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Everything posted by KTID

  1. KTID

    Michael Jackson

  2. KTID

    Michael Jackson

    There seemed to be some confusion over the cause of death. Authorities have now categorically ruled out the sunshine, the moonlight and the good times, leaving no option but to blame it on the boogie.
  3. KTID

    Soccer-Based Comedy Anyone?

    You thought your team might be in it? Check out this from our (Kilmarnock's) game on Saturday: link
  4. KTID

    Bring Back the ECW Folder.

    Why does it need four or more different folders anyway?
  5. More hilarity... The first post-Bischoff PPV was Fall Brawl. If anyone needs evidence of how screwed up WCW was at this point, consider the fact that there wasn't any card at all a week before the show aired. Even the cable companies finally lost it, and the following ad appeared in newspapers nationwide: "We're the advertising agency and they won't even tell us who's going to be there! For God's sake don't miss it!" Below that, it read: "Sunday, September 12. Insert time here." Russo would later tell the New York Times: "There is one word that we start and end every conversation with: logic. Once you lose the logic of the situation, then you lose the realism and you lose the audience." Indeed. And speaking of titles, Psicosis was suddenly the Cruiserweight champion. Thankfully, WCW.com explained what happened: "Psicosis was awarded the belt after the West Hollywood Blondes angle was dropped." The only other "highlight" of the show was a match between Tank Abbott and a guy named "Big Al" that no one had ever heard of before (or since, come to think of it). At the end of their leather jacket on a pole match, Tank pulled a knife on Al, and screamed, "I could fucking kill you!" He then placed the knife squarely on Al's throat as the cameras quickly cut away. Tony Schiavone, thinking on his feet, came up with a remarkable explanation: Tank, he said, was just trying to shave Al's beard. Unfortunately for Tony, Al had no beard. The April 19 Thunder also saw Brian Knobbs' last appearance in the world of wrestling, as he was doing an angle with Meng in which Meng hit him with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Goldberg (which Knobbs sold). He was then thrown out a thirty-foot window. He didn't really fall thirty feet, but it was in fact the last time Knobbs ever appeared on a nationally televised pro-wrestling event. If you're going to go, you might as well go in style. A man named Peter Goldschmidt sued another man, Robert Catell, for appearing on WCW telecasts holding up various derogatory signs, including "PETER GOLDSCHMIDT LOSER 4 LIFE." Apparently, the two used to be friends on Long Island. Then, one day, Catell asked Goldschmidt to help him move. Goldschmidt supposedly said he was unable to because it was a work day, and the friendship came to a bitter end, leaving Catell to travel around the nation and hold up disparaging signs at wrestling events. The number of lives that WCW ultimately affected is staggering. Lex Luger, in an interview segment with Stevie Ray called "Suckas Gots to Know," asked if what he was about to say was just between the two of them. Apparently he was unaware that the program was being broadcast nationwide to several million people. Stevie was apparently unaware as well, since he responded that it was "just between you, me and 5,000 viewers." Yes, 5,000 viewers. Tony Schiavone tried to make the save by claiming - really - that he meant 5,000 viewers in each house.
  6. To characterize 1995 as the year pro wrestling in the United States reached its '90s-era nadir might not be entirely accurate, but it certainly would not be far off. Throughout the year, the products of the WWF and WCW were slaves to convention, unable (and unwilling) to free themselves from their ‘80s-inspired focuses on size and gimmickry, and, accordingly, each group struggled as rarely before to fill arenas and draw adequate pay-per-view buy rates. The business fortunes of the WWF in particular took a tumble, reaching dangerous lows by year's end, while WCW fared little better, despite drawing some of the strongest pay-per-view buy rates of its 11-year history. There was ultimately a silver lining in the dark cloud, as each promotion’s travails only made the upheaval that began to happen at year’s end even more salient; but, for a time, the nay-sayers were forecasting doom for each group. The most prominent, influential star in wrestling in 1995 also just so happened to be the most prominent, influential star in wrestling in 1985, and therein lied much of the problem. As the year dawned, Hulk Hogan was fresh off co-headlining "Starrcade '94" against friend/flunkey The Butcher (Ed Leslie) and, in the process, was lording over nearly all aspects of WCW's on-air creative direction -- most often to the detriment of the quality of the product as a whole. As the year drew to a close, little had changed in that regard, but WCW had increased its ambition, and the fan backlash against Hogan was at its peak, finally causing the Ted-Turner-reared company to begin pursuing a change in direction. Nevertheless, while Hogan drew much-deserved criticism for force-feeding fans his myriad friends and pet projects throughout the year, WCW's business with the Hulkster on top was, in most respects, stronger than it would have been otherwise. What’s more, the credibility he gave the promotion -- the figurative red-headed stepchild of Turner’s empire -- opened doors that normally would have been shut; without him, Eric Bischoff might never have had the latitude to sell his corporate superiors on his historic Monday Nitro concept, and the successes of 1996-1998 might have been unattainable. That’s no excuse for the miserable quality of shows like Uncensored ‘95, though -- because holy mother of God, that was a bad PPV. Like WCW, the WWF battled an identity crisis throughout the year, struggling to find a profitable niche in the post-Hogan era. Its response? To call upon concepts that had served it well during its '80s heyday, natch. Although the Federation’s slogan touted the "New Generation," Vince McMahon showed little willingness to deviate from his tired business model of old, replete with a Hogan-inspired superman babyface champion, Kevin "Diesel" Nash, who vanquished a succession of monster heels du jour en route to the longest WWF Hvt. title reign since Hogan himself. Unfortunately, Diesel lacked the Hulkster's drawing power and charisma -- particularly in a watered-down form that stripped him of what made him one of the company's most genuinely popular performers the previous year -- and his title run flopped on all fronts; despite a mid-year ratings resurgence by Monday Night RAW, house show attendance and pay-per-view buy rates hit all-time lows during the reign. While Diesel wasn't entirely to blame for the struggles, a poor worker with a throwback gimmick as its champion was the last thing the company needed at that point; many fans found the WWF’s inability to change with the times off-putting, and, as we’ll see, a plurality of wrestlers did, too. In their quest for an alternative, tens of thousands of such fans banded together and threw the weight of their support behind Paul Heyman’s Philadelphia-based ECW territory. "Join the Revolution" was ECW’s tag line; from the perspective of its fans, though, "Gimme' Shelter" was perhaps the most appropriate epitaph. In 1995, where the Big Two's storylines were frequently stultifying and hackneyed, ECW was busy defying storyline conventions, often through its groundbreaking "shoot angles." In September, WCW fired Steve Austin; shortly thereafter, ECW hired Steve Austin and gave him the platform to mold together an early version of the "Stone Cold" character. Mick Foley abandoned WCW near the end of 1994; in 1995 he picked up the pieces in ECW, where he turned in arguably the greatest work of his career. The WWF's two most heavily-promoted heels for much of the year, Sid and Mabel, were also arguably the two worst workers in the company; ECW divvied up its biggest heel pushes between the massively-talented likes of Foley, Raven, and Chris Benoit, while also making making improbable main eventers out of Sabu, the Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Taz(z), Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge, and Mikey Whipwreck. The WWF and WCW enforced strict bans on blood and excessive violence; ECW made wild, bloody brawls vogue again. After far too long a time, the devotion ECW inspired in its cult following -- they of the "E-C-Dub'" chants at Big Two shows and, at their own shows, the hottest per-capita crowd reactions ever in the U.S. -- finally forced the Big Two to stand at attention. In September, when WCW head Eric Bischoff unveiled "Monday Nitro" and was faced inexorably with the prospect of differentiating his product from that of the WWF, he thusly began the gradual process of adapting ECW’s signature concepts and marketing them to a national audience. With former ECW wrestler and idea man Kevin Sullivan in tow as a lead booker, Nitro used a string of ECW defectors and pay-per-view-caliber matches to establish itself on equal ratings footing with the already-entrenched Raw. By year's end, the company was still struggling, but little did it know that it was poised on the brink of usurping the WWF in the promotional war and turning a profit for the first time ever. There were other times in 1995, however, when the Big Two couldn’t have been much further estranged from profitability. And, to make matters worse, they seemed too set in their ways to do anything about it... January 2-8 -- The WWF heralds in the new year by restructuring the hierarchy of its booking committee. Vince McMahon re-hires Jim Ross to serve as his right-hand man in overseeing the promotion’s creative direction, and Ross immediately makes his influence known by placing a greater emphasis on clean finishes, athleticism, and internal storyline logic. New arrivals like Henry O. Godwinn, Mantaur, and Man Mountain Rock (formerly “Maxx Payne” in WCW), however, indicate that the McMahon gimmick-oriented philosophy remains indomitable. Immediately below Ross on the Titan creative totem poll are Bruce Pritchard and Pat Patterson. - Titular WCW head booker Ric Flair, who lost a “retirement match” to WCW Hvt. champion Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc ‘94 two months earlier, continues to grow disillusioned with his own front office position -- particularly because his rival, Hogan, is hoarding increasingly greater power. Feeling his oats in the wake of disappointing business in the two months subsequent to his retirement, Flair proposes an idea to return to the ring as Hogan’s babyface tag team partner, only for it to be jettisoned by the Hulkster and WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff. - New Japan’s annual January 4 Tokyo Dome spectacular draws 60,000 for a then-record gate of $4.8 million and an incredible $2 million in merchandise concessions. - Northeastern cult promotion ECW conducts its second-ever tour of Florida, drawing crowds in the hundreds. Jan. 9-15 -- As part of its continued effort to establish a younger, hipper veneer (slogan: “The New Generation), the WWF gives try-outs to professional powerlifter Mark Henry, independent stand-out Chris Candido, stout Memphis-area mainstay the Spellbinder, and Texas- and Memphis-based wrestler-valet Miss Texas (now known as “Jackie”). None of them are immediately hired. - The WWF lures WCW rookie mid-carder Jean Paul Levesque (aka Hunter Heart Helmsley) into its camp with promises of a sizable push and the opportunity for greater career advancement. Eric Bischoff’s standing offer is a one-year, $78,000 contract, which is fair for someone of Levesque’s stature at the time, but the wrestler cites the Fed’s recent track record of turning ex-WCW mid-carders like Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and Diesel (Kevin Nash) into headliners as the main rationale for his jump. Vince McMahon is said to be a fan of his look and presence. - The WWF draws an abysmal 5,500 to a Madison Square Garden card -- the Fed’s second smallest crowd in the history of the facility -- for a show headlined by Diesel over Jeff Jarrett in a Hvt. title match. Jan. 16-22 -- The WWF’s January 22 “Royal Rumble” is a strong show anchored by a very good Diesel vs. Bret Hart World Title match, a staged ringside confrontation between Bam Bam Bigelow and ex-New York Giant Lawrence Taylor (who had already signed to wrestle at WrestleMania, in April), and the first of two consecutive Shawn Michaels victories in the Rumble match itself. This time around, Michaels -- the Federation’s recognized top heel at the time -- last eliminates Davey Boy Smith. The cards draws a relatively strong 1.0 buy rate. - Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion, based in Tennessee, is in the throes of a rocky period. Now, the company’s lowlight du jour is Nu Jack’s being arrested for punching a teenage boy and shoving a police officer in a parking lot. Jack is a member of Cornette’s top tag team, the Gangstas, and has been a glutton for controversy ever since arriving in the company about a year prior to the incident. - Barry Windham files a lawsuit against WCW on grounds of Negligence, for forcing him to wrestle with a severe knee injury at the “Slamboree” PPV in 1994. - “Kama: The Supreme Fighting Machine” (a/k/a the Godfather, a/k/a the Goodfather, a/k/a Papa Shango, a/k/a Charles Wright) makes his (re-)debut in the WWF. Jan. 23-29 -- Jerry “Crusher” Blackwell passes away in Dawsonville, GA, from complications from injuries sustained in a car accident. The 400-pound-plus Blackwell had been best known for his extended main event run with the AWA from 1979 until the promotion’s demise in 1990. - The legendary Harley Race is involved in a near-fatal car crash in his hometown of Kansas City, just prior to WCW’s “Clash of the Champions” special on TBS. Race suffers a broken hip, breaks both hands, and sustains various other bumps and bruises after his car careens into a guardrail at high-speed. Eric Bischoff initially opts to fire the widely-respected “seven-time” World champion, so as to get his guaranteed contract off the books. Ultimately, though, Bischoff’s familiars within the company help him recognize the error of his ways, and WCW pays Race -- who has spent the past three and-a-half years in a manger role -- in full for the five months remaining on the contract. - Scrawny long-time NWA jobber Randy Hogan -- so named by Dusty Rhodes for his resemblance to coetaneous WWF champ Hulk Hogan -- passes away after suffering a heart attack at his home in Florida. Next to the redoubtable Mulkey Brothers, Hogan was arguably the most well-known jobber in the business during the mid-late-‘80s. - Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage defeat the Butcher & Kevin Sullivan in the main event of WCW’s Clash of the Champions card in Las Vegas. In an angle following the match, Vader -- who the company is building up as Hogan’s next WCW World Title challenger -- attacks Hogan from behind and drops him with a power bomb. Hogan no-sells the move, though, and quickly disposes with the 400-pounder, much to the chagrin of smart fans high and low. Elsewhere, Ric Flair makes his first on-camera appearance in three months, and Big Bubba Rogers turns heel and attacks Sting. The show draws a moderately-successful 3.5 rating. - WCW-contracted (but rarely-used) Swedish grappler Frank Anderson pleads guilty in his home country on charges of purchasing and using the steroid Geretropin, a form of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). In a decision that raises more than a few eyebrows within the industry, management neglects to discipline Anderson. January 30-February 5 -- After taking extended time off to nurse an injury, the late “Flyin’” Brian Pillman returns to WCW TV in squash matches at the Saturday Night tapings at Center Stage Theater. - Steven “William” Regal and Bobby Eaton form a new tag team in WCW, called the “Blue Bloods.” February 6-12 -- In a controversial decision, WCW announces plans to expand from 9 PPVs in 1995 to 11 in 1996. Feb. 13-19 -- The volatile life of precocious industry legend “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert meets with a premature end in Puerto Rico at the age of 33. Gilbert’s resume included various stints in the WWF, Memphis, the UWF/Mid-South, the NWA/WCW, the GWF, Smoky Mountain, Japan, and ECW, as well as critically-acclaimed booking stints in the UWF (1985-1986), the NWA (1988-1989), the GWF (1992), Memphis (multiple times), Puerto Rico (multiple times) and ECW (1993). He was noted dually for his erratic personality, having walked out on nearly every promoter he ever worked for, and his booking ingenuity, strong workrate, and strong mic skills. - Sid Vicious wrestles his final match for the USWA in Memphis -- where he has been plying his wares for the better part of the past year -- teaming with Jerry Lawler to beat Crusher Bones and Big Daddy Cyrus. The match draws 1,800, which is slightly above the average during Vicious’ very successful run in the area. Following his departure, the Jarrett-Lawler promotion’s attendance drops markedly. Feb. 20-26 -- WCW holds its annual Superbrawl PPV, drawing an extremely strong 0.95 buy rate -- the fourth-highest such figure in wrestling all year, trailing only WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, and Uncensored. The card is headlined by the first-ever meeting between Hulk Hogan and Vader, with an appearance by Ric Flair also advertised and delivered. Hogan wins the main event by disqualification, setting up numerous rematches between the two men. The best match on an otherwise-poor show is a Randy Savage & Sting vs. Big Bubba Rogers & Avalanche tag bout in the semi-main-event slot. - Hogan makes a rare house show appearance the weekend of Superbrawl, in Chicago. He beats Vader in the match and, much to the surprise of those watching, does his first blade job in nearly four years. - On Monday Night RAW, Sid Vicious -- being labeled simply as “Sid” -- re-debuts for the WWF, as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard. Also notable on the show is that Jim Ross’ influence is felt more profoundly than ever over the booking: The announcing team of Vince McMahon and Jim Cornette stresses athletic elements and realistic themes, such as Diesel’s history of knee trouble. This approach is a drastic departure from the philosophy McMahon has demonstrated over the previous 10 years. - ECW champ Shane Douglas makes waves by trying out for a color commentary slot in the WWF. Michael Hayes of Fabulous Freebirds fame also receives a tryout; he’s eventually hired on as the natty “Doc Hendrix.” - Former NWA front-man Jim Crockett, Jr. -- now with a new lease on his wrestling life, as the head of a regional promotion in Dallas -- lands a TV timeslot in the market of his adopted home. However, the venture ultimately fails miserably, and, by year’s end, Crockett is once again out of the business. Feb. 27- March 5 -- The deluge of media publicity surrounding Lawrence Taylor’s appearance at WrestleMania peaks, with attendant stories running in newspapers and on newscasts nationwide. The WWF holds a press conference revealing that Taylor will wrestle Bam Bam Bigelow at the show and also hypes the already-announced Diesel vs. Shawn Michaels Hvt. title bout. - The WWF inks to a contract Louie Spicolli of the still-hot AAA promotion in Mexico. March 6-12 -- On the heels of WCW’s similar announcement a month prior, the WWF reveals that it will hold 12 PPVs in 1996, up from 9 in 1995. Seven of these will be “In Your House” specials, a novel concept on wrestling on PPV. Each IYH is to be two hours long -- as opposed to the conventional three hours -- and priced at $14.95 -- as opposed to the more conventional $29.95. The first such event is to occur in May. March 13-19 -- “Big” John Studd -- a one-time main-event-level star in the WWF, Mid-Atlantic, Houston, and the AWA -- passes away at age 46, after a long battle with Hodgkin’s Disease. He is buried near his home in Falls Church, Virginia. - WCW presents its inaugural Uncensored PPV, a night marked by awful production, disobedient wrestlers, reams of negative-stars matches, and widely incomprehensible booking. Among the many highlights: Meng beats Jim Duggan in a “martial arts match” in which no martial arts are used until the very last move; Randy Savage wins a no-DQ match via DQ over John “Avalanche” Tenta when Ric Flair, dressed in drag, interferes; and Hulk Hogan beats Vader in a strap match by beating Ric Flair (no typo), during which Ultimate-Warrior-inspired greenhorn Renegade makes his debut. Appropriately, the show draws a 0.96 buy rate, making it WCW’s biggest financial success of the year. - Dustin Rhodes and the Blacktop Bully (Barry Darsow) are fired for blading in their “King of the Road” match to open Uncensored, prompting quite an internal stir. The match was pre-taped, so very little blood makes in to the air, despite the fact that the advanced advertising for the show promised copious violence. Road agent Mike Graham, who contributed to the devising of the bout, is also released, though Eric Bischoff re-hires him back shortly hereafter. - Vince McMahon faxes a letter to WCW owner Ted Turner concerning the gratuitous violence WCW advertised for Uncensored and WCW announcer Gene Okerlund’s deceiving inducements for his Saturday WCW Hotline reports. McMahon cites Okerlund’s promising to reveal details on the “death of a 46-year-old former World champion” -- which is in reference to Jerry Blackwell, who never actually held a World title, but is clearly worded to insinuate the death of Ric Flair -- as the most egregious of “Mean” Gene’s sleazy come-ons. McMahon exhorts Turner that the negative publicity that resulted from the incident meant that it was detrimental to the industry as a whole, before cautioning that “the inmates are running the asylum” in WCW. Notably, Okerlund’s stunt brings in $40,000 worth of calls in one sitting, making it the most lucrative single-day report in the history of the Hotline. The last time McMahon had written Turner was in regard to the bloody violence that characterized the Nasty Boys vs. Cactus Jack & Kevin Sullivan “Spring Stampede ‘94” match, which led to the WCW owner’s handing down sweeping curbs on violence that stood for the next couple of years. - Brian Adams (aka “Crush”), 31, is arrested in his native Kona, Hawaii, on illegal drug possession and illegal handgun possession charges. A search of his home had turned up several illegal handguns, as well as large quantities of marijuana and anabolic steroids. March 20-26 -- Lawrence Taylor’s WrestleMania participation garners publicity in USA Today, Newsweek, and virtually every other news magazine and newspaper in the country. - Behind the scenes, Ric Flair --still clinging to his roll as WCW head booker -- engages in a series of verbal spats with Randy Savage regarding Savage’s insistence on having Hogan-esque total creative control over his character. March 27-April 2 -- WrestleMania XI, though it draws a highly-disappointing-for-a-WM 1.5 buy rate, is largely an aesthetic success: Taylor defeats Bam Bam Bigelow in a shockingly good finale, while Diesel successfully defends the Hvt. title against Shawn Michaels in a very good match. A big group of celebrities appear at the show, including TLC, who close the show with their hit single “Whatta’ Man.” - The same day as WrestleMania, New Japan runs the Tokyo Dome and draws a crowd of 60,000, paying $5.6 million. Even without the benefit of PPV receipts, NJ’s spectacular grosses more than its WWF counterpart, before video sales. - Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan have a series of loud disagreements in the offices of WCW. By this point, Hogan has gained almost total autonomy over the creative direction of the company, while Flair has been almost entirely stripped of any creative power. Ironically, Flair expresses remonstrance over how WCW’s most promising younger wrestlers (Steve Austin, Brian Pillman, Johnny B. Badd, etc.) have been marginalized in favor of Hogan’s friends (Butcher, Jim Duggan, Avalanche, etc.) on the roster depth charts. Flair also complains about how WCW’s entire creative crew has to fly all the way to Hogan’s house in Florida to conduct booking meetings, instead of Hogan’s making the trek to WCW headquarters at CNN Tower in Atlanta. April 3-9 -- On the Raw the day after WrestleMania, Sid turns on Shawn Michaels, powerbombing him three times, after Michaels had ordered Sid to “take a day off” when an inevitable ‘Mania World Title rematch takes place. Despite the flimsy storyline explanation, it’s a highly-effective angle, highlighted by Diesel’s making the save for his fallen former partner -- thereby signaling the popular-for-a-heel Michaels’ long-awaited babyface turn. Elsewhere, Alundra Blayze recaptures the Womens Title from Bull Nakano in a great match, Lex Luger & Davey Boy Smith (the “Allied Powers”) beat Well Dunn, Hakushi beats Bob Holly, and Men on a Mission win a squash. The show is lauded in some quarters as the best hour of WWF programming since the May 17, 1993, Raw, which featured Marty Jannetty’s Intercontinental Title win over Shawn Michaels (which received “Match of the Year” honors from Pro Wrestling Illustrated) and the 1-2-3 Kid’s shocking upset win over Razor Ramon. - Paul Heyman fires Sabu, ECW’s top star at the time, for no-showing an ECW Arena card to appear instead on a card in Japan. Heyman promptly buries Sabu over the house mic at the Arena show and delivers Rick Steiner as a surprise replacement. - Tabloid The Star runs a story regarding a confrontation that allegedly occurred between “Motley Crue” drummer Tommy Lee and Shawn Michaels backstage at WrestleMania. According to the report, Michaels shot Lee a dirty look, prompting Lee to challenge, “Hey, pal, do you have a problem with me?” Michaels’ response: “No, but you know your girl (Pamela Anderson Lee) was mine before she was yours?!” According to the account, the two men then had to be separated. Anderson Lee’s take on the matter: “Tommy does this all the time. It’s so sweet!” April 10-16 -- USWA half-owner Jerry Jarrett agrees to a working relationship with Eric Bischoff. Jarrett is to act as a paid “consultant” to WCW, while the Turner-owned company is allowed the inducement of claiming the USWA’s 36 syndicated outlets as part of its own syndicated package. - As a cost-cutting measure, WCW fires veteran front office member Jim Barnett, one of the most important management figures in the history of the business. - Sandman retains the ECW Hvt. Title against Shane Douglas, 911 bests Ron Simmons (Faarooq), and Cactus Jack downs Terry Funk at ECW Arena on April 15. April 17-23 -- Brian Pillman is arrested on drug possession charges after police spot him engaging in suspicious behavior in a seedy part of town while searching for his estranged girlfriend, but he’s eventually cleared of any wrongdoing. - Legendary Japanese garbage wrestler Atsushi Onita “retires” for the first time. April 24-30-- The 1-2-3 Kid (Sean Waltman), 23, suffers a serious neck injury at the WWF’s TV tapings in Omaha, Nebraska, including disc damage and a pinched nerve, thereby inducing numbness in his arm. Doctors advise the Kid to retire, but he makes a remarkable recovery and returns to action later in the year. - ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” magazine-style program airs an expose on steroid and drug abuse in wrestling, focusing in particular on the passing of Eddie Gilbert. The piece ruffles quite a few feathers amongst members of WWF and WCW management. - WCW devises early plans for a new “cruiserweight” division, with Brian Pillman and Sabu (with whom the company has begun negotiations) as the prospective showpieces. According to rumors, Hulk Hogan pushes for ex-WWF star Koko B. Ware to be hired as the division’s central figure. - ECW tours Florida again, drawing crowds of 1,200 and 800 in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, respectively. Sandman battles Cactus Jack in the main events. May 1-7 -- Sting openly expresses his displeasure with management over being shunted down into a role as the number-four babyface in WCW, behind Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Renegade. The company pacifies him by promising him a victory in its forthcoming tournament to crown a new US champion. - Both Hunter Heart Helmsley and Skip (Chris Candido) & Sunny (Tammy Fytch), the Body Donnas, make their debuts on WWF programming. May 8-14 -- The WWF holds its first-ever “In Your House” PPV on May 15. The card is a disappointment on all fronts, featuring main events of Jerry Lawler over Bret Hart and Diesel over Pscyho Sid via DQ, an awful Hvt. Title match. By far the best match on the show is the opener, Bret (pulling double-duty) over Hakushi. The event draws a 0.83 buy rate, making it only marginally profitable with the $14.95 price tag. - “Stunning” Steve Austin walks out on WCW after being asked to job on TV to the notoriously-awful Renegade. Booking committee members Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Arn Anderson all attempt to coax Austin into returning and cooperating with the plan as detailed, but to no avail. Eric Bischoff resolves the saga by calling an emergency meeting with “Stunning” Steve and promising to book a reformation of the critically-acclaimed Hollywood Blondes tag team of Austin and Brian Pillman. As a result, Austin ultimately agrees not only to do the honors for Renegade (in under 30 seconds, no less), but also for Randy Savage, in a separate match. - Legendary wrestler/manager/management figure “Classy” Freddie Blassie, 77, suffers a massive heart attack at his home in New York. He undergoes successful triple bypass surgery at Queens Hospital several days later, extending his life well, well into the future. - Jim Ross unsuccessfully attempts to ink All Japan’s Johnny Ace, formerly of WCW, to a WWF (wrestling) contract. - WCW publicizes its firing of the small-but-expendable Brad Armstrong for failing a steroid test. - Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), a wildly successful garbage promotion in Japan and an early inspiration to ECW, holds a “retirement show” for its number-one draw, Atsushi Onita. The show draws nearly 50,000 to Kawasaki Baseball Stadium in Japan, marking what proves to be the company’s zenith. May 15-21 -- On the heels of its abominable “Uncensored” card in March, WCW makes only modest strides with its “Slamboree” PPV on May 21. In the top two matches, Sting beats Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman) and Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage best Vader & Ric Flair (in the latter’s first match since October 1994). The Great Muta wrestles his first match in WCW in several years, defeating Paul Orndorff, and, operating on orders from company management, neglects to showcase many of his signature spectacular moves. The show draws a mediocre 0.65 buy rate. May 22-28 -- Vince McMahon leads the entire WWF roster on a guided tour of Titan Towers, the WWF’s headquarters in Stamford, CT, before sitting them down for a five-hour meeting. The highlight of the conference is an hour-long speech from Vince, who makes the then-shocking disclosure that the company is currently running a money-losing operation: It was $3.8 million in the red in 1994 and $5 million in the red in 1993. Federation Head of Talent Relations J.J. Dillon (Jim Ross’ predecessor in that position), Linda McMahon, and Ross also make extended speeches, discussing booking, hiring policies, and other administrative matters. In an effort to facilitate harmony between the office and the wrestlers, Linda airs a lengthy video detailing the day-to-day operations of all the separate departments at Titan Towers, which seems to serve it purpose. Many of those good feelings are negated, though, when management introduces a new, more stringent drug testing policy. However, several months later, with public interest in wrestling scandals at a several-year low, the policy is almost entirely abandoned. - Japanese wrestling superstars Kensuki Sasaki and Akira Hokuto announce their engagement. May 29-June 4 -- The WWF reaches an agreement to begin airing periodic prime time specials on NBC. However, Dick Ebersol, who heads up the network’s sports department, cancels the agreement only days later. - The May 29 Raw, featuring an Undertaker vs. Jeff Jarrett main event, ties its all-time high (set on April 24). Many onlookers, including the Turner organization’s top brass, take note of the program’s cable dominance on Mondays. June 5-11 -- WCW shocks the wrestling industry by announcing that it will begin broadcasting a Monday night program on TNT that will go head-to-head with the WWF’s established RAW broadcasts, starting September 4. The show is to air live every week -- at the cost of $4 million in annual production fees -- and, according to Eric Bischoff, will usher in a new, revolutionary era in wrestling. Observers immediately deem the decision suicidal. Bischoff ignores the criticisms -- something he would grow too accustomed to doing in subsequent years. WCW debuts a series of skits in which Kevin Sullivan makes treks to meet with a decrepit, hoary ‘60s wrestlers Curtis Iaukea -- covered with a mesh of spiderwebs, seated in a throne, and known only as “Master” -- in his glacial lair, which is replete with several icicles, a nearby pool of water, and various vermin prowling about. There, “Master” informs Sullivan that he “must destroy the man who goes by the name of ‘Hulk Hogan’” at all costs. In subsequent weeks, Sullivan uses similar scenes to introduce his “Dungeon of Doom” stable, whose members include The Shark (John Tenta, a/k/a Avalanche), The Zodiac (Ed Lesliee, a/k/a The Butcher), the One Man gang, and Kamala. June 12-18 -- WCW’s Great American Bash PPV is a great improvement over the company’s first three efforts this year but still leaves much to be desired. In a four-star main event, Ric Flair beats Randy Savage, who are locked in arguably the company’s best feud of the year. Elsewhere, Sting beats Meng in the finals of a U.S. title tournament, and in a notorious match on the under-card, Hulk Hogan pet project Renegade beats Arn Anderson to win the WCW TV title, setting up a controversial three-month reign with said belt. Hogan doesn’t appear on the show, and, consequently, its lowest buy rate of the year to this point, a 0.51. June 19-25 -- The WWF presents one of its worst PPVs of all-time, King of the Ring ‘95. The main event of Diesel & Bam Bam Bigelow over Sid & Tatanka falls flat, while Mabel’s victory in the KOTR tournament falls even flatter -- to crepe-like levels, in fact. Shawn Michaels, the favorite to win the tournament and arguably the company’s best worker, is inexplicably eliminated in the first round. The show draws a rather poor 0.65 buy rate. June 26-July 2 -- WCW announces the resignation of Ric Flair as head booker. His successor is named as Kevin Sullivan, who has already been acting as a creative contributor for the past several months and also served with Flair on the company’s booking committee in 1989. July 3-9 -- Long-time WWF front office staffer and figurehead “president” Jack Tunney resigns from the company. July 10-16 -- WCW continues its streak of critical disasters with the “Bash at the Beach,” which draws a strong buy rate of 0.82, along with a freebie crowd of 6,000 to a beach in Hunington Beach, California. The announcers claim an attendance figure of “100,000” numerous times during and after the show. In the main event, Hulk Hogan downs Vader in a steel cage match, with assistance from Dennis Rodman, while Randy Savage beats Ric Flair in a “Lifeguard Match.” - On WCW “Main Event” on TBS prior to the PPV, a hulking man who has been caught on camera in the crowd at a handful of prior events confronts Hulk Hogan during an interview segment. The unnamed man hands Hogan a poofy white shirt, then walks off, causing a stunned Hulkster to stammer, “Oh my God, Jimmy, this was Andre’s!” July 17-23 -- Though largely unsuccessful, the second “In Your House” PPV boasts a near-five-star match: Shawn Michaels beats Jeff Jarrett to win the Intercontinental title for the third time, after a miscommunication spot between Jarrett and his second, Brian “The Roadie” Armstrong. In a poorly-received main event, Diesel pins Sid cleanly to retain the WWF Hvt. title. - Jarrett and the Roadie (a/k/a Road Dogg) walk out on the WWF during In Your House after a disagreement with Vince McMahon regarding character direction. The two had been scheduled to film an on-air break-up at the PPV, to which they strongly object, feeling that it’s too soon for such a denouement to their on-air relationship. Among their grievances also include low payoffs and a drug test the Roadie was forced to take prior to the card. July 24-30 -- Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the WWF fire Ricky Morton of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express for a pattern of unprofessional conduct, including tardiness and showing up “in no condition to perform.” - The Giant -- Andre’s “son” and the man who presented Hulk Hogan with the pirate shirt before Bash at the Beach -- debuts on WCW Saturday Night in a Dungeon of Doom segment, choking out Hogan. July 31-August 6 -- Using Jim Ross as an intermediary, Vince McMahon shockingly hires on former UWF/Mid-South and WCW front-man “Cowboy” Bill Watts to assume the reigns of the WWF’s booking. Remarkably, Watts is promised full autonomy over the Fed’s creative direction, a clear indication of McMahon’s wavering confidence in his own creative acumen. Management does not immediately acknowledge “Cowboy” Bill’s arrival to the wrestlers, although it is tacitly recognized by everyone in the promotion. Ross, a former Watts understudy, and Bruce Britchard remain on the booking staff as assistants. August 7-13 -- In a decision he would live to regret, Eric Bischoff releases the injured “Stunning” Steve Austin from his WCW contract. Bischoff’s rationale is that Austin has been injury-prone and uncooperative for the better part of the past year. - On the last -- and, arguably, one of the poorest -- “Clash of the Champions” special before Nitro debuts, the newly-babyface Vader beats Ric Flair and Arn Anderson in a handicap match. - Gorilla Monsoon is named the new figurehead “president” of the WWF, replacing Jack Tunney. Aug. 14-20 -- Following several weeks of negotiations, ECW wrestlers Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko finally commit to entering WCW, to coincide with the debut of the next month’s “Monday Nitro.” The trio had initially been reticent to accept Eric Bischoff’s offers due to his poor track record for handling wrestlers whose appeal is workrate-based; they agree to sign, though, after New Japan’s Masa Saito intimated to them that NJ -- their primary source of income at the time -- would release them should they not sign with its Western business partner. The main behind-the-scenes proponent of hiring the three is Kevin Sullivan, whose latest concept is for WCW to differentiate itself from the WWF by featuring a flank of world-class workers. - At the Raw tapings, “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith turns heel for the first time in his WWF career, betraying Diesel in a tag match. Aug. 21-27 -- The WWF earns at least some critical marks for its Summer Slam PPV, largely due to the classic Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon ladder match, during which Michaels retains the Intercontinental title. In the main event, Diesel beats Mabel to retain the WWF title, which is largely blamed for its disappointing-for-a-Summer-Slam 0.9 buy rate. - Despite concerns over how his character will be portrayed in the company, Sabu comes to terms with WCW, setting him up to join Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko in Nitro’s nucleus of innovative workers. The ex-ECW star’s debut match against Alex Wright is set for the September 11 Nitro. - Meanwhile, WCW makes a play for ECW’s Taz, but he refuses Bischoff and company’s offer. Aug. 28-September 3 Friction between Shawn Michaels and Lex Luger comes to a head stemming from Michaels’ commentary to the effect that Luger “punches like a girl.” Meanwhile, Luger continues to wrestle for the WWF without a contract, which came due several weeks earlier. Sept. 4-10 -- The unopposed debut of Monday Nitro caps off one of the most eventful weeks in the modern history of pro wrestling. On the show, Brian Pillman defeats Jushin Liger in a fast-paced match, Sting beats Ric Flair by DQ, and Hogan pins Big Bubba Rogers. In one of the most memorable moments of the decade, Lex Luger makes a shocking, unadvertised appearance during the Sting-Flair match, watching from the aisle for several moments before returning to the back, setting the unpredictable tone that would characterize the show for years to come. At the end of the broadcast, Luger helps Hogan fend off an attack from the Dungeon of Doom, before the two have a confrontation setting up a singles match the next week. The show is a veritable success on all fronts, drawing a 2.9 -- slightly below Raw’s recent average. Meanwhile, during Raw’s timeslot on the USA Network, Andre Agassi is en route to his first U.S. Open championship. - Over the previous two weeks, Luger had convinced Vince McMahon that he had no intention of signing with WCW even though, which convinced Vince to allow him to work without a contract. However, Luger had been secretly negotiating with Eric Bischoff -- with Sting as the intermediary between the two -- the entire time; in fact, Luger had come to terms on a contract just three days before his appearance in Minneapolis. “The Total Package” actually wrestled on all of the WWF’s house shows the previous weekend, then flew to Minneapolis, where he was spotted at a backstage party by sidelined Federation wrestler Sean Waltman (aka the 1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac). Only one hour before Nitro was set to take the air, Waltman phoned a consternated Vince McMahon to inform him of Luger’s impending appearance for the competition that night. - Luger’s debut is made possible for WCW by the payroll space created by Eric Bischoff’s firing Vader in connection with a backstage tussle between the 400-pound and wrestler/agent/booker Paul Orndorff. One well-sourced version of what transpired is as follows: Just days before the first Nitro, at a WCW Saturday Night taping at Atlanta’s Center Stage Theater, Vader was putting on his ring gear in the dressing room. Orndorff approached him and got on his case about taking too much time to get ready to go tape promos in the facility’s interview area. The words between the two men were especially harsh, due to some sort of pre-existing tension from one or more incidents over the previous few months. Orndorff’s attempts to hasten Vader along only prompted the wrestler to become even more deliberate in his preparations, which in turn prompted “Mr. Wonderful” to hurl insults at him, like “fat prima-donna” and “fat ass.” Vader took exception, natch, and shoved Orndorff with enough force to send him to the ground. In response, Orndorff rose to his feet and floored Vader with a punch, mounted the prostate Vader, punched him some more, laid in a series of kicks for good measure, and left his opposition bruised and bloodied, before some other wrestlers stepped in to break up the fray. Several minutes later, Vader went into a flight of rage and scoured the halls of Center Stage looking for Orndorff. When the two met up again, Orndorff didn’t fare nearly as well as the first go-round but, by all accounts, still held his own until it was broken up. Because Vader commanded such a hefty salary (reportedly upwards of $600,000 a year through 1998) and Orndorff was in a position of power, Eric Bischoff fired Vader shortly before the first Nitro. One of the most notable aspects of the fracas is that Orndorff had had only limited use of his right arm since 1986, due to a nerve injury exacerbated by a botched suplex from Hulk Hogan that year. - Shawn Michaels grants an interview to Mark Madden of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette -- who, incidentally, is also a member of the WCW Hotline troupe by this point -- and delves into a number of behind-the-scenes topics. He claims that Vince McMahon has requested that he “tone down his act” on a number of different occasions, so as not to upstage all the other wrestlers. He further says that Ric Flair was overrated in his prime; ‘Naitch did almost the exact same match every week, so sayeth, Michaels, which is why he, HBK, is better than Flair ever was. - According to rumors, Hulk Hogan kvetches to WCW management that the “new guys” (Sabu, Chris Benoit, Dean malenko, Eddie Guerrero) are “too small.” - Monday Night Wars, Sept. 4: Nitro - 2.9 (Flair vs. Sting) September 11-17 -- The WWF’s established RAW goes head-to-head with WCW’s upstart “Monday Nitro” for the first time, and Nitro ekes out a surprise win, 2.6-2.5. Nitro offers a first-time Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger “dream match” for the WCW Hvt. title, while the Federation counters with a taped Shawn Michaels vs. Sid main event. Perhaps the most notable aspect of either program is that Eric Bischoff uses his broadcast booth bully pulpit to heap pejorative statements on the WWF. Not only does he claim on two different occasions that Lex Luger walked out on the WWF (even mentioning the company by name) to wrestle “where the big boys play,” but he also attempts to sabotage Raw by reminding viewers that it’s a taped show: “About the competition -- don’t bother watching. It’s three weeks old. Shawn Michaels beat the big guy with a superkick.” Elsewhere on the show, Sabu makes his long-awaited debut, beating Alex Wright and putting him through a table -- a first in WCW. - WCW holds a decent “Fall Brawl” PPV, drawing a poor 0.48 buy rate for Hulk Hogan & Sting & Randy Savage & Lex Luger beat the Dungeon of Doom in WarGames when Hogan makes The Zodiac submit, Arn Anderson beats Ric Flair (****), and Johnny B. Badd beats Brian Pillman (****). - MNW, Sept. 11: Nitro - 2.6 (Luger vs. Hogan), Raw - 2.5 (Shawn Michaels vs. Sid) September 18-24 -- - The WWF’s September 24 “In Your House” PPV is a strong show headlined by Bret Hart over Jean Pierre LaFitte and Shawn Michaels & Diesel over Davey Boy Smith & Yokozuna. Bill Watts’ booking fingerprints (heels gaining relatively clean wins, matches telling a story with one wrestler honing his focus on a single part of another’s body, numerous ref. bumps, and logical booking) mark the booking of the card. It draws a 0.7 buy rate, the exact same as the previous IYH two months prior. - Former member of the tag team “Quebecers” tag team Jean Pierre LaFitte (aka “Pierre Ouelette,” among other aliases), the WWF’s top ethnic French-Canadian draw in Quebec, puts up a stink over doing a job to WWF champion Diesel at a card in Montreal. In a phone conversation with a road agent prompted by LaFitte’s complaints, Vince McMahon agrees to change the finish to a double-countout, which raises the ire of both Diesel and fellow Shawn Michaels. As a result, LaFitte develops heat with the two Clique members. Naturally, during a rematch the following night in Quebec City, LaFitte catches Diesel with a “potato shot,” and the champ retaliates with two hard shoot punches to the head. Remarkably, the two men cooperate for the remainder of the match without further incident. LaFitte is de-pushed in the wake of these histrionics. MNW, Sept. 18: Raw - 2.5 (Razor Ramon vs. Sean "1-2-3 Kid" Waltman), Nitro - 2.4 (Ric Flair vs. Brian Pillman) September 25-October 1 -- The WWF releases Womens champion Alundra Blayze, without first having the foresight to have her return the physical championship belt. - Now a free agent, Steve Austin debuts in ECW, making an unannounced appearance at a card in Middletown, New York. He vows to win Mikey Whipwreck’s ECW Hvt. Title. In his first television interview, he does a raucous parody of Hulk Hogan which eventually makes it onto his first WWF home video release. - The WWF airs a “WrestleMania” special on FOX, featuring the Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel and Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow matches in their entirety, drawing a strong 3.8 rating. The Fed attempts to parlay this success into a greater presence on the network but is unsuccessful. - MNW, Sept. 25: Raw - 2.7 (British Bulldog vs. Undertaker), Nitro - 1.8 (Randy Savage vs. Kevin Sullivan) October 2-8 -- Vince McMahon conducts a meeting with all WWF personnel to announce his resignation as head booker -- ostensibly to focus more on his role as a corporate executive -- and officially usher in Bill Watts, whom he describes as “the brightest mind in wrestling.” Watts, who was ousted as WCW Executive Vice President in 1992, broadcasts several of his booking philosophies at the meeting. He decries the WWF’s lack of a top African-American babyface and announces that recent Texas independent signee Tony Norris (a/k/a “Ahmed Johnson”) will be enjoying a big push; he hints that Bret Hart is a strong candidate to become the next Hvt. champion; he asserts that the company will be toning down its excessive gimmickry; and he announces his new brainchild of each Raw’s featuring clips of the following week’s (taped) edition, to facilitate a “soap-opera-type atmosphere.” In other moments, both Watts and McMahon have harsh words for WCW’s promotional methods and roster, though McMahon professes that he would like to work with Sting, Brian Pillman, Johnny B. Badd (Marc Mero), and Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) in the future. - New Japan reaffirms its status as the unrivaled top promotion in the world, drawing 67,000 fans, a $6.2 million gate, and $2 million in merchandising sales (the latter two figures being all-time wrestling records which stand until the company breaks them again) for an “inter-promotional” at the Tokyo Dome. In the main event, IWGP champ Keiji Mutoh downs Nobuhiko Takada, champion of the UWFI shootfighting group. UWFI had achieved a great deal of success the previous year and very briefly challenged NJ’s hold as the top promotion in the world, before on hard times prior to this event. Hence, most of its wrestlers do jobs to NJ’s performers on the show. - MNW, Oct. 2: Nitro - 2.5 (Luger vs. Savage), Raw - 2.5 October 9-15 -- -- Not two weeks after Vince McMahon officially announces the arrival of Bill Watts as his head booker, “Cowboy” Bill is already gone. Watts quits the promotion in a huff, feeling that McMahon had gone back on his promise to cede full booking authority. Watts’ beef stems from several run-ins, but the main one surrounds the future course of the WWF Hvt. title: Watts feels strongly that Bret Hart should be the long-term champion, while McMahon overrules him and deems that Shawn Michaels will emerge as the Federation’s newest front-man come WrestleMania. In addition, Watts is dead-set on pushing “Psycho” Sid as the promotion’s new top heel; establishing several monster heels, as opposed to letting the babyface dominate virtually every encounter, as per McMahon’s convention; and instituting several archaic policies governing out-of-the-ring activities (babyfaces and heels shouldn’t associate with one another away from the ring; tardy wrestlers should be fined steeply; etc.). McMahon, though, chafes at all of these notions. - A bar altercation between a gaggle of Marines and Shawn Michaels, the 1-2-3 Kid, and Davey Boy Smith in Syracuse, NY, devolves into violence. Several conflicting versions of the story exist, but this one appears to follow the most plausibly: Following a quarrel within the bar’s confines, the wrestlers decamp and attempt to leave in a car. The Marines follow them, heckle them, and prompt Michaels to get out of the car and confront them. A few of the Marines brutally attack him, slam his head into the hood of the car, rip his earrings from his ears, and kick and punch him numerous times as he lies on the ground. Meanwhile, the other Marines try to hold the car’s doors shut to prevent the Kid and Smith from coming to Michaels’ aid. Once the two wrestlers finally pry a door open, the Kid bests one of the Marines in a brawl, while Smith batters several others. At this point, a police officer hits the scene with his gun drawn, sending the Marines limping away from the scene. Michaels winds up with both eyes swollen shut, his eyelid and ears partially torn, and his eardrum ruptured. A few months later, a Douglas Griffith, 23, is arrested and convicted on Assault charges in connection with the incident. - The beating outside of the bar isn’t the only lowlight of Michaels’ week. A day prior, the ever-controversial HBK is assaulted backstage by Jacob and Eli Blu (a/k/a Ron and Don Harris) during a house show at Madison Square Garden. The twin brothers corner him when the dressing room is empty, give him a mild roughing up, and throw him face-first into a wall, before locking the door so that no nearby wrestlers can rush the scene. No actual blows are exchanged, and the Blus eventually allow Michaels free without inflicting much further physical harm. The team had given notice to Vince McMahon only days before, so the WWF is not in a position to discipline them for the incident. It’s not the last time they will work for the company, either. - Mabel legitimately breaks the Undertaker’s orbital bone during a match, so the ‘Taker takes to wearing a protective mask for several months. - The Ultimate Warrior rips off Las Vegas independent promoter T.C. Martin. - MNW, Oct. 9: Nitro - 2.6 (AA vs. Ric Flair), Raw - 2.6 (Diesel, Michaels, Undertaker vs. Bulldog, Owen, Yokozuna) Oct. 16-22 -- The WWF holds its October “In Your House,” which draws an abysmal 0.4 buy rate and is the least profitable PPV in the history of the company up to this point. A disgusted Vince McMahon, who announces the show with Jim Ross, throws down his headset immediately after the show goes off the air and complained that it was “terrible.” He also expresses confusion over how the crowd so readily turned on Diesel in favor of Hart; the card emanated from Canada, but McMahon had spent the last year building up Diesel as his top ‘face. - Hulk Hogan teases a heel turn on Nitro, wearing all black during a vignette and drawing on themes from the OJ Simpson double-murder case: "My concerns this week have been a lot of things -- about what to do with the black gloves, the black bandanna, about what to do with the Giant's carcass... Everyone knows what a man with a pair of black gloves on and a black rag on his head is capable of doing, dude!" - MNW, Oct. 16: Nitro - 2.2 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Harlem Heat), Raw - 2.5 (Owen Hart eliminates Marty Jannetty to win battle royal) Oct. 23-29 -- WCW holds its ludicrous-but-morbidly-entertaining Halloween Havoc PPV, which draws a tepid 0.6. The show is best characterized by the proceedings involving Hulk Hogan and The Giant: The two men first do battle in a monster truck showdown on the top of Cobo Hall in Detroit, where the PPV is held. After Hogan emerges victorious, they enter into a brawl, whereupon Hogan pushes his foe off of the roof of the ten-story building, presumably causing him to plunge to his death. Moments later, a dismayed Hogan makes his way to the ring and starts to apologize for what happened when, much to everyone’s bewilderment, none other than The Giant inexplicably follows him to the squared circle, somehow entirely unscathed. The two men once again battle, this time in a surprisingly acceptable match, with Hogan on the verge of winning when Jimmy Hart turns heel by beating up the referee and pickling his charge with the World title belt. Next, Lex Luger and Randy Savage do a run-in, and Luger turns heel on both Savage and Hogan. Finally, The Yeti -- a “mummy” who appears to be wrapped head-to-toe in toilet paper -- then emerges from the back and helps the Dungeon of Doom put the boots to Hogan and Savage. The match is ruled a DQ win for The Giant, since Hogan’s manager, Hart, had assaulted the referee, though it is revealed the next night on Nitro that the contract for the match stipulated that the title would change hands on a DQ, thanks to Hart’s clandestine tactics. - The infamous “fire incident” occurs at ECW Arena in Philadelphia, as Cactus Jack attempts to hit Terry Funk with a chair contain a burning towel on it. The towel flies off and lands on Funk, and the flames engulf his entire body for several seconds. Jack immediately breaks kayfabe and tries to extinguish the flame but is unable to corral the frenzied Funk, who eventually averts further disaster by disrobing himself of the towel. To make the incident even more bizarre, the lights go out in the building during the height of the panic so that Raven can “crucify” Tommy Dreamer at the “Eagle’s Nest” above the Arena. Ultimately, Funk and two fans are hospitalized and treated for second-degree burns, while ECW earns itself a new antagonist in the form of the local fire marshall. - MNW, Oct. 23: Nitro, 2.2, Raw 2.6 Oct. 30-Nov. 5 -- The WWF turfs its “B” shows, consolidating its heretofore-two-tiered house show touring troupe into 18 monthly A-shows. - Chris Benoit joins the Four Horsemen, joining Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Brian Pillman in the stable. - The WWF announces its plans to sponsor Olympic power lifter Mark Henry in the 1996 games. - MNW, Oct. 30: Nitro 2.5 (Havoc fall-out, Luger & Meng vs. American Males), Raw 2.2 (Owen Hart vs. Razor Ramon) Nov. 6-12 -- Amid nightmarish locker room morale in the WWF, Vince McMahon conducts no less than three emergency meetings with his crew at house shows, in New Jersey, Columbus (Ohio), and Cincinnati, respectively. The primary reason for the poor esprit de corps is McMahon’s decision to do away with “B” shows, which the crew figures will lead to a drop in the amount of house show-generated income to go around. Another source of friction is the group of wrestlers that has come to be known as the “Clique” -- Shawn Michaels, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, Sean “1-2-3 Kid” Waltman, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The Clique is unpopular due to their inordinate level of political influence and for their general behavior, which many of their peers consider childish. - Lex Luger complains loudly to WCW management about having turned heel and expresses general dissatisfaction with his current push. He’s also upset about being passed over in favor of Chris Benoit for a position in the Four Horsemen. As an outgrowth of his discontent, Luger intentionally ignores a cue to do a run-in during a live Nitro, leaving Eric Bischoff dangling and making spurious claims like “Here comes Luger!” for the next several moments. - Similar to Luger, Sid gripes to WWF management. - The WCW Hvt. title is held up due to the controversial Halloween Havoc finish. - Kensuke Sasaki beats Sting to capture the US Title as part of a combined New Japan-WCW card at Sumo Hall in Japan. The show draws only 7,500, the smallest crowd for an NJ show in that building since 1980 -- a clear indication that WCW’s wrestlers lack drawing power in the Orient. The most notable aspect of the tour is that The Giant displays incredible agility when allowed to wrestle an unfettered style against the NJ contingent, prompting rumblings that the company will groom him to be Hulk Hogan’s successor as its top star. - Sabu makes a dramatic return to ECW as part of the November 18 ECW Arena card. Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk beat Cactus Jack and Raven in the main event. - On Raw, the WWF does its first-ever ECW-style “shoot angle,” as Shawn Michaels “collapses” after receiving an enziguiri from Owen Hart, with the announcers speculating that his career might be over. In storyline, Michaels has been experiencing “concussion problems” in connection with the nightclub beating in New York. Notably, the angle had been suggested by WWF Magazine editor and ECW fan Vince Russo. It is arguably the most successful storyline run by either of the Big Two in 1995, as it effectively establishes Michaels as a mega-star upon his return to the ring two months later. - MNW, Nov. 6: Nitro - 2.3 (Sting vs. Ric Flair), Raw - 2.1 (Bret Hart & Hakushi vs. Jerry Lawler & Isaac Yankem) Nov. 13-19 -- The WWF’s Clique-related internal squabbles continue. This time, the source of said tension is that Vince McMahon charters a flight for the five men to meet with him privately at Titan Towers in Stamford. In addition to granting them free reign to use the facility’s gym, he caves into their demands that they receive higher payoffs for the frequent public appearances they make on off days. - On a related note, Bret Hart and Diesel develop heat with one another. Diesel accuses Bret, who invariably receives bigger pops than the more-heavily-pushed Hvt. champ, of trying to undermine his babyface heat in their feud. - MNW, Nov. 13: Raw - 2.6, Nitro - 2.0 Nov. 20-26 -- The WWF’s “Survivor Series” PPV in Washington, DC, draws a record-low 0.57 buy rate, grossing less than $1.5 million. In the main event, Bret Hart regains the WWF Hvt. title from Diesel, after which the latter turns heel and powerbombs Bret multiple times. Remarkably, the announcing team (Vince McMahon, Jim Ross, and Mr. Perfect) fail to acknowledge the title change one single time, instead focusing on Diesel’s sudden change of heart. - Prior to Survivor Series, McMahon has yet another personnel meeting and announces that the group will be gearing its product more toward adults, with more raunchy storylines and a greater level of violence. This direction had originally been encouraged by Bill Watts during his brief booking tenure with the company. McMahon also consents to give all contracted wrestlers a $400-a-week base salary on weeks they aren’t working, to quell the concerns of those performers most affected by the company’s cut-back in house shows. - WCW hot-shots a Sting vs. Hulk Hogan main event on Nitro, which wins them the day in the ratings war but fails to pop its numbers as hoped. The live crowd roundly boos Hogan throughout the bout, which is not an uncommon occurrence at this point. - MNW, Nov. 20: Nitro - 2.5 (Sting vs. Hogan), Raw - 2.3 Nov. 27-Dec. 3 -- Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling folds up shop after four years of existence. Cornette founded the promotion in October 1991 to fulfill his lifelong dream of running a traditional-style Southern wrestling territory, and it quickly garnered a devoted following in its Tennessee-Kentucky homebase -- which allowed it to draw crowds ranging from 1,000-5,000 in its top two monthly towns, Knoxville and Johnson City. However, it failed to attract enough interest to emerge as a viable entity, drawing average crowds of 200-300 in its dying days. The latest and most critical of the group’s recent string of hardships came when its main financial backer, Rick Rubin of Def American Records, pulled his funding from the promotion in August, after losing over $40,000 on the venture. Ultimately, Smoky Mountain’s most enduring legacy has been for breaking Chris Candido, Tammy Fytch (Sunny), Brian Lee (Chainz), Unabom (Kane), the Gangstas, and the Heavenly Bodies into the wrestling mainstream and providing Al Snow, Chris Jericho, and Lance Storm with their greatest U.S. exposure to this point in their careers. Cornette’s savvy booking also revitalized the long-dormant careers of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, who were arguably the top drawing tag team in the business at one point but were almost completely burnt out at the the time SMW formed. In hindsight, one of Cornette’s greatest miscalculations was inking a talent exchange agreement with the WWF, which made his promotion seem comparatively inferior and lost him the loyalty of a large portion of his patronage. - Randy Savage wins the “World War III” PPV battle royal to capture the vacated WCW Hvt. championship in controversial fashion. The originally-planned finish was for Sting to win the belt, but immediately prior to the match, Hulk Hogan exercised his booking autonomy within the company and changed the outcome. What’s more, Hogan personally calls out the order of elimination of the final ten wrestlers in the ring while the match is in progress. It draws a very poor 0.43 buy rate. - MNW, Nov. 27: Raw - 2.5, Nitro - 2.3 Dec. 4-10 -- The WWF signs Steve Austin and opens court with Cactus Jack, nee Mick Foley. - Bam Bam Bigelow gives notice to the WWF and starts accepting regular bookings in Japan once again. - ECW/AAA’s Konnan agrees to terms with WCW and is set to start wrestling there in January. - MNW, Dec. 4: Nitro - 2.6, Raw - 2.4 Dec. 11-17 -- The WWF holds its December “In Your House” PPV, which draws the lowest buy rate in company history -- a 0.33. In the main event, Bret Hart successfully defends the WWF Hvt. title against Davey Boy Smith in a match given ****3/4 by the Wrestling Observer. Hart goes against standard Federation protocol during the match and blades a gusher; later, when confronted by management, he avows that the juice resulted from a Smith “potato shot.” Also noteworthy on the show: Vince McMahon makes the ground-breaking decree that security not confiscate any signs, unless their content is too crude for television, as a way to facilitate fan loyalty and “freedom of expression.” Controversial signs that read “ECW,” “Diesel Sucks,” “Hogan,” “Hello ECW Fans,” “Mikey Rules,” “We’re Hardcore,” and “911” make the air, among others. In keeping with the theme established by the arrestingly large ECW contingent on hand, several different “E-C-Dub’” chants are audible during the course of the show. Elsewhere, Jeff Jarrett makes his unannounced return to the company on the card via an in-ring interview conducted by Jerry Lawler. - Alundra Blayze jumps ship to WCW, under her former sobriquet of Madusa Micelli, and throws the WWF Womens title in the trashcan live on Nitro. The incident will stick in Vince McMahon's craw for at least the next seven years. - The WWF attempts to woo the Ultimate Warrior in time for the “Royal Rumble.” This news meets with the disapproval of the Federation locker room, the morale of which is still at an ebb. - On the heels of Bill Watts’ abrupt departure from the promotion, Vince McMahon offers Jim Cornette a position as the WWF’s head booker. Cornette accepts the post, leading to a large influx of former Smoky Mountain wrestlers into the promotion, including Buddy Landel, Tom Pritchard, the Headbangers, and Boo Bradley (a/k/a Ballz Mahoney). - ECW holds its first-ever card at Lost Battalion Hall in Queens, New York, and draws a sell-out crowd of 1,100, paying a then-company-record of $28,000. The critically-acclaimed card is highlighted by the ECW debut of Missy Hyatt and a wild Sabu vs. Cactus Jack main event. Early in the card, Paul Heyman gets on the house microphone and runs down Steve Austin and Tom Pritchard for no-showing the card because of their recent signings with the WWF. - MNW, Dec. 11: Nitro - 2.6, Raw - 2.5 Dec. 18-24 -- MNW, Dec. 18: Nitro - 2.7, Raw - 2.3 Dec. 25-31 -- “Starrcade” takes a novel approach to PPV supercards, providing a best-of-seven series between WCW’s top wrestlers and an insurgent group of New Japan stars, but fails to generate much interest (0.36 buy rate). The WCW flank wins 4-3, naturally, after Sting downs Kensuki Sa
  7. An ambitious undertaking to say the least, Alternative Wrestling's 20 Most Essential Matches (1982-2001) is the consummation of dozens of hours of research and reflection on pro wrestling's most momentous in-ring performances of the past two decades. Whether they featured astonishing athleticism or riveting drama, or simply kindled the business' historical fires, our aim is to recognize the most enjoyable bouts of wrestling's often-baffling, always-unpredictable recent past. In compiling this melange of mat masterworks, we encountered one overriding dilemma: Pro wrestling evolves extremely rapidly and exists in a number of divergent forms. Consequently, we had a difficult time establishing a fair set of criteria that would allow us to include matches from across all of the historical and stylistic spectrums of the business. As a result, we felt compelled to make a few allowances. First, pro wrestling exists all over the world, and comparing matches from different genres is frequently like apples and oranges: same position on the food pyramid, much different flavor. Second, the business advances at a staggering rate, and, realistically, matches that were exceptional within the context of the early-'80s did not showcase the same level of highly-evolved athleticism that distinguishes today's choicest bouts. With those mitigating factors in mind, we ultimately assembled the list while employing three main standards, in order of importance: relative aesthetic quality, influence, and magnitude. In that sense, we intend for this to be a collection of matches that are the most essential viewing for wrestling fans who seek to be well-rounded, as opposed to a grouping of the matches that featured the greatest frequency of topes con hilos and Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplexes. We certainly considered workrate an overriding variable, but we also placed great emphasis on a given match's historical significance and/or time-tested appeal. Naturally, this endeavor is highly subjective, and it should be taken as such. Over the past 20 years, pro wrestling has featured a wealth of exciting, athletically-superior, and memorable in-ring action. The fact that we (reluctantly) had to exclude so many exceedingly gifted performers and truly classic matches only underscores how selective this process was. We certainly welcome any constructive criticism; our list is far from definitive, and if you have any complaints regarding any bouts you feel we are ignorant dunces for ommitting, or even want to submit your own mock list of your personal favorite matches, feel free to Email us. Now, let us get all pensive and misty-eyed as we revist the 20 most indispensable matches of the modern era, shall we? It's time for AWR to commemorate pro wrestling's vast treasure trove of eminent in-ring exploits... Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama) vs. Dynamite Kid WWF Junior Heavyweight Title August 5, 1982; New Japan; Tokyo The Kid himself partially credits his rivalry with Sayama for inducing the rash of injuries that rendered him paralyzed by age 38. And, in terms of sheer brutality, the series of bouts between the two men surely rank among the foremost in wrestling history. However, their historical significance extends far deeper. Largely based on the strength of the Dynamite-Sayama feud, the junior heavyweight division began receiving top billing on cards throughout Japan (and, in due time, throughout most of the world), and most prominent lighter-weight luminaries of subsequent eras -- including the great Jushin Liger, Chris Benoit, the Great Sasuke, Ultimo Dragon, Owen Hart, and countless others -- were directly inspired by the revolutionary action. The vast majority of these historic, trendsetting encounters adhered to a distinctive mold that became an archetype for how to work a junior heavyweight match. First, after the two engaged in a breathtaking interval of state-of-the-art chain wrestling, Mask would briefly gain the advantage and tease taking to the air -- only to hold off and leave the fans arrested in anticipation for the next several minutes. Dynamite would gain the upperhand and work over his rival with a brutal battery of suplexes and stiff blows, before mounting the top rope and unleashing a flying headbutt and/or a flying kneedrop. Sayama would reverse the momentum (often by sending the Kid soaring over the top rope, at which point an unforgiving bump was awaiting Dynamite on the arena floor), then appease the crowd's anticipatory fervor by soaring through the air with a death-defying dive and/or the Space Flying Tiger Drop (handspring plancha). In this particular case, the Tiger performed a running dive over the top rope (virtually unheard of in Japan or the U.S. at the time), then followed up with the Tiger Driver (cradle piledriver) and a moonsault press for the win. Within 25 minutes of one awe-inspiring move after another, the two masters had, once again, raised the already-lofty bar that they were singularly responsible for creating. Nothing even remotely as spectacular would present itself until Jushin Liger's accession as the best worker in the world in 1988 and 1989. And, as much as aerial wrestling has evolved in the past 20 years, no series of matches can ever boast of being as influential over an entire genre. Also Recommended: Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid, August 23, 1983 Ric Flair vs. Kerry Von Erich NWA Title Cage Match Dec. 25, 1982; World Class Championship Wrestling; Dallas, Texas It's not altogether clear what was more scalding-hot at the time of this Reunion Arena World Title match: fan interest in World Class Championship Wrestling, or the elements on a typical day in the Lone Star State. Fritz Von Erich's wrestling promotion was riding high in a blaze of glory at the time of its annual Christmas Night mega-card, principally due to the teeny-bopper, faddish appeal of his down-home, God-fearin' offspring. Kerry, 22, may have been the youngest of the three active Von Erichs (Kevin was 26, David -- the best worker -- was 24), but he was also the most chiseled and charismatic, and, as the unofficial "Uncrowned World Champion," he ostensibly had the best chance of unseating Flair. In fact, all three of Texas' resident wrestling prodigies had already come oh-so-close to tasting the delectability of World Championship glory on several occasions, only to be thwarted at every turn by the "Nature Boy's" underhanded tactics. This time, though, Kerry had two of his friends presiding over the bout, to forestall any of "The Dirtiest Player in the Game's" infamous chicanery: Michael "PS" Hayes, the special co-referee, and Terry Gordy, the outside-the-cage enforcer. The fever pitch of the crowd throughout the match, augmented by the presence of the charismatic Hayes, was a sight to behold; the record-setting gathering in Dallas truly believed that their hero was the rightful World Champ, and Christmas Night seemed the perfect time for him to bring home the one (golden) present they all had been pining. Von Erich was still fairly green, but Flair -- a year into his first World Title reign -- did an even more masterful job than usual, leading his foe to an absolutely enthralling match. The main story tangents were simple, but effective: Flair set up the figure four by honing his focus in on his younger opponent's knee, while Von Erich cudgeled the champ by raking his face across the cage and pounding him with flurries of punches. Flair bled a gusher, and it appeared inevitable that Kerry would lock in the vaunted clawhold. Finally, at just past the fifteen minute mark, Von Erich caught Flair as the latter came off the top rope and, as the "Nature Boy" faded from consciousness on the mat, the crowd went ballistic. Hayes, who had been animatedly consulting with Gordy over in the corner, made a strange, yet galling, move by rescuing Flair from the jaws of defeat and forcing Von Erich to release the hold, citing that the defending champ's foot had brushed against the bottom rope. The crowd hissed their disapproval over this unexpected turn of events, and Von Erich also seethed -- but only before Hayes punched Flair in the mouth and frantically urged that the challenger make the cover. Needless to say, Kerry and the crowd were thoroughly confounded by Hayes' abrupt, ambiguous actions. Their confusion turned to rage moments later, when Hayes pushed Von Erich and then fled the cage. The thoroughly agitated Kerry went to follow and, as he poked his head outside the door -- WHAM! Gordy slammed it shut, crushing the challenger's skull and, accordingly, the hopes and dreams of every wrestling fan in Texas. The concussed Von Erich managed to fight valiantly for two more minutes, but referee David Thomspon ultimately stopped the match due to the "glazed-over look" in the hometown hero's eyes. Indeed, one of the most exciting matches of the decade had been capped off by one of the most successful angles of all-time. Not only did Flair retain, but more importantly, World Class became the most successful territory on the planet for the next two years, by way of the hottest feud of the decade: The Von Erichs vs. The Freebirds. Also Recommended: Ric Flair vs. Kerry Von Erich, May 17, 1984 Lioness Asuka vs. Jaguar Yokota 3WA World Title August 22, 1985, All Japan Womens; Tokyo For the uninitiated, may this timeless classic be the pristine gateway that guides you into the wondrous world of "Joshi Puroresu" (female Japanese wrestling). Asuka comprised one half of the famed "Crush Girls" tag team (with Chigusa Nagoya) that was a cultural phenomenon among teenage girls in Japan in the mid-'80s; at its height, it put the WWF's contemporaneous "Rock 'n Wrestling Connection" to shame by drawing consistent ratings of 10.0-15.0, topping out at a mind-boggling 40.0+ for a network special. Yokota was one of the tandem's two main rivals, and she was also every bit the extraordinary worker as they were (she may well have been the greatest female worker of the decade). The lightning-quick nature of the bout was reflection of each woman's frenetic style. After they nimble exchanged some matwork, Asuka applied a pair of suplexes, one of which sent Yokota bumping to the floor. The Lioness then attempted a plancha that missed its target, and she crashed to the concrete in an excruciating heep. That spot notwithstanding, the two ladies definitely sustained more damage to their necks and heads than any other body parts. The heel Yokota executed a running, jumping Tombstone (K-Driller), and when she attempted a superplex, Asuka turned it into a top-rope gordbuster -- sending her antagonist crashing head-first to the mat! Asuka attempted to follow up with a frog splash, but Yokota blocked it and won the match with a move that punishes the neck, of course: the backdrop suplex. Although exceptionally brief, no match (female or male) has packed more by way of advanced, flawless, and physically-destructive spots more effectively into its (concise) timeframe. Also Recommended: Lioness Asuka vs. Chigusa Nagoya -- February 26, 1987 Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu International Tag Titles January 28, 1986; All Japan; Tokyo All Japan was basking in the glow of one of the most fruitful boom periods in company history at the time of this Tag Team Titles match. Two years prior, Choshu had just led a contingent of superstars from New Japan (which included Yatsu) in desserting New Japan's Antonio Inoki, whose pay scale they considered inequitable. Subsequently, Choshu emerged as the top drawing card in the country, and Tenryu and Tsuruta -- as two of All Japan's three most renowned and enduring stars -- were not far behind. Yasuda, for his part, was a promising young wrestler with a strong amateur background, which automatically made him a marketable commodity. Though he had yet to prove himself at a level commensurate with the three mega-stars with whom he shared the ring in this match, but that minor notoriety problem was nothing that a one-man show in a five-star match couldn't take care of. Choshu and Yatsu failed to win the match, but they accomplished much more in participating in the best match of their respective careers. The two men played the unfamilar role of underdogs as Tsuruta and Tenryu abused Choshu's taped-up, broken ribs with a cruel collection of elbows, knees, and abdominal stretches. Yatsu was left virtually to fend for himself and, in doing so, he had before exhibited such proficiency of workrate. He withstood all of his opponents' rugged offense, even kicking out of a pair of crushing Tsuruta lariats. Ultimately, the two veterans overwhelmed their hapless opponent, who was without the benefit of Choshu's injured help for most of the bout. Nevertheless, in withstanding 24 exciting minutes of offense from two of the stiffest workers in the business and mixing in a litany of his own revolutionary moves that actually made his opponents' look bland by comparison, Yatsu had arrived as a true superstar. Unfortunately for All Japan, their latest, hottest act did not last long atop the company, and he was almost completely out of the business five years later. His performance declined in 1987 and 1988 which, coupled with his futile efforts to place in the 1988 Olympic Games, caused his stock to drop appreciably. However, 1986 was his year, and this was his greatest performance. Also Recommended: Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu, February 5, 1986 Akira Maeda vs. Tatsumi Fujinami June 12, 1986; New Japan; Osaka Not only was this one of the best matches of the '80s, but it was also the most successful instance of two wrestlers applying the shoot style in the pro wrestling arena. The legitimately hot-headed Maeda (who has roughed up Andre the Giant, Tiger Mask, Riki Choshu, Keiji Muto, and several others in real fights) was perhaps the hottest up-and-coming commodity in Japan at the time and, as the storyline went, represented a new breed of "invading" (UWF) shootfighters who despised the "phony" New Japan wrestler. For his part, Fujinami was one of the best workers in the world and, as NJ's second leading babyface, embodied all that Maeda and company disdained. Fujinami did a magnificent job of adapting to the shoot style, which downplayed flashiness and was heavy on striking, mat work, and kneebar and armbar submissions. The initial stages witnessed both men exchange elaborate submissions, and the defending champion even stole several pages out of Maeda's book by using several vintage shoot-style submissions of his own. However, Maeda seemed always to emerge from the exchanges of holds in slightly better shape, and the drama was building steadily, with Fujinami as the homefield underdog. At approximately the twenty-minute mark of what was to be a half-hour match, Fujinami was slouched over in the corner, and Maeda went airborne with a roundhouse kick to the face. Unfortunately, he misfired, catching his opponent with a hideous potato shot that gave Tatsumi a serious concussion. As blood came spewing out of Fujinami's face, the two men quickly decided to abort mission and go to a double-countout. Fujinami struggled to his feet and even managed to participate in a dueling side kick spot that gave both men an excuse to lie down for the ten count. Fujinami was supposed to win the match, but by participating in one of the most dramatic and instrumental matches of the '80s, his reputation came out ahead nonetheless. Had the final ten minutes of the match gone as planned, one can only wonder how exceptional it would have been. Also Recommended: Akira Maeda vs. Don Nakaya Neilsen -- October 9, 1986 Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat Intercontinental Title match April 7, 1987; WWF WrestleMania III; Pontiac, Michigan Within the fledgling insider wrestling media, one of the most popular sayings of 1987 was that "Hulk-Andre was what sold the show; Steamboat-Savage was what stole the show." Beforehand, the "93,173" fans who converged on the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI, hardly had it in mind that Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat would provide the greatest return on their entertainment investment for that evening. "The Macho Man" vs. "The Dragon" certainly was a match that kindled widespread WWF fan interest fifteen years ago, but it existed ostensibly to buttress the mid-card underneath Hogan vs. Andre and -- to a lesser extent -- Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis. By the time the thrilling Intercontinental Title classic reached its rousing conclusion, however, those other two matches had become nothing but the cream cheese on this particular card's bagel, and the new generation of WWF fans had just been treated to their first authentic workrate bonanza. The massive crowd was electric from the first, due in large part to the storyline that Savage had "crushed" Steamboat's larynx with a ring bell, along with the "X" factor of the Savage-Miss Elizabeth-George "The Animal" Steele love triangle playing out at ringside. Savage attempted to smite Steamboat's suffering neck throughout, including by draping "The Dragon" on the top rope and dropping a flying elbow onto the challenger's ailing jugular area. Steamboat weathered the assault and delivered a series of chops, before connecting on a crossbody block for the first of sixteen two counts between the two men. Once again, Savage brought the action to the floor, throwing Steamboat across the timekeeper's table and into the crowd, before delivering the a double ax-handle from the top to the floor and bringing him back in the hard-war with a snap mare from the top rope. Steamboat ultimately reversed the momentum with a backdrop over the top rope, then notched seven more two count with a flying chop, a sunset flip, an inside cradle, a double-leg takeover, a small package, and two roll-ups, respectively. After an irish whip reversal, referee Earl Hebner took a bump and Savage clotheslined the challenger. Savage dropped the big elbow and, with the referee out of commission, attempted to drop the ring bell onto Steamboat from the top rope. However, Steele pushed the agressor from the perch, allowing Steamboat to cradle the distracted Savage for the pin, after slightly more than seventeen minutes. Some 1980s matches were better aesthetically, but the few that were couldn't match up to the magnitude of this, the WWF's paramount televised pure wrestling bout of the decade. Years later, Steamboat related a story of his and Savage's attending the company's post-WrestleMania party the next night and being swarmed by fans congratulating them on the splendor of their previous night's work. Meanwhile, Hulk and Andre may have been chiefly responsible for the card's shattering all existing business records, but the two main eventers garnered comparatively little attention. As a microcosm, that episode aptly captures the legendary quality of the bout more than anything else. Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat Two-Out-of-Three Falls NWA World Title April 2, 1989; NWA "Clash of the Champions"; Nashville, Tennessee The pinnacle of perhaps the greatest series of matches in the history of wrestling. Steamboat, the perennial noble babyface whose wife and young son often accompanied him to the ring, made the perfect foil for Flair -- the dirtiest player in the game, the prodigal son who talked big and backed it up with his ten pounds of gold. And while the stark contrast between their personalities played an central role in fashioning their rivalry, they will forever be inextricably linked in history for one reason: The matches. Textbook studies in build, pacing, match storytelling, execution, intensity, drama, and maximizing the long-range impact of even commonplace moves. This most seminal of bouts took place at the seventh Clash of the Champions special on TBS. In the opening minutes, the two maestros made a simple headlock more entertaining than most modern exchanges of breathtaking high spots, in the process working a fall that could rightfully make a list of this type on its own merits. But there were still two falls to go, and, of course, the distinguishing characteristics of the feud were on display throughout: The countless swings in momentum, the vein-popping knife edge chops (Chris Benoit's look comparatively feeble), the deluge of two-counts and narrow escapes -- all of which built perfectly to the bout's famous climax. In the third, most fast-paced fall, with the match tied one-one, each man swapped still more furious chops -- exhausted and teetering though they were. Flair, of course, tried to cheat his way to victory, connecting with a low blow to gain a momentary advantage. However, the always-resiliant Steamboat recovered in time to thwart a Flair crossbody attempt by thrusting him from the top rope, then clinching in a double chicken-wing -- the same move that made the "Nature Boy" submit in the second fall. In one last moment of desperate exertion, the cagey Flair fell backward in an effort to lock Steamboat in a pinning predicament -- only to get caught with his own shoulders pinned to the mat. Struggling mightily after fifty-five minutes of intense action, Steamboat managed to keep Flair's shoulders down for three. It was pandemonium as "The Dragon" celebrated yet another triumph, drenched in sweat, the picture of fatigued bliss. He should have known better -- Flair always came out on top when all was said and done. Upon further review, the referee determined that the "Nature Boy's" foot was in the ropes, before ruling the match a draw and, ergo, ensuring another classic rematch at the next PPV, "WrestleWar '89." The inconclusive finish notwithstading, the two men had once again demonstrated how peerless they truly were: They could take a crowd from a state of rapt attentiveness to one of uninhibited delirium by the time any given one of their matches reached its apex. For highly-evolved wrestling artistry at its most fully realized, the feud -- and this match in particular -- may never be topped. Also Recommended: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, NWA "Chi-Town Rumble '89"; Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat, NWA "Wrestlewar '89" Ric Flair v. Terry Funk NWA World Title "I Quit" Retirement Match November 15, 1989; "NWA New York Knock-Out;" Troy, NY The best brawl of the 1980s also marked a very rare instance of an opponent actually stealing the show in a match against the "Nature Boy." The then-45-year-old Funk already enjoyed a reputation as one of the best workers in the history of the business, but he had been inactive on U.S. shores for most of the decade. On the night of this NWA PPV in "WWF country," however, the Funker was bent on establishing himself as one of the leading in-ring impresarios of a new generation -- one that, six months earlier, appeared to have all but left him behind. Few wrestlers have ever been able to sell like primo Funk, and his willingness and ability to make Flair seem so very potent must have been a breath of fresh air for the "Nature Boy," who had spent 1984-1988 almost exclusively doing the same -- usually at his own expense. To wit: Funk bumped over the top rope for a Flair chop; slid across a table, hitting his head on a chair as he hit the floor; had a virtual paroxysm as he exhibited the agony of the figure-four leglock; and, on the whole, spent the entirety of the 18:34 fray doing what is known in modern wrestling parlance as "showing ass." Funk also spent ample time on the offensive, chiefly by working over Flair's "injured" kneck with neckbreakers and piledrivers, both in the ring and on the floor. Flair refused to quit and, once back inside, caused the crowd (and Jim Ross, doing his characteristic superlative work) to erupt in a frenzy as he alternated between chopping Funk's chest and kicking him in the leg in rapid-fire succession. In between surgical chops, the defending champ continued to inflict bone-chilling punishment on the challenger's knee, before administering the figure-four. Two minutes later, Funk finally quit, effectively terminating his illustrious NWA wrestling career. It was going to take an authentic five-star bout, featuring outstanding performances by both men, to explain Funk's quitting with his career on the line, and he was so convincing in conveying the throes of Flair's finisher that not a single observer questioned the outcome. The match represented the final classic thread in the garment of Flair's glorious 1989: the best single year of memorable in-ring performances in the history of wrestling. On the other hand, Funk had only been active in the NWA for six months that year, but his exemplary series of matches, interviews, and angles in that span made it one of the best of his career as well -- and one that made him a celebrated figure to a generation that had written him off long before. Also Recommended: Flair vs. Funk -- July 23, 1989, NWA Great American Bash Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta June 8, 1990; All Japan; Tokyo Perhaps the most important match of the decade for All Japan and promoter Giant Baba, this battle between Puroresu legends was the quintessential synthesis of Old Guard vs. New Guard storytelling. Having just lost his top star, Genichiro Tenryu, to rival Antonio Inoki and New Japan, Baba found himself in exigent circumstances; he was running a distant second in the promotional war against Inoki, and his top remaining star, Tsuruta, was aging rapidly. He realized that his promotion direly needed a changing of the guard, and on the afternoon of this Budokan Hall show, he resolved to make Mitsuharu Misawa, 27, his new top star. Less than a year removed from his four-year formative stint as "Tiger Mask II," Misawa had been one of the best workers in Japan for some time, and the fans were, by now, clamoring for Baba to elevate him to his rightful perch atop the company pecking order. And, if nothing else, the applause this Budokan Hall crowd showered upon him from the outset renoved any existing doubts regarding how prevalent their support was for him. The impudent Misawa conveyed his sense of determination by slapping his older opponent and generally treating him with a disprespect befitting a brazen youth attempting to establish his notoriety. The great Tsuruta, 39, reacted with typical grumpiness and attempted to control the pace of the match with his deliberate, ultra-stiff ground attack. Nobody executed a lariat with more authority than Tsuruta, and that, coupled with his full range of knee-lifts and suplexes, was so convincing that, at many points, the crowd seemed certain the end was near for their great, young hope. However, Misawa continually buddled Jumbo with his diving, flipping, dropkicking repetoire, and once he unleashed his own exacting ground offense, he was on the verge of a breakthrough. In the end, one of the match's main threads of story proved pivotal: Misawa was younger, faster, and more dexterous, and for almost every move Tsuruta attempted, he somehow managed to execute a counter. After nearly 25 minutes of intense action, Tsuruta gave Misawa a cross-body block and notched a 2.9 count, before Mitsuharu reversed it into the pinfall. The crowd exploded with an emotion rarely ever seen in pro wrestling, and All Japan's fans were hankering so fervidly for a Misawa victory that many members of the audience were crying after the dramatic conclusion. Even the perpetually-unflappable Misawa at first choked back tears as he celebrated with fellow young guns Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, and Akira Taue, before momentarily composing himself and then giving way to a fleeting toothy grin. It may not have been a Triple Crown Title match, but it might as well have been: Misawa's emergence as the top star in the company remains legendary. Also recommended: Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, September, 1, 1990 Keiji Mutoh vs. Masahiro Chono G1 Climax Tournament Final August 11, 1991; New Japan; Tokyo For New Japan and legendary booker Riki Choshu, the 1991 version of its annual heavyweight G1 Climax tournament was an opportunity to consummate a year-long transition period. The 1990s were in full swing, and it was time for a trio of new mega-stars -- Masa Chono, Masa Chono, and Shin'ya Hashimoto -- to usher in a new era by displacing the aging breed of '80s main eventers -- represented by Tatsumi Fujinami and Choshu himself. So, after a semifinals that saw Mutoh conquer Hashimoto (who had, in turn, ousted Choshu in the opening round) and Chono oust Fujinami, the sell-out crowd at Tokyo's Sumo Hall was abuzz. This was to be a historic encounter between the two wrestlers who would carry the promotion to dizzying new heights of prosperity. The two finalists fed off the appetent crowd by combining for the best match of their respective careers, as well as one that built slowly over a half-hour stretch. Chono was the more charismatic of the two, while Mutoh was the better worker, but each one incorporated a superb array of drama-building moves and sequences. After an impressive demonstration of sound mat work, with an elbowdrop and backdrop suplex thrown in for good measure, Chono revved up a crowd that was already agog by taking to the air with a tope suicida and a plancha -- moves so uncharacteristic for him that the crowd came unglued. Chono continued with a series of piledriver variations, but Mutoh returned the favor and went for a moonsault. The high risk misfired in the worst way possible, as Chono moved out of harm's way and proceeded to lock on his finisher: the STF. The crowd came unraveled, chanting wildly for Mutoh as he struggled to reach the ropes, finally doing so after nearly two minutes in the agonizing hold. Minutes later, Mutoh reversed Chono's suplex attempt into a snap suplex, then went for a missile dropkick: Chono attempted to perform a mid-air dropkick in response, but Mutoh somehow managed to adjust in mid-air and avoid the collision. After a German suplex, he connected with the missile dropkick and, following two more momentum reversals, attempted another moonsault. Much to his detriment, his ribs found Chono's knees on the way down, and Chono executed a neckbreaker powerbomb for the win at around the 30 minute mark. New Japan was about to embark on its most profitable run ever, as its series of dome shows in the mid-'90s set several impressive attendance and revenue records (including over $8 million in combined ticket and merchandise revenue on several occasions). All of that astounding success traces itself, in part, to this, the greatest New Japan heavyweight match of all-time, and the bout that marked the arrival of Chono and Mutoh as the promotion's unquestioned kingpins. Also Recommended: Keiji Mutoh vs. Masahiro Chono, January, 4 1993 Jushin "Thunder" Liger vs. El Samurai Top of the Super Juniors Tournament Final April 30, 1992; New Japan; Tokyo Jushin Liger had already firmly ensconsed himself at the top of the junior heavyweight workrate totem poll at least three years before this legendary tournament final match. Conversely, El Samurai was a highly-regarded up-and-coming high flier who had already attained status as one of the best workers in the company, but he was not yet nearly at Liger's lofty level. The New Japan booking troupe trusted that, by booking him Samuari to reach the tournament finals and wrestling a great match against the renowned Liger, Samurai would become the latest break-out junior circuit star. However, even they never could have forecast that, ten years later, the bout would remain entrenched as one of the best junior matches in wrestling history. The two men largely eschewed traditional early-match mat work and instead opted to brawl with reckless abandon. Samurai even attacked Liger with a glass bottle and piledrove him on the concrete, ala Dynamite Kid in the aforementioned August 23, 1983, Tiger Mask match. Liger became fed up with his opponent's dirty tactics and retaliated by monomaniacally palm thrusting and capo kicking Samurai into oblivion. Samurai responded with an even more furious succession of cuffs in the corner, before Liger broke out some of the best aerial offense of his career, complete with a rolling senton bomb from the top rope to the floor (which, for the time, was absolutely mind-blowing) and a moonsault from the top rope to the floor, onto the sprawled Samurai. In the end, Samurai attempted a top-rope hurrancanrana, but Liger reversed it into a power bomb, before following up with a top-rope 'rana of his own for the win. After twenty minutes of the best singles match of either man's career (which is a bold statement, particularly in Liger's case), New Japan had yet another junior heavyweight legend in its charge. Although Liger was clearly the better performer, Samurai became an instant star, and he even dethroned Jushin "Thunder" to win the first of two IWGP Junior Heavyweight titles in a rematch two months later. Also Recommended: Jushin Liger vs. Naoki Sano, January 31, 1990 Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels Intercontinental Title Unification Ladder Match March 20, 1994; WWF WrestleMania X; New York In 1994, the WWF was stagnating, both artistically and financially. In addition to losing approximately $4 million that year, the company was still struggling to establish its post-Hogan, steroid-trial-era creative identity, and the results were often disconcerting. Leave it to Shawn Michaels to thrive in the middle of the turbulence. Michaels not only made himself a legend through his incomparable performance in this match, but he created a legitimate star out of his buddy Scott Hall, who hitherto had been vacillating between the upper mid-card and the lowest rung of the upper-card. Not that Razor didn't hold his own: "The Bad Guy" received a veritable thrashing from the ladder-weilding Michaels and took the second highest quotient of spine-crunching bumps of anyone on the card. Michaels was the one who needed to have spinal surgery four years later, though, and no better example exists of wherefore he did than this masochistic performance. Not only did he take numerous punishing bumps from atop the ladder, but he dropped elbows and splashes from the perch, as well -- and that was during his warm-up phase. By the time Ramon won the match by shoving over the ladder, causing Michaels to land crotch-first on the top rope and remain entangled there, the "Heartbreak Kid" had withstood so much punishment that even Mick Foley had to be in a state of awe while watching. Over five years later, the Hardy Boys and Edge & Christian emerged and outstripped Michaels' spectacular stunts, but they couldn't touch the drama of this, arguably the greatest match in the history of the WWF. Also Recommended: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, WWF "Summer Slam '95" "Wild Pegasus" Chris Benoit vs. The Great Sasuke Super J Cup Junior Heavyweight Tournament Final April 4, 1994; New Japan; Tokyo The culmination of one of the most incredible nights of pure wrestling action in history, this genre-defining bout renovated the Dynamite Kid-Tiger Mask formula into 20:10 of some of the greatest junior heavyweight wrestling ever seen on this planet. Every kick, chop, headbut, suplex, powerbomb, backflip, moonsault, twist, turn, and bump was delivered with intense precision, drew mind-boggling crowd heat, and occured within a perfect drama-building context. Sasuke played the part of an even-more-spectacular Satoru Sayama, even employing such Sayama as the moonsault press and the hand-spring, twisting plancha . Benoit transcended even his idol, the Kid, suplexing his opponent all over the ring and, ultimately, finishing him with a riveting top-rope gutwrench suplex. What is most remarkable about the match's exceptional quality is that it was the final round of the most grueling annual tournament in wrestling, so both men had already wrestled two arduous matches earlier in the night. In particular, Sasuke's quarterfinal and semifinal bouts -- against El Samurai and Jushin Liger, respectively -- were, in their own right, both brutal Match of the Year candidates that firmly established the death-defying junior heavyweight as a legendary figure in Puroresu. Benoit, meanwhile, won the bout and an accompanying assortment of trophies, belts, and other goodies that commemorated his tournament victory. In his post-match, made-for-home-video interview, the man now known in the WWF as the "Canadian Crippler" stated, "This is the greatest honor of my career." On the contrary, Chris: The honor (of viewing your masterful performance) was all ours. Also Recommended: "Wild Pegasus" Chris Benoit vs. El Samurai -- 1993 "Top of Super Juniors" Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada Triple Crown Title June 3, 1994; All Japan Pro Wrestling; Tokyo Two of the most dominant stars in the history of wrestling, Misawa and Kawada have wrestled many classic matches in the course of their illustrious feud. This match, notable for its layers of psychological nuance, was the pinnacle. Both men debuted at roughly the same time (Kawada in 1982, Misawa in 1984), with each rising through All Japan's ranks at a corresponding rate. They even briefly formed a tag team, only to split up when Misawa captured the Triple Crown title in 1990. Kawada had since challenged for Misawa's championship numerous time, but he invariably lost each one of those encounters. Steadily, his jealousy and frustration mounted, and the deep-seeded feelings came to a head in this Triple Crown bout, before a rabid pro-Kawada crowd at Budokan Hall. The match showcased a superior level of multi-dimensional story-telling from the outset: Initially, the former partners thwarted each other's attempts to connect with high-impact offense because they knew each other so well. However, Kawada's frustration, resulting from years of failure, soon manifested itself, as he opted to forego wrestling a respectful scientific match in favor of embarrassing his foe by kicking the champion in the face as he lay on the mat and standing on his head instead of holding onto a half-Boston Crab. The provoked Misawa responded in kind, systematically and forcefully working over Kawada's knee, which Misawa and Kenta Kobashi had "injured" in a tag team match several months earlier. The resolute Kawada fought back with an energetic, fierce flurry of offense, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Misawa narrowly withstood the beating, and once Kawada had expended most of the energy remaining in his ravaged body, the champion capitalized by unleashing his own vast array of offensive moves. However, the determined challenger refused to quit: Misawa scored with several devastating maneuvers that had earned him victories in numerous previous high-profile bouts, and each time, Kawada narrowly kicked out of the ensuing pin attempt. At the match's climax, with the crowd clamorously chanting his name, the exhausted, frantic Kawada fired off one last-gasp series of kicks. Misawa, bloody and battered in his own right, withstood the blows and at long last finished off his foe with the Tiger Driver '91, a move he hadn't used in three years, and one that only underscored the monumental importance of winning on this night. Fans of crowd heat, brutality (both mens' blood was hardway), and -- above all else -- psychology should look no further. Also Recommended: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi, February, 1997 American Love Machine" Art Barr & Eddie Guerrero ("Los Gringos Locos") vs. El Hijo del Santo & Octagon Double Hair vs. Double Masks November 6, 1994; AAA "When World Collide" Pay-Per-View; Los Angeles At the time of this legendary match, hardcore wrestling fans and critics were absolutely certain that one member of the legendary Los Gringos Locos tandem would inevitably enjoy a long, prosperous career as one of the greatest heel performers in the history of both Mexican and U.S. wrestling. And it wasn't Eddie Guerrero. "American Love Machine" Art Barr, the son of long-time Oregon promoter Sandy Barr and 1990 WCW prelim wrestler "The Juicer," was a proverbial five-tool wrestler whose blend of talent and charisma likely equalled even that of Shawn Michaels at the time. His routine as an insufferable, anti-Mexican jerk packed the Hispanic AAA fans in by the thousands and, invariably, roused their nationalistic passions to a riotous degree. It seemed only a matter of time before promoters in the U.S. took notice of him and pushed him to the moon, and in the wake of this five-star classic, his phone started ringing off the hook. Aside from the hilarious heel antics of Barr and Guerrero (whose performance was also magnificent), the match was three falls of non-stop action. The first fall saw the heel dominate, winning with a super-frankensteiner over Santo, while Barr put down Octagon with the Frogsplash (Lucha tag matches are contested under elimination rules, more or less). In the second fall, Los Locos eventually disposed of Santo, before Octagon made a miraculous one-on-two rally and pinned Guerrero and Barr within the space of 30 seconds. The third fall was the most dramatic of all, with Santo fighting for the mask he and his father (the most famous luchadore ever) had sported for almost half a century. Barr successfully put Octagon out of commission with a Tombstone Piledriver (a move Mexican fans consider crippling, thus, it's banned) behind the ref's back, before Love Machine arch-rival Blue Panther interfered by squashing Barr with a piledriver of his own. Guerrero and Santo were left mano-y-mano, with Santo enduring all of Eddy's brutal Puroresu-style stiff offense. The second-generation superstar, with his family honor and legacy at stake, ultimately reversed a suplex attempt into a roll-up and a thrilling 1-2-3. All four men performed almost flawlessly, but the 28-year-old Barr stole the show -- no small statement given the caliber of his co-performers. His heel charisma and energy were so incredible that even the ever-temperate Mike Tenay, who (excellently) handled the English commentary with Chris Cruise, seemed exasperated by his tactics. Unfortunately, one is left only to wonder what might have been. In a twist of cruel irony, not only was this Barr's most famous match, but it was also his last: He died in his sleep 17 days later, with those new offers from U.S. and Japanese promoters only starting to pile up. Also Recommended: Los Gringos Locos & Konnan vs. El Hijo del Santo, Octagon, & Blue Panther, April, 1994 Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue Real World League Tag Titles June 9, 1995; All Japan; Tokyo This 43-minute magnum opus saw the historic Misawa-Kawada rivalry reach new epic heights. Misawa entered the match in the midst of his third Triple Crown title reign, having just reclaimed the championship from Stan Hansen in May. Conversely, Kawada was still feeling the sting of having never beaten his bitter rival, as well as of recently having his own Triple Crown reign cut short by Hansen that March. To further spice up the already-savory drama surrounding the bouth, Kobashi entered the match with his knee heavily taped and, not surprisingly, the challengers spent the majority of the bout ruthlessly assaulting the wounded limb with all manner of lethal kicks and submissions. As the story went, Kawada intended to impart revenge for his own knee injury, as described in the June 3 Misawa-Kawada bouth. Kobashi did a superlative job of selling the injury, and when he finally hit his signature moonsault and made a tag to Misawa nearly forty minutes into the match, the crowd heat reached an ear-shattering decibal level. Unfortunately for Misawa, he was by then in a hapless state: With his ailing partner virtually useless, the immutable challengers eventually overwhelmed him. Kobashi could do little more than selflessly lay on top of Misawa in a futile effort to rescue his partner from Kawada's and Taue's unmerciful attack. This spectacle continued for several minutes, and many times -- just as it looked like Kawada would finally pin the near-impregnable Misawa -- Kobashi would make a gallant save. Finally, with the Budokan Hall crowd having reached a feverish pitch, Taue took out Kobashi with an especially forceful Nodowa Otoshi, leaving an opening for Kawada to demolish Misawa with his second High Angle Powerbomb of the match. Just before Kobashi could make one more save, Kawada covered his helpless rival and registered the 1-2-3. After half a decade of frustration, Kawada had finally pinned Misawa. And he did it -- fittingly enough -- after what was likely the most dramatic match in wrestling history. Also Recommended: Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue, October 15, 1995 Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart Submission Match March 24, 1997; WWF "WrestleMania XIII"; Chicago A five-star, half-hour, gross and glorious brawl that, more than any other match, defined the "WWF Attitude" era, set Austin on fire as a babyface, and marked the beginning of the end for Hart in the WWF. The 39-year-old Bret was still near his prime as a worker and performed magnificently. This was arguably his last truly great singles match in the WWF, and it was only fitting that the "Hitman," the consummate in-ring dramatist, helped tell a story emotionally gripping enough to make most Hollywood scriptwriters envious. However, if this were an action-adventure motion picture, Austin's performance was positively Grammy-worthy. "Stone Cold" was at his pre-neck-condition athletic peak and had so completely grown into his character that his every movement glistened with a dynamic, bad-ass gusto that his physical limitations have prevented him from replicating ever since (as great as he still is). At the outset, the two men brawled up into the stands, before making their way back to the ring and thrashing each other some more around the ringside area. Back in, Hart seized a momentary advantage, before Austin walloped Hart over the back with a chair, doing so with a piquancy such that much of the Rosemont Horizon crowd turned in his favor right then and there. Hart reversed the tide and bloodied the Texas Rattlesnake on the rail, before unleashing an feral assault on his opponent's face and legs. Of course Austin fought back, performing his staple rapid-fire series of kicks to Bret's face in the corner with more enthusiasm and swagger than he's ever displayed in any match -- ever. When Hart finally locked him in the sharpshooter, his face a proverbial crimson mask, his energetic (but ultimately futile) attempt to escape was unparalleled in its intensity, and he likely won over more fans during those two minutes than many WWF wrestlers do in an entire career. Long before guest referee Ken Shamrock stopped the match after Austin "passed out," Stone Cold had already captured the crowd's imagination with his revolutionary brand of defiant charisma. The fact that he did so during a match that featured such masterful storytelling made the turn all the more triumphant. The wrestling world hasn't been the same ever since. Also Recommended: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin, WWF Survivor Series '96" Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero Mask vs. Cruiserweight Title October 26, 1997; WCW "Halloween Havoc '97"; Las Vegas WCW showcased so many spectacular Cruiserweight matches between 1996 and 1998 that, eventually, few of them stood out above one another -- between Nitros, Thunders, and pay-per-views, the four-star matches abounded and almost became commonplace. Thus, that this one match stood affirmatively above them all illustrates just what a modern masterpiece it really was. Intricate, innovative sequences, all executed with flawless fluidity and psychology, building to an electrifying finish. At 13:51, it may be the shortest AW Essential, but it still packed as powerful a punch as any. In the most incredible spot of them all, with Guerrero stationed on the outside of the ring, Mysterio executed a running flip dive over the top rope, rotated his body, and turned it into a hurracanrana. A whole host of dives, dropkicks, and other stiff and acrobatic moves followed, with Guerrero playing the bullying antagonist to perfection. After Eddie executed what may well be the single greatest powerbomb in the history of the wrestling industry, he scaled the ropes and missed his frog splash attempt. Mysterio, the challenger, responded by attempting his own finishing move -- the hurracanrana -- only to see Guerrero turn it into a backbreaker. The crowd was abuzz as the champion set up for the top-rope powerbomb (Splash Mountain), and they erupted in cheers as Rey reversed it into an awe-inspiring 'rana and scored the pin. Any match that Eddie Guerrero himself ranks as the greatest of his career is a must-see of the highest caliber, and Mysterio would no doubt express similar sentiments. Also Recommended: Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero, "World War III '97" The Rock vs. Steve Austin WWF World Championship April 1, 2001; WWF "WrestleMania X-7"; Houston, TX It's not too often that the top two drawing cards of the most profitable generation in U.S. wrestling history engage in a classic battle on the biggest "sports-entertainment" event of the year. Well, actually, it's happened twice, to be exact, but the second match was the better of the two, and it was also the most memorable. At what was not surprisingly the most profitable extravaganza in the history of wrestling, 67,925 fans at the Astrodome reacted rabidly as The Rock and Austin put on a terrific half-hour, no-disqualification match that was absolutely chock-full of tasty twists and turns. Over the course of the half-hour match, both men bladed, exchanged each other's signature moves numerous times, and cleverly staged several false finishes that made reference to famous past matches -- all of which they did for maximum emotional impact. Even Vince McMahon's interference at the end of the bout couldn't spoil the fun, though it did come awfully close: Vince was supposed to be a strong enough heel to turn the crowd against Austin, but the massive Houston throng instead cheered wildly for everything their fellow Texan did. Meanwhile, the Rock received a hearty round of boos every time he mounted any sort of offense. Even after Stone Cold worked the match in the psychological heel role, needed the hated McMahon to break up the Rock's post-People's Elbow pin attempt, held the Rock while Vince walloped the defending champ with a chair, failed to hold Rocky down for a three-count after a stunner, clobbered his opponent with a chair for another false-finish in an extremely heel-like move, and then finally earned the pin after psychotically "snapping" and laying waste to the "People's Champ" with a succession of cruel chair shots to the stomach and back, the stubborn crowd STILL gave the home-state hero one of the biggest pops in the history of wrestling when he finally regained the title. Although the disastrous Austin heel turn will always characterize it, the match itself marked the financial high-point of the mind-bogglingly successful WWF Attitude. Also Recommended: The Rock vs. Steve Austin; WrestleMania XV Keiji Mutoh vs. Genichiro Tenryu Triple Crown Title June 8, 2001; New Japan/All Japan; Tokyo It was the height of the (fairly disappointing) New Japan vs. All Japan storyline that carried both companies through 2001, and 39-year-old Keiji Mutoh was somewhat of an afterthought. He had been one of New Japan's top two stars and best performers for more than ten years, but his stock had dropped appreciably in the past few years, thanks to his declining performance rate and general staleness. He was showing signs of moving down the card, and surely that trend would continue during the latter part of 2001. His opponent in this Budokan Hall match, Genichiro Tenryu, was one of the best workers on the planet in the 1980s, but he was on the wrong side of 52-years-old at this point, so his physical attrition was even more pronounced. Despite being a great performer for his age, he had already been phased down the card in New Japan several years before, and he only held the Triple Crown Title because of All Japan's post-Pro Wresting NOAH talent dearth. This match figured to include a wealth of good nostalgia but a poverty of great wrestling, with the winner's championship reign sure to end at the next month's Budokan Hall show. Instead, the exceptional quality of the match sent shockwaves undulating throughout the Japanese wrestling world, and the winner still held the title as of February, 2002. From the outset, the men set the shockingly frenetic pace of the match, with Mutoh reversing a Dragon Screw attempt by Tenryu into the Shining Wizard, his newest finishing maneuver. Mutoh then attempted a moonsault less than two minutes into the bout. The match only built from there, with the elderly Tenryu even performing an incredible tope suicida and the erstwhile Great Muta responding by executing a Dragon Screw Suplex from the apron to the floor. Mutoh proceeded to maul Tenryu's knee with dropkicks and a Dragon Suplex-into-a-figure-four spot (many observers have labeled him the "Japanese Ric Flair" -- only with better moves), but his aging foe responded with his own Dragon Suplex-into-a-figure-four-spot and followed up with a staggering Spider Suplex and a diving elbow for a 2.9 count. Mutoh answered with another Shining Wizard, but it didn't phase Tenryu, who connected with a Northern Lights Power Bomb and, moments later, officially became the oldest (and, perhaps, the heaviest) man ever to execture a top-rope hurracanrana. Tenryu attempted yet another Northern Lights Bomb, but Mutoh reversed it into his third Shining Wizard of the match -- only netting him a 2.9 count. Mutoh still had one last-resort option remaining in his manifold bag of tricks: The moonsault. The crowd came unglued as the challenger pulled out this trusty, old favorite, finally scoring a pin on the resilient Tenryu, winning him the Triple Crown Title for the first time. All Japan had planned all along for Mutoh to be a transitional champion, but, in the wake of this five-star match, the crowd reaction to his reign was so exceedingly strong that he held the belt until April, 2002, and has been the hub of the Japanese wrestling scene the past nine months. Incredibly, it was a classic match between two men who had combined to live nearly half a century that catalyzed the resurgence.
  8. More hilarity from The Death Of WCW... Not only was the action in the ring becoming atrocious, so was the television production. In particular, the Thunder prior to this show featured one of the most unintentionally hilarious screw-ups ever. Chris Jericho had been spoofing Goldberg by going to the ring for his matches accompanied by fat security guards (one of whom was a real-life ring crew worker who would go on to minor fame as "Ralphus"). The story line this particular evening was that Jericho got lost trying to find his way to the ring and ended up locked outside the building. Unfortunately, the door didn't really lock, so when he pulled on the handle, it opened right up. He quickly closed it and pretended it was locked, pounding on the door and screaming to be let inside. Apparently, someone inside thought he was really locked out, because a door about ten feet away opened, and this dude stuck his head out. Jericho had to pretend like he didn't see him. It gets better. His opponent, Wrath, got sick of waiting in the ring and ran backstage to find Jericho. They did a chase scene outside the building. Finally, they figured the camera was shut off, so Jericho stopped, and Wrath ran past him. Then they both turned and nonchalantly started walking back towards the camera. Problem was, the camera wasn't off, and this whole fiasco was broadcast to millions.
  9. I'm liable to get a headache from all this bumping.
  10. It's a marriage made in marketing heaven. Back in November 1985, both the pay-per-view medium and Vince McMahon's expansionist aspirations were in their respective infancies. McMahon was coming off his highly-successful WrestleMania I closed-circuit venture, and he was clearly trying to take the concept of the wrestling supercard to new, lucrative heights. Meanwhile, the PPV industry had yet to make any substantial inroads toward gaining widespread popularity. The much-maligned head of the WWF is nothing if not an opportunist, and he theorized that a union between this new, fledgling industry and his now-national wrestling company could feasibly reap huge benefits for all involved. "Why not give it a shot?" Vince surely thought. If the project tanked, nothing much ventured, nothing much gained. The WWF certainly stood to lose a hefty wad of cashola if none of his consumers bought into the idea, but the upside was potentially enormous. With that in mind, he and his WWF corporate execs collectively held their breath on November 7, 1985, when the WWF presented the first-ever wrestling PPV supercard, a tournament-based event called "Wrestling Classics..." Cha-ching! Before you knew it, the McMahon Family bank account was growing faster than you could say "hulk-a-cash." It was only two years before Vince's chief competitor, Jim Crockett's NWA, belatedly jumped on board, with the ill-fated "Starrcade '87." But this feature isn't so much about the development of the wrestling-PPV junction as it is about all the great entertainment that pairing has brought us these past 17 years. Out of the more-than-200 wrestling PPVs that have taken place, I have selected the 10 most valuable for your viewing experience. These were the mega-cards that not only irrevocably shaped the landscape of the industry, but also featured the greatest amount of terrific in-ring action and enthralling storyline developments/payoffs from top-to-bottom. From the historic WrestleMania III in Pontiac, MI, to last year's 'Mania in Houston, TX, we've ranked-and-filed all the very best sports-entertainment that $29.95X10 can buy. On the list, you'll find five WWF shows (they've been doing this the longest, after all), four NWA/WCW productions, and one ECW offering. We recognize that the PPV marketplace has also featured notable contributions from the likes of Herb Abrams' UWF, the LPWA "Super Ladies Super Show," the "Heroes of Wrestling," and the "Women of Wrestling Unleashed!," but we decided to pass on reliving them. We sincerely hope your disappointment is fleeting, unlike the dubious legacies of a few of these exhibitions. Of course this project is sure to generate plenty of controversy, much like our "Essential Matches" compilation. Feel free to Email me if you have a criticism or a concurrence you would like to share. They say that memories are the fruit of the soul, so join us as we relive almost 29 hours of the most savory ones this wacky business has ever produced. Of course it's only fitting that they all occurred -- as "Mean" Gene Okerlund would no doubt eagerly remind us -- EXCLUSIVELY on pay-per-view! WWF WrestleMania X-7 April 1, 2001; Houston, TX The financial and aesthetic pinnacle of wrestling's latest golden age was as outstandingly diverse as it was, well, outstandingly outstanding. The WWF boasted a roster with unparalleled depth, but never had it utilized its talented crew as effectively as at the 2001 installment of WrestleMania, which saw 67,925 pack Houston's Reliant Astrodome. The record-setting throng may have gone home a tad deflated by the evening's concluding angle, but they hardly had cause to feel cheated; prior to that, they witnessed the greatest hodgepodge of entertaining wrestling matches ever presented on PPV. Even the weaker among the undercard matches were very entertaining efforts that had a certain extra-special feel befitting such a legitimately momentous event. Chris Jericho and William Regal roared out of the gates with a solid-if-unspectacular IC Title bout, Eddie Guerrero and Test had a good match that followed traditional David vs. Goliath protocol, and the 20-Man Gimmick Battle Royal lightened up the mood by contributing touches of slapstick humor and nostalgiac diversion to the festivities. However, it was a quintet of disparate classics that truly distinguished the extravaganza and catapulted it to best-PPV-ever status. First, in one of the most unique great U.S. matches of the past several years, Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit singlehandedly revived the lost art of great, precursory mat wrestling, before they finished up with a final high-impact, highspot flourish. Talk about contrast. Two matches later was the Vince vs. Shane melodrama, which set new, lofty standards for effectively incorporating soap operatic elements into the context of a sports-entertainment match. The participation of Linda, Stephanie, Trish Stratus, and Mick Foley, coupled with Shane-o'-Mac's high-flying, made this by far the most fun chapter in the everlasting McMahon Family saga. Next up was the even more enthralling -- albeit completely different -- TLC 2, which saw the Hardys, the Dudleys, Edge and Christian send the "Oh My God!" quotient soaring to unprecedented heights in a match brimming with breathtaking bumps and aerial aptitude. Then came HHH vs. the Undertaker, a clash between two behemoths that (mildly suprisingly) turned out to be well-worked, well-booked, and just about as close to a conventional "WWF Attitude-style" match as one can get. Finally, the main event provided a fitting conclusion to an event of such magnitude: Stone Cold took on The Rock in an awesome battle between the two biggest drawing cards of this generation. It was fierce, it was intense, it was heated, and it was...well, it was actually kind of a let-down there at the end, especially for a Texas crowd that greeted Austin's entrance with one of the biggest pops in wrestling history: "The Rattlesnake" tegained the title, but only after turning heel and forming a short-lived communion with former arch-nemesis Vince. Nonetheless, that dash of disappointing booking couldn't put a damper on a card so majestic. For once, not only did WrestleMania live up to its epic hype, but -- by virtue of a diverse series of sports-entertainment classic -- it actually exceeded it. FULL RESULTS: 1) Chris Jericho d. William Regal -- IC Title; 2) Tazz & the APA d. Right to Censor (Bull Buchanan, Goodfather, Val Venis); 3) Kane d. Big Show, Raven -- Harcore Title Three-Way; 4) Eddy Guerrero d. Test -- European Title; 5) Kurt Angle d. Chris Benoit; 6) Chyna d. Ivory -- Womens Title; 7) Shane McMahon d. Vince McMahon; 8) Edge & Christian d. Dudley Boys, Hardy Boys -- Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, Tag Team Titles; 9) Iron Shiek e. Sgt. Slaughter -- 20-Man Gimmick Battle; 10) Undertaker d. HHH; 11) Steve Austin d. The Rock -- WWF Title NWA "Great American Bash '89" July 23, 1989; Baltimore, MD An extravaganza of terrific pure wrestling clashes that truly rocked the casbah. The NWA showcased some of the best in-ring action in the world in 1989, and this card reflected the company's then-superior product by featuring a quartet of four-star thrillers, several entertaining ancillary bouts, and a series of sensible storyline developments. Admittedly, the undercard wanted for good wrestling, but it more than compensated with a healthy quotient of occurences that are much more historically fascinating than they were contemporaneously. Brian Pillman made his NWA PPV debut, defeating "Wild" Bill Irwin; recently-arrived Skyscraper Sid Vicious drew nuclear babyface heat (comparable to Bill Goldberg in 1998) in teaming with Danny Spivey to lay waste to The Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace); and once-and-future arch-rivals Jim Cornette and Paul "E. Dangerously" Heyman tussled in a Tuxedo Match in one of the culminating points of the Midnight Express vs. Midnight Express feud. Those noteworthy happenings completely paled in comparison to the remainder of the show. In a very good match, the still-novel Steiner Brothers battled The Varsity Club in the closing chapter of a thoroughly entertaining feud. Fresh off his classic feud with Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat reaffirmed his greatness by carrying Lex Luger to an absolutely stellar match. Sting and the newly-arrived, green-mist-blowing Great Muta (Keiji Mutoh) squared off in a terrific TV Title Match -- the first of many between the two. In one of the best "War Games'" ever, the Freebirds & the Samoan Swat Team (including Fatu, aka Rikishi) got down 'n dirty against The Road Warriors, Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane, and Steve "Dr. Death" Williams. And, if all that wasn't enough to tear the house down, Ric Flair and Terry Funk obliterated it in the wake of a half-hour, knock-down, drag-out, old-school, double-blade-job, grisly, gruesome brawl that was made all the more legendary by the fact that Funk worked the match with an excruciating back injury. The bout was also notable for the stirring ovation the Baltimore crowd gave Flair, who was playing a babyface for the first time in almot six years and was so moved by the warm reception that he legitimately had to fight back tears prior to his bloodbath with the Funker. No matter your variety of wrestling preference, this card is guaranteed to satisfy. Want workrate? Blood-and-guts? Quality storylines? The 1989 Great American Bash was a windfall of all of the above. FULL RESULTS: 1) Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey won the "King of the Hill" 20-man battle royal; 2) Brian Pillman d. Bill Irwin; 3) The Skyscrapers (Vicious & Spivey) d. The Dynamic Dudes (Johnny Ace & Shane Douglas); 4) Jim Cornette d. Paul E. Dangerously -- Tuxedo Match; 5) Steiner Brothers d. Kevin Sullivan & Mike Rotunda; 6) Sting d. Great Muta -- TV Title Match; 7) Ricky Steamboat d. Lex Luger -- DQ; 8) The Midnight Express (Bobby Easton & Stan Lane), the Road Warriors, & Steve Williams d. The Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin, Terry Gordy & Michael Hayes) & Samoan Swat Team -- War Games; 9) Ric Flair d. Terry Funk -- NWA Title WWF "Summer Slam 2000" August 27, 2000; Raleigh, NC The WWF delivered so many killer PPVs in 2000 and at the beginning of 2001 that, all things being equal, a good five or six of them are qualified enough to make this list. But this project would be pretty boring if we sacrificed its diversity, so we settled on including this show as a representative of the blow-away quality of the entire period. After all, not too many cards can boast of featuring two legitimate Match of the Year candidates -- and that was before the great Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs Triple-H main event. Admittedly, the undercard was largely uneventful, save for the Steve Blackman vs. Shane McMahon Harcore Title match that saw Shane-'o-Mac enter his once-a-month bumptaking machine mode, before Blackman won by dropping an elbow from scaffolding twenty feet up. However, what immediately followed that plunder was a match that any fan of great old-school wrestling could wholeheartedly embrace as a godsend: Chris Benoit locked up with Chris Jericho in a two-out-of-three falls match that featured great build, great psychology, great moves, and every other feature that characterizes a great pro wrestling match. It's no wonder Benoit won virtually every "Most Outstanding Worker"-type poll for 2000, because his performance here was absolutely incredible, and he got some very capable help from a fellow member of the "Awesome Workers Club" on this night. The subsequent first-ever Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match made the 1-2 punch of mind-boggling greatness complete; Christian & Edge, the Dudleys, and the Hardys took bumps so brutal as to make Shawn and Razor look like a pair of senior citizens at a bridge club meeting. The match was still a novelty at this point and, as a result, it was even greater within context than their WrestleMania match eight months later. The main event capped off the essential-viewing portion of the evening, and it marked a culminating point in HHH's year-long feuds with The Rock and Kurt Angle. Furthermore, not only was it a great match, but it also had a strong ending that built the Angle-and Stephanie-McMahon-Helmsley-lusting-over-one-another-much-to-Hunter's-dismay storlyines. The WWF had already virtually secured its victory in the promotional wars by this point, but that didn't stop its wrestlers from giving it their all. This card was plain exceptional -- even more so than the ten-or-so other terrific Federation PPVs from the same period. FULL RESULTS: 1) Right to Censor (Bull Buchanan, Goodfather, Steven Richards) d. Too Cool & Rikishi; 2) X-Pac d. Road Dogg; 3) Eddy Guerrero & Chyna d. Val Venis & Trish Stratus -- Chyna wins Intercontinental Title; 4) Jerry Lawler d. Tazz; 5) Steve Blackman d. Shane McMahon -- Hardcore Title; 6) Chris Benoit d. Jericho -- 2-of-3 Falls; 7) Edge & Christian d. Dudleys, Hardys -- Tag Team Titles: Tables, Ladders, Chairs; 8) The Kat d. Ivory; 9) The Rock d. Kurt Angle, HHH -- WWF Title WWF WrestleMania III March 29, 1987; Pontiac, MI A crowd of 78,000,er,93,173, an 8.0 buy rate, and a record closed-circuit cable viewing audience can't be wrong. From the opener, featuring the Can-Am Connection vs. Don Muraco & Bob Orton, to the era's ultimate box office bonanza, Hulk-Andre for the WWF Title, every single match on this card is the stuff of legend simply because of the grandiose stage on which it occurred. This was the be-all, end-all of sports-entertainment spectaculars, a fact which even much of the mainstream duely recognizes. Of course most discussions surrounding WrestleMania III center around the famous main event. The legend of the Hogan-Giant match has grown to such epic (and mythical) proportions that virtually every hardcore wrestling fan is by now familiar with the captivating (and mostly inaccurate) tale. As the story goes, Andre was not only wrestling's top star, but he had never been beaten, and nobody could beat this kindly-yet-deadly heroic hulk of a human being -- fixed match or otherwise. Leading up to the showdown at the Silverdome, everyone involved nervously wondered whether the Giant would allow Hogan to beat him as planned, because in the words of Vince McMahon, "NOBODY could tell ANDRE what to do." However, this noble, selfless man -- whose massive body was exceeded only by the enormousness of his character -- recognized the end was drawing near and, in an act of sheer dignity, allowed the Hulkster to bodyslam and pin his "700-pound" frame. Well, you do have to hand it to Vince, Hulk, and the rest, because they've managed to invent a charming little folk tale. In reality, Hogan (not Andre) had been wrestling's top draw for several years, Andre had lost several times during his career, Akira Maeda had demolished Andre's unbeatable shooter reputation the year before in a real-life fight in Japan, and nobody behind-the-scenes ever doubted the outcome of the show's main event. But even all the lies and half-truths can't detract from the magnitude of a match between wrestling's two biggest drawing cards. It was genuinely legendary -- even if much of the legend currently surrounding it is anything but genuine. Despite the long shadow cast by the grandiose main event, plenty else on the card managed to stand out. The aforementioned opener was good, the British Bulldogs & Tito Santana vs. Hart Foundation & Danny Davis six-man was solid (though hindered by the Dynamite Kid's back injury), and then-number-two babyface Roddy Piper's "retirement match" (Bill Cosby voice: riiiiight) against Adrian Adonis provided ten minutes of terrific sports entertainment in lieu of a traditional wrestling match. But what made WM III worth the price of admission alone for workrate freaks the world over was the famous Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat Intercontinental Title bout, one of our 20 Essential Matches. Like the success of the show as a whole, the match entirely deserves the high praise. And, like everything else involved with the card, its legend only continues to expand. FULL RESULTS: 1) The Can-Am Connection (Rick Martel & Tom Zenk) d. Don Muraco & Bob Orton; 2) Billy Jack Haynes DCO Hurcules Hernandez; 3) Hillbilly Jim, Haiti Kid, & Little Beaver d. King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, & Little Tokyo -- DQ; 4) "King" Harley Race d. Junkyard Dog; 5) The Dream Team (Brutus Beefcake & Greg Valentine) d. Rougeau Brothers (Jacques & Raymond); 6) Roddy Piper d. Adrian Adonis -- Hair vs. Hair; 7) Hart Foundation & Danny Davis d. British Bulldogs & Tito Santana; 8) Butch Reed d. Koko B. Ware; 9) Ricky Steamboat d. Randy Savage -- Intercontinental Title; 10) Honky Tonk Man d. Jake "The Snake" Roberts; 11) Iron Shiek & Nikolai Volkoff d. The Killer Bees (Brian Blair & Jim Brunzell) -- DQ; 12) Hulk Hogan d. Andre the Giant -- WWF Title WCW "Starrcade '96" December 12, 1996; Nashville Tennessee What made WCW's incompetence during its final years of existence all the more frustrating was that the company was only recently removed from putting on shows like this: a card that showcased wall-to-wall entertainment, with a perfect balance between terrific in-ring wrestling on the undercard and the the aging cash cows in the main event. As the artistic and storyline pinnacle of the first phase of the NWO vs. WCW storyline, the show drew WCW's highest buy rate of the year, largely on the strength of the much-hyped Hollywood Hogan vs. Roddy Piper "Battle of the Icons." The match itself was as bad as one would expect, but the hype and historical significance made it passably entertaining, and Piper's victory over Hogan marked one of the very first instances of the NWO's displaying vulnerability. The top-tier of the card also notably featured Lex Luger's victory over the Giant, which garnered the biggest pop of the night. During the bout, Sting (whose Crow-based persona was still thoroughly entertaining at this point) descended from the rafters and indiscriminately dropped a baseball bat in the middle of the ring, thereby furthering the suspense surrounding where his loyalties lay. Storyline developments aside, the unequivocal highlight of the show was the undercard -- as it was on most of the era's WCW PPVs. The Ultimo Dragon and Dean Malenko put on a hold-for-hold mat wrestling clinic the likes of which only a select few have ever been capable of equalling; Jushin Liger and Rey Misterio, Jr. engaged in an exciting battle between legendary high fliers; Akira Hokuto carried Madusa to one of the better matches of her career; and, in a near-four-star Four Horsemen-themed scuffle, Chris Benoit and Jeff Jarrett brought down the house in Music City, USA. All in all, it was one of the aesthetic pinnacles of WCW's great 1996-1998 run. As well as, in retrospect, among the most frustrating. FULL RESULTS: 1) Ultimo Dragon d. Dean Malenko -- J. Crown Title vs. Cruiserweight Title; 2) Akira Hokuto d. Madusa -- WCW Women's Title Tournament Final; 3) Jushin Liger d. Rey Misterio, Jr.; 4) Jeff Jarrett d. Chris Benoit -- No DQ; 5) Outsiders d. Faces of Fear -- WCW World Tag Titles; 6) Diamond Dallas Page d. Eddie Guerrero -- US Title Tournament Final; 7) Lex Luger d. The Giant; 8) Roddy Piper d. Hollywood Hogan WWF "WrestleMania X" March 20, 1994; New York At the time, many critics hailed it as the greatest WWF PPV ever -- and with good reason: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart and Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon were two of the crowning in-ring productions in company history. One of these matches alone would make any given PPV essential viewing; the fact that this card featured both more than fortifies its must-see status. The show also marked the surprising return to WWF championship eminence of "The Hitman," who pinned Yokozuna in the main event to avenge his title loss against the late Samoan at WrestleMania IX. At the time, the "smart" fans' over-under had Lex Luger pegged as the favorite to emerge with the title. After all, the WWF's promotional machine had been overzealously endorsing Lex for months, complete with a nauseously-patriotic persona and a nationwide bus tour that was the focus of Federation TV the previous summer. Unfortunately for Luger, he never quite got over on a level commensurate with his push, and due to the chicanery of guest referee Mr. Perfect, he lost by DQ on the show's undercard in a match against Yoko to determine whom would advance to the main event title match vs. Bret. The remainder of the undercard featured little else of interest, save for an entertaining falls-count-anywhere bout that saw "Macho Man" Randy Savage best Crush (Brian Adams) just months before jumping to WCW. But it was the Battle of the Harts and the Ladder Match that made this vaunted card as great as it was, and everything else served as little more than an opportunity to exercise the ever-handy fast-forward button. Bret and Owen put on a 20-minute-long scientific wrestling clinic that made Owen a star as a heel and led to the great summer-long battle between the brothers. The match would have readily stolen the show on virtually any other WWF PPV, but on this night, to paraphrase "HBK," Michaels-Ramon was the show stopper. The bout remains arguably the greatest in the history of the company, and it was unequivocally the WWF's definitive match of the era. Not only was it a brutal workrate classic, but it established Ramon as a true star and elevated Michaels, then 29, to precocious legendary status. FULL RESULTS: 1) Owen Hart d. Bret Hart; 2) Bam Bam Bigelow & Luna d. Doink and Dink; 3) Randy Savage d. Crush -- 2-of-3 Falls, Falls Count Anywhere; 4) Alundra Blayze d. Leilani Kai -- Womens Title; 5) Men no a Mission d. Quebecers -- DCO, WWF Tag Titles, Quebecers retain; 6) Yokozuna d. Lex Luger -- DQ, advances to WWF Title Match; 7) Earthquake d. Adam Bomb; 8) Razor Ramon d. Shawn Michaels -- Intercontinental Title, Ladder Match; 9) Bret Hart d. Yokozuna -- WWF Title WCW "Great American Bash '96" June 16, 1996; Baltimore, MD It may have happened in close proximity to the aforementioned "Starrcade '96," but it also almost seemed to occur in an entirely different era. Just as the NWO was dawning, WCW offered up this highly-enjoyable melding of great matches and even-better angles. The next month's Bash at the Beach featured Hulk Hogan's heel turn, which makes it more famous, but the Great American Bash was by far the better all-around show. On one hand, there was the PPV inception of the WCW Cruiserweight Title on PPV, which saw champion Dean Malenko fend off the debuting Rey Misterio, Jr. in a terrific match that gave the division a much-needed jump-start. On another hand, there was a very good Sting vs. Steven Regal match, which was one of Sting's last great PPV matches and only reinforced the general smart fan sentiment at the time that Regal deserved a main event-level push. And, best of all, there was a tremendous, innovative Chris Benoit vs. Kevin Sullivan falls-count-anywhere brawl that was the high-point of a new age of ECW-style brawling (only better, at least in this case) in the Big Two. Benoit vs. Sullivan was the last great match on the show, but from an entertainment standpoint, the best was yet to come. The bulk of the special attraction Ric Flair & Arn Anderson vs. Kevin Greene & Steve McMichael match was largely uneventful, but the ending featured what was, at the time, one of the freshest angles in recent memory. Steve McMichael turned on Greene, joined the new-look Horsemen, and, thus, usherered in an era of WCW and the WWF constantly trying to one-up each other with shocking storyline twists and turns. It may not have been the best of its type, but it was certainly original. However, it wasn't long before something else came along to overshadow Mongo's greatest moment in wrestling, because next up was the angle that singlehandedly fulfilled all the promise of the new-sprung "Outsider Invasion Angle." On the most recent Nitro, Eric Bischoff had promised new arrivals Kevin Nash and Scott Hall a match at the Bash. When Bischoff announced that he wouldn't be able to deliver on his promise, the "two members from a rival wrestling organization" assaulted WCW's VP, with Nash powerbombing him off the stage and through a table. In the same destructive swoop, Nash correspondingly crushed the WWF's hopes of competing in the Monday Night Ratings War at any point over the next year and-a-half. The angle was shocking at the time, and it made complete a PPV that ushered in a new, all-too-brief era of WCW prosperity. FULL RESULTS: 1) Steiner Brothers d. Fire & Ice (Scott Norton & Ice Train); 2) Konnan d. El Gato (Pat Tanaka) -- US Title; 3) "Diamond" Dallas Page d. Marcus Bagwell -- Battle Bowl Ring; 4) Dean Malenko d. Rey Misterio, Jr. -- Cruiserweight Title; 5) John Tenta d. Big Bubba; 6) Chris Benoit d. Kevin Sullivans -- Falls Count Anywhere; 7) Sting d. "Lord" Steven Regal; 8) Arn Anderson & Ric Flair d. Kevin Greene & Steve McMichael; 9) The Giant d. Lex Luger -- WCW Title WWF "In Your House XVI: Calgary Stampede" July 6, 1997; Calgary, Alberta, Canada The WWF may have been number two in 1997, but that didn't preclude them from delivering a mind-bogglingly great show on this cool summer's night in Calgary. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Employ thy time well if thou meanest to get leisure." Employ thy time well, indeed. This card was only two hours long (in fact, it was the final two-hour WWF PPV), and it featured a scarce four matches, but did those four matches ever make for two action-packed hours and plenty of time left over for leisure. In match one, Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley engaged in a great brawl -- the best match of what was one of the best feuds in wrestling that summer. Next, the WWF debuted what was to be the nucleus of its brand-spankin'-new Light Heavyweight division, as the Great Sasuke took on TAKA Michinoku in a terrific aerial match imported straight from Japan's Michinoku Pro. The bout was supposed to establish Sasuke, then 28, as the centerpiece of the division, but his battered body was actually deteriorating by this point, and TAKA stole the show so thoroughly that the WWF rewarded him with a four-year contract shortly thereafter. Then, in his final PPV WWF Title win as a babyface on a PPV, the Undertaker took on Vader in a match that was surprisingly strong and drew terrific crowd heat. Anyone who waxes nostalgiac for the 'Taker's babyface glory days should have this bout in their collection -- it was easily one of his finest moments. After that came the main event, which to this day is a top contender for "Match that Garnered the Biggest Crowd Reactions Ever on a PPV" honors. Bret Hart and his foundation drew solar-panel-type babyface heat in Hart's hometown, while their opponents -- Steve Austin, the Legion of Doom, Ken Shamrock and Goldust -- received a consonant level of boos. The match was one of the best of the year, but the Hart family's ensuing celebration (complete with Austin's interruption and "arrest") may have been every bit as entertaining, if only because it stands tall as the most genuine wrestler-fan post-match lovefest ever showcased on a PPV. No doubt the card's long-term impact is very limited, but for two hours of fast-paced fun, great ringwork, and a crowd that marked out like no other, nothing beats the rage of the Stampede. FULL RESULTS 1) Mankind DCO Hunter Hearst Helmsley; 2) Great Sasuke d. TAKA Michinoku; 3) Undertaker d. Vader; 4) The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, & Brian Pillman) d. Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock, & the Legion of Doom WCW "WrestleWar '91" February 24, 1991; Phoenix, AZ The uninitiated may fail to realize that Lex Luger showed flashes of legitimate superstar potential when he was in his early-30s, that Vader was at one time the best big man worker on both sides of the Pacific, and that War Games used to be the greatest gimmick match on the face of the Earth. With those elements on full display, WrestleWar '91 was one of those cards that featured the best of early-'90s WCW and, for the most part, was devoid of the unwelcome "high concept" ideas that Dusty Rhodes and Jim Herd infamously churned out during their booking run together. In fact, the card clicked on all cylinders to such an extent that even the opening match was fairly good, even though it involved the notoriously past-his-prime Junkyard Dog. Also from the "Really Interesting, In Retrospect, Given the Later Fate of the Participants" File: Bobby Eaton and Brad Armstrong wrestled the second match and turned in a very good performance with equally strong heat. Elsewhere, the undercard featured a solid contribution from "York Foundation" founding member Terry "Terrence" Taylor (accompanied by Alexandra "Terri" York) and Tom Zenk, while Japanese imports Miss A, Miki Handa, Itsuki Yamasaki, and Mami Kitamura won over the crowd despite their lack of name recognition among US fans. Stan Hansen vs. Vader -- who was in the midst of a then-half-hearted push dating back almost a year -- was another bout that certainly made bigger waves in Japan than in the US, but it was such a stiff, rugged fray that the Desert City, USA, crowd received it warmly (no pun intended) -- until the politically necessary double-count out finish. Then came Lex Luger's US title defense against "Dangerous" Danny Spivey (who more recently played "Waylon Mercy" in the WWF in 1995), and to say Luger looked like a completely different wrestler than he did ten years later would be only slightly less of an understatement than, for example, stating that "Scott Steiner has pretty good muscle definition." Luger performed very well and had a dynamic in-ring presence during the match, which makes it all the more mistifying that he never again exhibited the same level of breakout superstar potential -- especially after he won the WCW World title five months later. Luger and Spivey (who was actually a better worker than Luger in their match), though, had to settle for second best match of the night standing: The card's headline attraction was the greatest War Games since the 1987 originals, as the Horsemen (Ric Flair, Sid Vicious, Barry Windham, and Larry Zbyszko -- who substituted for an injured Arn Anderson) outlasted Sting, Brian Pillman and the Steiner Brothers in a gory battle that saw both teams leave behind several pints of blood -- at least. The match was marred only by its legitimately makeshift ending, which came after Sid Vicious drove Brian Pillman's head into the top of the steel cage while hoisting him up for a powerbomb. That brought the match to a screeching halt, as management immediately sent El Gigante out to throw in the trusty old white towel for the babyface team. Luckily, poor Pillman returned to action in fairly short order, and the remainder of his WCW career was exciting, if turbulent. Pre-injury, this was one of his finest performances, as he, Windham, and Flair were particularly exceptional in carrying the match to the threshold of five stars. If you're accustomed to WCW's most recent War Games efforts, you may have to see it to believe it, but the '91 version was a gloriously gory spectacle that capped off a must-see night of action. FULL RESULTS: 1) Junkyard Dog, Ricky Morton, & Tommy Rich d. Big Cat (Mr. Hughes) & State Patrol; 2) Bobby Eaton d. Brad Armstrong; 3) Itsuki Yamasaki & Mami Kitamura d. Miss A & Miki Handa; 4) Dustin Rhodes d. Buddy Landell; 5) The Young Pistols (Steve Armstrong & Tracy Smothers) d. The Royal Family (Rip Morgan & Jack Victory); 6) Terrence Taylor d. Tom Zenk; 7) Stan Hansen d. COR Big Van Vader; 8) Lex Luger d. Danny Spivey -- US Title; 9) Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin & Michael Hayes) d. Doom (Butch Reed & Ron Simmons); 10) Ric Flair, Sid Vicious, Barry Windham, & Larry Zbyszko d. Brian Pillman, Rick & Scott Steiner, & Sting -- War Games ECW "Barely Legal '97" April 13, 1997; Philadelphia, PA A show every bit as essential for what it symbolized as for the high quality of action on display. ECW's near-five-year odyssey from its days as a modest-sized Philadelphia-based indie to its emergence as a legitimate national wrestling promotion culminated with this ECW Arena card, which drew deserved rave reviews and, more importantly, succeeded enough financially to keep the company going strong for some time to come. In the process, it ostensibly proved that, through cutting-edge booking and a consistently-top-notch product, it is possible for a modern independent promotion to cultivate a nationwide grassroots following and prosper on PPV. It required considerable perseverance even to reach this point. ECW initially gained renown during a period when the WWF and WCW declined to give hardcore wrestling fans the type of mature, raunchy wrestling they craved. Paul Heyman's original creative direction stepped emphatically into that breach, but by the time the Big Two started incorporating ECW's successful elements into their product, Heyman and company struggled to find ways to continue differentiating their own. However, with a diluted talent pool and many of the concepts he popularized already adopted on a national scale by RAW and Nitro, Heyman's wrestlers found a nice little niche: They simply tried harder than anybody else. The ECW stars, fueled by the rabidity of their hometown crowd, turned in all-out efforts the likes of which no other talent pool could, or would, match. In particular, the wrestlers involved in the first three matches set out to make a statement, delivering performances that served up heeping helpings of high-flying (albeit often lacking-in-psychology) action. In the opener, the Eliminators -- Perry Saturn and John Kronus -- beat the Dudley Boys to affirm their self-proclaimed standing as "The Best Tag Team in the World." Next, Lance Storm and Rob Van Dam battled in a match chock-full of fun highspots. And, in one of the best aerial matches ever showcased on PPV, the Japanese Michinoku Pro imports (including TAKA Michinoku, the Great Sasuke and future Kaientai members Men's Teioh and Dick Togo) tore down the bingo hall in a six-man tag. From a drawing-card standpoit, the show's arguable highlight pitted Sabu against Taz -- a match backlogged by over 18 months of hype. Though the bout had no chance of living up to the gargantuan hyperbole surrounding it, it was very solid and set the stage for a terrific post-match angle. The night culminated in the most fitting way possible: Terry Funk captured the ECW Title from Raven after a sequence of events that also involved Sandman and Stevie Richards. Funk -- the resident Hardcore Legend and the man most responsible for bringing class and credibility to the company -- closed the show by celebrating in the crowd with the notoriously-faithful ECW Arena throng. It was a moment a half-decade in the making. FULL RESULTS: 1) The Eliminators d. The Dudleys -- ECW Tag Team Titles; 2) Rob Van Dam d. Lance Storm; 3) Gran Hamada, Great Sasuke, & Masato Yakushiji d. TAKA Michinoku, Men's Teioh, & Dick Togo; 4) Shane Douglas d. Pitbull #2 -- ECW TV Title; 5) Taz d. Sabu; 6) Terry Funk d. Stevie Richards, Sandman to advance to the ECW Title match; 7) Terry Funk d. Raven -- ECW World Title
  11. KTID

    10 Essential Pay-Per-View Events

    *annual bump time*
  12. KTID

    Mid-South/UWF (1979-1987)

    *another bump*
  13. "The National Promotion That Never Was" “(Bill Watts is) the brightest mind in wrestling.” -- Vince McMahon, introducing Watts for a three-month run as the WWF’s new head-booker, at a personnel meeting in October 1995. “(Mid-South was) what pro wrestling should be when everything makes logical sense and it click on all cylinders, by Professor Watts.” -- Dave Meltzer, June 15, 1998 Wrestling Observer Newsletter. It came so close. In its mere seven and-a-half years of existence, spanning from 1979-1987, Mid-South was a veritable phenomenon within its own time. Tucked away in the relatively small pocket of its eponymous homebase, it drew more crowds in excess of 20,000 than any other wrestling organization in the world during the first half of the ‘80s. Its TV shows were populated with fresh-faced, well-rounded performers, crackling with front-man “Cowboy” Bill Watts' brilliant booking, and steadfastly serving up deep-grilled smoky Southern goodness -- washed down with some of the greatest interviews and matches in the country. At its height, the weekly “Mid-South Wrestling” drew unprecedented 50-plus shares on bleary UHF stations in its hotbeds in the greater Louisiana and Mississippi regions, and it was the highest-rated syndicated programming of any kind in the country during one point in the mid-’80s, according to Arbitron syndication analysis. In late-1984-early-1985, during its sole stint on a nationwide TV station -- a 13-week run on Superstation WTBS, in a graveyard post on Saturday mornings -- Mid-South Wrestling matched the Hulk-Hogan-led WWF’s ratings in more fortuitous time-slots within a matter of weeks, was completely obliterating the Federation’s ratings within a month, and was easily the top-rated show on cable by the end of the ephemeral run. In the ‘80s, nobody reared and developed even a third as many nationally-known stars as Watts; a gaggle that includes the Junkyard Dog, Ted Dibiase, Jim Duggan, Jake Roberts, Mangum TA, Terry Taylor, Sting, the Ultimate Warrior, the Midnight Express and Jim Cornette, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Steve “Dr. Death” Williams, Paul Orndorff, the Fabulous Freebirds, Butch Reed, Nikolai Volkoff, “Nature Boy” Buddy Landel, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Rick Steiner, Shane Douglas, Jim Ross, and numerous others owe the greater part of their early success to “Cowboy” Bill’s vision and creativity, without which they likely never would have achieved a fraction of the even greater fame they would enjoy elsewhere. What’s more, a staggeringly-high percentage of the business’ most fertile creative minds of the past decade studied under Mid-South’s resident owner, operator, and wrestling folk-hero, including current WWF bookers Bruce Pritchard, Michael Hayes, and Ross; former WCW-WWF creative guru Terry Taylor; Eddie Gilbert, who is roundly credited as the early mastermind behind the ECW approach and was the head booker under Watts in 1986-1987; and even Paul Heyman himself, who has emulated numerous aspects of Watts’ approach. Nobody ushered in as many new concepts in a shorter period of time as Watts, either. TV programs featuring nothing but competitive matches on a weekly basis, topped off by a main-event-caliber bout? “Cowboy” Bill was doing that long before Eric Bischoff conceived the brilliant stroke for Nitro in 1995. Lucrative employee vs. promoter storylines? Mid-South had them in the early-’80s. The first black heavyweight champion? A Watts innovation. Watts formulated the blueprint for many of the most enduring tenets and storyline prototypes in the business, and he did it all while toiling hard within the albatross of relative obscurity. By 1984 -- at the very height of the WWF’s promotion-killing juggernaut, spearheaded by Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, and WrestleMania -- the then-four-year-old Mid-South Wrestling was going so strong that, not only was it able to withstand McMahon’s bold-faced expansion into its territory, but it actually realized record levels of prosperity during the period, at which point its peer promotions were dying out at a record pace nationwide. Even after McMahon poached Mid-South’s main cash cow, invaded the area full tilt, and attempted to compete head-up with Watts’ established syndicated programs throughout the region, it was “Monopolist” Vince, rather than “Cowboy” Bill, who was reeling early in their war. At the time, although his failed booking run in WCW in 1992 would later tingle on his until-then-unalloyed creative repute, Watts’ status as a wrestling visionary was unquestioned. Having built from the ground-up what at one point was the most successful territory on the planet, and having identified from early on that the advent of cable was about to alter the nature of the wrestling beast, he was one of the first promoters to examine the feasibility of expanding nationally. Nevertheless, in attempting to obtain adequate funding for the project, he was rebuffed at every turn, and the sustained cable exposure he needed proved elusive as well. However, it gave Watts considerable satisfaction -- and imbued him with greater confidence -- to have beaten McMahon so decisively during Mid-South’s brief stint on cable. He realized that the dynamics of the industry having changed irrevocably, to where regional promoters were part of a dying breed, and -- as his track record will attest -- he had never been one to back down from a challenge. Thus, although he did remain somewhat disinclined toward the decision, “Cowboy” Bill decided to take his promotion national, in early-1986. Accordingly, he changed the promotion’s sobriquet to the more widely-skewing “Universal Wrestling Federation” (UWF) in March of that year; had his syndicated programming director, Jim Ross, shop UWF programming to stations nationwide; shored up his talent roster; and thereupon set out to conquer the world -- or, as it were, the “universe.” It was a decision he would live to regret. In many ways, the timing could not have proved any worse for the erstwhile Mid-South’s expansion. The WWF was no longer vulnerable by that point, and whatever chinks the Federation had in its armor were now being powdered by Jim Crockett’s equally-ambitious Mid-Atlantic wing of the NWA. Many of Watts’ top stars -- Dibiase, Duggan, Taylor, the Freebirds, and the then-47-year-old “Cowboy” himself -- had been in the territory for too long and, therefore, were past their primes as drawing cards. The other core members of Mid-South’s stable -- the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, the Midnight Express, Buddy Landel, and Jake Roberts being chief among them -- had departed for the big-money opportunities provided by McMahon and Crockett in late-1985, and “Cowboy” Bill’s herd of replacements -- the One Man Gang, the Fantastics, and other, even less noteworthy, long-forgotten names -- proved incapable of filling those voids. In fact, the massive outflow of talent was one of Watts’ main impetuses for expanding his reach and revenue streams in the first place; he could no longer compete with the major bankrolls of his two chief competitors, so he needed new means of padding his payroll. Moreover, the economy was in shambles in the UWF’s native soil, and, as a result, the company’s attendance was down across the board, in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arknasas. The promotion still drew strong ratings nationwide, but the brand at first failed to catch on in regions outside of its immediate homebase; as a result, house show tours in California, Illinois, Minneapolis, Georgia, and Florida in ‘86-’87 were significant money losers. Worst of all, expanding its syndicated network -- 100 markets strong, by the end -- entailed paying exorbitant fees for weekly time slots in key markets; without any intake coming in at the other end, this sizable overhead was impossible for a house-show-based wrestling operation to maintain for long. So, only one year after embarking on the period that would bring his promotion its greatest nationwide prominence, a burnt-out Watts came to the realization that his run, at long last, was up. The NWA bought out the UWF on May 1, 1987; unfortunately, though, in the hands of incomparable and incapable booker Dusty Rhodes, it quickly devolved into a pale imitation of its former self and had to be assimilated into the NWA, rather than continue functioning as a separate circuit, by late-’87. Sadly ironic was that the UWF had just emerged from its only extended run on cable at that point -- while owned by someone other than Watts. Today, pro wrestling history -- such as it is -- is characterized mostly by a given entity’s participation in two agencies: cable TV and pay-per-view. Of today’s fan-base, only a minority even know the version of history propagated by Vince McMahon, fewer know anything but a smattering of facts regarding the origins of the now-defunct WCW, and still fewer know anything substantial about the dozens of promotions that never participated in the aforementioned two mediums. The UWF never made it to pay-per-view -- that genre had only just established its viability at the time of the promotion’s closure -- and it never got the cable exposure it coveted. But if a combination of a blow-away product, an ardent fan base, innovation, relative influence, and unparalleled regional popularity were to be the measure of a promotion’s success -- as opposed to, say, an extended period of visibility -- the Mid-South/UWF would be perhaps the most successful wrestling company of all-time. To the scattered multitude who viewed it, Bill Watts’ wrestling forged many lasting memories and remains a shining beacon of how pro wrestling ought to be done. A little less than twenty-three years ago, Watts formed Mid-South; seven and-a-half years later, it was gone. In between, it came oh-so-close to its clarion-clear aim of national prominence numerous times. But, more importantly, it presented the best damned pro wrestling on the planet. If you’re not yet familiar with Bill Watts’ wrestling, you can count yourself among the decided majority of today’s fan-base; in fact, even during its prime, -- for all the gaudy ratings and attendance figures it enjoyed within its domain -- only a minority of the wrestling fan-base followed the promotion. However, with the WWF struggling as much as it is and no genuine alternative existing, any self-respecting hardcore fan deserves to discover Mid-South -- The National Promotion That Never Was -- now, in all its Southern-basked splendor. After all, it’s not always the size that counts; as Watts learned between 1979 and 1987, notwithstanding his 300-lbs. frame -- it’s what you do with it... I. WATTS’ WRESTLING WEANINGS Wrestling promoters -- as with entrepreneurs in any field -- are invariably wont to construct their promotions as a reflection of their own images, as outgrowths of their own personalities and propensities, and in manners informed by their own backgrounds in the industry. Hence, to understand the offing of “Cowboy” Bill Watts’ life is to understand the sum and substance of Mid-South Wrestling. Much like the promotion he would found later in life, Watts was one of the best in the business -- possibly the very best, at one point -- but at every turn, there was that one stumbling block preventing him from achieving the greatest of prominence. Having possessed a hulking, powerful figure his entire life, Watts doubled as a star wrestler and stand-out football player at the University of Oklahoma -- where he was a friend of fellow grappling legend Wahoo McDaniel -- from 1957-1960. At the time, prior to the advent of steroids, he topped out at a 500-pound bench press, a fact which belied the considerable agility he displayed throughout the early part of his in-ring career. In 1961 he played a season at offensive tackle for the Houston Oilers, the off-season after which he sought to supplement his income by embarking on a pro wrestling career, at the behest of McDaniel. Fortunately for fans in the Mid-South region, Watts made too much money in wrestling ever to return to the grid-iron. “Cowboy” Bill oozed natural charisma within the context of the histrionic pro wrestling realm, quickly mastering its aspects of showmanship, to augment his natural advantages vis-à-vis size, dexterity, and athletic background. He forthwith became one of the biggest stars in the industry, often earning a six-figure salary -- enormous by the standards of the time -- with his earliest and most enduring success coming in Leroy McGuirk’s Oklahoma-based Tri-States promotion. He ventured to Vincent J. McMahon’s Northeastern World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in the mid-’60s, where he initially gained enormous popularity as the partner of local mega-drawing-card Bruno Sammartino, before turning heel on Bruno and participating in perhaps the most lucrative feud of either man’s career. In 1965, a Sammartino vs. Watts main event drew the biggest gate in the history of Madison Square Garden; however, in what would become part of a recurring theme of his career, “Cowboy” Bill soon realized that he could never outstrip Bruno’s status in the Northeast. On that account, Watts sought out another mountain to climb -- and one that he hoped would be less obstructed -- only to find similar impediments at every turn. Over the next five years, he alternated between stints in the AWA, Japan, California, and St. Louis; he was the foremost heel drawing card everywhere he traveled, but he never caught on as the top star overall in any major office. In 1969, he even wrote a strongly-worded letter to the NWA Board of Directors, importuning that he be rewarded the next World Title reign; he was unable to scare up the support necessary from the member promoters, though, and the belt instead went to the equally-qualified Dory Funk, Jr. Feeling frustrated and no doubt disillusioned, Watts actually quit the business briefly in the early-’70s, before returning to wrestle as the top babyface once more for McGuirk. By then in his mid-’30s, in 1973, Watts affixed himself to facets of the business at which he proved even more adept than those inside the ring: booking and promoting. First, he studied for several months under vaunted NWA promoter Eddie Graham, whose Florida territory was the hottest in the business at the time. Because of his legitimate tough-guy reputation, Watts was known as a virtual backstage “enforcer” for Graham. One man with whom he had frequent run-ins -- philosophically, if not physically -- was the promotion’s top star, Dusty Rhodes, who remained “Cowboy” Bill’s friend many years later, regardless of the two’s early grievances. In fact, Watts is credited with orchestrating what was, up to that point, one of the most profitable ideas in the history of the business -- “The American Dream’s” babyface turn in late-’73. Having thusly garnered a reputation for his deft booking cognition, Watts assumed the role of head booker for Georgia Championship Wrestling in late-1973, at which time GCW was in the preliminary stages of emerging as the first bona fide nationally-recognized organization in the country, due to its Saturday timeslot on Ted Turner’s upstart WTBS cable station. In 1975, fresh off a successful run both as head booker and the top heel in Georgia, the Oklahoma-born Watts returned to work for McGuirk, thereafter focusing exclusively on his efforts in his native Mid-Southern region. McGuirk abdicated considerable booking and front-office responsibilities to “Cowboy” Bill after this point, but the two men’s approaches grew increasingly distant from one another as time wore on, and Watts factioned off from Tri-States in 1979. Within a matter of weeks, he had pooled his capital into launching Mid-South Wrestling. Even then, Watts was bucking the odds with his newly-hatched project. Mid-South’s base of operations was the sparsely-populated Louisiana and Mississippi -- one of the most difficult regions in the country in which to draw money. Laden with creativity, inculcated with six years of hands-on booking knowledge and experience, and now free for his ideas to flourish unfettered, it did not take “Cowboy” Bill long to defy the odds against him. II. ’DAT DOG It is said that great art transcends cultural differences. From its outset, Mid-South was a certifiable breeding grounds for the business’ future stars. Watts had no other choice: He lacked the financial capital to import wrestlers of any other type. Thus, other than he and a few of his closest friends, all of the new-sprung promotion’s were, after a fashion, home-grown -- constituted by such notables as Ted Dibiase, Paul Orndorff, Jake Roberts, Jim Garvin, and the then-18-year-old Fabulous Freebirds of Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes. To a man, they were young, fresh-faced, awash with the type of untapped potential which mirrored the nature of the promotion itself, and would go on to achieve lasting stardom in the profession. By far “Cowboy” Bill’s most notable coup during Mid-South’s infant stages, though, was that of a strapping, raw-boned, 27-year-old black man named Sylvester Ritter. The wrestling industry being as mercurial as it was, it was more imperative than ever for territories to showcase a charismatic babyface superstar. A main attraction who possessed a dynamic personality were capable of bringing hordes of kayfabe-imbued locals flocking to regional auditoriums through their regional matches and interviews, oftentimes spelling the difference between groups that drew 1,500-2,000 and those which consistently attracted 7,000-12,000. Some promotions were more immune to this fickleness than others -- such as the WWWF, since its homebase was the metropolis of New York, the biggest city in the country -- but it was an undeniable, and often unpleasant, reality for the vast majority of them. For instance, in the Midwestern AWA from 1982-1983, Hulk Hogan set the box office ablaze for his elusive Hvt. Title chase, to the tune of 10,000-18,000 fans; however, cards on which he didn’t appear failed to draw half as many. For its part, the Mid-Atlantic was lucky to boast three of the biggest drawing cards in the business -- Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, and Ricky Steamboat and thereby set gate records throughout the early-’80s. Likewise, Florida had Dusty Rhodes, Memphis had Jerry Lawler, Dallas had the Von Erichs, and all of those groups thrived throughout this time period. But, for all of them, their attendance figures would have suffered precipitous drop-offs without the allure of these major names in their main events. Others who lacked any sort of a drawing card -- like the now-Watts-bereaved Tri-States, Bob Geigel’s Central States, the Roy-Shire-helmed San Francisco promotion, and Don Owens’ Pacific Northwest, to name a few -- understood this precept only too well, as they were struggling mightily at the gate. It stands to reason, then, that Watts desperately needed an alluring front-man if he was to make his promotion a go for any sustained length. He depended on himself to fill that role initially, of course, but his in-ring career was on the verge of ending by this point, and, again, he lacked the wherewithal to replace himself with an existing front-line drawing card. Thus, ever the non-conformist at this stage in his life, he went entirely against the grain of what was then -- and still is, now -- a dogmatic industry: He rolled the dice on a black man, Ritter, as his lead babyface. Although large and with backgrounds in college football and amateur wrestling, Ritter’s pre-Mid-South track record hardly suggested that he was on the cusp of greatness. He had turned pro two years prior to arriving in the territory, wrestling -- and doing so extremely poorly -- for Jerry Jarrett in Memphis and Stu Hart in Calgary, respectively, in 1977-78 and 1978-79. When he arrived in Louisiana -- notably, in tandem with his friend Jake Roberts -- Ritter received a complete character make-over and charisma graft from Watts, who dubbed him the “Junkyard Dog” (after the character of the same name in Jim Croce’s most famous ditty, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”), with the premise being that he owned a junkyard. Many of Watts’ peers no doubt looked askance at the gimmick, but in this case, the “Cowboy” would ultimately -- in keeping with his now-prevalent early-career catch-phrase -- laugh all the way to the bank. Even before Watts propelled the Junkyard Dog into a headliner role, JYD had quickly became one of those rare organic phenomena that takes hold only every so often in wrestling. Upon arriving in Mid-South, he took to carting a wheelbarrow full of “junkyard debris” to the ring, then would convey his felled opponents to the backstage area in the ‘barrow following his matches. Somehow, through this act, he formed an instant, palpable connection with the preponderantly-rural area crowds and was soon garnering the biggest pops in the territory. It was in accordance with this surprisingly tumultuous reaction that Watts made the intrepid decision to push the Dog as his top star -- instead of a mid-card “character” black babyface, as per the established wrestling orthodoxy of the period -- and withdrew himself from regular in-ring duty. To coincide with his intensified push, the Dog -- as prescribed by Watts -- ditched the wheelbarrow, instead adopting what would become his character staples: a dog collar and Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” as his entrance theme. Suddenly-- despite all the flak he was catching from local politicians and his bourbon, lily white peer promoters -- Watts’ box office caught fire, not more than six-eight months after Mid-South had opened. Few onlookers comprehended this astonishing turn of events then, and even fewer remember or understand why it happened now. JYD’s instantaneous box office appeal disproved many of the insular business’ fundamental tenets. White fans simply weren’t supposed to support a promotion whose feature attraction was black, whereas it was considered impractical for black fans to comprise a significant part of any promotion’s patronage. JYD’s unusual appeal spanned all demographic barriers, though, and white children actually comprised one of his biggest support bases. This trend made his popularity particularly hard to swallow for the Strom-Thurmond-esque political delegates who ran amuck in Louisiana and Mississippi at the time, and they constantly came down with severe pressure on Watts to remove the Dog from his cards. The “Cowboy,” of course, refused to yield. JYD possessed several characteristics that made him particularly marketable, beyond the fact that he played well to the heretofore-untapped heavily-black Southern market. He was one of the earliest steroid abusers in the business, and from the first, he looked the part of the veritable black superman he portrayed. To facilitate the image, he disposed of his opponents on TV apace -- always in under three minutes, effectively concealing his notorious lack of in-ring aptitude. Perhaps his greatest attribute, though, was his exceptional verbal skills. Speaking in his patented gruff, stentorian voice; exuding self-conviction and confidence; and blessed with a wry sense of humor, he was one of the best promo men in wrestling, despite his relative lack of experience at the point that his rise to prominence commenced in earnest. By March 1980, the Dog was already packing the Municipal Auditorium in downtown New Orleans every Monday night, with crowds that consistently ranged from 5,000 to 8,000. He was also attracting strong turn-outs in other regular Mid-South posts like Shreveport, Jackson and Biloxi. However, it was when he was involved in one of the most successful angles in wrestling history that he suddenly, shockingly, and enduringly established himself as the unlikely biggest territorial drawing card in the entire industry. In mid-1980, the Fabulous Freebirds -- a trio that included 19-years-old Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy, in tandem with their new, Watts-assigned partner, rugged veteran Buddy Roberts -- were fast becoming the top heels in the territory. Hayes was one of the most charismatic speakers of the era, and even as a teen-ager, his chafing promos were a cut above anybody else’s in the territory. Gordy, on the other hand, mainlined the group with the essential ingredients of size and workrate, and he was among the best 280-pound-plus workers in the history of the industry -- despite his youngness. Roberts, for his part, was one of the most accomplished tag team wrestlers of his era, a seasoned pro, and -- above all else -- a complete goofball. Gordy and Roberts handled the bulk of the in-ring activities at this stage, whilst Hayes worked his magic on “the stick.” On an early-spring episode of Mid-South Wrestling, JYD and area mainstay Buck Robley were doing battle with Gordy and Roberts, and Hayes interfered by spraying his patented “Freebird hair remover cream” (an instrument which, considering his recent trouble with hair-loss, is woefully ironic) in the Dog’s eyes. The assault “blinded” JYD, and Watts and co-announcer Boyd Pierce ruefully speculated that his career might be over. In subsequent weeks, Hayes and his comrades gloated over the heinous deed as only they could, while the announcers struck every emotional chord imaginable -- even hyping that the Dog would be unable to witness the impending, real-life birth of his daughter -- in an effort to tug at the heartstrings of the locals. It worked: Hayes and the ‘Birds drew incredible heel heat, often to the point of starting miniature riots, and Hayes even decided to wear a bullet proof vest during many of his live appearances, as a necessary precaution. The Dog’s fans were so stirred in their empathy that they treated the situation as though it was a personal friend -- and, to them, perhaps it was -- who had endured the plight, collectively mailing him several hundred dollars a week throughout the duration of his “recovery.” Indeed, to the rabid kayfabe-cleaving faithful in Louisiana and Mississippi, this was no storyline, and the rabidity of their emotions has rarely been duplicated at any other point in wrestling history. Naturally, JYD shocked everyone -- the Freebirds in particular -- when he returned to TV several months after his visual impairment. Now only “partially blind,” he challenged Hayes to a dog-collar match, at a Superdome spectacular in New Orleans on August 2, 1980. The gathered throng of approximately 30,000 fans, paying an enormous $183,000, that congregated on the event sent shock waves reverberating throughout the industry. To that point, the number of legitimate 30,000-plus attendance figures in the history of North American wrestling could be counted on precisely two hands, and those which had had been headlined by such world-renowned mat monarchs as Lou Thesz, “Stranger” Lewis, Buddy Rogers, and Bruno Sammartino. For a one-year-old promotion to attract a crowd of that magnitude, on the strength of a match involving two relative unknowns like JYD and Hayes, combined age 46, was completely unheard of. The entire wrestling establishment was utterly aghast when they got wind of Mid-South’s monumental success, and the legends of Watts’ genius and JYD’s massive appeal spread rapidly. Shortly after this formidable box office accomplishment, JYD took to wrestling with goggles while his eyesight “recovered.” In addition, he soon ran the Freebirds out of the territory, after which they set up camp in Georgia and continued to wax their resume with the plaudits of sell-out crowd after sell-out crowd. Although his first major rivals had departed, the Dog’s appeal did not falter one iota, and his remarkable recovery from his bout of blindness actually served to augment his fast-spreading repute. It was during this period, starting in late-1980, that Mid-South Wrestling often drew the aforementioned 50 shares on often-tiny stations in LA and MS. JYD was now entrenched as a local cultural icon, the most popular athlete in all of Louisiana, and the Superdome cards became quarterly occurrences, not failing to draw in excess of 20,000 until 1983. In late-1980, Watts made another ground-breaking personnel decision, this time bringing Ernie Ladd in to be his co-booker and, for a time, top heel. As with today, at the time there was a woeful dearth of African American front office employees in the business, and Ladd was the first black man ever to book in a major office. The Dog thumped several notable rivals over the course of his then-unparalleled romp. Many of them were part of an assembly line of his tag team partners who inevitably turned heel due to reasons of avarice and/or jealously. One such traitor was Paul Orndorff, a great performer who would remain a top star in Mid-South until 1982, turned on JYD in mid-1981, and consequently drew a 25,000 house on July 4, 1981. Other rivals during ‘81-’82 included Bob Roop, Len “The Masked Grappler” Denton, and Jerry “Mr. Olympia” Stubbs. Without question JYD’s most successful opponent -- except, perhaps, for the Freebirds -- over the course of his career was Ted Dibiase. Up until mid-1982, Dibiase had been the Dog’s tag team partner and, accordingly, one of the top babyfaces in the region. He was a redoubtable in-ring performer -- Ric Flair and the Dynamite Kid, and perhaps Ricky Steamboat were the only North American workers who were of his caliber at the time, -- but, for a long time, he lived entirely in the capacious shadow cast by the Dog. An angle in 1982 changed those circumstances entirely. Because Watts realized that the greatest box office value he could derive from the Dog would be through a protracted North-American Title -- Mid-South’s foremost championship -- chase, rather than immediately winning it, it was not until June 21, 1982, in the Superdome that JYD won the elusive strap. He downed Roop, a legendary area heel, in the match. The very next week on TV, the Dog granted his friend Dibiase a shot at the newly-won gold. It was supposed to be characterized by friendly competition; nevertheless, by the end of the match, the wily Dibiase was displaying subtle heel tendencies. In a shocking turn of events, with the referee’s back turned, the future “Million Dollar Man” donned a coal miner’s glove, pickled the Dog across the face, notched the tainted, and won the championship. By virtue of the incident, the glove would be a Dibiase trademark for almost four years hence. The Dog’s long-awaited title run had ended after less than a week, the fans were outraged, and Dibiase was remain as hot of a heel as existed in wrestling for a long time to come. The ensuing feud was even more lucrative than JYD vs. the Freebirds, partially because Watts had bought out McGuirk in early-’82 and was now running cards in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and East-Texas. After sell-outs around the loop, with Dibiase always narrowly escaping with his belt in toe, the rivalry built to a Loser Leaves Town (but only for 90 days) match on television shortly thereafter, though, JYD carried out his sweet and definitive reprisal while under a mask as “Stagger Lee,” regaining the title in April 16, 1983, before a raucous crowd of nearly 30,000 in the Superdome. In all, JYD would enjoy four NA Title reigns and would attract nine different crowds of 22,000-plus in a three-year span. Up to that point, nobody -- not Hogan, not Flair, not Rhodes, not Sammartino, not Thesz, not Lewis, not Rogers -- could boast of anywhere near the same accomplishment. Fittingly, given Mid-South’s lot until the day it checked out, exceedingly few fans at the time were the slightest bit aware of this parcel of information. III. 1984 The product qualities of every major wrestling office invariably experience quite a few ebbs and flows as they gain in years. At times, bookers become mired in creative ruts, causing the box office to lose its sizzle; at others, their creative efforts will meet with great approval. In short, it has always been a cyclical business. Mid-South, however, was unique in that it largely eschewed the type of creative tailspin that was afflicting so many of its peer promotions in the early-’80s, and when it finally did ebb, the ebb was exceedingly brief and followed by the greatest of all its flows. Golden ages of NWA member promotions have been numerous over the years. The early-’70s in Florida, the late-’70s in Georgia, the early-’80s in World Class, and the late-’70s-’early-’80s in Mid-Atlantic -- when Flair, Piper, and Steamboat ruled the roost -- are foremost among them. In fact, Mid-South’s 1980-1982 “Camelot,” as Watts once described it, compared in every respect -- perhaps favorably -- to any in that foursome. Quite dualistically, however, Mid-South reached a zenith of product quality perhaps more lofty than any in the history of the industry in 1984, of all years -- when more promotions died out than any other. Watts’ superlative output that year represents the collective efforts that were possible only for a promotion which boasted a bevy of fresh, young, marketable who commingled with a few still-relevant veterans and were complimented by top-notch announcing and the best booking in the world. It is also where this Chronicle picks up in greater detail. As 1983 drew to a close, Mid-South was bogged down in a mini-rut. Both Ted Dibiase and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan were in the midst of several-month runs for other promotions -- Georgia and Florida, respectively -- and the Junkyard Dog was finally starting to lose steam at the box office. Attendance had taken a decisive plunge across the circuit, particularly in New Orleans. For the first time in his career as a promoter, Watts was operating in the red -- not to the point he was on the verge of going out of business, but enough to cause him to rethink his approach. Meanwhile, Watts’ northerly neighbor -- the Memphis promotion fronted by Jerry Jarrett and Jerry “The King” Lawler -- was riding a crest of box office success. The Memphis Coliseum was selling out on a near-weekly basis, to the tune of 11,000 Lawler-loving fans, and major attractions like “The King,” the Fabulous Ones, and Bill Dundee had captured the imagination of fans in Tennessee, Kentucky, and parts of Mississippi like never before or since. In response, Watts prudently put his ego on the back-burner -- which was certainly a novel concept for a wrestling promoter -- and asked the Memphis promoters to venture to a few Mid-South cards and cast a discerning eye over what they saw. He had already formed a pact with them so as to fortify their turf for when the WWF made its inevitable invasion, and this measure was only a natural extension of it. Not surprisingly, Jarrett and Lawler advised that Watts should incorporate a few of the signature elements of Memphis wrestling into his product. This approach entailed hiring a young, belligerent heel manager (or a “blowjob,” as the Memphis promoters called it); incorporating the fast-paced elements of rock ‘n’ roll and aerial wrestling; and introducing a measure of sex appeal to some of his male wrestlers, to attract young female fans. At the time, Memphis actually possessed a surplus of all of these trappings and was looking to broaden its horizons by adding some larger, more rugged wrestlers to its mix. As a result, the two promotions opted to make a trade -- perhaps the biggest out-and-out talent swap in the history of the industry. In exchange for King Kong Bundy, Jim Neidhart, and a greenhorn Rick Rude, Jarrett and Lawler sent Watts Jim Cornette, Bobby Eaton, Dennis Condrey, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, and Terry Taylor. Incredibly, all nine of the principals involved would go on to enjoy national superstardom within the next few years. Most importantly, though, Memphis lent the creatively-burnt-out Watts Bill Dundee to assume the reigns of his booking. One of the most prolific booking minds in the industry, Dundee spelled Watts while he recharged his own creative batteries and would also double as one of Mid-South’s top heels.
  14. "If WrestleMania I hadn't succeeded, there would be no WWF today." - Vince McMahon In preparation for the 18th-annual installment of WrestleMania, Vince McMahon made a calculated, yet monumental, gamble. By hiring the aging, potentially-virulent impetuses of Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash, the WWF head not only risked upsetting his company's meticulously-constructed, scrupulously-protected locker room harmony, but he also imperiled the future of his promotion itself. After all, two-thirds of the NWO troika are notorious political masterminds, and since all three are inked to exorbitant two-year contracts, they will almost certainly be long-term fixtures at the top of the Federation's cards, where they have the potential to do as much harm as good. Thus far, the results of this hazardous plunge into the unknown have been mixed, to say the least. WrestleMania X-8 almost certainly brought home a larger buy rate than it would have without the three men's involvement, and Hogan's appearance -- athletically-limited though it was -- was positively show-stealing. However, the remainder of the faction's early returns have not been promising, and as locker room morale continues to deteriorate amidst ebbing ratings and swirling rumors regarding contract reductions and roster cuts, it appears that, six months to a year from now, this is one gamble that will turn out to be ill-fated. McMahon, though, is nothing if not a gamester, and, as risky as his latest role of the dice was, it was not nearly as iffy as one in which he participated seventeen years ago. In the spring of 1985, McMahon was locked in a bitter fight to keep his upstart wrestling empire afloat. As a result, he opted -- in a case strikingly similar to that of his NWO signing decision -- to take an enormous, yet carefully-contemplated, risk. This time, however, there was no middle-ground, and his caution-to-the-wind maneuver was either going to be a complete boon or a complete bust. If it succeeded, the promotion would survive well into the future. If not, the WWF would almost surely meet with a dramatic end. This high-stakes promotional poker match was not without its scary moments, and there were times when McMahon's co-players mistook him for a defeated man. Much to their amusement, the WWF was in shambles leading up to Vince's desperation, all-or-nothing wager, and the then-new-sprung owner was drowning in a sea of red ink and employee unrest. In April 1985, industry-wide domination was the name of the game, and, after seventeen months of priming and posturing, McMahon's very existence as a promoter was highly precarious. Among the other participants in this decisive, if unruly, battle for wrestling supremacy included eminent promoter linchpins like the Mid-Atlantic's Jim Crockett, Georgia's Ole Anderson, the American Wrestling Association's Verne Gagne, Southwest Championship Wrestling's Joe Blanchard, and Mid-South's Bill Watts. To many of them, Vince was somewhat of a joke, and he seemed destined to fall flat on his face, a victim of his own effrontery. At one point, in the late winter of 1985, most of them ever went so far as to gather together for the expressed purpose of snickering at the naivete of this relatively young social climber, who had been spending money hand-over-fist for a year and-a-half and getting comparatively little in return. According to their line of thinking, there was no way he could succeed with such a rash business plan, and it was only a matter of time before his unconventional methods exploded in his face. Make no mistake about it: McMahon could felt the precision of their scorn, and, although the odds seemed stacked imposingly against him, he was determined to get the last laugh. Finally, when the upshot went down on April 1, 1985, there was, in fact, still plenty of chortling reverberating throughout the industry. However, all of it was now emanating from Vince's side of the table. Much to the shocked outrage of his co-players, McMahon had just plunked down a royal flush. Its name was "WrestleMania," and on Sunday, it celebrated its 17th anniversary. Perhaps it's an exaggeration to say the WWF might have died had that climacteric Madison Square Garden card not been such a resounding success. McMahon did still have a couple of other aces up his sleeve, not the least of which was a remunerative agreement with NBC that was scheduled to kick in two months later. Nevertheless, there can be no doubting that the blow-away success of his New York closed-circuit extravaganza entirely changed the face of the wrestling industry, and it also officially heralded the arrival of the Federation as the preeminent wrestling franchise in the country. Of course, McMahon's ultimate success, while admirable from a capitalistic business standpoint, far from made him heroic. At best, he was acting as a shrewd entrepreneur who was simply looking out for his own best interests and doing nothing that the United States' social system didn't allow. At worst, he was an avaricious megalomaniac who cared little for the lineage of the industry which had made him so successful and felt even less remorse for the dozens of hard-working wrestling employees he put out of work during his rise to prominence. However, this story is not so much about the content of McMahon's character as the wrestling renaissance he created. In 1983 and 1984, the northerly winds of change were blowing steadily. And, when they momentarily settled in the spring of 1985, the course of wrestling history had been irrevocably altered. I. A Tale of Two Vinces When 1983 began, the terms "pro wrestling" and "mainstream notoriety" were about as mutually exclusive as any that existed in contemporary North American culture. At the time, some twenty regional wrestling offices (known, collectively, as the National Wrestling Alliance) dotted the U.S. and Canada, and, while most of them were extremely popular local institutions, few had ever conceived of expanding outside of their regional spheres of influence. Among this coterie of affiliated promotions was the Connecticut-based World Wrestling Federation, formerly the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), which had been owned and operated for the previous two decades by Vince McMahon, Sr. Arguably, it was the largest and most well-known territory of them all -- largely due to its proximity to the country's epicenter, New York -- and drew the biggest gates in the business for its regular monthly stops in Manhattan, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, and Baltimore. Nonetheless, relatively few fans outside of the Northeast had so much as seen a WWF match, let alone knew of the local repute of the famous McMahon family. The company's "World" champion at the time was Bob Backlund, who, while a household name in the Federation's homebase, was hardly the type of performer capable of capturing the imagination of the American public at large. Dubbed the "All American Boy," he was a fairly colorless -- albeit technically very proficient -- wrestler who had been a major draw for the better part of his then-five-year title reign, thanks in part to the enormity and/or flamboyance of heel opponents like "Superstar" Billy Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, Greg Valentine, John Studd, Jimmy Snuka, Pat Patterson, Ken Patera, and Peter Maivia. However, the once-hearty gates he drew at all of the company's monthly stops were beginning to dwindle, and it was clear to all involved that a changing of the guard would soon be in order. Just how dramatic that change would ultimately be, much less who would reap its ample benefits, was a matter completely unbeknownst to all but two men. By the fall of '83, the McMahons -- Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. -- had already begun formulating plans to transform their family-owned business from a locally-favored entity into a national and, eventually, international powerhouse. Jr. had actually purchased the company from Sr. and his minority stockholders in 1982, but Sr. -- who was in poor health -- remained an integral decision WWF maker. However, 38-year-old Jr., who had been involved with the company in various capacities for 13 years -- most of them as an announcer -- certainly was the head honcho at this point. In truth, the Vinces were not alone in their expansionist aspirations. Over the previous 15 years, several wayward promoters had attempted to go against the established grain of the NWA by creating national promotions, including Ann Gunkel of Atlanta in the early-'70s and one-time basketball promoter Eddie Einhorn in the mid-'70s. In addition, Joe Blanchard's Southwest Championship Wrestling had been making rumblings about invading other territories' groups for several years now, and, because of his national cable exposure on the USA Network, several of his peers were wary of his threats. So, while what the McMahons' designs were certainly nothing new to this often-ruthless business, they initially did a masterful job of keeping their intentions a secret. They did such a nimble job of concealment, in fact, that the vast majority of the old guard of wrestlers and promoters who have since spoken out regarding this historic period have emphatically asserted that the WWF's monopolistic aspirations belonged solely to McMahon, Jr. -- a theory which Vince himself has since propagated on many occasions. However, as much as this entire period is open to interpretive judgements, several basic facts demonstrate otherwise. It's not clear exactly to what extent McMahon, Sr., was involved with the plan, and it's entirely likely that Jr. contrived the majority of the expansionist blueprints. However, it is clear that Sr. was also very much implicated in the scheme, and it likely never would have worked without his cooperation. When the McMahons embarked on their first notable strategic front, it was so well formulated that none of their competitors even recognized it for the offensive strike that it was. In late-1983, the WWF purchased Blanchard's slot on the USA Network at the cost of $3,000 a week and also agreed to pay off the debt SCW had accrued in its three years on the station. The network had been disillusioned with Blanchard dating back several months, not only because he was often tardy with his payments, but he relied on a violent, bloody brand of wrestling that didn't square with the station's standards of acceptability. Conversely, the McMahons' product was becoming increasingly family-friendly, and Jr. Vince had several investors lined up that allowed him always to make his payments on a timely basis. The McMahons -- with Jr. making the majority of the day-to-day decisions by this point -- dubbed their new cable program "All-American Wrestling," which was a highlights-based show which featured arena matches involving both the WWF's top stars (Backlund, Sgt. Slaughter, Jimmy Snuka, Andre the Giant, Don Muraco, etc.) and select big names from other territories. In this way, the other promotions were actually grateful to Vince and believed he was doing them a favor by giving their big cash cows national exposure. In reality, although he obviously never let on as much, McMahon had something far different in mind. The non-Federation tapes he chose to air showcased the matches of wrestlers he had marked as potential acquisitions when it came time to consummate his plans more fully, with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, the Von Erich brothers, Paul Orndorff, Barry Windham, Roddy Piper, and the Junkyard Dog being only some of the immense talents he opted to showcase. The McMahons' next maneuver, which also went mostly unheeded, was to initiate the several-month-long process of undermining Ole Anderson's Georgia Championship Wrestling, the WWF's chief competitor due to its exposure on the WTBS cable station. Suddenly, in October '83, several of Anderson's top stars started disappearing from view, only to resurface on tours for New Japan Pro Wrestling later that month. The remainder of the NWA promoters were dumbfounded by this occurrence; since the WWF had a working relationship with NJPW, they suspected that the wrestlers had all signed contracts with New York, but Sr. McMahon, whom they respected greatly, quickly reassured them that his promotion had no intention of extirpating GCW, much less attempting a monopoly on the entire business. And, because the group -- which included the aforementioned Piper and Orndorff, along with the Masked Superstar and Brian Blair -- had yet to wrestle on any Federation cards, he actually did have a fairly convincing case. Finally, on December 26, 1983, in Madison Square Garden, all of the competing promoters had their worst fears confirmed. The exact nature of what transpired that night remains shrouded in mystery to this day, but what was very much apparent was that the wrestling business was about to undergo rapid and distinct changes. The Iron Sheik had ended Bob Backlund's near-six-year run atop the WWF, and while a World Title change was very significant unto itself at that time, what it represented -- a changing of the guard -- was of far greater consequence. For several years afterward, Backlund claimed he was double-crossed in the match, and that he had no inclination that his manager, Arnold Skaaland, was going to throw in the white towel to signify that he had submitted to the Sheik's camel clutch. Many of Backlund's contemporaries were skeptical of his lamentable tale and figured it was nothing more than a way for him to cope with the disgrace of being phased out of the company, and they point to the fact that he remained in the Federation for another eight months, before quitting in disgust when McMahon insisted he die his hair black and turn heel. However, in light of several of Jr. Vince's other infamous actions during his near-twenty-year run as the Federation's head honcho, Backlund's version of the incident has gained credence over the years. The Sheik, for his part, was an accomplished 12-year veteran, a former Olympic wrestler, and had been a headliner in several territories in the South for the previous four years. However, it was clear that he was little more than a transitional champion, and his reign was to serve the primary purpose of setting the stage for something much bigger that was about to come roaring along. McMahon wasted little time in allowing that something to manifest itself. Immediately after that the infamous post-Christmas Madison Square Garden show, the flood gates opened, and a torrent of marketable talent stormed New York, leaving numerous once-thriving, now-dying promotions in their wake. II. The Torrent of Talent The WWF had always predominately been a big mans' territory, and it's clear that -- 20 years later -- Vince Jr. is a product of his upbringing in the business. For McMahon, the prototype of the ideal, marketable wrestler was 1970s heel powerhouse , the self-denominated "Man of the Hour, the Man with the Power, Too Sweet to be Sour!" and the owner of the original "22-inch pythons." Graham was a well-sculpted, flamboyant, ultra-charismatic bleached-blond and owns the second-longest heel WWF Title reign in company history, from 1977-1978. More importantly, he was Jr. McMahon's favorite wrestler at the time and, as such, became the archetype for the Federation mogul's new vision of the business. McMahon felt that, to market his product to the general public most effectively, his performers should resemble bodybuilders more than traditional wrestlers, and that their personalities are more important than their in-ring skills. The wrestlers he pursued during his numerous talent raids from '83-'85 (and beyond) reflected this preference: In were hulking musclemen (many of whom were loaded with charisma and lacking in actual wrestling ability); out, with a few notable exceptions, were talented technical wrestlers with mediocre physiques. Hulk Hogan: Unfortunately for McMahon, he was unable to enlist primo "Superstar" Graham himself, who, with his marketability waning, jumped ship to Mid-Atlantic as a mid-carder in late-1983. Luckily for Vince, though, he was able to attain the services of the next best thing: a 6'4", 290 lbs. Graham-inspired performer named Hulk Hogan, who was billed as 6'8" and over 300. Wrestling lore will likely forever hold that, prior to his pixilated appearance as "Thunderlips" in the box office smash "Rocky III" in 1983, Hogan was a relative unknown in the business. However, the truth is that he had been the biggest, most consistent drawing card around since his early-1982 babyface turn in the AWA, and the mainstream rub he received from his cinematic efforts alongside Sylvester Stallone only augmented his burgeoning success. The "Incredible" Hulk possessed dynamic physical charisma, which perfectly complimented his unique, chiseled, and steroid-fueled physique. What's more, his ear-cupping, power-fueled, posing-and-posturing live act; garrulous rap on promos; long, corn silk (and thinning) hair; chestnut tan comprised a package unlike any fans in the Twin Cities had ever seen before. It, combined with his "Rocky" notoriety and the national reputation he had amassed as Andre the Giant's frequent WWWF rival in 1979-1980, made him the most marketable performer in the business -- not even with the exception of the vaunted Andre. The future "Hulkster" set numerous box office records in feuds with Jesse "The Body" Ventura (below), the late "Crusher" Jerry Blackwell, and -- briefly -- AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel. Before long, fans throughout the Midwest were clamoring to see their favorite star realize his World championship aspirations. However, company owner/operator/wrestling demigod Verne Gagne had other designs, and it wasn't long before Hogan justifiably became disillusioned with his incommensurate push and salary (estimated at $5,000 per week). Two promoters who certainly did realize Hogan's potential value were the McMahons, who had helped boost him to national prominence in the WWWF during his 1979-1981 tenure in New York. As fate would have it, it was while the he was on one of his frequent tours as the top foreigner in New Japan Pro Wrestling -- a McMahon family ally -- that Vince, Sr., approached the "Incredible" Hulk with promises of an appreciable raise and an elusive, sustained World Title run. Hogan clearly found the woos to his liking, because in December, 1983, when he landed down in the United States, it was not in Minnesota, but in New York. Only one week after Backlund's title loss to the Iron Sheik, Hogan made his WWF return in typical dramatic fashion. On an edition of "All-Star Wrestling," the "All-American Boy" was in the midst of a ruthless beat down at the hands of the treacherous quartet of the Wild Samoans and "Captain" Lou Albano. Before long, Hogan emerged from the back and, as the crowd greeted him with a huge reaction, proceeded to lay waste to four of the the heels (four of the tops in the Northeast) in one fell swoop. Hogan's dominating display, while impractical, was like few in the history of the promotion, and it was immediately clear that he, not Backlund, was now the promotion's number one babyface. The Hulk's massive push continued the next week as he and Backlund met and defeated Mr. Fuji & Tiger Chung Lee. Naturally, Backlund played the part of the weak link in the tag team, and every time Hogan entered the ring, he contiguously and thoroughly cleaned house. "Hulkamania" was born, and the next step in the now-yellow-and-red-clad Hogan's dominating path seemed inevitable. For the next month's Madison Square Garden card, the WWF eschewed standard World Title rematch protocol by granting the Hulk next crack at the champ, while Backlund -- as the storyline went -- had a severe shoulder injury and was unable to accept the bout. Hence, on January 23, 1984, the company's changing of the guard took place, and shockwaves promptly reverberated throughout the industry. The bout ushered in a new era of brief title showdowns which were characterized by Hogan's overpowering presence, and, in this particular match, he even forced his way out of the heretofore-unbreakable Camel Clutch before winning the title at just past the 7:00 mark with a bodyslam and legdrop combo. The response to the match was overwhelming; not only did it earn one of the biggest pops in the history of the hallowed Garden -- replete with Hogan's new theme song, "Eye of the Tiger," from Rocky) -- but the show drew a sell-out of approximately 22,000 fans, with 4,000 more watching on a closed-circuit broadcast at the adjacent Felt Forum. Few onlookers were aware of the historical magnitude of what took place, but it was clear that Hogan was marked for an extended title run, and his status as the business' premiere attraction was more secure than ever. Roddy Piper: The new-look WWF was branded by the time-tested struggle between good and evil, and for superhero Hogan truly to achieve any kind of long-term success, he would need a nearly-as-charismatic foil. Ironically, when "Rowdy" Roddy Piper first entered the company in December 1983, at age 32, he figured to be one of the last people to whom the McMahons would ultimately assign that role. At a legitimate 6'1" and 230 lbs, and without the unwieldy mass that suited the penchant of the Vinces, the native of Scotland seemed as though he would be a role player -- and nothing more -- within the confines of this new form of wrestling. In fact, one well-known story in the business at the time told of how Vince, Sr., having heard of Piper's drawing prowess in Portland, had flown him in for a WWWF card in the late-'70s, only to get one look at the then-200-or-so-pound wrestler and tell him to board the next plane back to Oregon. Piper had, at various times during his 13-year career, been one of the top two drawing cards in four different regions, including the Southern California, Pacific Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Georgia territories. It was while working for Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic and Ole Anderson's Georgia Championship Wrestling promotions that he had achieved his greatest notoriety, by way of classic feuds with the likes of Ric Flair, Greg Valentine, and "Mad Dog" Buzz Sawyer. He had also achieved great success as Gordon Solie's color commentator on GCW's WTBS show, which alone made him one of the most recognizable performers in the entire industry. However, when Piper arrived in the WWF, he did so not as a wrestler and not as a commentator, but as a manager. His charges included two other Federation newcomers, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and "Dr. D" David Shults, and, initially, he very seldom set foot in the ring. The "Rowdy Scot" took his depiction in stride, however, and was such a phenomenal (and hilarious) manager and was so highly endowed at drawing attention to himself at ringside that the Vinces quickly caught on. Within weeks, they began slotting him more interview time, and Piper -- arguably the premiere mic man in the business at the time -- instantaneously got over like gang-busters. Ultimately, his rollicking "loose cannon" act proved to be more than bullet-proof enough to overcome the McMahon Family's big man fetish. It was less than two months into his WWF tenure that the WWF assigned Piper his own weekly talk show segment, called "Piper's Pit." Naturally, these exhibitions were a major hit and, before long, made the "Rowdy Scot" the most over personality in the company, with the possible exception of the Hulkster. Whenever a babyface would visit (Jimmy Snuka, Tony Garea, Rocky Johnson, etc.), Roddy would hog nearly all of the mic time, and on the rare occasions that he would hold the microphone out for his guest, he would either snap it away or click it off. On several occasions, he would even attack the fan-favorite guests, before standing above them and, invariably, spouting his famous catch-phrase, "Just when you think you know the answers, I change all the questions." Conversely, whenever a heel visited (Lou Albano, Shults, Orndorff, etc.), the two parties would spend the entirety of the segment joking, commiserating, and devising hilarious rationalizations for the most unscrupulous of dirty deeds. In other instances, Piper would even interview himself. No doubt about it: Piper was steadily gaining heat, and as the winter came to a close in '84, he was the McMahons' most entertaining act. "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff: One of the wrestlers who suddenly disappeared from Georgia Championship Wrestling in late-1983, only to turn up in the WWF months later, was "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff. Ironically, "Paula," as he was referred by the company's hostile patrons, debuted the same night Hulk Hogan won the WWF Title from the Iron Sheik in Madison Square Garden. He would go on to become one of the Hulkster's top three rivals throughout the next two years and, in fact, was on the losing end in Hogan's first title defense at MSG the next month. Orndorff was a well-built, athletic, and -- above all else -- arrogant performer who, in addition to headlining in Georgia in 1982 and 1983, had also been a top star in Mid-South in the early-'80s. Although he was not nearly as charismatic as his ally Piper, he had a well-earned reputation as one of the top workers in the country (he was certainly one of the top five in the WWF) and cut solid -- though not extraordinary -- promos. As such, although he never received an extended run on top in the Federation, he was a solid draw whenever plugged into the main event slot, and, of course, he would ultimately go down in history for his integral involvement in WrestleMania. Wendi Richter: An attractive, shapely 23-year-old, Richter arrived in the Federation in early-1984 after honing her craft in the Southern promotional belt and in Japan. Although her tenure only lasted two year, she went on to become one of the most important performers in the entire business during this period. The athletic commission had actually enforced a ban on women's matches in New York for a number of years in the '60s and '70s, but not for long. Not only were Richter and her division a central component of Jr. Vince's early marketing efforts, but her feud with her real-life trainer, the Fabulous Moolah, was the second most heavily-pushed issue in the promotion for a period of several months. Mike Rotundo & Barry Windham: In 1984, two of the most promising young wrestlers in the business were real-life brothers-in-law Mike Rotundo, 26, and Barry Windham, 24. Fresh off a Tag Team Title run in Florida at mid-year, they arrived in the WWF in September, at which point Jr. McMahon christened them the "All-American Boys" and gave them a huge push right to the top of his tag division. Ther, they promptly won the titles from the ultra-talented heel tandem of Adrian Adonis & Dick Murdoch, before laying on an even more syrupy coat of heartthrob-flavored patriotism in their feud with the Iron Sheik & Nickolai Volkoff. Windham, with his long, blond bangs and premium athleticism, was considered especially talented at the time, and many observers already had him pegged as a future World champion. He had already cleaned up as the top star of the Florida territory for the previous year, and, in an interesting bit of trivia, was Dusty Rhodes' first choice for the role Magnum TA eventually got in the Mid-Atlantic: the dominant, All-American pretty boy. Instead, he opted for the big money of the WWF, like half the other big-league talent of the period. Rotundo, meanwhile, was also considered a first-rate talent and had demonstrated as much as a frequent titleholder the previous two years in both Florida and the Carolinas himself. Greg "the Hammer" Valentine (John Winiski, Jr.): Fresh off of legendary feuds with Ric Flair and Roddy Piper in the Mid-Atlantic, Valentine (who had actually had a famous feud with Bob Backlund three years earlier) was also one of the influx of WWF arrivals in early-1984. Initially, he was a protege of "The Guiding Light" Lou Albano, whose promo ability, combined with Valentine's very strong working ability, made the "Hammer" one of the Federation's top-five heels during the expansion period. Not surprisingly, he won his first Intercontinental Title just four months into his run, by beating Tito Santana . "Ace" Bob Orton: Once Roddy Piper had effectively riled up 90% of the WWF's babyface roster through his antics on "Piper's Pit," he found himself in dire need of a bodyguard (or, so the storyline went). That was the cue for the re-arrival of "Cowboy" Bob Orton, who re-debuted with much fanfare by sitting in on a "Pit" segment involving jobber Aldo Marino. After Marino upbraided Piper for needing a "henchman" to protect him, the "Rowdy Scot" had Orton punk him out, setting the stage for a series of Piper & Orton main event tag team matches throughout the summer of '84. Orton had actually been a WWF mainstay throughout 1983, but he apparently burnt out and disappeared for several months before once again cropping up as Piper's accomplice. At the time, "Cowboy" Bob was a top-flight worker and, arguably, one of the top 10 in-ring performers in the country. He had had several runs on top in other territories -- including Memphis, the AWA, Mid-South, and Mid-Atlantic -- and, in another bit of trivia, had even been Randy Savage's tag team partner for a brief spell. After his Federation re-debut, he would remained one of the McMahons' top heels for the next two years -- and a well-deserved one, at that. "Dr. D" David Schuls: A noted hot-head who became more (in)famous for his outside-of-the-ring exploits than anything he accomplished inside of it, Schuls jumped ship from the AWA to the WWF in early-1984, at the behest of his good friend Hulk Hogan. "Dr. D" had actually been exiled from the country at one point, in connection with an out-of-the ring scrape with the law, but because he was a large, effectively obnoxious heel, he was always able to find work in various territories. His pairing with the Roddy Piper stable immediately made him a top star in the Fed, but, as we'll see later, his tenure proved short-lived. The closest comparison to him among today's wrestlers might be Scott Steiner, although Schults obviously wasn't nearly as well-muscled. Jesse "The Body" Ventura: A veteran heel with major stints in Oregon, Minnesota, and New York under his belt, Ventura was one of about a half-dozen wrestlers to jump ship from Verne Gagne's operation in early-1984. Although he received a big push initially -- mostly due to his superlative promos and physique -- and was scheduled to headline a Madison Square Garden match against Hulk Hogan in mid-'84, he was hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs just a couple of days before the match. As a result, he was sidelined for the next several months, before attempting a comeback, then ultimately retiring because of the health conflict. Ventura landed on his feet, of course, and went on to achieve his greatest fame in wrestling several months later. He became the WWF's primary color commentator and instantly gained a huge cult following. The heel announcer act had actually been perfected by Roddy Piper in GCW, but "The Body" was so successful in the role that, without it, he never would have achieved anything resembling his recent meteoric heights of non-wrestling success. Junkyard Dog: JYD was actually just removed from a four-year run as arguably the top drawing card in the United States when the WWF cherry-picked him from Bill Watts' Mid-South in late-1984. And, while he never displayed the same form in the Federation, he was a very popular mid-card fixture there for nearly four years, stowed with his familiar entrance theme ("Another One Bites the Dust"), dog collar, head butts, and wry promos. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat: Steamboat had been one of the top stars and best workers in the business dating back to the late-'70s, when he entered Mid-Atlantic and commenced his legendary rivalry with Ric Flair. By late-1984, however, "The Dragon" had grown disenchanted with the Crockett territory, whose new booker -- Dusty Rhodes -- refused to push him because he abhorred being on the road and only agreed to work 8-10 cards per months. As a result, while on a temporary "retirement" from the business in early-'85, he was only too happy to defect to the WWF when the inevitable call came from Jr. McMahon. Although the workload in the Federation would be demanding, and he would regularly have to travel all over the country, the ample salary (rumored as $5,000 per week -- or $260,000 per year) was too enticing to turn down. In addition, with former Mid-Atlantic friend/booker George Scott now handling the majority of Titan's booking duties (as we'll see below), Steamboat suspected he might actually be used more befittingly in New York. Steamboat never really did fully realize the vast promise of his working relationship with the WWF, but, for the time being, he was arguably the premiere worker in the company, and his karate-inspired gimmick helped make him a very popular mid-carder. At the very outset, he assumed a role as Jimmy Snuka's tag team partner in a tandem called the "South Pacific Connection." Hillbilly Jim: A scant two-year pro when the WWF signed him in late-1984, the strapping, thickly-bearded, overalls-clad Jim was one of the promotion's top mid-carders in the mid-'80s, despite his want for actual wrestling ability. Following a stint in Memphis as "Harley Davidson," he was actually introduced to Federation audiences as part of a "fan out of the crowd" gimmick, then through a series of "training videos" with Hulk Hogan himself. Naturally, his persona was that of a big, convivial country bumpkin. Partly because he was one of Vince, Jr.'s pet projects, and partly due to the rub from his association with Hogan, he got a big push and ran through much of the company's mid-card corps in 1985. Nikolai Volkoff: The imposing Volkoff had been a headliner in the Midwest and was, like so many of the wrestlers on this list, plying his trade in Georgia when the WWF came calling in mid-1984. After jumping to the Federation with his Russian xenophobe gimmick in tow, he became one of the company's top heels, challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title, before settling in as the Iron Sheik's tag team partner in 1985. King Kong Bundy: Following tenures on top in World Class and Memphis, Bundy joined the WWF in 1984 and almost immediately got over strong by virtue of his size (billed at 6'5" and 450 lbs.) and insistence that referees count to five, instead of three, during his matches. However, the best for him was to come at WrestleMania II. Bobby "The Brain" Heenan: Having already demonstrated himself as one of the greatest managers of all-time through his near-twenty years of service to the AWA, Heenan joined the tidle wave of defectors from Minnesota to New York when he signed a contract with McMahon in September, 1984. Initially, he lent his considerable comedic and verbal abilities to John Studd, King Kong Bundy, and others. Jimmy "The Mouth of the South" Hart: After a legendary stint in Memphis, Hart came to the WWF in mid-1984 as the manager for Greg Valentine, and then Brutus Beefcake. Many of those who regularly viewed his work in Tennessee in the early-'80s contend that he had the greatest single managerial run in the history of the business, but, unfortunately, he never had sufficing opportunity to display the full range of his talents in the WWF. He was, however, a very valuable component of the promotion's mid-card for over nine years. III. The Mainstays Sgt. Slaughter (Robert Remus): One of the many facts about the period leading up to WrestleMania that history has obscured is that Sgt. Slaughter, not Hulk Hogan, actually achieved the greatest mainstream notoriety of anyone in the industry in 1984. The Sarge was the focus of nearly all of the budding number of newspaper and magazine write-ups regarding the WWF's unique success around this time, and, although much of the attention stemmed from the fact that descriptions of the flag-waving patriot gimmick made for good copy, Slaughter's renown was very well-deserved. After all, his feud with the Arabian Iron Sheik was the hottest ticket in wrestling in the spring of '84, drawing strong gates around the horn -- and producing several very good matches, to boot. Also, he was a strong big-man worker who took great bumps for his size (around 270 lbs. legit -- billed as 310); cut money-drawing, craggy-voiced promos; and executed his nationalistic persona to perfection. Unfortunately, though, he soon fell into the common trap of believing his own press and, by the end of 1984, had begun complaining loudly about his salary, which he believed was inequitably low. On one fateful night in 1984, after failing to make good on several vows to quit the company if Vince, Jr., did not capitulate to his demands, Slaughter gathered the entire locker room together and attempted to unionize them. This maneuver proved to be ill-advised: Hogan ratted him out to management -- a fact which only came out several years later -- and Vince wasted no time in firing him, temporarily ending his relationship with the company that had first brought him to national prominence in 1980. Ultimately, he was little more than an afterthought when the WWF embarked on its greater period of success four months later, when he just as easily could have been one of its centerpieces. Andre the Giant (Andre Rousemoff): Although the late Giant was several years removed from being the top drawing card in the industry, he remained a valuable entity in the WWF, which had been his primary homebase for the past several years. In addition, Vince, Sr., had been his booking agent since 1973 (at which point he emerged as the biggest attraction in the industry, in more ways than one), which made his relationship with the McMahon family an especially amenable one. In particular, the Giant had never fully recovered -- both in terms of mobility and drawing power -- ever since sustaining a broken ankle during a 1981 match against Killer Khan. By 1984, he was limited to remaining relatively stationary while his opponents (usually similarly-hulking men) did their best to sell his now-feeble offense. However, because of his size and vaunted reputation, he was a valuable role player, and his rivalry with "Big" John Studd was one of the central feuds in the company in the years immediately preceeding WrestleMania. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka (James Reiner): The legendary Snuka had been one of the top stars in the business ever since enlisting the legendary "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers as his manager in 1980, and his career especially blossomed while under the guidance of Lou Albano in the WWF in 1982. He was the first authentic top-rope wrestler in the history of the northeast, with his Superfly Leap (top-rope splash) having inspired the awe of many an MSG fan for several years by the time 1984 rolled around. Unfortunately, by that time, Snuka was also beset by numerous personal problems, not the least of which were his well-known substance abuse and the unaccountable death of his girlfriend in a hotel room in Pennsylvania. Not coincidentally, as soon as Hogan arrived, the McMahons made the executive decision to phase the "Superfly" down their cards slightly, but he remained one of the promotion's top three babyfaces for several more months, and he went on to participate in the company's hottest feud of the year in 1984. Don "The Magnificent" Muraco: A multi-time Intercontinental champion, the heel Muraco had been one of the top two or three wrestlers in the WWF for the previous three years, in addition to possessing ample charisma and mic skills. He was only one year removed from a violent, bloody, and entertaining big-money feud with Jimmy Snuka when the expansion hit full stride in 1984, and he was rewarded for his years of service with a big raise. However, his push wasn't quite what it once was, due to the roster depth charts' having grown, and he never regained his headlining spot after losing the IC strap to Tito Santana early in the year. With Mr. Fuji as his manager, he did remain a central part of the company, but he was still one of several performers whose choicest years were behind him when the new generation of fans discovered the business. Tito Santana: A WWF mid-card pillar on-and-off since the late-'70s, Jr. Vince continued to give Santana an ample push, casting him as the company's IC champ and token Latin star throughout 1984 and up until WrestleMania. McMahon particularly favored him due to his natural attractiveness, although he was a solid worker and slightly-above-average interview as well. "Big" John Studd: The gargantuan Studd (billed at 6'10" and 380 lbs, although he was legitimately closer to 6'7" and 330) had several stints with the Federation, with the concurrent one dating to 1982. In addition to his now-legendary feud with Andre the Giant -- which raged throughout 1984 and 1985 -- he was one of Hulk Hogan's earliest WWF Title challengers and drew big money against the Hulkster ala carte in mid-late-'84. Of note is that Studd is culpable for the bad knees which plague Hogan to this very day, stemming from a Madison Square Garden match during their feud. Fabulous Moolah: Moolah had held the World Womens Title (such as it was) for nearly thirty years between several different reigns by the time she dropped the title to Wendi Richter in 1984 and, of course, remained a centerpiece of the division throughout the next several years. Now well into her 50s, she was actually a poor worker by this point and owned ill-repute in some circles for her subordination of other female performers. Regardless, she did achieve the greatest celebrity of her career at this stage. George "the Animal" Steele: An old-time favorite, the turnbuckle-chomping Steele was wrestling only sporadically by 1984 and 1985, but he remained a viable heel throughout the period in his pseudo-retarded role. He had always been a poor worker, but he had been an on-and-off main eventer in the company for the previous 12 years, nonetheless. "Captain" Lou Albano: The "Guiding Light" and the manager of over a dozen different Tag Team championship combination, Albano was one of the most indispensable components of this period, for reasons extending outside his vast talents at ringside and behind the microphone. As it was, his gravelly-voiced portrayal of a slob was top-notch, and he cut great, comedic promos. "Classy" Freddy Blassie: In pop culture, his greatest influence was as the originator of the phrase "pencil-necked geek." In wrestling circles, however, he is one of the all-time legendary performers and went on to become a terrific manager after retiring in the '70s. In '84 and '85, he was most notable for guiding the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. Mr. Fuji: Many of Fuji's co-workers resented him because he lacked talent, yet received a push -- both as a wrestler and a manager -- for nearly three decades in the WWF. By 1984, the cane-wielding native of Hawaii (not Japan, as labeled) was best known for managing Don Muraco. Assorted Others: Tony Atlas (muscular former World title contender and Tag Team champ, the bloom had fallen off his rose by 1984 and 1985, at which time he became a glorified jobber); Brutus Beefcake (journeyman wrestler, long-time Hogan comrade, got over as a pseudo-male stripper when arrived in the WWF in late-1984); B. Brian Blair (low-mid-card babyface, defected from Georgia in late-1983); Matt Borne (former Tag champ with Arn Anderson in Georgia in early-'80s, joined McMahon for a brief time in 1985); Dino Bravo (lower-card babyface at this point, though positioned strongly on cards in his native Quebec); the Freebirds (three of the top heels in the business, had a very brief run in 1984, though you'd have missed it if you'd blinked); Charlie Fulton (large, mid-card heel); Rene Goulet (lower-card babyface, WWF mainstay for the previous 15 years, long-time Federation road agent); Swede Hanson (recently deceased former main eventer was now an aged, glorified jobber); Bret Hart (Came to the WWF in 1984 as part of Jr. Vince's buy-out of Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling and was already one of the best workers in the business, but he would not have his opportunity to shine for two more years); Rocky Johnson (The Rock's father, one-time upper-card babyface throughout the country, career was winding down in 1984 and was out of the company by "WrestleMania"); S.D. Jones (long-time jobber, almost like a predecessor of Barry Horowitz); Lelani Kai, Velvet McIntire & Princess Victoria & Judy Martin (Four female Fabulous Moolah trainees); Tonga Kid (A 19-year-old rookie in 1984 but did get a brief push as Jimmy Snuka's lunatic cousin, as we'll see later); Rick McGraw (solid performer, little more than a jobber at this point); the Moondogs (Large, ivory-colored mid-card tag team mainstays with zany heel tendencies); Dick Murdoch (Top-notch performer but was lost in the shuffle in '84 and switched over to Mid-South in '85); Jim Neidhart (brawny 29-year-old, jumped from Florida and Mid-South to the Federation in early-'85); Ivan Putski (long-time WWF Polish powerhouse with limited working ability, was out of the company by WrestleMania); Johnny Rodz (future WWF Hall of Fame inductee, though he was only a non-descript lower-mid-carder) David Sammartino (son of legendary former WWWF kingpin Bruno, never amounted to much outside of occasional tag matches with his dad); "Chief" Jay Strongbow (Another long-time WWWF star, was also out of the picture come 'Mania); and the Masked Superstar (another Georgia-to-WWF defector from late-1983, but he was out of the Fed within months, only to resurface as one of the "Machines" in 1986, then "Demolition Ax" in 1987).
  15. January 1-7 -- WCW uses some bookkeeping artifices to turn a “profit” in 1995, for the first time in its seven-year history in the Ted Turner empire. In reality, the company lost roughly the same amount as usual -- $5-$6 million -- but amid rumors that Turner will soon merge with the Time-Warner conglomerate, the promotion’s accountants use their savoir-faire to position its finances in the most favorable light possible. These sleights of hand include transferring Hulk Hogan’s $4 million annual salary to the Turner Home Entertaiment, Inc., division of the Turner empire; having Turner Broadcasting, Inc. foot the bill for the production costs of its three weekly TBS programs; and earmarking the profits from “Halloween Havoc” ‘94 and “Starrcade” ‘94 to the bottom line fine 1995 while still crediting “Halloween Havoc” ‘95, “World War III,” and “Starrcade” ‘95 to the 1995 books. - WCW’s legal team forces Gene Okerlund to recant a WCW Hotline report asserting that Ricky Steamboat would be honored in a ceremony at the January 1 Nitro. After catching wind of this fabrication, Steamboat had threatened legal action unless Okerlund issued a retraction. - The WWF attempts to reach an agreement with Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling, using long-time AJ star Dory Funk, Jr. as a liaison, with hopes of tapping into AJ stable members who it feels will be marketable in the U.S., including Steve Williams, Stan Hansen, Gary Albright, and Johnny Ace. Thus, as a favor to Baba, both Funk and young Takao Omori are given slots in the Royal Rumble. - Razor Ramon allegedly expresses umbrage to the booking team over the homophobia-geared direction of his feud with Goldust. In particular, he objects to ‘Dust’s habit of touching, fondling and kissing opponents. - After negotiating with both the WWF and WCW, Public Enemy sign a three-year deal with WCW. - New Japan’s annual January 4 Tokyo dome show draws a crowd of 64,000 paying a near-record $6 million gate. In the main event, Keiji Mutoh defeats Genichiro Tenryu: a rematch from the previous year’s Jan. 4 Dome show. Monday Night Wars, 1/1: Raw - 2.61 (RAW Bowl tag team elimination match); Nitro - 2.52 (Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair) Jan. 8-14 -- The WWF’s newest batch of “Billionaire Ted” skits plays the steroid card: The “Nacho Man” asks the “Huckster” what will happen should he be drug tested by WCW officials, and his red-’n’-yellow pal responds that they don’t need to worry about getting busted for that, “because we’re not in the WWF anymore.” Vince McMahon had faxed a letter to Ted Turner prior to these skits, challenging him to compare WCW’s steroid testing policy to the WWF’s with an independent drug policy advisor. He also claims that he adopted his own, stricter policy because the WWF “is concerned with the health and well-being of its talent.” In response, Turner threatens McMahon with a lawsuit but ultimately fails to follow through on it. Elsewhere, “Scheme” Gene tries to trick people into calling his hotline with the inducement of finding out whether the sun will come up tomorrow. - After doing a job to Bob Holly at a house show, Sid disappears from the WWF. He had recently expressed his misgivings over having to lose cleanly so frequently. - Mick “Mankind” Foley’s (excellent) introductory vignettes begin airing on WWF TV. MNW, 1/8: Raw - 3.04 (Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith from December PPV); Nitro - 2.81 (Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson) Jan. 15-21 -- The WWF holds its “Royal Rumble” PPV, a lackluster show featuring a Shawn Michaels Rumble win, Goldust over Razor Ramon to capture the Intercontinental title, and an Undertaker DQ victory over WWF champ Bret Hart. - Buddy Fuller, father of WCW’s Col. Robert Parker and one of the most noteworthy promoters in wrestling history, passes away on January 15 at his home in Pensacola, Florida from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 71. In addition to being a wrestler for over 20 years, Fuller had owned all or part of nearly a half-dozen territories at various times, including in Florida, Georgia, Memphis, Knoxville (TN), Arizona, and Pensacola. He was also instrumental in helping Fritz Von Erich form his famed World Class promotion in Texas in the ‘60s. In the ‘70s, Fuller also had a major hand in running Ann Gunkel’s outlaw promotion in Georgia, which aired on Ted Turner’s WTCG (which later morphed into WTBS), then backed Jerry Jarrett in helping to establish his Memphis-based promotion in a war against former partner Nick Gulas. - Eric Bischoff faxes a condescending letter to Vince McMahon’s office at Titan Towers as a response to the WWF’s recent legal threats against WCW. The Fed actually briefly broadcasts a still of the memorandum on its weekend programming (“Action Zone” and “Mania”), and it reads as follows: “Dr. Mr. McMahon: Your letter dated Jan. 3, 1996 to Mr. Ted Turner and your subsequent letter of January 10 have been directed to my attention. Although initially mildly amusing, the WWF programming that you refer to as ‘satirical vignettes’ has become defamatory and disparaging to WCW and its wrestlers. Accordingly, we have referred this issue to our legal counsel for review. In addition, Mr. McDevitt’s letter of Jan. 11, 1996 on your behalf to Mr. Lambrose of this office (WCW attorney Nick Lambrose) has similarly been referred to legal council for review. By copy of this letter, we are informing Mr. McDevitt of this referral and advising him that we found his previous letters wholly without merit and undeserving of a response. In light of WCW and WWF programming ratings, we understand your concern about the content of our programs. Your encouragement is duly noted, however WCW programming decisions are the responsibility of WCW and Turner Broadcasting. Finally, as you are aware, WCW has a comprehensive Substance Abuse Policy which includes drug testing. While we can appreciate your intent in combining the efforts of the WWF with certain facets of our program, we are not so inclined. Signed, Eric Bischoff, Senior Vice President, WCW.” - Public Enemy debut on Nitro, winning a poor match against the American Males and putting Marcus Bagwell through a double-stack of tables afterward. The show draws its highest head-to-head rating to date, largely on the strength of a great Ric Flair vs. Sting match. Many onlookers point to RAW’s off-putting “Billionaire Ted” as the reason for the high level of audience turn-over. MNW, 1/15: Nitro - 3.52 (Ric Flair vs. Sting); Raw - 2.4 (Undertaker vs. Isaac Yankem) Jan. 22-28 -- Randy Savage beats Ric Flair to win the WCW title in the opening match of the Jan. 22 Monday Nitro in Las Vegas. - WCW runs a “Clash of the Champions” TBS special on January 23 in Las Vegas, with Ric Flair & The Giant beating Randy Savage & Hulk Hogan in the main event when Flair pinned Savage. Also, Miss Elizabeth makes her debut in the company, in the corner of Hogan and Savage; Woman (Nancy Sullivan -- wife of Kevin Sullivan) re-debuts, also in the corner of Hogan and Savage; and the Road Warriors make their return, challenging Sting and Lex Luger to a Tag Team title match. In the most memorable incident of the otherwise-forgettable card, Brian Pillman slides out of the ring during his match with Eddie Guerrero and grabs color commentator Bobby Heenan from behind, causing Heenan to freak out and audibly utter “What the fuck are you doing?!” into his headset. From there, Heenan starts to decamp to the safety of backstage, but he eventually thinks better of it and returns to ringside. Pillman -- at the height of his worked-shoot “Loose Cannon” phase (see below) -- spends the remainder of the match toying with Heenan numerous times. Surprisingly, the show draws a terrific 4.5 rating, making it the most-watched two hours in the history of the promotion up to this point. Other Clashes have drawn equal (August 1994 -- Flair vs. Hogan) or higher (September 1990 -- Sting vs. Black Scorpion; November 1989 -- Flair vs. Terry Funk; March 1988 -- Flair vs. Sting) ratings, but because TBS is wired for so many more homes than at any of these previous points, the same ratings percentage now has a wider penetration. - The newest envelope-pushing “Billionaire Ted” skit features the Ted Turner character claiming he wants money and power so that when he dies and sees his father in heaven, he can tell his dad to “kiss this.” - In response to the skits, WCW begins airing commercial “bumpers” on its weekend programming that feature ex-WCW/current-WWF wrestlers like Mark “The Undertaker” Callous, Cactus “Mankind” Jack, and Vader losing matches to established WCW stars, accompanied by the tagline “WCW: Where the Big Boys Play.” - Texas independent wrestler John Hawk, aka “Justin Hawk” Bradshaw, debuts at the WWF’s TV tapings in California. - Gene Okerlund props himself up as a key witness in the ongoing sexual harassment suit against Hulk Hogan in WCW. Incidentally, the last two wrestlers for whom Okerlund had served as a defense witness, Ken Patera and Masa Saito, served two years in jail apiece. - Raven wins the ECW title at the ECW Arena, defeating Sandman in a typically wild, bloody brawl. MNW, 1/22: Raw - 2.93 (Bret Hart vs. Goldust); Nitro - 2.71 (Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair) Jan. 29-Feb. 4 Alex Marvez of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News conducts an interview with Eric Bischoff regarding myriad topics, including the use of blood in WCW. Bischoff claims, misleadingly, that there has never been a policy in place in the company vis-a-vis blading. Mike Tenay of the WCW Hotline also conducts an interview with Bischoff in which the WCW VP famously calls Vince McMahon the “Verne Gagne of the ‘90s.” - WCW runs its first non-televised house shows in some time, in Baltimore and Norfolk, and draws terrific houses of 8,000 and 6,500, respectively. The big turnouts prompt the company to explore the possibility of expanding its touring schedule, which has been limited to TV tapings and PPVs for the past year or so. Amazingly, the Baltimore card draws the promotion’s first $100,000 gate for a non-pay-per-view show since Ted Turner purchased it in 1988 -- an indication of the restorative effect the Monday Night Wars are starting to have on the business. - A Texas-based independent promotion called the Confederate Wrestling Association holds a forgettable (taped) pay-per-view, featuring such notables as Justin Hawk Bradshaw (now known simply as “Bradshaw”), Rod Price, Alex Porteau, and Scott Putski. - Paul Heyman threatens to file a lawsuit against Terry Taylor and WCW in connection with Taylor’s statements on the WCW Hotline to the effect that Sandman is a “drunken drug addict.” As usual, Heyman fails to follow through. - ECW’s “mascot,” 911, leaves the promotion after a dispute with Heyman regarding character direction. MNW, 1/29: Nitro - 2.82 (The Giant vs. Randy Savage, Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan); Raw - 2.41 (Shawn Michaels vs. Yokozuna) Feb. 5-11 -- WCW presents a highly memorable "Superbrawl" PPV in which Miss Elizabeth turns on Randy Savage, costing him the World title in a great cage match against Ric Flair; Hulk Hogan gets by the Giant in an execrable cage match (the show finale, controversially) and then lays out the entire Dungeon of Doom with chair shots; and Kevin Sullivan beats Brian Pillman in about 30 seconds of a “Respect Match,” in which the loser has to surrender by shouting "I respect you." It is that third match which is both the most notable and the most notorious; in a con that perhaps only Sullivan, Eric Bischoff, and Pillman are apprised of, Pillman comes roaring out to dominate Sullivan, only to drop his arms, drop his strap, and spit the phrase, "I respect you, booker man." As Sullivan stands in stunned silence in the ring -- ostensibly reacting to seeing more than a century of wrestling dogma being outed on a national PPV telecast -- Pillman storms back to the dressing room and starts to leave the arena. However, As part of the elaborate ruse, Bischoff stops him and gets him into a furious shouting match, then fires him on the spot, in front of a gathering of numerous awe-struck wrestlers. It marks the first "worked shoot" angle in the history of the business, spilling over not only onto the TV camera (ala ECW), but to the insider wrestling community as well; Pillman has spent the last month trying to convince wrestlers, dirt sheet writers, and smart fans that he is legitimately insane, and this incident is the denouement. As a result, he becomes the talk of the industry for several weeks to come, and the incident is used as a blueprint for numerous other wrestlers who try ill-fated versions of the stunt in the stunt in coming years. - Davey Boy Smith is found Not Guilt in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on charges of aggravated assault in connection with an incident that occurred in a bar there in 1993. The accuser, Calgary resident Cody Light, alleged that Smith had attacked and powerbombed him, causing brain damage that confined him to a wheelchair. Smith’s defense largely turns on the testimony of a doctor who ordains that Light’s injuries are more consistent with those of someone who had slipped and landed on the back of their head than someone who had been physically assaulted. In addition, several witness testimonies assert that it was , in fact, been Light who instigated the fight by making objectionable remarks about Smith’s wife, Diana, before attempting to headbutt Smith. According to them, Smith then responded by headlocking the assailant and calmly walking him over to be assumed by the custody of a bouncer. In addition, a few local wrestlers are called on to testify that it is virtually impossible to powerbomb somebody without their cooperation -- as anyone who’s ever backyard wrestled can attest. - Demonstrating that the buy rate success of the Royal Rumble was not a fluke, the WWF’s house show business goes on a dramatic upswing. Most within the company credit the remarkable turnaround to Shawn Michaels’ return to the road following the hot concussion angle in October. - WCW threatens more legal action against the WWF over the “Billionaire Ted” skits on Raw, this time in connection with the Federation’s usage of the “Huckster,” “Nacho Man,” and “Billionaire Ted” characters. Particularly, WCW attempts to have a restraining order instituted that would ban the Fed from running its planned Huckster vs. Nacho Man match at WrestleMania. The WWF counters on RAW, of course, this time by airing a still of a print ad that reads as follows: “Attention, Stockholders. Has Ted Turner lost $40 million of YOUR money in his personal vendetta against the World Wrestling Federation? Where are these losses reported in TBS financial statements? TIME-WARNER, BEWARE!” The ad, which, of course, is planted by the WWF itself, runs in major publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The $40 million figure refers to WCW’s cumulative losses since Turner purchased the company in 1988. Also, WWF attorney Jerry McDevitt sends yet another threatening legal letter to Eric Bischoff’s office, citing that the “Ted” skits are simply a response to the disparaging remarks WCW has deigned to make on the air against the WWF, as well as to WCW’s copyright and trademark infringements (referring in specific to the Renegade character), WCW’s tampering with WWF-contracted talent (Madusa and Lex Luger), and various disparaging remarks made about the Fed by WCW Hotline personality Mark Madden. - After nearly three years as a heel, Yokozuna turns babyface and starts a feud with ex-“Camp (Jim) Cornette” stablemates Davey Boy Smith and Owen Hart. MNW, 2/5: Nitro - 2.9 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Road Warriors); Raw - 2.72 (Bret Hart vs. Undertaker) Feb. 12-18 -- At the February 18 “In Your House” PPV, Bret Hart retains the WWF title against Diesel in a steel cage match, after the Undertaker pops up through a hole in the ring and drags the challenger into it. Elsewhere, Shawn Michaels downs Owen Hart in a four-star match. The show draws a 0.65 buy rate, one of the best ever for an IYH. - The annual Westminster Dog Show preempts RAW on the USA Network, giving Nitro the night to itself. In a legitimately shocking development, Hulk Hogan uses the increased viewership opportunity to lose via pinfall for the first time in his WCW career: Arn Anderson pins him after Ric Flair had walloped him in the eye with Miss Elizabeth’s shoe. Naturally, Hogan’s growing list of critics allege that Hogan’s decision to lose is a response to a recent batch of “Billionaire Ted” skits in which the “Huckster” character commented that “my contract with Billionaire Ted says that I never lose” -- a reference to the “creative control” clause in Hogan’s contract. - ESPN begins airing a promo for “Sportscenter” featuring several WWF wrestlers. MNW, 2/12: Nitro - 3.74 (Hulk Hogan vs. Arn Anderson) Feb. 19-25 -- Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, 37, agrees to terms on a three-year contract with WCW, throwing the WWF into disarray. With the wrestler nearing 40, and with his pay-checks from Titan having decreased markedly in recent month, WCW uses the lures of a huge big-money guaranteed contract and a lighter schedule of house show matches to woo Hall. Upon hearing the news, Vince McMahon makes the questionably-timed decision to immediately suspend Hall without pay for violating the WWF’s drug policy. Also, McMahon orders all references to Ramon to be edited off of forthcoming editions of the Fed’s TV. - WWF attorney Jerry McDevitt grants an interview to Prodigy members, moderated by Bob Ryder, in which he discusses the slew of litigation issues currently implicating the WWF. “There was a series of attempts by Turner,” he says, “including from Ted Turner personally, to try to but the World Wrestling Federation or have interest in the company. All offers have been rejected. There were attempts in the late-’80s... up until ‘93’-’94. The WWF is a family-owned business and Vince is a third-generation promoter. He doesn’t want stock in TBS. He’s a wrestling promoter. When it became obvious that the WWF was not for sale we started hearing the statements that Turner was going to put the WWF out of business.” - Sure enough, Brian Pillman debuts at the ECW Arena, where he threatens to whip out his penis and piss in the ring. Apparently, Eric Bischoff really has granted him a full release from his WCW contract as an extension of their ongoing con game. This aspect of the artifice will come back to haunt Bischoff a few months later, though. - In a shocking turn of events, ECW temporarily bans blood on its cards as a PR response to the revelation that ex-heavyweight boxer Tommy Morrison is HIV positive. Also, news-magazine show “A Current Affair” airs a negative piece on ECW, with footage culled from a card in Queens, NY. MNW, 2/19: Raw - 3.1 (Undertaker vs. Tatanka); Nitro - 2.91 (Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage) Feb. 26-March 3 The wave of bad news for the WWF continues, much to the delight of most WCW employees and fans: Kevin “Diesel” Nash gives his notice to Vince McMahon, announcing that he’s agreed to a three-year deal with Eric Bischoff under the same terms as his friend Hall. Unlike Ramon, Diesel maintains his presence on Federation and builds toward a match against the Undertaker at WrestleMania. - With two of its top babyfaces scheduled to be departing, the Fed rushes to fill the void, enlisting the services of both the Ultimate Warrior and Roddy Piper. Naturally, the Warrior forces Vince McMahon to capitulate to several special demands before agreeing to return; ultimately, though, a satisfactory agreement is reached by both sides, allowing the WWF to begins building toward the Warrior’s return -- slated for WrestleMania -- on its programming. As for Piper, he returns in the capacity of figurehead president, filling the role vacated by Gorilla Monsoon, who is still sidelined by “injuries” suffered at the hands of Vader. - Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko re-up with WCW for three years. - ECW runs its major monthly cards in Queens and Philadelphia. On the former show, Raven retains the ECW title against Sandman; on the latter, the Gangstas win a three-way dance against 2 Cold Scorpio & Sandman and the Headhunters of Puerto Rico. - The fierce competition in the Monday Night Wars continue to re-ignite the business: Raw and Nitro set a combined viewership record, with Nitro eking out its fourth win (vs. four losses) of the year. - On Raw, Roddy Piper returns to the fold as the WWF’s “interim president.” His first act is to rule the much-anticipated Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels WWF title match at “WrestleMania” a 60-minute Iron Man match in which the wrestler who scores the most falls in the designated time frame emerges as champion. MNW, 2/26: Nitro - 3.21 (Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, & Brutus Beefcake vs. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, & Kevin Sullivan); Raw - 3.13 (Yokozuna vs. Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith) March 4-10 -- In what is considered a major transaction within the industry, Johnny B. Badd quits WCW and then promptly agrees to terms with the WWF. Badd had been working without a contract -- his previous one reportedly paid $300,000 a year, which is huge money by mid-’90s standards -- and, in the process of renegotiating, had a disagreement with Eric Bischoff over the terms of a prospective new deal. Badd had also disagreed with the direction of his on-air relationship with Kimberly Page; he cites that to be portrayed as being romantically involved with someone other than his real-life wife, Rena Mero, came into conflict with his Christian ethics. - In other WCW roster move, the Steiner Brothers sign huge guaranteed contracts, allowing them to make an unannounced return on Nitro, battling the Road Warriors to a non-decision. The Nasty Boys had originally been scheduled to take on the Roadies, but they had been released only days before. - Ric Flair is arrested in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, on charges of aiding and abetting underage DWI in his native. According to Flair, he, his wife, and two of his wife’s friends had attended a Charlotte Hornets basketball game that night and had stopped by a local bar for a few drinks afterward. Because he’s wary of driving after having even one or two drinks, he asked someone else to drive him home from the bar in his $100,000 Mercedes, and 20-year-old NC resident Collette Eileen McCune volunteered. During the short drive, local police pulled over McCune and found her to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 -- about twice the legal limit. “I would not have put a person I thought was drunk behind the wheel of a $100,000 automobile,” Flair tells a local paper. “She seemed fine.” Unfortunately, the local media turns the minor incident into a disproportionately-large scandal. - Mick Foley files a lawsuit against WCW in connection with the incident in which he lost his ear in a match against Vader in Germany in 1994, charging that the company created unsafe working conditions. MNW, 3/4: Raw - 3.62 (Bret Hart vs. HHH) March 11-17 -- The U.S. Supreme Court settles to uphold an original ruling ordering that the WWF pay former announcer/wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura over $800,000 in back royalties from 1980s videocassettes bearing his voice and likeness for which he was never compensated. In addition, the Fed must also pay $200,000, covering interest on the original order as well as Ventura’s legal fees. Ventura had original won the verdict in a court in his home state of Minnesota, before the WWF took its appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court. - Vince McMahon releases a statement through the WWF’s AOL site acknowledging Diesel’s departure. “Kevin Nash and I are friends. I think from my perspective, he didn’t make a good business decision (in joining WCW). Diesel could have become an icon here in the World Wrestling Federation, an icon which he would be able to derive great benefit from financially and aesthetically for the next 20 years, perhaps far outlasting his time as a wrestler in the ring. But, yes, it hurts and the people in Ted Turner’s organization know that it hurts. Athletes must have a love for the business they are in, a strong work ethic and a sense of loyalty to remain here in the WWF. Many performers (in the WWF) make very large sums of money, and those athletes that have confidence in themselves and in the company compete very, very well with Turner’s guaranteed contracts. Turner’s organization has no idea how to make a star. All they can do is buy them. The idea to acquire the services of Kevin Nash is so Diesel ceases to exist, thus hurting the World Wrestling Federation.” - Eric Bischoff does an interview with Bob Ryder of Prodigy, responding to the WWF’s charges that he’s tampering with its talent: “We haven’t tampered with their talent. I get calls all the time from their people (wrestlers). I’ve gotten a stack of calls just in the past few weeks. If one of their guys comes to me and tells me he’s ready, willing and able to talk to me about coming to work for us, I’ll listen. I don’t know what the specific accusations are about tampering, but I believe it’s just more WWF whining.” - WCW and the WWF both make a play to sign Rey Misterio, Jr., who has been drawing raves for his work in both ECW and AAA in Mexico. - “Diamond” Dallas Page’s wife, Kimberly Faulkenberg, appears nude in Playboy’s Book of Lingerie. - Brian Pillman briefly quits ECW over a dispute regarding the financing of his 900-line, but he and Paul Heyman smooth the issue over only a few days later. - Similarly, the Road Warriors briefly walk out on WCW, upset that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall have been signed to much more exorbitant contracts than their own. They return only days later. - The WWF’s house show business continues to show signs of life, as the company draws a sellout crowd of 17,000 to Madison Square Garden; Diesel & Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart & the Undertaker is the main event. It marks the first sell-out of the building for a regular house show in several years and also sets a non-PPV gate record of $300,000; even the heydays of Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund were unable to match. MNW, 3/11: Nitro - 3.2 (Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair & Kevin Sullivan); Raw - 2.91 (Yokozuna & Undertaker vs. Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith) March 18-24 -- WCW’s second annual “Uncensored” PPV marks only a marginal improvement over the first installment. And therein lies the problem. In one of the worst main events in the history of the company, Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage beat Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Meng, the Barbarian, Kevin Sullivan, Lex Luger, Ze Gangsta’ (actor Tony Lister -- “Zeus” of 1989 WWF fame), and the Ultimate Solution (the late Jeep Swenson) in the Doomsday cage. Naturally, Flair is the one pinned in the match. - Friction begins to surface between Eric Bischoff, Kevin Sullivan, and Hulk Hogan in after Hogan’s makes several last-minute changes to the Uncensored card. - The WWF hires Dutch Mantell in a front-office capacity. He also lands an on-air roll -- as Justin Hawk Bradshaw’s manager, Uncle Zebekiah. - ECW runs the ECW Arena in Philadelphia and overcompensates for its ongoing ban on blood when Raven attempts to “kill” Beulah McGillicuddy’s “unborn child” by kicking her in the stomach. - Not surprisingly, the Ultimate Warrior threatens to no-show “WrestleMania,” forcing Vince McMahon to fly out to his home in Phoenix and placate him with several perks. MNW, 3/18: Nitro - 3.61 (); Raw - 2.9 (Bret Hart vs. Tatanka) March 25-31 -- At “WrestleMania” XII, Shawn Michaels wins the WWF title from Bret Hart in 1:30 of a sudden-death period, after neither man was able to secure a fall in the 60-minute regulation period. Also, the Undertaker beats the soon-to-be-departing Diesel, Roddy Piper beats Goldust in the “Hollywood Back-Lot Brawl,” and the returning Ultimate Warrior squashes Hunter Hearst Helmsley in 90 seconds. Allegedly, the Warrior makes several immoderate demands backstage prior to the match, including refusing to sell anything for Helmsley. Helmsley earns major stripes with management by playing the part of peace-maker in the face of the Warrior’s prima-donna antics and essentially consents to play the part of a jobber in the bout. In a sidelight at ‘Mania, Rena Mero (Sable) and Marc Mero (Johnny B. Badd) make their collective entree into the WWF. Sable acts as Helmsley’s “valet of the week” on the show; when Helmsley brow-beats her following his loss, Mero comes to her aid. MNW, 3/25: Nitro - 3.12 (Ric Flair vs. The Giant); Raw - 2.82 (Ahmed Johnson vs. Owen Hart) April 1-7 -- Discord continues to develop between Hulk Hogan and the Eric Bischoff-Kevin Sullivan camp in WCW. As usual, most of it centers on Hogan’s penchant for using his vast influence within the Turner hierarchy to alter booking plans at the last minute. Also, the Hulkster fails to win himself any friends after he no-sells a chokeslam by the Giant on Nitro, even though the move laid out both Sting and Lex Luger elsewhere in the program. Meanwhile, Hogan takes three months off to film his latest movie, “Santa with Muscles,” but not before refusing to a stretcher job for Sullivan and Arn Anderson to explain his absence. At this point, his future in the business seems to be in jeopardy. - In a TV commercial, the WWF teases its 900 line by promising to reveal what Davey Boy Smith and Magic Johnson have in common besides that they’re both superstars in the world of sports. The ploy “works”: The line generates an inordinate volume of calls that day. MNW, 4/1: Raw - 2.94 (Undertaker vs. Justin Bradshaw); Nitro - 2.8 (Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger) April 8-14 -- Brian Pillman, 33, is seriously injured in a single-car accident in Boone County, Kentucky. After taking a recreational ride in his new humvee to “clear his head” from the whirlwind series of events he’d experienced over the previous several months, he had allegedly fallen asleep at the wheel, causing the automobile to swerve off the road and strike a large tree trunk, catapulting him through the windshield; he flew 40 feet through the air, landing heavily and sustaining several injuries -- the most serious of which being a shattered ankle. Police estimate that he had been going between 60 and 70 miles-per-hour at the time of the collision. - Eric Bischoff grants separate interviews to the Miami Herald and the Charleston Post-Courier, making several incendiary statements about Vince McMahon. “Vince McMahon is an egomaniacal punk,” he tells the Herald. “McMahon’s ego would not allow him to sit down... first of all, Vince McMahon’s ego won’t even allow him to admit that I’m the one who’s kicking his ass every week. He’s out there trying to paint this picture that Ted Turner is beating him. Ted Turner has so many things he has to tend to. I don’t think Vince McMahon’s name flashes through Ted Turner’s mind more than once or twice a year... So, as long as his ego and his sense of reality is as distorted as it is, I don’t ever see the opportunity to sit down and discuss certain things... Vince McMahon cannot stand the fact that Eric Bischoff and Kevin Sullivan and Paul Orndorff and Jimmy Hart and a whole bunch of people who are working 16 and 18 hours a day are kicking his BUTT. He can’t deal with it because his ego is too large.” - Bret Hart does an interview on a Chicago-area talk show and relates a story regarding Hulk Hogan: “This was right after WrestleMania 8 -- just after I became the WWF champion, as I remember. Vince McMahon told me, ‘Don’t worry about Hulk Hogan coming back. He’s going to come back and do some tag teams to boost his movie career.’ It wouldn’t have bothered me anyway because Hulk Hogan was this tremendous hero to me. When I finally did get to see Hulk Hogan and meet him after all these months he was off, I always thought he would have been very proud and happy that I had the success I had. When I walked up to him in Florence, South Carolina, he was with Brutus Beefcake. I offered my hand, and he wouldn’t accept it. I stood there for a few moments in shock and dismay. Then I went down the ramp and did my thing (wrestled a match). But I always remembered it, and it always bothered me that from his side of it, I had the belt, so I was his enemy. To him, I wasn’t this guy who had busted his ass for so many years on his undercards and had worked hard and fought for every inch I could get and finally had this level of success. Instead, I was opposition for him. I think he sought me out to destroy me. But ultimately, it got him in the end.” Hart also explains his feelings on Razor Ramon and Diesel’s decision to leave the WWF. “It’s a personal thing. Everyone has a right to take care of themselves the best they can. I think some of them made the decision because maybe they were forced into it, like Randy Savage. He was a guy who was getting left on the back-burner until he finally jumped. I look at Randy as a guy who shouldn’t have had to do that. At the same time, there are other guys who have left that I think, even in the case of Diesel, I think he did it maybe for the money. If that’s the reason, I don’t think his career is going to go forward anymore. He’ll miss where he was. I think he’s going to digress. I think they’ll be miserable about two years from now because they’ll realize they went to a second-rate organization that is never going to take them to the heights they were at before. - In his first professional match, Duane Johnson -- son of ‘60s-’80s star Rocky Johnson -- gets a tryout with the WWF and shows so much potential that the company promptly makes plans to sign him to a contract. - The ever-slowly-growing ECW once again runs Queens and Philadelphia, drawing sell-outs both nights. In the Queens main event, The Gangstas beat 2 Cold Scorpio and the Sandman. On the undercard, Taz beats Chris Jericho in a “shoot match.” In Philadelphia, Raven retains the ECW title against Shane Douglas in the main event, and in a match of interest on the undercard, Sabu beats Rob Van Dam. MNW, 4/8: Raw - 4.73 (Shawn Michaels vs. Jerry Lawler); Nitro -- preempted for NBA Playoffs April 15-21 -- Coming off of its recent strong house show outings in Baltimore and Norfolk, WCW devises plans to begin touring full-time once again starting in the summer. MNW, 4/15: Raw - 3.12 (Goldust vs. Savio Vega); Nitro - 2.81 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Giant & Ric Flair) April 22-28 -- At the WWF’s In Your House: “Good Friends, Better Enemies” PPV, Shawn Michaels carries Diesel to a ****3/4 match -- one of the defining bouts of HBK’s career. It makes entirely worthwhile an otherwise lackluster card, which also sees Razor Ramon lose cleanly to Vader in his final WWF match for the next six years. - WCW signs Kevin Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers to a one-match contract for the “Great American Bash” PPV in June. - WCW begins running bizarre promos on its TV shows, including Nitro, touting that “Our World is About to Change. Blood Runs Cold -- Coming Soon to WCW!” - Madusa and Ron Harris of the Bruise Brothers get engaged. - Still trying to put his best PR face forward as he prepares to launch ECW onto PPV, Paul Heyman writes a strongly-worded letter to promotional rival Dennis Coraluzzo, urging him to ban blood from the NWA. MNW, 4/22: Raw - 3.3 (Goldust vs. Savio Vega); Nitro - 2.72 (Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair vs. Giant) April 29-May 5 -- With Hulk Hogan seemingly on the outs with the promotion -- or, so they would have everyone believe -- Eric Bischoff and WCW put their star-making machinery into overdrive on the April 29 Nitro. The Giant (Big Show), 24, becomes the fourth-youngest World champion in the history of the business, beating Ric Flair cleanly with the chokeslam, less than ten minutes into their main event bout. The title switch receives a huge reaction live, although it’s not enough to prevent the show from getting creamed by RAW once again, since it is moved to an earlier timeslot because of the NBA Playoffs. Widely regarded due to his incredible agility and fitness for his size, The Giant is the first rookie ever to win a World championship. - The WWF runs one of its token Foreign Tours from Hell. The main catalysts of the problems on this tour are Razor Ramon and Diesel, who fray a lot of nerves by showing up late for numerous bus rides, missing curfews virtually every night, and generally acting flippant toward agents and other wrestlers. The other “Clique” members take a lot of associated heat from the “boys,” with several wrestlers allegedly threatening to beat up both Michaels and Helmsley when the two stick up for their friends at various points. Michaels’ behavior in other instances all causes many of his co-workers to be working his last nerve, as he has run-ins with several of them for basically petty reasons. In fairness to HBK, he is booked to wrestle and make personal appearances nearly every waking hour of the tour and, naturally, is extremely stressed out the entire time. The other main problem on the tour concerns Sunny, whom the Boys ridicule mercilessly after some salacious rumors circulate throughout the locker room, culminating when Michaels stoops to putting a piece of human feces in one of her meals. Perhaps fearing a sexual harassment lawsuit is on their hands, the road agents decide to send her home from the tour the next day -- a full 10 days early. Upon returning home from the tour, Sunny’s boyfriend, Skip of the Body Donnas, loses the Tag Team Titles cleanly to the Godwinns. - Shinjiro Otani, who won a confusing tournament to crown the first-ever Cruiserweight champion a few weeks earlier, loses the title to Dean Malenko. - The 1-2-3 Kid takes a leave of absence from the WWF to deal with an addiction to painkillers. - Michaels does a photo shoot for Playgirl magazine, a fact which is played up incessantly on WWF TV. - New Japan draws 65,000 fans for a $5.8 million gate to the Tokyo Dome on April 29, making it the second most-attended show in the history of the company, trailing only the previous year’s October 9 card, which drew 67,000 to see the Great Muta (Keiji Mutoh) beat Nobuhiko Takada in an IWGP World title match. In the main event of this show, however, it’s Shinya Hashimoto who prevails in the IWGP title match, beating Genichiro Tenryu to win the strap. WCW is well-represented on the card: Not only is Eric Bischoff in attendance, but Randy Savage beats Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Masahiro Chono beats Lex Luger via submission, and the Road Warriors & Power Warrior (Kensuki Sasaki) beat the Steiners and Scott Norton. MNW, 4/29: Raw - 3.92 (Ultimate Warrior vs. Isaac Yankem); Nitro - 2.11 (Ric Flair vs. The Giant) May 6-12 -- In a decision with significant and long-lasting ramifications, WCW and TNT announce plans to expand Nitro to two hours every week, beginning with the May 27 broadcast, partially in response to the drubbing the show has taken since being moved to an earlier timeslot for the duration of the NBA Playoffs. The show is to air in the 8:00-10:00 EST timeslot. The philosophy behind the move is that the extra one-hour lead-in gives the program a chance to “hook” viewers who might otherwise watch the head-to-head hour of RAW. Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan are to serve as the second-hour announcers, while Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko are to handle the first hour. - The WWF signs Duane Johnson (The Rock) and former Smoky Mountain Wrestling star the Punisher (Ben “Bull” Buchanan) to the first two “developmental” contracts in the history of the organization. In particular, management considers Johnson to have great promise, while the Punisher is recognized as an excellent athlete for his size. - The WWF also signs Tony Anthony (“TL Hopper”), Johnny Gunn/Tom Brandi (“Salvatore Sincere”), Alex Porteau (“The Pug”), Tracy Smothers (“Freddie Joe Floyd”), and Jim Neidhart (“Who?”), ostensibly to serve as jobbers, and gives all of them offbeat gimmicks. - At the latest ECW Arena card in Philadelphia, Rob Van Dam notches an upset win over Sabu, his former training-school classmate. Also, the Eliminators & Brian Lee beat Tommy Dreamer & the Gangstas in a bout in which Dreamer bleeds heavily, signaling the return of blading to the company’s playbook. MNW, 5/6: Raw - 4.12 (Undertaker vs. Owen Hart); Nitro - 1.92 (Giant vs. Jim Duggan) May 13-19 -- At the May 18 Madison Square Garden show, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash work their final matches in this phase of their WWF careers. Hall loses to Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Nash loses to Shawn Michaels, respectively. It's their post-show antics which cause the greatest consternation amongst onlookers, however: After the Michaels-Nash match, Hall makes an impromptu appearance in the ring, and the three men engage in a group hug. Watching from the back, Helmsley makes his way to the ring and joins them. The breech of kayfabe infuriates Vince McMahon, who is watching backstage. Although he can no longer punish Hall or Nash, he gives both Michaels and Helmsley a major tongue-lashing, then makes the infamous decision to forgo plans to give Hemlsey a big push, instead burying him in lower-mid-card bouts for the next five months. - Diamond Dallas Page emerges as the surprise winner of the “Battle Bowl” battle royal at WCW’s Slamboree PPV, setting the stage for his big career break. Elsewhere, The Giant beats Sting to retain the WCW title in the main event. - Eric Bischoff delivers a pep-talk prior to the wrestlers prior to the show, extolling the merits of the new two-hour Nitro format. He says that the longer programs will relive pressure on the wrestlers to get their matches and interviews over with quickly to conserve time. Also, he promises to begin giving a greater number and variety of wrestlers exposure on the programs now that the company has more air-time at its disposal. - Sufficiently recovered from his car-accident-induced shattered ankle to travel long distances, Brian Pillman meets with Vince McMahon at Titan Towers in Stamford, CT, to discuss a possible entrance into the WWF. Pillman is impressed by McMahon’s offer to such extent as that he no-shows a planned negotiation with Eric Bischoff five days later. - The Road Warriors once again walk out on WCW -- permanently, this time. Their main bone of contention is, still, that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are being paid significantly more than they are. - The Hardy Boys, who have been working as jobbers at WWF TV tapings, receive a tryout match but are not hired. - Yokozuna checks into the Duke University weight-loss clinic in an attempt to shed some excess tonnage. To explain his absence, Yoko cuts a demoralized promo on Raw saying he needs to “go find” himself. MNW, 5/13: Raw - 3.54 (Shawn Michaels vs. HHH); Nitro - 2.32 (The Giant vs. Lex Luger) May 20-26 -- In what is immediately touted as the best national wrestling angle in years, Scott Hall debuts on the first-ever two-hour Nitro, interrupting a match between Steve Doll and the Mauler (Mike Enos) by entering the ring and saying “You know who I am” over the house mic. Retaining his fake latino accent but little else about his former Razor Ramon character, Hall then launches into an anti-WCW diatribe: “You wanna’ have a war? Where’s ‘Billionaire Ted?’ Where’s the ‘Nacho Man?’” From there, he accuses Eric Bischoff of being a “Ken doll look-alike” and a “weatherman wanna’-be.” The live crowd initially reacts to Hall with confusion but start to roundly boo him after a few moments. Hall returns at the end of the program -- after nearly sixty minutes of steady taunts from Bischoff, the second-hour announcer with Bobby Heenan -- and confronts the WCW VP face-to-face in the announcers’ booth. He vows that “We’re taking over” and challenges anyone in WCW to wrestle him in a match before the show goes off the air. - The WWF’s steady stream of misfortune continues as, for the first time in history, its pay-per-view is deep-sixed because it is unable to transmit its signal. Following a lightning strike, an electrical storm knocks out the power during the company’s “In Your House” PPV in Florence, South Carolina, interrupting the signal and causing the arena to go dark for those in attendance. As a result, all but two of the matches on the two-hour show fail to broadcast, with only Marc Mero over Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Shawn Michaels NC Davey Boy Smith coming off as planned. Also at “In Your House,” Shawn Michaels gets himself into more hot water with WWF management by allowing himself to be distracted by the taunts of a ringside fan. At several points in the match, Michaels can audibly be heard firing pejorative remarks back at the fan, causing every fan in her section to start booing him. In fact, HBK becomes so unraveled by this situation -- with the frustration caused by the power outage also playing on his nerves, no doubt -- that he winds up flipping out at a WWF official at ringside who fails to cue up his music to his exact liking after the match -- a scene which is captured on the live PPV in its entirety. Vince McMahon is so upset over Michaels’ tantrum that he orders it edited off the replay. However, because HBK’s title reign has coincided with such a surge in house show business, it isn’t in any kind of imminent danger of getting kaboshed. - In a dark match at the RAW tapings, the Ultimate Warrior squashes Vader -- whom the company is building to be its top heel -- in 10 seconds. MNW, 5/20 (Nitro reallocated by NBA Playoffs): Raw - 3.13 (Davey Boy Smith vs. Jake Roberts); Nitro - 2.31 (The Giant vs. Arn Anderson) May 27-June 2 -- Ted DiBiase, 42, gives notice to Vince McMahon that he will be joining WCW in August when his WWF contract expires, ostensibly to manage Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in their as-yet-to-be-christened faction. McMahon’s immediate response is to bury DiBiase in storylines; Steve Austin promptly wrestles Savio Vega on RAW in a match stipulating that DiBiase must leave the company if his charge loses, with Vega, of course, going over. Still collecting insurance from Llyod’s of London on a career-ending neck injury he suffered while wrestling for All Japan, DiBiase last wrestled in 1993. - On Tuesday, the WWF attempts to pick up the pieces from its aborted “In Your House” PPV, offering a free airing of rematches of the bouts that were preempted due to the power outage. The matches emanate from the WWF’s “Superstars” TV taping site and include Savio Vega over Steve Austin in the Ted DiBiase-leaves-town match, Vader over Yokozuna, and Goldust over the Undertaker. - In the second week of the “hostile takeover” storyline, the unidentified character played by Scott Hall gets into a face-to-face confrontation with Sting at the close of the broadcast, then promises a “big surprise” for the following week. The buzz surrounding Hall’s debut on the previous Nitro causes the ratings of this week’s edition to enjoy a huge pop against a lackluster Raw. - Chavo Guerrero, Jr. receives a tryout with WCW. - New Japan Pro Wrestling owner/legend Antonio Inoki’s latest attempt as part of a lifelong obsession/ambition to gain entry into the pantheon of American culture meets with disaster. His much-hyped “World Peace Festival” card in Los Angeles draws just 2,500 fans to the L.A. Sports Arena, which is especially scary since he originally planned to hold it in the 100,000-seat L.A. Coliseum and attract widespread attention from the U.S. media. He does manage to gain the cooperation of both WCW and Mexico’s AAA, however, with perhaps the most notable aspect of this collaboration being that Eric Bischoff attends and gets his first look at numerous future members of his talent roster. In the main event, Inoki & Dan Severn beat Oleg Taktarov (UFC star) & Yoshiaki Fujiwara (of Fujiwara Armbar fame); in WCW’s top representative match, The Giant beat Sting with the chokeslam; in the best WCW match on the card, Chris Benoit downs Alex Wright; in the best overall match on the card, Rey Misterio, Jr. & Ultimo Dragon beat Psicosis & Heavy Metal; and in an undercard match of note, Konnan beats Chris Jericho and Bam Bam Bigelow in a triangle elimination in Bischoff’s first-ever look at Jericho. - At the latest monthly ECW Arena show in Philadelphia, the crutches-ridden Brian Pillman creates quite a stir by referring to the Gangstas tag team as “niggers with attitude,” based on the late-’80s Compton-based rap group of the same name. Most onlookers don’t think twice about the remark, but one person who does is Nu Jack of the Gangstas. After Pillman finishes his promo and makes his way backstage, Nu Jack allegedly flips out at him. Pillman apologizes and claims not to have intended the remark as a racial slut, but that explanation fails to conciliate Nu Jack, who threatens Paul Heyman that he will quit ECW if he doesn’t have an opportunity to respond by giving an offensive promo of his own. Heyman is upset by Nu Jack’s conduct and allegedly strongly considers calling his bluff but ultimately consents. Thus, in his promo, Nu Jack alleges that Pillman was caught having sex with “Z-Man” Tom Zenk at a WCW Saturday Night taping several years ago. Elsewhere on the show, the Eliminators (Perry Saturn & John Kronus) beat the Gangstas -- who have a busy night -- in the main event. MNW, 5/27: Raw - 3.34 (Vader vs. Ahmed Johnson); Nitro - 2.8 (Scott Steiner vs. Sting) June 3-9 -- Ending one of the hottest free-agent hold-out periods in the history of the business, Brian Pillman signs a three-year deal with the WWF on a large downside guarantee -- the first guaranteed money contract in the history of the promotion. Rumors have it that Eric Bischoff’s final proposal was a three-year deal of his own, for an astronomical $340,000 per annum. Allegedly, Pillman would have accepted the WCW offer if Bischoff had not insisted on including a “90-day review clause” giving the promotion the right to review his performance every three months and terminate his contract if they so wish. - Upset over the direction of the Shawn Michaels-Diana Smith sexual harassment storyline that has been the focus of the company for the previous two months, Davey Boy Smith gives notice to the WWF that he intends to sign with WCW when his contract runs out in August. - In Buffalo for what is promoted as the “Legends of the Aud,” WCW breaks its all-time gate record for a regular house show, drawing a crowd of 14,082 paying $193,465. The company’s previous gate record was $190,000 for the 1989 Great American Bash PPV in Baltimore, featuring Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk in the main event. The Buffalo show is held professedly as a tribute show for the late Ilio DiPaulo, who was a beloved figure in the Buffalo wrestling scene in the 1950s and ‘60s and passed away in 1995. In that spirit, numerous area legends partake in a lengthy ceremony at the outset of the card, including Bruno Sammartino, who receives one of the biggest pops of the evening. MNW, 6/3: Nitro - 3.01 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Steiners); Raw - 2.31 (Jake Roberts vs. HHH) June 10-16 -- Kevin Nash debuts on Monday Nitro, joining Scott Hall in badgering Eric Bischoff at the announcers’ table at the end of the show. “This show is about as interesting as Marge Schot reading excerpts from Mien Kamph,” he says, in a Dennis Miller-worthy opening salvo. “You couldn’t get a paleontologist to get some of these fossils cleared? You ain’t got enough guys off dialysis machines to get a team? Where’s Hogan? Out doing another episode of ‘Blunder in Paradise?’ Where’s the Macho Man, huh? Doing some Slim Jim commercial?” Nash then threatens to kick Bischoff’s teeth down his throat, which the crowd cheers heartily. Bischoff promises to try to get opponents lined up for Hall and Nash -- who still haven’t been referred to by any name at this point -- if they show up at the Great American Bash PPV in six days. Surprisingly, despite the excellent angle, Raw still scrapes by with a head-to-head victory over Nitro. It’s the last time that will happen for the next 95 weeks -- 83 of which are head-to-head. - To coincide with its suddenly-hot television product, WCW presents a blow-away PPV at the June 16 “Great American Bash.” In the main event, The Giant successfully defends his title against Lex Luger, while Dean Malenko’s Cruiserweight title defense against the debuting Rey Misterio, Jr. and Chris Benoit’s Falls Count Anywhere win over Kevin Sullivan furnish the card with a pair of workrate bonanzas. The show is much more notable, however, for a pair of angles: announcer-turned-wrestler Steve McMichael turns heel and joins the Four Horsemen in a great, self-contained swerve, at a time when they are still novel. Also, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall assault Eric Bischoff, with Nash powerbombing him off of the stage, through a table. - Brian Pillman’s signing is trumpeted during a “press conference” segment on Raw. - Taz beats former UFC star Paul Varelans at an ECW Arena show after interference from Perry Saturn of the Eliminators. Varelans had backed out of Paul Heyman’s original proposal which was to see him lose the match cleanly, and he had resolved to flake out of the card, but Missy Hyatt manages to convince him to follow the prescribed plan. MNW, 6/10: Raw - 2.74 (Undertaker vs. Davey Boy Smith); Nitro - 2.6 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson) June 17-23 -- The WWF (Titan Sports, Inc.) files a federal lawsuit in the state of Connecticut against WCW, Turner Broadcasting, and WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff in connection with WCW’s alleged attempts to deceive its viewers into thinking Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are acting under the direction of Vince McMahon in attempting to eradicate WCW. The four-point suit’s claims cite that: 1) WCW violated the Lanham Act by using “false and misleading descriptions of fact which are likely to cause confusion in the marketplace and deceive consumers”; 2) WCW infringed on WWF registered trademarks by having Hall play a similar characterization (latino accent, toothpick, etc.) to his Razor Ramon gimmick in the WWF; 3) WCW violated the Unfair Competition Act by permitting both Mark Madden and Gene Okerlund of the WCW Hotline to continuously and falsely insinuate that the WWF is on the verge of bankruptcy and to insinuate that Hall and Nash remain employed by the WWF; and 4) WCW is guilty of defamation and libel for the remarks Eric Bischoff and Steve McMichael made on the February 12 Nitro when they implied none-too-subtly that the WWF was somehow responsible for the brief power outage that interrupted the live broadcast that night. As far as damages, Titan is seeking all profits WCW made off the June 16 Great American Bash, triple the profits WCW will make from the Bash at the Beach PPV in July, and other unspecified punitive damages. WCW does manage to notch an early victory in the court proceedings when Chief U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey refutes WWF attorney Jerry McDevitt’s request for a restraining order that would have severely damaged the progress of the “hostile takeover” storyline. The lawsuit will remain an unremitting source of headaches for various WCW personnel for the next three years. - The WWF delivers a strong card in its fourth annual “King of the Ring” PPV, highlighted by Steve Austin’s historic KOTR tournament win and a successful Shawn Michaels title defense against Davey Boy Smith. Austin in particular makes waves in his post-victory interview, in which he uncorks both “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass” and “And that’s the bottom line, ‘cuz ‘Stone Cold’ said so” for the first time ever. - WWF champion Shawn Michaels grants an interview to Mike Mooneyham of the Charleston Post-Courier, as usual holding nothing back. On WCW: “I’ve been made offers from WCW... right now what is important to me is performing, and you don’t get a chance to do that there. But WCW needs to be there. Competition is good. If one company were to get control it would be bad for us wrestlers because they would have control and could do anything they wanted.” Regarding the “Clique,” he said: “There was this imaginary thing that we had some kind of control over the promotion. I guarantee there is only one man who runs our promotion, and that’s Vince McMahon. There are a number of guys who have no idea that Shawn Michaels has put in a good word for them (with Vince)... The wrestling business in general better be aware of us, because we’re on top in both places now so they better be awful nice to us.” On the speculation that Bret Hart is waiting in the wings for Michaels’ title reign to fail, before swooping in and reclaiming the top spot: “I have the utmost respect for Bret Hart... that is something I don’t think is good for our company. But I can understand it. Bret did a wonderful job as WWF champion. If there are negative feelings toward me, that’s other people’s business, and I can’t control it.” Regarding Hulk Hogan: “Hogan was probably not as fair to fans as he could have been. Claiming to be a role model and a superhero is something that’s very dangerous, especially when you self-proclaim that... I don’t claim to be a superhero or a role model. I’m just a 30-year-old man doing a job he loves to do... I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past, and I’ll probably make plenty more.” - Former WWF/WCW star Barry Windham, 36, contacts the WWF and is hired to a contract shortly hereafter. - The WWF hires Florida independent announcer Kevin Kelly to serve on its Sunday afternoon “Action Zone” program. MNW, 6/17: Nitro - 3.43 (The Giant vs. Scott Steiner); Raw - 2.32 (Goldust vs. Jake Roberts) June 24-30 -- The WWF continues its house show resurgence, drawing some of its biggest respective crowds in years in the cities of Indianapolis, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. - WCW makes overtures to ECW wrestlers Raven, Chris Jericho, and Mikey Whipwreck. Only Jericho demonstrates any immediate interest. - In the biggest singles match win of his career up to this point, Eddie Guerrero wins New Japan’s annual Top of the Juper Junior Tournament, beating Chris “Wild Pegasus” Benoit in the semi-finals and Jushin Liger in the finals. Jerry Lynn (then known as “Mr. JL” in WCW) also participates in the tournament, tearing his shoulder and being put out of commission for several months. - Hunter Hearst Helmsley does a chat room interview for the WWF’s AOL site and, in the same spirit of his “Clique” brethren, makes some controversial remarks regarding Brian Pillman: “They make a big deal out of his contract signing. I say, Big deal. Who cares? I’m sick and tired of this war with WCW allowing for guys to come in the door thinking they’re something because they made a little name for themsleves someplace else. If you’ve never been to the big dance and proven yourself there, then when you come in the door of the WWF -- which, no matter what anybody says, is the big dance -- then you start out on the ground floor just like everybody else. Until these people, including Brian Pillman, and we all know everybody else who I mean, prove themselves as main event draws that bring people to arenas, they have proven nothing to me. They should be forced to prove themselves.” - Bret Hart grants a very forthright interview to the Sasaktoon (Alberta) Star-Phoenix in which he carps on Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, and even the WWF. On Michaels: “I don’t respect (Shawn Michaels). I dont like the message he sends. The whole message is arrogance... too obnoxious, too cocky.” From there, Hart promises that he will retire “when the time comes,” unlike Hogan and Flair, and that he hasn’t embarrassed himself in his acting career, unlike Hogan and Piper. On the WWF, he says the company has “wiped out all the little guys like my dad and killed the breeding ground for the future.” On himself, he says, “There’s not a whole lot of difference between Bret Hart the wrestler and Bret Hart the person.” MNW, 6/24: Nitro - 3.24 (Sting & Lex Luger vs. Steiners vs. Harlem Heat); Raw - 2.71 (Undertaker vs. Steve Austin) WWF Title-holders (as of Dec. 31, 1996) -- Hvt. champion - Sid; Intercontinental champion - Hunter Hearst Helmsley; Tag Team champions - Owen Hart & Davey Boy Smith WCW Title-holders -- World champion - "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan; U.S. champion - Eddie Guerrero; Tag Team champions - The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash); TV champion - "Lord" Steven Regal ECW Title-holders -- Hvt. champion - Raven; TV champion - Taz; Tag Team champions - The Eliminators (Perry Saturn & John Kronus) Quote of the Year: "Vince McMahon is an egomaniacal punk." - Eric Bischoff, to the Miami Herald.
  16. It's One at number one... U2's One has been named the greatest lyric of all-time. It came top in the Nation's Favourite Lyric poll by VH1. Also scoring highly in the countdown were The Smiths, The Pogues and Christina Aguilera. In a shock development, Chico didn't quite make the countdown. Here's the Top 100 in full: 1) U2 – One 2) The Smiths – How Soon Is Now 3) Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit 4) Bob Marley – Redemption Song 5) Coldplay – Yellow 6) Eminem – Lose Yourself 7) Robbie Williams – Angels 8) The Who – My Generation 9) Radiohead – Creep 10) Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On 11) U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name 12) Abba - The Winner Takes It All 13) The Kinds – Waterloo Sunset 14) Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall 15) Tupac ft Snoop – California Love 16) Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody 17) Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues 18) Kaiser Chiefs – I Predict A Riot 19) David Bowie – Heroes 20) The Police – Every Breath You Take 21) REM – Everybody Hurts 22) Christina Aguilera – Beautiful 23) Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil 24) The Pogues – Fairytale Of New York 25) Elton John – Candle In The Wind 26) The Streets – Fit But You Know It 27) The Smiths – There Is A Light 28) The Beach Boys – God Only Knows 29) The Jam – That’s Entertainment 30) Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart 31) Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor 32) Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line 33) The Beatles – A Day In The Life 34) Eminem – Stan 35) Damien Rice – Cannonball 36) Dionne Warwick – Walk On By 37) The Smiths – This Charming Man 38) Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto 39) U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love) 40) The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony 41) The Undertones – Teenage Kicks 42) Radiohead – Karma Police 43) Carole King – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow 44) The Beatles – Yesterday 45) The Killers – All These Things That I Have Done 46) Jay Z – 99 Problems 47) David Bowie – Space Oddity 48) Little Richard – Tutti Frutti 49) Stevie Wonder – Livin For The City 50) Stone Roses – I Am The Resurrection 51) The Rolling Stones – Jumpin Jack Flash 52) The Clash – London Calling 53) Elvis Costello/Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding 54) White Stripes – Seven Nation Army 55) Cat Stevens – Father And Son 56) Snoop Dogg – Gin And Juice 57) James Brown – It’s A Man’s World 58) The Monkees – I’m A Believer 59) The Prodigy – Firestarter 60) George Michael – Freedom 90 61) Madness – Our House 62) Radiohead – Paranoid Android 63) The Kinks – Lola 64) Simply Red/Cole Porter – Every Time We Say Goodbye 65) Outkast – Hey Ya 66) Blur – Parklife 67) Public Enemy – Fight The Power 68) The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby 69) Robbie Williams – Feel 70) Missy Elliott – Ger Ur Freak On 71) The Righteous Brothers – Unchained Melody 72) Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy 73) Iggy Pop – The Passenger 74) T Rex – Children Of The Revolution 75) Underworld – Born Slippy 76) The Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated 77) Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA 78) Bill Withers – Lean On Me 79) Grandmaster Flash – The Message 80) Happy Mondays – Kinky Afro 81) The Beatles – Hey Jude 82) TLC – No Scrubs 83) Human League – Don’t You Want Me 84) Motorhead – Ace Of Spades 85) Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds 86) Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes 87) 50 Cent – 21 Questions 88) The Beatles – Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds 89) Bob Marley – No Woman No Cry 90) Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Thru The Grapevine 91) Kylie Minogue – I Should Be So Lucky 92) Roxy Music – Love Is The Drug 93) Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb – By The Time I Get To Phoenix 94) NWA – Straight Outta Compton 95) Scissor Sisters – Take Your Mama 96) Madonna – Like A Virgin 97) Radiohead – No Surprises 98) The Beatles- Sergeant Pepper 99) 10cc – Life Is A Minestrone 100) Ms Dynamite – It Takes More
  17. Missouri town learns sextuplet claim was a con No one ever saw infants, but wallets were opened out of trust The library books on multiple births crowded the couple’s coffee table. The bedroom-turned-nursery awaited the arrival of six newborns. But in the end, authorities say Sarah and Kris Everson never had the sextuplets as claimed. All they had was what appears to be a big lie. The couple’s dramatic story had holes in it from the start — from their mysterious withholding of information for more than a month to the unanimous response of area hospitals that they hadn’t helped deliver the newborns. On Tuesday, authorities said the mystery had been solved — the entire tale was deemed a hoax aimed at tapping the generosity of others to pay the couple’s mounting bills. “I have never dealt with anything like this,” Police Chief Aaron Ambrose said. “The level of fraud like this involving people, I have not.” Gary Bradley, the city administrator, said charges against the Eversons were forthcoming. Prosecutors had not yet determined how much the couple profited from the scam or whether they would qualify for charges beyond the municipal level. The Eversons — Sarah, 45, and Kris, 33 — claimed to have given birth to four boys and two girls on March 8. The babies were apparently in intensive care. The tale exploded in the local spotlight Monday when The Examiner in Independence ran on its front page a photograph of the couple holding six one-piece baby outfits and announcing the births. Those who heard the Eversons’ sad story of tight finances set up a Web site to solicit contributions — including a van, washer and dryer, cash and gift certificates. A real estate agent was even working to find the family new housing. Hours before admitting it was a scam, Sarah Everson showed an Associated Press reporter pictures of her in maternity clothes, her baring a huge pregnant-looking midsection, even sonogram images she claimed were of her infants. She showed off a tiny nursery, a closet full of baby clothes and the tiny diapers premature newborns must wear. She said the entire story of her children’s births was being kept secret by a court order enacted because a member of her husband’s family was trying to kill the Eversons and their new sextuplets. “I’m so afraid they’re not going to make it,” she sobbed. “Nobody understands how hard this is. I know that they’re here. I know what I had to go through to get them here.” Sarah Everson said a detective begin questioning her Tuesday evening; Bradley and Ambrose said the Eversons were interviewed at the police station for about an hour, during which they revealed the story was a scam. They were released pending charges. After the Examiner’s initial story, the AP did not publish a story or transmit photos about the sextuplets over concerns of accuracy. Reached by phone late Tuesday, Sarah Everson offered no explanation. “I’m not talking to anybody right now,” she said, “because nobody gets it.” The Web site soliciting gifts was taken down Tuesday night. Examiner Editor Dale Brendel said he was considering a front-page column to readers addressing the issue. He said the incident would force a review of his reporters’ verification practices. “I think that we fell victim to the hoax. There were people out in the community who were doing fund-raisers already, and we feel bad for them and for us that we were the victims of that,” Brendel said. “In retrospect, there were things we could have done better from a newspaper standpoint, in terms of our investigations and trying to flesh out some of the red flags there were about the story.”
  18. I don't think it would've happened, however saying it had zero (0%) chance of happening it being a little naive. It could've happened, it just would've been very unlikely. No, HTQ is quite right to say that. It's like the chance of you waking up to discover that the sky is green, or that pigs are passing by your window in fully aviated mode. It's simply outwith the realms of possibility that, in 1997 at the height of the legal action between the two companies, a contracted WWF worker could appear on WCW televison, and even less chance of him bringing the WWF's world title belt with him.
  19. KTID

    Curiouser and curiouser...

    Since when do we need a reason for random bumpings?
  20. KTID

    Curiouser and curiouser...

    A bump so big it gave me a headache.
  21. KTID

    Hillarious Vince McMahon AOL chat

    Some classics in there... Question: Who would you like to see represent the WWF as their Champion? Mr. McMAHON: Bob Backlund, however, Mr. Backlund is too old. Question: Is Sid coming back? Mr. McMAHON: I hope not. Question: Vince, what kind of working relationship, if any, do you have with Paul Heyman of ECW? Mr. McMAHON: I hear from Paul approximately once every three months when he wants something. That's the extent of the relationship. Question: Vinnie Mac, what are your concerns now that the Warrior has joined WCW? Mr. McMAHON: None! Whose left that WCW can take? Bruno Sammartino? Question: Mr. McMahon, are you and Bret Hart in cahoots against WCW? Mr. McMAHON: Bret is my secret agent, however, not a very good one! Ha Ha Ha Question Vince you need to further improve your light weight division.....the belt seems almost meaningless. How will you improve this? Mr. M Yokozuna is on a diet! Perhaps an influx of Ethiopian talent would be appropriate Question Mr. McMahon, with the huge ratings Raw brings in, why is USA prempting it just for the 3 redneck tennis fans in Alabama? Mr. M Those three redneck fans in Alabama obviously hold a great deal of USA Network's stock. They are actually Larry, Curly and Moe of the Three Stooges. However, US Open Tennis of this year will have a WWF flavor. Question where is the patriot? Mr. M The Patriot is where all old patriots go, probably in a VFW home somewhere in South Carolina. Question Mr. McMahon who is your favorite wrestler Mr. M George the Animal Steele Question Do you plan on signing randy savage when his contract expires? Mr. M In the year 2032, that might be a little late. ...I doubt that it's a real interview with Vince McMahon, but funny all the same.