Wrestling Observer Newsletter Rewind Thread • 1998

- Now that the NBA playoffs are over, WCW is expected to announce Hogan & Dennis Rodman vs. DDP & Karl Malone at the upcoming Bash at the Beach PPV. Within the business, it's been known for weeks that this was the plan, but the story finally broke mainstream and got major coverage throughout the sports world. During the last game of the NBA Finals, between the Bulls and Jazz, there was a moment when Rodman and Malone went after a loose ball on the floor and were throwing elbows at each other, which led to NBC announcer Bob Costas telling them to save it for their bogus wrestling match and saying he didn't understand why Malone would lower himself to participate in wrestling. Dave thinks it's funny since Costas used to be a wrestling fan back in the day and attended many shows in Sam Muchnick's St. Louis territory and has even done announcing for wrestling shows in the past. Anyway, Karl Malone is an avid wrestling fan and is friends with DDP and even Malone's mom is a hardcore wrestling fan, so he's reportedly excited to participate. As for whether this is a good idea or not, Dave talks about the last PPV Rodman wrestled on and says the buyrate was one of the biggest ever for WCW, but financially it was a wash because all the extra profits basically went to paying Rodman to appear. But it did help get WCW a ton of mainstream publicity and that's invaluable. (Rodman and Malone were kicking each other's asses during that game, here's a whole highlight reel of it. 5:20ish is when Costas trashes wrestling).

- Lots of different stories on Rodman missing basketball practice to appear at Nitro. The New York Times reported that WCW paid Rodman $250,000 for skipping practice and doing the show. Considering the NBA fined him $10,000 and the Bulls fined him $5,000, that would seem like a smart business decision. Others say Rodman had already decided to skip practice because he had been out partying the night before and others are disputing the idea that WCW paid Rodman to skip practice because TNT has a contract with the NBA and it's believed Turner execs never would have signed off on something like that. Dave doesn't know the full story, but says Rodman's WCW contract calls for him to wrestle on 2 PPVs and also to make TV appearances leading up to those events. Dave suspects the Nitro appearance was one of his contractually obligated dates. Rodman probably did make $250,000 for appearing on Nitro, but that was part of the already agreed upon contract, not extra money that WCW threw at him.

- Great American Bash is in the books and was a typical WCW PPV: Strong undercard, Benoit doing a job, and shitty main events. The Benoit thing in particular was egregious because he gets stronger reactions than almost everybody other than Goldberg lately and most expected this to be the show where he'd finally get his due. But when he lost the final match in the best of 7 series to Booker T, the crowd totally turned on the show and spent the rest of the night chanting "Boring!" and worse at everything that came after except, of course, for Goldberg. With WCW stalling out and WWF flying past them recently, Dave says the company needs to make obvious changes that they don't want to make: the old guard needs to pass the torch to the young stars. Pushing young talent and creating new stars is what has pushed WWF past WCW, while they continue to rely on the same Hogan/Piper/Savage guys to carry the company. It's time for WCW to start preparing for life after those guys and elevate the Benoits and Guerreros and Jerichos of the company.

- Other notes from the show: the announcing was terrible. Goldberg won his "100th" match (really more like 103). Juventud Guerrera vs. Ron Reis was billed as the largest size discrepancy ever in a wrestling match. Dave says it was also the largest talent discrepancy in one. They did angles during the show and the next night on Nitro to write Randy Savage off TV because he needs knee surgery and will be out for probably the rest of the year. The Benoit stuff notwithstanding, the best of 7 series has done wonders for turning Booker T into a respected top worker. The post-match brawl with Jericho and Dean Malenko ended up outside with Jericho legit running into traffic trying to escape Malenko, causing cars to have to stop and then ran into another building across the street. Goldberg was, of course, over bigger than anyone this side of Antonio Inoki in Japan and has become a legit megastar. Curt Hennig was in Konnan's corner of the match and there had been a plan for Hennig to help Konnan screw Goldberg out of his "100th" win, but that got changed. Hennig was pissed about it being changed and had a heated argument with Bischoff about it before the show. And The Giant came to the ring smoking a cigarette, playing off a comment Sting made about Giant smoking all day and being out of shape.

- With Mitsuharu Misawa still out injured, AJPW's current tour has been doing record low numbers. As a result, AJPW abruptly had Kenta Kobashi win the Triple Crown title from Kawada. With business down, the company didn't believe Kawada was a strong enough draw to carry the promotion and Kobashi is seen as a bigger draw, so the decision was made to change the title unexpectedly.

- Raw beat Nitro in the ratings again this week, but more interestingly, both shows featured angles with a steel cage with a roof. WWF, of course, had their Hell In A Cell cage, while Nitro brought out their own version for the main event match. WCW made the decision after getting advance word earlier in the week from someone at the arena where Raw was hosted that they would have their roofed cage, so Dusty Rhodes (who is handling a lot of the booking lately) made the call to bring in the cage for Nitro and it was kept secret from most everyone in the company until the production crew learned that they would have to put it together the day of the show. But long story short, it was basically WCW copying what they knew Raw would be doing the same night.

- Dave talks about the planned card for ECW's upcoming Heat Wave PPV in August and says Heyman is working on bringing in Hayabusa for the show. ECW hasn't really had a good PPV since their first one, with most of the other shows being marred by poor lighting, bad crowds, bad matches, etc.

- Goldberg defeated Sting in about 3 minutes at a recent WCW house show. The match was a last minute plan after Sting's original opponent The Giant wasn't able to make the show after his flight was cancelled. There was a lot of heat on The Giant for missing the show since it was only 3 hours away and, after the flight was cancelled, he had plenty of time to rent a car and drive to the show, but he evidently decided not to. So Sting volunteered to go out there and be Goldberg's next victim to give the crowd a big moment.

- Steve Williams worked his final show for AJPW and won the match. Dave says it shows how much respect Baba has for Williams that he didn't even job him out on his way out the door. After the match, Williams began motioning a belt around his waist, indicating that he plans to go to WWF and win the world title which got a big pop. Then they had a big ceremony essentially transitioning Johnny Ace into the new top foreign star, which Dave says shows how far AJPW has fallen, because Ace isn't anywhere near Williams' level as a top star.

- The recent soccer game between Argentina vs. Japan in the World Cup did a monster 67.3 rating which made it the 2nd largest rating for any show in history in Japan. If you're wondering why this is related to wrestling, it's because the rating has bumped the famous Rikidozan vs. Destroyer match from 1963 down to 4th place all-time. At the time, the Rikidozan/Destroyer match was the most watched television event in Japanese history, doing a 64.0 rating and was the single most watched wrestling match in history until the Ali vs. Inoki match (and considering that wasn't technically a wrestling match, you could argue that it doesn't count).

- Occasional WWF jobber Jeff Hardy made his Japanese debut using the name Willow the Whisp, winning the vacant UWA middleweight title while wrestling for some indie promotion there (that's the old UWA promotion from Mexico that was long out of business at this point. The title had been vacant for a year when Jeff won it and was vacated again soon after and wouldn't be resurrected again until 2002).

- Superstar Billy Graham tried to put together a wrestling show/religious revival event in TX headlined by Terry Funk vs. Cactus Jack in a death match but it was cancelled due to low advance ticket sales. Praise the lord! (also, I somehow doubt WWF would have left their wrestlers work a show for Billy Graham, given the bad blood at the time).

- RF Video will be opening up a pro wrestling merchandise store in the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia, selling WWF, WCW, ECW, and Japanese wrestling merch.

- Music City Wrestling out of Nashville held a show in Georgia but less than 100 fans showed up and the ring decided not to show up either. So they laid down gym mats and had 4 matches. The show ended early when wrestler Reno Riggins apparently broke his ankle.

- The Charlotte Observer newspaper ran a story on the Ric Flair/WCW issues. The current argument seems to be over whether Flair can be held to the letter of intent he signed in 1997 where he agreed to stay with the company for 3 years. This wasn't an actual contract, just an outline of terms that the two sides were discussing. WCW is still trying to settle with Flair and bring him back, especially now that they're losing to WWF in the ratings, which is good for Flair's bargaining position. Dave thinks bringing Flair back might help in the short term but WCW has bigger issues to deal with and pushing another guy in his late 40s as a top star isn't the answer. Assuming Flair doesn't return, they still intend to create a new Four Horsemen group, with Benoit, Malenko, Finlay, and McMichael. Dave thinks that's a pretty terrible idea and apparently Benoit and Malenko agree and both are strongly against it.

- There had been rumors of the Jericho vs. Malenko match at the PPV being a Loser Leaves Town match but it didn't happen and was never mentioned on TV as that being the case. But the rumors were so big that whoever updates the WCW website actually listed it as a Loser Leaves Town match, which is what happens when there's a lack of internal communication. Something WCW has had a huge problem with for awhile. The left hand never knows what the right hand is doing anymore since things change so often. There had also been discussions of bringing in Jericho's dad Ted Irvine (a former NHL hockey player) to interfere on his son's behalf to help him win the match, but that was scrapped too.

- Jimmy Snuka was backstage at Nitro. Dave thinks they missed an opportunity by not using him, since Piper was there also and they were in New York.

- The Nitro Girls didn't get the raises they were asking for. Bischoff apparently told them that he could get any hot girls to fill their spot so if they weren't happy with the money they were making, they were replaceable and could leave. So they ended up taking a much smaller raise.

- A Chattanooga newspaper did a story about Kevin Nash, talking mostly about his years as a college basketball player. His former coach described Nash as somewhat talented but didn't have a good work ethic and was smart but immature. Apparently, some sort of confrontation with the coach led to Nash not returning to the team for his senior season.

- Dave talks about how Goldberg hasn't yet been an actual draw for tickets or ratings, despite getting the biggest reaction of any wrestler in the last decade. He's main evented a couple of house shows but ticket sales were weak (people rightly assuming that they didn't want to pay to see a 2-minute main event with Goldberg squashing someone). He does huge merch numbers though.

- Michael Cole was in a car accident this week which totaled his car, but he was fine.

- Steve Regal, Steve Williams, and Edge should all be debuting in WWF sometime in the next 2 weeks.

- WWF is still looking to sign Mexican wrestlers for it's Lucha Libre show they're planning to start later this year. They want an unmasked pretty boy babyface to build around, and they liked Hector Garza but he's under contract to WCW, so they're looking at Latin Lover or Tarzan Boy.

- Matt and Jeff Hardy have signed WWF contracts. They have been working as unsigned jobbers for awhile.

- Someone writes in and suggests that Dave should compile all the obituaries he's ever written and publish them as a book and it would be the greatest collection of essays in wrestling history. Sure enough, Dave did that soon after this. Twice actually. Books called Tributes and Tributes II.
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Those books are pretty great.

It's nuts how late that Matt and Jeff were signed and how long they worked for the wwe as jobbers, but yeah i guess we are still a long way away from the new brood.
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So I just finished writing up the issue after Owen died. Yowza.
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- Steve Austin and Undertaker are both out this week with injuries, just a week before King of the Ring. Austin was hospitalized with a staph infection in his elbow, resulting in a 104 fever and was still hospitalized as of press time several days later. As for Undertaker, he suffered an ankle injury while filming an off-site angle that was supposed to be at Paul Bearer's house. Ironically enough, Bearer also injured his ankle during the segment somehow. Both Austin and Undertaker worked the Friday night house show in Houston in great pain. After deciding neither man could work, WWF decided to just postpone the upcoming house shows in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Boston later in the week. Both men are expected to work the King of the Ring PPV (Austin has a first blood match with Kane and Undertaker has a Hell In A Cell match against Mankind) even though neither of them is expected to be anywhere near 100% (in case you ever wondered why Undertaker was limping through that match or why Austin's elbow is taped up in his). It's expected Mankind will have to mostly carry their HIAC match (boy, I'll say). It was a pretty big surprise that WWF would simply cancel house shows due to the main eventers being injured, especially shows that were already close or completely sold out. But they didn't want to run the risk of killing the towns by having advertised top stars not appear and plan to make it up by having "loaded" shows.

- NJPW announced the creation of the IWGP junior heavyweight tag team championships at a press conference. A tournament will be held with the finals taking place in August at the Osaka Dome. They also announced plans for this year's G-1 Climax tournament, which will be a 16-man single elimination tournament as opposed to the usual round robin brackets. The tournament has become an August tradition for NJPW and often has many of the most exciting matches of the year.

- Time Magazine is publishing a story about pro wrestling this week and though Dave hasn't read it yet, he's heard some advance details. Reportedly it claims wrestling in the U.S. is a $1 billion-per-year business which is massively inflated bullshit, but since it's coming from a respected publication, people will buy it. This leads to Dave deciding to try to get an accurate figure, or at least somewhere in the ballpark. He uses the month of May since those are the most recent statistics. Basically, take all the numbers, add them up, and then multiply by 12. It's a very rough estimate and of course there are variables but yanno. He crunches all the numbers from PPV, live event gates, merch, magazines, 900 lines, VHS sales, etc. for WWF, WCW, and ECW. Long story short, even with the most liberal estimates, wrestling in the U.S. is about a $325 million per year industry. If you add in the cut that the cable companies, PPV providers, and other middlemen make, you could probably bump it up to around $440 million. Which, hey....not bad. But still not even half of $1 billion that Time Magazine is claiming.

- WCW once again got a ton of media publicity from the Dennis Rodman/Karl Malone involvement on Nitro, but yet again, WWF won the ratings battle for the 4th straight week. Despite the mainstream publicity, Rodman and Malone haven't moved the ratings needle at all.

- Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis ran their first major show at the Mid-South Coliseum and drew around 3,500 fans and it was considered a major success. They had a lot of help from WWF though, as Kane, Jeff Jarrett, Jesse James, Rock & Roll Express and Midnight Express all worked the show with WWF's blessing. It's expected Power Pro will likely become a developmental territory for WWF and they will continue sending newer wrestlers to work shows for them.

- Mitsuharu Misawa is expected to return to the ring for AJPW in late-August.

- Former WCW wrestler Bobby Walker filed a $5 million racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW, claiming he was told WCW hired him as a "token black guy" and that he would always be booked to lose and he would be fired if he complained about it. He also claimed he earned much less than white performers, (comparing his salary to Ric Flair's) and that he was passed over for pushes in favor of white wrestlers. A lot of people in WCW are concerned about how Teddy Long might react to this lawsuit. Even though he hasn't been on TV in ages, Long is still signed to WCW until August and if his contract isn't renewed, there's concern that he may side with Walker. Long has a lot of knowledge of the inner workings of the company and could possibly strengthen Walker's case.

- Still not much new on the Ric Flair situation. He's wanting changes to his contract or out of it completely, based on parts of the deal that Flair claims WCW didn't honor. WCW still wants him to come back, but there's a lot of bad blood after the backstage speech Bischoff gave where he buried Flair and threatened to sue him into bankruptcy. Flair's attorney recently gave an interview strongly hinting that Flair is trying to get out of his contract so he can go to WWF and said that Bischoff has become so consumed with his TV character that he treats people backstage the same way he does on TV. There's a hearing scheduled in August where the judge will decide the validity of the agreement Flair signed. Interestingly enough, part of Flair's counter-suit against WCW claims that Eric Bischoff downgraded Flair's role in the company in order to satisfy the wishes of other wrestlers, including one Terry Bollea.

- There was an incident with The Giant and a large fan after Nitro. Apparently the fan was around 6'6, big dude and was talking shit to Kevin Nash who ignored it, so the fan turned his attentions to The Giant and got him so riled up that Giant threw a punch at the guy, who then ran away.

- There's a story that made some national news outlets about an 8th grade student in Indiana who got in trouble for trying to start a satanic cult he called Raven's Flock. He recruited other students and had them sign contracts saying they agreed to join "4 life" and allegedly threatened to kill any students that tried to leave the cult.

- Someone played a sick practical joke on Bret Hart recently. Backstage at the Great American Bash PPV, as Hart was going over his match with Hogan, Piper, and Savage, he was pulled aside by Eric Bischoff, who told Bret that his father Stu had passed away. Bischoff told him he didn't have to do the match and he would charter a flight back home for him immediately. Apparently, someone claiming to be Bruce Hart called the unlisted number at the arena and gave very specific details that most people wouldn't know, which is why they believed the story and passed the word on to Bret. After some phone calls were made and they found out it was a hoax, Bischoff felt horrible and apologized repeatedly to Bret and offered to still let him skip the show since he had obviously been upset by the news. There were some (Randy Savage in particular) who were angry at Bischoff, feeling he should have confirmed the news before telling Bret about it, only to find out later that it wasn't true. But word is Hart didn't blame Bischoff and understood that he had been fooled too.

- Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman working with WCW has produced the usual negative publicity among cranky sports reporters. One in particular wrote, "Professional wrestling just gives kooks like Rodman an outlet and excuse for stupid behavior and is a vehicle for the promotion and creation of violence. Professional wrestling has absolutely no redeeming qualities--it's loud, obnoxious, annoying and has zero intellectual value."

- On Raw, Sable showed up and seems to have gotten yet another breast enlargement, leading Dave to write, "Seriously, are there any two more screwed up characters in this business than the Giant, who is 500 pounds and wants to get bigger, and Sable, whose breasts make her look like a human oddity and she should be managed by Jackyl (manager of the Oddities group) but for whatever reason will probably get them enlarged a few more times by the end of this year?"

- Edge (Adam Copeland) debuted on Raw, facing Jose Estrada Jr. but the match was cut short after only a minute or so when Estrada was injured after Edge did a flip over the top and landed on his neck. They called an audible and ended the match via count out. Estrada was hospitalized overnight but is expected to be okay but the injury definitely caused some people to think about what happened to Bagwell not too long ago.

- Shawn Michaels was backstage at the WWF show in San Antonio recently. It was the first time he'd been at a WWF show since Wrestlemania. They said he appeared to be in a better place mentally and he's also cut his hair shorter. He was able to sit down and stand upright for periods of time without excruciating pain, which is an improvement over where he was a few months ago. Shawn is hoping rest and rehab will fix the issue and doesn't want to get the surgery that a lot of people think he needs. The plan is for him to take off another 3 months to rehab it and then they will give him a full examination and try to get a better idea of when/if he can return. WWF is hopeful they can have him back by Royal Rumble, but there's been real talk that he might never wrestle again. Shawn left the show before the TV taping started and since there's no plans to bring him back anytime soon, WWF decided not to put him on television.

- Sunny missed another scheduled event, this time an autograph signing, telling WWF she couldn't make it because she was in a car accident.

- There's been a lot of pressure on various wrestlers to lose weight, with Vader, Jose Estrada, Faarooq, Goldust, Mark Henry, and Steve Williams being the main ones.

- There has been some legit talk among people in the sports world that WWF is interested in buying the Minnesota Vikings. At a company meeting recently, Vince McMahon did tell some people he was interested. Given that it would cost several hundred million, it's way out of McMahon's league but he could possibly be part of a group of investors if he wanted to put it together (or, yanno, he could just start his own football league...).

- Someone writes in implying that Benoit is being basically buried by WCW because he's dating Nancy Sullivan (since Kevin Sullivan is still a high profile backstage employee) and Dave responds and doesn't exactly deny it.
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- Dave opens the issue by saying that despite anything Mick Foley has ever done or ever will do in this industry, he will always be remembered for June 28, 1998 and the match that will never be forgotten against Undertaker in Hell in a Cell. Dave recaps the match and Mankind's injuries: three knocked out teeth and dislocated jaw from the first bump, with one of the teeth ending up in his nose. He was also banged up from the second bump (Foley later wrote that going through the cage was the way worse bump) and reportedly has little memory of the actual match. Dave says in one night, Foley catapulted himself into an all-time legend with this match and the footage of it will likely live on forever, but he wonders where does the business go from there? As is always the case, someone will try to emulate it and one-up it, but that can only end badly. Wrestlers are always putting their bodies at risk in the ring, but Mankind literally risked his life for that match. The way Shawn Michaels is forever linked with ladder matches and Bret Hart is forever linked with the screwjob, Mick Foley will forever be linked to Hell in a Cell. Dave says that, for better or worse, he will never forget that performance as long as he lives but he wishes he had never seen it. He says Mick Foley has given his body to the business more than anyone and fears that when he's 70, he'll be living with so much pain that it wasn't worth it. Thankfully, Foley didn't suffer any truly serious injuries, but Dave says the match makes him sad because much like Foley was inspired by Jimmy Snuka's famous cage dive and wanted to one-up it, there was probably some kid that no one has ever heard of yet who was watching this match. And 5 or 10 or even 15 years from now, he will try to one-up that moment and he won't end up as lucky as Mick Foley.

- Other notes from King of the Ring: the show was sold out a week in advance. Early in the show, Sable walked out to the ring "without tipping over" and introduced Vince McMahon, which led to an angle where Pat Patterson grabbed her ass and she slapped him, leading to the inevitable subtle gay joke about Patterson from Jim Ross. Rocky Maivia beat Dan Severn in what Dave thinks may be Severn's first pinfall loss he's ever had as a pro wrestler, even in his indie and Japanese days. Too Much vs. Al Snow & Head was an abysmal comedy match, negative stars territory, and even Jim Ross basically buried it on commentary. Ken Shamrock won the King of the Ring tournament. Steve Austin was nowhere near 100% after spending much of the week in the hospital with a staph infection but he worked hard and looked okay. It was a first blood match, and Austin had an accidental legit cut on his back early in the match, but they didn't count it. Kane ended up winning the title, only to lose it back the next night on Raw.

- The ratings battle this week was a total massacre of WCW. Raw drew its 3rd highest rating ever with a 5.36 rating. And while Nitro also did a strong rating of 4.05, WWF's dominance just eclipsed it. The quality gap was just as wide, with Raw being a fantastic top-to-bottom show while Nitro was simply awful. Both shows tried new experiments. For WCW, it was a segment called NWO Late Night, which was basically a parody of a late night show hosted by Bischoff, complete with a house band and lengthy interview segment. It bombed royally and was among the worst segments in the history of Nitro. As for WWF...

- WWF attempted to do matches without a predetermined finish for the first time ever, which is something Dave never expected to see in WWF and he wonders what that will mean if they run shows in states where that sort of thing is regulated. The plan is to do a Tough Man-style tournament with shoot matches, three 1-minute rounds, and 20-ounce gloves, legal takedowns, a points system, etc. In the first fight, Steve Blackman basically ate Marc Mero alive, which was surprising given his legit boxing skills. And Bradshaw beat Mark Canterbury (formerly Henry Godwinn) by decision in the second fight. Dave says the idea is to take a lot of the lowercard guys who aren't being used much and hope they can get over this way. None of the top stars are allowed to participate because they don't want to risk exposing them. The wrestlers were offered extra money for doing the shoot fights. Neither Dan Severn or Ken Shamrock were allowed to enter either, since given the rules, Severn in particular would probably destroy everybody. The fights held their own in the TV ratings, but went over like a church fart with the live crowd (and thus Brawl For All begins).

- Atsushi Onita debuted in ECW this past week in a match and it's likely building to one of Onita's beloved exploding ring matches taking place in the U.S. They filmed a press conference after with Onita proclaiming himself the King of the Death Match and challenging Sandman. It's expected the match will take place later this summer and won't be on PPV but will probably be released on video.

- In NJPW, Scott Norton has shaved his head and is being pushed as a complete copy of Goldberg. They have him coming out in every match and dominating his opponents in quick fashion and winning with power moves.

- Koji Kitao is expected to announce his retirement from pro wrestling this week. Dave says Kitao is arguably the most undeserving sumo grand champion ever and was kicked out of the sport for throwing the mother of his coach through a window. He then ended up in pro wrestling and was briefly a huge draw when he debuted but never amounted to much and developed a reputation for being impossible to work with, refusing to do jobs and shooting on opponents. Dave talks about a match where Kitao refused to job to Nobuhiko Takada so they agreed to a draw and then, in the middle of the match, Takada knocked him out with one kick to teach him a lesson. Kitao was also famous for an incident with John Tenta which turned into a shoot and led to Kitao getting fired from SWS.

- Tod Gordon returned to wrestling by appearing at a show put together by Dennis Coraluzzo. They did an angle where 5 masked guys ran into the ring and attacked Coraluzzo. The first 4 took their masks off to reveal themselves as Stevie Richards, 911, and the Pit Bulls. Then the 5th put his foot on Coraluzzo's chest and unmasked to reveal Tod Gordon. Considering all the past bad blood between Coraluzzo and ECW (particularly Heyman and Gordon), it surprised people that he would show up. Gordon has been out of the wrestling business since last year when he got caught trying to help WCW raid ECW talent and Heyman fired him. Coraluzzo appears to be working an ECW vs. NWA angle, without the cooperation of anyone who is actually signed to ECW.

- ECW TV started this week with this message on the screen: "No Viagra jokes, no cross-dressing basketball players, and best of all, no Hulk Hogan."

- ECW recently ran a show in Philadelphia in the Woodhaven Center. It looked better on TV and had a hotter crowd than most ECW Arena shows. There's talk of running more shows there, but Heyman doesn't want to stop doing shows in the ECW Arena because that's where the company began and it has become almost a mythical cult-like location among ECW fans. The reality is, it's a small dump of a building and ECW can make more money running shows in Philadelphia at the other building. With ECW continuing to grow and gain popularity, it's unlikely they will continue doing ECW Arena shows every 3 weeks like they have been because the company has to focus on making bigger profits. With their TV expansion into places like Chicago, Detroit, and Atlana, they're going to have to start running shows in those cities and it just doesn't make business sense to keep running regular shows in a building that doesn't generate as much money as they could do elsewhere.

- More backstage tension in WCW, reportedly involving heat between Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan. Nash was pulled from Thunder last week and then called on Monday saying he was injured and refused to show up for Nitro. Scott Hall was backstage at Nitro but also walked out without appearing on TV for reasons unknown, although it's rumored he was asked to do a job to someone. Dave doesn't seem to know many more details as of yet.

- On Nitro, Chavo Guerrero came out pretending to ride a little horse on a broomstick. Dave says Chavo has been great lately, but this was stupid and overkill (one of my favorite stories about how much WCW was a disorganized mess is Chavo talking about the horse thing. I can't remember where I heard it, maybe a podcast or something. But he basically said the horse idea wasn't approved by anybody. He and Eddie thought it would be funny, so he simply took a stick-horse out to the ring and rode it around. Expected to get in trouble when he got backstage afterward since he never cleared it with anyone. But turns out nobody cared because nobody, least of all Bischoff, had even been paying attention. Can you imagine that in WWE? Imagine if a lower card guy like Bo Dallas decided to just start riding a horsey to the ring without clearing it through Vince or the writers. He'd be fired before he even got back to the locker room).

- Vampiro debuted on Nitro against Brad Armstrong, to no reaction at all. He was decently impressive though (this wasn't really a true debut. He didn't wrestle in WCW again until almost a year later, at which point he started full-time. This was just a one-off).

- When recapping Nitro, Dave vents again about how bad the NWO Tonight Show segment was, saying it's got to rank near the top of the list of all-time bad ideas in wrestling. He also notes Scott Steiner was the guest and says his biceps get freakier by the day. Anyway, despite how bad it was, they spent $70,000 on the set so we'll probably be seeing it again next week.

- WCW Thunder notes: the show drew a 2.65 rating which is the lowest in the history of the show. Dave says they really should just kill off Thunder at this point because it's obvious that everyone from the bookers to the workers are overworked and it's killing them. He says they're killing a promotion that was on fire 3 months ago but won't be much longer if things don't change. There was also a segment on the show with Benoit talking to Arn Anderson about reforming the Four Horsemen, which leads Dave to say, "You know what I like about that idea? Everyone, and I mean everyone that I know, whether they are in WWF or WCW, knows that reforming the Horsemen without Flair is total death, yet WCW is going to do it anyway. Boy, that'll show Flair who's boss."

- Bret Hart and Chris Benoit are both wanting to work an angle together and word is it will probably happen soon. Hart has suggested having a 2/3 falls match and an Ironman match with Benoit.

- Police are investigating to try to find out who did the prank call before the last PPV that resulted in Bret Hart thinking his father had died.

- This year's WCW Road Wild PPV will feature a 30 minute concert by country music star Travis Tritt, "as if the Road Wild PPV wasn't an annual disaster to begin with." Dave says WCW has tried this in the past back in 1989 with a concert by the Oakridge Boys. Dave was there live and says he's a big fan of the Oakridge Boys and even that sucked and was out of place and nobody cared.

- There are rumors that Karl Malone is being paid $1 million to work the WCW PPV but Dave says it's not true. He doesn't know the exact amount but he knows Malone is making less than Dennis Rodman, who is getting $750,000.

- A lot of execs in the PPV industry are expecting Bash at the Beach to do an equal buyrate as Wrestlemania, due to the involvement of Malone and Rodman. In fact, their hopes for it are so high that they believe they might be able to make up the money they lost on a recent Evander Holyfield fight that was cancelled at the last minute. Dave thinks they shouldn't hold their breath (Dave was correct). There are still 2,000 tickets available for the PPV so it's not sold out yet.

- Goldberg vs. Hulk Hogan at the Georgia Dome Nitro next week is still expected to be a non-title dark match, with Goldberg going over clean. Locally, they're advertising the match by saying you can only see it in Atlanta. They were hoping announcing the match would lead to a boost in ticket sales but so far, it hasn't.

- Time Waner management are doing a major internal audit of WCW. Only time will tell if this becomes a major news story or not, but you gotta figure it's probably not good news if Turner execs are sniffing around trying to figure out where all their money is being spent and if it's being spent wisely.

- A local wrestler named Rhino Richards worked a dark match tryout before Raw this week (that would indeed be the one and only Rhyno).

- Pat Patterson missed this past week's Raw because his long-time "friend" Lou Dondero passed away. Dondero was very well known within the business and had been around since the old San Francisco territory days in the 70s (Patterson has talked about this guy extensively in interviews and in his book. It was basically his life-long partner, they had been together since the 70s. Obviously gay marriage wasn't legal during any of this time, but this was essentially Patterson's husband passing away).

- Steve Regal debuted in WWF in the most unceremonious way, beating Droz in an unannounced match to no fanfare at all. Jim Ross tried like hell to get him over on commentary, but the whole match was basically a backdrop for a Sable angle. Dave says it's almost like someone wanted to make sure Regal didn't have a chance to get over in his debut and it worked. He didn't.

- They did an angle on Raw with Val Venis attempting to seduce Yamaguchi-san's wife. Dave says Yamaguchi's real wife is actually a pro wrestler that nobody should ever mess with. It led to Kaientai attacking Venis (this is the beginning of the "choppy choppy pee pee" angle).

- Paul Ellering returned as the new manager of LOD. The real reason he was brought back was to replace Sunny. Due to recent no-shows and erratic behavior, Sunny was given an ultimatum to go to some sort of rehab or counseling, or else she would be fired. Sunny chose counseling and won't be back until she completes whatever it is they're making her go to. Dave also mentions that Sunny has been upset about Sable bypassing her as the top female star in the company (this was it for Sunny. Turns out she actually refused the rehab after all and they fired her but I'm sure we'll hear about it).

- Don Frye has challenged Ken Shamrock to a fight in UFC. It almost certainly won't happen, but if it somehow did, it would be interesting since it would be a NJPW star vs. a WWF star in a UFC cage.

- At the latest Raw taping that will air next week, DX did a skit where they all dressed up and imitated the Nation members. Just in case you thought WWF never copied WCW (referring to the NWO impersonating the Horsemen a few months back).

- Phil LaFon was released from his contract. Doug Furnas is still technically employed but they're working on terms for his release also, so that team is gone.

- Shawn Michaels' friends are saying that his health is better than he's letting on and he'll be back in the ring sooner than people think.

- In an internet chat, Dan Severn was asked about his feelings on Ken Shamrock and basically flat out said that Shamrock is on steroids and that most bigger guys in wrestling are. Severn has always been outspoken against steroids and accused Shamrock of using them in their 1995 fight. Speaking of Shamrock, he still has an outstanding contract with UFC for the fight with Takada that never took place, so he is still contracted to fight again for UFC at some point, assuming WWF allows it.

- WWF developmental wrestler Andrew Martin missed a show recently because he was detained at the Canadian border over some past criminal issues still on his record.

- In the letters, among a bunch of other stuff, some guy mentions that all wrestling fans need to go out and get a Nintendo 64 because this WCW vs. NWO World Tour game is amazing. True dat.
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Quote:- Time Waner management are doing a major internal audit of WCW. Only time will tell if this becomes a major news story or not, but you gotta figure it's probably not good news if Turner execs are sniffing around trying to figure out where all their money is being spent and if it's being spent wisely.

Jim Cornette talked about this on his podcast(not this one specifically obviously), but he said these happened from time to time because other branches of Turner were constantly trying to argue that portions of WCW's income belonged to them. Like Turner home video tried to take PPV profits from them arguing that PPV is home entertainment and thus belongs to Turner home video.
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- Less than 10 months after making his professional wrestling debut, Bill Goldberg won the WCW title from Hulk Hogan in front of the largest crowd in WCW history and the 4th largest crowd for pro wrestling ever in the United States. It's been debated whether putting the title on Goldberg was a premature, panicked reaction to Raw kicking their ass in the ratings last week, and that will probably be debated until the end of time, but what can't be denied is that the win garnered one of the biggest crowd pops in the history of the business. The entire episode was built around Goldberg, with him first defeating the returning Scott Hall (fresh out of rehab) and then facing Hogan in the main event. The original plan was for it to be a dark match but that changed last week and Hogan reportedly had no problem putting Goldberg over clean. But in return, he was promised to be the person to end Goldberg's streak when the time is right. But that probably won't happen for awhile. WCW smartly realizes that Goldberg has potential to be the top star in the business and they don't want to screw things up like they did after the big Sting title win (although Dave says a lot of that is on Sting, since he had pretty much no fire once he actually returned to the ring).

- WCW is expected to win the ratings battle this week, but at what cost? Hogan vs. Goldberg was a potential $7 million grossing match on PPV and they gave it away for free on TV. They also had potential big money matches with Hogan defending the title against Kevin Nash and Bret Hart and now those storylines are thrown out the window. If WCW doesn't win the ratings war this week, it would be a huge blow since they just gave away their biggest money match for free. They had over 41,000 fans in the building, for a gate of $906,000+ and did massive merch numbers. All of these broke every WCW record in history, but all that money is still only a small fraction of what they could have made if the match was on PPV (Starrcade with Hogan vs. Sting did $7 million and with the right build up, Hogan/Goldberg likely would have done more). That being said, just judging the show by itself, it couldn't have gone better and established Goldberg as without a doubt the top star of WCW and the atmosphere and excitement of the show couldn't have been better. So where does it leave Goldberg? He's a green worker and unproven on the mic, but none of that has stopped him from getting the most incredible crowd reactions of any wrestler in modern history in recent months. But since putting the title on him was a spur of the moment decision, what next? They haven't planned any future angles or challengers for him. Dave ends this whole thing by saying, "When the story is written years from now, people will be shocked that Goldberg's first world title win wasn't something planned in advance and came simply because a company was desperate after losing the television ratings the week before. But that wasn't all that different from how Lou Thesz ended up with the title the first time either. July 6, 1998 could be a historical night for pro wrestling ushering in the first big match of one of the most charismatic figures the game has ever seen. Or it could have been one humongous pop for a moment, a moment that means nothing in the long run."

- Other notes from this huge Nitro: Dennis Rodman was scheduled to appear at the Georgia Dome show to further the angle with Karl Malone but he no-showed. WCW tried all day to get hold of him but Rodman wasn't returning calls. The night before, Rodman was at a Pearl Jam concert in Dallas, guzzling wine from the bottle and getting onstage with the band, leading to Eddie Vedder to call him out for being drunk. This obviously doesn't bode well for the Bash at the Beach PPV, since Rodman clearly isn't taking his commitments seriously. There was also a spot during the show where DDP took out Ed Leslie (whatever his gimmick is this week) with a stiff chairshot that legit busted open Leslie and required stitches. It led to the 2 men having words backstage but didn't amount to anything. Buff Bagwell returned to TV at the Georgia Dome Nitro, appearing in a wheelchair pushed by his mom and cut a promo. He got a thunderous ovation and gave a great speech that wasn't a wrestling promo talking about his injury and the road to recovery and promised to return. And finally, even though they spent $70,000 on the fake Tonight Show set, WCW has already dropped the idea of Bischoff hosting his own talk show segment after it killed last week's show dead in its tracks. (Here's Rodman wearing out his welcome onstage with Pearl Jam that night, just for shits and giggles).

- The recent merger of AT&T and TCI will likely have major ramifications on the wrestling industry. Within the industry, it's believed that due to the merger, within a few years, nearly every home in the U.S. will have PPV capabilities. Currently, around 35 million homes have access to PPV but it's thought that in a few years, it will be around 100 million. In theory, that should triple the revenue brought in by WWF, WCW, ECW, and other things like UFC and boxing and would be hugely profitable for everyone involved. A lot of this is theoretical of course. PPV has not been the huge success everyone predicted it would be 15 years ago. They expected it to put video rental stores out of business, but they're still thriving. It was supposed to make major sports like football and basketball zillions of dollars but it didn't. Concerts and entertainment specials have been a flop. Even UFC and boxing are declining and, in reality, the entire business of PPV is really only kept alive at this point due to WWF and WCW. Dave starts crunching numbers here and it gets pretty boring but in short, Dave doesn't think the expanding PPV universe is really going to make that much of a difference. He also talks about the possibility of another promotion forming since ECW has proven that you can be fairly profitable on PPV as long as you stay small and within your means. But Dave points out all the problems with trying to start a new promotion these days: basically every halfway marketable star is already signed to either WWF or WCW and there's not really anybody in Japan or Mexico that could be brought to America and get over the way they used to in the past.

- WWF's experimental Brawl For All shoot fights have become a major topic of conversation in the business lately. The tournament appears to be a way to get Steve Williams over as a legit tough guy so he can challenge Steve Austin later this year. The plan is for it to continue on every Raw until Summerslam, but crowd reactions have been mixed and if ratings don't do well, it may very well get cut short. Dave seems entertained by the idea but points out how it completely exposes some of these guys. Savio Vega and Steve Blackman are the only 2 guys who haven't been completely gassed after only 3 minutes of fighting. Someone like Marc Mero, with a legit Golden Gloves background, was outclassed and beaten in the first round. Brakkus finally made his WWF debut and was destroyed, which does his his career no favors. It's all fascinating television but it's destroying the allure of some of these guys (which is why none of the real stars were allowed to enter) but then again, most of these guys were going nowhere anyway. Nobody was forced to enter and supposedly each man is getting paid an extra $5,000 for winning and $2,500 extra to the losers. Plus a $75,000 bonus going to the tournament winner. In the end, Dave thinks the only person who actually has something to lose is Steve Williams because the whole thing is predicated on the idea that he will win and become a top star and challenger for Steve Austin. So if Williams was to get exposed or beaten, it'll kill him dead because his only marketable trait is that he can be promoted as a legit tough guy (spoiler alert: that's exactly what happens).

- WWF will be having a house show next month called Footbrawl and being held at Foxboro Stadium and will be co-promoted by the New England Patriots. They kicked off the local promotion for the event by having Vince McMahon vs. Steve Austin in an arm wrestling match in front of a crowd of around 3,000 people, leading to Austin throwing Vince into a river. He also threw Dok Hendrix in after him for good measure. But despite all the promotion, ticket sales are slow so far (can't find video of this arm wrestling thing, but here's a picture of it. As for the show...it ends up getting cancelled but we'll get there).

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- Dave gives 4.75 stars to Koji Kanemoto vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. in NJPW in the finals of the Super Juniors tournament. I only mention this because this is as close to 5 stars as NJPW is going to get for the next 14 years. The last 5 star match was in 1997 and they don't have another one until 2012.

- Stan Hansen, arguably the most popular foreign star to ever work in Japan, hasn't been booked on the last 2 AJPW tours. Hansen turns 49 next month and despite being one of their top stars since the late-1970s, it's clear that the company has been phasing him out. Reportedly, Hansen tried to negotiate with NJPW awhile back but they weren't interested because of his age and because they didn't think he'd be a good fit for NJPW. Giant Baba learned of the negotiations and basically hasn't booked Hansen on an AJPW tour ever since (nah, nothing much to this. Hansen returns a month later and stays with AJPW for the rest of his career, retiring in 2000).

- In Japan, Akira Maeda is retiring from wrestling and it looks as though his final match will be against Nobohiko Takada. Just a couple of years ago, that match would have easily sold out the Tokyo Dome. But Takada's popularity took a huge hit after his first loss at Pride 1 against Rickson Gracie and he has a rematch with Gracie in October that will probably end with Takada getting destroyed again. If the match happens after the next Gracie fight, Dave doesn't think Takada will have the box office drawing power to pull the kind of crowd it could have done a few years ago.

- In Memphis Power Pro, they held a big outdoors show in Memphis and brought in Giant Silva from WWF and tried to crown him as the new King which of course led to Jerry Lawler showing up to defend his crown. It also led to Lawler's girlfriend Stacy Carter running in and of course she was wearing a short skirt and took a few bumps to make sure everyone got to see everything. (I think I may have been at this show. I can't remember for sure. It seems familiar but I've been to a lot of wrestling shows).

- Sid Vicious no-showed another indie booking and Dave says that at this point, it would only be news if Sid actually did appear at something he was booked for.

- Sandman missed a few recent ECW shows because his wife went into premature labor a month early, giving birth to a 5 pound 14 ounce son named Austin.

- An Atlanta newspaper ran a story on the Ric Flair/WCW situation, quoting Flair as saying, "If you don't have to take it, you shouldn't, and I just drew the line. I had been vented on one too many times." Backstage, people were openly talking about it and everyone seems to be under the belief that Flair will probably never return, although Flair has admitted that he would be open to it under the right terms.

- Bischoff is already pressuring some of the guys who's contracts expire in late-99 to sign extensions. It's been strongly hinted that if they don't sign the extensions, he'll stop pushing them and basically job them out for the next year, which would obviously hurt their drawing power a year later if they wanted to go to WWF.

- WWF Injury Report: Steve Austin's staph infection in his elbow seemed to be getting better but then started worsening again so he's on a bunch of meds to fight that off and isn't wrestling on any upcoming shows, although he's still appearing. Mankind is also out right now due to injuries suffered in the Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker. He didn't suffer any broken bones but has bruised ribs and his mouth is a mess from losing 3 of his teeth and will require dental surgery. He hasn't been able to eat solid food since the match. He also suffered a concussion and dislocated jaw. Undertaker's ankle is still a wreck and he probably needs surgery but he doesn't want to get it. He had a similar injury a few years ago (floating bone chips) and said the pain from the surgery was worse than the pain of the injury so he'd rather just work through it.

- HHH missed some shows last week while he was out filming an episode of Pacific Blue. WWF is also trying to get USA to use Edge in one of its TV shows.

- WWF still has boxer Butterbean signed to a contract for one more match. It's expected he will team with Sable at Summerslam against Marc Mero and Jacquelyn (nope).

- Speaking of Summerslam, it will be subtitled "Highway to Hell" and they have gotten the rights to use the AC/DC song of the same name and will use it in all the promotion.

- Raw (taped last week) aired and Dave finally saw the DX imitating The Nation skit and thought it was funny. The line about Mark Henry eating shit was actually a reference to something that happened a few years ago. When Henry first signed, a lot of people resented his big 10-year contract and he had an attitude of not wanting to learn. So someone pulled a rib on him by putting a real turd in his sandwich, and Henry ended up taking a bite of it.

- Backstage, people are already admitting that they screwed up in the way they debuted Steve Regal. (In retrospect, Regal was a pilled out mess at this time and it's probably better that they didn't do anything with him back then. If they would have made a big deal of his debut and pushed him into a feud with Austin, it probably would have exploded in their face way bigger than it did.)

- A lawsuit was filed against WWF and against LOD member Hawk and Dennis Knight (formerly Phineas Godwinn) over an incident at a house show awhile back where they brawled into the crowd and two teenage girls were injured when the guardrail collapsed on them (we never hear anything else about this, so let's just assume it was settled out of court and the girls walked away with a lot of money).
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