Like most families in the 1980s, my family had a subscription to TV Guide since it was the easiest way to know what was on TV. For a period of time I would grab the little magazine when it would arrive in the mail and turn immediately to Saturday’s listings to see if wrestling would be on at 11:30 PM. Usually, it would be Saturday Night Live and I would be disgusted because I hadn’t yet learned that by the late 80s, they had a set schedule for these specials. It was a special place where you would see two guys that matter face off, and Hulk Hogan was a huge part of the package. NBC wanted two guys on this new show: one is Hulk Hogan, and the other is Jesse Ventura whose absence in 1986 to make Predator would upset NBC so much that WWF was forced to bring him back. But let’s look at the first show from May 1985, taped at historic Nassau Veterans Memorial
The opening theme was originally “Obsession” by Animotion but WWE is too cheap to pay for it, although their own song is pretty ok too even if it is a mild ripoff. You will notice a big step up from the production values at the original Wrestlemania, where WWF was forced to use an MSG crew due to union shenanigans. Dick Ebersol and NBC would play a huge role in improving this area of the broadcasts. There are traditional interviews to start out, and Cyndi Lauper has made the drive to Uniondale from Queens to bless us with that accent. It’s Mother’s Day weekend so everything is dedicated to the mothers out there.
We start with a six man tag and somewhere Teddy Long is smiling. The US Express and Ricky Steamboat face Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff and George Steele. Sheik and Volkoff don’t like Steele because he’s incredibly weird so when he tags in, they just leave him there and he gets pinned. Volkoff and Sheik come back to beat up Steele before he’s rescued by former manager Captain Lou Albano leading to some mildly funny Tuesday Night Titans skits down the road. I need to watch more of that show.
Piper’s Pit with Paul Orndorff where Piper blames him for losing at WM and beats him up with Bob Orton before Mr. T makes the save. Piper was in his usual form here, and this is in the building that would start cheering him during the insipid boxing match with T. There was still some value in Mr. T at this point, but he was such a headache that there would be diminishing returns. He wouldn’t be seen much until 1986.
Mr. T and Piper were also at ringside for a standard Hulk Hogan title defense against Cowboy Bob Orton that ends in Piper interfering. The important thing about SNME is that Hogan was going to be wrestling on TV and as a result people would watch in huge numbers; this show did a 8.8 rating which was big even then for a 11:30 pm timeslot. Paul Orndorff made a save for Hogan and would start a beautiful friendship that would last about a year and then create a huge money program that culiminated in a SNME match airing in early 1987.
Lauper is banned from ringside for Wendi Richter’s match vs Moolah but Richter wins easily anyway in a match that will not make you forget any of the NXT women’s classics of the past year. Lauper runs to the ring to celebrate and one of my favorite “rock and wrestling” tropes: Dave Wolff openly marking out in the ring like a child. The “rock and wrestling” marriage would end shortly when MTV asked for an equity stake in WWF, and in return Vince suggested that WWF made MTV…so don’t think his delusional behavior only started recently. It’s been a character trait for many decades.
The Junkyard Dog had his mother Bertha on hand for a win over local Boston legend Pete Doherty, whose nickname is the “Duke of Dorchester”. He is primarily known for his memorable crazy mannerisms during matches and for being one of the worst announcers in WWF history. Go ahead and watch this match he had against Andre the Giant and you’ll see what I mean. The Dog dances with his mother in the ring, because Vince McMahon believes all black people must publicly dance at all times.
The end segment is another SNME staple: a comedy segment. Some of these worked, some didn’t but most were at least memorable. This one featured the mothers of wrestlers which included both faces and heels, and ended with Fabulous Moolah getting indigant and shoved into a cake. Gene Okerlund fell into the cake too, but I suspect he might have just been looking for dessert.
Summary: Not much good wrestling here but a decent look at WWF from mid-1985.