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The Wrestling Observer Files: January 4th, 1999

The first newsletter for 1999…

83% of the Observer readers gave Starrcade ’98 a thumbs down. The triple threat match between Rey Mysterio Jr., Eddie Guerrero and Juventud Guerrera was the only match to get best match of the night votes (101). Meanwhile, the tag match that saw Scott Norton & Brian Adams vs. Jerry Flynn & Fit Finlay earned the worst match of the night (40).

Manking won the WWF World Championship on 12/29 from The Rock in Worcester, MA. This was likely done to combat the 1/4 Nitro that will have the Goldberg/Nash rematch.

As we enter 1999, the WWF is kicking WCW’s ass in every aspect from ratings to house show numbers. WWF closed 1998 with eleven straight sellouts. WWF had record numbers in New York and Chicago, in fact. WCW would be hard press not to make money at this point even though they rely on wrestlers in their 40s. Meltzer notes that it seems like it’s almost cool amongst fans to buy WCW tickets and then show up not caring about the product. That became evident at Starrcade.

The smaller wrestlers in WCW are having trouble getting over as the wrestling industry is going back to the old “bigger is better” motto. The casual fans are attracted to the star power while the diehard fans can appreciate other things. One thing is for certain in 1999, and that is the product will change greatly, again.

Meanwhile, WWF has done an incredible job creating new stars, characters and popular stories. Wrestling has never been more of a soap opera for men than it is right now. Meltzer believes this will be the year WWF increases their gap on WCW. Guys like Chris Jericho, Konnan and the Giant are the only major holdouts with Giant likely leaving when his contract expires in February.

WWF has made main event acts out of Steve Austin, the Rock, members of DX and Kane. WCW has a deal with NBC, for multi-millions, and would lead to six major events on the station. Including a Saturday morning cartoon and two movies, which would help with exposure. If WCW were to land that deal, they could keep up with WWF, despite the WWF rocket launch in popularity.

ECW has grown greatly through 1998 as prior they wouldn’t reach 2,000 in the arenas, but now it’s not all that uncommon. Their problem is lack of quality shows on pay per view, aside from the Heatwave pay per view, anyway.

Meltzer thinks it is ironic that, despite a strong TV presence and rating, that major events quality have dipped. That has been the trend for WCW for a while as they relied on having strong midcards and then disappointing, but marketable, main events. That worked in 1997, but in the boom period their numbers went down by the end of the year. WWF PPV shows have gotten worse throughout 1998 because they lack depth to their midcard and several talents (Kane, Outlaws) don’t deliver on the big stage. With the trend of so many PPV shows and many bad ones, it could possibly lead to a decrease in PPV buys in the future.

Dave proceeds to talk about how a possible issue with labor could come up in 1999. Wrestlers are grossly underpaid compared to athletes. WWF and WCW both made around 200 million last year, at least most likely. Their wages were probably 20 to 35 million spent, with WWF being on the lower end, if not under 20 and WCW being in the 35 range. Meanwhile, sports teams will bring in 100 million and pay their players between 35 to 70 million, depending on the franchise. Plus, wrestlers pay for their expenses on the road with only a few exceptions to that rule. If the revenue increases then the idea of a union may arise. Dave thinks that wrestlers are slowly getting out of the mindset that they never thought they’d make more than $50 a night and starting to think like a basketball player who grew up with agents boosting their ego and thoughts about money at a young age.

He does note that athletes can’t skip out on a summer if they don’t want to play, nor can they have it in their contracts that they only want to play 25 games (Hogan in WCW). Regardless, he thinks it is going to be an interesting year to watch out for.

Starrcade 1998 took place on December 27th, 1998 and had a sellout of 16,066 with a paid audience of $584,236 and merchandise sales of $114,120. That would be largest PPV gage for WCW and fourth largest gate ever. The show mainly focused on WCW World Champion Goldberg defending against Kevin Nash and Eric Bischoff taking on Ric Flair.

The show also featured Billy Kidman getting a chance to get over as a superstar after he had two very good matches on the show one right after the other. However, it’s noted that the crowd didn’t seem to care for it. If the angle happened somewhere else at a different time, it would have worked, but not on this night.

Apparently, Dusty Rhodes was supposed to be the referee for Bischoff vs. Flair and Saturn vs. Miller was supposed to be a kickboxing match, but they weren’t announced publicly. Flair was to have also put his career on the line against control of the company. Plus, in Japan, it was promoted that Scott Norton would defend the IWGP Championship against Van Hammer. There were also plans of a match between Lex Luger and Scott Steiner, but Luger nixed that. Scott Hall vs. Bam-Bam Bigelow was promoted as a last minute addition, but it also didn’t take place. Hall had twisted his knee on Nitro and they were both booked to be involved in the main event, anyway.

Here are the Starrcade 1998 quick results with Meltzer’s ratings…

1.) WCW Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman defeated Rey Mysterio Jr. & Juventud Guerrera in a triple threat match (****1/2)
2.) WCW Cruiserweight Champion Billy Kidman defeated Eddie Guerrero (***1/2)
3.) Norman Smiley defeated Prince Iaukea (DUD)
4.) Perry Saturn defeated Ernest Miller (DUD)
5.) Brian Adams & Scott Norton defeated David Finlay & Jerry Flynn (1/4*)
6.) WCW Television Champion Konnan defeated Chris Jericho (**1/4)
7.) Eric Bischoff defeated Ric Flair (**)
8.) Diamond Dallas Page defeated The Giant (3/4*)
9.) Kevin Nash defeated WCW World Champion Goldberg to win the title (**3/4)

HERE AND THERE

There was a story on Wahoo McDaniel and his recent poor health. He’s looking for a new kidney and would accept death, but he wants to see his 10-year old grow up. Meltzer notes there’s several errors in the New York Post article as it claims that Wahoo made $600,000 in his best year wrestling, but it was more around $100,000.

In Memphis, there was an award show and Derrick King won Rookie of the Year. Bill Dundee got mad about being cut out of the video and was going to have a woman named Samantha strip, but that didn’t happen. Kid Wikkid won Most Improved. Tony Falk won the “Turkey of the Year” award because his wife left him, his kids hate him and he’s an overall embarrassment. Stacey won Woman of the Year, which pissed off Samantha. Brian Christopher got mad that he didn’t win Most Popular, and Bill Dundee attacked Jerry Lawler, who won the award. Mick Tierney won Wrestler of the Year by winning a battle royal last eliminating Streak.

Erin O’Grady will be out for three months due to a shoulder injury.

Chris Michaels won the NWA North American Championship from the Colorado Kid on 12/26 in Nashville.

The people for Roller Jam had their documentary air on 12/26 on TNN. Meltzer notes that they’ve done better with their advertisements in three minutes than WCW has in the past two years. They have a $4 million dollar budget for advertisements. They took full page ads out in ESPN Magazine and Sports Illustrated. The skaters for the show were taken from casting calls, so it’s not a legit sports competition.

ECW:

The main event for Guilty As Charged on 1/10 has been changed to ECW World Champion Shane Douglas defending against Taz. The thought was to have Sabu added to make it a triple threat match, but they’re going to go with the injury angle for Sabu. Spike Dudley replces Mikey Whipwreck in the triple threat match with Lance Storm and Jerry Lynn. A match between the Dudley Boys against Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney could be added. However, Paul Heyman is attempting to work a deal with a major name to appear.

Some news out of the 12/26 Queens show, which was perhaps the second best show of the year because of the crowd. It was announced that the television show would return to the MSG Network on 1/2, which was received well.

Tajiri signed a three year deal with the company and will live in Philadelphia.

Reckless Youth made his debut against Nova winning the match, but didn’t look to be as good as he was hyped up to be. Though, there is potential there.

One Man Gang is the newest member of the FBI.

Super Crazy signed a one-year deal and will live in Philadelphia. He will be flown back to Mexico every six weeks, though.

The major angle out of the show was Taz declining money, and Francine, from Shane Douglas and wanted a title shot. That caused Francine to leave Douglas because he wouldn’t listen to her. Douglas was trying to pay Taz back for taking out Sabu.

Expect Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch to return at Guilty As Charged.

New Jack’s trial for felony assault and battery with a deadly weapon in relation to the Mass Transit starts on 4/7. He could face up to 11 years in prison, if convicted.

Jerry Lynn isn’t 100%, but will be at the PPV. He has a cracked pelvis amongst many other injuries.

Justin Credible’s new valet, Jazz, has been getting a lot of praise.

Some other notes from TV included the debut of Jazz attacking Chastity, Terry Funk proclaiming that Justin Credible was his new protege, Tajiri vs. Antifaz and Meltzer puts over the tarantula hold. There was an angle between Robert Gibson and Danny Doring where Doring claimed that Gibson was his father. It apparently didn’t come off very well. The injury spot in the Taz/Sabu match, which originally had Credible it in it but they edited out his involvement, looked really good especially in slow motion.

WCW:

An update on the NBC deal is that it is a six date deal and that NBC could cancel at any point in time. NBC wants the shows to take place in Las Vegas and have their stars there for cross promotion purposes. Two of the dates are 2/14 and 3/28, which are the same day as WWF pay per views. The specials will jump ahead of Nitro and PPV in terms of importance. However, NBC has not officially claimed there’s a deal in place.

Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero have not signed new three year deals that would see their contract raise each year from 400k to 500k, but Meltzer hasn’t been told that. They were all at odds with WCW, but the money is too good to pass up compared to what WWF could offer them. Rey Mysterio Jr. is in the same position.

Billy Kidman’s contract is expiring soon, as well.

Steve McMichael was back at the TV in St. Louis but wasn’t used.

Jason Hervey is in charge of the Trident Entertainment videos for Sting and Randy Savage.

WCW had a show at the Nassau Coliseum and still drew around 13,000 despite having had two bad Nitros in the building recently. Kevin Nash retained the title over Goldberg and Bigelow after pinning Bigelow. It was reported that the fans weren’t that interested in Nash.

WCW had a tour set for England, Germany, Israel and Australia, but Bischoff cancelled it because they need to focus on making the NBC deal work. Plus, the lack of high profit wasn’t worth it.

Ciclope has a blood build-up in his knee and is out of action.

Goldberg is in a new movie named Universal Solider II. Apparently, Sable auditioned for the movie, but Kianna Tom got the part.

The belief is that Kevin Nash will give Hulk Hogan the WCW World Championship at the Georgia Dome. The idea being a strong WCW with the Horsemen to battle the strong New World Order, which was the case in 1996.

Randy Anderson getting fired in 1997 has been shown a lot because he’s ready to return and the first action Flair will do as President is give him his job back.

WWF:

Steve Austin has been pulled off the road until the Royal Rumble to allow him to heal. He was there in Worcester and he’s needed for the Super Bowl ad they are filming.

Jim Ross hopes to be back in time for the Royal Rumble.

Shawn Michaels was turned babyface on television because he’s going in for back surgery and they need a story for when he eventually returns. There’s no concrete knowledge on if he’ll be able to return to in-ring competition at any point.

Ken Shamrock will be having arthroscopic elbow surgery on 1/5 and is out until the Royal rumble.

The idea of Bart Gunn fighting Tank Abbott in a Brawl For All match has fallen through because Abbott’s asking price was $55,000. Kimo and Butterbean have been brought up and they have one more date to use on Butterbean dating back to the Marc Mero angle. However, Butterbean is heavy in-demand and might not be able to fit it in his schedule. Any match with another wrestler isn’t likely to happen due to the risk of injury.

The main matches on the house shows with Austin out will include Undertaker vs. Kane in street fights, Rock vs. HHH, Pac vs. Jarrett, Mankind vs. Test, Animal & Droz vs. Faarooq & Bradshaw.

Mick Foley won the Time Magazine Man of the Year award getting 192,365 votes. Bret Hart only got 11,276 for eighth place.

Thanks for reading.

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