Saturday Night’s Main Event #14 – 01/02/1988

A chilling vision of things to come
A chilling vision of things to come

While it appears we’ve reached the end of 1987, this show airing two days into 1988 was actually taped on December 7, only 9 days after the last SNME of 1987 aired. Whew. Let’s just call it ’88 and be done with it. We will see a mix here of title defenses by Hulk Hogan and new tag champs Strike Force and the start of a rebuilding for two midcarders: Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Jake’s 1987 was mostly a lost cause due to a drug suspension and injuries while the Hammer was stuck teaming with Dino Bravo. Not sure which one is worse.

We also say goodbye to the original opening theme of SNME: “Obsession” by Animotion, which would be replaced with the Jim Johnston-composed ditty you hear on the WWE Network for all these shows. There was also a closing theme that went away: “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins. This was a result of a crackdown on the use of copyrighted music by performers, and WWF transitioned to creating their own music in-house. This explains why the opening credits of the early shows seem way out of sync to the music.

At the top, there is the Network warning that this show “does not reflect the WWE’s corporate views”, so since there is no Chris Benoit it is a fun game to figure out what the objectionable material is. This show was taped in Washington D.C. suburb Landover, Maryland at the Cap Centre, which was torn down in 2002 and is now a giant mall. Our hosts are Vinny Mac and Jesse the Body.

Hulk Hogan is seen doing squats in a shower area which seems like a terrible idea, and he vows to destroy “Bund-A-Mania” and get his hands on Andre the Giant.

Gotta love those jackets

The Bolsheviks are getting the tag title shot tonight for some reason, and Gene Okerlund is with them and manager Slick. The Doctor of Style claims to have met with Gorbachev when he was in Washington in planning strategy for this one. I love when they reference stuff like that: Gorbachev was in D.C. for a summit with President Reagan from 12/8 to 12/10. The two leaders signed the INF Treaty, which eliminated intermediate range ground missiles. My guess is that Slick helped with that one too. Strike Force has a generic promo where they do not reference NATO or anything else.

Strike Force (C) vs. The Bolsheviks (w/Slick) for the WWF tag team titles, 2 out of 3 falls

This is so wrestling right here. You have a Canadian (Rick Martel), a Texan who is posing as a Mexican (Tito Santana), a Virginian posing as a Russian (Boris Zhukov), and a Croatian posing as a Russian (Nikolai Volkoff) despite living in America for 18 years. And the cherry on top: the communist team is led by a guy who plays a pseudo-pimp gimmick. Ventura starts out by saying Martel is too small to keep the Soviets down, which he would always do. He did it at Mania 4 against Demolition. What was this rush to bury Martel? Am I being hypersensitive about my guy? Maybe Jesse is a conduit for Vince, who never gave Martel his just due. Probably not, though. Anyway, there is a definite moment of “crowd sweetening” on the first kickout by Tito. See, it happened back then too!

Tito gets out of trouble by evading Zhukov, who always was kind of hapless out there. Martel gets a submission on Zhukov to give the champs the first fall. But I thought he was too small?!?! Fall #2 starts with a double dropkick by Martel and Santana but the Boston Crab is broken up this time. Martel is in peril briefly for a bit until….you guessed it, Zhukov pushes him into Tito to get the tag. Vince even calls Boris “that idiot” too. Quick finish as Slick gets his cane involved but Volkoff hits Zhukov by mistake and the champs retain with a 2-0 win. Before you suggest this never happens, in fact later that month at the first Royal Rumble the Islanders won two straight falls from the Young Stallions. And then there was the time Dolph Ziggler beat Cesaro 2-0 at 2014 Hell in a Cell but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.

Mr. Fuji is with Okerlund and has jar that says “mustard” on it. Sika brings a long baguette into frame and they vow to have Damien the snake for dinner. And of course someone eventually did, but it wasn’t him. Roberts cuts a promo with Damien in Okerlund’s face which causes Gene to either wretch or burp or both.

Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Sika (w/Mr. Fuji)

Sika is not wearing a chest protector here. Roberts was looking to get back on track and here he is against an opponent clearly on the way out as Sika was well past his sell-by date. Jesse calls out Okerlund for belching on national TV. Jake was never known for dynamic offense outside of the DDT and short arm clothesline, so this match isn’t much. In fact, Sika goes to the nerve hold for a rest only two minutes in. The Samoan missed a charge into the corner and the Snake scored the win with a rollup.

But we do get a post-match angle. As Jake is about to DDT Mr. Fuji, Jesse worries that Roberts is going to wreck Fuji’s bowler hat. Damien gets draped on Fuji who wiggles his way out of the ring, which untucks his shirt and the viewing audience gets a look at how flabby the guy is. Vince calls him fat and Jesse has an amazing retort: “His hero is Buddha, lay off!” The Body is also astonished by the fact that Fuji’s hat NEVER CAME OFF HIS HEAD during this whole time. That is pretty amazing. Fuji probably had the best hat of any manager ever, and no doubt that is why the character Random Task from Austin Powers was made to look like Fuji. The actor who played Random Task was 0-4 in his MMA career and also is in jail after a gang rape conviction. And then he killed his cellmate later on. Cripes, Fuji is practically a blowjob babyface compared with that asshole.

Promo time with King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, and Bobby Heenan as the Brain says Andre will be the legal manager tonight. Hogan cuts a promo where he says he was struck by lightning in 1987 and invokes President Reagan as a Hulkamaniac after his summit meeting with Gorbachev. Of course, Gorby didn’t feel the need to wear a bandana to cover up HIS baldness.

Hulk Hogan (C) vs King Kong Bundy (w/Andre the Giant) for the WWF title

Bundy was on his way out, having given notice mainly because he saved his money and didn’t need wrestling anymore. He would come back eventually because they ALWAYS come back. After an initial Hogan flurry that led to Bundy regrouping with Andre on the floor, the two exchanged some arm work. Ventura points out that this is smart to do against Hogan, take away one of the 24 inch pythons. Bundy keeps command by yanking the hair a few times, then Hogan gets a body slam out of nowhere. Bundy whips Hogan to the corner, and the referee barely gets out of the way, a spot I always enjoy. Then he gets back in the way and is sandwiched on a Bundy avalanche. Dave Hebner comes down to be the replacement referee. He was about to have a much bigger role next month.

The original referee is taken out on a stretcher and Jesse says to Vince, “That looks like you after one of your St. Paddy’s Day binges!”

Bundy stays on offense and chops Hogan over the top rope. Andre does not interfere, instead he is like Earl Weaver out there arguing with the official on minor details, claiming that Hogan gave up. To his credit, Bundy is working very hard for a guy his size who is about to leave the promotion. Andre yells at Hebner to “ring the bell”, which would work for Vince about a decade later. Bundy scores with two avalanches but doesn’t cover even as Jesse is screaming that his foot is touching Hulk’s so that should be counted as a pin. The Hulk Up comes, leg drop, you know the deal. Hogan retains in yet another surprisingly good match with Bundy.

Source of my 1988 nightmares
Source of my 1988 nightmares

Hulk taunts Andre who gets on the apron, but then decides to walk away. Jesse claims he’s smart to walk, because it’s about the money. But wait! He’s back in and sneaks up behind Hogan and starts choking him. This footage scared the shit out of me as an 8 year old, by the way. As “Real American” played, Hogan gets choked out by Andre. The British Bulldogs are in to try and save, but Andre just gives them a noggin knocker to send them to the floor. All the other babyfaces run in: Roberts, Tito, Martel, Junkyard Dog, and Hacksaw Duggan, the latter of whom breaks his 2X4 on Andre’s back, who just shrugs it off. The Giant holds up the belt as the babyfaces drag Hogan out of there.

Ventura is with Jimmy Hart and Greg Valentine, reunited after a 2+ year hiatus. They rip on Okerlund and the Hammer says he’s pleased to be back with Jimmy and to be rid of Brutus Beefcake. Uh, that happened like 9 months ago, dude. Bravo was the guy holding you back. Koko B. Ware is with Okerlund, and Ware just sort of sings everything, and says he got advice from Brutus Beefcake. No word on if that advice was “don’t bring your cocaine to work at the T”.

Greg “The Hammer” Valentine (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Koko B. Ware

Jesse Ventura goes full on racial here saying that Ware looks like Buckwheat from Little Rascals and sounds like something out of Amos and Andy.
So THAT’S why this doesn’t reflect the WWE’s corporate views. The Hammer gets a hot shot on Ware to start, and Vince wants to shove the megaphone down Jimmy Hart’s throat. Ventura: “Jeez, you’re a violent man.” A few minutes in, Brutus Beefcake comes down to the ring and we get a distraction rollup but only a two count for Ware on Valentine. Brutus gets kicked out from ringside and Hammer regains his momentum until he is caught on the top rope and slammed. Koko with a headbutt and Hammer does his version of the Flair flop. Ware then does a 2nd rope fist drop, as is legally required for all Memphis talent prior and current. But Hammer gets Ware with a shinbreaker, and locks on the figure four. Despite a valiant effort, Ware submits and Valentine picks up a win. Fun little match here.

The Hammer locks on the figure four again after the match, but Beefcake runs down to make the save. Koko grabs Jimmy Hart and Brutus is back in with the hedge clippers and he cuts (or attempts to anyway) the hair on top of Jimmy’s head. That seems pretty dangerous, but very giving of Jimmy. There was this, an earlier hair trim on Superstars, and then the longer haircut at WrestleMania 4.

Andre cuts a promo letting us know it felt good to choke Hogan. And my childhood nightmares resurface. He then throttles Okerlund just for the hell of it.

Gene and Jesse discuss Hogan and his condition. Okerlund says that a tracheotomy was potentially needed for Hogan, but turned out to not be needed. Well alrighty then.

Summary: Not the worst SNME, but far from the best. The Hogan-Andre angle was integral in the build to their rematch on The Main Event the next month, which will be reviewed next in this series. The Ware-Valentine match was fine and all, but nothing you need to see immediately. And the show has Rick Martel on it, so it is probably okay.

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