The World Wrestling Federation did not just turn the page from 1983 to 1984, they threw out the damn book and created one on their own. Vince McMahon took the WWF out of the National Wrestling Alliance in 1983 with the idea of going national himself in mind. This is ground zero for the beginning of that because we have four debuts on this show:
- Gene Okerlund: Swiped from the AWA with no notice, he brought instant credibility to the product as an announcer. This would start his 9 year run (with some interruptions) with the WWF.
- Rowdy Roddy Piper: Coming off his dog collar chain match with Greg Valentine at the first Starrcade only 5 weeks earlier, the Rowdy one was brought in first a manager to allow himself to heal from the legitimate injuries suffered in the match with Valentine.
- “Dr. D” David Schultz: Perhaps forgotten by modern fans because he didn’t even last until the first WrestleMania, Schultz was a supreme badass both in and out of the ring. By the end of 1984, John Stossel would find out the hard way not to be too cute around this somewhat misanthropic guy.
Hulk Hogan: Only the guy who would make the promotion for the rest of the decade.
It is still the Backlund-era Championship Wrestling intro, complete with the weird “kids charge the ring to celebrate with Bob” spot from 1982. Funny thing is he beat some jobber that day, not a top guy. Anyway, Okerlund is introduced like he’s always been there even if he was on AWA television just days before this. Vince McMahon is the host and here starts the love/hate relationship between Vince and Gene. I never knew Okerlund would have blowups and leave from time to time but he kept coming back til mid-1993.
WWF Tag team champs Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson vs. Charlie Fulton and Bill Dixon
I love the jobbers of 1984 WWF and it is going to get better as we go along. Dixon is announced from Steubenville, Ohio, a place I once went to on spring break. That is because that was much easier than getting a bus to my friend’s place in West Virginia and the city is right on the state line. Fun fact: Dixon had the first live match with Hulk Hogan in the WWF during the Hulkster’s run and it’s a very interesting one to watch, with Hogan doing mat work. Fulton would be around for much of this year so he’ll be seen again.
Atlas and Johnson famously hated each other, which might be chalked up to Atlas’ personal issues or to their very different personalities. According to Atlas in his book “Too Much Too Soon” the breaking point happened when he felt Johnson was showing him up by tagging in and continuing to work on a jobber for six minutes after Atlas hit his finish. Johnson is of course The Rock’s father.
On these shows, there is silence from the broadcast at the start of bouts so that Howard Finkel could do promos for an upcoming WWF show. The Fink was pretty awkward at this in January 1984 but got better. This time we hear about the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium battle royal coming up in three weeks.
Kind of an odd finish for a squash match: Atlas hits Dixon in his rather ample gut and as he’s bent over, Johnson gets a sunset flip for the pin, which Okerlund calls a “victory roll”. I’m not a big fan of Gene on color.
“Dr. D” David Schultz (w/Roddy Piper) vs Steve Lombardi
Yes, that is the same Lombardi that was only let go by the WWF in the past year. I love the unique stylings of ring announcer Joe McHugh but he has a rough go of it here: he calls Lombardi “Lombardo” which gets a double take from the longtime enhancement worker. Schultz is demoted to “Mr. D” though that does mean he can now have a TV show on the CBC. And Piper is announced as Rowdy Rowdy Piper. Interesting to note that Piper gets a mixed reaction so he had to work his way to be a heel here because he was a babyface in Jim Crockett Promotions. And oh boy, does he get plenty of chances to talk in the coming weeks and months.
Schultz was a man way ahead of his time and I wish I could take his 1984 persona and drop him in 1996 WWF and you would instantly think he was some sort of Steve Austin clone. He had one of the better finishers of this time too: he would have his opponent on the mat more than halfway across the ring and do an elbow drop from the 2nd rope. But he would turn his body so he would land on his back. You can tell he will instantly be positioned as a top heel.
Gene Okerlund is with Piper and Schultz. Piper says that they are ready for prime time and that while others may have written the book of wrestling, they have thrown it out and wrote a revised edition. He says they are 28 and in their prime and asks the audience if they had a prime when they were 28. Eh, I peaked at 25 to be honest. BTW: Piper did not much care for Schultz backstage even as they were aligned in storyline early in the year.
This is pretty rare stuff since Sheik only held the belt for four weeks. Callahan is another of my favorites; he looks like the Undertaker’s less successful older brother. Hence, he is squashed in about 2 minutes after taking some suplexes and the camel clutch.
You can write in suggestions and comments to the WWF at an address shown. They had not moved to Titan Towers by this point. I want to write and tell them to either stop suspending performers for Adderall or cut down the insane schedule they run and build in some breaks. The beat from Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” plays as they go to commercial. The commercial music played on these shows adds a level of coolness to it. Back then, playing commercial music on a TV show counted as “advertising” so you were allowed to do it but the laws on that have since changed. I’m not a copyright lawyer.
Promo time for the Battle of Los Angeles Battle Royal in Los Angeles coming up: Sgt. Slaughter spoils Hogan’s return by mentioning him as being in the battle royal. Slaughter is still a heel here though he’s got some big things in store. Tito Santana cuts a promo in English, then presumably does the same one in Spanish. Capt. Lou Albano says his Samoans have the advantage because they will work together.
Tito Santana vs. Bob Bradley
At first I shouted out “Battle Kat!” for Bradley, but I don’t know if it’s the same guy who took that gimmick in 1990. This one is announced from Sioux City, Iowa and yes I am fascinated by the hometowns of job guys. Tito squash matches aren’t all that great, so the highlight here is Vince BURYING Pat Patterson for saying Fabulous Moolah won the ladies title from Mildred Burke, who actually SENT A TELEGRAM (according to Vince) to correct the record and say she never lost to Moolah. In fact, Burke retired as champion and went into the “Legacy” wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016. Tito wins with the flying forearm, which Okerlund calls a “flying bodypress”.
Now time for Victory Corner with Robert DeBord, probably the most forgettable interview segment hosted by the most forgettable guy, who was literally just the editor of Victory Magazine, precursor to WWF Magazine. DeBord is incredibly uninspiring and that rubs off on guest The Iron Sheik. You’d think he’d be all braggadocios now that he’s world champ but it’s a very subdued Sheiky telling us how much it means to the people of Iran that he’s on top. At least that’s my translation.
The Masked Superstar vs. Victor Mercado
Like 56% of all jobbers, Mercado is announced as from Puerto Rico. Mercado is most famous for losing to Don Muraco in the infamous “Muraco eats a sandwich” match. What I’d love to figure out is if it is the same Victor Mercado who went to jail as part of the city corruption in Detroit from 2012. That Mercado was the water commissioner and pulling down a $200,000+ salary. Meanwhile in the arena, there are several fans with bags covered in stars on their heads in support of the heelish Masked Superstar, who would go on to arguably greater fame as Demolition Ax. This is a quick one: long front facelock, clothesline, and a neckbreaker is all that is needed.
Bob Backlund vs. Samula (aka Samoan #3) (w/Afa, Sika, and Capt. Lou Albano)
This is odd, because Backlund is supposedly “injured” from losing to the Sheik but here he is in the interim before losing the title shot to Hogan. Man, no wonder why he snapped. Arnold Skaaland is not with Backlund.
Since the other Samoans are lurking, Backlund is ultra-cautious and they circle and stall for two minutes. Vince alludes to how this was supposed to be two Samoans vs Backlund and a mystery partner but Albano “refused” that match. Backlund does several goofy looking single leg takedowns as he tries to avoid the sharks at ringside, then back away and hits the dressing room for a sec.
But wait: here’s Hulk Hogan to help! And thus begins the great run as Backlund takes one step closer to his end. Bob gets his left arm worked over as Okerlund calls him the Living Legend since he hasn’t been filled in that that’s Bruno’s nickname. Quick comeback for Backlund into the chicken wing, which leads the other Samoans to hit the ring for the DQ. Hogan comes in and they clean house together. Albano is pretty giving to Hogan here, even coming back to take extra punches.
Okerlund is with Backlund and Hogan. Backlund says the Hulk has “changed his ways” as he was a heel in WWF just three years earlier. Hogan kind of interrupts him, which is fitting to yell for a bit about being turned on and tearing off his shirt.
Mr. Fuji vs. Denny Hill
Hill is announced from London, Ontario. Fuji has about a year left in his in-ring career, and has the flag of Imperial Japan and nunchucks. Vince teases a tag match for next week as Fuji does his salt ceremony. Hill is wrestling with his shirt on for some reason, as if he’s embarrassed about his physique being in with Fuji. To be fair, Fuji looks extremely spry here. The tag match next week will be Fuji and Tiger Chung Lee against Hogan and Backlund. Oooooh, that’s a spicy meatball. Fuji does what I can only call a spinning senton to get the win.
Summary: This is truly a historic show and is a must watch.