Wrestling Observer Newsletter Rewind Thread • 1999
Here's the 1991 thread
Here's the 1992 thread
Here's the 1993 thread
Here's the 1994 thread
Here's the 1995 thread
Here's the 1996 thread
Here's the 1997 thread
Here's the 1998 thread

Let's see if I can remember how to do this after a month off.


- Dave opens the issue with a quick blurb that apparently came in just before this issue went to press, saying that Mankind beat the Rock for the WWF title on Raw that was taped on the 29th and will be airing on Jan. 4th. Apparently it's a short-term title change and Rock will win it back at the Rumble. WWF apparently wanted to counter WCW's big Georgia Dome Nitro that will be happening on the same night. Surely this won't become a big famous story next week or anything...

- Okay, the issue officially starts with an in-depth look at where all the major promotions stand going into 1999. WWF has been dominating the ratings war for the last half of the year and they finished off 1998 with 14 consecutive legit sellouts. They've done an incredible job of creating new stars and hooking viewers with soap opera storylines. Coming off losing both Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, they managed to make megastars out of Austin and Rock, turned DX into legit main eventers, and struck gold with Kane. Dave expects this to be the year that WWF widens the gap in the war with WCW.

- WCW, on the other hand, fell hard in 1998 by continuing to rely on old stars and not creating any new ones aside from Goldberg and even he's been floundering the last few months because WCW can't seem to figure out how to book him anymore. They have some of the best young talent in the world, but they're all miserable and are stuck under a glass ceiling below all the 40-and-over top stars. Dave says it looks like Guerrero, Mysterio, Malenko, and Benoit will probably be staying with WCW (more on that later), but Chris Jericho is still holding out and Dave won't be surprised to see him make the jump to WWF when his contract expires this year. But WCW does have that new deal with NBC that should give the company a significant boost in exposure and might help them regain some traction against WWF. Bischoff held a meeting backstage and said the company has a few other deals in the works but didn't want to reveal them all yet for fear of them leaking out, but he did mention a Saturday morning cartoon show and that the NBC deal was for 6 network specials during the year. He also said that there are 2 movies in the works. Dave says if all that's true, it should be pretty big for WCW and would pose a challenge for WWF unless they can get their own network special to compete. But he also says all the exposure in the world won't matter if WCW's product continues to suck the way it has for the last year.

- ECW has grown by leaps and bounds. A year ago, they had only done a few shows that drew 2000 people. Nowadays, that's not unusual for them to draw on a regular basis. PPV buyrates are still steady even though most of the PPVs have sucked. But that's not exclusive to ECW. He talks about how both WWF and WCW have been having mostly shitty PPVs all year too. In WCW's case, it's shitty main events, often with Hogan. In WWF's case, it's the opposite, with overlong and boring undercards, occasionally saved by good or memorable main events. But anyway, ECW is looking good right now on the surface.

- In Japan, business is down for a few reasons (stale booking, less TV exposure, economic downturn, etc.) AJPW had a profitable year mostly due to all the money they made on their first Tokyo Dome show, plus Vader showing up near the end of the year gave the company a shot in the arm.

- NJPW is a whole other story. For years, they were the model of a successful promotion and during the first half of the 90s, they were by far the most successful wrestling promotion of all time and were doing attendance and gate numbers that WWF could only dream of. But it's gotten stale in the last couple of years and business is dropping like a rock. The upcoming Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome show is only a few days away and is selling slower than any of the other ones ever have. They still don't really have anything exciting planned for it. They have another one booked in April and have no plans for that either. After NJPW top star Shinya Hashimoto publicly criticized the company, he was suspended (more on that in a bit). The only other top stars are Masa Chono, who's dealing with serious neck issues, and Keiji Muto, who is 36 and working with barely functioning knees. Dave predicts a rough year ahead for NJPW.

- Shinya Hashimoto criticized NJPW in an interview for their plans to hold an IWGP contender tournament in February, saying it dilutes the prestige of the G-1 tournament. NJPW had warned talent not to publicly criticize the booking of the company after Kensuke Sasaki recently complained about them bringing in Atsushi Onita for the Tokyo Dome show. That resulted in Sasaki being booked against Onita at the show, where he's almost certainly going to have to do the job to him. With Hashimoto being scheduled to be in the main event, NJPW announced that they are suspending him effective immediately after the Dome show.

- Other stuff to look out for in 1999: wrestling is still dealing with a serious drug issue and nobody seems willing to address it. With wrestling now being more popular than it's ever been, the business is just one significant death away from a major scandal. There's also potential labor issues. Even though guys like Sting and Scott Hall are making upwards of $1 million per year, Dave argues that they're actually underpaid. When compared to the money WWF and WCW bring in, if you compare the salaries that wrestlers make to the salaries of other athletes in the NFL or NBA, wrestlers should be earning way more than they are. In short, McMahon and Bischoff have successfully managed to keep screwing over their stars. Plus, most of them are still expected to cover their road expenses, which add up significantly and of course, they don't have health insurance. If the business continues to grow and keeps making more money but wrestler salaries don't keep pace, it might become an issue where guys start talking about unionizing. Of course, there's also the issue of top stars trying to avoid working full schedules. You shouldn't be able to demand top money and then only work part time. Dave compares it to Michael Jordan signing a new contract with the Bulls but demanding that he only has to play in 25 games.

- Starrcade 98 is in the books and although it wasn't the worst show ever, it was yet again another bad WCW PPV in a long line of them. The show was built around 2 matches: Kevin Nash ending Goldberg's streak and Ric Flair fighting Eric Bischoff. 6 out of 9 matches ended with outside interference, there were a million ref bumps, and it just got old by the end of the show.

- Other notes from the show: it opened with a couple of really great matches with Billy Kidman having a star-making performance but the crowd just didn't seem to care. Ric Flair had to bounce around and sell for Eric Bischoff and then ended up losing the match due to outside interference, because apparently Ric Flair is willing to lose any match. And of course, Kevin Nash beat Goldberg in the main event to win the title and end his streak. They announced Goldberg's record at 173-0, apparently forgetting that just 2 weeks ago, he had a match on Nitro end in a no contest draw, so if anything, it should be 173-0-1. Anyway, there were some vocal anti-Goldberg fans but he was still far more over than Nash was with the crowd, who got a massive "Nash sucks!" chant at one point. And it ended with Scott Hall hitting Goldberg with the cattle prod and Nash winning. The crowd was mostly booing this as the show went off the air.

- Dave gives a long career recap for Jaguar Yokota, who announced her retirement and was regarded as one of the best female wrestlers in history. She was one of the biggest stars for All Japan Women during the 1980s when they were at their height and became a bit of a pop culture icon in Japan as well. She initially retired in 1986 and became a trainer, and is responsible for training many of the best women's wrestlers ever (Manami Toyota, Kyoko Inoue, etc.) Then she came out of retirement for a few years before announcing now that she was retiring again (she eventually came out of retirement again in 2004 and still wrestles a pretty full schedule to this day. Also, Dave mentions that she made news when she posed nude a couple of years ago and, well, google is your friend if you're curious). Dave ends it by saying that during her time, she was not only the best female wrestler but probably better than almost every male wrestler at the time also.

- There's some rumors about the physical health of Giant Baba. AJPW announced that he will be missing the upcoming January tour. Baba was recently hospitalized and said to be suffering from a bad cold, but AJPW's statement said that he is now out of the hospital and recovering at home.

- The plan for NJPW's Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome show is for Keiji Muto to win the IGWP title from Scott Norton. Eric Bischoff isn't happy about it, since Norton is a WCW guy, but he doesn't really get a lot of say in the matter so NJPW basically told him to go drink a tall glass of shut the fuck up and deal with it.

- The New York Post ran a story on legendary wrestler Wahoo McDaniel, saying that he is on kidney dialysis and is awaiting a transplant as well as diabetes issues (yeah, he ends up dying from kidney issues in 2002).

- The actual charges against New Jack in the Mass Transit case are "felonious assault and battery with a deadly weapon." A jury trial will begin in April. New Jack faces a maximum of 11 years in prison if convicted.

- WCW's deal with NBC is for 6 shows throughout the year, although if ratings aren't good, NBC can cancel at any time. NBC wants all the shows to take place in Las Vegas and they also want its own network stars to appear for cross-promotional purposes. The first two dates are scheduled for 2/14 and 3/28 which not-so-coincidentally are the same dates of WWF's next 2 PPVs (St. Valentine's Day Massacre and Wrestlemania) so they'll be going head-to-head against those. Both of those shows cause travel problems for WCW though because they take place on Sunday nights and they already have Nitro scheduled in Tampa and Toronto the following nights, so everyone will have to perform and then fly across the country to get to the next show. And in the important bit of news that no one realizes yet: this is all because of the ongoing NBA lockout. WCW shows on NBC are taking the place of previously scheduled prime-time NBA games. So if the lockout gets settled and the NBA season resumes, then those dates may be changed (which is exactly what happened and is part--but not all--of why this WCW/NBC deal died. But we'll get there). For what it's worth, NBC reportedly had talked with WWF about this deal also but the talks went nowhere because NBC didn't want anything to do with the WWF's raunchy product and WWF evidently wasn't willing to tone down. In Bischoff's meeting with the locker room, he once again expressed his belief that WWF's current direction is only helping in the short term but will work against them in the long haul.

- Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero haven't yet signed new contract extensions but have all pretty much agreed to new terms and should be signing soon. They're all for $1.35 million total over 3 years ($400,000 the first year, $450,000 the next, $500,000 the last). WWF was interested in all 3 of them, especially Benoit, but the WCW guaranteed money was too much to turn down. It's believed that Bischoff will probably push all 3 of them pretty hard because he has to justify paying them that much. Rey Mysterio is also expected to re-sign soon although he's been offered significantly less than the other 3 (but still more than what WWF will pay him).

- Nitro notes: Dave thinks Raven should give up wrestling and pursue an acting career because he's that good. Larry Zbyszko dubbed Norman Smiley's dance "the big wiggle." Nash cut a promo and was booed out of the building and drowned out by Goldberg chants. And Randy Savage made his return, "with his new hair and new body and new girlfriend with her Pamela Lee hair and body."

- Goldberg has a role in the upcoming Jean Claude Van Damme movie Universal Soldier II. In an interesting note, Sable auditioned for a role in the movie but they picked ESPN fitness expert Kiana Tom for the role instead.

- The plan right now appears to be that Kevin Nash will hand Hulk Hogan the WCW title at next week's Nitro. The idea is to essentially reboot the NWO angle and go back to what worked in 1996 when it first started: a small, but strong NWO (Hogan, Nash, Hall, Scott Steiner and Lex Luger) against a strong WCW, led by the Horsemen and Goldberg.

- The latest on Shawn Michaels' back injury is that doctors have told him that he needs surgery to fuse the discs in his back. He's scheduled the surgery in a couple of weeks and there's no way he'll be working Wrestlemania and it's questionable now if he'll ever wrestle again, or even if he does, how limited he will be.

- Plans for a Bart Gunn vs. Tank Abbott Brawl For All match have fallen through because Abbott was asking for $55,000 to do it and WWF felt that was way too much. They've tossed around the idea of doing Bart Gunn against Kimo Leopoldo also. They'd also love to do Gunn vs. Butterbean, but he's still in high demand as a boxer and it's hard to fit in his schedule but they do still have a contract with Butterbean to work one more show that they never used (they always wanted to do him vs. Marc Mero but it never happened). There's also been talk of Gunn vs. Ken Shamrock or Steve Blackman, but they don't want to risk either of those men getting injured in a shoot fight.

- At recent house shows, they did an arm wrestling angle with Vince McMahon arm wrestling Mankind. At the first show, the gimmick was whoever won would get to kiss Debra. McMahon won and then refused to kiss Debra, acting like he was too good for it. The next night, they did the same angle, except this time it was Sable. McMahon won and this time, he did kiss Sable.

- They shot 2 covers for Sable's upcoming Playboy. One is just her in her black leather outfit. The other is her nude from the waist down and using the Women's title to cover herself. No word which one they'll use (they ended up using the first one, but the other picture was used as the cover of a Raw magazine: https://i.imgur.com/mBE7jbI.jpg)

- Don Callis (Jackyl) has a weekly column in the Winnipeg Sun and had this to say in this week's issue:

Quote:Professional sports agents have injected themselves into big-time pro wrestling and as a result the wrestling industry is being dragged kicking and screaming into the real world of pro sports. Why kicking and screaming? Because none of the promoters want to deal with anyone who has not been brainwashed by the fantasy world of the business, much less a hard-nosed agent who is a tough negotiator. Most promoters see themselves as intellectual superiors to the talent and have personal relationships built up which work in their favor during negotiations. Wrestlers, on the whole, are dreamers, who want to believe in themselves, and will sometimes sell their souls for a dream or a promise by a promoter, which, of course, does not make for shrewd negotiating. At the end of the day, if it's not in writing then the promise is not worth the breath it took to make it. Promoters by and large have had an easy time with negotiations because of these reasons, until recently. With professional wrestling attaining levels of success and mainstream marketability unequalled in the history of the business, agents who heretofore might not have touched a client involved in wrestling, are not making above making money for both themselves and the wrestlers and the promoters hate it. In fact, all WWF talent recently received a memo congratulating us on how good business has been, etc. etc. but buried in the memo was a cryptic remark about how lamentable it is that some of the talent were enlisting the help of agents, because it robs the poor wrestler of the chance to learn how to handle his own business. Right. And having a doctor operate on you is deeply disturbing because it robs the patient of the opportunity to perform surgery on himself. Governor-elect Jesse Ventura may have been the first to use an agent for wrestling, and that decision no doubt contributed to his current lack of a good relationship with the WWF. Ventura's agent, lawyer Barry Bloom, currently represents, among others, X-Pac and Kevin Nash. Bloom has been successful due to the fact that unlike most lawyers, he understands the wrestling business, much to the chagrin of promoters for all three big wrestling companies. In the recent documentary Wrestling With Shadows, Bret Hart stated that the WWF treated their talent like circus animals. Apparently some of the animals are getting smart."

- As you might expect, this column didn't exactly endear Callis to the company and word is the two sides are already negotiating his release from his contract.

- WWF is hoping for The Giant to debut in mid-February in time to get him an angle for Wrestlemania. There's concern about his conditioning and attitude though. They wanted him to lose weight and he lost about 30 pounds and then almost immediately gained it back. The WWF schedule is significantly harder than WCW's so they're worried about whether he has the discipline for the job.

- Lots of letters about how great Wrestling With Shadows is again, and one guy who writes in with his elaborate theory on why he still thinks it was all a work, which Dave just pokes a million holes in again. Bottom line: not a work. Stop it with that nonsense.
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Bret once pitched an angle when he returned where he and Vince would work together and pretend the screwjob was an angle. I can only imagine the shit Dave would have got after that, lol.
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- This ends up being a weird Observer because there's a HUGE obituary for Sam Muchnick and then the year-end awards, and those 2 things end up taking up the bulk of the issue. So the rest of the news is all consolidated into brief bits at the end. So here goes:

- Sam Muchnick passed away at age 93 this week and this obituary is absurdly long, but then again, Muchnick has a really interesting life story. For many years, he was the most powerful man in the wrestling business. He was the main force behind the creation of the NWA and was the NWA president during the glory years of the organization. He was widely regarded as the most honest promoter ever and was respected by basically everybody. He was well-known for never ripping off his wrestlers and Dave relates a story in the 1950s where a show was cancelled due to issues beyond his control and Muchnick still tried to pay all the wrestlers who had made the trip for the show out of his own pocket and they all refused the money. Dave just recounts story after story about Muchnick, showing why he was so respected by everyone and why wrestlers were so loyal to him in return. I really can't do this obit justice, it's worth reading the whole thing in full if you're interested in that sort of thing. It basically doubles as a history of the NWA, from the formation, the glory days with Lou Thesz on top, the worldwide expansion of the NWA and how Muchnick ran things as NWA president, trying to get Buddy Rogers to do a job to Lou Thesz which directly led to the formation of the WWWF (later shortened to WWF and later changed to WWE due to panda interference), how the formation of AJPW and NJPW affected the NWA, how Muchnick was essentially forced out of the NWA presidency by Fritz Von Erich and Eddie Graham, who wanted the power for themselves and used it to benefit their own territories rather than the NWA as a whole, etc.

- Then it goes into the history of St. Louis wrestling, with Muchnick at the head, and how it was different from everything else because it was treated as a real sport. "It was the last city where wrestling didn't prostitute itself," said Ric Flair. Eventually, like everyone else, they were run down and out of business by Vince McMahon, but by then, Muchnick had all but retired anyway. Lots of quotes from people talking about how the business might have been different if Muchnick was younger, saying that by the time the 80s came about and cable TV and PPV made national expansion possible, Muchnick was already in his 70s and was pretty much done. But they say that if he had been younger, he probably would have beaten Vince to the punch. Anyway, neither WWF or WCW acknowledged his death because of course they didn't, but nobody shaped the wrestling industry more than Sam Muchnick and he did it while still being respected as an honest and good man all the way to the end. Once again, I can't recommend reading this one enough, it's worth the subscription price.

- AWARDS TIME! You know the drill. These are voted on by readers, NOT by Dave. Every time we do this, someone comments and is like, "Dave is so stupid, why would he pick that as the best match?" or whatever. It ain't him. Anyway...

WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: Steve Austin (by a long shot)


BEST BOX OFFICE DRAW: Steve Austin (beating out Goldberg by a huge margin)

FEUD OF THE YEAR: Austin vs. McMahon (again, in a landslide)

TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR: Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa

MOST IMPROVED: The Rock (barely beating out Billy Kidman)

BEST ON INTERVIEWS: Steve Austin (barely beating Mick Foley)

MOST CHARISMATIC: Steve Austin (more than double the votes of 2nd place winner The Rock)


BRUISER BRODY MEMORIAL AWARD (BEST BRAWLER): Mick Foley (for the 8th year in a row, which is 1 more than Brody ever won)


MOST OVERRATED: Hulk Hogan (5th year in a row)


BEST PROMOTION: New Japan Pro Wrestling (barely beating out WWF)

BEST WEEKLY TV SHOW: Monday Night Raw (writing "best show" and "Raw" in the same sentence feels almost dirty, considering what a slog it is to sit through that shit every Monday nowadays)

MATCH OF THE YEAR: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi - Oct. 31, 1998






BEST WRESTLING MANEUVER: Kenta Kobashi's burning hammer (called a "rack into death valley bomb")

MOST DISGUSTING PROMOTIONAL TACTIC: WCW exploiting Scott Hall's real life personal issues

READER'S PERSONAL FAVORITE WRESTLER: Mick Foley (just beating out Chris Jericho)

READER'S LEAST FAVORITE WRESTLER: Hulk Hogan (5th year in a row)


WORST TAG TEAM: Kurrgan & Golga


WORST MANAGER: Sonny Onoo (3rd year in a row)

WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR: Hulk Hogan vs. Warrior - Halloween Havoc

WORST FEUD OF THE YEAR: Hogan vs. Warrior



BEST BOOKER: Vince McMahon (ending Paul Heyman's 4-year winning streak)

PROMOTER OF THE YEAR: Vince McMahon (ending Riki Choshu's 3-year streak)


SHOOT MATCH OF THE YEAR: Jerry Bohlander vs. Kevin Jackson

BEST GIMMICK: Steve Austin



- So yeah....1998 was pretty clearly a banner year for WWF and Steve Austin in particular. And now, all the rest of the news is kept pretty brief, so don't expect too much else here. But we do have 3 world title changes from the 3 biggest wrestling promotions.

- Mankind won the WWF title on Raw, in a show that was taped the week before. WWF heavily promoted the title change on their website before the show, correctly assuming that no one would care it was taped and would boost ratings. The title change happened when Austin did a run-in and bashed the Rock with a chair (arguably the biggest pop EVER). Interesting note, that wasn't the original planned finish. Austin wasn't supposed to be on the show at all, since he's being kept out right now to recover from his abdominal tear, but they flew him in to do some filming for the WWF's upcoming Super Bowl commercial and decided to involve him in the finish since he was there.

- On Nitro, WCW decided to put the title back on Hulk Hogan after an angle where Kevin Nash challenged him to a match and then laid down for Hogan after a fingerpoke to the chest. They all got up laughing and the idea is to form a new, more exclusive version of the NWO. Fans shit all over the ending, and not in the good boo-the-heel type of way. Dave says the whole Nitro show was a disaster and it would take a full issue to explain all the reasons why. Twice during Nitro, "the chimpanzees running WCW" instructed Tony Schiavone to reveal that Mick Foley would be winning the WWF title on Raw. "Nitro was beyond awful and he was telling people there's a world title change going to happen on the other channel? Who runs this circus?" Dave wonders. Schiavone also trashed Foley, with the famous butts-in-seats comment and Dave says considering how universally respected Foley is, that was pretty low. Even though Raw was taped, the commentary was done live, and on Raw, they responded with Michael Cole saying that they weren't going to have a main event that starts 2 minutes before the show ends and doesn't feature any wrestling.

- In NJPW, Keiji Muto won the IWGP title from Scott Norton in the main event of the Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome show. They show had a HUGE last minute walk-up audience and ended up being a legit sellout with an estimated $5.3 million at the gate which was a pleasant surprise given how slow ticket sales started off. Dave hasn't seen the show yet but runs down the results. Things apparently went sideways during the Shinya Hashimoto vs. Naoya Ogawa match, evidently seeming like a legit shoot, with Ogawa breaking Hashimoto's nose and just beating the hell out of him. A huge brawl erupted after the match with NJPW officials and Inoki's UFO people. Dave hasn't seen it so he doesn't want to speculate about it too much and he's running out of space in this issue, but more on that next week I'm sure (yeah this is a pretty big story).

- Indie promoter Dan Curtis from Detroit was found dead of a sudden heart attack. He was working with the Insane Clown Posse on a new promotion called Hellfire Wrestling and 2 days before his death, the first ever Hellfire show with ICP headlining drew a sellout 1,000 people.

- Eddie Guerrero was in a major car accident on New Year's Eve, suffering several serious injuries. A lacerated liver, a fractured pelvis, "and a large portion of his calf was ripped off." Guerrero reportedly fell asleep at the wheel and ended up being ejected from the car. The car was totally destroyed and in this case, the fact that he wasn't wearing his seatbelt is probably what saved his life. The injuries are bad but not career-threatening and he should be back in 3-4 months.

- Lou Thesz was also in a car accident while driving to Sam Muchnick's funeral. He totaled his car, but luckily was okay, but he missed the funeral.

- WCW has struck a deal with Telemundo to film a 1-hour pilot for a potential Lucha Libre show. Konnan will be booking the show, using most of WCW's Mexican talent as well as a few American guys who can work the style.

- The angle on Raw where they showed Shawn Michaels beat down and covered in blood after being thrown through a car windshield was done to write him off TV since he's going to get back surgery in a couple of weeks.

- Randy Savage's new valet (and real-life girlfriend) will reportedly be using the ring-name Gorgeous George. And finally, fun trivia note, the entrance music Savage has been using for most of his career was also the same music the real Gorgeous George used back in the 1950s.
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Quote:- Indie promoter Dan Curtis from Detroit was found dead of a sudden heart attack. He was working with the Insane Clown Posse on a new promotion called Hellfire Wrestling and 2 days before his death, the first ever Hellfire show with ICP headlining drew a sellout 1,000 people.

Hey, I was at this show. It was at the Majestic.
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Yup. I remember J writing about it in his book
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I have the hardest time in my head distinguishing between Phil Muchnick and Sam Muchnick.
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Hi. I've spent the last 4 days sicker than I've ever been with norovirus, which is why I didn't post this on Friday. I've been sleeping 18 hours a day and vomiting and shitting the other 6. So now it's 3:30am Monday morning and I'm wide awake so fuck it, here's your goddamn 1999 news. I'm going to go find a shotgun to suck on now.



- It seems the career of Giant Baba has come to an end. AJPW has been extremely secretive about Baba's physical condition ever since he missed a few shows last month and then announced he would miss the January tour. Dave has learned that Baba underwent some sort of bowel surgery last week for something called "ileus" and word is that it's serious and will require months of recuperation and likely means the end of his career (he's 61 and has only been doing mid-card comedy matches anyway). Baba is the 3rd most famous name in Japanese wrestling history (behind Rikidozan and Inoki) and the story of his likely retirement was front page news throughout Japan. Currently, Mitsuharu Misawa is basically running the show in Baba's absence, while Baba's wife Motoko (who isn't nearly as well-liked as Baba) runs the business side (Motoko Baba and Misawa end up having issues in a year or so and it leads to the formation of NOAH but we'll get there). Dave gives a brief recap of Baba's career. Sadly, we'll get a much longer and more in-depth one within a few more issues...

- WCW's NBC specials have been postponed for the moment because the NBA lockout finally came to an end. NBC's deal with WCW was to fill air-time that had previously been scheduled for prime time NBA games, but now that the NBA is back, they don't need WCW. Tickets had been scheduled to go on sale soon but that has now been scrapped. WCW went to TNT to try to salvage the special and get airtime on there, in order to keep the dates (they were scheduled to go head-to-head against the next 2 WWF PPVs) but TNT chose not to do it. There's no word on if NBC still plans to air WCW specials on a different date or if the deal is simply dead (it was dead but more on why in a few weeks).

- WWF won the ratings battle again, extending their winning streak to 11 weeks in a row. Raw did its highest rating ever (5.76, which is even higher ratings than they got the last time they aired unopposed and this Raw was also going against NCAA football national championship game so this rating is triple-impressive). WCW didn't even come close (4.96) and the gap seems to be slowly widening every week. Interestingly enough, during the segment where Tony Schiavone told people that Mankind would be winning the title, Raw ratings surged as approximately 375,000 homes (an estimated 600,000 viewers) immediately changed channels to switch to Raw, "which is exactly the opposite of what it was designed to do and exactly what anyone with half a brain could have predicted it would do," Dave says. This leads Dave to discussing the issue of giving away results and how both sides have used dirty tactics against each other. He argues that WWF clearly started it way back in the 80s and in fact, WCW wouldn't even exist if not for WWF bullying Jim Crockett out of business with multiple dirty tactics back in the 80s. But this Mick Foley spoiler wasn't playing dirty. It was playing stupid and WCW (and Bischoff in particular) should be ridiculed for such a dumb decision.

- ECW's Guilty As Charged PPV is in the books and was a pretty good show. Nothing extraordinary, just a solid top-to-bottom show with mostly good matches, good finishes, and smart booking. The show opened with Paul Heyman announcing that Jerry Lynn was out due to injury (legit) and Masato Tanaka wouldn't be there either, although he didn't say why. If you're curious, the answer is because the ECW/FMW relationship has totally fallen apart. Sid Vicious was brought in as the mystery opponent for John Kronus and got a huge pop. Dudleyz vs. Spike/New Jack was actually terrible and gets a negative star. In the Lance Storm/RVD match, Storm hit RVD with a really weak chairshot and the crowd booed the shit out of him for it. And in the main event, Taz won the ECW title from Shane Douglas, which was supposed to be played up as a huge passing-the-torch type moment, but it was ruined by the crowd chanting "show your tits!" at Francine the whole time. Sabu did a run-in (complete with pyro entrance) and beat up both men. Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch showed up also, so their suspension is over.

- Dave does a big recap of the latest UFC 18 PPV, giving the usual results and analysis, but this is interesting because Dave himself was one of the judges. He talks about all the behind the scenes drama in UFC's ongoing battle to survive and also the show being built around the UFC debut of Bas Rutten. He also talks about how the more charismatic UFC fighters who think they may have a shot at pro wrestling are apparently looking to get into it, since wrestling is booming right now and UFC is on the verge of death. Everyone realizes that the real money is in wrestling. The Mark Coleman vs. Pedro Rizzo fight ended up being controversial because Rizzo beat Coleman via split decision and Dave ended up being the judge who cast the deciding vote, and he explains his reasoning. However, Dave admits that having watched the show on TV the next night, ignoring everything he saw up close and trying to watch it with fresh eyes on TV, he would have voted for Coleman instead. He explains how it was different watching it on TV and watching it live from cageside and why he awarded the fight the way he did.

- In Winnipeg (you idiot!), a group of teachers have been fighting to get TSN to move wrestling to a later time slot. The teachers say their schools are overrun with kids doing crotch chops and telling people to "suck it" and kids getting hurt by having wrestling matches on the playgrounds and whatnot. TSN carries both WWF and WCW shows and the teachers want it to air later so kids won't watch. Don Callis (The Jackyl, who is still technically under WWF contract, but has been told it won't be renewed when it expires in a few weeks, and was told it was because he "has heat with the boys") wrote about it in his Winnipeg newspaper column, joking that the kids should be punished by being forced to watch the Hogan/Warrior match from Halloween Havoc and basically said parents need to monitor what their kids watch and admitted that WWF isn't suitable for kids.

- The latest on the Hashimoto vs. Ogawa match at the Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome show is that nobody knows for sure exactly what happened. Most people Dave has talked to have assured him that it wasn't an angle. The match was supposed to be Ogawa, representing Antonio Inoki's UFO shoot-fighting promotion, against NJPW's Hashimoto. There were 3 NJPW vs. UFO matches on the card, and this was the last one, the rubber match since each side was tied 1-1. Obviously it was supposed to be a worked match, but at some point in the match, Ogawa apparently decided to start shooting on Hashimoto and fucked him up righteously. Word is Hashimoto refused to do a job to Ogawa and the planned finish was for the match to end in a draw. But midway through the match, Ogawa just started legit beating the shit out of Hashimoto. Being that Ogawa is a multiple time judo champion with lots of shootfighting experience, it wasn't much of a contest. Backstage, people were freaking out. Hashimoto's tough guy gimmick was destroyed and that reputation that has carried him as one of NJPW's top stars for the last few years is in tatters now. There's a lot of speculation as to why it happened. One of the main theories is that Antonio Inoki may have instructed Ogawa ahead of time to shoot on Hashimoto to help build up the legitimacy of his UFO promotion and because he feels he was forced out of power in NJPW and still holds a grudge against the promotion (not quite the full story yet but we'll get to it).

- Speaking of Antonio Inoki, he just purchased a 4,400 sqft home in Santa Monica, CA for $1.85 million.

- Scott Norton was reportedly promised a 1-year reign as IWGP champion but it got cut short at the Tokyo Dome show. Word is NJPW likes Norton but felt they had to get the title off of him due to all the problems they have in working with WCW. While Norton was IWGP champ, he was also working in WCW and they booked Norton to defend the IWGP title against Van Hammer at a PPV, which already offended NJPW because....Van Hammer. And then they ended up scrapping the match without explanation, and Norton didn't even get on the show. Basically, they felt WCW was booking their champion as an afterthought and since Norton is under contract to WCW, they decided to just take the title off of him.

- An indie promotion in Japan is doing a feud featuring The Masked Pepsi Boy vs. The Coca-Cola Kid.

- Billy Jack Haynes was arrested in St. Helens, OR on multiple charges of theft relating to a show he promoted there recently. He got a lot of sponsorship money for the show up front and then skipped town without doing the show. Haynes admitted to having a gambling problem and said he needed the money to pay back gambling debts that he apparently owed to some bad people. He also said he has been working in collections since 1995 and has been a guy who goes around intimidating people to get money but claims he's never hurt anyone.

- Jake Roberts somehow suffered some sort of injury that led to him getting more than 100 stitches in his hand. Dave has no other details.

- In a USA Today interview, Jesse Ventura was asked about Hulk Hogan's gimmick where he's pretending to run for President, which is an obvious spoof on Ventura's election win. Ventura had this to say: "I'm disappointed in him. His ego is so large that he feels he needs to try to cheapen what I've accomplished. It's a wrestling gimmick. He's on the final legs of his career, hanging on by his fingertips. He's like the career politician who won't give up his position. I feel sorry for him. He's a jealous man."

- The angle where Taz suplexed Sabu through a table a few weeks ago injuring his neck was supposed to be a work, but Sabu was legitimately injured on the spot. He's pretty banged up in general and reportedly isn't happy in ECW. He received an offer from WCW and at 35 years old, and with as many injuries as he's had, it would make sense for him to take the big money offer and go work for a company that will pay him if he's injured. But Sabu's uncle The Sheik advised him to turn down the offer, saying he would only be a mid-carder in WCW while in ECW, he's a top star. Sabu reportedly values his uncle's advice more than basically anyone, which is why he is staying with ECW even though he's talked about quitting several times in recent months.

- Shane Douglas is in a similar boat, as he's unhappy in ECW and has had several big arguments with Paul Heyman lately about his direction. Shane is also banged up and pushing 35 as well and it's looking like his time as a top guy in ECW is probably over, since now that he lost the title to Taz, Heyman reportedly doesn't have any plans to ever put the belt back on Douglas and is moving forward with newer, younger stars (yeah, Douglas would be gone from ECW forever within 3 more months).

- Public Enemy will be returning to ECW at the upcoming House Party show at the ECW Arena to face the Dudleyz. It's not expected to be a long-term deal with them though. Sid Vicious will also be at the show and ECW plans to bring him in for big events but he's not full time either.

- At the upcoming WCW Souled Out PPV, Chris Jericho is facing Perry Saturn in a "loser must wear a dress" match. WCW has reportedly threatened to take Jericho off TV if he doesn't sign a new contract and so Jericho was pushing to make it a loser-is-banned-from-Nitro match since he has no intention of re-signing. Apparently Bischoff is second-guessing the idea to take Jericho off TV but it was threatened at one point.

- Starrcade did a 1.15 buyrate, while WWF's December PPV Rock Bottom did an 0.8 buyrate. It's the first time in about 6 months that a WCW PPV finally beat a WWF PPV.

- Hugh Morrus reportedly tried to quit WCW but they talked him into staying and will be putting he, Meng, and Barbarian together as a group.

- At a house show last week, Giant and Lex Luger basically did their own version of the fingerpoke of doom, with Luger tapping Giant and him falling down and eating the pin. Fans were furious. It was made even worse by Giant not even wearing his wrestling gear to the ring, showing up in jeans and a t-shirt. None of this was approved by WCW and both Luger and Giant had a ton of heat on them for it. But of course, Giant is just counting the days until he shows up in WWF next month, so he doesn't really give a shit and Luger is Luger.

- Sting is going to be working a few house shows but won't be on TV for at least several more weeks. He's been out of action for awhile dealing with personal life issues. Dave says that usually means drugs, but not in this case (he doesn't clarify, but Sting has talked about it since. He was basically trying to save his marriage at this point and this is when he became a born-again Christian).

- There were reports that DDP had re-signed with WCW for $900,000 a year. Turns out that's not true and WCW themselves put that rumor out there in order to keep the locker room from being pissed, because the real figure is actually $1.5mil per year.

- Kevin Nash is primarily in charge of booking WCW right now, although Hogan and Randy Savage are always in charge of their own storylines. Savage made an appearance on Nitro 2 weeks ago but aside from that, he is still going to be out until March or April.

- DDP is pushing to get Erik Watts a job and also wants to get Van Hammer a push. I'm not even sure that saving Hall and Jake is enough to forgive this.

- There was a recent news story talking about the Halloween Havoc screw up where the PPV feed ended during the DDP vs. Goldberg main event. Viewer's Choice in particular was extremely upset about it because WCW portrayed it as the PPV providers messing up, when in reality, it was WCW's fault because they only scheduled a 3 hour window for the PPV and then they decided on the day of the show to go longer than 3 hours and nobody informed the PPV providers. They were also upset that WCW chose to air the Goldberg/DDP match on Nitro for free the next night, saying it violated the contract WCW has with Viewer's Choice.

- Shawn Michaels underwent back surgery on Jan. 12 in San Antonio. The surgery was to fuse the discs in his back and as of now, it's too early to even begin to estimate what his chances are of returning to the ring.

- On Raw, they booked Mankind vs. The Rock for the WWF title at Royal Rumble and Mankind has been telling people backstage that he's going all out to basically make this the match of a lifetime. Dave says that's actually pretty scary because the last time he tried to make a match memorable, he ended up coming off the top of Hell in a Cell twice (yeah, the Rumble match ends up being memorable all right, but not in a good way).

- Other notes from Raw: Duane Gill started doing a spoof on Goldberg using the name Gillberg, complete with obviously piped-in chants and sparklers for his entrance. Dave thinks it was pretty funny, but with WWF kicking their ass right now, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to still be taking shots at WCW, much less at the one guy that they've actually successfully made a star out of. Also on Raw, they debuted a girl who is said to be Ken Shamrock's sister but she's not really.


- Steven Regal has returned to rehab. Apparently it didn't stick the first time so he went back.

- The Giant is possibly going to debut in WWF as soon as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV on Feb. 14th. With him now locked in to joining the company, the #1 person WWF is hoping to take from WCW next is Chris Jericho.

- WWF injury report: Austin still out with abdominal tear, Ken Shamrock had elbow surgery, X-Pac hurt his neck, Thrasher has a torn meniscus, etc.

- Sunday Night Heat has pretty much become the Shane McMahon show, with him doing commentary, cutting promos, getting involved in angles and matches, and even Sable's promo was done to get Shane over. Dave thinks he's fine in small doses on Raw, but good lord is he horrible when given free reign to be all over the show like he is on Heat.

- WWF stars will be all over TV soon. Steve Austin is filming a Nash Bridges epiosode. Val Venis is filming an episode of La Femme Nikita. Undertaker, Ken Shamrock, The Rock, and Ernie Ladd are all expected to film an episode of That 70s Show (here's Rock and Ladd on that show, don't think Shamrock and Undertaker were on it).

- WWF held another one of their training camps. In attendance were Lester Speight, Shane Sewell, and Steve Bradley. For those curious, Lester Speight is a former football player better known for being "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker" in those commercials. He never made it in wrestling. Shane Sewell bounced around the indies, worked in Puerto Rico a lot, and was a referee in TNA for a little while in 2008 but never made it to WWE. And Steve Bradley spent 3 years in developmental (feuding with Kurt Angle) but never moved up to the main roster. His most notable appearance was being the golf cart driver during the hardcore match at Wrestlemania 17. He died in 2008.

- Terry Funk was supposed to come in to challenge Mankind for the WWF title on the Jan. 12th Raw, but he got really sick the day before and had to cancel. It's believed he has some form of hepatitis (yeah, looks like Funk apparently has Hep C. According to one link I found, Superstar Billy Graham talked about it in an interview a couple of years ago and Funk got pissed at him because he was still trying to keep it secret. And yet Dave knew in 1999).

- Lots of letters yet again from people seeing Wrestling With Shadows for the first time and being blown away by how great a documentary it is. Someone asks about the possibility of Bret showing up on Nitro with the WWF title and says even though Bret was still under WWF contract, would Bischoff have risked it anyway and still put Bret on TV? Dave responds and says absolutely not. WWF still has an ongoing lawsuit against WCW and Turner for contract tampering and things of that nature. If they had put Bret Hart on WCW TV while he was still under contract to WWF, it would have absolutely sealed the case for WWF and cost the promotion millions. Turner execs would have almost certainly fired Bischoff for it. Bottom line, no matter what some in WWF claim, there was a 0% chance that Bret Hart was going to show up in WCW before Dec. 1st.
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