WK FLASHBACK: Will C.M. Punk replicate Brian Pillman's double-cross of his co-conspirator? A report on the huge Pillman swerve 15 years ago
Okay, and now here's the big twist in the Brian Pillman "worked-shoot" saga from 15 years ago in June 1996.
The nearest equivalent of history repeating itself would be for Vince McMahon to have left himself vulnerable to C.M. Punk showing up live on Spike TV for TNA Impact later this year. Of course, Pillman was in the middle of a wrestling war between two giant wrestling companies with money to spend in the midst of a legit, and heated, Monday Night War. Also, McMahon is too savvy to let himself get double-crossed the way Pillman double-crossed his co-conspirator Eric Bischoff. Or is he?
For those who didn't experience this at the time, and for those who want a relive it, here is my cover story from 15 years ago covering the big twist in the Brian Pillman "worked-shoot" saga that had hardcore fans talking them like they are today about Punk.
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COVER STORY by Wade Keller
ORIGINAL HEADLINE: WWF strikes back with signing of Pillman
SUBHEADLINE: WWF snatches Pillman out from under WCW, meanwhile WCW signs Jarrett away from WWF
COVER-DATE: June 15, 1996
PWTorch Newsletter #392
WCW thought they had Brian Pillman wrapped up. Pillman had agreed to a money figure over the weekend of June 1. There were just details to work out. WCW went ahead and began mentioning Pillman again on their TV shows, thinking he'd be signed and back on television within a month or so.
Pillman, though, took the leverage he had from WCW's offer to Vince McMahon. On Friday, June 7 Pillman signed a three-year deal with the WWF.
WCW helped Pillman become one of wrestling's hotter heels in March and April by perpetrating a complex con on fellow wrestlers and wrestling fans, making it appear that Pillman and WCW were on the outs. WCW's Eric Bischoff basically fired Pillman on the air, ripping into his professionalism. Pillman walked out on an "I-quit" match with Kevin Sullivan on live television, saying "I quit, booker man." It was all designed to appear to be a shoot.
The con backfired on WCW. Even when Pillman's contract expired with WCW in April, there were skeptics who believed there was no way WCW would push Pillman to the hilt at the very end of his contract. Apparently WCW was falsely confident they would be able to re-sign him, not believing the WWF would show as much interest as they obviously did.
Had WCW not signed away Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, had WCW not rubbed those signings in the WWF's face by using the "Billionaire Ted" skits to their advantage, had they not also lured Jeff Jarrett and Ted DiBiase away in recent weeks, perhaps the WWF wouldn't have shown as much interest in Pillman. But given the intensity of the Monday Night War and the battle over perception of who is stealing whose talent, the WWF needed an answer to Hall and Nash.
It's rumored that Pillman had agreed to a three year deal with WCW worth around $400,000 per year with the only stumbling block being the 90 day review clauses built in. The 90 day clauses in essence made WCW's offer a three-month deal, not a three-year deal. Pillman made $225,000 a year on his previous WCW contract.
There is no word on what Pillman's agreement with the WWF entailed, although given what he was turning down in WCW, it has already led to WWF wrestlers plotting their next moves. The big signings by WCW of Nash and Hall combined with the WWF's signings of Vader, Ultimate Warrior, and Marc Mero have changed the negotiating complexion of the U.S. wrestling scene.
Wrestlers are now positioning themselves to take advantage of the landscape. They know that Bischoff is determined to show-up McMahon, but that McMahon is just as determined not to let that happen. Because business is up pretty much across the board - including this past weekend with both promotions drawing $200,000 gates - both promotions can afford to up the ante.
Pillman cannot wrestle yet. He is still recovering from his car wreck from two months ago, his face is still swollen, and he has lost a ton of weight. As soon as possible, though, the WWF wants to incorporate Pillman into their storylines to combat the momentum WCW is feeling from the Nash-Hall "Team WWF" angle. Pillman will be on camera perhaps as soon as King of the Ring or the Raws taped the next day and his debut is being designed to get people talking.
Pillman will remain "Loose Cannon" Brian Pillman and won't be getting a major make-over, (a la Dustin Rhodes into Goldust).
Pillman missed his scheduled Peach State Wrestling appearance in Cordielle, Ga. on June 7 because he was finalizing his deal with the WWF. He did do a phone interview over the intercom and broke the news to the fans and promoters that he signed with the WWF. WCW's Terry Taylor and Joey Maggs were on the show. They were both surprised and upset at Pillman's announcement. WCW in general was bitter over the loss, feeling misled and stung by what will hurt the perception they were trying to build that they were the promotion where the Big Boys play. Like the WWF with the DiBiase angle, WCW will have working to their advantage the fact that they "fired" Pillman on the air, so it won't totally appear that the WWF stole him.
Jim Ross reported on the WWF's 900 line that Pillman is free to wrestle for other promotions while with the WWF. Whatever that evenually will entail, that statement may give early hints that his character will be radically different than the norm for the WWF. Ross also reported Pillman gets to keep his 900 line and that it will not be associated with the WWF in any way. Although he wasn't scheduled for any future appearances, it had been expected Pillman would wrestle at least one date with ECW even if he signed with the WWF or WCW. Since he will be engrossed in his WWF storyline long before he can wrestle, him wrestling for ECW this fall is unlikely - not that ECW is all that disappointed, as his dealings with ECW at the June 1 card were tense before, after, and during the event.
It wasn't an entirely bad week for WCW in the roster department as they locked in Jeff Jarrett on June 4. Jarrett gave his notice to the WWF and received a conditional release. He cannot work for WCW until the end of October when his contract expires. McMahon acknowledged Jarrett's departure last week on the WWF 900 line. Jarrett was not happy with his push upon his return to the WWF late last year. In another significant signing, former WCW Champion Ron Simmons starts with the WWF later this month.
[Eric Bischoff photo credit Wade Keller]
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