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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Shamrock did end up on that episode, but I don't recall seeing Taker. Huh.
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- We open with a major story on Shawn Michaels' recent back surgery and it appears his in-ring career is likely over. Michaels had the surgery on Jan. 12 and the doctors told Shawn that the damage to one of his discs was more severe than they expected and that his wrestling days are done. Shawn had been telling friends even before the surgery that he thought he only had a couple of matches left in him anyway. The surgery lasted more than 4 hours, with doctors discovering one of the discs was largely destroyed, believed to have happened at Royal Rumble last year when he took a bump on the edge of a casket in a way that was very similar to the bump that ended Rick Rude's career in Japan. Shawn came back for one last match, obviously in terrible pain, to drop the WWF title to Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14, but hasn't wrestled since. Shawn had been advised to get the surgery months ago but had hoped to avoid it by rehabbing his back but it didn't work. He's still on a $15,000-per-week guaranteed deal, which is why WWF has brought him back as an announcer and later as commissioner, hoping to get some use out of him to justify his paycheck. A year after the injury and still in constant pain, Michaels finally listened to the doctors and got the surgery. The doctor said that after fusing 2 discs in his back, the pressure on the remaining discs would be too stressful to hold up under the pounding of taking bumps. WWF is still hopeful that perhaps he could be talked into doing a few "careful" big money matches in the future. Shawn reportedly doesn't want to do it if he can't perform up to his usual standards, considering he has a rep as one of the best in-ring performers in the history of the business. Even before the surgery, Shawn was skeptical of ever returning to the ring. In an interview a week before, he pretty much admitted his career was over, saying, "It's a matter of looking at the risk vs. rewards ratio. It's time to say, 'That's a wrap.' I've accomplished many things in the ring, including reaching the top as a world champion. If I hadn't won the title, then perhaps I'd still be trying to get back in the ring one way or another, but you have to start thinking about your personal life."

- From here, Dave does a recap of Shawn's career, saying he'll go down as arguably the most talented wrestler in the history of the business but also one of the most controversial, from his high school football days, forming the Midnight Rockers with Marty Jannetty in AWA, then jumping to WWF where they were one of the most popular tag teams but never won the tag titles because of constant concerns over their out-of-ring behavior. When the steroid scandal started coming down on the early 90s, WWF decided to go with smaller top stars and there was nobody in Shawn's league in the ring, so they split up the Rockers (allegedly, they both gave notice that they wanted to leave and go to WCW, but Jannetty accuses Michaels of going behind his back and telling Vince he wanted to stay as a singles guy). Covers Shawn's singles run, IC champion, the famous WM10 ladder match, getting beat up in Syracuse, winning the Royal Rumble, the WM12 Iron Man match, and then the start of his meltdowns. Tantrums in the ring, using his backstage power to bury people he didn't like, Kliq drama, faking injuries to get out of dropping titles, backstage issues with Bret Hart, Montreal Screwjob, the formation of DX, etc. Dave says that Shawn will be back in WWF sooner or later, in some way and Dave doesn't discount the possibility that he still may wrestle again, "but at best if he does get in the ring, it'll only be a few more times."

- Ah hell, Dave's feeling math-y this week. Time to take a look at who and what draws ratings in these Monday night wars. Dave has all the numbers breaking down ratings by segment for both shows over the past year and breaks it down to Big Ratings Draw (Austin, Hogan, Goldberg, Flair, Nash, Vince, Foley, etc.), Somewhat of a Ratings Draw (Undertaker, Rock, Lex Luger, Benoit, Scott Steiner, DDP, Jericho, The Giant, New Age Outlaws, etc.), Somewhat of a Turn Off (Booker T, Faarooq, Scott Norton, Steve Blackman, etc.) and Major Turn Off (Jeff Jarrett, Val Venis, Bradshaw, Bob Holly, etc.) and then tries to figure out what some of the numbers mean. For instance, the idea that fans want youth is a myth. Every single of the top ratings draws are over 30 years old and most of them are closer to 40. Goldberg is the only "new" star in the top 10 or so ratings draws. Dave says the biggest thing all the top draws (aside from Goldberg and Sting) seem to have in common is the ability to cut good promos. The "Somewhat Good" draws are more young guys, and considering Giant and probably Jericho are going to be jumping ship to WWF this year, that's not a good sign for WCW. Once again, despite being near 50 years old, Ric Flair continues to be a huge ratings draw for WCW even though his storylines are never the main focus of the show. Basically, no matter how hard WCW tries to write off Flair, he's invincible to it because WCW's fanbase still worships him. It's also worth noting that even though WWF trots out half-naked women like Sable on TV every week, there's not a single woman among the top ratings draws. So even though live fans love it, T&A segments don't seem to actually be helping the ratings in any noticeable way. The "Turn Off" categories basically mean that people change channels whenever those guys are on. There's a lot more to this, but it starts getting broken down in really minute ways that gets kinda boring and technical, with percentages and whatnot. Lots of numberzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...........

- WCW Souled Out is in the books and was better than most of their recent PPVs but still not amazing. But it was solid. It was sold out weeks in advance. Chris Benoit opened the show in a nothing-match with Mike Enos, just in case you're wondering how much WCW gave a shit about Benoit at the beginning of 1999. Less than a year later, they'd be so desperate to keep him from going to WWF that they made him world champion and he still walked, but we'll get there. Van Hammer filled in for Steve McMichael in a match against David Finlay because McMichael missed his flight "due to the dreaded personal problems" reasoning. I never heard about it until these Observers, but seems like McMichael had some personal shit going on in 98 and 99. He no-shows a lot of WCW events around this time but somehow never gets fired. They did an angle that appears to lead to Lex Luger and Miss Elizabeth being paired together on TV. During the Luger/Konnan match, Konnan kept rolling out of the ring and at one point was heard on camera telling Luger his back was out and to get the doctor, but he recovered and continued with the match. Chris Jericho beat Saturn in a "loser must wear a dress for 90 days" match and it's interesting because Saturn reportedly volunteered to lose the match. Dave figures he saw how well Brian Pillman got over by wearing a dress and figures as long as he has the dress on, at least he won't be lost in the shuffle and will stand out on TV. Jericho was originally booked to lose since WCW is basically burying him unless he signs a new contract, but Saturn fought for it so he got it. The four-way flippy shit match stole the show (Kidman, Mysterio, Guerrera, and Psicosis). Ric Flair teamed with his son David who has no real training, but he worked out some spots ahead of time and wasn't embarrassing, although Ric handled most of the heavy lifting. Goldberg vs. Hall in a ladder match was better than it had any right to be and Dave thinks the idea of having Goldberg slowly go one-by-one through the NWO until he gets to Hogan is likely going to be WCW's best chance at a hot angle that can hopefully turn the company around (Kevin Nash has actually claimed that this was the original plan, to have Goldberg spend the year tearing through the new NWO one-by-one. But because this is WCW, it somehow ends up with Goldberg spending most of 99 feuding with DDP, Bigelow, and Rick Steiner for whatever reason).

- Dave finally saw the NJPW Jan. 4 Tokyo Dome show, in particular the Hashimoto vs. Ogawa match everyone is talking about. Dave isn't sure what was a work and what was shoot, but he seems to think a lot of it was an angle, although the punches and kicks were certainly very real and Hashimoto was pretty legitimately fucked up by it. Dave seems to think that was the plan, but he doesn't know for sure. Either way, he says it's been the most talked about thing in Japanese wrestling in a long time and it made Ogawa the hot topic of conversation, which was probably the point. But Hashimoto took a beating for it. The post match drama, with everyone rushing the ring seemed to be a shoot, as a lot of the wrestlers clearly weren't in on whatever the plan was. The story has gotten a lot of mainstream news coverage in Japan, with the "a real fight broke out during a fake wrestling match" type coverage. NJPW is now saying they will no longer work with Inoki's UFO promotion due to what happened, although Hashimoto is saying he wants a rematch. Dave suspects that regardless of how much of it was legit, it will all end up turning into an angle eventually once everyone realizes they can work together again and make a lot of money based on what happened (anyway, if you've never seen it, here you go. Imagine this kind of legit chaos breaking out in the middle of a Wrestlemania):

- CMLL in Mexico is still torn between WWF and WCW. The promotion's president Paco Alonso has been having negotiations with both companies and it's leading to conflict. On one hand, WCW wants to work with CMLL to have access to their wrestlers for their potential Lucha Libre show and they have been doing a WCW vs. CMLL angle in Mexico. But a lot of CMLL's stars are unhappy with WCW guys coming in and taking the top spots. As for WWF....2 of CMLL's top stars (El Hijo del Santo and Negro Casas) are also signed to WWF contracts and have been wrestling on their Superastros show. WWF wants to set up a deal with CMLL so they can get more wrestlers from them. If CMLL decides to sign a contract with WCW, they will lose Santo and Casas because WWF will no longer allow them to work with CMLL. So Paco has been floating back and forth on making a decision and seems to just be trying to string both companies along for as long as he can get away with it until he's finally forced to pick a side.

- No news on Giant Baba's medical condition, but there's lots of rumors going around. That's all Dave says for now.

- Most of NJPW's roster has signed new contracts for 1999. The way NJPW does it is that they usually give 1-year deals after the Jan. 4th show and everyone signs on for another year. Everyone got raises. The only 2 people who haven't signed are Keiji Muto and Masa Chono. Word is NJPW actually offered Chono a 5 or 10-year deal but he hasn't signed yet because he wants to be the highest paid guy in the company and he won't sign until Muto signs first.

- Dave reports on the death of Japanese promoter Junzo Hasegawa who was the promoter for JWA back when Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki were the top tag team. The company fell apart when Baba and Inoki tried a power play to take over the promotion, resulting in Inoki fired and Baba left as the sole top star, but then Baba left and formed AJPW and Inoki formed NJPW. Without their top stars, JWA died a year later.

- Super Delfin is quitting Michinoku Pro and is forming his own promotion (would eventually be named Osaka Pro Wrestling). Delfin is also taking several of Michinoku Pro's top stars and backstage employees with him, which is a huge blow to that promotion and they've been forced to cancel several upcoming shows while they figure out how to survive the mass exodus (they survived, but it was rough going).

- A&E's Biography episode on Andre The Giant aired but Dave didn't see it because his VCR malfunctioned. Ah, the 90s. He's heard good things about it though, especially the stuff on his early life before wrestling. It reportedly did monster ratings, which is a good sign. They're working on another one about Jimmy Hart.

- Mad Magazine this month has Austin and McMahon on the cover and some stuff inside written by comedy writer Desmond Devlin, who is also an Observer reader. Dave says it's hilarious and calls it a must-get for wrestling fans. (Not the best scans, but here's all I could find. Man, I used to love Mad Magazine):


- Dave read a recent interview with Dynamite Kid from a British wrestling magazine and says it's an incredible read. At 40-years old, Dynamite Kid is basically paralyzed from the waist down and mostly bedridden due to injuries. That notwithstanding, he said he wouldn't change a thing because he loved wrestling and would do it all again. He also said he hasn't spoken to Davey Boy Smith in 8 years and said he never would again and claimed Smith told lies about him and tried to sabotage a deal he had with AJPW. On Hulk Hogan, he said, "A great man--always laughed, grinned, shook your hand. But he was only in it for himself. He'd have a laugh and share a coffee with you, but when that building sold out, he didn't give a shit if you were paid 50 pence, so long as he got $50,000. Don't get me wrong, I like Hulk Hogan very much, but he was only in it for himself." Dynamite Kid also said he started doing steroids in 1978 when Junkyard Dog gave him some on a tour in Germany. Later he started injecting them and said he was doing 6 shots per day, 3 in each buttcheek (1,200 milligrams a day, dianabol and testosterone) and said without it, he couldn't get above 180 pounds, but on steroids, he was able to get up to 225. Needless to say, that much steroid use is WAY more than the average user and is almost certainly responsible for some of his current medical issues. Kid also admitted using cocaine, halcyons, amphetamines, and marijuana while wrestling and said he was spending $1,200 per week on hotels, beer, and drugs. Dave said reading the interview was eye opening even for him and he said it should serve as a warning to guys like Sabu and Mankind, who have spent years taking worse bumps than Dynamite Kid ever did (somehow, Dynamite Kid is still alive to this day, though still pretty much confined to a wheelchair and still bitter and angry at life).

- Terry Funk was hospitalized this week for issues stemming from Hepatitis. Apparently his liver counts were dangerously elevated and was causing organ problems and he spent 2 days in the hospital for it. He's doing better now but it will take a few weeks before he's 100%.

- The issues with Shane Douglas and ECW have been smoothed over after Paul Heyman laid out future plans for him in an angle that will turn him face. Meanwhile, Sabu is still miserable in ECW and was upset about being left out of the main event match at the last PPV (he did a run-in but he wanted it to be a three way match). He's got an offer on the table from WCW and has been leaning towards taking it but hasn't accepted it yet.

- News from a recent ECW show: they teased putting Dreamer together with Francine (Dave says they're dating in real life...did he and Beulah split up during this time or something? Or is Dave just mistaken?). Sid Vicious almost missed the show because he missed his first flight and had to catch a later one, but he made it near the end of the show and did a 1 minute squash and got a huge pop. Dave thinks it's funny because a few years ago, when Mick Foley left ECW, some fans criticized him for going to WWF to wrestle against guys like The Undertaker. Foley responded by saying that if Undertaker showed up in ECW, those same fans would lose their minds. Considering how popular Sid has been in his few ECW appearances, it's clear that Foley was right.

- There has been talk of bringing Don Callis in to ECW soon, but no word yet on what his role would be. Paul Heyman is also interested in bringing in Taka Michinoku but that would have to go through WWF and he hasn't gotten it cleared yet. Christopher Daniels is also expected to get an ECW tryout soon.

- Dawn Marie is getting breast implants soon.

- Danny Doring found out during a recent ECW show that his mother had died. The locker room took up a collection backstage and at least 3 people donated more than $1,000 each to it.

- Terry Taylor quit WCW before Nitro last week and has accepted a job with WWF to write TV shows with Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera. He was already at work with WWF the next day. Taylor was working in WCW without an existing contract and Dave says he was in a tough position in WCW, having to deal with all the big egos and everyone who has creative control in their contracts vetoing things, and then when the show went badly, Taylor ended up taking the heat and he basically became Eric Bischoff's whipping boy. Dave says having Taylor will be good for WWF because while Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera are undoubtedly writing TV that draws ratings, most of the details of the storylines don't make sense and there's always plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, so hopefully Taylor can help reign things in a little since he has more experience in the wrestling business than Russo or Ferrerea ever have (Taylor's Wikipedia page is hilarious. He spent the entire 1990s bouncing back and forth between WWF and WCW every year or two. There's literally a "fifth return to WWF" category for him).

- Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko have all re-signed with WCW. As for Chris Jericho, there's a lot of heat between him and Eric Bischoff right now because Bischoff claims Jericho verbally agreed to a new deal awhile back, but now he won't sign it. The WWF has reportedly made Jericho their #1 priority as far as who they want to take from WCW, which is certainly good bargaining leverage for him.

- Mick Foley reportedly called Tony Schiavone to confront him about the comments Tony made on Nitro about Foley winning the title. Schiavone told Foley that he was ordered to say what he said by Bischoff.

- There are no long-term plans with David Flair, he was only brought in for the recent angle and match. He reportedly is planning to be a state trooper but hasn't completely closed the door on the idea of wrestling, but he'll need a lot more training if he does (he stuck with wrestling but was never any good at it. Seems as though Charlotte won that genetic lottery).

- Eddie Guerrero is looking to return to the ring in about 3 months after his recent car accident. Even though he's been trying to downplay it, he nearly died a day after the wreck in the hospital due to his liver being lacerated.

- Hogan is trying to get Ed Leslie (Beefcake, a million other gimmicks) back into WCW in some sort of role. He's still under contract but hasn't been used in months.

- Both Goldberg and Perry Saturn have expressed interest in fighting MMA fights for Japanese promotion Shooto, which Dave says has similar rules as UFC. Saturn might have a shot at being allowed to, but with his position in WCW, there's no chance they would allow Goldberg to ever step foot in an MMA ring or cage. Goldberg is reportedly aware of that, but he still says he wish he could do it.

- Hulk Hogan appeared on Mancow's radio show in Chicago and explained why he came back to wrestling so soon after "retiring". Hogan said, "I sat back for a couple of months and watched the ratings plummet and these so-called superstars of five-to-nine years try to carry the load. So, I'm back and ready to put money back in everyone's pockets." Dave says, for the record, Hogan was only gone for 1 complete month and during that month, WCW averaged 10k-plus fans per show and an average gate of nearly $237,000 and that month's PPV did a 1.5 buyrate. The last full month Hogan WAS around, they averaged 7,500 fans per show and an average gate of $159,000ish and the buyrate for that month's PPV (headlined by Hogan and Warrior) did a 0.78. In other words: Hogan is full of shit and WCW business actually increased while he was gone. In fact, Dave says that WWF's success has made people lose sight of the fact that WCW is still doing really good business. They're not beating WWF anymore, but their TV ratings are still fantastic and house show business is strong (although getting weaker because they keep killing towns with no-shows). That's not to say there aren't problems and WCW needs to fix those issues quick. But the idea that they're getting destroyed right now isn't completely true (give it a year). Anyway, Hogan also claimed Vince McMahon recently visited him on a movie set and tried to get him to come back to WWF, but Dave doesn't seem to be buying that. Hogan also claimed that Bret Hart is faking his groin injury. Dave is certain that Bret is really injured, but he says Bret is probably paying the price for all that shit he talked about Hogan for years when he was in WWF. Now he's in WCW and is booked like a midcard joke while Hogan shits on him in radio interviews.

- Speaking of Hart, he wrote another column in the Calgary Sun, this time ripping into Shawn Michaels over his back injury and retirement, basically calling it karma for everything he's done. Dave understands why Bret feels the way he does about Michaels, but he thinks the article comes off as incredibly mean spirited and bitter.

- Scott Hall and Kevin Nash appeared on Mark Madden's radio show and somehow they got on the subject of Shane Douglas. Hall said that if he had any backstage power, he would use it to keep Shane Douglas out of WCW. Nash then chimed in and basically said he does have power and since Scott is his friend, Douglas is shit out of luck if he wants to come to WCW. Apparently Hall is still pissed at Douglas over an incident a few years ago where he and Justin Credible showed up backstage at an ECW show to hang out and mingle and Douglas had Hall kicked out (which, of course, Douglas did because he still had beef with Hall over all the Kliq shit when he was in WWF, so this all goes back years).

- Sable and Luna Vachon are booked for a strap match at Royal Rumble, but the match almost got cancelled. Marc Mero complained about it, saying Sable has limited training and since she's so booked up with promotional appearances before the show, she wouldn't have time to practice a strap match, which Mero thought would be too dangerous. So they scrapped the match, but then they found some free time and she got to work out some spots with Luna and everyone agreed to go ahead and let the match happen, so it's back on. But word is Sable is unhappy with the sexualized character she's been playing and is trying to get them to change her gimmick to be more respectable and not be in her underwear every week. Dave says it's clear that WWF is starting to push Debra as the new get-naked-every-week female of the show.

- WWF is meeting with both Tank Abbott and Kimo Leopoldo this week about possibly facing Bart Gunn at Wrestlemania in a Brawl For All match. Abbott has actually expressed interest in becoming a wrestler full time.

- This week's Raw featured the angle with Mark Henry making out with a cross-dresser, only to put his hand up the dress and find a penis. Dave thinks the whole thing was juvenile and didn't seem to be a fan.

- A blonde fitness model named Trish Stratus was on TSN's Off The Record this week and said she's looking to get into the WWF as a valet (was she using the name "Trish Stratus" before WWF? Because this is well over a year before she debuts).

- Sable will officially be on the cover of the April issue of Playboy. She will also be appearing on an episode of Penn & Teller's FX show.

- WWF will be airing a Sunday Night Heat special called Halftime Heat during halftime of this year's Super Bowl. Dave expects it will do a huge rating (yup. I've always kinda wondered why they don't do that again).

- Two of the members of Kaientai (Mens Teioh and Dick Togo) asked for and were given their release and are going back to Japan. Taka Michinoku also asked for his release but WWF denied it because they assume he'd go to WCW and he would probably get over there since he's the most talented of the bunch and WCW actually knows how to book cruiserweights. Funaki has not asked for his release.

- WWF is dropping their 900 line. They stopped promoting it months ago anyway and have been doing all their promoting on their website which has been a huge success.

- Jerry Lawler is reportedly considering running for mayor of Memphis. After the surprise success of Jesse Ventura and given Lawler's popularity in Memphis, the other candidates are said to be taking the rumors very seriously (yup, he ran for mayor and ended up finishing in 3rd out of 16 other candidates. I remember I was in high school at the time and one day a bunch of us skipped school and went to the local fair. Lawler was there, shaking hands and kissing babies and trying to drum up support. It was the first time I'd ever met him and I talked to him for several minutes about wrestling stuff and he was friendly. He gave me a Lawler For Mayor sticker but I lost it a long time ago).

- The Giant had liposuction on his stomach this week. WWF has made no secret about wanting him to lose weight before he comes in and he evidently couldn't do it naturally.

- Lots of letters trashing WCW, specifically for trying to spoil the Mankind title win and for Schiavone's comments about Foley (which Dave again reminds people was ordered by Bischoff and not to take out too much wrath on poor Tony who was just doing what he was told). Someone else writes in asking what his favorite year in wrestling is. The letter writer says 1989 was his favorite. Dave says 1996. The Monday night wars were just heating up, WWF and WCW were trying to outdo each other with a better product rather than shock value, multiple companies in Japan were having great years, shoot fighting promotions were starting to hit their stride, etc. Basically all the major promotions were putting forth their best product. Since then, WWF is the only one that has gotten better, the rest have all gotten worse. That being said, he thinks the last 2 years have been more interesting to cover from a news standpoint.
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(04-25-2018, 10:18 AM)Peezy Wrote: 1-25-1999
- A blonde fitness model named Trish Stratus was on TSN's Off The Record this week and said she's looking to get into the WWF as a valet (was she using the name "Trish Stratus" before WWF? Because this is well over a year before she debuts).

i was watching all of these Raws and etc. in real time a couple years back. there was a quick plug for some appearances from "WWF Superstars Val Venis and Trish Stratus" about 6 months before she debuted. Caught me off guard.
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Yeah, Trish was her stage name she used as a fitness model.

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Dreamer and Francine dated throughout the rest of ecw's existence. I met them at a Waffle House after the last ever ecw show and those two were definitely a couple then

Dave looks at business numbers for 1998 and needless to say, basically every record got destroyed. The 1998 numbers compared to 1997 are staggering. WWF live attendance increased more than 71% over the year before. TV ratings increased nearly 49%. PPV buyrates increased 67%. Over 33% of their live shows were legit sellouts (compared to only 16% in '97). WCW was the same story. 46% increase in attendance, 56% increase in ratings, 17% increase in buyrates, and 49% of its shows sold out. An estimated 3.85 million people attended WWF and WCW shows during 1998, generating about $78 million in gate revenue ($38m for WCW, $40m for WWF). Dave starts tossing in other numbers and percentages, accounting for ECW and other indies and whatnot. WWF did better numbers than WCW in every category throughout most of 1998. WCW peaked in March and has been on a steady decline ever since. Meanwhile, WWF peaked in December and still seem to be on the rise. There's a lot more detail in this but yanno....numbers. Meh.

- AJPW and NJPW numbers are also covered, but in less detail. AJPW attendance was down slightly (10%) from last year, and both years are the lowest of the decade, so not good news there. For most of the year, they were having their lowest attendance numbers in company history, but the arrival of Vader seems to have given them a boost near the end of the year. TV ratings held steady and basically didn't change. And no matter what, AJPW's first ever Tokyo Dome show more than made up for any declining numbers by generating millions of much-needed dollars for the company. As for NJPW, attendance increased slightly (about 5%) but TV ratings dropped significantly (nearly 20%) which is obviously not great news.

- Toshiaki Kawada won AJPW's Triple Crown title last week from Misawa but he also broke his right wrist and forearm during the match by hitting Misawa in the back of the head with a spinning backfist that hit so hard that it hurt the wrong guy. He finished the match, going another 15 minutes after. Three days after the match, Kawada underwent surgery and it's believed he'll be out until May (when AJPW has their 2nd ever Tokyo Dome show). Kawada will be vacating the title he just won and it's unclear what they will do next to crown a new champion. There's a lot of problems because they had months of booking planned already and now it all has to be scrapped and it throws plans for several upcoming major shows into chaos (man, I bet it sucked to be Misawa right now. At this moment, Baba is hospitalized and no one knows why, not even Misawa allegedly, and he's running the company while also having to deal with this shit. I can only imagine the stress that dude was dealing with).

Injury happens at 12:50

- WWF's Royal Rumble is in the books. From an in-ring standpoint, aside from one match (Rock/Mankind), it wasn't great and shows the lack of depth WWF has when it comes to in-ring talent. But from a story and booking standpoint, the show opened up a lot of possible doors. It was sold out weeks in advance and it's likely going to do a huge buyrate if early projections are any indication. Some of the show (specifically Rock/Mankind) was brutally violent but aside from that, the show was actually somewhat toned down compared to recent Raws and PPVs. There's starting to be whispers of sponsors getting uncomfortable with the product so that's probably why.

- Other notes from the show: Christian beat Jeff Hardy in a dark match. Too Much (Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor) also did a dark match job and Dave mentions that the plan to have them do a gay wedding angle at the February PPV has been scrapped, which is why they have been de-pushed on TV. Word is neither guy was exactly thrilled about doing it (we'd get Billy & Chuck a few years later). The announcers talked about how Mankind has never submitted in his entire career, which Dave points out is just patently ridiculous because he tapped out on WWF TV just a few months ago. Then they said the same thing about Billy Gunn later in the show, which was even more absurd. Mabel returned and will end up as part of Undertaker's group, which Dave is just THRILLED about. The finish of X-Pac/Gangrel was screwed up when referee Teddy Long counted 3 for a spot when he wasn't supposed to. The crowd chanted "you fucked up" at everybody as the match went to the planned finish a moment later. The Sable/Luna strap match ended the exact same way every strap match since the beginning of time has ended, with the heel dragging the face to each corner while, unbeknownst to them, the face is also touching each corner, and then the face manages to get the last one. Dave points out how that doesn't even make sense because the object is to drag your opponent to each corner, and every time they do this finish, the heel is the one pulling them, so that shouldn't count. But whatever. And the Rumble match was basically built around Vince and Austin. As far as Rumble matches go, it was probably the worst Rumble ever, but it at least had some stories going on within the context of the match.

- Oh yeah. The Rock vs. Mankind match. For starters, Dave congratulates Observer reader Bryan Alvarez, who called the Observer hotline and predicted the finish (playing the audio of Mankind saying "I quit" from the previous week's Raw). The match was going along fine and then Rock handcuffed Mankind's hands behind his back. And from there, it got sick. Eleven full-force brutal chairshots to the head. Beyond overkill. Dave says it didn't remotely qualify as entertainment and he's worried that Mick Foley is going to end up with no brain cells left and says 90% of the calls they got on the Observer hotline were people pissed at Foley for going along with that. Dave pretty much found the whole thing sickening and hopes we never see anything like it again (yeah, needless to say this one is famous for pretty much all the wrong reasons).

- Raw's ratings lead over Nitro is now 13 weeks in a row and counting and the gap between the two shows seems to be getting wider every week, although this week it was actually kinda close. WCW experimented with doing the main event match at the end of the first hour to try to prevent people from switching over to Raw when it started and it seemed to work a little bit, although not enough to matter. Raw still demolished them.

- Still no real details on the condition of Giant Baba. Every year, AJPW does a big birthday celebration show for him, and this year, he obviously wasn't able to attend as he's still hospitalized. But word is they brought him a tape of the show and he watched it with a big smile on his face. There's hope that Baba will be back before AJPW's Tokyo Dome show in May. Those close to him aren't saying what exactly is wrong but are telling people that it's not that serious (spoiler alert: we'll be covering his obituary in the next issue).

- Scott Norton is said to be really upset about how his IWGP title reign went down. He was apparently told it was going to be a year-long title reign, but it ended up getting cut short (about 4 months) and he lost the title to Keiji Muto at the Jan. 4th show. Norton is telling people he's finished with NJPW (naaaah).

- Still a lot of news coverage of the Hashimoto/Ogawa match from the Jan. 4th show. It's looking more and more as if it was a real shoot and some are saying Hashimoto was aware beforehand that it was going to be a 100% shoot match. There have been claims that he covered himself in oil before the match so he could slip out of Ogawa's holds and Dave says looking at the match, that does appear to be true. But at this point, the consensus is that the match was a shoot, not an angle. Whether Hashimoto was aware of it being a shoot from the beginning is still somewhat debated.

- Jesse Ventura was recently sworn in as the governor of Minnesota and it's already going poorly. His appointee to head the Dept. of Natural Resources resigned 6 days after starting the job when it was discovered he had several fines and citations for hunting and fishing violations. Fun side note: the judge who swore Ventura in as governor is the same judge who ruled in his favor in his lawsuit against WWF several years ago.

- Tajiri vs. Super Crazy matches have reportedly been stealing the show at all of the recent ECW house shows and it's expected that they will face each other on next month's Living Dangerously PPV (yup).

- Dawn Marie is getting breast implants this week. ECW is paying for it since they basically asked her to do it.

- Speaking of ECW women, they did a backstage interview with Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido, which is the first time they've really shown Tammy's face up close on TV in awhile and Dave says she looks like she hasn't slept in months (yeah she was really starting to look haggard during this time. Drugs are bad, mmm'kay).

- There have been rumors that Sid Vicious no-showed a recent ECW house show but it's not true. He actually wasn't booked. "He will no-show at some point soon, it just hasn't happened yet," Dave says.

- WCW is almost certainly going to do a match at SuperBrawl that will lead to Rey Mysterio being unmasked. Bischoff tried to get Mysterio to unmask in 1997 and it turned into a huge issue, with Mysterio almost quitting the company and Bischoff threatening to sue him for breach of contract. But this time, Mysterio is said to be okay with it, since Kevin Nash is booking everything now and Mysterio says he trusts Nash to do right by him (Mysterio has since completely gone the other way on this and says he regrets ever doing it).

- Wrestling media for the week: DDP appearing on Regis & Kathy Lee. Goldberg appearing on Jay Leno. Maxim, Forbes, and Playboy all doing magazine stories on wrestling. Larry Zbyszko appeared on MTV with Rob Zombie, leading to Zbyszko saying the last time he worked with a zombie was when he wrestled Dusty Rhodes, which Dave thinks was hilarious. A bunch of other WCW guys appeared on the MTV show also.

- Chris Jericho's sidekick Ralphus is actually one of the ring crew guys who drives the ring from city to city. He gets paid $200 per appearance for being on TV every week.

- Stu and Helen Hart won't be losing the Hart family home after all. Whatever shit was going on with that has been settled, although they may still have to sell some of the land near the house that they own.

- A big group of school teachers and the school board in Winnipeg are still fighting to get WWF's Raw pushed back to a later airtime so kids won't watch it. Dave points out that kids still know to use VCRs. WWF of course tries to push the narrative that they are for adults and that their prime audience is the 18-34 demographic. Dave calls bullshit and says that the highest rated age group for Raw is actually teenagers and young children aren't that far behind. Obviously, that is the parent's responsibility, not WWFs, but regardless, the idea that kids aren't watching WWF is ludicrous because they're actually watching it more than any other demographic.

- When reviewing Raw, Dave goes on a rant about WWF bringing Mabel back and putting him with Undertaker's group. He talks about how WWF basically buried Vader due to his size, despite him being 10x the worker Mabel ever was and in much better shape. He was also a big star and doesn't have a reputation of carelessly injuring people that Mabel apparently has. "They should have brought back Sid or Ahmed Johnson way before this clown," Dave says. Tell us how you really feel. Besides, Dave wonders, when they're just weeks away from bringing in The Giant from WCW, what purpose does Mabel serve?

- On Raw, Mankind challenged the Rock to an empty arena match to take place during halftime of the Super Bowl. Dave thinks whoever came up with the idea deserves a raise because it's a pretty brilliant idea.

- Remember how WWF bought into that casino in Las Vegas and planned to turn it into a WWF Hotel & Casino? Well now they plan to tear down the whole building and rebuild. They want to be able to do live shows from there, but the current building isn't structured in a way that would allow them to set it up as an arena to do shows.

- WWF's upcoming Super Bowl commercial will reportedly be called "A Day At The Office" and will feature a bunch of wrestlers and stunt men and explosions and whatnot during a tour of WWF's Titan Towers. Dave recaps the entire commercial, frame by frame exactly, even though it hasn't aired yet. But he's got the scoop on what it will be. Anyway, WWF reportedly paid $1.6 million for the 30-second ad and it will air in the 3rd quarter. The next day, they plan to launch a multi-million dollar ad campaign, mostly to shit-talk all the critics of their product.

- Lance Storm writes in a letter to the Observer and Dave responds:

Just a small complaint. When writing match results, do you actually watch the match or are you retelling someone else's account. Perhaps I'm a bit too detail conscience or even a bit anal retentive, but I find it frustrating when match details are incorrect. Your recent account of my PPV match with Rob Van Dam strongly resembled our match, but had a couple of moves credited to the wrong person and a false finish out of order or wrong. Maybe these details are insignificant, but in a newsletter that voices its opinions as absolute, it would be nice if the actual facts were as well.

Lance Storm
Calgary, Alberta

DM: I watch every PPV match. In doing match write-ups, the idea is not to list moves or spots in order but attempt to tell the story of the match listing things that stick out after it's over and thus had impact, and not necessarily to place those spots in their specific order. If a spot is credited to the wrong person, that's an unforgivable mistake.

- Other letters: people pissed at Mick Foley for likely allowing himself to get brain damage in the Rumble match, someone pissed that Steve Austin won wrestler of the year ("He only has 5 moves, and flipping off Vince McMahon is one of them"), someone comparing Tony Schiavone following Eric Bischoff's orders to bury Mick Foley to the Nazi's following Hitler's orders, and more.
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- We open with the passing of Giant Baba from bowel cancer. His death spells the end of a major chapter in Japanese wrestling history. Dave talks about Baba's pop culture status in Japan and how, alongside Antonio Inoki, he was someone that everyone, from children to grandmothers in Japan was familiar with. When it comes to his influence on wrestling history, only a few people are up there alongside him: Inoki, Vince McMahon, and maaaaybe Sam Muchnick or Toots Mondt. Baba lived a very secretive private life (for years, no one even knew he was married) and his death was the same way. Rumors were spread, but for the last 2 months as he was dying, almost no one had any details. He had 2 surgeries in recent months to remove the cancer, but they weren't successful. Even Mitsuharu Misawa, who is basically inheriting AJPW, wasn't aware of how serious the issues were and wasn't even allowed to visit him in the hospital. Misawa didn't even know Baba had cancer until after he died. After Baba's death, Misawa, Jumbo Tsuruta, and Mitsuo Momota Jr. held a press conference, carried live on television, announcing Baba's death to the public. Misawa in particular was shaken since Baba's death essentially makes him "one of the four kings of the industry" and he only found out 2 hours before everyone else in the world did. Baba's death was the lead story nationwide in every newspaper and TV news show in Japan. Even TV-Asahi, which co-owns NJPW and is basically the competition to AJPW's network, devoted most of it's 30 minute newscast to Baba's death. Baba was cremated and his funeral was held 2 days later and virtually every network in Japan aired the ceremony live.

- Interestingly, it's believed that Baba was possibly the wealthiest person ever in wrestling history. There's thought that Vince McMahon might have been worth more, and maaaaybe Hogan but probably not. Baba had made millions in wrestling and invested it wisely in stocks and real estate and was a multi-millionaire many times over, but he always kept his finances very private. Much like the recently deceased Sam Muchnick, Baba had a reputation as one of the most honest promoters ever and during the 70s and 80s he was known for paying top stars big money. Ted Dibiase once said that a handshake from Baba was worth more than any signed, legally binding contract with another promoter. But he also had a problem adapting to the changing times and as the 90s came around, he didn't really account for inflation and didn't keep up with the amount of money top stars could make elsewhere, which partly led to AJPW's business going on a downswing for the last several years, since WWF and WCW were giving out guaranteed contracts in the millions.

- Anyway, Dave recaps Baba's career in extreme detail. He talks at length about how the style of wrestling that Baba promoted was more serious, treated as real athletics, and had more credibility because of it, but was more physically demanding than any other promotion. He talks about all the things in the business that Baba either invented or popularized and innovated that other companies still copy today. The obituary covers his childhood and early baseball career, getting into wrestling training under Rikidozan (alongside Inoki), wrestling against and teaming with Inoki (Dave notes that Baba never lost a match to Inoki), becoming a big star in the U.S. during the 1960s, returning to Japan and becoming a top star there in the 1970s and basically saving the business of pro wrestling in Japan after Rikidozan's death, Baba leaving JWA to form his own promotion AJPW (just months after Inoki formed NJPW). Then we get the 2+ decade long war between Baba and Inoki, AJPW vs. NJPW and how different the 2 men were. From here, it's basically a long history of AJPW which is super interesting. Stealing all the disgruntled stars away from NJPW who were tired of Inoki's shit, the glory years of the late 80s, leaving the NWA as it started to crumble, working with WWF, the revitalized early-90s under Misawa and Kobashi and others, etc. etc. This is another one of those really great pieces that makes the $10.99 Observer subscription worth it, even just for one month, just to read this in full. If you're a wrestling history buff, this is incredible stuff on the entire history of AJPW up to this point.

- On to other news: Mankind and The Rock had their empty arena match. It aired during halftime of the Super Bowl and was actually taped a few days earlier. Dave says it was more like an 18 minute long fight scene from a movie rather than a match. Either way, it was a huge ratings success, doing a 6.59 rating on USA and making it the single most watched WWF match in history on cable and the highest rated WWF show on USA in 11 years. Even the normal episode of Sunday Night Heat, which was airing DURING the 2nd quarter of the Super Bowl did a 3.36 rating which is huge considering it was going head-to-head with the biggest TV event of the year. Dave recaps it and basically it ended with Mankind regaining the WWF title despite a stupid finish (Dave doesn't do justice to just how atrocious that finish is. Even Mick Foley, in his 2nd book, shits all over the stupid camera angle stunt and felt it ruined the whole match).

- Back to AJPW news. With Misawa now in charge of the company, everyone is wondering how he's going to run things. AJPW used to be the company where all the top foreigners wanted to work because of the great money, but then Baba got cheap and didn't want to keep up with the big money other promotions started offering. AJPW has also been pretty isolationist in the last couple of decades, almost never working with other promotions. People are hoping that with Misawa in charge, he may be willing to pay more to bring in big stars and may be more open to building relationships with other groups than Baba was. WWF is said to be interested in a relationship and had pursued it recently but due to Baba's health, it didn't go anywhere at the time.

- With Masa Chono out of action due to contract issues and Shinya Hashimoto injured, suspended, and still not signed to a new contract all at the same time, NJPW business is down and tickets are selling poorly. To try to help move tickets for next week's big show, NJPW "accidentally" leaked that Atsushi Onita will be making a "surprise" appearance (and thus, the slow downfall of NJPW has begun and they'll pretty much stay like this for the next 12 years or so before the beginning of the resurgence they're now experiencing).

- Jacques Rougeau is opening his own indie promotion in Quebec and plans to start running shows, often headlined by himself (fun fact: it was on these little Rougeau indie shows that a young Kevin Steen first got his start in the biz).

- The Barry Blaustein movie tentatively titled "Hittin' The Mat" will be out later this year. Despite rumors that it's a Mick Foley documentary, it's actually a documentary about the wrestling industry as a whole. Foley plays a prominent role in it, but so do Terry Funk and Jake Roberts.

- To everyone's surprise, Sid Vicious continues to make all of his ECW appearances and he's actually been by far the most popular person at the shows, getting huge reactions every time he comes out.

- Sandman debuted on WCW Nitro and had a match with Bigelow, but he was never identified by name or given a new one. He came out with his cane and some barbed wire and cut a decent promo before the match, but most of the audience didn't seem to know who he was, although some did. And the announcers tried to get him over while still not having a name for him.

- WCW taped a pilot episode for their potential Lucha Libre TV show. Eddie Guerrero was supposed to be backstage to help run the show, but his doctor told him not to fly because he's still too injured from his car wreck a month ago. As for the taping, it was said to be a fiasco, with bad matches, things going wrong, etc. although by the magic of editing, it may end up okay (it was called Festival De Lucha and never went anywhere beyond this single taping. Most of the footage never saw the light of day, although one of the matches was released on the WWE Network in the Hidden Gems collection. Enjoy):

- Ernest Miller and Billy Kidman apparently got into a little fight with each other at a bar after Nitro but it was quickly broken up.

- Kevin Nash and DDP held a backstage meeting before Nitro, telling all the wrestlers to start being on time when they arrive at the arena because they plan to start doing more pre-taped stuff before the shows (basically to copy part of Raw's successful formula) and Nash also said that everybody has to be willing to do jobs.

- DDP appeared on the Regis & Kathy Lee show and did a bit where he gave the diamond cutter to a guy in the crowd. The guy in the crowd was actually Ray Lloyd, aka Glacier, doing a new coach gimmick where he blows a whistle at people (he later debuted that gimmick in WCW about 8 months later but it doesn't last).

- Goldberg was offered a guest appearance on the show ER but WCW nixed it because filming would conflict with a Nitro taping. Dave thinks that's pretty damn stupid considering Goldberg has missed several Nitros in the past simply because he wasn't booked and they could have easily written him off for a week in order to let one of their biggest stars appear on one of the highest rated shows on network TV. Speaking of ER, George Clooney was reportedly backstage at a recent WCW house show in Los Angeles and comedian Dennis Miller was at ringside.

- Goldberg recently spoke before Congress about trying to do more to stop cockfighting and other animal fighting. Goldberg is said to be a really big animal rights activist.

- Bret Hart is seriously considering writing a book (still several years away from that. But if you haven't read it, it's honestly one of the best wrestling books ever).

- The story behind Terry Taylor jumping ship to WCW is this: there were rumors that he was going, so Eric Bischoff approached Taylor and said if he's not happy in WCW to just leave. Taylor responded that he's under a lot of pressure and his father is having health problems. Bischoff offered him time off without pay. Taylor balked at that and instead went to WWF since he wasn't under contract.

- The woman in Memphis who accused the Giant of exposing himself to her has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Giant and WCW. The actual criminal charges were dropped by the Memphis police due to lack of evidence.

- Early numbers for Royal Rumble are that it did a 1.57 buyrate, making it the biggest Rumble in history. Needless to say, it was a pretty huge success. Of course, WWF still had to try to embellish it. On Raw this week, announcer Michael Cole claimed that the WWF had replaced Mike Tyson as the biggest draw on PPV and acted as if the Rumble had broken Tyson's records. For what it's worth, the last Tyson/Holyfield fight did a 6.0 buyrate so, yanno, almost 4x what Rumble did. Even Tyson's last fight against Francois Botha did a 1.88 buyrate and that was considered a disappointment. So no, WWF is nowhere close to passing Tyson as a PPV draw or breaking his records. That doesn't mean WWF isn't doing huge business though. They've legitimately sold out 29 of their last 31 house shows dating back to November and is on pace to have the most successful year for any promotion in the history of wrestling. Dave doesn't understand why they constantly feel the need to embellish things when the truth is already impressive enough.

- There was a big TV event featuring critics and other industry people. TNT and USA both held press conferences on different days. USA was grilled over the content of the WWF and Vince McMahon was on hand as well and...it didn't go well. He came off poorly, first claiming that their content is no worse than anything else on TV. When asked about all the middle finger stuff, Vince claimed not to know what that means (lol). He also trashed WCW and said "They can't compare to us. The only thing they can do is throw negatives and grenades. They're nasty people. I don't like them. Ted Turner can go to hell. I hope one day he does". So yeah...not a good look from a corporate CEO at a media event. As for TNT, their press conference was attended by Eric Bischoff and he responded to all of McMahon's comments by saying, "Where I draw the line is stuff that's of a sexual nature...the homophobic type of things that are out there, things that are religious or racially based...quite frankly, I think what our competition is doing isn't necessarily going to increase the pool of advertisers willing to spend their dollars in our industry." A lot of critics wrote stories on the press conference, almost all negative about McMahon. That being said, despite Bischoff's repeated claims about advertisers, so far WWF isn't having any trouble getting them. Speaking of ads...

- WWF got a lot of publicity out of their Super Bowl commercial. Dave recaps the commercial and also says that the stunt man who jumped out of the Titan Tower window ended up suffering a knee injury on the stunt. WWF also had a full page ad in USA Today the day after. The ad was a totally misleading graphic implying that the WWF's Super Bowl commercial was the best reviewed commercial of the game. The heading said "Best Newcomer" and then they spliced the WWF's name right there under the heading. In reality, the WWF commercial finished 29th out of 52 in the ad meter voting of all the commercials.

- Billy Gunn was planned to win the IC title at Royal Rumble from Ken Shamrock, but word is Gunn has been a problem lately backstage (Dave doesn't elaborate) and they didn't want to reward his behavior, so instead he ended up tapping out to Shamrock in the match and didn't win the title.

- Kane was busted open badly on Raw in his cage match with Triple H and ended up needing several staples to close it. He was on the road all the next week but didn't wrestle and only made appearances.

- Dan Severn is on his way out of WWF. They wanted him to do a shoot-fight against Steve Blackman, but he refused because he and Blackman are friends. Then he was given the option of taking his release and getting a severance check. Or he could remain under contract for the next year and be jobbed out. As it looks now, he'll be finishing up his advertised dates for the next week or two and then take the buyout and leave. Basically, he just didn't get over and they didn't want him anymore. He's been jobbing to Blackman at house shows for the last couple of weeks.

- Jim Ross met with Tank Abbott about coming in recently, but nothing was agreed to. They're also still talking about bringing Butterbean in to do a Brawl For All match against Bart Gunn at Wrestlemania. Butterbean still has 1 match left on a WWF contract he signed a couple of years ago, but that's for a worked match, not a shoot. Dave doesn't see any upside to Butterbean doing a shoot match in WWF. If he wins, fine but if he somehow loses, it would be devastating for his real boxing career. There doesn't seem to be much upside for him to risk it. That being said, Butterbean's popularity in the boxing world has diminished lately anyway and it's possible WWF may just pay off his contract and not even do a 2nd match with him.

- Sable will likely be phased out of full-time wrestling except for an occasional gimmick match. But expect them to push her Wrestlemania match hard to promote the Playboy cover.

- The Giant (who we're now calling Paul Wight, since he won't be using his WCW name in WWF and no one knows what his WWF gimmick will be yet) will likely make his in-ring debut at Wrestlemania, but he'll likely be on TV in some way long before that.

- The Rock, Ernie Ladd, Ken Shamrock, and the Hardy Boyz will appear on this week's episode of That 70s Show.

- Howard Stern made fun of the WWF on his show recently, talking about the skit with Mark Henry and the transvestite that was apparently giving him a blowjob. Even Howard Stern said that shouldn't be on a TV show that kids watch.

- Pretty funny letter in the Observer this week that's worth copying in full since we ain't got anything else left:

Quote:I'm so confused...

Instead of wrestlers always having to order the sound booth to "cut the music," shouldn't the WWF and WCW simply hire technicians with better timing?

Sonny Onoo always seems to have plenty of money. Why doesn't he use some of it to buy a sports jacket that fits, so we won't have to pull the laps to adjust it every 30 seconds?

In EMLL or AAA, do the wrestlers piledrive each other through the English announcers table?

Is Jose Lothario angry at Mick Foley for bumping him down to the No. 2 spot for "Most Famous Sock" in pro wrestling history?

Do you agree that the best job in America is being a woman wrestler? After all, the same day your start, you're already among the five best.

When record keepers credit Jerry Lawler with holding more than 100 championships, does that count the time when he put the gum under his toy Karate fighter's feet to win the tournament?

If the WWF employs a wrestler whose last name is Test, is it pretty safe to assume that his first name is not "Steroid?"

Why do they make a big deal about Steve McMichael's one measly Super Bowl, when his ex-wife Debra has two of 'em? And her super bowls are getting more and more super with every augmentation.

Which high-ranking WWF official personally auditioned the male transvestites for the cameo role as the seducer of Mark Henry? Could answering that question shut you down for years?

Will Hulk Hogan spend the next eight years of his life obsessing about "getting his win back" from Jay Leno the way he did with Ultimate Warrior?

Now that Kevin Nash vs. The Giant matches are nothing but a beautiful, beautiful memory, does this mean we get to see six months of a heated "Who's the TRUE giant," feud between Giant and Giant Silva?

How come Perry Saturn's dress shows off less nipple than Jacqueline's?

Is it true that Kane got his name from the film "Citizen Kane?" I say there's no way. That was a moving picture.

Mr. Fuji hasn't been around the sport of kings since around 1995. Is it true that he's now running a KFC franchise, where he recently won the "Worst Manager" award for the fourth straight year?

Who was Pope the last time somebody sold one of NWO Vincent's punches?

Am I correct in calculating that Roddy Piper has held the same number of championship belts during his entire WWF and WCW career as Judy Bagwell has in hers?

When Vince McMahon wrestles Steve Austin in the cage match, will McMahon adhere to the time-honored traditions of the business that made him?

If Kurrgan ever fights in a ladder match, will be the third most agile participant in the ring by default?

My friend has a wrestling audio tape that's filled with agonizing shrieks of "Oh my God, No! No! AAIIEEE, the pain! STOP IT! STOP IT!" But there's no label. Is this a secret recording from Stu Hart's dungeon? Or is it just the Nitro audience watching Scott Steiner do one of his eight minute promos?

If Luna Vachon got a job taking fast food orders through an electronic drive-through speaker, would her voice sound normal?

Why do WCW announcers falsely report the entire NWO is in the house, when we haven't seen a single glimpse of the "TBS Dinner and a Movie" guys since the fateful night they turned NWO 4 life?

According to the current U.S. life expectancy charts for males, I should live another 40 or 50 years. Do you think I'll ever get to see one pro wrestling arm-wrestling match end cleanly?

Hawk fell off a 50-foot scaffold weeks ago, but I've yet to read his obituary in the Observer. Did he use the same doctor who performed the miracle when The Giant fell off the roof of the building?

The advertisements for the WCW credit cards confuse me. Isn't having an all-plastic picture of the Nitro Girls kind of redundant?

If Hulk Hogan can knock over and pin Kevin Nash with a gentle one-finger tap, how come Scott Hall has never beaten anyone with his devastating toothpick hurl?

Why are people to enthused by "Hitman Hart" Wrestling with Shadows," or the upcoming Jesse Ventura movie? After all, Ken Shamrock has had twice as many movies inspired by his entire act--"Scream" and "Scream 2."

Does Eric Bischoff plan to reveal the endings of pre-taped episodes of "Ally McBeal" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" episodes to really jack up those Nitro ratings?

Desmond Devil
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

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- Main story this week is more details and follow-up on the death of Giant Baba. The reaction in Japan has been huge, with comparisons to the death of Elvis Presley or John Lennon here in America. Baba was considered a national hero in Japan. Every TV network and more than 200 other reporters camped outside of Baba's home during the private funeral service. Dave says it's tempting for American fans to view Baba in comparison to someone like Hulk Hogan here in America, but in Japan, Baba was far bigger. Dave compares it to more like a cultural icon such as Babe Ruth or Frank Sinatra and that he's arguably one of the top 5 most famous athletes in post-WWII Japan. More than a week after his death, it was still front page news in many newspapers. A telegram company, similar to Western Union, actually had to shut down for several days because they ran out of paper from people sending telegram condolences to Baba's family. (WHAT CENTURY IS THIS?!) The AJPW offices received over 100,000 letters within three days of his death. Wrestling videos with Baba have sold out nationwide. Dave once again talks about Baba's legacy as one of the most influential people in the business, both as a wrestler and later as a promoter and says aside from Vince McMahon, he may be arguably the most important figure in wrestling history.

- As mentioned last week, Baba was very private and almost no one knew he was even sick until the very end. There are rumors that he learned of his cancer as far back as 5 years ago but kept it mostly to himself until the very end. Certainly by the time he was wrestling his last matches, his body was already riddled with cancer at that point. Baba's wife Motoko Baba has a reputation as the most feared woman in the business, with many people calling her the bad cop to her husband's good cop role. She reportedly tried to keep her husband's death secret and even when rumors started to spread that he had died, she denied it to people who contacted her. But when it became clear that the secret couldn't be contained anymore and newspapers were planning to report it the next day, she held a press conference to confirm it. She did an interview this week to tell her version of the story (which many people doubt): she claims that when Baba wrestled his final match in December, he still believed he had a bad cold but she claims doctors had already told her it was terminal cancer and that he didn't yet know. She says the cancer spread over the next 2 months and that on Jan. 30, he was told he only had hours to live and, of course, he died the next day. As for the future, Misawa will be taking over as the new president of AJPW and it's believed his wife will remain involved with the business side as well. There's been talk of doing a big tribute show at the upcoming Tokyo Dome show in May (which would surely sell out) and all the other Japanese promotions, even NJPW, have volunteered to take part and help. But Misawa has turned them all down, saying it would be a purely AJPW show because that's what Baba would have wanted.

- With Raw preempted this week because of that stupid fucking dog show (grrrr), Nitro did near-record ratings even though it was a terrible show. Nitro's rating, without competition from Raw, was a 5.67 which is about the same rating Raw has been doing every week when they DO have competition from Nitro. Anyway, it was a shitty show and the quarter-hour ratings pretty much proved it, with fans dropping out in droves during most segments throughout the show.

- Even though it was preempted in the U.S., Raw was still happening and aired live in Canada, but it will be airing in the U.S. later in the week. It was also taped in Canada, at the Sky Dome in Toronto and was the largest crowd in the history of the Monday Night Wars, with over 41,000 fans in the building and set a bunch of Canadian attendance and gate records also. As for the show itself, Dave hasn't seen it but reports were that it was pretty bad also, with the fans somewhat out of control. Earl Hebner got the most heat of anyone in the company and was greeted with loud chants of "You screwed Bret!" A new valet named Ivory debuted, who used to be Tina Ferrari in GLOW back in the 80s.

- Perry Saturn and Shane Douglas both had heart scares this week. In Saturn's case, he was having shortness of breath that kept getting worse at his hotel and he tried to drive himself to the hospital but got to the point where he almost couldn't breathe at all. He stopped at a toll booth and alerted the people there, who called an ambulance and had him rushed to the hospital. He had EKG tests done that concerned the doctors and they wanted to keep him overnight, but he checked himself out against their wishes and flew home to Atlanta. He had more tests done when he got home and is hoping to be cleared to return to the ring soon. Saturn has been wrestling with a back injury, compressed vertebrae and discs and whatnot and he believes something related to that sent him into a panic attack which made his heart go nuts, thus the EKG readings.

- In Shane Douglas' case, he was also in a car driving back from a show when he started suffering heart attack symptoms and went to the hospital. As of press time, he hasn't been released and there's no word if he actually had a heart attack or not, but he's been in the hospital for 3 days so it's probably something serious. Douglas is telling people he expects to be back at shows this week, although he won't be wrestling.

- El Santo, one of the biggest national heroes in the history of wrestling (even bigger in Mexico than Baba was in Japan) was honored with a show marking the 15th anniversary of his death in Mexico last week. Despite not being an officially recognized holiday, the day of El Santo's death is a big deal nationwide every year. CMLL held a big ceremony that was attended by several thousand fans and all 10 of Santo's sons. Of course, this being wrestling, they still turned it into an angle. When El Hijo del Santo was shown visiting his father's tomb, he was attacked by Scorpio Jr. to set up a feud with them.

- Bob Backlund announced that he will be running for Congress as a Republican in his home state of Connecticut in the 2000 election against incumbent Democratic congressman John Larson. Backlund still wrestles indies occasionally and when announcing his plans to run, he spoke about Jesse Ventura's success in becoming governor of Minnesota. Backlund had previously considered running for Senate in 1998 but it never panned out. Dave talks about wrestlers like Ventura, Jerry Lawler (who is considering running for mayor of Memphis) and Ric Flair (who has had talks about a possible Republican candidacy in North Carolina in the future) and says those 3 guys are all great public speakers with tons of charisma who have become local celebrities in their hometowns. Backlund has never had the kind of charisma and talking ability of Ventura, Lawler, or Flair. Plus, the seat Backlund is running for has been a Democratic stronghold for decades and Backlund's likely not going to be the guy who changes that (nope).

- Ultimo Dragon started a new promotion called Toryumon in Japan that debuted with 5 successful shows, all sold out, and ended with a major inter-promotional angle with Michinoku Pro and featured the surprise return of Taka Michinoku from WWF (this promotion lasts about 5 years under the Toryumon name before ultimately morphing into Dragon Gate, which still exists today).

- Shinya Hashimoto will require surgery for the broken nose he suffered at the Jan. 4 show when Naoya Ogawa beat the shit out of him.

- Dave mentions that "a name to look out for is Brock Lesnar" who is a junior at the University of Minnesota and currently ranked #2 in the country as a heavyweight amateur wrestler. Rumor is WWF is interested in signing him one of these days.

- Tammy Sytch was arrested last week at her mother's house for violating a restraining order because she's not supposed to be on the property. Chris Candido missed a couple of ECW shows dealing with that. She was released the next day.

- At an ECW house show, RVD did his big dive from the ring into the crowd, but he ended up taking out a fan who was knocked unconscious and was down on the ground for awhile before being taken out in an ambulance. Whoops.

- Dawn Marie not only had breast implants done, but she also allegedly had her lips, cheeks, and thighs done as well.

- Public Enemy will likely be finishing up with ECW again after next month's PPV. Word is WWF has offered them a contract. There's also rumors that they're in negotiations to return to WCW so who knows.

- Tajiri vs. Super Crazy on this week's ECW TV show is the best U.S. match so far this year. Granted, we're only 2 months in, but still. (I have no idea what match this is because Tajiri and Super Crazy wrestled each other every single night for like 2 months, including every single week on ECW TV during this time plus PPVs and house shows. So it could be any of them).

- Lex Luger suffered a torn bicep in a house show match with Konnan and is expected to be out for 3 months. Luger has been very vocal about blaming Konnan for the injury. He's still expected to work SuperBrawl (hes in a tag match with Kevin Nash against Mysterio and Konnan with Mysterio's mask vs. Elizabeth's hair) but it's expected Nash will do most of the heavy lifting in the match (nah, Hall ends up working it in place of Luger).

- WCW's Lucha Libre show with Telemundo won't be happening. WCW spent more than $300,000 filming the pilot episode in Waco, TX a few weeks ago, but it was a disaster, with bad matches and nobody even knowing who was going to show up until right before the show because they were trying to bring in CMLL wrestlers who were having trouble crossing the border. Then CMLL president Paco Alonso decided to make a deal with WWF to send wrestlers there, so basically the whole thing just turned into a mess and Bischoff decided to pull the plug on it. The pilot they filmed won't even be airing (one match is on the WWE Network in the Hidden Gems section but the rest is still in a vault somewhere I guess).

- WCW and NBC are still in talks for them to be airing specials after the NBA season ends but Dave isn't sure it'll be happening anymore (indeed, it does not).

- Goldberg got a lot of media publicity for his appearance before Congress recently where he spoke against dog fighting and cockfighting and about being an animal rights activist. He also appeared on Regis & Kathy Lee and will be on Jay Leno's show next week.

- The barbed wire Sandman used in his debut on WCW was fake, rubber barbed wire. Dave says, hey if it looks real and people buy into it, then it's good. No sense getting all scarred up with real barbed wire when you can accomplish the same goal without it.

- There's some backstage drama in WCW over how to book Bret Hart. The idea has been to build up to a Hogan vs. Hart match at Halloween Havoc later in the year. At a recent booking meeting, DDP pitched the idea of having Hart do a job for Booker T, since Booker T had put over Hart 3 times in the last few months on TV. Hart didn't necessarily have a problem doing a job to Booker, but he pointed out that if he's being built up to challenge Hogan, he probably shouldn't be jobbing to midcard guys along the way. Kevin Nash, the head booker, doesn't feel like Hart is over enough and doesn't want to do a Hogan/Hart match anyway. Basically, it led to Hart and Nash getting into an argument because Hart says all they want him to do is job to people and it doesn't make sense if he's going to be facing Hogan. Nash went to Bischoff, complaining that Hart was being uncooperative and didn't want to put anyone over. On one hand, Bischoff feels like Bret needs to be pushed hard in order to justify the huge contract they gave him, but Nash thinks Hart is overpaid, not over with the fans, and doesn't want to push him at all. In the end, Nash got his way this week, as Bret dropped the U.S. title to Roddy Piper on Nitro (which is a whole other story in and of itself, because Piper's bad hip may need another surgery and he's in terrible pain lately and can barely move).

- Still plenty of morale issues in WCW, especially among babyfaces. The biggest complaint is that the booking has made it impossible to be a babyface because all of the heels always try to be "cool heels" and the babyfaces are booked to look dumb and are constantly outwitted. Dave says it's a valid complaint. Also lots of complaints that nothing has really changed with Nash as booker, since all the top main event guys are the same people that were on top for the last several years and that the glass ceiling is still there.

- Dave reviews the latest Nitro (unopposed because Raw was preempted by the dog show) and man, was it bad. He says WCW is trying to copy WWF at their own game, by having more backstage skits and soap opera-like storylines than actual wrestling, but it came off as a bad copy, and was made worse by the fact that this was their best chance to make a good impression and turn things around since Raw wasn't on the other channel. "This was a night where you couldn't wait for the show to end, and they do this before their largest audience in a long time," Dave bemoans.

- WCW Thunder was so bad that by the end of the show, fans were chanting "Backlash!" which is the name of the WWF PPV that will be held in the same arena in April.

- Psicosis has been off TV in recent weeks because his pregnant wife had a miscarriage, so he's been off dealing with that.

- Marcus Bagwell has been given limited clearance to start easing back into wrestling again, after his scary neck injury last year.

- Ric Flair's son Reid is expected to be on a U.S. amateur wrestling team that will be traveling to Japan later this year, which would mean Ric would likely accompany them. Dave thinks it would get a ton of news coverage in Japan to have Ric accompanying a youth amateur wrestling team there.

- WCW is reportedly offering Chris Jericho a $750,000 per year deal to stay but he hasn't accepted it. Dave doesn't think WWF will even come close to matching that offer financially, but WWF does offer a lot of other obvious advantages that WCW doesn't. It's a lot of money to turn down, but if Jericho is more concerned with his career than with money, he may still be leaning toward WWF.

- Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko have a match at SuperBrawl for the vacant WCW tag titles but Dave says they probably won't win because it would violate one of WCW's most time honored traditions: having Benoit do jobs on PPV. But even if they don't win the titles then, expect them to end up with the belts soon after (yup, Dave nailed it).

- The Wrestlemania 15 main event will likely end up as some sort of deal with Austin, Rock, and Mankind for the title. Dave predicts it'll be something like Austin vs. Mankind early in the show and the winner faces Rock in the main event for the title (not quite) but that's just rumors, he doesn't know for sure.

- Road Dogg is expected to check into rehab this week and will probably be out until Wrestlemania. WWF recently did some drug testing and Road Dogg failed and then he voluntarily went to management and asked for help. His planned match against Al Snow at next week's PPV is off.

- Speaking of Road Dogg, he had a pretty bad scare last week at a house show. The top rope was loose and it resulted in him taking an unplanned bump over the top and he landed on his head. His right arm went totally numb. He got back in the ring but Undertaker immediately pinned him and then the show was held up for 15 minutes while they put him in a cervical collar and took him out on a stretcher. Luckily it was just a stinger and he was released later that night but hasn't been wrestling since.

- The Giant's WWF contract starts on Feb. 10 and he will be appearing at the Toy Fair event for WWF on the same day. He may be debuting as soon as this week's St. Valentine's Day PPV although his first major match won't take place until at least Wrestlemania. Due to the recent liposuction surgery he had, Giant hasn't been able to train so he's not in great shape and is still heavier than they want him to be.

- The Royal Rumble PPV reportedly did a 1.88 buyrate, which would be the 2nd biggest PPV in WWF history (behind WM14).

- Apparently there's a lot of heat with WWF and Sable right now. Both Sable and Marc Mero reportedly asked for their release from the new 3-year contracts they just signed a couple of months ago but both were turned down. WWF knows they're going to get a lot of publicity out of the upcoming Sable Playboy issue so they don't want her leaving right when it comes out. They have also complained that Sable never trained to be a wrestler and didn't come to WWF to be one and that she doesn't want to wrestle. Word is Sable made a ton of money from the Playboy shoot and is in a position where she financially doesn't need the WWF right now. Also, Sable, Chyna, and Debra were on a TSN show this week and the conversation got heated, with Sable and Chyna shooting at each other and Sable accusing Chyna of using steroids and trashing her for her plastic surgery. A lot of people in WWF sided with Chyna on this, feeling like Sable went way over the line (yeah this was around the time that Sable was beginning to get a reputation of being more than a little full of herself. She'd be gone from WWF in a few months).

- The reason the Rock has been wrestling in a shirt lately is because he had chest surgery to fix his gynecomastia ("or bitch tit syndrome as it's known in slang" Dave adds.)

- Two right-wing religious groups (The American Family Association and Morality in Media Inc.) have complained about the WWF's SuperBowl commercial, specifically the brief shot of the 2 people who are shown making out in the background and sent numerous complaints to the FCC. One of the groups put out a press release saying, "a women was clearly shown on an office desk on her back with her skirt wide open, legs spread high in the air toward the viewing audience. Deep between her legs was a man thrusting his groin wildly in simulated sex." Which is, obviously, a bit of an exaggeration. The press release also said wrestling is "neither a sport nor a form of entertainment fit for a civilized people." Dave thinks the complaint is stupid. Dave is right.

- Along with The Rock, The Hardyz, and Ernie Ladd, Ken Shamrock and Gene LeBelle also appeared on the That 70s Show episode about wrestling. Dave recaps the episode and says Rock had a speaking role and did very well for himself in playing a totally different role than his usual wrestling character. Hey, maybe this guy has a future in acting! Anyway, Dave thinks That 70s Show sucks. Dave is wrong.

- Since he can't get out of his contract, Marc Mero recently pitched an idea of basically doing his old Johnny B. Badd gimmick from WCW, but WWF shot it down.

- Shawn Michaels is talking about opening up his own little wrestling promotion in San Antonio and asked WWF to send him some guys. So if it happens, expect some of the developmental guys to work there.

- An AP news story about Kurt Angle ran in newspapers around the country this week, basically talking about Angle transitioning from Olympic amateur wrestler to pro wrestling and all the people criticizing him for it (amateur wrestlers generally look down on this whole pro rasslin' thing). The story also talked about Angle's wife possibly joining him in WWF and becoming his valet (didn't happen until he went to TNA, although considering how hot she is, I'm surprised Vince didn't bring her in back then). Anyway, this article is a pretty cool read.


- Someone writes in about WWF's more adult product and compares it to rap music and wonders why anyone would want to listen to music that says fuck, bitch or ho every other word. Someone's not a rap fan.

- Japanese wrestling journalist Tadashi Tanaka writes in to talk about Giant Baba's death and talks about how Baba was a lot like Andre The Giant, with doctors telling him he wouldn't have a long life due to his enormous size and how he managed to live into his 60s because he took care of himself, didn't drink, stayed in shape, etc. Basically the opposite of how Andre lived. And Baba would have been fine if not for the cancer, which was unrelated to his physical size. Tanaka also says that he also believes that Baba knew he had cancer about 5 years ago and kept it secret, but there were apparently whispers about it way back then.
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- Lots of questions this week about the financial situation of ECW. Several recent checks to ECW wrestlers bounced, along with checks to security people and to cover advertising costs. Heyman is now claiming that every check that bounced has since been made good. Regardless, several wrestlers claim to still be owed money and there's rumors that some are owed a large amount. Backstage morale is at an all-time low and a lot of the lower card guys are paranoia and jealousy because they believe top guys like Taz, Tommy Dreamer, and Bubba Ray Dudley aren't having their checks bounce (ECW's bankruptcy filings 2 years later proved otherwise). Apparently there have been issues with checks bouncing for the last several months, although wrestlers were originally told that those cases were mistakes due to ECW switching banks. Heyman held a meeting with the locker room a few weeks ago assuring everyone that he was close to making a major deal for ECW and to bear with him, but admitted some checks may bounce while he's finalizing the deal. Heyman claimed that ECW is bringing in an investor who will buy 10% share of the company and would result in stronger marketing for them. But in order to complete the deal, ECW has to be debt free, so some checks might be affected in the meantime. There's also some other deal that Dave goes into regarding a loan against PPV profits or something. It gets all confusing and number-y.

- Naturally, some of the wrestlers are skeptical and upset. As said, many are owed significant sums of money because nobody has gotten their PPV checks for the last several PPVs, but Heyman continues to promise everyone that it's coming. So far, nobody has quit because most of the ECW roster doesn't have many other options and several are locked into contracts anyway. ECW has also been cutting back on flying in some guys who aren't needed and doing other cutbacks with equipment and whatnot. A lot of wrestlers see all these packed shows with thousands of people and merch flying off the shelves and wonder where the money is going. Dave suspects most of it is paying off ECW's enormous television costs, because they buy time on TV in most of the major markets they're in. In New York City alone, they pay $250,000 a year just to be on MSG cable. ECW doesn't like to risk running shows in bigger buildings because Heyman thinks it's important to have the shows look packed but those shows are sometimes money losers in cities like NYC where it costs more to be on TV than what they bring in. Half empty arenas give the impression that it's not a hot product, but Dave thinks they may have outgrown their current level of success and may need to take the risk and start bigger buildings like WWF and WCW. But of course, that comes with its own additional costs and new problems, so it's not that simple. PPV money is what's keeping ECW afloat but the problem is that the PPV money always comes in several months later. They usually need it immediately so they're always a few months behind on bills, waiting for the next PPV check to bail them out. But the new deal Heyman is working on would allegedly secure them a big million dollar loan. But it's not from a bank and it's an 11% interest rate, and Dave says that alone raises even more questions about the financial state of ECW.

- In a final note, Dave says there's also concern in ECW about the widespread drug issues. Heyman has long held the belief that whatever the wrestlers do on their own time isn't his business as long as they show up and are in condition to perform. But he's since admitted that several ECW guys have severe drug problems and he's starting to crack down on it out of concern for his wrestlers. He's reportedly threatened to fire 3 unnamed wrestlers if they don't get their problems under control. Apparently the hot drug in ECW right now is injectable Nubain which wrestlers are using to deal with pain and to sleep.

- WWF's St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV is in the books and featured the long-awaited first real Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon match. The 53-year-old McMahon had never worked a real match before but he was out there for almost 20 minutes brawling with Austin and took one of the craziest bumps you'll ever see off the cage through a table and was far better than anyone could have expected. Considering his age and that he had major neck surgery just 5 years ago, Dave thinks the Vince bump was insane. The match ended with the WWF debut of The Giant, using his real name Paul Wight, coming up through the ring and throwing Austin through the cage. Commentary was bad because Michael Cole is still struggling to fill J.R.'s shoes while he's still out recovering from Bells Palsy and Jerry Lawler's voice was hoarse and he sounded bad the whole show. The PPV was sold out weeks in advance and broke all Memphis wrestling records. (So yeah...funny story, despite living here in Memphis, I never went to this PPV and in fact have never even watched the whole thing. Back in 1999, a couple of months before this, I had just started dating my first serious girlfriend. Sophomores in high school. And it was one of those high school relationships where we were obnoxiously in love and didn't care about anything else except being around each other and sneaking off to find places to bone. For the next year and a half, I honestly didn't keep up with wrestling nearly as closely as I had before. Ugh. Teenagers.)

- Other notes from the PPV: Undercard was terrible. A couple of matches get negative stars and others only get 1 star. Brian Christopher and Scott Taylor beat the Hardyz in a dark match, and the Hardyz were booed out of the building since Christopher is the hometown boy. Dave remains annoyed that they turned Vader into a jobber because he couldn't lose weight, but then hired Viscera and are pushing him. Road Dogg missed the show due to "injury" (rehab) and so Al Snow and Bob Holly had a hardcore match that ended with them fighting outside the building and into the Mississippi River. Ken Shamrock's "sister" Ryan missed her cue to slap Shamrock, and he had to audibly tell her on camera to slap him. Rock vs. Mankind was a good match with a bullshit finish that the crowd booed the hell out of.

- Masanori Saito had his retirement ceremony in Japan this week. Known in the U.S. as Mr. Saito, Dave says he's probably the 2nd most successful Japanese wrestler to ever step foot in American rings (behind Baba). He was a top star for basically every promotion he worked in for more than 2 decades. He also spent 2 years in prison in the U.S. for a brawl he got into with the police in Wisconsin. Dave does a long recap of Saito's career, from his younger days in Japan where he was one of the biggest stars (but still behind guys like Inoki and Baba) and is most famous for his feud with Antonio Inoki leading to the longest wrestling match ever in Japan (over 2 hours, and took place on an island in the jungle). He also recaps the story of Saito and Ken Patera getting arrested for fighting the police, ending with 8 cops injured before they were subdued that led to them both being sent to prison. These days, Saito works backstage with NJPW and since he has lived much of his life in America, he's NJPW's liaison to the U.S. and is responsible for keeping the WCW relationship alive during all the times it almost fell apart (the retirement ended up being legit. Saito never wrestled again. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's a year later but he's still alive today. Not sure what he's up to these days. Anyway, here's the first part of the jungle match with Inoki. The rest of it isn't online far as I can tell. But no big loss: it's a dreadfully boring match).

- NBC Dateline aired a segment on Vince McMahon this week called Lord of the Ring. It was a strong piece but didn't really cover any new ground. Mostly just talked about WWF being the new hot thing these days and attributed it to the adult content and talked about how they still heavily market to kids and all the usual stuff. It wasn't necessarily meant to be a positive piece, but it basically buried WCW as being nowhere near WWF's league so Vince was probably pleased. It portrayed Vince as a successful promoter without a social conscience, which Dave says is fairly accurate. McMahon was completely unapologetic about the fact that little kids watch the show. Eric Bischoff and Bret Hart were both interviewed for it and both came off jealous and bitter more than anything (I can't find video of this anywhere).

- Rey Mysterio is scheduled to face Psicosis in a mask vs. mask match in Mexico, but a lot of people are upset about it because it's already well known that Mysterio will be losing his mask 5 days earlier at WCW's SuperBrawl. So for him to put it back on and go to Mexico and lose it again there is being called a fraud and people are actually trying to get the athletic commission to prevent the match from happening.

- Dave got a tape sent to him with over 5 hours of Japanese news coverage of Giant Baba's death from just the first week alone. Also, AJPW held their first post-Baba house shows this week. In the past, at all AJPW shows, Baba would sit in a chair behind the merch table, watching the shows. At the new shows, they had a symbolic empty chair behind the merch table with a picture of Baba. Fans brought flowers and gifts and left them all around the chair and table.

- Antonio Inoki has opened up an office in Los Angeles for his UFO promotion. Inoki feels like there is a niche market in the U.S. for a more realistic fighting style without all the soap opera gimmick stuff of WWF and WCW. Basically, he wants to do something like UFC but have worked matches and guys who know how to entertain while still making the matches look legitimate. Dave doesn't think there's enough of a market in the U.S. for a worked UFC-type promotion to succeed here.

- Takako Inoue announced she was retiring from All Japan Women and word is she's leaving to pursue an acting career but may still wrestle on occasion (far as I can tell, the acting thing never really panned out and she still wrestles to this day).

- Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis had the biggest show in its short history last week because several WWF wrestlers appeared (they were in town for the WWF PPV). Too Much, Jim Cornette, Giant Silva, Steve Williams, Michael Hayes, and more worked the show.

- Verne Gagne is suing a guy name Dale Gagner over the use of the AWA name. Gagner (who has actually dropped the R from his last name and is going by Dale Gagne) claims that Verne failed to keep the trademark when AWA went bankrupt and so now Dale is attempting to run shows using the AWA name. Verne is also pissed that Gagner is misrepresenting himself as a member of the Gagne family (this shit drags on for years. This Gagner guy spends years claiming to be a Gagne family member. Eventually WWE buys the AWA tape library and then they get involved, filing a lawsuit against Gagner in 2007 and eventually getting him to stop using "AWA" in 2008. But this Dale Gagner guy sounds like a snake).

- Paul Heyman has told Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch that they both have to go to rehab and provide him proof that they are actually attending or they would both be fired. Candido and Sytch run their own website and Heyman also told them they would have to post something on their site admitting that they were dealing with personal issues (they don't have to be specific) and that's why they're not booked for ECW shows. After Sytch was arrested last week, her and Candido went on their website and posted a bunch of lies about how it wasn't true and Sytch saying she missed that week's ECW shows because she was visiting her ill sister, rather than the truth (that she was in jail). But then Sytch's mugshot wound up leaking on to the internet, proving she was lying. Heyman said it was an embarrassment to ECW that they were lying to people about why they were missing shows. Heyman also said that he'd never drug tested anyone before and was adamant that he never would because he didn't think it was his business, but he has informed Candido and Sytch that they will be required to pass drug tests before he'll book them again.

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- Public Enemy have signed a deal with WWF. They were supposed to finish out the next month of shows with ECW, but Heyman wanted them to put over the Dudleyz on all the shows and WWF apparently had a problem with that, so now they're just flat out gone from ECW and apparently won't be working the March PPV as planned. They debuted on Sunday Night Heat this week.

- Dave says once again, Super Crazy and Tajiri are facing each other on every ECW show and every week, they're having the best matches in the U.S. right now.

- Shane Douglas is back at work after his heart scare last week, but hasn't been wrestling. Just cutting promos. He's also got heat with Paul Heyman, claiming he's owed a bunch of money and was quitting. At one point, he and Heyman had squashed the issue but a few days later, they were back at it again (yeah, Douglas only lasts another couple of months before he really does quit and goes to WCW).

- Dave starts his recap of Nitro by screaming in all-caps "THIS NEW CONCEPT IS A LOSER!" So we're off to a good start. You see, WCW has decided to start copying WWF and now they have more backstage acting segments than actual wrestling. Dave is not a fan, clearly. "I can't express just how screwed up this company is right now. The 2/15 Nitro may have been the worst episode of the show in history," he says. The show was held in the 2,500 seat Steinbrenner Pavilion and was done as a favor to George Steinbrenner for some sort of business reasons. Because WCW can usually draw 10,000 or more easily to any Nitro, so by doing the show in front of only 2,500 people, they left hundreds of thousands of dollars in gate money on the table. The show was so bad that Dave says "I thought I was having nightmares about having been a horrible human being and being sent to Hell, and when I got there, I was sent to this room with all the evil wrestling promoters past and present and they made me sit in the chair next to people like Fritz Von Erich, Herb Abrams and Nick Gulas and forced us to watch Nitro episodes like this 24 hours a day." And that's just one of MANY sentences where Dave marks snarky comments about how bad the show was. Seriously, I've seen Dave trash shows before that he didn't like but I've read literally every single issue of the Observer throughout the 1990s up to this point and I've never seen him just savagely rip apart a show and a promotion like he does WCW in this issue. It's worth reading in full if you're a subscriber just for the sheer hilarity of it.

- Something fishy is going on with WCW's deal with NBC. When the whole thing was initially finalized, WCW went around telling everybody about it, started booking the arenas for it, and began booking ideas for it. But NBC never publicly confirmed the deal. And in fact, WWF even claimed on their website that WCW was lying and that a deal wasn't finalized. And then the NBA lockout ended, so whatever WCW specials may have been planned ended up being cancelled. WCW was under the impression that their NBC specials would air after the NBA season. But there still seems to be no movement on the NBC side of things for any WCW plans, even though WCW still seems to be under the impression that it's happening (nope).

- Saturn is expected to get some sort of Marilyn Manson-type gimmick, which leads Dave to say, hey, remember Vampiro? He was supposed to get a Manson gimmick but apparently Vampiro is hanging around with Sandman and Mikey Whipwreck, who WCW signed MONTHS ago and hasn't used them at all. But they're all still sitting home collecting their weekly guaranteed checks.

- Telemundo is threatening to sue WCW over the scrapped Lucha Libre show. After the first taping went poorly, Bischoff decided to nix the whole idea, but Telemundo is claiming that they had already cleared a spot for it in prime time and have been given a 16-week commitment by WCW for the show. They discussed settling out of court, but Ted Turner himself apparently didn't want the bad press that would come with having backed out of a contract with Telemundo. So the pilot episode apparently will air, and after that, they will air edited 1-hour versions of Nitro for the remaining 15 weeks.

- NFL player and sometimes WCW wrestler Kevin Greene was arrested for impersonating a police officer. Apparently Greene pulled over another car in some kind of road rage incident and started roughing up the driver. The police showed up and Greene claimed he was a local sheriff. When they realized he wasn't, he was arrested.

- The Rock won the WWF title from Mankind on Raw in a ladder match but Dave says title changes have become so frequent that it's barely even news. It's Rock's 3rd world title reign in the last 3 months. That being said, Dave thinks it was the 2nd best match he's seen so far this year (just behind a recent Vader/Kobashi match in AJPW).

- Other WWF Raw notes: Paul Wight made his Raw debut, still going by his real name and wearing a shirt that said "No gimmicks needed." Shanw McMahon won the European title in only his 2nd match ever and Dave says he was horrible and had no business in the ring and says that actor Will Sasso (who wrestled on Nitro the same night) was far better in the ring than Shane, who has no business wrestling. Hey, he eventually turned into a pretty decent worker. And one final note: "Rock is on his way to being one of the biggest stars this industry has ever seen."

- Mankind will be filming a Chef Boyardee commercial soon.

- Flash Funk (2 Cold Scorpio) was fired by WWF this week. Dave says he was basically in trouble nonstop during his WWF tenure. At Wrestlemania two yeas ago, he had a domestic dispute at the hotel leading to the police being called and apparently was constantly in trouble for other stuff ever since. So they finally just cut him loose.

- Here's the latest on a Winnipeg school district fighting to get WWF moved to a later time slot because kids are imitating it. WWF sent a letter, offering to send wrestlers to the schools to give speeches about not emulating the language on TV, not doing drugs, etc. But the school board turned it down, saying that unless WWF changes the actual TV product or the show is moved to a later air time, they aren't budging. One of the schools sent letters home to parents saying there has been an alarming increase in students fighting and using wrestling lingo ("suck it!") and advising parents not to let their kids watch wrestling and that any wrestling magazines, toys, etc. will be confiscated and wrestling shirts are banned from all schools in the district.

- WWF The Music Vol. 3 has been steadily climbing the Billboard charts and is at #15 in the top 200 right now (this is actually 2 months after it was released and it eventually peaks at #10 and went platinum).

- Forbes is planning to do a story about the money generated by wrestling. Dave thinks it'll be interesting to see what numbers they use, since WWF notoriously lies about this stuff. WWF has been claiming for years that they're a $500 million dollar-per-year company which isn't even close to true. WCW claims to be in the $200 million per year range, which is closer to true. But then WCW has stopped giving that number out because it makes them look minor league next to WWF's false $500 million claims. And WCW is part of Turner and thus is a public company, so they can't lie about their revenue without getting caught the way Vince can, since WWF is privately owned. Recently though, WWF has quietly been admitting to a more realistic $210 million per year figure, which is much closer to the truth.
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- WCW went into panic mode this week after Raw beat Nitro in the ratings by the biggest gap in the history of the Monday night wars, further proof that WCW's attempt to copy Raw with all these elaborate backstage mini-movie skits isn't working. Raw did a 5.9 rating to Nitro's 3.9. The Raw rating is an all-time record high for either company. Kids, adults, teenagers, men, women, dogs, hostages chained up in basements, people watching on TVs in department store windows, aliens intercepting satellite feeds....you name a demographic, Raw won it. Raw has all the momentum right now and WCW is grasping at straws to try to get back in the game. It couldn't have come at a worse time either, because the NBA playoffs will be starting in a couple of months which will cause Nitro to be moved around to different days and time slots for several weeks, which will give WWF a chance to build even more momentum without their normal wrestling competition. Right now, Dave says that WWF is the company everyone is talking about, WCW is a distant 2nd place, and ECW isn't even in the game.

- Backstage in WCW, morale is at an all-time low and everyone is pointing fingers and trying to cast blame and it has led to a lot of paranoia in the locker room. There was a booking meeting this week and it was said that Nash and the others essentially decided to bury certain wrestlers (Bret Hart, Piper, Konnan, Benoit, Malenko, Raven, Kanyon, Jericho, and Bigelow) for various reasons. They have to be careful with Bret Hart because Bischoff still wants to do a Hogan vs. Hart match at Halloween Havoc and he has to justify the big contract he's paying Hart. But Nash doesn't like Hart and doesn't think he's over and if Nash had his way, Hart probably wouldn't even be written into the shows at all. Nash reportedly referred to Benoit and Malenko as "vanilla midgets" during the meeting and it's been obvious for weeks now that they're being booked in a way to make sure they never get over. Bischoff had previously promised both Benoit and Malenko that they would get a push if they re-signed but since he's turned over the booking to Nash, that clearly isn't happening because he and Hogan both feel that they are too small to be main eventers (Dave thinks they might actually have a point in Malenko's case, but Benoit is so good and believable, he should be able to be taken seriously against anyone). Nash is also the one who pushed Goldberg to shoot down a storyline with Jericho last year also, saying Jericho was too small to be taken seriously against him. There's a lot of people who think Jericho is as good as gone to WWF when his contract expires later this year. Bigelow was given a big push but he hasn't gotten over and he's still got heat with Nash because Bigelow (along with Shane Douglas) kicked Scott Hall out of ECW's locker room last year when he stopped by to visit, plus Bigelow never got along with the Kliq when they were all in WWF together. In the case of Roddy Piper, he's just old and broken down and can't work and Nash doesn't want to use him. Konnan has heat with Lex Luger, who is good friends with Nash, so that's why Konnan is out in the cold. So on and so forth. Basically, anyone who isn't in the good graces of Kevin Nash isn't in line for a push anytime soon.

- There's a lot of in-fighting between the big 3 of Nash, Hogan, and Bischoff. Reportedly, Nash has called this whole thing an unwinnable war because even though he has full booking power for most of the company, he has next to no control when it comes to Hogan's angles, which are generally the main angles of the show. And many people still feel that Hogan is using WCW for nothing more than to make money and get himself over and that he holds down the younger wrestlers so he can continue working the easier in-ring style he likes in the main events against opponents he can keep up with. As for Bischoff, he's missed several TV tapings recently to focus on deals in Hollywood, which many have pointed out that Vince McMahon would never do. So even Bischoff seems to be mentally checked out, which is obviously concerning and not helping morale. Overall though, throughout the entire company, Nash is the one who is taking the brunt of the heat from everybody, who feel as though he's protecting his friends and is holding everyone else down.

- Aleksandr Karelin, arguably the greatest Greco-Roman amateur wrestler of all time, made his pro wrestling debut for RINGS in Japan (I guess Dave still classifies RINGS as wrestling because some of the matches are occasionally worked). He faced and defeated Akira Maeda, who came out of retirement for the match. It was the biggest show in RINGS history and did a record setting gate number. A lot of people weren't sure if it was a work or shoot and Dave hasn't seen it yet to give his opinion (I think this has since been determined to be a shoot and was Karelin's one and only MMA fight, but I may be wrong).

- With rumors that ECW was only days or weeks away from folding due to money issues, Paul Heyman managed to secure a $750,000 loan that will allow them to solve all the short-term money issues and keep them afloat and cover payroll. The loan came from a company called Quanton Financing. Heyman said he couldn't go to a traditional bank to get the loan because they rely on the PPV money to make their payments and that always takes awhile to come in. And if they missed a loan payment to the bank, it would put them at risk of having company assets confiscated which would cripple ECW. Heyman also put together a co-promotion PPV deal with a Disney subsidiary called Buena Vista Television that would work with them on syndication deals and ad sales for TV and PPV. ECW usually spends around $250,000 up front on their PPVs just for advertising costs, production upgrades, and all the other costs necessary when airing a live PPV. Buena Vista will now pay those costs, and then they'll be repaid from the PPV revenue that comes in, plus get an additional cut of the profits. Or some such shit. This gets confusing. Heyman also had a deal with THQ for licensing rights but then THQ merged with Jakks Toys or something, and Jakks has a deal with WWF. So Heyman pulled out of the deal because it would have potentially led to WWF having control over ECW licensing for their products. I guess. Man, I need a business degree to understand all this stuff. Long story short, ECW was literally days away from going out of business this week until all the pieces fell in place at the last minute, so the company has an influx of new money coming in. So they've been bailed out. For now. Word is several top ECW stars were days away from quitting if their checks didn't clear this week. Several of them have reportedly been charging significant amounts of money to their personal credit cards for travel just to get to shows and were owed money on that also. None of the ECW wrestlers have received PPV bonuses in months.

- WCW SuperBrawl is in the books and was fine from an in-ring standpoint, but Dave says it was clear that many of the finishes were designed to bury potential stars rather than to create new ones. Dave just goes into detail about how WCW is booking everything all wrong, particularly in making the babyfaces look foolish next to the cool heels. "Fans will get behind someone who gets screwed bad and comes back for revenge and does something about it. They won't get behind someone who gets screwed, comes back, only to be outwitted and screwed again." Flair in particular seems constantly booked in a way that's designed to kill off whatever's left of his popularity. There were a ton of pro-WWF signs confiscated at the door, but a bunch more still made it on the air.

- Other notes from the PPV: Scott Steiner beat DDP in a surprisingly good match that DDP worked his ass off to make something out of. After the match, DDP was taken out on a stretcher while the crowd chanted "DDP sucks!" at him, which Dave thinks is ridiculous because he absolutely didn't suck in that match. Scott Steiner is getting over pretty big as a babyface (despite being a heel, because "cool" heels are what everyone wants). Piper vs. Scott Hall was abysmally bad because Piper can barely move anymore and Dave says this is the kind of stuff WCW has to get away from. Putting old broken down wrestlers in top level matches is killing the company. Goldberg vs. Bam Bam Bigelow was one of the flattest matches of Goldberg's career and having him go for more than 10 minutes against a guy nobody even remotely bought into as a legit threat was stupid. Speaking of broken down old men in high profile matches, Hogan vs. Flair was the main event. Flair worked hard to carry Hogan to something watchable and it was better than it had a right to be, but it still wasn't exactly what you'd call great. New WCW valet Torrie Wilson came to ringside at one point and Dave basically says she raises the bar on what attractive women in wrestling look like because she's beautiful and even better than that, she can actually talk and deliver lines better than any other woman in WWF or WCW. Dave thinks she could be a marketing bonanza for WCW the same way Sable has been for WWF if they're smart. But then Dave says, "Since it's WCW, where every ball put right in their glove is still dropped, she probably won't be." David Flair ended up turning on his dad to cost him the match.

- Bill Goldberg appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last week and issued a challenge to Steve Asutin. It wasn't Goldberg's idea and in fact, he was against it, feeling that it would make him and WCW look beneath Austin. But it was an idea Bischoff and Nash had and he was pretty much ordered to do it. Goldberg was told to say he would put up $100,000 of his own money in a match for charity if Austin accepted. Behind the scenes, Nash apparently claimed he was working to try to get WWF to agree to it and try to put together some sort of inter-promotional angle for charity. Obviously, this has pretty much zero chance of happening and Dave thinks the whole thing is stupid. Apparently WCW realized it was stupid also. Tony Schiavone referenced it twice the following week on Nitro, simply calling it "the challenge heard round the world" but never mentioning Austin. After that, WCW simply dropped it and the story picked up no mainstream momentum. They were also probably worried about legal threats, since last year when Bischoff challenged Vince McMahon, they ended up getting a bunch of legal threats from the WWF claiming that WCW was trying to mislead viewers into thinking a match was going to happen. Goldberg issuing the challenge was also poorly done, since he didn't really deliver it with much conviction and it fell flat with the studio audience and they were pressed for time, so he didn't really get to explain the money thing or the charity thing. The whole thing just came across weak. A few days later, Steve Austin appeared on the Howard Stern show and was asked about it and he basically just blew it off, saying that Goldberg wrestles in the minor leagues and that he'd be glad to face him if he came to the WWF. On Raw, WWF smartly never even acknowledged it.

- Legendary AJPW wrestler Jumbo Tsuruta announced his retirement at a press conference this week before the first AJPW show following the death of Giant Baba. Tsuruta won't be coming back for a retirement match and says he has already wrestled his last match but he will return for one final appearance at the big AJPW show in April. Tsuruta hadn't been much of a serious star during the 90s after Hepatitis B derailed his career in 1992 during his prime (he was voted Observer wrestler of the year in 1991). But during the 70s and 80s, he was one of the biggest stars in Japan, though always in the shadow of Baba and Inoki. He will be moving to Portland, OR later this month to study and teach at Portland State University. Dave recaps Tsuruta's career and notes that he actually had a small ownership stake in AJPW and didn't need to wrestle (he was already a millionaire) but he continued to wrestle out of loyalty for Baba rather than a passion for wrestling (he reportedly didn't really love wrestling and just kinda did it just to have something to do, although Dave kinda calls bullshit on that and says no one becomes as good as Tsuruta did without being passionate about it). The fact that he's leaving almost immediately after the death of Baba has been taken as a sign that he only stuck around because of his loyalty to Baba and without him there, Tsuruta's ready to get out (sadly, Tsuruta gets diagnosed with cancer almost immediately after this and is dead about a year later).

- Lots of negative WWF publicity this week, all mostly stemming from the usual "how can they market this stuff to kids" argument. Inside Edition is running a piece this week about it that got a lot of mainstream coverage before it even aired. An AP story in newspapers around the country did a 1-year analysis of Raw and crunched some numbers. The show averaged 36 minutes of actual wrestling on a 2 hour show. They also counted instances of people grabbing or gesturing to their crotches (1,658 times), references to the words "Suck it" (434 times), 157 middle fingers, 128 acts of simulated sexual activity, 47 references or acts of satanic activity, 42 examples of simulated drug use, 21 acts of urination, and 20 appearances of "hos." The Inside Edition story also focuses on out-of-ring wrestling drama like the deaths of Brian Pillman and Louie Spicolli (here's the video. It's incorrectly labeled 1998 on YouTube).

- But that's not all folks! Remember the Winnipeg school board story? Vince McMahon was interviewed about that and didn't do himself any favors. When asked about it, Vince's response was, "Give me a break. A teachers' association? Give me a break. Winnipeg? Don't hold that up as 'Wow!' Look what's going on. Hey folks, they're banned in Winnipeg, thank you." WWF Canada president Carl DeMarco has been trying to smooth over the situation and offered to have WWF wrestlers come to the schools and speak to kids about not doing drugs and stuff like that, but Vince's comments obviously torpedoed that whole plan and now the push is back on to try to get WWF taken off TV or moved to a later time-slot in Winnipeg (he Trump'd it).

- Rey Mysterio is still scheduled to face Psicosis this week in Mexico in a mask vs. mask match, which has gotten a ton of controversy since Mysterio just lost his mask at SuperBrawl here in America and everyone in Mexico already knows about it. So it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.

- Vader is expected to win the AJPW Triple Crown title next week. The original plan was for him to defend the title against Misawa at the May Tokyo Dome show but since Baba's death, it has become big public knowledge that Misawa is now running the company so he feels like it's not right for him to push himself as the top star anymore (FW: stephaniemcmahon@wwe.com). So it'll probably end up being Vader vs. Kobashi.

- A public funeral ceremony will be held for Giant Baba next month and it's expected to be huge, with one Japanese newspaper predicting 40,000 people would show up for it (I think it ends up being closer to 30,000 but still...damn).

- NJPW wrestler Akira Nogami has been out for awhile because he's been injured but he's also been appearing in movies alongside his wife Reiko Saeki, who is a fairly famous actress in Japan (Dave says she's not Meryl Streep level but compares her to the same level of fame as Rosanna Arquette here in the U.S. which is...oddly specific).

- Antonio Inoki has struck a deal to have Dan Severn drop the NWA title to Naoya Ogawa at a show later this month. Severn has held the NWA title for about 4 years now and will be getting paid $35,000 to work three shows for Inoki and to drop the title, with the promise that he will win it back probably later this year. The NWA board had to approve the title change and will be making some bank from it also. In fact, Inoki has now joined the NWA board, making him one of the 7 members who can vote on title changes, for whatever little the NWA title even means anymore.

- Governor Jesse Ventura was doing media rounds this week, including David Letterman's show, and he took some shots at Hulk Hogan, saying Hogan was jealous of him because even though Hogan is a bigger name in wrestling, Ventura has more credibility than anyone in the business.

- Sid Vicious no-showed an indie show in Ohio, claiming he had been in a bad car accident the day before. Dave says he'd love to be Sid's car repairman since he probably makes a ton of money from all the car accidents Sid allegedly has that he uses to as excuses to get out of showing up to shows. Anyway, when the announcement was made that Sid wouldn't be there, the fans nearly rioted and several people were arrested. The fans were already unhappy because they had also been promised a member of the NWO would appear and it ended up only being Vincent.

- Ian Rotten's IWA has been kicked out of Kentucky by the state athletic commission (no reason given, but probably due to the violence and death matches) so they are now running shows across the border in Indiana.

- There's a magazine starting up soon called World of Wrestling that intends to report everything legit, rather than keeping kayfabe and whatnot. They're hoping to be to the wrestling industry what Rolling Stone is to the music biz. Basically a magazine version of the Observer (it lasted for about 2 years).

- Entertainment Weekly listed the 100 Greatest Moments in TV History and 3 of them were wrestling related. The debut of Gorgeous George on network TV in the 40s was ranked at #45. The Jerry Lawler/Kaufman incident on the Letterman show was ranked #93. And Andre The Giant appearing in an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man was #100. Dave says if they had made this list 2 years ago, none of those things would have made the cut, but since wrestling is so hot right now, EW decided to throw a few wrestling things on the list.

- Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch did indeed post a message on their personal website saying that they are missing ECW shows currently because they're dealing with "family issues." They also acknowledged that they've had drug problems in the past but claim they no longer do. In the meantime, they've been suspended by ECW without pay for the past month. Heyman is willing to bring them back, but insists they both need to seek immediate help for their issues first, because the "We no longer have a drug problem" story is pretty much bullshit and everyone knows it.

- The reason Masato Tanaka missed ECW's PPV back in January was actually ECW's fault. Tanaka had been working in the U.S. on a tourist visa throughout 1998 but he was flying back and forth between Japan and the U.S. so much that immigration officials started asking questions. So ECW was trying to get him a work visa but they didn't come through with their end of it in time so Tanaka couldn't get into the country.

- A porn actress named Jasmine St. Clair will be doing some appearances at some ECW shows in the next few weeks, probably similar to what Jenna Jameson did with the company in the past. She's also scheduled to appear on Howard Stern and will be promoting the PPV there (funny story: Jasmine St. Clair is one of my earliest memories of recognizing a porn star because before this, I remembered seeing her on Jerry Springer's show where she was talking about doing a gang bang with 300 guys. And then, like, a year later I saw she was in ECW and was like, "Wait, I remember her...". I never did see that gang bang.)

- Goldberg and Bret Hart both almost missed a WCW house show in San Francisco. Both of them were in Los Angeles (Goldberg doing the Leno show and Bret Hart filming Mad TV) and the plan was to get a chartered jet to fly them from L.A. to San Fran in time for the show. Problem is, Eric Bischoff was also in Los Angeles doing business and he was supposed to be on the flight also. So Hart and Goldberg showed up, ready to get on the plane, but Bischoff wasn't there. They waited on the tarmac for a long time for Bischoff to show up as he was running late. To stall for time, the undercard matches went long and they did 2 intermissions but Goldberg and Hart still weren't there. Bam Bam Bigelow came out at one point and got on the mic and said Goldberg hadn't shown up so he challenged someone else. This led to Sting making an unannounced, unplanned return (he was backstage for whatever reason) so he came out and worked a long match with Bigelow. Sting looked rusty since he's been out for awhile. Finally, Goldberg and Hart showed up and did a big run-in to end the show.

- Sandman has been given the name Hardcore Hak in WCW. Fun story: even though he's been signed for months and even debuted on TV weeks ago, they still hadn't come up with a name for him. Just before they went on the air on Thursday for Thunder, Kevin Sullivan asked Sandman if he had any ideas for his ring name "since the geniuses running the company still hadn't come up with one." He told Sullivan that his real life nickname is Hak, so...there ya go. Now he's Hak.

- Speaking of that Thunder taping, it was taped last week (before SuperBrawl) and there was a match booked with Rey Mysterio. Problem is, he was scheduled to lose his mask at SuperBrawl and this Thunder was going to air a few days later. Nobody realized it and they were about to send Mysterio out there for the match when someone realized "Hey, we can't have him wrestling with his mask on since he's booked to lose it." Once they realized the dilemma, they just cancelled the match entirely.

- Remember the Nitro episode a week or two ago that was done in a small building as a favor to George Steinbrenner? Well, funny enough, Steinbrenner didn't even attend the show (he was at the ESPY's instead). And then Steinbrenner's people were also pissed at WCW and complained about the quality of the show, specifically about Goldberg not being there.

- Hector Garza ripped his scrotum in a Thunder match against Psicosis. Pardon me while I go cry into a pillow now.

- Scott Hall got run over by a car.

- Looks like the pilot episode of WCW's Lucha Libre show won't be airing after all. Telemundo decided against it, so instead they'll just be airing edited versions of Nitro with Spanish commentary for the next 16 weeks.

- Oh I guess you probably want some explanation on that Scott Hall thing huh? Anyway, he was outside of a bar with a bunch of other WCW guys and he fell down. A WCW employee named Wes Benton didn't see Hall behind him and was backing his car up and heard a scream. Turns out he ran over Hall's ankle. It wasn't serious, but it kept Hall from wrestling on Nitro the next night.

- Apparently there's a deal in the works to make a Hollywood movie about the Montreal Screwjob, with real actors playing the roles of Bret, Vince, Shawn, etc.

- WWF's St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV did around 450,000 buys, which is the biggest buyrate ever for one of the off-brand In Your House PPVs.

- On Raw, Mankind cut a promo talking about being banged up and injured and saying he may not last another year, which is reportedly true and he's legit considering retiring. Anyway, in the promo, he started talking about what other jobs he could do. He said he couldn't be a mail man because his legs don't look good enough. He said couldn't be a pilot because he doesn't like the taste of hard liquor. And he said he couldn't go to WCW because he isn't old enough.

- There has been talk of putting Jim Cornette on Sunday Night Heat to do the announcing since Shane McMahon sucks at it so much. But Cornette "is in the political doghouse, particularly with Vince Russo, who writes the TV, and Kevin Dunn, who produces the shows, so he's not about to get any high profile breaks these days." What?! Cornette not getting along with Russo and Dunn? Perish the thought.

- Paul Wight (formerly The Giant in WCW) came out on Raw and Dave says he had a lot of fat sculpted off his body with liposuction but he still looks like he hasn't slept in a week. "Instead of the fire breathing fierce Giant they're looking for, they've got this tall burned out looking overgrown high school partier." (Yeah, he did look kinda like shit around the time he first debuted). Anyway, they were calling him "Big Nasty" so that may end up being his name (close!)

- Speaking of Paul Wight, the deal to bring him to WWF was pretty much put together waaaaay back in December of 1996. Luke of the Bushwhackers basically acted as an unofficial intermediary to avoid any contract tampering stuff and he got Wight's agent a meeting with Vince McMahon. McMahon and the agent essentially talked out the details, with McMahon basically offering a 10-year deal worth a little under $1 million per year. Reportedly, it was Hulk Hogan who urged Wight to take the deal, saying McMahon would make him a bigger star than WCW ever would.

- They did an angle where Vince was given a gift which turned out to be a teddy bear. Then Undertaker set the bear on fire which led to Vince freaking out and acting crazy and hysterical "and overacting." Anyway, word is that this will lead to some sort of angle with Undertaker trying to get Vince's daughter Stephanie McMahon to join his ministry.

- The episode of That 70s Show featuring all the different WWF wrestlers ended up being the highest rated episode ever for that show so far.

- The ratings for NFL Monday Night Football fell 7% from last season. NFL officials had a bunch of different explanations (too many blow-out games, earlier start time, etc.) and refused to acknowledge that wrestling had anything to do with the decline.

- Mick Foley is filming a spot in a movie called "Big Time Hustlers." (Dave is slightly mistaken. That would actually be ICP's movie "Big Money Hustlas").

- WWF referee Earl Hebner did a newspaper interview claiming that WCW offered he and his brother Dave a deal to jump ship to them after the Montreal incident to work an angle with Bret Hart. Hebner also defended his actions in that match, saying that he did indeed swear on his kids lives that he wouldn't fast count Bret out of the match and says he didn't break his promise because it wasn't a fast count. Talk about semantics.

- During Steve Austin's appearance on Howard Stern, he also revealed that his wife Jeannie Clarke had just filed for divorce from him. She used to manage Austin back in his WCW days as Lady Blossom.

- Kurt Angle will be appearing at the upcoming Raw in Pittsburgh, although it may not be an on-camera appearance.

- Jim Ross is hoping to return by Wrestlemania after his most recent Bells Palsy issues, but it's not definite.

- Shawn Michaels did a couple of local interviews in San Antonio and in both, he said that he will never wrestle again. He also mentioned that he's no longer engaged and is single.

- WWF office employee Rich Baker was fired this week. He's one of the guys who books arenas and handles live event stuff for WWF. He had asked for a raise and was turned down. So then he set up a meeting with Zane Bresloff, who does the same job for WCW. When WWF learned that Baker had met with WCW's arena booking guy, Linda McMahon fired him.
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I had like the first 6 issues World of Wrestling.

- The WWF is finally starting to catch significant mainstream backlash over the risque direction of the product. There's a dilemma here because on one hand, USA Network and the PPV providers and even some within WWF see the bad publicity and they want it to stop. On the other hand, Raw is doing record ratings, merch is flying off shelves, and WWF is selling out shows left and right so they also don't want to change things too much. It was reported this week that WWF had floated the idea of some sort of "accidental nudity" on the Wrestlemania PPV, but the sponsor (M&M Mars) and one of the top PPV providers both vetoed the idea. TSN in Canada has been airing edited versions of Raw. Right now, there's just too much money to be made for sponsors to pull out, but that's not to say it won't eventually start happening. Same with the PPV companies. In 1995, UFC was all the rage and was outdrawing wrestling on PPV, but when all the negative publicity got to be too much, every single one of them distanced themselves and now UFC is on life support. In the short term though, the publicity isn't hurting. Raw beat Nitro this week by 2 full ratings points, the largest gap between the two shows ever. Raw did its all-time highest rating (6.32) and even when you break down the show by segments, Nitro never even got close. Due to the ratings success, USA is considering expanding Raw to 3 hours (ugh, can you imagine how absolutely horrible and tedious that would be?)

- The media backlash has been everywhere. Inside Edition ran a 2-part series, in which Vince McMahon came off as a total jerk and wasn't too far removed from his TV character. The first part talked about the content of the shows. The second part featured hidden camera footage (of WCW wrestlers, actually) at a hotel supposedly being scandalous but it wasn't that bad. Just guys drinking and horse-playing. Dave himself was interviewed for it but they didn't use anything of consequence that he said. It talked about various wrestler deaths and drug use and whatnot. McMahon wrote a piece in the New York Daily News and resorted to basically name-calling the critics, railing against "lofty politicians, out of touch moral crusaders and egghead professors" who look down on the common man. USA Today had a front page story about it, but mostly focused on kids imitating what they see and injuring other kids in backyard wrestling federations. That story had a Goldberg picture with it and in response, WCW is trying to go the opposite direction. Eric Bischoff held a backstage meeting and said the company will be G-rated from here on out and will try to distance themselves from WWF as much as possible. Bischoff claimed sponsors will start pulling out of WWF any day now and within 6 months to a year, they'll be in big trouble. Dave points out that Bischoff said something similar last year and now they're bigger than ever. He used Jerry Springer as an example, noting that Springer was forced to tone down his show even though it was doing huge ratings because sponsors were dropping out, and now Springer's show is fighting for survival. Bischoff had a whole list of things that will be changing: Rey Mysterio can no longer do his bronco buster, Scott Steiner is basically being banned from doing promos entirely, Norman Smiley can no longer do the big wiggle, Konnan can't grab his crotch and has to tone down his promos, and more.

- Former WCW wrestler Renegade committed suicide last week. In 1995, he was brought in by Hogan and was being groomed to be the new Ultimate Warrior but he just wasn't any good (not like that ever stopped Warrior) and his push died quick. He was still kept around by WCW for years but rarely used. Just a few weeks ago, they finally released him and he was said to be despondent over the firing and, during an argument with his girlfriend, he pulled out a gun and shot himself in front of her. Dave recaps his career, mostly the fake-Warrior push that led to WWF threatening legal action. He was so bad that most of the wrestlers resented his push. When the real Ultimate Warrior came to WCW last year, Renegade was occasionally used as a body double for those dumb magic-fuckery moments where Warrior appeared to be in 2 places at once. It was ironic, considering Warrior actually hated Renegade for stealing his gimmick a few years ago and he refused to speak to him even when they had to work together. After being occasionally used as a jobber, he failed a steroid test and was sent to the Power Plant to see if he would improve but off steroids, he didn't even have a good physique and finally WCW released him a few weeks back. Before becoming a wrestler, he worked as a male stripper and was actually really successful at that. He was pushed into wrestling by a friend and reportedly didn't even really want to do it that much but he had the look back then and thought he could make a lot of money at it. His girlfriend was also reportedly a stripper and apparently somewhat of a big name in the world of stripping (well okay then).

- Steve Austin's guest appearance on the CBS show Nash Bridges was so well received that there's been serious talk of possibly doing a spin-off with him. Austin's appearance also boosted the ratings 2 points higher than the usual average and was a huge hit for CBS. As for a spin-off, it's all Hollywood talk right now and until there's a deal on the table, you can't take it seriously so don't hold your breath. In an interview this week, Austin said he only plans to wrestle maybe 1 or 2 more years. Dave says if Austin retires that early on his own (without being forced out by injury) he'd be shocked. Most wrestlers that leave to pursue acting usually come back pretty quickly when it doesn't pan out. That being said, Austin's neck injury from 1997 still gives him trouble so it wouldn't be that big of a surprise if he ends bowing out of wrestling sooner rather than later due to his body breaking down. But barring injury, Austin is likely going to be a huge draw for many years to come and walking away from that sort of money would be hard for anyone to do.

- The planned Rey Mysterio vs. Psicosis mask-vs-mask match in Mexico didn't happen because the commission wouldn't allow it. Mysterio lost his mask in WCW a week earlier and by the time of the Mexico show, everyone knew it, with pictures of Mysterio unmasking appearing in the newspapers and magazines. So they ended up just doing a regular match instead. Mysterio came out, wearing his mask, and was booed out of the building with people accusing him of selling out his culture. He tried to get on the mic and explain why he had lost the mask in WCW but every time he tried, the crowd booed him so loudly that he eventually gave up. The match was a bloodbath and Mysterio had to be hospitalized after due to a chairshot that caused his ear to start bleeding. There were also reports that Mysterio was confronted after the show by members of a Mexican gang who made their feelings known to him with their fists and there's speculation that he was hospitalized because of that but Dave obviously can't confirm if that's true or not (yeah, the response Rey gets here is like some Roman-the-night-after-he-beat-Undertaker kinda heat. I wish I spoke Spanish to understand what he says).

- Reportedly the NWA came up with a plan for Dan Severn to challenge Goldberg. Remember, Severn was in WWF up until just recently and he's still the NWA champion. Anyway, a few months back, the NWA pitched an idea where they would put up $1 million dollars and have Severn challenge Goldberg to a match for the NWA title on Raw, but WWF wasn't having that shit and nixed it before it ever blossomed into anything more than an idea.

- Retired wrestler Buddy Rose made some national headlines this week because he was listed as a deadbeat dad on a website by the Dept. of Social & Health Services. Apparently, Rose owes his ex-wife more than $36,000 in back child support. The reason the story made news is because Rose is former tag team partners with current Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, so all the media outlets made that connection when reporting it.

- Ken Shamrock did an interview saying that when his WWF contract expires later this year, he'd like to take a year away from wrestling and have one last run in UFC. Dave says that unless things change, there's no way UFC could even come remotely close to paying Shamrock enough to get him to walk away from the money he's making in WWF right now, even if he really wants to fight again.

- Phil Mushnick is going after wrestling again this week and this time it's ECW. Mushnick wrote an article regarding the recent negotiations between ECW and Buena Vista Television, which is a subsidiary of Disney. Mushnick basically threw a fit that Disney would be involved with ECW in any way and called it sleazy and pornographic. Paul Heyman responded, saying he wouldn't argue the sleazy part but disagreed with being called pornographic. Classic Paul.

- A few ECW checks still bounced this week, but word is it was a timing problem with the checks being cashed before the big $750,000 loan that ECW just got landed in the bank and they have since been made good.

- ECW is negotiating with video game companies to make an ECW game (this turns into a pretty big deal for ECW in a few months).

- Since Public Enemy basically bailed out on ECW and their feud with the Dudleys to go sign with WWF, they have been buried on ECW TV and at live shows. Dave thinks ECW should stop wasting valuable TV time burying them and just write it off as a loss and move on.

- Don Callis was shown on ECW TV this week, so he's finally been released from his WWF deal and is apparently signed with ECW.

- On Nitro, Buff Bagwell wrestled his first real match in almost a year since his neck injury last April. He looked great in the ring considering.

- Bret Hart has told people that when his WCW contract is up, he plans to retire. There's been rumors that WWF is interested in bringing him back, but Bret is said to have no interest in ever returning.

- Ted Turner is starting a new cable channel called Turner South and they plan to air a show called WCW Classics featuring old footage. As the name implies, it's planned to only be available in southern states like Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, etc. (the channel lasted about 7 years. Not sure if the WCW Classics show ever came to be but I don't think so).

- DDP is filming a small part in a TV movie called First Daughter, which is why he's not been around lately. There's rumors that he may turn heel when he returns.

- On a radio show, Gene Okerlund talked about Scott Hall getting his ankle run over a couple of weeks ago. Okerlund said Hall was drunk and staggering around and falling all over the place when it happened. As you can imagine, Hall was a little annoyed at Okerlund for going on the radio and saying that.

- At the WCW Saturday Night tapings, a very green tag team called the Soul Surfers (doing a surfing gimmick) got a tryout match. For those wondering, that would be Chuck Palumbo and Mark Jindrak.

- Jim Duggan has gotten a clean bill of health and his cancer is gone. He's reportedly ready to return to the ring but WCW doesn't seem to have anything for him at the moment.

- Sting is due to return soon but no word on what his role will be. Sting reportedly wants to do the same angle he did in 1997, where he wears the white face paint and hangs out in the balcony. "Who wouldn't want that gig? Never wrestle. Make a million a year. Everyone bumps for you. It's the greatest job in wrestling history," Dave says.

- It's considered about an 80% chance that Jericho is heading to WWF when his contract expires. Dave thinks WCW is absolutely stupid if they let him get away and it would epitomize everything wrong with the company right now.

- Kurt Angle made his WWF TV debut in a segment on Sunday Night Heat where he blew his nose on the Indian flag and then beat up Tiger Ali Singh. It was done in Pittsburgh, which is Angle's hometown and the main reason they did it is because NBC's Today Show is working on a piece about Angle's jump to professional wrestling. WWF had provided footage of Angle training and his handful of matches he's worked on local indie shows, but NBC wanted footage of him doing something in a WWF ring, so they did this.

- Sable was at an autograph signing for her new Playboy magazine that came out this week and was charging $85 to sign copies of the magazine.

- Letters section: WCW sucks, WCW sucks, WCW sucks, etc. etc. Also, someone else writes in and wonders why there isn't a 24-hour wrestling channel. Given all the promotions out there, current and defunct, there's tons of tape libraries. Someone should put them all on a TV station. Dave responds and says you'd have a hard time getting WWF and WCW to go along with it, considering their current ties to their own networks. And without WWF or WCW, nobody is going to invest money into creating a 24-hour wrestling channel that only has old AWA footage or whatever. But Dave says maybe some day, if done correctly, it could be done and could likely be a big hit.
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Fuckin' Youtube videos are starting to slow down the thread again. Mufuckas gotta reply more!
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We are getting closer and closer to the Owen Hart death... I bet that is 10 pages or more.

- Dave has officially declared the Monday night wars over. Obviously, both shows are still going on. But WWF is riding an incredible wave of success while WCW is free-falling in self-destruction and he doesn't see that changing anytime soon. Sunday Night Heat did a record 5.09 rating, followed the next night by Raw doing a monstrous 6.46. At one point, Raw was more than doubling Nitro's ratings during certain segments of the show. Add in all the mainstream publicity (Sable in Playboy, TV Guide doing another 4-part covers series but only WWF this time, etc.) and just weeks away from Wrestlemania which will undoubtedly be the biggest money event in WWF history and the biggest non-boxing event in the history of pay-per-view, and WWF is simply on fire right now.

- On the flip side, there's WCW. For the last several weeks, Eric Bischoff has apparently been on vacation in France (Dave gets an AWESOME line here, saying it would be more appropriate if he was in Rome playing the fiddle). That left Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan in charge of Nitro this week and Dave says it was possibly the worst TV show put on by a major promotion in history and that Nash and Hogan used the show as a way to get themselves over and went to absurd lengths to basically bury everyone else in the company. When asked about it, Bischoff has basically said he's giving full control to Nash and giving him the chance to sink or swim on his own. Most people feel that Bischoff has pretty much given up and mentally checked out of the company and is looking for a way to get off the Titanic before it sinks. Dave thinks Nitro had to have been designed to fail this week because it takes a lot of thought to actually present a show that terrible, it couldn't have been an accident. He talks about how WCW has had a long tradition of bad booking, dating back to the mid-80s Crockett days where everyone did heel/face turns until the fans didn't care about anyone, screwjob finishes, and the booker pushing himself as the top star (Dusty) and obviously, nothing has changed in the last 10 years. Locker room morale is at rock bottom. Scott Hall is pretty much planning to sit out right now and has talked about suing WCW because it was a WCW employee who ran over his ankle a few weeks ago, injuring him. Benoit, Malenko, guys like them have been forgotten. Bret Hart's burial is complete and he's a midcard nobody now (he worked a 10+ minute match against Van Hammer this week, in case you're wondering). Arn Anderson, one of the top 3 promo guys in the biz, is being phased out. Billy Kidman, arguably the brightest new star in WCW in the last year or so, is barely on TV anymore. Same with Juventud Guerrera, who is the single best wrestler in the U.S. at the moment. Chris Jericho has potential to be the next Shawn Michaels or Ric Flair and he's booked like a nobody and is almost certainly WWF-bound when his contract ends. But we still have nonstop Scott Steiner, Buff Bagwell, Nash, and Hogan. Goldberg is still being booked strong because even WCW isn't foolish enough to totally bury him, but he's not going to be pushed above Hogan (who is turning face) and Dave wouldn't be surprised if they do something stupid like turn Goldberg heel (still a year away from that awful idea). With Ric Flair now being booked as the top heel (at 50 years old) and Hogan as the top babyface, it does nothing to dispel the notion that WCW is the elderly, out of touch company, while WWF is the hot, cool product. People who recently re-signed contracts are wishing they could get out of them and Dave expects nearly anyone who has a chance to go to WWF when their contracts expire will probably make the jump. But aside from all the comparisons of 1999 WCW to 1988 Crockett, Dave says there's one big difference. In 1988, even though morale was bad and the product was suffering, the performers didn't quit. They still tried to put on good shows. But now, in 1999, everyone from the wrestlers, to the announcers, to the front office...all of them have already mentally quit. Almost everyone is just collecting a check and phoning it in at this point and it's never been more obvious. And for that reason, Dave says the game is already over. WWF has won the war.

- Vader became the first wrestler in history to win both New Japan's IWGP title and AJPW's Triple Crown title after defeating Akira Taue to win the title recently vacated by Toshiaki Kawada after an injury. Dave says this puts Vader up there alongside Lou Thesz as one of the only wrestlers to hold more versions of major league championships than any other wrestler ever. Vader held the CWA title in Europe in the 80s, which was a bigger deal then than it is now. The UWA title in Mexico (back when they were the top promotion there). IWGP in Japan, 3 times, and the WCW title 3 times, among others. At one point in 1990, he was the CWA, UWA, and IWGP champ all at the same time, which probably makes him the only wrestler to ever hold 3 major world titles on 3 different continents at once.

- At the latest UFC PPV, Tito Ortiz got into a confrontation with Ken Shamrock, who was cageside for the fight. After Ortiz won his fight against Shamrock's protege Guy Mezger, he flipped off the Lion's Den corner and then pulled out a t-shirt that said "GAY Mezger is my bitch." Upon seeing the shirt, Shamrock jumped up and climbed the cage and started yelling at Ortiz, saying that if he put the shirt on, he would rip his head off and chastising him for poor sportsmanship. Due to UFC being afraid of any negative publicity these days, the camera pulled away from most of it, but Ortiz had to be pulled away and Shamrock nearly climbed into the cage and had to be restrained. For what it's worth, Shamrock has talked about wanting to fight again, but of course, he's still under WWF contract. He's had discussions with Vince McMahon about allowing him to fight, perhaps sometime this year but no word if it's led anywhere. And Shamrock reportedly wants to fight for the UFC title, and doesn't necessarily have any interest in fighting Ortiz, although now there's obviously some intrigue if that fight were to ever happen. But right now, UFC doesn't have enough visibility on PPV to even be able to afford to bring in Shamrock. But there's talk that UFC is making headway with the PPV providers and they seem confident that they may be able to start getting unbanned soon.

- The career of Lizmark, one of Mexican wrestling's all-time legends, may have come to a sudden end due to heart problems. He'd been dealing with chest pains recently and finally checked himself into a hospital only to find out it was bad news. Doctors then told him he absolutely could never wrestle again because he would be risking his life. Dave gives a brief recap of his career, talking about him as one of the innovators of out-of-the-ring dives that have become so popular in Lucha Libre ("tope suicida!") and how his son Lizmark Jr. currently wrestles in WCW. He's 49 and had already been talking of retiring anyway but was holding out hope that he would get to wrestle his final match with his son but the WCW/CMLL deal fell through and they're in different promotions so it looks like it won't happen. In fact, Dave says Lizmark's mask is one of the most famous in Mexican wrestling history and that legacy is the reason Lizmark Jr. has repeatedly refused to lose his mask in WCW, which is why they never push him. (Turns out this wasn't the end for Lizmark. He took about 6 months off and then resumed wrestling a slightly lighter schedule but still pretty regularly for the next several years. And in even better news, he did get to wrestle with his son a bunch of times during those years. He ended up retiring in 2013 and died in 2015).

- There's a quiet power struggle taking place within AJPW between Mitsuharu Misawa and Motoko Baba, the widowed wife of Giant Baba. Apparently Motoko Baba wants to oversee everything Misawa does while he wants to be left alone to run the company as he sees fit. He also wants to modernize things a bit. If you're recall, Giant Baba wasn't exactly the most in-touch guy when it came to the modern day wrestling business. (This behind-the-scenes power struggle goes on for the next year or so and eventually, Misawa leaves and takes almost the entire AJPW roster and office staff with him to form Pro Wrestling Noah which damn near puts AJPW out of business overnight. But we'll get there...)

- For the first time in AJPW history, Stan Hansen won't be part of the upcoming Champion Carnival tournament. Dave explains how in sumo wrestling, when a grand champion can no longer compete at the highest level, they are usually forced into retirement in order to spare them the indignity of losing to low level fighters. AJPW is basically doing the same thing here. Stan Hansen is without a doubt the biggest foreign star in the history of Japanese wrestling but he's 50 years old now and he simply can't hang with the newer generation of stars. And since it wouldn't make sense to push him as a top star anymore, they don't want him in the tournament losing to midcard guys and looking bad. So to preserve his legendary status, they are simply not putting him in the tournament at all.

- Shinya Hashimoto was expected to return to the ring for next month's big NJPW Tokyo Dome show but he won't be ready. He had major reconstructive surgery on his nose after getting it shattered to pieces in the Jan. 4 match against Naoya Ogawa and won't be medically cleared in time for the show.

- Riki Choshu has announced that he plans to come out of retirement. It's got a lot of people concerned about the financial condition of NJPW because, when he retired last year, Choshu vowed he would never come back unless the company was in such bad shape that they needed him to. Soooo...now he's coming back, so obviously people are questioning things. NJPW is denying that there are any money issues and in fact, most of the wrestlers who recently re-signed were given big raises. But house show business in the last year or so has declined so who really knows. No word on who or when Choshu will wrestle again (must have been some confusion here because Choshu stayed retired for another year-plus before finally coming out of retirement in mid-2000).

- Kenzo Suzuki, a former collegiate rugby star, has started training at the NJPW dojo and will likely debut for the company later this year (he doesn't last long in NJPW. Spends a couple of years in WWE during the mid-00s, and then ends up back in AJPW for most of the last decade).

- Nobuhiko Takada is still not giving up the dream of being a real MMA fighter and will face UFC fighter Mark Coleman at the next PRIDE show (this ends up being one of the more notorious "fixed" fights in MMA history, with Coleman clearly taking a dive for Takada).

- Speaking of Mark Coleman, WCW offered him $50,000 to come in and work a match against Goldberg and to put him over. But Coleman's people advised him against it and then Kevin Nash also shot down the idea, saying what if Vince McMahon offered Coleman $100,000 to double-cross WCW and shoot on Goldberg live on PPV and embarrass the company? Dave says the obvious answer to that would be to tape the match in advance just in case. But either way, it's not happening now.

- Legendary retired sumo wrestler Akebono has been denying rumors that he plans to get into pro wrestling now that his sumo career is over (took him a few years, but yeah he eventually becomes a pro wrestler).

- Women's boxer Shannon Hall reportedly has an offer to sign with WWF. She's also a former American Gladiator (she does sign with WWF but never makes it out of developmental).

- Dave finally saw the A&E Biography episode about Andre The Giant. He says it was a very well-produced fairy tale. Definitely entertaining, but about 80% inaccurate, at least about his wrestling career. There were some good interviews with his family members and friends about his childhood and personal life but as far as his wrestling career goes, most of it was revisionist bullshit.

- Legendary women's wrestler Mae Young has been playing the role of Sean Stasiak's mother on Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis. She had a wrestling match with Stacy and, at 75 years old, that makes her the oldest person to have a match that Dave is aware of (Lou Thesz had one at 74 a few years back). She took a few bumps and then faked a heart attack before sneak attacking Stacy with a purse.

- A 17-year-old kid named Andre Verdun made news in Ventura, CA for his backyard wrestling group where him and a bunch of other kids were having barbed wire matches and jumping off rooftops on each other through tables and whatnot. The principal at Verdun's school was furious at the newspaper that ran the story, saying all they did was give the kids more fame and notoriety by publishing it. Verdun was apparently signing autographs at school after it happened and now there's TV shows wanting to do interviews with them (I googled the guy and it looks like he did a bunch of garbage backyard death match shit for years. There's some videos on YouTube. He also played a big part in a 20/20 piece about backyard wrestling that also interviewed Mick Foley and others. Anyway, looks like this Verdun guy is all grown up and he's a lawyer now.)

- ECW paychecks are finally starting to clear now that they got the big influx of cash, so morale is better but no one is betting on the future. Even Tommy Dreamer, thought to be the most loyal guy in the company, went on a radio show this week saying that he only has a handshake agreement with Paul Heyman, not a contract, and said that if a serious offer came along from either WWF or WCW, he would take it.

- ECW also lost their TV deals in several major cities due to financial issues. Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh TV deals were all lost. They're working on getting Boston back. They voluntarily gave up the Chicago TV deal because they were paying $3,000 a week for TV there but they've never actually run a show there so they decided it wasn't worth the cost. Same for Atlanta, although they're looking for a new TV deal there. Pittsburgh dropped them due to bounced checks.

- Tammy Sytch and Chris Candido still aren't being used by ECW. They have told Heyman that they are in counseling and doing an outpatient drug rehab program. Tammy's mother also went to court this week and got a restraining order against her daughter extended (she was arrested a few weeks ago for violating it).

- ECW TV this week kept taking pathetic shots at WCW. Once might have been okay but it went on and on throughout the whole show and came off as whiny and desperate. They talked about WCW ripping off ECW's gimmick with the "Uncensored" PPV. Talked about the three-way match between Raven, Hardcore Hak, and Bigelow saying they are using ECW wrestlers for an ECW-style match. And they knocked the Hogan/Flair barbed wire cage match, saying that the match will suck because both guys are 50 year old millionaires who won't take risks and besides, the barbed wire is fake anyway and in ECW they use real barbed wire. Then they showed the famous Terry Funk/Sabu barbed wire match (not bothering to mention that Funk is older than both Flair and Hogan) and basically just spent the whole show knocking WCW.

- As if this week's episode of Nitro wasn't bad enough, they also failed to sell out the show, in a 12,000 seat arena. It's been a long time since Nitro failed to sell out an arena that size. A few days later, a Thunder taping only drew 4,000 fans to a 15,000-seat arena, which was disastrous. During Thunder, they aired 2 promo videos hyping next week's Nitro and both clips featured Sean Waltman, who has been gone from WCW for over a year now and is, of course, currently in WWF. The wheels are falling off this company.

- Also on Thunder, the crowd was chanting "steroids!" at Scott Steiner and at one point, he legit lost his cool and ran into the crowd after a fan, which they had to edited out before broadcast.

- In a magazine interview with Goldberg, he was asked his thoughts on WWF and said it was "shock TV" and said he would retire from wrestling tomorrow rather than ever go to work there. Sure thing, buddy.

- WWF injury/illness Report: Mankind is dealing with knee issues and will need time off soon. Billy Gunn missed a few shows due to fluid in his lungs and a respiratory infection. Steven Regal is still in rehab with no plans to return soon.

- Regarding rumors that Raw will be expanding to 3 hours, apparently it was discussed several months ago back when the ratings war with Nitro was still neck-and-neck. They didn't like that Nitro had a 1 hour head start and talked about adding a third hour to Raw. But now that Raw is dominating Nitro, they don't feel the need to do it anymore, so it won't be happening. Whew. Could you imagine?

- Kurt Angle will be sent to Memphis to work for Power Pro Wrestling for a bit before they put him on WWF TV.

- Luna Vachon was fired this week due to 4 separate incidents. She has had a lot of heat with Sable, Marc Mero, Jacqueline, and agent Jack Lanza. She also complained about not getting a push because she wasn't as pretty as Sable (which she also said on TV and it was more shoot than work) and she even challenged Marc Mero to a fight backstage at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre PPV. Basically, she's just been pissing off too many people and none of the other women were comfortable having her around because she's kinda wild, so they fired her. Funny enough, she was booked to face Sable at Wrestlemania and was even booked to win the title, but that's obviously off now and Sable will likely face Tori instead.

- WWF is considering doing their own women's wrestling show patterned after the old GLOW promotion of the 80s. They're holding a casting call in Los Angeles next week to bring in more pretty women for it (this never got off the ground but they ended up signing a few of the casting call women to developmental deals).

- CBS wants to do a Movie of the Week type deal with Steve Austin playing the same character he played on his recent Nash Bridges episode, since that did such a huge rating. And of course, if the movie does good, it would possibly lead to a full blown spin-off TV series. Austin's guest spot on the show opened a lot of eyes in Hollywood since it did such a big rating, more than even Hogan or Piper could have ever done on network TV.

- Public Enemy has a good bit of heat in WWF already, with most people feeling like they don't belong and are out of their league. They had a match against the Acolytes on Sunday Night Heat where both guys (Bradshaw especially) were stiffing the hell out of them. It was reportedly meant to be a message to PE and was approved by the office (yeah this match is BRUTAL and pretty much ended PE's run in WWF).

- Sable has been making the media rounds to promote her Playboy issue and was on Howard Stern this week and will be filming a role for La Femme Nikita next month. She was also interviewed by the New York Daily News and had this to say in regards to WWF's product: "As a responsible parent, I choose not to let my child watch it (Raw). My child is very young. She has a bed time and she's in bed when our show comes on. To me, that's being a responsible parent. Ultimately, it's the parent's decision. If you do not wish your child to watch the WWF, change the channel. It's not our place to put on a show that's supposedly for your children. It's your place as a parent to monitor what your children watch. Are they saying it's not okay to see the characters we play beat up each other but it's okay to have your child watch a movie where a famous actor blows away 100 people with an M-16?" When asked if she felt her character is degrading to women, Sable responded, "I feel I'm being a strong, stand-up woman. People don't have to like what I do or agree with what I do because they don't have to live my life. I would much rather my daughter when she grows up, do what she wants to do because she wants to do it, not because of what someone else thinks." When asked about turning heel recently but still not getting booed, Sable pointed to her chest and said, "Why would they boo this?"

- The idea with Jim Ross acting like a heel lately is because they want to transition him into being Steve Williams' manager and also because they're trying to transition Michael Cole into the new main announcer for Raw. However, Ross' promos had the opposite effect and got over huge and he got big cheers. So they've dropped the heel act but the plan is still for him to do the talking for Steve Williams and there's no plans for him to replace Michael Cole anytime soon.

- Remember that hotel and casino that WWF bought in Las Vegas? Well, the plan is to tear it down and rebuild since the building isn't right for what they want (they want to be able to hold shows in it, but the structure isn't built for it). Anyway, whenever they do finally demolish it, there's been talk of turning it into a wrestling angle and having Austin press the button, with the storyline idea being that Austin just destroyed a multi-million dollar piece of property that Vince owns (didn't happen but that would have been awesome).

- Someone writes in and chastises Dave for being so mean to WCW. The guy basically says, yeah WCW sucks right now but do you have to keep ridiculing them for it? Someone else writes in and shits all over Mick Foley, saying he's a glorified stuntman and doesn't belong in a wrestling ring and he hates this new era of jumping off cages and crashing through tables and all that stuff. He wishes someone with a lot of money would come along and promote wrestling the way it used to be in the good ol' days. He signs his name "Duane Mason" but I know a Jim Cornette letter when I see one!
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Yeah the Owen Hart issue is a motherfucker. Lots of shit happens right at that same time. Owen's death, Sable lawsuit, Hart family lawsuit, etc.
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It sucks because in less than a ten-year span, 3 of the biggest tragedies ever happened in wrestling. Owen, Eddie, and Benoit.

- WCW Uncensored is in the books, complete with a Hogan/Flair double turn and ending with Ric Flair winning either his 14th, 18th, or 22nd world title, depending on how you choose to keep count. Also worth noting that, at 50, Ric Flair has been able to carry Hogan to 2 of his best matches in years on back-to-back PPVs, and successfully played heel so well that he got the crowd to cheer for Hogan (which they weren't biting on at the beginning of the match). It was generally a pretty good show with a hot crowd, which WCW desperately needed right now, although there was still plenty wrong. Billy Kidman had a great match against the debuting Mikey Whipwreck and Dave thinks Kidman has obvious superstar potential but WCW has been dropping the ball on him big time. Whipwreck also had a hell of an impressive debut. Chris Jericho faced Perry Saturn in a dog collar match and before the match, they repeatedly said Jericho had never had a dog collar match before, at which point Dave reminds us that Jericho had a dog collar match against Lizmark Jr. on Nitro JUST LAST WEEK whilst building up for this match. Dave ponders if maybe it didn't happen and perhaps he's just having hallucinations. During the Hak/Raven/Bigelow hardcore match, there were multiple, massive "ECW" chants which the WCW producers immediately tried to mute by lowering the audio each time.

- Speaking of Flair's multiple title reigns, Dave basically breaks down what the number is and says it depends on what you consider being a world champion and whether you count various phantom title changes and overturned Dusty-finishes and whatnot. Or various times where Flair would lose the title just to get a big pop from the crowd and then move on to the next city like it never happened and do it again. Shit like that used to happen back in the early-80s when there was no internet and average fans didn't know what was happening in other territories. Like the time Flair lost the NWA title to Harley Race in New Zealand and then won it back 2 days later in Singapore, but it was never publicly acknowledged. It gets even more confusing when you factor in shit like the NWA/WCW split, Flair leaving WCW as champion while still being recognized by the NWA as champion, the weird "WCW International Title" debacle, and so on and so forth. Dave does a breakdown of basically every single one of Flair's title wins and losses and gives his analysis and opinions on what should count and what shouldn't. Anyway, long story short, Dave's personal opinion is that as of March 14, 1999, Ric Flair is now an 18-time world champion, although you can make an argument from anywhere between 14 and 22 and you'd probably still be right.

- As usual, Raw beat Nitro in the ratings again, but for what it's worth, WCW actually closed the gap this week and even barely edged out Raw to win the last over-run segment of the show. But overall, the final rating still wasn't really close, with Raw pretty much dominating.

- AJPW held a retirement ceremony for Jumbo Tsuruta this week, leading to Dave giving a big long career recap. He basically says Tsuruta was one of those guys had everything needed to be THE top guy but he was always in the shadow of Inoki and Baba. Sorta like how Larry Bird was always in the shadow of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, or how Hank Aaron was always in the shadow of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. He was just that guy who had all the tools, but there was always someone with some intangible "it" that was always a slightly bigger star. Calls Tsuruta one of the top 5 or 6 stars in the history of Japanese wrestling and one of the most amazing athletes to ever step foot in a wrestling ring. He was trained by Dory Funk Jr. and interestingly enough, Dory also says that new WWF rookie Kurt Angle is similar in that way. Tsuruta was the first wrestler that Giant Baba signed to AJPW in 1972. Recaps all his major feuds and angles. In 1992, he started missing a lot of time due to a mysterious illness (which I believe ended up being some form of Hepatitis) and it destroyed his health and basically ended his career. He continued to wrestle but was nowhere near what he used to be and mostly became a midcard, part-time comedy act until finally hanging up the boots. He mostly stuck around out of loyalty to Baba and almost as soon as Baba died, Tsuruta announced his retirement and is moving to Portland, OR to start a new life outside of wrestling.

- A CD called "Slammin' Wrestling Hits" was pulled out of stores after the record label was sued by WWF. The album was essentially full of nearly exact re-creations of WWF and WCW theme songs that was released without permission. The album had sold around 60,000 copies before being pulled from stores and was at #139 on the Billboard charts, but a judge ordered the album pulled. The label had produced around 300,000 copies of it before the judge made his ruling. WWF has their own album, called "WWF The Music: Vol. 3" in stores now and the judge ruled that this likely cut into the WWF album sales since it's basically the exact same songs (here's a playlist of the whole album and yeah, this is an obvious rip-off. Not sure how they thought they could get away with this).

- CMLL announced there will be a Perro Aguayo retirement match later this year and that he will team with his son Perro Aguayo Jr. for his final match, probably in Sept. or Dec. (nah, he pretty much continues working a full time schedule all the way through 2002 and then has his last match in 2007).

- There's still a bit of a backstage power struggle in AJPW between Misawa and Giant Baba's widow Motoko Baba. Most people seem to be siding with Misawa as far as who should run the day-to-day operations. Word is AJPW plans to make an official announcement of what the new company hierarchy will be sometime next month.

- As expected, Naoya Ogawa defeated Dan Severn to win the NWA title, which Severn had held since early-1995. All the major media outlets in Japan covered it as a huge sports story and talked about Ogawa winning the same title held by legends like Lou Thesz, Dory Funk, and of course, Giant Baba. This is exactly how Antonio Inoki planned it when he booked this match, so....big win for Inoki and his UFO promotion.

- Terry Funk is reportedly planning to start winding down his career soon (lol). Funk spent the last several months recovering from Hepatitis and was in poor health. While he was recovering, Funk said he and his wife discussed his future and agreed that he would finish out a few last bookings he had promised to do before he got sick and then call it a career, although he didn't rule out the possibility of doing a show here and there. But he's decided his days on the road are over and that it's time to stay home (he'll be working a full-time schedule with WCW in less than a year).

- Bob Backlund was interviewed by a Connecticut newspaper regarding his planned U.S. Congress run and didn't exactly have a lot of substantive ideas when it comes to the issues. On drugs he said, "If we take away the demand, there won't be any supply." On crime he said, "My motto is to treat people how you want to be treated." On education he said, "I think if we believe kids are good, they'll do good things." Hot takes there, Bob.

- The financial situation in ECW is still the biggest topic of discussion there. Paul Heyman has basically described the situation by saying they're just trying to survive until they get video game licensing money coming in which is expected to be soon and said that more checks may bounce in the meantime. There have also been bounced checks to various venues and local promoters who help them book buildings, among other things. Vince McMahon and Jim Ross both contacted Heyman and said they were willing to help ECW. Dave says it's in WWF's best interest for ECW to stay alive and to keep Heyman on their good side. If ECW goes out of business, it could lead to an influx of wrestlers and perhaps even Heyman going to WCW otherwise. Plus, it's good to have ECW indebted to them. Even WCW has somewhat put the word out there that they are willing to help in some way. Neither promotion wants to see ECW die because they don't want the other side to snatch up the remains if it happens. As of now, Heyman seemingly hasn't taken either company up on their offers.

- Big Dick Dudley and John Kronus are gone from ECW, no reason given (neither would ever return).

- Although Tommy Dreamer spoke last week about being willing to take an offer from WWF or WCW if it comes up, apparently that's not entirely true. Raven contacted Dreamer just a few weeks ago about coming in to WCW to form a tag team with him and said he could get Dreamer a good deal. But Dreamer turned it down.

- Justin Credible's ECW future is in question. He has a 5-year contract, but has reportedly had talks with WCW recently and had spoken to Heyman about leaving. Heyman offered to release Credible from his contract if he wanted to leave, but Credible changed his mind and decided to stay.

- Lots of rumors that Eric Bischoff may be planning to quit WCW. He was on vacation in France for a couple of weeks but just returned and privately, he's apparently told some people that he's considering leaving. It's also become obvious to those backstage that he seems burned out and disinterested in running things anymore.

- Nitro was mostly the same ol' shit show this week but there were 2 really good parts that Dave gives credit to. Mysterio vs. Kidman was the best American TV match this year. And the angle with Scott Steiner attacking Buff Bagwell's neck with a chair was a great angle and for once, even the announcers sold it well and it made for an awesome angle. But, ya know, then there was the other 2 and a half hours...

- Bret Hart wasn't on Nitro last week, and surely there was a good reason, right? Maybe dealing with an injury, or perhaps he was off filming something else? Right?? Nope. He was backstage, ready to go. They just didn't have anything for him so he wasn't booked.

- Bischoff has discussed doing an advertising campaign for WCW in order to emphasize that WCW isn't like WWF because it's not as crude and sexual. They're tired of being lumped in with all of WWF's bad publicity.

- Various random WCW notes that are too brief for their own paragraph: Bobby Heenan, Larry Zbyszko, and Disco Inferno all signed new 3-year contracts. Randy Savage has been medically cleared to return to the ring. Steve McMichael no-showed Nitro. Chris Benoit, Kevin Nash, and Hogan are all booked for upcoming episodes of TSN's Off The Record. Former MTV VJ Ricky Rachmann has been hired as a backstage interviewer. Bam Bam Bigelow recently suffered a seizure and was hospitalized. And finally, Ron Reis had his contract renewed, leading to Dave to remind us that, "This is the same company that fired Steve Austin."

- David Flair is apparently serious about becoming a full-time wrestler and has been training at the Power Plant.

- ESPN's Outside The Lines has been filming for an upcoming episode about wrestling. They spoke to both Hogan and Scott Steiner regarding steroids. Hogan said he used to use them but doesn't anymore. Steiner also denied using steroids, a lie so blatant that it nearly gives Dave an aneurysm trying to process it.

- Bischoff recently spoke with Chris Jericho about his future and made it clear that WCW wants to keep him. They haven't made him a big money offer yet but it's believed they will soon. They have also talked about giving Jericho his own weekly Piper's Pit-style talk show segment on Nitro if he stays (maybe they could call it the Highlight Reel). Those close to Jericho say he hasn't really made his mind up 100% either way but most people think he's still leaning towards going to WWF.

- Nitro is expected to get a cosmetic makeover in the coming weeks. Dave compares it to how every woman in the business is apparently required to get cosmetic surgery these days and he wonders if WCW can "implant" more good wrestling into the product instead of worrying about changing logos and shit.

- After years of ignoring all the times Shane Douglas called him out, Ric Flair finally had something to say about Douglas on a WCW Live audio show on their website. Here's what Flair had to say:

Quote:He is a quarterback that thought he was going to go in the first round, that went in the seventh round, that knew because he went in the seventh round he had to play harder, but never made it. He threw the ball ten yards shorter. He ran the 40 a tenth of a second slower. Everything he's done in life, he's done behind the scenes, and he's cried about everything and everybody. If it's not me, it's Nash. If it's not Nash, it's Hall. If it's not Hall, it's McMahon. If it's not McMahon, it's Bischoff. At some point in time, you got to look in the mirror. Do you think that fans listen to that shit? Ten years ago, he told me he was going to be a medical doctor. Everything in his life is pretty much a dream, or a thought, or an afterthought. And I'm happy that he's making money where he's at, because he'd never go anywhere else. He's, you know, been given the opportunity and some guys cut it, and some guys don't.

I understand he challenged me to the ultimate fight or something like that. Let me tell you this. If you take the needle out of his ass, he's 140 pounds, at best. And you tell him, 90 days after he takes the needle out of his ass, anytime, anywhere, and I'm 50 years old. As a matter of fact, my son Reid, with the needle out of his ass, will beat him in record time. And Reid's 11-years-old and weighs 126. I think Shane Douglas, off the gas, is about 126 pounds soaking wet. If I'm Bob Barker [one of the names Douglas has called Flair in the past], he's, let me see, who was that cop on Andy Griffith that walked around with the hat on sideways? He's Barney Fife

Excuse me, Dr. Douglas who never went to school. Dr. Douglas who never made it in WCW, who blamed me for it. I wasn't the booker, however. Dr. Douglas, who didn't make it in WWF. Dr. Douglas, who's alienated himself. Dr. Douglas, who is blown up at 220 pounds. You can't beat my 11-year-old son. How 'bout that?"

- So anyway, Shane Douglas was quick to respond with a statement on 1Wrestling.com

Quote:"I'm honored that after five years of me dogging your ass, that you finally had, well, enough balls if you'd call it that, to bring up the challenge and make this response. I'm sitting here reading, having a good laugh. First of all, Mr. Flair, taking the "needle out of my ass," maybe you ought to re-investigate this and learn your syntax, Mr. Flair. Going to medical school? Yeah, I was accepted to medical school. Maybe that's something you can't understand in that pea brain of yours. Because I choose to stay in this business and dog your ass, thinking you might be man enough some day to accept the challenge. Maybe I should have gone to medical school. I'd had a bigger challenge with a cadaver. As far as your syntax goes Mr. Flair, "As a matter of fact, my son Reid, with a needle out of his ass, will beat him in record time." Well, I suggest that you stop stooging your son off if he's using the juice. Secondly, maybe you should take the needle out of his ass, shove it in your own ass, and maybe those tits won't flap around like they do all the damn time. Maybe if you don't put juice in it, maybe put a little Viagara, maybe you'd get a little backbone, enough to stick up for yourself and fight like a goddamned man for once, instead of being the big pussy that you are."

- Dave says that Douglas's statement actually went on a lot longer from this point and basically turned into a dumb wrestling promo, with dumb shit like claiming Flair was begging Heyman for a job in ECW and how Taz is the real world champion and other such shit. Dave says he was so embarrassed for Douglas that he doesn't even want to type up the rest of it. Dave says that unless this ever turns into a real angle or they end up in the same company, this is the last time he's going to waste space writing about it (they end up in the same company in just a few short months).

- As mentioned previously, WWF is actively trying to push Michael Cole as the new permanent lead Raw announcer. Interestingly enough, before going with Cole, they actually made an offer to TSN Off The Record host Michael Landsberg. He was interested, but then TSN told him that if he did it, he would have to give up his OTR show and he didn't want to do that.

- Sable's issue of Playboy magazine is legitimately close to becoming the all-time best selling issue of Playboy in history. She's also taking acting lessons and is considering taking more acting roles.

- Jerry Lawler was arrested in Memphis this week after an incident where he ran over a cop's foot. An officer was giving him a ticket for being parked on the curb at the airport for too long and she ended up in an argument with Lawler. He ended up balling up the ticket and throwing it at the cop and then driving off. As he drove off, he ran over the cop's foot. Lawler surrendered himself to the police a few days later and was booked and released pending a court date (I remember this. It was a huge story here at the time and later on when he ran for mayor, his opponents made a huge deal about it).

- Nicole Bass has signed a developmental contract and may be brought in as Sable's bodyguard.

- Fitness model Trish Stratus has not signed with WWF, contrary to rumors, but was told to send a resume to Jim Ross.

- The letters section this week is pretty much all just letters from people who can't comprehend how WCW manages to suck as much as it does right now.
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I bought the WWF music volume three and that lame slamming wrestling CD because there were different songs on it but they still sounded like ass. I think I still have it.
That WCW change was terrible. The weird star trek wcw logo is the worst.
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I too had that terrible album.

My biggest complaint about the WCW makeover is that it looked a little too much like Diet Raw. The big dropcloth with stars always looked like shit. The logo was the least of their problems but it did make things worse somehow.
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Red WCW logo was ass too
Why’s everything gotta be ass yo
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