavoidable. While many of the conditions that have led to this have been stupidity, the 'ways' of the business (which is a whole different story but Titan is the only company which is really run as a business in this country) and competition, which there formerly wasn't any of, showing the weaknesses to the public of their regional offices; many of these conditions have been created by the environment of today's wrestling, largely controlled by Vince McMahon. And we haven't even gotten into the changes of what takes place in the ring, which many will argue, has been for the worst, particularly if they watch tapes of 1983-85 pro wrestling on many of the circuits.

 

I'd like to have some reader response on the question as to whether or not Vince McMahon has been good for wrestling as a whole. And let's face it, that was certainly never his goal to begin with. McMahon has always had a primary goal to ruin the other promotions, and it can be argued how much influence the promotions had upon it and how much was caused by McMahon and how much was caused by environmental changes."

 

WWF

-- The NBC Main Event airs on 2/3 from Milwaukee. Dave hasn't gotten an official card, but believes the main event will be Hogan/Savage vs DiBiase/Andre, and it's almost certain they will pull the trigger on Savage's heel turn at that point, which Dave feels is the perfect time to do the angle. "If they were to do it at the Royal Rumble, it would be viewed by maybe 500,000 people. On NBC, it'll be viewed by 30 million."

 

-- The Thanksgiving weekend SNME drew a 9.2 rating and a 26 share, a phenomenal rating.

 

-- Dave doesn't see the Royal Rumble concept doing well on pay-per-view.

 

-- The SNME which plants the seed for Savage's turn airs on 1/7.

 

-- 12/17 in Oakland drew 10,000 fans and a $128,000 gate headlined by Hogan vs Boss Man. An evening show with the same lineup in Los Angeles drew 11,500 and a $148,000 gate. The next day, they drew $68,000 in Tacoma, WA.

 

NWA

-- "Starrcade was the kind of a show that in my mind, typifies what a great wrestling card should be from the wrestling product and announcing standpoint. As an overall production, it was not the best PPV event of the year (although it was a close second to Titan's Survivor Series, which gets the nod as the best event mainly because it had superior overall production, while the production of Starrcade was actually quite poor). But the wrestling itself was of the most consistent high quality of any major PPV event, and for that matter, any card I've seen either live or on tape dating back to New Japan's Summer Night Fever cards in August of 1987. I'd rate it higher than the first Clash of the Champions, which is generally regarded as the top wrestling card of this past year, because the matches were consistently good from start to finish. The first Clash had two exceptional matches and another very good match, but the other matches were just so-so. This card had six good matches out of seven, and the other match really wasn't that bad, either."

 

-- Dave talks about some glaring production weaknesses. Every time they switched camera shots, you heard a noise. That problem was solved just as the first match got underway. The sound was screwed up several times throughout the show.

 

-- The workrate itself was excellent, and the booking was the best of any major NWA show in a long time. Only two matches had unsatisfying finishes, and since no one really expected pinfalls in either of those matches, it didn't hurt much. The finishes of the Steiner, MX and Flair matches were great. Every match had enough time to get its point across. Jim Ross and Bob Caudle did a fantastic job. Dave says doing backstage interviews was a step in the right direction, but that it's amazing that they have Cornette and Paul E. and don't let them talk on every PPV, and Flair and Luger really should have both been interviewed before their match, and Luger after the match as well, not just Flair. "I do think that for the first time in a long time that Flair himself was used and portrayed in the light he should have been used and portrayed in for the last several years he's been the heel world champion. And it was also proven that a babyface can do a job for a heel and get stronger in the process, because Luger did the job (and really, he should have done a clean job even though Flair putting his feet on the ropes wasn't acknowledged by the announcers and had no bearing on the fans' reaction and kind of half-spoiled an excellent finishing sequence) and has undoubtedly helped his stock both as a wrestler and a babyface because he put on the best performance of his career."

 

-- The show drew 10,000 fans and a $150,000 gate in a 13,000-seat building. The gate was the largest for an NWA show since July, but it shows how much damage has been done when they couldn't sell out Norfolk, a city they've sold out many times in the past for normal shows.

 

-- The rundown:

 

* Steve Williams/Kevin Sullivan vs Fantastics: Doc and the Fants worked really well together, with a nice power/speed dynamic. It wasn't quite as good when Sullivan was in, but Sullivan did work harder than you'd think and took some nice bumps. Doc wrestled the way many feels he has the potential to wrestle, but doesn't often hit. Clean pinfall for a heel title change, unheard of in the previous regime. ***1/2

 

* Midnight Express vs Original Midnight Express: Really hot opening few minutes. Dangerously's team simply is not as good as Cornette's team, but Rose put forth a strong effort and looked good. ***1/4

 

* Russian Assassins vs Ivan Koloff & Junkyard Dog: Not good, but watchable and didn't drag down the card. Jack Victory carried this match with his bumps. Koloff is finally starting to show his age. *1/2

 

* Rick Steiner vs Mike Rotunda: Lots of heat and great execution. "Steiner is one of those guys who either legitimately is so tough that he can do anything to himself and it doesn't knock the wind out of him, or is just plain insane, probably a little bit of both." Dave compared this to a Jumbo/Tenryu match in terms of stiffness and execution. The finish was unique and the place popped like crazy for it. It was intricate, but pulled off really well. Steiner was made into a really strong babyface here, as the post-match pop lasted a few minutes. ***1/2

 

* Barry Windham vs Bam Bam Bigelow: Windham is the heir-apparent to Flair as the best all around wrestler in the business. Not only does he have his work down, but he's become a great smug heel and is a good carrier. Dave thinks the glassy-eyed bump over the top rope and into the guardrail will become Barry's Flair flop. As down as everyone is on Bigelow, he still impresses Dave even though he's being used terribly. Windham used a lot of Lou Thesz trademark moves since Thesz was in attendance. Windham took the bump of the night missing a Randy Savage elbow off the top but flew higher and farther than Savage ever did. Weak finish. ***3/4

 

* Road Warriors vs Sting & Dusty Rhodes: The crowd was much louder when Sting was in than they were when Dusty was in. Dusty didn't wear the eye patch to sell his injury at all. The move of the night was Sting doing a cross bodyblock to the floor from the top rope, which the camera caught perfectly. "Sting does one of those flying moves made for guys who weigh 50 pounds less than he does on every PPV show, and like clockwork, up until this time, the camera always seems to miss the move." No one seemed to mind the finish. **3/4

 

* Ric Flair vs Lex Luger: Less great moves than other matches on the show, but this had far more emotion and intensity than anything on the show. A classic. Flair worked in all his spots, but did vary his formula quite a bit more than he usually does working with Luger. Flair's nearfall after Luger's superplex 19 minutes in was incredible, and a reaction no one else on the show is good enough to get. There were about 15 dramatic nearfalls in all, but none of them touched that one. Flair got in a great chairshot on Luger's knee. Luger's selling wasn't as good as it could have been for this, but he got the job done. "Even though Flair was carrying Luger, it was probably the first match I've seen Luger in where he worked like a wrestler with a bodybuilder physique rather than a bodybuilder who is trying to be a wrestler. He absolutely either belongs as a main eventer or Flair is so good that we're totally deceived." Luger was billed as having dropped 13 lbs for this match, and Dave says it was obvious he had lost some weight to build his stamina, and even 30 minutes in, didn't appear in danger of blowing up. The finish was supposed to be Flair winning clean without his feet on the ropes, but lots of old-timers were in Luger's ear about how doing a clean job to Flair would kill his career, so he got cold feet about doing a clean job. ****1/2, and the best PPV match of the year.

 

-- "If this was the first example of a new era for the NWA, it was a very positive step."

 

-- Steven Casey, Michael Hayes, and Butch Reed are in, chances are good for Jimmy Garvin, and Brian Pillman will probably be coming in as well. There are two other big names they are interested in, one of whom is Terry Gordy. Gordy may not want to come in because he seems to like resting his knees between tours of Japan, and he has turned down multiple offers from the WWF because he doesn't want to jeopardize his relationship with Baba.

 

-- Wrestlers are now getting bi-weekly checks instead of being paid by house show grosses, which has improved the attitudes of many of the big names, although there are guys like Sting who are paid way below what they are worth and are working without a contract.

 

-- Al Perez is back. "I don't know where he was, or why he was there."

 

-- Nobody knows what the future holds for Dusty Rhodes but nobody expects him around long-term. He has put his house up for sale in Texas and rumor is that he's considering relocating to Florida. It's expected he'll either try to start a regional group in Florida or work with Mike Graham to try rebuilding Florida. TBS is going to re-negotiate his contract because he's currently making $585,000 per year, but is no longer booking.

 

-- The NWA now has exclusive rights to the Capital Centre in Landover, MD, a WWF stronghold, beginning in March. There was a blow-up between Cap Centre management and the WWF because of low attendance for WWF shows lately. The WWF is expected to switch to the DC Armory. The building is too big for the NWA unless they reverse their fortunes, although they have done $194,000 and $157,000 gates there for Bash shows the past two years.

 

-- The Clash IV replay drew a low 0.8 rating, and was purposely not promoted by TBS because they were embarrassed by the quality of the card.

 

-- "Al Perez is definitely back. I don't know where he was, or why he was there, although eh did work some spots in Florida for Florida Championship Wrestling which is why I was under the assumption he was history here, particularly since he'd missed several weeks worth of advertised dates and had disappeared almost entirely from any mention at all."

 

-- TBS planned to test the PPV signal before the show for dish owners, but the guys who were supposed to be in charge were given the day off, so until the last minute, dish owners had no idea if they were going to get the show. (My note: Nice to know WCW was WCW from the very beginning.)

 

-- Nobody knows Dusty's future, but no one expects him around for very long. He has put his house up for sale in Texas and wants to relocate to Florida. Most expect him to either do a new startup in Florida or work with Mike Graham in rebuilding the dead FCW. TBS wants to renegotiate his contract, and his future probably depends on how much they cut, as right now, he's making about $585,000 per year.

 

-- Flair is working shows against Sting, Rick Steiner, Al Perez, and Junkyard Dog in January.

 

-- The NWA now has an exclusive in the Capital Centre starting in March. There was a blowup between the WWF and Capital Centre due to the WWF's poor crowds in the building. The WWF is switching to the DC Armory. Unless the NWA turns its fortunes around, they're going to struggle to draw 19,800, the capacity for wrestling. However, they have done huge shows in that building in the past during the summer Bash tour, so it's possible.

 

-- Eddie Gilbert and Barry Windham had a good match on TBS.

 

-- The Clash IV replay on 12/20 drew a 0.8 rating. The replay was not hyped at all since TBS was disappointed by the quality of the card.

 

JARRETT

-- Superclash III likely did around 41,000 buys.

 

-- 12/19 in Memphis drew better than in a long time due to lower prices, but there was a shooting after a fight at Mid South Coliseum with someone getting killed, "... which isn't exactly going to be a help." Dave says a similar incident happened last year when they were doing good business and it slowed things down because fans were afraid to come to matches. (My note: That Dave, always putting business first ...)

 

-- Sid Vicious is leaving soon to work for Inoki and get a big push.

 

-- Jamie Dundee is working Alabama independents and will eventually be brought in.

 

-- Eric Embry gets a great crowd reaction, but "I suppose he should since he's revolving everything around himself."

 

-- World Class is pushing to get back on ESPN.

 

-- Michael Hayes is sticking around until he departs for the NWA.

 

-- The Christmas show in Dallas drew a sellout 3,000 fans and a $14,800 gate.

 

STAMPEDE

-- The British Bulldogs are doing big business, including a $40,000 house on 12/18 in Edmonton and another house near that in Calgary.

 

-- Bulldog Bob Brown is in as a heel commentator.

 

-- Johnny Smith may work a tour in late February for Inoki.

 

-- Bruce Hart takes over as booker when Dynamite Kid goes to Japan.

 

-- Chris Benoit is getting a big push, recently pinning Gary Albright in Calgary.

 

OTHER U.S.

-- Tom Pritchard turned heel at a recent TV taping in Montgomery, but Continental is having second thoughts about it, so it may not air.

 

-- Jerry Blackwell will not be closing Southern, but he is no longer going to use name wrestlers in order to save money.

 

-- Dutch Mantell and Ken Wayne both left Continental over payouts.

 

ALL JAPAN

-- The 12/16 tournament final drew 12,700 fans to Budokan Hall. At least that's the official number, but Dave suspects it was closer to 10,000. The final match was possibly the best match of 1988. "It went 21:02 and had super heat, super execution, the moves were stiff beyond belief and just did everything a match could do. The story is that Kawada, the underdog got on offense and the big American sold for him 'creating' a new main eventer which needs to be done. However they went after Kawada's knee and at about the 12 minute mark had him incapacitated outside the ring and of no assistance and every two or three minutes, either Hansen or Gordy would go after him and 're-injure' his knee. Tenryu did the last 10 minutes by himself against both guys and was awesome and finally he had Hansen pinned after a powerbomb, but Gordy broke the hold and gave Tenryu a power bomb (using Tenryu's own finisher against him) and Hansen got up the first of the two and used the lariat to get the win."

 

NEW JAPAN

-- Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow will form a team instead of feuding.

 

-- The 12/10 Fujinami vs Grappler match from PWN drew a strong 7.7 rating.

 

-- Shiro Koshinaka retain the IWGP junior title by pinning Keichi Yamada. This is Yamada's final appearance before leaving for a one-year tour of Europe to team with Masaharu Funaki.

 

OTHER JAPAN

-- Madusa Miceli works AJW the entire month of January. The 1/29 card will feature Chigusa Nagayo vs Lioness Asuka.

 

-- Chigusa Nagayo had a birthday party on 12/8 that had 600 attendees. She turned 24.

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Wow. There was a LOT going on in this issue. I never realized what a turning-point year '88 was.

 

Dave's thoughts on Vince were pretty dead-on.

 

Immediately, those of you reading will probably go into either of these two opinions....etc.

 

This paragraph in particular would apply to many today.

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Dave makes a great point that is still very relevant today about once WWF had established itself as a national brand that is seen as a "major league" it's a big part of the reason that building any meaningful smaller company only becomes that much more difficult. How many of us *really* give a damn about the minor league versions of our chosen sports that we follow?

 

The point about it being harder and harder for new workers, even very talented ones, to break in also seems like it could have been written now.

 

There is almost no work in the first place, and even if you are lucky to get in, you are talking about $150 to $350 per week

Sadly this sorta sounds about right still today as well. I'm guessing there's actually less money (relative in scale to 1988) on the indies now than there was then.

 

And yeah these WON revisits are great. Nice to see a new one in action.

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