*Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at [f4wonline]( and checking out the full archives.* --- **PREVIOUS YEARS ARCHIVE:** **[1991]( • [1992]( • [1993]( • [1994]( • [1995]( • [1996]( • [1997]( • [1998](** | | | | | ---|---|----|---- [**1-4-1999**]( | [**1-11-1999**]( | [**1-18-1999**]( | [**1-25-1999**]( | [**2-1-1999**]( | [**2-8-1999**]( | [**2-15-1999**]( | [**2-22-1999**]( | [**3-1-1999**]( | [**3-8-1999**]( | [**3-15-1999**]( | [**3-22-1999**]( | [**3-29-1999**]( | [**4-5-1999**]( | [**4-12-1999**]( | [**4-19-1999**]( | [**4-26-1999**]( | [**5-3-1999**]( | [**5-10-1999**]( | [**5-17-1999**]( | [**5-24-1999**]( | [**5-31-1999**]( | [**6-7-1999**]( | [**6-14-1999**]( | [**6-21-1999**]( | [**6-28-1999**]( | [**7-5-1999**]( | [**7-12-1999**]( | [**7-19-1999**]( | [**7-26-1999**]( | [**8-2-1999**]( | [**8-9-1999**]( | [**8-16-1999**]( | [**8-23-1999**]( | [**8-30-1999**]( | [**9-6-1999**]( | [**9-13-1999**]( | [**9-20-1999**]( | [**9-30-1999**]( | [**10-4-1999**]( | --- - **WWF head writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera abruptly quit the company this week and signed deals with WCW**. In interviews, Russo said being overworked and burned out (due to the addition of Smackdown) led to him approaching WCW, saying he was drained from being on call 24-hours a day for the last 3 years working for McMahon. After several meetings with new WCW head Bill Busch, he quit and signed a 2-year deal with WCW. Russo and Ferrera are responsible for a lot of the changes in WWF over the years, with focus on more soap opera-type stories and emphasizing sex to draw the teenage and young adult crowd. How Russo and Ferrera will fit into the Turner-system remains to be seen, since they won't stand for much of the stuff that has made WWF so popular and he'll surely be handcuffed somewhat. Dave talks about how Turner's Standards and Practices Dept. just recently nixed the gay Lenny and Lodi tag team, an angle that was tame compared to WWF-standards. Anyway, Russo's official title in WCW is "Creative Supervisor" and he's been given full authority on all angles and booking. Russo is in an interesting position here. He has a good track record, having been the key writer that fueled the WWF's comeback in the last 3 years. WWF went from being on the verge of bankruptcy in 1997 to becoming a juggernaut. Now it's time to see if he can do the same with WCW. Both Russo and Ferrera were working without contracts in WWF, which Dave calls a stunning oversight. Russo says that it's not a money issue, and claims he's only making a little more in WCW than he was in WWF. After Russo and Ferrera requested a raise and more time off, McMahon responded with an offer that wasn't quite satisfactory to them, so Russo contacted WCW and got them both hired there. Russo called Vince McMahon as he was returning from the UK PPV in England and told him the news. reported it 10 minutes later and WCW announced it on Nitro that night. The news came as a shock to pretty much everyone in both companies. - **Dave recaps Russo's history in the WWF** and notes how he focused on shorter matches (he's on record saying that no match should be longer than 7 minutes) and also saying that no Japanese or Mexican wrestler could ever get over with U.S. fans. He's known for soap opera-like stories and focusing on the entertainment aspect and pretty much everyone agrees that he can't book an actual wrestling match to save his life and sucks at coming up with finishes (thus why half of WWF's matches end with the "sports entertainment finish" where something happens and the match just sorta ends with no explanation and no winner). As for Ed Ferrera, Dave doesn't say much about him other than talking about he did an angle on WWF TV awhile back where he played a fan who was mocking Jim Ross' Bells Palsy and then Steve Williams beat him up (Ferrera isn't done mocking J.R. just yet). Anyway, if nothing else, Dave says this will finally answer the question about who's truly responsible for the success of WWF these days. While Russo and Ferrera were the head writers and came up with many of the ideas, Vince McMahon was always the one with the final say, tweaking what he didn't like and throwing out stuff he didn't think would work. So now the question becomes, can Vince Russo succeed without Vince McMahon overseeing him? (spoiler alert: HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAH no.) - **WWF filed a breach of contract against Martha Hart and the estate of Owen Hart**, asking the court to dismiss Hart's lawsuit against them and damages of $75,000 plus lawyers fees. And if the lawsuit isn't dismissed, they at least want the case moved to Connecticut. The lawsuit alleges that Owen Hart's contract that he signed in 1996 requires any and all claims related to his contract must be tried in Connecticut. The suit states that Owen Hart's contract acknowledged that his participation in performing as a wrestler involved potential risk of injury or death and that by signing the contract, he agreed to the risks. WWF also claims that by signing the contract, Owen and/or his estate waived the right to sue the company for injury or death. Dave notes that Owen's original contract was for $250,000 per year, but he was given a raise to $400,000 after the Montreal screwjob in order to get him to stay. The question is whether the contract Owen signed applies to Martha Hart after his death. WWF continued to send Martha her husband's paychecks for 3 months after his death, in order to assert that the contract was still valid. Martha returned all of the checks un-cashed. It's believed a jury in Connecticut would likely be more favorable to WWF, although it would still be tried under Missouri negligence laws since that's where the accident took place. - **Speaking of Owen Hart, this week's WCW Nitro took place in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, the same arena where Owen died**. Several weeks ago, Bret Hart approached WCW management and had asked to have a match with Chris Benoit on the show. There had been talks of doing a more elaborate ceremony for Owen and to bring in Stu Hart as well, but they nixed those plans because they didn't want to appear to be exploiting Owen's death. Harley Race was brought in as ring announcer, due to his Kansas City connections, and Bret and Benoit went on to have the longest match in the history of Nitro, with Bret winning with a sharpshooter after 27+ minutes. Both men hugged after the match and Dave just thinks the whole thing was pretty great. When he asked for the match, Hart had requested at least 25 minutes, no outside interference, and no angles or storylines. He also requested that Benoit win. WCW agreed to all of it except the last part, and Hart ended up being booked to win. --- [**WATCH: Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit - WCW Nitro (Owen Hart tribute match)**]( --- - **WWF's latest UK-only PPV Rebellion took place last week and was said to be a strong show**. They did an angle with British Bulldog wanting a title shot against Triple H but Vince wouldn't give it to him, so he threw a garbage can at Vince and hit Stephanie instead. Bulldog ended up interfering in the Rock/Triple H title match and basically turned full-blown heel and the show ended with Rock beating up Bulldog, which apparently the British crowd loved because Rock can do no wrong these days. Even when he's beating up the local hero, they still love him. - **The wrestling business may be finally starting to bend a little under the strain of overexposure, with pretty much every wrestling show last week doing lower-than-normal ratings**. Raw was down nearly a full point from last week. Nitro's overall rating was also lower than usual, although the Hart/Benoit match actually saw ratings increase substantially for that half hour. Smackdown did about the same number it usually does, which doesn't seem bad at first. But WCW Thunder wasn't on this week, so Smackdown was airing unopposed, which means it should have done its highest rating ever. Instead, it just did the usual average. That show also featured Triple H as the focal point of the show and wrestling 5 matches, so it doesn't look great for him as a ratings draw either. ECW on TNN did its lowest rating ever in its short history. Even Sunday night Heat and Live Wire did lower than average numbers. Dave pretty much blames it on overexposure. Between WWF, WCW, and ECW and all their various shows, there's more than a dozen hours of wrestling to watch each week and it's just too much. And that's not even counting the multiple 3-hour PPVs every month. Oh hey, speaking of wrestling PPVs... - **A PPV called Heroes of Wrestling will be airing this week, put together buy a guy named Bill Stone of FOSSTONE Productions**. Stone says he needs about 41,000 buys to break even and if the show is a success, they plan to run 3 more similar shows in 2000. The hope is that nostalgia can draw the viewers. The show is loaded up with just about every recognizable name from the past that you could want to see. Yokozuna, King Kong Bundy, Jake Roberts, Jimmy Snuka, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Abdullah the Butcher, Tully Blanchard, George Steele, Bushwhackers, and more. Dave thinks this idea might be a year too late because wrestling PPV buyrates seem to have peaked about a year ago and have since leveled off. But this will be the chance to find out if there's a market for wrestling nostalgia. - **Dave announces that he is working on some things that will basically change the business of the Observer**. The newsletter will always be the main product, but there are new things in the works. For starters, the 2-hour daily live internet radio show he mentioned last week. So far they've only done 1 show and Dave says it was riddled with technical issues. He also says it's really fun when people call in, but was boring and tedious when people weren't calling. They're also in the process of trying to buy back old issues of the Observer (Dave never kept archives back in the early days so he doesn't have them anymore) so they can archive them. The website should be up and running now and will also feature writings from Bryan Alvarez of the Figure Four Weekly newsletter. - **On the ECW on TNN show, Joey Styles took some subtle shots at TNN** because they wouldn't allow them to air a mixed-tag match involving Jazz due to TNN not allowing man-on-women violence to be shown (these attacks on TNN are going to get a lot less subtle over the next year or so). - **Notes from Nitro**: Psicosis showed up as WCW cruiserweight champion, which is interesting because Lenny Lane was the previous champion. After the Lenny Lane gimmick (with him and Lodi being gay together) got dropped due to Turner execs freaking out, they apparently just took the title off Lenny and gave it to Psicosis with a match between them never taking place. Sooooooo...Psicosis is the cruiserweight champion, with no real explanation given. Someone in WCW just took the belt away from Lenny, handed it to Psicosis and said, "Here, you're the champion now." Anyway, Psicosis immediately lost it to Disco Inferno on the same show. Hall and Nash came through the crowd and Heenan interviewed them. Hall did his drunk act (Dave says at least he hopes it was an act). Hall then outright said Nash is "working a retirement angle." Oh, WCW. Anyway, Sid's unbeaten record is now 120-0 and at least now WCW finally had the common sense to portray it as a joke and are no longer pretending it's a legit number, as they have in previous weeks. They have to get him up to 172 in time for his match with Goldberg in a couple of weeks, so basically every victory counts as 10. Dave thinks Torrie Wilson is possibly the most marketable woman in the business right now and WCW should be pushing her to the moon like WWF did with Sable but instead, she's basically treated as an afterthought. - **One final note from Nitro in relation to former WCW referee Brian Hildebrand who passed away a few weeks ago**. Hildebrand was cremated and had requested his ashes be burned up in the pyro on Nitro and....they did it. Hildebrand's wife was there and everything (that can't possibly be true right? They just stuffed a bunch of dead body crumbs into the pyro machine thingie and fired it off in a building full of people? Holy shit...) - **There's been talk of cutting Nitro back down to 2 hours and Thunder down to 1 hour**. The upside is that it would be a huge relief to the overworked roster and crew and probably make for tighter, better shows. The downside is that they would lose a lot of ad revenue money (same reason USA made WWE add a 3rd hour to Raw). - **WCW contract notes**: Scott Norton and Mike Enos are gone from WCW. Dave says Norton had a ridiculous $800,000 per year contract which sounds absurd on the surface, but they made a lot of money on sending him to Japan where he's a big star, so at least some of the salary could be justified but not entirely. Also, ICP is back with the company for now. - **The Nitro Girls were taken off TV for a couple of weeks due to the girls not getting along**. It seems to stem from most of them not liking Kimberly. It looks like they're going to remove Kimberly and just make her DDP's manager and let some other girl be leader of the Nitro Girls. - **Bret Hart ripped on British Bulldog for going to WWF**. Apparently Bulldog said something about honoring Owen's life by returning and, for obvious reasons, Bret doesn't feel like Bulldog is honoring much of anything by working for Vince. Dave says Bulldog hasn't mentioned Owen or Bret on TV, although he apparently said some controversial things about Bret in the sit-down interview he filmed with Jim Ross after he re-signed, but of course, that never aired. - **Latest on Gorilla Monsoon** is that his health condition is considered grave at the moment (his obituary will be Friday). - **Ken Shamrock's neck injury is significant but likely won't require surgery**. At this point, it looks like he's done with pro wrestling and is looking to get back into MMA next year (yup). - **Notes from Raw**: they did another GTV segment where Droz threw up in D-Lo's gym bag, so Dave figures a match between them will probably be added to the upcoming PPV (Droz ends up paralyzed the very next day). During a promo with Rock and Jericho, the Rock had a line about how Jericho used to "beat up some jabroni named Juventud down south." Speaking of Jericho, for a guy who came in with so much fanfare, he's been mostly treated like a midcard nobody since showing up. - **Solofa Fatu worked a dark match at Smackdown doing a new gimmick**. You may remember him under his former gimmicks of The Sultan, Make A Difference Fatu or Headshrinker Fatu. Dave doesn't know why they need another slow big guy with no charisma. (Dave ends up having to eat his words on this one. Within a year, Rikishi ends up being one of the most popular stars in the company). - **Correction from last week**: former ECW valet Kimona has NOT signed with WWF. She was brought in for a tryout and they're debating whether or not to offer her a contract but haven't yet. - **Shawn Michaels is said to actually be excited that WWF is sending him to Japan** to be a referee for an FMW show, because he's hoping to make some connections there so he can get bookings for the students at his wrestling academy. - **Taz is expected to basically do the exact same character** and gimmick he did in ECW when he debuts for WWF next year. - **People Magazine** is said to be considering the Rock to be included in it's Sexiest Men of the Year list. - **Someone writes in wondering which wrestlers, past or present, might do well if they transitioned to UFC and he lists off a few**. Dave responds, pointing out that it's like any other sport, it requires training, but the ones with some background in it or basis for shoot fighting would probably do better than anyone else. Shamrock and Severn obviously. Dave says that Kurt Angle, given that he's a legit Olympic gold medal wrestler, would probably do great in UFC if he wanted to commit the time and effort into training in all the other aspects of MMA. Rick and Scott Steiner are considered tough guys in pro wrestling, but Dave says there are guys in UFC with amateur wrestling backgrounds who would wipe the floor with both of them, so he doesn't think they'd fare well. The letter writer mentioned Taz. Dave says his shoot reputation is entirely a Paul Heyman creation. Dave says he's probably a tough guy in real life but he has pretty much no formal training in any real fighting style and he was never anything special as an amateur wrestler, so no. Harley Race, tough street fighter but never had any formal training and would get destroyed in the octagon. Dave thinks Danny Hodge, in the 175 pound weight class in his prime, probably would have been damn near unbeatable if he had some training under his belt. The guy mentioned Scott Norton and Dave says Norton is freakishly strong, but he also got his ass kicked by Tony Halme several years ago in a Japanese bar, and Halme has gotten his shit wrecked several times in MMA, so you do the math. --- ***FRIDAY:*** *Gorilla Monsoon passes away, Droz gets paralyzed, more on Vince Russo/Ed Ferrara, Heroes of Wrestling PPV fallout, and more...*