Apologies for the delay to this episode of A Wrestling Year – real life work got in the way, and has set me back a little bit. As I’m no longer trying to do this over the course of the year, I can take a bit longer where necessary. Considering this week has seven shows to cover, it was always going to take a while. This time, we check out the two WWF offerings of the week – Championship Wrestling, followed by Prime Time two days later.
WWF Championship Wrestling 15.03.1986
The opening match on this week’s Championship Wrestling is between Adrian Adonis and Ted Gripley (who gets a bit of a boo it would seem, which is odd considering his opponent). The crowd really cannot stand Adonis, with a very audible ‘faggot’ chant ringing around the arena. Gripley seems to be enjoying the crow reaction to Adonis, only for the ‘Adorable’ one to maul him, pitching him to the outside and slamming him on the concrete floor. Surprisingly, Gripley reverses a piledriver into a backdrop, but only gets a one count on a quick pin. Adonis slaps Gripley in a derisory manner, rakes the eyes on the top rope and the ‘faggot’ chant begins again. The ‘Graham Cracker’ DDT (according to Vince) gives Adonis the victory. McMahon and Sammartino are disgusted by Adonis and Jimmy Hart’s embrace at the end of the match.
In Lord Alfred Hayes’ update this week, we get some announcements for the battle royal that would involve both wrestlers and NFL superstars. The time given over to unveiling Andre the Giant as a competitor does seem to make it a bit obvious that he will win, but I guess hindsight is twenty/twenty.
Bob Bradley and Mr X would be the team with the chance to face off against The Killer Bees this evening. It feels like the Bees haven’t been on the show for a small while, not that I am particularly complaining. Bradley and Blair start off and the Bee has Bradley down on the mat with ease, forcing X to come in and break up a pinning attempt. Brunzell and Blair tag in and out quickly to work over Bradley with headlocks, leading to Brunzell taking both men over with a headscissor takedown and side headlock at the same time (sloppily). X has to interrupt another pinfall from a Blair victory roll. In a pretty pointless finish, Brunzell drops down and Blair locks Bradley in the abdominal stretch, rolling it into a pinfall. The dropdown did nothing to add to the finish at all. Odd.
Mean Gene is introduced and he runs down the Wrestlemania 2 card. The Bulldogs are out for a simple interview discussing the importance of having two referees in their tag team title match against the Dream Team.
Joe Mirto and Les Thornton are the unlucky duo who get the dubious honour of taking on Uncle Elmer and George ‘The Animal’ Steele. Steele runs off the two opponents before the bell, whilst Albano and Elmer do-si-do around the ring. Luke is also at ringside, with reference to an injury caused by the Hart Foundation. Elmer bumps Mirto out of a test of strength and bum butts him after a go behind. Thornton fares a little better, working Elmer back into the corner, only for Steele to interfere and break up the two on one. Mirto gets squashed with an Elmer avalanche, leaving him easy pickings for a lifting hammerlock by Steele. Not content with just this, Steele bites open a turnbuckle for good measure.
Back to Mean Gene for more Wrestlemania 2 shilling. Hulk Hogan talks about this being the first time he has defended his title in a steel cage, which just sounds wrong.
Randy Savage gets a chance to show off his new Intercontinental Title in a run-out against Tony Stetson. Savage isn’t in a mood to mess around either, as he jumps Stetson before the bell and lands a big clothesline. Stetson gets hit on the back by the top rope elbowdrop for the three count and gets thrown to the outside within a minute. Steele comes back out with flowers for Elizabeth, only to get hit with a double axehandle by Savage. ‘The Animal’ gets tied up in the ropes, and Savage destroys the flowers upside Steele’s head. As Savage is jawing with the crowd, Albano lets Steele lose, and he goes beserk, throwing Savage off of the turnbuckle and choking him. As soon as Savage gets free, he picks up Elizabeth and legs it out of the arena, Steele in hot pursuit.
On Piper’s Pit this week, Roddy Piper is joined by two women that wanted to meet The Dream Team, who also join Piper. They are given a chance to hold the belt, and a kiss or two from Piper. A strange segment, as I spent the time during this promo waiting for something bad to happen. Piper then joins a Jesse Ventura update to talk about his match at Wrestlemania 2 with Mr T. Piper threatens ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier, the legend who is due to be in T’s corner. We get a press conference response from Mr T, who is wearing a kilt and carrying around a rubber chicken. He tells Mean Gene that he needs new training partners because he put his other ones in the hospital. Bundy then get time on the mic, and there is nothing more humanising than your supposed monster heel talking eloquently and wearing a button shirt. Hogan retorts that Bundy needs to be a giant to defeat him on the night in the steel cage.
The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff get a run out this week as they take on the popular (for enhancement talent) team of Lanny Poffo and Jim Powers. Volkoff signs the Russian National Anthem before Poffo gives us a poem, a move that is disrupted somewhat by Corporal Kirchner doing a lap of the ring with the US flag. Annoyed by the pro-US nature of the poem, Sheik attacks Poffo as soon as it finishes.Poffo is barely able to get his top off before getting blasted around the ring, with Powers faring little better when he gets tagged in. Volkoff has one of the most dangerous looking press slams, this time using it to drop Powers on the top rope. The Sheik is in and locks in the Camel Clutch for the submission win. A weird spot finishes off the segment with Poffo skinning the cat when getting thrown out of the ring, only for his fightback to be cut off almost instantaneously.
WWF Prime Time Wrestling 17.03.1986
An interesting opening match on this weeks edition of Prime Time Wrestling as Leilani Kai and Penny Mitchell against The Crush Gals, the team of Chigusa Nagoya and Lioness Asuka. This seemed to be one of a couple of matches the Japanese team had in the US at this time, and a novelty for sure. The early going is all about showing the Gals’ athleticism, with Asuka getting kicked down, nipping straight back up and hitting a dropkick on Mitchell. The American team definitely have the size advantage, but Nagoya keeps Kai down with a single leg crab. It is Asuka who takes the brunt of the heel offense, a kick off of a test of strength leaving her vulnerable to a double slam and a flying tackle from Mitchell. The heels target the arm mainly and cut the ring off, beating down Asuka in the corner. The tag rope is used a couple of times to choke her, but a missed splash by Kai sees a tag to Nagoya who is a house on fire. However, she makes the mistake of tagging Asuka back in, who missed an elbow off of the second rope. This time, MItchell isn’t able to keep control, and we get a Nagoya giant swing. All four women end up in the ring, leading to Asuka hitting a top rope crossbody on Mitchell for the three count. Decent little match to start proceedings this week.
In a follow up from angles earlier in the year, we then head into a match between King Tonga and Don Muraco. Tonga was tombstoned by Muraco after a match between the Hawaiian and Ricky Steamboat, so there is some bad blood simmering between these two. Muraco slaps Tonga twice early on, only for Tonga to kick him mid-bow and send him to the outside. A chop and a slam has Muraco back to the ringside once again, which leads to a portion of stalling. Every time Muraco gets tagged by a Tonga strike, he is heading to the outside. A portion of Tonga working the arm leads into an advert, and when we come back the armbar is still locked on. It takes a samoan drop to break the hold and begins to methodically beat Tonga down. In a mistake, Muraco tries to turnbuckle smash Tonga, only to be met with a barrage of strikes. A jumping headbutt gets a two count, Tonga breaking the count to attack Fuji on the apron. Muraco uses the cane behind the referee’s back and that is enough for the win.
Following some more Wrestlemania 2 shilling, we get a Tito Santana and Junkyard Dog promo for their match against The Funk Brothers. Tito delivers his in both English and Spanish, whilst they promise to brand Jimmy Hart. Mean Gene promotes the Battle Royal after another advert break, this time with spoken head segments talking about winning the match. Pedro Morales, Ted Arcidi, Jim Neidhart, Bruno Sammartino, Dan Spivey, Brett Hart, The Iron Sheik, William Perry, Jimbo Covert, Harvey Martin, Hillbilly Jim, Bill Fralic and Tony Atlas all get five seconds or so to sell their participation in the contest. It is weird in hindsight how dangerous the Battle Royal is sold as a gimmick match, considering how tame it is compared to a lot of other matches.
Sivi Afi, seemingly having already dropped the Superfly name, takes on Moondog Spot in the third match on the show. Afi didn’t impress me the first time I saw him, so I’m hoping he offers a bit more this time. This doesn’t look like it will be the case after Afi falls over following a leapfrog. Afi works the arm, kicking at it whilst in an armlock. Spot controls the middle portion of the match, using a backbreaker to stop Afi initially. We get the ‘hard head’ trope with a punch that doesn’t affect Afi, but a second backbreaker has him down again. The fightback begins with a flying forearm and a jumping headbutt to a downed Spot for a two count. Uncharacteristically, Spot tries to hit Afi with a move off of the second rope, missing and setting him up for the Afi crossbody. Sivi Afi really offers nothing of interest.
A big debut on tonight’s show sees Jake Roberts begin his tenure with the WWF in a match against Lanny Poffo. The Poffo poem suggests Roberts should be in a zoo, and as is often the case, Poffo uses his speed to take the match to his opponent early on, landing two quick dropkicks and a backflip off of the turnbuckle into an arm wringer. Early on, he even hits a crossbody for a two count. One of the main things Vince did for Roberts was to streamline his look, and his outfit makes him look more of a superstar than his dodgy orange trousers he wore in Mid-South. We also have the snake in the bag in the corner, which Roberts attempts to get at several times in the early going. When Roberts uses a gut buster to stop Poffo in his tracks, the match degenerates into a rest hold session, Roberts using a sleeper for an extended period of time. A telegraphed back body drop allows Poffo back into the match, but he whiffs badly on a plancha and is lucky not to injure himself. A beal on the floor after Roberts uses the tights to throw Poffo through the middle rope leaves Poffo prey for the first Roberts’ DDT in the WWF and the three count. We also get our first ever snake unveiling, as the cobra gets placed on the chest of a KO’d Poffo.
In another interesting choice of WWF booking, we get our second Japanese women tag team in the form of Dump Matsumoto and Bull Nakano, who take on Linda Gonzalez and Velvet Mcintyre. What the long game for these Japanese imports is, I’m not entirely clear, but it is always good to see some of the biggest names in Joshi given a chance to show what they are capable of. Matsumoto and Nakano are big and violent heels, controlling large swathes of the match with their high impact offense. Gonzalez is brutalised with scoop slams, fireman’s carry slams and rakes on the top rope, with Mcintyre getting hair-mared as soon as she steps in the ring. A slam followed by a Matsumoto vertical splash off of the second rope looks like it should be the finish, but the Japanese continue to beat on their opponents. Gonzalez does hit several dropkicks once she gets tagged back in, but a Matsumoto airplane spin and splash is enough for the Japanese team to pick up the win.
Seemingly not content with letting Don Muraco have all the fun, Mr Fuji takes on Ricky Steamboat in our de facto main event. We have a salt ceremony from Fuji as Monsoon questions how many packs of salt Fuj might have hidden around his body. Steamboat easily takes over in the early going, hitting a back body drop and a slam, before getting a two count with a sunset flip. Chops that are suspiciously close to the throat and a falling headbutt that looks like it hits low allow Fuji to fight back, though the choice of a trapezius nerve hold is guaranteed to slow the match down in the most boring way imaginable. Steamboat is able to break the hold with some punches, but eats knees to the gut on an attempted splash. Back to the nerve hold, and another attempted Steamboat comeback ends up with a missed dropkick. In an odd finish for a match between a wrestler and effectively a manager, Steamboat picks up the win on a crossbody following a criss-cross – a move that almost feels like a flash pin in the context of what had occurred.
We end the show with footage from a segment involving Mr T and Jimmy Hart. Following Hart’s warning that there are men at ringside in case T. attacks him, the A-Team star invites Junkyard Dog down to the ring to even things up. T. has a chicken dressed in a kilt that he names as Roddy Piper, and he promises to be lean and mean when it comes to Wrestlemania. T. believes it will be a fight, rather than a boxing match, and is prepared to kick and scratch. Hart is either brave or stupid and tells T. that he thinks Piper will win in the first ten seconds of the bout, leading to T. shoving him onto the floor. Before we see any fallout from that, we are back in the studio. Jesse is unhappy, and promises to do anything in his power to help Piper win.