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[TIMELINE] Analyzing The Past to Predict the Future - Everything We Should Consider on the Road to GTA VI
[QUICK MOD NOTE] This post was originally posted by Lenlfc on GTAforums, original post here. ALL CREDIT GOES TO HIM FOR ALLOWING ME TO DO THIS. It's extremely detailed and extensive, but it also gives a full look at previous leaks and speculation about GTA V, RDR 2, and the upcoming GTA VI. It's well worth your read if you're at all interested in speculation and leaks for GTA VI, considering it has a lot of information about how Rockstar has done things in the past, and how they may do things with GTA VI. It also has all of the confirmed information we have for GTA VI, like everyone has been asking for. Enjoy!submitted by nitelytroll to GTA6
LENLFC will also be updating his original GTAForum's post often when new, reliable information comes out that is worth adding to his timeline.
TL:DR: This is very long. Please don't be mean if you think I went too far. I just wanted to be as detailed as possible, and compile as much evidence and proof as possible, so we can work out the most accurate and likely scenario. I've never done anything like this before. So please be kind.
Hi. So, Red Dead Redemption 2 has come and gone. Feels like forever we waited for it. Hard to believe it released almost 4 months ago. It's that time when many of us will start looking forward to the next Rockstar game. I have been on this site since the first leaks for GTA V popped up online. In that time, I have watched fairly quietly, barely getting involved. I've read a lot, and enjoyed it all, but never actively helped out. I want to warn you all that this post will be pretty lengthy, and as I'm not a regular poster, my formating or writing may not be the best. But I'm a big fan of Rockstar Games, and have a weird fascination with remembering small things. So I wanted to try my best to compile everything we know about how Rockstar go about making their games, what they have done in the past and do some crazy conspiracy theory like deducing to try to predict when, where and how we can find clues to GTA VI, and when they may announce or release it.
Firstly, I'd like to credit and thank Dan Dawkins. Many of you may not know who he is, but long story short, he's a journalist, and back in July 2011 he wrote an article in the magazine PSM3. In the article he predicted many things about GTA V (some correct, some incorrect) he researched all the available data and pooled it together, and used that to speculate about GTA V. That was a massive influence on me growing up, on how to speculate responsibly and use common sense to work out where a game or series may go next. So thank you, Dan!
FACTSNow, onto the main topic. What do we know about GTA VI? Not a lot. Dan Houser recently said that they're thankful they're not releasing GTA VI while Trump is in office. While he's never actually quoted as saying they won't release it while Trump is in office, I think journalists used that for a catchy headline. But the point remains. GTA is heavily based on British satire of USA. The current political climate makes it very difficult for them to do this. If we take it literally, GTA VI won't release until 2021 or 2025, depending on how long he is in office. Unless I have my dates wrong. I'd be willing to bet they had 2021 in mind. However, my personal take on this was that Dan simply meant "thank god we're not releasing GTA VI in 2018" And knowing it'l take them years to even release their next game, Trump will no longer be President.
We also know Rockstar Games will make another GTA. And that is about it. If there is anything else concrete, that we know, that I have missed please let me know.
THE PASTGTA V TIMELINE
Here's where we start digging and look to the past, what Rockstar has done before and try our best to work out their timelines and how they go about things. Now, in order to do this, I'd like to begin with GTA V, as that is when Rockstar Games transitioned into the one big game every 5 years, as opposed to the game every year studio.
April 20th 2009 the first ever build for GTA V was created. I'm not sure if this is when development officially began, or just the date of the first build. Either way, I doubt there is much difference. They were busy working on TBoGT at that point, having just released TLaD 2 months prior. This was discovered from the Build Log. I will go into detail on this later. However this wasn't discovered until 2014, I just thought it was worth putting here to stamp the timeline.
The earliest rumors for GTA V began on July 26th 2010, with reports of Rockstar researching locations in and around Hollywood. Rockstar declined to comment on this, saying they don't comment on "rumors and speculation". To this day we still don't know if this was legit, or otherwise. However the game did end up being set in Los Santos. So it was either true or coincidentally correct.
Next came the domain name leaks on February 25th 2011. That date might be off by a couple of days, but the original GTA V Leak Topic has it dated to the 25th. (Fun fact, this is the leak and topic where I signed up to GTAForums!) Very GTA sounding website names. After GTA IV introduced the internet to us, it was no surprise to think GTA V would expand on that, and the domain names registered sounded right out of a GTA game. This was proven true, as the websites did appear in game.
On March 8th 2011 more fuel was added to the GTA V fire, when the codenamed "Rush" casting call was leaked online. Like the website, they sounded like something out of a GTA game.
This was further expanded on the 29th of March when Take Two put out a private casting call, further hinting at development on GTA V being well underway.
October 5th 2011 In an Asked & Answered article, 2 users asked about the next GTA, with Rockstar replying with the following
“When are we going to see a new GTA????? #bestgameever” - received via Twitter“When's the new grand theft auto coming out?” - received via TwitterAnd then it happened. GTA V was officially announced on October 25th 2011 at 12pm BST, linked below.
This announcement came only 20 days after saying the above on October 5th 2011
This goes to show that Rockstar can say one thing, then surprise us weeks later.
The first trailer then debuted on November 2nd 2011
Everything past this point, until release I feel is not relevant to this discussion. It is more to do with post announce schedules and marketing, and when to expect news or updates or trailers for an already announced major game. If this topic does well, I could add it, or put it in a spoiler box so it's optional detail. Otherwise the next points worth talking about come into play upon release, and where Rockstar go after this.
September 17th 2013 GTA V finally releases. We rejoice.
October 1st 2013, two weeks after the launch of GTA V GTA Online launches.
This is where it gets interesting and complicated. We know now that their next game was Red Dead Redemption 2. However, Rockstar weren't finished with GTA V. Many people claim that Rockstar stopped caring about their fans and gamers, citing images like these
You can actually pinpoint the year Rockstar discovered microtransactions.
Now, I bring these up, as it is important to understand just how Rockstar now operate. Love it or hate it, but GTA Online has allowed Rockstar to not release games as often. Allowing them to work on one game as Rockstar Studios, where they all work together, instead of separate teams, like Rockstar North (GTA) and Rockstar San Diego (RDR) for example. The income from GTA Online has seemingly allowed them to spend 5 years working on Red Dead Redemption 2, perfecting a masterpiece. Allowing them to make the game they wanted, and allowing them to take all the time necessary to innovate and make a living breathing world even more so than GTA V did.
Some time in January 2014 the GTA V Build Log was found. Apparently it was on the game disc, and dedicated fans dug into the files and found it. I bring this up, as it reveals some key interesting details. such as the date of the first GTA V build/when GTA V development began. This is important as we can use this information later to try to work out when they may start their next project.
Throughout 2014 Rockstar were hard at work developing the PC, PS4 & Xbox One versions of the game. I don't know how much work that would be, but they weren't simple upres versions of the game. They included new features and plenty of big enhancements. The PC version was delayed into 2015 for added polish. And leslie Benzies took a sabbatical on September 1st, for 17 months.
The next key detail to note is from January 2016, I think. Leslie Benzies leaves Rockstar North. I feel this is important to note, as it could have delayed a lot of Rockstars plans, as a lot of staff left with him, Rockstar would go on to deal with a lawsuit which could only be an unnecessary distraction. There was a topic here on GTAForums discussing it. Needless to say the whole situation was pretty shady and the details don't really matter too much.
Rockstar had also planned single player DLC for GTA V, multiple datamines suggested 3 packs, as well as Ash735 on Neogaf confirming this. We can take this with a grain of salt, but if it were made up, then it's a pretty dull and uninteresting thing to make up.
They had also promised Heists for GTA Online, which was quickly becoming very popular. I personally believe (And this is where speculation begins) that the SP DLC was the unfortunate victim in all of this. They HAD to get the next gen versions out, as if you're launching an online game, you can't rely on players sticking with old consoles when the next gen consoles launch only 2 months after GTA Online launches. They had to get Heists out, which were promised before the entire game even released. More so than the SP DLC, which was just a closing line on a Newswire article, albeit multiple times. And development on their next game ramping up, going into full production, combined with the restructuring of Rockstar North due to Leslie Benzies leaving... SP DLC may have been an unfortunate victim.
GTA V launches on PS4 & Xbox One on November 18th 2014
PC version launched on April 14th 2015
Rockstar Games are now done with development on GTA V, now solely focusing on GTA Online updates, in terms of Grand Theft Auto
April 3rd 2014 Thanks to @EVOLUT7ON for bringing this to my attention. In a Q&A with DJ Whoo on BallerStatus, he allegedly reveals he will be in the next GTA, which will be in Liberty City again. BallerStatus. And thanks to iNero for his topic.
RDR2 TIMELINEAugust 2013 Roger Clark's first day on set, for Red Dead Redemption 2
Roger Clark: "My first day on the project was in August of 2013. With the context of this particular installment, I was the first to come on, apart from Rob and Ben who worked on the previous chapter."4th September 2014 Rockstar San Diego start hiring for next gen consoles. They allegedly went on a hiring spree for an upcoming project. Which we would later find out to be Red Dead Redemption 2.
December 11th 2014 Actor Jorge Consejo posts a selfie on Instagram, wearing a typical mocap or performance capture suit. However it doesn't match the one used in GTA V
September 2015, [Original Source] Rockstar started hiring for more jobs. They seem to relate to a stealth based game, but so far they haven't released anything that would indicate what they were hired for.
Then the leaks start happening...
November 29th 2015 An ex Rockstar employee hints that RDR2 is their next project. The infamous “Really, Dumbass. Really? Two“ comment by Danny Ross, on Reddit. Archive of actual post
April 13th 2016 the map for RDR 2 leaks on NeoGaf. This was unprecedented. The map for a huge open world Rockstar Games game has never leaked online 6 month before the game was even announced. Link to the map.
October 18th 2016 Rockstar finally announce Red Dead Redemption 2, after teasing in the days leading up to the 18th.
July 27th 2017 Stuntman, Tim Neff's online resume leaks that he worked on RDR2 and GTA VI. He denied involvement in RDR2, but claimed he worked on GTA V, and that it was a mistake. He also had personal instagram photos from Rockstar San Diego, with captions strongly suggesting he was there for work. He denied it, saying it was just a photo taken outside that anyone could take. He quickly removed them. He was not credited in GTA V, but by RDR2's release he is indeed credited in RDR2.
Friday September 29th 2017 A reddit user posted a thread mentioning a recent leak which had been deleted. I do not know the date that it was originally posted. But it was over a year before the game released. And was entirely accurate. these leaks will serve a purpose later on.
December 25th 2017 GTAForums User @Jabalous brings to our Attention the actor Jorge Consejo, his previously mentioned Instagram selfie, and his CV/Resume. Which mentions min being in GTA 6, playing the role "The Mexican" (Featured).
CGI meaning motion capture work, etc.
In April of 2018, I'm not sure of the date, maybe the 18th? The article has since been removed. But I copied the article into a notepad file. Trustedreviews.com published an article based of a memo and some notes about the game. They claimed to have received this information in August 2017, but didn't post it due to fears it was fake. It wasn't until Rockstar released a screenshot that matched one that they had also received that they decided to publish this information, now believing it to be genuine. Here is an image of the text copy of the article (reddit formatting issues)
November 1st 2018 Rockstar sue TrustedReviews for £1M Essentially proving the leak to be true. Although the game itself proves it to be true, it's interesting that Rockstar sued for that much. Or sued at all.
January 6th 2019 Rockstar start hiring for next generation
Rockstar's career opening page - Credit to @el carlitos for that one!
January 30th (Specific date still debatable) Film Florida have guest Leah Sokolowsky on their podcast. She briefly mentions a recent change in her work
Recently as you're aware we've had a change in the types of productions that are coming to our state. So I've also been very fortunate to get a large client that has hired me to arrange basically site tours and visits. It's uh digital media company. And I've signed an NDA so I can't disclose who it is. But they've been exploring various areas of our state, and of other states in the south east. And I've been planning and arranging those visits for their personnel and that's been kind of a very interesting expansion of what I normally do, as well.Here's the link to that quote.
It's suggested this is Take Two Interactive/Rockstar Games, as a reddit user claimed on October 6th 2019 scouts were looking around his area, and asked for permission to take photographs of the building. Which was later followed up by a photograph of an alledged document/contract as proof on October 8th 2019
-----------------------------------------------End of Unconfirmed Speculation-----------------------------------------------
February 13th 2019 VP of product development Jeronimo Barrera departs Rockstar Games after 20 years. This might not seem anything significant, but it's one of his quotes that I think it very important.
"If I had stayed at Rockstar it would have been more GTAs, more RDRs and less of this other stuff going on out there right now." While that is nothing concrete. It does indicate that Rockstar will be working on Red Dead and GTA for the foreseeable future. That won't surprise many of us, but it's just a little detail that gives us hope that GTA is next, and not another franchise like Bully, L.A. Noire or Max Payne, for example.
April 18th 2019 a former Rockstar India employee has mention of creating vehicles for GTA V and upcoming GTA 6 in his artstation resume Thanks to ApolloThunder's post.
Now those are the most important details I feel. Now I may have missed some other details people might find important. In August of 2017 the stunt actor Tim Neff was involved in a alleged leak for RDR2 & GTA 6. It was quickly 'debunked' Although many believed there were holes in the methods used to debunk it. And his removal of Instagram photos taken at Rockstar San Diego was suspicious to many users.
July 9th 2019 Jorge Consejo likes and quotes a tweet about him being in GTA 6
Now We Use All This Information to SpeculateThe first clues we should look for are reports of Rockstar scouting locations. We know from articles and or interviews that Rockstar take thousands of photographs when creating their worlds, so any reports of Rockstar Staff i researching locations should be a very good indication. However, they can be very secretive.
Same goes for Rockstar or Take Two registering domain names or sending out casting calls. So far we've heard nothing of the sort. again, we don't always hear these things. I don't recall hearing anything about casting for RDR2 at any point between 2012 & 2016.
Combined with the fact that Rockstar only just released RDR2 4 months ago. I think it's pretty safe to sat development on their next game hasn't fully begun yet, or will do very soon. If we look back to the build log for GTA V, they created the first build on April 20th 2009. pretty much one year after GTA IV released. By that logic the first build for GTA VI would have been created in September 2014, right? Well, considering they had to work on the next gen and PC versions for so long. I'd wager they started much, much later. We know that these days Rockstar operate as Rockstar Studios, all working together on one game at a time. But if the NeoGaf user is to be believed, pre production for GTA VI began in 2012, which is actually entirely believable. As Rockstar began work on RDR2 almost immediately after RDR1. "In early 2011, Dan began chatting with Rockstar San Diego about how Red Dead Redemption 2 would look and who the characters would be. Late that summer, he says, he had a “broad outline and rough flow of the game defined.” By fall 2012, his team had completed rough scripts for many of the game’s missions and started doing read-throughs on video conference calls with directors of game play, art design, and animation from Rockstar offices around the world. " Source
Now, unlike Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto is not a game about specific characters, like RDR is with John and Dutch's gang. So It's safe to say after GTA V, the Housers did not sit down and come up with scripts or ideas for GTA 6 revolving around those characters. But never say never. They could use this as an opportunity to bring back Michael Franklin & Trevor, working of some of the ideas for the Story DLC for GTA V, instead of scrapping it entirely. For the first time ever, GTA could be a direct sequel using the same protagonists. This however, I believe to be incredibly unlikely. But I thought it was worth mentioning.
So, they've finished RDR2. What Are Rockstar doing now? I believe they're hard at work on the PC version of the game. Many people don't believe it will release on PC, citing the fact that RDR1 never released on PC as evidence. I don't believe that is fair, as we know RDR1 was a mess, and was in such a bad state that they were lucky to release it at all. Rumours and alleged leaks stated the game was a coded mess, and they weren't willing to go through all the hassle of porting it to PC. We also know PC games typically have a high paracy rate, and Rockstar aren't fond of spending all that development time and cost on such an effort for little reward. Here's a clip of Lazlow talking about releasing their games on PC, and joking wanting to make their money back first. It's from 2010, right before RDR1 released. I think he was making a joke, but hiding the truth in there. Which leads me to believe that RDR2 could come to PC, but in order to make their money on that, also release it on PS5 & the Next Xbox, like they did for GTA V. Considering the gap between GTA V on PS3 & 360 and GTA V on PC (19 months) we could see a similar gap with RDR2 on PC. If that is the case, we could see a PC release in May 2020. At which point next gen consoles would likely have been announced, assuming Sony repeat their February reveal as they did with PS4. Or soon to be revealed at E3 a month later. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that they re release on Next gen with native 4K on PS5, higher frame rates, or other enhanced features. Next gen consoles will be backwards compatible, but if they want to keep RD Online going, a newer version with higher player counts could be a good option.
Speaking of next gen consoles, until specs are set in stone, I don't think Rockstar will announce anything. Dev Kits are allegedly being sent to some developers right now. Sony first party studios are already working on PS5 games. Guerilla, for example. I'd wager Sony's relationship with Rockstar is a good bet to think they have them, too. So, what does this mean?
Well, let's look at when Rockstar announced RDR2. 18th October 2016. 18 months after the PC release of GTA V, 3 years, 1 month after the initial release of GTA V. Lets assume they stick to a similar pattern, both GTA V & RDR2 were announced in October. It could be a good bet for what month to expect an announcement. However, GTA IV was announced in May 2006, with Peter Moore's infamous Tattoo. So...
Now let's look at when Rockstar started hiring for RDR2, which was September 2014. It took them 2 years to announce their next game. And they had the base map planned out within 19 months. We just don't know when the photo of the map was taken, just when it was leaked to the public (april 2016). But we do know Rockstar always start with the world. For GTA V, that discussion started as GTA IV was wrapping up – almost five years ago – although the latest game has been in full production for just three years.
“It comes from the idea first,” Benzies tells us in his office at the studio.
“Where is it going to be set is the first question. Then that defines the missions; you’re doing different things in LA than in New York or Miami. The map and story get worked up together, and the story is a basic flow of how it works out so you can layer the missions in. Source
I think we can safely say that Rockstar already know where the game will be set, and Aaron Garbut is already hard at work at creating a concept of a map. If he hasn't already.
Based of that information, I'd say Rockstar are hiring for their next game, which will be PS5 and Next Xbox exclusive, Likely to be GTA 6, and will need 2 - 3 years of development before they are able to reveal it with a trailer. Putting the game at a 2021 - 22 reveal, with a 2023 - 24 release. I do believe the upcoming generation, and Rockstars desire to outdo themselves every time will only slow them down. Their games take so long to develop, and I can't see them putting out GTA 6 in the same timeframe as GTA V, from GTA IV. More likely to be similar, if not longer than GTA V to RDR2.
The LeaksRemember when I said the leaks would serve a purpose later on? I find it highly suspicious that Rockstar had leaks as substantial as they had for RDR2, when they never had anything to that level before. They are usually incredibly watertight. So let's speculate as to why...
The Benz.Isn't it strange how such a long time influential figure at Rockstar North was fired, and then leaks start popping up for their next game? It's no secret that there was more to his firing that we initially thought. Things went really bad between The Benz and The Housers. I think when he left the company, and many of his staff left, too. A lot of disgruntled employees may has decided to spill the beans on their next game out of spite. The entire game map leaking 6 months before the game was even announced, Epilogue spoilers down to finite details such as building a house or birthing a foal? Way too specific, and that's never happened for a Rockstar game before. I just find that suspicious.
So, why is that relevant to GTA 6? Well, it may end up not being relevant at all. But then I remembered the leak from last year, that stated GTA 6 was set in Vice City. Back then, I didn't believe it at all, as it was way too detailed for a game that wasn't even announced, and wouldn't be announced for at least 2 more years. Likely double that. Plus why did they choose The Know? And an anonymous source is always suspicious. But hey, nobody would be dumb enough to give their actual identity if it were legit.
But then I started thinking a while ago, at how detailed the RDR2 leaks were, and maybe, just maybe the person who tipped off The Know was legit, and the info was based of what was in pre production from 2012 [Unofficial Source]. The more I thought about it, I realized that Vice City, with the concept of crossing the border to South America is a simple enough concept that could have been decided upon during pre production (the world is the first thing they decide, remember?)
Why Vice City2 reasons why it's starting to feel like a likely location. Reason one, GTA Online. They introduced businesses and gunrunning into GTA Online, and a lot of people enjoy that stuff. Vice City would be a great location to create content around that concept. I don't believe Rockstar would pick a location based on what would make Online popular, but after GTA Online's huge popularity after GTA V, they'd be stupid to ignore it. Reason 2 was the quote Dan Houser gave about not releasing GTA 6 during Trumps presidency. Again, I believe it's taken a little out of context, but it's his words about satirising America is what caught my eye.
"Both intense liberal progression and intense conservatism are both very militant, and very angry. It is scary but it’s also strange, and yet both of them seem occasionally to veer towards the absurd," Houser said. "It’s hard to satirize for those reasons. Some of the stuff you see is straightforwardly beyond satire. It would be out of date within two minutes, everything is changing so fast." Source
Then there was this quote from Leslie Benzies, also covered in The Knows video:
Any chance that Vice City might return in a future GTA?
It is always a possibility. There are a few references to the city in our current-gen GTAs so it is part of that HD universe, and it is certainly somewhere we would love to revisit. However Vice City, perhaps more than any other GTA game, was as much about the era as the setting. Miami in the 1980’s is so iconic it would feel strange to revisit the city in a different time period.
exploring grand theft auto vice citys lasting impact on gamer culture with rockstars leslie benzies city cover. Of course at some point we would like to have one big world containing all our cities and let the player fly between them and revisit their favorite areas, and in that context reimagining Vice City would be very interesting.
So according to Rockstar, albeit someone who is no longer at Rockstar, it would be strange to go back to Vice City in a modern day setting. If you combine that with what Dan Houser said about parodying America today, and how difficult that would be, is it possible that the next game could be set in the past? Again, combining those quotes, with alleged leaks, and the possibility for fun and exciting gameplay and Online experiences... Vice City is an incredibly likely setting.
The only problem is GTA 6 going into pre production in 2012. If the location was decided upon then. It would either be a happy coincidence, or they may have changed the location. Or, it never was Vice City, and this speculation is clever, but ultimately wrong.
One key piece of information is the Neogaf user, who allegedly states that it WON'T be Vice City. Citing that production notes going around when he still worked there stated possible locations and concepts. And that it is likely one of the 4 options listed in the quoted thread.
Small town gta - tight stories, scheduled characters, ridiculous levels of ambience, every home interior modelled. Every building enterable. More realism - if your wanted you are on the run for a while.You have to consider that what they may have decided in 2012 changed, due to the popularity of GTA Online. They could have chosen a smaller, more detailed interactive world. But due to Online, decided they needed a larger world. Or the location wasn't right due to modern politics and ability to satarise, etc.
I do think GTA could return to the past eventually. Sam Houser has an incredible knowledge of pop culture, and is very intelligent. It would work well for them to go back to an older setting for a GTA game again. That isn't proof of that, or even a solid reason for them to do a prior setting. His knowledge can be used in any setting, past or present. But it's an interesting piece of information to think about.
Another possibility is Dan's words were as simple as GTA 6 won't release while Trump is in office, and therefore GTA 6 will be set in the present day, but by then the political climate may have settled down, or they think/hope things will be different by then, and what they choose to parody will be easier. i don't know.
How about Las Venturas?For the past few months, I've been thinking about the possibility of GTA 6 being set in Las Venturas. It's one of the locations mentioned as a possibility by @Ash_735 It's also a location that would be quite large, although not hugely diverse. However creative freedoms could solve that. If they return to a past setting as theorised. Then Las Venturas in the 70's or 80's could be seen as a pretty cool option. Like a lot of people, I'm a fan of Joe Rogan. Recently he had a guest on his podcast, Bob lazar. Whether you believe him or not is irrelevant. But he tells some interesting stories about working near Area 51, and working on alien UFO's. that really got me thinking... Wouldn't that be a perfect location for Rockstar to have some fun with? GTA V and RDR2 both featured UFO easter Eggs. There was a lot of mysteries tied to Mt. Chiuliad and Fort Zancudo. Can you imagine Area 69 returning, and what Rockstar may do with that? Now I fully understand that saying they may do a certain location, based of nothing other than easter eggs is a bit silly, but what else do we have? However, it does tie in with the notes (Vegas 1970's Casino?). Before RDR2 we never believed Rockstar would create a game, and build of a previous games map. After RDR2, we now know it's possible. I'm still not convinced they'd do it with GTA, as the GTA series is always an island, whereas RDR1 was a landlocked location. However, it is possible, however unlikely that they could build of Southern San Andreas and go east to Las venturas.
Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Sept. 25, 2001
1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000
- This issue opens much like the last one, with Dave's personal thoughts on the recent 9/11 tragedy. He also weaves into it discussions about the economic impact of this and how it could affect the entertainment business (wrestling included) while also acknowledging how silly it feels to even care about that sort of stuff right now. The effects of 9/11 on the economy and on society as a whole are still yet to be seen, but the world definitely changed that day and it's too soon to know how that's going to affect all of our fantasy entertainment.
- The re-launch of UFC, under Zuffa, is scheduled for this week and the signs looked good at first. They sold out the 9,700-seat Mandalay Bay weeks in advance, being the first "sports entertainment" -ish event since WCW to do those kind of numbers other than WWF. But of course, the events of 9/11 have thrown everything into upheaval. UFC has internally lowered their expectations for the PPV buyrate, because most people aren't in a "buying PPVs" kinda mood right now. Everyone's still glued to their TVs watching the news. Then it was announced that the highly anticipated Felix Trinidad vs. Bernard Hopkins boxing match was postponed due to 9/11 and will now be taking place the day after UFC's PPV. Needless to say, that's gonna wreck the buyrate also (yeah this ends up being a disaster. To this day, Dana White still calls UFC 33 the worst show in the history of the company).
- NJPW just ran the worst tournament in company history, with the worst possible finish, and Dave says it's the kind of booking that would even put the dying days of WCW to shame. They held a "G-1 World" tournament which was basically just a 5-man round robin tournament with Scott Norton, Don Frye, Super J, Giant Silva, and Scott Hall. If that sounds bad on paper, you're right. And it exposed just how weak the foreign talent in NJPW is these days. Then it was made worse by Don Frye winning the whole thing, only to abruptly quit NJPW the next day to go fight for PRIDE. So now the runner up (Scott Norton) will challenge Yuji Nagata to a match next week, with the winner getting an IWGP title shot (I mean, okay, that doesn't sound like the best tournament or anything, but none of that booking sounds WCW-level bad).
- Jerry Lawler is making one last ditch effort to keep the tradition of Memphis wrestling alive. They are no longer running live shows on local TV there, but Lawler, along with Jimmy Hart, Dave Brown, and Cory Maclin have been hosting a "best of" show for the last several months. Basically just clips of old classic Memphis wrestling that airs in the same TV time slot. Well, the TV network informed them this week that they will no longer allow Lawler & Co. to use the WMC-TV production studios to do that show. The TV station is still willing to air any wrestling shows that Lawler will give them, but they no longer want to be involved in producing it in any way. So now Lawler is scrambling around Memphis trying to strike a deal to keep some form of local wrestling in Memphis on the air.
- There are some new details on the decisions made that led to the cancellation of WCW on Turner networks back in March. Back when Eric Bischoff and Fusient were still negotiating to buy WCW, the plan written into the deal was for Nitro to move to TBS (because they were re-branding TNT and wrestling wouldn't fit the new image of the network). The deal would have given WCW 4 prime time hours on TBS for the next 10 years. Around this same time, Fusient's biggest financial backer, private equity firm Warburg Pincus, had pulled out of the deal and it's unknown how Fusient would have been able to afford to run WCW without them. That uncertainty might have played a part in Jamie Kellner deciding to simply cancel WCW programming. If Fusient couldn't afford it and WWF couldn't buy it because of Viacom blocking the TV deal, there were simply no other interested buyers. By cancelling the TV shows, that freed Turner up to sell it to WWF because Viacom would no longer stand in the way. When it became clear that Kellner was cancelling it and Vince McMahon was going to buy it, Bischoff made a last-ditch effort to try to secure a deal with USA or FX, but it didn't happen. USA was said to be dead set against airing anymore wrestling after WWF left them (they turned down ECW for the same reason). FX turned Bischoff down as well, for various reasons (concerns over Fusient's financial backing for one. Also, Bischoff basically approached them in a "we have to make a decision now before they sell to WWF!" and FX was uncomfortable making such a big decision in such an immediate time frame. FX would have had to approve the deal within 48 hours and for it to go through all the legal red tape and due diligence necessary, it just wasn't feasible. Obviously, if WCW was a hot product, FX would have moved mountains to make it happen. But WCW had the stench of death on it for a long time and nobody was jumping through hoops to save it.
- So the Observer has been having yearly votes on Wrestler of the Year since the early 80s, but what about before that? It's hard to judge because the coverage of the business in earlier decades wasn't as thorough. But Dave and some other wrestling historians have done a bunch of research and put together a list of people that likely would have won the Wrestler of the Year award every year dating back to 1901, if the Observer and its readers had actually existed back then and voted on it. Lots of Lou Thesz, George Hackenschmidt, Frank Gotch, etc. Dave goes into a lot of detail about how these picks would be made, how times change and what fans look for has changed and how those criteria affect the list. Obviously this is all an exercise in futility since no one can really know how a vote for 1926's Wrestler of the Year would have actually gone, so this is all hypothetical. It's interesting but not newsworthy.
- Kenta Kobashi had yet another surgery on his right knee recently, to remove screws that were put in during a previous surgery. Dave has lost count of how many surgeries Kobashi has had now and fears that he's going to end up wheelchair bound at a young age. But for now, the plan is still for him to return to the ring in January.
- Dave talks about all the recent changes made to NJPW's upcoming Tokyo Dome show next month and basically blames it on Antonio Inoki, who has been throwing his muscle around to change matches and push all his MMA guys. Dave thinks Inoki is tired of professional wrestling but is using its popularity and visibility to promote the real shoot fights he wants with PRIDE and K-1. The booking Inoki is doing makes sense for those promotions and for his fighters, but it's terrible for NJPW and he doesn't really seem to care. Dave compares the recent booking of NJPW to Russo-era WCW, in that both are convoluted, often make no sense, and are/were terrible for their respective companies.
- Speaking of Antonio Inoki, he was actually in New York City on 9/11, not far from the World Trade Center when the attack happened. Due to all the airlines being grounded, he was stuck in New York for the rest of the week. Japanese women's wrestler Itzuki Yamazaki (of the famous Jumping Bomb Angels) lives in Manhattan near ground zero and none of her friends and family in Japan has heard from her since, so there's obviously a lot of concern about that (she was fine and still lives in NYC to this day. She owns a restaurant called Go Sushi, so check it out if you're there and report back). NWA Jersey promoter Fred Rubenstein works for the Port Authority in New York and was supposed to be in the World Trade Center that day, but was running late and was still a few blocks away when he got word of the attack.
- Also, a scheduled NWA 53rd Anniversary show may have to be moved now. It was scheduled to take place in the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, FL which is a National Guard location. But there's a lock down on all military bases now. It's believed the lock down will be lifted before the show is scheduled, but if not, then they'll have to find a new building or cancel the show. They're hoping to have Steve Corino defend the NWA title against Hashimoto on this show. Christopher Daniels vs. AJ Styles is also scheduled for the card.
- Jerry Lawler was also supposed to wrestle a show in Toronto on 9/15, only one day after commercial flights in the U.S. were allowed to fly again. He arrived at the Memphis airport and between cancellations and delays, he was there for 8 hours. Eventually, it became apparent that he wouldn't be able to make it to Toronto in time for the show, so he had to cancel (yeah, if you aren't old enough to remember, airports were a goddamn nightmare for months after 9/11).
- The angle last week with Hiroshi Tanahashi pinning Scott Hall was actually Hall's idea. He wanted to re-create the famous 1-2-3 Kid angle because Hall thinks Tanahashi could be a big star some day. Nobody else in the locker room knew it was going to happen and everyone popped big for it when it did. Hall got over big with all the other Japanese wrestlers for doing it. In other news, Hall is pushing NJPW to bring in Kevin Nash for the Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome show.
- Dave reviews the latest Zero-One show and he thinks Samoa Joe has made an incredible transition to the Japanese style and has adapted perfectly. And he's getting over pretty big there because of it.
- Most wrestling shows ran as planned this week, although CZW cancelled an event, feeling that a light tube death match might be in bad taste given how everyone is still raw from what happened on 9/11. A few other indies cancelled shows and there's a AAA show scheduled for Los Angeles next week and nobody can seem to confirm whether it's still happening or not.
- WWA in Australia held a press conference this week for the upcoming shows they're promoting there. They heavily hyped that Vince Russo would be bringing them a wrestling product the likes of which has never been seen before in Australia. Dave thinks this whole thing would do better if they just tried to bring them a good wrestling product instead. BURN. They pushed Road Dogg, Stevie Ray, Buff Bagwell, Nathan Jones, and Bret Hart as the top stars and all 5 men were there doing PR for it. They repeatedly made clear that Bret Hart is retired and wouldn't be wrestling. They pushed it as the start of a new promotion rather than just an indie tour. They've booked big 10,000+ seat venues and are charging $40-50 for tickets. WCW charged more than that last year and ran a surprisingly successful tour in Australia. Even in the dying days of WCW, the company drew big there. But WCW had TV there and was a widely recognized name, whereas this WWA venture does not.
- Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff spoke this past week, with Hogan basically checking to see if there was anything going on Bischoff's end. Bischoff apparently told Hogan to go make amends with Vince McMahon because there's nothing new on the horizon from him or anyone else. Lots of people are talking about starting up new indies but without TV backing, there's nothing sustainable on a major league level happening anytime soon. Hogan recently had another knee surgery a few weeks ago. Obviously, Hogan in WWF, with the right angle, could be huge. But the problem is that he's Hulk Hogan, he's got a lot of enemies, and bringing him in is sure to upset a lot of the WWF locker room. Plus Hogan would be coming in at significantly less money than he was used to making in WCW.
- H&S Media's assets are being sold at auction this week. H&S Media is the parent company of WOW Magazine. WOW currently has a new issue ready to be released and its sitting at the printers, but it hasn't been printed yet due to the uncertainty over the company. The death of WOW Magazine would be the end of Bill Apter's 31-year run as the biggest independent wrestling magazine publisher in the U.S. (yup, this is the end of the road for WOW).
- Various notes: Ric Flair stars in a local Kansas City commercial for a check cashing company. He even drops a "Whooo!" Ricki Lake did an episode of her show talking about backyard wrestling and it was pretty much exactly what you'd expect and it featured an appearance from Stevie Ray (I can only find one part of it. Can't find the Flair commercial at all).
- WWF attempted to get back to business with Raw this week. The whole crew seemed exhausted (as mentioned, travel is a nightmare now) and the crowd seemed to lull at times. There were tons of USA chants, flags, etc. America is pretty much still in shock, but patriotism is at an all-time high. Kronik showed up and beat up Kane and Undertaker. Dave thinks it's funny that Undertaker wouldn't even sell for any of these other WCW guys and many of them have been buried because they "don't know how to work" but Kronik is walking in the door with a big push because Bryan Adams is Undertaker's friend. Hurricane was looking for a superhero sidekick and Lance Storm suggested Ivory. Hurricane said no because she's only 99.44% pure, which is a reference to an old Ivory soap slogan. This joke probably went over the heads of most of the audience because nobody reacted, but Dave thought it was hilarious.
- Notes from Smackdown: this is the show that aired live two days after 9/11 and Dave says it was a very unique show. Behind the scenes, a lot of people felt they shouldn't have done the show at all, including some city officials in Houston. Edge even acknowledged on TV that they weren't sure they should be doing the show. WWF itself was obviously sensitive to receiving any criticism about running the show and were almost too defensive in putting themselves over for not cancelling it. Linda McMahon and a WWF media relations guy made the interview rounds the next day, defending the decision to go ahead with it. In the end, whether or not a wrestling show should have happened is such an unimportant issue in the wake of real life events. Dave can't say whether it was right or wrong. If it had been him, he personally would have waited until Raw the next week before running a live show again, but as a fan, he was also just glad to have some kind of escape from the real world on TV. So in hindsight, Dave thinks WWF made the right decision, though cancelling it wouldn't have been wrong either. Back in the 1960s, the NFL caught a ton of heat for not cancelling games after the assassination of JFK and for decades since, they have still been criticized for it. On television, WWF tried to make a big deal of being the first major event to run post-9/11. But this is WWF, so of course that's not actually true. It wasn't even the first wrestling event, as OVW held a show the night before (for a much smaller crowd, of course). Madonna also continued her tour prior to WWF running Smackdown. While the show aired in most of the country, it didn't air in New York, Boston, or Minneapolis. Despite these pre-emptions, and despite most of the country still glued to the news networks, Smackdown ratings held up surprisingly well.
- It was presented similar to the Owen Hart episode, with no storylines, just matches and out-of-character interviews. Most were very good but the one in particular that made some headlines was Stephanie McMahon, who compared the attacks to her father's steroid trial. Dave can't believe the company allowed this to air. Now, to be fair, Dave tries really hard to see this from Stephanie's point of view. He believes she was trying to relate the attacks to something from her personal life and her father being on trial and facing prison when she was a teenager was surely one of the worst things she's ever personally experienced in her life. Dave was at that trial and he remembers seeing Vince's family in the courtroom during the closing arguments and recalls how traumatized the 17-year-old Stephanie appeared to be that day. So he understands what she was trying to go for here. But comparing that trial to the death of thousands of people, and to compare the government prosecutors who went after her dad to the terrorists who attacked America came off incredibly poorly and offensive. To their credit, WWF edited the promo out of the Excess show 2 nights later, which was mostly just a re-run of Smackdown with the same out-of-character promos. Stephanie aside, the rest of the show proved how much things have changed. 10 years ago, at the peak of the Gulf War, WWF tried to capitalize on it by booking Hulk Hogan as an American hero and sending him to military bases so they could film him meeting the troops in order to build the Sgt. Slaughter match. So they haven't decided to exploit this tragedy for their own gain, at least not yet. Anyway, they also didn't try to use this show to sell anything. There was no hype for the PPV, not even any promos or commercials for it. They offered refunds beforehand for anyone who didn't feel like attending a big public gathering two days after the scariest day in most American's lives, and more than 200 people took them up on the offer. And for the live fans, they gave them a Rock vs. Austin dark match. Overall (Stephanie nonsense notwithstanding), Dave thinks WWF did a fantastic and honorable job given the circumstances of the situation and they deserve credit for it.
- Oh yeah, other notes from the actual show: Lilian Garcia opened the show with a hell of a rendition of the national anthem and a Vince McMahon promo that was basically an American pep rally. Kurt Angle was on the show, not selling his injuries from Raw at all. Given the newfound patriotic fervor in America, the reality (although no one will openly admit it) is that WWF sees Kurt Angle as a "USA"-chant magnet and they didn't want him here selling injuries and looking weak when America is all about being strong right now. Again, no one openly will admit it because it might seem exploitative, but everyone realizes that Kurt Angle could be money if they steer into the American Olympic hero aspect of his character.
- Weirdly enough, when Smackdown aired on Sky in the UK, they edited out everything to do with 9/11. So all the promo videos, the opening, even the RVD vs. Spike Dudley match was cut because commentary talked about 9/11 throughout most of it. As a result, in the UK, Smackdown only lasted 51 minutes this week.
- Long-term, WWF is still planning to split the rosters sometime in early 2002 with WCW going on its own as a separate entity with its own show. There's no set date and WWF is pretty much being booked week-to-week on the fly right now, with little in the way of long-term planning. If they're serious about this, Dave says they have to start rebuilding WCW now so that fans will take it serious and not reject it next year when it has to sustain itself. Right now, the WCW name is worth less than it was when the real WCW folded and trying to launch a new WCW show now would likely fail worse than it would have if they had gone along with their original plan.
- Jerry Lawler was backstage at this week's Smackdown tapings in Memphis but was just visiting friends. As of now, there's no immediate plans to bring him back, although one presumes Lawler was certainly fishing for a job (he hasn't been shy on his website about wanting to return). Lawler was basically trying to make amends with people, since he burned a lot of bridges after he quit. Jim Ross told Lawler to get his divorce to Stacy Carter finalized first and straighten out all his personal life issues, then they'll look into bringing him back. But it looks like it may be a messy divorce and they want him at work with a clear head, not having to miss dates to attend court hearings and whatnot. There's also the issue of where he'd fit in. Jim Ross and Paul Heyman work really well together on commentary, but there's also longstanding issues between those 2 that date back years and Ross doesn't particularly seem to enjoy working with Heyman. So who knows. As for Stacy Carter, she's currently living with former WWF developmental wrestler Mike Howell (who wrestled as one of the Dupp Brothers) and they're living in a condo that Lawler owns in Florida but until the divorce is finalized, he apparently can't legally kick her out of it. In his final OVW appearance, Howell was on TV flaunting it by wearing a Miss Kitty shirt.
- It was extremely difficult for the WWF wrestlers to get flights out of Houston after Smackdown. A lot of the wrestlers simply ended up driving, some as far as Minnesota and Florida, to get home. Others who live further away (west coast or Canada for example) simply drove from Houston to Nashville and stayed there for a few days until the Raw taping the following Monday since they couldn't get home. So for many of the roster, it was 11 straight days on the road at a time when everyone in America just wants to be home with their families.
- The Much Music Awards in Canada (their version of MTV) were scheduled to air this week but were cancelled due to 9/11 and won't be rescheduled. Chris Benoit was booked to appear and introduce the band Our Lady Peace, who were going to debut their new song "Whatever" which Benoit will be using as his new theme song when he returns. Much Music execs thought it would be in poor taste to be handing out music awards while in America, funerals were still taking place.
- Triple H did an interview with FHM magazine and talked about the criticism WWF received for continuing the show on the night Owen Hart died. Triple H said that criticism pissed him off because Owen was his friend and that Owen would have wanted the show to go on. "Yeah, how dare those people like Owen's wife and family members question that decision," Dave quips.
- Caryn Mawr, who very briefly worked for WWF as a character named Muffy, was the winner of Battledome's women's championship. Mawr only made one WWF appearance as Stephanie McMahon's trainer but made a bunch of dark match appearances during her time in WWF but they just never got behind her to put her on TV and do something with her. She also apparently didn't earn herself any brownie points by complaining about the name "Muffy."
- Tons of letters this week, mostly about how this whole Invasion angle has just gone off the rails. Some guy predicting WWF is going to grow stale without competition (yup). Someone else writes in about the new Saturday night Excess show and how they do sort of a similar call-in thing as the old Livewire show, but the calls are all carefully screened and the questions suck and the hosts suck. The guy suggests Jim Cornette should host the show. Dave responds and says Cornette is busy running OVW and hates flying and he would hate flying to New York every week. Paul Heyman lives in New York and he'd probably be a good host for it, but he's so busy with everything else that he's involved in on-screen right now with the Invasion angle that he probably wouldn't be able to do it either. Dave has a suggestion and he admits he's biased....but he thinks Bryan Alvarez would be a great host for something like that. He's funny, quick on his feet, and has a depth of wrestling knowledge that most people don't. He's also someone who will tell it like it is and not kiss up to the product, but he admits WWF probably isn't interested in that kind of host. Other people write in about the Observer Hall of Fame. One guy seems offended that Undertaker is even considered for it. He says sure the Undertaker is a great gimmick but for years, he has been part of some of the worst matches and angles the WWF had. "If great matches can make a candidate, shouldn't awful matches for 4+ years break him?" Someone else writes in saying he's tired of people complaining about Shawn Michaels not being in and says Shawn doesn't deserve it. Yes he was a great worker but was never a great draw, didn't have any real longevity on top, and his outside the ring antics are legendarily negative. Says Shawn was the grand slam champion of unprofessionalism. At different points, he vacated the World, IC, European, and Tag Team titles all without ever jobbing so why does he deserve to be in the HOF?