Partner Howard Traylor

Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jul. 28, 1997

2017.09.19 18:02 daprice82 Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jul. 28, 1997

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
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7-21-1997
  • WWF has confirmed last week's Observer story that Raw will no longer be airing live every Monday night starting in September. The plan is to do a live Raw, followed by a taped Raw the next day on Tuesday which would then air on the following Monday. It's being done as a cost-cutting measure. Live tapings each week were killing them and they weren't seeing any significant ratings difference from the old taped Raws. In fact, WWF seems very concerned over the financial situation of the company lately and have been cutting costs in other ways, such as flying less people in to shows, booking cheaper flights on lower-cost days, and changing the house show schedule in ways to cut back on travel costs.
  • WWF has also decided to drop the cheaper, shorter In Your House PPV concept effective immediately and all future PPVs will be monthly and all carry the same $29.95 price. This is also pretty much a money decision. WCW has been running PPVs in that price range and are still doing higher buyrates, so WWF finally realized that they could raise the price and people will still buy the shows (this trend continued for years. WWF incrementally raises the price, people keep buying. 10 years later, PPVs were $60 instead of $30 and we all just kept handing over our money like idiots). Meanwhile, Wrestlemania will still be a little bit more expensive to preserve the "specialness" of that event. In fact, throughout the business, it's beginning to look like price doesn't matter up to a certain point. Zane Bresloff who promotes house shows for WCW has gradually been increasing ticket prices across the board and in some cases, it's actually shown a significant increase in ticket buys. It's believed that fans see lower prices as something cheap and minor league, but higher prices make it seem more special and therefore attractive to buyers. Obviously, there's a ceiling where the price would be too high, but so far, wrestling hasn't reached it yet.
  • WCW Nitro didn't air this week because TNT aired a Civil War mini-series. The show did way bigger ratings than WCW usually does in that time slot, so TNT is thrilled about it. As for Raw, without competition from Nitro, they did one of their highest ratings in years. Interestingly enough, the Raw rating drew about 70% of the usual combined audience for both shows, which means there's 30% of fans who would rather not watch wrestling at all on Monday night if Nitro isn't on. Nitro was bumped to Tuesday night this week but no word on how the ratings were yet. In the future, WCW plans to start airing monthly-ish 3-hour Nitros on a semi-regular schedule, but not every week. Basically, sometimes it'll be 2 hours, sometimes it'll be 3.
  • ECW is expected to file a lawsuit against WCW this week regarding several things, specifically Raven and Stevie Richards appearing at the Bash At The Beach PPV. Paul Heyman claims Raven's ECW contract had a non-compete clause which prevented him from appearing on any other company's PPV for 6 months but WCW put him on PPV anyway. Heyman also says that WCW attempted to use Raven as an intermediary to try to get Sandman to come to WCW, which Heyman claims is contract tampering. In the case of Stevie Richards, Heyman claims Richards signed a letter of intent to negotiate a new deal with ECW when he suddenly showed up in WCW. Richards admits signing the letter, but believes the time period on it had run out and that he was free to leave, but Heyman disputes that. Heyman claims he released Richards from the deal because Richards had informed him that he would no longer be able to wrestle due to his neck injury, and then Richards immediately went to WCW. The contract situation isn't the legal problem though. ECW is claiming they own the intellectual rights to the Raven and Stevie Richards characters and that WCW using their same ECW gimmicks violates ECW's copyright (basically the TNA/Matt Hardy situation). Dave talks about how WCW has run into this issue before, when Ray Traylor debuted in WCW doing the same look and gimmick of his Big Boss Man character and WWF threw a fit, so WCW changed it. Raven maintains that he created the Raven character and he has the rights to it.
  • Nobuhiko Takada's dream shoot fight against Rickson Gracie is back on and scheduled for October. Dave breaks down the history of this on-again-off-again fight and basically says Takada is a great professional wrestler and has a lot of kickboxing training, but he's still a pro wrestler who's never been tested in a real fight and Dave thinks he doesn't really stand a chance against Gracie (he was correct). This ends up being the first ever Pride event.
  • A quick look at WWF and WCW business for the first few months of 1997 compared to the same period in 96 and 95: PPV buyrates, live attendance, TV ratings, etc. TL;DR - WWF is doing the best live business they've done in years, but PPV buyrates and TV ratings are down. As for WCW, pretty much everything is up but you can't give all the credit to the NWO angle. In fact, WCW's PPV buyrates in 1997 so far are actually lower than the 1995 buyrates. And TV ratings are actually down slightly from the same time period in 1996 (which was before the NWO debuted) so once again, despite being a hot angle, the NWO hasn't really made any significant impact on TV or PPV numbers. They do seem to be responsible for the increased house show and merchandise numbers though.
  • Masahiro Chono reportedly suffered a broken ankle in a match last week but he still plans to work the upcoming G-1 tournament.
  • Dave offhandedly mentions how important the year 1993 was looking back on it in retrospect. ECW, UFC, K-1, Michinoku Pro, and Pancrase all debuted in that year and in their own way, they all changed the face of the wrestling/fighting industry.
  • Speaking of Michinoku Pro, the promotion has really gone downhill recently due to so many top stars being gone. Super Delfin and Shiryu quit, Taka Michinoku headed to WWF, Jinsei Shinzaki jumping ship to AJPW, and top star Great Sasuke taking a leave of absence to work in WWF as well. Speaking of Sasuke, that WWF deal may be falling apart. Sasuke held a press conference in Japan this week and was upset about WWF flying him from Japan to the U.S. with an economy class ticket and said he felt like WWF doesn't respect how big a star he is. He was also upset because WWF flew Taka Michinoku in from Mexico on first class, when Taka is nowhere near his star power. So who knows.
  • Glenn Jacobs is still working as Doomsday in USWA and it doesn't look like there are any plans to bring him up to WWF anytime soon so it doesn't look like Jacobs will end up playing the "Cain" role after all.
  • Phil Mushnick of the NY Post wrote an article this week that took some info from the Observer. A few weeks ago, Dave listed all the wrestlers who have been arrested this year. Mushnick copied that list and said they had "all been arrested on drug charges, mostly steroids." Dave says that's actually not true. Three of the names were arrested for non-drug issues, and of the others, 2 of the arrests were for marijuana. Only 2 people on the entire list were actually arrested for steroids.
  • Dave attended an indie show in California and talks about a wrestler named Vic Grimes who had a falls count anywhere match with someone named Erin O'Grady (later became Crash Holly). In the match, they wrestled out into the parking lot and at one point, O'Grady got in his car and was going at least 30MPH, if not faster, and drove towards Grimes and opened the car door and hit him with the door as he drove past. Dave says Grimes was uninjured but he worries what happens when other wrestlers inevitably try the same stunt or worse.
  • Former WWF announcer Sean Mooney is now working as a news anchor for WBZ in Boston.
  • 9 years ago this week, Bruiser Brody was murdered in Puerto Rico. Dave (with a hint of disgust) says WWC never went out of business and Brody's killer, Jose Gonzalez (Invader #1) was not only brought back to the company but has been pushed as the #2 babyface ever since.
  • Ian Rotten's IWA promotion in Louisville held a sold out show and drew over 400 people. They announced IWA was joining the NWA and brought out Dennis Coraluzzo as the head of the NWA, who cut a heel promo. The NWA is basically just a name at this point, so it means pretty much nothing. Ricky Steamboat is reportedly being brought in to work as a special referee at the next IWA show.
  • ECW packed the most fans ever into the ECW Arena, with literal busloads of fans who traveled from out of state being turned away at the door. The night before, they also packed a show in Queens and had to turn people away at the door. The show was highlighted by Rick Rude turning heel to join Shane Douglas' Triple Threat stable, followed by Taz choking out Jerry Lawler. The Gangstas also won the tag titles from the Dudleys. At the show in Queens, Paul Heyman got on the mic and cut a big "Fuck WWF" type of speech. So that relationship is apparently going well.
  • There was a minor incident backstage at the Queens ECW show where a wrestler (El Puerto Ricano) apparently didn't sell long enough for Kronus's finisher. So after the match, Perry Saturn hit Ricano with an incredibly brutal shot with his crutch, which Ricano also apparently didn't sell enough for Saturn's liking. Backstage, Saturn confronted him and shoved him, but Ricano simply apologized and the situation was diffused. Speaking of Saturn, he's actually already off crutches (except on TV) and is walking with a knee brace. He's way ahead of schedule on his knee rehab and ECW thinks he may be ready to return by November.
  • ECW had a big angle where there was supposed to be a mystery partner for Tommy Dreamer and Sandman. ECW was strongly considering bringing in Dan Severn but Heyman feels that if they're going to bring in Severn, he wants to do a long build-up for it and have a Severn vs. Taz match on PPV and didn't want to waste Severn as a surprise 6-man tag match partner. They also considered making a deal with WCW in exchange for a settlement on the Raven deal but that fell through.
  • Remember the ongoing situation with WWF using footage of Steve Austin in ECW? WWF claims Heyman gave them the tape and permission to use it, but Heyman flat out denies it and said you can tell by the low quality that it's a VHS dub and not a copy of the master footage that he would have given them if that was the case. Joey Styles is still said to be considering suing WWF for using the video (he's interviewing Austin in it) without his permission.
  • ECW's August PPV was originally planned to take place at Northern Kentucky University near Cincinnati, but an anonymous source sent the college a video of the Mass Transit incident and the college pulled out of the deal. It's believed the source was a local promoter who didn't want ECW running a show in "his" territory. ECW denies it and says that the NKU location was considered but was never the official plan and that ECW themselves chose to move it to Florida. It's in ECW's best interest to at least pretend it was their decision because if they start having trouble booking buildings or start getting banned from cities, it makes them look like UFC, which has had so many problems booking locations. The "Extreme" name was a great marketing idea when Heyman came up with it, but now lots of media outlets and athletic commissions have lumped ECW in with the now-defunct Extreme Fighting promotion, which is a big red flag for the company in trying to book buildings or get TV and PPV deals. And of course, the Mass Transit tape is a potential time bomb that's always hanging over ECW's head and they were unhappy that this story got into the Observer (so they'll probably love this) because Request TV is still paranoid about bad publicity. ECW wants to sweep the Mass Transit tape under the rug and forget it ever happened, but there's always the concern that some major media outlet will pick up the story and air the footage and then it's game over. Speaking of, Eric Kulas (Mass Transit) still hasn't filed a lawsuit against ECW. Meanwhile, ECW has been trying to get medical reports from Kulas's family in order to find out the actual injuries but they haven't heard anything back.
  • Louie Spicolli is on thin ice in ECW. They're already spending a lot of money to fly him in from California each week and Heyman wants him to be at the show early to work out in the ring, but Spicolli hasn't been doing it. He also threw a fit about doing a job to Tom Prichard last week and Heyman is pretty irritated at him overall.
  • The rap group Insane Clown Posse has been in the news after Disney dropped them from their record label due to their album The Great Milenko. They appeared on Howard Stern's show this week and spent a lot of time talking about how they were big fans of ECW and that their favorite wrestler was Rob Van Dam. ICP said they'd be at the show in Queens the next night and they put over the show so big that Paul Heyman was crediting ICP for helping to draw such a big crowd that night.
  • WCW will be meeting with George Steinbrenner this week, with the plan to do a Nitro taping from Yankee Stadium (didn't happen).
  • Hogan is currently filming a movie in Montreal (Hogan had a few movies come out in 97/98 but it looks like The Ultimate Weapon is the only one that was filmed in Montreal so probably that one.)
  • WCW recently paid $100,000 to the estate of Jimi Hendrix to allow Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman to use "Voodoo Child" as their ring music for the next 12 months.
  • Raw this week was in Nova Scotia Canada and once again, the crowd heat was insane. The Hart Foundation were huge babyfaces, while Shawn Michaels got booed like you wouldn't believe. Shawn did a back flip off the ropes to show his knee is just fine and then gave the NWO/Kliq hand signal at the camera. During his promo, he seemed out of it and his voice was gone and was slurring his words (yeah, Shawn was basically drugged out of his mind on TV every week at this point and it's super obvious). Also, the crowd chanted "faggot!" at him.
  • Other random notes from this Raw: The Patriot came out with the American flag and was booed out of the building. Shawn was made the special referee for the UndertakeBret Hart match at Summerslam which led to Bret and Vince McMahon getting into a fight at ringside. And the show ran 10 minutes longer than normal, with USA Network running a crawl on the bottom of the screen saying La Femme Nikita would start in 10 minutes. (And thus, the traditional 8-10 minute overrun on Raw was born. Also, we're in that early-Attitude era of Raw where literally every episode seems to have some historic moment looking back on it).
WATCH: Bret Hart fights with Vince McMahon
  • The situation with Sid backstage last week is that he may have suffered an anxiety attack. Sid thought he was having a heart attack but he refused to go to the hospital and instead went back to his hotel. Sid has lost a lot of weight because his back injury has prevented him from working out, plus he's had the flu lately.
  • Doug Furnas was told he'd need back surgery that would keep him out for at least 6 months, but he's opted against the surgery and is planning to rehab it as best he can and return in September.
  • WWF is looking at producing a major show in the UK sometime in September (that would be the One Night Only PPV and ends up being one of the most egregious examples of just how much of a prick Shawn Michaels was in 1997. But we'll get there.)
  • There's a rib on Ron Simmons going on in the WWF locker room where guys ask Simmons to kick them in the kidneys so they can put on 30 pounds of muscle like Ahmed Johnson did after his kidney injury.
  • The plan for Undertaker's brother "Cain" is for him to debut in September or October.
TOMORROW: More on ECW/WCW lawsuit story, WWF fires Sid, Fritz Von Erich diagnosed with lung cancer, and more...
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