After a successful debut on NBC in the spring, Saturday Night’s Main Event returned in the fall with two more episodes before the end of 1985. This show was taped at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The show starts with promos before the opening theme by Hulk Hogan and Nikolai Volkoff who face off in the main event in a flag match, which apparently is “winner gets to wave their flag” which makes me wonder why they can’t just wave it anyway.
Their match is the opener as many SNMEs were structured and we get one of my favorite Hogan moves early: the whip to the corner where he follows up quickly with a clothesline. Volkoff gets the edge and hits his backbreaker finisher, but no Hulk up yet. That would not become a regular part of the Hogan repertoire until 1986. The champion puts in a little more offense than the usual Hogan finish. He then spits on and wipes his boots with the Soviet flag as Jesse Ventura decries this on commentary. This type of stuff would get a profuse apology today but in the Cold War all was fair.
Uncle Elmer squashes Jerry Valiant in record time as they play up his wedding later on. It was a real wedding because they wouldn’t allow a fake wedding in New Jersey. Hyped as the first wedding on network TV since Tiny Tim on the Tonight Show in 1969, as apparently Charles and Diana didn’t count. Domestic weddings only? In any event, stay tuned to see the big fat guy in overalls marry some poor woman.
Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff have a pretty crazy brawl for about 4 minutes before it ends in a double countout to protect the program for house shows. A big part of the story here was Bobby Heenan’s bounty on Orndorff for firing him, as Piper threatens the Brain if he doesn’t pay up. By all accounts these guys had some really good matches that year and it’s a shame that nothing was immortalized on a larger stage. A match at the Wrestling Classic would have worked, with Hogan facing someone other than Piper.
Uncle Elmer’s wedding has to be seen to be believed. Jesse Ventura lays waste to him on commentary and to this day claims in interviews it was among the best work he ever did. Vince McMahon apparently asked Jesse to go over the top with it likely due to Vince’s childhood hatred of hillbillies. Andre the Giant is wearing his wrestling trunks to the wedding, so this is not a black tie affair. Elmer kept screwing up the vows, couldn’t hear the minister and Jesse is bringing the snark, with the money line when they kiss “they look like two carp fighting over food in the Mississippi”. When the officiant asked if there were any objections, Piper came out to ridicule this whole thing because he’s awesome and it would lead to a tag match on a future SNME.
Andre the Giant and Tony Atlas took on King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd, and Andre chose a slightly better partner than S.D. Jones this time since he doesn’t need another haircut. Andre was rapidly deteriorating at this point and frankly so was Atlas. Hogan has to come out to make the save after a short match which sets up at match at the next SNME with Hogan in Atlas’ place. Hogan and Andre together for the first time? They knew how to pop a rating.
Mean Gene is at the zoo and runs in the George Steele where he calls Bundy a hippo and Heenan a weasel while pointing out the different animals he sees. Certainly not any worse than a 15 minute Stephanie McMahon promo. Steele was being worked into a greater role after his face turn and would be used heavily against Macho Man Randy Savage for the next year and a half.
Seven years before Magic, Larry and Jordan conquered the basketball world in the Barcelona Olympics, wrestling’s Dream Team in the form of new tag champs Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine beat Lanny Poffo and Tony Garea with ease, starting the tradition of tag champs making their first defense on Saturday Night’s Main Event. I always note that when Poffo was in these spots, he was protected and didn’t eat pins because people enjoyed the poetry. He had an extreme porn star stache at this point as was the style at the time.
The wedding reception for Elmer has an inspired table of Andre, Orndorff, Hogan and Ventura. Man, I would love to hear the conversations there, especially since Hogan and Ventura would eventually have their issues. Poffo reads a poem, and then Jesse has a much more negative poem of his own, before he gets comeuppance by getting tossed into a cake. That’s two SNME shows in a row where someone ends up in a cake, and the third show reviewed on this blog. I should note the set for this was a barnyard, because it’s hillbillies, you know? They aren’t allowed to rent a hall like normal people!
Summary: Hogan matches from pre-1986 are always rather interesting, and the Piper match is a good little brawl. Worth it just for Ventura’s commentary during the wedding, which actually led to a rare Ventura TV match down the road. You can fast forward through much of the rest.