A Wrestling Year – 12.02.1986-18.02.1986 (Part 1)

We begin this week looking at the action on WWF Wrestling Challenge – we have been promised Boxing Bob Orton, a match between Junkyard Dog and Terry Funk and will meet the new Intercontinental Champion! After that, I head over to Memphis to revel in the behaviour of Buddy Landell, Dutch Mantell and Bill Dundee.

WWF Wrestling Challenge 15.02.1986

Ever content to run ideas into the ground, the WWF decided that having Superfly Snuka wasn’t enough, and rolled out Superfly Afi as well. Considering he would soon lose the moniker ‘Superfly’, I can only assume it didn’t go down well in the long run In this match, you can easily see why. For a squash match/enhancement match, Afi gets very little offense, instead being grounded by The Gladiator for long stretches whilst the crowd seems to be chanting ‘boring’. The Gladiator works the leg for a reasonable length of time, before Afi does some of his own leg work, snapping back on a leg grapevine for good measure. A slam and a superfly splash is all she wrote, but realistically, it was way too even handed for a match that was supposed to push Afi into the limelight.

Lord Alfred Hayes informs us about the British Bulldogs, with a VT of the finish of their non-title victory from the previous weeks’ show getting an airing.

‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ hits the PA system, oddly heralding the arrival of King Tonga and Ricky Steamboat, rather than ‘The Nature Boy’. Rusty Brooks and Steve Lombardi will be their opponents, and Lombardi is fairly well put together at this time. The same cannot be said for Rusty. Lombardi never manages to make the tag, as even a section where Tonga ends up in the heel corner sees Rusty and Lombardi fail to communicate. Unsurprisingly, it is the speed and agility of the face team that has them in control, Tonga getting the pin after a savate kick and a jumping headbutt. Rusty did try and break the count, but takes a nose dive into the canvas.

Rusty falls over

A more noticeable jobber hits the ring now as Lanny Poffo teams up with Tony Stetson to take on the Hart Foundation. Poffo even has a poem to criticise Jimmy Hart, before taking it to the Hart Foundation with a dropkicks to both Anvil and Bret as the match begins. However, when he tags out to Stetson, the face chances go rapidly downhill. Stetson eats a boot in the corner and a backbreaker/elbowdrop off of the top rope combo, followed up shortly afterwards with the Hart Attack. Poffo even gets a kicking post match for having the gall to land a few dropkicks at the beginning.

Randy Savage is interviewed in one of the local spots sporting the Intercontinental Title! He won it off of Tito Santana, and the big push is for Santana to get his rematch at the next notable house show. This is where I feel I’m heading closer to a time window of wrestling I remember – Santana was never more than an over face who just felt like he was there for the most part. The ascendancy of Macho continues.

One of my least favourite teams is up next as The Killer Bees go up against Joe Mirto and Iron Mike Sharpe. I quite like Sharpe, as he seems to have a bit of personality, and he even hits Blair during an attempted clean break. Realistically, this isn’t going to offer much against the Bees, especially with Sharpe missing an elbow and getting dropped with a headscissors. Sharpe does block a Brunzell hiptoss, and manage to eventually tag out to Mirto, but a missed Mirto elbowdrop after a slam seals his fate – the Bees go over following a dropdown/dropkick combination.

Roddy Piper introduces Boxing Bob Orton and his challenger, Jose Luis Rivera, just before the boxing match on tonight’s show. Rivera has a strong accent, and Piper taunts him about that, though Rivera did make me laugh when he said ‘ladies first’ upon Piper’s suggestion that they head down to the ring. The boxing match goes much as expected (i.e. not like any boxing match you’ve ever seen), with each guy getting a selection of flurries at each other, Rivera doing just enough to look dangerous before getting knocked out. A mostly harmless segment – an odd thing to say considering the usual response to boxing on a wrestling card.

As Terry Funk and Junkyard Dog hit the ring, I was just waiting for the excuse for the match to be thrown out; it had non-finish written all over it. Funk jumps JYD at the bell and both men brawl at ringside, only for Funk to get dropped coming back in with a slam and trademark JYD headbutts. Two attempts to hit ten turnbuckle smashes in a row are successful, but third attempt it stopped by Jimmy Hart grabbing the Dog’s leg. Hart gets chased into the ring by JYD, and in the ensuing melee Funk gets knocked into the ropes and tied up. Hart tries to use the branding iron but get sent into the top turnbuckle by JYD. Just as he is about to brand Funk, Dory Funk Jr. hits the ring and nails the Dog with a shoe. The Funks and Hart proceed to give the face a bit of a beating, with even Hart getting some licks in, before they are run off by faces from the dressing room. I smelt the non-finish from a mile off, but this angle nicely sets up the match that would end up occurring at Wrestlemania involving the three combatants.

Memphis Wrestling TV 15.02.1986

We have no Lance Russell this week, so we have Dave Brown on his own with an opening VT of Austin Idol in action. Everyone’s favourite Libyan is up first on the show as Abdul Gaddafi faces Jim Jamison. The match feels like a carbon copy of last week, whilst also feeling like there is a mirror placed in the middle of it, leading to a multitude of repeated spots for no reason. Gaddafi needs something more than a slam and an elbow drop. A missed Gaddafi charge is for nowt as he instantly hits a powerslam off of an Irish whip for the victory. No wonder Gaddafi goes rapidly downhill later this year – he had nothing to offer outside of a fake nationality. Not content just to throw out one VT for Austin Idol, we get a second, so I can only assume his arrival is imminent.

Thunderbolt Hamilton is another wrestler the Memphis brass seem high on, and he went up against Keith Eric this episode. Hamilton is odd, because he seems athletic, but lacks really any notable personality to make him engaging. Both men completely screw up a leapfrog spot before Hamilton takes control, working over the arm with an arm wringer and a modified suplex. Later, we get a second (planned) collision, only for Hamilton to drop Eric with the belly to belly suplex (this one wasn’t a powerslam) for the victory. Ropey looking stuff all round.

Hamilton and Eric do...stuff

The following two VTs were positioned the wrong way for me in terms of maintaining interest. First, we get Jerry Lawler telling the audience that he would be back in six months due to the being the length of the clause in the ‘Loser Leaves Town…’ contract. Whilst it was enjoyable to see Lawler back on Memphis screens, the same can’t be said for JD Costello and The Mod Squad. Costello is a poor mans Cornette and just seems to spell it out a bit too much, whilst Spike and Basher did some really cheesy tough guy looks throughout. I hope they offer more in the ring.

The men who have taken over Memphis since Lawler has been away are down at ringside next as Buddy Landell and Dutch Mantell are shadowed by Bill Dundee against Jerry Garmen and Benny Traylor. The match is total heel domination from the start, with the tags coming thick and fast to allow them to get in their rugged offense on the face tandem. Dundee even finds time to have a few words on commentary before choking one of the opponents on the bottom rope. Early on, Mantell pulls up Garmen after a snap suplex at two, only for Landell to get the submission victory with the figure four leglock. Dundee attacks both Garmen and Traylor, beating the men back behind the curtain.

As if to top the behaviour of the three men at ringside, we get another look at their assault on Smothers from the previous week’s episode. Just a brilliantly fun beatdown, with Dundee in particular going above and beyond to make the angle work. We also get a VT on the Fantastics and on Rick Casey’s love for his horses (…or at least that is how it seemed). Sandwiched in between a VT-heavy section of the show, Dundee is interviewed for the Thunderdome concept that was mentioned the previous week. It sound like it will be a tournament of no-DQ battle royals, but that might just be my interpretation.

The main event sees Rick Casey and Dirty Rhodes vs The Undertakers. Whilst I’ve grown to accept Casey as a boring Dutch Mantell type, I can’t work my way into tolerating Dirty Rhodes whatsoever. To be fair to him in this match, he does offer a bit more offense than his usual Dusty-lite, especially in the first fall where he lands a belly-to-belly type slam, a samoan drop and a butterfly suplex. Unfortunately, he tops this off with an incredibly camp elbow to set up his neckbreaker for the three count.

Dirty Rhodes elbow

They have worked the arm in the first fall, so they return back to the arm for the second fall. Dirty even locks in a sleeper to maintain control, before two Casey slams and another Dirty elbow allow Casey to hit the bulldog for the victory.

In some ways, this episode feels a little shallower without the antics of Landell, Mantell and Dundee front and center. Still, with Lawler apparently away for another five months at least, there is still more time to enjoy one of the best ‘under the radar’ heel groups I’ve been privileged to check out in many years.

As always comment below or message me in the posts on the various forums – your interest is what keeps me going!

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