The Name on the Marquee: WWF Championship Wrestling (5.11.1985)
Posted by Adam Nedeff on 04.24.2014
Mad Maxine arrives in the WWF, and the WWF arrives at NBC.
-Originally aired May 11, 1985.
-Your hosts are Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino, Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino, Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino, Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino, Vince McMahon and Bruno Sammartino. What the FUCK is the chyron guy snorting?
BARRY WINDHAM & MIKE ROTUNDO vs. BARRY O & JIM HALEY
-Vince clarifies that Captain Lou still manages Barry & Mike, but he stays in the dressing room during their matches because…well, Vince doesn’t get around to that part.
-Barry apparently goes for a leapfrog, doesn’t get high enough, but accidentally lands a Thesz press on Haley for two. Powerslam gets another two. Rotundo works the arm and then goes to a front facelock. Haley gets some token offense, but gets greedy instead of tagging out and gets hiptossed around. Dropkick by Windham gets two.
-Haley dodges a corner charge, but makes the same mistake again and winds up in Rotundo’s airplane spin for three. Barry O never even got in.
UPDATE SPONSORED BY CASTROL
-Lord Alfred Hayes profiles two young new gladiators named The British Bulldogs. Their acrobatic tactics have them pursuing high honors as a tag team. Hayes suspects that they have what it takes to defeat the best tag team in the world, Nikolai Volkoff & The Iron Sheik.
KEN PATERA (with Bobby Heenan) vs. JUDO JOE BLACK
-Judo Joe wears a gi while he wrestles, and unless your name is Gracie, that means you lose. Bruno says that he talked to Judo Joe before the match, and Judo Joe told him that he planned on using judo maneuvers during the match. Thanks, Bruno.
-Patera works the arm and chokes Black over the top rope. Bruno explains that judo isn’t an effective form of self-defense because all of the maneuvers depend on grabbing your opponent’s cloth. Jerk slam by Patera, and he plants Joe on the top turnbuckle just for the added fun of Flair-slamming him. Elbow by Patera gets the win.
-Mean Gene Okerlund marvels over the impressive package of gregarious superstar Brutus Beefcake and brings in Tito Santana, who will be facing Brutus in the Boston Garden. Tito says Brutus reminds him of “a combination of Gomer Pyle and fruit.” The passage of time eventually revealed that this was a redundancy, but even in 1985 that didn’t make much sense.
JESSE “The Body” VENTURA vs. ALDO MARINO
-Ventura pushes Marino against the ropes and then casually sweeps his leg. Marino tries to match strength with Ventua and gets shoved on his ass. Jesse targets the eyes next and then challenges Bruno to a fight. That was a weird feud that they teased forever and then never paid off. Body vice gets the submission, and then Jesse awesomely straightens Howard Finkel’s bowtie so that he’ll look presentable while announcing him as the winner.
-Post-match, Jesse continues hurling insults at Bruno, and Bruno throws down the headset and indicates that he’s ready to go. Jesse leaves without incident.
-Gene Okerlund teaches JYD how to speak in a Boston accent. JYD is pissed at “The Mouse” for costing him money at Wrestlemania. He encourages the fans to come to the Garden because the card is loaded from top to bottom with players.
BRUTUS BEEFCAKE & GREG “The Hammer” VALENTINE (with Luscious Johnny Valiant & Jimmy Hart) vs. SPECIAL DELIVERY JONES & PAUL ROMA
-SD fires headbutts in all directions to take control early. Beefcake sneaks in a cheapshot from the apron to turn the tide and then tags in to pound away at SD. Valentine works over the leg, but a series of attempted elbows miss. SD goes on the offensive instead of tagging.
-He finally brings in Roma. Roma targets the arm but gets knocked down to the mat. Beefcake goes to work with kneelifts, and Valentine finishes with the figure four. Referee calls for the bell before Valentine has it applied, which makes Roma look like an unbelievable pussy.
-Piper welcomes “the new heartthrob,” Ricky Steamboat. Piper calls him a cheater for using illegal kung-fu during his matches (which prompts a “bullshit” chant). Steamboat, uncharacteristically sarcastic, accidentally on purpose mispronounces Piper’s name and goads Piper into having to repeatedly explain the correct way.
MAD MAXINE (with Fabulous Moolah) vs. DESIREE PETERSON
-Maxine is a legit 6’4” and as her name would suggest, her look is basically a female Road Warrior. Kneelifts and faceplants by Maxine, and she just dominates Peterson. She chokes Peterson with her boot and follows with a legdrop off the ropes, then stays in that position and leans down to turn it into a choke.
-Peterson makes a comeback with a dropkick and an awful-looking monkeyflip (Maxine takes the blame for that, she actually just stood in position and waited to take her bump). Suplex by Maxine gets three. Moolah attacks Peterson after the bell to make absolutely sure that everyone knows that she’s the real star.
-WWF Magazine features exclusive coverage of Wrestlemania, the legacy of Bruno Sammartino, a Rock & Wrestling photo album, and a look at wrestling’s first female referee!
JUNKYARD DOG, TITO SANTANA, & PEDRO MORALES vs. DOC BUTLER, MIKE POWERS, & THE UNPREDICTABLE JOHNNY RODZ
-Morales starts with Rodz and hiptosses him. Tito works Rodz over with a side headlock. JYD beats on Rodz so badly that he keeps going to the wrong corners when he attempts to tag out. Pedro gets trapped in the wrong corner and gets triple-teamed until his partners make the save. Powers tags in at some point and gets Irish whipped into the ropes, and he does a jaunty little walk instead of actually running. Oh, fuck this guy, make him take the fall.
-And sure enough, Pedro finishes him immediately with a Boston Crab to punish him for being too lazy to run five feet.
-Cowboy Bob Orton brags about being called “nefarious” by Sports Illustrated. He says that he and Piper are ready to put Hogan and Snuka out of business. Brutus Beefcake comes in and Luscious Johnny says they’re not here to win popularity contests and sign autographs. He’s going to do to Tito Santana exactly what he did to Hillbilly Jim.
End of show...there was more wrestling to come that night, though...
SATURDAY NIGHT’S MAIN EVENT #1 – MAY 11, 1985
Professional wrestling had not aired on network television since the Dumont Network went out of business 30 years earlier, but 1985 ended up being the right time for a return. Why? Well, I’ll try to keep it brief…
As inconceivable as it sounds today, in 1985, NBC desperately wanted to unload Saturday Night Live. From its 1975 inception and continuing for five years, SNL would re-write the rules of comedy and turn its previously unknown cast into legends…Then in 1980, that reputation was totally undone in a matter of 13 episodes after Lorne Michaels quit and Jean “Not Incompetent, Just in WAY the Hell Over My Head” Doumanian took over. The network fired her and replaced her with NBC executive Dick Ebersol (whose contribution to TV history was hiring Lorne Michaels in the first place back in 1974). Ebersol’s strategy was to transform the show into “Damage Control! With Joe & Eddie,” which worked until both guys left to conquer the film industry in 1984, with mixed results. Eddie Murphy would have a string of obscure films that did mild-to-moderate box office before quietly fading away, while Joe Piscopo would dazzle Tinseltown with blockbusters like Wise Guys and his iced tea commercial.
-Their quick-fix to those departures was to have an all-star cast for the 1984-85 season, but then everybody quit at the end of the season because doing live TV every week made them sleepy. NBC actually announced the show’s cancellation a few weeks prior to this special, but had nothing lined up in the way of a replacement. Their original idea was to have David Letterman do an extra 90-minute episode every week, but nobody bothered to ask Dave and he politely refused when they finally got around to it. Their next idea was to have Dave, Joe Piscopo, and Billy Crystal rotate week-to-week hosting a modernized, hipper version of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” but then NBC got to thinking that maybe they’d also consider throwing money at Lorne Michaels until he finally agreed to come back.
The point to all this is that after SNL’s season finale, NBC had nothing to look forward to but a summer of reruns of a show that they were ready to ditch anyway, and the WWF just happened to be the right fad at the right time. NBC gave them the time slot for one week and here’s what happened.
-Originally aired May 11, 1985 on NBC, taped at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island the night before.
-Opening comments from Cyndi Lauper & Wendi Richter! Opening comments from Hulk Hogan & Mr. T! Quick observation from me!...You always hear wrestlers from this time period (particularly Bobby Heenan) put over Vince for his meticulous attention to detail and “re-shoot until we get it right” attitude toward promos, but in reality, he was only starting to develop that attitude in 1985. The high point of the Hogan/T promo is watching a disoriented Salvatore Bellomo wander around in the background.
-Opening titles, set to “Obsession” by Animotion. Because when I say “wrestling,” you think “fantasize about kidnapping your crush and screwing her until your psychosis consumes you.” Really, the song is more about wrestling fans than it is about wrestling.
-Your hosts are Vince McMahon & Jesse Ventura, with Mean Gene Okerlund handling backstage duties.
RICKY STEAMBOAT, BARRY WINDHAM, & MIKE ROTUNDO (with Captain Lou Albano) vs. GEORGE “The Animal” STEELE, NIKOLAI VOLKOFF, & IRON SHEIK (with Classy Freddie Blassie)
-Volkoff & Sheik are still champions here. Animal wants to start but Sheik makes him leave, foreshadowing the big angle for this one. Windham starts for the forces of goodness. Faces get the early advantage and switch off frequently. Rotundo back in with a slam and a two-count. Front-facelock, but since it’s SNME, that doesn’t last long. Volkoff & Steele run in but the faces clear them out and the match comes to a dead halt, which must mean a commercial is coming. (If you’re new to SNME, at least one match on each show would be deliberately booked to have an awkward point where all the action just flat-out stopped, so they could schedule breaks. This led to some rather interesting moments, which we’ll cover as I get to them in future reviews.)
-Back from the break, Rotundo powerslams Sheik, and Steamboat just assaults the Iron one with a handful of aerial moves. Sheik FINALLY tags in Volkoff, who is promptly Irish-whipped and double-dropkicked for his trouble. Rotundo back in and it’s double elbows and a pair of standing legdrops, but Steele breaks the pin and Volkoff attacks from behind. Rotundo keeps reversing Volkoff’s stuff to pinfall attempts. Windham back in but Steele tags in. Windham & Steele trade punches, but when Steele tries to tag out, the tag champs suddenly jump off the apron to take a breather, and Steele is rolled up for the pin. Kind of weird, as the heels were absolutely dominated here, but the faces made it fun to watch with minimal resting and a lot of double-teaming and semi-high spots. 1 for 1.
-Post-match, Steele consoles himself by eating a turnbuckle, but the tag champs attack him from behind. Steele makes his own save, and Captain Lou Albano convinces George to leave with him.
PIPER’S PIT W/PAUL ORNDORFF
-Piper confronts Orndorff about losing at Wrestlemania. Orndorff fires back with some of the worst mic work of his career, calling Orton a “dunce” and ripping off Clint Eastwood dialogue. His coup de grace is “You’ve been drinking too much of your own bath water!” I can’t decide what stuns me more: the fact that he uses that line or the fact that the crowd actually pops for it. Piper keeps yelling “Sit down!” with Susan St. James-like repetition. Orndorff takes out Orton and attempts to piledrive Piper, but Orton takes him out with the plaster cast. Mr. T makes the save for our second turn of the first half-hour. When did Vince Russo join the company again? Anyway, I do believe this may have been one of the worst Pits I’ve ever seen. Piper had nothing more to say than “Sit down!” and Orndorff was unusually bad here. 1 for 2.
-Interview with Hulk Hogan. Funny, as Hogan is clearly over huge but the fans pelt him with trash anyway just because they’re bored. In this era, the fans were more fun to watch than the wrestlers sometimes.
WORLD TITLE: HULK HOGAN (w/Mr. T) vs. COWBOY BOB ORTON (w/Rowdy Roddy Piper)
-Hogan & T rip each other’s shirts off to start, in one of those moments that probably sounded cooler when they discussed it than it looked in execution.
-Fisticuffsmanship from both men to start, but Hogan’s ready for this and gets the early advantage. Orton is still wearing his entrance gear for some reason. Backdr—oh, excuse me, Vince is on commentary—Baaaaaaaaack bawdeedroooop from Hogan, followed by a couple of bodyslams. Orton, the guy wearing assless chaps, and Piper, the guy wearing the skirt, have a pow-wow outside. What, did they see Hogan & T rip each other’s shirts off and decide “We can top that”?
-Cowboy Bob back in the ring, finally lacking in chaps, and Orton gets an Irish whip but misses the follow-up. Hogan works the controversial arm, followed by some scientific biting and closed fists. Hogan posts the arm and Orton finally comes back with a double-kneelift. Orton punches away and gets an atomic drop for two. Kneedrop by Orton, who is moving at 45-minutes-into-a-broadway speed.
-Orton keeps punching away, and Hogan hulks up from that instead of killing Orton’s finisher. Elbow for two. Punching in the corner is countered by Orton with a reverse atomic drop (called “a legal maneuver” by Vince). Hogan counters the superplex with a punch and gets the leg drop, but he’s too close to the ropes, and Piper calmly reaches out and punches him for the DQ. 1 for 3.
-Postmatch, Mr. T runs in but Piper & Orton double-team him. They re-focus their energy toward Hogan, but then Orndorff runs in. The power of his angry stare is enough for Piper to walk away calmly. Piper cracks me up with the way that he absolutely would not put over faces by doing so much as reacting to them, and I never noticed that about him before I started writing reviews. Seriously, he has his three worst enemies staring him down right now and Piper reacts to it like he’s thinking “Did I forget to stop at the bank? Aw, damn, I forgot to stop at the bank, didn’t I?”
“GOOD ENOUGH” MUSIC VIDEO
-Cyndi and Wendi Richter are Lou Albano’s daughters. The family lives in, and operates, a gas station in danger of going out of business. Lou looks at a photo of his great-great grandfather, Captain One-Eyed Peg-Legged Booze-Guzzling Mean Lou Albano (or “NAMBLA,” for short). A chyron tells us that “He knows where the treasure is.”
-A limo pulls up to the pumps and Roddy Piper, Fred Blassie, and Iron Sheik, all dressed in combinations of ring gear and tuxedos, emerge and begin hurling insults at the family. The heels get sidetracked by an argument over who farted (seriously). I think the gist here is that the heels have bought the gas station and they’re evicting the family. I think. Suddenly, Fabulous Moolah pulls up in a truck, and Nikolai Volkoff is sitting in the bed milking a cow while singing the Soviet anthem. (Did I mention his best friend is a talking pie?)
-Benihana cooks wheel a table into the station and do tricks as Wendi & Moolah argue and Cyndi begins singing, and I dislocate my jaw trying to see if I can get it to drop any further. Piper & Volkoff beat up Cyndi’s boyfriend for shits & giggles, and won’t even stop after Cyndi kicks them in the shins (so Piper won’t even put over the faces in a damn music video!) The family cries as they load up all their belongings and prepare to move out of the station.
-Cyndi removes the giant photo of NAMBLA from the wall and finds a hole behind it. She climbs in and finds that the hole is actually a cave, so she goes deeper to seek help from Gobo & Wembley. Instead she finds the cast of “Goonies,” wearing t-shirts that spell out “GOONIES” to make absolutely sure that we get that part. And HEY, Chunk is there too, so we officially have one degree of separation between Bill Cullen & Roddy Piper. The game show/wrestling geek is a happy man. And how about some non-sequiter clips from the movie, while we’re at it?
-Cyndi and the Goonies enter One-Eyed Willie’s, uh, area or whatever it was (been a while since I’ve seen the film) and the heels are in there, dressed as pirates. (And if you’re B. Brian Blair, you’d better be worried about what kind of pirate the Iron Sheik is, exactly.) Cyndi runs away and Blassie gives chase, and God love him, Blassie wins the award for “Guy having most fun in this video.” It’s impossible to watch him run through this cave without laughing. Cyndi runs away from some puppet skeletons and more hibachi guys inside the cave and begins crying, approximating Bill Watts & Verne Gagne as they watched this special.
-Wendi winds up on a bridge, with pirates to the right of her, pirates to the left of her. She cries out to Steven Spielberg for help, and we cut to Spielberg looking bewildered and saying “I don’t know.” It’s a shoot! I understand Senor Spielbergo had a similar cameo in the video for “La Cucaracha. “
-Following the video, Gene Okerlund is backstage with Ole Anderson, who puts over the music video as “a rockin’ good time for all the WWF fans!” Nah, I’m screwing with you, Gene’s backstage with Roddy Piper & Lou Albano arguing over whose part in the video was better. I’m giving this a point just because there’s no combination of prescription medications or illicit substances in the world that can duplicate what I just watched. Cyndi Lauper is my anti-drug. 2 for 4.
WOMEN’S TITLE: WENDI RICHTER (champion, with Cyndi Lauper) vs. FABULOUS MOOLAH
-Pre-match, Moolah whips out an ancient-looking scroll that turns out to be an order that Cyndi Lauper is banned from ringside. Wendi comes to the ring to, of all songs, “She-Bop.” So back then, they were actually acknowledging that masturbation was a driving force behind women’s wrestling. Interesting.
-Wendi kicks Moolah and Moolah fires back with…a shove. Smoke if you got ‘em, everybody. Vince’s commentary suggests that they removed the first few minutes from this. Moolah throws Richter through the ropes and she rolls on top of a table and just kinda hangs out there while Moolah kicks her in the “chest area.” Moolah stops to badmouth the fans and Wendi makes her comeback and dropkicks her out of the ring. Backdrop by Moolah gets two. Richter comes back with a kick and some yelling. She chokes away but Moolah fires back with…some…choking and kicking. Richter reverses a bodyslam into a small package for the out of nowhere pin. 2 for 5. Cyndi runs back to the ring to celebrate and gets PISSED when a fan reaches out and grabs her purse! I told you about these fans, didn’t I?
JUNKYARD DOG vs. PETE DOHERTY
-It’s a squash match and JYD wins. 2 for 6.
-CYNDI LAUPER’S MOTHER’S DAY PARTY
-All the WWF stars and their mothers are backstage. Line of the show goes to Freddie Blassie, who introduces his mother, a 20-something brunette. “This is my mother Laura. Ain’t she pretty?” Man, Heenan & Cornette came along and the whole world forgot how funny Blassie was. Fabulous Moolah comes in to bitch about losing her match and gets thrown into a cake for her trouble. I almost want to give a point to this segment for Blassie’s contribution, but…nah. 2 for 7.
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The 411: Well, what it lacked in mat action it certainly made up for in noteworthiness. Some can't-miss angles and feuds and everything. It's funny how your opinion is colored when you watch these things one right after another. Seeing that SNME by itself is pretty underwhelming, but seeing it after watching a solid four and a half months of all the TV that preceded it, suddenly it looks like a pretty impressive showcase.