Ask any wrestling fan what the greatest year in the history of the business is and you’ll hear a few answers. The years 1997-98 saw the explosion of wrestling into mainstream culture, 1984 saw the WWF expansion along with several strong territories. I’ll guarantee that under Family Feud rules (ask 100 people) that the number one answer would be 1989. The NWA (WCW) had classic Ric Flair feuds with Ricky Steamboat and Terry Funk, along with the emergence of Sting and the Great Muta. Territories like Memphis and World Class were running interesting angles. Japan saw the legendary Jumbo Tsuruta-Genichiro Tenryu matches. And of course, the WWF machine hummed along starting with a Saturday Night’s Main Event on the first Saturday of the year.
But first, a personal story about this show. I never saw this until the WWE Network came along even though I was watching religiously 28 years ago. As a lad of 9, I wasn’t staying up until 11:30 PM ET to see the show live so we would run the VHS on a timer. However, my father messed up and it never taped and I was furious that I missed the hair vs hair blowoff between Brutus Beefcake and Outlaw Ron Bass. Such are the priorities of youth. (Four years later, my father accidentally taped over Larry Bird Night with something, probably a game show. But he made good and purchased the commercial VHS, which I still have.) Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #19 – 01/07/1989
It has now been over a full year since I started this sojourn through all the WWF Saturday Night Main Event shows and I hope at this point next year I will have wrapped with the weird FOX editions from 1992. But for now, we are at Thanksgiving weekend 1988, two days after the Survivor Series. Of course this was taped ten days before that PPV and it wasn’t referenced at all on the show. No newly turned Demolition is what that means since that would be tough to explain to the live crowd in Sacramento at the Arco Arena, home of the Sacramento Kings. On the night this aired, the Kings lost to the New Jersey Nets at Arco to drop to 1-9 on the year.
Despite being in a less glamourous part of California, Jesse Ventura reminds you that he is a Hollywood star and that makes him more important than Vince McMahon. He also says he’s got a better physique than Vince, who no doubt took that shit personally. I appreciate their dynamic so much more now than I did 15-20 years ago. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #18 – 11/26/1988
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. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #16 – 04/30/1988
Big changes on the March 1988 Saturday Night’s Main Event: Hulk Hogan no longer is the champion! However on this show, he has an issue with Race. No, not people of color but King Harley Race. WrestleMania 4 is coming and many other key players are here: Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase, Randy Savage, and even tournament entrants One Man Gang and Greg Valentine. The show from Nashville kicks off with Vince McMahon saying that he’s from the South! Jeez, didn’t expect that from the guy who put hillbilly gimmicks on many southerners and was rather ashamed of his roots. Co-host Jesse Ventura rips on Vince and says he has a red neck. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #15 – 03/12/1988
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. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #14 – 01/02/1988
The year 1987 firmly established the WWF as the dominant wrestling promotion in North America, but the final Saturday Night’s Main Event aired that year featured both a blast from the past and a glimpse at the future. The two main matches on this show were a rematch of the WrestleMania 2 main event of Hulk Hogan against King Kong Bundy and Macho Man Randy Savage taking on heretofore tag wrestler Bret the Hitman Hart. Taped in Seattle at what is now the Key Arena, our hosts as Vince and Jesse, the latter of whom was feeling quite good about himself as we will see. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #13 – 11/28/1987
By the fall of 1987 the WWF roster was loaded with talent in part because guys saw the spectacle of WrestleMania 3 and knew it was the place to be. Just since the last SNME in May, Ted DiBiase, Bam Bam Bigelow, Rick Rude, and the Ultimate Warrior made the jump to New York. None of those guys would make it on this show however and the main story was that of Macho Man Randy Savage’s gradual babyface turn in the summer as he chased the IC title. He would take on the Honky Tonk Man in this show from Hershey, PA. Our hosts are Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan. O Jesse Ventura, where art thou? Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #12 – 10/03/1987
It is always difficult to follow up an event as huge as Wrestlemania 3. Once Hulk Hogan beats the unbeatable Andre, what is left? The Saturday Night’s Main Event from 05/02/1987 was different because it was the first time Hogan did not wrestle on the show. But the promised footage of his match with Andre was enough to lure people in for a 9.5 rating. Of course in today’s world, there would be a Vine on Twitter of the slam of Andre within 30 seconds. This show was taped in South Bend, Indiana on April 28, 1987 so let’s check out this present the WWF gave me for my 8th birthday, a year before I actually started watching. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #11 – 05/02/1987
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. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #10 – 03/14/1987
The year 1987 was a huge year for the World Wrestling Federation. They would draw a very large number at Wrestlemania 3 (to be discussed more in a later post) and add a 2nd PPV in November just to screw with the competition. But there was some business from 1986 to be wrapped up on this Saturday Night’s Main Event from 01/03/1987. Hulk Hogan would defend the world title against Paul Orndorff in a steel cage to perhaps finally settle that feud which started six months prior. We would also see Randy Savage in an IC title defense, and two Wrestlemania 3 previews with Roddy Piper taking on Adrian Adonis and Junkyard Dog facing King Harley Race. Continue reading Saturday Night’s Main Event #9 – 01/03/1987