Wrestling Observer Newsletter Rewind Thread • 1999
I actually liked the red logo

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That was the WWE WCW logo.
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- ESPN's "Outside The Lines" is planning to air an episode about wrestling soon that will delve into the drug issues and deaths in professional wrestling. Many people in the industry were interviewed for it, along with people like Melanie Pillman (Brian's former wife), Missy Hyatt (Eddie Gilbert's ex-wife), and Louie Spicolli's sister. WWF has already issued a preemptive strike, with Jim Ross talking about it negatively on the WWF website and Vince McMahon in an interview comparing it to a Phil Mushnick column. Dave decides to look at the topic himself. He lists all of the major wrestling names who have died in the last 6 years and there's a lot. Dino Bravo, Art Barr, Eddie Gilbert, Big John Studd, Dick Murdoch, Louie Spicolli, Brian Pillman, Junkyard Dog, Renegade, Giant Baba, and more. Obviously, not all of those were drug related. Bravo was murdered, Baba had cancer, JYD was a car accident, etc. But the point remains, wrestlers tend to die at a pretty early age. And given how few of them there are when compared to other sports, Dave starts breaking it down to percentages, given the estimated average number of active wrestlers in the U.S. and comparing it to, say, the average number of active NFL players or active NBA players. And if you look at it that way, these deaths in the last six years are the equivalent of 8 Major League Baseball players dying every season. Or 14 NFL players dying every season. Can you imagine 14 NFL players dropping dead every single year and nobody doing anything about it? Dave wonders.

- So then the question is....is this because of the grind of the industry, the typical wrestler lifestyle, or just bad luck? And it seems to be a combination of all of the above. While a car accident might seem like bad luck, the truth is, wrestlers spend more time on the road driving from city to city than just about any other athlete. The lifestyle obviously plays a part, given how many wrestlers have drug problems, and how much a lot of that stems from the way the business is (painkillers are often a must for some of these guys). If they hadn't been in the wrestling business, would most of the Von Erich brothers still be alive today? Dave thinks the answer is probably yes. If not for their histories with drugs, would Art Barr, Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, and Eddie Gilbert all probably still be alive? Probably. Brian Pillman in particular had no business being a full-time wrestler anymore near the end, given how bad his health was and how much pain he was in and if WWF had been strictly enforcing drug testing back then, he would have been taken off the road. Instead, he failed a drug test shortly before he died and was basically not punished at all for it. Then there's steroids, which wreak havoc on the human heart, and a lot of these deaths are from heart attacks. Big John Studd's doctors openly blamed his liver cancer on his decades of steroid use. Bottom line, there's a lot of room for debate and a lot places to point the blame, but the undeniable fact is that pro wrestlers seem to have a much shorter life expectancy than athletes in nearly every other field and the other undeniable fact is that no one is doing anything about it.

- This week's Monday night ratings are in again and Dave says if this was football, it would be considered piling on. Raw had its 2nd highest rated show ever this week and beat out Nitro by nearly 3 full ratings points. It's just outright destruction right now, with WWF wiping the floor with WCW every week and the gap between the shows is getting wider every time. Even breaking it down by quarter-hour segments, it was never even close. Just to put it in plain numbers: 3.8 million people watched Nitro. 7.3 million watched Raw. Dave says the answer is pretty simple if you watch the 2 shows. One of them is awesome, the other one sucks. It's as simple as that. And while there's a lot of blame and finger-pointing going on in WCW right now about who's fault it is, Dave says the bottom line is the blame falls on 3 people: Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Kevin Nash. Everything happening in WCW these days stems from decisions made by those 3 men and that's who has to be held responsible for the current self-destruction of WCW.

- ECW's Living Dangerously PPV is in the books and was a good show overall. The crowd sorta tuned out during the longer matches and Dave thinks it puts ECW in an interesting dilemma. These days, fans are generally bored by longer matches and are there for the big angles and storylines. ECW's strength for the last several years has been presenting an alternative product to what the mainstream companies were offering. But now, WWF has basically taken ECW's entire formula and are using more talented and charismatic wrestlers and higher production values to do it. And now it makes ECW look more like a low-rent copy of WWF rather than the company who basically innovated the style that WWF is now copying. So Paul Heyman is trying to create a new formula and emphasize the in-ring wrestling more and put more of an emphasis on titles and credibility, almost like many of the Japanese promotions do. But the problem there is...Heyman doesn't really have enough talented or charismatic wrestlers to pull off that sort of product. So Heyman is at a crossroads: he can't afford to compete with WWF while presenting the same kind of edgy product they do. And he doesn't really have the right performers to do anything else.

- Other notes from the PPV: Taz opened the show cutting a promo trashing Ric Flair and praising Steve Austin while still saying he would make both of them tap out. Super Crazy vs. Tajiri was a good opener but somewhat disappointing because as good as it was, almost every match they've had on house shows and that have aired on TV have been better and they botched the finish. RVD vs. Jerry Lynn was a really good match that sorta fell apart at the end. Porn star Jasmine St. Clair debuted and couldn't cut a promo to save her life, and then took the worst stunner ever from Francine ("who looked like she hadn't slept since the Carter administration"). New Jack did a dive off the balcony that Dave says was the craziest spot of 1999 so far, but the match itself sucked. Sabu vs. Taz was really good and easily Sabu's best PPV performance ever.

- Dave offers a correction on last week issue where he tallied up all of Ric Flair's title reigns, listing one that was apparently a non-title match or some other such shit. Either way, Dave's revised estimate is that Flair is a 17-time world champion now instead of 18 times. Although, once again, you can argue anywhere between 14 and 21 reigns and you'd still be right so it really doesn't matter.

- Vince McMahon appeared on a Fox News interview segment that basically went off the rails. As soon as the interview started, McMahon's first words were "The reason I'm here is to confront Phil Mushnick, who I was promised would be on this show. Phil Mushnick is not on this show. Phil Mushnick is a coward and a liar." The whole thing went poorly and there was plenty of drama behind the scenes, although who's at fault depends on who you believe. This gets confusing so bear with me. According to WWF's version of the story, they claim Fox asked McMahon to do the show and McMahon agreed because they promised Mushnick would be there live. McMahon and Mushnick have never met in person, although they have spoken on the phone several times and McMahon even sued him several years ago (which was later dropped). Anyway, WWF claims McMahon wanted to confront Mushnick. The Fox News people disagree, saying McMahon agreed to do the show 3 weeks ago, long before they ever considered having Mushnick on. They did invite Mushnick on, and at one point, he agreed but a couple of weeks before, he cancelled because it would be airing on the same day as the NCAA Final Four games and, as a sports reporter, Mushnick needed to be covering those games that day, rather than arguing with Vince McMahon in a studio. But he did agree to call in to the show. So the Fox News people say they informed WWF more than a week in advance that Mushnick wouldn't be there live, but would be calling in. WWF denies they were ever told this.

- Then, 2 days before the show, Fox contacted Dave and asked him to call into the show also (and Dave says the Fox people made it clear to him that Mushnick wouldn't be there in person). They also wanted to have a child behavioral psychologist on the show (so they could have the "is wrestling appropriate for kids" debate). Anyway, when WWF found out about all this, they basically panicked and said that McMahon didn't have time to prepare for debates with Dave Meltzer or child psychologists and didn't want them on the show. Anyway, the day of the show, McMahon showed up but then threatened to walk when he found out Mushnick wouldn't be there live. When Fox said he would be on the phone, Vince refused and said he would leave if Mushnick called in. So Fox producers decided to let Vince have the segment to himself since they had been promoting it all week and didn't want him to walk out. But those at Fox are basically portraying Vince as afraid of debating Mushnick over the phone and said he pulled the power play in order to keep Mushnick off the air. Mushnick himself was held on the phone and heard everything McMahon said during the interview but was never put on the air so he could respond and was furious with Fox about it. So anyway, it just turned into a regular Vince McMahon interview. No Mushnick. No Meltzer. No child psychologists. Fox News people said in retrospect, they wished they would have put Mushnick on the air after the interview started. If Vince decided to walk out on live TV rather than debate Mushnick, it would have looked bad for him, not them, so who cares. Anyway, long story short: Vince McMahon called Phil Mushnick a coward for not appearing on the show live, but when he had the opportunity to debate him over the phone on TV, Vince backed down, so really, who's the coward? The producers at Fox are said to be embarrassed over the whole thing and apologized to Mushnick and felt bad for basically letting Vince McMahon bully them on their own show (here's a clip of it, can't find the whole thing).

- Shawn Michaels and Jose Lothario's new promotion Texas Wrestling Alliance ran their debut show with about 400 fans in attendance. Michaels did a run-in at the end of one of the matches, but didn't take any bumps.

- Kurt Angle debuted in Memphis for Power Pro Wrestling on this week's show.

- Dale Gagner, the guy who is trying to use the AWA name and even started using "Gagne" as his last name, ran a show this week. They even aired ads for the show on TV and announced it as a "WWF & AWA Superstars Present Shotgun Saturday Night." The TV ads showed clips of guys like Ric Flair, Larry Zbyszko, Sgt. Slaughter, and Eric Bischoff. The print ads (flyers, newspapers, etc.) listed The Oddities, The Brood, and the Hart Foundation as being there. When they had the show, of course, none of those people were there. But they brought out several random nobodies and announced them as current or former WWF superstars. Goddamn, that's the carniest shit I've ever heard.

- Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch have consented to being drug tested by ECW before they can return, which was one of the conditions Heyman insisted on before ever allowing them to come back. It will be the first drug tests ever given in ECW history.

- The WCW Uncensored PPV buyrate has come in and it's not good. It did a 0.73 which is a significant drop from the previous month's PPV.

- Scott Hall may be retiring. He's trying to reconcile with his wife and save their marriage and she's pretty much made it clear that they can only be together if he retires, because she believes being away from the business is the only way he can stay sober.

- Scott Steiner was sentenced to 10 days in jail for an incident last year where he hit a guy with his car. He really just sorta nudged him a couple of times to get him out of the way because he was a Dept. of Transportation worker who was trying to stop Steiner from driving down a closed exit ramp, but Steiner apparently REALLY wanted to use that exit ramp. He also was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and was given 200 hours of community service and 7 years probation. Since he's a first time offender, the conviction will be taken off his record as long as he stays out of trouble during his probation.

- Nitro Girl Whisper has given notice to WCW that she's leaving. Nobody was surprised because word is she's now engaged to Shawn Michaels (who had just recently broken off a previous engagement to someone else). Dave wouldn't be surprised to see her show up in WWF.

- Thunder sucked. In fact, for the 2nd week in a row, Thunder did disappointing ticket sales, only putting 5,600 people into an arena that holds more than 25,000. In fact, factoring in the cost of renting the building, advertising, TV expenses, production costs, transportation, paying wrestlers, etc., Dave thinks this may have been the first TV taping in a long time that might not have even been profitable. He says WCW is starting to remind him of the last years of AWA.

- Both Eric Bischoff and Kevin Nash left the arena before Nitro even ended this week, which is always what you want to see from your boss and head booker. This company has basically given up. And yet we're still 2 years away from its actual death.

- It's a virtual certainty that Austin will be winning the title from Rock at Wrestlemania (yup). Also, at some point, expect the Undertaker/Vince McMahon angle to end with the reveal that Linda McMahon has been working with Undertaker the whole time against Vince and Shane (nope).

- Paul Wight was found innocent on assault charges stemming from an incident last year where he punched a guy at a hotel. The judge saw the security footage from the hotel and ruled that the guy (who had tried to start a fight with Kevin Nash earlier in the night) was provoking things, so Wight was acting in self-defense.

- They did a great angle on Raw where Steve Austin drove a beer truck to the ring and sprayed down Vince, Shane, and the rest of the corporation (yeah, I'd say this one is just a little bit famous).


- WWF is planning a new show that will air on the UPN network. The plan is for it to be a women's wrestling show, modeled after the old GLOW show from the 1980s with pretty girls, bad wrestling, and cheesy skits. Jim Ross and Bruce Prichard were in L.A. this week and there was a casting call full of actresses, bodybuilders, stunt women, martial arts women, etc. (this wound up not going anywhere, but WWF ends up with a little show called Smackdown on UPN very soon anyway).
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- Wrestlemania 15 is in the books and it was a decent show. More importantly, it will likely become the biggest revenue grossing event in wrestling history when all the numbers come in. The show was sold out months ago and did nearly $1.5 million at the gate (the largest in North America since WM6 in Toronto). The PPV numbers aren't in yet but it was estimated that the show may break 1 million buys, which no PPV event aside from major boxing matches has ever done. Dave talks about how fans have been conditioned nowadays to be more into angles and storylines and they tend to get bored by actual wrestling matches, and so aside from Rock vs. Austin, the crowd wasn't as into the show as you'd expect and were clearly bored by the length of some of the early matches. But that's basically the nature of the business now.

- Other notes from the PPV: on the pre-show, there was a battle royal (basically a get-everyone-on-the-card match) and Owen Hart did commentary and was hilarious. Michael Cole accidentally spoiled the main event early in the show when he announced that after the PPV, "new champ" Steve Austin would appear on the Home Shopping Network. Of course, pretty much everyone going in already assumed Austin was winning so no biggie. Undertaker vs. Big Boss Man was terrible, including a really dumb bit after the match where Undertaker literally hung Bossman from the Hell in a Cell cage with a noose. Boxer Butterbean likely killed any future Brawl For All plans when he obliterated Bart Gunn in a shoot in mere seconds. It was clear from the beginning that Gunn was in dangerously over his head as soon as the fight started and the knock out looked really dangerous. Before the match, they introduced Gorilla Monsoon as one of the judges, in his first appearance since all his health problems awhile back. He's lost a lot of weight but he got one of the biggest pops of the show and looked moved by the reaction. Shane McMahon faced X-Pac in a European title match and Shane was surprisingly very good for someone with so little experience, though he benefited from being in the ring with one of the best workers in the company and they had practiced the match together extensively. But bottom line is, Shane McMahon brought his A-game to this show and knocked it out of the park, so kudos to him. Kane tombstoned Pete Rose again. Sable vs. Tori was the worst match of the year according to Dave. He says they blew everything and people at ringside said they could hear Sable loudly complaining that Tori was being too stiff and hurting her. Jim Ross returned as announcer for the main event, dropping the heel act and just being himself and Austin beat Rock to win the WWF title. The next night on Raw, J.R. said he called the main event because Austin insisted on it (Dave thinks that's probably a true story) and he was back to being his heel character the next night on Raw.

- ESPN's "Outside the Lines" episode about wrestling finally aired and delved deep into the issues with drugs in wrestling, children imitating what they see, wrestler deaths, and more. In one of the more shocking moments, the documentary revealed that during the last 18 months of his life, Brian Pillman was taking a shot of HGH every day, along with a steroid called decadurabolin and heavily abused painkillers because of the pain in his ankle. He was also using cocaine at the time of his death. The documentary produced receipts showing Pillman's purchases and his former wife Melanie said that Pillman got the drugs from a doctor that Hulk Hogan recommended to him back in WCW. A second, unnamed source also revealed that Hogan had steered several wrestlers to this same doctor. Hogan's people denied that he even knows this doctor. The doctor is currently being investigated by the FDA, which is pretty much how the Dr. Zahorian scandal started back nearly a decade ago. Louie Spicolli's sister talked about how her brother used to buy drugs in bulk over the counter in Mexico and smuggle them back over the border. Rob Van Dam was interviewed and admitted to flushing his own supply of somas after Spicolli died. It talked about how neither WCW or WWF runs shows in Oregon (even though Portland is one of their largest TV markets) because the state athletic commission requires drug testing. It talked about how WCW cancelled a show in Portland at the Rose Garden after being informed of the drug testing procedures, and when asked, Bischoff looked bad, stumbling over not being able to give an explanation of why they pulled out of that show. As usual, Vince McMahon came off arrogant and sleazy in his segments, and at times callous and uncaring, which is going to bite him in the ass the next time a WWF wrestler drops dead from drugs. And Bischoff didn't look much better. Most of the wrestlers interviewed, many of whom either denied or downplayed the drug problems in the business, also came across bad. Basically, Dave says it looks like the wrestling industry has pretty much learned nothing from all the scandals earlier this decade and now they're a much bigger target these days and Dave thinks it's only a matter of time before it happens again (yup).

- The post-WM episode of Raw set an all-time record this week, doing a 6.51 rating. Not only was there competition from Nitro, but they were also going against the UCONN/Duke NCAA title game which did huge numbers on its own. Without the NCAA competition, Raw likely would have broken the 7.0 mark and it's probably only a matter of time before they do anyway. As for Nitro, it did a 3.51 so....once again got spanked by Raw, although it was actually a decent show this week. But they're paying dearly for months of bad shows so now, even when it's good, nobody's watching. In a few weeks it's going to get even worse because Nitro is going to be bounced around because of the NBA playoffs so it's not going to get any better any time soon. Also worth noting that this week's Thunder episode did its lowest rating ever.

- Everyone involved in the McMahon/Fox News/Phil Mushnick drama from last week seems to have finally gotten their stories straight, so here's more detail on that: McMahon went on the show believing he would debate Phil Mushnick who would be there live. Fox claims Mushnick was never going to be there live and apparently it was a big misunderstanding that Vince believed he would be. Fox wanted to bring Dave Meltzer, Lou Albano, and a child psychologist onto the show as well, but the WWF people nixed all of them, saying that Vince had only prepared to debate Mushnick. As for Albano, they said he would turn the segment into a joke (probably true) and they accused the child psychologist of being a friend of Mushnick's and felt it would be a trap. No reason given on specifically why they nixed Dave appearing on the show but, ya know. Anyway, when Vince got there and found out Mushnick wouldn't be there live and only on the phone, he threatened to leave. WWF claims that McMahon then said they could put Mushnick on the air over the phone, saying "Bring him on, but it'll get ugly." At that point, the producers allegedly backed down and decided not to put Mushnick on at all. The Fox producers deny that, saying flat out that Vince said if they put Mushnick on the air at all, he would walk. Dave wonders why McMahon was perfectly willing to face Mushnick live, but didn't want to debate him over the phone, and only assumes McMahon probably felt he could intimidate him in a face-to-face debate because that's kinda his thing.

- Mil Mascaras did an interview saying he will be retiring soon and plans to enter politics. Dave tells Mexico to prepare for their first masked governor, since Mascaras will never take his mask off (he never did go into politics but he still wrestles occasionally to this day, at 75 years old).

- Kenta Kobashi tore a muscle in his foot, but continued trying to wrestle with the injury. Two days later, he somehow made it worse (possibly broken) and had to go to the hospital. But he is continuing to work the latest AJPW Champion Carnival tournament, since he's a major part of the booking plans, although he's practically immobile and his entire move-set is basically chopping and punching, since he can't walk.

- NJPW has another Tokyo Dome show coming up next week and they're being quiet about ticket sales, which tells you all you need to know. Word is they're way behind what they normally have been for past Dome shows.

- In Power Pro Wrestling, they're doing an angle with Kurt Angle where he wins all his matches in 30 seconds or less, which is similar to how Dusty Rhodes first got Magnum T.A. over when he debuted and, for that matter, is also how Goldberg got over.

- Sabu missed a few ECW shows this weekend, due to the same usual disputes he often has with Paul Heyman. In fact, Heyman was telling people that Sabu quits all the time and always comes back. Sure enough, by the beginning of the week, Sabu was back.

- Scott Hall and his ex-wife Dana got re-married this weekend. Apparently they came to an agreement that Hall will take some time off from wrestling, but will eventually return but will work a much lighter schedule. Those close to Hall say he's been miserable for the last year because he wasn't able to see his kids and say that's what led to all his issues, so hopefully being reunited with his wife and having his kids back will help him get back on the right track.

- On Nitro, they did an angle with Bret Hart quitting WCW. Behind the scenes, there's a lot more to it. For starters, it's just an angle. Bret's locked into a contract for several more years and isn't going anywhere. But word is Kevin Nash wasn't happy about it, since it was an angle that Hart and Bischoff cooked up together. Nash said he was promised that when he became booker, Bischoff wouldn't interfere. Nash, as mentioned, basically doesn't want to push Hart at all so he wasn't thrilled that Bischoff was booking angles without his input. Anyway, after Hart "quit", he and Bischoff got into a big fake argument backstage because Bischoff wanted to work the locker room to make everyone think it was real, but Bischoff has done that so many times now that no one buys it. Regardless, the angle got over huge with the live crowd and on TV and Bret came out of it looking like one of the top stars in the company, but now WCW has to capitalize on that momentum and, well.........it's WCW. So don't hold your breath.

- Kevin Sullivan passed out before Nitro and was unconscious on the floor backstage "and lost control of his bodily functions." EMTs were called in and word is Sullivan stopped breathing multiple times before being revived. It was thought he maybe had a seizure or heart attack but those were later ruled out, so who knows.

- WCW's next PPV is less than 2 weeks away and nobody has a clue where it's headed. Nothing has been announced and backstage, they don't even have plans for what the main event will be yet, much less any undercard matches.

- Dave says Scott Norton has a real ego problem. He never wants to sell for anybody and goes out of his way to make his opponent look bad if he's booked to lose. Dave talks about how he was getting beat up by the Horsemen a few weeks back and refused to stay on the ground even when all 4 of them were beating him. On Nitro this week, he kicked out of the pin on 3 even though it was the finish. Shit like that. Dave thinks WCW should put him on a plane back to Japan where he's a bigger deal and throw away the ticket home.

- Eddie Guerrero should be back in about 3 months, after the injuries he suffered a few months back in a car accident.

- Chastity, the former ECW valet who is now playing Raven's sister in WCW, apparently once appeared in a porn movie called Live Bait prior to getting into wrestling (yeah, this one's out there in google-land if you care to look for it).

- Eric Bischoff has denied rumors that he is quitting and says he still has 3 years on his WCW contract.

- There was a dark match on Raw between 2 of the women that WWF found through their casting search for their new women's wrestling show. Malia Hosaka defeated Brandi Alexander in the match (neither woman went on to much after this but they both dabbled in WCW and the indies. Hosaka was originally planned to debut later on as Essa Rios' valet but instead they signed Lita for the role).

- Speaking of, WWF has reportedly lost interest in the Superastros Lucha Libre show they were doing and instead are all excited about the new women's show. In fact, the contracts that the women were offered are said to be significantly higher than what the Mexican wrestlers were being paid.

- WWF suggested an incest angle for Ken Shamrock, where he'd be caught in bed with his "sister" Ryan Shamrock. The idea didn't get very far, as apparently Ken nixed the whole thing. He has a son and didn't want his kid going to school and having other kids make fun of him, saying his dad sleeps with his sister and stuff like that.

- Steve Austin was on Conan O'Brien's show and was asked about the Ringmaster gimmick. He said he had been fired by another company (WCW) and had been unemployed for a year (which ECW was surely thrilled to hear) and said he needed the WWF job at the time, so he took the Ringmaster gimmick even though he knew it sucked.

- The Headbangers are being split up. One of them is going to be given a gimmick called Beaver Cleavage and have a sexy "mom" come to the ring with him. The other Headbanger may be doing a clown gimmick, with Bruce Prichard as his manager. They're also bringing in Shawn Stasiak with the gimmick that he will be a sex slave for the PMS group of Jacqueline and Terri (and later Ryan Shamrock).

- In a really weird aside, Dave just casually mentions that Debra McMichael and Steve Austin's soon-to-be ex-wife Jeannie Clark look almost exactly alike. And that's all he says. I wonder if Dave is implying something here. Austin's divorce from Clark would be finalized a month after this and then a year later, he marries Debra. Were they already dating at this point and Dave was just subtly hinting at it? Or was it just a really coincidental thing that he decided to mention for seemingly no reason at all?

- The New York Times reported that WWF is expected to sign a lease for a WWF Restaurant in Times Square soon. WWF has tried this several times in the past and always got turned away because the landlords viewed wrestling as lowbrow. But the success of WWF at this point is just too big to dismiss so it's finally happening. WWF will have to pay Planet Hollywood $8 million up front, plus $2 million per year for the location. It will also cost another $4 million to renovate the location to turn it into a WWF-themed restaurant.
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I always wanted to go to WWF New York Frown Too bad they closed it down.
I went there a few times, cool ass shop upstairs and random thing I remember about it is they had things like replicas of Andre the Giant and big shows hands.. best times were during Sunday night heats and during the alliance survivor series ppv .. the pop when team wwf won was loud as fuck
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- Davey Boy Smith was hospitalized in Calgary with some sort of spinal infection and is in really bad shape. He's been in crippling pain for weeks with back pain as well as abdominal pains and had dropped around 40 pounds. Tests determined it wasn't cancer and doctors were stumped. Finally, he went to a doctor again last week when his daughter noticed a large lump on his back. Doctors determined it was a bone infection spreading through his body. He was given aggressive antibiotics but that didn't work so now he's hospitalized. Doctors think it's a staph infection on his spine and shouldn't be life threatening, but he'll be hospitalized for a long time and it's unknown if he'll ever be able to wrestle again. Smith described the pain as having a knife in his back 24 hours a day and the pain has gotten worse since he was in the hospital and he could be there for months. He's still under contract to WCW but hasn't been used in several months after injuring his back on the trap door built under the ring that was used for Ultimate Warrior's entrances back in the fall, which is likely where all this stems from.

- A Japanese women's wrestler named Emiko Kado was also seriously injured in a match after taking a bump wrong over a week ago and has been in a coma ever since. Dave has very few details on this one, other than she was a rookie and had only worked a handful of matches. Dave says a lot of people have compared this to the 1997 death of Plum Mariko in a match in Japan (yup, Kado eventually dies from her injuries. Later found to be a "sprained acute membrane in her brain").

- Wrestlemania 15 numbers are coming in and early estimates are that it did around 830,000 PPV buys, which will make it the biggest money PPV in wrestling history. WWF will bring in more than $12 million just from the buys alone. The New York Daily News reported that WWF had tried to get both Howard Stern and Monica Lewinsky to appear, but they both turned down 7-figure offers. Lewinsky apparently turned it down immediately, while Stern negotiated for several weeks before deciding against it. He talks about how WWF has proclaimed it to be the best WM ever but Dave naturally disagrees and says WM 10 still holds that honor. But he does give his personal picks for the top 10 WM matches ever and he puts Austin/Rock from WM15 at the #10 spot. Just in case you're wondering the rest:

1. Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match (WM X)
2. Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin (WM XIII)
3. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (WM X)
4. Ricky Steamboat vs. Savage (WM III)
5. Warrior vs. Savage (WM VII)
6. Hart vs. Michaels (WM XII)
7. British Bulldogs vs. Greg Valentine & Brutus Beefcake (WM II)
8. Ric Flair vs. Savage (WM VIII)
9. Hogan vs. Warrior (WM VI)
10. Rock vs. Austin (WM XV)

- AJPW is expected to officially announce their 2nd ever Tokyo Dome show for next month. Dave breaks down the matches and says that the show will also have an official ceremony honoring Giant Baba, which will also feature legends such The Destroyer, Gene Kiniski, and Bruno Sammartino appearing, all of whom are well-respected legends in Japan and will likely never appear in a ring there again, so it'll be a big deal. AJPW also wanted to bring in the Road Warriors, Steve Williams, and Steve Austin for the show but Dave doubts it'll happen. WWF has big house shows booked that weekend and Austin especially would cost AJPW a fortune to get. And since the show will likely sell out the Dome regardless, Dave doesn't see the point in spending a ton of money to bring him in. No word on Road Warriors or Williams (they do get them, but not Austin).

- Wrestling, especially the WWF, is dominating the home video market in the "Sports" listing according to Billboard. Of the top 20 selling sports videos this week, 19 out of 20 of them are wrestling related (mostly WWF). The only thing keeping it from being a full 20-for-20 is the tape of Super Bowl 33 which charted at #9 this week.

- The subject of backyard wrestling seems to be the new hot topic everyone is concerned about now. There have been several news stories about it recently and ABC's 20/20 is doing a piece on it this week, featuring interviews with Vince McMahon and Mick Foley, who Dave calls "the crown prince and ultimate hero and god to every teenager who wants to bash a light bulb into their head and fall on thumbtacks." Dave isn't sure that this is worthy of being a big story. Obviously the idea of teenagers doing dangerous moves, blading, falling in barbed wire, etc. is bad. But it's not like there has been a huge epidemic of hospitals reporting wrestling injuries. Dave isn't sure that this whole backyard wrestling phenomenon is common enough to warrant all these breathlessly panicked news stories. Dave talks about how he used to play tackle football in the street with no pads when he was a kid and basically sums it up as, hey, kids do stupid shit and sometimes they get hurt. But unless we start seeing evidence of backyard wrestling causing more injuries than football or skateboarding, Dave doesn't think this is really a story.

- Raw won the ratings battle again this week but the gap wasn't as wide as usual, and WCW was even a little competitive for 2 segments. But overall, it didn't make a difference. One of the biggest mistakes WCW has made lately is not taking advantage of their first hour. Nitro is a 3 hour show and that first hour has no competition from Raw. If they were smart, they would use that hour to build the hell out of the rest of the show and do everything they can to keep viewers. Instead, week after week, they just throw out curtain jerking jobbers out there to have boring matches and do nothing to take advantage of the hour lead time they have. So now, even without competition, Nitro's first hour ratings are starting to plummet because the show just sucks. They've managed to kill the one hour of Nitro that should be the most successful.

- Brian Pillman's former wife Melanie has apparently been studying the effects of Human Growth Hormone and is convinced that is what killed him, which is why she talked about it on the ESPN show last week. Pillman reportedly was using so much HGH for more than a year but quit cold turkey shortly before his death, largely because he couldn't afford it (Pillman and his wife were having financial troubles and HGH is prohibitively expensive). She believes his quitting led to an enlarging of the heart, which killed him. Dave goes into the science behind some of this stuff but basically says we'll probably never know for sure what the exact cause was, and it likely was a combination of many things.

- The newly revived Stampede Wrestling, led by Bruce and Ross Hart, ran their first major show this week. Most of the wrestlers weren't anyone of name value. Stu Hart was there, moving around very slowly, but got a huge reaction from the crowd of about 1,800 fans.

- Mr. Fuji filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Nintendo and THQ over the WCW vs. NWO video game. There's a character in the game named Master Fuji that he feels is based on him. Mr. Fuji was at times called Master Fuji when he was in the WWF.

- Jake Roberts was arrested in Athens, GA for being $21,000 behind on child support payments.

- In news that was destined to happen, Sid Vicious no-showed ECW's Cyberslam PPV and now appears to be done with the company. He missed his first flight, so they booked him a 2nd flight. He called and got that 2nd flight upgraded to first class....and then missed that flight also. Paul Heyman says he talked to Sid the next day and Sid evidently told him that he no-showed in order to get Heyman's attention because he wants creative control. In response, Heyman told him to go get fucked and said that Sid won't be brought back to ECW unless he posts an appearance bond, which he would forfeit in the event he no-shows. So Sid's done in ECW (nah, he comes back a couple more times).

- In-ring wise, ECW is now poised to put on the best PPV shows in the U.S. Dave mentions that WWF doesn't have the depth as far as talented in-ring guys goes. WCW has plenty of in-ring talent, but none of them are ever pushed. Meanwhile, ECW has quietly been rebuilding their undercard with guys like Jerry Lynn, Super Crazy, Taka Michinoku, and others. The base of ECW is now built on strong in-ring performers and unlike WCW, Heyman is at least making a clear attempt to push these guys to help them get over.

- New Jack's trial in the Mass Transit incident has been postponed until May.

- ECW has a lot of potential deals in the works to try to bring in money. There's been discussions with TNN about ECW getting the Friday night time slot that RollerJam currently has. The first season of RollerJam just ended and was a ratings flop and it's unknown if the show will even get a 2nd season. They're also still working on a video game deal, negotiating with 2 companies: Take Two Interactive and Acclaim (they end up going with Acclaim and, in fact, Acclaim ends up buying a 10% ownership stake in ECW, but we'll get there). Heyman has also had meetings with WWF about some licensing ventures. All of this is basically an attempt to bring in much-needed cash for ECW. They recently got that big loan and that has smoothed things over for now, but it's not a permanent fix.

- Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch made their return to ECW at the most recent Arena show. Candido had noticeably lost weight but looked good. Sytch looked better than she did a few months ago, but still looked like she's been through hell. For now, they're not really being written into any storylines, but if they can stay clean, Heyman plans to ease them back into the mix.

- WCW will be getting a visual overhaul this week. New logo, new set design for Nitro and Thunder, and other little visual changes. Given the state of WCW right now, Dave says that's like putting a fresh coat of paint on a house that was just hit by a tornado. Speaking of, apparently the new stage set isn't the safest and all the wrestlers backstage were making bets on who would be the first to trip over it while making their entrance.

- Scott Hall is scheduled to be out for the next couple of months and when he comes back, he will be working a 5-nights-per-month schedule (Nitros and PPVs only). Obviously, a lot of people in the locker room aren't going to be happy, since Hall is making a guaranteed 7-figures per year, while guys who go on the road, work all the house shows, all the Nitros, Thunders, and PPVs aren't even making a fraction of that. It's basically the same deal that Hulk Hogan has. And while Hall is undoubtedly a big star, he's not Hogan. But Dave says once they opened the door a crack and gave Sting a similar deal to Hogan, it led to the inevitability of other top stars angling for the same deal. Basically, WCW is going to end up where all the top stars only work TV and PPV and it's going to kill house show business. But then again, Dave says that Hall has been such a disaster in the last year or so that this is probably the only way they'd be able to use him effectively anyway.

- Bret Hart had surgery to repair a groin tear and will be out for about 6-8 weeks. After they did the angle on Nitro with him quitting, they didn't mention Bret at all on TV this week (since doing so would give away that it's an angle and, for whatever reason, Bischoff is still intent on trying to work everybody with these "shoot" storylines). Of course, if they never mention Bret's name during the next 2 months, everyone is just going to forget about it. "But WCW would rather try and fool people and not get something over than emphasize something other than Hogan's program and get anyone else over," Dave says.

- Chris Jericho's sidekick Ralphus is done on TV and believe it or not, word is the reason they got rid of him is because he was getting too big of an ego.

- Random notes from the latest Thunder tapings: during the NWO battle royal, "The crowd went dead, like they had each individually had their hands covered in Novocaine." Describing the whole show, Dave says, "This was basically everyone just goofing off because nobody cares." At one point Norman Smiley did his big wiggle dance and the camera cut away to a crowd shot so as not to show it. Just overall a total shit show.

- No word on Kevin Sullivan's scary collapse backstage last week, but he was perfectly fine the next day. And I think that's the last we hear about it. Seems like that'd be a bigger deal but whatever.

- Chris Benoit was on a radio show in Toronto and had some interesting stuff to say. When a caller asked if there was a conspiracy to destroy WCW from within, Benoit said, "It appears that way." Benoit also said that when he signed a new contract last year, he had vowed never to complain about WCW again, but then said Bischoff hadn't delivered on promises that were made so...he's back to complaining again. He said he's still wrestling for the money and that in 3 years, he'll be 34 years old, be a free agent, and will have a lot of money in the bank. So at this point, he's basically just going through the motions and collecting a check. Amazing that WCW, at least temporarily, managed to kill Chris Benoit's passion for wrestling. His entire identity—prior to, ya know—was that he was borderline obsessive about pro wrestling. And WCW made him not care. During the show, Benoit also complained that Kevin Nash only pushes his friends.

- Several Canadian indie wrestlers had tryouts with WCW before Nitro last week (Mike McFly, Greg Pawluk, Eric Freeze, Todd Douglas, Gary Williams, Peter Smith and Scott D'Amore).

- MMA fighter Tank Abbott has signed a WCW contract and will probably end up working with Goldberg at some point. Dave says he always knew Abbott would end up in pro wrestling, given his charisma, but Dave is "betting strongly" against this working out.

- WCW execs were so upset with how the company (and Bischoff especially) were portrayed in the ESPN show last week that they have cancelled all planned media pieces. No more media outlets allowed to film backstage and Bischoff cancelled an interview on TSN's Off The Record, saying he wasn't doing anymore interviews due to the ESPN show, which he apparently feels misrepresented him.

- Chris Brock, a former WCW jobber, has a country song out called "Ordinary Life" that is #7 on the country music charts. Enjoy. I didn't.

- Kevin Nash reportedly told Vampiro that he's being taken off Nitro and Thunder and won't be on TV. There was a lot of heat on Vampiro after a recent match with Juventud Guerrera, with everyone feeling like Vampiro was careless and didn't protect Guerrera in the match.

- Fitness model Trish Stratus, who has reportedly been trying to get into the WWF, was backstage at WCW Nitro when they were in Toronto recently, looking to get hired there also. I'm befuddled that Trish had such a hard time finding a job.

- WCW ordered a ton of new business cards, stationary, etc. that features the new logo. Except they goofed and the address on all of it lists their headquarters as "Altanta." Ha! Calssic WCW.

- Time Magazine is doing another one of those Man of the Century online polls and Ric Flair is in 2nd place (behind Jesus Christ). More than 20 million people have voted, making it the biggest web pole in internet history and Flair has over 310,000 votes. But the editor of Time.com has said that Flair will be removed from the poll because his ranking is due to "unfair lobbying from wrestling websites." The whole thing led to Time posting this notice on the poll: "Whimsical candidates and others who do not fall within the spirit of the title will not be counted." Word is they are planning to remove Jesus from the poll also, although they're hesitant because of the flak they know they're going to catch from religious nutcases and wrestling freaks whenever they remove the top 2 gods from the list. Funny enough, if you remove Jesus and Flair, that would bump 3rd place up to #1. Who's currently in 3rd place, you ask? A former painter named Adolf Hitler.

- Mick Foley's knees are in bad shape and he needs to take time off to get them worked on, but with this month's Backlash PPV being built around him so much (he's on the poster and commercials), he felt now wasn't the time to take time off so he's planning to work through it.

- WWF will be running a special on UPN later this month that will somewhat act as a pilot for their planned women's show. It won't be all women though, since they need to draw a big audience, so expect a couple of the male stars. But it will be primarily focused on the women. If the show is a success, the plan is to run a new 1 hour show on UPN starting probably in August, that will air in the middle of the week, probably on Wed. or Thurs. (needless to say, the idea behind this show changes somewhat).

- A biography about Mick Foley is being written by ghostwriter Lou Sahadi (turns out Foley wasn't happy with Sahadi's version of the book and decided to write it all himself and the rest is history).

- Shawn Stasiak will be starting with WWF in about 6 weeks. He's currently undergoing a hair transplant before he starts. Matt Bloom, who has been working in Memphis as Baldo, will be starting around the same time. The original plan was to book him as George Steele's son but that idea seems to have been dropped.

- Bart Gunn suffered a concussion in his knockout loss to Butterbean at Wrestlemania and was still disoriented even the next day. All told, the Brawl For All concept has been considered a flop. Savio Vega suffered a neck injury he still hasn't recovered from. Steve Williams was brought in to be a top guy and ended up getting injured and humiliated by Gunn, which not only killed his planned push but has pretty much wrecked his entire aura as a tough guy which his whole career was built on. And Bart Gunn, who WWF officials apparently thought had a legit shot against Butterbean, got murdered on live PPV and they haven't mentioned the match on TV since. So really, nothing was gained in the end.

- Steve Austin and D-Lo Brown are in a 1-800-COLLECT commercial that started airing this week.

- Steven Regal has been released by WWF. He's been in drug rehab for the past few months and was only 3 weeks away from completing it. Since he was almost done with treatment, he was allowed to leave rehab and go home for a weekend and, well...it went poorly. Apparently that was the last straw for WWF and they fired him.

- Shawn Michaels' promo that he cut at Wrestlemania was apparently not what it was supposed to be. Dave's not sure how it was supposed to be different, but apparently Shawn went off-script somehow and it led to a lot of heat on him about it, which is why he wasn't on TV the next night. Speaking of Michaels, he just got married last week in Las Vegas to Whisper of the Nitro Girls. The two have only known each other for a few weeks (and now they're coming up on their 20 year anniversary together).

- Forbes Magazine had a really interesting article about how pro wrestlers have basically no leverage when it comes to their paycheck. The story noted that wrestlers only get about 15% of the revenue that the business generates and compared it to the NBA, who's athletes get 48%. Dave has talked about this in the past actually, when people would write in and say that WCW wrestlers were overpaid and Dave would respond saying that, given the money WCW brings in, the wrestlers are actually underpaid. He's compared it to different sports and it's the same across the board. Players in MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, etc....all of them are paid a much higher percentage of the revenue than either WWF or WCW wrestlers are (this is still true to this day). Point being, wrestlers BADLY need to unionize. Anyway, in the Forbes article, they talked to Ken Patera who was a major star in the 70s and 80s. Patera said that at his peak, he earned $140,000 per year but after expenses (mostly travel and hotels and whatnot), he only netted about $42,000 in his best year.

- Random Dave thoughts: he says Stephanie McMahon has been very good in her limited role on TV lately. He also thinks X-Pac is the best in-ring worker in WWF right now.

- The plan was to do an Austin vs. Rock rematch at Summerslam, but instead, they're going to rush it and do it at this month's PPV. The reason is that they realize they can't keep Rock a heel for much longer (he's just too popular) so they need to do the rematch now.

- On the WWF website, Vince McMahon once again called Phil Mushnick a liar and a gutless coward for not appearing on the Fox News show to debate him face-to-face. Conveniently, they left out all the other details about Vince backing down from debating him over the phone, or how Mushnick was never actually scheduled to appear in person in the first place or any of the, ya know, real facts.

- Someone writes in to ask Dave if he was paid for being a UFC judge at their PPV awhile back and says that if he was, it would compromise his ability to cover the promotion fairly and he should disclose it. Dave responds and said he was not paid to be a judge and he agrees that it would have compromised his ability to cover the show fairly and says that if he had been offered money to be a judge, he would have turned it down for that very reason.
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