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20 Years Ago - WON 09/05/88


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-- Most reports outside of wrestling are saying the WWF paid $8-$9 million for PPV rights to the Sugar Ray Leonard/Donnie Lalonde fight on 11/7, but some are saying they paid as much as $15 million. Wrestling sources tell Dave it was closer to $5 million. Even if the fight bombs, which is expected, this may be a wise investment on the WWF's part, because the WWF has no involvement in closed circuit promotion of the show, and it's much easier to profit from PPV than closed circuit because the local promoters take a bigger cut of closed circuit gates.


-- Randy Savage's title defenses aren't drawing nearly as well as they were. The Andre matches are doing okay, but the DiBiase series appears to have run its course. A Montreal match against Dino Bravo, however, drew over a $300,000 gate. Savage/Andre only drew 3,000 seats in the new 17,000 seat arena in Miami despite tons of local publicity.


-- Superstars taping on 8/23 in Providence drew a sellout 13,800 fans. To get around the issue of Summerslam having not yet happened, Warrior came out at the beginning of the show and beat Honky Tonk Man to win the IC title. They then referred to HTM as former champ throughout the taping, and Warrior as the champ. At the end of the taping, Jack Tunney came out and said Warrior's win was null and void since the match was not scheduled, so the belt would be returned to HTM. Also at the taping, Rick Rude wore tights with Cheryl Roberts' face on his crotch, which brought Jake out to rip them off of him, leaving Rude in his underwear. Other highlights: The Rougeaus announced Jimmy Hart as their manager. Owen Hart debuted as "The Blue Lazor", but they screwed up in Philadelphia calling him "The Blue Blazer", which made Dave laugh because Owen Hart is not a sports coat. He got a great reaction for his moonsault press finisher, but not much reaction for anything else. Terry Taylor and Curt Hennig also worked the taping, but Owen got the best reaction of the three. They set up a feud with Dino Bravo and Jim Duggan, which Dave says shows Duggan's big push is over.


-- Challenge taping on 8/24 in Hartford drew 16,000 repeating the Warrior/HTM scenario from the Superstars taping.


-- 8/22 in Utica, NY drew 3,400 fans in a match where I guess the main event was Duggan vs DiBiase, but it wasn't last. 8/26 in Calgary and 8/27 in Edmonton both drew 13,500 fans headlined by Duggan vs Andre. 8/27 in Philadelphia drew 4,418 and a $56,562 gate, the second smallest crowd for a Spectrum show ever, with the show closed by Rick Rude vs Jake Roberts with fans leaving in the middle of the match. Savage and DiBiase also wrestled each other in the middle of the show in an excellent match. Flair vs Luger, which is on fire in the NWA, drew a $128,000 gate in Philly by comparison.


-- Dave says the Brutus Beefcake/Ron Bass injury angle was neat, in that they immediately cut to Sean Mooney who said it was so violent they couldn't show it.


-- One Man Gang and Greg Valentine are still around, despite rumors to the contrary. Oliver Humperdink is getting a weekly check, but his managing days seem to be over.


-- The Jumping Bomb Angels are expected back in the WWF in January.



-- On 9/5, Dave reported that there was new news on the sale. The sale was actually closer to happening a week ago than now. Everyone is vying for power with the new owners after the sale takes place. It is assumed Dusty Rhodes will remain the booker, but he will also be held far more accountable than he is now. The rumor mill is going crazy and will continue until something happens with the sale.


-- Regarding the news item on Steve Williams, he was arrested on January 4 for attempting to smuggle cocaine, marijuana, mushrooms, barbiturates, and both oral and injectable steroids to Tokyo. He was released on an unsecured $25,000 bond, which means he has to show up for court cases or he must pay the full amount. His Japan tour scheduled to start 10/7 will likely be cancelled, as Doc is not currently allowed to leave the U.S. Because this is a first offense, odds are good he will not have to serve time.


-- Ron Garvin has quit, and Dave hates the way they handled it. They said on TBS that Dusty Rhodes beat him up so bad he put him out of wrestling, which would be fine if he was touring Japan or retiring, but he's going to be on ESPN working for the AWA within a month. He says it made Dusty look like a fool, especially considering Garvin is going to be working spot shows in the Carolinas and will be just fine.


-- Kendall Windham is leaving for WCCW, and no one has a clue why.


-- Flair vs Luger continues to draw big numbers at house shows. 8/26 at the Omni drew 13,700 and a gate of over $100,000. 8/27 in Charlotte drew 16,000.


-- They ran an angle recently where Arn and Tully beat up Bobby Eaton in the dressing room to try to fully turn the MX babyface.



-- Nothing definite on the PPV show, but they have relinquished the 12/26 date. They want to run a show on election night in Chicago, but every arena has turned them down. Jerry Jarrett is telling wrestlers it is his show and he'll book who he wants, while Verne Gagne is telling wrestlers the opposite. Lawler will likely win both belts, and drop one later back to Kerry at a WCCW show.



-- WCCW, the AWA, and CWA are planning on co-promoting a 10/30 show at The Omni in Atlanta, which Dave says spells disaster because even Hogan can't draw in Atlanta, but maybe Michael Hayes can still draw there on a one-time basis.


-- Keiji Muto is in as Super Ninja, and Dave points out no ninjas have gotten over since Kabuki a long, long time prior and Kendo Nagasaki in his early days in Florida, yet every Japanese wrestler who comes in is billed as a ninja.



-- 8/22 in Memphis drew a $15,000 gate headlined by Tommy Rich beating Jerry Lawler by DQ after Lawler decked referee Jerry Calhoun. Cactus Jack wrestled in the show opener against Ray Odyssey, and the show also had a comedy match with Downtown Bruno vs Jamie Dundee, and the best match on the show was a ***1/2 match with Robert Fuller & Jimmy Golden going to a double disqualification against Bill Dundee & Jeff Jarrett. The wrestlers brawled all over the building until the locker room emptied. The crowd was up a few hundred from the 8/15 Lawler vs Kerry double title match.


-- They are heavily promoting a 9/19 show called Renegade Mayhem that will feature all the AWA names, Kerry & Kevin Von Erich, Michael Hayes, and they are stating "NWA wrestlers" Robert Gibson and Ron Garvin will be there as well.


-- 8/27 TV had a Jarrett/Dundee vs Cactus/Young match where Bruno tried to jump off the top rope and hit Dundee with his loaded boot. However, Jamie Dundee came in and took the blow himself and was carted out. Dundee did a great interview about this and later dove over a table at Robert Fuller when he was doing an interview, in an attempt to heat up their feud. This was way too much like the angle in Continental with Pez Whatley's son, but Dave credits them for at least copying good angles when they could be copying the AWA.



-- The Road To Birmingham tournament on 10/3 will feature 10 wrestlers: Bam Bam Bigelow, Tommy Rich, The Bullet, Dirty White Boy, Tom Pritchard, Eddie Gilbert, Bob Orton, Chris Adams, Willie B. Hurt, and Terry Gordy. (My note: This is a pretty awesome line-up.) The original plan was for Lawler to face Bigelow, but Lawler will not be working here anymore. He cancelled all of his dates, so now Memphis and Continental are at war again.


-- Doug Furnas, Johnny Rich, Davey Rich, and Nelson Royal all debuted on FNN/Score. Brian Pillman, JT Southern, and Tim Horner are all headed in as well. Pillman starts 10/1.


-- The final USA Pro show drew close to 4,000 in Knoxville. The first Continental show in Knoxville will be on 9/23.


-- Jerry Stubbs turned heel and will be feuding with Austin Idol starting on 9/3 in Dothan. A few weeks back in a battle royal in Pensacola, Idol had been taken out with ether in a match with Gilbert, but came back for the battle royal and somehow won in the first ring while Stubbs won in the other ring. Idol grabbed the house mic and suggested they not fight and just split the money. Stubbs wanted to fight for it and was cleaning Idol's clock, but Idol lucked out and won anyway. Then on 8/27, it was announced Idol would get a world title shot, which brought Stubbs out to do an interview complaining about how Idol gets everything. Idol responded by saying he didn't want getting the title shot to ruin their friendship, so Stubbs could have the shot himself. Later on the show, during a six-man tag where Idol was teaming with Bullet & Willie B. Hurt against Gilbert, Dutch Mantel, and Paul E. Dangerously, the ref was knocked out and Stubbs came in to referee. In the finish, Idol decked Dangerously, Gilbert posted Hurt and then took out a chain to hit Idol, who ducked and hit him for the pin. Stubbs wouldn't count though, instead taking the chain, decking Idol with it, and putting Gilbert on top for the pin. On 8/28, they brought Idol and Stubbs out to resolve their problems, but Stubbs decked him again.


-- "Nelson Royal looked out of place in this territory with its emphasis on younger wrestlers and exaggerated personalities. Royal's subtle heel, which he does well, doesn't seem strong enough with all the characters running around."



-- 8/21 at Henderson's Arena in Atlanta drew 115 fans headlined by Mr. Wrestling II vs Moondog Spot (Larry Latham) for the Southern title. Dave says Moondog won the title from Chris Adams, but he's unsure a match actually took place to change the title. Dave also praised Ken Timbs for his work against Scott Armstrong on the undercard, saying he just got back from Mexico and did a great job getting the crowd riled up.


-- Dave is unsure who the tag champions are, but lasts he remembers, it's Tommy Rich & Ted Oates. Oates quit the group, so they held a fictional tournament won by Rich and Steve Pritchard.


-- Rival Deep South held a tournament on 8/28 in Marietta to crown a new champion, which is expected to be Randy Rose. Headed in are Dale Veasey, who Dave calls a good worker, and Tony Zane, who is billed as Mr. Atlanta and is feuding with The Assassin. Neither group is doing very well at the gate.


-- Buck Robley left as booker after a falling out with Jerry Blackwell, so Blackwell and Tommy Rich are handling the booking.



-- The usual Saturday show did not take place on 8/27, as the WWF was running Edmonton for the first time possibly ever that night, and drew 13,500 fans headliend by Andre vs Duggan. So, Stampede ran their show on 8/25 in Calgary, where they drew 1,200 fans on the strength of Steve DiSalvo's turn.


-- Makhan Singh is making noise about going to South Africa, where he has previously wrestled as Big Ben Sharp.



-- They ran an angle where Carlos Colon was named Wrestler of the Year at a banquet, but Hercules Ayala stood up ahead of time thinking it was going to be him. Colon then thanked his wife, and Ayala attacked her and beat her up to a point she juiced. WWC suspended him and stripped him of the title, but Colon insisted he be reinstated, and they are scheduled to meet in a fire death match, an idea Dave expects to be copied in the U.S. (My note: Unbelievable he reported the Colon angle without comment.)


-- Buddy Landell won the Carribean title from TNT on 8/13 at Bayamon Stadium.



-- The new series started on 8/20 in Tokyo. Dave says Johnny Ace has potential to be a big star in both the U.S. and Japan. He says he looked great in his highspots, but is still weak on transitions, but he actually looked better than Tom Zenk, who has bulked up a lot. Dave suspects they're being groomed for the tag tournament, and Zenk's dropkicks still look great. He is also unsure what happened with Takano, who looked like he would be a star a couple of years back and is not.


-- Stan Hansen broke down and cried after being Tenryu for the PWF title and the fans started chanting Brody's name. "In Japan, this has turned into almost an Elvis Presley type thing as the magazines are still filled with Brody photos four weeks after his death and on Baba's show they mention his name dozens of times each hour." (My note: Being mentioned in wrestling magazines puts you on par with Elvis?)



-- The new series started on 8/26 at Korauken Hall. They are pushing a big show on 9/5 in Osaka with Vader vs Bigelow and Choshu/Saito vs Fujinami/Koshinaka.


-- New Japan announced they are bringing in Paul Orndorff, John Studd, and King Kong Bundy, although Orndorff said he does not miss wrestling at all and has no intentions to ever return. Dave says Orndorff is doing really well for a guy who has died 200 times over the past three months.


-- Dave finally saw the entire Fujinami/Inoki 60-minute draw and said it would have been a great way for Inoki to go out. He says it wasn't match of the year, but will win in Japan because they always pick long matches that are classics. Dave acknowledges that there was tons of time killing, but also gives Inoki credit for his effort at his age going so long, especially because he was "literally dying for the last 10 minutes". Dave loved the post-match with Choshu putting Inoki on his shoulders and Koshinaka doing the same for Fujinami, and said it almost felt like a passing of the torch, and New Japan making a statement that Fujinami is their new #1 guy.


-- Dave loved the Don Nakaya Neilsen vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara match from Ariake Coliseum. "Neilsen will make one great worker if he decides to become a pro wrestler, even though he doesn't have the body for it (he's got the lean boxer physique rather than the lifter/thick physique)." Dave thinks Fujiwara should have gone over because wrestling should be portrayed as superior to kick boxing.


-- Dave says Keiji Muto works like Bret Hart but is quicker and more agile, but has the same hard style. He says Chono is fine, but is overshadowed by Muto, and Hashimoto seems more preoccupied with pretending to be a shooter than being a good wrestler. "There is a lot of danger in Maeda's popularity because it is the antithesis of what pro wrestling should be and encourages gaining a reputation through cheap-shots, which ruins the business in the long run."



-- Chigusa Nagayo wants to tour the United States in October and is willing to work for any promotion that will have her. She will probably work the 10/15 Cottonbowl show for WCCW. Dave says the only problem is that Leilani Kai is the only U.S. wrestler that could work with her, and she may be free, as the WWF has phased out all women wrestlers except Sherri Martel and Rockin' Robin. Nagayo wants to work against Susan Starr or Rhonda Singh.


-- Nord the Barbarian filed for bankruptcy. He may have to return to wrestling, which he doesn't want to do.


-- A Current Affair is moving forward with a Brody story, but Barbara Goodish refused to be interviewed by them.



-- Wrestler of the Year: Dave thinks Maeda has to win, but also walks through the cases for Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Ted DiBiase, Eddie Gilbert, Owen Hart, and Tatsumi Fujinami.


-- Most Overrated: Dave mentions Dusty Rhodes, Kevin Von Erich, Lex Luger, Brutus Beefcake, Honky Tonk Man, Nikita Koloff, and Ultimate Warrior for this category.


-- Strongest Wrestler: Steve Williams.


-- Most Embarrassing Wrestler: Dusty Rhodes, Ultimate Warrior, and George Steele take this category for Dave. If he watched the AWA, he might say Madusa Miceli.

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It would be interesting to chart the high points of Luger's drawing ability.


Flair-Luger did very strong business in its first run, especially if one were to chart it relative to Flair-Sting from the same year, say Flair-Barry & Flair-Jimmy & Flair-Ronnie from the prior year and say Flair-Steamboat & Flair-Funk the following year. I do recall Flair-Funk being praised for its drawing power, but it would be interesting to see some city-to-city comps, and also on how they passed through the feuds: 1st match, return match, etc.


Then the Lex-Hogan in 1997, even if it was short.


We know Lex in the WWF was disappointing, but how so relative to say Nash?


I don't know if there's enough there to add up to a Big Draw claim. But there's something that's likely been forgotten over time. Perhaps part of it is that the NWA fanbase (i.e. regular fans rather than us hardcores) were "ready" for Lex to win in 1988, and the promotion got set back by not delivering on it. By Starcade 1988, it probably was too late.


Don't know where you would have gone after Lex wins it. I was a Flair Fan, and never gave it thought at the time or since. He did have the storyline with freshly turned Barry, though Dusty didn't put Barry over strong at the Bash.



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I often wonder why guys seen as Dusty's boys (Lex, Barry) were never given runs with the title. Considering the one thing JCP needed badly was fresh faces on top, it seemed like such a no brainer move to make. Lex in particular is baffling since it seemed all the signs were there that he was going to be THE MAN and then he just.....wasn't. I don't think Lex ever really recovered from that in the eyes of most fans. They kept getting jerked around over a title change eventually happening that you could almost see the interest diminishing by the day as the fans just said "fuck it".



Also was Barry ever given a serious shot at Flair? The only one that stands out was the famous Worldwide draw.

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Well, Flair wasn't really ready to pass the torch. Also, with all the uncertainty over the future of the company it was politically savvy of him to keep an iron grasp on the title. I think there's a tendency by Flair Fans to point to how Luger flopped as WCW World champion in late 1991 and as the top babyface in the WWF in the summer of 1993 to argue that Luger was never THE MAN to build around, but by then, as you rightly point out, the damage had already been done.

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Norfolk, Richmond, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Charlotte had all done big houses with Flair/Luger on top at this point of the feud in the first run. I am sure there will be some drop off for rematches, as there always is, but when the time comes, it will be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison.


Regarding Flair/Funk, I think we're going to find the idea that Flair vs Funk drew money to be a myth. It did better than Flair/Steamboat and helped increase the television ratings on TBS, but even that took several months and happened after tons of TBS cross promotion. But from what I recall looking at house show numbers, most of the "big houses" of that feud were 2,000 or 3,000 fans. Yes, it did better than anything else at the time, but that's not huge praise.


Also, in defense of the Flair/Funk feud's numbers, you can compare how Flair/Luger and Flair/Funk were booked and see a difference.


Flair vs Luger was:


Build to the first time meeting on PPV --> Create a finish that leads to a house show series


Flair vs Funk was more:


Build to the first time meeting on PPV --> Build to the second time meeting on PPV involving Sting, Muta, and Hart


The TV ratings were in the toilet, both on TBS and in syndication, for much of 1989, and the idea, one promoted heavily by Meltzer, was that they couldn't turn around house show business until they increased television ratings. As a result, much of the Flair/Funk feud seemed to be designed to increase TV ratings, with the hope that some of the buzz would carry over to the gate.


Looking back, the Turner buyout may have been the beginning of house shows started getting de-emphasized. WCW was losing so much money running house shows at this point that it's easy to see why they decided to abandon it to a degree, especially when they were being produced by a television company that understood television far better than they understood wrestling and local promotion.


For whatever you can say about Dusty's booking, there wasn't a huge disconnect between the house show line-ups and what was being pushed on TV, while in 1989, WCW would run matches like Flair/Rick Steiner on top when Flair was feuding with Luger and Steamboat on TV.


Anyway, I'm very interested in this subject right now and can't wait to get to 1989.

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The TV ratings were in the toilet, both on TBS and in syndication, for much of 1989, and the idea, one promoted heavily by Meltzer, was that they couldn't turn around house show business until they increased television ratings.

Interesting, because Meltzer now promotes the idea that ratings and house show business aren't as highly correlated as you'd think. Has Meltzer ever admitted that the focus on increasing TV ratings at the time may have been misplaced?

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Luger was red hot as a babyface in Spring/Summer 1988 with Barry red hot as a heel who had just turned on him so there was a natural program to run with after Luger should've won the title off of Flair at the Bash.


Then you have Flair without the title which would've been interesting to book as do you put him with Dusty or go back to Sting or even put him with Doc as a feud.

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I often wonder why guys seen as Dusty's boys (Lex, Barry) were never given runs with the title. Considering the one thing JCP needed badly was fresh faces on top, it seemed like such a no brainer move to make. Lex in particular is baffling since it seemed all the signs were there that he was going to be THE MAN and then he just.....wasn't. I don't think Lex ever really recovered from that in the eyes of most fans. They kept getting jerked around over a title change eventually happening that you could almost see the interest diminishing by the day as the fans just said "fuck it".



Also was Barry ever given a serious shot at Flair? The only one that stands out was the famous Worldwide draw.

Windham got his biggest match at Crockett Cup 87.

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I'm shocked at how high some of those Luger-Flair numbers are, particularly since this was a time period when Crockett was bleeding money and would have gone under if not for Turner. It shows how into Luger the fans were, and I've often wondered if Flair winning at Starrcade was the right decision. I don't know how hot the feud was by December, but I do know that a month after they drew 13,700 at the Omni, they did a rematch there which drew 6,700. They would have been better off doing one cycle of house shows headlined by Flair-Luger, then held off until Starrcade for Lex's real honest to God we mean it this time last title match ever and had him win. I don't see how Luger as champ in '89 would have done any worse business than the disappointing Flair feuds with Steamboat and Funk.

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