Two offerings from the WWF this week, as we join Bruno Sammartino and Vince McMahon for Championship Wrestling, before heading to Saturday Night’s Main Event for the WWF Title Match between Hulk Hogan and Don Muraco.
WWF Championship Wrestling 01.03.1986
As we begin the show this week, we are promised The Funk Brothers, footage of Mr T. training and action from Tito Santana and others.
In our opening match of the night, Terry Gibbs and A.J Petruzzi go up against the still-together King Tonga and Ricky Steamboat, a team that has had more legs than I realised for this time period. The heels make the mistake of trying to jump Tonga and Steamboat before the bell, but they are quickly dispatched and irish whipped by the faces into a forced back body drop on each other. Seeing Tonga before he filled out and would use his strength to take on opponents is always interesting, though he still has the ‘Tongan hard head’ as Petruzzi sells to a headbutt of his own. Following a smooth back suplex, Tonga tags out and they hit a double chop on Petruzzi. Steamboat hits his top rope crossbody for the finish, although Gibbs looks a bit stupid as he gets to the pin too early, and has to stand and wait for Tonga to hit him.
Lord Alfred Hayes talks about Boxer Bob Orton, Roddy Piper and Mr T, leading to an interview with Mean Gene and Mr T. T is not happy to be interrupted mid-training session by Gene, and promises to make Bob Orton Jr. look as bad as Man Gene when he is finished. They try and sell Orton Jr. as having something of a boxing record – a 1-0 record is devastating, it would seem.
The former IC champion Tito Santana is up against Joe Mirto next, and McMahon explains that this is Santana’s first TV appearance since losing the title. It is Santana’s speed in avoiding strikes and returning them threefold that allows him to take initial control over his bigger opponent. As Santana works over Mirto’s arm, McMahon hypothesises whether Santana might look for a tag team partner rather than continue to focus on the IC title, foreshadowing Strike Force. Another missed Mirto charge sees Santana tease the figure four, but a leglock will have to do initially, though the figure four leglock comes shortly afterwards for the submission victory.
In the first of a few potential issues with regards to this airing on the same day as Saturday Night’s Main Event, we get a promo for a match between The Funk Brothers and the team of Junkyard Dog and Hulk Hogan, but Hogan appears injured, with his ribs taped heavily.
The British Bulldogs, due to face The Dream Team for the WWF Tag Team Titles at Saturday Night’s Main Event, have a warm-up against the team of The Gladiator and Barry O. In terms of silly things to do, O slapping Kid around the face to start probably ranks up there pretty highly, and Kid uses his speed and agility to work over O, rolling him in a pinfall for a two count that leads to both men tagging out. We get the patented Smith vertical suplex, before Kid shows he can do one better with his vicious snap suplex. A sleeper on The Gladiator by Smith seems to be just a way to eliminate O from the match with a dropkick, with a Smith powerslam and the press slamming of Kid into a headbutt enough for the three count.
A Randy Savage interview airs in between matches where he is very vocal about the fact that he did not use a foreign object against Tito Santana to win the Intercontinental Title. He offers the chance for Elizabeth to back him up, but pushes her away before she has a chance to say anything. Seeing these two work when Savage is a heel is great, as he really comes across as a dick in every interview, and Liz is so easy to like.
We get a chance to see Steve Gatorwolf and Mike Saxon, a native Indian and Michael Jackson-knock off respectively, go up against the impressive team of King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Laughably, Gatorwolf does try to slam Studd straight away, and gets promptly squashed for his hubris. Bundy even allows Gatorwolf to tag out so he can beat on Nixon as well. It is Nixon who is unfortunate enough to get the Studd-assisted Avalanche and splash for the five count.
What follows are several segments that effectively spoil Saturday Night’s Main Event – depending on when this would have been aired relatively, of course. Piper’s Pit has King Kong Bundy, and Piper suggests that Bundy deserves a humanitarian award for dealing with Hogan. We follow that with a report by Mean Gene, were stills of the Bundy attack and match between Orton/T are also shown. Just an odd choice to air something on the same day that could potentially spoil your big name event.
The Funk Brothers get their first airing on WWF TV this week against the jobber tandem of Nelson Veilleux and SD Jones. Considering Dory was called Dory last week, he has graduated to Hoss this week in a nonsensical change. We know to expect some shenanigans from Terry, and he instantly tags out to Hoss rather than engage with SD Jones, a move repeated when Veilleux manages to work Terry back into the corner and make a tag. An odd spot sees Veilleux go between the ropes on a whip out of a headlock, which finally allows the Funks to take concerted control. This only lasts for a short window as Hoss misses a jump into the corner, getting joined shortly afterwards by Terry off of an Irish whip. Jones impressively fights out of the sleeper, but a tag to Veilleux allows the Funks to finally press home the advantage. A missed knee to the corner leads to a Hoss Texas Cloverleaf for the submission win.
Saturday Night’s Main Event 01.03.1986
In the lead-up to our opening match, We get footage of Mr T. beating someone up in training. Nothing says ‘I’m ready for this match’ then attacking someone who is poor and defenceless.
Boxing matches are on odd monster, considering it seems to suggest that boxing is somehow above and beyond wrestling, as tends to happen when you use a gimmick match within a feud. ‘They couldn’t be controlled in the wrestling ring, let them box to see who the better man is!’ Bob Orton is seconded by Roddy Piper, who gets on Mr T. early by trying to wipe sweat off of T’s head. In a strange moment, Orton actually jumps T in a boxing match, but T has the better of most of the early exchanges. McMahon gets irate several times with Orton for grabbing the back of the head, whilst Ventura correctly points out that Orton is pushing the pace. A thumb to the eye has the ref stopping to check on T, Piper using the time to give Orton a shoulder massage. The bell stops an onslaught by T, and Orton drops him with a big punch over the referee’s shoulder!
The second round sees Orton hit T early with a knee to the gut. In the ensuing confusion, Piper hits Orton after T duckes a punch, and T knocks Orton over the top rope for the ten count victory. Piper is outraged and looks as if he is about to engage in a fight with T, only for Orton to jump T from behind. We end the segment with Orton holding T on the mat whilst Piper whips him with a belt, before T is able to get to his feet and chase off the heels.
I like that SNME has quite a lot of interviews to really build up the different angles. Following Mr T. calling out Roddy Piper, Mean Gene has an interview where Bobby Heenan expresses his desire for King Kong Bundy to get a title shot against Hulk Hogan. An interesting match considering the pre-recorded footage aired on Championship on the same day, Bundy goes up against Steve Gatorwolf. Unsurprisingly, Bundy mauls Gatorwolf, squashing him with the Avalanche in under a minute for the five count.
In foreshadowing of events to come, Don Muraco voices his concerns to Mean Gene about Mr Fuji being ill and unable to accompany him to ringside for his title match. However, Fuji has requested Bobby Heenan replace him for this evening. As if to prove how ill Fuji is, we do get a brilliant backstage shot of Fuji laying down with a small hot water bottle on his stomach and an ice pack on his hat, which hasn’t left his head. Hulk Hogan makes it clear to Gene that he thinks that there is some collusion going on, but is sure that he will be able to defend the title against Muraco.
As was customary seemingly during this time, the Hulk Hogan vs Don Muraco title match is midway through the card, and it is Muraco who starts quickest with chops and rakes to initially work over Hogan. However, it doesn’t last long, as Hogan lands a back body drop and several back rakes of his own, even popping Heenan with a punch to knock him off of the apron. Muraco takes a big bump over the top following an atomic drop, and both men end up slugging it out mid-ring. In a strange choice of move, we get a face bear hug, a move that screams heel all over, though it does allow Muraco to fight back with a headbutt. A slow and methodical beatdown ensues, with kneedrops, thumbs to the throat and kneelifts. A top rope asian spike to the throat has the champion in trouble, though as this is Hogan, only until Muraco goes for the pin. Hulk hulks up and hits the boot/legdrop combo, leaving Heenan little choice but to break the pin for a DQ. A pretty nothing match, but all a set-up for what happens next.
I remember reading about this in a wrestling encylopedia I had when I was younger – after Hogan goes after Heenan, he is attacked by Bundy. Three avalanches into the corner have Hogan down and out on the mat, and Muraco plays Studd and helps with two assisted splashes, one on each side. A number of faces finally come down to the ring, but Hogan is unconcious in the middle of the ring. Thus, the Wrestlemania 2 main event was born.
Following footage of Hogan being loaded into an ambulance, we get pre-tape of The Dream Team promising that they would prove they are the real world champions against The British Bulldogs. To show how dangerous the Bulldogs might be, we do get some footage of the non-title victory from earlier in the year. Initially, we get stooging Valentine, who bounces between both members of the Bulldogs before hitting the Flair flop to the mat. A pinfall is broken by his foot on the ropes, but the British onslaught continues, leaving him little choice but to beg off. Even when Beefcake gets a tag on the blindside of Kid, he is blasted straight back into the challengers’ corner.
Bulldog is arguably impressive and foolhardy in equal measure, as he struggles to press slam Valentine midway through the match. Up to this point, the heels have had literally nothing.Kid’s offense of knees to a grounded Valentine are particularly vicious, whilst Bulldog cuts off a Valentine flurry of punches with a dropkick. Finally, Valentine is able to hit a reverse atomic drop to fight his way to Beefcake and a tag, although this only serves as a precursor to a fight between everyone outside the ring and an advert break! Upon return, same old same old – the Bulldogs are back in control. It is short lived this time, as Valentine locks in a figure four leglock, only for a legdrop from Kid to break it pretty quickly. After a standard heel beatdown, Valentine uncharacteristically goes to the top and is chucked off by Kid. Every near fall for the faces is being bought by the fans in attendance, and they clearly think they will see new champions. However, in an interesting finish, Valentine and Kid collide mid ring and Valentine’s leg on Kid’s chest is enough to get the three count! A novel way to continue interest in this feud as we head into Wrestlemania 2.
Whilst we spend time waiting to hear about Hogan’s condition, which is an excellent touch to really sell Bundy’s beating, we get a debut of Hogan’s new video, and it is him rocking out to Real American! Little did they know what a phenomenon they had on their hands.
In the final match of the evening, I query how Adrian Adonis and Junkyard Dog are going to get out of the end of this match without either wrestler taking a clean fall. In some ways, this is not too dissimilar to Funk vs Dog from a couple of weeks back, as they aren’t going to let either man lose without extra-curricular activities. Even at this size, Adonis is a great bumper, and he ends up flipping backward over the top rope and getting caught by the arms after an early JYD headbutt. A flip bump into the ring and a spin on a lariat are two other early bumps by Adonis to sell the JYD offense, before he flies into the corner and over the top rope to the floor at ringside. Jimmy Hart even gets in on the action, ending up whipped into Adonis and over the top rope in one fluid motion. The shenanigans begin to unfold when Hart ties Dog’s leg to the bottom rope to allow Adonis to begin a beatdown of his own. The finish sees Adonis aim to hit a piledriver, only to knock out the referee. In the melee that follows, Adonis gets whipped into the megaphone and JYD gets the three count – Adonis just kicking out at 3.1. A nothing match made bearable by Adonis’ bumps.
Before we finish up here, we get a report on Hogan’s condition. No internal bleeding, but injuries to his neck and back. If only there was an event soon that would allow Hogan to get his revenge? Hmmm.
This SNME wasn’t bad, though it didn’t really offer much in terms of watchable in-ring action. As a way to further angles, it did that and more, with two obvious matches for Wrestlemania 2 coming out of this. That a lot of this might have been spoilt by the Championship Wrestling seems more than bizarre, and completely counter-intuitive to trying to promote the brand.
As always, comment and feedback are welcome and actively encouraged. What are your thoughts on SNME? Hogan vs Bundy as a feud? Anything that tickles your fancy or floats your boat. So long.