Back with more Saturday Night’s Main Event in the build to Wrestlemania 3 which like that show was held in Michigan at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The show came five weeks after the most consequential episode of Superstars ever, with Andre turning on Hogan and the Harts winning the tag titles. To show how hot everything was, this show did an 11.4 rating the highest that WWF ever did in the Saturday time slot. Tonight: Elizabeth is “on the line” in the match between Macho Man Randy Savage and George The Animal Steele, the Harts defend the tag titles for the first time, Jake the Snake takes on King Kong Bundy, and oh yes, a 20 man battle royal with both Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.
Gene Okerlund is with Elizabeth and Savage and Macho Man insists on doing the talking. Okerlund says Liz is “more than just a manager” as Liz looks wildly uncomfortable because that’s what she did best. She will enter last so Savage storms off. Steele crashes the set so that Liz can look as thrilled as Kanye West at a Bush family reunion. When Liz does leave, Gene checks out her ass! Oh my God….but the best part is that Jesse Ventura (our host with Vince McMahon) calls him on it!
George Steele vs Randy Savage for the managerial services of Elizabeth
Liz is in a weird lifeguard’s chair by ringside after getting the huge “no one can touch her escort” to the ring. Savage opens with a double axe handle to the floor on Steele who is distracted. The Macho Man decides to take Liz down and leave with her but Ricky Steamboat appears in the aisle to stop that. Back in the ring the Animal controls but then decides to eat a turnbuckle so Savage connects with a knee to the back. Gotta love how he would use turnbuckle eating as a transition spot. Another double axe handle from Savage connects, this one in ring. But then a clothesline is countered by Steele biting the bicep of Savage. Not the last time Savage would get his arm bit on WWF TV.
Steele eats another buckle; he must be hungry being in his hometown of Detroit. The Animal goes out to get Liz and actually starts leading her away but Savage attacks and throws the lifeguard chair on Steele. Macho rolls back in to beat the count and get a countout win. A win’s a win. The Animal gets his heat back by tossing the big chair into the ring and rampaging for a bit. They loved to do these stories to play on Macho’s real life paranoia.
There is a bizarre inset promo, where Hulk is using a bar to flex and says names from battle royal opponents but then just says “Andre” over and over. Heenan and Andre are with Okerlund and the Brain does his usual great job. Andre was probably not yet used to being a heel in the US and just channels Uncle Sam and points at the camera and says “Hogan, I want you!”
20 Man Battle Royal
Here are the participants: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Ron Bass, Demolition (Ax and Smash), Billy Jack Haynes, Hillbilly Jim, The Honky Tonk Man, The Islanders (Haku and Tama), The Killer Bees (B. Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell), Blackjack Mulligan, Paul Orndorff, Lanny Poffo, Butch Reed, Sika, Nikolai Volkoff, and Koko B. Ware. Lot of tag team fodder, and bunch of Heenan Family members. Andre blocks Hogan from entering the ring like a beast. As you know from the Royal Rumble series, I love when the big guys take command in a battle royal and Andre did just that here in his first match in a WWF ring since WM2 (the few Giant Machine appearances not included)
The Heenan Family and others beat on Hogan but Andre is on the other side. Hogan fights out of it and eliminates Honky Tonk Man and his stupid suspenders first. Andre decides he’s had enough of this shit and eliminates Sika, Haku and Lanny Poffo in order. Poffo took a stiff headbutt, broke his nose and bled everywhere and was carried out on a stretcher. Pretty gross with a blood all over the blue mats. Andre has a back brace on that is pretty visible. Hogan is whipped across the ring, but right into Andre so now we get the faceoff. So what happens? Koko B. Ware decides to run interference for some reason and Andre angrily tosses him aside. That was strange. Hogan has to fight off Orndorff and Demolition Smash to get at Andre.
Andre grabs Hogan from behind and hits a headbutt then tosses Hogan out like a piece of garbage. He then gestures with his hands to show his contempt. Personally, I like the guy in the background throwing the fist in the air, who is the lone guy marking out for this, the only time Hogan lost clean on WWF TV from 1984 to 1987. With the champion out, everyone now gangs up on the Giant to slowly put him out, eight guys all told. So neither Hogan nor Andre will win this, and the eliminations come fast after they are gone.
The final four is a rather unlikely group: Hercules, Billy Jack Haynes, Koko B. Ware, and Demolition Smash, whose hair and makeup were not quite there yet. Barry Darsow was now in the role after Moondog Rex proved too recognizable to WWF fans. Haynes saves Koko because while he’s insane, he gets the concept of battle royal kayfabe game theory. But Koko is sent out and it’s 2 on 1. Hercules clotheslines Smash out by accident and there is a definite edit there since Smash didn’t go over so cleanly. Haynes beats on Hercules but gets distracted by Heenan on the apron so Hercules tosses him out to win. What a friggin’ idiot Haynes looked like here. And this was the high point for Hercules in his run. I consider him the 1980s version of Ryback: a big guy who can challenge in main events and lose and occasionally have a relevant feud here and there.
Andre says it took eight guys to eliminate him, but only one giant to take out Hogan. That’s some sound logic. I enjoyed the wood paneling behind Gene, Brain and Andre like they were in a ski lodge. Meanwhile, Jake Roberts tells us that Damien is hungry for Bundy.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs King Kong Bundy (w/Bobby “The Brain” Heenan)
Jake grabs the rope off an early Irish whip and Bundy gets very upset by this. I loved that for some reason. Jake kicks the leg of the big man, then stupid goes for a test of strength. Front facelock spot by Bundy, as I guess they needed to send people to the concession stands. Knee lift by Jake to counter a back drop try. The Brain steals the snake and runs to the back for our usual SNME commercial break lead-in. Jake comes back with the bag after the commercial break and lands some jabs in a hope spot. Roberts goes for the bag, ref tries to stop him and gets a knee lift of his own. And that’s the DQ. That’s really weird. DDT on Bundy after the bell, so I guess they had to keep Bundy strong for the “midget” match at Mania. Heenan comes back to save Bundy from the python. Quick observation: with the straps of the singlet down, Bundy looks like King Hippo from Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. I’ll bet he was the model for that character.
Quick review of the Hart Foundation capturing the tag titles, and they tell us Danny Davis will be at ringside tonight as their “referee observer”. Man, Davis looked ungodly ugly here. Meanwhile, Ricky Steamboat does an inset promo into commercial that is cheesy as all hell.
The Hart Foundation (C) (w/Jimmy Hart and Danny Davis) vs Tito Santana and Dan Spivey
What a weird team to challenge but here is an explanation: Tito was floundering around in random teams after losing the IC title in early 1986. Spivey came in as the replacement for Barry Windham in the U.S. Express with Mike Rotundo, who had left the promotion. What’s funny is the way WWF would try and pretend that Spivey and Windham were the same guy. It’s like Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince of Bel Air: yeah, we can tell the difference. Don’t insult our intelligence. So yeah, we got Bret Hart versus Waylon Mercy some 8 ½ years before it was on Superstars.
Harts dominate with their cool offense. Slingshot splash by Anvil only gets two. Dream match for me: Harts as faces vs Midnight Express in 1988. It almost happened too but the Midnights stayed put. False tags aplenty before Tito gets the hot tag and he sends Bret chest first to the buckle as per usual. Flying forearm connects, but instead of a pin Tito goes for the figure four. Danny Davis gets the megaphone and sneaks around the other side and with the ref distracted clobbers Tito on the top of the head to give the Harts a win. Cheap win but the Harts looked good.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs The Iron Sheik
Macho Man joins the commentary team for a great three man booth. Vince, Ventura and Savage. The Iron Sheik did a leapfrog in this match and I was glad I was sitting for that one. Bad abdominal stretch by the Iranian. Dragon gets his chop from the top rope for the win. Not much to say here but Savage and the Dragon exchange taunts between the ring and broadcast area. Interesting to note that Ventura and Savage had office chairs, while Vince sat on a red metal folding chair. Not sure why that interests me so much.
Okerlund interviews Hogan in the shower area for some reason, and Hulk is in tears it seems. He vows revenge in normal fashion, nothing out of the ordinary. No racial slurs, etc.
And now for the coup de gras here, what might make THIS the best SNME ever. The Roddy Piper tribute for his upcoming retirement is something else. Piper gives a promo that is very heartfelt and honest and you don’t see Hot Rod speak like this very often. Not bombastic at all. A video airs with some generic music underneath, because they have to dub out the original. Highlights of Piper’s run are played and it covers absolutely everything. Personally my favorite clip is the smug Piper entrance at Wrestlemania 1 with the Rowdy Panther shirt. Luckily the original exists on Youtube and the music was set to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
Ventura says there isn’t room for him and Piper in Hollywood which is funny because they would star together in Tag Team, a pilot for ABC that did not get picked up.
See you next time for SNME #11, from May 2, 1987!