And now this is where it gets really interesting. The summer of 1986 is when WWF’s presentation transformed into what we would come to know all the way up to the start of Monday Night RAW in 1993. The weekly shows Superstars and Challenge began in September and both looked better than the old Championship Wrestling show. Roddy Piper took a summer sabbatical and came back as a major babyface while Paul Orndorff turned on Hulk Hogan to set up that huge money program.
This show aired on 10/04/1986 from the Richfield Coliseum, which is NOT in Cleveland no matter what they say on this broadcast. The history of that place fascinates me even if it was torn down in the late 1990s. It opened in the mid-1970s to be the home of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and later (briefly) the NHL’s Cleveland Barons. The idea behind building in remote Richfield was the proximity to major highway and fact that the location was an hour drive from about five million people. The problem was that driving to an event would take much longer due to the epic traffic jams. After being torn down in the late 1990s, the Coliseum land was turned into part of Cuyahoga National Park and is a bird sanctuary.
And Jesse Ventura’s back! This was at NBC’s insistence as they considered him a star of the show. The Body proceeded to use this leverage to take WWF to the cleaners in negotiations. Promo City to start out: Jake Roberts is in the shower with his snake, ready to face Ricky Steamboat; Johnny V is with the Dream Team looking to win back the tag team titles; Paul Orndorff has three mirrors in his dressing room and vows to take down the Hulkster; Hulk Hogan does his usual.
Jesse to Vince McMahon: “You’re nothing without Jesse the Body!” I’m sure Vinny Mac loved that. They throw to Mean Gene Okerlund who is with Roddy Piper, nursing a leg injury after being attacked during a dueling Piper’s Pit/Flower Shop segment a week prior. It’s funny to watch Okerlund as Piper goes nuts while talking; it’s the same concept as why I watch Ron MacLean’s facial expressions during Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada.
Back to Hogan, who was turned on by partners many times but this one by Orndorff really took hold and made boatloads of money. Orndorff is with Bobby Heenan and they vow to rip out Hogan’s tongue and put it on the belt. That seems a bit harsh, but it might have been good for Hulk since he wouldn’t be able to use racial slurs anymore.
Hulk Hogan (C) vs “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff for WWF World Title: Hogan no sells punches early, but is distracted by Heenan, whose role in this feud can’t be understated. Managers can be useful, so why won’t you bring them back, WWE? Hogan clotheslines Orndorff over the top to the floor where the blue mats are in place now. That’s probably a good idea.
Heenan is bumping like crazy for Hogan but that provides a 2nd distraction and allows Mr. Wonderful to transition into control. Then Hogan scores with a high knee?!? Whoa, Hulk was working here. He goes for the leg drop but Heenan grabs Hogan’s leg. Man, these guys are cheating like crazy and I love it. But the police come for the Brain to remove him from ringside which sets up the commercial break.
When they come back, Orndorff is in control. One reason why this program worked was because Mr. Wonderful had very believable offense and wasn’t just a lumbering oaf. He was also protected very well as we will see. Orndorff goes for his piledriver finisher but Hogan counters with a back drop to Hulk up, thereby not killing the move. A Hulk up leads to a clothesline by Hulk that is a direct callback to how Orndorff turned on him. Here’s Adrian Adonis running in to save his opponent from the last SNME, but Roddy Piper hobbles down with a crutch to counter. Piper nails Adonis on the arm with his crutch and the heels leave and Piper and Hogan tease a faceoff in the ring in a cool moment. The Hot Rod slams down the crutch and leaves. Really fun match and finish and this will continue.
Jake the Snake Roberts vs Ricky the Dragon Steamboat: Jake cuts a promo beforehand as they replay the stiff DDT on the Dragon from the last SNME. Steamboat comes to the ring with a Komodo dragon which is just weird. The snake was the only animal on WWF TV that actually was effective, though Matilda probably had the best mic skills of all the British Bulldogs.
Steamboat controls early and Ventura makes an interesting point as Jake is dropped on his stomach: don’t eat immediately before a match. I love stuff like that. Jake gets the knees up on a top rope splash and each guy goes for their animal. But Roberts stays in control and we see just about his full offensive arsenal: gutbuster, short arm clothesline, etc. and the Dragon sells like only he can. Ventura was critical of the some slow counts by this referee during the heat segment, which is paid off when Steamboat gets a pin with a crucifix on a notably fast count. Jake sends Steamboat to the ring post on the outside and goes for the snake but Ricky gets his dragon and it’s Joan Embery Animal Kingdom on SNME.
Hogan is with Mean Gene and says he is Judge Hogan and his Hulkamaniacs are the jury. Bet he wishes that was true in the Gawker case. Hulk tells Piper to stay out of his business and that Orndorff is “guilty as charged”. Hogan to ECW in 1999? Not exactly what he meant.
The Iron Sheik (w/Slick) vs Rowdy Roddy Piper: Slick is brand new, having taken over for the retiring Freddie Blassie. While the Doctor of Style was a bit of a racial caricature, he had his moments of effectiveness. One issue Slick always had was that he was taller than many wrestlers, which is a real no no in the storytelling. There is a promo with Sheik and Slick getting out of a limo and I LOVE the way Slick says “rasslin”. Pedro Morales was scheduled to substitute but Piper tells him to get lost; Morales would never get a SNME moment. Sheik tries a suplex but Piper counters into a small package and grabs the tights to get the win. I also enjoy babyfaces doing some cheating.
After a nothing Dream Team promo, Piper is with Mean Gene. “I do exactly what I want to do!” says Piper, who notes Adonis might be pregnant with six litters of puppies.
The British Bulldogs do a promo and Davey Boy Smith doesn’t even talk. Well then.
British Bulldogs (C) vs Dream Team (Beefcake and Valentine) for WWF Tag Team Titles: This match is 2 out of 3 falls under “European” rules, and Jesse strongly objects to this because this is America. Davey Boy controls early on Beefcake but the Dream Team takes command with quick tags. Dynamite Kid gets in and has a hurt leg, because of course. He just was never healthy once they hit it big. Valentine gets a submission on fall #1 via figure four leglock, but Ventura remembers this is 2 out of 3.
Before fall #2 starts, they tell us Adonis has a shoulder separation. Replay is shown and Ventura ridicules this, noting he was hit on the elbow, which is definitely not the shoulder. The match picks up in fall #2 with the Bulldogs needing to win two straight to retain. Davey Boy gets a powerslam on the Hammer, but Beefcake comes in to save. He gets picked up on a fireman’s carry and Bulldogs make a tag, and Dynamite comes off Beefcake’s back with the flying headbutt to get the 2nd fall. Always a cool spot, but flying headbutts are ill-advised in retrospect.
As fall #3 begins, Dynamite gets the snap suplex but the flying headbutt misses. Vince McMahon says Adonis has a shattered elbow, which is not the medical turn. Dynamite tags Davey Boy, but ref didn’t see it. Dream Team works the leg and Valentine is kicked off on a figure four try. Both tag out and Beefcake gets in some offense with near falls. Davey Boy gets a sunset flip hope spot which gets a very close two count. I notice a lot of empty seats in the background behind the Dream Team corner; I hope those people aren’t stuck in traffic. SNME wasn’t taped in exact order so this was not the last match of the night. Beefcake misses a knee, and Davey Boy hits a PERFECTPLEX in 1986 to get the win. This match got better the longer it went. Maybe Gorilla is right: it takes Valentine 10 minutes to get warmed up? Probably the best Bulldogs showing on SNME and a very long match by the standards of the show.
Kamala vs Leaping Lanny Poffo: The Ugandan giant is being built up to face Hogan. There is one of the bad screaming Wizard promo beforehand. Poffo was generally protected in enhancement tags, but he was to be squashed here. Splash wins it, and Kamala covers until the handlers tell him to get up. Kamala takes that to mean he should go to the top rope for a splash, but he is stopped from following through.
Summary: Excellent show, highest recommendation. Hogan-Orndorff, Piper right after his face turn, Bulldogs showing their stuff, and a fine Dragon-Snake match that was the blowoff to that feud as both guys would go onto very interesting things. The production has definitely improved as well. Here is the WWE Network link for the show.