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20 Years Ago - WON 08/29/88


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-- Dave received a very impassioned letter from someone tired of him insulting Jim Wilson and Eddie Mansfield on the letters pages. The first chunk of the newsletter is devoted to answering the criticisms instead of reporting any news. The gist of the letter:


* Your facts are wrong about their careers

* You are wrong to write off their complaints because they never became stars

* They deserve credit for coming clean about wrestling in a public forum and trying to start a union

* Dave spends more time encouraging fans to contact TV stations than labor unions who could actually reform the business

* "The routine reports on crowd size, monetary gates, PPV clearance rates and estimated gross revenues is distributed among the guys whose matches you rate with asterisks. Older and ailing wrestlers are snidely criticized without explaining the reasons for their condition, the absente pensions, and medical insurance. Wrestler mobility is noted, but not 'the power of the pencil.' Green wrestlers and jobbers are continually insulted without explaining why talented athletes are in no hurry to get into wrestling. The superficial fascination with wrestlers' real names, height, weight, and hometown is laughably distant from their daily reality of being 'paid with pussy.'"

* Dave failed to criticize the wrestling business for its role in the deaths of Bruiser Brody and Adrian Adonis

* "The perception of readers that the Observer has a reputation inside The Business as a pernicious kayfabe sheet is a heretofore unexposed work. In fact, The Business (my note: that's how he keeps writing it) likes you. You tell some secrets, but hide the real ones."


Dave's response, highlights:


* "While the formation of a union, in theory, is a good idea, I have talked to very few wrestlers who even entertain the notion that it has even a slim chance of being successful."

* "There are abuses in the wrestling business, to be sure. This idea of a pro wrestler as an independent contractor as the business tries to portray is a joke, and one which abuses the wrestler. The idea that when a wrestler suffers an on-the-job injury, that in most cases not only does the wrestler have to pay the bill himself (and there are plenty of exceptions to this, but it also often is the case) but also in more cases than not, suffers from lost wages until he can return to the ring. Because of that, in almost all cases, the return is premature, and the injury often never fully heals, and the wrestler is unable to perform at peak efficiency because of it. While wrestlers with the major offices do receive air-faire to the city they are performing in, they have to pay their own hotel, rent-a-car or taxi to get to the arena, and all other expenses of living on the road, which often cuts what on the surface appears to be a healthy paycheck down to nothing. The performance and travel schedule is often nothing short of brutal. I can recall instances of NWA wrestlers, in particular, wrestling in cards in two cities on the same night and often, back in '86 when they were doing TV's on Saturday morning and then double-shots on Saturdays, working three shows in one day and maybe five shows in a weekend. The WWF a few months back was nearly destroying its wrestlers with those five-show weekends, which saw one or two wrestlers literally collapse in airports from exhaustion, and another suffer a heart attack."

* "The pressure, stronger now than ever, to have an unnatural physique, had made steroid use and abuse, particularly in the WWF, almost a necessity to have any chance at success. Yet these same steroids are blamed for at least one heart attack, one stroke, and another wrestler whose heart deteriorated so badly from such abuses that it was feared until recently that he would have to undergo a heart transplant. The wrestling business is far, far from perfect. Nor is any other business. The previous paragraph could have the word 'WWF' taken out and inserted the sports of bodybuilding, powerlifting, several track and field events and to a lesser extent, pro football linemen, and the same would be true, and none of those sports are any closer to changing that truism than pro wrestling."

* "Agreed, it is a sad and indefensible state that pro wrestlers don't have any kind of medical insurance to cover on-the-job injuries, and that they often don't receive pay while recovering from those same injuries. As for pension plans, while again in theory that sounds good, in reality, this is not a stable enough business. We've had two promotions fold in the past few weeks alone. With the exception of Titan Sports, how many U.S. offices actually are operating in the black right now? The answer is two, maybe three. I'm going to go back to pro soccer and make a point. The soccer players unionized and of course it helped them, at least in the short run. The owners claimed that the unionization helped put the outdoor game virtually out of business in this country (a faulty claim, the game would have gone down the tubes because of public apathy, union or not). But whatever pension plans may be negotiated are lost when the business folds up. And as we've seen by wrestling contracts, it is better to get the money up-front and set it aside yourself, because these balloon and deferred payments have a way of never coming to fruition."

* Using any term (e.g. "The Business") collectively about a group of individuals, whether they be people in the wrestling business, "smart fans" (who for some reason seem to be getting criticized in many other newsletters for reasons I can't fully understand), Republicans or any other group generally leads to unfair assumptions. All "smart fans" (whatever that connotates and I'm still not sure) don't think alike. I don't know of any two that think exactly alike, and I certainly don't speak for all of them. Yet many people seem to think that whatever I state constitutes the viewpoint of all 'smart fans.'"

* "In the same way, the wrestling business has no unity of purpose, whatsoever. It is not a monopoly, in fact it is competitive, even if the competition is terribly one-sided in this country. Promoters don't get together and blacklist wrestlers and the term blacklisting is highly overused. Wilson can talk about being blacklisted, and I won't argue the point that several promoters were contacted and told not to use him. However, there has never been a singular unity of purpose among those who run wrestling companies."

* Brody got away with things like changing finish mid-match and refusing to do jobs because he was marketable and an attraction. If he wanted to play by the rules, he could have gone to the WWF and worked on top. Even in the NWA, where there is personal heat with Dusty, had Brody agreed to do business Dusty's way, he could have come in. It isn't fair that he got chances guys like Mansfield and Wilson didn't, but that's the reality of pro wrestling. Not just the wrestling business, but life.

* Brody wasn't regarded as a renegade because he had a bad attitude. In fact, he was one of the smartest wrestlers around and most wrestlers would classify Brody as a genuine, friendly guy, unless it was a promoter who had to do business with him.

* While you could blame the WWF for making sure Adonis wouldn't be taken seriously on top again because of the gimmick, in truth, Adonis was responsible for his downfall. He was self-destructive and McMahon gave him several chances. He could have even worked Japan for a few years until the image of him as an obese drag queen faded.

* "The Business" has no viewpoint of the Observer. Some love it, some hate it. Most of the major power brokers hate it, but even that isn't unanimous. Publicly, most wrestlers hate it, and privately, the reactions are more mixed.

* "The realities of professional wrestling are that it is a business, and in theory, the bottom line should be that it be a profitable business, although the reality in many cases is it is a business run by those in power often times for personal ego gain as much as profit. Wrestlers and promoters have similar goals, raising fan interest and increasing the revenue generated by the promotion so both promoter and wrestler, at least in theory, will benefit. They are also put in an adversarial position. Every dollar spent for talent is a dollar less of profit margin ... One thing unfortunate about wrestling is that it is a business often built on false hopes, false promises and false dreams. Wrestlers constantly have the carrot of success, whether it be a hot new angle "we are planning for you in October", promise of a title belt or any kind of a major push, placed in front of their eyes, and oftentimes that never comes to fruition. But wrestling is not unique in this way."

* "I want to make one last personal comment before getting into the news. I do not make any claims as to being anything but a reporter who tries to do as accurate and honest a job as possible in covering a business in which accomplishing those goals is impossible. Other people are welcomed to label me a mark who doesn't know what he's talking about, an expert, or anything in between. The audience the Observer is aimed at is that of hardcore fan, whether you want to label him a smart mark or a smart fan of whatever labels can be given, and also secondarily as a trade journal of sorts for the business, not that the business itself wants it, but a large percentage of the readership is within the business and they are a lot more interested in gate figures than results of matches. Now that all of this has been covered, I don't plan on getting into it again for a few more years."



-- The WWF will co-promote the Sugar Ray Leonard boxing PPV on November 7. This is their first venture into boxing, and their PPV experience gave them the edge over both Viacom and HBO.


-- They continue to hype Summerslam. The latest rumor is that Brother Love's guest will be Jessica Hahn. MSG is sold out and they've opened up the Felt Forum for closed circuit, which is almost sold out as well.


-- 8/7 in Toronto drew 8,500 fans headlined by Savage vs DiBiase in a cage. 8/15 in Omaha drew 5,248 fans headlined by Andre vs Duggan.


-- Dave had a chance to see the Owen Hart/Barry Horowitz match everyone is talking about and would give it ***. He said both guys sold well for each other and Hart did some spectacular moves, but the match was in "ssssslllllloooowwww motion".



-- The sale is coming down to the wire. The deal is not yet complete, but Ted Turner made an unofficial deadline for getting things wrapped up. TBS sources told Dave papers could be signed as early as Monday, but there are still minor hold-ups. Wrestlers have started meeting with Jack Petrik, who will oversee wrestling operations when the sale goes through. Both Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes had personal meetings with Ted Turner. Major changes in the television product will take place in the first 3-4 months. Dave says they need some type of strategy to get over in Los Angeles and New York as strong as they are in the Southeast in order to be a national promotion.


-- Steve Williams was arraigned in federal court in Detroit on charges of attempting to transport cocaine, marijuana, and mushrooms to Japan. Dave says this would have been far more heavily covered if Doc worked for the WWF. Contrary to rumors, Doc is still very much with the NWA.


-- Flair/Luger is drawing HUGE on house shows, with near sellouts in Norfolk, Richmond, and Philadelphia. The reason this seems to be working is that that they are advertising that the only rematch will take place in "your" town. Dave says regardless of his thoughts on the finish at the Bash, and that Luger needed to bleed a lot more, if they're drawing numbers like this, it was a success, period. Any thoughts that they pissed off fans too much with that finish should be dismissed by looking at the gates they're drawing for this feud now.


-- Ron Garvin and Tim Horner are no longer around. Garvin quit/was fired over a misunderstanding at a house show and is AWA-bound. The AWA is planning on running tons of shows in the Carolinas with Garvin, Wahoo McDaniel, Manny Fernandez and Robert Gibson. Horner was supposed to do a job for The Masked Maniac (Italian Stallion under a hood, but Lyle Alzado's alias on Learning The Ropes). They were shooting the match to be used on the TV show. (My note: Dave didn't say Horner refused, but he implied it.)


-- 8/12 in Norfolk drew 9,500 fans and a $98,900 gate headlined by Flair vs Luger. Luger won by DQ when JJ interfered. After the match, Luger had Flair pinned and Ricky Morton counted his shoulders to the mat, which led to Luger and Morton getting destroyed by the Horsemen to close the show. 8/19 in Richmond drew 10,500 fans headlined by Flair vs Luger. 8/20 in Philly drew 11,000 fans headlined by Flair vs Luger.


-- Ron Simmons is back in, taking Tim Horner's spot.


-- Jack Victory will be Russian Assassin #2.


-- Brad Armstrong will replace Tim Horner at Clash III in the TV title match against Mike Rotunda.


-- They shot an angle with Barry Windham attacking Sting recently and making him juice with the claw in order to start their feud.


-- Dave Sheldon (Angel of Death) is learning Russian to be more believable in the Russian Assassin gimmick.



-- 8/20 in Las Vegas drew 1,250 fans, their largest crowd in a long time, which Dave uses to poke fun at Curt Hennig's drawing power. (He had also noted in a recent WON that Hennig was having bad matches on WWF house shows and wasn't getting much crowd response.) Jimmy Snuka no-showed, but wasn't advertised, making Jimmy Valiant the only "official" no-show. Highlights of the show included Wahoo vs Manny in a double juice match, Lawler defending the AWA title against Tijo Khan, and Chavo/Mando/Hector vs Bad Company/DeBeers in a *** match, which included DDP taking a great bump over the top rope.


-- Col. DeBeers is now managed by Diamond Dallas Page and gets lots of heat.


-- Verne Gagne is telling everyone in Las Vegas that the NWA is about to fold and that he's going to get their entire roster except Flair, Dusty, and Tully.


-- The scheduled PPV has been pushed back to 12/26, which is when the NWA also has a PPV planned, but Dave thinks it's just an oversight and that they'll reschedule.



-- 8/12 at the Sportatorium drew 750 fans.


-- Kendo Nagasaki and Keiji Muto are headed in after Fritz Von Erich met with Seiji Sakaguchi. Fritz keeps accidentally calling him Seiji Inoki. Sakaguchi really wants to get Muto work in the US, as Muto is his protege.


-- 8/17 in Lawton, OK drew 800 fans. 8/19 in Dallas drew 1,000.


-- There are rumors of Tama coming in as a third member of the SST, but Dave calls that wishful speculation.


-- Rumors of Ken Mantell running a new group in Texas to rival WCCW.



-- Cactus Jack is on his way in and Dave said he looked okay from his debut.


-- Billy Joe Travis is out of action. He got married and is honeymooning.


-- Bill Dundee is back as a babyface with his son Jamie. Jamie is scheduled to feud with Downtown Bruno.


-- Brickhouse Brown is doing babyface promos specifically asking black fans to support him. Dave says they seem obsessed with mentioning that he's black every time he's on TV for some reason.



-- The TV tapings on 8/14 in Montgomery drew a sellout 2,700 fans, 2,200 paid, "and the 2,700 was a sellout." (My note: Wow, Eddie Gilbert had influence over Dave. What?) The WWF show the day before only drew 76 fans in the same market.


-- Paul E. had a line in a TV promo where recently when Ron West threatened to suspend him, and he responded by saying he would just come back as the Midnight Rider. Joe Pedicino then said, "It wouldn't surprise me to see Eddie Gilbert do something as low class as come back as the Midnight Rider."



-- Crowds are down, but not as much as had been feared.



-- The lineup for the Brody memorial on 8/29 has been announced and it's nothing special. The headlining match is Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Hara. Tickets were selling very well for this show, which will include a memorial service for Brody. They also flew in his widow and son for the show. There was talk of drawing a sellout at Budokan, which hasn't happened for wrestling since a combined AJ/NJ show nearly 10 years earlier.



-- The 8/13 card was a huge success. All 12,000 tickets were sold months back in six hours and thousands of others were turned away the first day tickets went on sale. Factoring in closed circuits, they had an $800,000 gate, a number only matched by the biggest WWF and NWA shows.



-- Jim Carlisle, the TV announcer for Fred Ward's Georgia NWA promotions, passed away at the age of 49. Carlisle pre-dated tape trading, so his name is really only known to those in the Georgia area around Columbus and Macon.


-- Mike Sharpe Sr., father of Mike Sharpe in the WWF, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 67. Sharpe was a leading attraction on the west coast with his brother Ben during the 1950s, and was well known in Japan. He main evented the first major wrestling card ever held in Japan in 1954.


-- Corporal Kirchner was sentenced to 180 days in prison for non-payment of child support (over $7,000). He was also ordered to go into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction.


-- Shinya Hashimoto wants to work Memphis, and Masa Chono wants to work Continental.


-- A Current Affair is doing a segment on Brody's death and interviewed Lou Thesz and Bruno Sammartino for it.


-- Dave is having a video party on 8/27. Contact him for details.

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I'll never understand how wrestling in Japan could have better TV timeslots but never fill Nippon Budokan in the '80s.


Smart booking from Baba to have a tag on top, thus not giving anything big away on a card that was sure to draw. A good match to send the crowd home happy and make them want the Jumbo vs Tenryu singles match a few weeks later.


I wonder at what point a video party with Meltzer stopped being a possibility.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Cobra Commander

History of WWE doesn't mention a Montgomery-market show around that date, but here's results from an Athens, Alabama show a few days later


WWF @ Athens, AL - August 14, 1988

Sandy Beach defeated the Gladiator

B. Brian Blair & Jim Brunzell defeated Paul Roma & Jim Powers

The Ultimate Warrior defeated Hercules

WWF Women's Champion Sensational Sherri defeated Rockin Robin

Greg Valentine pinned Don Muraco

So, I can imagine the C show drawing 760 or something ridiculous. The C show hit all the big stops in the US, Chico, Wausau, Muskogee

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  • 2 weeks later...

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