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Phantom title switches

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Phantom title switches

Postby glc » 2003/08/27 Wed 8:57 pm

Benny,

'Phantom' title switches (matches that never really happened) have been around for as long as there has been 'worked' matches. A classic example comes immediately to mind: May 1987 - Rick Rude & Manny Fernandez hold the NWA tag belts, when Rude jumps unannounced to the WWF. Scrambling, the NWA digs up up an old tape of the Rock & Roll Express defeating Rude & Fernandez in a non-title bout MONTHS earlier in SC, and passes it off as a legit title switch from Spokane, WA. They weren't running house shows in Spokane at the time!!! Even better was the time just a couple of years later when The Freebirds (I believe) lost the belts at a TV taping a few days BEFORE they won them at a PPV.

Dropping the belts 'around the horn' was also pretty common. The way this worked was the promoters would book the same championship match in each of the cities they booked. For the next week (or month, depending on schedule) the champ would lose the belt in every town. Then, when that had run its course, there would be announcement made on TV about the switch - with no mention of the city it took place in, of course. And everybody who had seen the title change thought they were referring to their town.

Here's a couple of 'legit' changes that were pretty much ignored at the time. About 1979 or so, Bob Backlund, on a tour of Japan, drops the WWF title to Tatsumi Fujinami. This was a HUGE deal over there - here, wasn't even mentioned. Which ticked the Japanese arm of the WWF off BIG TIME, as this was supposed to be a fully recognized switch, with Fujinami dropping the belt back to Backlund on the next MSG card. I believe Fujinami even defended the belt. Anyway, comes the MSG card, and, with the locals having NO idea at all what's going on, the referee comes out with belt before the match. This way, depending on who was doing the commentary, either man could be referred to as champion. Fujinami, of course, does the job and the American public is none the wiser. BTW, as you may imagine, there were major behind-the-scenes political ramifications.

Another occurred around 1990 or 91. The NWA/WCW went on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. It was on this tour that Champ Ric Flair would drop the belt and regain it a few nights later (similar to the Harley Race/Shohei Baba switches in Japan in the late 70's.) For the life of me, I can't remember who won (and subsequently lost) the belt, but WCW TV completely ignored this switch for years. Until, conveniently enough, it was time for Flair to break Race's record for title reigns.
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Postby Dan Poutsma » 2003/08/28 Thu 12:38 am

See my post on the other thread.

It was Inoki who beat Backlund for the WWF title, not Fujinami.

And the NWA title changes took place between Flair and Race in New Zealand and Singapore in March 1984. Both shows were promoted by Steve Rickard and the switches were not authorized by the NWA Board of Directors.
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Postby glc » 2003/08/29 Fri 9:53 pm

[QUOTE=Dan Poutsma]See my post on the other thread.

It was Inoki who beat Backlund for the WWF title, not Fujinami.

And the NWA title changes took place between Flair and Race in New Zealand and Singapore in March 1984. Both shows were promoted by Steve Rickard and the switches were not authorized by the NWA Board of Directors.[/QUOTE]


First off, I apologize for posting the above twice - it was a mistake.

Second, you're absolutely right, Dan. On all accounts. The memory isn't quite what it used to be. Shoud've checked my facts first.

Onto a different subject....does anybody know the true story regarding Hulk Hogan's IWGP tourney win in '83. One of the supposed contract stips was that the winner would get a shot at Backlund's WWF title. At the time, of course, Hogan was wrestling for the AWA in the states, so there was no way it was gonna come off here. But it could have in Japan, but didn't, as far as I know. I seem to remember there being some legit heat over this. Is it because they had already decided to put the WWF belt on Hogan in the future, and didn't want to hurt his credibility by having him to do the job for Backlund? They could have done a broadway, though.
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Postby El Pollo Guerrera » 2005/03/16 Wed 2:53 pm

So, I'm watching my "Wrestling Gold" DVD set, and they're playing the Tiger Jeet Singh vs. The Sheik mud match from Toronto, and Cornette and Meltzer are talking about the dangers of wrestling in other countries. Cornette starts telling this story about Flair on tour in Central America. Flair was wrestling this country's local hero (I forget which country or who), and Roddy Piper is at ringside seconding Flair. Now, the stadium is packed with thousands of people... so much so that the military is providing security. Flair is losing, so Piper interferes on his behalf. Now the fans so nuts... and all of a sudden, the soldiers are pointing their rifles at Piper! Flair sees this, pulls the hero down on top of him and 1,2,3 loses the match AND the NWA World title!

Can anyone provide more details, like when and how did Flair get the title back, or was it a real "phantom" title switch?
Master of the Greco-Roman Punch to the Head
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Postby Dan Poutsma » 2005/03/16 Wed 4:57 pm

Flair talks about it in his book. It was in the Dominican Republic, the guys name was Jack Veneno (AKA Rafael Sanchez, who was also one of the promoters there), and according to Ric there were actually two matches. The first one saw Veneno "win" the title and the second saw him "retain" it.

The first match was booked to be a draw. The finish had Flair caught in a sleeperhold and the bell rang at the same time Ric's arm dropped for the third time. The crowd whipped into a frenzy and a riot broke out because they thought Veneno had won. Flair says he left the belt in the ring and let him pretend to be champion because he didn't wanna spoil everybody's fun, and no decision was ever announced. If they had announced that the time expired (and the clock was about 20 seconds off too, so that was also a problem because the Dominicans looked at wrestling as a legit sport and if they checked it they'd see things weren't on the up and up), who knows how the crowd would've reacted then. So Veneno walked out with the belt. He offered to give it back to Ric in the dressing room, but Flair declined because he'd rather leave alive.

In the second match, Flair had Piper with him and Veneno wore the belt to the ring. The finish was to see Flair pin Veneno and "regain" the title after Piper tripped him while he was criscrossing the ropes, but when they did the spot all of the soldiers pointed their rifles at Piper's head. So Flair, obviously scared for his and Roddy's safety, pulled Veneno on top of him and told the ref to count three while the soldiers were swinging their clubs at Piper. The ref counted three as fast as he could and Jose Gonzalez got Flair and Piper the heck out of dodge. Afterwards in the dressing room, Veneno offered to give the belt back yet again and this time Flair accepted.

So the matches did actually happen and Veneno is recognized as a former NWA World champion in the Dominican, but the NWA itself does not officially recognize him as such, nor was it mentioned anywhere else, because of all the screwy circumstances. Flair says he doesn't know what kind of story was concocted for the Dominicans to explain why Veneno was no longer champion, but I've been told that the story was he gave the belt back because he didn't want to break the hearts of all the locals by taking on the world champion's schedule and having to leave them.
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