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Solie's Tuesday Morning Report: EXTRA!

Thursday Morning Special Edition

An Interview with Bob Ryder: Part 2

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver

Volume 3, Issue 305 - April 22, 1998
Here's a report from the Tampa Tribune Sports Section, April 22, 1998, courtesy of both Scott Braddock and John Buckley. Thanks Scott and John!

Dateline Atlanta--

World Championship Wrestling Inc. wants to grapple with superstar Ric "the Nature Boy" Flair in a new ring; court.

The Atlanta-based wrestling corporation has sued Flair for $2 million in Fulton County Superior Court. It says Flair broke the three-year, $1.95 million deal they inked in November by missing a series of performances this year.

Flair's no-shows played havoc with the script of the wildly popular productions, the suit says.

Flair, 49, born Richard Morgan Fliehr, did not return phone calls. Neither did attorney James Lamberth, who filed the suit for the wrestling group.

Flair's contract says he would be paid $725,000 for this year, $725,000 for 1999, and $500,000 for 2000.

Here's a letter I got from A&E. This show is on during the PPV Sunday but will be replayed at Midnight Eastern/9 PM Pacific time.

Hi Solie:

Because your Vintage Wrestling site is such a great pro wrestling resource, I thought you might be interested in posting info about A&E Television's THE UNREAL STORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING, a 2-hour special presentation that will be aired in the U.S. this Sunday, April 26th at 8pm/12am EST. (The video of the program will be available at our online store at in case you miss it on-air.)

Trace the history and sociology of one of America's favorite passions in this hard-hitting, mat-slapping documentary that reveals wrestling's evolution from respectable sport to performance art. From the Greeks to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to the unabashed show biz glitz of modern day wrestlers like Gorgeous George, Strangler Lewis, Iron Claw, Brain Buster, Hulk Hogan and Killer Kowalski, THE UNREAL STORY features past and present wrestlers and asks the opinion of everyone from promoters and fans to psychologists and commentators.

If you're able to watch THE UNREAL STORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING, I'd love to know what you and other fans of the sport think about it. Thanks for your time!

So Young Park

A&E Television Networks Enterprises


"Identity: Profiles in Pain" live Internet Event to be Broadcast May 2nd will be trying again to hold an online wrestling card live from Charleston, SC on May 2, 1998. The last such event was a failure because the promoters didn't anticipate the demand for access.

This broadcast, featuring matches such as Diamond Dallas Page vs. Kevin Nash, Chris Benoit vs. Raven and Eddie Guerrero vs. an unamed "surprise opponent" among others is being sponsored by Sun Microsystems, who has provided WCW with state of the art Enterprise 4000 webservers on which to host this event. Servers will be placed at two locations, with backups of all systems. WCW says this event will not go down (I think they meant to say that the event will go down, but the servers won't..) In addition, to insure user satisfaction, NO CREDIT CARD WILL BE CHARGED UNTIL AFTER THE EVENT IS SUCCESSFULLY BROADCAST.

Boston Brawl subscribers will receive a special email this week, offering them a $2.00 discount off of the $7.95 purchase price. This special $5.95 subscription price will be available only to those who bought the Brawl, and only if they purchase before May 2.

Subscription sales begin Friday, April 24th. Solie's will publish the link to this event as soon as it is made available.

An Interview with Bob Ryder

Conducted by Jeremy Hartley for TWC Online
Transcribed by Earl Oliver

Here is the second of a three part interview with the man who could arguably be called the founder of the Internet wrestling community.

Jeremy Hartley: You know it's unfortunate that when Bill Watts was part of the WCW organization people never really got a chance to see what he was really capable of...would you say that he was one of the greatest overall bookers as far as matches, angles etc. - or was he just a product of the times, someone who could adapt to those particular times - then he couldn't after awhile?

Bob Ryder: Well, that's a good question. I think that maybe he didn't change with the times as much as he should have but there's no question that during the time when he was hot, there was nobody in the business who was hotter. He was involved in, of course, the Mid-South area but he was also very successfull in the Florida area, Georgia, he had some influence in the Fritz Von Erich promotion - he did quite a bit and is credited with a lot of the more successful angles that happened during that time period. I think his situation with WCW was basically wrong place, wrong time. WCW at that time, I believe, was not committed to being a wrestling company, they didn't know what they wanted to be. In fact, until Eric Bischoff stepped in I don't think anybody could have stepped into that company and made it successfull. Bischoff, you know, like him or not, has been successfull. Bischoff stepped in and he ws in the right place at the right time while Watts was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The thing that I wish had happened was that when Watts was in the WWF, had he been given the control that he demanded, had Vince McMahon maybe stepped aside for a period of time, maybe things would have worked out a little differently and maybe the WWF would have looked different - it's just hard to say. Some of the things that Bill Watts wanted to do up there may have taken that company in a different direction.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah, that would have been very interesting to see. Some people aren't even aware that Watts was ever involved with the WWF. How long did that last?

Bob Ryder: He was only involved for about two months. I can't remember exactly when it was, I want to say the end of 1995. Vince McMahon announced in the dressing room that he had brought in someone he considered to be a genious in the business and introduced Bill Watts as the new person in charge of wrestling operations, and this is the way the story goes, McMahon had apparently made the committment to Watts, "We'll turn the company over to you, you make the wrestling descisions, run it how you want to and I'll step aside and not interfere." Then within a few weeks Watts was getting second guessed on how he wanted to build an angle towards WrestleMania and Watts walked away.

Jeremy Hartley: I've read a couple of interviews that Bill Watts did where he ytalked about how, when he was in WCW the athletes of the day refused to work some of the angle that Watts came up with, they wanted to doo the "gravy" work and not a lot of the things that Watts had the folks doing back in the Mid-South days. What comes to mind is how they talk about ECW being extreme but back in the Mid-South days they had storylines like the "eye burning" incident with Jim Duggan and those types of angles. It appears like maybe Bill Watts kind of started that all...

Bob Ryder: They were extreme before ECW, no doubt about it but it was different time period, a different situation and you have to factor in those days Bill Watt's Mid-South was a big territory, Oklahoma, Louisianna, Mississippi and Arkansas. It was devided into two areas, Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas and then the rest of Arkansas, Louisianna and Mississippi. They would meet in Shrieveport for TV tapings. You had the situation where guys would maybe work a TV taping in Shrieveport one night then the next day they'd be 300 miles away in Southern Mississippi. It was a rough territory, they did a lot of driving, the guys who worked in that territory can tell you they stayed on the road quite a bit. Then you had the situation where, when Vince McMahon, Jr. took over the WWF and turned it into the International phenomenum it became you had guys who had been driving all over the place, working day-to-day, living out of their suitcase were suddenly being flown first class and being picked up in limosines.

Jeremy Hartley: Uh huh...

Bob Ryder: It was a huge turnaround, so once you've given that to people, once you've softened them up a little it changes the whole outlook that they have on what they have to do. And that's one thing that ECW does that the Mid-South used to do, they have a better work ethic in some aspects. They're paying their dues and working for not as much money as the guys in the "big two" organizations are, and its in some ways more important to them to put on the good show, to give 100% because they feel like they have to, to make sure that they have a payday the next time. They may not get asked back if they don't put out 110%. So that's what I think was part of it. The guys in WCW at that time were spoiled to a certain extent and didn't see the direction that Watts wanted them to go, and another side of it is that maybe he was too demanding, maybe he was still living ten years in the past and didn't adapt, didn't recognize that you have certain superstars who you just can't treat like he treated people in the older days.

Jeremy Hartley: One of the reasons I'm spending a lot of time on the Mid-South promotion is the whole aspect of territories. I've thought long and hard about this and I've been asked a lot of questions by a lot of folks, and it seems to me that the old territories, Fritz Von Erich's territory down in Texas and Stu Hart's territory up in Canada for instance, tended to "build" wrestlers, to grill them and get them ready so that when they did finally make it to the big two it was possible to create a better wrestling product. And now, I've noticed, maybe because of the collapse of the USWA and other types of promotions, that other territories, regional territories are starting to spring up again, are you seeing the same resurgance, am I kind of "on base" on this..?

Bob Ryder: You are, and I hope that that happens because I think one of the worst aspects of consolidation was the elimination of the number of the "start-up" promotions, basically to train people, but what's more importantly, in the old days when there were something like thirty-thirty-five territories around the country, nobody ever got stale. I mean, you'd have guys come in and work four-to-six months in one area then move on to the next one. And a year or so later they might pass back through. Or you had the situation where the NWA Champion was a traveling Champion - would visit every territory maybe two or three times a year you'd see the guy - he'd come in and wrestle your Champion, or the top good guy, the top heel. In those days your World Champion would have to wrestle one night as a babyface the next night as a heel, so you had the Terry Funk's, the Dory Funk, Jr.'s - those guys really had to be professional in the way they handled themselves and the way they'd come into a match, not knowing who the opponent would be the next night, they'd have to adapt immediately.

Jeremy Hartley: Uh huh...

Bob Ryder: But you make a good point, the fact that there in not a training ground has, I think, hurt to a certain extent. It's held people back and it's really kind of become a closed system. It's hard to break into the big two if you're a rookie or if you don't have a proven track record.It's caused a situation where, in maybe five-to-six years, when the people like Randy Savage, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan - when that level of superstar does finally leave the business, and it's going to happen, your going to have a big drop-off. There's not as many of the secondary stars that have been cultivated over the years that will be ready to fill those shoes. That is something that the WWF and WCW will have to address. They're going to have to prop up that mid-card, preliminary card wrestler to the point where someone like a Chris Jericho or a Chris Benoit, someone like that can make the move into the bigger matches instead of opening the card. You know they've got to do something that creates new stars. The resurgence of the territories at this point, with all of the independent promotions, especially in the North East, especially in the South, that is a manifestation of the total resurgence of the popularity of wrestling. You've got more people interested in wrestling throughout the country and local companies are starting to bring the profit back up. The whole thing is going in a cycle of ups and downs and right now is an up time, smaller promotions are taking advantage of it.

Jeremy Hartley: You know I kind of threw this idea out past a couple of folks, they thought I was crazy, but the lack of talented wrestlers these days is due to the fact that maybe 10 or 15 of the athletes who might have carried wrestling into the next era have met untimely ends. I refer to it as the "Death of an Era" because we lost, in the course of the last ten years, a lot of influential folks who would have been big stars.I'm thinking about the Von Erich boys, Gino Hernandez and Eddie Gilbert just to name a few.

Bob Ryder: There no doubt about it. The Von Erich tragedy was something that wiped out an entire family, for whatever reason, you know a death is always tragic no matter what caused it. Those guys were superstars and that was another thing I was able to watch living in this area. Kerry Von Erich was probably as charismatic as anybody that I've ever seen and the people in Texas, and particularly the Dallas area, worshiped those guys. Really since the demise of the Von Erich family the wrestling promotions in that area and in the whole State of Texas have been dead and may never come back. The WWF and WCW visit there regularly but it's nothing like it was when the WCCW had a strong weekly show...but you make a good point. Guys like Eddie Gilbert and Art Barr who suffered untimely deaths would have been the next generation of superstars today.

Jeremy Hartley: Yeah...

Bob Ryder: Eddie Gilbert at this point would be in his mid-thirties, he'd still have 5 - 10 years left...guys like that you just can't replace. It's a tragedy because the lifestyles these guys lead might lead them to become addicted to certain medications, and have physical problems like Brian Pillman did. His death was attributed to heart disease but there was no doubt that the abuse that he had subjected his body to over the years did take it's toll on his health. But you can't replace a person like Eddie Gilbert, like Art Barr - those kinds of guys don't come along very often so its, of course a tragedy on a personal level for the friends and family at the same time its a loss for the fans who never get a chance to see these guys perform - all we have is memories, and at least we do have that. I'm very gratefull that I got the chance to watch Eddie Gilbert perform at his peak and have those memories to hang onto. There's a whole generation out there who never got to see that. It's a shame and it something you wish you could change, but hopefully the people involved in wrestling promotions these days recognize that they do bear some responsibility for the pressures that they put on these guys and some things will be done to get suppert to guys who need it, to help the families, to maybe implement stronger policies to make sure that the stress is relieved and hopefully there won't be any more deaths that don't need to happen.

Jeremy Hartley is a longtime friend of Solie's and a regular contributer to the newsletter. His "EYE on Wrestling" columns can be found in the "Articles" section of the web site. His previous interviews with Bob Blackburn, Lou Thesz and Buddy Landel are currently to be found in the "Interviews" section.

Wednesday Thunder Report

For a change they go right to the opening montage before showing clips.

Live from the Carolina Coloseum Columbia, South Carolina. The announcers are incensed over Bret Hart's actions on Nitro Monday night.

We get Hogan right out of the chute. He enters preceeded by Eric Bischoff and trailed by the Disciple. Bischoff makes a short speech then hands a can of spray paint to the Disciple so he can scrawl "nWo" on the World Title belt. He goes on to claim that the Turner organization is afraid of Hogan. Hogan takes the mic, he's the man, he made wrestling yatta, yatta. He claims that the whole nWo is "back together" and they are celebrating in the back. Bischoff makes reference to the record ratings (6.5) for the last quarter hour of Nitro during Hogan's Title match. He declares that Randy Savage is "officially retired from the wrestling world". Cut to a clip of Hogan's statement at the top of the Nitro broadcast then to commercial.

We return to a clip of Savage's Nitro statement.

Disco Inferno vs. Booker T - TV Title match - it's amazing what a string of solid performances can do for a wrestler's image. Disco has come a long way since being chased out of the arena by Road Warrior Hawk a couple of years ago. We hear that Miss Liz sustained some rib injuries during the match Monday night. Disco definitely has trouble getting started in this one. He appears to blow a knee out during an exchange but he is playing possum and Booker falls for it. Disco gets his first offensive flurry and ends it with a reverse chinlock on the mat. Booker escapes soon enough and the match see-saws for the next minute or so - then the Harlem Side Kick and the Missle drop-kick come into play. Advantage Booker T. Cut to commercial.

More clips - from the Title match itself this time.

The Barbarian (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Prince Iaukea - the Barbarian jumps right onto his opponent before the bell. The Prince gets a splash from the top then chops Jimmy Hart off the apron. That makes his opponent mad. The Prince hits three headbutts with no effect - so he bites the Barbarian's forehead. It doesn't help, of course. The Prince gets creamed. Clips from the Raven/DDP match at Spring Stampede before we go to commercial.

Another clip - later in the match.

Vicious & Delicious (w/Vincent) vs. Lex Luger/Rick Steiner (w/Ted Dibiasi) - Steiner starts with Bagwell. He bulls the youngster into the corner then takes some shots as Bagwell fights his way out. Moments later Bagwell gets a belly-to-back suplex then turns his back as Steiner pops right to his feet. Bagwell is shellacked and tags in Norton to go against Luger. Luger makes short work of his opponent and prepares the Torture Rack - but Bagwell stops that with a blindside attack. Luger and Norton continue to battle more or less evenly then the tag is made both ways and Steiner comes in to clean house. Luger and Norton are both knocked out of the ring. Bagwell is downed and Steiner climbs the ropes as Vincent prepares to wield a chair. But Scott Steiner runs in and grabs the chair away...then enters the ring and uses it himself. Bagwell is rolled over onto Steiner and then declared the winner. Cut to commercial.

As we return Bagwell is lying in the ring, his eyes are flickering but he is immobile. A replay shows shows that Bagwell's head slammed into Rick Steiner's shoulder causing a severe strain on his neck. They are afraid to move him immediately so the program is halted temporarily. The next match is postponed. It appears to be a totally legit injury. Heenan goes down to the ring and speaks to the producers then comes back with a report that there is a cervical injury. Bagwell is conscience but unable to move. The announcers are trying to fill as some video is prepared to show in the meantime. They go to commercial before anything else happens.

Bagwell is on a stretcher and being prepared to be hauled away as we return. We get another clip of the Hogan/Savage match. It is actually a more complete version of the last clip we saw. We hear that Bagwell's exam backstage has caused some cautious optimism about his recovery. The clip goes on - it looks like we are going to see the rest of the match here. We do indeed, right up to the interference of Bret Hart at the end of the contest. Cut to commercial.

Another clip from the US Title match at Spring Stampede (DDP vs. Raven - the latter takes the belt) The announcers discuss the intereference of Horace Boulder in that match.

Horace (Boulder) vs. Kevin Courageous - Boulder is the real life brother of Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan). The family resemblance is obvious if you know who he is, especially the eyes. The match is barely underway when Diamond Dallas Page runs-in and Diamond Cuts everybody in sight. He makes a speech and calls Raven out. Raven answers the call but hesitates on the ramp, then he turns around and walks away. DDP throws out a jibe about Raven walking out on his sister and mother which turns the Birdman around. But he turns back again and leaves. DDP makes another statement about what he wants to do to Raven then exits through the crowd. Cut to commercial.

Tony is on the ramp as we return and calls Randy Savage out for an interview. He looks as truculant as usual. Those burning eyes are a trademark. He disputes Hogan's assertions about his own retirement. He calls Hogan "total scum" and then places Bret Hart in the same barrel. His scorn is directed towards Roddy Piper for being taken in by Hart. He returns to the Hart theme and warms to the subject. He says Hart is definitely "the best...con man". He refers to the Hitman as the "biggest mark for his own publicity" and vows to take revenge. He places Hart in the #1 position on his hit list. Cut to commercial.

Goldberg vs. Mike Enos - US Title match - we geta new tribute video to the Champ before the match is announced. Again I have to ask, who has Enos beaten in singles competition lately (or even in tag action, for that matter) to rate a US Title shot? Not that it matters, he certainly isn't going to be the guy to upset Goldberg's 75 - 0 win streak. Enos attacks furiously from the starting bell as Goldberg stands there and no-sells. As soon as Enos exhausts himself Goldberg goes to work on him. Enos gets one more offensive move (a powerslam) before getting speared and Jack Hammered. Cut to commercial.

Sting vs. Scott Steiner (w/Vincent) - we are informed that Thunder will be pre-empted for the next two weeks. Nitro will be split between two nights next Monday and Tuesday. Interestingly, their schedule doesn't jive with my TV Guide. Steiner takes the early initiative but Sting comes roaring back and clotheslines Steiner over the top rope to the floor. Sting follows him out and maintains his assault. We hear that Bagwell is reported to be recovering and will be fine. In the ring, Steiner uses a low-blow to retake the advantage. He stands Sting upside down in the corner and works on his neck from outside the ring. Back inside he ounches Sting to immobilize him then executes a butterfly suplex. Sting comes back with an atomic drop. Steiner rushes into the corner and eats leather. Two more exchanges and Sting puts on the Scorpion. Konnan runs in and Sting releases the hold and puts it on the mexican star. Norton and Vincent are in to help when Rick Steiner chases his brother from the ring. The Giant shows up to even the odds. Sting takes the mic and talks about how every week is the same (tell me about it...) He says that Kevin nash should be a standup comedian then gives him a punchline. He challenges Hall and Nash to a Tag team Title match at Slamboree against himself and the Giant. Fade to black.

The usual Thursday fare...oh's Wednesday...

At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter

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