In the 1985, NBC gave the World Wrestling Federation a Saturday late night slot with the idea that Hulk Hogan would generate ratings that were better than Saturday Night Live reruns. But as we hit mid-1988, Hogan is on a sabbatical. His first daughter would be born 5 days after this show aired, and he was filming No Holds Barred in his effort to become the new Stallone. While that failed, how did the WWF cope without their biggest star? For one thing, they would promote the hell out of Randy Savage making his first world title defense.
This was a five hour TV taping; not only was SNME on the docket but also three weeks of Superstars and the SNME matches would be re-aired on Wrestling Challenge. So this crowd was burned out, but that’s par for the course today. Hey, if you’ve been sitting there for 6 hours, don’t you want to see Triple H face Roman Reigns? Our hosts are Vince McMahon and Jesse Ventura, from the birthplace of basketball Springfield, Massachusetts. Vince loves him some Springfield. Remember when The Mountie won the IC Title? During that 92 Rumble, they kept making sure to say he won it Friday IN SPRINGFIELD, like that was the most important thing.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan is shown taking down Andre the Giant by hitting him with a 2X4. On a personal note, this is the first angle I remember watching on Superstars as a kid. Andre had just destroyed some jobber and Duggan came out to confront. What is interesting is that Duggan bled from his mouth, which nearly led to the angle being re-shot later but they decided to go with this.
Gene Okerlund is with Bobby Heenan, Andre the Giant, and Hercules. The Brain says that Jesse the Body is a journalist and Okerlund is a jerk, and that you cross the whole Heenan Family when you cross one person. Andre cracks me up by just yelling a mocking “HOOOOOOO!!!” while doing the choke thing with his hands.
Duggan says that Andre will be put on a high fiber diet as he gestures to his 2X4. In cross-eyed fashion, he says he will keep one eye on Hercules and one eye on the other two.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Hercules (w/Bobby Heenan and Andre the Giant)
So this is a Mid-South classic right out of 1984. Ventura says Duggan sounds like a “wounded water buffalo in heat out there” and that he now realizes Ed McMahon must be Vince’s illegitimate son. That doesn’t even make sense, Jesse. It’s like that kid in high school who said that Pink Floyd was “imitation U2”.
Duggan is still with his white kneepads, misses a knee drop after an early flurry. Heenan gets some shots in on Hacksaw, so he grabs the 2X4 and brings that in, but doesn’t get DQ’d. Hercules regains control, but puts his head down going for a backdrop. I am so glad that in 2016 AJ Styles brought the back drop back to WWE. The “head down” thing always works as a transition.
Hacksaw throws a nice hip toss and goes for his three point stance clothesline and connects, but Heenan runs in for the DQ. While Duggan is focused on the Brain, Andre comes in to do his thing. Who will come out to make the save, you ask? Why it’s the Ultimate Warrior, making his SNME debut! He was wrapping up his feud with Hercules so that’s how that made sense. It seemed pretty unthinkable that he would be the world champion within two years.
Footage of the Honky Tonk Man-Brutus Beefcake WrestleMania 4 match is shown, with a focus on Brutus cutting Jimmy Hart’s hair.
Okerlund is with Hart and Danny Davis and they make some baldness puns. Then Jimmy with the line of the night in retrospect: “He’s not a barber, he’s a butcher!” Can’t it be both? He BUTCHERED a friendship!
Brutus says it is 2 for 1 night on haircuts and says that Davis will get the full treatment. He then holds up a ton of hair that is clearly fake since he only gave Jimmy a trim in the back.
Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake vs. “Dangerous” Danny Davis (w/Jimmy Hart)
Originally, this was supposed to be Honky Tonk Man against Beefcake but that was changed. Jesse immediately points out these guys look like candy canes, with Brutus in light red tights with stripes and Davis in his usual black and white stripes. They should have just gone all the way and got Jimmy Valiant as the special referee.
Beefcake controls early then Davis responds with his weak ass offense. Off a whip, there isn’t enough room for Beefcake’s kneelift so there is a botch and Davis gets hit pretty low.
Before you know it, Brutus has the sleeper on as Hart is running crazy around the ring. Davis is out and is now finally going to get his comeuppance, but waaaaaaaay too late as no one gave a crap about Davis by summer 1987. This is an unusual case where they took about a year to build up the evil ref story, then screwed it up when he became a wrestler in far less time.
Beefcake gives a mere trim here so Davis isn’t going to be bald. One thought: did Beefcake ruin haircut angles forever by having them all the time? I mentioned Jimmy Valiant and he kept having hair angles in his never-ending war with the Paul Jones Army in the NWA. I saw the Andre the Giant haircut angle on a Coliseum tape as a kid and that one jarred me, though honestly Andre should have picked a better partner than SD Jones. And a year later, Beefcake got a taste of his own medicine on the Brother Love Show from Randy Savage. If you’re going to do a hair angle, it has to mean something. No trimming the hair for a movie role like with Kevin Nash in 2003. But I do draw the line at Raven getting literally scalped in TNA. That was disgusting. The CM Punk hair angle from 2010 was a good one because they gave his hair a lot of meaning.
Back to this show: Beefcake sprays stripes on Davis, to line up with his pants too. And he sprays a “B” on his chest, for Beefcake, Or Brutus. Or maybe he was trying to do an old school Boston Bruins jersey from the 1930s? Brutus breaks out the mirror and wakes up Davis, who reacts in horror. Then Beefcake beats him up some more! As I watched, I wondered where the hell were Jimmy Hart’s other men? The split from the Hart Foundation had begun at this point, Valentine was done with Beefcake, and Honky was such a selfish prick he probably didn’t want to get involved.
Video of the ridiculous One Man Gang/Randy Savage finish in the WM4 tournament semifinal is shown, and Slick chalks it up to self-defense. I think that might hold up in court actually, because the Macho Man did grab and jostle him.
Savage and Elizabeth are with Okerlund, and the Macho Man channels his inner Peter Cetera by saying “You’re the inspiration” to Liz. Savage looks fucking jacked here, so clearly he was picking up Hogan’s leftovers from Dr. Zahorian.
Randy “Macho Man” Savage (C) vs. One Man Gang (w/Slick) for the WWF World Title
Slick dances down the aisle and in the ring, because he knows what makes Vince happy and that’s black people dancing. As I’ve gone through the SNME, Slick has been such a pleasant surprise.
Savage works like a guy looking to impress, going 160 MPH in the ring early. He fights out of a body slam, then off the top rope eschews his usual double ax handle and does a flying body press for two. He goes that hot shot move where he jumps over the top rope, while holding the Gang’s beard. Slick gets in a cheap shot, but later when Macho runs the ropes, he slides under and chases the Doctor of Style.
It is at this point that I notice something weird: in the front row opposite hard camera, there are 4 people very close together with the same purple Macho Man “sunglasses” shirt. This struck me as funny; what are the odds that this man people would wear that same shirt that close together? One of them is wearing the shirt over a sweatshirt, which is also odd because he is indoors. So I am calling shenanigans on this whole deal. I think the WWF planted the shirts on these people to give Macho Man a greater impression to the TV audience, much like WCW would do with Hulk Hogan in 1995. The difference is that Macho Man had more legitimate popularity. Seeing this stuff and hearing obvious crowd sweetening during this era kind of changes my perspective a bit.
Back to the match as Savage hits a double ax to the outside, but back inside gets a punch to the gut when he tries it again. Then the Gang goes up for a 2nd rope splash and before leaping does that Akeem hand gesture in a nice Easter egg moment. He misses, so Slick goes and hassles Elizabeth. As the referee checks on that, Slick slips away and he tries to hit Macho with the cane but hits the Gang instead. With the big man down, Savage goes up to hit the big elbow for the win. Nice performance by Savage here.
Okerlund is with the British Bulldogs and brings up that Demolition wants to dip Matilda in chrome. Hey, it’s not much worse than some of the stuff I’ve heard that the Bulldogs did to her.
Fuji tells Ventura he is the face of pain and they make some weird allusion to the face paint being a secret to success. Sure, whatever. They say they will mount Matilda on the front of Fuji’s Winnebago, which is clearly not the model with the flat front because then it would be counterproductive. YOU GOTTA LET AIR COME INTO THE ENGINE!
Demolition (w/Mr. Fuji) (C) vs. British Bulldogs
Who is the best Demolition opponent during the height of their run? I am only including the Ax/Smash only years, and am ruling out the Powers of Pain. The Bulldogs never had a classic with Demolition in the way the Hart Foundation and the Brain Busters did. So they rank no higher than third, and I am probably forgetting a Rockers match from late 1988. I rank the Harts 1st, even if their best matchup was with Crush, so I’m cheating this.
This match starts out hot, but never really finds its way. Both teams work fast early with quick tags, but then there’s a bear hug spot to bore everyone. Cool move when Dynamite gets out of it, as Smash hooks the leg to prevent a tag. Davey Boy gets a tag, but then Kid comes back in shortly after. He gets hit by Fuji, and the Bulldogs lead Matilda in a chase of Fuji to the back. Alright, Fuji is gone and they throw to commercial so now the match can get going.
But the Bulldogs come back each with half of Fuji’s cane and beat the hell out of Ax and Smash. Odd way to finish this match, which would be a house show staple in the summer of ’88.
Okerlund is with “The Rock” Don Muraco and Superstar Billy Graham. Maybe it’s because I was 9 years old at the time, but I liked this combo. It never amounted to much, but there was nowhere to go. And if Graham is managing, that means he’s not doing commentary. Also at that time I wondered why there was a preacher and a wrestler going by Billy Graham. Luckily, Vince McMahon nowadays would just call him “Billy” and be done with it.
Okerlund now has DiBiase and Virgil, and Ted says he is the rightful world champion and will get to Randy Savage in any way that he can.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase (w/Virgil) vs. “The Rock” Don Muraco (w/Superstar Billy Graham)
Two things bug the hell out of me before the WrestleMania 4 round two rematch, both with music. Muraco’s original theme was from Jesus Christ Superstar and hearing that overdub makes me very sad. Then, the clearly overzealous dub guy puts in DiBiase’s music….which wasn’t even used until 1990 or so. That type of shit is a turn off.
DiBiase controls for a bit before Muraco takes command. One thing about Muraco that’s always amused me is the singular way he does the Irish Whip. He grabs the wrist with both hands, which nobody else does in that manner. Shitty looking powerslam by Muraco and Virgil puts Ted’s foot on the rope during the pin. More of a distraction is the piped-in crowd noise in this match: this is a friggin Muraco match in ’88, not Lou Gehrig making his farewell speech. At least make it plausible.
Back and forth match as they exchange bodyslams. And Virgil completely screws up the finish. DiBiase slams Muraco and goes for a pin but the Rock gets a foot on the rope. Virgil, who is right there probably needed to push it off the rope (since that is the logical callback) but he just walks right past it. I guess he had meat sauce on the brain.
Randy Savage and Elizabeth are with Okerlund. He tells DiBiase to come at him and that he will end up bankrupt.
For “What I’d Like to Have Right Now”, it’s weird as the mic doesn’t work right and Heenan is holding it for him. Rude has one of the worst logos of any guy during this period; they would show a graphic for each wrestler and Rude’s looks way more like Jake Roberts, but if Jake lost 25 pounds. This is particularly ironic since they would be starting the top midcard feud of 1988 during this time.
As mentioned in other SNME write-ups, I think they could have done something with Koko but by this point that was long gone. After all, he got pinned by Rude’s manager at Mania a month earlier. Standard fare with Rude commanding much of the way save for a brief Koko comeback. Rude Awakening finishes at about 3 minutes.
Summary: Not a fan of this one. The Savage match was okay but it feels rather blah without Hogan. Not even childhood nostalgia can save this one. Definitely one of the bottom 3-4 SNMEs I’ve covered so far.