I’ve had a number of discussions over the last few weeks about booking philosophies with some people inside the business. The range of opinions is fantastic, as far as if workers should be bookers (my opinion is no with rare exceptions) and how to determine who should be pushed and when. And you see it not only on our message board at The Real TSM, but also on my Pro Wrestling Weekend podcast and pretty much every wrestling website imaginable.
I think it’s in our nature. As wrestling fans, we know what we do and don’t like and how we want the product to go. You’ve also heard the expression “Monday morning quarterback”, which refers to a football fan saying how he would have called for the flea flicker play because then the game-ending interception wouldn’t have happened. Everybody thinks they know better than whoever actually made the decision.
Now a couple of weeks ago, Andrew Lutzke did a fantasy booking column on what could have happened had the Radicalz stayed in WCW in 2000 instead of jumping to the WWF. This isn’t a column about whether I agree or disagree with his vision. But this column…and the nature of the vast majority of the work I’ll be doing for this site moving forward…was inspired by that effort.
But I wanted to take a different approach to the fantasy booking column. Instead of saying “what if…” and doing one scenario and calling it a day, I thought I’d focus on trying to keep history as it actually happened but using random incidents to change philosophies and direction.
So I purchased a copy of Adam Ryland’s absolutely fantastic Total Extreme Wrestling 2013, available here and downloaded a mod called “The War to Settle the Score”. The scenario begins in January 1983, six months after Vince McMahon has purchased the WWF from his father but about a year before he began aggressively trying to expand his company worldwide. My premise? We already know Vince’s idea worked, so instead of changing things in my own vision, I’m going to try to do things as close to how Vince did them as possible, but using the random incidents that TEW gives you (failed drug tests, unexpected defections, deaths, etc.) to alter booking plans. So yes, the plan is to sign Hulk Hogan in December, have him win the title in January 1984, and hold it for the next four years. But what happens if, say, Hogan signs a written deal with the AWA in June? Yes, I’m looking at Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson winning the tag team titles in November or December, but what happens if Johnson breaks a leg in October or if Atlas dies of a drug overdose two weeks after they win the belts?
This will be fun for me, and hopefully you’ll all enjoy the journey with me as well.
A few things to keep in mind.
The mods are done by other TEW users and as such are not 100% historically accurate at the start. Sometimes they forget to put certain wrestlers in the scenario, sometimes the wrestlers are assigned to the wrong rosters, and you never know which angles are going to be preinstalled or which arenas they’ll put in. I will add angles and arenas to the scenario as needed but I won’t touch the wrestlers as trying to get their stats correct is a pain in the neck. I will be doing my best to explain, in a realistic way, why the starting roster in the game is different than what it really was.
Secondly, instead of using the calendar we are all familiar with, TEW uses a strict four week a month format, with a week running Monday-Sunday. This is why you’ll see dates listed as “Wednesday, Week 1” instead of “January 5”. I’ll be writing these articles one week at a time. Some articles will be longer than others depending on special events (I’ll be booking MSG and Spectrum shows as big events at first, just like the WWF did in 1983), plus I’ll try signing the new talent on the first of the month, so expect columns with those events to be longer than just, say, the second week of the month when I book TV and that’s it.
Next, you’ll see notices about people who signed, people who didn’t, and the reasons why. Every single person I try to sign in this scenario will be people who worked at least one show for the WWF during the month in question. This is to avoid those cases I frequently see in fantasy booking scenarios where people are leaving companies who would never under any circumstances leave their home promotion, like Kerry Von Erich randomly leaving World Class or Greg Gagne leaving the AWA to start his own promotion. OK, nobody’s ever booked a scenario about Greg Gagne running opposition to Verne but who would really want to? I might embellish a little bit (you’ll see this with a certain lady who will now no longer be part of the rock ‘n’ wrestling connection which will lead to a MAJOR change in booking in 1984) but are based on the real reason provided by TEW for the refusal to sign. I’ll use creative license a lot because I want to try to make this an interesting read.
Finally, I am trying to write this like you’d see it on a standard wrestling news site. This is to try to give some feel of authenticity to those events that are shaping the course of my fantasy WWF. TEW gives you notes as to how the segments went, so any opinions given during the show recaps are based on those notes. Trust me, nobody who really thinks their booking is awesome will book a bad match, admit it’s a bad match, and tell you why they think it’s a bad match. TEW does it for you, and I’ll admit to it.
OK, enough with the set up and explanations. Let’s see how yours truly handles the book.
January 1, 1983
MAJOR SHAKEUP IN THE WWF!
The World Wrestling Federation has a new head booker, and his name is a virtual unknown named Jared Hawkins.
It has been well known for some time that WWF owner Vince McMahon, in attempting to take the company in a different direction from his father after purchasing the company this past June, was looking for a new head booker, but this is a shock. Rumors had it that George Scott was ready to take over, having recently left Jim Crockett Promotions over a dispute with JCP head Jim Crockett, or possibly Pat Patterson, who had unofficially been under interim booker Gorilla Monsoon’s wing for the past several months. Scott has been hired by Vince McMahon himself as a road agent.
Word has it that Hawkins was working in the WWF offices as an intern, mostly doing filing and data entry, but from time to time was asked by McMahon for opinions on certain aspects of the company. Vince apparently liked some of the ideas he gave. He is young, having just turned 18 a few months ago (NOTE: That’s some of that creative license I was talking about as I was four years old at the time), and McMahon thinks a younger guy in there will help change the direction of the company. If you recall, Vince McMahon very publicly left the NWA in September at the annual convention, claiming that he saw where the future of the business was headed and if other promoters didn’t follow his lead that they’d be on the outside looking in before they knew what happened. By making this move, he’s symbolically saying it’s time to kick the old guard to the curb and let the new guard reign.
There were a number of signings in the last few days before the change was made. Those signed during the previous week were Alexis Smirnoff, Brian Blair, Bruno Sammartino (who will be a road agent), Butcher Vachon (who will start as a road agent but may transfer into competing), David Sammartino, The Invaders, Iron Mike Sharpe, Ivan Koloff, Lord Alfred Hayes, Masked Superstar, Mil Mascaras, Rene Goulet, The Iron Sheik, Tiger Chung Lee, Tiger Conway Jr., Tito Santana and Tony Atlas. Hawkins was apparently happier with some of these signings than others, but most will be used in some capacity although some will be pushed sooner than others.
A lot of guys were released in the week before too, including most of the enhancement talent, although most of those were McMahon’s call and not Monsoon’s. Among those apparently gone, and I’m told these were Monsoon decisions, are Salvatore Bellomo and Buddy Rose, although both are expected to be re-signed. Hawkins is apparently very high on Rose and wants him back to push the Rose/Ray Stevens tag team.
Most of the next MSG card, scheduled for Saturday, Week 3, was announced to the MSG crowd during the card this past Monday night. Hawkins will not change the top matches but may either change up the undercard or add to it. Top matches announced include Bob Backlund defending the WWF Title against Big John Studd, Pedro Morales defending the IC Title against Don Muraco (originally scheduled to be a title change and no word as to if that will change or not), and Swede Hanson vs. Superstar Billy Graham. Also official are Rocky Johnson vs. Mr. Fuji, Curt Hennig vs. Mac Rivera, Ray Stevens vs. Jules Strongbow, The Wild Samoans vs. Tony Garea & Eddie Gilbert (expected to lead to a series of Samoans-Strongbows tag title matches), and S.D. Jones vs. Baron Mikel Scicluna. Johnny Rodz and Jimmy Snuka are expected to be added onto the card in separate matches, and Jay Strongbow vs. Buddy Rose makes sense if Rose signs but that’s pure speculation.
Expect The Fabulous Moolah, currently the NWA Women’s Champion, to be brought in as the WWF’s first official champion (the company has recognized Moolah’s belt for at least a decade but is having its own belt made). I’d assume they’ll recognize tag belts at some point, but whether they’ll recognize current NWA champions Joyce Grable & Wendi Richter or go in a different direction is unclear. The WWF has rarely used the women’s tag belts, so they could simply announce new champions at a random location and few would notice or care that it was a fictitious change.
January 1983, Monday, Week 1
Contracts have been offered to a number of different talents.
One contract that was not offered was to Wendi Richter. According to reports, booker Jared Hawkins approached Richter about signing a three year deal to make spot appearances and be brought in as Women’s Tag Team Champion, but she told him that as long as Vince McMahon owns the company, she wants nothing to do with it. There were rumors a few months back of McMahon making sexual advances toward some of the women when they made their sporadic appearances, and this lends credence to that, but nothing has been, or likely ever will be, confirmed. Because of this, Richter’s partner Joyce Grable will not be offered a contract, so if they’re looking at having women’s tag belts it will be with a completely new team.
Big changes are in store for TV, as they’ll be taping every week from now on, as opposed to the every three week schedule they’ve done for years. Apparently the feeling is it will be more costly, but the last shows of the cycle feel outdated given talent turnover, especially when guys who are no-showing live events because they’ve left the company end up appearing on TV days later.
No changes to the TV announcing, as Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson will be doing the announcing for both TV shows. MSG picks the announcers for the Garden shows and wants Gorilla Monsoon and McMahon but there are rumors that Hawkins wants to put Patterson in McMahon’s spot, saying that two former wrestlers will give better insight. McMahon’s a lock for the January show but beyond that is up in the air.
January 1983, Tuesday, Week 1
Dick Beyer, aka The Sensational Destroyer, turned down an offer to join the WWF on a part-time basis, saying the company wasn’t big enough to justify him leaving All Japan. The idea was for Beyer to work in the middle of the card as a heel and help the younger crew improve, in particular Eddie Gilbert, who booker Jared Hawkins has high hopes for.
The first TV taping under the new regime is tonight. It will be interesting to see where things are going. There will be no immediate changes in how TV is presented as a whole (you’ll still see mostly short matches although talk is they’ll add a marquee match to Championship Wrestling in an attempt to improve ratings) but with the influx of talent, there are any number of directions to go.
There are rumors that Jared Hawkins and Vince McMahon are already at odds. McMahon apparently wants to push Andre the Giant and Superstar Billy Graham up top. Obviously with Andre being one of the top draws anywhere in the world, that’s not an issue. However, reports are that Hawkins is not very high on Graham, as he has noticed how quickly his skills have diminished and wants to use Graham primarily to elevate the midcard. In the end, McMahon gets final say on everything, and while I’m sure the occasional Graham job to Andre or Backlund or Jimmy Snuka will be fine, having him lose to Curt Hennig or Mac Rivera will not endear the new booker to the boss.
Championship Wrestling taping (January 1983, Tuesday, Week 1)
Here is the live report from the taping of Championship Wrestling from the Agricultural Hall in Allentown, PA, to air this weekend in syndication.
In an extremely short match, Tony Garea & Eddie Gilbert defeated Charlie Fulton and Tiger Conway Jr. in 3:53 when Tony Garea defeated Tiger Conway Jr. by pinfall with a quick cradle. Garea especially looked good here.
In another extremely short match, Mr. Fuji defeated Tony Atlas in 3:26 by pinfall with a Kamikaze Clothesline. Lou Albano was in Fuji’s corner and was a riot at ringside taunting referee Joey Marella. After the match, Fuji further embarrassed Atlas by beating him over the back with his kendo stick.
Tiger Chung Lee defeated Brian Blair in a blistering 1:41 by submission to a move similar to a Boston crab.
WWF Intercontinental Champion Pedro Morales defeated Swede Hanson in 3:17 by submission to a Boston crab to retain the title. Hanson seemed a step or two off here.
It’s time for Buddy Rogers’ Corner, and the guest is WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund. As Backlund discusses his upcoming match with Big John Studd at MSG, Vince McMahon Sr. interrupts and presents Backlund with a newly made title belt.
Apparently I missed Don Muraco defeating Jimmy Snuka while I was in the concession stand. I was gone maybe five minutes so that must have been criminally short. I was told it very good while it lasted. (NOTE: I accidentally double clicked the next button and completely missed the description.) I came back as Vince McMahon interviewed Don Muraco about his upcoming challenge to Pedro Morales. Muraco cuts a fantastic promo here.
Ray Stevens and George Steele defeated S.D. Jones and Rocky Johnson in 1:52 when Ray Stevens defeated Rocky Johnson by pinfall with a Bombs Away. Steele and Stevens have absolutely zero chemistry as a team and the sooner Buddy Rose comes back, the better.
Big John Studd issued a challenge to anybody in the locker room to try to bodyslam him and offered $3,000 if they could do it. Tito Santana came out but was unable to slam Studd. This led immediately to Studd’s match against Frankie Williams, which he won by submission to a reverse bearhug in 2:58. After the match, Pat Patterson interviewed Freddie Blassie, who guaranteed Studd would be the next WWF Champion.
Superstar Billy Graham defeated Curt Hennig in 3:03 by pinfall via a karate thrust to the throat.
WWF Tag Team Champions Jay & Jules Strongbow cut a pretaped promo regarding the Wild Samoans, so that looks to be the next title program.
In the main event, Andre the Giant pinned The Masked Superstar with a bodyslam. Believe it or not, this was by far the best match of the show.
I loved this show a lot. Maybe they could have cut a couple of matches out and gave others more time, but very entertaining show from start to finish.
January 1983, Wednesday, Week 1
Expect the finish of the match from last night’s Masked Superstar-Andre the Giant match to not make air this week. The original planned finish was actually a 10-minute time limit draw that could be edited down to “TV time remaining” if need be, but Andre has a creative control clause in his contract and chose to use it to avoid the job. He cannot control what airs on TV though, so likely they’ll just cut the last couple of minutes off the match and claim the “official decision” was a draw because TV time expired.
Salvatore Bellomo is officially back and could work the tapings in Hamburg tonight.
Last night’s taping drew a sellout crowd of about 1,300.
All-Star Wrestling taping (January 1983, Wednesday, Week 1)
This is the live report from this week’s All-Star Wrestling taping, taking place at the Hamburg, PA Fieldhouse for airing in syndication this week.
In a match that had some good action but not much in the way of heat, George Steele and Ray Stevens defeated Curt Hennig and S.D. Jones in 8:22 when Ray Stevens defeated Curt Hennig by pinfall with a Bombs Away. Stevens and Blassie have great chemistry together, but as noted at the Championship Wrestling tapings, Stevens and Steele are not a good team and Steele seemed a step off on top of it.
In an awful match that was completely devoid of heat, Salvatore Bellomo defeated Tiger Conway Jr. in 4:27 by pinfall with a fast roll up.
Pat Patterson interviewed Lou Albano about Fuji’s attack on Atlas from yesterday’s Championship Wrestling.
Superstar Billy Graham pinned Tony Atlas in 1:41 with a karate thrust to the throat. Atlas was selling his back before the match, presumably from the previous night’s attack.
Bruno Sammartino came to ringside to do commentary on the next match.
In a non-title match, Pedro Morales pinned Baron Mikel Scicluna with a backslide in 4:43. Scicluna didn’t sell Morales’ offense very well at all.
The Strongbows were in Buddy Rogers’ Corner, once again discussing a series of upcoming matches with The Wild Samoans.
Rocky Johnson defeated Tiger Chung Lee in 3:40 by pinfall with a Johnson Shuffle. The match was just getting good when they went to the finish.
Big John Studd once again offered $3,000 to anybody who could bodyslam him. This time Chief Jay Strongbow made the attempt but was unsuccessful. As soon as that ended, Big John Studd defeated Tito Santana in 0:55 by submission with a Reverse Bearhug. Studd seemed a step off but plays off Freddie Blassie very well. Not sure why Santana did the quick job here.
In a bout that had solid in-ring action but non-existent crowd heat, Tony Garea & Eddie Gilbert defeated Swede Hanson and Charlie Fulton in 6:24 when Tony Garea defeated Charlie Fulton by pinfall. Garea looked really good here, but Gilbert mistimed a few basic moves and seemed like his mind was somewhere else.
Don Muraco defeated Frankie Williams in 8:08 by pinfall with a Tombstone Piledriver. This went way too long and I have no idea why they thought Frankie Williams in an 8-minute match was a good idea, but Muraco looked like a million bucks. After the match, Pat Patterson interviewed Muraco who vowed to take the IC Title from Morales at MSG in two weeks.
The show ended with Vince McMahon interviewing Bob Backlund, who said Big John Studd might be bigger than he is, but Backlund can outlast him in a long match and plans to push Studd to the limit at MSG.
Best match: Steele/Stevens vs. Hennig/Jones
Worst match: Bellomo vs. Conway
January 1983, Thursday, Week 1
We heard reports of a fight between Brian Blair and Gorilla Monsoon backstage at the tapings in Hamburg last night. Monsoon apparently made a comment to Blair that he had a lot of talent but made some mistakes in his match with Tiger Chung Lee, and Blair took offense and pushed Monsoon, leading to a scuffle that was eventually broken up by members of the locker room. Blair was fined 25% of his paycheck for the incident.
To lighten the mood after the Monsoon-Blair fight, Vince McMahon Sr. did some impressions of some of his old colleagues. Supposedly his impression of Toots Mondt was hilarious.
Attendance last night was about 1,500.
The story behind the quick Santana-Studd match from last night’s taping. Studd was originally scheduled to take on Jimmy Snuka and win in about six minutes, but Snuka very audibly complained about having to lose to Studd. Santana offered to take Snuka’s place. Hawkins asked Santana if he’d be OK with losing in under a minute in order to set an example for the rest of the locker room and Santana agreed. This led to having more time to fill which is why Muraco-Williams got eight minutes instead of the planned three.
Liz Chase has signed a three month deal and is being brought in to put The Fabulous Moolah over. Moolah is expected to sign her deal before the end of the week.
Barry Horowitz has signed a one year deal and will be used mostly as enhancement talent under the name of Barry Hart.
Word I’ve gotten is most people liked the show last night, but some felt a couple of matches went too long and could have been broken up with interviews. You’ll never make everybody happy with the match to interview ratio, but I liked the idea of having slightly longer matches as a whole.
January 1983, Friday, Week 1
Ed Wiskowski, who has had a fantastic run in Portland, is being brought in for a short run. He’ll go by the name of The Polish Prince and be managed by Freddie Blassie. As best as I can tell, this short run is more of a tryout, as well as a carrot to dangle for Buddy Rose, who still has not re-signed with the company. Rose and Wiskowski have teamed in Portland for years.
January 1983, Saturday, Week 1
Lou Albano will be doing double duty, as he’ll be spending some time in Southwest Championship Wrestling. While they’d like everybody on exclusive deals, the thought is that the roster can get some work in for other companies and they won’t need to pay the workers on those days. I always felt Albano’s reputation was better than his talent warranted, but that’s another story.
The Fabulous Moolah has signed her deal. She’ll be working per appearance but the deal will run her until the end of 1987. This is, of course, assuming she lives that long, as rumor has it she dated Methusela when she was a teenager.
January 1983, Sunday, Week 1
Slow news day in the WWF. Ratings are in for syndication this week, and a number of affiliates were disappointed with the results. Apparently they heard about the change in booking and expected huge increases right away. If they keep running shows like this past week’s Championship Wrestling, ratings will grow, but anybody expecting an overnight success is kidding themselves.
Saw the Masked Superstar-Andre the Giant match this weekend, and they cut about the last 30 seconds off the match, so as far as the TV audience is concerned, it is officially considered a time limit draw.
That’s all for this week. Next week, Pedro Morales defends the IC Title, the Strongbows defend the Tag Team Title, we find out if Buddy Rose signs his deal, plus Salvatore Bellomo and Bob Backlund make separate appearances in Buddy Rogers’ Corner.